Happy Ending

And then, they lived happily ever after…
The End

Kate Hoskins beamed with pride as she penned down those words. The perfect ending to her perfect book. The Lioness and the Badger- the epic tale of romance between a warrior princess and a gentleman thief.
This was Kate’s magnum opus. This was her story, three years in the making.
Everyone will love it.
She was sure of it.
She was giddy as a five-year-old as she sat in the publisher’s office. The bespectacled man inspected each page of her manuscript with a stone-like expression. Kate chewed her nails and prayed he wouldn’t notice her quivering legs.
At last, the publisher set down the manuscript, took a deep breath, and looked her in the eyes with the same stone-like expression.
“Miss Hoskins,” he pursed his lips.
“Detective Hoskins,” Kate corrected him. She was proud of her job. “I’m a cop for the NYPD.”
“Detective Hoskins,” he said with a grimace, “I’m afraid we cannot publish your book in its current state.”
Kate sank in her chair.
“It’s the ending. It undermines everything the characters have been working towards in favor of… hmmm…. How shall I put this? An undeserved happy ending. If you could rectify this matter, perhaps we can reconsider your-”
“It’s okay,” Kate smiled as she got up hurriedly. “I-I’ll just try somewhere else. Thank you for your consideration.”
She slammed the door behind her with considerable force. It did not make her feel better.
She knew her story was good. Her best friend loved it. Her co-workers loved it. Even her ex-husband had some words of praise.
“He just didn’t get it,” she proclaimed with an aggressive turn of heel. “There’s a lot of publishers in New York. I’ll find someone who actually gets it.”
Eight months later…
“So, no one picked up your book? Damn, that’s rough, Hoskins,” said Marty, her partner, as he crouched down to inspect the crime scene.
“Would you focus on the job?” she complained.
This was Kate’s day job, Detective Hoskins for the NYPD.
There’d been a report of arson in a Brooklyn apartment. No one had died, fortunately, but the criminal had disappeared without a trace.
Marty inspected a lump of soot with his index finger. “Hmm… Still warm. By the way, the end-of-year inspection is coming up. You nervous?”
“Pah! Of course not!” Kate laughed. “The chief loves me.”
“You sure about that?” said Marty, “you’ve been falling behind on your weekly arrests lately. And you know how the chief is with lazy workers. He might even demote you. Hang on, I think I got something.”
Marty fixed his head to the ground to look underneath the fridge. His gaze caught the melted end of a stray wire. He signaled Kate to help him move the fridge.
“Marty, I’ve got enough drama with the book. Can you give me a break?”
Several exertion noises and a loud thud followed. The fridge was turned on its side.
“Hey, I’m just being a friend. You should really focus on getting this arsonist. Anyway, electronics are your department. Whatcha got for me?”
Kate bent over to inspect the wire. “Oh, I want to catch them, alright. Bastard has it coming.”
Kate recalled the victim’s faces. A young mother and her child had come to her department this morning to report a house fire. They’d lost everything. Kate knew she had to get them justice.
“Penny for your thoughts?” asked Marty, trying to look over Kate’s shoulders.
“The fuse had been wired to detonate,” Kate concluded. “Our perp knew what they were doing. This is a sophisticated mechanism. Takes weeks to build. They clearly had professional training.”
“Someone clearly had a grudge,” Marty smirked. “Anyway, I’ll run a background check on the victim. See if she knew someone who fits our MO.”
“I’ll check the crime scene again,” said Kate. “See if I can’t pick up on any other leads.”
Marty bowed, as always, and left the crime scene with a hop and a skip.
He was a brat but he was good at his job. That made him doubly annoying for Kate.
As she got up to inspect the blackened furniture, Kate recalled that her own rent was due for next week. If she was to get demoted, she wouldn’t be able to afford her rent.
She’d be a homeless cop.
Hobocop. Huh, she liked the sound of that.
“No!” she told herself. “This is bigger than me. That poor girl deserves justice. I’m doing this for her.”
She looked around the room with an eagle’s eye. Something, anything that could lead her to the perp.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case. All the documents had been burnt to a crisp. There were no signs of a struggle or intrusion anywhere in the apartment. Even the security camera in the hallway had come up blank.
With a weary sigh, Kate decided to call it a day.

The next morning at the office…
Kate was typing yesterday’s report at her desk; well, half typing, half shivering, and half chewing her nails.
She was so engrossed in her daily routine that she didn’t even notice Marty setting down a slab of documents at her table. He was beaming with joy. “You’re gonna love me for this.”
“Enlighten us, O Holy Buddha,” she said in a deadpan voice, not looking away from her computer.
“I found our arsonist.”
Kate jumped up from her table and grabbed Marty by the collar. “What? Marty, if you’re joking about this-”
“I swear,” he smiled. “Scout’s honor. Take a look at this.”
He opened up a file on the victim’s husband and showed it to Kate. She read every word out loud in a slow, contemplative voice, “Hugo Jeffords. Forty-five. Divorced five years ago. Electronics engineer.”
“Bingo, amiright!” Marty set himself up for a high-five. “He fits our bill. He’s got a motive.”
“Motive?” Kate raised an eyebrow at him.
“Oh, come on, Kate! The bastard had a grudge against his ex-wife, had a meltdown one day, and decided to set her house on fire. Tell me that doesn’t sound believable.”
“Umm, can I say something?” a frail voice called them behind.
Both detectives cranked their necks. It was the victim. Her face was pale. She looked ready to collapse with weakness.
“Uh, yes, ma’am,” Kate nodded. “Do you have something important to add?”
“It couldn’t have been my Hugo,” she told them with an emphatic voice. “It couldn’t have been him. I knows it. I lived with that man for fifteen years. He couldn’t hurt a fly. There must be a mistake, officers. I bet it was that kid Randy from the butcher’s shop. Kid’s awful crafty with them electricals. Please, officer, I beg of you. I know my Hugo wasn’t a faithful man but he couldn’t have been that far gone. I just knows it.”
“And uhh why do you suspect this Randy kid?” Marty questioned her.
“Tis just a hunch, officer. He’s a nasty bugger, that one. He don’t like me very much. He’s one of the bad ones. Fallen in with the wrong crowd. You know how these kids are,” she implored him.
“Right. Umm, thank you for your input, Miss Jeffords. We’ll be sure to bring your perp to justice,” said Marty.
The lady thanked them both and left. The two officers contemplated this newfound information for a while.
“So, what do you think?” asked Kate.
“I say the woman is trying to protect her ex. Still got feelings for the man. Love can make people overlook a lot of things you know?” he gave her a knowing smile.
Kate scratched her temples with the nub of her pencil. Then, she proceeded to chew half the lead as she thought things over.
“Well, at least we know that you’ll never run into the same problem,” Marty sighed.
BLIP! Kate’s phone sounded a text. It was an email from her landlord reminding her that rent was due next week.
She thought about that poor woman who’d come all the way to the office to give them the new information.
“You think this Randy lead is worth exploring?” she asked Marty.
Her partner gave a wistful shrug.
“I did that already. Kid’s fled town.”
“What?”
“Trail’s gone cold. He might as well be on the other side of the globe for all we know. I’m sorry, Kate. I-I’ll leave it up to you now. It’s your call.”
The next morning…
The chief called Kate and Marty into his office. “Officers,” he spoke, “I must congratulate you on your swift resolution of the Jeffords arson case.”
“The answer was staring us in the eye, sir,” Kate told him.
“If I’m being honest, Detective Hoskins, I was planning to demote you if this case wasn’t resolved. Fortunately, you’ve proven to us that you are still a valuable asset to NYPD. Dismissed!”
As the detectives walked out of the office, Marty whispered into her ear, “There’s your happy ending.”

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