A new unfolding chapter in the dastardly scheme. Stiff gets the red tape-which is already rolled out for Zoie.
“Stiff, what the hell is going on? I leave you alone for little more than a day and you’re getting yourself beaten up by a teenager! A teenager, Stiff! A teenager!”
“I tried to reason… I thought she’d listen, not”—
“We told you not to interfere—to not even invite her on a voyage back to the apartment! You’re not a psychologist, Stiff!”
“Sir, I did no such thing… I was merely offering my apologies…” Stiff staggered over to Zoie’s bed and leaned on it, grabbing a paper towel and wiping her face. Her boss was still bristling with anger, but his eyes showed differently… was it excitement? Perhaps… even happiness? But no one noticed; all eyes were on Stiff’s miserable performance, and by the time she’d wiped her face, the moment was gone; her boss was staring coldly at her once more. “Stiff, just…just go to a doctor…get yourself patched up…we’ll talk about this later.”
“Yes sir,” muttered Stiff, dragging herself out of the room. Walking down the hall, her brain went into overdrive. She thought, what does he mean—we’ll talk about this later? Surely there’s nothing worse than a firing that’s going to be handed out? And why didn’t he just do it right now? He didn’t have any problems firing Roger or Jim in front of the whole police department. And what about O’Brien? That was genuinely shameful. And then came another nasty, nagging thought; it’s because he thinks (or thought, added the snickering voice) you’re one “damn good officer,” and didn’t want you or him to be humiliated more than necessary.
It was true; Stiff’s boss did seem to like her. And why not? She was cunning, smart, attractive (or so she observed—guys seemed to have a habit of flirting with her), an uncorrupt cop, an excellent, experienced driver, and dangerous and witty when it came to interrogation. Nonetheless, it was undeniable; she’d had perhaps one too many slip-ups, but her positive personality and talent surpassed them. Not tonight though, cackled the cynical voice again, you’re going to get what’s been coming to you for quite some time. Smuggling the witness out of the hospital, letting her goad you into childish behavior, and then getting beat up by her. No doubt; if it were me you’d sorely regret all of it, oh yes you would. I’d kick you out myself—physically! I doubt your ass would ever feel—Stiff was so deeply in thought that she walked straight into Carter, who was running down the hall. “Stiff,” he gasped, “Stiff, you can’t go to the hospital beforehand—Stevenson’s boss got hold of this and is already lining up to fire. Get the girl, and go to that apartment—I’ll come with you—it’s the only way your job’s staying intact”—
“Drop it, Carter.” Stiff was astonished at how calm she was. “It’s over. The criminals got away. The FBI can’t trace ‘em, even with the city in lockdown mode we can’t find them. My job’s finished. You didn’t do anything wrong; you carry on with yours. I failed, you survived.” Stiff looked at Carter, an oddly calm look to her. “It’s been an honor.”
And with that said, she proceeded to her office and awaited her doom, not even noticing three tall shadows scamper away out the passing windows.
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