1 – Metro Homicide – Monday, 8:59 a.m.
They could question her every other ability, but no one could say Beck didn’t know how to take a punch. Leaning into it when most people would lean away, she let it connect with her cheekbone instead of her temple. Carrying the unfortunate side effect of being twice as painful, it did have the practical benefit of allowing her to remain conscious and on her feet after a hit that would have put most anyone on the floor.
Coming back with a right hook, she found the soft fabric of a pin-striped shirt, holding her opponent in place as her knuckles sank into a torso softened with age. Ribs bending, but not breaking, beneath her fist, she was confident it still hurt like hell.
Three quick jabs took the wind out of Bishop, and Beck was yanked along as he stumbled backward.
“What in the hell is going on here?” The barked question nearly drowned out Bishop’s hissed expletive as he met the corner of Beck’s new desk.
Recognizing the voice, Beck didn’t need to recognize it to know who was doing the asking. Plenty of witnesses standing around, everyone else knew to just let it play out, so it didn’t carry over into their day-to-day. Only one person was going to have anything to say.
Dodging a last poorly-thrown punch, Beck pushed off Bishop’s chest and out of range as Lieutenant Martinez stepped between them, arms thrusting out to keep them on their respective sides. Feeling the drip start, she reached up to catch the trail of blood beneath her nose. A few broken blood vessels. Nothing major. The important thing was not letting her ass get handed to her on day one. She would never recover from that in a room like this.
“What is this?” Martinez asked, and Bishop glanced off toward an interview room, as anxious as Beck was, apparently, to be the one to do the talking. “You’ve got thirty seconds. One of you better tell me what the hell happened.”
Three minutes ago…
One should never trust a precinct that smelled like cotton candy.
As far as Beck knew, no one ever said that, but it seemed prudent advice as she turned down the bright, updated hallway of the Metro police station and the cloying scent assaulted her.
Passing the culprit, a young boy going to town on a bright pink sucker as his mother dragged him along by the hand, Beck got reprieve from the smell only as she went through the open department door. Though, all eyes turning her way as she walked in, she got the feeling it was open to her only by direct order.
“Hey, Princess. Lost Barbies are reported down the hall.”
Snorted laughter following the statement, Beck thought it rather undeserved. Heckle weak at best, she was a little disappointed. She, frankly, expected more out of them. These were, after all, the seasoned detectives, the ones with the years of experience, who should have been hardened by all they had seen. She wasn’t expecting comedic genius, but a little effort would have been nice.
Gray tiles thudding beneath her shoes, she could feel the gazes follow her across the room. She had walked this walk way too many times. Into stations. Into crime scenes. Down cell blocks. Part runway, part death row, it carried the uncomfortable attention of both.
“I’m returning actually.” Her fist perched over the Formica surface of the heckler’s desk. “Here’re your balls. Your wife said you could have them back for work.”
Laughter amping up a notch, the heckler’s flabby face turned bright red. Glancing to his nameplate, Beck regretted not wanting to get into it further upon discovery of the man’s name. Cockburn. Host of well-deserved nicknames popping into her head, it was a shame they had to go to waste.
As it was, she didn’t want to give him the chance to return fire. Backing away, Beck glanced to the office door on the far wall, finding the desk inside empty and realizing she was going to have to stew in the uncomfortable atmosphere for a while.
It wasn’t hard to tell which desk was hers. Devoid of all but the layer of dust that seemed to cover every bullpen in which she worked, no matter how often it was cleaned, and a surprisingly updated computer, it was the kind of empty welcome she’d anticipated. Martinez had straight up told her it was going to be a difficult transition, that she was no one’s top pick but his.
“You don’t belong here.”
He’d neglected to mention how vocal they were going to be about it. She got it. She wasn’t the colleague they wanted. She doubted they would be making it quite so clear, though, if Lieutenant Martinez was sitting in his office.
“Well, I’m here now.”
From the corner of her eye, Beck had seen the old man coming, and she knew it was too much to ask to just be left alone. Before he stood in front of her, she could tell he was pushing seventy. Still sporting a full head of hair, it was salt and pepper, the mustache on his lined face gray, skin wilted by gravity. It didn’t stop him from stopping by Beck’s desk with the arrogant stance of a man a third his age.
“You think that’s how this works?”
“It’s how it’s worked since white men first came to America. Manifest Destiny and all that.”
Laugh derisive, the old man shook his head as if his objection would somehow alter her presence there. “You don’t deserve this. You haven’t earned it. And just so you know, it’s not because you’re a woman.”
“That’s a relief.”
Not expecting a response, apparently, it increased his ire tenfold. “It’s because you got here by stealing another detective’s case. Pull that shit around here, and see what happens.”
“You tell her, Bishop,” Cockburn egged the old man on, but it was Beck who was provided sudden inspiration.
“Bishop?” She knew the name well. Not only had it been dropped in her conversations with Martinez as that of one of her superior officers, but, a few months ago, it was the backbone of every piece of inter-departmental gossip that crossed Beck’s desk. “Aren’t you the one who got your partner killed?”
His fury flashing so fast, Beck had only time to get to her feet and duck into the oncoming punch. So, Bishop wasn’t lying. It wasn’t because she was a woman. She always knew how much they truly accepted her as one of them by how willing they were to kick her ass when she had it coming.
Reaching out in a daze, she found Bishop’s shirt front, delivering three quick jabs that knocked him off balance, and, together, they stumbled into her desk.
“What in the hell is going on here? That’s enough.”
Popping away, Beck felt the nosebleed start and reached up to catch the blood before it could fall.
“What is this?” Lieutenant Martinez demanded, but no one rushed to explain. “You’ve got thirty seconds. One of you better tell me what happened.”
“It was me.” Beck knew he wasn’t bluffing. Thirty seconds, and she was looking at suspension her first week. Even taking Bishop with her wasn’t worth that stain. “I started it.”
Glancing her way, Bishop’s very stare seemed to question her motives, as Martinez looked between them, clearly wanting more. When neither of them had anything to give him, he gave up with a shake of his head. “Go get your face checked out, and come into my office.”
“I’m fine, Lieutenant,” Beck uttered. “Bishop should really go, though. I’d hate to be responsible for a veteran dying on the job.”
“I’m fine.” Bishop took the statement as the final jab it was intended to be. Pushing off the desk, he made it as far as turning his back on them, before stumbling against its edge.
“Go,” Martinez ordered, and, with a glare over his shoulder, Bishop shook off the mid- to late-thirties black guy who was suddenly at his side to offer support.
“You.” Martinez’s voice was firm at Beck’s shoulder. “In my office.”
Yep. Things went about as well as could be expected.