Cleared for Duty
"There are only two."
"I'm sorry, what?" She sat fully back in her black armchair, one leg bouncing lightly as it crossed the other at the knee. A yellow legal pad was in her lap and a cheap Bic pen was between her teeth.
He sat uncomfortably, first leaning forward, then leaning back. The couch wasn't the problem; it was leather, luxurious, and just soft enough but firm in the right places.
A little like the lady across from him. He couldn't help the fleeting thought as his eyes darted from a diploma on her wall to the glint of a soft light reflecting across her fuck-me librarian glasses.
Primal thoughts like that had become a little more common in the weeks since his incident. She told him hyper sexuality was likely, given what he'd gone through.
He finally stopped fidgeting and put his hands in his lap, being careful with his injured left arm. Her eyes never left his, even as she made a note on her paper.
"There are only two silversmiths in the whole state. I googled it. Two." He held a pair of fingers up with this right hand to emphasize his point.
He rolled his eyes. "You know why I'm here."
"Yes, we're processing your trauma."
"That sounds mighty fancy."
"You want plain talk?" She leaned forward, and her leather chair creaked.
"Yes ma'am, that would be welcome."
"Okay, fine. This is our fifth meeting, and you have yet to actually mention outright that you killed a girl."
"It wasn't murder."
"I didn't say it was murder. But it was homicide. You did it. You freely admit it."
"Well, yeah, I did it. She was trying to kill me."
"She was fourteen."
"You make it sound like I'm some kind of monster."
"Oh, I don't think so. But I know she was."
"The grand jury agrees. You were cleared. You're still on administrative leave with pay until I advise the Chief and Mayor that you're fit to return to duty."
"It is a small town, after all. You made big waves."
"Not by choice."
"You knew the job."
"Really? Aren't you supposed to be a therapist, offering therapy, not bullshit?"
"I'm a no-bullshit therapist. And I'm not criticizing anything you've done. I'm only stating facts, because you seem to only respond to me being a bit of an alpha."
He smirked at her choice of words.
"Did I say something funny?"
"Yes, actually, you did."
"Does this have anything to do with your bullshit with silversmiths?"
"That isn't bullshit."
"So what is?"
"You as an alpha."
"You don't think I can be the leader of a pack?"
"Do you have any idea what you're even hinting at with that word choice?"
She sat her notepad and ink pen on the small side table next to her chair. Scooting forward, she placed both feet on the floor and elbows on her knees.
"You have to tell me what's on your mind, or you're not getting back on the job. Not here, anyway. They'll force you to resign, and you'll be back to riding a beat someplace on the south side of Atlanta, or maybe you'll be down in Savannah again."
"Savannah wasn't such a bad gig."
"So why'd you walk away from their pension to rescue cats from trees in Appalachia?"
"That's the fire department."
"Yeah, I talk to firefighters, too."
He blew out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "How many cops do you get in here?"
"From your little town? You're the first."
"A few each year. Some feds from task forces get sent to me, working gang stuff in Hall or Gwinnett."
"The MS13 guys?"
She just smiled at him.
"That's all I get?"
"You want me to tell my other clients all about the giant scary black man who shot a little teen girl in the mountains of North Georgia?"
"Shit, wasn't I on the news?"
"A little. But you didn't rate nationally."
"Why? Because we're both the same race?"
"I can't say. What I can tell you is that the folks you work for have more political pull than you'd realize. Stuff doesn't necessarily come to light when it's in the shadow of those foothills. You've policed there for years, you should know that." She leaned back in her chair, picking up her legal pad again.
"Okay, so here's the thing. There are two silversmiths in the whole state who pop up on a Google search."
She rolled her eyes.
He ignored her. "I'm making a point. On Main Street, there's a shop. I've never seen it open. Ever. Sometimes I've seen lights on, but never any actual customers."
"Exactly. And you know what the painted glass sign says?"
"Exactly. And they don't pop up on Google."
"So what's the deal, and how does it to relate?"
"If the whole state only supports two advertised silversmiths, why the hell is there one on Main Street, prime real estate in town, surrounded by hopping little stores and restaurants? But they never seem to be open, and I've seen people in there when I've worked graveyard shift?"
"I don't really see your point. Don't most jewelry stores offer that sort of thing?"
He shrugged. "Maybe. But this place, through the windows, I can see glass cases filled with the stuff one night, and then it's empty the next. Tableware, flatware, tea sets. All of it perfectly shined and glinting under my flashlight. And they don't have 'jewelry' listed on their sign. Hell, they aren't even in the yellow pages. I looked. It just says 'silver smith'."
"What's your point, and what's this got to do with your trauma?"
"Did you read my report?"
She squinted at him. "What do you mean?"
"There were two."
"Since my sergeant shredded the first one when he called me into his office."
She was genuinely interested in what he had to say, her note taking forgotten.
He went on. “He said ‘write me another report that includes toxicology and her with a knife,’ so I did.”
"Toxicology wasn't available until the crime lab got back to you days after the incident."
"Funny, ain't it?"
"Your official report states that the girl ambushed you as you got out of your patrol car. She slashed you with a carpet knife, and her system was full of methamphetamine."
"So you're telling me none of that is true?"
He cracked his knuckles and popped his neck with a violent side to side tilt of his jaw. "I was attacked. Pretty fucking savagely."
"Right, I've seen the photos of your lacerations. She really cut you badly before you were able to get her off of you."
He stared off, looking through the diplomas on the ego-wall.
Silence sat between them.
"She ripped me apart."
He looked down at his slung left arm. His hand was free and clear, but from bicep to forearm he was wrapped in bandages.
"They had to surgically reattach the bicep and triceps. The muscles were ripped from my arm. Shoulder dislocated. Pretty much the only thing holding stuff together was some skin.”
"Torn, really, I think. It's a bit of a blur."
"So how do you explain the photos of your injuries looking like cuts?"
He shrugged. "Maybe they were taken during surgery."
She thumbed through a file. He could see what looked like glossy eight by ten photographs.
She paused, looking back at him.
"So what really happened?"
"Do you have any idea what kind of ammunition we use in our duty weapons?"
"Our ammo. You know anything about it?"
"No, why would I?"
"I'm not a gun guy. I can do my annual training just fine, I shoot ok. I qualified solidly as an average shooter in the service. I never had a gun at home until I got in the business."
She adjusted her glasses, and he could see the frustration on her face. "I just don't understand what you're going on about," she sighed.
He couldn't help smile again. "After I was put on the spot for gunning down what folks keep calling a little girl, I paid a little more attention to what we use. It's Speer, by the way. Gold Dots." He fished two bullets out of his pocket, one wrapped in a tissue. Leaning across to her, he handed them both to the therapist.
"What am I looking at?"
"Those are both Speer. Notice anything different about them?"
"Sure. One is a gold bullet, the other is a silver bullet."
"You lost me." She handed both rounds back to the officer.
"This one," he held up the gold-colored round. "This one is normal. Plain-jane, buy it at Cabelas. This one," he plucked the silver one and held it carefully at the bottom rim so it caught the light, "this one is courtesy of that shop on Main Street. I think they modify all the department’s rounds, and have been for decades. Only I believe they have a brisk business among locals, too. Real secret-knock password stuff. I have a hunch there are some truly terrifying things in those beautiful, quiet mountains.”
His voice trailed off as he lost himself in staring at the light glinting on the shining projectile.
She cleared her throat. "None of this explains how a hundred-pound naked girl ended up with four holes in her chest."
"Sure it does."
She raised her eyebrows.
"The thing is, I am pretty sure she ripped my arm up good, but I also think she bit the hell out of me. Maybe those injuries were masked by the ripping and tearing. There aren’t photos of it in the file."
His thumb covered the silver plating of the altered bullet, and a wisp of smoke floated up into the air.
Her eyes widened as the smell and sound of the singed skin filled her office.
"What did you do?" She stood, walking over to his smoking hand.
"It ain't what I did, doc. It's what was done to me."
She took his hand in hers, turning it so the bullet spilled to the floor. Sure enough, a perfect circle of burned flesh puckered on his thumb. It reminded her of when cars used to have cigarette lighters in them, and how as a little girl she touched the glowing red rings once when she was waiting for her mom to run into the post office.
Worried, she glanced from his thumb to his eyes, back to the bullet on the floor.
"Self-harm is a serious issue. I wish you'd told me about these tendencies last time."
"I'm not interested in self-harm. I just wanted to show you my new allergy."
"Allergy? To bullets?"
He nodded and laughed again. "Hell, aren't we all allergic to those?"
She didn't respond, returning to her chair.
"I'm allergic to silver, doc. Just like that girl. Only she wasn't a girl when I shot her. She was a bitch."
"Being angry at your attacker is normal."
"No. I mean it. She was a literal bitch.”
"Ok, yes, I understand."
She almost didn't see the glint of amber that flickered in his eyes, but she couldn't help but notice. Maybe it was her imagination, but fear bloomed somewhere deep inside her, and her sudden unease was thick between them.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose.
"You shouldn't be afraid of me. You're the alpha here, remember?"
She was almost sure it was her imagination when his smile seemed toothier than before.