AGGIE AND GRADY'S FIRST SHIFT
removed from FLASH, Chapter One
During the summer vacation schedule Aggie had ended up paired with Ryan Grady for one shift, possibly as one of Sheriff Bishop’s social experiments, possibly because there really was no other choice. It hadn’t been nearly as bad as she had expected. The only excitement of the night was a drunk and disorderly complaint, and by the time they got to the scene the poor old fellow, who had to be eighty if he was a day, was standing in the middle of the street in his underpants, chucking rocks at the streetlight and singing “Son of a Preacher Man” at the top of his lungs. A small crowd had gathered, and lights were on all around the block. Ryan had turned off the flasher bar, approached the man casually with hands in pockets, and chatted with him for awhile. Then instead of taking him back across the bridge to the drunk tank, as procedure dictated, he’d driven the guy home and made him a pot of coffee. Aggie would have done much the same thing.
They took their dinner break at Pete’s Place, and over hamburgers and crispy fries Aggie told him that she liked the way he’d handled that. He shrugged. “That’s just old Jacoby. He spent his whole life running a shrimp boat, about the hardest work there is I guess. Lost his wife to Alzheimer’s last year, and his only son to lung cancer two years before that. I figure if he wants to get shit-faced and throw rocks at the moon every now and then, he’s entitled.”
Aggie smiled. “Yeah, I know.” By then she knew just about everyone on the island, and most of their stories.
He said, “So all this must seem pretty tame to a big-city cop like you. How’d you end up here anyway? Everybody wants to know.”
She could have blown him off with a flip reply, like she usually did, but for some reason that night she was in a sharing mood. So she told him about her roommate, and how she’d joined the force to make a difference, and how the CPD had shown her nothing except the worst of people, of life, of society. “The worst of it is,” she said, “Is that if you live like that long enough, right in the middle of it, you start to become the same kind of person you’re supposed to be protecting society from. I could see it in the people I worked with, and I could feel it happening to me. And...” she munched thoughtfully on a French fry as she tried to find the words. “I finally decided that was not what my grandmother scrimped and saved her egg money for all those years, to see me turn out like...” She almost said, “like my mother”, but caught herself just in time. She wasn’t ready to share that much, although she had the funniest feeling, looking at him, that if she had it would have been okay. Nonetheless, she let it go with a shrug and finished, “I’m not a big-city girl. I like tame. I like quiet. I mean, I know what we do isn’t supposed to be social work but in a way it kind of is, isn’t it? If we do our jobs, other people’s lives are better. And so are ours. At least, that’s the way it should be.”
She expected him to say something stupid and off-hand, but instead he just nodded, understanding. “Yeah,” he said. “I guess that’s why I never left the coast, except for the military, that is. I always figured that if a man is lucky enough to find where he belongs and what he’s supposed to be doing, he’d be a fool to mess with that.”
He told her about growing up on the island, and about his family, and she found him a surprisingly easy man to ride with. At the end of the night he leaned against the patrol car and smiled at her. “Good shift,” he said.
“Yeah,” she replied, smiling back. “It was.” She added, “I’ll write up the report on the D&D if you want.”
“Thanks,” he said, still leaning against the car, making no move to go. “I’m not that crazy about paperwork.”
She said, “I know.”
He smiled again, and there was something about his eyes, about the easy way he looked at her that made her think that if he asked her out then—if he’d said, “How about getting a cup of coffee?” or “Do you want to go out for pizza one night?” --she would have said yes. And there was a moment when she thought that was exactly what he was going to do.
But then he slid his glance away, almost shyly, and when he looked back at her all he said was, “Well. See you around.” And he walked into the office to check out. The next day they were back in separate cars and he was back to being a jerk, and whatever might have started between them never went any further. Sometimes Aggie thought about that, and was sorry. But all in all, she supposed it was easier on everyone not to mess with the status quo.
AGGIE BRIEFS HER TEAM
Removed from THE SOUND OF RUNNING HORSES
Aggie ran a three-woman police department and she trusted each one of those women with her life. Back when she’d still been a deputy with the Murphy County Sheriff’s Department and Maureen was the only other female in the department, they’d barely been on a nodding basis. But when Aggie had been shot, and sent home from the hospital after ten weeks barely able to walk or feed herself with only a determined Grady and a four month old Flash to take care of her, Mo had barged her way into Aggie’s house armed with chicken casseroles and righteous indignation, declaring that no woman wanted a man to help her to the toilet. She’d shooed Grady away, put the house in order, and showed up every morning before her shift to help Aggie to the shower, change the sheets, and leave a meal.
When Aggie was appointed Chief of Police of Dogleg Island, there was only one choice for her second in command. Maureen had won the spot not because of her acts of charity, but because she was the only person Aggie knew who could make Grady back down.
Sally Ann Hodges was a beauty-school drop out who’d grown up on Dogleg, knew everyone in town, and was quite possibly the most efficient person Aggie had ever met. Her father was the island’s only residential real estate broker, which explained how Sally Ann could afford her own one-bedroom cottage two blocks from the beach on what the township of Dogleg Island paid her. Though she wouldn’t be twenty-one for another two months, she ran the administrative aspects of the office with such ease that Aggie often thought of herself as little more than a figurehead. The office was open six days a week from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and, even though she was only supposed to work five of those days, Sally Ann was there every morning at seven.
The Dogleg Island Police Department, which included Flash, worked as a team, and it was important to Aggie that every member of that team be kept as up-to-date as possible. So she called a staff meeting that morning at eight o’clock for the sole purpose of bringing her team up to date.
“The bad news is,” she announced, “no paid lifeguard program. The good news is, no shark attack, either, at least not yet. Sally Ann, put in a call to the victim sometime today, I want to follow up personally. Good PR and all. We’ve got another three weeks until the end of the tourist season so let’s do our best to avoid a Jaws-like panic, okay?”
Maureen, leaning against the edge of her desk with her arms folded, gave a grunt of laughter that shook her bosom. “That child never even heard of Jaws.”
Sally Ann rolled her eyes. “Everyone’s heard of Jaws. It’s a theme park ride, for heaven’s sake.”
Aggie hid her amusement behind her coffee cup. She was also leaning against her desk, since the office was too small to encourage sitting when everyone was there at once, and Flash stood alertly at her side. He knew these meetings never lasted long, and he was ready to go on patrol.
Aggie took a sip of coffee and added, “There’s more good news. The district attorney’s office will be announcing later today that Roy Briggs will begin serving a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole as soon as the paperwork is signed. So we can say adios to another bad guy and put this case behind us.”
Maureen gave a grim nod of satisfaction and Sally Ann said, “Good. I’m glad for you, Chief Malone, and for Captain Grady.”
Aggie smiled. “Thank you, Sally Ann. In other good news, Jerome Bishop was officially sworn in this morning in a private ceremony as Sheriff of Murphy County.”
Maureen broke into a broad smile, her white teeth flashing. “Now, that is good news if I ever heard it. Never met a finer man.”
“He’ll be deputizing all the local police officers over the next few days,” Aggie told her. “Call the office and see when is a good time for you to come in and take the oath, but if you go today, Grady said there’s cake. And Sally Ann, let’s send a congratulations card, something tasteful and dignified, you know what I mean. We’ll all sign it.”
Sally Ann nodded, scribbling a note to herself. Flash grinned up at Aggie. So far the meeting was making perfect sense to him. The sharks were under control, the bad guys were going to prison, and the good guys were getting cake. But his grin faded a little as he sensed Aggie’s change of mood.
She said, her tone sobering, “Okay, the rest of this doesn’t leave this room. Yesterday afternoon Roger Darby, a ranger with the park service, was assaulted with a club on Wild Horse Island by a person or persons unknown and rendered unconscious.” She lifted a reassuring hand at Sally Ann’s gasp of concern. “He’s okay. He was treated and released last night, the FDLE is investigating, and the park is open today. If anyone inquires, refer them to the investigating agency. But that’s not the part I want you to keep quiet. In the course of investigating the assault, Flash...” She dropped her hand to Flash’s head, and he pressed against it, leaning his shoulder into her leg. “Discovered the body of a young woman buried in a shallow grave near the marsh.”
Sally Ann’s eyes went big behind her glasses. “Do you mean like a skeleton?”
Aggie shook her head. “No, we think the death was recent, maybe only a few days ago.”
“Any idea who killed her?” demanded Maureen.
Aggie sipped her coffee. “We’re not sure how she died. We’re waiting for the autopsy. We think she might have been homeless, camping illegally. But until we know for sure, or until we’ve given up reasonable expectation of making an ID, the investigator has asked us not to release any information. This isn’t our case. Grady and I—and Flash, of course—are just witnesses. But I wanted you all to know what was going on.”
“Lord Jesus,” muttered Maureen, poking out her lower lip in a thoroughly unhappy fashion. “The things that go on in this world.”
“I couldn’t agree more, Mo,” said Aggie. She finished her coffee and set the mug on the desk with a muted thump. “Okay, let’s hit the streets. Mo, I want you at the corner of Ocean and Main between ten and noon, and if anybody even looks like they’re thinking about ignoring that ‘pedestrian crossing sign’, nail them to the cross. I mean it, a kid almost got hit there last week. After lunch, set up at Island and Sea Breeze. I’m tired of people flying across that bridge like they’re on the interstate when they’ve got a good half mile warning that the speed limit on the island is thirty-five. And if anybody asks whether we have a quota, the answer is yes, we do—but it only applies to people who actually break the law.”
Maureen grinned and slapped her ticket book against her palm as she sauntered toward the door. “I do love me a day full of citations,” she said.
GRADY TEACHES A CLASS
Removed from THE SOUND OF RUNNING HORSES
The car was a white Chrysler with broken tail light. Conditions were dry, traffic was moderate, and the time was two-forty-five in the afternoon. As they watched, the Chrysler approach a stop sign, slowed, and made a right turn without stopping.
Grady said, “Deputy Brown, take it.”
“Yes, sir!” The young man shot to his feet.
“Please remain seated while inside your patrol car, Deputy,” Grady said mildly, and a rustle of laughter went around the room.
Sam Brown flushed and sank back to his chair. “Yes, sir. Lights and sirens, sir.”
Grady clicked the computer mouse and the video resumed, sound muted. After a few hundred yards, the white car pulled over in front of a school crossing sign. Grady stopped the playback.
“Go on,” he said to Brown.
Brown cleared his throat. “Well, first I’m going to run his tag.”
“Wrong,” Grady said. He looked around the room. “Anybody?”
Several hands went up and Grady nodded to one of the female recruits. She said, “First, I’d radio in my position and a description of the vehicle.”
“Yes sir,” Sam said quickly. “I mean, I thought I’d already done that. Before I made the stop.”
“Let’s think a little faster next time, Brown,” said Grady. “Okay, you’ve run his tag and found out it’s associated with a driver who has two previous DUIs and a bench warrant out for failure to appear. Now what?”
“I take the suspect into custody, sir. I mean,” he added quickly, “first I radio in my findings and my intention, and then I approach the vehicle and ask for identification.”
Grady started the video again and they watched as the Chrysler suddenly swung out into traffic, tires squealing, and took off at a high rate of speed. “Now what?” demanded Grady.
“I initiate pursuit, sir,” said Brown quickly.
Others in the room shifted restlessly, eager to speak up, and Grady gave them a chance.
“He’s got an outstanding! He’s going to jail!”
“Call for rolling roadblocks! He’s probably armed.”
Grady jabbed a button on the computer angrily and stopped the fleeing vehicle in a blur of motion as it approached an intersection. “Why not just shoot out the tires?” he demanded, dark-eyed.
Eyes dropped around the room beneath his hard gaze until finally someone spoke up. “Because I might miss, sir.”
That was Brown, and Grady looked at him without compassion. “First smart thing you’ve said all day, Brown. Worse yet, you might not miss, causing the driver to lose control and drive up onto the sidewalk. Can anybody tell me why we don’t want that to happen?”
No one spoke this time, not because they didn’t know the answer but because they could tell by the look on Grady’s face that whatever they said, it would not be good enough.
Grady pushed away from the table against which he had been leaning and jabbed a finger at the frozen video projected on the screen before them. “What time is it?”
The blurred ticker at the bottom of the screen reported the time as 14:54, and someone reported the same.
Grady’s voice was low and tense. “And where are you?”
“Sir,” someone volunteered, “hot pursuit law permits an officer to pursue a suspect beyond his jurisdiction once it’s become clear the suspect’s intention is to evade arrest.”
Grady shouted, “Where the hell are you ?”
He swung around, clicked the mouse again, and they watched in silence as dashboard video from the pursuing patrol car showed the Chrysler barreling through the intersection, swerving hard to turn, and clipping a mini-van head on. The van spun into traffic where it collided with a school bus that was making a left turn out of the school parking lot. Grady turned up the volume of the video and, beneath the wail of the siren and the gasping shouts of the pursuing officer, the horrified screams of the bystanders could be clearly heard.
Grady stopped the video and turned back to his audience. “You were in a school zone,” he said distinctly, “at two-forty-five in the afternoon on a school day. Three children were taken to the hospital that day. The driver of the mini-van did not survive. She left behind a two year old daughter.”
He paused a moment to let this sink in and then stared directly at Brown. “My wife could have been on that road,” he said lowly. He drew in a quick, short breath, pressed his lips together hard for a moment. Then he swept the group until he found one of the recruits who had spoken up earlier and directed the next words, distinct and measured, to him. “Your children could have been on that bus.”
He said nothing else for a moment. When he spoke again it was in a controlled, slightly more detached tone. “You’ve all taken the Academy class on traffic stops, folks. You’ve all done these exercises. The purpose of this course is to evaluate your judgment. What do you say you start showing a little before I put you on the road where real families could be in danger?”
He turned back to the computer and added flatly, “The internal policy of the Murphy County Sheriff’s Department is to break off pursuit of any non-violent offender if chase makes public streets too dangerous. Read your manual. Okay, new scenario.”
But it was a moment or two before he could cue up the next video, because it took him that long to get his hands to stop shaking.
portions of this scene appeared in a greatly condensed and altered version in THE SOUND OF RUNNING HORSES
Pete’s Place Bar and Grill was located on Island Drive, convenient to the bridge for those who wanted to drive over from the mainland for a quick bite, and convenient to the island locals, for many of whom it was a second home. It specialized in seafood, sandwiches, beer and—as far as Flash was concerned anyway—the world’s best hamburger. It was a big rambling place with multiple outdoor patios and upstairs decks, and its parking lot was almost always full. Today was no exception.
Flash sprang out of the window as soon as Aggie stopped the car, and led the way to the entrance at a brisk pace, tail waving. A lot of people called out, “Yo, Flash!” and “Hey, pooch!” when he came in, and other people turned on their barstools or leaned out from their tables to grin at him. Flash barked once, just to be polite, and also to let Pete know he was here. Pete called from behind the bar, “With you in a minute, Flash.” And one of the waitresses knelt down to ruffle his fur and kiss his head. Flash loved going to Pete’s Place. His fur smelled like onion rings and fried shrimp for hours after leaving.
Aggie came up behind him and said, “Have you got anything on the upstairs deck, Sherry?”
“Sure, Chief.” The waitress stood and grabbed a menu from the hostess stand. “What can I get you to drink?”
“I’d kill for a glass of lemonade.”
“Extra large, coming up.”
The three of them moved out onto the patio and started up the stairs to the shaded deck where big ceiling fans broke up the muggy air with a cool breeze and tall palms rustled and clattered outside the rail. There were no televisions up here so it wasn’t very crowded, and it was a lot quieter than it had been inside.
Aggie said, “Is Mark working today?”
“I think he’s covering the west patio.”
“Ask him to come up when he gets a chance, will you? I want to talk to him about something.”
“Sure thing, Chief Malone.” Sherry put the menu on a rough cedar table right beneath a big ceiling fan. “I’ll be right back with that lemonade.”
“Thanks Sherry,” Aggie said as she slid onto the bench. Flash jumped up onto the bench opposite her and sat down to wait. “And don’t forget—“
“To wash my hands after playing with the dog, I know,” Sherry supplied with a grin and gave Flash’s chin a last scratch before she left. “Health code.”
“Not,” Aggie assured Flash sincerely when she was gone, “that you’re not the cleanest thing she’s probably touched all day, and I don’t mean to insult you. But we’re in the ordinance enforcement business.”
Since Flash didn’t really understand what it was to be insulted, he just grinned at her and turned to look out over the railing. That was when he heard that sound—the one that Grady was so interested in, the one they’d both heard on Wild Horse Island yesterday—and he swiveled his head in that direction. But before he could decide whether or not this was something Aggie needed to be alerted to, Lorraine swooped in, all sparkling earrings and swirling colors, with her spiky purple hair and magenta fingernails. She placed a metal bowl filled with ice water on the floor beside Flash and tugged his ear affectionately. Flash sprang down and started to slurp up the water. Next to the hamburgers, the water at Pete’s Place was the best thing on the menu, and the way the little squares of ice crunched between his teeth was amazing.
“How’re you doing, Flash?” Lorraine greeted him as she took his place on the bench opposite Aggie.
Flash looked up from the water to smile at her, and that was when he saw, between the bars of the railing, Mark on the patio below. Mark pulled his apron over his head and stashed it behind the patio bar, then moved at a quick pace toward the parking lot. Flash was disappointed. Mark was the only one, besides Pete, who always remembered to serve his hamburger with one leaf of lettuce and no ketchup.
“And more importantly...” Lorraine went on, thunking a big book filled with fabric samples in front of Aggie. “How’s my favorite sister-in-law?”
Aggie said, “Unless those are samples for new summer uniforms for the Dogleg Island Police Department, I am not interested. I’m looking for Bermuda shorts, khaki or light blue, and white short-sleeved, open collar shirts, wicking fabric only. What’ve you got?”
“Sounds cute,” Lorraine said. “I can’t wait to see Mo in Bermuda shorts.” She opened the book to a swatch of sand-colored damask . “What do you think of this one for the sofa?”
“Black and white dog hair,” Aggie said. “It’s a non-starter.” She turned the page. “That one’s nice.”
She pointed at random to a tropical print, and looked up as Sherry returned with her lemonade.
“I told Mark you were looking for him, Chief Malone,” Sherry said. “He said he’d be up in a minute.”
Flash looked up, interested, and then back down at the patio. Mark wasn’t there.
Sherry placed another tall glass, already weeping with condensation, in front of Lorraine, this one filled with sweet tea. “Pete said to give him five minutes on your amberjack.” She smiled and retrieved the menu. “It’s really good. Anything else?”
“We’re good, honey, thanks,” Lorraine said, sipping her tea. “Will you tell Lindy on your way down that table twenty-nine needs more napkins?”
“Sure thing, Ms. Grady.”
Aggie had to smile. The way Sherry referred to Pete by his first name and Lorraine by her title was evidence, if anyone had doubts, about who was really in charge here. But even more telling was the fact that Lorraine had noticed from across the room and without even looking up that table twenty nine needed more napkins.
Aggie said, sipping her lemonade, “Ryan is driving me crazy about that whole wedding reception thing. He says it was his mother’s idea but why do I get the feeling he’s really behind the whole thing?”
Lorraine gave an rueful half-grin. “Of course he is, honey. He’s been planning it since before you got out of the hospital.”
“Well, it think it’s silly. All that trouble, all that expense, and for what?”
“The Grady men are funny,” Lorraine said. Her tone was indulgent. “Tough as nails on the outside but just like melted chocolate on the inside.”
Aggie sighed. “I don’t know, Lorraine. I just don’t get this whole family thing. Every time we go to Lucy’s for dinner I don’t know whether I’m supposed to bring something and if I am whether it’s supposed to be homemade and half the time when I do bring something she doesn’t even put it on the table.” Lucy was Grady and Pete’s sister, the middle child, who lived with her husband and her pre-school twin boys in a neat brick ranch house on half an acre of manicured lawn on the mainland. Her husband was a CPA who did all their taxes for free but had never spoken more than half a dozen words to Aggie. Lucy was.. well, Lucy. “And those boys of hers,” Aggie went on, repressing a shudder. “I swear they’re enough to make me want to have a hysterectomy.” She caught herself abruptly, apology already forming on her lips. Lorraine was a survivor of uterine cancer, and she and Pete had never had children.
But Lorraine just chuckled. “Honey, those monsters are enough to make anybody think about a hysterectomy—even Pete.”
Aggie went on, “And his mother treats me like she’s known me all her life and I don’t even know what to call her. Now what am I supposed to do at this wedding party thing? Wear a white dress and dance with his father? I just don’t get it. I don’t think I know how to behave around a real family.”
Lorraine sipped her tea. “Call her Lil. That’s her name. And I think you know a lot more about real families than you think you do. Speaking of which...”
Lorraine put down her glass and smiled at Aggie. Her smile was a little distracted, almost false, and there was a trace of uneasiness in her eyes. She rubbed a bead of moisture from the outside of her glass in a gesture that was absent and nervous. “Have you got a minute to talk?”
“Sure,” said Aggie. Even Flash could sense the change in Lorraine’s mood and he stopped crunching ice, looking up at her in concern. “Everything okay?”
Lorraine laced her fingers together atop the table. “It’s just that it’s been awhile since we sat down and talked, and –“
Aggie’s phone rang and she winced. She glanced at the i.d., mouthed Sorry to Lorraine, and answered it, “Malone.”
In another moment she said, “Yeah, okay, I’m on my way.”
She looked apologetically at Lorraine as she stood. Flash looked over his shoulder for his hamburger. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Why is it nothing ever happens around here except at lunch time? We’ve got a complaint of a woman flashing her boobs on the beach causing a big scene, and
Mo is on another call. I’ve got to go. Tell Pete I’m sorry about the sandwich. I’ll try to make it by later.” She hesitated. “Did you want to talk about something?”
She waved a dismissing hand. “It’s nothing.” She smiled. “Not important. I’ll catch you later. You’d better hurry before you miss the show.”
Aggie replied with a roll of her eyes. “Right. Wouldn’t want that to happen. Come on, Flash.”
It would never occur to Flash to shirk his duty, but he was sorry about the hamburger. He was sorry about leaving Lorraine, too, because even he could tell she was lying and that was something she almost never did. Once she’d looked Aggie straight in the eye and told her she had to work on Aggie’s birthday when in fact she was planning a surprise party for Aggie at Pete’s Place. That turned out to be the good kind of lie, the kind that made Aggie laugh. And there was cake. Flash didn’t think cake was involved this time and that bothered him. But what bothered him even more was that Aggie hadn’t figured that out.
AN EVENING AT HOME
removed from THE SOUND OF RUNNING HORSES
They never did get lunch that day, but it turned out okay because when they got home Grady was taking a pizza out of its box and the whole house was filled with the smell of Italian spices, tomato sauce and yeasty bread. Aggie called out, “You are a prince among men, Ryan Grady!”
He called back, “Yes, I am!”
Aggie hurried upstairs to change her clothes and Flash went with her because she liked to try to run up the stairs and it was his job to make sure she didn’t fall. Sometimes she only made it up three stairs before she had to sit down, clinging to the rail and breathing hard while Flash waited patiently for her to get up. Grady usually watched from behind the kitchen door where she couldn’t see him, his knuckles white with holding on to the door frame and his face scrunched up because he wanted to run and help her up. He never did, of course. That was Flash’s job. Today Aggie dashed up five steps before she stopped, wheezing and clinging to the rail but giving Flash the thumbs-up. “Getting better,” she managed, and went up the rest of the steps more slowly, using both hands to hold onto the rail.
Aggie came back down wearing baggy shorts and a faded Murphy County Sheriff’s Department tee shirt, no shoes, no wig. She hugged Ryan from behind and kissed his neck. “But we’re supposed to be eating healthy,” she said.
He leaned backward to kiss the corner of her eye, holding up a white paper take-out bag. “I also got salads,” he said.
She got a beer from the refrigerator for him and a sparkling water for herself while he dished out the salads and put pizza on the plates. Grady transferred two slices—the kind without onions or pepperoni, just ground beef and cheese, the way Flash liked it—to Flash’s bowl and added some lettuce. Flash waited impatiently for it to cool.
“Any news from the FDLE?” Aggie asked.
“Still waiting for the M.E.’s report, but according to JC entomological evidence puts the time of death less than five days ago. “
Aggie helped herself to a slice of pizza from one of the plates and took a bite. “That’s bugs, right?”
“Right.” Grady put Flash’s bowl on the floor and picked up his own plate. “Also they got a match to Darby on the blood they found on the broken oar, no surprise there, and even lifted some fingerprints. They’re not showing up in the system, though, at least not yet. Did you get any lunch?”
“Almost. Pete has a new sandwich. But I had to go arrest a flasher before I could try it. Flash and I stopped for ice cream this afternoon though.”
He put another slice of pizza on her plate. “Do you want to watch the news?”
“Sure.” Aggie took another bite of pizza and they carried their plates into the living room. “How was your first class?”
“Terrific. The kids are crazy about me, but then what’s not to love?” He pointed the remote control at the television and turned the volume down to a background level. He added, “I really suck at it.”
“You’re just saying that because you don’t want to do it.”
He said, “I’m saying that because one day I might have to work with one of those kids who was trained by me, and that scares the hell out of me.”
Aggie paused with the pizza slice halfway to her mouth, looking concerned, but he interrupted before she could say anything. “How was your day? Other than the flasher, of course.”
“I went by to see Roger Darby. He’s really shaken up.”
“I don’t blame him. I feel like crap that he even got involved.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It’s his job. Anyway, I think what really upset him was JC coming by last night to interview him about the dead woman. I guess it went from being an attack from behind to an attempted murder in his mind, then.”
Grady chewed and nodded thoughtfully. “Not out of the question. You’ve got to admit, it’s fairly likely the same person did both crimes.”
“Unless,” she agreed, “that deserted island has suddenly become a refuge for criminals. On the other hand...” She gave a small shrug. “If you were a criminal, that’d would be a pretty good place to hide out.”
“No way,” replied Grady. “Criminals are too lazy to rough it in the wilderness like that. They’d rather hang out downtown and make my life miserable.”
“Or get falling-down drunk on the beach and try to auction off their bikini top to the highest bidder,”
Aggie agreed, which made Grady chuckle.
Aggie ate her salad and finished a slice of pizza. Grady took the remaining pizza from her plate and almost finished his salad. Flash came in and waited for the crusts.
They watched the news for awhile: a hostage situation in Minnesota, a bomb threat in Georgia, a cop gunned down in a liquor robbery, a teenage girl from Maine believed to be kidnapped by someone she met online. Grady turned the television off. Aggie was glad.
She said, “Do you want to watch a movie?”
“Sure. You pick one out; I’ll clean up the kitchen.”
Flash went with Grady as he took the dishes to the dishwasher, just in case there were any leftovers that needed to be taken care of, and when they came back Aggie had a movie ready to go. Flash couldn’t quite follow the plot, but it made Aggie laugh a lot. Grady pretended to watch, and he smiled when she did, but mostly his eyes were on her fingers, which were curled inside of his, and the way the light from the setting sun that poured through the tall windows glinted off the two gold rings that were nestled there side by side. At one point he said, “I like this.”
She glanced at him. “The movie?”
“Being married,” he said.
She smiled and snuggled against him, her head on his shoulder. “We forgot to open the champagne,” she murmured.
“Let’s save it until we have something to celebrate.”
She looked up with a question in her eyes but he brought her fingers to his lips and kissed her wedding band. “Shh,” he said. “This is the good part.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Grady, smiling. “The movie.”
Aggie settled back to watch the images flickering the screen, and Grady watched the play of light across her face, and Flash stretched out on the sofa beside them and closed his eyes, perfectly content. Sometimes, he had learned, you had to take the quiet times where you could find them, because you never knew how long they were going to last in their business.