Abbie was getting suspicious. Crane was many things, but he'd never been a good liar. And he was lying to her now. She didn't have to be a cop to see right through the ridiculously placid expression on his face.
"Why, Lieutenant, are you implying that I—"
Her brows shot up. "I am not implying anything. I'm asking."
Sometimes, like right now, she really hated how far she had to look up at him. Crane's lips formed a thin line as he sighed softly, looking about the empty hallway instead of at his friend.
"Look," Abbie continued in a less accusatory voice. "All I'm saying is that you know you can tell me anything. Your wife's gone. If you've met someone else—"
At that, his blue eyes snapped to her brown with a spark. "Don't be ridiculous. You're the only woman I am remotely acquainted with. Besides, I spend nearly all of my time at your side. When could I possibly have met someone else without your knowing?"
Arching a brow, Abbie turned on her heels and started back down the hallway. She had learned early on that there really was no way to cut off his rants, but that didn't stop her from trying.
"Furthermore," he continued, gaining steam as he shadowed her.
"Here we go," she muttered under her breath.
"Katrina is not gone. She is trapped in Purgatory and has been for Lord knows how long and I have every intention of finding a means to end her metaphysical imprisonment, even if it means –"
"I know, I know, I heard you the first time."
"I do not believe I have said this before."
Abbie halted so suddenly that Crane nearly tripped on her. She peered up at him then looked him over when he almost smacked into her, for her suggestion clearly had him flustered enough to momentarily loose some of his awareness of propriety. "All I asked was why you keep sneaking out at four. But if you don't wanna tell me, that's fine."
Crane's brows lowered as he regained his posture. "Sneaking out?"
Oh, here we go again. She actually shut the bathroom door on his face as he launched into another fit of indignation.
Crane, of course, later apologized by setting a cup of coffee on her desk and making reference to how, at his weaker moments, being so drastically out of place and time chipped away at his sanity. Abbie accepted his apology without question, for no matter how freakish she had felt growing up, she knew it was nothing compared to what he was going through.
The following day, however, she caught him once again slipping out of the precinct at four. This time, however, he returned twenty-minutes later with a smile on his face. In fact, as he approached her desk, she realized that if she didn't know better, she'd think he was smug.
Crane hummed softly as he strolled behind her, his hands clasped at the small of his back, peering at the file cabinets and office knickknacks. Abbie watched him with an arched brow.
"T'was the most amusing incident early this morn," he began, as if she weren't trying to finish filling out her paperwork which was already the bane of her existence.
When he didn't continue, she caught him peering at her through his bangs, clearly hoping for a response. Sighing, she folded her arms over her chest and leaned back in her chair. "Oh yeah?"
Crane pursed his lips and nodded, pivoting to face her with a twinkle in his eyes. "You see, I was conversing with Mr. Eduardo—"
"The mail guy?"
"He may be involved in the postal service, yes, but that is hardly the point, Miss Mills."
Abbie bit her tongue and tried to look pleasant, hoping to avoid another indignant rant.
"It seems," Crane continued, clearing his throat and stepping closer to inspect a photo on her desk in a failed attempt to appear nonchalant. "That he sent out quite the misunderstood tweet last night, and as a consequence, his bookface status was put in great jeopardy." Now the smug smile came. "I shall have to remember that when I get my own twitter account."
"You're not getting a twitter account." She knew she ought to have taken his bait and asked where he'd learned about social media, but she couldn't help herself. Sometimes the words came out before the little man in the front desk of her brain approved of them.
Crane ruffled his feathers. "And why not?"
"First off, you don't even have a computer. Or a phone. Secondly, you're a two-hundred and fifty year old Biblical secret."
Crane fidgeted at that, fiddling with the cuff on his sleeve. "I assure you, I was not a day over my thirty-second year when I died or… fell asleep. However we wish to describe my presence."
"Yeah, you were thirty-two… two-hundred and fifty years ago."
He stood up a little straighter. "That is hardly relevant. I've always been told that I appear younger than my years."
Abbie couldn't help but once again wonder if he were somehow seeing someone. "And who told you that?"
He shrugged slightly. "Offhand comments made by… colonists."
She narrowed her eyes as a sudden thought struck her. "You must've been freakishly tall back then."
If his feathers were ruffled before, they were aghast now. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'm just saying, that you're tall even by our standards. You must've been downright weird in your era. Did anyone ever try to put you in a circus?"
His cheeks flushed the slightest bit as he peered around, his expression tensing. "I could be equally unkind and remark on your unusually short stature but that would be both ungentlemanly and cruel, seeing as it is something over which you have no control. So suffice it to say that I will take my leave before any ill words are said."
With that, he strode towards the door.
"Where're you going?" Abbie called after him.
"To spend some time in your motorized vehicle. Alone."
"Alone," Abbie mouthed, mimicking his posh accent as his boots echoed in the hallway. Guilt didn't start to gnaw at her until several more minutes passed. She'd broken another kid's nose before for calling her short, and she'd obviously struck a soft spot on Crane, as well, even if she hadn't meant to.
It was their second argument in as many days. Why was she being so antagonistic? Granted, he wasn't exactly her idea of a good time. Then again, not much was outside of the job. And she genuinely enjoyed his company on most occasions. If nothing else, his presence was refreshing, and his point of view on the modern world made her see things through a new perspective. In fact… where had he learned about twitter and "bookface" from? No one else at the office tolerated him enough for small talk. And "Mr. Eduardo" didn't speak English. So unless Crane spoke Spanish, which she doubted, she'd also caught him in another lie in as many days.
There had to be a woman. Why else would he be sneaking? How else would he be gaining such cultural insights?
Sighing, Abbie decided that if he didn't want to tell her, she didn't want to know. Realizing that M&M's would be novel enough to keep him gushing about them for hours, she bought a pack at the vending machine then took them out to the car.
Crane was sitting in the passenger's seat, and as he noticed her approach, narrowed his eyes and grew stiff before rolling down his window.
"Everything okay?" Abbie asked.
"Yes," Crane replied, though like a dog, only looked at her surreptitiously.
"Here." She held out the brown bag. "They're called M&Ms."
"I don't know, just take them, ok? I'm sorry I poked fun at your height."
Crane set his jaw and ignored her for a few more moments before slowly meeting her gaze, lower than her for once. "I should not have retaliated by mentioning yours, Lieutenant."
She shrugged. "I get it. Really."
Abbie held out the candy and he took the package with a small smile that gave her one of her own.
His smile grew. "Always, Miss Mills."
"Mr. Crane?" a disembodied female voice asked from the speakers.
Abbie frowned as Crane winced. "Is that On Star?"
"Mr. Crane?" the voice repeated.
"Thank you, Miss Yolanda," he all-but shouted at the dashboard. "But I must take my leave."
"Who the hell is Yolanda?" Abbie snapped.
The speakers chimed as Yolanda cut off the connection. Crane sighed. "An acquaintance. An… incorporeal acquaintance."
Abbie eyed him skeptically for several seconds. "Uh-huh."
Crane crinkled the M&Ms as he felt the package. "Thank you for the sweets."
"This is where you've been going? Every afternoon?"
He shrugged a little, refusing to meet her gaze. "Miss Yolanda begins her shift at four."
"Are you abusing my On Star?"
"Absolutely not." He faced her with wild eyes. "I haven't an ill word to say about that woman. She has helped me immensely."
Abbie rolled her eyes at his literal interpretation. "So this is it? Where you've been getting your information about Facebook and twitter and toilet paper?"
"It was not in commercial use until 1883."
She scrunched up her face. "Did I really need to know that?"
"I don't mean to be indecent, but sometimes I have questions."
"About what?" Then again, if they had anything to do with the direction the conversation just turned, she didn't want to know. "You know what? Never mind." She turned to walk away.
"I just wanted to…" He sighed as she stopped in her tracks and faced him.
Crane looked rather awkward. "For you to see me more as an equal. A peer. A colleague. Instead of some…" He gestured erratically with his free hand. "Displaced oddity who needs constant supervision." He paused to sigh before meeting her gaze once more. "It isn't fair to you and I fear I will wear your kindness thin."
For a moment, Abbie was speechless. The man had turned to On Star to get information for fear that he was burdening her. Not for the first time, she was struck by how considerate he was. "Crane," she began softly, closing the gap between them. "You could never do that. And I'm happy to help. I really am. We're in this together and nothing can change that. I won't pretend to know how or why, but I'm glad it's you."
Reaching through the window, she smiled and squeezed his shoulder. The smile he returned was sheepish. "Thank you kindly, Abigail."
He held up the M&Ms and made a show of tearing the package open, only to startle as a car alarm went off, sending the colorful chocolates all over the floor.
Abbie was flicking wayward M&Ms out of her car for a week. And then there was the embarrassing incident where several that had been smashed in the crevice of the passenger seat got melted onto the tails of Crane's coat and he insisted on announcing to passerby that it was "not excrement!"
After their talk, there were no more four-o-clock On Star visits, for which Abbie was thankful. Yet as she watched Crane spin about in his own wheelie chair while she once again filled out a mindless form, she realized that it might be good for him to interact with a wider variety of people. After all, there was only so much she could teach him.
Just then, there was a knock on the door before Captain Irving stuck his head inside. His eyes darted from Abbie to the man who ignored him and continued to spin, which Abbie knew was some sort of intentional attempt to undermine the other man's authority.
"Crane?" Irving asked. "Someone here to see you."
The wheelie chair immediately stopped spinning as Crane straightened. "I beg your pardon?"
"Captain?" Abbie asked.
Captain Irving shrugged. "Don't know, don't care. I'm showing her in."
The older man ducked back out, leaving the two to exchange nearly identical looks of utter confusion. Before either could ask a question, however, a large, poorly-dressed woman who was clearly trying too hard, like, black bra and thin, pink tank top too hard, stepped in.
Abbie furrowed her brow and rose at the same time Crane did. "Can I help you?"
The woman looked between Abbie and Crane with confusion before her eyes settled on the tall, thin man. "You disappeared," she whispered.
Crane arched an elegant brow. "I'm sorry?"
"I was worried," the portly woman continued, her eyes so slathered with smoky eye shadow that they looked bruised. "I know it was unethical, and maybe illegal," she added as an afterthought with a look at Abbie, "but I downloaded your GPS info."
Crane mouthed "GPS" as his confusion only intensified.
Abbie parted her lips to ask the woman who she was when she was cut off with a gushed, "You look exactly as I imagined you to. Tall, dark, and handsome. And British. You can't forget British."
"There must be some mistake," Crane ventured. "Firstly, I am a United States citizen – and did you say imagined?"
"Oh God," Abbie whispered, closing her eyes as the reality of their situation hit her. Crane shot her a worried glance as she sank back down into her chair.
"It's me," the woman said with a bright smile, as if those two words would clarify everything. At Crane's further look of confusion, she flapped her arms. "Yolanda."
Abbie couldn't hide her smirk at the way Crane's face blanched as realization froze him to the spot.
Please share your thoughts! And if you enjoyed my writing, please check out my debut novel, Darkling, on Amazon under my pen name K.M. Rice :)