"Danny, wait up."
As he gathered his coat from his desk chair, preparing to leave, Danny McGregor wanted nothing more than to go home to his quiet apartment, have a drink or two, and catch up on some sleep. But, recognizing the voice that called his name, he stopped and turned around.
"Temple," McGregor greeted, pausing to let him catch up.
The young detective already had his coat on, leaving too, apparently. It was late, almost midnight, and their shift was not quite over, but McGregor doubted the Chief would mind if they left five minutes early. Especially after the past couple of days…
"I was wondering if you wanted to go get a beer or something," Temple said.
McGregor pulled on his coat as he thought about it. Did he want to go out? Not really... But it was obvious that Temple had something weighing on his mind: the slumped shoulders and the slightly lost look in his eyes convinced Danny to say yes.
So he put a smile on his face that didn't quite reach his eyes and clapped Temple on the back. "Sure, I don't see why not."
*** *** ***
Twenty minutes later, the two of them sat at a round, dark wood table in a bar that looked like any other. Aside from Danny and Temple, only about six or seven people were scattered around the place.
Neither had said much on the short ride over, and they still didn't say much. Both were occupied with their own thoughts.
Gazing into the depths of his light beer, Temple said without looking up, "It's kind of weird, you know?"
"Him not being there." Temple looked up then and added, "Travis."
Not surprisingly, their thoughts had led them down the same path.
"Sometimes… when someone walks by my desk, I look up, thinking it's Travis stopping to visit, to tell me a joke he just heard, chat about his latest role, or something. Stupid, huh?"
"No, not stupid," Danny stated. He leaned back in his chair, and stared over Temple's head, at the wall across the room. What he didn't say was that he'd caught himself doing that a time or two…
"Do you think…I mean, have you thought…that maybe you…" Temple glanced at the other detective and lost his nerve, letting the question hang unfinished.
But McGregor knew what he was asking.
The other night.
The night Detective Travis Haywood was shot.
What could they have done differently?
What could he have done differently?
"Yes," Danny sighed, rubbing a hand over suddenly tired eyes. Temple looked at him in surprise, and Danny shrugged and added in a quiet voice, "If I had been paying more attention… If I had noticed what was going on sooner… If I had been quicker to get out of the van…"
"If I had recognized the shotgun blast for what it was…" Temple added. "I mean," he continued, "If I had just moved a little faster, he might be right here with us, drinking and laughing."
"Nah," Danny said with a smile, trying to break free from the "what if" game that he'd played too many times before, "not here. He'd hate this place. There's no big screen TV."
Temple looked around, as if noticing their surroundings for the first time, and actually chuckled.
The three of them – and sometimes even the Chief – had often gone out after work to one of the several sports bars in the metro area, to laugh, drink, have fun, and bet on sports – only on the occasions when Mannion wasn't present, of course. Travis was particularly fond of baseball, an Orioles fan through and through. In fact, he'd recently purchased tickets for he and his three sons to go to the next game.
The smile fell from McGregor's face at the thought of Travis's three boys, and he signaled the waitress for another round.
"It's not your fault, Temple."
Temple motioned to his head with a quick jerk of his hand. "I know that. I know that up here, but in here" – he thumped his chest, his heart – "I'm not so sure."
Their drinks came, and silence blanketed the table once more.
McGregor searched for something to say that would ease Temple's mind. But what could he say?
Finally, tired of the silence and frustrated with his inability to find the right words, Danny tossed a twenty-dollar bill on the table, pushed back his chair, and stood up. "Come on," he said, "I'll drive you home."
With a weary nod, Temple shrugged his arms into the sleeves of his coat and stood. "Yeah, okay."
As they walked out into the chilly night air, McGregor slung an arm
around Temple's shoulders and gave them a brotherly squeeze, offering the
only kind of comfort he could.
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