Saturday, January 26, 2013

Serial Saturday: "Protective Custody", Pt. 2

            Sitting in his patrol car, driving around all day, Alex himself was wondering the same thing: was he slowly descending into stark-raving madness? Any sort of movement in his rearview mirror at all sent him into a flurry of jerky movements. He pulled into the station that night at 7:43, not caring who knew that he was much too early, nursing the bruises on his head and his left leg from the steering wheel and the roof of the car. He constantly reminded himself (out loud) that Ted and Marlo had promised not to bother him that day—but every time he looked in that mirror and saw something moving, he forgot and lost his head. Once, he even had a passenger in the back seat that he forgot about, so there he was, cruising down the freeway when he glanced in his rearview mirror and saw the deep black face behind him, it was all he could do to keep from coming to a dead stop there in the middle of traffic as he screamed for (from the passenger’s point of view) no apparent reason.
            Nighttime, in his bed, was no better. It seemed as though, goaded with the knowledge that Ted and Marlo could see his entire past, every little thing he did, even the secret things, his mind was intent on digging up every single occurrence of even the smallest amount of embarrassment Alex had ever experienced, broadcasting them in full view of Marlo’s big green eyes. Alex almost didn’t hear his alarm over the sound of Marlo’s inane giggling in his dreams…
            His alarm!
            Alex jerked upright before he was fully awake. His body was at an odd angle, mid-toss, so he promptly fell out of bed in a tangle of sheets. Sometime during the night, he’d ripped his t-shirt off. His body was drenched in sweat. It would be a cold shower this morning, for sure! He checked his clock: 7:52. His alarm was long since over, and there was no way he could even hope to get to work on time. Alex yanked the sheet of and tripped and stumbled his way into the bathroom.
            The shower felt good; he was more awake when he stepped out and wrapped himself in a towel. He grabbed his toothbrush and wiped the condensation from the mirror to begin brushing his teeth.

            “Mornin’, sunshine!”

            GAAAHHH—“ Alex’s shrill scream at seeing Marlo’s face staring back at him from the mirror was cut short by his left knee connecting with the bowl of the sink at the same time he involuntarily jabbed the back of his throat with his toothbrush. He collapsed on the floor in a towel-swathed heap between the sink and the toilet.
            “It’s not like we didn’t tell you we’d show up at eight,” Ted shrugged as he casually stepped—fully clothed and completely dry—out of Alex’s shower.
            Alex flinched again, this time narrowly missing smacking his face against the toilet base.
            “Ge-get out!” he gasped, waving his arm weakly. Ted immediately disappeared. By the time Alex struggled to his feet, Marlo was gone, too. Warily, he peeked out of the bathroom door to check if they were in the bedroom. The coast seemed clear. He heard dishes clanking in the kitchen. So that’s where they were. Alex basked in the privacy of his room, noting that it was now 8:00, and since he hadn’t even left his apartment yet, he was now officially late for work. Who cared? Would anybody listen if he tried to blame it on a couple ghosts freaking the living daylights out of him?

            A far-more-composed Alex Davis met his two “ghost-parents” in the kitchen minutes later.
            “Don’t ever show up in my bathroom again!” he growled savagely as he ate the breakfast Marlo set on the table.
            Marlo scoffed, “Do you think I wanted to land in your bathroom mirror and see you like that?” she demanded. “You best be glad that—“
            “Marlo!” Ted reached across the table and silenced his wife with a gentle squeeze of her hand. He looked at Alex, “We’ll do our best, but honestly, Alex, we don’t control where we show up; you do. Our first appearance will always be near you, so if you don’t want another situation like this morning—“
            “Make sure you’re dressed and decent by eight o’clock!” Marlo finished.
            “Yeah, speaking of eight o’clock,” Alex glanced at the clock hanging next to the microwave in the kitchen, “I—“ he froze. The hands clearly pointed to 7:45. Why had the clock in his bedroom said 8:00, then?
            Marlo grinned at him and clasped her hands under her chin. “You’re what?” she prompted him significantly.
            Alex peered suspiciously at the pair. “Or maybe you two…
            “We’re outside the realms of time and space, Alex,” Marlo reminded him with chilling calm, “With us, you’re outside the realm of time and space.”
            Alex stared at her, blinking hard, trying to make sense of the situation. “You’re making it whatever time you want it to be?”
            “Not quite,” Ted shook his head. “We’re not going to make it that arbitrary. We both agreed that at any time you needed it—such as this morning—we would make it whatever time you needed it to be. Right now, you need it to be 7:45.”
            Alex shook his head in disbelief, “Won’t that mess with the whole world, man?”
            “Right now, our priority is you, Alex Davis,” Ted replied. “Now it’s 7:50. I suggest you start walking if you want to get to work on time.
            “I’ve never been on—“ Alex stopped protesting as the two ghosts lifted him out of his chair and compelled him to walk toward the door. They didn’t set him down until he was just outside the door of the station.
            “Let’s do it!” Marlo cheered as Alex walked inside.
            Marnie scanned the names as they showed up on her computer screen whenever the officers clocked in; she murmured a greeting as the names showed up.
            “Hi, Brian… Morning, Sylvia…Hi, Darren…Hi Al—“ she stopped, actually taking her eyes off the screen for once. “Alex Davis?” she gasped.
            Alex froze guiltily, keycard in hand. “H-hi, um…Marnie,” he stammered.
            She stared back at her screen. “I think this is the first time all year you’ve clocked in—“ she turned her monitor so Alex could see, “—right on time!
            Alex looked at the time next to his key-code: 8:00:00:00. He glanced at where Ted and Marlo waited for him inside the station. They flashed him a thumbs-up.
            “Well, um,” he responded weakly, “W-would—would ya look at that!” he dashed through the doorway before Marnie could utter another syllable.
            Alex checked the schedule on the wall; he wasn’t on beat till 9:30. That gave him plenty of time to look over and fill out the modest stack of paperwork on his desk. He sat down and commenced working.
            “Davis!” Captain Prosser’s gravelly voice boomed out across the office. Alex snapped involuntarily to attention, sending his chair skidding out from under him.
            “Good to see you on time… for once!” Prosser raised his mug of coffee in salute and returned to his office.
            Alex’s knees buckled as he prepared to sink into his chair, but Marlo caught his elbow. “Whoa, easy there!” She held him up till Ted brought the chair back over for him.
            Alex grabbed the chair as soon as it was close, and sat down, collecting his wits for a moment.
            “Are you okay?” Marlo asked him.
            Alex wagged his head, “I’ve just—I’m not used to being called out for a compliment by my captain like that.”
            “How did it feel?” Ted asked with a chuckle.
            Alex didn’t answer. He only shook his head and grabbed a pen.

Not long after he began forging through the small pile (one benefit of choosing only few cases, and only the ones he would enjoy? Less paperwork, and what he had brought up pleasurable memories), Marlo sidled up next to him.
"Whatcha doing?" she asked.
Alex was self-aware enough to know that at any time, there was a good chance there was at least one pair of eyes on him at every moment. He kept his voice low as he muttered, "Filling out paperwork."
"What kind of paperwork?" Marlo shuffled through the stack of papers, but when Alex went to re-straighten it, he found them exactly how he left them.
"Reports from the week's beats," he answered.
Marlo began searching through the drawers of his desk. "What's in here—"
"Would you stop that?" Alex hissed. "Do you even have any idea what that looks like?"
Marlo winked at him, "Hello, outside space and time, here!" she returned to her nosing, "Nobody can see anything. Ooh, what's this?" she pulled out a small envelope from the back of the drawer.
Alex glanced at her in alarm, knowing that things would only become obvious if he actually interacted with her. "Would you put that away!" he begged.
Marlo frowned at him just like his mom used to do. "Young man—" she began.
"Look, I'll explain that when we're alone, out on patrol," Alex proposed. "Now will you please just let me finish my reports?"
Marlo nodded and joined Ted in wandering around the station, peeking over shoulders and peering into cabinets, and passing comments about the other cops, all within earshot of Alex.
Suddenly, Alex heard Marlo cry out, "Ted! It's our file!"
Alex glanced up as husband and wife surveyed the report from the night that ended their mortal lives.
"Who was the officer in charge?" he wondered under his breath.
"Lieutenant Morgan Haversham, it says."
Alex flinched and bit back a cry as Marlo appeared next to him with a file in her hands. Alex glanced into the file and saw that as far as the robbery goes, a few items were listed, then a reference to an insurance list. Alex wondered what was on that list.
He returned to finishing the forms, ending with the report on following Miss Adelaide.
"Who is she?" Ted appeared beside him, and Alex was suddenly aware that his expression when he thought about Adelaide gave him away.
"Um, well," Alex flushed with shame, "she's just someone who...crossed my path on a beat a few days ago."
"Do you like her?" Ted asked.
Alex shrugged, "Well, I don't know, we haven't really had the chance to talk yet."
"But you want to get to know her?"
"Well," Alex snorted, "yeah!"
Ted laughed, "Good luck with that one!" he cried.
Alex eyed him warily, "You wouldn't—I mean, you guys wouldn't, you know, mind if I stopped to talk with her, would you?"
Ted shrugged, "In the off-chance you had a small opportunity and she was there and not doing anything?"
Alex nodded, "Yeah."
"No, Marlo and I would not interrupt. Just as long as no calls come in while you're—chatting."
Alex bobbed his head, setting aside the last case file and turning away from his desk. He gave the Brendons a look that asked, "Are you ready to go?"
They nodded, and Alex stood just as Captain Prosser emerged.

"Davis!" he barked.
Alex immediately approached his captain, ready to head past the office and out to the garage. "Yes sir?"
Prosser looked toward the front of the room and beckoned a young cadet with bright-red hair and an easy smile.
"This is Jones," Prosser said, "He asked to shadow you today."
"Shadow... me?" Alex echoed, wondering how he was going to have a chance to talk with the Brendons if he had another person in the car.
Prosser glared at Alex, mistaking his tone for reluctance. "Yes; you'll take him out on your beat today. He'll ride in the front seat...unless you decide to stick him in the back." Captain Prosser said this last with such dangerous certainty that Jones flinched in horror, but Alex had been around long enough to know not to take the Captain seriously when he said things like that. He clapped Jones reassuringly on the shoulder.
"Nah, I don't think I'll need to do that! Let's go, Jones."
Jones bobbed his head and tried to smile again.

Alex felt a little proud of his capabilities as he took Jones over the procedures and "bells and whistles" of his patrol car. Jones seemed to know quite a bit already, but even with only seven years under his belt, Alex knew that mere knowledge did not separate the "men from the boys," as it were. Jones seemed to know a lot about Alex himself, as well.
"I'm really honored that you're letting me do this," the young cadet gushed as they pulled out of the station. "Captain Prosser said if I wanted to run with the big dogs I'd have to get by you first. And another cop I talked to, Officer Van Derby, said he considers you the most streetwise cop of all the juniors." Jones hesitated before remarking, "He did say you don't generally take your calls by-the-book, and that you tend to meet a lot of girls on your beat." The young boy grinned and asked slyly, "So...are we going to meet some girls today?"
Alex glowed at the praise from his superiors, and he was about to answer in the affirmative, when he saw Ted and Marlo frowning at him from the back seat, and Ted shook his head.
"We'll see," he conceded, not quite willing to give up the idea but at the same time scared of what the ghosts might do if he ticked them off. He already discovered their uncanny ability to manipulate time; who knew if they would choose to force him to live this one day over and over again, like so many movies he'd seen?
"Say, Jones," Alex decided now would be a good time to change the subject, "do you have a first name?"
Jones shook his head, “Yeah—it’s Leroy.”
Leroy Jones?” Alex tried the name and found it cumbersome. “Really?”
Jones’ red eyebrows danced, “I know, I don’t like it much, either. Most people call me Tom.”
Alex tried that one, “Tom Jo—“ he stopped and flushed when he realized the joke.
From the back seat, Marlo giggled, “Tom Jones? Heehee! I like this kid!” she squealed.
Alex shook his head, “Well, okay, Tom; let’s see what we have on the scanner.” He turned the knob, and the dispatcher’s voice came through as monotonous as ever.
“Geez,” Tom remarked, “you have to listen to that all day? No wonder you’re always trying to find somewhere to hook up! Any chick would be more exciting than her!”
“Hey, man,” Alex spoke up defensively, “this is where I find the chicks!” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He glanced back at the furious ghosts guiltily, and added, “…but hooking up is not why we’re out here,” he saw Ted nod approvingly, but at Tom’s combination of confusion and disappointment on his face, he finished, “—it’s a side benefit!”
Ahem!” Marlo cleared her throat noisily, knowing that Alex would be the only one to hear her. She wagged a warning finger at him, and he tried to shrug at her without Tom noticing.
Tom sighed, “Okay, Mr. Cop-Man,” he teased, “where do we go first?”
Alex paused to listen to the dispatcher.
“Available units respond to a car theft at Marley Avenue…Available units respond to medical emergency at Northwood Drive…”
“Ooh!” Marlo spoke up, “there’s a good one!”
“Northwood Drive?” Alex replied aloud, “That’s—“
“—A residential area, isn’t it?” Tom finished curiously. “I thought you normally do the high-profile stuff.”
Alex saw that this was the call Ted and Marlo wanted him to take, so he didn’t have a choice. He tried to excuse himself, “Yeah, but Northwood’s only a short ways down from us, and I like to keep my beats close…”
“Whatever, dude,” Tom sighed, “I’m just riding in the car.”
Alex reached for his mic. “I’ll show you how to respond to the dispatcher,” he told Tom, clinching the “call” button and replying, “Dispatch, this is 145, I’ll take Northwood.”
“Fourteen-five?” The dispatcher sounded as incredulous as Tom had been. “Are you sure you want to? I think it’s just an accident, a young kid, and the EMTs are already on their way. I could get someone else—“
“I’ll get there before they do, Dispatch,” Alex responded, flicking on his lights and steering down the road that would take him out to Northwood Drive.
Alex arrived at the small residential house in time to console the frightened siblings of the young girl, who had tripped and broken her ankle, but none of the kids were old enough to drive, and the parents weren’t answering their cell phones. Alex gave the obligatory congratulations for proper use of 9-1-1, and stayed with them till the ambulance arrived to take the girl (and her siblings) to the hospital.
When he returned to the car, Tom was listening to the scanner again. “I think I found something for us to do at the Mountainside Golf Resort!” he crowed.
“I have a better idea,” Ted offered, “Try going down Martindale Avenue, and take a right at the donut shop.”
“What’s there?” Alex asked before he remembered that technically he was talking to two people.
Ted answered first, “Marlo’s over there now; there’s a—“
“I think it sounds like a security issue or something,” Tom answered while Ted was still speaking.
Alex huffed in annoyance; as much as he wanted to look like he was listening to Tom, he figured he would get into trouble if he didn’t at least head over to where Marlo was waiting, even though it would be no trouble for her to just “jump” back into the car.
“All units please respond to a car theft on Martindale Avenue! Suspect heading east!”
Alex sighed with relief and gunned the engine. “That’s us!” he told Tom. He roared off in the direction of Martindale Avenue.
“Awesome!” Tom cried, “A chase!”
“Unit 145, is that you?” Alex heard the transmission from another patrol unit at the end of the road.
“Roger, this is Unit 145,” Alex replied.
“All right, son; stay put in case he decides to bolt in your direction. If you see him, follow but do not engage, I repeat, follow but do not engage!
“Copy that, sir,” Alex replied, wincing.
Tom scowled, “Aww, nuts!” he grumbled. “So now what do we do?”
Alex heard the back door open and he glanced back; Marlo climbed into the car and closed the door behind her—but at the same time the door had never opened. She saw him watching her and winked.
Alex shook his head, “Now, we wait for further orders.”
Five minutes later, the call came in: “All secondary units, suspect has been apprehended; thanks for your help!”
“That’s just wrong!” Tom snapped.
“Hey!” Alex tried to calm the young cadet, “It happens from time to time; it’s okay. Let’s see what else is on the scanner.” He turned the dial and the dispatcher’s voice came through the speakers.
“…lar emergency on the shoulder of Interstate 60, repeat, there appears to be a stalled vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 60, would the nearest patrol please respond?”
“Alex?” Ted asked, “Interstate 60’s just down the way, isn’t it?”
Alex rolled his eyes and continued listening. “All nearby units, I have possible shots fired in an alley on Courthouse Way; repeat, shots fired, who’s listening to me?”
Alex lifted the mic to respond, and Tom encouraged him, “Yeah! Armed suspect! Let’s do it!”
Alex hesitated. Courthouse Way was across town; as much as he would rather chase down the shooter, Interstate 60 was closer. Before he could speak—
“Dispatch, this is Unit 561, I’m on I-60 en route to motorist.”
“Dispatch, Patrol Car 148, I have visual on the shooter.”
“Thanks boys…Unit 145, do you copy?”
Alex winced; he’d missed both calls, so what could she want now? “This is 145, I copy!”
“I have an officer requesting backup in front of the Justice Building on Main Street. Would you mind lending a hand?”
“Wilco, Dispatch; en route now.”
“Backup?” Tom asked as they drove away, “What does that mean? What will we do?”
“Sometimes they tell you ahead of time,” Alex admitted, “but if they don’t tell the dispatcher, there’s no way to know till we get there.”
He navigated the city blocks till he arrived at the imposing grey building on Main Street. He saw three other cars parked next to the curb across the street from the front steps. It seemed that numerous black sedans with tinted windows were always in front of that courthouse. Alex pulled up behind one of the patrol cars and radioed the driver.
“Unit 618, this is Unit 145,” he identified himself and the number on the car in front of him, “Dispatch says you requested backup?”
“Weeelll, Officer Davis!” Lieutenant Bree’s familiar icy voice slithered over the radio. “I was afraid you’d turn me down again, so I told Dispatch to keep it anonymous and spare you the details. I’ll be out to tell you myself in a second.”
Alex hung up his radio and groaned. Why did it have to be the lieutenant?
Bree was at his window in ten minutes. She held a paper bag in her hand.
“Lunch?” she offered when Alex rolled down the window. Alex accepted the bag.
“What’s all the commotion?” he queried sarcastically, gesturing toward the empty street.
“Millionaire with a grievance,” Bree informed him, “Just wanted local eyes for the to-and-fro, he’s got his own set of bodyguards that went in with him.”
“How long is this going to take?” Alex asked as Tom started pulling the burgers out of the bag.
Bree shrugged, evidently enjoying the fact that Alex was committed to the thing he hated least: sitting and waiting. “It’s the Justice Department, it could take hours.” She elongated the word just to watch him squirm. Her icy blue eyes darted over to the redhead in the passenger seat. “You gonna introduce me, or do I have to ask him myself?”
“Lieutenant, this is Cadet Leroy Jones; he’s accompanying me on beat today.” Alex turned to Tom, “Jones, this is Lieutenant Bree Munroe—running point on this operation.”
“Ha! You know it!” Bree crowed. “So, Al’s supposed to be showin’ you the ropes, huh, kid?” she winked at Tom. “Has he taken you out to his old stalking grounds yet?”
“All right,” Alex began to roll up his window, “Thanks for the lunch, Lieutenant. Radio if you need us to do anything else.”
Bree shook her head and strode away from the car.
“What did she mean, stalking?” Tom asked, glancing nervously at Alex, “You’re not a stalker, are you?”
“No,” Marlo muttered to herself and to Alex, “he just loves watching pretty girls!”
“She’s just teasing,” Alex reassured Tom. “She’s one of the ones who doesn’t think the way I pick calls is very cool.”
“I don’t know why,” Tom scoffed, “I certainly haven’t seen you do anything that looks anywhere close to stalking, and I haven’t seen any of these girls the other officers talk about—“
“Bogey on your four,” Alex murmured, nodding out Tom’s window. Tom discreetly checked that direction. A girl wearing chunky Prada sunglasses, a tea-length summer dress, and carrying a Gucci purse strode up the sidewalk.
“Oh yes,” Tom gasped, and Alex admired the way her brown hair curled around her face.
As the girl crossed over to approach on Alex’s side of the car, he saw her heel slip a bit—and in that slight, tipsy movement, realization hit him like a thunderclap: it was Adelaide! Here was the chance he’d been waiting for! She was nearing his window now. Alex rolled it down.
“Careful, ma’am,” he called to her, “wouldn’t want a pretty thing like you to be a danger to yourself!”
Adelaide Donahue stopped and turned, “Do I know you?” she demanded, walking over to his car.
“Maybe you don’t remember,” Alex suggested smoothly, “you were pretty full-up the night we first met.”
“Wait a minute!” Marlo burst out, “That’s the chick he followed the night we—“ she was too overcome to finish her sentence.
Adelaide, meanwhile, smiled as she remembered, “Hey! You’re the cop who followed me home after Sandie’s party!”
“That’s right, ma’am,” Alex answered, “I did; you don’t mean to say you remember that night?”
Adelaide blushed, a slight reddening in her tanned cheeks, “Well, no, that night’s pretty much a blur, but I heard from the neighbors what y’all did for me,” she leaned closer to Alex, “And I think it’s really sweet,” her voice dropped as she leaned in so close Alex could almost taste her breath, “…and I was just hoping for the chance to thank you…”
“Um, hello?” Tom was getting uncomfortable at being forced to witness the scene.
Alex fumbled for the handle of his door, wanting to continue this tryst outside the car so the cadet would not feel so uncomfortable, but Marlo screamed out, “Don’t you dare touch that handle, young man!”
Her voice was so shrill, Alex jumped and banged his head on the rim of the window. “Ouch!” he cried.
Adelaide pulled back, visibly disappointed. “Well, I have to go,” she said, still leaning her elbows on Alex’s door. “Do you have a name, Officer?” She winked.
“Alex, Miss—Alex Davis.”
The petite heiress winked, “Call me Addie, Alex.”
“All right—“
“No, seriously,” she reached into her purse and pulled out a small piece of paper. Addie dropped it through the window and into his lap, “Call me.”
She sauntered easily away.

Silence reigned in the car for ten seconds, and then Tom could not resist a long chuckle.
“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” he laughed, with an astounded grin on his face. “Is that how you do it, man?”
Alex ignored the frowns of the couple in the back seat and basked in the admiration of the rookie sitting next to him. “That’s sorta how I do it,” he answered, “yeah.”
“Dude!” Tom cried, “I feel like I should be taking notes or something!”

Once they received the “okay” to leave the Courthouse steps, Alex immediately requested permission to drive around the higher-end side of town, just to avoid being close to the sort of “small” jobs he’d spent all morning taking. It was easier, too, to avoid looking in that rearview mirror and seeing the disapproval of the Brendons, because the more they drove around the beachfront highways and the large outlet malls and the gated neighborhoods, the more Tom gushed about “chicks” and “lookers.” In particular, he would compare every girl he saw to Adelaide.
“Aw, look!” he cried out to Alex, whose eyes followed a pair of easy, slender young blondes with bleach-white smiles and flawless skin. One of them was walking a pint-sized terrier. “That one is wearing the same dress Adelaide had on!”
Alex glanced over to where Tom pointed, “Yeah, but it looks different on her, doesn’t it?” he remarked to the young cadet.
“True that!” Tom agreed.
Alex spent the rest of the day being choosy and basking in the raving adulation from the passenger seat. Tom was in high spirits by the time they pulled back into the garage at the station.
“Man! That was the most awesome beat I think a cop could ever have!” He told Alex as the young officer filled out the driving log for that day. “Thanks, Officer Davis; when I get to be a cop, I can’t wait to get a beat just like yours!”
Alex shook his head, “You’ve gotta put in the work first, man!” he reminded Tom loftily.
“Oh, right,” the redheaded cadet conceded, “Play comes later, right?”
Alex laughed, and Tom returned to the station.

“When you mentioned that you saw her the other day,” Ted remarked, “I should have known you meant that night.
Alex turned to face the ghosts, “Why so worried?” he demanded hotly.
“Alex,” Marlo gazed at him with pity, “Obviously she’s an alcoholic, she’s spoiled-rotten, she thinks you’re a tool, and she—“
“Hey!” Alex snapped, “You know what? You guys have lived your lives already; I would appreciate it if you would let me at least live my personal life how I want, if you’re gonna claim custody of my professional life!”
“Alex,” Ted cautioned him, “Don’t you see that the choices you’re making in your personal life are affecting your professional life, too? You think you can just float through relationships and be choosy—and you’re trying to be choosy about your job, too?”
“Yeah, I am!” Alex retorted. “Maybe you never had the chance to get it, but that philosophy just happens to work for me, so I don’t intend to give it up any time soon, thank you very much!” He crossed his arms. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m off–duty now, so I’ll be seeing you!” He stormed out of the garage.
“Yeah, you bet you will!” Marlo hollered after him.

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