The sun shines bright in the sky. A man lies asleep in bed. He has curly brown hair, big facial features, and a five o’clock shadow rimming amongst the edges of his cheeks and jawline. He sees darkness when he sleeps until slowly a brighter glow begins to occur. His eye twitches right before he opens them. The sun has crept through the blinds again, just this time it’s even earlier than the day before. It’s a new day for Mason Wylie.
Mason is a simple man, with a simple routine. He wakes up, makes his bed first thing in the morning. He even goes the extra length to make sure his bed has hospital corners, something he kept with him since his time at the police academy. He brushes his teeth and showers right before he shaves. It’s a must for him; unlike a lot of the other guys at the force, he seems to be the only one who can grow a beard within a few hours. It doesn’t take him too long to get his uniform on. His body fits nicely in his uniform; most cops are in fact jealous of his physique.
His house, much like many other men, is what you would consider a bachelor’s pad. He has the game system set-up, along with his unnecessarily 65” TV. One small table, a kitchen filled with alcohol and snacks. What stands out the most is the news articles, and photos framed against his wall. He isn’t sure why, but unlike other days he takes the time to stop and look at them. Perhaps it’s because of the sun waking him up a little early today.
The first frame he walks by is his graduation photo from the police academy. There were fourteen of them.
A young Mason looks in the mirror. He’s noticeably smaller in complexion to the version we first saw him as previously. Today is the day he graduates from the academy. He’s only 21 years old, head brimming with confidence. He stops shaving when he hears a voice.
“Hey, Pretty boy. You’re taking too damn long to prepare for a photo. Reminds me of my wife.”
Mason turns and sees Eric de la Cruz. Eric is built similar to Mason, except you can tell he’s hit the gym more than he has. He has dark black hair, asymmetrical face, and caramel skin. He scored the second-highest overall in the class. Mason was the first. And yet, Eric holds it in high regard whenever he walks by.
Mason smirks. “That’s funny, considering you spend about twenty mins making sure your ass looks good in uniform.”
A few fellow graduates can’t help but laugh as they walk by. A grimace appears on Eric’s face. He then slowly approaches Mason while he begins to tidy his cleaning station. The two come face to face and lock eyes. “Keep that same energy.”
The two continue to stare for a moment. They’ve always butted heads throughout their time here. It should come as no surprise if you put two competitive alpha males in one room for two months. Mason smirks, and so does Eric in return. A whistle is blown, brushing their rivalry aside for a second, indicating that it’s time for photos.
“It’s about that time,” Mason tells him. He walks past Eric, bumping his shoulder.
Mason continues to look at the photo. Fourteen men, outlasting the 54 they started with. He continues to walk down his hallway until a news article catches his eye. The headline reads: Rookie cop disrupts prostitution sting. Mason sips his coffee. It was his first big case as a cop.
He chuckles at remembering seeing Eric’s face. The case was originally supposed to be his until he broke his hand foolishly trying to change a car tire. The case itself was highly profiled. There had been a string of missing women; and even a few men. It was Mason who found the missing piece of evidence to connect the investigation web.
This wasn’t the first time either. The two would constantly go back and forth in cases. They never argued about who had the better cases. The only thing on their mind was doing their jobs correctly, but there was still friction between the two. They were naturally competitive, so it only made sense.
He continues walking down the hallway. He sees his numerous awards and medals that he had collected throughout his 14-year career. He had all the reason to be the cocky bastard that he knew he was. He always found it funny when people tried to test him. His commander, Nathan Snapes, was one of them. It seemed every day at work, his captain would test his patience. Mason couldn’t count how many times he had to remind him that he wasn’t his errand boy.
He looks down at his watch and notices the time. He couldn’t believe how long he stood around, reminiscing his past. He hustled quickly to the front door. He sees his car; nothing more than what you would expect from someone of Mason’s stature. A Dodge Challenger Hellcat, smoothed in midnight black. The car starts up, and roars, The vibrations, and sound always makes Mason feel like a little boy once again.
The feeling doesn’t last long when he hears his phone ring. The caller ID on the touch screen radio reads Ron Kelly. His partner. He picks up.
“What’s up?” Mason says, through his discreet earpiece.
“Mason. You remember the case that we were originally working on with that college kid…. what was his name?”
“We worked on that case for ages. It’s been two weeks and you already forgot the name?”
“Hey man, when you’re too busy helping people, chasing promotions--you get sidetracked easily.”
Mason knew all too well what Ron meant by that. A police job in Belforde was not your regular job. There was a reason cops in his area were paid way more than the national average in the country. Belforde, especially the western district, is one of the sketchiest places of the city. It was one of the reasons why Mason loved his job; it was home, a city that loved him since he was a high school football star. Ron, on the other hand, was newer to the city. A transfer from a smaller department located in Oregon. He wasn’t a rookie, but Mason still felt like he was showing him the ropes.
“Rubens,” Mason reminds him.
“Jacob Rubens. The hard-ass who tested me. He didn’t see it coming.”
“Yeah, that’s the one. Mason--his father is Bobby Rubens. Jacob’s charges have all been dropped, apparently.”
Mason confused asks, “How is that possible? The kid practically kidnapped the girl--not to mention all the drugs he was under when we tested him--”
“I know. I’m surprised too.”
Where has he heard the name “Bobby” before? It was something back in 2005, but he’s blanking out... “Who the hell told you this? I’m not up-to-date with this damn department anymore…”
Mason lets out a long sigh of frustration. Ron can’t help but laugh knowing the beef between the two. “Maybe if you didn’t outshine him so much, he would treat you like a real cop. Like me.”
Mason doesn’t find it funny but forces a laugh out. “I’ll see you at the station Ron.”
“Neutral, cowboy.” Ron hangs up.
Mason walks through the corridors of the main force building. He’s greeted with the usual onlooker of eyes. He hears a man pleading that he’s innocent, but this is usual for him. In a career, when you’re as deeply invested as he is, you must carefully choose whom to sympathize with. One thing he has no problem with is returning greetings, and waving back at his fellow comrades. If he wants to be captain one day, he knew he would have to have everyone backing him up. That included Eric De La Cruz. Mason takes a seat in his office.
Mason hears a knock on his door. He looks up only to see Eric, standing with two coffees in his hand. “Damn, who fucked you up last night?”
Mason stares at him, confused. Eric looks at Mason’s hair. Mason chuckles. “I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have a date with Mrs. Modelo last night.”
Eric raises an eyebrow. “Since when did you start getting into my culture?” he jokes.
“Bud light was getting old. Had to spice it up a little.”
“Well, here’s some coffee. I made sure to add extra cream for you. Just the way you like it.”
Mason doesn’t return a laugh. He takes a slow sip from the coffee cup. Dark, bitter, and perfect. “If that was sweet, I would’ve had to whoop your ass in front of everyone, Cruz.”
“Whoop my ass? I made it bitter so I don’t have to embarass you.” He scoffs. “I’m gonna take off. Take it easy, prettyboy.”
“You’re lucky I’m in a good mood,” Mason replies. “I’ll see you later.”
Mason couldn’t help but feel his eyes to be baggy. He looks at his smartwatch and figures a five-minute nap wouldn’t hurt. He closes his eyes for only a second before he hears another knock.
Captain Nathan Snapes. He leans against the doorway with his arms crossed. He must think he looks really cool leaning against that door.
Nathan stands at six-foot-two, a couple of inches taller than Mason. He has bags deeply engraved under his eyes. His hair is spiked upwards, held by gel. Mason doesn’t understand how someone can have such a punchable face, but maybe that’s what happens when you have such a dickish personality.
“So...” Nathan exclaims. “I need you to check a case for me. Just got a call. Murder investigation--perimeter’s been established. I figured this would be my gift to you after seeing that kid get released.”
Mason raises an eyebrow as he stands up. “Jacob Rubens? Yeah, glad I found out this morning. I worked weeks on that case, Nathan. Don’t you think I should be looking more into how the fuck he’s already out on all charges?”
Nathan shrugs.“I wish I could tell you more man, but the world keeps moving. I’ll assign one of the juniors to look and have them report back to you.” He’s speaking in particular to the pair of fresh meat--currently practicing their basketball skills at the corner can.
Mason tries his hardest to hide his anger at Nathan. Whether he likes him or not, this is the guy that can promote him. He holds back a sigh. This murder case better be fucking good...
“I’ll get on it.”
“Oh and, before I forget...” Nathan vanishes for a moment. In almost an instant he returns with a pile of folders; messily stacked, and barely cared for. “I need these to be organized and finished within the next few days.”
Mason looks down in disbelief. “You’re not being serious, right? Last time I checked, it wasn’t April. So what’s the deal?”
“I’m sorry, what? The last thing I need to hear is moaning and bitching from one of my best senior officers.”
“No shit. That’s why we have juniors and rookies to do shit like this,” Mason tells him. “On top of that, you’re expecting me to settle with a murder case that comes with even more paperwork?”
“Uh, yeah.” Nathan looks at him as if he was a child. “Chain of command. Remember it.”
“You expect me to listen to the bullshit that comes out of your mouth?” Mason couldn’t hold it back any longer. At this point, the whole office is staring at the on-going commotion. Eric sips his coffee in the corner. He always enjoys a show.
Nathan looks around anxiously, feeling embarrassed. “You’re walking on a thin line, Wylie!”
The two lock eyes. Mason realizes what he has done, and as much as he wants to punch the guy in his face, he begins to take a deep breath. Mason grabs his jacket and walks past Nathan without a word.
He turns and grabs Ron, sitting in his respective office. “Come on, let's go. We got a crime scene to attend to.”
Ron knows better than to argue with a tensed-up Mason. He follows without words.
12 hours before.
It’s a dark night, and the moon shines bright. Mason sits down inside on a bar stool. “I’ll take another fireball with coke.” He has always been a whiskey lover since his dad first introduced it to him at the age of 16.
He pulls out his phone and opens Tinder--apparently popular among the kids these days. He clicks on his first match; woman, 37 years old. Receptionist. Belforde native.
It’s his first time using an app like this. He’d normally just stick to his regular bar routine, but with the recent work he’s been handling, he hasn’t had the time. He scrolls down and reads her bio: “Here for a good time, not a long time.”
Mason couldn’t help but smile in excitement. A Drake fan, based on her profile’s song choice. It’s good to see that old heads like himself still enjoy good music. He hears the clink of a glass against the wooden countertop in front of him.
Right then, he turns and sees the same lady from his phone, sitting right next to him. She looked like she just came from a busy day on the 87th floor of the corporate office she worked in, having taken off her suit jacket to signify the day’s end. Her red blouse makes her stand out in particular.
“So do you usually sit next to strangers at a bar?”
She notices him, as if she didn’t before, with a smile. “Only the handsome ones.”
Mason looks around; he didn’t pay any mind to it before, but he’s probably the youngest guy in here. Mason smiles. “What do you want to drink?”
Ease starts to show in her expression. “Don’t worry about paying. There’re older men here.”
Mason looks at her, perplexed. “How so?”
The bartender appears. “Ma’am, the older gentleman over there says your first drink’s on him.” Mason and Ari turn their heads towards the older man sitting at the end of the bar. Mason can’t help but laugh; the man looks old enough to be his great grandad. Ari waves at the old man and blows him a kiss. “I’ll take a crown on ice, please.”
She turns back to Mason, who looks surprised. “Shocked?”
“Nah, just wouldn’t take you as someone who doesn’t need a chaser.”
“Why? because I’m a girl?”
Mason worried that he said the wrong thing responds, “No, I didn’t mean it--”
“Calm down, I’m fucking with you.” They both share a laugh, as the bartender returns with her glass.
“How many drinks have you had tonight?” she asks him.
“About three within the past ten minutes,” he says, finishing his third glass. “Don’t worry. I don’t go down easy.”
“Everyone claims they last long until they meet me.” She bites her lips.
Mason is intrigued. “What're you trying to say?”
“I’m just saying that I might need to crash your place tonight. It’s been a damn long day.”
“Bartender, another glass.”
The two continue to chat away and drink until midnight. At this point, the bar is filled with loud drunks, and the sound of balls being hit in games of pool. It was their cue to head back to Mason’s place, which was nothing more than a block from the bar. It didn’t take long for the two half-drunks to get down to business. It was sex, and nothing much.
They lie in bed afterward, both of them drenched in sweat. A nearly naked Mason sits up out of bed, reaches into the pocket of his jeans, and pulls out a lighter and cigarette. He turns to Ari. “Want one?” he offers.
She pauses at the offer. “Tempting, but no.”
“Trying to quit?”
“Trying to. I got kids. But…” She sighs. “Fuck it, I’ll take one.”
Mason hands her a cigarette and lights it up before his. He opens a window and sits down in a chair watching the streets outside. He throws on a pair of sweats. He looks at Ari, who has thrown on one of Mason’s old shirts. She takes a seat next to him.
“How many kids do you have?”
“Two. Boy and girl. What about you?”
Mason laughs. “Me? Nah, no kids. I’m not even sure if I’m good with them.”
“So you’re telling me you don’t have nieces or nephews?”
“I have one. Sweet kid, but I usually just buy him a video game every year. Doesn’t make me the best uncle in the world, though.”
“You’re too good-looking not to have one.”
“You’re just trying to flatter me at this point. What about you? Why’d he leave?”
She giggles. “I’m divorced, hondo, and let’s just leave it at that. I left him before Veronica was born.” They pause and feel a breeze from the window brush against them. “And you?”
“Marriage isn’t for me.”
She scoffs. “Good. I wouldn’t recommend it. Divorces are expensive after it’s all said and done...” She brushes the tip of the cigarette on the ashtray, killing it. “I should get going.” Like clockwork, she puts her clothes back on. She didn’t seem as tightly wound, now that her hair was assuming its more natural state. She was beautiful, no matter the time of day.
“Thank you for the company.” She gives him a peck on the cheek before parting for the door. “You’re very entertaining.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” he tells her with a smile.
Mason pulls up in his patrol car to an old abandoned trailer home. Ron looks around, wary. “I haven’t lived in one of these parks since I was just a teenager,” he says.
“When was that? Like 50 years ago?” Mason jokes.
“You think I look that old?”
“Calm down. Your hair is still red, ain’t it?”
They both share a quiet chuckle before entering the scene of the crime. Inside the smell of decay reeks, blood along with it. How long has this body been dead?
There was an unnecessary amount of blood; something he’s gotten used to seeing. All along the corpse were bullet casings.
A grimace appears on Mason’s face. All this time visiting crime scenes and he still hasn’t gotten over the smell of a dead body. There are other officers casing the scene, taking necessary photos and marking points of interest.
Ron turns and looks at Mason. “You know, I didn’t have to deal with this many death cases back in Oregon.”
Mason looks around the trailer home. He sees the victim to be a young girl. There’s a shirt on the ground that reads “Silver Gale Nightlounge”. Mason recalls it to be a strip club he visited ages ago. On her chest, the name tag read, “Annabelle”. Must’ve died right after she left work...
“Well… let’s get to work.”
Two days later.
It’s the middle of the night, rain pours hard on Mason’s roof. The sound of the droplets amongst the many voices outside of his door wakes him up. “Fucking college kids, I swear…” he murmurs, choosing to deal with them by waking up.
The banging grows louder; Mason senses it to be irregular.
“Police!” shouts a muffled voice on the other end. “Open up!”
“What the fuck?” He hastily looks through his door’s peephole. Eric, and a few other officers, await outside his door.
“Eric, what’s going o--”
Before he could finish his sentence, the door bursts open. Right away, Mason is subdued on the ground, bracelets being wrapped around his arms.
“You have the right to remain silent,” Eric chants. “Everything you say and do will be used against you…”
What the fuck. The gravity starts to fall unto Mason; he starts to thrash on the ground. “What the fuck,” he mutters.
Nathan walks into Eric’s office. “Hey, Mason and Ron already out?” he asks.
“You saw them leave, didn’t you?” Eric responds, confused. “What? Miss ‘em already?”
“I… kinda feel bad. I wanted to apologize to him.” There was a bit of sarcasm in his voice, but Eric doesn’t pick it up. He slips back out of the office, returning to the hallway.
He struts until he takes notice of the nearest fire alarm--a few desks and a left turn away from Mason’s office. He approaches it, turning his strut into a sneak. He purses his lips as he pulls it down--carefully.
Nathan knows he only has a small window. He runs to his office where he puts on blue latex gloves. Next, he takes out a zipper-bag; with a gun inside of it.
He quickly rushes out of his office and into the hallway. Looks like he left just in time; the place practically evacuated itself. He goes inside of Mason’s office and into his desk.
As he approaches, he finds a young Mason Wylie during his graduation. He turns the photo down, opens the desk drawer and removes the gun from the zipper bag. He slips it inside the shelf.
As the alarm rings in the background, Nathan whistles. He unfurls the gloves from his hands and returns to his strut.
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