An esoteric fiction about the Star Game from the first new contributor.:
“Kyle told me he was taking some time off of his work on his grade ritual to take care of some family troubles,” he said.
The car was getting chilly. My partner and I were parked in the dead center of the meridian on the freeway, somewhere dismal between two city centers in the mid-South. He was making small talk, and just in time – I needed some words to break up the silence.
My source had given us a tip. Every passing moment was a moment wasted. A moment we could have had plates in the public eye. Amber alert or reporters or whatever.
I reached over the wide center console of the unmarked surveillance vehicle, sticking my hand into the crinkling foil bag on his lap and extracting a Taki, chewing slowly and loudly over the quiet buzz from the radio, swallowing before responding, to give myself a moment to think over the statement in my head.
Word association pervaded my thoughts. In a moment, I went though their variable outcomes, before landing on the obvious.
Grade ritual. Kyle, a friend of my source. No, an associate of my source. That grade ritual… it was something about laying around in a field for 24 hours. Who needs to take time off anything for that? And what does it have to do with his family? Was it some code? Like: 2-4 = BD?
“So uh what the fuck does that mean?” I responded crassly, derisively, darting my gaze from the road to his face in my peripheral vision, betraying nothing. He was holding the bag of Takis, looking from the road in front of us to me, a light glint of mischief in his eye. He was laughing internally.
So it’s not a code – he doesn’t even know the meaning of the ritual.
“I have no idea,” he said, surreptitiously, with a chuckle and disapproving creases around his eyes. Jake’s blue irises shifted back and forth, tracking as cars shot by. They were speeding, but they weren’t Our Guys.
“It’s not the first time he has made allusions to his grade ritual ‘work’. I thought it would be best to pretend I knew what he was talking about.”
Clever, sure, but arrogant, I thought, and wondered what he had said in response. Some men think they have everything figured out. We were still laughing ‘with’ one another at this point. Time enough to interrogate one another later. Or something.
“Besides,” he continued, as I extracted another Taki from the bag after him, indicating a non-response, and sneered, apparently at the absurdity of the conversation. I could feel his eyes on me increasing in intensity. “I thought for sure that you would.”
He was fishing again. I knew that much. I was the one who tended to know these things afterall. It was my wheelhouse. But Jacob was never good at hiding his intentions. Not from anybody. Especially not from me.
We didn’t always have patrols together, but we always looked forward to our cases together. He liked what I knew. I liked his company. I suspected he liked mine too.
“When it comes to Kyle?” I laughed, throwing my head back in performative derision, with the proto-neophyte in mind. “Not a clue what goes on in the guy’s head. As long as our boy ain’t doing a ‘culling’ or on some ‘opfer’ hunt, I don’t want to know, either.”
“But if I had to guess,” I continued. I smirked conspiratorially in Jacob’s direction, moving my whole head this time, to look in his blue eyes straight. Behavioral analysis says that in these circumstances, people respond better to this non-verbal indication that they are ‘in’ on the joke – the timed pause, the eye contact with the mischievous glint. I broke the minute tension with: “When it comes to Kyle? Probably jerking off into his girlfriend’s menstrual fluid.”
Jake laughed harder, more genuinely this time. Finally dropping his coy-not-coy shit. And his tense shoulders.
Two could play at that game.
“Gross,” he replied punctually, at the end of an internal laugh, replacing the Taki in his hand back to its bag for good measure. He smiled at me with that smile he used when he knew what I wasn’t saying. He knew to use it to make me think that now, anyway. Likewise, I knew the game and played along, eyes darting to the side, the hint of a smile on my lips and under my eyelids.
Of course, maybe he was just enjoying the view.
I was fresh out of training and in my twenties, I knew that the burdens of the world were still fresh on my shoulders, unapparent on me, and not yet painting premature lines on the contours of my face.
And he was, afterall, a man.
Either way, he was distracted when I needed him not to be.
My eyes rolled back to the windshield, intently keeping inventory of the passing traffic.
He wasn’t just there to hold the Takis and look pretty. We were looking for the right plates: XXX-XXXX. Tennessee. Hispanic male and a White male in their late 20s or early 30s. Red Chevy Impala. According to my source, anyway. And I did stick my neck out for them.
For my own good measure I added, “You know what they say,” and he looked apprehensively from the road to me, as each of our radios interrupted me in a scratchy choral tandem, “if you know about the Star Game – you’re playing the Star Game.”
I reached up and flicked the lights on at once. The red and blue lights flashing above us suddenly, exploding into the blaring siren outside.
“There’s our boys,” I called over the sudden explosion of noise and movement, gesturing toward the blur of red ahead. At the same instant he swung us from our spot, chips secured in their wrapped foil, still on his lap.
“Yee-haw, pardner,” he exclaimed dryly over the sudden sound of acceleration.
Whether it was in response to the Star Game, or our suspects, I didn’t know. But I clutched the handle above the door as we swung around at high speed increasing, and lurched toward our moving target.
Don’t you dare let me down, I astrally called toward my source, in some cheap imitation of prayer – or of my first conversation with him – don’t let me down, you bastards.
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