By the following morning, Alex awoke to the realization that today was the fourth day since the ghosts of the Brendons had entered his life, but already he was becoming accustomed to the new habits they introduced. He didn’t meander through his morning routine anymore, careless of the odd minute wasted here and there. He was struck by the new goal emerging to make it into the police station before Ted and Marlo appeared—why, if it was so easy for him to do it now, had he never done it before?
Even Marnie was beginning to resign herself to this new-and-improved Alex Davis.
“Is there something you’re not telling me?” she demanded brusquely.
a moment, Alex feared she might suspect something about the ghosts—but
how could she know? “No,” he told her—at least, he was about to, but
Officer Tony Barelli—a loud-mouthed, ambitious senior officer who often
took 18-hour shifts with the hopes of impressing his superiors, and
performed all his duties with finesse that made all his fellow officers
jealous—heard Marnie’s comment and called out, “I know what’s going on!”
in the vicinity quickly hushed, even as people continued going through
the motions of whatever they had been doing. Alex felt on edge; what did
Barelli suspect? Surely he would have heard about the events of that
night. What spontaneous, bravado-laden story was Barelli going to spread
about Alex now?
Barelli, for his part, had everyone’s attention and
knew it, but continued as if he, Marnie, and Alex were the only ones in
the conversation. He clapped Alex on the shoulder, “See, Marnie? Alex is
a game-player; he always has been. He thinks three steps ahead of the
This was not true, and everyone knew it, especially
Alex; but Barelli was selling, and when Barelli sold, truth was a
guideline, not a foundation.
“Now, I don’t know how he knows it, but
Alex must have heard that he’s got a professional review coming up soon,
where he’ll be considered for a promotion.”
Alex was surprised; he
had no idea about the review, so how could Barelli possibly know? It
felt good to know that he might be promoted, though. He couldn’t wait to
be handed more responsibilities, like following the detectives on
criminal investigations and the like, instead of just being a regular
“So,” Marnie wondered, “the fact that for three mornings in a row now, Alex shows up on time--is all in preparation for becoming a senior officer?”
opened his mouth to join the conversation, since they were talking
about him as if he wasn’t there, but Barelli got in before he could say
“Not Senior officer, Marns,” Barelli shook his head,
“that’s too short for a guy like Alex.” Barelli turned his keen
blue-eyed stare on Alex and murmured conspiratorially, “Word on the beat
is he’s got a straight shot at Lieutenant.”
Alex shook his head; from junior officer to lieutenant? That
was Barelli’s theory? Well, maybe Barelli himself would attempt a feat
like that, but certainly not Alex! The gossip intrigued him, though; was
that really what people thought?
“What makes you so sure I’d get something like that?” Alex asked the officer.
winked at him, “Take a look at your case-load, Casanova; there’s no way
the socialites that know your name will let the mayor promote you to
Alex flushed as the cops in the area snickered. Marnie shook her head.
“Davis, you’re patrolling downtown today,” she told him, handing him his schedule. “I know it’s not quite your style, but—“
fine,” Alex said quickly, eager for anything that would take him away
from the station full of smirking juniors and frowning seniors. He
grabbed the stack of files and headed to the garage.
quickly and efficiently, Alex hopped into his fully-prepped patrol car
and switched on the scanner as he pulled out of the station.
“Where to, guys?” he asked the Brendons.
Ted eyed him warily, “What do you mean? Aren’t you going to just keep picking the calls?”
hesitated; he could claim this as an opportunity to get back at them,
an excuse to continue to ignore them. There would be nothing Ted and
Marlo could do if he just chose to act the way he had always been
Then again, he felt compelled to acknowledge the dramatic
improvement of yesterday afternoon, when he was so jaded by his own
foolish choices that he allowed Ted and Marlo to take over. The number
of cases had exceeded his usual average, but at the same time he had
finished them with more energy than usual. After that afternoon, Alex
realized that he almost didn’t want to return to his old, lazy, flirting
“Nope,” he told Ted with firm resolution, “I think I’ll let
you guys tell me the best ones to pick.” He grinned ruefully, “I guess
I’m not fully recovered from yesterday morning, you could say.”
to mention the fact that your habit of taking the high-profile cases has
attracted teasing from your fellow cops!” Marlo remarked.
chuckled, even as his cheeks burned. “Yeah, I, uh, think I want to keep
things on the down-low for now. I’d be okay with quieter stuff, I
“Why not take a rural patrol loop?” Marlo suggested.
Alex fought back a cringe, “Really? I mean—“
“Unless you think you know what’s best,” Ted interposed.
caught himself, “No, no, that’s fine!” he responded, shuffling through
the files Marnie had given him to find a quiet loop that needed
patrolling. He found one that circumnavigated several residential areas,
and headed in that direction.
For a “quiet” route, Alex was
surprised to discover just how busy those back roads were. There weren’t
any flashing neon signs or crowds bustling in and out of doors like he
saw so frequently downtown, but he did come across a few motorists in
need. One was a family whose car had run out of gas; Alex willingly let
the dad have the reserve can of gas he always carried in his trunk as a
cop. They thanked him profusely, with far more genuine gratitude than he
had gotten from any lady recently.
Further on, he came across a
senior couple sitting in their car with the windows rolled down, talking
as if this was not something unusual. Alex stopped by and asked how
they were. As it turned out, the car had blown a tire, but neither one
of them had the capacity to be able to change the tire, even though the
car was equipped with all the necessary tools, plus a spare tire. Hence,
they had no choice but to sit and wait for some motorist to stop and
help them, and they did so willingly.
While Alex changed the tire,
the woman informed him, “We’ve been sitting out there for three hours
now, and we’ve seen many cars whiz by us, but none of them stopped until
you came along!”
Alex couldn’t believe it; three hours, and no one
had thought to even ask if the couple needed any help? How many times
had he been one of them—and he was a cop!
“I’m just doing my duty,
ma’am,” he replied, heartened by the fact that this was true; he was
doing his duty, and not just looking for a more efficient way to pick up
After sending the couple on their way, Alex finished the
loop and began heading back toward the downtown area, when Marlo cried
out, “What’s down there?”
Alex quickly applied the brake and peered
down the side street where she pointed. It was a turnoff into another
neighborhood. Alex could see nothing out of the completely ordinary.
“I don’t see anything,” he told Marlo.
“Well,” Ted suggested, “why don’t you check it out? You can loop back to this road, I made sure.”
considered that perhaps there was something he was meant to do here,
and the Brendons knew what it was, since they had been through this
neighborhood ahead of him and probably seen something.
“I guess it
couldn’t hurt,” he said, pulling into the neighborhood. He drove down
the street, glancing at everyone he passed. A father walked several
yards behind his toddler daughter pedaling her pink tricycle with
glittery tassels on the handlebars. A young woman in a tracksuit jogged
by him, followed closely by her golden lab. Alex glanced at one yard in
amusement as he saw a housewife in a big, floppy hat directing her three
teenage sons in cleaning the front yard.
“Suckers,” he muttered.
“What was that?” Marlo queried quickly.
“Nothing!” Alex called back just as quick, resolving to avoid talking to himself while on-duty.
made the second turn and was headed to rejoin the road he had been on
when the flutter of a yellow scarf caught his eye. The scarf was on the
head of a young woman in a familiar (merely because he had seen it so
recently before) forest-green skirt. Alex smirked to himself, noting the
way he considered this girl in terms of “young lady” instead of “chick”
or “hottie.” She was neither of those things!
She was walking on the
sidewalk toward the main road in the same direction as Alex was
driving. He grinned to himself, wondering how freaked-out she might be
if he honked as he passed her. Was she the type to jump in fright, or
would she just look at him funny? In the end, as Alex drove past her, he
decided not to honk. He merely kept going.
“Wait!” Marlo cried.
Alex looked back at her without stopping, “What?”
Marlo was staring out the window with an urgent expression on her face. “Slow down!”
glanced in his rearview mirror and saw the girl approaching, still with
her head down as if she hadn’t noticed the unusual sight of a police
car in her neighborhood.
“Why should I—“
it was Ted, and Alex reacted immediately, slamming on the brakes—just
in time to see a bright-red rubber ball bounce against his front bumper
and into the street, and a young boy run after it.
“Holy heart attack!” Alex sighed warmly. He rolled down the window to yell at the kid, but the boy had his ball and was gone.
“Ah, forget it,” Alex muttered.
Alex looked up to see the young woman standing right there on the sidewalk; she’d seen him.
“It’s you,” she gasped.
Alex felt his ears burn, “Hi.” Alex was used to being at ease with the
ladies, Mister Smooth—what about this girl made him so uncomfortable?
She just stood there, smiling.
“Talk to her!” Marlo piped up brightly.
fought the urge to glare at the ghost-woman; he had no interest in this
girl, and he could not fathom how or why this girl would ever take an
interest in him.
“Um,” he stammered, “How are you?”
“I’m good,” she answered, still grinning. She gestured to the vicinity. “No thugs here!”
“Oh yeah,” Alex mumbled, “that; well—“
“What’s her name?” Marlo again.
“W-what’s your, uh, your name?”
The girl brushed her hair behind her ear, blushing furiously. Small wonder, having such an awkward conversation with a cop!
“Daphne,” she answered.
“Oh, okay,” Alex could visualize the end of the conversation, and this made it easier. “Well, have a good day, Daphne!”
“And don’t go walking after dark!” Ted added, even though she couldn’t hear him.
Alex laughed as he rolled up the window and pulled away.
“I don’t know what you guys are up to,” he told the couple grinning at him from the back seat, “but that was just awkward!”
Marlo chuckled, “Oh, but you handled it so well!”
“Okay, just don’t make me do that again!”
Ted and Marlo shared a glance, but Alex was not paying attention to them anymore.
“Dispatch, this is 145,” he told the dispatcher, “I’m headed for the I-60 speed trap right now.”
“Patrol 145,” the dispatcher responded, “you are just in time. Go for it; out.”
Alex merged onto I-60 and after a short distance, pulled over to the side of the road. He chuckled to his passengers.
“Did seeing a patrol car ever make you check your speedometer?” he asked.
“Nope,” Ted responded right away, “I always made sure I was matching speed with the flow of traffic.”
looked uncomfortable and examined her nails (which could not be
anything other than perfect, since she was dead.) She twisted her
wedding ring on her finger, “Well, I, um—“
“I was just asking,” Alex
saved her from having to respond, “because I think it’s funny how even
though I haven’t even gotten my radar gun out, already traffic is a lot
slower than it was!” He laughed, grabbed the large scanner, and stood
outside his car. He caught a few cars that would speed until they came
within sight of him, at which point they would immediately slow down to a
more reasonable speed. One of these was a powder-blue Mazda Miata. Alex
dove into his car when he saw it coming. He fired up the engine when it
passed, smiling widely as he flicked on his lights to let the driver
know she was being pulled over.
“The car wasn’t going that fast, was
it?” Marlo asked as Alex slowly emerged from his car and loped easily to
the driver’s window. A slender brunette turned her chunky Prada
sunglasses on him.
“Are you serious?” she whined.
“Do you know why I pulled you over, ma’am?” Alex leaned casually on the roof of the compact car.
girl took off her sunglasses and began inspecting her manicure. “Let’s
just get this over with, okay? Just tell me what I did wrong, give me
the ticket, and—“
“It’s Addie, isn’t it?” Alex asked her.
Finally, she looked at him, peering closely. Her eyes widened. “Ohmigosh!” she cried in excitement, “It’s you!”
This was the second time he’d heard that today, but somehow it sounded
better when Addie said it. “Adam, isn’t it?” she winked at him.
Alex flushed, “Actually, it’s Alex.”
“Oh…” Addie squinted at him against the glare of the sun through her windshield. “Was I speeding?”
Alex shrugged sheepishly, “No, I, uh, actually just wanted to ask you out on a date.”
“Oh, that’s so cute!” Addie gushed. “Of course I’ll go out with you! What time?”
“Umm, how about eight—“
very carefully, Alex,” Ted appeared, warning him. “Eight is when you’re
supposed to be clocking out; how can you be picking her up from her
apartment before or at the same time you clock out?”
“—thirty,” Alex finished.
Addie’s ears, it was as if he had not hesitated when he said
“eight-thirty.” “Great,” she chirped, “I’ll see you then!” She started
her car up again, but glanced at him slyly, “Can I go now?”
“I’ll let you off with a warning this time,” Alex joked, “I’ll be at your door by eight-thirty, Addie!”
“Bye!” She merged back onto the freeway and sped away.
Five hours later, at 8:05 PM, Alex wearily dragged himself to the scanner to clock out.
should have known the Brendons would want to retaliate for the way he
went behind their backs to pursue a relationship with Adelaide. They had
run him almost ragged with calls all the rest of the afternoon; they
almost forced him to accept nearly every call the dispatcher took. She
was shocked, but when she saw that Alex would not refuse, she continued
to give him assignments in addition to the files Marnie had given him
that morning. Ted and Marlo didn’t even seem to mind when Alex was
repeatedly called to break up brawls, chase down shooters, and pick up
At last, his shift ended, the Brendons wished him a
good night and good luck on his date, and disappeared. Alex vaguely
wondered where they went at night. At any rate, he knew where he was
going! He changed into a fresh shirt and sport coat and caught a cab
over to Adelaide’s address in Pentomino Heights. At precisely 8:30, Alex
knocked on Adelaide’s door.
A butler opened it.
“I’m here to pick up Addie Donahue,” Alex told him.
The butler glanced over him dubiously.
“Miss Adelaide,” he responded with icy condescension, “is expecting you; follow me, please.”
The butler led Alex into the front sitting room of Addie’s house.
“Wait here,” he said, and left the room.
glanced around as he sat on the plush, suede leather sofa: silk throw
pillows, glass and china sculptures and knickknacks, famous paintings in
gold-plated frames—everything reeked of riches. However did he get so
After about ten minutes, Alex began to wonder if he was indeed
so lucky. Why would Adelaide keep him waiting for so long? The house
was strangely silent as the old-fashioned mahogany grandfather clock
ticked away the seconds.
Finally, he heard the familiar clomping of
tall, chunky heels on the stairwell. Addie appeared, wearing her
customary signature clothing: this time a slouchy, brightly-colored
chiffon shirtdress and black, heeled gladiator sandals.
“Arthur!” she gushed when Alex came to stand at the foot of the stairs. “I’m so excited! Where are we going?”
“It’s Alex,” he reminded her for the second time that day, “Come on, let’s go.”
held the door for Adelaide, and followed her down the front steps to
the sidewalk. Adelaide stopped and glanced up and down the darkened
“Where’s your car?” she asked, puzzled.
Alex shrugged, a
bit embarrassed, though he had never been before. “I, uh, don’t have a
car, since I spend most of the day in my patrol car. I take a cab.”
mouth smiled, but Alex keenly detected the disgust in her eyes. “Oh,”
she murmured. “Well, then,” she grabbed his arm and led him toward the
parking garage at the end of the block, “why don’t we drive one of
mine?” She stopped by the booth at the gate and said, “Hey, Mack, we’d
like the keys to the Lexus, if you don’t mind.”
“Takin’ another one
out, Miss Addie?” Mack joked, grabbing the keys off the hook. “Careful
with this one, now; not like last time!”
Addie laughed carelessly and tucked the keys to a luxury Lexus into Alex’s hand.
meanwhile, began to feel slightly uncomfortable as he wondered what
Mack meant by “another one”: was it another car…or another boyfriend?
“Whatsa matter?” she asked, and Alex realized that he was frowning as he thought.
“Um, Addie,” Alex stammered, “What happened last time?”
Addie rolled her eyes as she waited by the passenger side for Alex to open the door and help her in, “Nothing really happened! Mack was just being silly…you know how those guys are.”
did know—that when a crime happened in the vicinity of a parking
garage, the man at the gate usually knew the most out of any other
third-party witnesses. Suddenly he was very nervous about being out with
Addie—particularly at the wheel of a car that probably cost more than
his life was worth. Car or boyfriend, Alex didn’t want anything terrible
to happen to either one. However, there wasn’t much he could do about
that; his only option was to focus on enjoying this opportunity—however
long it lasted.
He headed to the eastern side of the city, down
Boylan Avenue, intending to take Addie to the nicest dessert place he
knew of, but as soon as he did, Alex saw her wrinkle her nose.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her.
“Why are we going down here?” she demanded.
“Don’t worry,” Alex sought to reassure her, “I know a nice place down the block here.”
“Oh Alvin, honey,” Addie cajoled him, “you can’t possibly be trying to say that there’s anything
nice on this side of town!” She stuck out her lip in a pout. Her neon
bangles clacked together as she laid her manicured hand on Alex’s leg.
She rubbed his knee tenderly. “Here,” she whispered in his ear, “Let me
take you somewhere fun!” She scanned the block ahead. “Take a right at
the next light.”
Alex ended up following Addie’s directions to
Chez Paris Riche Lounge. Alex had a moment to gawk as Addie touched up
her makeup. He rarely had the opportunity to come out to this block,
even for work. Every business establishment had valets and security
staff standing on the curb.
“There!” Addie’s hand appeared in front
of Alex’s face, and he reflexively veered the car to the curb where she
pointed. The valet approached the car, and Alex rolled down the window.
“Hey Todd!” Addie waved at him.
Todd smiled, “Howdy, Miss Adelaide; welcome back!”
Todd opened the door on her side as Alex got out of the driver’s seat.
“Have a good night, Miss!” Todd waved as Addie latched onto Alex and the two of them walked into the lounge.
barrage of recognition did not stop there. The minute Addie entered the
lounge with Alex on her arm, she became Miss Adelaide and guest, the
hostess immediately led her to her favorite table, the bartender came
around to their table and Adelaide smoothly dismissed him almost
immediately by telling him, “We’ll just have the usual.”
pointed and whispered, but Alex knew they weren’t even paying attention
to him. For that matter, neither was Adelaide. She talked on and on—more
of a giggling prattle—about so many things, inserting a question every
so often, but largely just focusing on reapplying her makeup (as if it
could have worn off in the short walk between the curb and their table)
and checking to make sure any paparazzi shots would still present her in
the best light.
The waiter brought them both drinks, and Alex
assertively asked for the dessert menu. He couldn’t help noticing that
the waiter glanced at Adelaide before complying; did she treat all her
dates this way?
Whatever the initial hesitation, it had evidently
disappeared when the waiter returned with the warm apple crisp Alex
ordered. He vaguely noticed that there was also another drink on the
tray for Adelaide, but he ignored it and instead offered to share the
crisp with her. She consented and they traded bites for a while, until
the warmth of the food and the fatigue from the day, coupled with the
soft cushions around him—Alex jerked back to semi-wakefulness with the
realization that he’d almost dozed off. He glanced at Adelaide, who was
still babbling away as if he was hanging on her every word. There was
only one glass on the table, and she was busily polishing off another,
but Alex knew when somebody was drunk, and Addie was no exception. The
waiter had probably removed all the other glasses; there was no way to
tell just how drunk the young heiress was.
She was just trying to signal the waiter for a refill when Alex sufficiently recovered his presence of mind to cut her off.
“Juss one m’drink!” she slurred, “Is good stuff!”
Alex shook his head and put his arms around her, “No, I think you’ve had enough.”
matter! I c’n do wha’ I want!” she protested, even as Alex guided her
chair away from the table. She stood and instantly stumbled. He caught
her and began leading her toward the door. Instantly, Todd was at their
side with the Lexus.
“Hey man,” Alex told him, “do you know the parking structure on Adelaide’s block?”
Todd eyed him warily, “Yeah; what about it?”
dug some cash out of his wallet, “Drive the car back there and leave it
with Mack, would you? I think Miss Adelaide needs to walk some off.”
Todd shook his head; the previous guys never acted like this, but money was money. He pocketed the bills. “Whatever you say.”
warm out tonight!” Addie gurgled rapturously. She leaned on Alex
heavily as he guided her over to her neighborhood. “Fun date! You’re a
“Mushroom?” Alex echoed.
“Fungi! Fun guy, get
it?” Addie hooted. Then she moaned, “Ooh, stop—the ride! I wanna get
off!” She reeled and wobbled around in front of Alex.
It took about
an hour, but at last Alex returned Addie to her butler, who latched on
to her quite capably, as if he was used to her coming home like this.
wearily dragged himself back to the apartment. It was well after ten
o’clock by the time he laid down in bed. He knew he wasn’t usually this
tired by the end of the day. He would have probably not fallen asleep on
his date of all places if Ted and Marlo hadn’t—
Alex popped awake
again; there was some unfinished business he was curious to know about
before he fell asleep. Alex rolled out of bed, grabbed his laptop, and
returned to the covers, propping it open on his lap. Opening the Google
page, he entered Ted and Marlo Brendon. He was amused but not
surprised to find several social networking posts concerning their
unfortunate demise, from various neighbors who described them as “the
nicest couple on the block,” from various local charities and ministries
who claimed that “their presence would be missed.”
“Yeah,” Alex muttered to himself, “try being haunted by them for twelve hours a day!” But he read on.
and Marlo were the best things that ever happened to this town!”
someone wrote, “I would not be the sort of person I am today if it
weren’t for them!”
Reading through the anecdotes and memories shared
by many others, it became clear to Alex that the Brendons weren’t just a
couple of people; they had an astounding network of friends from
various walks of life. The computer screen seemed to dim and the text
faded, and before he knew it, Alex was fast asleep.