Riding along with Homicide Detective Hendricks to take crowd photos for Narco, he starts sneezing before we even reach the first dead body. Great, gawping, “Thar She Blows” sneezes.
I scoot closer.
To the next scene, outside a grade school, I make sure to look at him when he sneezes. Leaning nearer to his reddened nose as we head to a hit-and-run. Rolling up the windows and circulating the air on the way to the grandmother found by her mailman.
Hendricks is edgy after that. He slams the door and glares and asks, “Why do you almost have your head on my shoulder?”
“So? Shouldn’t you be avoiding me? Taking Airborne? Sticking your head out the window?”
I explain my reasoning from a respectful distance across the Lincoln’s front seat. “On my sick days, I look at birds pecking around my lawn. I eat soup and watch Ellen. I learn how they tan leather in North Africa, or knit in Bombay, or cook in Thailand. I go to sleep reading a book about dragons.”
“Sounds gay, sister.”
“And on days when I’m healthy,” I tell him, looking enviously at his tissues, “I get up before dawn to watch crowds snicker that a corpse’s panties are down. I watch forensics pick slivers of a toddler’s skull from a hopscotch court before lunch. I get to take close-ups of what a herniated liver inside a latex biking suit looks like. Then I stew in the smell of an eighty-year-old rape victim, two weeks dead, while her grandchildren beam at me from the mantle.”
“You should get some sleep. You’re looking a bit peaked.”
I am. Or I wish I was. I even consider praying for it, but end up just going to bed without eating at all.
I wake up with a sniffle. It’s 2 am.
Is that a rattle in my chest, or just an irregular heartbeat? How about the rawness in my throat—coffee burns, or strep? Sinus headache or the usual nightmares?
I think it over so frantically that I can’t go back to sleep until 4. By then, the sniffle is gone. I wake at 4:30 and can’t stay in bed. I clock in early. Hendricks is out on PTO, but I’ve got nothing better to do.