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Part 26: Choices Made

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Had I made the right choice?

Standing in front of the Precinct building, I wondered.  The sun began to sink into the Missouri River valley.  Its fading light reflected off the yellowish brick of the old storefront.  The century-old advertisement for Coke peeled and cracked with age.  The air tasted of dust and desolation.

I could be in Paris or somewhere exotic now, with Valentine, rather than facing down all the messes I’d left behind here.

But, that was the point, wasn’t it?  Lyrics to a half-remembered song drifted through my mind, “I had to go through hell to prove I'm not insane. Had to meet the devil just to know his name.”

Letting out a little breath to steel myself, I followed the agents inside.

With Jack still out of commission, I noticed that the techno-magic of the precinct’s mirage faltered around the edges.  Ghosts of the busier office, flitted through the ‘soon to be open’ storefront—a blurred image of someone carrying a stack of paperwork flashed in my peripheral vision.  A group of uniformed officers standing by the coffeemaker seemed to appear, only to disappear in the next step.

As always, when I stepped over the threshold a tiny electric shock, like pin pricks, ran up the length of my tattooed arm.  Noise and air-conditioned air followed after.

Hannah Stone stood in the doorway, blocking our entrance like her namesake.  Hard, sharp eyes met mine.  I searched for a sign that she recognized me, but, if she did, Hannah’s expression didn’t change.  To the agents, she gave a little nod as she shouldered past us on her way out.

I watched her go.

If I was angry at Spenser at all for his part in the necromancer case, it was because maybe, had we had all the information to start with, Hannah might not have been… I didn’t know if I had words to describe what’d happened to her… wiped clean?  Quite literally, the word ‘Life’ had been erased from her forehead causing her to transform back into the mud and stone she’d been formed from. Hannah was a golem.  It had taken a cadre of Kabbalistic rabbi to reconstitute her, and the magic hadn’t been perfect.  She was together again, but not yet whole.

It sucked, is what it did.

Especially since her reconstitution had brought out her more conservative side.  She’d warmed to me, before.  Now she eyed me with the same suspicion as the agents did when they talked about ‘unnatural’ magic.

The agents went off to the meeting room they’d commandeered as their interim office, and I knocked on Spenser’s door.

“Hey, Chief,” I said sticking my head in.

Glancing up, he frowned at me.  “I’m not the chief.  Suspended, remember?”

“Then how come you’re still in this office?” I teased him.

Spenser sat behind his big oak desk, organizing a pile of files on his desk.  His office always looked to me like it was trying a little too hard to be a cop’s office.  There were steel file cabinets and bookshelves full of law books and state statues.  The only ‘personal’ touch was an illustrated page from Edmund Spenser’s Faery Queen.  “How come you’re not in jail?”

“Magpies busted me out,” I said, leaning a shoulder on the doorframe.

“Magpies.” He repeated sourly.  “Should’ve known.”

“Really?  Because it was a surprise to me,” I noted.  But, he didn’t seem to want to talk about that, and that wasn’t why I’d come, anyway.  “Listen, um, so I kind of screwed this up, but I want in on the fall victim case—or cases, whichever it turns out to be.”

Setting down a thick file, he glanced up at me with his shockingly emerald eyes.  They were a gift from his mother, Maeve, Queen of the Fairy.  Spenser was otherwise an ordinary guy—a little more salt streaks in his salt-and-pepper curls that he kept trimmed in a crisp, military-style cut. His expression always made him look like he needed to pass gas or something.  The only time I saw him smile, it was devastatingly handsome.  Maybe he cultivated grumpy in order to save people from his glamour.  I didn’t know.  But the look he was giving me now was deeply unhappy.

“Are you nuts?” he asked me finally.  “The goddamn Infernal Affairs is camped out next door investigating me because of conflict of interest.  You do realize your Valentine is our number one suspect, right?”

I opened my mouth to tell him about the burlap sack and how I was now sure that it wasn’t a body Jack and I saw, but his loot, Valentine’s hoard, that he was carrying.

Spenser cut me off, “Seriously, Alex.  Think this through.  If it turns out Valentine is involved in this in any way, what’s that going to look like?  Those goons will shut us down so fast.  This place will be shuttered in record time.  We’re already in enough trouble, given the Tinkerbell levels.  We could all get reassigned.”

My mouth shut.  I had no words.  The whole point of my decision on the beach was so that I could roll up my sleeves and get back to work.  Now Spenser was telling me ‘no’?

“But…”

He shook his head.  “No,” he said again, clearly enunciating it like he knew I was having trouble hearing it.  “I’ve already heard from your assistant—what’s her name?  Guinevere?”

“Genevieve. “  Maybe.  Hell if I could ever remember, either.

But, Spenser continued as if I hadn’t spoken, “She already told me you out-sourced this autopsy.  We don’t need you.  Go home and knit a quilt or something.  If we’re all still here when the next case comes around, you can come back then.

I stood up straight.  My heart pounded in my ear.  “What?  No!”

He stood up, slowly, like maybe he was getting ready to physically toss me out, if necessary.  I hate to admit it, but cops, even ones no longer in uniform, scare me. I might have backed up a little.

“Alex, you’re off the case.  Deal with it.”

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