He shook his head, thinking back over the events of the last couple of months. Stupid. Had he really expected to walk back into the station and get his old job back after being gone for a year? It had been official, his leave of absence, but by the time he got back to Ann Arbor, there were cutbacks on the force. Last one in, first one out. Jesus, tough luck, Louis, youre a good cop but you know how these budget things are, but if you need a recommendation...
He saw the classified ad in the Free Press the same day. It was slipped in between the computer programmers and fast food managers.
Police Officer. Loon Lake, Mich. Must be MLEOTC.$22,000.
Physical/drug test required.
Application deadline Dec. 18. , 5 p.m.
Come back home, Louis, Phillip Lawrence had said. Just until you get your feet back on the ground. Were worried about you. Loon Lake isnt the answer.
The snow was starting to let up some. Louis glanced at his watch. It was four-thirty.
He straightened against the cold vinyl seat, his teeth chattering. A green reflector sign caught the headlights. Welcome to Loon Lake, Gateway to the Winter Wonderland.
The pines parted, opening onto a two-lane residential street, cast in the soft glow of old-style street lamps. Neat frame houses lined the street, with swings on the porches, smoke curling from their chimneys and snowmen standing guard in the yards. In the dusk, ruddy-faced men shoveled their driveways. Louis drove past a red brick school. Kids were sliding down a hill on cafeteria trays, chased by a barking golden retriever.
Louis continued down Main Street. There were garlands of lights festooned across the street and big plastic candy canes fastened to each streetlight. The stores windows were filled with signs announcing Christmas sales. Women stood in knots on the snowy sidewalks holding babies and packages.
"Christ," Louis muttered. "Its Bedford fucking Falls."
A sign for the police station lay ahead. The station was nearly obscured by pines and evergreens. Louis swung into the small lot and cut the engine. The building was made of logs, like a ranger station. A smoking chimney reached into the gray sky and two bare maples formed a spindly tunnel over the sidewalk.
Louis got out of the car, stretching his stiff body. He was struck by the smell of the air -- pine and smoke. He bent and checked his tie in the side view mirror. He had spent almost eight hours on the road. His trousers were wrinkled and he felt dirty. What a way to appear for a job interview.
Louis stepped into the station, the heat from a ceiling vent raining down on him. The interior was paneled in a coffee-colored wood and a brick fireplace in the back crackled with a healthy fire. A polished pine counter and a long, gleaming railing separated the work area from where he stood, set off by a small gate. On his left was a door marked Chief of Police.
Louis walked to the counter, glancing down hungrily at a large tray of Christmas cookies. An officer sat at the rear desk, his blonde head bent over a report. Louis cleared his throat.
The young man looked up and smiled. He stacked his papers neatly, positioning them exactly parallel to the edge of the desk and rose, coming toward the counter.
"Hello. What can I help you with?" The smile was genuine. He had pearly, straight teeth and closely cut hair. His skin was flawless and pink, and combined with the powder blue police shirt, he looked like a baby shower gift. His silver name plate said Dale McGuire.
"I saw the ad in the paper," Louis said.
The officers eyes moved over Louis's dark blue suit and he reached under the counter and produced an application and several other papers. He slid the stack across the counter. Louis moved the tray of cookies and turned the papers so he could read them.
Copyright P.J. Parrish 2001. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author, PJ Parrish
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