Skip a Beat by Chantal Roome

Chapter 1

Rhea - Not today, Man-bun. Not today.

I’m sorry, Sir? I don’t think I heard you correctly. Did you say ‘suspended’?” I can’t be suspended. I follow all the rules. Out of every officer in the precinct, I’m the only one who does every single thing completely by the book. “Are you sure you’re talking to the right person?”

“Unfortunately, yes, I am talking to the right person. And just so you know, I personally don’t agree with it, but I can’t do anything about it. You are being suspended for excessive use of force. Turn in your badge and gun. The suspension is for thirty days pending adjudication by the Police Commission.”

“I understand, Captain Ross, Sir,” I say, removing my badge and gun and placing them on the Captain’s desk. My movements feel jerky and stilted, and my voice doesn’t sound quite like my own. “I take full responsibility for my actions, and I’m prepared to take whatever punishment the commission sees fit.”

“Listen, Rhea.” Captain Ross takes his glasses off and rubs the bridge of his nose with one hand. “This situation isn’t going to resolve itself easily. There is a good chance that you won’t be allowed back on the force. The guy you arrested, Frank Martin, is friends with the mayor, and I’m already feeling pressure from higher up to just fire you and get it over with.”

“I don’t understand, Sir.” Why would they want to fire me? I do my job, and I do it well. “We were responding to a domestic disturbance call. He was screaming so loudly at his wife that the neighbours were concerned enough to call us. He pushed his wife down the stairs right in front of me. I couldn’t just leave him there and risk him doing worse, could I?” What the hell did they expect me to do in a situation like that?

He heaves a heavy sigh. “No, you’re right. You couldn’t just allow it to continue. It’s just that this is now a whole thing, and unfortunately, it’s usually the person who isn’t friends with the mayor that gets shit on in these situations. I’m only telling you this so that you spend your time wisely during your suspension. You may need to consider a different line of work when this is all said and done.”

“Oh.” All I’ve ever wanted to be was a cop. Every decision I made regarding education and extracurricular activities was made with that goal in mind. I don’t even know what I would do if I couldn’t be one anymore. It’s too bad that it always comes down to politics and popularity, even in police work. It seems like every day it becomes less about right and wrong and more about who knows who. I’d be lying if I said being a cop has lived up to my dreams of what it would be like.

“I’ll do what I can for you. You’re an excellent cop, and I’d hate to lose you.”

“Thanks, Captain. I guess… I guess I’d better get going then. I look forward to hearing from you when this is all cleared up.”

I’m sure nothing will come of this. I did everything the right way. They can’t fire me because someone doesn’t like me. Can they?

“You too, kid. Take care.” He grunts and shuffles some papers around on his desk. “Send Cross in here, would ya?”

I’m barely two steps out of the captain’s office before my partner, Kaden Cross, jogs up.

“So, how did it go?” He asks.

I’ve been worried about this meeting ever since the captain’s secretary booked it with me. If it’s possible, Kaden has been even more concerned. I’m not one to step out of line, so the captain wanting to see me was big news around the precinct.

“Oh, not too bad,” I say, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “Just off to start my 30 day, unpaid vacation now. Captain wants to see you too, by the way.”

What am I even going to do with myself for 30 days? I foresee a lot of trail runs in my future. Maybe I should get a pet? Like a cat. Or a snake.

“You’re suspended? What the hell for?”

“Remember that domestic disturbance call we went on last week? When I arrested the older guy for pushing his wife down the stairs right in front of us?”

“Yeah, I remember. That guy was a dick. All ‘Do you know who I am?’ and ‘You’re going to regret this’. Such an asshole.”

“Well, that asshole is friends with the mayor. And he’s saying I used excessive force when I took him into custody. Now I’m suspended for thirty days, and the whole issue is awaiting adjudication by the police commission.”

“What? That’s bullshit. I was there. You barely even touched the guy. It was a textbook arrest. You were even gentle when you put the cuffs on. You’re the most by the book cop anyone in this precinct has ever seen. I don’t think you could break a rule if you had to.”

“You know that, and I know that, but apparently it doesn’t matter. It’s OK though, I’m sure it will all work out. There’s no way they’ll fire me for something that didn’t happen.”

“I guess.” Kaden doesn’t seem as confident as I feel. “What will you do if they do fire you, though? You’ve wanted to be a cop your whole life.”

“That’s a damn good question. I guess I have something to think about while I’m on my unplanned vacation. That’ll give me something to do other than run, at least.”

“Well, worse comes to worst, I’m sure we can convince Xena to hire you at Bump & Grind. Maybe you could even get her to stop threatening people with that stupid foam sword she has behind the counter and save me some money.” He shakes his head.

You know how some people have swear jars, and you have to put in a dollar every time you swear? Well, here at the precinct we have a sword jar and Kaden is the only one who has to contribute.

“You gotta admit, though, it is pretty funny seeing her swinging that thing around and then seeing the looks on her customers’ faces. And aside from you having to put five bucks in the sword jar every time it gets called in, it’s not really harmful. We all know that it’s not a serious threat that we really need to respond to.”

“Whatever. I still think it’s unfair. It’s not my fault my sister loses her mind any time someone calls her ‘Warrior Princess’. If anyone should have to pay five bucks when she pulls out that sword, it should be our parents. They’re the ones who named her after that character, not me.” He crosses his arms and frowns. “And besides, she really should be arrested for that one of these days. She’s becoming a menace.”

Kaden follows me into the locker room where I empty out my locker into my bag. I’m not going to bother changing here. I’ll just take off my uniform shirt and wear the tank I have underneath when I go. No one could possibly think I look like a cop while I’m wearing a tank top with Wonder Woman on the front.

“She’s only bothering you, Kaden. Everyone else thinks it’s hilarious. You probably just need to drop it. It’s a lost cause.”

“Gah!” He says, while shaking his fist to the sky melodramatically. “I know. It’s just so damn irritating. I need to figure out a way to get back at her. That might make me feel better. At least for a little while, anyway.”

“Alright, you keep me posted on that.” I give him a little wave with my keys. “I’m going to head out. You should probably go see the captain now. He may need to assign you a new partner. Or maybe he’ll make you ride a desk until I’m back, because you just made him wait so long.”

“Oh, shit.” He jumps and starts jogging away. “I’ll call you later to check on you.”

I shake my head as I walk out of the precinct. All those years I spent dreaming of being a cop, I never pictured my partner being someone like Kaden. He’s got the muscular body I imagined a male cop should have, but that’s where any resemblance to my imaginary partner ends. I always thought my partner would be incredibly smart and serious, and Kaden is… well, Kaden is smart enough, but he’s rarely serious. But we’ve been partners since the beginning and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s the brother I never had.

Really, he’s the brother I do have. When he found out that I grew up in the foster system and that I don’t have any real family, he made me a member of his. His sister is one of my best friends. I get invited to every holiday dinner and every birthday. His parents fill a stocking for me on Christmas, for crying out loud.

And that’s how I know, no matter what happens with this suspension and adjudication, I will be fine. Even if I’m not Kaden’s partner, I will still be part of his family. And family takes care of family.

Stepping out into the sunlight to get to my car leaves me blinded for a moment and before I have a chance to get acclimated to the brightness, someone has walked up beside me and started talking.

“Diana Prince, just the person I was hoping to see,” he says to me, using the name of Wonder Woman’s secret identity. Maybe wearing this tank wasn’t such a good idea after all. “I wanted to ask you something the other day after you arrested my friend’s ex-boyfriend over at Peaceful Pines, but I didn’t get the chance. And I haven’t been able to get in touch with you since then, either.”

It’s the hippie-looking, long-haired guy who was with Devon the day I arrested some idiot who managed to get himself tied up by two old ladies while attempting to take them hostage. As if today wasn’t bad enough, now I have to deal with this random guy who keeps trying to ask me out. He was trying to talk to me that first day, and he’s been around the precinct a few times since. What’s it going to take for him to get the hint that I don’t want to go out with him? I mean, he has a nice looking butt, but get a clue man. I don’t have time for this.

“Oh hey… you,” I say, already walking away. I don’t even know the guy’s name, I’ve just been referring to him as ‘Man-bun’ in my head, because of the way he always wears his long hair in a high bun. “Can’t talk now. So many things to do. Catch you later.” I speed walk to my car, arms and hips swinging, unlocking the door with the fob before I’m even close to it. Without a single look back at Man-bun, I throw my bags in, jump in the driver’s seat, and start it up, already speeding out of the parking lot before I’ve got my seat belt on.

“Not today, Man-bun. Not today.” I whoop, turning my car toward home, leaving him standing in the parking lot with his mouth hanging open. “You and your exceptionally nice ass are just going to have to find someone else to date.”