Mack had to admit that this was a new experience for him. Usually getting a West into a police station was a long drawn out process involving warrants, handcuffs, and a squad car. Today Cheryl West had burst in to see him just as he was coming back from picking up his lunch order.
"Why is there an arrest on my record?"
The detective examined the contents of his delivery box, only too aware that the odds of him getting a chance to eat while it was still hot were not good.
"I imagine it's because you were arrested. Did you get grilled onions?"
Potts inspected his nearly identical order and switched delivery boxes.
Why couldn't Cheryl have waited an hour?
"It was a frame job! I didn't take any money. The manager told you that!"
Technically the manager had told Mack he'd made an "accounting error", but Cheryl's version of the truth was, for once, the one Mack believed.
"Cheryl, it's not a conviction, it's an arrest, but it does stay on your record."
The reason arrests remained on records was to tip off the next detective handling the file that the offender wasn't new to the system. When arrests don't lead to convictions, it's usually not because of the suspect's actual innocence. Leaving the arrests in the file is kind of like recording smoke to indicate fire.
"Don't you understand that every time I apply for a job someone runs a background check on me, I look like a felon, and then I don't get that job! Does that sound fair to you?"
Potts jumped in before Mack had the opportunity to answer. Just as well as Mack didn't know quite how to respond.
"Not to me. Do you want your pickle?"
Rookie partners, what are you going to do?
"Could you give us a minute?"
After Potts left the office Mack came around his desk to stand directly in front of Cheryl. Truthfully he agreed with Detective Potts. It didn't really seem fair that Cheryl couldn't find work because of something she didn't do.
"Listen Cheryl, what you need to do is file for an expungement. One copy goes to the judge, one copy goes to the DA. I think they get sixty days to consider it."
It was the best advice he had to offer, but unfortunately it wasn't good enough.
"Sixty days? I need a job. Look, I'm trying to get my life on track and I swear to God all I keep doing is running into obstacles. Do you people want to see me fail?"
In over twenty years Cheryl had never looked at Mack like this, earnest and vulnerable. She looked so…wronged and it was tying his stomach into knots.
"I know things are difficult right now-"
"Don't say you understand me. You don't understand the first thing about me. Thanks for the HELP. I'll figure it out myself."
Cheryl swept out of his office without another word, leaving Mack with a hell of a lot to think about and no desire to eat his untouched lunch.
It had taken Potts not ten seconds to pop his head back in Mack's office.
"Not now Potts."
Mack didn't need any more distractions, he needed to think. Fortunately Potts took the hint and scuttled off to eat his lunch elsewhere.
Cheryl had asked him if he wanted to see her fail. That took some thought. Mack and Cheryl had been butting heads for a few decades now, mutually venting their frustrations at each other with biting repartee. They were in many senses antagonists. From that perspective Cheryl's question was fair. Was Mack so eager to put the West family behind bars that he not only expected Cheryl's efforts to fail, but that he was happily anticipating it? Did Mack want Cheryl to fail? Mack let the question sink in, until the answer rose from deep within him.
No. He didn't want Cheryl to fail. It wasn't only that as a cop, his job would be easier if the Wests retired from the crime business. It was that there was something really admirable about being willing to change. Cheryl West was desperately trying to save her family, even though the odds were stacked against her. She needed to find a job with no work experience apart from running a store of stolen goods. She had four children to wrangle, at least three of which were fighting her every step of the way. She had a husband who was probably trying to sabotage her efforts at every turn. Finally she had Mack, who had falsely arrested her and put a black mark on her otherwise clean record.
Cheryl was right, he didn't understand her. He didn't understand why someone whose family has always chose fast cash over hard work was fighting on such an impossible battle. She would lose, Mack still believed that, but he would be sorry when she did. Furthermore, he would make sure it would not be his fault. He still had thirty minutes of his lunch hour left. How long did it take to file a petition for an expungement any way?