The noise of ringing phones and shuffling papers were so common place in the squad room it was considered background noise. On occasion, there was an unruly detainee who would make things interesting, but this day was a normal day.
At least on the outside.
Gaskins came in badge hanging around his neck and gun already on his hip. He went straight to his desk and began flipping through the Pepto Bismol pink messages. He then glanced at the desk across from him where Morris, his partner, used to sit until he retired about a year ago.
He still wasn’t used to it.
He also wasn’t used to the girly post-its and coffee cup that now occupied it. They belonged to Detective Amanda Riley his new partner, a long-legged, shapely blonde with a baby face. Her appearance and her belongings were a striking contrast to her tenacious, pit bull like demeanor. Gaskins on several occasions in the past six months they’ve been working together forgot she was a woman. He joked that sometimes she did too. That’s why when he felt the forceful shove, he wasn’t fazed. He didn’t even turn around.
“Riley, what has you here so early?”
“I heard on the radio they found another cooler. So I came in.”
“You leave your radio on at night?
Riley shrugged. “Background noise.”
“Jesus, I prefer Jazz myself.”
He tossed the messages on his desk and looked at her over the top of his glasses, “You ready then?”
Riley nodded, and together, they headed to the morgue.
The girl’s eyes were swollen from crying and as she spoke her leg was shaking. At first Nadia thought the girl was doing it intentionally. It wasn’t until she sat on the edge of the chair with her feet flat on the floor that she realized her trembling was involuntary.
“…so when I came home, there he was sitting on the couch with a gun in his lap,” the woman said through tears. There were quite a few gasps and grunts from the other military spouses in the support group.
“I guess we’re not allowed out,” one woman spoke back. “I guess our role is just to stay home, cook, clean, and take care of the kids.”
Another member chimed in, “Yeah those motherfuckers get to do whatever the fuck they want to do. They come home, leave their gear wherever the fuck they want to, get showered and head out the door. Not to mention the mandatory squad nights out they have to spend with their superiors!”
The whole room stopped murmuring. The young woman started trembling even harder. It even seemed like she was starting to whimper. Nadia came up to her, starting rubbing her back, and addressed the second woman.
“Yolanda, there’s no such thing as squad night.”
“There isn’t?” Yolanda asked in a confused tone.
“No it’s a well-crafted lie they start telling straight out of boot camp.”
The first woman spoke up again, “Right, don’t let them lie to you anymore. Those bastards all know adultery can end them up in the brig or with them losing their stripes. Squad night is just a way of keeping our asses quiet.”
Nadia put her arm around the young girl and sat down.
“So sweetie, then what happened?”
“I mean we have kids. I was scared. Since the gun was registered to him, they said there was nothing they could do. They escorted him to a friend’s house for the night. But that’s it.”
“So it’s you and the kids in the house alone with a loaded weapon? Do you feel safe, sweetie?”
She vehemently shook her head no.
Yolanda stood up, “My kids are down South with my mother for the summer. I could stay with you for a little while…I’m sorry, what’s your name again?”
“Peyton, she answered.”
“Peyton, you don’t need this shit. You really don’t. But it’s up to you to figure out when you’re ready. But until you are, Nadia and I are going to make sure you and your babies are safe, okay?”
Nadia nodded and gave Yolanda a familiar look.
The look that said, it’s time to get her life back.