Burn Out
by Terri

The first time Patrolman Davis saw the shattered mugs he thought nothing of it; accidents happened in the break-room all the time. Stooping to pick up the remains all he did was mutter under his breathe about inconsiderate idiots that didn’t clean up after themselves.

The second time Davis saw the mugs smashed on the floor he knew it was more serious, especially as Detective Sandburg was on his knees, just staring at the mess. When he entered the break-room Sandburg had looked up and smiled briefly before starting to pick up the pieces. The smile he received when he kneeled down to help made Davis want to smile too – so he did.

The third time he didn’t see the destroyed cups at first. The pieces were partially hidden under the feet of a group of detectives who stood close together near the bulletin board. About to make a crack about them being clumsy, Davis shut up when he spotted Sandburg through the mass of men, backed against the wall. Tight lipped, the junior detective shouldered between two men summoning a small smile when he saw he was being watched. He looked like he couldn’t hear the blatant taunts and threats, and it was at that moment Davis knew Blair Sandburg was one of the best actors he’d ever seen.

The fourth time he didn’t even see the mugs until later. All he could see was Sandburg hunched over the table, blood dripping from his nose. Pulling paper towels from the holder Davis passed them over, then stepped back feeling awkward and unsure as he listened to how Sandburg had tripped and fell against the wall. It was a good story; he would have believed it except for one thing. The backpack lying abandoned on the floor, fraud written across the front in bright yellow paint. Unwilling to leave, Davis looked for the broken mugs, knowing they would be there.

The fifth time detective Sandburg wasn’t there. Just a group of men who laughed as the mugs ‘accidentally’ fell to the floor. Davis knew he should say something, but he was only a rookie patrolman. The idea of confronting a bunch of long standing detectives made his stomach churn, so he remained silent, drinking his coffee and listening as the familiar story was told. Fraud, liar, disgrace to the department, hippy bastard. Wanting to fit in he laughed as Evans from Vice told how he’d tripped the freak in the corridor, then felt over whelming self disgust when he realised that Sandburg was listening at the doorway. Later, alone in the room, Davis dropped the shattered mugs into the teashcan and promised himself he’d tell someone, Ellison or Banks maybe. He just needed to find the right moment.

There was no sixth time. There were no mugs, and soon, no Sandburg. Alone in the break-room, cup of coffee held in shaking hands, Davis knew he should have said something sooner. But he hadn’t, and his silence shamed him.





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