Pernicious
mirthlessly, to stave off crying.
              What else can I do? Work in a warehouse? Drive a truck? I’m stuck, stuck, stuck. I make the world a better place to live, don’t I? Yes, I do. Someone has to spend hours on end away from the family chasing bad guys.
              She lifted her legs and brought them down hard on the table.         
              It’s just so lonely, so terribly lonely. Yeah, I’m a cop, and I’m human, too. Let’s be friends, okay? I’ll call you sometimes and we’ll trade stories about our children, cooking, our relationships, about anything but our jobs. We’ll go to lunch, cry on each other’s shoulder, do all the things that friends do. Is that too much to ask? A simple, uncomplicated friendship.  
              I could call Angie. How long since we talked? Five years? ‘Hey, girl, what have you been up to? I was just thinking about you, you know. I decided to give my favorite girlfriend a call. How’s Vic? He’s still in the joint? I’m sorry to hear that.
              ‘Neal? He’s doing fine. Same old Neal. You know we’re divorced now. He practically lives here, though. He watches Derrick when I’m at work. Girl, those two are tighter than two ticks on a puppy’s tail. You oughta see Derrick, he looks just like Neal, just like him. My sex life? PG-thirteen. Boring and uneventful! Once a month I let Neal make ugly face, you know, just to keep his mouth shut.
              ‘Angie, you know we’ve been friends since we were in junior high…best friends. Remember when everyone called us the dynamic duo? We kicked some butts back then, didn’t we? Yes, you’re right, that’s in the past.
              ‘Speaking of the past, I’d like to apologize. I promised you I would go to court with Vic and vouch for his character. I gave you my word, and I didn’t go. I’m sure that’s why we no longer call or visit each other. It’s not like you’re in another state, you know.
              ‘I drive by your house on my way to work every day, and I’ve tried to call you and your son says you’re too busy to come to the phone. Let me explain why I didn’t go to court that day. Vic was dirty, Angie.
              ‘They had him dead to rights. He sold to an undercover officer during a stakeout. When I told you I’d go to court with him I didn’t know all the facts. I work with these people every day and it’s impossible for me to believe they would frame Vic.
              ‘Remember we promised we wouldn’t let a man come between us? Let’s be friends again, okay? Because I sure miss you, and girl, you wouldn’t believe how lonely it gets around here.’
              She couldn’t pretend any longer; she covered her face with both hands and started crying. She slipped onto the floor and a few minutes later she was sound asleep.
                                         
                                          * * * * *
             
              The phone rang.
              Tasha woke up…Somehow the white stucco ceiling had been replaced with wood with a poorly varnished finish. Rays of sunlight beamed through the Venetian blinds onto the carpet.
              She then realized she’d fallen asleep on the living room floor, under the coffee table. The phone continued ringing. When she sat up, her head throbbed and stomach churned. She lay back down.
              Whoever was calling wasn’t giving up. She groaned and crawled to the phone on an end table.
              “Hello.” She could smell her breath; it didn’t smell good.
              “Tash,” Bob said. “I’m glad you picked up. Were you asleep?”
              “No, Bob. I was just sitting here waiting on your call. What’s up?”
              “I went down to Morrilton yesterday to

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