Hard Feelings Short Story Valentine Mystery by Barbara D'Amato
by Barbara D'Amato
Page 1 of 6
Officer Susanna Maria Figueroa was frightened, and she hated being
frightened. It made her angry. Even worse, she was sure her partner
Norm Bennis felt horrible, too. Nevertheless, he had made a serious
mistake, and his mistake had gotten them both into trouble.
Suze Figueroa sat on one side of the waiting room, her arms folded
across her chest. Far away in the other corner-as far away from her as
he could get and still be in the same room-sat Norm Bennis, feet
spread, elbows on knees, hands dangling, head hanging. He looked
Hell, Suze thought, he ought to. She just hoped he felt guilty as
hell, making a stupid mistake and then sticking with it. Stubborn
But they'd been together so long!
Bennis was her mentor and her friend.
The Police Academy teaches you what they think you need to know.
Then the job-and your partner-teach you what you really need to know.
Suze Figueroa had been assigned to Bennis just after she finished the
initial on-the-job phase of working with a supervisor. She'd been
afraid of what Norm would think of her at first. He looked so solid
and experienced-like a walking ad for professionalism in police work
for the twenty-first century. He'd been ten years a Chicago cop when
she came on. He was built like a wedge, with narrow hips, a broad
chest, and very wide shoulders. His square brown face, when she first
saw it at that first roll call, was set in a scowl. But she soon
realized that he thought it was lots of fun being mentor to a
five-foot-one-inch naive female.
They hit it off immediately, and Bennis never made fun of her for
not knowing whether a ten-young or a one-frank was a "disturbance,
domestic, peace restored" or a "dog bite, report filed." He didn't
belittle her, as her trainer sometimes had, for not knowing how to
fill out a specific form. He knew the department didn't run on gas or
electricity, it ran on paper, and he knew when she'd filled out a
couple hundred of them, she would remember all the forms.
Bennis was sardonic, but not sour.
For her part, Suze teased him about the long series of women who
took his fancy for about three weeks apiece, but she sympathized too.
She was divorced. Her ex-husband called her the "affirmative-action
cop." By this he meant that she was too short and too female to be any
good to anybody.
Bennis thought she was just fine on the job. "You back me up
better than any partner I've ever had."
"Hey, Bennis! I'm not just backup. I'm forefront."
Suze and Norm and half the First District went to the Furlough Bar
for a beer after a tour. Recently, Suze and Norm had taken to going to
an occasional movie instead. It was not exactly a girl-and-boy thing,
Suze told herself. They were both too embarrassed at the thought of
being called just another squad car romance.
And now-now they wouldn't even look at each other.
It was 11 A.M. on February 15, the day after the incident. Two
rooms down the hall, a roundtable of inquiry-four men and one woman,
including an assistant deputy superintendent, a state's attorney, and
the union rep-were reviewing the documents in the case. They had
before them the fire department reports and the preliminary findings
of the medical examiner and the detectives. But the reports from other
departments only explained what happened after the incident. After the
point where Norm's story and Suze Figueroa's story diverged.
Their commander, Sazerac, sat with them in the waiting room. He
was as unhappy as they were. Finally he spoke.
"There's no way I can stop this. But it bothers me. I wouldn't
have figured you for a shirker, Figueroa."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you realize how they see this?"
"Yes, boss. They know that Bennis and I have two different stories
about last night, and so they think one of us is improperly describing
the case. So they think one of us is lying. Which would be a
"NO, Figueroa. It's not that minor."
"Minor! I've never had a reprimand and I don't intend to have one
now! Uh. Sir."
Sazerac sighed. "Listen to me. We're talking separation from the
department. Maybe prosecution."
"They think you left that man to die in the fire, Figueroa. And
made up your story later to cover up. To make it seem he was dead."