Alex awoke the next morning just in time to hear his alarm. 7:30; he had half an hour of privacy before the Brendons appeared. He showered quickly and dressed immediately before proceeding with the rest of his morning regimen. Meanwhile, he wondered what sort of people they had been in life, what sort of work they had been involved in. Were they the sort of people who kept to themselves, or was some social outreach program missing its two most important figureheads?
All this consideration disappeared, however, when Ted and Marlo showed up as Alex was on his way to work, determined to be late as usual. Then Alex remembered the fight from the previous night, and the way they had treated him. He refused to acknowledge them as he stalked into the station (he noted, however, that when he swiped his keycard, it happened to be right at 8:00:00 again), and moreover, decided that today he would be more his old self again.
Out on beat, he repeatedly took the duties involving the hot babes. He answered a call from a bartender downtown who had cut a female patron off, but too late, and now she was staggering and weaving her way down the sidewalk. Alex administered a few of the tests, but the woman—beautiful as she was—reeked of alcohol and could not successfully complete any of them. He guided her into the back of his police car (taking private satisfaction that he was placing her next to Ted and Marlo), and prepared to bring her back to the station. As he merged onto the freeway, he glanced to his right and saw the two ghosts sitting in the passenger seat, disgust and horror etched on their faces.
Alex raised an eyebrow questioningly at them, and Ted replied, “She vomited back there.”
Alex rolled his eyes; now he would have a mess to clean up before he could leave again.
Later, Alex was waiting at an intersection when a bright-red Mustang skated right through the intersection on a red light. Alex would have let someone else, like the patrol car down the way, take care of it, but he’d glimpsed the wavy red hair in the front seat, and didn’t see any reason not to take this one, just this once.
Calmly allowing the car to get just a little ways down the road, Alex took the turn, fell in behind the car, and turned on his lights, briefly flickering the siren so she would know she was being pulled over. Alex had to grin at her spunk as the Mustang revved only briefly before slowly crawling to the shoulder of the highway. He pulled to a stop a respectful distance behind her, checked his hair, and slowly emerged from his car, sauntering over to her window like he was boss.
She had not even lowered the tinted window. Alex rapped on it, “Ma’am?” he called.
Very slowly—as slowly as she could manage—the redhead brought the window down. She nailed Alex with an icy glare, but Alex was confident enough in his abilities to not let her antagonism faze him.
“Do you know why I pulled you over, ma’am?” he asked politely, with a disarming smile.
She smiled back, but it wasn’t disarmed, “Because you’re a masochistic—“ she spat an angry epithet.
Alex may have been the sort of guy to try flirting with every girl he met, but he knew a lost cause when he saw one. At once, he reverted to being all business. “License and registration, please,” he instructed.
The redhead rolled her eyes, “Look, how much will this cost?”
Alex stared at her, perplexed, “Excuse me?”
The girl sniffed, “Just tell me how much the ticket would cost, and I’ll pay it right here. I’m late for an appointment in the city, and I just want to go!” The daggers had softened into doe-eyes as she turned to him with a pitiful pout.
Alex shook his head, “I’m sorry ma’am; I only write the tickets, I don’t deal with the payments—“
“I’ll give you double if you let me off with a warning,” she offered.
Alex was almost scared at the way she was not complying with his request, and the way she seemed not to care about committing a federal offense in order to get her way. “Ma’am, I can’t accept that,” he insisted, “and if you will not provide your license and registration for me to write the ticket, I’ll have no choice but to arrest you.”
“All right, fine!” The redhead’s manner returned to the angry fire, and she quickly pulled out her driver’s license and slipped the registration information out of her car. “Just hurry it up, will you?”
“Now that I can do,” Alex said, accepting the card and the document and returning to his car.
Settling into the driver’s seat, he looked at the name.
Ted heard him gasp in surprise. “Don’t tell me you know this one, too?” he asked.
Alex shook his head as he filled out the ticket, “Nearly everyone in America knows ‘this one,’” he informed the ghost, “I just wonder how many tickets she’s weaseled her way out of; she seemed to have her methods well-practiced.”
“Speaking of ‘weaseling out’,” Marlo piped up, “You’ve missed two calls on larceny, one pursuit, and at least three motorist-in-distress calls while you’ve been dealing with this one woman.”
Alex turned to her, “Now see? I wouldn’t have missed those calls if I had just let someone else take care of her!”
“Yeah,” Ted countered, “but you only went after her because she was cute, didn’t you?”
Alex felt his ears burned and he climbed out of the car and returned to the Mustang. The girl had her engine running again.
“Here you are, ma’am,” he said, returning her license and registration, and handing her the ticket, “Have a—“
“Yeah, yeah,” She immediately shifted into gear and pulled away before he could finish.
Alex had to chuckle to himself as he climbed back into his patrol car, “I could get her on speeding, probably, if I wanted to.”
“You’ve got a call to answer, bucko,” Marlo reminded him.
“Patrol unit found a bunch of guys in—“
“Shh!” Alex interrupted Ted, “I’m listening to the dispatcher right now.”
He turned up the dial, and drove down the highway back into town, but in reality, Alex wasn’t listening to the dispatcher. He wanted to get back to the station and fill out the forms for the ticket he’d just written. That should kill another hour or so of his shift.
As he exited the freeway, his radio clicked.
“Hey, Davis?” it was Detective Gunderson, a capable, driven man from Alex’s station.
“Davis here,” Alex replied, knowing that if Detective Gunderson was calling him, he shouldn’t mess around.
“Could you come down to 1608 Mallard Court? Do you have any passengers?”
Alex saw the look that Ted and Marlo exchanged as they remembered the last passenger Alex had taken. “Nope,” he told the detective.
“Great; I need an extra car. We just broke up a party here, and dispatch said you were the closest.”
“I’ll be right over, sir,” Alex promised. A party on Mallard Court was still close enough to the city to be on the more-upscale side.
When Alex arrived at the house, he saw that the “party” must have begun sometime late the night before. He counted two ambulances pulling away, and Detective Gunderson and another lieutenant had their patrol cars full of hungover and stoned partiers. Gunderson brought three scruffy men—two black and one white—over to Alex’s patrol car as he pulled up.
“Here, take these back to the station, will you? Let Marnie know that these two are under possession with intent,” he pointed to the black one on the end and the white man, “and this one is under arrest for possession.”
“I can do that, sir,” Alex responded. As the lieutenant herded the three perpetrators into the back seat, Ted and Marlo transferred to the passenger seat.
“All set?” Alex joked as the lieutenant closed the door.
The guys grumbled and cussed at him.
Alex weaved around the blocks, working his way toward the police station. Halfway between Mallard Court and the police station, Alex happened upon the sight of a fellow “blue-shirt” (junior officer) standing by the side of the road. He looked as if he had been walking for some distance. Alex almost continued by him, but the young man chased after the car so ardently that Alex felt compelled to stop the car and pull over.
“Thanks, buddy,” the officer cried, pulling open the door and climbing in so quickly, it was all Ted and Marlo could do to scoot over and let him in; and where else did they have to go but on either side of Alex in the driver’s seat? They sandwiched Alex between them; his elbows were pinned against his sides, and he had their faces resting on either shoulder. All three of them were exceedingly uncomfortable, but the officer continued chatting, wholly unaware of the predicament he was causing.
“My tire blasted apart on Maple Drive,” he explained, “and wouldn’t you know it, today happened to be the day that I didn’t have the jack in the car to change it! I really appreciate you picking me up like this; do you need to be somewhere after you drop the—“ he gestured with this thumb toward the back seat, “—load off at the station?”
“No,” Alex answered around Marlo’s shoulder under his chin, “I have reports to fill.”
“Okay, I’ll ride back with someone else; geez,” the officer reached past Marlo and gave Alex a nudge, “why so tense? Loosen up a little, man! You’re stiff as a board!”
Yeah, because I’m crammed between two people you can’t possibly know about! Alex thought to himself.
When they finally pulled into the station, Ted immediately opened the door to let himself out—but the door was still closed when Alex went for it. He bumped his forehead on the unexpected window. The officer laughed, and Alex glared at Ted as he emerged from the car and opened the door for the three perpetrators in the back.
After booking the three men with Marnie, Alex drifted back to his desk and grabbed the ticket report to fill it out. It was only three o’clock in the afternoon, but Alex felt like he already spent his entire twelve hours in that car.
Oh well, he thought to himself, I just won’t take very many calls this afternoon; it will give me a break. He smiled as he recalled the more pleasant beats he’d had in the past, and the Ted Brendon noticed it.
“You’re not still thinking about picking up girls, are you?” he asked, somewhat gruffly.
“And what if I am?” Alex retorted.
“What did you say?” Chris had just been walking past his desk. Alex flushed as he realized he’d responded to Ted aloud in a public place. “Nothing,” he told Chris. The junior officer shook his head.
“Look,” he continued to the ghost in a quieter tone, “I was actually just thinking about what happened this morning,” he admitted, “and I just thought you should know that I am so tired right now that I really don’t care about picking my own beat for the rest of the day. You and Marlo can have at it.”
“Really?” Ted asked skeptically, “You’re not just saying that to get us out of your hair for now, but in reality once we’re back on the road you’re going to ignore us again?”
“No,” Alex murmured with a shake of his head, “I really mean it this time.”
Ted stared Alex right in the eye, and the young man briefly wondered if ghosts could read minds, because it seemed like Ted was reading his just then. Finally, Ted answered, “All right,” and left it at that.
Five hours later, Alex clocked out feeling almost rejuvenated. Following Ted and Marlo’s direction hadn’t been as taxing as he thought it would be. It was as if they acknowledged the fact that he was too tired to fight by giving him simple, gratifying calls to answer and patrols to run. At six o’clock, Adelaide had called him, and of course he had taken that call even though he was on duty, but beyond that, the day had gone by rather smoothly. Alex logged out for the day and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Sighing, he began making his way toward his apartment.
Two blocks down from the station, he noticed a particular group of night walkers who seemed suspicious: a young woman walked alone, and following her at a distance of about ten yards were three guys. At first, Alex dismissed it as a coincidence; it was just four people walking in the same direction. After seeing the three hoods change sides of the street right behind the girl, and adding to that the fact that they never seemed to get any nearer to her, Alex began to get suspicious. He continued to watch until he saw one of the would-be thugs break away from his buddies. From his vantage point across the street, he saw the remaining two gradually speeding up their walk to catch up to the girl, while he clearly saw the third emerge in an alleyway ahead of the girl. They were going to block her in, force her into the alley.
Just before the three hoods could act, though, Alex hollered, “Hey!”
The girl finally stopped and looked around herself. One of the guys decided to try and go for her anyway, but she screamed and Alex ran across the street, “Get away from her!” he yelled.
The one in the alley recognized Alex’s uniform and told his cronies, “It’s a cop!”
By the time Alex reached the girl’s side, the guys had disappeared into the shadows of the night.
The girl smiled at Alex with gratefulness in her shining brown eyes. Alex almost didn’t think twice about her; she looked like she’d fit in with the Powerball crowd; he’d saved her from the goons because he didn’t like them, not because he cared about her.
“Are you okay?” he asked, merely because she was staring at him like she wanted him to say something.
“Yeah,” she sighed, gazing over her forest-green skirt and adjusting her brown cardigan. “Thanks,” she told him, looking up shyly.
Alex didn’t look at her twice. “No problem,” he dismissed her gratitude automatically. “Have a good night.”
Alex walked back to his apartment, satisfied with the events of the day—with the exception of the morning’s fiascos.
“Almost everything,” he muttered as he fell into bed and a dreamless sleep.