Monday, August 16, 2010

Law and Ardor by Jack Greene

“We have a possible 62R in progress.” The dispatcher’s voice crackled over the radio, and she gave the address of the home burglary.


Officer James Madison grabbed the handset. “Unit 30 here. I’m real close, I’ll get over there.”

The neighborhood was situated near the university and usually quiet this time of year; most students had gone for the summer. He was on his own tonight, and he accelerated toward the destination.

He kept his eyes peeled for any suspicious activity as he approached. He double-checked the address as he pulled up to a no-parking zone in front of the building. He radioed his location in before getting out. The building looked like a single house that had been subdivided into apartments. He headed for the front door, but before he could knock it swung open. He braced himself, his hand near his gun, but the person inside was definitely no threat.

“Oh, thank God you got here!”

The boy looked no older than twenty, and despite the cool weather he wore only tiny black briefs. He was slender and pale—not quite skinny, but it was clear he hadn’t done much working out. His dark brown hair currently stuck up in every direction, and his eyes widened.

“Were you the one who called 911?” James asked, trying not to appear too threatening. The poor boy looked scared to death.

“Yes! Did you see him?” he demanded.

“See who?”

“The guy! The guy who was in my apartment!” The boy’s teeth began to chatter.

“I didn’t see anyone. Look, why don’t you get inside and I’ll take a look around, okay?” James tried for a soothing tone.

The boy shook his head. “No, don’t wanna be alone. He was right in my fucking bedroom!” James could recognize the rising note of hysteria in the boy’s voice.

“Okay, okay. You can come, just stay back in case we see someone.” After a moment’s thought, he shrugged off his jacket and held it out to the boy. “Wear this.”

The boy’s eyes widened even more, and James felt his gaze on him for the first time. “Oh, I can’t, you’ll be cold...”

“No, I’ll be fine. You, on the other hand, are going to catch pneumonia like that.” James’s tone brooked no resistance.

“Okay.” The boy accepted the coat and tried to put it on, but his hands shook too badly.

After watching for a moment, James stepped closer. “Let me,” he said, moving behind him to help him slip the coat on. It was far too big for the young man, but at least it would keep him warm. “Better?” he asked as he walked back in front of him.

“Mmm, much better,” he answered gratefully, snuggling into the garment. “Smells good,” he said, voice husky.

James wasn’t sure why, but that comment made him nearly blush. “Okay. Let’s take a look around, then. What’s your name?” He took out his flashlight and switched it on. A comforting beam of halogen light illuminated the side of the building.

“Nicholas,” the young man answered, following just behind James as he walked toward the side of the building.

“Nice to meet you, Nicholas. I’m James.” He shone his flashlight up the side of the building, startling some night creature that rustled through the underbrush. Nicholas jumped.

“What was that?”

“A cat, or maybe a possum,” James assured him. “Nothing bigger than that.”

“Oh.” Nicholas sounded only slightly reassured.

“Which one is your apartment?” James asked, making his way through the underbrush to the backyard, which was unfenced.

“On the other side,” Nicholas offered. “Ground floor.”

James nodded. “Ground floor apartments are much easier targets for break-ins.”

“I didn’t know that,” Nicholas said softly.

James shrugged. “It’s just easier to get in and out. Some criminals are lazy.”

Nicholas nodded. “That makes sense.”

James entered the backyard, Nicholas close behind. He shone his flashlight around, but saw no signs of movement. “They’re probably long gone. You say the intruder was actually inside your apartment?”

“Yes, that’s why I was so freaked!” Nicholas exclaimed, staying near the police officer. “I sleep kinda heavy. I didn’t hear anything, until all of a sudden I opened my eyes and there he was! I thought I was dreaming for a second, and I guess I made a noise. He, like, stepped closer, and I thought I was dead.” Nicholas sniffled a little and James had the insane urge to comfort him.

“Then what happened?” James prompted, stopping to examine a window.

“He looked at me, then he turned and left.”

“You didn’t say anything, do anything?”

“Fuck no! I was too scared. He just left. It was weird.”

“Maybe he heard something,” James suggested. “It looks like this screen is loose.” He pointed out the corner. “Is this your apartment?”

“Yeah, it’s my kitchen window,” he answered. “You think that’s how he got in?”

“It’s likely. The window doesn’t lock, see?” He reached into the gap made by the loose screen and slid the window open.

“Holy shit!” Nicholas gasped. “I had no idea!”

“Now you do,” James said. “Even the simplest of locks can slow down a burglar enough that he’ll decide to go elsewhere. There are always plenty of other, easier places to break into.”

“I’ll see about getting some locks tomorrow,” nodded Nicholas quickly.

“Good,” James said. “Let’s finish looking around. But I bet that’s it.”

Nicholas followed James as they checked the rest of the apartment. “Looks clear to me. Come on, let’s go inside and I’ll check the windows. I’ll show you how to do a makeshift lock.” Plus, Nicholas looked about to turn blue with cold despite James’s jacket. Most of his legs were bare. His long, slender, pale legs…James tore his gaze away with effort.

Nicholas led the way into his apartment, then stood in the doorway hesitantly. “Um, I’m sorry to be such a wuss, but...” He looked into James’s eyes. “Could you, um, check the closets and stuff? I’m just creeped out that someone was actually in here...”

“No problem,” James smiled. He spotted a throw on the couch and said, “Have a seat and I’ll check.” Nicholas nodded and sat down, and James draped the throw over Nicholas’ bare legs. It was sensuously soft, almost like real fur.

“Thanks, officer.”

“Call me James,” he responded, and quickly but thoroughly checked the small apartment. It was only a one bedroom, so it didn’t take long, but he was careful about checking the closets and under the bed. When he returned to the living room, he found Nicholas looking sheepish but less blue. “All clear.”

Nicholas beamed. “I feel like a baby, sorry. I’m twenty-one, I promise.”

James could tell Nicholas was relieved. “I’ll show you how to block a window from being opened, okay?” So with various pieces of wood, and in one case, a broom handle, James made sure that no one would easily get into Nicholas’ apartment again.

“So, have you checked to make sure nothing was stolen?” James asked when they were back in the living room.

“I don’t have much,” Nicholas shrugged. “Let me take a quick look.” He wandered around the apartment, disappearing briefly into the bedroom. When he emerged, he shook his head. “Nope. Nothing missing.”

“That’s good,” James nodded. “And could you see the person at all? To describe him?”

Nicholas frowned. “No, it was too dark. I could just kind of see an outline. He looked big, though.” His gaze traveled over James. “Not big like you,” he added after a moment’s thought. “Like, wider. Maybe fat.”

James made a couple of notes in his book. “If you think of anything else, any other details…”

“I’ll be sure to let you know,” Nicholas said, and to James’ eyes he seemed more confident.

“Well, is there anything else you need?” James asked, ready to leave. Luckily, it was a quiet night and James had no calls in the meantime. It was, in fact, almost time for his shift to end.

Nicholas covered his mouth with a hand as he yawned. “No, you’ve already been way too nice,” he said. “Thank you so much.”

James smiled. “I could never be too nice. Look,” he said, pulling his wallet out. “Here’s my card. If you ever feel scared, but you don’t feel like it’s an emergency, just call me. Leave a message if I don’t answer, I promise I’ll call you right back.”

Nicholas took the card and looked at it. “Thanks,” he said, looking almost shy now. “I just might.”

James had Nicholas sign a report and then he left. The rest of his shift was uneventful and he found himself thinking of Nicholas. He was just his type, and if Nicholas was twenty-one, then James was only about five years older than him. He wondered if Nicholas would ever date a cop.