Living dying, p.1
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       Living & Dying, p.1
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           Sarah Spelbring
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Living & Dying
Living & Dying

  By Sarah Spelbring

  Copyright 2012 Sarah Spelbring

  "It's about time you came around. I've been living here for three months already!" Joan walked over to greet her brother as he walked in the door.

  "Have I told you lately you're my favorite sister?" Mason walked over and kissed Joan's cheek.

  She grinned and swatted his shoulder. "That's because I'm your only sister. Come into the kitchen and have something to drink." He followed her through the house, at a small table sat an older woman with brown hair that was changing to a soft shade of gray.

  "Hello Mom." Mason kissed her on the cheek. She patted his hand.

  "It's nice to see you Mason. You don't get away from work enough these days." Eleanor Fletcher watched her offspring walk around the table and sit down. She sipped her coffee.

  "I enjoy my work. Oh, no sugar please Joan."

  "Since when do you not take sugar?" Joan wrinkled her nose at him.

  "Since my little sister bought a house." He leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms. "It's a nice little place though, it suits you."

  "That's what I've been telling her." Eleanor gestured with her cup. Joan giggled.

  "You two, stop it." She brought Mason's coffee over and sat in the third chair at the table. "So what's new big brother? Catch any criminals lately?"

  "Oh let's not talk about that, it's depressing." Eleanor took another drink of her coffee. "Have you got a girlfriend yet?"

  Mason frowned. "I haven't the time for women, Mom. I barely found the time to sit here with you today." He wrapped his hand around his cup and took a sip."What about Joan? How's your boyfriend doing?" He grinned at her and sipped his coffee.

  Joan had been in the middle of swallowing a mouthful of coffee. After nearly gagging she forced it down and stared at Mason.

  "Boyfriend? Joan, you should have told me." Eleanor frowned at her daughter.

  "Mom, I don't have a boyfriend! Mason's teasing me!"

  Mason burst out chuckling while Joan slapped his arm. "Sorry, I couldn't resist."

  "You two and your games. I never could keep up with the both of you." Eleanor shook her head and finished off her cup. "I should get going, my neighbor, Doris, is expecting me to help her with her garden this afternoon. You two be good now." Eleanor stood up and hugged both of her children. "Call me." She looked at both of them pointedly and left.

  Joan turned to Mason. "She meant that at you." Then she sipped her coffee and looked out the window to watch Eleanor leave.

  "That was meant for the both of us." He elbowed her gently. Joan turned and grinned at him.

  "So when are you going to introduce to me to your partner. You keep telling me how great he is."

  "Who, David? He's as busy as I am, and besides I don't want you getting hooked up with a cop." Mason drank down the rest of his coffee.

  "What's wrong with being a cop? You're a cop." Joan watched him closely over her cup.

  "There's nothing wrong with being a cop, it's being a cop's wife or girlfriend that's rough. I don't want that life for you. Find someone at your work to go out with."

  "What? At the bakery? Nuh uh. All my co-workers are either too old or married. I'm not getting involved in any of that." She shook her head and finished her coffee. Joan collected the cups and took them to the sink.

  Mason stood up. "I'm going to have to shoot off too." He walked over and gave Joan a quick squeeze. "Call me if you need anything."

  "I will, bye Mason." Joan watched Detective Fletcher walk out of her house.

  "I thought you needed to go see your family this morning?" Rossi looked up from his desk and watched Mason settle into his.

  "I did and I went. Now I'm back. Why? Did you need something?" Mason switched on his computer.

  "No, I just thought you would have stayed out a bit longer and enjoyed yourself." Detective David Rossi swallowed the end of his sandwich and cleared off the crumbs.

  "How are they doing?"

  Mason jerked his head up. "What? How is who doing?" He had been reading up on some case notes and wasn't paying attention to Rossi's rambling.

  "Your mother and sister. How are they doing?" He repeated.

  "Oh they're both fine. Anything new come in while I was out?" Mason flipped through some of the paperwork on his desk.

  "Yeah, they picked up a guy over on 22nd who confessed to killing JFK." David watched Mason.

  "That's interesting." Mason mumbled while he read through a sheet.

  "Alright, come on. We're getting out of the office. It's warping your mind." Rossi punched Mason's shoulder.

  Mason grabbed his shoulder and stood up. "What was that for?"

  "To get your attention. Come on, let's go patrol, I promise you won't miss anything."

  Mason grumbled but followed David out of the station and out to their red four-door Ford. David shoved Mason in the passenger side and then got in himself. He pulled away from the station and headed into town.

  "What's your take on all these burglaries that have been happening lately?" David kept his eyes on the road while he made small talk with Mason.

  Mason shrugged and looked out the window. "The economy isn't doing so great, we should have expected it. Why?"

  "I suppose so, just wondering that was all. You seem to be so involved lately." David made a right turn.

  "I told you my sister bought a new house didn't I?"

  "Yeah, a little two bedroom job. So?"

  "It's in the same area with all these burglaries. It makes me worry."

  David took a quick glance at Mason and saw worry lines across his forehead. "I'm sure she'll be fine. She's the sister of a policeman so she'll know to be careful, right?" Mason said nothing and continued to stare out the window. "Look, if it'll make you feel better we can ask the chief to beef up patrols in that area. I already asked once, but he might have forgotten. How's that sound?"

  "It's better than nothing. Was there anything we could actually do now that we're out here? No offense but it's not exactly thrilling cruising downtown with you Rossi."

  David scoffed at Mason. "I'll have you know that chicks dig the badge." Mason chuckled. Rossi grinned and pulled up at a little cafe. "Let's grab a bite to eat."

  Plates cleared of burgers and fries; Detective Fletcher leaned back in the booth and stretched. David was sipping on his coke. "How old is your sister again?" He stared into his drink and watched the ice melt.

  "She's five years younger than me." Mason looked out the cafe window. "Why?"

  "Oh, no reason." David took another sip of his coke. Mason looked at him.

  "Are you interested in my sister?"

  "Yes." David looked at Mason. "No." Then ran his hand through his hair. "Maybe. Look I saw her once at that bakery where she works. She's got the same eyes and hair as you do, but she's a lot better looking."

  "Hey." Mason tossed his napkin at Rossi. "I'd rather you didn't go after my sister David. It's nothing personal. I just don't want her to end up a cop's wife."

  "Hey now, I know it's not for everyone and I'm not looking for anything serious. I just want to have a good time with a nice woman. And I'm man enough to ask first." David smiled and gestured with his free hand.

  Mason sighed. "Alright, I'll give you my blessing, but if you hurt her or leave her lonely so help me I'll..."

  "Stop right there, if I do any of that shit you have my permission to shoot me in the foot." David held out his hand. Mason rolled his eyes, but shook David's hand. "Now how about helping a friend out and giving me her phone number?"

  "You'll have to get it the hard way Rossi. I'm not going to be that helpful. It's time to go anyway." Mason stood up and David followed him out of the cafe.

  Joan Fletcher walked into th
e bakery to start her shift. "Hi Matt" she called to the young man working the cash register. He waved and continued setting up. Joan went through to the back where she put on her apron and scrubbed her hands before sliding on a pair of latex gloves.

  Joan started pulling out large trays of breads and pastries and made ready to start baking for the early morning breakfast crowd. Her co-workers slowly started pouring in and soon the bakery was open and customers were clamoring for rolls and donuts.

  Joan spent the morning filling up the baking trays and pulling the finished ones out of the oven. By the time she had a tray of cinnamon rolls baked and iced they had been sold. All the ovens were blazing and the kitchen had turned into a sauna by lunch time.

  Then a new set of customers poured in, leaving Joan very little time to catch her breath. She wiped her brow with a dish towel and gripped the side of the counter. Her knees felt like jelly and they buckled under her.

  Matt walked up beside her. "Joan, you ok? You look a bit pale."

  "I'm fine, just a bit light headed." She managed to stand while holding onto the counter but when she let go her balance wavered. Matt wrapped an arm around her waist.

  "You don't look fine. Here take the rest of the day off, I'll call you a cab to take you home."

  Joan shook her head. "No I'm fine really."

  Matt frowned at her. "You can barely stand up, you're going home." He picked up the phone and dialed the number for a taxi company. Joan leaned against the wall and took several deep breaths.

  Matt came back to her. "If you're feeling a bit better go get cleaned up. The taxi will be here in ten." Joan just nodded and kept a hand on the wall as she carefully made her way to the bathroom.

  A few minutes later she emerged feeling slightly better. "I feel better now Matt, honestly."

  He looked up from the till during a small break. "You still look pale and I don't need you collapsing on me. Just go home. You can come in early tomorrow if you feel better."

  "Alright, see you later then." Joan walked outside just as the taxi pulled up. It was a twenty minute ride back to her house. She paid the driver and walked up to her front door.

  Joan rummaged in her purse and pulled out the key and slipped it in the lock and turned it. The key turned too easily. Joan pushed on the door and it swung open. She stepped inside the dark house and closed the door.

  Mason was at his desk when his cell phone rang. David glanced at him briefly before going back to his computer. "New girlfriend?"

  Mason shook his head and answered. "Hi, it's Matt from the bakery. Look I can't get hold of Joan. I sent her home early yesterday because she wasn't feeling well and now she won't answer her phone. I don't suppose

  You’ve heard from her?"

  "No I haven't. She's probably just sleeping. I'll check on her later and let you know. Ok?"

  "Thanks man." A soft click ended the conversation. Mason looked up from his phone and caught David's gaze.

  "Joan is off sick today and didn't call in. Her manager is worried so I'll stop by later."

  "Do you mind if I tag along?" David wiggled his eyebrows.

  Mason frowned. A second later he started chuckling. "Alright but keep your hands to yourself." David raised his hands in surrender.

  "Ok, ok." David smiled. "I've found a couple of leads on one of our current burglaries that haven't been chased up yet. Feel like getting out of the office for awhile?"

  "Sounds like a plan, if all goes well we can stop by Joan's before coming back." Mason locked up his computer and followed David out the door.

  "Thank you Mr. Thompson, we'll be in touch." David left the front step of the sprawling suburban house and walked with Mason back to their car.

  "That's probably why they weren't follow up, no one saw anything." Mason shrugged.

  David checked his watch. "Well, it has the added bonus of being relatively quick which means we can check in on Joan before heading back." He grinned and pulled out the car keys.

  Mason frowned. "Alright, but behave yourself. She's my sister and she's supposedly sick." Mason took the keys from David. "I'll drive."

  Joan's little house was a twenty-minute drive through suburban Detroit. Mason pulled up on the corner next to her house.

  David followed Mason to the front door. Mason knocked on the door and it swung open slightly. He looked at David who unholstered his handgun. Mason waved him around to the back and waited.

  David tapped on the back door to signal he was ready and Mason pushed through the front door. Joan's living room was a center of chaos. The TV had been unplugged and lay at an odd angle on the floor. Wires and cable created a tangled mess across the floor.

  From the kitchen in the back of the house David called, "Mason you'd better come in here." Mason walked past the stairs and through to the kitchen. He found David staring at a spot behind the table. His hand was covering his mouth and nose. Mason looked down.

  Joan was face down on the kitchen floor with a bullet wound in her back. A pool of blood spread out from under her body. Mason's face went blank and he immediately went out the kitchen door and retched into the back yard.

  Joan's little house was crawling with police officers by the time Mason was able to go back inside. He called his mother and broke the news to her.

  It was a terrible phone call. Eleanor spent most of it crying or incoherent while Mason could barely talk to her. He promised to stop by when he got a chance. David waited outside with Mason after the rest of the people had started turning up. The forensics’ team was sweeping for prints, the coroner was making out a death certificate at the kitchen table, and several other officers were taking pictures and filling out paperwork.

  "They want a statement when you're ready." David walked over and put a hand on Mason's shoulder. Mason stiffened and looked over at David.

  "Yeah." He followed David through the kitchen and into the living room, where an officer was waiting with a stack of paperwork. It was a short interview with Mason giving short, clipped answers.

  "Look, how about we continue this back at the station. I think Mason and I both need a little time to ourselves. I'll give you a call if we need you." David grabbed Mason's arm and pulled him out of the house and out to the car.

  He heard Mason take a deep breath behind him. "Here, you drive."

  Mason handed the keys over and they got into the car. As they drove through the city David took another look at Mason. He had gone pale and his face was drawn as he watched out the window.

  "What's going on in that head of yours pal? I've never seen you like this."

  Mason just shrugged. David frowned. "Come on talk to me. If you don't you know the chief will send you to see the shrink."

  Mason sighed heavily. "I never for one minute ever thought something would happen to Joan. I can't get over it. I should have been there. She should have called me. She's always careful. I just don't get it."

  "Look, whatever this is, it's not your fault. It's not. Now look, they probably won't let us work on the case but we can probably help in other ways."

  Mason looked up from the window. "What do you mean?"

  "I heard some guys talking with the forensics team. They said it looked like they were trying to steal the TV and Joan surprised them."

  "I see, you're thinking this might be connected to the string of burglaries we've been investigating." Mason rubbed his chin.

  "I say we go back through our files and see what we can come up with. I told the lead detective, Hamilton I think it was, to keep us apprised of the situation. He said he'd let us know everything he could."

  "What would I do without you David?" Mason smiled, but it was a sad smile as Mason fought back the tears he felt welling up behind his eyes.

  "I think you should see the shrink though Mason, you look terrible."

  David pulled up to the police station. Mason marched through the police station and up to his desk and sat down. He opened the drawers and started pulling out files while David settled down across from
him and switch his computer on.

  The next few days carried on much the same, the only interruptions to Mason concentration where when Detective Hamilton called to tell them about the case and arrangements for Joan's funeral. Even then Mason came back and worked at his desk the rest of the day.

  Sometimes he would drag Rossi out to follow up some more leads. It got to the point where David had to force Mason to go home and sleep.

  "You haven't been to your apartment in three days. Go home, get some rest, have a shower and put on some clean clothes. Have a proper meal."

  "Let me finish this and I will." Mason pulled out another file from his desk drawer.

  David sighed. "I know I suggested helping out with the investigation but what you're doing isn't what I had in mind. You can't continue to live your life at the station. The paperwork will keep for one day, I promise."

  Mason looked up and tapped his pencil on his desk. "I guess you’re right. I do need a break." He stood up and stretched, several of his joints cracked and popped. Mason left the station and went home.

 
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