“First time I’ve been called ‘God’,” Martinez said, his eyes amused. I opened my mouth to make a ribald comment before clamping it shut again. I had the sneaking suspicion that Martinez knew what I was about to say because he was openly smirking. His voice was all business, however, when he asked if I’d spotted anything yet.
“No,” I said, discouraged. “This is like the proverbial needle in a haystack. How do you not go insane doing this kind of work?”
“It’s better than factory assembly,” Martinez said, shaking his head. “I did that every summer during my high school years, and there is nothing more tedious than putting together the same two pieces over and over again for eight hours a day. Don’t let it get to you. Just think of it as a scavenger hunt.”
“Some prize,” I murmured, turning another page.
“Well, I have to go,” Detective Martinez said, looking at his watch. “Johnson here will keep an eye out for you. If you need anything, let him know.” I looked up, startled to see an officer in the room. I hadn’t heard him come in, which made me exceedingly uneasy. He looked as if he were fresh out of training, and he certainly didn’t look old enough to be a cop with his round cheeks and clear blue eyes.
“Ma’am,” Johnson said, nodding his head.
“It’s Scar. Or Ms. Hsu,” I said sharply. He made me feel a hundred years old when he called me ‘Ma’am.’ “How am I supposed to find you?”
“Here’s my pager number,” Johnson said, scribbling it on a piece of paper. “Just put in a 1-2-3-4 when it asks for a message, and I’ll know it’s you.”
“Why don’t I just type in a message so you don’t have to make an extra trip?” I suggested, amused by his James Bond mentality. Martinez was amused as well, though he hid it better.
“Stop by to see either me or Detective Daily before you leave,” Martinez said, getting ready to leave. He must have seen the expression on my face because he winked at me when Johnson wasn’t looking. Suddenly, I understood. Not only had Daily’s man left her for a JAP; she was in love with Martinez who was oblivious. Even if he had known, it wouldn’t have mattered because he preferred to date women of color. Poor Daily. No wonder she harbored such negative feelings towards me.
The rest of the morning passed in a haze. I had a short conversation with Julia who was supportive of my endeavor. I heard rumbling in the background, which meant at least one member of the group wasn’t so supportive. If I had to make a guess, I’d pick Bobby. Even though he was often late with his work, he couldn’t tolerate the same in others. Julia told someone to shut up, which made me smile. She asked me to stop by after I got done at the cop shop even if the group had disbanded by that time. I could hear the vulnerability in her voice and quickly acquiesced. It was the least I could do for her in her time of difficulties.
I called Matt as well to see how he was doing. He had just gone to visit Shawn in the hospital, and the prognosis wasn’t too good. The doctors were talking to Shawn’s parents about unplugging the life machine, but they were, understandably, reluctant to do so. I could tell that it was killing Matt that one of his favorite parolees was in the hospital in a coma, and I didn’t know how to comfort him. I asked him about Kayla, and he said she was out on bail, but he didn’t know how much or how she got the money. After some comforting words from me to him, I hung up the phone.
By three in the afternoon, I was rubbing my eyes dispiritedly. Despite several cups of coffee—one excellent and three exceedingly foul cups—I was flagging. I had looked through six or seven books without finding anyone who looked the slightest bit like the culprit. I knew that I could look through a hundred more books and might not see him. There had to be a better way to find this guy than to thumb through the mug shot books. I mean, what if he’d never committed a crime before? Then I was doing this for nothing. Granted, it was difficult to imagine someone going from no record to kidnapping, but stranger things have happened. If it were the father of the girl Kayla had hit, for example, I could see the twisted logic in him committing the crime. However, what was it that Kayla took from him that she was to give back? That’s the part that didn’t make sense if the kidnapper was the bereaved father.
“You still here?” Detective Martinez said, walking into the room at four. He was carrying a Subway bag, which made my mouth water. “You’ve been here all day. Have you eaten anything?”
“A candy bar from one vending machine, and a month-old sandwich from a different machine. I threw half of the sandwich away.” I rubbed the back of my neck which was aching from hunching over the books.
“Here.” Detective Martinez drew out a six-inch sub from the bag and handed it over. “I hope you like roast beef.”
“Perfect,” I said, grabbing the sandwich eagerly. “You’re an angel.” I unwrapped the sandwich and bit into it before Martinez could even open his.
“Oh, I have some soda, too,” he said, pulling out two Diet Pepsis.
“You are too good to me,” I said, pulling the tab on the can he handed to me. “Do you miss Philly?”
“What?” Detective Martinez said, his face going blank. That must be the American Indian in him because he did inscrutable better than I, and I was Asian.
“I mean, you lived there for most of your life, didn’t you?” Suddenly, I wasn’t sure I should have said that to him. I thought he was ok with my abilities, but perhaps that only pertained to the case. “You said soda instead of pop which means you’re not from the Midwest or the South. I thought—oh, never mind.” I went back to eating my sandwich, sure that I’d mortally offended him. To my surprise, he laughed. It was a rich, full-bodied sound, which was music to my ears.
“God, can’t hide anything from you, can I?”
“Actually, you can,” I retorted with a sly smile. “The closer I get to someone, the less able I am to read his or her mind.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” Martinez said, smiling in return. “To answer your question, no, I don’t miss Philly.” A quick scowl was the indication that there were some memories there best left unexplored.
“What made you come to Minnesota?” I asked, curious how a person of color made it this far north if it wasn’t to follow a lover.
“I have family here. They told me how beautiful it was and how cheaply you could live. What they neglected to tell me was how cold it gets in the winter, or how long winter actually is.”
We shared a conspiratorial look as the winter was one thing I had a difficult time accepting, even though I was born here. Humans just weren’t meant to spend so much time freezing their asses off. Sure, the snow was breathtaking, and I enjoyed skiing as much as the next person. However, I was pretty much sick of the white stuff after three months, and by the end of the fourth month, I was ready to climb walls. My friends felt the same way. Matt told me that the first winter he was here, he was amazed to see people wearing short-sleeved shirts the first day the weather climbed above freezing. By his third winter, however, he understood thoroughly. After months of sub-zero temperatures, thirty-three or thirty four above felt like a hundred. He was doing the same thing himself, though he had vowed his first year here never to succumb. It helped that it was sunny most of the winter, but I still experienced a slight case of the blues in the darkest months.
“Well, I got to get moving,” Martinez said, balling up the paper from his sub. He had eaten a foot-long in the time it took me to eat half of my six inches. “I’ve learned to eat on the run,” he explained when he saw the look I was giving him. “One peril of being a cop.”
“Maybe I could cook you dinner once this case is over,” I blurted out, unable to control myself. I knew that if I had to keep my crush to myself any longer, I’d burst.
“I’d like that,” Martinez said easily. “But why wait until the end of the case?”
“You’re not supposed to fraternize with a suspect,” I said in a mock-chiding tone.
“You’re not a suspect,” Martinez shot back, standing up and throwing his detritus away.
“Your partner wouldn’t agree with you,” I remarked, eyeing him to see what he knew about Daily’s crush on him.
“She’s a good cop,” Martinez shrugged. “Just ambitious.”
“You probably shouldn’t tell her,” I said, standing up as well. I had to get over to Julia’s house before she had a conniption, and I had to give my back a break, anyway.
Martinez wanted to know what I meant, but I refused to tell him. Even if I didn’t care much for Daily, I didn’t want to make her partnership with Martinez awkward by telling him how she felt about him. That was her business and her decision. Martinez and I parted ways outside the cop shop after I extracted a time from him for dinner. Thursday was his off day, and while he most likely would be going in, he could afford to take a couple hours off for dinner. Of course, he’d have his pager and cell phone on so they could get hold of him if they needed him, but I had to get used to that if I was going to date a cop. I didn’t know if I could ever get used to the idea that he might be killed on the job, however, no matter how small the chance might be. I knew from reading countless detective stories that cops usually weren’t great at personal relationships for various reasons, and I was wary of becoming involved with one. However, I was the one to ask him out and not vice-versa so on some level, I must be willing to take the risk.