The Captain’s favorite detective had just staggered out of his office. Drunk. Again.
Johnston was halfway through rolling her eyes. She had stopped snorting behind her hand months ago. Bastow was trying to remember what time the Captain had gone out for lunch. It seemed like it had been almost an hour, but they might still have time to shove the idiot back into his office. Hill was reconsidering the merits of doing his work in some other – any other – office. Weyman was just trying to finish booking the dirtied-up cowboy in high heels and handcuffs sitting in front of her.
And he walked in.
Doe eyes and a leather jacket paid for with Daddy’s money. Smooth hands and cheeks kissed with the cold. His hair was a charming tangle of curls. Even the drunk detective hesitated, blinked. And then, at the same time, they both said:
“I need to speak with the head of the Organized Crime division.”
Bastow glanced at Johnston. Johnston finished rolling her eyes.
“Who do you want to handle?” Bastow murmured.
Johnston shook her head. “It’s your turn to take Hawthorn.”
Already starting to get up, Bastow hesitated. He glanced at her over the top of his computer. “Didn’t I put him to bed last time?”
“You care more,” Johnston said without inflection. “So, it’s always your turn.”
Bastow laughed quietly. “John,” he said, gently as he turned away. “You’re the head of the Organized Crime division.”
“The Captain promoted you,” Bastow said. “Last week. There was a very large ceremony. You said the wine was fantastic and tasted like a two hundred dollar sneaker?”
Pushing herself away from her desk, she smoothed the front of her uniform. She needed the breath more than she needed to straighten her collar. The cowboy continued to slur out his address for Weyman, and Hill’s keyboard clicked and clacked in short echoes in the concrete office. Johnston moved easily between their rows of desks, and smiled patiently at the young man.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“Um…” The young man suddenly laughed at himself. He ran his hand through his hair, making it curlier, and even more endearing. He glanced at Hawthorn, and then at Johnston, and then at the door. “I’m not really sure I should be here.”
“I need to talk to the last head of Organized Crime,” Hawthorn said behind them. “His paperwork is a mess. Nothing’s alphabetized.”
Johnston pretended he didn’t exist. “Do you want to sit down?” she asked the young man. “I can get you some water…”
“I don’t…” He laughed again, quietly. Embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t have come.”
“Not every day that someone comes looking for Organized Crime,” Johnston said. “You sound like you could use a little help.”
He met her eye, a little more still than he had been a moment before.
“Stop talking about sneakers! Professhionalism, man!” Hawthorn said.
The young man shuffled one step toward the door.
“What’s your name?” Johnston asked.
“How can I help you, Eric?” Johnston asked.
Johnston prepared to take another step toward him. Or to let him go and not feel bad about it afterward. She watched his face, trying to decide which way it would go.
He touched his front teeth with his tongue and took another breath. “I think I accidentally joined the mob?”
Johnston tried not to let her surprise and sudden wave of disappointment in humanity cross her face. Hawthorn shouted about the ridiculousness of wine tasting like rubber. At least today wouldn’t be boring.
I’m a thief! Today I stole a first line from my friend, Kid. Her original challenge included a much longer first line, which she graciously cut down for us. I ran off with the short one, but tried to include a few pieces of the first challenge.