I wait for maybe fifty seconds and reach to ring the doorbell again. It feels awkward ringing this bell, but it should. This apartment used to be mine.
The door opens and a vision appears before me. I blink, and the vision fades to real colors, which are still not unattractive.
"Mr. Jones, long time no see."
"Uh, hi, Mrs. Jones. How have you been?"
"Not bad. Yourself?"
"Well, enough, I guess. Uhm, well, except, look, I'm really sorry about this."
"What? It's not like there's child support you aren't paying."
"I'm not here on personal business."
"The uniform is not just to impress an off-duty nurse, huh? What is it, then, George?"
"There's been a complaint. Medicine missing at the hospital. I have to take you in for questioning."
My ex-, or, should I say, estranged wife sighs and turns around. "I'll go get my purse and a jacket. Do you think it'll take long?"
Watching her from behind, not-faint echos of memories lodge in my mind. Medium brown hair, but it was once my privilege to run my hands through it. And I shouldn't mention my memories of the rest.
I shake myself. "Can't tell you even that. They should not have sent me. The office knows it's a conflict of interest. I can't ask you what happened, and I can't even offer advice."
"Can I make myself a little more presentable?" she asks as she picks up her purse and goes into the bedroom.
"I want you to know my side of things."
"Wait." I recite the litany of rights you tell people before you arrest them or question them. "Got that?"
"So I'm being accused?"
"I can't answer that, either."
"Well, I want you to know what happened, even if the police office is deliberately trying to get me to waive my rights."
I'm not allowed to stop her from talking, either.
"So get out your recorder and make this official," she adds.
I pull out my standard-issue phone and thumb the recorder app. "It's recording."
"Four times in the last two weeks, I've found some patient's prescription in my purse. The first time, I didn't find it 'til I got home. But I called immediately and told my boss and the physician in charge. Since then, I've checked my purse every day before I go home. Three more times, and each time I took what I found to whoever was in charge at the time before I left."
She waited for a comment.
"You know I can't say anything here."
"The third and fourth time, I checked my purse after I took it out of my locker, and there was nothing there. Then I checked it again after I changed clothes, and there it was."
I continued to wait, looking around the once familiar room.
"The was only one person besides me who was there both times. I think you know her." She was being vague. Then, being sure I could see through the door, she imitated a hairstyle I would recognize.
Julia Gomez. The chief's daughter. The reason Georgette and I are have been separated for three of the eight years we have been married. I have no kind words for the woman, but I can't say so. Not under the circumstances. 'Gette knows, anyway.
Something clicks in my brain.
Chief Gomez runs his unit like a fiefdom. He keeps the force under his thumb, by hook and by crook. One mistake, and he uses it to blackmail you. If he can't catch you at something useful enough, he sends his daughter to do his dirty work.
I don't give in, so, four years ago, she took it up a level. Manufactured a compromising situation, and even though I didn't fold, it was my word against hers.
And she has made it more of a personal battle since then. I have become the thing she can't have, and she can't stand not getting what she wants. Now I understand that she is using my estranged wife against me again.
The chief would not usually allow going this far, so she must be out of control. Or, ... I am also one of the few officers on the force not under his thumb. He has this thing about things he can't have, too.
I go to a window and look outside, being careful not to disturb the curtains or show my face.
I see I have backup I didn't know about down on the street five floors below us. Two cars that I can see from here. There may well be more. There should be no need for that.
Then I notice the hardware. Subconsciously, I recoil.
I could walk 'Gette downstairs and keep her too close to shoot without hitting me, but I couldn't protect her at the station. And I can't guarantee that they would avoid shooting me, and calling me collateral damage of the war on drugs.
Walking into the bedroom, I say, roughly, "Can't wait forever for you to put on your pretty face. Nobody at the station'll be persuaded anyway."
'Gette looks up at me in surprise. I hold up two fingers and point to the window, then do cherrytops with my finger. I turn sideways as her eyes go wide, and do a charade of shooting with rifles.
"No use delaying things."
"A girl's got her pride." Fortunately, she also remembers we're on record. I had told her some time ago that the recorder on our police issue phones immediately transmits what it records to the station. The benefits of permanent connections.
"Okay, one more minute."
It is also fortunate that, with the phone on my belt, the camera is at such a level that I can keep my gestures out of the viewfield. But I can't risk too many more clues, and we are probably out of time. I point toward the elevator, then the emergency stairs and point down. I think that racing the elevator down is our best chance.
She makes some finishing touches and puts her makeup away. "Let me get some snacks, just in case it takes a while."
I follow her into the kitchen and let the camera record her putting soy bars and a couple of cans of apple juice into her purse, then casually turn away so she can grab her piece from its drawer, quietly. She puts it in her purse, too.
Why a nurse needs a handgun may be beyond some people, but she has been the target of stalkers in the past, including the recent past. I'm not the only one who thinks she is beautiful.
She also grabs a jacket and two backpacks she keeps as seventy-two hour kits for natural disasters and such.
I lead, so the backpacks won't be picked up by the camera.
She locks the door behind her, and we go to the elevator. When it opens, we walk in, and then I drop my phone.
"Careless of me."
I turn the camera facing the wall and leave it there as she steps back out, and then I follow her. She hands me one of the packs. When the door is safely closed we both break into a run for the stairs.
But she heads up, not down, gesturing to me to follow. I throw my nightstick down the down stairs and follow, dropping my pager near the wall on the first landing up, hoping they'll think I threw it there from below. GPS in those pagers, useful if the officer needs to be rescued, not so useful if he needs to be rescued from his own fellow officers.
On the roof, the next building over is only six feet away and at the same level. This whole block is close like that, the only block with tall buildings in this town. She doesn't wait, just runs for the edge.
I follow, and check below as I go over the edge. It appears that the officers on the street are focusing on the ground floor, waiting on the elevator. At any rate, no shots ring out from below. The building after is at the same level, and we clear the edge together. The third building is taller, but there is a fire escape we can reach by leaping.
Fortunately, the fire door opens from the outside. Safety code.
Inside, we run down the stairs. I follow her into the basement.
"There's an underground maintenance accessway that opens in this building," she says. I know about it, and we find the entrance. I wave her back, but there's no sign of anyone, so we enter the accessway and make our way under the street.
Back at surface level across the street is an indoor mall, which we enter from beneath. We come up in an employee access hallway.
"Your fashion sense sucks."
"I do stick out, don't I? I think you should change, too"
"There's a Team Captain."
We slip in the back of the sportswear shop and I hold my conscience at bay as we lift T-shirts, shorts, and running shoes.
Back in the maintenance access, 'Gette pulls off her shirt, and I freeze.
"We never did finalize the divorce. Get changed."
It takes me a minute longer to change, and we stuff our clothes in our packs.
Once again on the surface, we cross the mall and walk as casually as we can to the bus terminal.
As the bus pulls out, we hear sirens and watch police cars closing in on the apartment building from all sides.
"I think I'm glad I read your mind back there."
"Me, too. I'm glad I figured out what was going on."
"What'll we do?"
"Hang out in hotels in Cincinnati and further east? Watch the news for a week and post incriminating hints to Twitter from netcafes?"
She leans against me, her head on my shoulder, staring out the window. "Well, if this is the end for us, at least we have a little more time to spend together."
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Originally inspired by a question in the LDS Beta Readers Facebook group, by Cheree Mackay Myatt, on plot elements to get a long-term separated couple back together for a week. She ended up with a list of ideas long enough to consider using in creating an anthology.
[Edit record starts here: http://joel-rees-economics.blogspot.com/2018/02/backup-me-and-mrs-jones.html.]