Bridge & Doug

an excerpt

Chapter One

Deputy Sheriff Alexander James Bridgerton IV walked through the downpour, headed back to the department SUV he was driving. He keyed the hand set attached to his uniform. "Base One, this is Unit Five. I'm leaving Miz Carlyle's ranch, Jessie. Over."

"Ten-Four, Unit Five. Did you find the cat, Bridge?" came over the air.

"No, but there are paw prints in the mud around the stable. I'm not surprised the horses were causing a ruckus this morning. Over." Bridge looked around the area. The mountain lion was probably back in the hills. It had been years since one had been spotted in this part of the county.

"The state game warden's office said if there is another sighting, they'll come up and assess the situation." Jessie Cactus Flower offered. "Your pa says to get back here. There may be some problems with Davies Creek lookin' to overflow. Over."

"Ten-Four. On my way back now. Unit five, out." Bridge tilted his head to get the rain off the plastic covered hat brim before he sat in the driver's seat.

As he started the Ford, Bridge looked out the windshield at the heavy rain. It had started yesterday, Sunday, and hadn't stopped yet. There had already been over three inches, with no slowing down in sight. Add in the runoff from the spring thaw in the mountains and it was no wonder Davies Creek was about to go over its banks.

A few miles after leaving the Carlyle ranch, Bridge noticed a Jeep Cherokee parked at the Jones' place. As far as he knew, Jeremiah Jones was in the hospital. What really caught his eye were the red and orange surfboards mounted on the roof of the vehicle. This was central Texas. Nowhere near the coast.

Bridge stopped the SUV to call into the station. "Unit Five to Base One. You copy, Jessie?"

"This is Base One. What do you need, Bridge?" Jessie asked.

"Is anyone staying at Jeremiah Jones' house? I've got an unknown vehicle parked in the yard. Over." Bridge looked toward the old farm house.

After a minute, the dispatcher came back on the line. "That's a negative, Bridge. Over."

"I'm going to pull up and get the license plate number, Base One," Bridge stated.

"Do you want backup, Bridge? Monty's only two miles away. Over," Jessie said.

"Have him come this way. No need for any lights or sirens," the deputy added.

"Copy that." Jessie's amusement could be heard over the airwaves. "You take all the fun away from him, Bridge."

Bridge snorted at the idea of the sixty-year-old lawman going anywhere with lights and sirens. "Have him come on into the yard. He can check in with me when he gets here. Over."

"Ten-Four. Careful there, Bridge," Jessie finished.

"Copy that, Base One. Unit Five out." Bridge reattached the mic to his shoulder.

As he pulled the SUV up the driveway, Bridge saw a few lights on through the curtains. Whoever was in the house wasn't hiding.

The Jeep had a Texas plate. Bridge copied the numbers into his onboard computer. No wants or warrants. The vehicle was registered to Doug Jones.

Bridge vaguely remembered a skinny kid about five or six years younger than he was, with almost white hair. His brother Troy had brought the kid home a few times after basketball practice and a few team celebrations.

Doug Jones was old Jeremiah's grandson, who had lived with him while both his parents were stationed overseas in the military. He'd been here for about four years, when his parents were shipped back to the States. The whole family had transferred to DC after that.

Bridge opened the door and stepped out as someone moved onto the covered front porch. The screen door slammed behind the figure.

"Officer. Can I help you with anything?" The voice came from a shirtless man in his mid-twenties. The shoulder length white hair was easy to recognize.

"Doug Jones?" Bridge asked.

"Yes?" He moved to the top of the steps, a puzzled look on his face. "Do I know you?"

"Troy Bridgerton's older brother, Bridge. Welcome back to Copper Creek." He stepped forward to shake the offered hand.

"Bridge. Didn't recognize you. It's been years." Doug smiled at the older brother of his best friend for four years. "What brings you out this way?"

"I know your grandfather is in Austin General. When I saw the strange vehicle parked near his house, I decided to make sure no one was squatting." As Bridge looked closer, he couldn't help noticing how well Doug had filled out his body. The skinny kid had grown into a muscular, tanned, good looking man. "Are you on your own?"

"Yes. I was heading to South Padre for a summer job. Mom asked if I could stop in for a week or so until she and Dad can get here," Doug explained as his eyes did a sweep of the man standing before him.

Bridge smiled as those eyes reached his face. "A week? How about I take you around the town, see the old sites?" A flash of lightening came from the east, followed by the sound of thunder. "After the storm stops, that is." They exchanged smiles.

"That would be great. Except for a couple of Christmas visits, I haven't been here for more than a day in years." Doug looked past Bridge as another Sheriff's vehicle pulled into the yard.

The radio attached to Bridge's shoulder sounded. "Bridge? You needin' any help, son?"

Bridge keyed the mic. "Everything's fine here, Monty. Mr. Jones' grandson is staying at the house. Over."

"That's fine, boy. I'm headin' back to town. Over." The Sheriff's vehicle circled the yard and headed back out onto the road.

"Ten-Four, Monty. Thanks for stopping. Unit Five out." Bridge turned back to Doug as he attached the mic to his uniform. "I have to be heading in, too. Be careful with all the rain. Davies Creek is close to overflowing."

Doug appeared to be looking to see if Bridge was serious. "Really? I remember droughts, not flooding."

"First time that I remember. This may get dangerous," Bridge warned. He didn't want anything to happen to this interesting man before he could get to know him. Maybe see if Doug was interested in getting to know each other much better.

"I'm a certified lifeguard and endurance swimmer if you need me," Doug offered. He waved toward his Jeep. "I have my wetsuit and surfboards."

Bridge looked at him a different way now. Not just a pretty face. "I'll let my father know. Give me your number, in case we need to get in touch."

"Sure." Doug rattled off his cell number as soon as Bridge pulled his phone out.

"One way to get your phone number." Bridge smiled as he put the cell phone back in his pocket.

"All you had to do was ask." Doug smiled. "How about giving me your number? And, are you with anyone?"

"Not dating right now. But, that can change." Bridge shared his number after grinning at the other guy. "If I don't answer the phone in the next day or two, don't be surprised. I'll get back to you soon."

"Sounds good."

The two men shook hands, smiling at each other. Bridge got into his SUV as Doug stood on the porch. He waved as Bridge turned the Ford toward the street.