"This isn't an office," Squeaks remarked, gazing about the crowded room, "This is a closet."
File folders were scattered everywhere, along with evidence bags, spare handcuffs, and a pile of audio and video tapes. Faded messages with "Urgent!" stamped in red across them were strewn across the lone desk, collecting dust alongside a stack of notepads and an ancient computer.
"Yeah, well, what can I say, I hate paperwork," Ferdia replied, picking her way through boxes of files to sit in front of the computer. Waking the computer from sleep mode, she picked up the nearest notebook, dusted it off, and began typing.
Squeaks cocked his head to the side, arching an eyebrow and sending her a quizzical look. She returned his stare. "What? I haven't done any paperwork for months, and no one else's been here to do it either. It's barely noon, it's Tuesday, and I've already managed to reduce my weekly squad car to a smoldering hole in the ground. So unless you can find us a set of wheels, we do paperwork."
Squeaks looked around the office. It did look as if no one had done any paperwork in a while. A long while. Wrinkling his nose at the thought of doing paperwork the entire week, he stared at a box of crime scene photos for a while, deep in thought, then turned and left the office.
Ferdia slouched down across the desk, propping her head up with her left hand and stabbing at the keys on the keyboard with her right. She glanced up as her new partner departed. "Figures," she muttered, "I wouldn't want to do paperwork my first day either."
An hour later she was still slouched at the keyboard, working on her fifth report. On a case so old it was due in court Friday. She was certain the district attorney was delighted with her to no end for taking so long to finish it. An open-and-shut case, she had passed her field notes along to a rookie, who had generated the initial report, but she needed to do the official report. She smiled tiredly as she hit the print key. Surely several of those "Urgent!" notices on the desk were from said attorney. Didn't he realize she had better things to do than sit around and type a nice legalese report?
She looked up, having heard a faint jangling sound over the whir of the printer, to see Squeaks leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded, with a smug expression on his face.
"What?" she asked, raising an eyebrow and trying to place the source of the jangle. He tapped his fingers, producing the sound again. She grinned as she saw the keys dangling in his hand.
"Squeaks, my opinion of you just went up a notch," she said, eyes twinkling mischievously. Grabbing a handful of dockets on the desk, she jumped out of the chair and ran out the door. "Let's go!"
They jogged to the garage, where Ferdia slowed to let Squeaks locate the car. "Mind telling me just how you got those?" she asked as he unlocked the prowler.
"Hey, they have you down as already having a car out. They don't even have me on the list," he grinned.
Ferdia frowned as he got into the driver's seat, then shook her head and climbed into the passenger side. It wouldn't hurt to let him drive. After all, he had managed to get the car, saving her from countless hours of paperwork. And she needed to read the dockets she carried, new cases she hadn't started yet. Let him drive.
The squad car sped down the left lane of the highway, traveling twenty mph above the limit and enticing quite a few motorists to do at least ten over as well, to the delight of those waiting in speed traps ahead. To their left, the sun was setting, slowly painting the landscape in reds and blues as workers flocked home for the day.
Inside the speeding car, Ferdia leafed through the remaining dockets. She had to admit, they'd gotten a lot done. Five of the cases had been such simple open-and-shuts that she still couldn't figure out why they'd been assigned to her. Three others had been reclassified as suicides and dropped after autopsy results had come in later that afternoon. And two more had turned out to be, in fact, the same case. Which left them with just one more case.
All in all, a pretty successful - if boring - day, she thought, madly typing reports to the other ten cases on the laptop they had found under the seat. As she began faxing them back to headquarters, she made a mental note to find out who usually used this car. A laptop and a fax in a squad car were worth showing up early for.
The car sped up slightly. "How far above the limit are they?" she asked. The two were still testing each other's limits, and while Ferdia was glad to see her new partner enjoyed the "cops' privilege" of driving above the limit, she didn't want him to be one of those cops that pulled people over for doing 5 more than the limit.
Squeaks gestured toward a small two-door coupe accelerating down the merge lane. "Ten, maybe twenty an hour more than we are."
Oh. Well, that was certainly fast enough to warrant a ticket in her book. "Make sure you've painted them before you hit the sirens," she advised, glancing up at the speeding coupe. ~Thirty over the limit, eh? Ah, the things people will do to make it to a ball game on time...~
"Paint them?" Squeaks asked, reaching to turn the sirens on.
She grabbed his wrist, pressing a button on the radar device marked 'trace'. "The radar traces the speeder and beeps once it's got a definite speed and a snapshot of the offending vehicle. It's so we have proof that people were going as fast as we say they were when they take their tickets to court."
As if to accentuate her point, the radar beeped twice. Releasing his wrist, she leaned back and enjoyed the acceleration as the car leapt forward, lights flashing and sirens blaring.
The lane ahead of them emptied in an uncharacteristically short amount of time, due either to the fact that everyone could see which car the police were after, or that everyone had been speeding for the past half-hour and now no one wanted to get pulled over.
The coupe ahead noticed the sirens, slowed considerably, and, after driving in the right lane with the squad car right up on their bumper for five minutes, gave up and pulled over. The coupe's occupant just kept alternately shaking their head and banging it on the steering wheel.
"Yeah, buddy, you're gonna be really late for that game now," Ferdia chuckled. She couldn't help it. Playoffs or not, thirty above was pushing it. If you wanted to make it on time, you punched out early or called a heli-cab. You did not go thirty above the limit. "Say, Squeaks, you want to go give him his ticket before he sets off his airbag?"
"Now, that would be an interesting thing to see," he commented, getting out of the car. She smiled and gave a short, dry laugh. Another two points for the newbie: he had a sense of humor, and he wasn't going to make her ticket someone he pulled over just because she was in the passenger seat.
Squeaks walked up to the coupe. "License and registration?" he asked the driver.
The yellow bird handed him the documentation. "Hey, you're new, aren't you?" he asked, rubbing his forehead and looking at the mouse. "Nice tattoo," he added.
Squeaks grunted a reply. This world's residents all mistook his SpaceFleet rank insignia as a tattoo. He looked at the bird's license: Ed Kiwi. He shook his head, walking back to the squad car to do a trace on the car.
"Hey, is that Ferdia?" Ed asked as the mouse returned. He craned his neck around, looking at the blue bird in the passenger side of the squad car. "Hey, yeah, it is! Cool! So, uh, I guess that makes you her new partner, huh? Wow. I thought they just decided it was easier to just sorta let her go off alone so she wouldn't keep getting her partners sent to the intensive care unit and..."
Squeaks raised an eyebrow as the kiwi rambled on, writing a ticket for slightly less than the maximum fine allowed. Ed's record showed he was routinely stopped for speeding, especially on game nights; however, the bird's tone and revelations told him his new partner usually took on much more...interesting...cases than the day's dockets.
He handed Ed the ticket, waved him off, and strode back to the prowler.
"You know, that guy had a lot of interesting things to say about you," Squeaks quipped, getting back into the prowler.
"Forget him. We've got a robbery at fourth and third, suspects heading our way," She twisted around in the seat, scanning the approaching cars for the getaway vehicle as Squeaks pulled off the shoulder --
--and was immediately struck by a beat-up four-door that had whipped around a station wagon in the middle lane to pass on the right. The jolt of the impact pushed the prowler back onto the shoulder, sideswiping Ed's coupe as Ed sat, frozen in shock.
Quickly regaining control of the swerving squad car, Squeaks hit the sirens and cut sharply onto the highway again, speeding after the fleeing vehicle.
"This is car 54," Ferdia announced over the radio, "we have a visual on the suspect. He's traveling north on ninety-fi-" she broke off, ducking as a stream of bullets bounced off the hood, cracking the windshield.
Squeaks had caught up to the gray four-door, keeping about a car-length behind it as it swerved across the road, weaving in and out of traffic and drivers that were desperately trying to stay away from the chase. Frustrated at the badge following them so closely, several of the four-door's occupants had begun firing on their pursuer.
Ferdia ducked again as another stream hit the windshield, breaking through in some places and ripping through her seat's upholstery. "Fine. They want to play that way, I'm all for it."
"All for what?" Squeaks asked as his partner rolled down her window, gun drawn.
"Just try to keep 'er steady, okay?" Ferdia replied, unfastening her seatbelt and leaning out the window.
The starling at the wheel flinched as a round hit his car. The two rats in the back seat looked startled as well. "She's shooting at us," one of them managed.
"Of course she's shooting at us, idiot!" The rat next to him yelled, "She's a cop!" He turned to loose another round at the squad car, but managed to fire only two or three shots before the cop returned fire. He let out a sharp yelp of pain as a bullet knocked his Magnum out of his grip, tearing through the gun and into his hand as it did so.
The first rat swore as he got a good look at the wound, then ducked as another round hit the car. Something dawned on him. "She's shooting at our tires!"
Ferdia ducked back into the car as bullets hit the rearview mirror, leaning out again to return fire as the shooter stopped to reload. The car's right tire burst as her bullet found its mark, and the gray four-door swerved out of control for a moment, its driver fighting for control.
"Squeaks! Pull off to their left!" she yelled.
"Going for their left tire now?"
She motioned to the grass divider between the north- and south-bound lanes. "I'd rather knock them into that ditch than across three lanes of traffic."
The gray car rocked as bullets pockmarked its worn sheet metal. "Told ya she's goin' for our tires!" the rat yelled, as the starling started firing at the pursuing car as well.
Their left front tire burst, sending the already-out-of-control car into a counter-clockwise spin. It swerved across the lane toward the divide, avoiding being broad-sided by the prowler only as another bullet punctured the rear tire. The force of its impact pushed the rear of the car in the opposite direction just as the prowler slammed into it, pushing the gray car rear-first into the grass.
Ferdia jumped out of the car, locking a fresh clip into her piece as she knelt on one knee and aimed at the battered gray car, using the battered front bumper as a shield.
"Police! You're all under arrest! Come out with your hands up!" she yelled.
Her only response was Squeaks, who slid out the passenger side. "Not to rain on your parade, but they all look like they're out cold," he observed.
"Figures," she sighed, then got a confused look on her face. "Hey, if they're out, why'd you come out my door?"
"Mine's jammed," he replied, creeping toward the battered car, "cover me."
"Such faith in your observations," she commented, fixing her attention on the car's occupants. The black starling was slumped across the wheel; only one of the two rats was visible, slouched in the seat.
Squeaks crept up to the car, gun drawn, and looked in the back window. Satisfied, he opened the door, allowing the rats to spill out. Glancing at the starling, he knelt, checking the rats' vital signs. Looking up, he nodded at Ferdia, who reached back into the prowler and radioed in that they had captured the suspects.
Fifteen minutes later, two squad cars and an ambulance pulled up, spilling paramedics and more officers onto the scene. Crime photographers and fingerprint dusters volleyed with the paramedics for access to the gray car.
"No, no, hey!" Ferdia yelled to one of the EMT's, "Just that one! The other two're fine!"
"Fine? They're unconscious!"
"They can wake up at the precinct. They're not hurt bad enough to take 'em directly to the hospital," she replied, cuffing the starling and one of the rats. The other rat's hand was bleeding rather heavily; the EMT's could take care of him. "Besides, we have to stick around here for a while. If these two wake up feeling poorly we'll hand 'em off to you guys."
She shut the two unconscious crooks in the prowler's backseat, turning to the cops working on the suspects' car. "You guys find anything yet?"
One of them paused in his work to look at first her, then Squeaks, then her again. "Well, the money they stole was in the back with the rats, as well as the guns we suspect were used in the heist." He paused, looking at their battered squad car, then continued. "They give you two much trouble?"
"Nah. Whatever makes you think that?" This came from her partner.
The cop didn't recognize the mouse. ~Must be new.~ "Good point, your car's still in one piece," he commented, drawing a scowl from Ferdia.
"Well, hurry it up, can you? It's getting dark," she said.
"It should be, it's past eight. And I'll move at my own pace, thank you very much. I'm already missing the game thanks to you guys."
Ferdia looked as if she wanted to argue, then paused, as if remembering something. "Aw, crud!" she yelled, smacking her forehead, "I never booked those punks from this morning! Chief's gonna kill me!"
She took off in the direction of their prowler, Squeaks following at her heels. "Just send everything down to 42nd when you're done!" she called over her shoulder.
********** Chapter 2 / Chapter 4 / Back to Car 54 Index