Bob looked at his bothered wife with love and tenderness in his eyes. He didn’t know exactly what went on with her, but whatever it was, she could probably use some time away from the house and children. A messy home didn’t bother him, but he knew filth was just not something she did well with. The twins were a lot to handle, and up until Breanne’s conversion, she had been handling them by herself when he wasn’t around. She needed a break.
“Yes, Robert,” she said robotically.
“Let’s hire a nanny and hang out…just you and me.”
“You’re due to work soon,” she said without missing a beat.
“Not until 2:00. We have plenty of time.”
She continued eating.
“Come on. You know you need a break.”
“Fine. But I don’t want that man! Tell them to send someone else.”
“Ay ay, Captain.”
She got a kick out of that. He could have kicked himself for not thinking of that one before.
Once they were fed and dressed, Bob took her to the strip in Willow Creek. Despite the crowds, it was a nice place to sit and relax. It was located on the waterfront, and the lapping of the river against the bank was such a soothing sound.
Upon arrival, Bob could see Eliza’s stiff posture soften just a bit, and he was glad he could do that for her. They walked along the boardwalk for a bit before choosing a bench to relax for a while. Eliza stared out at the river, breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly. It was almost as if she were willing herself to relax. Bob scooted closer and wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her forehead and could feel the stiffness dissipating even more.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
“I am now.”
“What’s been going on?”
She sighed and created a little distance between them. Not that he didn’t think whatever it was wasn’t serious, but he knew for sure whatever it was had been cutting her deep. Her eyes were hesitant, and her mouth opened and closed a few times.
“Is it me?” he asked. He knew it wasn’t but thought a mild panic may help her thoughts come along.
“No! Of course not! It’s…” She sighed. “It’s Detective Farris.”
He snorted. “Oh. Her. What’s she done now?”
Her eyes…they looked almost fearful.
“Lizzie, what is it?”
She turned away from him. “She’s got the Chief. I have reason to believe they are both attempting to stall my advancement.”
He didn’t like that one bit but said nothing. His balled fists spoke for him. “What exactly are they doing?”
“They’re keeping me from getting cases. I’ve been on patrol all week.”
“I don’t know!” She seemed to be startled by her escalated voice. “The Chief said they had new systems and processes I needed to learn before getting a new case, but I’m not doing anything that would require them! And, when I’m not on patrol, I’m processing inmates! Processing inmates, Robert!”
Her voice broke, and his heart went out to her despite him wanting to have a word with the Chief.
“To make it worse, Farris is supervising my work!”
“But, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Farris can’t be a Captain until you get Colonel. And then…you’ll be the Chief!”
“My advancement affects them both, Robert. The Chief doesn’t want to be voted out, and Farris can’t stand for me to outrank her.” She lowered her head. “It’s a brilliant plan.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what, Robert?”
“Give them that kind of credit. They’re crooked!”
“It’s still a brilliant plan.”
“What do you think I’ve been trying to do, Robert?!”
He sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean–“
“I know. I’m sorry too. I just…I feel so inadequate, Robert.”
His heart sank even deeper. For as long as he knew her, she never uttered anything close to the words. If anything, she always stated the opposite. He wished he knew how to help.
“What if it’s not a conspiracy at all? What if it’s an assessment of my problem-solving capabilities? What if there is a solution but I don’t know what it is? And, if I never solve this, does it mean I’m not fit to be the Chief? Have I been sabotaging myself this whole time by blaming them?”
As crazy as he knew it was, the logic was sound. Her logic was always sound.
“That’s ridiculous, Lizzie, and you know it. You’re the best there is. That’s why they’re doing this. Somehow, this will end. It has to.”
He sounded confident, but on the inside, he was conflicted. Bob wanted Eliza to be the Chief almost as much as she did, and to hear about some jealous twerps trying to block her made him angry.
“Robert…” she said sweetly.
“Robert…don’t be upset. This is my problem.”
“I’m your husband! Your problems are my problems.”
He could feel her smile radiating from her lips. At least she felt better.
“Oh, Robert, that’s sweet, but please don’t get yourself worked up…come here.”
He reluctantly scooted closer, and she kissed him. He couldn’t believe it. She never kissed him. Of course, he had noticed the changes in her over the past few months, but this…this was different. It was epic.
When they pulled away from each other, Bob felt like the world was spinning.
“Oh! We should do something fun. We haven’t done bowling yet.”
He wanted to laugh at the sudden change in pace. He would rather have gone home for an afternoon romp, but he agreed bowling did sound fun and they headed to Oasis Springs.
They walked in the place and had a quick look around. There was a bowling club gathering. They looked so cool in their snazzy, matching shirts. Bob felt out of place like he and Eliza were two old geezers at a bachelor party or something.
“Well…first, we need shoes,” she said. “Then I suppose we get a ball and pick a lane.”
They went to the counter and got their shoes. Then, Bob picked a ball and a lane. He was nervous and hoped he wouldn’t throw his back out or fall over or something.
“Good form, Robert! Good form.”
If he weren’t concentrating so hard on not breaking something, Bob would have laughed at the idea of having cheerleaders in bowling. He released the ball with all the power he could muster only for it to go straight into the gutter. He was a bit wobbly but did not fall.
When he prepared to stand up straight, however, he felt a sharp pain shoot down his back, and he cried out.
“Lizzie? I think we might need to go home.”