Nick looked at the girl
behind the bar, trying hard to think
where he’d seen her before. Long and tall, with a figure that
reminded him a
little of Sara’s but with a few more curves . . .
She caught his glance and
her smile deepened a little;
whoever the bartender was, she seemed to remember him. Nick stepped
“Coming right up,
honey,” she replied in a husky sweet
voice. Nick leaned on the counter, SURE he’d heard that voice
before. He lazily
looked at the bartender’s back while she fished out his bottles
from one of the
little refrigerators under the central island.
Whoever she was, she
filled out a low-slung pair of jeans
nicely, he admitted. When she’d turned around, cold bottles in
hand, she caught
his glance and laughed softly. “Lookin’s free, but these
are two fifty each.”
Nick fished out his
wallet and dropped a ten, flashing
another smile at her. “Keep the change, Miss.”
cowboy,” she replied, scooping it up. Nick
noticed her long slender arms, the wide leather band on her wrist; the
logo on it made him laugh.
eighty-nine,” the bartender admitted, “Although I
haven’t been back since, I still support the home team.”
Nick looked up at her,
and studied her features. She was
thin-faced, and not particularly pretty, but her eyes were big and
brown, and her smile was amazingly warm. He cleared his throat.
“I know you hear
this all the time, but I am pretty sure
I’ve met you before.”
smile faltered a tiny bit, and she sighed.
“Oh well, it was sweet while it lasted. Yeah, I remember you too,
came in to the Cock Pit last year looking for Marlene.”
Nick stared for a second,
feeling a quick flush over his face
as recognition flooded through him: the bartender with the Lone Star
He blinked, and she pushed the three beers towards him, her smile
now. “Drink ‘em before they get warm.”
“Uh, right. Yeah,
thanks—“ he mumbled, feeling eight kinds
of stupid. As he carried the beers back to the table and handed them to
and Greg, he settled back down, turning his chair away from the bar.
level was soothing, and he twisted the cap off his beer, downing the
havin’ a little conversation there, Nick---“ Greg
smiled. Nick managed a grin back.
“She’s . . .
a Texas Alum—you know how we Longhorns gotta
excuse,” Greg teased. Mention of the team let
Warrick bring up the previous night’s football game and the
to sports; Nick contented himself to contributing periodically as he
shifted his chair back and let his attention drift back to the bar for
forty minutes. He watched the bartender out of the corner of his eye,
her long sweet lines, her quick grace in lining up glasses and mixing
She wasn’t pretty.
Not by conventional standards. Nick could
see the broad shoulders, the slight bulge of Adam’s apple on her
throat. Her hair
was straight and cut in a lanky style; efficient for the job, and she
had a bit
of an overbite too.
Not his type by any
means. Nick kept looking.
Hell of a bouncy chest
though, high and nicely accentuated
through her thin tee-shirt. Implants or not, her tits looked great, and
in a way that kept catching his eye. She had a way of rolling her hips,
that made him think of slow dancing and sweet hungry grinding in the
that ass . . . there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with those
peaches, no way,
Jose. His hands could cup those pert cheeks and—
“I said NICK, what
time is it?” Greg broke into his
concentration. Startled, Nick glanced down at his watch and mumbled
“Thank you. Nice to
know you’re paying attention to the
group,” Greg acidly commented, but his words were softened by the
his eyes. Warrick laughed, and set his bottle down, then gave a deep
“Yeah, well fun as
this little get together is, I gotta get
home. Tina and I have a few projects to get to,” he lasciviously
making it clear they weren’t hanging drapes or painting the
laughed, and Greg smirked.
“So the marriage
thing’s working out for you man?” Greg
demanded. Warrick’s smile widened for a moment. Nick looked back
at the bartender.
Warrick replied. “And that’s all YOU need to
hear about it.” He rose from the table and Greg did too,
stretching a little
and giving a discouraged sigh.
I’ll just mosey on too then. Coming, Nick?”
He shook his head.
“Nah,” came his mumble. “I’ll see you
guys on Monday.”
care,” Warrick tossed over his shoulder. Greg
gave a wave and followed him out. Nick watched them go, and turned his
attention back to the table, aimlessly playing with the bottle caps for
moments; stacking them, setting them in patterns on the tabletop. He
why he was so restless, so unsettled.
So . . . horny, Nick admitted to
himself with a mingled
sense of shame and annoyance.
With a sigh he began to
finish off his beer and think over
his options for the night. None of them seemed too promising since the
women here were all in the company of other men. Nick glanced again
bartender as the fleeting consideration crossed his mind once more.
She looked up right then,
as if alerted to his interest, and
for a moment they locked gazes across the room, the tug of attraction
recognizable as a whistle, pulling at both ends of the stare. Finally
bartender looked away, her attention coming back to the patron waving a
bills in her direction.
Nick drew in a breath. He
felt a sense of tingle across his
skin, arousing and a little frightening—the carryover of guilt
and thrill from
childhood, when you nearly got caught doing something or seeing
adult. Carefully, he shifted in his chair, wondering if she’d
felt it as well.
Probably not, he argued with
himself, since she’s not my
Out of the corner of his
eye he studied her again, watching
carefully this time, looking more critically. More objectively.
So she was tall. Not
something he’d ever had a problem with
in terms of women. She had an easy graceful way of moving, and her
real. He even gave her credit for a great education and school loyalty
And still, the nagging truth bothered him.
She used to be a guy. Nick wrestled
with the idea. Somewhere
down the line she CHOSE to change.
The transgender case had
been a hard one to work; no doubt
about it. The crimes committed against the victims had been horrific
grotesque, and in the end Nick had found himself feeling profoundly
them, unlike his gut response to Bruce.
Not that sex is ever an easy issue for
admitted to himself. Everyone’s
got a little bit of a dark side to them. For a
moment he thought about his friends, trying to picture their own little
vices. Greg’s probably into
restraints, and I’m pretty sure Catherine’s got
plenty of personal toys.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to consider Grissom’s sex life, but a small corner of his mouth quirked up in self-acknowledgment that his boss did indeed HAVE one. They all do, even if they don’t talk about them much, Nick sighed inwardly. And then there’s me—alone again, naturally. He tried not to feel sorry for himself; he’d survived a hell of a lot this last year, more than most men, but the loneliness lingered. Carefully Nick began to rise out of his chair when he heard the crash.
A cluster of patrons did
too, and craned over the bar; Nick
hurried over and caught sight of someone on the floor behind it. The
lay in a growing puddle of blood, a steel moneybox on the floor within
fingertip reach. Nick pressed his palms to the bar and vaulted over,
down to look at the woman while calmly calling up, “Hey, somebody
get me some
She was coming to, but
the gash along the top of her head
continued to bleed; a heavy woman with long Rasta braids came up along
the bar, her low voice rumbling angrily. “Damn it, Starr honey,
Anybody see what happened?”
“She was making
change,” A patron volunteered shamefacedly.
“All I had was a hundred, so she was pulling down that box you
have up overhead
on the shelf.”
slipped,” someone else announced. “The box hit her in
the head. Stupid place to keep it.”
Nick had a wet napkin
pressed to the wound; already the
bartender’s eyes were open, and pain-filled. She blinked a
little, and put a
hand down to push herself to a sitting position.
“Oh damn that
hurts,” she moaned “Ow, ow, ow—“
going to for a while,” Nick replied, applying
pressure to the wound. The Rasta woman leaned over and watched for a
seconds then sighed.
“Starr honey, you
sit tight; I’ll call an ambulance—“
it’s not THAT bad!” the bartender argued. Nick
looked into her eyes carefully and shook his head.
is,” he muttered, “I know head wounds bleed a lot
but you’re probably going to need at least two stitches. Look,
let me take you
to the Emergency room—that way you won’t need to call an
ambulance, but you’ll
get treated quicker, okay?” Seeing the woman’s doubt he,
added in a lower
voice, “We Longhorns gotta stick together, you know?”
I’m gonna let a complete strange take MY Starr—“
Mina began in a slightly angry tone, but the bartender broke in,
smiling with a
wince to it.
Mina, he’s with the Crime Lab—he’s a cop. Sort
of—“ she amended. Nick fished out his wallet and flashed
his ID; to her credit,
Mina took her time studying it, then handed it back reluctantly. Nick
out one of his business cards and gave it to her.
supervisor’s number is on it too.”
asked softly, questioningly. Most of the
patrons had gone back to drinking or talking, and only the three of
left behind the counter. Starr slowly began to get up; Nick helped her,
gripping her forearm to stabilize her. She smelled nice; some sort of
If Mr. Stokes is willing to drive me—“ she
muttered weakly. “Can you close up alone?”
replied gently. “Okay then, baby. You CALL me
once you get there, you hear? And don’t worry about the schedule
I’ll get Charlie to cover for you.” She shot Nick a serious
look and he nodded
Nick waited. In the harsh
light of the curtained bay
everything looked a little bleached out, including the figure sitting
exam table. He carefully pulled the wad of napkin away, pleased to see
already beginning to clot a bit.
“They might have to
cut a little of your hair,” he warned.
Starr gave a resigned sigh. Nick noted she had little pearl earrings.
“I was thinking of
cutting it anyway—“
don’t think you should—it kinda frames your face,”
he commented. For a second Starr blinked, then a slow smile crossed her
and she let her gaze skirt away as she cleared her throat.
“That sounded a
little bit flirty, Mr. Stokes.”
Nick blushed, aware that
she was right, but before he could
speak the curtain whooshed back and a slightly older man with green
and a thick nose looked in on them.
I’m Doctor Graff, here to take a look at
your laceration.” his voice held a soft hint of flat Midwestern
tones, a broad
flattening of his As. He moved over, peeled away the napkin and gave a
nod. “Oh my my, yes, that’s a nasty one. What
“A money box fell
on my head.”
Heaven,” the doctor replied, earning a groan
from both Starr and Nick. He chuckled as he pulled over the suture kit.
now—if you know how bad that was, I don’t think your
concussion can be too
serious. Let’s check your eyes—“
A quick flashlight flick
into each; Nick felt Starr flinch a
little; without thinking about it he took her hand. It was slender and
cool in his, and the look she shot him out of the corner of her eye was
grateful. Nick smiled back uncertainly while the doctor tut tutted a
“Okay, a mild
concussion. You’ll have a headache for while.
You’ll need a couple of stitches too, I’m afraid.”
agreed in a very small voice, and Nick gave in
to the urge to squeeze the hand in his, very gently.
Her apartment was a
duplex off the end of a loop, an odd
little unit standing all alone by a water treatment reservoir and right
edge of the desert. Nick parked and came around to help her out; Starr
a gentle smirk.
“God you ARE Texan
down to the boots, aren’t you?”
know Grandma training goes to the bone,” he
commented with a flash of a grin; Starr laughed softly, rising up to
full height she rose over him by two inches, but watching her stretch
bother Nick. Not in the least when there was so much to look at. He
his pocket for his cell phone.
“I think you owe
your boss a call.”
agree, taking the little phone from him as
they walked up the sidewalk to the front door. Nick noted the
floodlight on the
corner of the garage flick on as they tripped the motion detector and
he approved. On the front door was a huge wreath of dried chili peppers
through cornhusks, and the sight of it touched him a little with a pang
homesickness. Starr dug for her keys in her purse, pulling them out as
brought the phone to her ear.
I’m home . . . Three stitches . . . . yes, he
was a perfect gentleman . . . . Mina!” came the tantalizing bits
as Starr unlocked the door and winked at Nick. He followed her inside
flicked on lights and walked through the apartment. Brick tile floors,
walls and woven baskets decorated the place. Nick eyed the sunken
and grinned at the cowhide patten sofas. The wide screen TV stopped him
tracks and he sighed with envy. Starr smirked a bit, covering the
the phone as she whispered,
think arena football’s on—“ then she turned
back to her conversation. Nick found the remote on the little end table
clicked the screen on, then sat on the sofa, lost in the joys of the
Desperados and Las Vegas Gladiators in a close third quarter grudge
After a few minutes Starr handed him a bowl of corn chips and he gave
sheepish nod as she perched on the arm of the sofa.
on the Gladiators—former soccer players—speed
and stamina,” she confided confidently.
they’re on their second string
quarterback—Menendez got carried off second quarter.”
way!” Starr blurted, staring at the screen. “Did
they say what for?”
“Something about a
late hit. Mighta dislocated his
shoulder,” Nick supplied. “
rednecks—“ Star grumbled without malice. “Good thing
I didn’t bet with Wally tonight. He’ll probably be smirking
about it tomorrow,
They watched in silence a
few moments longer, and Nick
crunched his way though most of the bowl of chips before guiltily
watch. “Oh man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to
Starr shook her head. She
was still perched on the sofa arm,
slouching easily, her eyes on the screen. “You’re not. If
it hadn’t been for
your good deed I’d be trying to explain to my medical insurance
why I needed an
ambulance for three stitches.” She turned to flash him a shy
Nick, that was amazingly nice of you and I appreciate it.”
Nick felt himself smiling
back. From his position on the
sofa he had a nice view of her long limbs, and the halo of the lamp was
enough to show the shadow of her nipples through her thin teeshirt. He
away, surprised and a little annoyed at how much that sight affected
deal—Longhorns stick together, right?”
Starr admitted with a low laugh. “Listen, you come
back to Mina’s and you’ll have a night of beers on the
“Sounds good. Guess
I should be going—“
Nick rose up off the sofa
and walked to the door, taking in
the Southwest décor once more with a little pang. Starr followed
him to the
front door and lingered there, brushing her hair back from her eyes and
meeting his gaze. She awkwardly patted his shoulder. “Ah, thanks.
have to help and you did anyway. That’s rare.”
Nick reached for her hand
and gave a quick squeeze. “I
wanted to, Starr. You take care of those stitches and I’ll see
you around the
bar sometimes, okay?”
Starr agreed. She stood at the doorway, a long
coltish figure in bare feet and low jeans and watched him climb into
until he drove out of sight. When he had, she gave a low, discouraged
turned back into her duplex. “Sure honey. Yeah, you’ll be
back when the devil
needs ice skates—“
Nick missed it by six
that evening. After turning his
apartment inside out, the realization dawned as he pulled on his
jacket. With a
glance at his watch he figured he had enough time to stop by and get
phone back before work, so he took off for the little duplex in the
the reservoir. The problem was that no one answered his knocks or the
As he began to walk away in discouragement he noticed a thin old man watering the lawn next door. Nick stopped and looked at him slightly alarmed; the man wore a Hawaiian print shirt in a shade of purple so loud it was almost violent, with big green hibiscus flowers blooming like alien spores on it. Added to that he wore plaid Bermuda shorts in black and yellow, with red high top sneakers. He was bald on top, with a fringe of white hair around his head, and under his beaky nose he had a thick mustache to match. Nick cleared his throat. The old man glanced over at him and turned back to the lawn.
“Excuse me, but have you seen Starr?”
“Yes,” the old man replied in a voice so low it rivaled a foghorn. The sound, deep and rich seemed to rise up from the highttops, and Nick grinned a little, but the man said nothing more. He tried again.
“Have you seen her
Another pause. Nick
checked his watch. “All right, do you
know where she is right now?”
“Could you please
The old man agreed in his amazingly deep croak.
Silence again, while Nick fought the urge to yell. Instead he took a
breath and tried once more.
“Can you tell me
where I can find her right now?”
“If you ask me,
“I DID ask
you!” came the frustrated reply. The old man
shook his head and turned the hose off, then looked at Nick sharply.
“You did NOT, young
feller. You asked if I HAD seen her and
if I COULD tell you, which isn’t the same as asking if I WOULD
Semantics, yes, but important in the nature of communication, eh?
“All right then
sir,” Nick mentally counted to ten as he
inwardly filed Starr’s neighbor under ‘N for
nutcase’. “Where is Starr
Nick concentrated hard
for a moment longer, debating between
his options at this news. The old man broke into his musings before he
reach a decision.
“You the buckaroo
who brought her home from the hospital
Nick admitted, trying to ease away towards his
car. The old man eyed him sharply, and gave a nod.
“What did you leave
phone,” This time Nick’s tone held an unspoken
question in it, and the old man gave a low thunder rumble of a chuckle.
state of agitation I logically assumed it
was something like that. So why didn’t you call yourself?”
The man demanded.
Nick blinked a bit, realizing exactly how practical the suggestion was
wondering how he’d missed it. The old man shook his head and took
a few seconds
to begin coiling the hose in slow, arthritic gestures. “Never
mind. Nobody ever
thinks of calling their own numbers. What’s your name?”
Stokes,” Nick replied automatically, his manners
kicking in. The old man held out his hand and Nick carefully shook it,
surprised at how strong his grip was.
retired. Starr’s my tenant, and
one she had a bet with?” he blurted, remembering
Starr’s comment. Wally nodded sagely, a hint of a smile under his
“That gal never
learns. She may love sports, but she’s no
damn gambler, that’s for sure. I warned her
Nick grinned and Wally
grinned back as he toyed with the
hose for a moment longer. He looked at Nick once more, seeming to size
“Does Starr HAVE your number?”
don’t think she does,” Nick admitted with a hint
of frustration. Wally rolled his eyes and motioned to the apartment on
other side of the duplex.
“Then I think you
ought to give her a call and arrange to
meet up with her somewhere. Fair enough?”
Nick nodded, realizing
the suggestion made more sense than
chasing after Ms Jankowitz all over
Nothing in the entire
kitchen looked newer than about
nineteen sixty-seven. Nothing. Nick felt as if he’d walked onto
the set of some
black and white sitcom—from the rounded edged refrigerator with
the car door
handle to the Texaco clock over the stove to the red and white checked
at the sink window—all of it clean, but out of date. Wally was
out of sight.
the slightly wary voice at the other end of
the line. Nick relaxed a bit.
Starr—still have my phone, huh?” he teased, leaning
against the wall as he spoke. A soft laugh answered him.
“Yep. Spotted it on
the kitchen counter when I got up. I
wasn’t sure whether to leave it at home or take it to the bar on
the off chance
you’d go there to get it.”
I’m at your neighbor’s house now.”
the affectionate sigh. “So—what’s best for
confessed, “I’m running late as it is, but I
don’t want you to wait up or anything. Are you close to the
mile—why?” Starr replied absently. In the
background Nick heard a cash register chiming.
“I can give you
directions to the crime lab and meet up with
you there—if that doesn’t bother you.”
Starr replied quickly. Nick liked the sound of
her voice over the line, husky and low, and for a moment he smiled into
receiver. Finally he spoke again, laying out the directions clearly.
He walked in, looking
around and feeling a growing
disappointment; Starr wasn’t in the reception area. He asked at
expecting a headshake, but Nora, the swing shift receptionist nodded.
she’s here—she had a pass for the morgue so she’s
probably back there. Pretty gal, Nicholas!”
Nick muttered, feeling a flush on his face. He
walked determinedly down the long glass halls towards the morgue
about Starr’s pass. She didn’t look like a cadet, and
hadn’t mentioned it—he passed
Sara and Catherine, waving at them both through the DNA lab wall, and
Pushing carefully at the double doors, Nick looked in to see Doc Robbins and David both looking over Starr’s shoulders as she sat at the coroner’s desk and sketched something on what looked like the back of a medical sketch sheet.
“Part of it is
knowing how many layers down the client
wants, and what they’re trying to feature. Venial work is
different from neuron
or muscular emphasis. . . “ Starr murmured in her twang. She had
a fistful of
pencils and pens, and switched her tool twice as Nick approached.
“Oh hey Starr . . . I was expecting to see you out front,” he murmured, trying not to sound negative. She looked up and flashed him a brilliant smile, those big eyes brown and soft.
sorry—I meant to stay out front, but I’ve never used
my Association pass before and thought I’d be able to take a peek
in and be
back before you arrived—“
good,” David gravely commented, pushing his glasses
up and leaning down to look at the artwork. Nick realized what the
and blinked a little. A severed hand. He looked at the kidney pan on
coroner’s desk and realized Starr was drawing from a live model.
Or in this
case, a dead one.
medical illustrator, Nick. And a pretty good one,
considering she’s using just Xerox paper, Sharpie markers and
pencils as her medium, “Doc Robbins pointed out. “I’m
“Me too—all I
can draw are stick people. Ugly stick people,”
David admitted mournfully. Nick flashed him a grin as Starr clucked a
on—everyone was an absolute beginner at everything
at some point, Mr. Phillips.”
offered shyly. Nick patted his shoulder, a
little harder than usual.
“Super Dave. So you
draw body parts?”
“I draw body parts.
Whole bodies, organs, limbs—whatever the
client wants or needs. It’s good work, but not always
“Hence the bar
gig,” Nick commented, suddenly understanding
things. Starr nodded, and as she did so the little bandage at her
into view. He stepped closer, and looked at it while Doc Robbins and
exchanged an amused glance behind his back. “Head looks
it yet,” she mournfully complained. “I want it
to clear by eight tonight so I can watch
Nick smiled. Starr nodded as she added a last
touch to the drawing.
“Yep. No bets this
time, but the goalie for
know you were a soccer fan,” Nick murmured. David
gave a shrug.
everyone’s cut out for football.”
Starr agreed, getting to her feet. She fished
in the pocket of her denim jacket and pulled out the small silver cell
“And I think this is YOURS—“ she handed it to Nick.
He took it from her,
shoving it deep in his front right
pocket. “Thank you. Listen, you want some coffee or
something?” It came out
awkwardly; out of the corner of his eye Nick saw David give a
and turn away, but Starr smiled, velvety eyes soft as she nodded.
It hadn’t taken a
lot to persuade him, either. Afterwards
he’d helped Starr clean up the snack dishes, and they’d
talked for a while
before he’d left, taking a warm sense of camaraderie. That
feeling grew over
the next two months. Nick found comfort in the constancy of sports and
growing familiarity of Starr’s sofa. He’d taken to dropping
by a few nights a
week to watch whatever offerings they could both agree on, and little
what had begun as a common bond had shifted into an easy friendship,
that still left Nick a little troubled at times.
After a few weeks, Nick
told Starr about his ordeal.
He hadn’t meant to,
but the latest case he was working on
brought back memories, and three days running Nick had woken up
screams into his pillow, his body covered in cold sweat. The smell of
that acrid bite of bile and salt forced him to the shower each time,
finally Nick drove himself to Starr’s, ringing her doorbell at
nine on a
Thursday morning, half hoping she’d be at work.
She wasn’t. Starr
answered the door with a paintbrush
crosswise in her mouth. She wore tiny denim shorts and a long-sleeved
shirt. Her big brown eyes widened at seeing him, and her door opened
Carefully she pulled her brush out.
“Honey, you look
godawful,” she murmured gently. Nick gave
her a sheepish grin, but didn’t answer for a moment. Starr
motioned for him to
come in, and the minute he did, a little of the tension in his chest
about barging on by, but I’m not . . . “ Nick
gulped a little, “Not sleepin’ too good at the moment and I
could sure use a
shows or reruns,” Starr replied with a smile,
waving towards the sunken living room. Nick ducked his head and brushed
the unexpected contact startled him, and he faltered a bit before
his speed and making his way to his spot on the sofa. For a moment he
then noticed the art pad on the side table as he fished for the remote.
“Oh hey I’m
sorry—did you have work to do?”
sketches. I could use a foot though,” Starr
commented, leaning over the back of the sofa and eyeing Nick’s
followed her glance and for a moment his dimples deepened.
“A foot? You have
to be kidding, right?”
giggled. “I may have a bid in for fungal
powder, and if they like my sketches I could get the job. Don’t
you want your
toes to be the spokes-tootsies for Itch Be Gone?”
said it all; Starr laughed out loud,
dropping her brush as she did so and she bent to retrieve it, shooting
affectionate look “Oh come on, Nick—nobody will ever know
it’s your foot but
me, okay? I can’t draw my own—the angle’s all wrong,
and Wally’s is too old.
Please?” she pleaded.
That did it, and with
reluctance, Nick slowly toed off his
boots and socks. Starr motioned for him to prop them up on the coffee
scurried to get her sketchpad. Settling gracefully on the carpet, she
draw as Nick picked up the remote and surfed the channels. He turned
lower, and sighed; Starr didn’t look up, but her husky whisper
came out. “Wanna
talk about it?”
Nick licked his dry lips
and closed his eyes. “About seven
months ago . . . I was sort of kidnapped. A psycho who was getting
his daughter’s conviction buried me in a box.”
“God! That was on
the news—that was you?” Starr breathed
softly. She didn’t move, sensing the delicacy of the moment. It
had taken a lot
for Nick to bring it up, that was clear, and she didn’t want to
clamming up before he’d said what he wanted to say. He nodded
locked on the life insurance commercial on the screen.
“Yeah. It was a
pretty bad time for me. I got myself some
therapy, and most of the time I’m good, but I can’t . . .
“ Nick hesitated,
swallowing hard. “I can’t control my dreams, you know? When
I’m awake I have
ways to cope, people to talk to, but if something gets to me and sleep
on it, I
Starr paused, and slowly
reached out her hand, touching
Nick’s bare ankle. She gave it a reassuring squeeze, then risked
a look up at
his face. Nick’s expression was scrunched up and he blinked.
“So we’ve been on
this case with a lot of evidence buried in a back yard, and every time
I see a
spade full of dirt scooped up, hear the sound of it clumped onto the
ground . .
“ . . . It brings
memories back, a little bit,” Starr
finished gently. Grateful she understood, Nick nodded very slowly. They
speak for a while, and Starr continued to sketch as Nick relaxed again.
settled on a sports recapping station, and as the scores from dozens of
were discussed, he gently fell asleep. Starr waited until the sound of
breathing evened out, and then she set her pad down.
“God you poor
man,” she sighed to herself. The story had
been covered in the media, the horrific details memorable to her even
Starr felt her initial horror morph into something deeper at the sight
slumbering man on her sofa.
Bad enough that evil like that happened in this world, but when it happened to people she knew-- Rising to her feet, Starr moved to her bedroom and returned with a blanket, carefully dropping it on Nick, who didn’t stir, even when she tucked it in around him. She carefully moved to the other end, her usual spot on the sofa and leaned back, relaxing a bit now that Nick was sleeping. She kept sketching. Gradually though, the warmth of the afternoon and the drone of the TV proved hard to overcome, and Starr herself dropped off to sleep.