“Hey, Lieutenant,” Belinda Gary called. She handed her sidearm through the slot to the waiting Sergeant and turned to greet the tall Latino. “You’re up late.”
“You got a minute?” Lieutenant Sandillo spoke with no trace of a Spanish accent, though she knew he was fluent.
“Yeah, let me drop my stuff at my desk. Your office?”
He nodded and pivoted on his heel. She watched him go, bemused. Least he could do is pretend he knew how to talk to other people.
She walked over to her steel desk, the light blue color faded to an indeterminate grey. The window looked out on the parking lot, but at least she got natural light. She adjusted the Venetian blinds to let in a little more of the pre-morning light. She’d been up past dawn.
She stifled a yawn and looked longingly at her car keys. Instead, she headed to Sandillo’s office.
Guillermo Sandillo wore his habitual black suit, white dress shirt, and thin black tie. He never seemed aware of the seasons, preferring to wear his suit in any situation. Occasionally, and very occasionally at that, he would consent to remove the suit jacket, but she could count the times she’d seen it on one hand. Without using her thumb.
“Close the door, please.”
She did so and sat on one of the hard metal chairs in front of his desk. Nothing cluttered its surface besides a phone and black laptop, closed now, its cord snaking off to the right. As she watched, he retrieved a single case file from a drawer and set it in the precise center of the desk. She glanced at it, but his hand covered the label.
“You have a new partner.”
It took her a minute to process what he said, then she shot to her feet. “Oh no. You aren’t going to foist some rooky on me, Lieutenant! Not like the last time. I work just fine –”
It wasn’t loud, but she stopped mid-sentence and stared at him, chest heaving. “What?”
He tented one long-fingered hand on the top of the folder. “He’s not a rooky.”
She chewed her bottom lip and then sat down. “Fine. So tell me about him.”
“He’s on loan from Chicago. Homicide. One of their best undercover men.”
“If he’s so good, why’d he leave?”
“Mandatory two-year rotation.”
She felt her eyes widen. Only team that had a mandatory rotation like that worked serial crimes unit. The profilers and their ilk. “He’s a profiler?”
The lieutenant inhaled and lifted one shoulder in a partial shrug. “Not exactly. Close enough for us. But he’s got a good record and we can use him.”
Superstition pricked her and she tamped it down. Just because the lieutenant may have implied there’d be more murders for the Investigative Unit to deal with, didn’t make it so. No matter what her brother might have to say about it.
At the thought of her brother, anger swelled in her chest. They’d argued again over the upcoming Samhain holiday. He wanted her there to celebrate with him, but she wanted no part of it. She wanted to be normal, dammit.
A light knock interrupted her reverie and she realized she’d missed the Lieutenant’s last comment. His gaze intensified in annoyance, but he said nothing and stood to greet the newcomer.
Her new partner.
She turned and looked up. And up. She finally got out of her chair, intimidated by the huge leviathan that swam in. At least six-three, maybe six-five, he was a big son-of-a-buck. Probably bigger than her brother, a part of her mind noted smugly. A thatch of silvery brown hair flowed to his shoulders in loops and waves, but his chiseled jaw saved him from being effeminate.
As though anyone that big could be ‘effeminate.’
“Lieutenant Sandillo. I’m Jon Taylor, from Homicide.”
“Good to meet you,” Sandillo responded. He moved around his desk so he could shake hands, and then turned to Belinda. “This is Sergeant Belinda Gary, your new partner.”
His eyes fell on her, a shade of brown just this side of milk chocolate. His grip, when he shook her hand, felt firm but not too strong, though his hand engulfed hers like a catcher’s mitt.
She had the irreverent thought, ‘you know what they say about a man with big hands and big feet.’ She turned to retrieve her cup of coffee and to cover the slight blush covering her cheeks. She turned back, in control of herself. “It’s good to meet you.”
“Madison coffee better than Chicago coffee?” he asked, eyebrow raised.
She laughed outright. “Doubt it.”
He grinned, teeth very white. “Sounds perfect.”
“I’ll show you where it is.”
She could feel Sandillo’s eyes on her back as she left and resisted the urge to rub the back of her neck. God damned psychism just had to flare up now. She tried to close the window in her mind but knew the Lieutenant watched her, wondering about her former partner Monica Carlyle and whether Belinda could learn to deal with this one.
The fact her last partner died a gruesome death on their last case colored his thoughts, though he didn’t bring it out to examine.
Not the way she did, every night, in her dreams.
She nearly spilled coffee on herself at that thought, but managed to get the liquid in the cup with only a quick swipe of the towel required. They’d given her two different rookies after that, to “test out” the waters. Both were abysmal failures, one even drummed out of the service entirely.
She hauled her mind back to business. “How do you like your coffee?” Belinda asked the man-mountain hulking beside her.
“Strong and bitter.”
“Like you like your women?” she quipped.
He eyed her, but said nothing. She got a sudden flash of a naked man, Chippendale dancer style, and nearly choked on her coffee.
“You all right there?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s go look over our case file, shall we?”
He nodded and followed her to her desk. She pointed at Monica’s old desk standing back to back with hers, so they could sit facing each other, and tamped down the memory of Monica’s blue eyes dancing as they discussed music and men. She cleared her throat.
“You can sit there, it’ll be your desk now.”
“Thanks.” He set the coffee down. Monica’s chair creaked under his weight but didn’t collapse under him.