At the station, everything was bustling. If he didn’t know better, Matt would have sworn that he walked into a military operation. As far as he could tell, every officer on the force was at the station. At the front of the entryway, Rishards stood, clipboard in hand handing out duty assignments. Matt stood with his back to the wall near the main doorway.
He walked along the walls toward the rear until he reached the restroom. He found an empty stall, and locked himself in, took a deep breath and reached into his pocket for one of his pills. Fumbling with the package, his shaking hands managed to put one of them into his mouth. The stall next to him closed unexpectantly, he had assumed it was empty. The shock ran through his system; his jerking hand released the package, and it slid across the stall.
The walls closed in on him; he could feel the cold steel of the padded sleep tube as the keenly as he had when the ship’s medic closed it on him, after giving him his injection of the drug to protect his brain from the Mind Rip, the drug that he’d been short dosed. His hands gripped tightly to the toilet seat on which he sat. He couldn’t go out there; the officers mobilizing, he couldn’t face the people in the Dallas street again, so much death. An image of the girl’s face exploding was all he could see. The sounds of the group beyond the door, officers arming to face the rioters.
“Dales,” the desk sergeant’s voice broke his dark reverie. “You in here?”
“Yeah,” he responded, still focused on the scattered pills. “Be out in a minute.”
“Hurry up,” he said. “You have a visitor. And for the record, you don’t merit a find like her.”
“Jill?” Matt tried to keep his voice steady even as the walls of the stall closed in on him like a casket. He tried to imagine himself back on the beach.
“She didn’t give a name. Cute, wavy hair. I think I’ve seen you with her a few times this week. Don’t tell me you got more than one like her. That would be just plain greedy.”
“Tell her I’ll be out in a moment…Please.”
“Sure, you feel alright?” He asked.
“Ate something, it does not agree with me.” He focused on visualizing the waves lapping over his body, the sound of the ocean, and the cry of the seagulls. Pebbles on the beach, pills on the floor. Matt knelt briefly on the floor, retrieving the package. He’d been taking a lot as of late. There were only five left. He’d need to make an appointment with his psychiatrist and ask for a stronger prescription. For the first time, he doubted his ability to do the job. After it was over, he’d ask for a desk job.
He breathed and visualized; the sun on the water, girls in the bikinis. The more he blocked out his surrounding, the more the faces at the beach became Jill’s. It comforted him. With her, he felt safe. All right then, he thought. Focus on her. He remembered the feel of her body on the bed next to him, the warmth of her body seeped through the thick blanket between them. He struggled to remember the feeling of the kiss he was awoken with and the smile that greeted him with breakfast. Was this what love felt like, or was she just a diversion from the impossible situation he’d been promoted into. He should never have accepted the job.
No, focus on Jill. Did she love him? The thought made him feel warm and calmer. Whether or not she felt that strongly about him or not, the thought that she might be helping him to regain control. He took several more deep breaths and focused on the thought that she waited for him in the chaos behind the door. For her, he could face it. He flushed the toilet and walked out of the stall. The restroom was now empty, he washed his hands and face and left the room, confident that he was going to her, not back to the pain and insanity of Dallas.
The room was less crowded. Matt assumed that the officers had been issued their assignments and left the station to attend to them. Jill sat smiling, on a bench along the back wall, her eyes lit up when she saw him. “It’s about time.”
“You are supposed to be shopping,” Matt said.
“I said that, didn’t I?” She replied. “I’m on my way. I just wanted to give you something.” She pulled him down to her and kissed him passionately. “And to tell you I pulled the ‘I’m a stressed-out crime victim card, and I have the next few days off. I’ll be waiting for you to finish your shift, give me a call. We have some stuff to talk about?”
“I haven’t had a chance to check in yet.” Matt scanned the room. “Something is up; I don’t know when.”
Jill held up a finger playfully to shush him. “When you are done, I’ll be waiting for your call.”
“Waiting where?” Matt asked. He didn’t want her to be alone, even for a moment. He couldn’t drive out the image of the bloody chip or her falling to her death.
“Someplace with a lot of people.” She said in a monotone. “I’ll go shopping, then hang out someplace at the mall.”
“Don’t trust any message from me unless it has the word …” he struggled for an obscure word from his memory that wouldn’t sound too ridiculous. “Pacific in it.”
She eyed him for a few moments. “You really believe the person who killed the man in the pond might come after me, just to get at you?”
Matt looked into her eyes in an attempt to show her he was serious. “What is the word?”
“Pacific,” she said plainly. “Maybe you should look for a different job; this one is making you paranoid.” She stood up and kissed him again.
You’re preaching to the choir, Matt thought. She waved goodbye and walked out, with a gesture to remind him to call her.
“Seriously Dales,” the desk sergeant grumbled. “First the promotion, then a girl likes that. The world is not fair.”
“You can have the job.”
“Screw the job,” the sergeant laughed. “I want the girl.”
Matt felt only that whatever they were feeling for each other, it was stronger than any bond he’d had with a woman for a very long time, possibly stronger than he’d ever felt for any woman. “Not sure she’d go for that. She seems to like the fixer-up models.”
“Yeah, sometimes my greatness is a burden.”
“Yes,” Matt agreed. “For us all. What’s my assignment?”
“You, Detective, have a meeting in seven minutes in the conference room.”
Matt scowled; seven minutes wouldn’t be enough time to get a cup of coffee or a pastry. It was good that Jill thought to make him coffee and toast for breakfast or he’d have to go through the danger with a grumbly stomach. It was strange to have someone taking care of him; strange but comforting at the same time. She was good at planning, he thought. Earth boy scouts had nothing on a colonial grade school teacher. Matt walked toward the elevator, realizing that he was actually relaxed. Were the pills kicking in, or was he under the effect of more natural drugs, endorphins.