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How Can I Help, Detective?

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It was 10:00 AM on a Monday when Scarlet was finally able to take a break from the dispatch line. It had been a long Monday already. She’d put out three APBs, passed about twenty messages between the coroner, technical services, and a dozen detectives, and had looked up god knows how many addresses for a ridiculous amount of cases throughout the city.

All of this, and without so much as a cup coffee to keep her going. Her neck and fingers were stiff from poring over address books and police documents to help out the detectives who had called in. As Scarlet finally left the room to get her much needed caffeine, she recalled the events from earlier that morning.

She had arrived early, and before she had even gotten the chance to settle in to make herself some coffee, there was talk all over the station about the new detective that would be starting later that day.

The other girls in the dispatch room whispered in excitement about what the new detective might be like, and if he might be a handsome man. Scarlet listened silently, not contributing to the chatter. She wouldn’t be surprised if he was a former patrolman who had been working on the beat for years before finally making it to detective.

He’d be eager to start, but would be at a low priority desk for a long while, and most likely get bored with his assignment. He’d do his job, but not really excel at it. He’d close some cases here and there, and he’d fail at some others. He’d take up smoking as a serious hobby, and maybe drinking to accompany it.

After a few years, perhaps he’d move onto burglary or robbery or something other than commercial crimes or traffic, and stay there for the rest of his career. It was rare to actually see the ever-curious and diligent detective they all claimed they were to the newspapers.

Scarlet enjoyed her job, however. She had known some great detectives - and some not so great ones. There were detectives who treated everyone with kindness and respect, and then there were others who only believed everyone else in the station existed to serve them.

She had worked at Central Station for three years now, and had seen her fair share of questionable behavior from some detectives. She had also seen how different she was from many of the other girls in her own department. Some of the girls had absolutely no problems with the aforementioned questionable behavior.

Scarlet had been subject to some flirting - and even some direct advances - but had never taken any of the men up on their offers. She liked her job too much and felt that professionalism was key when working in such an environment.

However, there were some girls who didn’t seem to mind leaving on the arm of a rather bold detective on Friday night, only to arrive on Monday morning either ecstatic or crying to the other women. Generally, if the former happened, the fleeting joy would turn into tears when she realized that he had no intention of ever calling her back for another date. Scarlet tried not to judge.

She got along very well with the rest of her coworkers, despite not relating to them very well. She could empathize, listen, and offer advice, but everyone knew to not push her towards anything she didn’t want to partake in. Some girls thought she was prudish or strange. She didn’t associate with those women, and was happy to be around her coworkers who respected her space.

She would go out for the odd drink whenever the girls suggested an outing after work, but after a drink or two, she would retire to her apartment and enjoy the solitude.

At twenty-five years old, Scarlet was a quiet and intelligent woman. She was professional and hard-working. She was friendly and courteous, but unfortunately for her, she had a penchant for dry wit that dumbfounded the people around her. She truly did not fit into the mould of society, and she knew it. Being sarcastic was not lady-like in the slightest, and she was often given strange looks because of her unique comments.

She couldn’t help it, though. She looked at the world through a realistic - sometimes pessimistic - lens, and the sarcasm and wit just came with it. As a result of her way of looking at the world, dating and domesticity were not on her list of to-dos. She sometimes envied the other women of her generation, and how easy it was for them to do what was asked of them and be happy about it. Finish school, get the husband, have the kids, stay at the house, care for the husband and kids, and be quiet and content.

Despite her ability to be reserved, Scarlet had a determined spirit, and she wasn’t about to let the arbitrary expectations from the world around her stop her from doing what she wanted, no matter how difficult it could be. She wanted independence, simplicity, and fulfillment from her work. What more could a girl ask for?

But these things separated her from fitting in well, and she had realized a while back that a life of relative solitude was what was in store for her. At first it had been lonely, coming to that realization, but after some time, she knew it was what she wanted. So, she was rather surprised when she found herself curious and excited about working with this new detective.

As the morning continued and word got passed around the station, she heard more and more about this anomaly of a man who would be a traffic detective. He had spent just a single year on the beat before landing this job. And before that, he had come home from the war with a Silver Star to show for his bravery on Sugarloaf Hill.

Scarlet had kept up with the news of the war while she was a college student. She had tried to familiarize herself with the Pacific Theatre, since that’s where all the local boys were headed. She knew about Sugarloaf Hill, and she remembered hearing about this Lieutenant who was the last survivor of his men. She thought about what it must have been like to be a young man, fighting for your flag in a foreign place. Death and destruction surrounded you, and you were thousands of miles away from anything familiar. She respected the hell out of the men who willingly went to battle, and she felt grateful that she was where she was. All of this just made her even more intrigued about meeting this man at some point.

He almost seemed unreal. He was a hero, and such a dedicated police officer that he made detective in one year? Sounded like a hell of a man.

Scarlet had finally made herself her cup of coffee and was headed back to the dispatch room when she could hear the girls chattering excitedly once more. Some of them had gathered around the door of the room and were trying to peer into the hallway.

“What are you all doing?” Scarlet asked one of them as she stood outside of the room.

“The new detective is here!! We’re trying to get a good look at him!” replied a bespectacled young woman named Sheila.

Scarlet had no hope of getting back into the room while the girls were crowded against the door, so she decided to lean against the opposite wall of the hallway and wait until they were done. Although, she had to admit that she, too, wanted to see the detective. As she drank her coffee, she heard some comments from the girls that made her chuckle.

“I bet he’s tall and has looks that would make you keel over!”

“I wonder if he’s married…”

“I bet he’s actually really ugly, but people keep spreading rumors…”

“What?! Why would anyone spread a stupid rumor like that?”

“Yeah! He’s a war hero! War heroes aren’t ugly, Jane!”

“Exactly! They’re blue-eyed and dark-haired and…”

Suddenly, Sheila started shushing the other girls, and they all started shushing each other. Scarlet kept her coffee mug between her hands and casually examined it while taking quick glances to the end of the hallway. There, she saw the watch commander walking down the hallway with his own cup of coffee, and following him was a man wearing an immaculately pressed brown suit, a matching hat, and a blood red tie. It was obvious that the commander was showing the new man around.

The girls stayed dead silent while they all peered down the hallway from the door, eyes wide and curious. Scarlet tried to be a bit more discreet about it and kept her eyes forward while she took sips from her coffee mug. Suddenly, the commander and the man started walking toward the dispatch room and in an instant, Sheila and the rest of the girls had disappeared back into the room, leaving Scarlet standing by herself in the hallway. The watch commander approached Scarlet and smiled.

“Scarlet! How are ya? Been a busy day for you girls, seems like! I see ya got your afternoon coffee there.”

“Just like any other Monday, Commander. Saving the world requires all the coffee the universe has to offer,” Scarlet replied with a bright smile of her own. Scarlet glanced at the detective next to the commander.

He had a boyish look to him, and he couldn’t have been older than thirty-three, she thought. He had a sweet face that somehow carried an air of dignity, and he actually looked like a rather serious fellow. He wasn’t exactly what she was expecting, but that just made her even more curious. This was the man who had received the war medal? The one who had apparently single-handedly solved the murder of a shoe store owner as a patrolman? She took another sip of her coffee, silently pondering.

“Phelps, this is Scarlet. She’s the best dispatch operator we’ve got here. I’m sure you’ll be needing her assistance soon so you better be nice to her and start doin’ her favors. You’ll be lost without her,” the commander said with a wink.

“Cole Phelps. Pleasure to meet you, Miss…”

“Just ‘Scarlet’ is fine, Detective.” Scarlet smiled and held her hand out.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Scarlet,” Cole said as he shook her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, too. I’ll be compiling the list of favors I’ll need you to do in order for this to go smoothly.”

Scarlet playfully raised an eyebrow at Cole, who looked slightly taken aback at her comment.

“She’s quick, Phelps. You better watch out for her, otherwise she’ll leave ya in the dust,” the commander said to Cole with a laugh before motioning for Cole to follow him into the dispatch room.

Scarlet smiled wryly before taking her seat at her desk. She always found that the best way to judge a person’s character was to observe how they responded to being poked fun at. Some people would be insulted that a woman had the audacity to talk that way. Others would be shocked and not reply at all. But every now and then, there would be the person who surprised her and would be up for a little verbal joust. She always felt like those people were worth keeping around. She admitted that she had basically sucker-punched Cole with that joke, so she wouldn’t be surprised if he reacted poorly. She figured she’d wait to see what sort of man Cole was.

The commander gave Cole a short explanation of the dispatch room, and ended it with “These are the rest of the lovely operators. You’ll be assigned to one eventually. C’mon, it’s time to get you upstairs to your new desk and the rest of the detectives.”

As the commander motioned for Cole to follow and started to leave the room, Cole approached Scarlet’s desk and quietly said, “That list of errands of yours…I suppose completing it will be dependant on how much help you are to me.”

Scarlet raised her eyebrows in surprise. She was expecting any number of responses, if he had even chosen to respond. This was not one of them. She felt a pang of anger, and another of embarrassment. She was only trying to be friendly, and here was, chiding her. She was about to open her mouth when he suddenly continued speaking.

“I’ll get my wallet ready. I have a feeling you’re going to take me to the cleaners…literally.”

Cole gave her a small smile and huffed out a quiet laugh before following the commander out the door.
As soon as Cole had left, the barrage of comments and questions from the other women started.

“He’s so cute!!! I wasn’t expecting him to look like that!!”

“He’s the war hero? Well…I suppose he does look rather heroic…”

“Did anyone see a wedding ring??”

“No, I was a bit too busy wondering what he has under the suit…”


“What?? He’s not as ugly as I thought he’d be!!”

“I wonder who’s going to get assigned to him!”

Sheila turned to Scarlet and excitedly asked, “Scarlet, what did he say to you?? Was he hitting on you?”

Scarlet chuckled and replied “No, nothing like that. He should be an interesting man to work with.”

She truly meant that.