Intermission by Barbara Winkes

Thanks to Angela Grace for including me in this project! After Nov 9th I sat down with all my main characters and wrote a scene for each of the couples—a glimpse of what their lives in what many of us perceived as a sharply altered reality. It helped me to re-connect to them, and my own motivation to write about women who don’t back down. I chose to share this scene with Jordan and Ellie. It’s set between books 5 (Initiations) and 6 (Intentions).

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* * * *

The atmosphere at work was somber, to say the least. What they once imagined to be sharply drawn lines, were blurring in ways that had already become dangerous for many. Jordan knew that most of her colleagues were painfully aware. They were supposed to uphold the law, protect others. What if not long from now, the law no longer protected some of them—and what she and the people she’d worked with for years, would have to uphold those new laws, benefitting only some? The thought made her physically sick, and she knew Ellie felt the same.

Ellie was out there now, responding to an increased number of hate crimes, and also shaking hands with protesters.

She was about to go down to the lab when the scene erupting a few feet from her stopped her cold.

“Damn traffic,” Detective Waters swore. “Don’t these people have jobs? No, let me answer that. When are we supposed to clean out the streets so that decent citizens can get to work?”

The other detective he’d been ranting to, gave him a blank look, stunned or disgusted by Waters’ outburst, it was hard to tell.

“Hell, why can’t they get a grip? They lost.”

“It’s more than that, and you know it. For some people, the ‘inconvenience’ is worse than a detour on the way to work,” A.D.A. Esposito said as she passed him by, rolling her eyes at Jordan.

Sadly, Waters’ attitude wasn’t much of a surprise to her. She had always heard things between the lines, low-tuned dog whistles in the way he spoke about some suspects, about Jordan’s partner Derek Henderson, or his own, Maria Doss. It wasn’t enough to get him fired, but it was sure enough to be uncomfortable, now more than ever.

“You have nothing to say to that, Carpenter? Your girlfriend is out there in the thick of it. Aren’t you worried about her?”

Jordan was worried about her, every day, but not because of the people Waters was talking about. Ellie had told her how some of the marchers, young kids, had thanked her. Of course, she knew any assembly of a large group of people could turn violent, not because of the many who peacefully exercised their rights, but because of the few who would insert themselves into the situation for the heck of it.

“Yeah, and you won. Let it go.”

“That’s all?” She was aware of the silence settling over the room, others expecting an argument.

“Yes, that’s all,” Detective Doss said. “Come on, Cliff. We’ve got work to do.”

“Just a moment. Since you asked. I’m worried about many things right now. The number of hate crimes going up. Some of my friends being targeted. My right to marry being taken away before I even get there. That’s right, those things worry me.”

“Marriage? I really don’t understand why that is any of your concern when you’ve slept with every woman in this department.”

The urge to punch him right then and there was near overwhelming, and Jordan might have followed through with it, if it hadn’t been for Lieutenant Carroll’s booming voice.

“Detectives, don’t any of you have work to do?”

She turned on her heels and went back to her desk, realizing she’d forgotten a document she needed to bring to the lab.

Waters and Doss left as well. The lieutenant followed Jordan to her desk.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said.

“It wasn’t your fault. How are you doing?”

“You’re asking me specifically?”

He shook his head. “No, I want to hear it from all my people. These are not normal times. It’s like the damn Super Moon every day.”

Jordan couldn’t argue with that. However, she knew that compared to many of their friends on and outside the force, they were still vastly privileged, had the tools not only to cope, but help others. Knowing that had helped them a lot in the past few days.

“Yeah, but we’re doing okay so far.”

“This might be a moot point, but I hope we can keep politics out of the workplace.” He held up a hand. “I know you didn’t start this, and I have to trust some of you to be the grown-ups in the room.”

He turned and walked away before Jordan had the chance to react to his statement, telling her clearly that he wasn’t happy with Waters’ antics. That was a relief. She finally found the document she had wanted to discuss with the lab tech, when her phone rang.

“This is Detective Carpenter. How can I help you?”

“Tell me you’re okay?”

“Bethany,” she said, unsure as to what to make of this call from her former girlfriend, a psychiatrist working with the FBI.

“That’s right, this is a social call. I’ve been debating whether it’s appropriate, but I decided these are unusual circumstances. So, how are you doing with all this?”

“We’re not happy, as you can imagine, but we still have a job to do, even when others didn’t do theirs.”

“Ouch,” Bethany said. “I sense reproach. I can promise you it wasn’t me or any of the people I know who were involved. Most of those I talk to are as shocked as you are.”

Jordan sighed. “No, I didn’t mean that. Any interesting chatter you can tell me about? Something that would get us out of this mess?”

“If I did, it would be classified, right? Seriously, I just wanted to make sure you’re all right. This has to bring up…things.”

“If you want the truth, I’ve been too busy to waste a thought on Darby. We’re on high alert.”

“Yeah, same here. A situation like this, someone always tries to take advantage. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I was an accountant.”

Jordan had to laugh at that. “No, you don’t, and you know it. Thanks for calling. I appreciate it. Take care.”

“You too. Bye.” Bethany ended the call, fortunately understanding that this was where the boundaries of their relationship were now.

She leaned back into her chair, reflecting the the past minutes’ conversations. All in all, they had more allies than enemies. Waters might have basically called her a slut, but at least, he, too, knew that with his outdated views, he was part of a minority around here—it was a satisfying realization.

* * * *

“You can’t arrest me, bitch. Not anymore!”

“Oh, watch me,” Ellie snapped as she cuffed the perpetrator who had punched a woman in the face in front of dozens of witnesses. Fortunately, some of them had stepped in and held him until she and Casey arrived.

“Her kind should be in jail,” he whined. “Watch out, our time will come.”

“Well, yeah, we can all discuss this downtown. Now let’s relieve the good people around here of your presence.”

It took all of her self-restraint to keep up the cool, sarcastic tone, when she was so angry, blazing mad in fact. What the hell was wrong with people who thought they could not only get away with a crime, but that the definition thereof had changed overnight? A rhetorical question, Ellie knew. People hadn’t changed overnight—just some felt they had been given permission to act like the worst kind of jackasses. She preferred spending her shifts guarding marches. That, at least, gave her hope that not all was lost with humanity, and that hope was hanging by a thread lately.

“Are you okay?” Casey asked quietly, and Ellie nodded.

“I’m fine. I’ll join you in a minute.”

She walked over to the table where a paramedic was tending to the victim of the assault. The young woman’s friends, two women and a men, all in their early to mid-twenties, looked both angry and alarmed. Ellie could relate.

“How are you doing?” she asked the woman who shrugged in return.

“I guess nothing’s broken. I’ll look funny for a bit. Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“That’s our job. Please don’t hesitate to call if you ever witness a situation like this again. It’s important that those are documented.”

She cast a quick look at the rainbow button on the woman’s jean jacket, wishing she could say more to reassure her. The truth was, they could only do their best to try and avoid worse. Ellie was tired. She was grappling with her own fears about the future.

“They don’t know that there are more of us than them,” she said, leaving the group to interpret her words. She could tell from the young woman’s hesitant smile that she understood.

“Let’s get back,” she said to Casey. “Man, I’ll be so glad when this shift is over. I need a drink.”

“Don’t we all,” Casey mumbled.

These days, Ellie was more grateful than ever for people she didn’t have to make many words with. She sent a quick text to Jordan, asking her to come to the D&T later. There had been a time when they didn’t feel so much in need of a designated safe place—that wasn’t true anymore.

* * * *

Jordan sat with Derek and Libby, Maria and A.D.A. Esposito, a pitcher on the table. Margheritas, Ellie assumed.

“Oh, hey, that looks great. I want in on it.”

“Don’t worry.” Jordan pulled a chair, and the others made room for her and Casey to sit. “We already ordered a second one.”

“Yes,” Esposito said. “Sometimes, alcohol is the answer.”

Moments like this, Ellie’s mood took a much needed upswing. Being among colleagues and friends gave her hope that they would be able to stop the downward spiral. Then again, she never thought they’d find themselves in this situation. Under the table, Jordan took her hand, and she leaned into her.

“Long day?”

Ellie shrugged. “Same as the last few days. People are freeing their inner assholes like never before.”

“You could say that,” Libby agreed, making Ellie wonder if her day might have been worse.

“At least we can still arrest them. This guy today punches a woman in the face, and thinks he gets a medal for it.”

“We’re not there—” Jordan tried.

“Yet?” Ellie and Derek said in unison.

That moment, the waitress arrived with the next pitcher.

“Oh, great,” Maria said. “Right on time.” Everyone laughed, knowing those lighter moments were much needed, if temporary.

* * * *

“You know, I did not sleep with every woman in the department. In case someone tells you that.” It was important to correct the record, in politics and love. Even as she said those words, Jordan was aware they might sound strange, out of the blue like this.

Ellie’s gaze on her was between amused and intrigued. “Who says you did?”

Jordan pulled the covers higher, grateful for the warmth of Ellie’s skin against hers. They had taken a cab from the D&T to the apartment Ellie still inhabited for the next few days then retreated to her room right away. Wasting no time—not a single moment.

“I’ll give you three guesses,” she said, and Ellie sighed.

“Oh, of course. Waters. He really thinks that everything is just peachy, and that we should all come together now?”

“It’s hard to know what he actually thinks, but I had a feeling. Sometimes it’s better to have it out there in the open—so you know who you’re dealing with.”

Ellie looked doubtful. “He’s being reprimanded for this, I hope. Is he going to have your back if that’s ever an issue?”

“He’s worked with Maria for years, and I’m not aware of any problems.”

Jordan knew Ellie wasn’t going to be satisfied with that answer.

“Well, everything is different now. We need to pay attention to these things. Carroll has an eye on him?”

“Yes, definitely. Please, don’t worry about me.”

“That, I can’t promise. But I can give you something else instead…”

“I’d love that,” she said.

Ellie leaned over her to kiss her deeply. Jordan was more than willing to take her up on the offer. They would take care to look out for each other, their friends, the strangers they’d sworn to protect.

If some of them were hoping for history to go backwards, they’d be in for a surprise.