Garren stepped out of the car and walked toward the house. He’d been told to come in plain clothes, but it didn’t feel right. It was summer, so it was harder to conceal his weapon. It wouldn’t bother him if he was in uniform. But, he didn’t usually carry a weapon if he was off duty. Being in plain clothes felt too much like being off duty. He wiped his hands on his pants before stepping up and knocking on the door.
Why was he nervous? He’d faced worse things than a family in an affluent neighborhood.
The door opened, and he saw the senior marshal, standing there. Garren let out a breath. At least he was here for the initial shift. The man had made him feel a little at ease in the commander’s office the day before. “Come in, Officer Alexander.”
He stepped inside with the marshal and saw another officer saying good-bye to a little girl. He knew the man’s name, Hersch, and his reputation. He’d never worked with him before though. But, he was known as a good cop. That’s all Garren needed to know. When he turned around, the officer seemed surprised to see him. “Why did they send you?”
Garren shrugged. “The deputy chief requested me. Do you have a problem with it?” He knew he was still considered a rookie even though he’d been with the department more than a year. Sometimes it rankled, but it just meant he had to work a little harder to prove himself.
The officer shook his head. “Not up to me. I’m out though. Officer Mackel will be by to relieve you in twelve hours. Then, I’ll take over from him. And on and on.” There was a slight smirk on the man’s face, but he didn’t look that amused.
“Right. I’ll see you in thirty-six hours then.”
The man’s smile widened slightly then he turned and left the house. Garren turned back to the marshal who led him forward. “Officer Alexander, this is Mary Wilkers.”
He smiled at the woman, who looked to be just a few years younger than his own mother. “Garren Alexander, Ma’am.”
She returned his smile and held out her hand. “It’s so nice to meet such a polite young man.”
He could feel his cheeks heat at her words. Then, a man was pushing forward. “And this is Jonah Wilkers,” he said, his voice changing, going a little harder.
Jonah barely even looked at Garren though. “A boy, Marshal Berenak? Seriously. Why would you send a boy here? I don’t need someone playing cops and robbers.”
Garren’s face paled, but he saw the marshal’s eyes sharpen. “Mr. Wilkers, you asked us for protection. We brought together three officers who have the kind of evaluations that would earn commendations. He may be young, but Officer Alexander’s name is right at the top of that list. He’s here for the next twelve hours, so you should get used to it.”
Something went through him at the officer’s words. Pride and a little bit of dread. Would he be able to live up to the man’s opinion of him?
“I’ll make a call and that will change.”
“Your friendship with the mayor will only get you so far, Wilkers. The deputy chief personally appointed him to this detail. You can call the commissioner if you’d like, and that’s not likely to change.”
“I’ll not count on a boy’s protection. I want a real cop here.”
Garren stepped forward. “You have me. And I am a real cop. I signed on to protect and serve. That’s what I’m here to do.”
Jonah turned his scowl on him again but turned away after a minute. “Insolent little brat,” he muttered.
“Right. I’ll be going then,” Marshal Berenak said. “I have a man staked out. We just need you inside with them.”
Garren nodded. They’d already been over this. When the marshal had left, Garren turned around and nearly toppled over the young girl.
“You shouldn’t talk to my daddy like that,” she said.
He studied her for a moment. Her dark hair was pulled back into a tight braid at the back of her head. It set the rest of her features at a sharp angle. He thought she might be a cute girl, maybe ten years old, if she didn’t look so severe. Her green eyes were just as sharp, and they looked out of place in such a young face. Currently they were hard, as she glared at him.
“Your daddy shouldn’t be talking to me like that.”
“He can talk any way he wants.”
“Michelle,” her mom said, taking her by the arm. “Leave the officer alone. He’s just here doing his job.” She offered Garren a slight smile, but it felt off. It seemed like she was used to keeping the peace. “You need to finish getting ready for your piano lesson. Then, you have that play”— she broke off at a glare from her daughter — “meet-up with Vanessa and Hillary.”
The girl stared at him for another minute then spun away. “Can we go shopping before we meet Vanessa and Hillary. I need some new clothes.”
The mother looked resigned. “You have a closetful but sure, whatever you want.”
“Always.” She smirked before moving away.
“I’m sorry, Officer,” Mary said.
He waved her off. “It’s fine. I’m just here to do a job. Did you clear this lesson and date with the marshals?”
She nodded. “We have a driver. We’ll be fine.”
There wasn’t much he could do about it anyway if they’d cleared it. So, he nodded and turned away. From what he’d observed so far, this detail couldn’t end soon enough.