BY PATRICIA BOWEN
Copyright is held by the author.
HOT COFFEE at the Gossip Shoppe was free to cops, hardly worth it, but tolerable with enough milk and sugar. The long narrow room was warm until someone opened the front door, which was often. Macy hated winter. It was a lousy time of year to be on the force. People trapped indoors got on each other’s nerves and called the police to keep them from killing each other. Most times the officers arrived in time. Just the thought of January put her in a bad mood, even when she was off duty. Like now.
She waited for her twin sister Melanie to show up. Mel said she’d witnessed a crime, or something she thought might be a crime, and wanted to talk about it, get her sister’s professional advice on what to do. She had to see her in person. She felt a little paranoid about relaying the info over the phone, feared she might get in trouble for what she’d seen, put herself in danger if she called the police.
Macy pondered their differences as she watched a shaggy dog outside in the fluttering snowflakes, sad-eyed and untethered, sitting by the window right next to the door of the cafe. Yeah, she and Mel were twins, but not identical thank God, and they couldn’t have more different personalities. Daring versus dependent. Street smart versus security-minded. Problem solver versus problem seeker. Hell, ever since they were kids Mel’d been pleading with her to fix things that weren’t broken.
Anyway, she couldn’t take her eyes off the pup that whined to everyone who came out of the Shoppe, hopeful, but hardly able to look appealing it was shivering so much.
Melanie finally walked in, took off her hat and scarf, shook a thin layer of snow onto the floor. She looked around, spotted Macy, waved, put in her order for hot cocoa, and sat down across from her sister.
“Take him home with you,” Macy said, nodding toward the window. “Poor thing looks like he’s freezing.”
“No, not me. I’m not a dog person anymore. Lost interest when my kids grew out of it. You take him home.”
“I can’t. You know me. No man. No kids. No pets. I can’t even keep a houseplant alive. But never mind the dog. Tell me why you made me walk all the way over here in the snow. And make it quick. It’s my day off and I have a lot to catch up on.”
Melanie looked around the room again, then leaned over toward Macy. “I think I saw some guys selling drugs in the neighborhood, right outside my apartment building.”
“Can you identify any of them? Did they see you?” Macy asked in a conspiratorial tone she knew her sister would take as support. She didn’t mind playing her game, sliding into her big sister role.
“No, and no. At least I don’t think so. But I don’t like this stuff going on right under my kids’ noses. What should I do? I thought about trapping them into selling me some of their stuff, find out their names and get a better look at them. Maybe I even know them. Maybe my kids do. God, I hope not.”
Macy rolled her eyes. “You’ve been watching too much TV, Sis. Don’t do anything stupid. Truth is, my department can’t be bothered with street corner retailers anymore. We barely have enough guys to go after the big guns. But call me next time you see them. Better yet, call 911, and if there’s an officer around just killing time they’ll send them out to check. Even if they don’t lock anybody up, they’ll scare them over to another neighborhood. How’s that sound?”
Suddenly Melanie’s eyes and mouth got very round as she looked over Macy’s shoulder. “Oh My God… it’s him! He was one of them on the corner,” she whispered, willing her hands not to rise and point at him. “The guy with the Phillies hoodie with the blue line and the stars on the eagle’s head. I remember the bird”
Macy turned around to see who it was. “That’s just Richie,” she said, laughed, and gave him a wave. He waved back and meandered over, checking out the room as he did.
“Sit down, Rich. Meet my sister, Melanie. Melanie DiAntonio, Richard Williams.”
He nodded to her, smiled, sat down. Melanie looked at Macy like she had snakes on her head.
“Listen Rich, I shouldn’t blow your cover, but my sister saw you hanging out with some other hoodies and she’s hoping I’ll turn you in. Mel, take your blood pressure down a notch. He’s one of us, a new guy on the beat, working low-level undercover stuff for practice.”
Melanie looked at the young cop, now with anger instead of fear. “Good for you,” she spat out. “You’re supposed to make me feel safe. Not scare me, or make my kids think this is business as usual on their block.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll get them to move on.”
Melanie rose in a huff and glared at her sister. “Well thank you very much, officers. What do I owe you for your help?”
“Take the dog home,” Macy said.
Melanie donned her duds, put a lid on her cocoa, and left, ignoring Macy’s appeal.
Richie looked out the window, then around the room yet again to see if anyone saw him sitting with a known cop. “Boy, your sister’s nothing like you. Kind of uptight. But I’m glad she’s looking out for her kids. Hey, I got a few collars and leashes in my car. I keep ‘em just in case I go on a call where I have to remove some pets.”
“You’re a sweetheart. I was just sitting here praying, before Mel and you came in, that some kind soul would take that poor pup home.”
“Not me, Macy. I’m living with my old man, and he’d kill me if I brought a dog home. I’ll loan you a set to collar her up so you can give her a warm bed, at least for tonight. Maybe a few nights.”
“Yeah, you didn’t notice? What kind of cop are you? She’s ready to drop some pups.”
“Richie, I can’t. My place is too small. I don’t have the time to walk a dog, never mind take care of a litter of puppies.”
“Yes, you can. It’s good exercise. Keeps you young. I’ll help you. You’ll love it.”
Macy opened her mouth to say more, but nothing came out. Instead, she zipped up her parka, left a few dollar bills on the table, and walked with Richie to his car. “C’mon mama,” he said to the dog, and she followed them with a spring in her step, her tummy swaying from side to side.
This was going to be a different kind of winter.
Patricia Ann Bowen is the author of a medical time travel series about a cure for Alzheimer’s, and Unintended Consequences, a collection of short stories about people in challenging circumstances. Her stories have appeared in the Table for Two and Stories of Southern Humor and Southern Crime anthologies, as well as in Mystery Tribune, and Chamber Magazine. She has taught short story writing, and she leads a critique group of short story writers for the Atlanta Writer’s Club. Reach her on Twitter @WoodsgalWrites.