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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Detective · #2252444
Fresh off of his probationary period, Clyde is told to select a partner
You'd be forgiven for thinking someone with my history pursued this profession out of a desire for retribution or a need to exact justice. I'd object if someone suggested that now, even if it did play its small part in the beginning.

When I was about to make detective and the news of my family hit me, I didn't take it hard. What choice did I have but to accept it and go about my day? As far as what department I'd apply for, only one option seemed possible. Almost obvious what I had to do.

Have I given any thought to seeking answers concerning my brother and sisters? I've accepted long before I stepped into the role that the matter of my siblings' disappearance is a cold case, and that it will remain a cold case. Filed away somewhere untouched for years. Late nights have not been spent whiling the hours away with the contents of the evidence packet scattered out beneath a single lamp shade, poring over every detail with obsessive focus and a perpetually replenished tumbler in hand. I spend the later hours of the night laying beside a paperback splayed over my nightstand, held open somewhere in the middle. And when I finally drift off, I sleep easy.

Since I've been in homicide these last two years, I've had three partners. My first partner was assigned under a provisionary role to show me the ropes. Gallagher, a veteran of the force for the last 32 years. Lean, tall, gruff, and with a cup of spewed sunflower seeds in hand or abandoned on a colleague's desk. He instructed me with all the outlived patience of anyone who's been aching to set out to pasture since his first year.

We all knew Gallagher was ready to retire and landing him as a partner meant picking up the slack while he milked the last few months in the bullpen. We called our little homicide section of the precinct the bullpen, speaking of pastures. The decision to place the new guy with Gallagher had the potential to sink me. It came with a steep learning curve, but I came out of it with a clear knowledge of the ins and outs, and I even attended a few crimes scenes on my own during those first three months.

Without him to help me along, I had to figure it out on my own. It turned out I had a knack for it. Some of the crime scene guys were confused when the new guy took the lead all on his own, so I said 'Gallagher' and they got it. Premature, maybe, me running the show when I'd barely landed in the department, but it worked out fine, and it thrilled me. Spending my morning crouched over a corpse sprawled out on the tarmac on a hot July day? My kind of scene, no pun intended. Meanwhile, rumor had it Gallagher was already dipping his toes in the delights of retirement, which usually meant golfing or fishing from the pier. I had no complaints, although I wouldn't have minded if he brought me along every once in a while.

Word got out that I'd handled things relatively well on my own. Soon I'd be set up with a new partner. The most outspoken about my upcoming free agent status were detectives Lance and Harrison, each jockeying for my favor. By then, I hadn't picked up on just how they put you with someone. My notion of it was little more than a half-formed assumption that the chief assigned you one at will or maybe those in command made the call. The way it really went was you sat with your chief, your prospective partner beside you, and you laid it out. You'd give him the reasons the two of you'd make a great team, what to expect out of it, and If he liked it and thought you spoke of a sound partnership, the two of you shook hands, the chief shook hands with both of you, and you were joined up just like that.

Being in the dark about all this, I made no move to commit, and Lance and Harrison wound up a happy couple. The both of them seemed cut from the same cloth. Both from the University of Virginia, and both of them into local sports. Both in their mid forties and with conservative haircuts and conservative styling. They took the news in stride, but I had the suspicion they'd hoped to land some poor guy fit for the role of a lackey. As it was, I wouldn't have abided that, but at the time they didn't know any better.

Chief came to my desk not long after he'd given word that morning about the assignment.

"Clyde," he said. "How are you?"

I sat with my arm draped half over the edge and a phone book open with a slash of highlighted numbers to call from Gallagher. Since I had no open cases currently, I'd landed some busywork until I had my own case to work. Once I had a partner, I'd be free of the old man. "What have you got, Chief?"

He crooked an eyebrow at me before swatting down a rumple in his tie. "I been thinking," he started, tossing a glance around the office. We were a large setup, a decently sized room filled with about twenty desks, and maybe eight or nine of them in use. Sometimes we got some fill-ins when the need came. Most days, it was plenty for our needs, and other departments snuck in to nab a chair or two. I'd been sat at the far end on the squeakiest chair, furthest from the hallway. The chief had his own office halfway down the length of the wall, propped open constantly. Not something he ever said, but I assumed he preferred the sound of our toil and trouble to keep him company over the buzz of fluorescent bulbs in a closed office.

"Alright, what's on your mind, sir?" I shoved back into my stiff chair and met his eye.

"It's about your partner."

"My partner? Who we talking about?" That got me wondering if maybe I'd been assigned without my knowing it.

"Well, I don't know. I leave that with you. There's been nothing out of you about it." Was I supposed to make campaign fliers and post them around the room?

"With me?" I said, my hand on my chest. "You put Lance and Harrison together, didn't you?"

"As you're aware. They haven't seemed too happy about it," the chief said in a hushed voice, leaning in. "They'll get along, though. Most of the time I let you all settle it on your own. Last we had some new recruits, those two bozos got stuck with one apiece and pushed them right out. Different reasons, but sort of the same all at once. Asshole behavior, if you want to categorize it. Together, though, they're fine. But you and either one of them, I wasn't too sure about that."

"Maybe we should talk this over in your—"

"You know I've lost three detectives because of those..." He once again lowered his voice and then swung his short legs out for purchase and scooted toward me. "The young talent doesn't fit with them. What I know is this much. You're not getting paired up with either of those two, so that's said and done. I took care of that to make the decision simpler. And you probably figured you're not getting stuck with Gallagher. I'm not sure I want you worrying about a reassignment so soon into it with him about to leave off. Either way, though, I think you'll do some good things for the department." He looked at me earnestly, and I could only think to nod. "Say, he wasn't going AWOL too much or nothing, right?" He pelted my chest with the back of his hand and guffawed.

I joined him in laughter, getting a pressing look from Gallagher as he got up to step out. "So who's that leave me with?"

"Well, there's two left. Both of them been here about just as long as the other. Four years? Five years? The two ladies over there. One of them's getting Gallagher since his partner's been retired, and Gallagher's been somewhat of a floater. Either one of those two can be counted on to keep him in line. And to be honest, and I know this'll sound old fashioned, but I'd rather they weren't stuck together anymore. Hate to break it up, but two young women for this kind of work? It's just best if they have a man along, I think."

I had to admit that sounded a bit misogynistic, and yet I pictured them on the street side-by-side and taking more guff without a male partner. Which I guess said more about how some people perceived women than anything about women themselves. Or, not to go off on the deep end, but maybe it was my perception of other's perception it said something about.

Truth was I knew I'd be someone's underling for a while, but it never crossed my mind I'd be paired with either of them. The chief stared at me knowingly, impishly as I took stock of the two women for the first time. There was the tall one, late thirties, maybe just over 40, and she was standing up to lean over a stack of papers she'd laid out on the desk behind her. Her index finger slid along the text only she could see as she chided someone on the other end of the line, presumably in Crime Incident Reporting. She was on her feet often despite her choice in footwear, and up until that point, I'd pinned down little else about her. She wore a pencil skirt with a teal blouse tucked in. Her pumps put her easily over my head. I'd be pushing 5' 10". Maybe not the tallest guy, and she had to be just under six foot in heels. By the time she caught me looking at her, I figured I'd stared long enough. She pushed shoulder length hair out of her face and gave me a bemused look before she went on laying into the unlucky person on the other end of the line.

My imagination failed to place her as one to show much patience for a new guy. So I looked to my other potential partner. She was more reserved, a black girl maybe a few years younger than the other woman. Mostly she kept her head down from what I gathered and maintained a wardrobe full of lengthy sweaters with leggings beneath, even in the summertime, I'd come to find out. Most days she kept her hair pulled back into a no-nonsense low bun. She seemed hard working, always with her nose in her work, but what else could I say about her? Not enough to be sure she'd make a good fit, but at the very least she wasn't tearing into someone the way her partner was. How was I supposed to approach this? Either pick could result in disaster, but I couldn't say one way or the other. I looked to chief for answers, feeling embarrassed I'd come to know so little about either of them in the course of the last few months.

He leaned back and shrugged, as if he knew just what I was going to ask him. "Welp," he said, grunting as he came to his feet. "Looks like a tough choice. Fill me in by the end of the week, would you?"

"Don't you think any of them want a say in it?" I asked, loudly enough that a room full of eyes swiveled my way. My cheeks burned with color for all to see. Gallagher was out of sight as was getting more and more common by the day, but aside from that, it was a full house. I gave my tie a wiggle and took one glance at the chief as he waddled back to his office, whistling weakly in a way that came out more like brief bouts of hissing.

After a moment, I turned away and began dialing again.
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