Me and Heather McGee
by Bruce Costello
Dr Bernhardt looked more like my twenty-three year old daughter than the grey-haired sort of woman I’d been expecting, and her brown eyes peered at me keenly as she shook my hand.
While she was examining me, short lines appeared on her brow and she held her lips in so the pink lipstick barely showed. “Probably nothing to worry about, but we’ll get some tests done,” she said.
I walked back to the station, clutching forms for the blood lab, imagining the doctor sitting at her desk, chin on the palm of her hand, lips pursed.
* * *
Officer Heather McGee gave the phone a one-fingered salute, slamming it down as I walked in.
“Get stuffed!” she said, swiveling around in her chair. “Oops. Sorry, Sergeant.”
“I presume that wasn’t a member of the public?” I enquired.
“No, just Arsehole again,” Heather said, blue eyes flaring through wisps of blond hair. She flicked them out of the way. “You’re so lucky not to have an ex hassling you. He seems to have a knack of knowing when I’m on watchtower duty. Anyway, what’d the doctor have to say?”
She pushed a donut on a paper bag towards me. I shook my head. I wasn’t hungry.
“Not much. I got the impression, though, there was a lot she didn’t say.” I sank into the seat beside her desk. “But I don’t want to talk about it just now.”
Heather’s big blue eyes seemed to read my face. “As you wish, Sergeant,” she said, putting down her pen and folding her arms. “Last time I went to a doctor, it was stress-related. I had these obsessive thoughts that everyone was ignoring me.”
“And what did the doctor say?”
“He said, ‘Next please’!” She screwed up a paper on her desk and threw it at me.
I ducked and went into my office and shut the door, chuckling.
* * *
When I arrived home late that night after drinks with a visiting coroner, a former colleague I hadn’t seen for years, I found a letter from my wife on the kitchen bench.
I knew she’d been really moody lately, not that there was anything unusual about that, and she’d been sleeping in the spare room for the last month. But I wasn’t expecting anything like this.
She’d left only the single bed, my bookcase, and the coffee table with wobbly legs. Everything else had gone, even the toilet paper. I could still smell perfume in the house, the cheap sort her best friend Anastasia marinated herself in, so my wife hadn’t gone to Book Club at all, but arranged for the women and any willing partners with a bit of muscle to come here. Well and truly ‘taken to the cleaners’, as they say.
Without a chair to park my bum on, I sat on the coffee table and, not knowing what else to do, rang Heather McGee.
“I’ll come around straightaway,” she said.
“No, don’t do that.”
“See you soon.”
* * *
I’d never seen Heather out of uniform before. She stood at the door, blond hair flowing over shoulders and breasts.
“Sorry,” I flustered. “We’ll have to perch on the coffee table.”
She giggled as the table took our weight and gave a little sideways sway.
“Cleaned out, eh? So, where to from here?” she asked, her face almost touching mine.
“I’m not sure. I thought you might have some suggestions. Should I stay or rent somewhere else for a while? I need some advice.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Don’t give me that!”
“Well, I don’t know how I’m feeling.”
I was about to stand up when she gripped my arm. “Do I have to nail your boots to the floor?”
“You can’t. I’m your superior officer.”
“Did your wife leave the breadboard behind? If you don’t tell me what the hell’s been going on, I’ll brain you with it.”
* * *
“And you didn’t notice anything?”
“Nothing,” I said. “How come I didn’t see what was happening under my nose? The way her cell phone always rang in her handbag. I mean, she used to leave it lying all around the house, could never find the bloody thing. And then, accusing me of having an affair and buying her flowers out of guilt! She always used to love me bringing home flowers, there never had to be a reason. What sort of a detective am I?”
“One who trusted his wife not to piss off with another man.”
“One who should’ve been at home more.”
“Same goes for us all.”
Heather sat quietly and I closed my eyes. The shock of coming home to an empty house after the visit to the doctor had knocked the crap out of me.
Instead of talking over coffee with my wife of twenty-five years, I was in an empty house alongside a policewoman I hardly knew. It was as if my battery had gone flat. I didn’t feel hungry, though I’d skipped lunch to get to the doctor’s and only grabbed a hamburger for tea. I didn’t even feel like another beer. I certainly didn’t feel tired, although it’d been an exhausting day at work with one of my colleagues having a heart attack and me taking his place in court. Guess you could say I knew what I didn’t feel. Perhaps knowing what I felt could only come when feelings returned. I reckon I was in shock, and Heather was more or less Victim Support.
“How come you rang me, not one of the guys?” Heather asked, as if reading my thoughts.
“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Guess I felt a woman is better at these things.”
She put her arm gently around me and gave a little squeeze.
“Somehow I think I got that right,” I said.
* * *
After a recall for more tests, I was really worried, but next appointment the doctor greeted me cheerfully. “Your tests are clear.”
“You’ve just got a virus that a short course of antibiotics will fix and, I suspect, a little too much stress, according to the blood pressure reading, because I can’t find anything else to indicate why the diastolic should be so high last time and not today. Your sodium levels are perfectly fine, cholesterol’s okay, and your weight’s good for height. Maybe burning the candle at both ends? A little too much coffee or alcohol, perhaps? I see on the news you’ve been working on a pretty gruesome murder case.”
“All in a day’s work,” I said, shrugging my shoulder. “The point is, there’s nothing seriously wrong with me?”
“I must admit I was worried. You looked rather grim the other day, like you suspected the worst.”
“You got that right,” replied the doctor. “Blood pressure’s often the first indicator of something more serious. But I got it wrong. Doctors are only human.”
“So are detectives.”
“Home life all good, is it?”
“Looking up,” I said, trying to suppress the smile spreading across my face.
Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Costello