Authors: Jordan Castillo Price
A PsyCop Short
Jordan Castillo Price
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This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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A year, four months and eight days before Maurice Taylor retired from the Chicago Police Department…
“Honestly, Jacob. A meeting is a meeting. It’s nothing to get worked up over. Believe me.” Carolyn flipped down the passenger-side visor and gave her subdued peach lipstick a quick check. “Seriously. It’s like watching paint dry. Probably even more tedious than that.”
“But this is a
meeting—my first one. That’s got to count for something. And if it’s so dull, why’d they keep the Stiffs in the dark for so long?”
“Who knows? Maybe someone in brass just realized it can count toward your continuing education credits so it saves them the expense of paying for a class.”
Jacob reached for the handle to open the car door, but he noticed Carolyn didn’t. He paused.
“Did you talk to Keith?” She asked.
The lie came to him first—
I left a message.
He’d never considered himself a liar, but the very first conversation he’d had with Carolyn was a real eye-opener. Over the past few months he’d been trying to mend his ways, but it was a work in progress. No doubt everyone lied—to spare people’s feelings, to avoid coming off like jerks. But everyone didn’t work with a telepath.
“He’s still mad,” Jacob chose to say. That was true—and a strong enough assertion to divert Carolyn’s attention from the fact that he hadn’t admitted his reluctance to try to patch things up with Keith. It was over between them—Keith had made it pretty damn clear. He’d hung up his badge, but they still worked out at the same gym. They had the same friends. They were bound to run into each other sooner or later. No sense in being childish about the way things turned out. It was nobody’s fault.
“I’d hate to be in your shoes,” she said. “It’s hard enough to deal with this job, let alone doing it while you’re trying to keep your personal life personal. It’s easier to just tell the truth. If people are going to find something to hate you about, they’ll manage to do it anyway, no matter how you try to paint yourself to satisfy them. But in this case, I don’t think telling the truth is an option.”
“Sarge knows. You know.”
“And I think you’d better leave it at that. Why should it be any of the other cops’ business who you sleep with?”
Jacob waited with his hand on the door. They were in the car together at least an hour a day, sometimes more. Did she really need to analyze the ramifications of being gay and being on the force at that very moment—when Jacob was on the cusp of his first official inter-departmental PsyCop meeting?
Evidently so. She had her phone out and was scrolling through her pictures. “If you’re positive that you’re not going to patch things up with Keith—”
“—then my neighbor knows this guy.”
“You’re trying to set me up?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Really?” She’d said as much, he figured, so she must have believed it was true. “Then what
“It’s just…meeting guys on the force is probably not your safest bet. He sent me a picture—take a look before you decide you’re not interested.”
Jacob planted his elbow on the center arm rest and peered down at Carolyn’s phone while she scrolled. “Wait a minute.” He covered her hand with his before she could flip past—because a flash of color caught his eye, and because the sudden tension in her shoulders told him that scrolling past the picture that piqued his curiosity was exactly what she wanted to do.
She shifted her grip and kept scrolling, to a shot of a guy with soul patch and arty tortoise-shell glasses. Handsome enough. If you liked that sort of thing.
“Never mind that, this is Neil. He moved here from Boston last month.”
Jacob supposed he wasn’t going to get his way until he heard her out. “Uh huh.”
“He’s forty two. Just bought a brownstone in Lincoln Square. And he’s a jazz flautist.”
“A jazz flautist.”
“Yeah, I heard you.” Jacob tilted her hand so he could get a look at this Neil character without the glare bouncing off the side-view interfering. Neil half-smiled back at him from a publicity shot. “A
flautist. How many different kinds are there?”
“I don’t know. He could be part of an orchestra, I guess. This is one of those snap-judgements of yours, isn’t it?”
Jacob considered lying. Again. Instead of assuring her it wasn’t, he shrugged.
“Isn’t he a good-looking guy?”
“What,” Jacob said, “you can’t tell?”
“By your standards.”
“My homo standards.”
It wasn’t much fun arguing with Carolyn, since she couldn’t exactly defend herself when you nailed her. Jacob sighed and looked more closely at the snapshot. “Neil, the jazz flautist” looked like a smug bastard, was what he looked like. “It’s not that he’s unattractive. He’s just not my type.”
“So you’re attracted to someone more like Keith. More masculine.”
When Jacob tried to take the phone from Carolyn, she held for a moment, then reluctantly released. Jacob scrolled back to the previous photo, and stared. Carolyn herself was in the shot, Carolyn in bright red lipstick—with a bleached-blond guy who looked like he’d just stepped off the set of a music video. He’d stretched out his arm and snapped the shot while they were toasting each other with a margarita at a run-down Mexican restaurant, in a plastic booth Jacob never would have imagined Carolyn sitting down in without wiping it off first. And she didn’t even look awkward with him, like she usually did, with everybody else. She was laughing.
“This guy is hot. Who’s he, your gay neighbor?”
“No, that’s my new stylist.”
She tried to take her phone back, but Jacob held onto it. “Does your new stylist have a name?”
Crash. Jacob could totally see it. He had a neck tattoo—too small to make out what it was supposed to be, but what difference did it make? It was a
tattoo. “I’d take his phone number.”
“I don’t get it,” Carolyn said. “He’s kind of, uh…swishy. Which probably sounds more insulting than I mean it to be, since I’m crazy about him. But you’re total opposites.” Were they? Jacob could say the same thing about Crash and Carolyn, her with tasteful pearl earrings, him with a silver hoop through his nostril—but look how she sparkled while they were together. He had a broad smile that looked like it got a lot of use. No stuffy half-smiles there. “What’s wrong with Neil?”
“I don’t know.” Was that a lie? Possibly. But maybe it was a nebulous enough lie that Carolyn didn’t need to point it out. “I just don’t like him.”
And that was the truth.
“Neil isn’t your type—but Crash is? Why?”
Jacob caught himself before he denied knowing why, since that wouldn’t have been entirely true, though saying Crash had a gorgeous smile was more information than he wanted to dole out. “Lots of reasons,” he said, one of the ways he answered her without lying, but without really answering, either. A black Crown Victoria pulled up beside them, a pair of female PsyCops from Rush Street, and he added, “We can talk about this later. I want to get a good seat.”
“The clairvoyants are already sitting in them.” It was more a statement than an argument, as Carolyn already had her phone stashed and her most inscrutable designer sunglasses on. They locked the car and walked at an efficient clip to the Twenty First Precinct building, where a squinty-eyed rookie at the door pointed them toward the meeting.
As conference rooms went, the room in the Twenty First was unremarkable—a bit shabbier than the meeting room at the Seventh, but big enough to hold all the PsyCops without rubbing auras. Jacob eyed the other detectives as well as he could without being too obvious. Some, he’d met: Valdez, precog, Midway area…Blaine, clairvoyant, South Loop. Those were the only two he recognized. As for everyone else? He couldn’t tell the Psychs from the Stiffs. Not by simply looking.
Carolyn edged between a pair of bulky middle-aged guys who glanced down at her well-toned glutes as they moved to let her get at the snacks. It was subtle, not quite the type of ogle she would have gotten if she’d walked by a bunch of construction workers—but it was still noticeable. She had that effect on men. Sure, she might be able to read their minds, but as most straight men saw it, she was still a hot blonde. Jacob could hardly find fault with the detectives. They hadn’t been particularly lecherous about their staring…they just couldn’t help themselves. He himself was no better, checking out every other detective he hadn’t met, and wondering if they were a Psych or a Stiff.
Because with something that important, it seemed like you should be able to tell just by looking. Although you usually couldn’t.
Carolyn picked up a banana. She considered how green it was and put it back. When she then reached for a yogurt and found that it was only an empty container, she couldn’t censor the observation, “The food at these things is pathetic.”
A young detective who’d approached from the opposite end of the table lifted a donut out of the box, scattering sugar. He peered at the small hole in the side of the dough, and said, “I know. I can’t even find one decent custard-filled—” as if it heard him complaining about it, the donut disgorged enough strawberry filling to top off an evidence bag straight down the front of his lapel. “Sonofa—” he waved the donut, scattering still more sugar, and now jelly, then dropped the half-squashed pastry in the donut box’s lid. “Swear to God, of all the fucki—” he glanced at Carolyn, “er, sorry….”
Jacob pursed his lips to stop himself from laughing—because, come on. Such an absurd amount of red goo had squirted out of that donut, it looked like there’d been a props master off to the side pumping it out through a special rig.
Then he recognized the detective pressing a wad of napkins into the hand of the jelly-covered detective and realized it wasn’t just any PsyCop who’d been slimed. It was Victor Bayne in the flesh—and his partner, Maurice Taylor, who Jacob had known for years, but not well enough to say more than “How’s it going?” and “Is the guy in custody?” and “How many bullet holes did they find?” And that had been ages ago, when Maurice was a regular plainclothes cop, and Jacob was still in uniform.
Of course Jacob had heard of Taylor’s Psych, the Chicago Police Department’s only medium, but they’d never actually met.
He hadn’t imagined Detective Bayne would be so tall.
Bayne reached for a bottled water, overshot, and knocked it off the table. It landed with a hard thwack between his feet and Carolyn’s, rupturing in a spray of water. “For crying out loud,” he snapped, and knelt to swab Carolyn’s shoes with the handful of napkins he should have used on his own jacket.