I plopped down in my file-infested corner of the precinct, dabbing at the caked-on blood in my stubble.
“You should really go to the hospital.” Alicia folded her arms and leaned in my doorway.
“For what? I’m fine.”
“You could have a concussion.”
I snorted. “You of all people know how hard my head is.”
I gaped at the mountain of unsolved cases precariously heaped on my desk, my mind wandering.
“What’s up?” she interrupted my reverie. “Either you really are concussed or this is one of those rare times when you’re actually using your brain.”
I shook my head. “We won today, right?”
She screwed up her features judgmentally. “Yes, obviously.”
“But I’m just thinking about what we actually accomplished.”
“We caught a guy that deals drugs, kidnaps, and murders. I’d say we earned our keep around here.”
“But as messed up as it was, Todd took good care of those boys. Even though they couldn’t go outside or socialize, that room had everything they ever could have asked for.”
“You realize being out and about with other people is an important part of life, though, right?”
“Yes, and now they have that, but nothing else. Todd’s locked up for good, their mother’s dead, and their dad, even if he eventually gets out, he definitely won’t be considered fit to raise them. Curtis and Owen are about to go into the system and is that really the better life we were hoping to hand them?”
The bronze of her cheeks warmed into a mahogany and she averted her gaze. “I didn’t want you to get your hopes up because nothing’s official, but the Canns boys might not have to deal with the orphan life.”
“What does that mean?”
She cleared her throat. “Tabby and I have been considering adopting. And we thought Curtis and Owen would be as good of kids as any.”
My chest swelled. “Are you serious?”
“Please don’t get excited yet. There are so many logistics still to work out.”
“But you’ll work it out,” I assured her. “Like you always do. You’ll make it happen.”
She gagged. “Don’t get sweet on me, Cam. It’s embarrassing for both of us, but mostly you.”
I kicked back in my chair and smiled. “Regardless of that, thank you.”
“It’s not for you, champ.”
Suddenly Jamie and Jessica knocked into Alicia’s shoulder and trudged into the room with boxes in hand. Jamie glanced between the two of us suspiciously.
“I thought you guys were headed off on some Scooby-Doo hunt,” he snarked.
“And we’re back,” Alicia cut in. “The swamp monster is slain.”
He laughed in her face. “Yeah, sure. I’m guessing you’ve been hiding out in here, waiting for these files that are going to give you no helpful evidence at all.”
“You’re right, because we already have all the evidence we need,” I retorted.
He noticed my grisly appearance for the first time. “What happened to you?”
“You’re murderer wasn’t very happy to be caught,” I announced triumphantly.
He knit his brow. “Wait, you two actually did real police work?”
“Yes, we did.”
He held up the box. “But you didn’t even have the files.”
“No, we didn’t.”
His attention fell on Alicia and he pursed his lips. “Let me guess. You found our man and Bridges scurried along behind you.”
“Actually, Cam is the one that caught the guy. He had it figured out before anyone else.”
His nose pinched up. “No way Freezer Burn manages something like that.”
“You’re always telling me to get out of the fridge,” I mused. “Aren’t you happy we arrested your killer?”
He rolled his eyes, begrudging. “Fine. Thanks. I guess you don’t need these anymore.” He ushered Jessica out of the room, restraining himself from descending into a conniption.
Once they were out of ear shot, uncontrollable laughter passed between Alicia and me.
“Talk about being sweet and embarrassing,” I ragged.
“You did find the guy.”
“But you could have told him that I almost got myself killed. You’re the one that took him into custody.”
“I recall that this whole case started because you wanted to pull one over on Jamie. I couldn’t take that away from you.”
“Thanks for the soft pitch, but I really did mess up in there. I guess that’s why I’m better in here, pushing around papers.”
“I don’t know,” she considered, “you should give yourself more credit. Sure, there are certain things that could’ve gone better, but you have good instincts. You should try to get out there more often.”
“I’m pretty sure that a random cold case turning up relevant is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I don’t imagine I’ll be getting out of this room again anytime soon.”
She propped herself on the side of my desk and shrugged. “Unless another officer asks you to consult, to maybe help them out as a friend.”
I smirked. “You’re talking about Stan again, right?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Stan better not be trying to take you. I’m laying claim.”
Though we teased, her offer seemed genuine. “You really want me? Reckless, idiotic me?”
“If you’re up for it,” she mused. “Partner.”
She stretched a hand to me and I accepted, but then a knock at the door stole our attention. A pimpled teenager crept in with a pizza box, squinting at the receipt.
“Delivery for Alicia Roberts?”
“That’s me.” She signed her name and flourished the box at me. “I believe I owe you dinner.”
I reclined back in my seat. “I thought we decided it was a tie?”
“Then I decided it wasn’t.” She snatched up a piece, shoved a huge bite in, then mumbled with her mouth full, “Welcome to field work, Detective Bridges.”
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber