Ashlynn Parker sat rigidly in a brown pleather chair as the chief went over her file. The sound of rustling paper and voices muffled through the closed door were the only sounds in the small room along with the nervous tapping of a pen in the woman's hand.
"What I don't get, Agent Parker," began Chief Vick, setting her pen on the table next to the file, "is why a CBI Agent of your standing has placed a request to transfer to city law enforcement."
With a mild shrug of one shoulder, Ashlynn resettled in the chair and placed her hands lightly in her lap. "To put it plainly, I've seen a lot the past couple years and it's gotten to be too much recently. I need a break from my caseload. The rest of my team can handle the fort while I'm gone."
"But why Santa Barbara? Wouldn't it be more practical to transfer somewhere closer to Sacramento?"
With a slight glazed look in her blue eyes, she responded, "More practical, but I grew up here, and I thought it would be better to be somewhere familiar." She leaned forward slightly as if to whisper into the chief's ear. "Ma'am, I ask that if you do give me the position, I would prefer that my past work history remain unknown to the others."
"Miss Parker," Vick replied, stressing the formality, "I'd be a fool to deny your request to transfer here. And because you'll be working as a civilian consultant rather than an armed officer, I'd prefer your standing to not be a distraction. I'll have the proper forms drawn up and brought here for us to sign." Vick stood and motioned for Ashlynn to follow her out the double doors of the office. "In the meantime, I'd like you to meet our Consultant Liaison, Henry Spencer. He determines if a consultant is needed for a case."
Henry Spencer was an older man of average height with a nearly bald head and a slightly protruding gut. He had a wrinkled brow and wore a tailored navy suit with a white buttoned shirt. It was simple with clean lines and gave an authoritative feeling about him. He stood with a stiff spine and a tight smile as he shook Ashlynn's hand in greeting.
"Henry, this is Ashlynn Parker. She'll be working as a consultant on the rare case here and there. She has asked that her Agent status remains unknown to the station. I trust you'll respect that." Chief Vick walked away at that moment to fetch the paperwork for the transfer, leaving the two standing awkwardly in the center of the room.
"Please, sit down," Henry said politely, gesturing towards the extra chair beside his desk. They sat quietly as Henry pulled up her information on his computer. "I see you previously worked the Homicide Unit at the CBI in Sacramento. Any particular reason you chose to work here instead?"
Ashlynn shifted in her chair for a moment, stalling before answering. "Like I told the chief, I need a break from the chaos."
"That doesn't answer my question. Why here?" Ashlynn turned her focus to the computer screen, reading down the list of people she had helped put behind bars. The list was surprisingly extensive for her twenty-four years. That was most of why she chose to go on hiatus. Most twenty-four year old women have never seen dead bodies of men, women, and children or witnessed someone murder another in cold blood. It was one thing to investigate a murder and another to watch one as it happened. That was the last straw. "Do you have family here?"
Ashlynn flinched at the question. She nodded stiffly without looking away from the computer screen. "I haven't been home in years. To be honest, I'm already regretting this decision."
"Go see your parents." Henry spoke with such pointed finality, that it startled Ashlynn into looking at him. "Whatever it is you're hiding from won't change the fact that you're they're daughter. Sometimes our kids make us absolutely furious, but nothing can stop us from loving them." Henry closed the computer file and stood from his chair, placing a hand lightly on her shoulder. "Trust me, I know the feeling."
He left her sitting in the desk chair as he walked away to do some unknown job, leaving her to think over his words. She argued silently with herself for a moment before making up her mind and leaving the precinct. She had gotten up so fast that Lassiter's chair, which she had been sitting in, kept turning long after she had evacuated it.
Detective Carlton Lassiter had woken up the previous day with a temperature of 103 and had been given explicit instructions directly from the chief to stay in bed and not, repeat not, come to work that day or the next. So, instead of being at the police station, Lassiter was camped out on his couch with cough medicine, a box of tissues, a thermometer, and the TV remote. He had nearly drowned himself in various liquids and had choked on a DayQuil tablet or two and was feeling well enough to come to work. However, having been given a direct order, he was morally obligated to stay home. And, by staying home, he was there when a knock sounded through his house at two in the afternoon.
Tossing away the throw blanket, Lassiter stood from the couch and strode to the door, a .22 caliber pistol in the right pocket of his flannel pajama pants. He grasped the knob and turned, pulling open the door harshly in order to intimidate whoever was standing on the other side. As the door flew open, his grip quickly grew slack and lost hold of it, letting it slam into the wall. His jaw dropped open.
Ashlynn stood awkwardly on the detective's porch with her hands shoved deep into her pockets and her shoulders hunched forward so far, you'd think she had a hump. "Hey, Dad."