“Who’s winning?” My girlfriend sat on the arm of my recliner and handed me a drink. She’d also brought one for my partner, Tommy. Pretty gracious, since she hated his guts.
He glanced at the open bottle with unbridled skepticism.
Molly glared at him, snatched it from his hand and took a long gulp. Then she belched and returned it. “Happy?”
He grunted something and leaned back into the sofa. “Hey, Chris. Are you going with me to James’ bachelor party Saturday? I’ll have you home early. I know Molly would kill us both if I didn’t. Wouldn’t you, Mol?”
“Just you,” she said sweetly, then brushed a kiss on my head. “I’ll be upstairs, Duds.”
She always called me that, short for Dudley Do Right.
Tommy watched her go, his face a grimace. “Aren’t you afraid to live with her? You know what she is. All it would take would be one good argument and then ‘khhhhhhh.’” He drew his finger across his throat. “A leopard can’t change her spots, you know.”
It was an old argument. She had changed. As far as I knew, she hadn’t killed anyone in the past three years, since we’d moved in together. Tommy didn’t like it; my captain didn’t like it, but there was nothing they could do.
“She was found ‘not guilty’ in a court of law,” I said, and Tommy snorted.
“‘Not guilty’ is not the same as ‘innocent.’ Don’t even start that legal crap with me. I saw that hotel room.”
I was the arresting officer, had an airtight case, but due to an error from the judge’s office—a failure to stipulate the correct room being searched—the evidence was tossed.
I’d confronted her on the courthouse steps. She’d smiled at me and said, “What, Officer? This isn’t over? I’ll never get away with it?”
Corny as it sounded, I’d gotten lost in those green eyes. I think I surprised both of us when I said, “How about dinner?”
I’d taken her to my favorite Chinese restaurant, and things had gone well. Too well. By the time our fortune cookies had arrived, I hadn’t wanted to let her go.
How we’d laughed over her fortune. “To be good, you must follow good.”
“That must be you, Duds,” she’d said. “You’re the only good man I know.”
So it began. We had an arrangement. I kept my socks picked up from the bathroom floor, and she didn’t kill anybody. It had worked out so far.
After Tommy left, I headed upstairs. Molly sat on the bed, looking at her laptop. She snapped it shut when I came in, and I realized she’d been crying.
“Mol, what is it?”
In all the time I’d known her, I’d never seen her cry. It spooked me. I sat beside her and took her hand.
She opened the laptop. The banner at the top of the page read Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Sex Offender Registry. I did not recognize the face of the aging man staring back at me, or the name—William Olive.
She tapped the screen, and her tears came harder. “This is the one, Duds. This is the man that made me what I was. I was so broken when you found me. He’s the one who broke me.”
She squeezed my hand. “I know what we agreed on, but I need to do one last job. Trust me, he deserves it. Then I can move on with my life. I’ve searched for him for so long.”
We talked all night. I begged her to wait at least until the weekend, when she’d had time to calm down and think things through.
It took some wrangling, because I didn’t want to leave a footprint that could be traced back to me, then her, but I managed to access Olive’s case files. It was worse than even I could imagine. Why was he still on the streets? He was the suspected ringleader in a human trafficking ring out of Atlanta, and also the prime suspect in the murder of an eight-year-old Macon girl. Not enough evidence to charge, the D.A. had said.
Sometimes, I really hated my job. Protect and serve, that’s the motto I’d dedicated my life to, but lately, I wondered exactly who I was protecting and who I was serving.
The next night, while Molly thought I was at work, I drove to the address listed on the registry.
For a long while, I stared at his house, thinking of that little girl from Macon, and all the other little girls. Thinking about Molly and what she’d said. The look on her face.
I thought about the nickname she’d given me—Dudley Do Right. Was there a difference between doing what was right, and what was good?
All I knew was, I couldn’t let her do this.
I pulled my fortune cookie slip from our first date out of my wallet. It read: You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead.
Still didn’t know what that meant, so I crossed the fortune out with my pen and scribbled “Protect and serve” over the top of it.
No, I couldn’t let her do this. She had reformed. She was good—one of the most decent, honest people I’d ever known, and I wasn’t about to let her blow her second chance on this scum. I also wasn’t going to let him walk the streets another day.
She had me now, and I knew a thing or two about how to stage a murder scene.
I grabbed my gun and exited the car.