Detective Innis Garris rarely visited the local cop waterhole. He usually felt too tired after a shift to go out drinking. But this Thursday, a cold March evening, he went to the Snake & Cross pub because Sergeant Bolland had been nagging him to drop by.
"We're welcoming the new Chief of the Homicide Squad," Bolland said, "and it'd look real bad if you didn't show up. It's a kinda surprise party for her, so we'd appreciate if you don't tell the Captain. She'll be sworn in, according to the tradition."
"All right," said Garris. "But I can't stay late."
There were almost no female police officers in Precinct 20, so Garris assumed it had to be an outsider.
Garris had asked Captain Collins who the long-anticipated new head of Homicide would be. (The rumor mill had even mentioned Garris himself, despite the fact that Garris had repeatedly turned down any offers for further promotion since he made lieutenant.)
Collins had been unusually tight-lipped: "I shouldn't be saying anything until it's official. The Commissioner and the mayor have been dragging their feet back and forth so long, it's crazy. You'll know when everybody else knows."
And then Collins had given him a strange secretive glance.
So it was a somewhat annoyed Garris who entered the green-painted lobby of the Snake & Cross after work. The entrance was still partially decorated after the recent St. Patrick's Day. The interior lighting was much gloomier than he had expected, and he could just barely make out the customers. Warily making his way through the crowd, he headed for the bar... when suddenly someone threw a switch and the entire pub lit up.
"SURPRISE!" shouted the entire crew of Precinct 20, and tossed confetti at him. He stood open-mouthed, while a grinning Sergeant Bolland rolled a tray with a large square birthday cake into the room.
"Wife made the cake, so you'd better say you liked it, sir!" On the cake was written in red dye: HAPPY 45th BIRTHDAY GARRIS—ONLY 10 YEARS TO RETIREMENT.
Then they started to sing, and Garris blushed. He wanted to sink through the floor, but his colleagues had him surrounded.
"Speech! Speech!" The call became a chorus. Garris peered around and spotted Collins in a corner of the bar, seated next to a stunning brunette in a conservative dress suit. The new chief of Homicide?
He gave a very brief, awkward, stuttering speech and immediately forgot what he had said. Bolland gave him a small wrapped package bearing the label From the Crew Of the 20th, To Our Bashful Bulldog.
Garris mumbled that he wanted to save the present until he got home, but Bolland and the others loudly insisted that he must open it at once. Inside it was a tiny digital camera, the size of his palm.
"Thank you very much," he said, and took a snapshot of his colleagues. In a soft voice he added: "I'll shoot many crooks with this." They laughed. Ducking handshakes and shoulder-pats afterward, he accepted a slice of cake on a paper-plate and made his way to the captain and the brunette.
"Happy birthday, Innis," said Collins and shook his hand. "Have you met Captain Detective Patricia McKinnick? She came over today from New York. I guess I can tell you now: she's our next Chief of Homicide."
"Detective Garris," said Garris and blinked uncertainly as he faced her and made to shake hands.
"Lieutenant detective," Collins corrected him. "He keeps calling himself 'detective' no matter how many times I remind him."
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PRECINCT 20: Dead Strange -- Short StoriesHorror
If a house can be haunted, what about a whole city block? Or an entire neighborhood? Welcome to the 20th. Precinct 20 is the oldest district in the City. The buildings are not only inhabited by people, but also by some unseen, malignant force -- a d...