Friday Fast Fiction: The Line of Duty


 

line of duty

“If you’re having problems at home, I want to know about it,” shouted Mullin, his razor sharp glare panning the room full of officers.

Mullin listened to the rustling of bodies. He made a mental note of those who touched their face. He focused on Swisher who was new to the city’s special unit intended to be the first line of defense against terrorism. His fingers were all over his his face.

“Forget to shave, Swisher?” yelled Mullin.

“No, sir.”

“I’m going to ask one more time: is anybody having problems at home? Your wife, girlfriend, your kids?”

Most of the officers looked down.

“When you’re on the job, you have to be totally committed to the moment. I don’t want any energy wasted on what happened last night. We depend on each other. Our lives are in each other’s hands.  If you want to talk to me off the record, in private, then text me within the next hour. I don’t need details, just one word: ‘talk.’ Okay, we’re back here in 1600 hours. Dismissed.”

Mullin walked quickly to his office and closed the door. He poured himself a large mug of coffee, then sat down with a cell phone in the center of his desk.

Thirty minutes passed. No responses. He was about to put the cell phone in his vest pocket when it vibrated. Swisher. Mullin smiled—his instincts had been right.

Mullin walked out of the control center to the rear parking lot surrounded by a barbed wire fence. He got in his black SUV with the tinted glass and waited.

Three knocks. The door locks shot up. Swisher slid in quickly on the passenger side and closed the door without speaking.

“Good, son. What is it?”

Swisher stared straight ahead at the windshield and his fuzzy reflection. “My wife and I aren’t getting along. Well, it’s worse than that. I’ve always been up front, sir. I don’t want to be taken off the team. I want the toughest assignment. “

“That bad?”

“It’s bad.”

“Okay, you ‘re going to team up with Bates and Fuller. No questions. But you three are my ‘go’ team. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We’re done.”

Three months later  Swisher, Bates and Fuller stood next to the mayor at a press conference where they were honored for neutralizing a terrorist group threatening to kill rush hour commuters.

The three men didn’t smile during the ceremony. Afterwards, a TV reporter cornered Swisher.

“Didn’t you fear for your life when you charged the building?”

Swisher heard the question but couldn’t process a response other than what Mullin had told him.

“No, ma’m.”

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