Lysander "Fitz" Fitzgibbon used to teach at a university, but quit when his father grew ill and needed someone to take care of him. Years later, after his dad's death, Fitz has given up on his dreams, drives a bus route, and endures visits from Jerry, who can't really be called a friend, and barely a benefit. Fitz is lonely, worries about his weight, and figures life won't be getting any better.
Then, Fitz stumbles over a dead body in the park. As if life couldn't get any worse, he has a run-in with Detective Holland Simms, whose infuriating arrogance and brash behavior provokes Fitz to punch him. But strangely enough, Fitz feels more alive around Simms than he has in a long time, though he finds it hard to believe that the confident Simms would want anything to do with him. Should he take a chance on more?
"You live near here?" I nodded. "Were you acquainted with the deceased?"
"No. That was the first time I ever laid eyes on him."
Simms typed something on the screen. "You sure about that?" The look he gave me could best be described as suspicious, to say the least.
I remained calm. "Very sure."
"Tell me how you discovered the body," he said, eyes boring into me as if to catch me in a lie. Unlucky for him, I dealt with recalcitrant and belligerent behavior all day long, and before that, Liberal Studies majors with something to prove.
My brow furrowed. "I already gave my statement to --"
"Tell me, again, if you please," he cut in, firmly. Yes, sir, Mr. Policeman.
"As I told the other officers, I was taking a walk in the park, contemplating how my life sucked, when the sun reflected off something that caught my eye. I thought someone had dropped something valuable so I went to see what is was. I discovered a watch, and of course, the body."
"And the watch is still there. You some kind of Good Samaritan?" Why was he baiting me?
"I beg your pardon?"
"Never mind." Simms typed away on the tablet. "Your life sucks, does it?" If I didn't know better, I'd say he was amused by me. Whether it was in a good or bad way, I wasn't sure. And it was my own fault for bringing it up, anyway.
I played along. "Like you wouldn't believe."
"I see. Anything else occur around the time you came across the deceased?"
"Not really. Well, this dude almost knocked me down right before I saw the dead guy. He was wearing jeans and a hoodie, and I couldn't help wondering why someone would exercise dressed like that. And --"
Simms's voice was sharp when he interrupted me. "You didn't mention this to the other officers?"
"I didn't think about it." And I'd still been recovering from shock over the ordeal, so I hadn't yet put two and two together. Though in hindsight ... God, I was an idiot.
I heard Detective Simms sigh and murmur, "Moron."
I frowned. "Was I supposed to hear you say that?"
"Well, you did, right? So, the man who almost knocked you over was wearing jeans and a hooded sweatshirt?" His thumbs moved rapidly as he spoke.
I bit back a growl. "Dark blue jeans with bleach spots and a gray hoodie. Slender. Caucasian. He looked back at me briefly and I got the impression of, I don't know, brown or gray eyes and stringy blond hair, blotchy skin. Maybe he had acne, or something. In his twenties."
Simms threw his hands in the air, tablet still held in a firm grip. "Jesus, how dumb are you? This is a fucking important clue. Anything else you might have seen that you didn't tell us?"
I narrowed my eyes. "Detective Simms, your attitude and assumptions about my mental acuity are not helping me cooperate with you. I apologize for not saying what I knew sooner, but you can understand my shock. Or not. We're not all macho over-achievers who eat bullets for breakfast. I suggest you change your tone."
"Acuity? Big word. Calm down, princess. I know not everyone can be as quick on the draw as someone trained to look for connections in these things, especially under stressful situations." His grin and smug demeanor infuriated me further.
"That's supposed to make me feel better? Have you always been a condescending asshole?" The minute the words came out of my mouth, I thought, He has a gun. He's going to shoot me. But I didn't back down. My backbone had finally made an appearance, though its timing could have been better.
"Panties in a twist is a good look on you." His laughter was the last straw. All the disappointments and heartache in my life boiled up and my fist flew without my permission.