Hint 9. Observe
Monday morning rolls around with a sort of dreary certainty. It’s not often that my shifts fall so that I get an actual weekend off and I just wasted it in my head. I don’t ever remember being so easily caught up in fantasy but this mystery with the Sapient+ serum is so tied up in Shark and Docklen’s past that every time I find myself sitting down to actually think through something, I end up imagining one or the other of them in some compromising position. It’s really ruining my ability to function as a detective.
The world is full of small miracles, though, and I realise that after the chaos on Friday, someone’s rewritten my name into the patrol schedule. I don’t question it, skipping off to the car with Amber before Ripley can see.
“You drive,” I say, letting myself in on the passenger side, and Amber squeals. She doesn’t get to drive often.
“So…” I say, throwing my feet up onto the dashboard as soon as we turn the first corner. “What’s happening with Alex? When do you move in?”
Amber laughs, drumming her perfectly manicured fingernails on the steering wheel.
“Actually,” she says, “nothing happened with Alex. Some guys jumped us on the way home so, now, I get all the awkward and none of the sex.”
“Brilliant,” I say, voice dripping with sarcasm.
Amber laughs again.
“You reckon I should just jump him in break room?” She asks.
“I’m going to go with no…?”
“Yeah, probably for the best.”
“Alex doesn’t really do the relationship thing,” I say. Amber’s my friend so it feels like I should probably give her fair warning.
The radio crackles but I ignore it. Part of being the driver means picking up on the calls.
“Alright, we’ll be right there,” Amber trills, pulling a casual U-turn.
“Siren?” I ask, leaning over. She might be driving but I get to push the big blue button.
“No,” she smacks my hand away. “Some housewife came back from the school run to find the house ransacked. We don’t need the siren.”
“I’ve been off for a week, Amber, we can put the siren on. Just a little siren.”
I nudge her with my elbow until, eventually, she consents and I get to slam my palm down on the button. The wail of the siren blares out immediately and, with a grin, Amber pushes her foot down on the pedal.
“I’m opening the window,” I warn.
“Go for it.”
The wind hits me like a slap to the face and I can’t help but cry out at the freedom of it. Amber laughs as I stick an arm out the window, hair whipping around my face.
“You’re such a child,” she says.
“You’re just grumpy cos you didn’t get laid.”
“Yeah, Maya, I am!” Amber takes the next corner at breakneck speed, civilian vehicles scattering out of our path. She’s the best driver I know. Ripley would not approve. “Not everyone has the station hottie drooling over their every move.”
I let my hand surf the wind, thinking. It was strange with Docklen on Saturday, but nice. If I didn’t spend so much time thinking about Shark, I’d wonder if there was something happening there.
“You deserve better than Alex,” I say, “he’s a slut.”
“I’m a slut, Maya! How many times do I have to tell you? It’s not like I want a relationship with the boy.”
“Alright, alright,” I laugh, throwing my hands up in defence as Amber slows the car down, taking us into the suburbs. She pulls over, switching off the siren, and gets out. I follow suit.
“Maybe I’m just going to give up,” she says, “get me a nun’s habit and go celibate.”
“That’ll probably work,” I say. “Men always want what they can’t have.”
“That’s not the point, Maya!”
She slaps my arm and I take a deep breath. We allow the air of professionalism to slip over our shoulders and walk up the drive.
Amber draws the notepad from her front pocket, flicking it confidently to the next open page. I let her ring the doorbell, studying the front lawn instead. Amber and I have been a team since I joined the force, this is how we work. She does the people work, asking the questions, while I do the looking, do the thinking.
The front lawn is pristine perfect, grass mown in straight lines, bushes trimmed in smooth curves. It would be the ideal suburban paradise if it weren’t for the light sprinkling of broken glass that litters the top end from a smashed bay window.
I turn. Amber stands in the open doorway, gesturing with an impatient nod of the head for me to come in. I cast my eye over the glass one final time and step inside. I can already see how this went: someone threw a brick or another heavy object to shatter the glass the first time and then pulled shards out until the resulting hole was large enough to crawl through. It’s very amateur.
Joining Amber’s side, we allow ourselves to be shown into the living room. I’ve already written this off as a shoddy case. Normally I’d halfheartedly wonder around the downstairs rooms, taking note of damages until Amber’s finished asking questions but, for some unknown reason, Shark’s words flash through my head.
I start paying attention to the normal people, the innocent people.
The first thing I notice is the lack of tea. When I was new to the force, I'd almost have to roll home I was so full of tea and biscuits but, now that I think about it, I don’t remember the last time someone offered me something to drink.
And Amber really has to push for answers. Questions like ‘where we you at the time of the robbery?’ are met with unnatural hostility, as though they're accusations. I don’t remember it being like this, not when I started. When did it change? When did I get used to this?
By the time we finish up and Amber throws a cheery wave to the house’s inhabitant, a wave that is not returned, I am starting to feel quite uneasy.
“Wait a second,” I say as Amber lets herself into the car, “I have one more question.”
Amber furrows her brow as I dart back up to the house, putting out a hand before the woman behind the door can close it in my face.
“Sorry,” I say, putting on a smile, “I have one more thing to ask you.”
“Umm,” I run a hand through my hair, not sure how to phrase it. “Have you ever met anyone that’s Sapient+? From the force, I mean. What do you think about having super humans on your side - does it make you feel safer?”
“What has this got to do with the robbery?”
“Not much,” I admit.
“Then why are you asking?”
“I just wanted to know.”
The woman makes to close the door in my face and I stick out a foot.
“So I take it you’re less than keen?” I ask.
“I didn't say that. You can't prove that I said that.There’s nothing wrong with Sapient+, I never said there was anything wrong with Sapient+.”
“Please,” she says, gesturing to my foot. “I’ve had a terrible day. I just want to be left in peace.”
I take pity, removing my foot and turning back to the car. Amber’s eyebrows are almost in her hairline.
“What was that about?” She asks and I just shake my head.
“Who reported this robbery?” I ask, “Not her, right? Someone else.”
“Obviously, Maya. The neighbour. No one reports their own robberies these days.”
“What? Amber, that's the weirdest thing.”
Amber just shrugs.
“It’s like a thing,” she says.
“So when people say ‘crime rates are bottoming out’, then they’re lying. How do we know how much crime is taking place if we’ve got to rely on the goodness of people’s neighbours to report things? When did this start happening, Amber?”
“I don’t know, Maya.” Amber turns, looking at me like I’m mad. “For, like, forever. How long have you been Sapient+? Longer than that. It’s just the way things are. For a detective, you pay zero attention to how the world works.”
Halfway through the day, the radio crackles again. Amber leans forwards, messing with the dial, and suddenly Ripley’s voice echoes out around the small confines of the vehicle.
“Get back here right now,” he says and immediately clicks off, filling the speakers with static.
Amber looks up at me.
“Shit,” she says. “Are we in trouble?”
“Don’t know about you,” I say, “but I definitely am.”
In all my years on the force, I’ve never heard Ripley get on the radio. Not once.
Amber takes us back to the station without hesitation. She draws to a stop outside the backdoors and as I get out, slamming the car door behind me, she grabs my arm.
“I hope you get out alive,” she says, eyes brimming with sincerity, “but if you don’t, it was great knowing you.”
I throw a hand to my heart.
“I have but one final wish,” I say. “Will you look after Alex for me? He can’t function alone, he’s pathetic.”
“Trust me, Maya. Nothing would give me greater pleasure.”
She laughs, punching my shoulder playfully, and disappears down into the locker rooms. I don’t blame her. If she can just assume I’m the only one in trouble, keeping out of the way until Ripley’s done, he’ll probably forget about her. If she slinks in guiltily at my side, he’ll just include her in his tirade, regardless of whether or not he meant to originally.
I open the door to the station somewhat hesitantly. Ripley’s there waiting, arms folded, face red, and I throw him a guilty smile. He just shakes his head.
“Don’t start, Kurtis,” he growls.
“Sorry?” I hazard, confused.
Ripley’s eyes narrow furiously. For a second longer, he stares at me, eyes bulging, and then with an exasperated sigh, he storms back into his office. I make to follow him but he slams the door with an almighty bang, glaring at me one final time through the glass, and drops the blinds. I just stand there, alone on the station floor, while everyone stares.
“What just happened?” I ask, directing the question to the room in general.
Before anyone has the time to answer, Docklen arrives. He’s practically skipping, eyes brimming with glee, and I suddenly realise who might really be at fault here.
“Maya!” He exclaims, grabbing my arm and steering me towards his office. I follow reluctantly, distinctly aware of the fact that we still have an avid audience.
“What happened?” I ask as Docklen closes his office door behind us.
“I got you on the case!” He starts frantically rearranging papers, clearing a space on his cluttered desk and pulling up a second chair. He gestures for me to sit but I just look at him incredulous.
“You did what?”
"Well after our chat on Saturday, I realised I can't take Shark down on my own so I put in a few calls. You’re perfect for the job, Maya. Screw Ripley. I need you."
“Jack,” I say warily, “you do realise Ripley's my Chief Inspector, right? He’s been here since I started. You can't just go over his head like that.”
Docklen’s not even looking at me. He’s still busy rearranging his desk. This is going to be an argument, I can sense it, and the whole station’s still watching us through the glass. There’s no one Sapient+ outside Docklen’s office so they can’t hear what we’re saying but that doesn’t stop them looking. I bite my lip, holding back my frustration for just a second longer, and drop the blinds.
This catches Docklen’s attention and he finally looks up.
“Look, Jack,” I say, trying to keep calm. “Things don’t work like that around here. You don’t know what Ripley’s done for this city, for this team. I like you but if I had to pick between the two of you, I’d choose him any day. He’s my superior officer.”
“Well he’s not your superior officer anymore,” Docklen replies, folding his arms. “I am.”
I’m moving without thinking, too fast for my brain to follow what I’m doing. It’s only when Docklen’s hand clamps down around my wrist that I realise I went to slap him. He clenches his jaw, eyes flashing. I struggle but he just tightens his grip.
“Let me go.”
“Why should I?”
I hiss, fighting harder.
“You’ve got anger issues, Jack.”
“Don’t push me then,” he warns.
I growl, trying to tear his hand off my wrist. He sighs, pulling me in with one, sharp motion. I stumble forwards, unable to fight it. The grip on my wrist is so tight I can hardly feel my fingers but he doesn’t care, slowly forcing my raised hand away from his face.
He presses up against me, taking a step forwards until the back of my knees hit the desk. Adrenalin hits my body in a cold shock of realisation. In his gaze, there’s something I don’t recognise, something lustful. All sense of reason has gone. It’s animal. Intoxicating.
My breath hitches and he grins, slowly wrapping the fingers of his free hand around my hip.
“Jack,” I warn. But my voice is breathy. I don’t really mean it, there’s no heat behind the words.
He adds pressure to the hold on my hipbone, forcing me into his chest. I tilt my head back. I can’t help myself. There’s something about him and I'm sick of denying myself this pleasure. I stop attacking his hold on my wrist, slowly wrapping my free hand around the back of his head, curling my fingers into his hair. He smiles, accepting the gesture as an invitation, and leans forward until our noses touch, mingling his breath with mine. Less than a second later, I close the remaining distance, reaching out eagerly for the taste of his lips.