“I think I’ll ride with you a while, John.”

John Gabriel paused and looked at his chief in surprise. The man behind the desk chuckled and eased his bulky frame out of the chair with a fluidity that belied his size. “I’ve got two weeks until retirement…I thought I should say my goodbyes to the neighborhood.”

John didn’t believe him for a second. Seamus Kelly was the neighborhood. His great-grandfather had stepped off the boat with Irish soil still caked under his fingernails and nothing that separated him from the rest of the crowd but a burning desire to make a place for his family in America. He had found his niche working as a bobbie in the slum areas of New York City, and the badge became a legacy that was passed down through the generations. Everyone who worked at the department knew the story. The Kelly family was a legend in law enforcement. There was a cop sitting on every branch of the family tree.

“Do you want to drive?” John asked, dangling the squad car keys from one finger.

“Get away with you,” Seamus said irritably, but the gleam in his eyes told John he was pleased with the question.

As they walked in companionable silence to the car, John realized he wasn’t nervous around the man anymore. When he had been hired nine months earlier, he had secretly mocked the way the other officers revered their chief. After all, he was just a man. A man whose hair was thinning, whose middle was beginning to thicken and who sometimes forgot to schedule a night car on the weekend. In John’s mind, a man who should pack the old thermos into the old lunch box and make a spot in the department for someone younger.

Yet for the amount of awe and respect Seamus Kelly commanded, his temper was also widely recognized. It erupted like a volcano with old Gaelic spewing forth like lava. John had seen it—and felt it—about a month after he was hired.

His training officer, Dennis Meyer, was unimaginative and rather lazy. John was hungry to learn everything about being a cop. He pumped Meyer for information, badgered him about the need for a progressive department and generally made a nuisance of himself, until the man snapped one day and went to Seamus. The next thing John knew, he was standing in front of the legendary Irishman himself.

“So,” Seamus growled, his eyebrows almost meeting over his nose. “You and Meyer have a problem, eh? None of my men ever have a problem with Meyer, so that means you must be the problem.”

“Officer Meyer is slow—he’s getting old.”

Seamus stood up and leaned over the desk. “Too old?” he snorted. “He’s ten years younger than I am. You were still on the playground when Meyer was getting a medal for bravery.”

John stiffened.

“You had a chip on your shoulder when you got here and I thought Meyer would smooth it down a little. Fact is, I think you’ve given him one now.”

John almost smiled. Seamus saw it.

“You think turning one of my steadiest officers into a raving lunatic is going to get you a promotion, lad?” Seamus’s voice rose and several officers within hearing range suddenly melted into the woodwork.

“At least that proves he’s still alive,” John had retorted. “Sometimes I have to nudge him just to be sure.”

He couldn’t believe he’d said that. Here came his walking papers for sure.

“So who does the particular John Gabriel want for his training officer?” Seamus asked sarcastically.

“You.” John said the first name that came to mind and realized it was the truth.

There was absolute silence. John waited for the bomb to drop. Then, Seamus Kelly started to laugh. It was more frightening than a downpour of Gaelic.

“Lad, you remind me of me,” Seamus sputtered. “You just got yourself a new training officer.”

In an unprecedented move, the chief had ridden with him for four weeks and John had discovered during that time that the man’s heart beat for two reasons—his family and law enforcement. Even after John’s training was complete, Seamus still rode with him on occasion, bragging about his children and grandchildren. John always listened politely but unemotionally. Family ties were something he had never experienced, although he’d finally taken a tentative step toward that mysterious phenomenon when he’d asked Kristen to marry him. When she’d said yes, he had experienced, for the first time, an inkling of what some would call hope. Once they said their vows, his life was going to change. Was going to be better…

“Swing by Sixty-Fourth,” Seamus instructed now. “The owner of the Meritz Company called me yesterday and said some kids have been hanging around the warehouse.”

So that was it. If Seamus told someone that something would get done, it would. He personally made sure of it. John turned the car around and it cruised stealthily down the street.

“I suppose they’re throwing me a big retirement party,” Seamus groused.

“No.” John slid him a sideways glance. “We’re throwing the party after you retire.”

Seamus slapped his thigh and laughed. John allowed a smile to surface.

“Slow down.” Seamus leaned forward suddenly. “I saw someone by the Dumpster.”

John frowned. He hadn’t seen anything. Still, he had witnessed enough in the past months to convince him of Seamus’s instincts as a cop. He pulled over and Seamus was already opening the door.

“I’ll check it out, Chief.”

Seamus flashed him an impatient look. “I’m retiring, Gabriel, but I don’t need a baby-sitter yet.”

They approached the back of the warehouse on foot and John made sure he was ahead of his chief as they neared the building.

“Window’s out.” John made a slow turn with the beam of the flashlight. “I’ll call for backup.”

Suddenly, bodies erupted from the gaping hole in the glass, smoke trailing behind them. Three teenage boys were captured in the light, their eyes wide and full of panic.

“Our b-buddy—he’s still in there,” one of them stammered.

Seamus was disappearing through the hole before John could react. He called Dispatch, requesting both backup and the fire department, then turned toward the boys. They scattered in three different directions. John decided Seamus was more important. He broke the rest of the glass out with his flashlight and climbed through.

“Get out of here, Gabriel!” Seamus was a dim shadow in the smoke-filled interior of the warehouse. “It’s not just a fire. Clear out!”

“He said there was someone else in here,” John muttered, and then realized with sudden clarity that the only ones trapped in the building were he and Seamus.

There was an ominous popping sound and John instinctively threw himself at the older man. He felt his body connect with the chief’s before heat enveloped him and his vision blurred. Something thudded into his arm, pushing him to the floor.

Sirens screamed in the distance. John pulled Seamus toward the window and saw hands reaching for them. Pain radiated through his body now and there was a gray haze around everything that was getting thicker.

I guess we’ll both be retiring, John thought bleakly, before the heat totally consumed his thoughts.