December 14; 1:45am

Goddamn it all…

Here it was… one forty-five in the morning and I'd just been kicked out of the bar. Not just any bar either, but Jake's, my favorite dive out of all the shitty dives I call home. I love the place. It never closes and the owner Jake, always lets me sit in the back booth while doing his best to keep the other barflies from bothering me. He always has the booze flowing, never cuts me off, never asks questions and at the end of the night willingly picks me up off the floor and puts me into the waiting taxi.

Now it looked like I was gonna have to find a new place to go to… Goddamn it all…

I know I couldn't blame Jake. After all, out of the last six nights, I've gotten into fights on four of them. All the previous ones were over so quickly; Jake didn't even bother to say anything. Even completely shit-faced, I am able to end a fight before it really begins. Tonight was no different. Two assholes trying to shake me down, but then they decided to take it up a notch by pulling a blade on me… Now THAT just pissed me off. The one guy got off easy with a few cracked ribs and a head-butt… but the other one… I purposely snapped his arm at the elbow against the joint for maximum damage. I smiled grimly. That arm would never be right again. But hey, like they say… live by the sword, die by the sword. And I HAD tried to warn them.

Really Jake was good about it. Although he always was furious at first, kicking me out, telling me not to come back, I knew he didn't really mean it. In another day or two, I always wandered back in and it was like it never happened. That's the way it always was between us. Jake knows I'm a cop and just lets me go to cool off and he wouldn't call the authorities, which was a good thing. I knew that the department was already keeping a close-eye on me and if they ever got wind of my extracurricular activities, my career and life would be over. Luckily, I have always been good at stealthy maneuvering when needed. It was a talent that was currently serving me well.

But despite having to leave my favorite joint early, the night wasn't a total loss. After all… as I left, Jake did give me a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels on the house. Driving with my knees, I grabbed the nearby bottle, quickly cracking open the seal, and took a swig. I loved how it burned my throat on the way down – made me know that it was up to the job of getting me drunk.

After taking another long swallow, I twisted the cap back on and tried to figure out my next move. Considering that it was almost two in the morning and I had to be on-duty by seven-thirty, I realized, of course, I should just head back home. The very thought made my gut knot up so much; I knew that that was not an option… not yet anyway. No… I still wasn't drunk enough to handle that. Instead I turned down another side street, driving carefully, eyes peeled out for any patrol units as I judged the various waterholes lining the area. It wasn't as easy as one might think for me to find a spot I was comfortable getting drunk in. First off, I wanted to avoid all the cop hang-outs. They were always full of course, as a lot of cops drank to ease the edge off from the day; however, I didn't want to be anywhere around them. Besides pretty much everyone at LAPD wanted nothing to do with me and I was more than happy to return the favor. I had no desire to be near any of the hot LA nightclubs with their loud music, fancy overpriced cocktails and coked out partiers… No, what I needed were the shit-holes, but even then, I had to be careful. The patronage at those places tended to be very suspicious of newcomers, even ones that looked the way I did. And being suspicious made them have a tendency to test your boundaries, find out what you were all about… which meant often times, a fight. And then that could put me right back in the same situation I had found myself in at Jake's. And at a new place there was always the possibility of cops being called… No, I needed something shitty but discreet. A place where everyone was there for the unified goal of getting drunk while being left alone in peace and quiet.

And hopefully a place without any goddamn Christmas decorations…

December 15; 7:38pm

I looked down at my watch with a sigh; so much for that promise I had made to Trish about being home early today for my birthday dinner. But considering the circumstances, I knew she would be understanding – she almost always was. Making my way down the hallway, I opened the door, my brow wrinkling deeply as I entered into the morgue. Twenty years on the force and I still could not get used to that smell – made me want to gag every time. The medical examiner looked up from where he had been placing the tools of his trade on the small table. "Sergeant Murtaugh," he said, his voice slightly surprised. "What can I do for you?"

"Good evening, Dr. Hernandez. I – I was just wanting to check on Amanda Hunsacker."

"Hunsacker?" He picked up a nearby file, flipping through it. "I thought we had her down as a suicide."

"She is… It's just … Well, I just wanted to follow up, make sure I received a full report on it when you're finished." I sighed. "Her father was an old friend of mine."

"Damn. Sorry, Sarg."

I shrugged. "It's okay. It was a long time ago."

Dr. Hernandez pointed to a nearby sheeted figure. "That's her. I'm about to start right now, as a matter of fact." He gave a small smile as he wheeled the table over to the body. "I'll be sure to let you know right away if there is anything unusual."

"Thanks… appreciate that." Although I don't know why, I found myself reaching out to pull the sheet back away from her face. Considering the fall that she had taken, Amanda's body was in remarkable condition. She had landed on her back and her face was unmarked from her final journey. All the same, she looked nothing like she was asleep. I gave a sigh. They never did. I pulled the sheet back over her.

"Have a good evening, Doctor," I said on my way out the door.

Back at my desk, I gathered up my stuff but stopped suddenly as my eye caught the photograph that I had snagged from Amanda's condo. It was of me and her father, back in 1964 before we were about to be shipped off. Although we had lost touch a long time ago, it had still been hard to call him with the news of his daughter's death. And even harder to listen to the sound of his voice as he tried to take in the information. Staring at it another minute, I slipped the photo into my coat pocket and headed home.