“An entire month?”
Callahan almost drops his coffee when Chief Hopper’s booming voice echoes in the station.
“Well, I’m sorry, Chief, but the doctors insist they can’t Krazy Glue my hip back in place.”
Flo’s voice is barely loud enough to make out, but the younger officer has trained in the art of eavesdropping. Besides, they’ve left the door open.
“And what’s gonna happen while you’re gone?”
A familiar pair of glasses appear at the chief’s doorway.
“We could make a call to the Sheriff’s Office, ask for a replacement.”
“That’s gonna take weeks! And who’s gonna answer the phones until then, Callahan, you?”
The younger man flushes and returns to his office in silence.
Powell snorts in his cup.
Flo seems unaffected by the chief’s temper, only wrinkling her nose when his voice raises.
“There’s no need for that, I already have a solution.”
“And what’s that?”
“My niece can replace me while on medical leave, or until the Sheriff’s Office sends someone else.”
“Your niece?! What is this, Flo’s Day Care?”
“You really want to hear the answer to that?”
“Look, Flo, I don’t have the time for this. I’ve got everyone up my ass about a million different cases.”
Jim is tired, the bags under his eyes deepening with every sleepless night. Hawkins has been a mess lately.
“I know, that’s why I took care of everything. She’s gonna come in from Indianapolis, stay at my place. She’s got plenty of experience, and plenty of patience to put up with the likes of you. She’s perfect.”
He takes a generous drug of his cigarette, blowing out the smoke with closed eyes.
There used to be a time when Flo would mind, but not anymore.
Her lungs are done for after years in this job.
“She’s worked for police before?”
“No, she’s a regular secretary,” she watches as the man scrunches up his face, ready as ever to oppose, “but this ain’t FBI, chief. All she’s gotta do is answer calls and help with filing.”
“Fine, but I’m still calling sheriff’s office. Let’s just hope your darling doesn’t fuck up till then.”
A week later…
He’s late. He knows he is because, on regular days, he only ever gets to listen to the first few minutes of Joel’s morning chat on the radio before he’s parked outside the station. But this isn’t a regular day and the show’s first segment is over by the time he drives up.
It’s so cold at this time of the year, the engine keeps making a rumbling noise, but Jim finds he doesn’t have the energy to care anymore. He runs on more cups of coffee than hours of sleep nowadays.
The minute he enters the station, something feels wrong. Where there’s normally the maddening ringing of phones fading into the soft chatter of his fellow officers, now there is silence.
“What the hell is going on here, some zombie apocalypse?”
Callahan is out of it; one hand around his cup and another in some newspaper. His gaze keeps going back and forth between the paper and the chief’s office.
“Earth to Callahan, you want to tell me what you’re looking at?”
“I-I’m sorry, Chief. Just caught up in the news.”
Powell snorts somewhere in the background, “That and Miss Pearlman.”
The look on Chief Hopper’s face is deadly. He’s most certainly not in the mood for playing around.
“Err, that’s the new secretary, sir, Flo’s replacement.” Jim’s eyes follow Powell’s finger and land on your figure through his office window. You’re leaning on his desk, answering his phone and jotting down things on your notebook so quickly, he swears it’s just scribbling.
Your hair falls in your face from the movement, but it doesn’t take long to realize just how young you are.
“Are you fucking kidding me? That’s a college girl in there! I didn’t know notes for biology class were considered ‘plenty of experience’.“
“Oh come on, chief, it’s not that bad. We spoke plenty, she’s been out of college for some time now.”
“Yeah, and straight to working at McDonald’s with the rest of the pimply teenagers, I’m guessing.”
The hat is thrown off his head, hands moving to unbutton his shirt when he realizes he can’t breathe.
When he turns out to face the others, his face is flushed.
“All of you do me a favor and don’t prop your ear behind the door.”
Oh, this is bad.
The chief’s steps are unusually light while he makes his way to the office and closes the door behind him. He makes no move towards his office though, chest-puffing with every harsh breath while he waits for the call to be over.
Once his breathing quiets, he can finally listen to you. Your voice is soft, there’s something soothing about it and it’s a sharp contrast against the woman screeching in the other line. He swears he doesn’t know how you don’t hang up. The station has been getting such calls all week and it’s a recipe for migraines.
“Of course, ma’am, we’ll keep you updated. Have a nice day.”
Oh yeah, he likes your voice. It’s softer than Flo’s, maybe because you’re still new to the job.
The moment you put down the headset, he’s clearing his throat a little too harshly. You whip around at the booming noise and suddenly you seem so small in front of this mountain of a man.
“Hello, sir. I’m-”
“I know who you are, Miss Pearlman, let’s skip the introductions. I’ m Chief Hopper and those are my things you’re touching. Now tell me, was it an emergency?”
“The call. Was it an emergency?”
“Um, no, not really. It was just a woman making complaints about the next-door neighbors, something about their dog trespassing. I got everything written down here.”
Jim also finds he likes your handwriting. It’s a nice change from everyone’s chicken scratch.
“Well then, I would appreciate it if you didn’t go into my office when I’m not there unless it’s an emergency.”
The look on your face reminds him of a kicked puppy.
Oh, this is so bad.
“I’m sorry, sir, the other officers said it’s okay and I didn’t want to leave the call unanswered.”
“It’s fine this time, but keep in mind, everything you do runs by me, not them.”
“Of course, chief.”
“You know, when Flo said her niece would be filling in, I expected someone…”
“Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re a great girl, but this is serious business we handle here.”
“I’m her grand-niece, actually, but she didn’t want to tell you because she knew you would be hesitant.”
Hopper laughs at the older woman’s nerve.
“And she was right, you are hesitant.”
“Can you blame me?”
“Chief Hopper, sir, my aunt was very specific about my responsibilities here. I can answer calls, make coffee, assist with filing and I’m a very good typist if I must say so. I’ve worked as a secretary for three different employers before and I can give you their numbers.”
He can’t look at you.
Maybe it’s the fact that you’re Flo’s family, or maybe it’s that you’re crazy pretty.
Today is off on a really bad start and he doesn’t feel like playing bad cop.
“There’s no need.”
There’s something heart-stopping about your smile when you look at him.
“Then give me a week to prove to you I can do this. And if you still have your doubts, you can always call in the sheriff’s office. Just one week.”
He barks out a laugh and it’s a sound he hasn’t made a while in this office.
“Flo really didn’t spare you any details, did she?” he watches your nose wrinkle the tiniest bit, lips parting when you laugh. He quite likes it.