Possible triggers: Language and suicidal thinking.
Detective Lopez stepped into the humid room and the cursor hurried to the big x in the corner of the screen to close the case report. Detective Richards opened some other file and looked busy, pursed lips under a pencil mustache. A slow thunder dragged itself across the sky as the heavy rain washed the city on the other side of the window. Lopez knocked on his desk with a smile.
“Why are you still here, Richards?” she asked with a nod.
His eyes crossed the nearly empty precinct to find the old clock hanging on the cracked plaster wall. It was ticking beyond 6 p.m. A ceiling fan was turning slowly above their heads, tired after a full day’s work.
“Oh, crap,” Richards said, a wrinkled forehead, the gray fedora hat resting on his desk. “I was looking at some files.”
“Well, stop looking,” Detective Lopez said, the golden badge hanging on her chest over a black tie. “You should’ve gone home an hour ago.”
“No, I know. I’m going in a second.”
“I’m serious, Roy.” She was the one with the wrinkled forehead now, knocking mindlessly on the desk again. “It’s good to have you back but you gotta take it slow.” She didn’t say “please,” but her eyes did. “One day at a time. Go home.”
Roy found her eyes and nodded in silence.
“How is Maude dealing with it?” Lopez asked.
“She’s good.” He sighed and picked at the thin mustache. “You know… One day at a time.”
“Good,” Lopez said. “Tell her I said hi, okay? And, hey, it really is good to have you back. You’re going to get your gun back, leave this desk, and hit the streets in no time, you’ll see.”
He smiled. “Thanks, Sam.”
She smiled back.
“Besides,” she said, “I do need you back in action. It’s hard to play good cop/bad cop with Thompson. He’s always the bad cop.” She opened her arms. “Get it? He is a bad cop! He does a bad job is what I’m saying.”
“Yeah, I get it, Lopez,” Roy laughed. “You’re very smart.”
“Can’t help it. I was born this way.” She knocked on the desk one final time with a wide smile. “Well, your shift ended an hour ago but I’m in the middle of mine. I’m gonna hit the streets and check on some leads, keep citizens safe, do my job. To hell with this rain, though.” She touched Roy’s shoulder. “Go home, Richards. Talk to you tomorrow.”
Roy said bye and kept the smile plastered on his face. He reopened the closed file as soon as she left the room. He brushed his mustache with his fingers looking at the pictures. A balding man, an old van, expensive jewelry, tire tracks on the gravel. For a moment Roy wasn’t here. He was in the mud by those same tire tracks, the rain as heavy as today, raindrops hitting his trench coat like bullets shot by god. His heart was jumping out of his chest, his guts sinking. He walked to the yellow tape with large black letters reading “Police line! Do not cross!” He touched the tape and blinked himself back to the present. The tick-tock of the clock filling the room, the lazy ceiling fan spinning round and round.
He grabbed a pen and a blank piece of paper and wrote down some of the information from the screen. When he put the pen back in the pen holder his eyes found the picture resting on his desk. Four people, a happy family. A man with a thin mustache, a girl with braided hair, a woman with red lips, and a little boy with innocent eyes, all smiling at him. He picked up the frame and gently stroked the glass, pursed lips, wrinkled forehead. Four people frozen in time, and he wished he was the man in that picture again.
He put the picture down and tilted his head back with a long sigh, eyes lost on the cracked plaster of the ceiling, the fan spinning lazily as if it would give up and stop at any time.
Roy picked up his phone and dialed.
“Hey, honey,” he said in a low voice. “No, it’s fine. I just have to check some files. It’s fine,” he said again. “Hopefully the rain will stop.” He picked at his thin mustache, twisting it ever so slightly. “How is little Phill?” He asked. “Did he ask about his sister? Okay. Good. No, I’ll be home soon. Okay. I love you too.”
He hung up, turned off his computer, and got up. He picked up the hat from the desk and the trench coat from the rack and headed to the rain.
“You’re right, Sam,” Roy thought, parked outside Wilson Vehicle Repairs & Services. “To hell with this rain.”
The night had swallowed the city. The rain had subsided but hadn’t stopped. It was playing a smooth jazz beat on the roof of Roy’s car. The large sliding garage door on the other side of the street was letting out a tall and slim rectangle of warm light. In the light, a balding man, unaware of the car, unaware of Roy, unaware of the rain.
Roy reached for the glove compartment. He stored the revolver under his trench coat and stepped out of the car.
“Sorry, sir,” the balding man said, polishing a hood ornament with greased hands under a single incandescent lamp, the pull chain brushing his bald head. “We’re closed for the day.”
“I’m just looking for some vehicle services,” Roy said, his eyes sweeping the large garage, his coat weeping on the concrete floor, “for my vehicle.”
“Well, we’re closed,” the man said.
Roy’s eyes landed on an old van parked on the dark side of the shop. “Are you by any chance James Wilson?”
The man stopped what he was doing and looked at Roy with a frown. “Yeah, I’m Jim.”
“Listen, Jim,” Roy said, eyes on a closed door in the back of the shop, his hat dripping on his nose, “is there anyone else here tonight?”
“Who the hell are you?” Jim asked, arms akimbo.
“Who am I?” Roy repeated, now looking at Jim, his eyes still and empty, as if he wasn’t even there, as if he was standing in the mud on a dark rainy night weeks ago. “Who am I? I am a man who lives in the past, Jim. I have no present and I have no future. And soon,” he pointed the gun at Jim, “neither will you.”
Jim stood motionless. A thunder crossed the night sky like a gunshot, and a moment later all clouds came down in unison.
Jim started raising his hands, a smooth, well-oiled movement. “Calm down,” he said. “I don’t know what you think I did, but it wasn’t me.”
“Oh, but it was you, Jim.”
Jim’s hands kept going up until one of them found the small chain. He pulled and the room went dark.
The sound of the steps running to the door in the back of the shop echoed and Roy shot three times. The flashes of the shots took snapshots of the place, the pictures burnt into his retina. There was a sound of someone falling and a scream, and Roy fumbled for the pull chain. The yellow light revealed Jim rolling from side to side, his hands pressing his left thigh, right above his knee.
Roy took off his hat and wiped his forehead, walking to the sliding door. There was no one outside, not a single soul, only the rain.
He closed the door and went back inside.
Jim was tied to a chair by the van, a black eye, bruises on his face, his lips bleeding, an old rag soaked with blood tied around his leg.
“I don’t know nothing about no girl,” he said, his voice low and smooth like the bass on slow jazz. “I already told you everything.”
“Oh, but you haven’t, Jim,” Roy was sitting in front of him, the gun in a limp hand. “I don’t even want you to tell me how. That I already know. I want to know why.”
The rain was washing the city outside, all of its sins down the drain, forgiven forever.
“Tell me why you did it, Jim.”
“I didn’t do it, man, I swear!” Jim was on the verge of crying. “You got me, alright? I took the jewels, yes! The guy needed a car and that was all I had to do, in and out, easy job. But he went ahead and got himself killed, so of course I took the jewels. But I don’t want no trouble, man. I can show you where they’re hidden.”
“I don’t give a fuck about the jewels, Jim!” Roy stood up in a flash. “Tell me about the girl!”
“I don’t know about no girl, man!”
Roy kicked his chair against the van with a bang and pressed the gun to Jim’s forehead. “Listen here, you piece of shit-”
Before Roy finished, someone kicked down the back door with a clap of thunder and pointed a gun at him.
“Police! Drop your weapon,” Detective Lopez ordered before her eyes widened. “Roy?”
Roy fumbled for words, lost in the dark inside his own mind, swallowed by the sound of the rain.
“What are you doing here?” he finally asked her, his gun pressed against Jim’s head.
“There’s been a report of shots fired and I was close by,” she answered, her gun pointed at him, her eyes analyzing the scene. “Roy, what the hell are you doing? Where did you get a gun?”
He shook his head. “Sam, this is the guy.”
“Help me, officer,” Jim said, breaking into a cry.
“Shut up,” Roy yelled. “Shut up or I swear I’ll blow your brains out.”
“Roy, drop the weapon!” Lopez ordered again. “This is not the guy!”
“Of course he is the guy, Sam”, he told her.
“He is not the guy, Roy.” Detective Samantha Lopez was talking with slow and firm words. “Now lower the gun. He is not going anywhere.”
“He is the guy,” Roy insisted, pressing the gun against Jim’s head, pushing it back. “The tracks in the mud, they’re the same- the suspicious van around her school. It’s him!”
“Roy,” she started with a calm voice, “there are a million vehicles with this same tire model in this city. And the van could’ve been anything. This is not the guy.”
“Sam, he is the guy!”
“He has an alibi, Roy. I checked.”
Roy gave her an empty glace. A flash of light lit up the garage followed by a crashing thunder outside, the storm poured over the city. They cringed away from the sound and he blinked a million times, the gun still pressed against the weeping mechanic’s forehead. Jim was praying now.
“It’s him, Sam,” Roy said in a low, defeated voice. “He already confessed about the jewels. He will confess about her. It’s him. I know it’s him!” his voice grew louder. “It has to be him!”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I need this!” His roar filled the dark shop, tears running down his face. “It’s him, it’s the van! I know! The van was there, and it was raining… People saw the van around the school, and I wasn’t there to pick her up so she waited outside. She waited for me! But I- I got distracted, I was checking some files and then… it was too late. I went over to the school and she was not there. And I asked around and no one had seen her. And I searched, I searched by car, and I searched on foot. And the fucking rain didn’t stop! And I ran, and I looked everywhere. She was nowhere. She was nowhere, Sam! My baby was nowhere!
“And then it got dark, and I had to call Maude, but I kept looking. It was midnight, it was one in the morning, two, and three. And I drove and drove around, and the fucking rain never stopped!
“At four you called me, Sam. And my baby was there, in the mud, her little dress soaked in blood and rain, and her little braids… God, I was so proud the first time I braided her hair. She was so happy. Her smile… But now she’ll never smile again, she’s in the mud. And I’m there with her, stuck, and I can’t ever leave. And it’s all my fault.
“All I want is to have my girl back, Sam. I want to get out of the mud, carrying my little girl with me. And to do that I have to kill this bastard.”
“It wasn’t me,” Jim cried.
“Roy, he’s not the guy,” Sam said, “and even if he was, this won’t bring her back, you know that! You’re not like this. Don’t be stupid, Roy. Don’t blame yourself for it.”
Roy was crying, but he wasn’t here, he was in the mud. He was standing in the rain by the dead body of his little girl, and as much as he tried, he couldn’t come back.
He took the gun from Jim’s head and pressed it against his own.
“I’m done with this life, Sam.”
Sam almost jumped to him. “Roy, don’t do this!”
“I just want to get out of the mud,” he said, “I can’t stand the fucking rain anymore. It never stops.”
“Roy, think about Maude and little Phillip! Do you want your little boy to grow up without a father?”
Roy cried with the gun against his head. “My boy will be stronger than I am.”
“What about Maude?” Sam asked. “She has just lost a daughter and you want her to lose a husband too? You’re better than this, Roy!”
The gunshot roared on the shop as thunder rolled outside. After that, the only sound inside the shop was Jim’s crying.
Detective Samantha Lopez entered the white room, her badge resting on top of the black tie. In the hospital bed, Roy was watching the day outside with a frown, the sun shining on the clear sky.
She approached the bed.
“Hi, Roy. How is the arm?”
“You know,” he said, his eyes lost somewhere beyond the window. “One day at a time.”
“Good,” she said. “Look, I wanted to tell you I’m sorry I shot you, but I’m not. I don’t think you should be a cop anymore.”
“Yeah,” he said, eyes in the blue sky, “me neither.”
“So,” she was knocking mindlessly on the high footboard of the bed, “instead I’m going to tell you a small story.”
She waited but he didn’t look at her.
“I used to have this dog, Charlie, a black labrador. Best dog ever, very loyal and happy. He loved to play catch, he was ball crazy, loved to run. We would go to the park and, as soon as I took off the leash, he would dart away as if he was never coming back. But he always did."
Sam tried to find what Roy was looking at but there was nothing there, only the trees outside the hospital, bathing in the sun. He had his eyes lost there, lost in the empty sky. She sighed.
“One day," she continued, "Charlie ran in front of a car and got one of his front legs twisted around, it tore the nerves. He was fine, but the vet said the leg was no use, so he advised us to take the whole thing off. For some weeks, Charlie was in bad shape. He couldn’t quite walk right and wouldn’t eat. But time passed and he slowly started walking again. And after some time he started running! He was the fastest three-legged dog I’ve ever seen. And as happy as ever. He was a very happy dog until he got very old and died."
She stopped and searched for his eyes, but they were still lost outside the window, fixed on the vast blue.
“Now,” she said, “I know you’re not a dog, Roy. And I have no idea what you’re going through, not even Maude does. Just as much as you don’t know what she’s going through. Your feelings are yours and yours only. But that dog adapted. And human beings are the most adaptable motherfuckers to ever walk this planet.”
Roy didn't look at her, it was like he wasn't even there.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy,” Sam said, “and I’m not saying it’s going to be quick. But you’ll run again.”
His eyes never met hers and she stood there in silence for a moment. She knocked on the footboard and walked to the door. “Get better, Richards.”
“Sam,” Roy called, and she stopped and looked back.
The birds were singing outside the window, the sky an infinite blue.
“Thank you,” he said, finally looking at her. “You’re very smart.”
“Can’t help it,” she opened the door. “I was born this way.”