Captain Edmond F. Trunk stepped from the elevator and into the familiar environs of the precinct office. It was a beautiful morning; he told himself, glancing at his watch and confirming he was early this morning, almost 30 minutes early in fact. That fact was enough to add a bit of spring to his step and a smile to his face.
Early enough, he reflected as he stepped lightly down the hallway, to assure myself of one hour – sixty full, delicious, minutes – when nothing would go wrong. Captain Trunk started to whistle happily, out loud, and then cut the sound off abruptly. There was no point in tempting fate, he decided.
Captain Trunk was an optimist – at least in the sense that he was certain things had to get better. When you already had the most adolescent, boneheaded, trigger happy, misogynistic Inspector in the department reporting to you, then things had to get better – right? Yet, somehow, it never seemed to work that way. Ever since fate had served him a lifetime supply of lemons, in the person of Inspector Sledge Hammer, Captain Trunk had done his best to make lemonade. As well as lemon custard, lemon meringue pie, lemon Danish, and lemon marmalade. He'd made candied lemon peel and garnished more than one alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage. He was running out of recipes and still the lemons kept coming. Every day spent in the presence of Inspector Hammer seemed to reinvent disaster in a particularly spectacular fashion. The opportunity to spend sixty minutes in quiet meditation in his office was little solace for the coming hours, but he would take them. He found himself looking forward to those minutes; he needed them; he cherished them. As he turned the corner from the hallway into the bullpen area, his spirits were high with anticipation.
"Btfsplk!" He swore under his breath.
Of all Hammer's character traits, the only one that Trunk found even faintly endearing was his tardiness. Each morning, as dependably as any Swiss made watch, the most enthusiastic officer on the force would stroll in at precisely 8:30 a.m. Captain Trunk had come to depend on it, the same way he depended on his alarm clock. In fact, he sometimes found himself wishing that Hammer had a "Snooze" button he could punch to defer his regular tardiness by a further 10 minutes. In fact, most days he just wanted to punch …
But every rule has its exception … and Hammer was the exception to most rules. Right here, right now, Hammer was once again exceeding expectations. Captain Trunk felt completely overwhelmed by the incongruous sight before him.
Hammer? At his desk before 8:30?!
Hammer? Was that actually paperwork spread across the desk in front of him!?
Hammer – sunken eyes and unshaven face looking like he'd spent the night on a park bench?
Captain Trunk did what any other individual would have done in his place. He took a step in Hammer's direction. He inhaled, his mouth opened, and the word "HAMMER!" began to form on his lips. And then, at that precise instant, from the corner of his eye, Trunk caught sight of Detective Dori Doreau as she cast a quick, almost furtive, glance toward Hammer. At least, it certainly appeared furtive to Captain Trunk. That instant stretched out like a magnitude 3.1 earthquake during an L.A. video session. Although shaken, he tried not to stir. In fact, he was frozen, completely unable to stir. For a full eight seconds an emotional rollercoaster tossed him violently, as he took in her rumpled dress; the tousled hair; the uncharacteristic lack of make-up. Trunk realized that, in her own way and even without the stubbly beard, Detective Doreau looked even worse than Hammer. Moreover, she seemed unaware that Trunk was openly staring at her, or that he was even present in the room.
Trunk's mouth snapped shut, his yell cut off before it could form. Then, he forced himself to first breathe and then move; to steady his steps try to maintain an appearance of normalcy as he set his path towards his office. His jaw did not drop. He did not flinch. He did not stare. Well, two out of three isn't bad, he thought, staring in the direction of Hammer and Doreau in spite of himself. It was not unusual for Inspector Doreau to be in at this time. It was not unusual for her to be hard at work analysing some case, or a recent set of crime statistics. It was unusual for her not to notice that another officer, in this case her superior officer, had entered the room. It was unheard of for her to arrive at the precinct looking ruffled and unkempt. A deep foreboding filled Captain Trunk as it slowly dawned on him that Inspector Hammer might be the least of his concerns this morning.
As he entered his office, Trunk supressed the urge to slam the door in frustration. Instead, he closed it with exaggerated care, barely making a click. After he had closed his door, he hung his jacket up neatly, closed his eyes and willed his mind to clear. He walked slowly, thoughtfully, to his desk, where he picked up the bottle of Pepto-Bismol, unscrewed the cap, and tipped it urgently up to his mouth.
Scowling, he dropped it into his waste basket, turned to the cabinet behind the desk. Pulling a ring of keys from his pocket, he quickly selected one and jabbed in into the cabinet lock. It turned, as he knew it would. With a quick glance over his shoulder to confirm that his door was closed, he opened the cabinet, revealing that it was filled with neatly stacked rows of pink bottles.
Good thing Costco had a sale last week, he thought, as he chose one bottle and turned back to his desk.
He forced his hands to be steady as he unscrewed the cap and pressed the bottle to his now desperate lips. He tried to force himself to sip the contents, to swallow each mouthful slowly, deliberately; letting the contents wash over him in a soothing wave; but within the space of a few moments he found that he had drained the bottle entirely. Regretfully, he added that bottle to the one already in his trash and withdrew a second bottle, which he placed on his desk. Then, like an elaborate ritual, he closed the cabinet door, carefully locked it, and returned the key to his pocket. Involuntarily, his fingers found his temples and began massaging.
It's coming, he thought, a migraine – I know it. And so his pacing began.
Initially, he maintained an illusion of calm as he stepped off the distance from one side of his office to the other and back. Soon, though, the furious churning of his thoughts began to manifest itself in his movements as well. Soon, he was striding furiously from side to side across his office; the need to scream at the top of his lungs barely suppressed. He'd only seen Hammer unshaven twice before, and he had never known Hammer to arrive at the precinct early. The bulge Trunk was certain he had seen earlier beneath Hammer's garish sports jacket suggested that he had not lost his beloved magnum again.
That left – what – poison?! Could poison drive Hammer to paperwork? Who cared? Detective Doreau was clearly his main cause for concern.
Captain Trunk trusted Detective Doreau more than any other officer under his command. He placed his faith in her judgement at times when he questioned his own. More than he liked to admit, he depended on her.
Every day she faced the same risks as her male peers, without complaint and certainly without asking for anything resembling special consideration. By any reasonable measure, she was their equal in every way … except one. No one else had a partner like hers.
No one knew better than Captain Trunk how great that risk was. Captain Trunk had, more than once, found himself collateral damage to Inspector Hammer's casual, no, wilful, disregard for department policies and procedures. One glance at the patch marks in his office ceiling provided a measure of some of the less destructive incidents in which Trunk had been an unwilling participant. He was certain that there remained a backlog of additional events that he had yet to discover.
Knowing this, no one marvelled more than Captain Trunk that somehow, each day, Detective Doreau, somehow, escaped unscathed. Well, relatively unscathed. There was that one incident … and now, there was today.
Based on what he had seen this morning, Trunk felt his confidence slipping away. Behind his closed door and blinds, he felt safe from the prying attention of his staff and thankful that they would not be able to see his clear agitation. His agitation was clear, he was certain, to anyone who could see him. The tenuous equilibrium he had forged between Hammer and Doreau had clearly been disturbed. If he couldn't fix it, and soon, the disturbance would be felt throughout the entire Police force.
"Btfsplk!" He swore under his breath, for the second time.
Captain Trunk paced the way some people smoked, or chewed gum, or ate erasers off their pencils. Habitually. Instinctively. Over time the movements had become second nature. Usually that left his mind free to consider other problems. This morning it was taking all of the Captain's concentration and self-control just to maintain the measured rhythm of his steps. This morning, Captain Trunk felt driven, desperate, almost frantic, and that left him neither the time nor the energy to wrestle his thoughts into submission. This morning, Trunk felt surrounded by a dark cloud of foreboding as his thoughts swirled, uncontrolled, in his head. Slowly, inexorably, the black cloud thickened, tightened around him, cutting him off, smothering him, threatening to engulf him. Inexorably, it tightened its noose around him, chocking off any attempt to solve the problem before him, or even to seriously consider what the problem was. He needed to free his mind before the cloud swallowed him completely.
The Captain tried to force himself into some measure of calm. He strove, in vain, to force his steps to conform to a specific rhythm; a pace that he found relaxed his body and freed his mind. Ironically, it was a rhythm he had learned from Doreau, when it had proven impossible for him to copy the breathing techniques she used to maintain her calm. Back and forth; from one side of his office, across in front of his desk to the door on the other side, and back again. Each time he returned to his starting point, he glanced at the clock on his wall; timing himself; confirming that had the measured pace was exactly right.
Trunk sighed. Although the clock said he had it right, it still felt wrong, as though time was somehow speeding away from him. Must be the gravity of the situation, he thought wryly.
He forced himself to resume his studied pacing. Back and forth; always following exactly the same path; always at exactly the same measured pace. Usually so liberating, the effort required this morning turned the task into trudgery, he thought wryly.
Seven seconds to cross the room in seven measured steps. A moment to turn and then seven more to return to his starting point. Tick … tick … tick. The same regular motion as a pendulum.
Although, he calculated quickly, it would have to be a 40 foot long pendulum.
Trunk passed his hand over his eyes, combing his fingers through his hair, and shook his head.
I really need to cut back on the prime time television, he told himself.
Ever so slowly, instinct began to assert itself. Gradually, his steps became more natural; his pace less forced. As his body began to relax, so did his mind, and he found he could now consider what he had seen earlier. At least, what he thought he had seen. Perhaps he had imagined it? That would actually be easier to believe.
He stopped pacing, and turned toward the window separating his office from the bullpen area. As he reached toward the blind, he hesitated. I have to know, he decided, pushing his fingers between the slats and gently prying them open so that he could peer through – unnoticed, he hoped!
His eyes slowly scanned the room outside. His first order of business was to assess the mood in the room. His eyes narrowed. Things were quiet … too quiet. Instead of the normal office camaraderie with officers milling about discussing cases or engaged in idle gossip, everyone was at their desks, heads down, as though deliberately presenting as small a target as possible. Those officers who found it absolutely necessary to leave their desks zigged and zagged randomly, making maximum use of the little cover afforded by office furniture. While the "What" and "Why" behind their actions might be obscure, Trunk was certain of the "Who" and "Where".
Trunk pondered that to himself. Hammer was unpredictable, everyone knew that. As someone who regularly shot up the precinct vending machine for not promptly dispensing his purchase, Hammer commanded a certain deference from his peers. As well as from the office machinery. Hammer had once arrested a pair of plain clothes officers, when they had strayed into his personal space, Trunk recalled. Something about his "gut instinct" telling him the two were drug dealers. Well, Trunk remembered, they were from narcotics division, following up on details of an apparent drug overdose death of one of their informants.
So, it was no surprise to see officers taking the long way around the office rather than chance Hammer's literally hair trigger "instincts". The vending machines were less mobile and had to take their chances.
Satisfied that he could learn nothing more from the rank and file outside, Trunk's eyes moved to area Hammer and Doreau shared. He forced himself to view the scene objectively, to analyse what he saw like a detective, and not like a snooping superior officer.
Instinctively, his eyes were drawn first to Inspector Sledge Hammer. He instantly made out the white grips on the butt of Hammer's infamous "Amigo" peeking from beneath the left lapel of his sports jacket, nestled as close to Hammer's heart as anything or anyone ever got. Whatever was wrong with Hammer had nothing to do with his Gun then. Hammer's unshaven countenance drew his eyes next. That, along with his tangled hair, spoke to Trunk of a long and probably sleepless night.
Doing what? He wondered. Paperwork?
Usually, Hammer's desk was immaculate. Virginal, even. Hammer would pass time in the office impatiently, loading and unloading his Gun, spinning the cylinder, and practicing his draw. He would check the pins in his grenades and play with the oversized ammunition he kept on display. In all of this, his desk was largely inconsequential.
Today the desk in front of Hammer was strewn with what appeared to be case files, and Hammer absently turned a pencil over and over with his fingers. Trunk saw no sign that Hammer had been playing with his gun, or anything else, but he saw no sign that he was making any notations on the papers around him, either. In fact, Hammer appeared to be taking no notice at all of either the papers around him, or the pencil in his hand. Hammer's eyes had the glazed, unfocused look of a man completely lost in thought.
Involuntarily, Trunk's lips twitched in a half smile. How far, he wondered, would Hammer have to wander far into that unfamiliar realm to become thoroughly lost? His smile turned abruptly to a frown as he reflected on the dangers of underestimating anyone – much less Inspector Hammer. Even now, there was a burning intensity to Hammer's unfocused stare that left Trunk certain that bad things would happen when Hammer finished his contemplations.
Trunk shook his head, determined not to get lost in a reverie of Hammer's failings.
There is only one person, Trunk reflected, normally unfazed by Hammer's often unpredictable behaviour.
Reluctantly, he forced himself to consider the individual at the heart of his concerns – Dori Doreau. She seemed, as usually, consumed by her work. She was the polar opposite of her partner, Inspector Sledge Hammer. She was cautious, he was rash. She was meticulous, he was cavalier. She drew conclusions; he drew on them. Trunk wasn't, he realized, even certain that Hammer's mind actually drew a conclusion before his hand drew that hunk of metal he referred to as his "Amigo", but "conclusion" was an apt description for what always followed.
He forced himself to study her systematically, dispassionately; cataloguing every detail that his eyes and mind observed. What he saw confirmed his earlier impression.
Hammer is definitely the least of my problems this morning, he realized.
Doreau, normally impeccable in her grooming, was looking positively rumpled this morning. Her clothes were actually wrinkled. Her hair looked like a tumbleweed had come to rest, lodged atop her head. Trunk had seen her angry, he'd seen her hurt, he'd seen her knocked senseless, but he'd never seen her looking dishevelled before. Nothing in Captain Trunk's experience, not even Inspector Hammer, had ever affected her to that extent.
What was different about today? He asked himself.
Unlike Hammer, whose attention appeared to be loosely focused on a point somewhere beyond the ceiling, Doreau's attention seemed firmly fixed on the papers spread before her.
Too fixed? He wondered. More intent on who she was not looking at than the case notes she pretended to be totally absorbed in?
Then Trunk noticed her posture. Normally erect, today she slumped in her chair, her shoulders hunched and her neck rigid. Her left hand grasped a pencil about as delicately as a stonecutter held a chisel while carving an inscription on a granite headstone. All in all, her body language spoke of a tension usually found only in spring steel just before it snapped. Trunk shivered. The headstone allusion was perhaps a little too apt, he thought, as he pondered who, or what, had put Doreau in this uncharacteristic frame of mind
Since her face was turned away, Trunk took the time to examine her clothing more closely. This time it was not the uncharacteristically wrinkled appearance that caught his attention, but something else. The style, the color, the more he thought about it the more certain he was that he had seen her in exactly these clothes the previous day.
He closed his eyes, and mentally recreated an image of Doreau as he had last seen her. Seated at the bar, with her back towards him as he was leaving, Doreau had been wearing an off-white dress, with some sort of pattern on it; the same dress that she had worn to the wedding and … He opened his eyes again, checking his memory against the present reality. Yes, she was still wearing that same dress this morning.
He closed his eyes again, recalling another detail that made him cringe. Hammer had been there, too. The two of them had been sharing a drink when he had left! Hammer was wearing – his mind refused to go there – leaving him unable to confirm if Hammer's jacket matched what he had worn to the wedding. Besides, the implications of that were … unthinkable!
Trunk's attention was drawn to a sudden movement. Had he not already had his attention focused on them, he might have missed it. Unmistakably, Doreau had cast another quick glance in her partner's direction. Involuntarily, Trunk held his breath and let the blinds partially close, afraid that he might have been the target of her brief inspection. But her attention returned to her desk, with no indication she was aware of anything, save for her partner.
Trunk let the blinds close completely and turned slowly toward his desk, considering carefully what he had seen in that brief instant. Doreau's hair showed, at best, a casual brushing, rather than her usually meticulous grooming. It was hard to tell from the brief glimpse, but Trunk was also certain that she lacked any trace of makeup. Not that she really needed it, but like all women she seemed to think that there was some minimum standard – a quick brush to highlight her cheeks, a touch of mascara to bring out her already unforgettably grey blue eyes, and the ubiquitous touch of lipstick – that she was compelled to uphold. The lack of makeup this morning also served to emphasize a weary, almost bloodshot, look to her eyes. Although Trunk noticed all of these things, none of them were what registered on his psyche. Or perhaps it was all of them.
Trunk found himself at a loss to describe exactly what it was he had seen. Loss? Anger? Betrayal? Confusion? Sadness? All of those emotions, and none of them, had been in that split second glance. Suddenly, Trunk found himself seriously considering the unthinkable.
The fact was that the two of them had been together when he had last seen them the evening before, and again when he had first seen them this morning. Hammer's very presence here, at this hour, could be explained if the two of them had arrived together. His unshaven face and barely combed hair matched Doreau's superficial attempt at makeup and grooming, and both suggested a rushed morning, perhaps at a neutral location. Finally, the complex of emotions he had seen in Doreau's glance at Hammer left him with the empty feeling of expectations somehow shattered beyond hope of repair. Face it, with any other pairing, the conclusion would be obvious. Trunk slumped into his chair, realizing that he faced with a situation beyond his worst nightmares.
HAMMER – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NOW?
Unspoken, the words echoed and re-echoed in his mind.
How did it happen? He asked himself. OK, I know how it happens, how could it happen to Hammer and Doreau? Doreau especially; I had more faith in her judgement and in her choice of men. What was she thinking … or drinking? Was that it?
Again, Trunk closed his eyes and tried to re-create the scene from the previous day.
What had they been drinking? Doreau had a glass with something dark in it. Hammer had been buying her root beers all night, he recalled. Hammer's glass appeared to be – white? Milk?! Trunk couldn't believe that he was even considering the possibility. If a champagne fuelled night in the bridal suite while undercover hadn't thrown them into each other's arms, could he really believe that root beer and milk would have that effect? In fact, the worst scenario that Trunk could foresee was if Hammer was lactose intolerant. That would hardly lead to a romantic tryst later that night. What then? What could have caused the unthinkable?
It must have been something that had happened earlier in the day, Trunk mused. Come to think of it, he was puzzled about how Doreau had apparently convinced Hammer to attend the wedding at all. How had she done that? Why had she done that?
From the moment that he had learned about the wedding, Hammer had acted in complete denial. Trunk knew that dinner with Scott, Susan and Doreau had gone badly the night before. Doreau's description of events, of how Hammer had drawn his gun on his ex-wife and shot up the restaurant, had seemed humorous at the time, but now took on more serious overtones. Hammer had obviously been ill at ease throughout Scott's bachelor party, culminating in his ridiculous attempt to arrest all of revelers, including Trunk himself. That also ended badly, he recalled, remembering Susan's stiff right to Hammer's jaw. What would it have taken to get Hammer past the fact that a woman had nearly broken his jaw in front of half the precinct? Few women had ever stood up to Hammer like that, and all of them …
All of them had one thing in common – Hammer fell for them, Trunk finished his own thought. Susan Hilton, Angelica DelMonte; both were women who had faced Hammer in a physical confrontation. In Susan's case, Hammer had ended up married; the same might have happened with Angelica had she not reconciled with her mobster boyfriend leaving Hammer crushed. Doreau was as strong as either of them, Trunk was certain, and Hammer did respect her fighting skills. It was common knowledge that Hammer had said he'd like to fight her someday – and she'd agreed to take him on. Had they fought? Had Doreau won? Hammer had been limping when he entered the church …
News of something like that should have spread like wildfire. There was an office pool on the outcome of that fight and everyone in the building, Captain Trunk included, had a piece of the action. The "smart money" was all on Doreau – that without his gun Hammer would go down in a flurry of martial arts kicks – the "high heel to the nose" that Doreau had threatened to some other chauvinist officers on several occasions. Without his gun, Hammer was just another granola sucking wuss – that was their theory, anyway.
Trunk wasn't so sure and had put his money on Hammer. There was no one else in the office that came even close to Hammer in terms of treating men and women exactly the same. "Equal opportunity offenders" he called them, and arrested them all without a hint of gender bias. Trunk knew Hammer considered himself a gentleman, but Trunk also knew that, in any fight, instinct played a large role. Trunk was betting on Hammer's instincts.
OK, a fight might explain Hammer, Trunk rationalized, but what about Doreau? He sighed, realizing that while he could pretend that there was a rational explanation for Hammer, Doreau was woman, and therefore beyond that sort of understanding. Explain a woman, rationally? Had he completely lost his mind? They were the ones who had invented make up sex, probably to make men think they'd won an argument. Stronger than most men, they could be brought to tears by the most trivial of things, like puppies and weddings. Weddings … how had he missed that?
Trunk had been married himself, and had learned that there were only two times when a man was wrong: when he thought he knew what was going on, and when she told him that it was "fine". You didn't, and it wasn't. It was that simple. Yet, he had clearly fallen into the trap of believing he knew what was going on, that certain things were preposterous, beyond consideration, and now he was paying the price for that hubris. So, things definitely weren't "fine" …
A Captain Trunk returned to his desk to consider his options.
Although it was clear that something was affecting Hammer and Doreau, Trunk had no idea what it was, and neither of his officers appeared inclined to talk about it, not even to each other. He briefly considered calling both of them into his office anyway, before rejecting the idea. Hammer would simply deny there was anything wrong, and Trunk would never get him to talk – at least not without leverage. Doreau … he'd never seen Doreau like this, so he didn't know what to expect. She might give him something, but not in front of her partner – especially if her partner was the problem.
The trouble is, if I call her in here now Hammer will assume it's a new case and barge in anyway. If I try to lock him out, he will listen at the door …
Trunk sighed. He needed to talk to Doreau alone, but he would have to bide his time until Hammer wasn't around.
Maybe if I knew where they both were last night …
It was a longshot, but Trunk made a mental note to make some discrete inquiries to the Traffic Division. If either officer's car had been left on the street or had been driven erratically overnight it might have attracted someone's attention, he thought. It might offer some clue to where they had been. That, in turn, could confirm his worst suspicions or … well, it never hurt to be thorough.
Aside from that, he had … nothing. All he could do was wait, and watch, and hope that one of them would slip up and leave him some clue as to what was going on. Captain Edmond F. Trunk was not used to waiting. It left him feeling the kind of impotent that no blue pill could cure.
I do not like it, he decided. Not one little bit.