Prologue: Listen to your Mother

Prologue: Listen to your mother.

“Stop it.”

Dad! Just listen-

“Karen, for the love of God, stop it. Do you have any idea what time it is?”

Dad you’re not listening to me!

“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning Karen.”

It’s 1:45.

“We almost gave you up for adoption, I want you to know that.”

That’s not funny Dad!

“It’s a little funny.”

Ugh!” a loud thud comes through the receiver after the scream causing Jack Mercer to pull his head away from the cellphone. He can hear what sounds like yelling and a slamming door before the phone is picked up again. “You know I have to live with her after you do things like that right?

“You wouldn’t if we had given her up for adoption.”

What is your problem Jack?

“Honestly? I like to drink my coffee while I drive, not talk on the phone.”

Jack for… Can you please take this seriously?

“Sara, I backed your call, just like you asked. You told her she couldn’t go out Friday night with Timmy-”


“-Whatever, and I said that you were right and that she couldn’t go. Not that I was particularly inclined to disagree with you on that one.”

Yeah Jack, and then you antagonized her so now she’s going to be pissed at me for 4 days!

“She’ll be pissed with both of us.”

She lives with me, asshole!” another thud comes through the receiver.

Jack stays on the line for another moment to confirm that, like their daughter, his ex-wife doesn’t understand that slamming the phone on the counter isn’t as dramatic when it doesn’t hang up. He drops the phone on the seat next to him and grabs his cup of coffee, annoyed that he never got to enjoy it while it was warm. He drinks it anyway with a grumble, remembering when coffee shops used to make it extra hot in the winter time. A few blocks later he looks over to the phone and clicks his back and forth three times. “She wanted the kids… Not my fault.” He says, as if trying to convince himself. As he pulls into the garage of the 99th Precinct in Brooklyn, commonly referred to as the “Nine-Nine”, he reaches for the phone and quick dials his daughter. When it rings through to her voicemail he calls his wife.

What.” The voice demands with clenched teeth.

“Sara, look. I’m sorry, OK? I… How’s about I take Karen off your hands this weekend, alright? She’ll be pissed at you for two days, then pissed at me for two days.” Silence is his reply. “Sara, I don’t know how else to-”

It’s… It’s fine. OK, so you’re going take Karen this weekend. When are you picking her up?

“I clock out at 10, so I can swing by and pick her up right after. She’ll have to spend some time with Lucy Saturday morning but then we’ll go to central park or something.”

Lucy? She’s not really-

“She’s the only one who’ll help on short notice.” Jack admits to himself that Sara isn’t wrong. Lucy is aloof to say the least, but despite the purple hair and the nose piercings, Jack’s grown to like her.

Is that because you’re sleeping with her?

“One of the only advantages I got from our divorce is you’re not allowed to ask me things like that.”


“No, Sara, I’m not…” He chokes on the heart caught in his throat. His precinct mandated therapist has reminded him repeatedly that telling his ex-wife that he wants her back isn’t the healthiest thing, and her voice is playing in his head now. He knows the advice is good, and he knows that he should listen, but therapy wasn’t exactly his choice. The therapy was mandated because he showed up drunk on Sara’s doorstep to beg her to come back. Twice. And in order  to avoid formal charges he had to agree to the talks. But he wants to tell her that she’s still the only woman for-

Good, because I don’t need to have that conversation on top of everything else. Be safe.” The phone thuds again on the counter, and he can hear Sara mumble, “Goddamn thing,” and then the beep of an ended call.

Be safe. He got the job as a patrol officer over 19 years ago, and they were married the following month with a few friends and her parents all crammed into a little church up state. They had Barbecue Ribs and corn for dinner and returned her dress the next day because a beat cop’s salary barely paid the bills. They were on the edge of bankruptcy for 5 years until he got his detective’s shield. And for 18 years and 238 days she said it to him every day before he left the house. Be safe. The last year he hasn’t heard those words that often, in fact this might  be the first time she’s said it since they signed the papers. He fights back the tears and heads into the noise and bustle of the precinct.

“You’re late.” An older balding overweight man says without taking his eyes off his coffee cup.

“Shut the fuck up Kowalski.” Jack snaps back to the detective standing by the coffee machine.

“Irish prick.”

“Polish pig.” Mercer takes his gun and holster off his belt and places them in the bottom drawer of his small desk. As he sits he looks across the desk to his partner whose wide eyes are darting between him and the other detective. “What is it Carmen?”

“You know, one day we’re going to have someone in here who gives a shit and they’re going to bust you both down to parking duty.”

Jack offers a, “pfft,” and a wave of his hand while he logs into his computer, “you wouldn’t understand.”

“What? Because I’m a woman?” Her Cuban accent getting thicker as she leans back in her chair.

“No,” Jack smiles coyly turning away from the monitor to look his partner in the eye, “because you have a stick up your ass. This is comradre. It’s how we’re supposed to talk to each other.” His cellphone beeps and he pulls it out to check. “He busts my balls, I bust his. It’s how we know we’ve got each others’ backs.” He sees the message is from his daughter so he opens it.

Please daddy hes a good guy! Youll like him.

“So you two talk to each other like you’re prison inmates goin’ after each other’s race-”

“-Please Detective, ethnic backgrounds.”

“Thought I told you to shut the fuck up Kowalski?” Jack says without looking up from the reply he’s writing. You and I both know I hate all boys, that is why you’re not allowed to date until I’m dead.

“So you two talk to each other like that, and we’re all supposed to be OK with it?”

“You know what Santiago? Why don’t you try it out. Say something to Bill. Go ahead, Pols don’t have souls anyway.”

Daddy come on! Not fair! You dont even know him!

Santiago hesitantly turns her chair to face Detective William Kowalski seated at his own desk. He turns his head expectantly “You’re a lazy piece of shit Kowalski.”

Kowalski stares back at Santiago for a long moment before replying, “That was uncalled for Carmen, and I will be filing an official complaint.”


Fine, you want me to get to know him? You can invite him with us when we go to CP this weekend. We’ll catch a movie after.

“Captain Lewis?” Kowalski calls, “A word please?” The captain, presently on the phone, waves the detective in.

“He’s not really… You guys are messing with me. Right?”

Thanks daddy! youre the best!

“Look, that was out of line Detective and you deserve what you’ve got coming to you. Honestly? You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Listen to your mother.

[Edit Nov 27: Sentence structure.]

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