Saturday, January 19, 2013

Serial Saturday: "Protective Custody", Pt. 1

“A. DAVIS.” Alex Davis…Detective Alex Davis…
            Other than the fact that the initials spelled out “D.A.D.”, Alex thought it sounded pretty good; and he didn’t doubt that it would be soon. He fingered the brim of his cap, picturing the string of “scrambled eggs” (as they called the braided yellow roping across the brim of the senior officers) he would see there soon. As of this week, he had been an officer for longer than he stayed a rookie. For a young man like Alex Davis, that was really saying something.

            Not that Alex was lazy or anything; he preferred to consider himself “choosy.” He’d always been choosy about the kind of jobs he’d do, even around the house. With two brothers and three sisters, being choosy hadn’t been hard. Alex did the easy chores, the small tasks, and let his brothers and sisters handle the rest. They all did the work so much better than he ever could, anyway. Even if he decided to get up and do the job, one of his sisters was guaranteed to come behind him and re-do it; so why bother lifting a finger in the first place?
            Alex was “choosy” in the field of academics, too. Whenever he could, he would find a “study buddy,” or a teammate who didn’t mind doing most of the work in the assignment or the sport. Alex would contribute only slightly above the average minimum, and his partner would handle the rest--especially when it came to the matter of books. He moved in with a roommate while the two of them attended college so that he would only have to pay just barely under half the rent, while his roommate footed the rest. In fact, about the only thing Alex ever actually set his mind on working hard at was becoming a police officer, and at least there, he had succeeded.
            As a rookie officer, it was harder to be “choosy” about which beats the senior officer he shadowed would take, but once Alex became the one to decide the beats, he found that he rather enjoyed being the one to drive out and break up the parties with the hot chicks, or the one to chase down a purse-snatcher because the victim couldn’t run in her stilettos, or the one to pause in his patrol of the highway to help a poor innocent standing beside the road with her hood propped up and jumper cables in her hands. There were plenty of other guys in his precinct to handle the druggies and the old ladies’ cats stuck in trees and the little boys who hit their baseball through somebody’s window. Alex could have his pick off the scanner, and the dispatcher knew it. She’d be calling out codes in her dry, dutiful voice, to whoever was closest to the scene, then she’d announce, “Patrol 145 (Alex’s car), we have a female situation on the shoulder of Hartford Road, would you mind covering that one?”
            Alex would pick up his mic and respond, “Dispatch, this is Patrol 145, I’m on it.”
            “Have fun,” the dispatcher sometimes replied, and everyone knew Officer Alex Davis was going to be another damsel’s hero.
            They would tease him about it back at the station. “Who are you going out with tonight, Al?” whooped Chris Tanner, an officer who was only two pay grades above Alex, even though he’d logged almost twice as many patrols. “The jumper cables on I-60, or the domestic disturbance from Main Street?”
            “I had a nice-looker stop and ask me for directions and my phone number in the same breath,” offered Senior Officer Zack Van Derby, “I had to tell her I was already married, but do you mind that I gave her your number and told her to watch out for Patrol Car 145?”
            Alex snorted, “Ha, ha; y’all are funny.” He was interested in Van Derby’s offer, though, “Where were you at, Derby?”
            “Well now, let me see, it was about eleven o’clock this morning, so I was doing my rounds in the Powerball Loop.”
            Alex scoffed, “A Powerball chick? You really think I’m that shallow, sir?” The “Powerball” Loop was a low-income neighborhood that was the source of numerous complaints to the dispatchers, and got its nickname because nearly everyone who lived there scratched lottery tickets in the hopes of moving to a better area of town.
            “Now, wait a minute, Davis,” Derby defended himself, “You shadowed me for a long while, we know each other better than that. She may have been on the Powerball Loop, but she was new in town and took a wrong turn trying to visit a friend in Pentomino Heights.”
            The rest of the junior officers howled at this, and Alex grinned, “Now you’re talkin’!” Pentomino Heights was a notoriously posh neighborhood, a magnet for any celebrity (or celebrity-hunting tourist) who passed through the state. “So, did she give you any info? Do you think her face was familiar?”
            Zack shook his head with a smile, “Well, she didn’t exactly leave a name, and I’m sorry, son, I don’t watch much TV these days—but I coulda sworn I saw a face just like hers when Martha was watching an episode of ‘America’s Next Top Model.’”
            “Nice!” Alex smiled. “Well, I’m off to boogie!” He used the precinct’s slang for going on a beat.
            “Have fun!” the officers in the break room chorused, using the exact same tone as the dispatcher.
            Alex chuckled as he climbed into his patrol car and switched on the scanner.
            “Available units please respond to a medical emergency at 143 North Hammersmith Drive...I have a possible B&E at the Beautiful Sun bakery on Turnkey Road…A motorist has locked her keys in the car—Unit 145, are you on beat?”
            Alex bit back a laugh as he flipped the “call” switch, “This is Unit 145, I am just pulling away from the station; what do you have? Over.”
            “Unit 145, motorist sounds young and desperate. She’s in the parking lot of the Great Western Mall; what can I tell her?”
            “Dispatch, give me fifteen minutes, I can be there.”
            “Thank you Unit 145; nice to have someone we can depend on; Out.”

            Alex hesitated at that last remark; was she being serious, or sarcastic? She wondered how she could talk all day long without altering her tone of voice; the woman was completely deadpan, no matter what she was saying. Sometimes he found it hard to read her. Alex switched on his lights and siren and headed out toward the highway, enjoying the way the cars in front of him politely pulled off to the right and let him pass unhindered. How often he wished he could do something like this on a date, but he knew he’d have to answer to the chief if he dared use his lights or siren during off-duty hours.
            In the parking lot of the Great Western Mall, Alex pulled up behind a tearful blonde standing next to a sea-green Volkswagen Jetta. He basked in the look on her face as he climbed out of his car and asked her, in perfect movie-cop patois, “What seems to be the problem, ma’am?”
            “Oh, just me being an idiot!” she sniffed, dabbing at her tears so as not to ruin her makeup. “I went shopping—“ she pointed to a mound of bags from the higher-end stores in the mall sitting in the parking lot next to her car, “—and I didn’t even realize until I came back out here that I had left my keys in the car when I locked it!”
            Closer inspection revealed a thin crack between the rim and the top of the window. “Well, ma’am,” Alex kept up the formal speech, “today, you’re in luck, because your window is slightly cracked, so I should be able to get in there in no time.” Alex walked back to his patrol car and dug out a wire hanger (which he always kept in the car for just such occasions), unbent it, threaded it through the crack, and seconds later, he was climbing into his own car again with the taste of her lips on his mouth and the smell of her perfume in his nose. He reached into his back pocket where he had felt her hand, and sure enough, he found a paper with her number on it. He tossed the hanger under the passenger-side seat.
            “Alex, you sly thing,” he crowed to himself, “you did it again!” He loved it when the rescue techniques he observed in other cops worked so well in his favor when he tried them.
            Alex switched on the scanner as he moseyed around the mall for just a bit longer, scanning the milling crowd of shoppers for another rescue opportunity.
            “Unit 145… Unit 145, please respond!”
            Alex was so intent on people-scanning that he almost missed that the dispatcher was now calling for him. “Dispatch, this is Unit 145; over.”
            “Unit 145, there is a request for backup from Unit 823 on Maverick Highway; are you still at the Mall?”
            “Dispatch, yes I am.”
            “Unit 823 chasing white male on foot, headed your direction; traffic’s a beast.”
            “Maverick? He’ll have to run right past me.”
            “Yeah, well, don’t let him, 145, you copy?”
            “Copy that, Dispatch.”
            Alex flipped on his lights again, just enough to clear the immediate area, then he pulled roaring out of the parking structure. Two blocks down, and one left turn, and he was out on Maverick Highway; he couldn’t even see Patrol Car 823, which he knew was Officer Van Derby’s unit, but his “cop-sense” kicked into gear when he saw a white man in a brown ski jacket pushing through a couple people and glancing over his shoulder.
            “Dispatcher,” he called quickly, “Verify: target is a white male, 6’1”, dark hair, brown jacket.”
            “That’s the one; do you have a visual, 145?”
            “I’m going in!”
           
            The man was so busy glancing over his shoulder he didn’t even notice Alex’s car coming at him until it was too late. Alex pulled the car to a stop and almost in the same motion jumped to his feet and pulled his gun. “Freeze! Put your hands where I can see them!”
            A few people screamed, but the man knew better than to bolt. He lifted his hands next to his face.
            “Kneel on the ground,” Alex instructed, “and put your hands on your head.”
            The man obeyed instantly.
            Alex touched the “call” button on his intercom unit. “Unit 823, this is 145, I’ve apprehended your suspect.”
            “Fourteen-five, this is Eight-twenty-three,” he heard Officer Van Derby’s voice crackling over the speaker, “Do you have him in custody?”
            “No sir,” Alex responded, “Waiting on your call, sir.”
            “Cuff ‘im,” Derby confirmed, “He’s one of four I caught in a narc bust, and when he saw there wasn’t room, he tried to slide out the other side before we could catch him. Are you in the middle of something, or would you mind bringing him back to the station for me?”
            Alex barely concealed his chagrin; he much preferred beautiful babes to scruffy men! But Alex learned early on that a senior officer asking a favor was non-optional, no matter the circumstances.
            “See you there, 823.”
            He clapped handcuffs on the wrists of the suspect—now his responsibility—and quoted the Miranda rights before he guided him into the car. Pulling back into traffic, Alex observed protocol and restrained himself from using his lights and siren to scream through the crawling traffic. His hand strayed that direction more than once, and his passenger noticed.
            “You know, we’d get there faster by walking,” he egged Alex.
            “Hey,” Alex snapped back, “I think it’s sort of pointless to remind you that you are in the back of my patrol car, wearing my handcuffs, and since I already informed you of your right to remain silent, I suggest you exercise that right.”
            At last, Alex made it to the freeway. His passenger slumped in his seat. “Does this thing have A/C?” he whined.
            “Up here it does,” Alex answered with a chuckle.
            The man’s response was indistinct, and anyway, Alex was sure it was only curse words. It served the guy right, wearing a ski jacket in late summer! He exited the freeway, and not six blocks from the station, he saw Lieutenant Bree Munroe standing outside her unit with two deputies and five prisoners. She flagged him down. Alex pulled in front of her.
            “What do you need?” he asked.
            “Did you flip off your scanner or something?” Bree retorted tartly. “I thought you must have heard from Dispatch about my little predicament.”
            Alex twitched the dial; sure enough, he recalled turning the volume all the way down after apprehending Officer Derby’s suspect. He didn’t want to hear about all the juicy hits he was missing.
            Bree rolled her eyes and brushed a lock of hair off her sweaty forehead. “Dispatch said minimum three suspects hitting up that gas station over there. I had no idea ‘minimum three’ meant five! I don’t have room in my car. Would you mind taking a deputy and a few of these hoods down to the station?” She grinned darkly, “Got ‘em all cuffed for ya!”
            Alex glanced over at the sidewalk. Who knew how long those guys had been waiting in the hot sun; even from there he could see the sweat glistening on their faces, and he did not doubt that none of them had showered in the last week. Alex did not doubt the amount of stench he would have to undergo if he accepted, even the short distance to the station.
            “I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” he tried to be as respectful and apologetic as possible, “Officer Derby instructed that this man be kept alone; that’s why he’s in my car, not Derby’s.” Alex shrugged, “You know I wouldn’t normally refuse a request like that, but I just can’t swing it right now.”
            Bree scowled at him, “You scurvy sonuva selfish—“ she pushed away from his car. “Fine!” she snapped, “Get on back to the station with your overflow passenger!”
            Darn; she’d heard about it, then.
            “I’m not overflow!” The man bellowed, giving Alex the opportunity to ignore the angry lieutenant and roll up his window, ostensibly to yell at his prisoner.

            Alex reached the station, where Officer Derby was waiting for him. Officer Derby booked his prisoner with the others, and Alex checked in at the front desk for any more requests. As luck would have it, somebody from Pentomino security requested a brief drive through the neighborhood. Alex, having nothing else to do, graciously offered to be the one to drive all the way out to Pentomino Heights for the obligatory drive-by.
            While he was there, he “just happened” to be waved at by the newcomer brunette Derby had spoken to earlier. Alex returned to the station with a second paper in his pocket. One for happy hour, he surmised, and the other for dessert, perhaps? Or would an out-of-towner visiting Pentomino Heights really just be satisfied with a walk under the stars? Maybe the blonde could wait till next weekend… or Sunday night, but who knew how long the brunette was staying! Be it never said that Alex Davis missed an opportunity for a score!
            Alex tooled around for the rest of the day, performing drive-bys, reporting the status of various sensitive situations the cops were involved in, assisting the women of his fair city in whatever distresses they found themselves in—in short, being an all-around good cop. Near the end of his twelve-hour shift, just when Alex was thinking about heading back to the station for the night (he knew if he just drove slow enough, he’d make it back to the station with just enough time to clock out without looking like he was early), his cell phone vibrated. Alex picked it up.
            “Davis?” it was Captain Prosser, the highest authority at Alex’s station.
            “Yes, sir,” Alex responded right away, wondering what this call could be about.
            “Bobby Tartino, from Bobby’s Tavern, just called.”
            “Yes, sir?” Bobby was an old friend of Alex’s parents, and like an unrelated uncle to Alex.
            “He wants a favor; apparently one of his classier patrons is insisting on walking home alone. He asked me if you could be the one to shadow her, make sure she gets to her apartment okay.”
            “I’ll get right on it, sir,” Alex whipped out smartly. What a way to end the week! Friday parties were always the best for scouting out potential dates, because they were usually sober by Monday evening.
            He heard Captain Prosser sigh, “I figured you would…” Alex heard the click as the captain hung up the phone.
            Alex started up the car and drove out to the tavern, all the way across town, as the dispatcher droned on over his scanner:

“….All units respond to an emergency situation on Seventh Street. Repeat, armed robbery in progress, two victims, all units respond, repeat, all available units, respond!”
<<<<<>>>>>

            Alex woke up to his alarm on Monday morning and yawned. He slapped the “off” button and slowly eased himself up to a sitting position.
            The brunette had gotten herself home, right enough. In spite of being tipsy that night, there had been no mistaking her designer clothing and her Gucci purse; Alex consoled himself that she probably wouldn’t have drunk so much if she’d had somebody like him at the tavern with her, to keep her from drowning herself. He made a mental note of her address to see if he could look her up at the station when he returned.
            A short drive and a few keystrokes later, the number and profile of Miss Adelaide Donahue was his to survey. She looked very pretty, even in her DMV photo. Turned out her late father was an intensely successful business magnate who left such a profound legacy that young Miss Adelaide could go out partying like that every night and never have to work a day in her life. Alex smiled as a third slip of paper—this time in his own handwriting—joined the other two. Boy, he was really getting them this time! He had slept well that night, full of pleasant dreams of conquests to come.
            Now, at 7:30 in the morning, Alex was ready to face another day. He showered, brushed his teeth, pulled on his uniform, ate his breakfast, and at 7:53 sharp (as always), commenced his ten-minute walk to the station.
            At 8:04, he clocked in for his twelve-hour shift. Marnie, the receptionist, barely glanced up at him. She knew who it was; the only officer consistently late to his beat.
            “Morning, Davis,” she muttered.
            Alex was in such good spirits that not even Marnie could dampen him.
            “Good morning!” he replied heartily.
            Alex glanced at his schedule, walked past all the other junior officers in the break room and out to the garage, where he climbed into his patrol unit, good old number 145. He buckled his seatbelt, checked his mirror alignment—

            “Hi there!”
            AAAAUUUGGGHHH!!!” With a banshee howl, Alex ripped off his seatbelt and dove out of his car. He stared through the window into the back seat, not sure what was real or not. The seat was empty, but as he had sat in the front seat, Alex Davis was ready to swear he had seen two people, a man and a woman, sitting in the back of his vehicle! And was his mind playing tricks, or had the woman actually spoken to him? But there was no one there, not even the slightest sign that anyone had been there.
            The hackles on the back of Alex’s neck raised; he whipped around. The couple he had seen in the mirror now stood behind him!
            The woman spoke again, “How’s it going?”
            Alex keeled over so fast he didn’t even feel his body hit the cement floor of the garage.
<<<<<>>>>>

“You know, you really should get down.”
“Aww, but isn’t he sweet? I love his hair! This is really so much fun, Ted!”
“Marlo, honey, I really don’t feel comfortable with you up there.”
“Oh, don’t be such a fussbudget!”
“All right, Mrs. Brendon—“
“Oh, come on and die already! It’s not like we’re still married! Didn’t we both say ‘till death do us part’?”
“I’m just saying, I think there are other, better ways of—“
“Shh! He’s coming around! Watch this!”

            Alex moaned and raised his head, which felt as heavy as a sandbag on his neck. He opened his eyes and blinked.
            His nose rested less than an inch from somebody’s collarbone. He could not feel a thing, but his eyes told him that he had a woman in her early thirties sitting on his lap with her arms around his neck. She giggled like a schoolgirl and planted a kiss on Alex’s forehead; apparently his whole body was numb, because he couldn’t feel that, either.
            “Welcome back to the land of the living!” she chirped brightly.
            Alex wasn’t even sure he could speak or move, since he evidently couldn’t feel.
            The woman slipped off his lap, and Alex sat forward and tried to bring his hands in front of him. He heard a soft chink and felt the cold bite of handcuffs around his wrists. A quick glance told him they were his own handcuffs. In front of him stood the woman, with honey-colored hair and sparkling green eyes, and a man with dark-brown hair. They both looked dressed and ready for a date night. Seeing them reminded Alex of the last thing he saw before blacking out just now: this same couple in the rearview mirror of his patrol car (but not actually in his patrol car), and then appearing in the garage behind him when he had jumped out in fright.
            Feeling the handcuffs told Alex his body wasn’t numb, so he tried speaking. It didn’t work as well as he planned.
            “W-wh-what are—H-h-how did—you…“ he tried to shift his position, which was moderately difficult, cuffed to the chair as he was. Alex went for the most pertinent question. “Why am I handcuffed?”
            “Oh, I did that!” the woman raised her hand. “I’ve never handcuffed anyone before. It was fun!”
            “Sorry about her,” the man apologized, “my name’s Ted, and she’s my wife, Marlo. We decided to cuff you because we were afraid you might do something we couldn’t prevent when we tell you—“
            “Tell me what?” Alex demanded, growing more and more fearful of this odd, obviously-insane (and strangely inconspicuous) couple.
            “We’re ghosts,” Marlo answered brightly.
            Alex felt dizzy and nauseated at the same time. “I’m gonna pass out again…” he muttered.
            “Don’t worry, we’re only newly-ghosted,” Marlo hastily continued, as if that was any reassurance.
            “Our murderer killed us at about eight o’clock Friday night,” Ted added significantly.
            “B-b-but why—“ Alex spluttered, “Y-y-you came back?”
            “Well, some ghosts do, honey,” Marlo answered matter-of-factly, “especially those with…unfinished business.”
            Alex felt a chill run down his spine at the way she said those words. “What unfinished business?” His words came very fast, because he was so scared. “Do you want me to catch your killer? Find your mortal bodies? Avenge your deaths? What?”
            “Oh, our killer’s caught already,” Ted replied, “I believe he’s in the hold right now, and he’ll be transferred to federal prison on two counts of first-degree murder in the morning. Your buddies took care of that.” He said this last with such scathing bitterness that Alex furrowed his brow in confusion.
            “You want him released?”
            Certainly not!” Marlo shrieked.
            SHHH!!” Alex snapped in alarm, wishing his hands were free so he could clap them over the woman’s mouth. Finally, he found the presence of mind to ask the question that had been bothering him ever since they first showed up. “Okay, okay; how did you get inside this station? Did anybody see you?”
            Ted looked at Alex like the young officer was a complete idiot. “No, of course nobody saw us; we showed up to you. You’re the only one who can interact with us, and we can only interact with you.”
            “But why me?” Alex demanded, trying in vain to calm his pounding heart, “Why now? Why here? Why you guys? I didn’t—I don’t think I…Did I do something wrong?”
            “Just take a moment and think, Alexander Robert Davis,” Marlo’s clear voice enunciating his full name hit him like a slap in the face. She stalked toward him on her bright-pink t-strap sandals, her bright, floral dress swirling around her knees. Her green eyes flashed dangerously. “Think back over everything you’ve ever done…” her face changed to one of pity, “You really haven’t done a lot with your life, have you?”
            “Well,” Ted cut in, finally grinning, “Except that one time in fifth-grade…”
            “Oh, right,” Marlo nodded, “And the one thing after graduation—“
            Alex’s cheeks—come to think of it, his whole body—burned with shame. “How did you find—who told you—how do you know all that stuff?” he demanded.
            Marlo sauntered around behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck—but Alex could not feel her touch. She must really be a ghost, Alex thought.
            “I guess since Ted and I are dead,” Marlo whispered in his ear, “we aren’t bound by time and space. We’ve observed the entire history of your life in the last ten minutes, Alex.”
            “Which also means we know exactly what you were doing last night, young man,” Ted reprimanded him sternly.
            Alex shook his head as Marlo rejoined her husband, “Look, guys, I’m sorry—I would have been there if I had not been called away…”
            “Hmm… do you remember what he was doing last Friday night, Ted?” Marlo looked at her husband.
            Ted pretended to ponder this deeply. “I believe he was—following a girl that night, Marlo.”
            “It was a favor, okay?” Alex leaned against the handcuffs as he tried to make the couple understand. “The bartender called my captain personally and requested I shadow the patron home and make sure she was safe.”
            “Oh, okay,” Marlo seemed to accept this, “So while you were making sure this young, gorgeous, rich gal could roll into her front door without smacking into a telephone pole—“
            “Marlo,” Ted tried to rein her in, but Marlo’s cheeks burned and her ire was up.
            “—You left my husband and I at the mercy of an armed robber!” Her hand lashed out, and Alex felt the strange sensation of his head snapping to the side, even though he never actually felt her hand connect with his cheek, nor did his skin tingle like it should have.
            “To think that you got that call from the bartender while you were sitting on 16th Avenue,” Ted added mournfully, “and you chose to drive all the way across town when there was a robbery happening two blocks away.”
            “Dispatch didn’t call it in until I was en route to the bar!” Alex protested.
            Ted raised his eyebrows, “Oh, so you did hear about my call, did you? By that time you were, what, three blocks down? And still two miles from the bar? If you would have turned around right then, Alex, you could have saved us!”
            “At the very least you could have saved Ted and recovered our stolen property!” Marlo snapped, “He killed me first!”
            “I was fighting him when his buddy made off with the loot,” Ted explained, “I was able to keep him from using his gun, but he still had a knife, and he stabbed me with it.”
            “We came to, standing on the street just outside our house. The police were just leaving with the man who murdered us in custody,” Marlo continued the chilling tale. “It took a while to figure out how to jump through time and space, but once we did, we found you, and found out what you knew, and what you did, and—“
            “—now we’re here, talking to you,” Ted finished.
            Alex hung his head, “Look, Marlo, Ted—I’m sorry! It was a dumb decision, and I’m an idiot and a jerk, and I promise I’ll never do anything like that again!” He glanced up, “Can you un-cuff me now?”
            “Oh, Alex, honey, baby,” Marlo gushed in a syrupy voice, climbing onto his lap again and taking his face in her hands. Alex was only compelled to look at her because he could not turn his head; he felt neither her weight nor her touch. “It doesn’t work that way,” Marlo said with a sultry pout. “Our unfinished business can’t be tossed away with a wink and a promise. You’ve got some work to do, sugar!” She slapped him on the shoulder, but Alex didn’t flinch. “We know how much you love your work!”
            “So here’s how it’s going to be, kid,” Ted began. Marlo turned toward her husband so Alex could watch him, too. “From now on, the minute your workday begins, Marlo and I will be here with you.”
            “Mm-hmm,” Marlo affirmed, “Let’s see, you’re supposed to clock in at, what, eight o’clock every morning?” She grinned and mussed his hair, which immediately laid down flat as if she hadn’t touched it, “But we know you haven’t quite made it right on the dot every morning now, don’t we?”
            “All right, so eight o’clock, we are your official ghost-shadows.” Ted grinned, “Like we said before, you’re the only one who will be able to see or hear us. Nobody else will even know we’re there. We’re going to ride in your patrol car—and we decide what calls you answer, not you.”
            What?”
            Ted pressed his lips firmly, “That’s right; you don’t get to be ‘choosy’ anymore, Alex. You owe us. Marlo and I will pick your beats, and you will perform your duties like you’ve been trained.”
            “Don’t worry, Alex,” Marlo inserted, “Ted and I can make sure we don’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
            “In return for doing what we say while on-duty,” Ted continued, “Marlo and I promise to leave you alone when you clock out at night.”
            “So…” Alex fought to understand, “you’ll only be around when I’m on-duty?”
            “The whole time you’re on duty,” Marlo confirmed, standing up again. “And once you’re not on duty, we’ll be gone!” She pinched his cheeks, but he only felt the way she made his head bob up and down. “But we’ll be back the next morning!” she finished in a singsong voice.
            “We’ll let you have all day today to get used to the idea of being shadowed by ghosts,” Ted offered benevolently.
            Alex glanced at the clock on the wall; according to it they’d been in the garage for almost two hours now. “All day? But it’s—“
            Ted glanced over his shoulder and shrugged, “Remember? Marlo and I aren’t a part of time and space. Once we leave, it will be as if you just walked into the garage and got out of your car. The time will go back as if none of this conversation ever happened.”
            “But you’ll remember us, Alex,” Marlo reiterated.
            “Ready?” Ted grasped his wife’s hand. “Bye for now, Alex.”
            “See you in the morning…” Marlo’s voice blended with the sound of his own thoughts.
           
            “Hey, Al!”
            “WHAAAT!” The voice was so loud and sudden after the soft patter of the Brendons that it made Alex jump in the chair and fling his hands over his head.
            His hands! Alex peered at them, feeling like his hands had been trapped for the last two hours. Yet there were no marks on his wrists, and his handcuffs were still securely clipped to his belt like they always had been. What in the world had just happened?
            “Geez,” Officer Chris Tanner shook his head, “It’s okay, buddy, it’s just me—what the heck was that about?” Chris reached out to put a hand on Alex’s shoulder, and could not understand why his buddy flinched as if Chris had delivered an electric shock.
            Alex blinked three times before he could speak. He looked at Chris. “Did you—were you watching when I came in here?”
            Chris glanced sidelong at his friend, “Yeah,” he answered slowly.
            “Did you, um—see any—I mean, see me do anything?”
            Chris could not imagine why Alex suddenly looked so paranoid. “You walked into the room, opened the door of your patrol car, closed it, and sat in the chair looking like you’d just seen a ghost.” Chris shrugged, “That’s all.”
            Alex chortled and wagged his head, “That’s all,” he echoed. He let his head drop in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair, “Like I’d just seen a ghost… that’s all.”
            The young officer’s behavior was beginning to creep Chris out. “So…” he tried to prompt Alex, “are you going to leave, or what?”
            “Excuse me?” Alex turned back to him, his eyes suddenly alert.
            Chris pointed to the car, “You’re on beat, dude.”
            Alex jumped up with alacrity. “Oh, right!” he exclaimed. “See you later, Chris!” He crawled into the front seat, buckled his seatbelt, and pulled out of the garage.
            Chris could only shake his head in wonder. Had his good buddy Alex Davis gone nuts?
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