“Unit Twenty-Two, we have a reported ten-sixteen over on Maple. Do you copy?”
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, clearing any lingering doughnut crumbs. I know, I know. A cop eating a doughnut—I’m a walking, talking cliché. Sue me.
I press the button on the side of my radio and respond to Becky, “Ten-four. Unit Twenty-Two en route. ETA, less than five minutes.”
Becky’s voice crackles through the radio once again. “Thanks, Roberts. Twenty-four fifty-six Maple. And be careful. The neighbor who phoned it in said it sounded bad.”
“Copy that,” I say with a smile.
In the small town of Superior, Colorado, it’s likely that the ten-sixteen —a domestic dispute—is simply a couple arguing over whose turn it is to take out the trash. After all my years away, I forgot how small this place was. You’d think, in the twelve years since I left, something would’ve changed. But nope. It’s still the same sleepy little town I left behind where something as simple as a cat being stuck in a tree makes the local evening news.
Fucking Mayberry, I think to myself. And here I am, Sheriff Andy Taylor, reporting for duty.
I eye the greasy brown paper bag in the seat next to me, contemplating whether I want to wolf down doughnut number two before I get there or if I should save it for later. I give it a soft pat, deciding to wait. I still have another six hours on duty after all. Better to have something to look forward to.
This isn’t exactly the way I pictured my life turning out, writing speeding tickets and helping little old ladies cross the street. I always felt like I was destined for more than what this town could give me.
I was the kid waiting at the door of the Army recruitment office the morning after graduation, ready to see the world and fight for my country. While all my friends had been preparing for college—dreaming of girls, parties, freedom from their overprotective parents—I had pounded the pavement, running ten miles every day and spending several hours in the school gym, lifting and squatting it out, until there was no question I was in peak physical condition. I didn’t want to give the Army the chance to turn me down.
And, for almost six years, I got exactly what I wanted. Sure, there were some shitty days—lots of them, if I’m honest. But I never doubted what I was doing. After eighteen years of trying to figure out where I belonged, I finally felt like I fit. No matter what anybody said, I knew I was doing exactly what I was meant to.
Until, one day, it was all taken from me. Someone had made the decision for me. See, losing a leg in the line of duty isn’t exactly something the Army just looks the other way for. No matter how strong I remained, no matter how agile I was on my prosthesis, I was done. They wouldn’t allow me to reenlist. It was the worst fucking day of my entire life.
So, now, after several years training service dogs with my best friend Emma, I’m back where I started. And, as I turn onto Maple Drive, I can’t help the memories that flood my mind.
She lived on this street. I’ve somehow managed to avoid turning down this road in the six months I’ve been back. I’ve driven past it numerous times, but this will be the first time I’ve actually had to drive past the house that holds so many memories.
I watch the house numbers ascend as I drive along the asphalt, a lump forming in my throat the closer I get to twenty-four fifty-six. It can’t be her house, can it?
As many times as I was there back then, I never actually paid attention to the address. But, as my cruiser pulls to a stop in front of the familiar blue door and matching shutters, I know I should’ve expected this. Fate seems to like to show up and bite me in the ass at the worst times. So, not only do I have to see the house I’ve longed to avoid, I’ll actually have to go up and knock on the front door.
The only thing that makes it slightly more bearable is knowing she won’t be there. Her parents had to have sold the house years ago, judging by the state of the yard. Mrs. Hadley would die of embarrassment if she saw the weeds currently occupying her prized flower beds. Plus, Mr. and Mrs. Hadley were like the fucking Cleavers back in the day. There’s no way in hell I’d have been called to their house for a domestic dispute if they were still living here. I’m pretty sure they never argued about a single thing in their entire marriage.
I pop the car into park and radio Becky to let her know I’m on the scene. After she assures me that backup can be here in a few minutes if I need it—eliciting a roll of the eyes from me—I climb out of the cruiser and approach the porch. As always, it takes a step or two for my stride to become comfortable after sitting for so long, but by the time I’m climbing the front stairs, I know nobody will be able to detect a hitch in my gait.
I knock softly on the front door. “Boulder County Police.”