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I snorted. "Be careful what you wish for there, rookie. You have to be ready for action if it is needed, but you sure don't need to go out looking for it on this job."
"So says you." He ran his right hand through his dark, oiled curls. "Man, if I could only get on the Tactical Ops team like you, I wouldn't need to hope for some action. Hey, why are you even working tonight anyway? I thought all of you vets booked off shifts like this?"
I sighed, dropped my right leg down, and pulled the left one up to work on those laces. When I finished, I sat back, wrapped both hands around the back of my head and closed my eyes. "Since the divorce, I've got nothing better to do. I might as well babysit the likes of you. It keeps me from thinking other shit." I kicked my feet up on a second chair and leaned even further back. "Hey, be a good rookie and come wake me up for the briefing."
"Yeah, sure thing. It looks like we've got about fifteen minutes." His shadow crossed my face briefly as he sauntered off.
I waited until I heard his steps pass out of range before opening my eyes again. I didn't much like the kid and didn't want to answer any more questions, not tonight anyway.
As the ancient Coke machine gurgled back into action behind me, I surveyed the small, cramped room. The center was dominated by the two oblong, Formica-topped and aluminum rimmed tables that bore the scars and stains of twenty years of hard use. Eight mismatched folding chairs were shoved haphazardly around each table, while another half-dozen lay strewn about as if to make an obstacle course of the place.
Along the far wall, a large cork pegboard was hung over the small condiments table. It held a vast assortment of unread safety bulletins and three stacks of yellow, dog-eared ‘Wanted' posters that were more fun to read than the dry, technical bulletins ever could be.
The smell of fresh-burnt coffee was sharp in the air, meaning that Sergeant Mason was pulling desk duty tonight. That man hadn't made a good pot of coffee in the twelve years that I'd known him. As if to confirm that thought, the coffee maker uttered a wet belch and hissed as yet another drop of the acrid mixture slid onto the hot plate beneath the overflowing pot.
I interlocked my fingers over my gut, buried my chin in my chest and tried not to think about how much I missed spending time with Kenny and Jasmine on nights like this as I drifted off.
"Daddy, Daddy!" Jasmine was running towards me from the corner bus stop, her pig tails flopping as she ran, her shoes scuffing sharply on the pavement of the sidewalk.
"Yeah, baby girl?" I turned in time to catch her, pick her up and twirl her in the air. She always loved it when I spun her like that.
"All the kids at school are talking about our house and how SCARY we made it! Even Mrs. Thompson mentioned it in class today!" She giggled with delight as I swung her around again and tickled her as I put her back down.
"Yeah, we did a great job this year, don't you think? I especially like that latest witch we have coming out of your bedroom window.