I exit the police station to be greeted by the subdued glare of street lights and a cool evening wind that pushes my sweater against my body. The air here stinks of car exhaust and greasy Chinese food; there are three Asian restaurants on this block alone and they seem to be in a perpetual battle for the worst food in the city.

I step to one side of the doors, lean my back against the wall and close my eyes. It feels good to be alone at last, to have room to think and to breathe and … to just be.

The events of the day flash by in my mind like one of those terrible movie trailers that show all of the important scenes. I used to catch a matinee when the weather got too bad to be outdoors but it’s been a while now. Maybe I should start doing that again.

During a pause in the playback of today’s story I realize two things: the first being that there are two people having an animated conversation just around the corner from me; the second being that I know both voices.

I peel myself off the brick wall and step around the corner of the building so that my eyes can confirm what my ears already know. The sight of Karl and TJ sitting on a bench, carrying on like old friends, is momentarily disorienting.

“Oh good, you managed to avoid getting locked up for the night,” Karl says with more relief than I want to hear. He stands up, his hands hidden inside the deep pockets of his heavy coat, his eyes frowning at my outfit. “The weather is turning, we need to get you some warmer clothes.”

I give him a weak shrug but before I can reply TJ is in my arms, her cheek pressed against my chest. She smells like a campfire.

“Good to see you too,” I mumble into her hair. She says nothing, just hugs me tighter. My eyes find Karl’s and he smiles a whole-hearted, happy smile. “This is TJ, but I suspect you already know that.”

“She came by the store just before closing looking pretty peeved that a certain someone hadn’t returned her call,” he says. “Once I explained the situation she insisted on joining me in your retrieval.”

“And had a little get to know each other session while we waited,” TJ says into my sweater before pulling away slightly to look into my face. “So what’s next, are we off to find Tommy?”

“That can wait until tomorrow,” I say. “I’m ready for sleep right now.”

“Well you’re not sleeping at the store again,” Karl says. “I’ll set up my guest room for you… for both of you if you like.”

“That’s very kind of you,” I reply while looking at TJ, sharing a memory of peaceful nights spent in each other’s arms. “I’ll take you up on your offer; TJ can make up her own mind.”

“That sounds great Karl, thank you very much,” she says over her shoulder. “Can we stop at a store on the way there to pick up something for dinner? I’d like to cook tonight to pay you back.”

“You don’t have to do that, please don’t feel obligated…”

“I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t,” she says with a sparkling laugh. “Now let’s get J out of the cold.”

The End

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