As Sharon entered the lobby of the sorority house, Cole’s heart did backflips. Sharon was walking normally, but it had been so long since Cole had seen his ex-wife that he felt as though he was staring at her while she was walking in slow motion. Every hair flip took forever, every step seemed like it was a thousand years. It was almost as if his mind was slowing the image of his long lost love down on the premise that he better drink in a good view of her now before he never sees her again.
“Hello Cole,” Sharon said as she gave her ex-husband a brief, polite hug. Cole didn’t return it. He was so surprised to see Sharon that he just stood there in a daze. Oddly enough, he could even hear his favorite romantic cowboy song. He thought that was strange, and wondered whether or not he was losing his mind.
“Oh my old lady…done got up and walked out on me.
And now I’m so lonely, I can hardly even see,
What’s the point of not drinkin’ from now until infinity?
Oh drink, yes I’ll drink, till she’s gone right out my mind.
Toss back that whiskey, till the barkeep calls quittin’ time.
But no matter how much damage I do to my liver,
I’ll try my best to forgive her,
But Lord knows I’ll never forget her.”
Rusty’s voice broke Cole out of the trance. “Sorry,” Rusty said as he poked a button on his phone. “I bumped into the wall and my ass turned on my radio app.”
“Rusty,” Sharon said as she gave the red headed a lawman an equally quick hug.
He threw Cole a confused look. “Sharon.”
“How are you?” Sharon asked Cole.
Cole found a little spot on the floor to poke with the toe of his boot, a tactic that he used to stall for time. “Oh, fine, fine.”
Gordon had been standing off to the side for awhile. He coughed to remind his partner he was still there.
“Where are my manners?” Sharon said. “Cole, meet my partner, Gordon Bishop.”
Gordon and Cole locked eyes and traded angry glares. Neither of them knew why, but they instantly did not like one another. Their hands launched out like two angry sharks, consuming one another in a handshake. Gordon squeezed Cole’s hand tightly. Cole returned the gesture with a hard squeeze of their own. The faces of both men turned red. They gritted their teeth, waiting to see who would bow out first until finally they both caved at the exact same time.
“Gordon,” Sharon said. “This is Officer Rusty Yates.”
Before Rusty even knew it, his hand was being crushed by Gordon’s giant hand.
“A pleasure,” Gordon said.
As soon as Rusty’s hand was released, he shook it to and fro until the feeling returned. “Oh shit…likewise, big fella. Likewise.”
Cole scratched the back of his head. “What brings you big time city folk to our little old neck of the woods?”
“Take a wild guess,” Sharon said.
Cole was too busy sniffing the air. It smelled of Eau de Price Town, the cheap perfume that Sharon had always worn. How he missed it. It was as if each nostril full brought him nourishment.
“Countess Cucamonga,” Rusty said.
Sharon tapped the side of her nose with her finger. “You got it.”
“You got any leads?” Rusty asked.
“Just an idiot who’s cooling his heels in lockup,” Sharon said. “But other than that, not a one. Frankly, we were hoping you’d have some.”
Cole kept staring at Sharon. Suddenly, he realized he’d been staring for too long, so he looked around the room, anywhere he could to avoid eye contact.
“Cole?” Sharon asked.
“Huh?” Cole asked as he stared at the ceiling.
“You got anything?” Sharon asked.
“Oh,” Cole said. He half-looked at Sharon. He couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eye, so he focused on the wall just to the right of her. “Not much. Bunch of college kids in the bathroom. The male’s dead. The four females were knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital.”
“Well,” Sharon said. “We’ll have to talk to them as soon as they wake up.”
“What about that old timer in the nursing home?” Rusty asked. “Saw one of the Hot Ass Blonde Chicks with Big Titties talking about it on NN1.”
“Yeah,” Sharon said. “And frankly, I was surprised the media found out about that so quickly. Pretty much the same situation. Man sits on the toilet, ends up all over the walls. No one knows how. No one knows a damn thing.”
Rusty cracked his knuckles. “Sounds like we got the case of the century here.”
“Sure does,” Sharon replied.
“Well, as soon as the state crime lab boys grace us with their presence, we might know more,” Rusty said. “We’ve been cooling our heels waiting on them awhile.”
“Oh,” Sharon said. “I probably should have called ahead and filled you two in. I called the state crime lab off.”
Cole was useless. Still looking around the room. Still smelling the perfumed air.
Gordon chimed in. “Because we can’t trust a crime scene of this magnitude to a bunch of backwater hayseeds, Opie.”
Rusty stepped up to Gordon. “Opie? Who are you calling Opie?”
Gordon was at least five inches taller than Rusty and had fifty pounds of extra muscle. He looked down at his challenger. “You, Opie.”
Rusty’s angry face disappeared. A fake smile emerged. “Oh! Because of my red hair! I get it. Hilarious, man.”
Sharon turned to Cole. “Thank you for everything. We’ll take it from here.”
Rusty was irate. “What?”
“The FBI will be running with the ball on this investigation,” Sharon said.
“The hell you are!” Rusty said.
“You got a problem with that, Opie?” Gordon asked.
Rusty gulped a big helping of fear down his throat, then looked up at Gordon. “As a matter of fact, I do, Gigantor. Cole and I have been patrolling this town for going on twenty years now and the one time something happens worth investigating and you two hot shots with your fancy suits think you’re going to waltz right in here and take it away from us?”
“Damn right, Ritchie Cunningham,” Gordon said.
“Ah, hell,” Rusty said. “That doesn’t even count.”
“It counts,” Gordon said.
“No it doesn’t,” Rusty said. “Because Ritchie Cunningham and Opie were played by the same person, so it’s not like you thought of a new insult.”
“You know I did, Ron Howard,” Gordon said.
Rusty pointed a finger at Gordon. “Now, see! That doesn’t count either!”
Sharon inserted herself between Gordon and Rusty, largely because she saw Gordon was getting a crazy look in his eye, a look she’d seen before her partner had gone off on people larger than Rusty and crushed them with his pinky finger.
“Boys!” Sharon said. “That’s enough. Rusty, this case is bigger than all of us. We’re not going to shut Sitwell PD out of this. You and Cole will be a very important part of the task force.”
“Task force?” Rusty said.
“I’ve got a team on the way to set up shop in your department HQ,” Sharon said.
Rusty couldn’t believe it. It was like every word out of Sharon’s mouth was worst than the last one.
“You’re taking over our department?” Rusty asked.
“Don’t be silly,” Sharon said. “Just the building. Miami’s become a madhouse with all the media coverage, so we need somewhere quiet to work. But don’t worry, Cole will still run Sitwell PD.”
“Oh,” Rusty said as he folded his arms. “That’s very kind of you, Your Highness.”
“I don’t like your attitude, Rusty,” Sharon said as she looked to Cole. “Are you going to say something to your boy here?”
Rusty also looked to his longtime partner. “Yeah, Cole. Say something to these carpetbagging bottom feeders. Kick their asses outta here.”
It took a few seconds for Cole to realize he was being spoken to. When he saw Sharon and Rusty staring at him and waiting for a response, he started to walk away.
“Sounds good, Sharon,” Cole said as he pushed the lobby door open. “Let me know if you need anything.”
As soon as Cole was out the door, Sharon stuck her tongue out at Rusty.
“Succubus!” Rusty shouted.
“See you later, Ron Howard,” Gordon said.
Rusty flipped out. “I’m not Ron Howard! Ron Howard is bald! I have a thick, luscious mane of hair!”
The redhead stormed out onto the campus and caught up to Cole.
“What are you doing?” Rusty asked.
Cole walked faster than his feet had ever taken him before, putting as much distance between himself and the crime scene as possible.
“Aww, who gives a shit, Rusty?” Cole said. “They want it? Let ‘em have it. I got more important things to do. I don’t need to be marching all over God’s green earth looking for the fat ass pop star killer.”