"So," the Chief said, peering at the applicant over wire-rimmed glasses, "you flew with the armed forces, eh? There a reason you don't have references?"
"I see. Hmm," he said, leaning back in his plush desk chair and looking at the would-be officer. The white mouse certainly looked military, dressed in a somewhat drab green-gray shirt and khakis and sitting as ramrod-straight as the worn chair would allow. His nicked ears and kinked and frayed tail told the Chief he'd seen active duty. The inverted triangle on his forehead, however, made the Chief wonder. He certainly couldn't recall any branch of the armed services that permitted facial tattoos...
He frowned, thinking. On one hand, the mouse would make a fine cop. He'd aced the physical exams and done very well on the morning patrol, a test of judgement and deductive skills. And the military trained their soldiers well in the values of truth, discipline, and justice.
However, the military also paid $500 for toilet seats. And, while the mouse had facilitated the arrest of gun-runner the police had been after for quite some time, the car he and his instructor had been using now resembled nothing so much as Swiss cheese.
He sighed. He'd hired three rookies earlier in the month to make up for departing or transferring veterans, but hadn't had any applicants since then, and he still needed one more officer on his docket or he'd hear from the mayor. And he heard from the mayor enough as it was. He looked back at the resume. Then the mouse. Then the resume.
~Why not?~ he thought, tossing the resume onto a pile on his desk. "Well, congratulations, kid, you're in."
Squeaks' ears perked up. Definitely a less thorough interview than he was used to. "Thank you, sir."
"Now, let's see here, who should I partner you with?..." the Chief mused, leaning back again and repeating the question to the ceiling. "Hmm...Maybe Ca-"
The door swung open before he could finish, admitting a furious-looking sparrow. "She did it again!" he yelled, storming into the room, oblivious to the Chief's guest. "There's a twenty-seven car pileup on Interstate 90 North, pedestrians in shock all over the historic part of Oakley Street, and the Featherstone Theater is in ruins!"
"Now, Vernon," the Chief began, trying to calm the lieutenant, "Aren't you exaggerating just a little bi-"
"CHIEF!" A bluebird jogged in, her uniform torn, singed, and bloodstained and her temper as hot as the sparrow's. The Chief paled at the sight of her. She gave Squeaks a fleeting glance before continuing, pointing an accusatory finger at the sparrow.
"Chief, I don't care what he told you, I did not-"
"Did not what! The mayor's on the phone, Chief!"
"The mayor? Aw, jeez, Blue, it was a historic building, for cripe's sake!"
"It still is!" The Chief lifted his head out of his hands, looking relieved. This only served to infuriate the bluebird further. She threw her hands skyward in an exasperated gesture. "Look, Chief, just 'cause Vern here mentions something and me in the same sentence doesn't mean that something automatically must be referred to in the past tense! The theater's still standing!"
"You blew up you car on the front steps!" Vern shouted accusingly.
"I didn't! The Manje gang did!" She glowered through clenched teeth, fanning her tail feathers out in anger.
"You drove on the highway in the wrong direction and shot up a popular tourist site!"
"I caught the Manje gang! And without needing an entire platoon, either, I might add!"
"My 'platoon' would have done the job without doing the damage! You need to stop going off on these things alone before you cause some serious dama-"
"Enough, both of you!"
The two fell silent, surprised to hear their chief lose his temper. The bluebird scowled and crossed her arms, but managed to look relatively calmly over at the chief while the sparrow grumbled under his breath.
"Now, then, as I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted," the Chief turned back to Squeaks as the bluebird leaned against another chair. The sparrow looked flustered, as if just realizing Squeaks was there. "Who can I put you with?....Any suggestions, Vernon?"
The question caught the lieutenant off-guard. Didn't the chief know there were more serious matters to deal with now than the assignment of a rookie? "Uhh...err...How about Bishop?" He suggested. "Or Casey? Or Trevor? Or..."
The chief shook his head. They'd all been assigned the rookies a week or two ago. In fact, most of the officers had. And he couldn't reassign them to the lieutenants -- they didn't have the time to train rookies.
"Nah, they've got they're hands full with those rookies. I was thinking more along the lines of someone who doesn't already have a partner."
The sparrow looked puzzled at the remark and thought about it. The bluebird, on the other hand, caught the message. Jerking off the chair arm, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Now, wait just a minute, Chief-"
"Come on, Blue, it'll do you good. And he's not really a rookie." Her eyes narrowed even further and she again folded her arms. "Okay, final offer. Either you take him as a partner or you talk to the mayor."
The bluebird heaved a sigh of resignation, throwing her arms into an exaggerated shrug and casting her eyes skyward. "Sure. Great. Fine. Whatever," she said, turning and stalking out of the office.
Squeaks twisted around in the chair and watched the retreating figure, then rose to follow her. The chief put an arm out, stopping him.
"She's not so bad, kid."
"Pfft! Yeah, right," Vernon snorted, adding under his breath, "She'll chew you up, spit you out, and have you in the hospital filing for transfer within a week."
The chief gave him a LOOK, then turned back to Squeaks. "She's a little rough around the edges, she plunges right into situations most of us would rather avoid, and she'll work obsessively-long hours to crack problem cases."
"She's a maverick," Vernon said, ignoring the chief's scowl.
"She does has a tendency to wear out her partners rather quickly," the Chief conceded. "Just give her a chance, eh?"
Squeaks grinned. ~Well, at least I know I won't be bored...~
"Great!" the chief gushed, relieved to see the newest member of the force didn't balk at a challenge. He dug a badge out of his desk and tossed it to the mouse, along with a set of keys. "Here. Badge and locker. Go on down and get yourself in uniform. Then see if you can track down that partner of yours."
"Right," Squeaks said, heading out the door.
Once he was gone, Vernon turned to his chief and, before his superior could say anything, beat him to it. "Are you nuts, sir? She'll-"
"I don't want to hear about it, Lieutenant. Now, are you going to apologize to the mayor for keeping him on hold for so long, or are you going to get back to work and let me deal with the old dragon?"
Ferdia slammed the locker door. Hard.
~Why do I need another partner?!~ she grumbled, pulling on a fresh uniform. The shower had done her good -- she'd needed it, anyway. She'd gotten way too many stares from her fellow officers as she stormed through the building, more battered than she normally was this early in the day. She tossed the tattered uniform she'd been wearing into the laundry cart, convinced it would be trashed anyway but determined not to admit she'd ruined yet another uniform.
~I don't want a new partner. I don't need a new partner! All they ever do is get in my way and slow me down!~ She kicked at the locker in frustration.
"Problem?" a voice asked, drawing a smoldering glare from her that instantly changed to one of confusion.
She blinked at the uniformed mouse leaning against the lockers at the end of the row for a moment before recognition came into her eyes. "Oh, it's you. Got you following me already, do they?"
He blinked, straightening. "No, I was told to get into uniform-"
"-and then follow me." He gave her a hurt look. Sighing, she turned back to him. "Okay, let's start over. Ferdia Birdie," she said, offering a hand.
"Ferdia?" A look of recognition flashed across his face. "As in, Ferdie's sister? I'm Squeaks."
Her eyes lit up as an amused smile played on her face. "The-"
"-houseguest," he finished, shaking her hand. No telling if anyone else was listening to them.
She laughed, her hostility dissipating. She could handle having an alien starship captain for a partner. It was better than, say, having Vern for a partner, anyway. "Great. C'mon, I'll show you our office," she turned and headed out of the locker room.
********** Chapter 1 / Chapter 3 / Back to Car 54 Index