Part 27: With a Little Help from Friends

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After being told I was off the case, I did what any perfectly well adjusted, grown adult would do: I sat at my desk and sulked.

Ignoring me, the precinct headquarters continued about its business.  Two uniformed cops I didn’t know stood by the coffee maker discussing some TV show they were binge-watching.  It was one that I’d heard of, so I considered pulling myself up out of my funk and going over there to introduce myself.  But, I didn’t.  I didn’t, partly because I hated the world right now, but also because they were the kind of Precinct 13 employees who freaked me out.

That lady at the desk kitty-corner to mine, with the bangles on her skirt, the visible tattoo on her shoulder, and the multi-colored braids in her hair, who read Tarot cards while muttering to herself?  Even though I didn’t know her name, she was more like me—one of my people, as it were.

Those two guys with their military-style haircuts, indistinguishable white male features?  They made me nervous.

It was unfair; I knew that.

The truth was, guys like those two, innocuous though they might seem, reminded me of the ones who always came when my stepmonster had me taken away to the hospital’s psych ward or back home again when I’d run away.

I felt right now, like I used to feel then: thwarted.

Putting my elbows on the desk, I rested my head on my palms and glared out at the bustling workplace.  A loud caw interrupted my thoughts—as did the sudden rush of air, and the sensation of bird talons digging lightly into my scalp.  I tried to wriggle my head around to see which magpie had landed on me.  Some flapping, irritated bird chatter, and a cold gooey string of bird poo later, Sarah Jane hopped off and settled on my desk, her talons tossing aside staplers and pen holders to make room for herself.

The mess would have made me angry, but I was too busy desperately searching for a Kleenex to clean the poo out of my hair and off my shoulder.

“Consider us square,” Jack said.  Pulling a chair from another desk, he swung it around to sit across from me.

I was so happy and relieved to see him that I forgot about the bird shit and threw myself across my desk to wrap him in a big hug.  Sarah Jane burst into the air again, hopping about and making a racket.

I’m not sure I’d ever hugged Jack before.  He smelled good up close, like some kind of manly shaving product, a warm soldering iron, and old leather.  Longish hair tickled my nose and his shoulder blades felt too thin under his jacket.  I pulled back to look deeply into his eyes.  They were hazel today.   Flecks of green sparkled like buried emeralds among the more prevalent ambers and browns.

I was pretty sure Jack’s eye color changed with his mood, but maybe I was just that forgetful and they were new to me every time I stopped to really look at them.

“You okay?  Really?”  Before he could even answer me, I said, “I’m sorry.  I really didn’t mean to lash out like that.  I got scared, but that’s really no excuse.  I’m just so sorry.”

“Ta,” he said, but his eyes slide away from mine to stare at Spenser’s office door.  “I’m off the case, too.”

“What?  Why?”  I mean, I could sort of guess why.  “Medical leave?”

Jack nodded.

You couldn’t tell he’s just gotten out of the hospital.  I kind of thought if a person had had a concussion they should have their head wrapped in bandages, like some kind of cheesy cartoon character, but apparently that was not a thing.  He was dressed in his usual nerd-Goth-wizard style: hand-knitted Fourth Dr. Who scarf wrapped around his neck; broken-in soft black leather jacket with buckles and chains that would have made the werewolves salivate with envy; matching black jeans and Converses, and a black tee that had old timey block computer lettering that said, ‘I’m here because you broke something.’

Sarah Jane hoped up onto his shoulder and plucked at the silver hoop in his ear, as though trying to steal it from him.

If her behavior bothered Jack, he didn’t show it beyond his continued melancholy stare in the direction of Spenser’s office and a deep sigh.

He was as bummed as I was to not be on the case.

“So, who’s left?  Who’s on the case?” I wondered.

“Devon probably,” Jack said.

Sarah had worked the latch and hopped away to examine her prize.  Out of his pocket Jack pulled out an identical hoop and stuck it into his ear.

“And Stone, I suppose,” I added.

“Maybe,” Jack said. “She asks all the right questions, but she doesn’t always remember the answers.”

It was my turn to let out a sad sigh.  I had so much to apologize to everyone for.  “Yeah.”

Jack’s eyes returned to me and I would have sworn in a court of law they sparkled with more amber now.  “I’ll be bored not being on a case.  I’m dangerous sort of bored.”

“Me too,” I chuckled. It was clear he had a plan. “So we should probably do something to stay out of trouble, right?”

He nodded.  “I know just the thing.  There was a report of some mysterious road kill.”

I tried to hide my deep disappointment. “Road kill?”

Jack nodded.  “A centaur.”

Okay, I thought, this I’d like to see.

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