The short cop noticed the clerics the moment they stepped through the entrance. Their eyes locked on him even before the doors slid out of their way. Both appeared young, but shared a look of agley grit. He turned to point them out to his counterpart, but he was idling at the vending machines. The two men approached the short cop with matched steps, side by side.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” the short cop inquired with an unsteady voice. Though they were right in front of him, he felt distanced from them.
“We’re here to see the man in the ER,” the blonde cleric reported.
The short cop squinted. “Are you related to him?”
The clerics shook their heads in unison.
“Then I’m afraid you can’t see him yet,” the short cop said, feeling uncomfortable saying it, like telling a professor he was wrong. When their stares continued at him, he stammered an explanation. “H-he’s in critical condition. There’s risk of infection.”
“Please, officer,” the redhead cleric said in a softer tone, his face relaxing into a warm smile, “the man is close to death. We wish only to be with him in his final moments, to prepare him for his journey.”
The short cop felt fire in his blood. Being pressured like this brought him back to his early days as a donut muncher. Traffic stops and the like.
“Come on, man,” they’d plead, pretending his shoes fit them as well as they fit he.
“Cut me a break.”
“It’s my first time.”
“It won’t happen again.”
And he let them all slide, but not because he was a nice guy. He did it because he hated being pressured, put on the spot. When he had nobody else’s legs to share, he didn’t stand on his own.
“All right,” he said to the clerics, “go ahead. Just stay out of the doctor’s way.”