Maverick stood outside his captain's office, straightening his uniform cap. He reached for the doorknob then pulled away before turning it.
His captain was sitting at his desk, flipping through a file.
Maverick walked in, alternated between tiptoeing and racewalking. Before he got to the chairs in front of his captain’s desk, the door slammed shut. He spun to see a figure with his hand still on the knob.
He had a sigh of relief as his eyes wide with recognition. “Callen!” The private eye - with sweeping brown hair and a leather jacket - that he worked with last week to solve a car theft ring that had taken several police cars from Maverick’s precinct.
“Sorry, that was louder than I wanted it to be.”
Still looking through the file, not fazed by the crash, the captain droned, “Lloyd, Mr. Pratt, please sit.”
Maverick sat in the right chair with his arms crossed and his legs close together. Callen was the opposite, with a smile across his face and his legs as far apart as a man on the subway.
"Okay," the captain sighed, "if I'm reading this correctly-" he landed the file on his desk - "this is an odd request but… I'm inclined to grant it." He signed the bottom of the last page.
"Request?" Maverick asked, leaning in.
"Why don't you explain, Mr. Pratt?" He handed him the file.
"Long story short. My boss wants you to come work with us… Only on a case-to-case basis. You’ll still be a police officer, just on loan to us from time to time.”
Maverick shook a hand through his hair. “You make it sound like I’m the office stapler.”
“Please-” Callen placed a hand on Maverick’s chair - “don’t think of it like that.”
“No-” the captain interjected - “It’s my reprimand for your partner for losing his shop car.” After watching Maverick’s chin drop like Drop Tower Ride, he continued,
“This is a promotion, trust me.”
“When do I start?” he moaned.
“Today,” Callen answered.
"Great work, Maverick," a man in a casual suit said, slapping a file down onto his file box.
"Thank you," Maverick replied, turning to leave.
"Do you mind checking on Mark for me before you go?"
"His office. Last door down the hall-" he pointed to the left as he stared at his computer scene - "and follow the stairs down."
Looking up, Maverick answered, "Got it."
He moseyed down the hall past Matthew in his office, Callen and Maddi's empty offices, and the two extremely full file rooms. At the end of the hall, there was a larger door made out of metal unlike the others. It opened like a knife through left-out butter, without any annoying clinks.
He tried the light switch next to the door. The lightbulb sizzled but never glowed. “Of course,” he whispered, taking the first step onto the mat-covered concrete.
The well of darkness consumed him with each step. A periodic thud of his hands flailing around the walls, searching for something to hold.
He was successful until he missed one of the last steps. Trying to grab the non-existent rail, he hit the floor arm first. He rolled to his back as dust rained down on him.
“Of course,” he whispered, doing a sit-up onto his feet.
He walked into Mark's office, dusting himself out. "Mark, you should get the light- What the hell is this?!”
He moved closer to the circle of light blaring over Mark and the informant who refused to talk to Maverick, Callen, and Maddi earlier that week. The informant was barely recognizable, curled up in a fetal position to protect their head as much as they could with their hands bound behind their back.
“They’re not talking,” Mark answered, wiping blood from his leather gloves as if it was nothing.
Rage seared through Maverick and left him breathless. “You don’t bloody kick someone when they’re down!”
"They're on parole. An officer like you should know what that means."
“Yeah, well-” He strode over to the informant, kneeling to inspect the damage, “we’re supposed to be better.”
“And look where that’s gotten us!” he yelled, stomping Maverick to the floor. “Callen and Maddi’s witness skipped town and the only person who knows where is next to you. They didn’t have the guts to get the answer and they’re who knows where. But now I know she’s at Gene’s motel in Philly and I’m getting her to the trail tomorrow.”
“You can’t do this!” he groaned, trying to push the boot off his shoulder.
"What! Are you going to stop me!" he laughed. "Yeah, you-" he lifted his foot- "I'd love to see you try. Go… go. Go see who cares about what I've done.”
Maverick stayed on the floor, breathing like an old accordion.
“Run!” he sneered, “Before I change my mind.”
Holding back a whimper, Maverick scrambled to his feet and up the stairs.
“Peter!” he yelled, pounding on his boss’ door.
“He left-” Matthew popped his head out of his office - “an emergency meeting.”
“Of course,” he whimpered, holding his forehead with the web of his thumb.
“Hey! Is something wrong?” Matthew asked, putting a hand on Maverick’s shoulder.
“Very! It’s awful,” he huffed.
“Just breathe. Take your time.”
“Mark,... he’s torturing information out of that informant - Jones - that Callen introduced me to.”
“No, you must misunderstand what you saw.”
“How can I?!”
“We do things a little differently than the police.”
Maverick’s eyes grew and his mouth dropped. “Excuse me! I think you misunderstand.”
“Now hold on! You’ve barely been here - what! - a month and you're not even old enough to drink yet so I’ll tell you what’s what!” he spat, marching back to his office.
The thunderclap of Matthew slamming his door shut sent a jolt through Maverick. He fell back against Peter's door. Holding his shoulder, he dug for his phone.
After the beep, he pleaded, “Peter, please get back to me as soon as possible.”
After several dozen more messages like that, Maverick flopped on his bed in his apartment. With a wince of pain, he rolled to his other side. He looked up at his nightstand.
A frame sat on the corner; a picture of him and his friend on the first day on the job after graduating from the academy. He snatched it up. “If they’re not going to do anything, I will,” he said, wiping away the dust on top of their body cams.
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