Lunch is on me
Illustrated by Joe Zabel
Brady stretched. He had spent a long night alone surveying a nearby warehouse.
Stanley Stanley shouted from his office. “Brady!”
Brady jumped up from his desk and made his way over to the boss’s office.
“I hear your partner is out sick today.”
“Yup. He got that nasty stomach bug going around.”
“Good. Well, not good. Poor fella. But, anyway, I’d like you to meet Bobby.”
Brady glanced at a young man sitting off to the right. He had an air of overconfidence about him and way too nice of a suit.
“Robert,” the boy said, correcting Stanley.
Stanley laughed. “Of course. Brady, this is my son.”
The boy cringed as if this identifying factor were the plague. Or as if he had just come down with the same bug as Caldwell. Brady hoped for the latter as he held back a yawn.
The morning went by without any phone calls. Brady ate a raspberry pastry at his desk, then downed four cups of black coffee.
Bobby grimaced as he watched the detective consume his morning away. Brady waited for the boy to give him a lecture, but he didn’t. The boy was obviously a bit more passive aggressive than he had anticipated. Then again, with a stoic man such as Stanley as Bobby’s father, maybe that should have been a given.
The front door opened. The bell that Jane had attached to the door made a sick clanking sound.
“What happened to the ring?” asked Bobby.
“Detective Bart said it reminded him of his ex-girlfriend’s cat. Well, she wasn’t his ex-girlfriend when we got it, but let’s just say when he caught her cheating on him, he took it out on that there bell.”
The door remained open, but no one came in. At the angle of his desk, it was impossible for Brady to see who was there. And Jane had gone out back for a smoke.
He sighed and got up. Bobby followed him, tripping over an invisible bump in the carpet.
Brady stopped when he was finally in sight of the door. Then he bolted forward.
Bobby froze and stared at what Brady was running towards. A young man, similar in age to Bobby, lay against the door holding his stomach in. Blood covered his pants and the ground around him. Brady collapsed next to the young man and turned to Bobby.
Bobby stood gawking at the young man as Brady tried to stop the bleeding.
Brady knocked on the bathroom door. Silence. He knocked again.
“Please go away.”
“Listen, Bobby, I’m not going to tell your Dad. And the kid — he’s going to be fine. It looked worse than it was. Honest.”
“It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
“I hate blood.”
Brady chuckled. “Kid, this life is covered in blood.”
“So that happens on a regular basis?”
“Yup, we’re detectives. We see more victims than you can examine. It’s not all magnifying glasses and problem solving. The ugly stuff comes with it.”
Bobby opened the door. Brady looked at the toilet. It seemed clean. The kid wasn’t a vomiter. That was promising.
Of course, by the red puffy pillows under Bobby’s eyes, he sure as heck was a crier.
“Bobby, why are you here?”
Bobby leaned against the door. “My dad…he walks home with his head held high every day. He’s proud of what he does.”
“Just because it’s what he does, doesn’t mean it’s what you’ll do.”
“I know… but the look on his face when I said I wanted to shadow a detective,” Bobby said, choking up a little. “Well, it’s a look he’s never given me before.”
Brady nodded. “Let’s go grab some lunch, kid.”
“What is it you want to be?”
Bobby’s eyes lit up. “A baker.”
Brady’s eyes lit up in return. His mind went directly to a fresh, fluffy donut. Who wouldn’t want a baker for a kid?
“Then do it.”
Bobby nodded. “That’s what my boyfriend said.”
Brady looked up at him, then put down his fork. “That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”
Bobby’s eyes grew wide. He put his head in his hands. “Oh, I didn’t mean to say that. What was I thinking?”
“Kid, becoming a detective isn’t going to solve your problems,” Brady said picking his fork back up. “And that ain’t a problem.”
“You’re not my dad.”
“I may not be your dad, but I know him. He’s one of the only men in town that treats everyone like an individual. He doesn’t care about that stuff. Trust me.”
“I don’t think…”
Brady looked at his bowl of pasta. His stomach grumbled with anticipation.
“Listen, kid, he’s a detective. He probably already knows.”
Bobby opened his mouth, then closed it. He looked down at his salad, picked up his fork, and began to eat.
Brady smiled and twirled some noodles around his fork. He stopped, looked back at Bobby, and said, “Kid, I ain’t no therapist so I ain’t going to charge you a fee. In fact, lunch is on me.”
Bobby smiled. “In that case, I’ll get some steak to go with this salad.”
“Don’t push your luck.”
A week later, Stanley Stanley came into the office whistling. Brady’s partner, Caldwell, glanced up from his desk.
“Stanley’s in a good mood today.”
Brady shrugged. “Rumor has it his son got engaged.”
Brady nodded. “Something to do with getting the guts to take the next step. Guts are important, you know.”
Caldwell rolled his eyes. “You gonna keep up with those puns ‘cause I missed the kid with the stomach injury.”
“Well, I figured there was a lot of weak stomachs around here lately. Might as well use it to my advantage.”
Just then, Brady’s stomach made a sound and not one of hunger. He bolted towards the bathroom, praying to the great god of toilet thrones that it was empty.