She walked across the street, headed for the alley, looking around as she made her way. The woman glanced behind her, then entered.
“Hey,” a voice from behind whispered.
The woman spun, hands out in front of her. “Don’t do that!” She approached the man. “You Jake?”
“Yep,” the man said. “What did you need?” He took in her bedraggled appearance, and laughed lightly to himself. “I doubt you could afford my stuff.”
The woman sniffed and looked panicked. “Look, Felix said that you could help me.”
“Let’s see your money first,” the man demanded.
“I have money,” she insisted. “What’s it gonna cost?” She took a crumpled handful of bills out of her pocket.
“That will do nicely,” he said as he eyed her. “And if not…perhaps we could work something else out.” The words dripped with hidden innuendo.
“Maybe,” she replied quietly. “Show me what you have.”
The man reached into his pocket, took out a small case, and opened it. “Finest coke on the streets today,” he boasted. “Almost pure.” He pulled the case back as she tried to touch it. “Money first.”
The woman sighed, and passed over all she had. The man smiled at her. “This might not be enough,” he said as he counted. “I might just have to take the rest out in trade.”
A noise at the end of the alley made them both look. Two men stood there, one of them in a police uniform, the other in normal street clothes.
“Damn it!” the man yelled. “Cops!” He shoved the woman in the direction of the approaching police, and took off at a dead run for the other end of the alley.
The woman stumbled and swore as she fell to the ground. She watched in dismay as the man made his way around the corner and out of the alley, with her money and her coke.
“Police!” Someone said from behind her. “Don’t move!” He motioned for the uniformed officer to go after the fleeing Jake.
“Take it easy,” she said as a hand yanked her to her feet. She grunted lightly as she was shoved against a wall, and sighed as the handcuffs were put on her.
Detective Carlos Sandoval glanced at the woman as she sat in the chair next to his desk. To him, she looked like any typical run-of-the-mill druggie, although she could be something if she cleaned herself up.
“Have you ever been arrested?”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Yeah.”
“You busted me in the alley today,” She replied. “You suffer from short term memory loss or something?”
Carlos sighed inwardly. He pulled his attention back to the forms he was filling out. “Name.”
“T. R. Chambers.”
“What’s the T. and R. stand for?”
“They’re my initials,” she stated simply.
Carlos stared at her for a few seconds. She’s enjoying this. I don’t believe it! He glanced at his watch.
“Look,” the woman said, “if there is something you should be doing now, by all means, don’t let me keep you.”
“Occupation,” Carlos asked.
The woman smiled. “I was wondering when you were going to get around to that.” She sat up in her chair, fixed him with an even stare, and said, “Detective.”
“You wanted to know my occupation?”
Carlos gaped at her. “You’re a detective?” He couldn’t believe it. “As in police detective??”
The woman nodded. “Yep. I.D. is in my wallet.” She pointed to the object on his desk. “Behind the pictures.”
Carlos grabbed the wallet, opened it quickly, and took out her identification. He glared at her. “Why didn’t you tell me??!” he demanded.
“You messed up a rather big buy this morning detective,” she said with a shrugged. “Consider this as payback.”
“I don’t believe this!” Carlos groaned. “You could have told me in the alley!”
“Couldn’t. I’m still going to make that buy, and I didn’t want anyone to know that I’m a cop.” She put her hands out in front of her. “How about taking these cuffs off me now?”
(One week later)
Carlos knocked on the door and entered. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
The Captain nodded and motioned him in. “Since your regular partner is on disability with his broken keg, I’m putting you with a new partner for a few weeks.”
“Okay,” Carlos agreed. “Who?”
“Loaner from narcotics,” Captain replied. “Detective Tiffany Chambers.” He looked up as a knock sounded at his door. “In fact, that should be her now. It’s open!!”
Carlos turned as the door opened, a smile on his face. The smiled faded quickly as the woman entered. “You!”
“Why Detective Sandoval…you remember me. I’m touched.”
The captain looked at them. “You’ve met Detective Chambers?”
Carlos nodded. “Yes, I have.”
“He arrested me last week,” Tiffany said.
Carlos turned to Tiffany as soon as they exited the police station. “All right! I’m sorry I arrested you.”
Tiffany nodded. “And I’m sorry I let you go through all that paper work before I told you who I was.” She leaned against the building. “Fresh start?”
Carlos nodded. “Fresh start.” He held out his hand. “Hi, I’m Detective Sandoval…your temporary partner.”
Tiffany smiled and shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Detective Chambers.” She looked around. “So, what are we working on?”
“We’re getting some info on a car theft ring,” Carlos answered. “We’re going to go to a few garages that specialize in ‘redesigning’ cars, and check them out.”
“Car thefts?” Tiffany said in a small voice.
“Something wrong with that?” Carlos asked. “I know it’s not as glamorous as going undercover to bust a drug ring, but…”
“Let’s just go, k?” Tiffany snapped and walked away.
What the?? Carlos hurried to catch up to her.
Five hours and four garages later, they were no closer to finding answers than they had been when they started. Carlos sighed as he checked the next address and got into his car.
”Hungry?” he asked.
“Guess so,” Tiffany replied. She put on her seat belt and stared out the front window as they drove away.
“Any preferences?” Carlos couldn’t figure out what her problem was, and silently cursed his luck at drawing her as a temp partner.
Carlos glanced at her. “You don’t talk much, do you?”
Tiffany looked at him. “Oh, I’m sorry…was there something you wished to discuss?”
“I’m just trying to make conversation,” Carlos said.
“Pull over here!” Tiffany said. “Pull over!”
Carlos pulled to the curb and watched as Tiffany jumped out of the car. “Where are you going?!” He got out of the car and started to follow. When he caught up to her he grabbed her arm. “What’s going on?”
Tiffany looked at him. “Just a hunch.” She tried to walk away, but he still had hold of her arm. “Come on. I know someone who might be able to help us.”
Carlos let go and followed as she walked quickly down the sidewalk. She stopped in front of a business. Carlos looked up at the sign.
“A fortune teller??”
Tiffany nodded. “Madame Zubra. I grew up down the block from her in New York. Of course, she’s as phony as they come, but she does have a little side-line dealing stolen goods.” She opened the door and entered. Carlos followed.
The room was dark, eerie, and smelled distinctively like incense mixed with a little marijuana. A middle aged woman looked up from the table.
“I knew you would be here,” she said in a European accent as she motioned to the chairs surrounding the table. Tiffany and Carlos sat. “Now, how may I help you?”
Tiffany leaned back in her chair. “A little info about the recent car thefts would be fine.”
Madame Zubra nodded, then closed her eyes. Carlos looked at Tiffany, who rolled her eyes in response. “I cannot see clearly enough,” Madame Zubra said and held out her hand.
“No info, no money,” Tiffany said.
Madame Zubra opened her eyes. “Oh, come on Tiff,” she said in a New York accent, “info like this is dangerous to depart with.” She smiled as Tiffany passed over a one hundred dollar bill. “I have no idea where they are.”
“What!?” Tiffany stood quickly. “Why you sneaky little…Give me back my money!”
“Hold on!” Madame Zubra said. “It’s not the cars they want, but what’s in them.”
“What’s in them?” Carlos asked. He cast a worried glance at Tiffany’s angry face.
“I don’t know. But that should at least get you started.” She looked at Tiffany. “Don’t start tearing apart my place again, okay?”
“What was that all about?” Carlos asked when they got back into the car.
Tiffany looked up from the notepad she was writing in. “What was what?”
“That…anger.” Carlos motioned to the building they had been in. “And why did she ask you not to tear apart her place again?”
“Oh, that.” Tiffany put the notepad on her lap. “Sheeny was talking about the time I tore her place apart looking for drugs.”
“Sheena Zubra,” Tiffany said. “She’s rather good at hiding though, because I have never been able to find her stash. I check every once in a while for it.” She picked up her notepad again. “Did you mention something about lunch earlier?”
“So, I think we should look at this whole car theft thing from another angle,” Tiffany said as she took a bite of her salad.
“I think you’re right,” Carlos agreed. “Starting with where the cars came from…who they belonged to before they were stolen.”
“Exactly.” Tiffany poured a generous amount of sugar into her coffee. “Like, did they come from the same car dealer, or even the same manufacturer. Were all the cars new?”
Carlos checked his notes. “Uh…no.” He thought for a moment. “But then, we haven’t been looking for similarities on this level. Heck, they might even have been to the same garage at one time or another.”
“That doesn’t sound likely.”
“It does when all the cars stolen are Jaguars,” Carlos pointed out. “Some people only like to take their cars to a dealer mechanic.”
“Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?”
“The tips we received on this all pointed to someone with a large order for Jags,” Carlos said with a shrug. “There was nothing on the surface to tie them all together.”
Carlos read through the file on his computer, glanced up to make sure no one was looking, then went back to what he was doing. He scrolled through the section marked ‘Tiffany Roxanne Chambers…psyche profile’, stopping when something caught his eye. He read with interest. Officer Chambers has shown remarkable strength in the recent investigation of car jackings. She has managed to hide the disruptive emotions that had surfaced near the beginning of the investigation, and can now look at it objectively. Carlos glanced around again, then went back to the file. It is unclear for how long Officer Chambers can put aside the feelings of loss and anger at losing her Aunt and Uncle, then her legal guardians, in a car jacking in 1987, but I feel confident that she will do her duty in a professional and capable manner…Dr. H. Ustal. January, 16, 1995.
“All you had to do was ask.”
Carlos whipped around at the voice, embarrassed at being caught. “I…I’m sorry,” he stammered. He turned back to his computer and quickly keyed out of the system. He looked as Tiffany sat in the chair that she had occupied a week earlier.
“So, now you know,” she said quietly. She sighed and put her elbow on his desk. “I should have told you this morning…instead of snapping at you all day.”
Carlos finally found his voice. “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I understand.”
“Yes, really.” Carlos ran his hand over his face. “If you want to be assigned to another case, I’ll understand.”
“I’m fine with it,” Tiffany said. She smiled. “Come on…I’ll let you buy your temp partner a coffee.” She stood and looked at him. “Honest, I’m okay with this.”
Carlos grimaced as he watched the amount of sugar Tiffany added to her coffee. “Uhh…you want a little coffee with that sugar?”
Tiffany smiled at him. “Nope.” She sat back and looked around the diner. “I haven’t had a chance to read through all the reports on the thefts yet…where were the cars stolen from?”
“Mostly driveways, parking lots…a few were even jacked on the express way.” “And only Jags?” Tiffany asked. “How many Jaguars are in the city?”
“Hundreds,” Carlos answered as he watched a group of men enter the diner.
Tiffany followed his gaze. “Something wrong?”
“Maybe.” Why can’t I ever have a meal in peace?? Carlos turned back to her and watched the reflection of the men in the window.
Tiffany caught onto his line of thinking. “They wouldn’t.” She glanced at the men as they gathered around the counter, and sighed as one said something menacing to the waitress and put a hand in his pocket. “Yep, they would.” Of all the diners in Texas, they had to come into this one. “What do you want to do?”
Carlos looked at her. “Stopping them would be my first choice.”
“Tut, tut, Carlos my dear,” Tiffany said as she stood up. “No sense in starting a shoot-out if you can help it.” She picked up her coffee cup and walked to the front counter.
Carlos watched carefully, his hand on his gun.
“Excuse me?” Tiffany said. The men turned to look. “But could I get in there for a moment?” She smiled sweetly and brushed between the men. She poured herself another coffee, turned, and walked back through the group.
“What the hell was that?” Carlos demanded when she got back to the table. His eyes grew wide as Tiffany slid a semi-automatic handgun toward him.
“This is a stick up!!!!” One of the men yelled, and reached into his pocket. He stopped. “What the…?” Another man in the group reached for his gun, but by then Carlos already had his out.
“Police!” Carlos yelled. “Freeze!!”
“That…that was totally irresponsible!” Carlos chastised. “And stupid!”
“You’re just mad because you didn’t think of it!” Tiffany shot back.
“I am not! And that’s not the point. You could have gotten yourself killed!”
Detective Ryan walked up. “Lovers quarrel?” he asked in a sarcastic voice.
Great…this is all I need. Carlos turned to him. “Not at all.”
“Sure seems like it,” Ryan said. “What’s the matter Sandoval? Finally find a partner crazier than you?”
Tiffany looked at the man. “Who are you, what the hell do you want, and what concern is it of yours what my sanity level is?” She smiled slightly and twitched her eye a few times.
Ryan stared at her. “I’ve heard about you,” he muttered, then walked away.
Tiffany let out a crazy little laugh, then turned her attention back to Carlos. “Oh, come on!! Get that 'What the hell have I gotten myself into' look off your face. I’m as sane as you.”
“Then we’re in real trouble.”
“I’m sorry I did that in there, but I wanted to try to stop anything before it happen.”
“You could have at least told me what you were going to do,” Carlos said as he signed his name to the bottom of a report. “We’re partners, remember?”
“I guess I’m not use to working with a partner…sorry.”
“Well, you better get use to it, real quick.”
“Geeze, deny a man a chance to kick some butt, and they get all testy.”
“I am not testy!”
“I mean it Trent. I have no idea how to deal with her!”
Trent Malloy looked at his long time friend. “Relax Carlos. She’s probably just as confused as you are.”
“What do you mean?” Carlos asked. “What does she have to be confused about?”
“For starters, she’s working with a partner,” Trent pointed out. “From what you’ve said, she’s never really had to work with a partner before. Add that to the fact that she’s trying to get use to a whole new environment.”
Carlos sighed as he looked around the 'Thunder Karate' academy that his friend owned. “That shouldn’t make a difference. Tiffany was an officer once, and she worked with a partner then. And as for the new environment? Well, police work is filled with changes…Either you get use to them, or you get lost in the shuffle.”
Trent stood and walked out from behind his desk. “Do you know how intense you get when one of your cases deals with drug dealers?” he asked. Carlos nodded slightly. “Well, this case deals with car thefts…car jackings. She’s bound to get a little intense too.”
"Intense? She doesn't get intense…she gets…creative." Carlos sat on the corner of the desk. "So creative, in fact, that it's annoying."
Trent smiled. "I seem to remember your regular partner saying the same thing about you once."
"Me? I'm not like that at all."
"No, of course not," Trent agreed. "Not at all."
Tiffany Roxanne Chambers smiled as she sat in the chair beside the desk. "Good morning Carlos," she said in a cheery voice. "How are you today?"
Carlos blinked a few times as he looked at her. "I'm fine. How are you?" He paused. "Who are you?"
Tiffany laughed lightly. "You still can’t be upset about last night, can you?" She stood. "Come on, we have a few places to check out today."
"Sit," Carlos said, then waited until she returned to her seat. "Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine," Tiffany replied. "Let's just say that I have reached my…inner peace…with this case."
Tiffany sighed. "I really don’t think that now is the time to be discussing this. We have a job to do." She stood again. "Come on, I'll buy you breakfast."
“Good, I’m hungry.”
“Think we’ll be done by five tonight?” Tiffany asked as they walked out the door.
“Maybe,” Carlos said. “Why?”
“I have a date,” Tiffany informed him. “I told him to pick me up here.”