Riggs wasn't sure he could go to work. Sitting on his couch, gun in his lap, he wondered why he had brought the firearm out. Seven o'clock was still hours away. The sky, black as tar, twinkled with the occasional star. The waves that pushed toward and slunk away from the shore revealed nothing but a dark sea, alerting anyone of its presence by sound, not by sight. A full moon failed to grace the night, failed to bathe the surroundings in milky light.
Only the dull glow from a digital alarm clock helped Riggs see the glint of the steel barrel. He traced a finger down the metal, hesitant, yet familiar. Sam whimpered nearby, unable to decide whether to approach his master or stay back, well away from the weapon. Martin sighed, titled his head back, stared at the ceiling. His throat, sore from the massive amount of beer he had downed in the past few weeks, strained with the action, greedy for hydration.
"Take me with you, Victoria," Riggs murmured, passing a hand over his face. "Oh, God, I should've been there." He rubbed fiercely at his bloodshot eyes, irritating them more, causing involuntary tears. Perhaps they were voluntary.
It didn't matter. Riggs swiped them away, grumbling fiercely to himself, and tossed his off-duty handgun away from his person. As soon as the firearm clattered to the floor and skidded across it, Sam leapt over the armrest of the couch and plopped himself down by his master's side, head resting gently on his lap. He peered up at Riggs with understanding eyes, filled both with pity and reassurance. Poor Sam missed Victoria as much as Riggs did. Riggs groaned and petted the dog gently on the head, soon finding his fingers behind the dog's ears, scratching Sam's trigger spots. The dog let his tongue loll for a moment, tail swaying in content movements.
"I don't know what I'm going to do, buddy," Riggs whispered, sniffing back loose mucus in his nose. He choked, spluttered, gasped for air. "How can we live without her?"
The dog replied with a low whine, tail growing still. Martin nodded his head in agreement and rested his hand on the dog's neck, his mind drifting. His boss wouldn't want him to go back to work, that was for sure. Too much of a risk, he would say. Unstable, that's what you are.
Although Riggs didn't want to admit it, he knew it was true. In the past week, everything loomed in front of him in odd proportions, as though he looked not through his eyes but through a fisheye lens. Questions raced through his mind, plagued him day and night. What if he had been there? Could he have saved his beloved wife? Was she murdered? Or was it a genuine accident? No way in hell could someone want Riggs dead, right?
Martin heard himself laughing – a strange, tortured, manic sound. "Yeah, well, you're not in fucking hell, Riggs," he growled to himself, shaking his head. "Maybe you are now…"
Sam shifted his head on his owner's lap, huffing as though agreeing with Riggs's statement. Riggs pulled the dog closer and let his eyelids flutter close, plunging him into utter darkness, darker than the night outside, darker than Victoria's blood…
Riggs could've sworn he had only dozed for a few minutes. With groggy eyes, he glanced at the digital clock, registered the time. He closed his eyes again, feeling the sweet tug of sleep, only to jerk awake, head snapping back to reread the clock.
"Aw, shit," he cursed, jumping to his feet. "Shit, shit, shit."
Unbalanced, Martin stumbled to the bathroom, pissed, cleaned himself up, and tugged on a pair of pants, fumbling with the belt buckle as he went into his bedroom for a shirt. He tugged on a slightly soiled, white Oxford shirt, fastening the buttons with one hand while he sought his shoes out from underneath the bed with his other. Without bothering to slip on socks, he jammed his feet into his boots, snatching up his watch and wallet on his way out of the bedroom. Sam nudged Riggs's off-duty firearm across the floor toward his master, his posture a picture of assistance.
"Thanks, buddy," Riggs said, picking up the firearm and shoving it into the shoulder holster slung over one of the kitchen chairs. He slid into the leather holster, tucking the gun underneath his left arm, snug against his side.
Just about on his way out, Martin noticed Sam dragging something towards him. His denim jacket. Thanking the dog again, Riggs shouldered on the jacket and snatched up his keys, his eyes falling on his old and trusty pickup truck. The door locked behind him, he climbed into the truck, revved the engine, and sped off the beach, towards the police department.
As quick as he was out of the house, he was at the station. He fumbled through his jacket, pulled out his badge and ID, and drove the pickup into the department's parking lot. Finding the loneliest corner of the whole lot, Riggs was out of the car as soon as he pulled out the key in the ignition. He darted up the stairs, avoiding the elevator, and found himself on the Homicide floor. He was greeted with curious gazes and saddened expressions, sympathetic smiles barraging him as he made his way to his boss's office. Through the windows, he could see his superior was not occupied with urgent business, other than awful paperwork. Riggs knocked and pushed open the door. His boss looked up, annoyed, then surprised.
"Martin," he said, rising to his feet. "What are you doing here?"
"The job," Riggs answered. "I'm here for the job."
"How're you doing?" His superior was by his side in an instant, hand clasped on Riggs's shoulder, just as sympathetic as the smiles that had followed Martin into the room.
"Fine." Riggs fought the urge to shoulder the hand off.
"You shouldn't be here, Riggs," his boss said. "Take some more time off – a month, if you have to. We can always have other detectives cover for you."
Something in Riggs's voice unsettled his superior. The older man looked hard at Martin, taking in every detail, brow knit with worry and, perhaps, disappointment. Riggs's eyes held an uncharacteristic gleam in them, a vicious sparkle that overshadowed the joy his superior had seen only weeks before. Martin regarded the man with a wide-eyed gaze, a manic stare that caused his superior to flinch away. The older man adjusted his tie with a nervous gesture and gazed out of his window, watching various detectives and desk clerks work. He noted their glances toward his office, knew they were wondering about Riggs and why he was there. Shouldn't the man be at home, grieving? they all thought, whispering their opinions to each other.
Martin's superior shook his head, turned his attention back to Riggs. "Listen, Martin, I don't think it's…best for you to work alone right now."
"Oh, yeah?" An unvoiced challenge rang loud and clear in Riggs's voice.
"Yes, Riggs." The older man fixed a stern gaze on Martin's face. "I think it's time you had a partner. Somebody older, perhaps. Somebody – oh, I dunno – stable."
"Stable!" Riggs drew to his full height, nostrils flaring, an involuntary gesture. "What are you saying?" His superior flinched, despite his hard resolve to keep a steady mask. "Say it to my face!"
"What I'm saying," came the slow response, "is that you need to get a hold of firm ground, Martin. I don't want an erratic detective making rash decisions all because his head has been knocked off and screwed on backwards." The man circled back to his desk and stood behind it, playing up his superiority. "Now, until I find you a partner, I don't want you taking any dangerous jobs. I'm sure there's a lovely stack of paperwork on your desk, just begging to be filed."
The older man sat down, eyes drawn to the papers on his own desk. Riggs stood in the center of the room, unmoving, disbelieving of what he had heard.
A partner? he thought. What the fuck do I need a partner for!
He should've known that everyone would make a big deal about his wife's death. Not only that, but on how it affected him. Riggs took a deep breath, sucking the air through his nostrils, and turned away from his boss, stiff. The door opened underneath his touch, and he slipped out of the office, letting the doorknob click into place before making his way to his desk. He did his best to ignore the looks his fellow detectives and pencil pushers gave him. His desk seemed so far away, as though isolated on the farthest side of the room. Riggs fought the urge to run to his desk, pummeling his way through the expressions of pity he came across.
The job, he thought. Just do the job.
Perhaps that would keep him going. Dredging up memories of his wife all day long while drinking beer and cradling a gun in his lap certainly wasn't going to.