Waking Up Cuffed, page 6part #1 of Highland County Heroes Series
One brother, Tracy if Denni had been right, looked at the other man for a second, and his grin grew. “No, just brothers.”
“We don’t usually get asked if we’re twins, but it happens some,” Stacy said.
“It’s the names.”
“You should meet our sisters. Betsy and Patsy.”
“So your parents had a naming scheme?” Hayley couldn’t keep from shaking her head.
“Hayley!” Denni sounded shocked but she was laughing too.
“It disappoints me too. Grade school was difficult. Everyone assumed we were girls until they saw us, then the other boys picked on us because we had girl names.”
Hayley shook her head again and laughed. “I bet. But it made you tough, right?”
“It sure as hell did,” Stacy spoke up.
She turned to him and found him smiling. He wasn’t unattractive, just not her type. Or maybe it was that she was a little hung up on the tall, smart mouthed cop that was off limits.
“Sit down, Hayley. Let me get you something to drink.” Denni tried to be friendly, as if she hadn’t sprung this on Hayley with no warning at all, not even a text saying oh, yeah, I invited some guys over too. It was like a sneak attack, and Hayley was sure neither Tracy nor Stacy was in on it.
No, this whole thing was Denni’s brain child. She shot her sister a narrow-eyed look as she made her way to the back side of the counter where the guys were sitting.
“Since I’m planning on eating, and staying a while, I’ll start off with a beer. We’ll see after that.” She sat down in the only vacant bar stool, beside Stacy and turned to him. “So, what has my sister told you about me?”
He looked at her a moment as if uncertain what to make of her.
“She told us you’re pretty, and frank, but I think she understated your beauty,” Tracy said from the other side of his brother.
Hayley glanced at Tracy then met Stacy’s gaze. “Are you the one with dibs on Denni?”
Stacy blinked and seemed stunned for a second before answering. “I wouldn’t put it that way.”
“How would you put it?”
“Well, I don’t know.” He turned and looked at Denni for a moment then at his brother.
“He ran into her, literally, in front of the beef case. After apologizing several times, he asked her out, she told him the only way she’d see him was if he brought me along,” Tracy spoke up, seeming to take his brother’s look as a plea for help. “She said her sister had taught her that groups were safer than one on one and she’d invite someone over too, so they could get to know each other with less pressure.”
Hayley blinked, then leaned over so she could see Tracy a little better. “You were dragged into this too, then?”
“Yep, one hundred percent.”
“Hayley, be nice,” Denni said as she set an open bottle of Hayley’s favorite semi-local beer on the counter in front of her.
“I am being nice.”
“She’s fine.” Stacy smiled at Denni.
Hayley met Tracy’s gaze. He looked as about to roll his eyes as Hayley was.
“How long until dinner’s ready?” Hayley asked Denni.
“It won’t come out of the oven for about fifteen minutes or so.”
“And then it should rest a while before you serve, I know,” Hayley finished for her sister. She picked up the beer and took a sip before looking over at Tracy. “Come on, let’s leave these two to flirt while we go talk.” She slid off the barstool and headed for the living room through the arch way without looking behind her to see if he was coming. Either way she would get away from the doe eyes her sister was making at Stacy. That couldn’t be a bad thing.
Two hours later they’d finished eating, Deni had put away the food and loaded the dishwasher, while Hayley had gotten to know the guys a little better. Then, at Tracy’s suggestion, Denni had pulled out a card game and they’d been playing, laughing off and on, since. It was one of those progressive games, where you had a series of hands you had to complete and if you didn’t get it this hand, you continued to work on it until you finished the assigned set.
“I don’t even know why I own this game,” Denni rumbled. “I can’t even seem to make a single set.” She was two sets behind the rest of them and floundering. She stuck her lip out and glanced at Stacy to see if he had noticed how pretty she pouted. He was focused on the cards in his hand and Hayley didn’t think he’d even noticed. She glanced at his brother. Tracy met her look, his eyes alight and dancing with amusement as he watched the exchanges between the other two.
“Is he always so intense?” Hayley nodded her head toward Stacy, but her gaze never left Tracy.
“Over anything the slightest bit competitive, yep. He enjoys it and he’s not a bad sport whether he wins or loses, but he gets into it.” Tracy gave her a vague smile.
“At least he’s a good sport about it, that’s what matters. If he’s having fun, and he doesn’t keep others from having as much fun, more power to him.” She looked over at Denni and shrugged before turning back to her own hand. She knew what Denni had been trying to do. Hayley had seen her do it before. She’d been trying to play the pitiful me card, in order to get Stacy to feel guilty and offer to help her. The mere idea that she needed help just because she was a woman had always annoyed Hayley and something deep inside felt at least a little vindicated that her sister’s helpless act had gone unnoticed. Not that Denni was in any way dumb. She hadn’t gotten through law school by getting other people to do the work for her. But for some reason she bought into the stupid societal concept that women needed a big strong man to do for her, to help her, to lead her or save her. There were days that Hayley wondered how they’d come from the same parents, the same household, the same rules, and turned out so different.
She looked across the table at Tracy again. He’d been nothing but polite. He’d been a good sport when she’d started poking fun at her sister and his brother, even joining in here and there. Hayley wondered why she couldn’t be attracted to him like she was to Officer Hathaway. She’d found out before dinner that Tracy owned a couple gas stations in town, he wasn’t off limits like her officer was, but while he was a good guy, she just didn’t feel anything for him. No desire to touch him, to kiss him, or more. She held back the sigh of frustration her thoughts made her want to heave and turned her attention back to her cards. She’d already told everyone this would be her last hand. The evening had helped her recover from the day but she still needed to get some sleep before starting all over tomorrow.
On Sunday, the investigation into Tanalynn Snyder’s murder seemed to stall. Warren had put together everything they needed to get the warrants, Zeke Howard had contacted a county attorney about getting the warrant pushed through, and they’d managed get a judge to sign them late Saturday. Now Warren was stuck trying to get information out of phone and tech companies when it seemed no-one who knew how to get the information they were looking for could be found. The morning had been a series of fruitless phone calls that left Warren more frustrated than hopeful.
“You ready for something else?” Brian Cooley sauntered up beside the desk where Warren was ready to start pulling out his hair.
“I’m ready for anything that’s not another desk jockey who can’t do what we need and doesn’t know who can.”
“Welcome to the joys of investigation. Come on, I’ve got a couple leads and I want you to come talk to them with me.”
“What about Zeke?”
“He’s taking some personal time. His daughter’s confirmation is today, and his wife would kill him if he missed it. Do you not want to come?”
“No, I’d love to come along. I was just curious why you’d take me rather than him.”
“Aside from his being busy, you need at least a little training before Captain Tolson throws you in the deep end.”
“Anything to get out of here, even for a little while.”
“You waiting for call backs?”
“You don’t know the joy of it yet.”
“I’ve got a good idea, this isn’t the first time I’ve hit social media sites with a warrant. Though usually we were able to run search bots through the gigs of data to look for keywords.”
Cooley frowned and stared at him a moment. “That’s right. You were on some pretty rough cases in your last PD.”
“I was. It’s hard not to get jaded after going after some of the worthless scum I’ve hunted down, both on line and in person.”
“Do you think you’re ready to dive back into that kind of thing or would you rather stay on patrol?”
“It wasn’t just the cases, I had other things going on. Other reasons to step back. Now, those reasons are less pressing.” Warren turned back to the computer he was using and logged out, shut off the screen and stood. “Come on, let’s go talk to those leads. I need to do something besides sit here and stew about having to wait for tomorrow.”
“There you are.” Cooley grinned as he slapped Warren on the back. “At least this will give us the illusion of making progress.”
“I’d rather make some real progress, but who knows, maybe we’ll actually learn something.” Warren made sure he had his phone and keys and followed the other man out. It had been a suck-ass day so far but maybe it was starting to look up.
By the time Warren got home that night he’d lost the optimism he’d had at noon. Whatever leads Cooley had thought he had, panned out to be nothing. He let himself in the house, letting Jake out as he came in, then fought the desire to collapse on the couch and not get up for a couple days.
Someone informed Tolson that Warren hadn’t had a day off in almost two weeks, so he’d sent Warren home and told him to take a couple days, and not to come back before Wednesday unless he personally called him in. That wasn’t what Warren had wanted to hear. He’d invested the last week into finding Tanalynn Snyder’s killer and he was sure the information from the social media sites would lead them to who had done it. He didn’t want to stop now. Even if that meant working three weeks of sixteen-hour shifts. Tolson had only growled and pointed at the door when Warren had said as much, so here he was, at home, wondering what would develop, what the others would learn without him.
He waited until Jake came back in and licked his hand as his tail beat against the wall in his excitement that Warren was home. Warren reached down and patted his head a moment, then went in the kitchen to feed the dog before he changed out of his uniform. That’s one thing he wouldn’t miss if Tolson putting his name in for detective panned out. Upkeep on a uniform wasn’t cheap, not to mention the time required to make it look right. No, he wouldn’t miss the uniform. He scanned his closet as he pulled out a pair of blue jeans worn soft, even thin in a few places, to pull on. He’d have to see about some slacks and button-down shirts though. Maybe he’d ask for Nancy’s help with that.
That reminded him, he’d not seen or talked to her since the week before when he’d had to call and let her know he wouldn’t make it over for dinner. That had been the second day he’d been working on the Snyder case. They’d spent hours upon hours interviewing people who knew her, contacts on her phone, anyone and everyone who might be able to give them a hint what had happened to her.
He’d go over there and enjoy some time with his nieces and nephews instead of sitting here, wallowing in what he could be doing, if only the LT hadn’t made him take some down time.
By the end of her week, Hayley was starting to wonder if Officer Hathaway was ever going to come back or if she should find a new partner for Reed. She hadn’t caught sight of him the last few days, not even passing on the front steps, and she wondered if maybe he’d decided he wanted out of Blackjack, where the chances of getting a real crime to solve, well, something more real than breaking and entering or the occasional case of teenage vandalism, only came along once in a blue moon. Had he decided he wanted to go back where he could stay busier with harder criminals?
If their little town wasn’t good enough for him then they didn’t need him anyway. Hayley couldn’t stop the pang of regret that she’d never have a chance to find out if his hair was as soft as it looked. If his lips tasted as good as he’d smelled on the few occasions she’d managed to get close enough to catch his scent. With a small shake of her head she pushed the foolish thoughts about one of her officers out of her head. If she’d heard anything about him in the last few days, she wouldn’t even be letting herself think about him this way. Not if she thought he’d come back, and she’d have to face him knowing what direction her thoughts had taken. How much she’d thought about what he would taste like and how she’d wondered if the was as sculpted as his uniform led her to believe. She wished, not for the first time, she was as drawn to someone like Tracy Manning as she was to the officer who was completely off limits.
Over lunch, she’d started bringing an insulated bag with ice packs to keep it cold and keeping it in her office to avoid any more issues with it disappearing from the communal fridge, she decided she’d wasted enough time thinking about something she could never have. The forbidden temptation of one of her officers was too big of taboo for her to break. It would cost her the respect of the squad and all chance at getting to be captain. Instead she would spend the rest of the afternoon clearing her desk, without thought of that man, so she could start her weekend without it hanging over her head.
With a little over a half hour left on her shift, someone knocked on her open office door. She looked up to find the man who’d been haunting her thoughts for the last few weeks.
“Excuse me, ma’am. I need to speak to you if you have a moment.” Officer Hathaway stood in the open doorway.
“Sure, come on in.” She motioned to one of the two chairs on the far side if her desk.
He stepped into the small room and closed the door before sitting on the edge of one of the two chairs she kept for visitors. She watched him a moment, wondering what was important enough for him to close the door. He sat staring at his hands folded in front of him for a moment then looked up to meet her gaze.
“I wanted to thank you for letting me go work with the detectives on that murder we picked up last week. I know it made things difficult for you, left you a man short and you had to find a new partner for Johnny. But if you hadn’t let me go, I wouldn’t have realized how much I miss the investigative side of our job.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not sure if it’s going to go anywhere, but Captain Tolson has asked if I would consider a promotion.” He fell quiet a moment.
“You made detective?” She was only a little surprised. It was no secret where Hathaway had come from and she’d been more than a little surprised he’d stayed on patrol this long.
“Not yet. But I’m hopeful. No clue how long it will take, or if I’ll even make it, but I’ve decided I’d like to try.”
“So?” she wasn’t sure why he was here, “you wanted to tell me you were putting in for detective?”
“I wanted to let you know now you may want to reassign Johnny permanently. Though,” he shrugged, “I’m not sure what you’ll do if I don’t make detective. I just wanted to give you a little advance notice. And thank you for letting me work with them. I’ve really enjoyed the chance.”
“You’re welcome and I’m glad you’ve found something you love doing. We should all be lucky enough to find work that fulfills us. Are you back for good now, or at least until you make detective?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll be here tomorrow, but I’m not sure if I’ll stay. We’ve not found the killer yet, but we’re kind of stalled. Waiting to see if something new comes from some data we’ve not yet received yet.”
Hayley nodded and glanced down at the surface
“Go right ahead. I told them I was coming to you, so I’ve got nothing to hide on either side.”
“All right.” She nodded, glancing at the clock and wondering if she could get an answer tonight, or if she’d have to wait until she came back after her days off. “Thank you for being upfront and letting me know what’s going on and that you may be leaving. Are you sure you wouldn’t mind being a floater for a while? It may be better to reassign Reed, especially if you may be in and out as there are breaks in your case.”
“I am. I don’t mind being a floater, having a different partner every shift. It will give me a chance to get to know the rest of the department, the guys I’ve not worked with much or only met in passing.”
“All right. I’ll contact Howard and Tolson and see what they can tell me.” She glanced at the clock again. “I probably won’t hear back from them until tomorrow at least, but I’ll let you know how that goes.”
“Is that all?” If he was through, she was ready for him to go, she still had a few things before her desk was clear and she was ready to go, and only about fifteen minutes left on the shift.
“It is. Thanks for seeing me.” He stood.
“No problem.” Hayley turned back to her desk, effectively dismissing him. She kept her head down, but couldn’t resist glancing up as he opened the door and left. His ass in those jeans was worth it.
Bending back to her work, she spent the next twenty minutes finishing things up. Just before leaving she remembered to send a message to both Howard and Captain Tolson asking about Hathaway, and giving him a good review, he was a solid officer and Hayley knew he would make a good detective. Once that was done, she stood and scanned the squad room through the large window in front of her. She didn’t see a single one of her officers. Triumph raced through her. Five minutes after end of shift and not a single officer was lingering, dragging out the last report. That meant she got to head home too. She picked up her lunch bag and her phone and headed out, looking forward to a couple days off.