Authors: Nick Pobursky
Tags: #Suspense & Thrillers
“What the hell are you doing still lurking around the office, Walker?” asked Captain Pete Valdez in the most sarcastic of tones. “Aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? It’s kind of dark in here and you’re starting to creep me out.”
“I know, Cap. It’s just that I really need to knock out the paperwork on the Navidson case before I get out of here. You know how I am—me and my OCD.”
Detective Charlie Walker was, in fact, not diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but his dedication to his work—his
, as he occasionally referred to it—often bordered on fanaticism.
At thirty-two years old, the man was an honest-to-God genius but he didn’t lord it over the masses—as some of his ilk were prone to—nor did he make anyone feel ill at ease when working with him. When he’d first made detective, the old warhorses in the precinct wouldn’t give him the time of day. They never took well to new blood moving in on their territory but it didn’t take Walker long to command the respect he deserved.
Case after case, Walker had proven that you had to be one slick son of a bitch to put even the smallest detail past him. In his six-year tenure as a Detroit detective, Walker had shown that seeing and comprehending were two entirely separate affairs. Repeatedly would a senior officer find himself rifling through a crime scene and coming up with nothing only to have Walker find the most obscure detail and turn it into a concrete lead.
It was this sharpness of mind that never allowed him to quit before his work was thoroughly complete with every avenue explored and every lead pursued. Even something as minute as paperwork held the utmost importance in his mind. Late nights at the office were a specialty of Charlie Walker’s.
“Charlie,” pleaded the Captain, forgoing his usual gruff sarcasm for a gentler, more fatherly tone. “It’s almost ten o’clock. You have less than seven hours to sleep. How do I know this, you may ask? Meghan sent me an email with your flight itinerary.”
Ignoring the bemused look on Walker’s face, Pete lifted his reading glasses to his eyes and leaned in closer to his monitor.
“Along with the flight info, there was this dainty little note: ‘Pete, get my damned husband home before he oversleeps and we have to run to make our flight again.’ Get out of here, Charlie. Put the Navidson file over on Martin’s desk and I’ll have him take care of it in the morning. He may be a dummy, but the kid’s a data entry savant; you’ve got nothing to worry about. You know that I love all the hard work that you do—honestly—but for the next ten days you belong to Meghan and the girls. Go home, sleep and enjoy your damn vacation, son.”
Walker looked at his friend and superior in silence for a few moments. With a smirk, he then neatly placed the file folder he had been holding onto Martin’s desk.
“Thanks, Pete. They’ve really been looking forward to this and—I’m not going to lie to you—so have I.”
“I don’t doubt it. You’re a different kind of guy, you know that, Charlie? I look around at everyone’s desks and I see Red Wings and Tigers gear. I see pictures of these guys on hunting trips. I see them getting drunk on their idiot cousins’ boats over in Crystal Bay. When I look at your desk, I see a picture of Meghan and the girls in Disney World, I see an EPCOT Center postcard from God-knows-when and I see an air freshener shaped like a damn Mickey waffle.”
“What can I say? To each his own.”
“You hit the nail right on the head, my boy. You’re here every day, dealing with dead bodies and the worst filth the Earth can throw at you—and you still manage to be a kid at heart, sifting through crime scenes with that Club 33 pin on your jacket.”
Walker looked a bit taken aback at the mention of his lapel pin.
“You know what this is?” he asked, his hand subconsciously tracing the silver numbers.
During his first year as a detective, the small token had been given to him by an elderly man—also a Disney fanatic—as a reward for his service. Charlie had helped recover a stolen jewelry box: the only item taken when the poor man’s house had been broken in to. Only upon returning the box to its owner did Charlie learn how precious the contents really were. Inside, among other various pieces, was the wedding ring of the man’s deceased wife. And it was from this very box that he’d presented Charlie with the Club 33 pin that he’d worn on duty ever since.
With a small wink, Pete said, “I haven’t spent my entire life behind this desk. Get the hell out of here, son.”
And with that, Pete went back to work and Charlie Walker left for what was promising to be a very relaxing, well-deserved vacation.
The Walkers’ house was a modest little number in the suburbs, thirty minutes or so south of Detroit. Charlie did well enough on his detective salary and Meghan was an English literature professor at the University of Michigan, so they lived relatively comfortably. The Walkers were a very happy family and they were thankful for all that they had, knowing that many people these days couldn’t say as much.
Upon pulling into his driveway, Charlie was surprised to see his two young daughters—seven-year-old Violet dressed as Belle and her six-year-old sister, Katie, dressed as Cinderella—running circles around the front lawn waving fluorescent glowing wands back and forth and blowing bubbles. The beautiful but exhausted Meghan Walker watched them helplessly from where she sat on the porch steps.
Stepping out of his car, Charlie checked his watch. The high-quality Rotary timepiece dutifully informed him that it was ten-thirty-eight PM yet his girls were playing like it was the middle of the afternoon. He shot a bemused look at his wife and it seemed that all she had the energy left for was a shrug and a slight grin. Charlie grabbed his two little princesses and gave them each a kiss on the top of their head before releasing them to resume their royal duties.
“What are my two favorite princesses up to this fine evening?” he asked, playfully.
“We’re just doing magic tricks, Daddy!” shouted Violet, running gracefully after a large cluster of bubbles that had somehow managed to escape her.
“I should have known! No better time for magic tricks on the front lawn than seven hours before a flight!” he joked, making his way toward his wife.
“I know!” Katie screamed, zooming past him with all that mysterious energy that young children seem to find at any hour of the day.
Letting the two maniacs continue their magic show, Charlie dropped himself down next to his wife and put his arm around her.
“Magic tricks, eh?” he asked with a smirk.
“I can’t stop ‘em, Charlie,” she said with an exasperated laugh. “I was upstairs packing about an hour ago and the two little demons got a hold of a two-liter of Dr Pepper. The bottle was full when I saw it this morning—it’s now empty. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: we have created two scheming juggernauts of destruction.”
Charlie kissed his wife on her forehead and laughed. This wasn’t the first time his two angels had conspired against their mother while he was away. It seemed as if the girls concocted some new scheme once or twice a week. The girls were beyond their years in intelligence and, so far, they’d used this precious advantage for nothing but evil.
“I figured,” Meghan said, still watching her daughters race back and forth across the yard, “that since they had so much energy, I’d put them in their princess dresses, set them loose on the lawn and let them wreak havoc on some bubbles for a while. They have to burn off all of that caffeine somehow.”
“Of course,” Charlie agreed. “Aren’t you worried they’ll ruin the dresses, though?”
on it. Remember? I’ve signed them up for the princess makeover in the castle tomorrow. They’ll get new dresses.”
“Good plan,” he agreed. “Same dresses this year?”
“No doubt in my mind,” replied Meghan. “Violet will get another Belle dress; Katie will go with Cinderella again.”
“Could be worse,” Charlie joked. “They could decide to switch and then we’d have to dye their hair.”
would be a fun time,” Meghan shot back, sarcastically.
Violet took after her Dad with straight, dark hair while Katie was the opposite, proudly sporting a full head of wavy golden blonde locks, just like her mother. A smile broke out on Charlie’s face as he watched his daughters endlessly dash across the front yard, giggling and screaming, probably driving the neighbors mad. He let his shoulders ease back, the tension of the job melting away and the Navidson case all but forgotten.
“Took the day off work today, eh?” Charlie ventured, mischievously.
“I did. How did you know?” Meghan asked, surprised.
“That’s an easy one,” he replied. “Your car hasn’t moved since yesterday. Tree buds are still sitting on the roof and rear windshield wiper. Give me something harder next time.”
Meghan subconsciously shot a glance toward the automobile that had betrayed her. “I can never put one past you, but that was an easy one,” she laughed. “I went to—”
“I’ll take it from here, babe,” he interjected, with his characteristic diabolical grin slowly making its way across his face. “You went down to Mexican Gardens for lunch. You weren’t alone—your sister picked you and the girls up. She brought Greg with her—and their kids too. After that, all of you went to the mall. You didn’t buy anything for yourself, though. There was traffic on ’75. You promised you’d get Amy and the kids
“Sometimes I wonder if you’re really a human being,” Meghan joked, shaking her head and laughing. He’d just rattled off a flawless list of everything she’d done that day, in chronological order.
“Go ahead and ask,” he prodded, watching the girls ricochet around the yard.
“Ask what?” Meghan replied playfully, pretending she had no idea what he was talking about.
“Ask me how I know.”
“No way,” Meghan shot back, sarcastically.
Charlie simply stared at her for a few moments, still grinning that dangerous grin of his. He’d always been able to do this to her; to know
what she’d done and everywhere she’d been just by observing the mundane details that were presented to him.
At the beginning of their relationship, it had made her nervous. Once, Meghan had even accused Charlie of following her around and spying on her. He’d told her that he didn’t have to and that the keen observer can make monumental deductions from the smallest, most obscure details. It sounded like a weak excuse. She hadn’t believed him, and had seemed genuinely offended at this alleged invasion of her privacy until Charlie had walked her through his mental processes. Afterward, Meghan had laughed about it; it had all sounded so simple after Charlie had explained it to her. It seemed as if these deductions should be as easy for everyone as they were for Charlie.
“Fine!” she laughed. “Fine…how’d you know?”
“Your first mistake was letting the girls play hooky from school today and come with you,” he stated with a light chuckle, purposely having left this detail out of his earlier deductions to achieve a greater dramatic effect now.
“How in the hell—”
“Hold on,” he interrupted again, raising his pointer finger. “I’m just getting started, woman. Katie sold you out—not on purpose though! She still has a little sour cream in her hair. She always somehow manages to get sour cream in her hair at Mexican Gardens. We don’t keep any in the house, and we never go to any other restaurants where she can get a hold of it—
not with Amy and Greg.
“Vi’s wearing a new bracelet. Same kind she always talks you into buying when you go to the mall, just a new color. The mall is on the far side of the restaurant from the freeway. So: food first, mall second. You just recently finished packing and that tells me that you got home
later than expected. Friday at four or five o’clock—’75 is bound to be backed up.”
Meghan tried not to look impressed. “You’re on a roll, Sherlock. Carry on.”
“Figuring out that you went with Amy was simple. Since your car hasn’t moved, you
to have had someone else take you—that’s a given. You like seeing your sister before we leave on our trips so it was a safe bet that it was her. Amy’s kids didn’t have school today because of that massive power outage that knocked out half of Woodhaven this morning, so she obviously brought them. Greg doesn’t work on Fridays so, naturally, Amy wouldn’t have left him behind.”
“Amy’s come out here on Friday afternoons plenty of times and Greg’s stayed home; you couldn’t know that she would have brought him this time,” Meghan stated, thinking she’d finally caught him taking advantage of a lucky guess.
“Sure I could,” he countered, not missing a beat. “
told me. Oh—not with your words,” he pointed out. “With your hair.”
? Come on, Charlie, this is too much.”
“You asked,” he reminded her, chuckling. “Picture this: Meghan Walker takes a day off work to relax and prepare for her trip. Hell, Meghan Walker takes a day off work to go out eat with her
alone. Pick whichever one you like best. In either scenario, you would have left your hair down, because you were taking a
day. Add to that the fact that the kids were with you, and my theory gets stronger. Oh! I see you’re following me, now,” he laughed again, enjoying himself. “Good, because here comes the
coup de grâce
. I know that Amy brought Greg because your hair is done up like you were going to one of those gala dinners at the university. You absolutely
how Greg always comments on how the two of you look
much alike. It makes you uncomfortable, so you—knowing Amy would show up with her hair down, like she always does—made yourself up to be her polar opposite.”
For a second, Charlie simply stared at his wife, waiting for her to tell him how wrong he was. Instead, she broke out in a wide smile and laughed that musical laugh that he could never get enough of.
“It never ceases to amaze me how you notice these things that
don’t even realize I’m doing,” she said.
“The human subconscious is a fickle bitch,” Charlie joked. “I just happen to know how to take advantage of her.”
“I’ll give you that,” she admitted. “But riddle me this, oh master of subtleties: how’d you know about the
“Lucky guess,” he joked and Meghan burst out into another loud, clumsy bout of laughter that caught the attention of the girls, who momentarily stopped their graceful wizardry to gaze at their mother.
“Seriously!” Meghan slapped him lightly on the arm.
“Honestly?” he began. “That was the easiest of them all. Before our last three trips, you’ve promised Amy and the kids those figures, and all three times you have forgotten to get them. At this point, it’s standard operating procedure for you to make that promise.”
Charlie smiled at his wife, satisfied that he’d made his point. Meghan sighed and nodded, conceding yet another victory to her unstoppable husband. Secretly, Meghan loved that aspect of Charlie’s personality. The idea that he could tell you nearly anything you wanted to know about a person simply by looking at them never ceased to amaze her. Charlie had saved her from some pretty disagreeable situations by merely observing the people involved and advising her not to put her trust in those who didn’t pass his inspection. Meghan knew that the infamous city of Detroit was an immeasurably safer place with a man like her husband protecting it, and she was increasingly proud of him every day. Her husband was a hero, but no matter how much he did—no matter how many lives he saved or how many criminals he put behind bars—he never considered himself as such: he simply said that he was “just doing my job, same as anyone else would.”
“I love you, detective,” she purred with a smirk.
“I love you too, professor,” he replied with his usual carefree suavity.
For a while, Charlie sat side by side with the woman that he loved more than anyone else in the world, watching the two miracles they’d created race wildly around their front lawn. He breathed in deep, enjoying the mild spring air feeling that desirable jolt of excitement, knowing that in just a few short hours, he would be in his favorite place in the world with his favorite people in the world.
“Are you as ready as I am to get the hell out of here?” he asked, pulling Meghan closer to his side and leaning back against the top couple of porch steps.
think?” she asked, playfully. “I even sent Pete an email this time.”