It was late October and I happened to get the night shift. My partner, Justin, was on duty with me as we patrolled the town. I worked for the PPD and it wasn't the worst place to be, though I prefer Buxton or Limington. At least then there would be less noise. Plus my girlfriend and I love the privacy the woods give the homes out that way. Justin, on the other hand, thinks the city is way better since everything is closer. He isn't wrong, but city life never sat well with me.
"Yo, could we stop somewhere I'm getting hungry." Justin's voice chimed in, he was always hungry. I was too lost in thought so I just nodded to him and pulled in to a nearby Denny's. The moment we stopped he was out of the car and already heading inside the place. This was the second time tonight we stopped for food. Sure, a guy could get hungry while patrolling who hasn't. Justin was just always hungry, always asking to stop somewhere. And it wasn't like he would order something quick. Oh no, he would get something big and take his time chowing down whatever he got. I turned off the cruiser and tucked the keys into my pockets before grabbing my phone and locking the doors as I headed inside. A buddy of ours worked here so it didn't take too long for our food to arrive. As I sat down Justin was already digging into his meal which seemed to be two meaty burgers and fries while my grilled cheese deluxe sat opposite to him. Another thing that bugged me about Justin was how much of a slob he was when he ate. A good portion of his meal had fallen onto his plate while his hands got covered in sauce and grease. That's why I ordered quick and not sloppy food. Anyways, I sat down and bit into my sandwich. "So, how's Alice getting along since the accident?"
"She's doing well, the doc said she should be back to normal in a couple of weeks." I felt tense, I was quite defensive when it came to Alice though she hates it. After a few moments of finishing his first burger, Justin looked up from his meal.
"And what of that club of yours how's that going?"
"Alright, I guess. We lost a few recently but the main members still show so it isn't all bad. I still need to get a piece done for Friday." My phone went off in my back pocket making me jump, I assumed it was my buddy Dale or Alice reminding me to finish my piece. But it wasn't, it was someone called Grace. I frowned, not a lot of people were on my contacts list so this surprised me when it went off.
"What's the matter?" He set down his food and stared at me as I looked at my phone, I shrugged and declined the call.
"Nothing, probably the wrong number." It went off again, I ignored it. I get a lot of wrong numbers and usually just ignore them. As soon as it stopped ringing a message popped up saying please answer. I took another bite of my sandwich before opening the message. I responded, ''Who is this?
Again the phone started to ring, at this point I was starting to get irritated so I held a finger up to Justin and headed outside. Once the door closed behind me I picked up. "Who is this?"
For a moment I could hear only quiet breathing before a voice came through. "Alice said if I needed help to contact one of you two, I know she went into surgery so you were the only person left." A memory flashed as an image of a woman popped into my head. She had brushed past me during my emotional stupor back when Alice got in an accident. That's when it hit me.
"What's the matter, you sound nervous." I flicked a piece of bread off of my vest before lighting a smoke.
"I need help, I am in no real danger. I'd just like it if someone was with me right now. Someone I can trust," her voice seemed to shake the more she spoke. I gestured for Justin to hurry as I finished my smoke.
"I'll do what I can, Grace, I need to know where you are." I tossed the butt of my smoke on the cement and stamped it out.
"I'm at my brother's house. It is in Westbrook on Saco Street. You'll see him outside." With that she hung up, I stood there in silence while I waited for Justin to come out. He looked confused as he stared at me with my sandwich in hand, it had a fresh bite taken out of it. A small part of me was pissed that he ate my sandwich.
"What's up, we got something?" I could hear the eagerness in his voice but I shook my head.
"Nah, just a friend of Alice's that needs help with something. Mind finishing the patrol for me?" I gestured to the cruiser. I needed the car that I left in the parking lot at the station. I would have taken our cruiser but it was Justin's, I just drove while on duty. He nodded, though I could tell he was reluctant about letting me go. For once we drove in blissful silence on the way to the station. It made the nightlife of the city seem so mystified with all of its dark alleyways and sidewalks. It was like this the whole way when we arrived at the station it honestly looked deserted. With that, I hopped out of the cruiser and slid into the comfort of my jeep. The song Thistle and Weeds started to play as I drove, though I wasn't listening to the lyrics much. The fact that it was calm helped me focus.
Several songs must have played by the time I arrived at the house. Places like Westbrook always made me feel neutral, happy yet wouldn't wanna stay for long. Too close together for my taste. It took me a moment to find the house, and right there tripping me was Grace's older brother Chris.
"Max, thanks for coming man. Grace is not in a great place right now. I would have called Alice if not for her accident." His words seemed to spill out of his mouth before he clamped it shut. I just dipped my head and patted him on the shoulder before making my way to the front door. He hastily stumbled up the stairs just to open it for me, I found it hard to suppress a chuckle as he broke into a sweat. As the door gave way to a new bit of scenery I couldn't help noticing how decent the place looked. That's something I've noticed over the years, everyone has a decent or nice-looking first floor but the second you head anywhere else it is a warzone of emotions and dampness. Hey, I am not against bashing myself. Our place isn't the best either but I notice Alice and myself doing it a lot. The living room was mostly clean, besides a ruffled couch and blanket, it looked fine. The t.v. was left on some news channel that was talking about the weather or something. I could see part of the kitchen which seemed recently used while the table remained barely touched. I caught a glimpse of the knife rack as I turned to address Chris, I think I saw a couple missing but I wasn't sure.
"Where is she, I figured she would be down here waiting for me."
"She retired upstairs not too long ago, said I should bring you to her once you arrive." Once his back was turned I took a moment to look at the rack again and saw that one of the bread knives was missing. Along the walls were pictures of Chris and a lady-friend, him and Grace, and them with their parents. All the ones that involved Grace showed her smiling, a genuine one at that.
A few of them piqued my interest. "Hey Chris, what's with the woman and those weird glasses. They show up in all the pictures she's in."
A frown appeared on his face as he spoke. "Not sure, never really noticed." He seemed to quicken his pace as he gestured to a scarred door. I examined the cuts and chips with a harmless glance as I was greeted with a shaking ball of cloth and tears. Grace was curled in the far corner of the room with her head cocked to the side as if trying to avoid me.
"I'll see to her, you head downstairs. I'll get you if I need anything," as I got closer I added more quietly "Grace I'm here." I saw her head start to shift but quickly snap back as Chris took a step forward.
"Are you sure, I feel like I could be of more-"
"I'm sure, Chris, please head downstairs. Make me a sandwich or whatever if you want something to do!" I felt a cold hand grasp mine as he retreated downstairs.
"Please, don't be hard on him. He's just really worried about me. I am his baby sister after all," Grace's mouth formed a small smile as I held her hand. Something was amiss yet I couldn't piece it together. I saw her raise my right hand and place it gently on the side of her face that was hidden behind the dark. It felt both warm and cold, her cheek was very smooth. Like how a baby would feel. "I remember why Alice likes you so much."
I rested against the wall that was next to her, never moving my hand from her cheek. "I would never turn down a friend of Alice's when they need someone, though I'm sure you know that." I felt her shift closer to me, I heard her breathing slow as she settled down.
"Indeed I do which is why I knew you'd come. Grab that cup on the nightstand," I felt for the cup which I almost knocked over and handed it to her. I heard the sound of liquid as she drank from the cup "thanks."
"Why is it you called me Grace, you sounded urgent on the phone."
Her grip seemed to tighten as she responded. "What, I can't see an old friend or something?"
"Why did you call?" I felt her lean against me, I moved my arm so she could lay on my lap. I said before that I'm not a big fan of texting and get only a few calls that usually aren't urgent.
"If I said I missed you would that be enough." I could hear noises from downstairs and started to wonder if Chris was making me a sandwich.
"A little, but, no, it wouldn't have been enough," I started to comb through her hair hoping to relax her.
"I'm sure you noticed the dry spot on my face, and the small welts on my side and arms." I had felt the dry spot and the welts on her arm, yes but I hadn't noticed the bruise on her side. I gently rubbed my free hand down her left arm until I found a couple of welts. She let out a quiet sigh of pain which made me move back to her hair.
"Sorry, and no I didn't notice the one on your side. What happened?"
I felt her wrap her arms slowly around my waist. "Are you getting slow, how old are you? 40?"
"32, and I'm a bit offset. I'm just worried." I started to close off all of the things around me, all beside Grace. I felt the muscles in my arms begin to tense as I held her.
"After we broke up you remember that girl I started seeing?"
"Of course I remember. All she did was brag about you being with her and eat my food, did she do this to you?"
"Mmhmm, Chris did what he could to stop her but she ran off before we could call the cops." I could hear her wanting to fall asleep, she must be bleeding if she's keeping herself awake.
"Why don't Chris and I bring you to the hospital, get you looked at." I started to move but she forced me back onto the floor.
"Not yet, unless you sit with me on the way there." I rose to my feet and slowly picked her up, I couldn't help curling her closer towards me as I found the mystery wound. I didn't want to look, all I knew was to keep the pressure on it while Chris drove us. He said nothing as I came downstairs, you didn't need to be a rocket scientist to know she needed to be looked at. He had handed me a ham and cheese sandwich as I got into his car. I still haven't eaten it, I think it is still there on the seat where I left it.
It was late when we got there. I had called a buddy of mine to bring over Alice so she could see Grace. I think it was two in the morning. No traffic which was great and not a lot of chatter which was also great. I don't remember much else about that night, but I do know that whenever I am feeling alone and angry and sad I end up in my jeep outside of an apartment building with my playlist blaring in my ears, my M9 loaded and waiting for the bitch that hurt Grace. I also know that I won't be listening for more cries for help anytime soon. Just don't touch my stuff or I might resign early.