Daisy fought back a yawn. She was standing next to Topher at the Orlando Police Department’s annual Christmas party, although it wasn’t much of a party. Seif al-Din’s attack during the spring had killed or injured a large portion of the police force, and the recent attack by Wraith, Nightingale, and Stal had taken a few more men and women off the thin blue line. Some had lost their lives, others had limbs crushed or mangled by explosions, and some just couldn’t take it anymore. Veteran officers were taking jobs in other cities and states because Orlando was just too hot right now. They had families they need to consider. Their job was to serve and protect, but that didn’t mean getting blown up by a terrorist in a bi-annual attack.
Daisy didn’t begrudge them or their courage. They were humans in a game they were ill-equipped to play, and the fact that Topher was still on the job had a ball of lead sitting in her gut whenever he was on duty.
“Hey, Sergeant.” A group of fresh-faced kids, a few with pimples still receding from their faces, walked up to Topher.
Daisy stopped the grin from spreading across her face. Topher wasn’t old by any standard, but looking around the room she saw he was one of the older faces present.
“We just wanted to…whoa,” the leader of the little gang stopped mid-sentence when he caught sight of Daisy.
She dressed to impress tonight; partly to be Topher’s arm candy, and partially to blend in a little more. Reaper wore black fatigues, body armor, and a mask so Daisy wore a nearly-scandalous dress that drew eyes to anywhere but her face. The more people were looking at her rack the less time they were considering how much she looked like the legendary Hero.
“H…Hi, I’m Jeff.” The young officer extended his hand.
“Daisy, I’m banging your Sergeant here.” She struggled not to laugh as Jeff’s face went a vivid shade of red.
Daisy knew how the male mind worked. This group of young officers had respected Topher already, but now they really respected him. She didn’t even feel the kid’s handshake. She was still absorbing kinetic energy because after everything that happened she wouldn’t put it past someone to attack the party and she wanted to be ready.
“I’ll catch you guys later. Go easy tonight.” Topher gently shooed them away, before turning his attention on Daisy. “Did you have to do that?”
“What…make you look like a god among men…I guess I didn’t, but you’re welcome anyway.”
“Wow, you have a high opinion of yourself.” Topher grinned.
“You weren’t complaining last night,” Daisy shot back as she took a sip of her drink.
“Touché.” Topher raised his beer to her.
He might be sampling the imported brews the police brass had gotten for the party, but Daisy was sticking strictly to water. The pull of the alcohol was always there beneath the surface, but she was better at controlling things now, and in general she had very good self-control when she put her mind to something. That and her bluntness made her pretty good at handling anything this party could throw her way. Even Jeff.
“Can I get you a drink?” The young officer made his move when Topher was chatting with his Lieutenant.
Jeff was half a head shorter than Daisy, but with a stocky build. She guessed football in high school, and maybe some junior college before getting the job in the OPD when they went on a recruitment spree. She didn’t know him well, but he was hitting on a girl knowing that she was with someone else, and not just anyone else, but his boss.
She was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. She hadn’t stated her full relationship with Topher, and her banging comment hadn’t helped. “No thanks. I’m a recovering alcoholic.” Her answer clearly wasn’t something Jeff was expecting, so he stood their awkwardly for a moment with a second beer in his hand.
<Play nice.> Daisy took a breath and remembered that she’d promised to be on her best behavior tonight. Ever since Wraith had escaped she’d been a little on the bitchy side.
“So, Jeff, how long have you been on the job?” she attempted to make polite conversation.
“Six months.” His chest puffed out proudly. “It’s a great job, and I’ve gotten to see some really crazy stuff. This one time, it was only my third day on the job…” Jeff continued, but daisy tuned him out.
Most cops she’d met had taken this tactic with her when trying to pick her up. It didn’t matter if it was the Sixties or Twenty-Tens, cops always tried to work in their crazy on-the-job stories to impress a lady. It might be a panty dropper with some, but Daisy’s stories put everyone else’s to shame.
“So this guy’s brains are everywhere. The car…” Jeff was still engrossed in his story when Daisy tuned back in.
<I literally have twisted a guy’s head around one hundred and eighty degrees, and another time there was a shifter villain who I literally shoved my hand up his ass and pulled out a portion of his lower intestine to get him to shift back.> She shivered at that memory. <When a guy’s skin is nearly impenetrable you’ve got to work with the openings you’ve got.> Unfortunately, Jeff thought his story was making her shiver, and that only egged him on.
Eventually, Topher spotted her, and they shared on of their moments. Her eyes met his, and an eyebrow went up while going to Jeff and back to him. Topher shook his head sadly back and forth before nodding and heading over.
“To make a long story short,” Jeff saw Topher heading their way, “we got the drunk driver.”
“Good work,” Daisy had to work to put a polite smile on her face.
“How’s everything going over here?” Topher stepped back into the conversation.
“Great, Sarge, I’ll catch you later, Daisy.” Jeff smiled as he left.
Daisy just hoped some macho thing between Topher and Jeff didn’t result from tonight. “I was just being nice,” she defended herself as the night wore on.
“I know,” Topher wasn’t holding anything against her. “We just had to cut some corners in recruitment to fill our numbers after last spring. Jeff came back ok, but there were some unsubstantiated claims that he might be a little possessive when it comes to women, and the last thing you need is someone being too clingy.”
“True,” Daisy looked out over the room, and spotted Jeff with the other young officers. He was looking at her, but quickly looked away when he saw she was looking.
“Might be a little late on that. Just keep an eye on him will you,” she asked.
“That quick?” Topher wasn’t angry, but it was clearly something he didn’t want to have to deal with personally or professionally.
“What can I say? I’ve got a hell of a personality.” Daisy threw back to rest of her water and went to turn that charm on Topher’s bosses. If she could get the underlings to love her, then she might as well try and get her man a promotion that might even get him out of the field. If she was successful, she’d call tonight a win.
Several hundred miles away, in another police station, Seth was not enjoying a party. <Jesus,> he wondered when the SUV pulled up to a big, brightly lit building off the highway. It even looked relatively modern.
“We’ve got state of the art equipment,” the cop seemed to be reading Seth’s mind as they pulled into a spot. “We’ll run your prints and know who you are in a few hours.” The cop threw the car into park and turned around to look Seth in the eyes. “I’ll give you one more chance,” he offered. “Tell me your name and date of birth, I’ll run you, and then call you a cab if everything checks out.”
The cop was going above and beyond to give Seth a break. He realized that, but he still couldn’t do what the cop wanted. Instead, he muttered, “this is such bullshit,” under his breath.
“Fine.” The cop shrugged, pulled Seth out of the car, and walked him inside.
For a building as big as it was it was pretty empty, but being Christmas Eve explained that.
“Hey, Sherriff. I thought you were going home?” A deputy at the front desk put down a paperback and got to her feet.
“I was on my way when I found this guy. Process him for failure to identify. He says he’s from Bama and is heading to Texas for break, but breaks halfway over, and he wouldn’t tell me his name of date of birth. Maybe you’ll have better luck.”
“Sure thing,” she took Seth’s shackled wrists from the Sherriff and took Seth back for processing.
By now, Seth’s mind was running on overdrive. He needed a way to counteract the searches they were going to do on him. He hoped they would be doing his fingerprints the old-fashioned way with ink and paper, but as she plopped him on a punch and shackled his feet, he doubted things were headed in that direction.
“You could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by just telling us who you are.” She came back with a portable fingerprint scanner. “If you don’t have warrants he would have let you go, but by failing to cooperate your stuck with us until we find out who you are and can get you in front of the judge. Since its Christmas Eve, that’s not going to be until the twenty-sixth, so by being stubborn you just earned Christmas in jail. Think about that next time and we can avoid all of this.” She repositioned Seth so she could get his thumb on the scanner.
Seth hoped what he was planning to do would work. “Hey, why this Sherriff’s building huge. I don’t mean to sound mean, but this doesn’t look like a place that’s rolling in dough.”
While Seth pulled the Deputy’s attention away from the scanner with his question, he channeled his pyrokinesis toward the scanner. It wasn’t enough for the scanner to melt, or for Seth’s thumb to burst into flames, but he hoped it would short circuit the machine enough to get a bad reading or no reading at all.
“We’re the only police force in the entire county. All of the local towns count on us for their law enforcement needs, so we have a bigger budget than most counties. We’ve also got a small jail attached to the building and the local court. Everything is conveniently located in a one-stop-shop.” The Deputy answered before looking back at the scanner.
“Huh…must be out of batteries.” She gave the small device a shake, but nothing happened. “Sorry about that. Let me get another one.” She left to grab another one.
Seth considered what he’d seen on the way in. As far as he knew, the Sherriff was the only other person here. If Seth melted through the cuffs he’d be able to walk right out the front door.
<I won’t get far.> Seth found the flaw in his plan. He didn’t know how to hotwire a car, and without one he wouldn’t make it a quarter mile before the Sheriff and his Deputy tracked him down. <No. I need to wait for Lilly.> It was slightly emasculating to know he needed his girlfriend to save him, but he pushed that aside. It was the best way to get out of this without anyone getting hurt.
The Deputy showed back up with another scanner. While she was positioning Seth’s thumb the Sherriff walked in and provided Seth with the other opportunity for a distraction.
“You’re awful young to be a Sherriff. How’d you get the job?” The question pulled the Deputy’s attention toward her boss and Seth worked his magic again.
“The voters thought I was the best qualified for the job. I was born and raised in the area, graduated top of my class from the academy, and have a few years of experience under my belt. It’s a small town and we like to put our trust in people we know.”
Seth was pretty sure there was a barb in there meant for him, but he didn’t care. The Deputy was smacking the scanner in her palm behind him.
“Sorry, boss, but that scanners are on the fritz.” The Deputy shrugged apologetically.
The Sheriff sighed and rubbed his eyes. It looked like he’d had a long day. “Book his as John Doe for now. When everyone gets off leave day after tomorrow we’ll try again. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon anyway.”
The Deputy nodded and led Seth back to fill out some paperwork and put him in a cell. Seth had successfully bought himself more time, but it wouldn’t mean anything is Lilly and Morina couldn’t find him.
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