The humanity of the inside of the station washed around and chopped against itself like the waves of a restless ocean. It was worth watching, but not worth partaking in. The overweight pension waiters chatted while grazing on the new doughnuts of the day, the paperwork that made the bureaucracy run being their specialty. A gaggle of hookers from a sweep the night before were paraded through like a flock of preening peacocks; and knowing the city at least one had a real cock between their legs. A trussed up small time dealer sat, ready to spit like a cobra at anyone who wandered too close, cuffed to the chair he occupied. And the cops who kept the city from devolving into lawless anarchy mulled around in their circles and cliques.
The blue uniforms bunched up, formed clogs in the flow of traffic, and then dissolved over time. Street stories, old jokes, bad jokes, complaints, and the odd insult traded between L.A.’s finest like baseball cards. But there was a small ripple in the flow today, caused by Detective Reggie Brandt’s presence. When the freak descends from on high, who wouldn’t want to take a gander.
There was the first finger point, over by the water cooler. Words spoken out of the side of the mouth, from one to another, thinking Brandt didn’t know what was being said. Wack job. Freak. Retard. The nicest thing they had to say was… “Different.”
There she was. In the group that was getting ready to saddle up for the afternoon and evening shift. Killing time as a clot in the flow, waiting for the daily briefing. Good timing, Brandt supposed, if a corpse can ever have it. Catching her before she started patrolling with the rest of the blue uniforms.
The only problem was that Brandt would have to risk interacting with a group, when he only wanted to speak to an individual.
Time waits for no man, and the body wasn’t getting any warmer.
* * * * *
“Fuck you, Estivez,” she said in response to the crack about her gun handling.
“Is that an offer,” the cocky dark haired latino half joked. He was also definitely half hoping, though. He’d been dropping hints that the woman had never bothered to pick up. He had nice eyes though, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
“Ha, you wish,” said Boskowitz, meaty faced and all muscle with an intentional cock block. He had daughters, so he liked to white knight for the opposite sex. It was helpful at times, and he was nice enough to not be overbearing about it. “Klein here is into college grads, and I’m still not convinced you graduated grade school.”
Boskowitz did have the habit of trying to act like an adoptive father. ‘You’re not good enough for my little girl,’ style.
“Speaking of college grads,” asked Anderson, the gossip, as he crossed his arms and leaned his narrow shoulders against the wall. “What happened with that guy last weekend? Seemed like you were excited about that.”
What happened was a big fat nothing. The guy was hot and smart, but got jittery when he learned Klein was a cop. As though cops arrested people twenty four, seven and he was expecting to get cuffed at the dinner table. The night got more awkward from there, since the guy was pretty squeamish about ‘authority figures.’ Seriously, no more blind dates set up by Lorna.
But Klein wasn’t about to share any of those details with the precinct knitting circle. The guys here were worse gossips than a cheerleading squad. Klein briefly dropped a prayer hoping the sergeant would start the briefing early, but a quick glance at the wall clock told her that was impossible, even as a miracle. So, reluctantly, Klein started thinking of some way to downplay how rotten an evening it was.
When a different miracle happened to interrupt her social crucifixion.
“Officer Colette Klein.”
“Wow,” said Estivez towards the approach of the figure that interrupted the conversation without a care for social norms. And seeing who it was, it made sense since the guy was anything but normal.
“Detective Brandt,” Klein asked, surprised and confused even as she straightened her posture. He didn’t talk to people. Not, like, socially. So anything he had to say was going to be work related, most likely. “Can we… help you?”
Detective Brant was slightly tall, broad shouldered and short torsoed. The kind of body build you see on most joggers, people with more leg span than arm span. His light brown hair was just barely too long, like he only got one haircut every three months, and he combed it down and to the side to try and hide that fact. He also had perpetual stubble. The man was never clean shaven, like he had a phobia of razors or something. But he was never unkempt. He was always groomed, and properly dressed. But it was like he had a disdain for the idea of ‘being presentable.’
His dark green eyes flicked over the people present, mostly taking in their forms than really looking at them. And then he locked his eyes on Klein again, saying, “Do you want to be a beat cop for the rest of your career?”
It was like a badly edited jump cut in a movie. Like the detective had skipped a few lines in a script and was expecting everyone else to keep up. When everyone failed to, and the guys around us started bristling at the possible negative connotation of his question, he continued on unphased.
“It’s probably the most important job on the force, being the first responder, the guy who goes in first. I’ve seen people get addicted to the sensation, the chase, the danger. So I’ll understand if you don’t want to give it up. But if you joined the force to do something other than drive the black and whites, then I’m giving you the opportunity to do just that. I like taking the stairs. If you’re not waiting for me on the fifth floor by the time I finish taking those stairs, I’ll forget we ever had this conversation.”
He called this a conversation?
“But if you are there, on the fifth floor… You’ll be taking a big step closer to having a detective’s shield.”
Klein stopped breathing. She couldn’t move, couldn’t think as the detective turned and leisurely walked through the station towards the stairwell, sliding through holes in the traffic like he was solving equations instead of passing by people.
“Holy shit,” whispered Estivez, as eloquent as ever. His idiocy knocked Klein out of her stupor though, but her mind was reeling, racing. There’s no way that just happened, right?
“There’s no way that just happened, right,” asked Anderson. His asking that somehow made Klein feel stupid for doubting what she’d just seen and heard.
“That totally just happened,” said Estivez, excited and shifting back and forth on his feet like he does. “So, you gonna do it, Klein? You gonna trade in the uniform for a bad suit?”
“Oh, c’mon, there’s no way it was real,” Klein dodged. “Getting a detective badge for beating someone up a flight of stairs? There’s just no way.”
“I dunno, Klein,” said Boskowitz, the old man on the shift, someone who actually was addicted to being a beat cop. “Detective Brandt is a weirdo, no doubt about it. But I’ve never seen him lie.”
Boskowitz’s steady look dropped Klein from Denial, straight into Acceptance. Her eyes naturally tracked back to see where Brandt was, and caught the closing of the stairwell door across the way.
She only nibbled her lip for a brief moment before her decision was made.
* * * * *
“Detective,” came the shout from below in the stairwell.
Brandt stopped, looked down over the railing, and saw that the previous bang was Officer Klein who had burst through the door. Brandt leaned lightly against the railing and asked just as lightly, “Yes?”
Klein hurried up one and a half flights of stairs to reach him, as though she didn’t trust Brandt not to walk away from the conversation she wanted to have. But in all honesty… he was inclined to do that sort of thing with people. As her thick soled shoes slapped the concrete steps, her dark brown hair bobbed around in its elastic restrained ponytail until she got almost even with Brandt. She stopped at the landing and looked up at him with her clear blue eyes that were a result of the human mongrel creating American Melting Pot and said, “Your offer. Is it legit?”
There was no need for Brandt to say anything more. So he didn’t. He allowed the silence to hang by its noose.
“Then, I’d like to hear more about your offer, sir.”
Hedged bets. Not a believer but a hoper. Good.
With a slight smile on one corner of his lips, Brandt explained, “I have a dead body. But I’m not allowed to investigate without a partner. So, become my partner and you’ll be fast tracked into becoming a detective. Depending on your qualifications, of course. You in?”
Klein hesitated. Her head wobbled as though her mind was awash with thoughts so thick they were throwing her noggin off balance. Her almond shaped eyes expanded in surprise by a tiny degree; she had a good poker face, gotta remember that. And then she said, “Yeah.”
Brandt nodded. And then a thought occurred to him.
“You could have taken the elevator to the fifth floor, you know. I was gonna give you a few minutes.”
“I didn’t want to risk missing you,” said Klein. No embarrassment, all seriousness. She wanted that detective badge. Just like Brandt thought. Then she asked the question that came to her mind. “What now?”
“Now I convince the captain to agree with the deal I just made with you.”