It was the next evening. Mac’s door was open. Malloy, still in his street clothes, stepped in and knocked softly on the glass.
The sergeant looked up. “Pete. You’re early.”
Malloy smirked. “Looks like I’ll start making a habit of it. You’re early, too.”
“Right.” Mac’s eyes dropped back to his desk, where only one page sat. He held a pen, but after a moment, he set it down.
Malloy held up a piece of note paper he’d found taped to his locker. “You wanted to see me?”
“Oh, yeah. That file you requested came in.” The sergeant stood and reached for a thick bundle of paper that rested on top of a cabinet in the corner. He held it with two hands as he brought it over. His eyes were serious. “Pete, be careful with this.” He sighed. “I just don’t know that it can help.”
Malloy met Mac’s look with sincerity. “I know. But I’ve got to see it for myself.” He took the packet and tucked it under his arm. “Thanks, Mac.” He crossed the room toward the door.
“Wait, Pete.” Malloy glanced over his shoulder. Mac was looking at the ground. “There’s something else.”
A tingling built up in Malloy’s nerves, but he pushed it away as he turned. “You want me to shut the door?” he said.
“Yeah.” Mac moved back around the desk and sat in his chair.
Malloy stood in front of him and set the file on the edge of the desk.
At last Mac looked up. “Your report came up during our meeting with the Captain yesterday.”
“I take it, not in a good way.”
Mac shook his head.
Malloy let his breath whistle through his teeth. He put his hands on his hips and squared his shoulders. “Okay,” he said, keeping his voice light, “lay it on me.”
Mac shifted the page on his desk. “This is a recommendation to the Captain. He told me to fill it out. But I’m torn.”
Mac cleared his throat. “Recommendation for Disciplinary Action against Officer Peter Joseph Malloy: For the charge of portraying a superior rank, I, Sergeant William John MacDonald, supervisor of the accused, recommend…” Mac let his voice trail off.
Malloy frowned. “In fairness, it ought to be said that I never actually indicated I was a sergeant. Will Saunders took it that way, and I didn’t see it in my duty to correct him.”
Mac gave a tired smile. “Lieutenant Moore pointed that out.”
“The Captain is still inclined to deal with it severely.”
“He mentioned that, in the last case he knew of, the officer was set down.” Mac stared at the pen in his hand.
Malloy’s face softened. “But he left the actual decision to you?”
The sergeant grunted. “And the paperwork.”
Malloy laughed. Then they were silent.
Mac sat back in his chair. “I’ve narrowed it down to two options. I think it’s fitting that you should choose.”
“Two weeks’ suspension or delaying the sergeant’s exam for a year.”
Malloy’s mouth dropped open. “Two weeks’ suspension?”
“I can’t afford that, Mac.”
“Well, that makes it easy.” Mac uncapped the pen. “Delaying the sergeant’s exam it is.”
Malloy’s eyes were wide. “I don’t get it. Not three days ago, in this very office, you chewed me out for not taking the promotion. You were practically forcing me into it! Now you’re refusing to let me?”
“Just for a year.” Mac sighed. “It will probably be a good thing. You changed your mind so fast… Honestly, I’m worried that I have forced you into it.”
“Or maybe I really saw the importance of strong, honest sergeants and was inspired to take the offer.”
Mac was amused. “Yeah. Maybe.”
Malloy leaned on the desk and frowned at the wood below his hands.
“You know,” the sergeant said, “there are some things you should know about this job. Like how hard it is to have authority over your friends.”
Malloy caught the watch commander’s despondent look. He snorted. “Pitiful.” Then he stood up straight. “A year, you say?”
Malloy shrugged. “Yeah, you’re right. It probably would be a good idea to think more about it.”
“I’m glad you see it that way.”
Malloy took up his file and crossed to the door. He turned around just as Mac set the pen to the paper. “In nine months, I’ll definitely have calmed down and changed my mind again.” He reached behind him to open the door, enjoying the sergeant’s look of horror.
The door swung shut as he headed towards the break room. He hadn’t taken five steps when Mac yanked it open and said loudly, “Six months.”
The other officers in the hall started and turned with questioning looks.
The sergeant didn’t notice. “That’s my final offer.”
Malloy smiled. “Deal.”
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