She folded her newspaper and tucked it in her bag, tossing her long, brown hair back. She cut through the empty lot on the way back to her car. The air was damp and she wanted to get in before it started to rain.
Passing by the parking garage, a man’s voice behind her said, “Hey, what time is it?” She pulled out her phone and he said, “Ok. Now give it to me.”
“Why are you doing this?” she asked, digging deep for courage. Her heart was racing, but she knew she could and should try to make a difference in this man’s life. She turned to face him and said, “You can have my wallet, you can have my money, but aren’t there safer, easier ways to make a living?”
“Why should you care?” he said. “Why should it make a difference?”
“Because I think you are entitled to a good life and I don’t see how you can get it by stealing.” Her hand trembled as she handed him her purse. “I mean, this is scary as fuck for me. I can’t imagine it is any less scary for you.”
“Doesn’t matter. Just give me your shit.”
She nodded and gave him her phone. He shoved her back and she stumbled over the curb, twisting her ankle. A quiet, terrified sob broke from her lips. She sat back looking up at him as he turned to run. Then a sudden, loud grunt and the leaping shape of someone tackling him.
She cried out again and turned away, covering her face with her arm. When she turned back around, she saw her assailant face down on the ground getting handcuffed.
The man handcuffing him was wearing a navy blue shirt with COP across the front in bright yellow block letters and running shoes and shorts.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Once he finished making sure the thief was secure, he turned to her.
Cop haircuts had never done anything for her before, but his light blond hair made it look like a halo around his head. His bright blue eyes lit up his face. He looked familiar in the way she was sure angels would look familiar when they saved someone.
He held out a hand to her and helped her up. Her ankle was sore, but it could just bear weight. He wrapped his arm around her and supported her to the bench in front of the coffee shop. “Are you ok?” he asked finally.
The fear and pain finally tumbled out and tears rolled down her cheeks. “Yeah, I guess.”
He held her tighter to him, then said, “I saw you out the window. I worried I wouldn’t get to you in time.”
She trembled against him, then said, “Thank you.”
He held her still tighter and she was sure it was against the rules, but she didn’t care. Everything about him screamed cop, screamed gender normative manly man. And being saved by him ignited all of her most stereotypical, gender normative damsel in distress traits.
“I’ve got to go wait with the suspect. But I’ll be back.” He ducked into the coffee shop, then ran out. “Right back, I promise,” and took off running around the corner of the building.
She watched him run from her, his legs and back and ass. He had protected her, he had come to her in her hour of need. The way he pulled her close, then held her tight.
“Hey, are you ok?” She looked up to see one of the girls from the coffee shop bringing her a cup of coffee. “He said to bring you a little something.”
“Thank you.” She took the coffee gratefully. If anything, it would give her hands something to do besides shake.
The woman from the coffee shop laughed. “Thank him, not me.” She turned to go back in, then said, “I’ll keep my eye on you. If you need anything else, let me know.” And with that, she was alone again.
She sat, drinking her coffee. She stretched her foot, rolling it in circles. It wasn’t too bad. It would be tight tomorrow, but she’d be fine in a couple days. She briefly considered going to her car again, but having him come back to her was appealing. Also, and she knew this was cowardly, but if he used any sort of excessive force, she didn’t want to see it. She wanted him to be perfect. She also didn’t feel like protecting the man who had just attacked her.
“How are you feeling?”
She looked up to see him carrying her bag back. “Thank you for the coffee.”
“Of course,” he smiled. He sat next to her and said, “We have to go take your statement, but I think it’s going to be slam dunk. I saw the whole thing and once I knew what was happening, I was right there.”
She started to get up and he offered her his arm again. She stood up and leaned against him. He was solid against her and she fit against him perfectly.
“How’s the ankle?”
“Hurts, but I’ll be ok in a few days.”
“I’m Cole Haussman, by the way.”
“What were you doing? Were you trying to talk him down?”
She shrugged a little, enjoying his solidity against her shoulder. “I work with at-risk populations. It seemed like the thing to do.”
“Don’t you realize how dangerous that can be?!”
“Are you scolding me?”
He chuckled, then said, “If he was on crack or something, nothing would have gotten through. He could have been really dangerous.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then nothing I could have done would make a difference.”
He opened the back door of the public safety building and led her in. He sat her down in front of a desk. She looked over it to see if there were pictures of any women. She laughed to herself. There is no way she would date a cop, regardless of how attractive she found him. Still, to her delight, there were no pictures on his desk.
He took her statement and it was everything she expected it to be. When they were done, she stood up, leaning against the back of the chair.
“Can I help you out to your car?”
She looked up and smiled, then tried a test hobble. “I think I’m ok.”
“Well, can I walk you out to your car?” A slow, hopeful grin in the corners of his mouth.
“Yes, you can do that.” She pulled her purse over her shoulder and limped out through the office and down a hallway. He followed her, grin widening.
“So, what do you do, working with these at-risk populations?”
“Mostly grant writing for preschools in underserved populations. Makes a big difference if the kids get that one on one attention, if they’re getting enough to eat. The bad part is it takes so long to see results, but I still think it’s worth it.”
“What are you doing to keep safe? Are you in rough neighborhoods?”
“I’m fine,” she said, waving her hand. “I get mugged here across the block from the police station. Never anywhere else.”
He shook his head and said, “I’m not always going to be around when you get jumped.”
She looked up at him sidewise and smiled just the smallest bit. She would be ok with that.
That smile! He wanted so badly to put his arm around her and support her. He had been on the treadmill when she came around the corner, the slight sway of her hips, the way she looked like she was always listening to music. She was instantly recognizable and had his complete attention, then the mugger came and he saw her stiffen, her fluid motion turned solid. As soon as she held out the purse to him, he was off the treadmill and sprinting to her.
She’d called him a fascist pig when he gave her the ticket for jaywalking. But for giving so many tickets to so many people, it was hard to remember one individual. But not her. The hips, the hair, the sway, everything down to the slightest patchouli whiff he got, she was almost a caricature of a hippie. His partner, Barlow, had laughed when he saw her and declared it was Cole’s turn for hippie detail.
He couldn’t get her out of his mind. Which made no sense because there were plenty of other girls who wouldn’t call him a fascist pig. His mom had tried to set him up, all the girls in his congregation, so many. But still, who should stick but this damn dirty hippie flower child?
But she was looking up at him and smiling. He held her much too close. But, she didn’t seem to not like it, instead, she encouraging it. For her just having been mugged, for her to smile like that? And he had no doubt if she did not like it, she would call him out in the loudest, most attention grabbing way possible.
“Well, sure, I pay my taxes, but I’m not sure my taxes would pay for that.” She grinned up at him, pulling him back to earth. “Unless they do. Would my taxes pay for you to always be around?”
He returned her grin, then said, “They should, shouldn’t they?” She stumbled over a curb and he caught her arm, keeping her from tumbling. Soft, smooth skin. He put the arm back around her and held her. “I’m not sure you should even be driving.”
She laughed and looked up at him again, lips parted, just so. Those lips? How had he missed her lips? Although it was understandable, her hips had mesmerized him and blinded him to everything else. “Did you just offer to drive me home, because I’d probably agree to that.”
They came up to her black Prius and she opened the door, then sat down, looking up at him.
“Be careful?” he asked. He prayed with all his heart that she would.
“If you aren’t around, I will have no reason not to,” she smiled, then pulled her hurt left ankle into the car and said, “Thank you, Officer Haussman.”
“You’re welcome, Miss König.” He shut her door and she looked back at him once more, then drove away, the first rain drops starting to fall on his face.