Saturday, March 9, 2013

Serial Saturday: "Protective Custody" Pt. 8

At ten minutes to eight o’clock the next morning, Alex Davis frantically rummaged around his room to get out of the street clothes he had been wearing and into his uniform by eight o’clock.
            He had overestimated the effort it would take to get out of bed so much earlier than usual, not to mention he had also underestimated the “Harding Avenue” lead on the whereabouts of the Staten/Brendon heirlooms. There were no less than seven pawnshops within three blocks of Harding Avenue, and five more within a ten-block radius. Six of them had been visited by a certain lanky twenty-something within the last week, and three of them, upon hearing that said patron was an arrested criminal, willingly gave Alex a discounted price. The other three seemed not to care; Alex deduced these were Chad’s regular fences, and through clever steering of casual conversation, he learned the locations of several black market alleys frequented by Mr. Andrews.
            Alex’s own attic room where he stored all the dishes and valuables from his parents now contained half again the amount of merchandise, but since he knew the Brendons, even as ghosts, had no occasion of going up there, they were safe from discovery until the opportune moment—namely, when Alex would be able to recover everything that was stolen.

            Eight o’clock sharp, Ted and Marlo appeared. Alex was still in the process of smoothing his rumpled appearance.
            “You know,” Marlo observed with a matronly frown, “you’re kind of pushing this time-bending thing too far, I think.”
            Alex sighed, grabbing a granola bar and a cup of yogurt to dip it in on his way out the door. “I know, I’m sorry!” he cried, “I had an earl—a late night last night.”
            “All those reports keep you way past your bedtime?” Ted chided gently.
            Alex stopped in his tracks, just beyond the police station, and winced. He still had several forms to fill out, which he’d forgotten in his excitement to find out about the heirlooms. “I guess you could say that,” he conceded.
            Ted shrugged, “That’s okay, you’ll get them done.”
           
            Alex walked into the station and automatically swiped his keycard.
            “Morning, Alex,” Marnie greeted him with more warmth than usual.
            On a whim, Alex stopped instead of just breezing past the window to her desk from the bullpen, as he usually did. He looked up at her. “Good morning, Marnie,” he replied, “what do you have for me today?”
            “Not much, I’m afraid,” she responded, “just a lot of follow-up, places like the neighborhoods around by the cinema and the school district, speed trap on Beverly Highway, and any red flags that pop up. Boogie’s at nine, I’ll have dispatch keep you informed.”
            “Great!” Alex smiled and picked up the necessary dossiers.
            “Great?” Barelli’s sneering face appeared at his elbow, “What’s so great about a busy beat, Davis? You’re not thinking of hitting any single moms at the grade school, are you?”
            Alex gritted his teeth and walked away from Barelli with a scowl.
            Ted shook his head, “He does have a point, you know; you’ve been making progress, but you can’t reconstruct a reputation in a week.”
            “I just wish he’d leave me alone,” Alex whispered.
            “What’s that, Davis?” Barelli hooted, “Talking to yourself…again?”
            “BARELLI!” Prosser’s gruff bark echoed around the bullpen. “Patrol! Now!”
            “Oh, darn,” Barelli couldn’t resist one last blow, “one of the chicks in Pentomino Heights probably lost her fat corgi again; better go save her—oops, I mean, it.
            Alex forced himself to stay rooted at his desk till he heard the garage door close behind Barelli. He huffed and began filling out the next form.

            “That young man needs to learn some manners!” Marlo cried tenderly. “Has he always treated you like this, Alex? Oh, I wish I could do something about him—or to him!” A fiendish glint lit her eye.
            Alex gave her a warning look and shrugged it off. Instead of replying verbally, he opened a document on his computer and typed out his responses. He was done attracting undue attention.
            I’ve never gotten this much flak before, he wrote, back then, I just kept out of everybody’s way, did what I wanted, not much follow-through unless it was a direct order from the captain.
            Ted chuckled, “So maybe the reason everybody has it in for you is because you’ve shaped up, and they don’t believe it?”
            Alex grinned and typed, Could be.
            He finished the reports and even went through the tedious process of delivering them to the different departments himself, instead of leaving them on his desk for Marnie to pick up at the end of the day, as he usually would. This action elicited shocked responses when people realized who it was, and almost always followed by a smile.

            En route to the first neighborhood on his list, Alex’s radio bleeped.
            “Hey, if anybody’s in the vicinity of Ernst Avenue,” said a cold voice he recognized, “I have a partial visual on a subject heading north on Cavern Street, and I need another pair of eyes to confirm.”
            Alex groaned; here he was, feeling more efficient and better than he ever had before, and his first opportunity to “go to bat” for someone, it had to be Lieutenant Munroe, the person who really hated him!
            The Brendons, crunched in the front seat, both flashed him a thumbs-up and a grin.
            Alex picked up his radio, “Roger that, this is 145, I’ve got you covered.”
            For once, Bree Munroe was so shocked she didn’t even have a comeback. “Wha…Al—I mean, Davis? What are you doing over here?”
            Alex checked his itinerary. Yes, one of his sweeps would take him right over Ernst Avenue. He could cover for Munroe and still fulfill his duties. “It’s on my list,” he said, “no big deal.”
            He could tell she was fighting to keep control of her voice and the situation as she responded tersely, “I’m sending the mug shot to your computer. Confirm, and I’ll move in. Don’t even think about engaging him yourself!”
            Alex watched the photograph of the burly Caucasian male, 35, 6’4”, 230 lbs., appear on his screen. He set the radio down. It would be just like Bree Munroe to want to take on a suspect like this.
            “Wouldn’t dream of it,” he remarked to the Brendons with a wink. He turned down 14th Street, which would take him right out to Ernst Avenue.
            He radioed Bree. “Turning on to Ernst Avenue now,” he reported.
            “Don’t you dare spook him, Davis!” she warned him.
            Alex stayed behind the cover of some trees as the suspect in question approached the block. One glance told him the man had ear-buds in. Wonderful, that made him unsuspecting, distracted. He scanned the face quickly, memorizing it before glancing back at the photo. The man moved like a linebacker; in fact, he probably was one, in college.
            “It’s him,” he told Bree quickly, “He’s plugged in.”
            He heard a noise over his radio, and blinked. She laughed; Bree Munroe actually laughed. Albeit it was sort of a darkly delighted chuckle, but it was more than just the scoffing “HA!” Alex had only ever heard from her.
            “He won’t even know what hit him!” she crowed, and Alex clearly heard the revving of an engine down the block to his left.
            “Hit him?” he echoed, not sure if Bree was being figurative or literal.
           
Bree’s patrol car zoomed past him, pulling to a screeching halt just across from the man. Lieutenant Munroe jumped out, guns blazing, like she meant business.
            “Victor McAllister,” she shrieked, “you’re under arrest for assault and theft!”
            Victor realized too late that she was on him, and by the time he thought to yank the earbuds out of his ears and sprint, she already had one wrist cuffed. She jumped to grab the other, and pulled it roughly behind his back to cuff that one. There was a malicious glint in her eye as she marched Victor not to her own patrol car, but to Alex’s, and shoved him into the back seat.
            “Take him down to booking, will you?” she asked rhetorically, “I have a few more arrests to make.”
            Alex rolled his eyes. A smart-aleck remark formed in his mind, but Marlo saw it coming and shook her head. Instead, Alex responded, “Fine, whatever,” through gritted teeth.
            He turned back to the main road before he could see the brief stunned expression on Bree’s face.

            He did, however, witness the shocked reaction he got when Marnie saw him marching in behind the former linebacker.
            “Did you find this guy?” she gasped incredulously as Alex guided him into the holding cell.
            Alex shook his head, “I’m just the delivery boy. Lieutenant Munroe made the arrest.”
            This only increased Marnie’s amazement. “You…Alex Davis…. Brought him in…for Bree Munroe?” She looked at him as if she thought he was delirious or something.
            Alex enjoyed her astonishment, shrugging as if the behavior was completely normal. “She said she had more arrests to make.” He turned back toward the garage. “I’m headed back out to the speed trap.”
            “Oh…” Marnie could barely get the words out, “Oh—okay.”

            On his way out to the highway, Alex decided to take the route that would bring him right through Harding Avenue. He said nothing to the Brendons, and they never suspected a thing.
            Alex, however, was plenty suspicious himself when he saw Daphne walking out of one of the pawnshops he had yet to visit. What could she be doing there? Why would a girl who works three different jobs every day be visiting a pawnshop? Alex wondered; could it be that she was not as well-off as one would expect, and so received extra revenue by selling her stuff? Alex wondered what a girl like Daphne would have to sell. Was she from a “fallen-from-riches” family, and so had to sell her family heirlooms to survive?
            Once he reached the highway, Daphne was completely forgotten, and Alex focused entirely on the task at hand. He monitored speed, recalling that this was how he was able to get his first date with Adelaide. He remembered that night, about how she took him to ritzy places, how her face glowed, how she sat across from him at the table and winked softly over the rim of her martini glass…Alex blinked when he realized his radio was in the midst of a conniption.
            “Hate to interrupt your dreams,” Ted commented wryly, “but there’s a shoplifter cornered at the Hertzfeld market, and rumor has it he’s waving a gun around.”
            Alex dove back in the car and flipped on his radio. “Dispatch, this is 145, I’m headed to Hertzfeld.”
            “Fourteen-five, is that you?” the dispatcher’s voice for once lost it’s dry, cutting edge and seemed almost pleasantly surprised. “Very well, I’ll notify the management.”

            Once Alex arrived on the scene, it didn’t take long to figure out that it was a modified airsoft gun in the man’s hand, because he immediately surrendered at the sight of Alex’s very real sidearm and badge. The instant he returned to his vehicle, the dispatcher contacted him with another request.
            “Caller on Southern Avenue says there’s a suspicious-looking man creeping around her neighbor’s yard.”
            Alex chuckled, “Can I get a more accurate description than ‘suspicious’?” he asked.
            “Why, Officer,” the dispatcher responded, “is there something wrong?”
            Alex raised an eyebrow. “Should there be?” he asked her.
            “The only description you’ve ever asked for is the victim: is she cute, is she young, is she not too young, is she rich—“
            “Yeah, I remember,” Alex grimaced to think of how shamelessly he would treat his job in the not-so-distant past. “No, there’s nothing wrong,” he winked at the Brendons, “I guess I just woke up and decided to be mature for a change.”
            “Change indeed!” the dispatch replied, “Well, she did say he was tall and lean, and had dark hair. I’m sorry I can’t get you much beyond that.”
            “I’ll head over there and see what I can find,” Alex replied reluctantly.

            En route, the dispatcher called him again.
            “Patrol 145, I have a call coming in about a car crash on Forrest Avenue.”
            “What about the suspicious housebreaker?”
            “Patrol, that is not an active emergency, please proceed to Forrest Avenue via McGrath Street.”
            The dispatcher had lost her personal tone, and reverted back to the “professional” drone. Alex sighed, “Roger that, Dispatch,” he replied.
            He turned down Forrest Avenue. Two vehicles were involved, and the fire truck was just arriving. Alex saw two teenage girls standing beside the car in back, crying uncontrollably, while the couple from the car in front stood at a distance, glancing between Alex and the girls and whispering nervously to each other. It appeared to be a full-on T-bone collision, but how had they managed it? The front car’s body was more substantial; it had crushed the other car’s hood almost completely, while keeping its passengers safe. Alex could see a young man in the driver’s seat, badly injured and unconscious. The firemen worked in grim silence to get him out.
            “What happened?” Alex asked the two groups. Both began speaking at once.
            “Those kids came out of nowhere officer, they just came whipping around the corner and smashed right into us before we could get out of their way!”
            “I don’t know what happened, officer! Tony was driving and all of a sudden this car comes out of nowhere around the corner and totally smashes into us!”
            The man from the front car glared at the girl who had spoken, “Wait a minute, you crashed into us first!”
            The girl rubbed her face and stamped her foot. “You were the one who clipped the front of our car and got us spinning out of control!”
            “Well then you should not have been driving so close to the middle!”
            “We were almost on the shoulder! You were practically in our lane, there was no way we could have avoided that!”
            Alex groaned inwardly. He looked back at the cars. The skid patterns on the road did seem to support the girl’s story of the couple being at fault, but—he shook his head. That wasn’t his problem. He glanced to the group, “Do you all have emergency contacts?”
            The man nodded, “My sister’s on the way.”
            “My mom is coming to take us to the hospital,” the second girl said.
            Alex nodded, “All right, good. Let me call a tow truck, and we can get this mess cleaned up.” He grabbed a small broom from the back of his patrol car.
            In an hour, they had swept most of the glass and debris off the road. It took another hour for the tow trucks to arrive, but eventually they did, and Alex could return to his car for the next call.
            Alex barely had time to pick up a hamburger for lunch between chasing down a purse-snatcher for an elderly woman, checking up on that suspicious stranger from the morning (who turned out to be the resident’s husband recently returned from a long business trip; he had merely been checking for the spare key hideaway), and calming down a crazed gunman at a drug store downtown. It was nearing five o’clock, Alex knew he had plenty of reports to fill out back at the station, but Ted insisted he turn on his radio.
            “Patrol 145, this is 618, do you copy?”
            Alex wanted to bang his head on the steering wheel. Last call of the day, and it had to be Lieutenant Munroe?
            Marlo laid an intangible hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Alex; you’ve done really good all day. Make this one count!”
            Alex punched the call button on his radio. “This is 145,” he responded through gritted teeth, “I copy.”
            “Meet me at Heathrow Boulevard. Think you could manage that, 145?”
            Heathrow? Alex’s spirits rose. That was back in the high-end district! This could be his lucky call!
            “I’ll be there in ten, 618.”
            “Roger that.”

            Alex pulled onto the freeway, grateful for the chance to visit the old places. As much as he had tried to leave the old Alex behind, he still missed hanging out where he could be noticed, where he wanted to be noticed.
            He spotted Bree’s car parked in front of a sports bar. The Lieutenant herself was nowhere in sight.
            “Six-eighteen, this is one-forty-five,” he said into his radio.
            “Fourteen-five, come on in, and bring your extra cuffs and a first-aid kit.” Bree responded, and there was a small noise just before her radio clicked off; was that a snicker he heard?
            Alex walked into the sports bar. It looked like it would have been a nice enough establishment—if it weren’t for the glass and tables and chairs strewn everywhere. Alex found Bree in the likeliest of places: in the midst of the chaos. She had one man unconscious, another in cuffs, and two more under her gun and that of the bartender.
            “Cuff that one first,” she nodded toward the one under the bartender’s eye, “so Mitch can go back to cleaning up the mess.”
            Alex nodded and followed the instructions. As soon as he finished, Bree handed him the extra pair from her belt. “Now the guy on the floor. Careful moving him, I think I dislocated his jaw.”
            Alex shook his head, “So what was their crime, Lieutenant?”
            “Brawling, disruption of the peace, and belligerence,” she stated calmly.
            “And what were you doing?” Alex struggled to heave the burly man upright so he could get the cuffs on.
            “Disrupting the belligerence,” she shot back. “It’s my job. Cuff this guy for me, I’ll get the two packed in.” As Alex worked, Lieutenant Munroe trucked the man in her cuffs and the first man Alex cuffed out to the curb. “Bring them when you’re finished,” she called over her shoulder.
            “She sure likes to boss you around,” Ted Brendon remarked.
            “Tell me about it!” Alex snorted.
            “What was that?” Bree’s catlike ears caught his muttered remark.
            “Nothing!” Alex hollered. He ordered the still-conscious perpetrator to walk out ahead of him, while he half-dragged the unconscious brawler out the door.
            Bree was waiting next to her empty patrol car. She had deposited the first two perpetrators in the back seat of Alex’s car.
            “In here, playboy,” she barked at Alex. As she closed the door behind the unconscious man, she didn’t even look at Alex as she said, “You don’t mind taking those guys in for me, do ya?”
            She moved on as if she did not expect a reply, but Alex surprised the two of them when he suddenly burst out, “As a matter of fact, no, I don’t mind.”
            Bree stopped and gave him a strange look. She blinked, and climbed into her car. Before pulling away, she rolled down her window.
            “Thanks, Davis,” she said, and zipped off toward the station.

            Alex drove after her, and she was just booking a newly-revived brawler when he came in following his two passengers. He saw that same strange look in Bree’s eyes as she glanced briefly at him, but she didn’t say anything and walked away.
           
            Alex sat at his desk to start on the evening’s paperwork. A hot-pink, heart-shaped post-it note caught his attention. It was a message from Marnie.
            Girlfriend called. Wants a date. Says to call at eight. 555-4642
            Alex smiled; it was just what he needed, a date with Addie. The smile dimmed as he remembered the guy he’d seen her with last, and the way she’d brushed him off on Sunday. Marnie did say she wanted a date; maybe she had come around.
            Alex finished the last form and called Addie.
            “Hello?”
            “Hi, Addie, it’s Alex. Are you still up for going out tonight?”
            “Oh, jeez, yes! I’ve been so incredibly bored all day long! Come save me!”
            Alex chuckled, “All right; I’ll pick you up at your townhouse at eight-thirty, just like last time. Does that work for you?”
            Addie did not reply right away, and Alex detected some indistinct talking in the background.
            Finally, she spoke, “Actually, could you pick me up at the Chic Boutique? I’ve just been doing a little shopping. Oh, and tell Mack to let you drive the Jag."
            Alex hesitated; a Jaguar? “It’s no trouble for me to—“
            “Oh, please, Allen!”
            “It’s Alex,” he corrected her automatically, and sighed, “All right, the Jag it is.”

            Alex made a quick stop by his apartment to change his clothes and freshen up, and then he took a cab to the parking garage on Addie’s block.
            “Hey Mack,” he greeted the attendant. “Addie asked me to—“
            “I know, she called me,” Mack winked and slid him the keys to the Jaguar. “She must like you; she saves the Jag to show off her date. Makes him feel good, makes her look good.”
            Alex felt so out-of-place even touching such an exclusive car that he didn’t reply. He forced himself to focus on getting to the Boutique, finding that concentrating on the driving took his mind off of the fact that it was an extremely expensive car.
            Addie was waiting on the curb when he reached the Chic Boutique. Alex parked and got out to help her load the numerous bags into the trunk. She handed him a thin box.
            “This is for you; I’ll drive while you put it on,” she said quickly, dodging around the car before he could react.
            Alex sat in the passenger seat and opened the box. Inside was an Italian silk shirt and hand-stitched tie. They looked custom-made. He glanced at Addie; why was she doing this?
            “Is what I’m wearing not nice enough?” he inquired.
            Adelaide glanced at it sideways. “Not hardly, Alvin; we’re going to the Sandy Shores tonight, and I want my date to look his best!”
            Alex shook his head and changed shirts; first the Jaguar, now a shirt and tie—not to mention she continuously got his name wrong. Was he supposed to be someone else?
           
            Addie pulled up next to the curb, and a valet opened the door to let her out. She waited till Alex came around and took her by the hand.
            In the restaurant, the host recognized her by sight, and led her to a booth against the side of the restaurant. The waiter followed soon behind.
            “Hello, my name is Carlos, I will be taking care of you tonight. Can I get you two started on any drinks or appetizers tonight?”
            “Appletini for me,” Adelaide spoke up immediately, “and Alex—“
            “Corona with a lime,” Alex ordered.
            Carlos nodded, “Appletini and Corona? Very good, sir.”
           
            Alex glanced down the menu, intentionally ignoring the prices; Mack’s words haunted him, “She wants to show off her date.” He had a feeling that in Addie’s case, “showing off” meant paying for the meal as well. His mouth watered at the selection of ribs and sirloin steaks.
            When Carlos returned with the drinks and asked if they were ready to order, Adelaide pounced.
            “Yes, we are,” she bubbled gratuitously. “We’ll have house salad and bruschetta to start, and for the meal I’ll have the Chicken Portobello Massala, and Alex will have the Catfish Fillet.”
            Carlos nodded and took their menus before Alex had time to register.
           
            Very soon, he was back with their salads and bruschetta. Alex ate, knowing that he wasn’t going to get a very filling meal tonight. Carlos brought their entrees, and sure enough, the catfish fillet graced the center of his plate with only a few potatoes arranged neatly on the side, and a small knot of green beans on the other.

"I hope you don't mind my doing this,” Adelaide burst out almost apologetically, clasping his hand in hers. “The tabs think I'm dating a deep-sea angler."
Alex blinked and shook his head, "I didn't know that fishing was more reputable than police work!" he retorted before he could stop himself.
Adelaide ignored his offended tone and giggled, "It's not about being reputable, it's about reputation, dear! If people knew you were a cop, they might think I was only stringing you along to get things from you."
Alex bit his tongue, as his mind wished to demand of the young lady, Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing?
Once they had finished eating, Adelaide glanced toward the door, and then nodded to the small area near the live band playing music for the patrons.
“Let’s dance,” she proposed.
Alex could almost forgive her for the fish as she gave him the opportunity to do some “showing off” himself. Many dates in the past had involved dancing, and through that practice, Alex had become quite dexterous on the dance floor. He led with great finesse, while Adelaide simpered, swayed, and flirted with him. He noticed that she exaggerated her movements more than she needed to; watching Adelaide spin around him, Alex received the impression that she might be putting on an act somehow. For whom? And why?
Alex blinked away from his thoughts as he realized Addie had come to a stop and now swayed with her arms around his neck.
“I’m thirsty,” she whispered in his ear. “Could you get me a drink?”
Alex nodded, “Wait here,” he said.

It took him a while to weave out of the knot of dancers, but he made it to the bar.
“Two ice waters, please,” he said to the bartender.
Glasses in hand, he began weaving his way back to where he had left Adelaide.
She wasn’t there. Confused and gradually becoming disoriented in the shifting crowd, Alex tried to pick her out among the moving people, then he scanned the tables just off the dance floor to see if she was waiting there. The beat of the music picked up, and Alex nearly spilled the glasses he held as an energetic couple jostled him.
“Watch it!” the man snapped, and Alex decided that the middle of the dance floor was not the best place to wait for Addie. He weaved back to the outside of the area, and finally he spotted her—at the bar.

Alex set the glasses on the nearest table and focused on dodging around waiters and tables to get to her. She was already on her second cocktail.
“Adelaide,” he called her attention as he approached.
She turned, and he saw the old familiar glassy look just starting to glaze over her eyes.
“I got thirsty while I was waiting, and then I couldn’t find you,” she explained.
Alex shook his head and gently removed the cocktail from her reach. “Those aren’t really thirst-quenchers, you know,” he chided her. “Time to go, Addie.” He grabbed her purse and led her from the restaurant.
As he pushed open the door for her, Addie remarked, “That was fun.”
“I’m glad you had fun tonight,” Alex said, but he barely had time to get the words out before Adelaide started babbling profusely.
“Oh, believe me, Arthur, I did have fun; you sure know how to show a girl a good time. I mean, the movie last night, and the candlelight picnic before that—I never knew you could get so romantic! Will you take me out on your boat next time?”
Alex was almost speechless at this unexpected chatter. Movie? Picnic? What was she talking about? She behaved as if he had been the one to take her out, not the other way around! When she asked about the boat, though, he remembered the ruse she had covered him with; perhaps this was just a bit of gossip for the tabloids, just in case any were lurking about. Alex decided to play along.
“Sure,” he responded.
Addie smiled and smoothed his collar. “Nice shirt, and I like your tie,” she winked at him. Then suddenly she was off down the sidewalk, spreading her arms wide, “Oh, the moon is so beautiful tonight!” she cried rapturously, “Don’t you think that this city is the best place in the country? We really are the luckiest people in the world.”
Alex checked his impatience and grabbed Addie’s hand again.
“Adelaide,” he murmured gently, for her sake, “what’s gotten into you?”
“It’s you,” she blinked widely at him, and she was off again on another speech.
You’ve gotten into me, Alex, and I’ll never forgive myself for it! How awful I have been, trading around boyfriends as if they were just another outfit to wear, and it’s thanks to you that I have realized my mistake! I never knew who I really was before I met you, Alex, but you were the first one to see through the tangled hair of deceit and low self-esteem that I had hid behind for so long.” Her voice rose with the drama of her words, and she stepped closer and closer to Alex as she spoke. Alex could only stand and watch, numb with amazement, as Adelaide put on a persona he never expected to see from her. She was right in his face now.
“No more charades, Alex,” she whispered, “I cannot hide—“ suddenly she cut herself off and kissed him passionately. Alex kissed back, gratified, but desperately confused; what was she doing? Finally, she pulled back and smiled at him.
“I—“ Alex struggled to find his voice again, “I think I need to drive you home, Addie.”
Addie dropped her arms from around his neck and nodded. “Sure,” she replied evenly, “we can go back to my place for some privacy.”
She was still acting; she might even still be drunk, for all he could tell. Alex accepted the keys from the valet and drove back to Adelaide’s townhouse. He helped her out of the car and up the stairs, but when he offered the keys, she shook her head.
“Keep the car,” she announced in the same elevated tone she’d been using. “We’ll meet again on Friday, let things sizzle till then.”
Alex dropped the keys in Addie’s purse. “Friday? Why wait so long?” he asked, “are you doing anything tomorrow?”
“Not tomorrow,” Addie said quickly, dropping her voice to a whisper, “I’m…busy.”
“Busy doing what?” Alex was beyond caring about being discreet or not.
Adelaide put a finger to her lips. “Shh! Not so loud! Look, Alex, you were great tonight, you’ve been great every night, but just so you know, things aren't ever going to work out between us."
This was definitely the strangest break-up Alex had ever been through. "So that's it? I'm not your boyfriend, I'm just your chaperone when you don't have one?"
Addie sighed and twisted a lock of hair around her fingers. She leaned on the doorpost. "Alex, I like you, I really do; you make me feel—"
Alex shook his head and raised his hand, "No, save it,” he said, going down the steps. At the bottom, he turned back to Adelaide. “I won't see you on Friday...or ever. We’re done; it’s over. Goodnight, Adelaide."
He expected another dramatic blowout, but none came. Addie sighed and closed the door. Alex departed for the bus stop that would take him back to his apartment. Why did a temporary fling like Adelaide Donahue leave him feeling so jaded?

A car horn shattered the late-night stillness. Alex peered down the street and saw in the shadows a woman struggling to load cleaning supplies in her car. She probably bumped a button on the remote clutched in her hand. Alex jogged over to her, reaching out to catch the cumbersome vacuum before it crushed her foot.
“Here,” he offered, “Let me help you.”
"Well hello, Mr. Knight-in-shining-armor!"
Alex blinked at the familiar voice. The young woman moved into the light, and Alex cried in surprise, “Daphne, what are you doing here?”
Daphne grinned as she heaved the last box of equipment into her trunk and closed the lid. “Stealing cleaning supplies, officer!” she joked. After a light laugh, she continued, “No, while you're a cop who moonlights as a celebrity boyfriend, I guess that makes me a mall attendant who moonlights as a cleaning lady.” She shrugged and looked slightly embarrassed.
Alex knew exactly how she felt. “You heard that, huh?” he asked, leaning against the trunk next to the brunette.
Daphne nodded, “Loud and clear; so did the guy with the camera hiding behind that tree over there. He's gone now, but Addie got her last moments.”
Alex blinked, “You know her?”
Daphne chuckled, “Of course! Addie Donahue, the reality tv superstar.”
Alex wrinkled his nose, “Reality TV?” he echoed incredulously “Are you serious? That chick needs a reality check!”
The brunette gave him a playful nudge with her elbow. “Ouch, sounds like you let the paper flames burn ya!” she teased. She reached down to pick at a spot of something on her jeans as she spoke. “Don't sweat it. She's probably done this to five other guys on cities across the country already. Some new series she's doing called ‘That's Amore!’”
Alex felt every inch the fool as the extent of Daphne’s words hit him. He’d been a pawn of a reality TV series! He tried to needle Daphne in her turn. “You sound suspiciously well-informed for someone who is not a fan,” he observed.
“Can I help it if the television store across from Coach plays her promo videos all the time?” Daphne asked with a shrug. Her brown eyes sparkled as she jabbed yet again. “You'll probably make a cameo appearance in the next one, before the series airs. Or maybe she'll want to keep you a surprise; after all, you're the first guy to break up with her because she's a bad girlfriend, not because you found out about the cameras."
Alex shakes his head, “This is unreal!” Just then, he remembered that this was not the first time today he had seen Daphne. “Oh hey,” he tried to switch tacks casually, “I wanted to ask you: I saw you coming out of the Gold Rush Pawnshop earlier today; what were you doing?”
He felt her stiffen guiltily next to him. She spoke quickly, “Why would you be so interested? I wasn't doing anything illegal!”
Alex looked over at her; Daphne was chewing her lip, “No need to get worked up,” he said, “I was only curious.”
She looked up at him, “Well you can go on being curious then, because I'm not telling!” she snapped. He could see the regret on her face as soon as the words left her mouth. Daphne sighed, “Sorry I didn't mean to snap, it's just—“ she waved her hand ambivalently, and ran it through her wavy brown hair. “I'm tired,” she admitted, “I need to get home. I have an early start tomorrow. Good night, Alex—I mean, Officer Davis."
            She got into her car and drove away.

            Alex reached the corner, but instead of waiting for a bus, he hailed a cab.
            “Gold Rush Pawnshop, on Harding Avenue, please,” he directed the driver.

            Alex walked into the pawnshop and asked the owner if he remembered a girl fitting the description of Daphne.
            The tall, lanky man stroked his stubbly chin. “Blond girl? Average height? Two-thirty?” Finally he nodded, “Yeah, I remember her. She's come in a few times before, too. Why?”
Alex realized how strange it sounded, but he was beyond caring as he said, “I just want to know why she comes in.”
Sure enough, the man gave him a puzzled look. “Who’s asking? You her father? Brother?”
Alex waved his hand, “Just someone concerned for her.”
The owner gave a gap-toothed smile, “Ah, boyfriend; she comes in and looks at the same case of antiques every time. Pretty sure she can't afford anything, but looking's still free in my shop.”
“Which case?”
            The man pointed to a small display case against the wall directly in front of the door.
Alex glanced in, and he could not resist crying, “Hey, I recognize those things!”
Instantly, the owner was at his side, “You do?” he cried incredulously.
Of course he did! They were most of the remaining pieces of the Staten heirlooms that he’d been searching for! Why on earth would Daphne be looking at these? Alex quickly tried to cover his true interest while being as honest as possible.
Yeah,” he told the shopkeeper, “I'm an off-duty cop, see, and I believe you're in possession of stolen property.”
The words did the trick. The man paled, “S-s-Stolen?” he stuttered in horror, “You mean the guy that brought them in was a thief?”
            Alex pulled out his smart-phone and opened a copy of Chad Andrews’ mug shot. “This guy?” he asked.
The man didn’t have to look twice. He nodded, “That's the one; officer, I swear, I never would have taken them if I had known. He even brought his Grandma in, saying it was her stuff he wanted to sell me!”
Alex shook his head grimly, “No doubt it was some unsuspecting soul off the street,” he said. Leaning in, he continued, “Now, I believe you, so what I'm going to do is buy all this stuff for the amount you paid, and you can forget you ever had them. Is this everything you bought from the guy?”
The pawnshop owner was already opening the display case and unloading the merchandise onto the counter. “Yeah, this is all of it; I've tried different pricings and sets, but haven't sold a one of them. I paid $600 for the whole mess.”
            Alex reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his checkbook. He filled out a check for the amount and handed it to the man. “Make sure it doesn't happen again,” he warned.
The storeowner was so grateful he packed the heirlooms into a crate for Alex. “Yes sir,” he said with a nod. “Thank you for letting me know.”
Alex picked up the box, elated at his good fortune. “Goodnight!” he said, and took the cab back to his apartment.
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