"Then why are you here?"
"Depends what you mean," Rebus said.
"Mean?" The woman frowned behind her glasses.
"Mean by 'here,' " he explained. "Here in this room? Here in this career? Here on the planet?"
She smiled. Her name was Andrea Thomson. She wasn't a doctor she'd made that clear at their first meeting. Nor was she a "shrink" or a "therapist." "Career Analysis" was what it had said on Rebus's daily sheet.
2:30-3:15: Career Analysis, Rm 3.16.
With Ms. Thomson. Which had become Andrea at the moment of introduction. Which was yesterday, Tuesday. A "get to know" session, she'd called it.
She was in her late thirties, short and large-hipped. Her hair was a thick mop of blond with some darker streaks showing through. Her teeth were slightly oversized. She was self-employed, didn't work for the police full-time.
"Do any of us?" Rebus had asked yesterday. She'd looked a bit puzzled. "I mean, do any of us work full-time . . . that's why we're here, isn't it?" He'd waved a hand in the direction of the closed door. "We're not pulling our weight. We need a smack on the wrists."
"Is that what you think you need, Detective Inspector?"
He'd wagged a finger. "Keep calling me that and I'll keep calling you 'Doc.' "
"I'm not a doctor," she'd said. "Nor am I a shrink, a therapist, or any other word you've probably been thinking in connection with me."
"Then what are you?"
"I deal with Career Analysis."
Rebus had snorted. "Then you should be wearing a seat belt."
She'd stared at him. "Am I in for a bumpy ride?"
"You could say that, seeing how my career, as you call it, has just careered out of control."
So much for yesterday.
Now she wanted to know about his feelings. How did he feel about being a detective?
"I like it."
"All of me." Fixing her with a smile.
She smiled back. "I meant "
"I know what you meant." He looked around the room. It was small, utilitarian. Two chrome-framed chairs either side of a teak-veneered desk. The chairs were covered in some lime-colored material. Nothing on the desk itself but her legal-sized lined pad and her pen. There was a heavy-looking satchel in the corner; Rebus wondered if his file was in there. A clock on the wall, calendar below it. The calendar had come from the local firehouse. A length of net curtaining across the window.
It wasn't her room. It was a room she could use on those occasions when her services were required. Not quite the same thing.
"I like my job," he said at last, folding his arms. Then, wondering if she'd read anything into the action defensiveness, say he unfolded them again. Couldn't seem to find anything to do with them except bunch his fists into his jacket pockets. "I like every aspect of it, right down to the added paperwork each time the office runs out of staples for the staple gun."
"Then why did you blow up at Detective Chief Superintendent Templer?"
"I don't know."
"She thinks maybe it has something to do with professional jealousy."
The laugh burst from him. "She said that?"
"You don't agree?"
"Of course not."
"You've known her some years, haven't you?"
"More than I care to count."
"And she's always been senior to you?"
"It's never bothered me, if that's what you're thinking."
"It's only recently that she's become your commanding officer."
"You've been at DI level for quite some time. No thoughts of improvement?" She caught his look. "Maybe 'improvement' is the wrong word. You've not wanted promotion?"
Copyright © 2002 by John Rebus Limited
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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