“Campus police, Supervisor Woods speaking.”
“Check Yik Yak, someone’s bragging about the time you broke their arm when they tried to fight you. They’re calling you ‘that hot campus police boss’. I’m dying.”
“Griffin, this is a departmental line. Can’t you walk down the hall to bother me?”
“No. Oh my god, how many people have you assaulted on duty? This feed is gold.”
“What the hell is ‘Yak Yak’ and why am I on it?”
“I love when you try to say social media names. Say another.”
“Is this the only reason you called?”
“Pretty much. I’d die happy if you got a Facebook.”
“I have no interest in the Face app or people’s Books or whatever. I’m hanging up now. Get back to updating the crime blotter.”
Clarke was laughing too hard to get another word in before Lexa hung up on her. She’d call again when she thought of some other reason to ruin Lexa’s life.
She always did.
Everyone knows that nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. What most people don’t realize is that ‘after 2 a.m.’ includes everything proceeding 2 a.m. up to and including the other 23 hours until 2 a.m. rolls around again. Basically: everything is terrible always. Just do nothing, ever.
11 a.m. was no exception apparently - and as it turned out, it was as good a time as any to reconsider every single decision ever made in one’s entire life and regret all of them. Casually, though. Lexa was typically more of the 3 a.m. regretter, but the clear-headed, bitter ruminations native to 11 a.m. were seriously underrated.
She had been doing fine until Clarke called, but now she was distracted. There was an inordinate amount of paperwork tipping dangerously into her elbow space and nobody to help her with it. However, Lexa didn’t have class on Tuesdays, she was only making $11 on the hour, and she was alone in an office where the toilet flooded more frequently than their paychecks cleared. Maybe she could afford to let her mind wander.
So Lexa leaned back in the rickety office chair slowly, lest it snap beneath her weight, and spun in lazy circles while indulging in her regularly scheduled regret for dedicating her college years to the campus police. Realistically, she wouldn’t have changed anything if she could have gone back and done it over. Her memory couldn’t reach back to a time when she didn’t have a mildly crappy job to distract her from the mundane blue-collar fortune stretched out along the path of her astrologically foretold mediocrity. She was born for the ordinary.
Boredom always made her a little dramatic, though.
Spinning in office chairs wasn’t exactly ‘supervisor behavior’, but she worked afternoons alone until all of the night shifts started up after classes so nobody would be the wiser. Clarke was down the hallway in the communications center of course, but she’d call if she needed something.
What was the harm?
The office spun by as she rotated: mix-matched and patched up office chairs, two grimy coffee pots, rusty file cabinets filled with nonsense, a large table covered in old takeout containers, and the giant yellowed map of campus tacked up on the wall. When she stopped spinning, her gaze fell on the massive closet at the back of headquarters.
It was open. It wasn’t supposed to be open.
But that was a dumb rule anyways. There was little the ramshackle department owned that wasn’t semi-broken, old, or downright dangerous to operate – no real value would be lost if someone took their pick of the equipment. What kind of chump had decided the closet should stay closed and locked during the day?
(Lexa had. Two years ago. The chump was her.)
Even through the two small, grimy windows nestled near the tops of the outside wall – the only ports through which their basement prison could enjoy the outdoors – Lexa could tell it was a nice day. It was as brisk as any day in February, but the sun was bright and the breeze was dormant enough to fool you into not freezing to death. The hazy sunlight, even dampened as it was by smudged windows, beckoned to her. Perhaps just this once she could allow distraction to tug her mind from closing cabinets and filing paperwork and scrolling crime watch tips.
Lexa blew off closing the cabinet and resumed her slow spinning. Nobody needed the campus police at 11 in the morning on a Tuesday anyways. The paperwork would get done whenever she got around to it.
“Now I know why our incident reports back up so quickly.”
Lexa halted her spinning abruptly. One of her least favorite things was getting caught being…whimsical. Or fun.
“I was just, uh, looking for something,” Lexa muttered, making a show of shuffling papers about and surveying the tiny dungeon they worked out of. It was a pointless display, though. Giving Clarke fuel to tease her with was like giving a territorial Rottweiler a steak. Except the steak was usually made out of Lexa’s pride.
Clarke hummed. Menacingly.
“I was!” Lexa insisted, swiping a random report from the stack at her elbow. “I was told that this report takes precedence. Stop distracting me.”
Distracting. That’s what Clarke Griffin was.
“You may be a supervisor, but you’re not my supervisor. Communications Center operates outside the sphere of your influence. Besides, if I had known my efforts to distract you were being upstaged by a chair I never would’ve bothered.”
“Yes you would have.”
“Yeah, I totally would have.” She eyed the chair Lexa was sitting in with narrowed eyes. “How can I compete with a spinning chair? Maybe I should just accept that your focus is unbreakable unless I let you sit on me.”
Clarke paused, mentally chewing on her words, and looked up from the takeout containers she was sweeping into the trash bin. It only took her a moment to catch up to Lexa’s discomfort. “Er, in a not-weird way…if there is such a thing. Please don’t sue me.”
Lexa’s face was probably doing something equally weird, but she attempted a professional nod of acknowledgement while her traitorous ears burned red. “R-right,” she stuttered, spinning back to face the report she had grabbed. “You don’t have to clean that. Night patrol knows better. I’ll just have to start writing people up for not cleaning their shit up.”
Lexa flashed Clarke a glare before tugging her wallet out of her back pocket and jamming two bills into the giant jar above her desk. The unit must have been nearing a couple of thousands of dollars in unwilling donations by that point. Rather than the loss of $2, Lexa was more upset with Clarke’s persistent habit of refusing to use her name properly. God only knew they were stuck together enough. Clarke could’ve used the last few years to practice her goddamn name.
“Isn’t a swear jar a little juvenile?” Lexa grumbled for what was likely the millionth time that month. Sometimes she just needed a reminder so she didn’t crack the jar over Clarke’s head and eat the contents. Of the jar. (Not Clarke’s head.)
Clarke dutifully responded as always: “Swearing in the office leads to swearing over the radio. We have to keep transmissions professional. My radio, my rules, Woods. We have standards over in dispatch.”
Funny enough, the answer hadn’t changed from the last million times she had heard it. Even funnier was the assertion that anybody working for the campus police had anything resembling ‘standards’.
“I may not be your supervisor, but I am theirs. So as always, Griffin, I remind you that the only rules that matter in this office are mine.” She drove her point home with a haughty smile, tipping her chin up to give Clarke a superior look.
“May I remind you that before evening shifts you’re the supervisor of yourself, a bunch of empty chairs, and a whole lot of paperwork. Not much power to trip on, Woods.” Clarke adjusted her headset and fiddled with the volume control on her battery pack, taking up a more casual stance with her hip propped against Lexa’s desk. “Spin in your chair. Relax. Don’t worry, you’re still cute even when you’re not posturing in front of the new kids.”
The only one who had been with the campus police as long as Lexa had was Clarke. As the sole daytime dispatcher and self-proclaimed anti-swearing crusader (and frequent nighttime dispatcher), the two spent an unnatural amount of time together - Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to be precise. Plus the overtime when the contracts for special event security picked up and understaffing caught up with them, of course. Having only three dispatchers left them in that predicament frequently. Sometimes Lexa swore she could hear Clarke’s tinny voice fizzling over a non-existent radio when she was trying to sleep at night like a parasite in her tired brain.
They spent way too much time together.
“I do not posture.” Lexa turned her chair to watch Clarke as she moved to sift through the old radios in the equipment closet. Lexa’s own earpiece wasn’t making any strange noises, so Clarke was fiddling uselessly to pass the time. Even if the radios were on the fritz, there wasn’t much the budget could help them with. She must’ve been as bored as Lexa was.
And if there was one thing Lexa Woods was not, it was cute.
Clarke’s muffled laugh filtered out through the partially open closet. “Whatever you say, Woods. We basically live together in this hellhole and I’m telling you now: you posture.”
“I’m just being professional,” Lexa defended. If she hadn’t been so bored that day, she wouldn’t have risen to Clarke’s teasing. It was the dispatcher’s favorite way to kill time when neither of them had class to attend or service calls to respond to. “I’m the only supervisor since our budget tanked. Not being chummy with the others is the least of my worries.”
Clarke gasped. “Wait, are you serious?”
“Serious about what?”
“You’re a supervisor? When were you going to tell me?” Clarke tried to hide her stupid grin behind her stupid hand, but her stupid white teeth peeked through her stupid fingers. Weaker people had fallen victim to Clarke’s easy charm, but Lexa Woods would not be one of them. Not if she could help it.
Lexa pulled her wallet back out and shoved another dollar into the jar above her desk. “Okay, my professional, supervisory opinion is that you can go fuck yourself.”
Clarke stopped pretending to cover her grin. “Well hey, you’re the supervisor. You gonna supervise me while I do that?”
(Don’t you fucking wink, Griffin.)
“Do you require my supervision?” Lexa snapped.
Clarke just winked.
There was nothing Lexa could do about her red ears or her inability to look Clarke in the eyes (yet again), so she just huffed an annoyed sigh and turned to read the report she had randomly assigned priority to. The joke was that essentially none of the incident reports filed by or with Campus Police were of any pressing urgency. They were all just routine thefts and service waivers from the roadside assistance teams. But Lexa could just feel Clarke taking on smugness like it was a fucking full-time job from across the room, so she allotted the incident report in her hand temporary urgency. For a cause.
Generic University - Auxiliary Police Department
Case Number: 066420 Date: 02/16/16
Location: Observatory, Lot JJ Time: 2350
Classification: Damage to State Property
Public Safety Rep Responding:
Blake ID 678 / Blake ID 768
Public Safety Supervisor:
On routine 10-31 of Lot JJ behind the Observatory, 678 and 768 observed an unidentified individual in dark clothes of average build. Before confrontation, the individual fled with a large black bag into the Nelson Lake Woods. Without cause, the individual was not pursued. Upon closer inspection, the Southern wall of the Observatory had been defaced with a large mural. Several paint cans were left at the scene.
No description of the vandal available.
Photograph of vandalism attached.
Sure enough, several photographs were printed and stapled as addendums on the back of the Blake siblings’ report. Vandalism was one of the most common crimes on campus, so it wasn’t exactly a provocative incident report. College students were frequently gripped with sudden, crippling urgency to slap phallic imagery across every available surface on campus. Without catching someone in the act, there wasn’t much they could do except file their report and deliver copies to Facilities Management and Financial. They would cover costs for the damage and Facilities would clean it up when (or if) they ever got around to it. Case closed.
The graffiti itself was unusual, though.
Lexa brought the photograph closer to her face to study the admittedly impressive work. She could’ve been wrong, but it looked like a rather beautiful rendition of the sunrise over Nelson Lake. As a frequent morning jogger around the lake path, the scene was all too familiar.
“What’s that?” A strand of blonde hair tickled the side of Lexa’s face and she started at the other girl’s proximity. It was useless trying to hide the report if Clarke had been standing over her shoulder for as long as Lexa suspected.
“Vandalism, apparently. Don’t you have radios to babysit?”
Clarke tucked the errant strand of hair behind her ear, but made no move to clear out of Lexa’s personal space. “You’re the only other one on the channel right now. Technically, I’m just supposed to be babysitting you. That’s pretty bizarre graffiti.”
“You’re only authorized to babysit me over Channel 4 and only when I request it. And you seem to have taken the ‘sitting’ part a little too literally. Get off me.” Lexa swiveled around in her chair hoping to drive Clarke back a few steps, but she stayed exactly where she was. The plan backfired horribly. Clarke had no qualms about being practically nose-to-nose with her not-supervisor.
“Can I help you?” Lexa whispered in a poor attempt at sounding menacing rather than panicked.
“Show me the report, I want to see it.” Clarke smiled that easy smile and held her hand out. “We haven’t had anything interesting in months.”
Lexa considered being childish and holding the report out of Clarke’s reach, but that would have been decidedly below her rank and position.
That was exactly what she was going to do.
Lexa twisted her arm to hold it far behind her own head, out of the nosy dispatcher’s reach. “Top secret, I’m afraid,” she quipped.
Clarke laughed and reached for the report, with the unfortunate side effect of grabbing the arm of Lexa’s chair and practically climbing into her lap to take it. That stupid piece of hair fell against Lexa’s cheek again and she resumed regretting everything that had led up to her life currently, the top of the list being Clarke’s perfume and her disregard for personal space.
“I have to approve the reports too, dumbass,” Clarke argued, reaching again for the paper.
“Put it on my fucking tab, Woods. Give me the report.”
Clarke’s previous threats about sitting on each other were nearly fully realized by the time Lexa decided she had to put an end to their struggle. Clarke was just…too much. At all times. Unrelentingly so.
“Fine,” Lexa conceded breathlessly when Clark placed a hand against her collar for better leverage and reach. If the others could see her right then they’d never afford her the benefit of authority again. “Pay up to the swear jar and you can have the report.”
“You got it, champ.”
Of course, the swear jar was located above Lexa’s desk. All Lexa really achieved with her compromise was driving Clarke to make their positions infinitely worse.
“Is there some primal part of you that needs to be taller than me for once?” Lexa snapped, pushing Clarke away with a palm to her stomach. This did little to relieve their awkward positions as Clarke had decided the best way to reach the Swear Jar was by standing on the chair with a foot directly between Lexa’s thighs. Lexa’s involuntary reaction was to try leaping out of the chair with Clarke still hovering over her.
“You’re gonna make me fall!”
“Get off me!”
They scrabbled against each other for another moment until Clarke won with a knee to Lexa’s sternum and a hand on her shoulder as she deposited her contribution to the Swear Jar. Lexa just kind of let it happen in the end. The less she struggled the sooner it would be over and she could scrape her dignity back off the floor from under Clarke’s feet (as usual). It was a good thing that they primarily worked together when nobody else was in the office. The girl did bad things to her professional image.
When Clarke finally dismounted Lexa’s chair (or rather, dismounted Lexa), she snatched the report away and skimmed it. As for the whole ‘retrieving her dignity’ thing, Lexa didn’t feel confident doing so until Clarke was two, maybe three thousand miles away.
“Have you talked to either of the Blakes about this yet? How could they not have gotten a description?”
Lexa shrugged and fiddled with the pen in her shirt pocket. “I wasn’t on duty Saturday night. This is actually the first I’ve heard of it.”
“You gonna investigate, Officer?” Clarke teased, handing the report back.
Lexa rolled her eyes. “Don’t call me that. I’m as much an officer as the guards at the mall. I’m a mall cop at best. At worst, I’m a paid traffic cone.”
Clarke laughed at that. Lexa didn’t often get treated to a non-antagonistic laugh from Clarke Griffin or one that was a result of Lexa’s humor rather than her misfortune. She stealthily filed it away for the next time she considered having Clarke assassinated in the auxiliary parking lot as a form of self-restraint.
“Oh, please. Look at your cute little uniform shirt and your fancy pens.” Clarke leaned forward and flicked at her pocket, eyes twinkling. “I bet you iron your shirt twice a day. You can’t be a mall cop when you care that much.”
“I am the supervisor. Ironing one’s shirt isn’t exactly above and beyond the call of duty. And I’m not cute.”
Clarke held her hands up defensively. “Have it your way then, supervisor.”
“So if I’m not a mall crop, then I’m a traffic cone, I suppose?”
“You’re a traffic cone,” Clarke confirmed. “And I’m the traffic cone whisperer.”
Before Lexa could stop her, Clarke keyed up on her headset.
“Dispatch to ID 77”
Lexa glared at Clarke who waved back cheerfully. The county police kept an open channel to their dispatch in case they needed an actual police presence, so she had little choice but to keep her responses semi-professional. Even though the damn dispatcher was sitting two feet from her and was being unjustifiably annoying. And unprofessional.
“77, go ahead.”
Lexa released her mic and sat back in her creaking chair. Two could play at that game.
“Everything Ocean King, 77?”
Lexa rolled her eyes and mouthed ‘really’ at the girl. Pain in her ass.
“10-69 and a big 10-4, dispatch. I’m Ocean King.”
Clarke stifled her laugh into her hand.
“10-9? I didn’t quite catch that 77. Was that 10-69?”
Clarke waggled her eyebrows suggestively. 10-69 was an utterly useless 10-code that conveyed little more than a simple 10-4 would have covered. The only reason they ever used it over the radio was as a joke or a big ‘fuck you’ to their correspondent.
Lexa gestured angrily into the silence required of their transmissions while Clarke continued laughing quietly into her hand.
“Static must be bad today, dispatch. I’m Ocean King over here. Could you please write an incident report for the transmission static? The radios are acting up again and I want to keep track of it.”
Clarke blanched, opened and closed her mouth several times, then leveled a furious look at her. Lexa just grinned back, caught in the rare position of having bested the dispatcher.
Clarke fairly spit her response into her mic.
“10-4, 77. Case number for the report-”
She glanced down at her phone.
“Case number 066439.”
“10-4, thank you dispatch.”
Lexa’s grin only widened. “Don’t play if you’re not prepared to lose, Griffin. Don’t you have a report to write?”
“Yeah, now I do. Thanks, Alexandria.”
There was something uncanny about Clarke’s ability to make a mouthful of a name sound sexy and effortless. Lexa herself was pretty sure she’d never been sexy or effortless in her entire life, so maybe she was just easily impressed.
“If I thought there was even a remote chance you would listen to me, I would suggest that you stop biting off more than you can chew.” She knew she was pushing her luck, but those rare days of victory over Clarke always inflated her ego a bit.
Clarke collected the last few leftover takeout containers and dropped them in the rusty trash bin before making her way to the dispatch room. But Clarke Griffin was not someone accustomed to being denied the last word. As she passed by, she leaned down and murmured close to Lexa’s ear, “When I bite, I bite off exactly what I can chew, Woods.”
As per usual, Lexa was left scowling and bewildered and, alright, just a little turned on. But that wasn’t her fault. College kids weren’t meant to be cooped up in offices for weeks in and out without some form of inappropriate, dangerous outlet to ruin their lives over. It does things to you.
Luckily, she wasn’t afforded the opportunity to dwell on it. The office phone started ringing and she tried to ground herself again before answering.
“Campus Police, Supervisor Lexa Woods speaking.”
“Hello, this is Maya with the school newspaper. I was wondering if you had a few minutes to comment on the Mural Marauder?”
“The what now?”
The girl – Maya? – giggled into the phone. As though this were the time or the place for giggling. Honestly.
“I have sources telling me that Auxiliary Officers were the first to respond to the graffiti done to the old Observatory on Saturday night. The painting? Everyone’s talking about it and we’re running a story tomorrow morning on it.”
“It’s just vandalism,” Lexa said defensively. “It will be handled like any other incident of destruction to state property, whether it was the Mona Lisa herself or yet another phallic scribble.”
“Will there be an investigation?”
Lexa tapped her nail on her desk, agitation setting in quickly. “There’s nothing to investigate. And we don’t exactly investigate – we’re not even sworn officers. We’re just public safety representatives.”
“Did you catch the Mural Marauder, then?”
“What? No. We were unable to apprehend a suspect.”
“So the Mural Marauder has outsmarted the campus police?”
“Stop calling them that,” Lexa huffed. “There’s no case and no Art Bandit or whatever. There’s just a bunch of paperwork, a vandal, and a hassle for Facilities Management.”
“So your official statement,” Maya paused her furious typing as though reading back over her work, “is that the Mural Marauder has bested the Campus Police and may continue their crusade unchecked.”
Lexa stood abruptly from her chair, nearly knocking over the entire stack of backed-up incident reports. “How did any of the words out of my mouth sound like that? It’s just vandalism! We only do the paperwork, lady.”
“So you will be investigating?”
“Fine! Yes. I will look into it. We’re investigating.”
“How exciting!” Maya giggled again like it was a fucking game. Newspaper rats. “Would you call this the biggest criminal showdown of your career with the Campus Police? Do you have any suspects? Sources speculate it’s an inside job and the Mural Marauder is actually an Auxiliary Officer. Can you confirm-“
“Alright, I’m hanging up now. Don’t quote me on anything and tell your sources to keep their mouths shut. Nice talking to you Mary.”
“Whatever. Have a wonderful day,” Lexa snapped, slamming the phone back on the receiver.
Lexa herself was having a distinctly not wonderful day.
Grabbing her jacket and turning her radio up, Lexa retrieved the keys to vehicle 32 and headed for the door. “Griffin!” She called, halfway out the door. “Man the fort. They’ve just added ‘investigate harmless crimes’ to my job description without sending me a memo.”
“I thought that was your job description. And we stopped pretending anybody reads memos years ago. Where are you going?” Clarke called back and poked her head around the corner. “I thought we were getting tacos today.”
Lexa rolled her eyes. “To stare at a wall, apparently. I’ll bring food back when I’m done. If the newspaper calls, don’t answer. And if you accidentally answer, tell them I died and they can’t have a statement. And then actually kill me.”
“I could kill you now and cut out the middle man,” Clarke offered.
“The middle man signs our paycheck, so let’s leave him in the equation. Don’t let the office burn down.”
Clarke probably saluted or flipped her the bird, but Lexa was already slamming the door and stomping out to the truck for her daily dose of pointless stupidity. It was never in short supply on campus.
The mural was nice. Pretty, even.
Still vandalism, though.
Lexa stuffed her hands in her pockets and surveyed the area again, but there wasn’t much to see. The only thing the vandal left behind was a couple of empty spray paint cans and a dirty towel covered in paint. There had been a surprising amount of students and faculty in the area, taking pictures and generally gawking like they’d never seen graffiti before. Lexa didn’t really need space to investigate, but she shooed them away regardless. Their interest annoyed her.
It wasn’t much of an investigation, but then, Lexa wasn’t much of an investigator. She gave the wall all kinds of suspicious looks and nodded sagely a few times – typical investigation stuff. All she could really do was talk to the Blake siblings when they came in that night for patrol and see if they had anything else to say about the incident. That was as much ‘investigating’ as Lexa was willing to be bullied into. The newspaper could run their damn article, but it wouldn’t change the fact that it was a dead end.
Martha could just shove it.