All the young undercover police in their True Religion street clothes gather at Starbucks before the heavy traffic arrives. The older ones who come later—making up the heavy traffic—wear suits that shine from a familiarity with metal chairs.
The older group joke of administrative bungles and discuss lawn care. The young practice street banter and circumspection. Staid faces with wan smiles and seen-it-all brows show that they have not yet seen it all.
For the young—and the old that wish for youth—the game is for keeps. For the old, the game is up.
When I was very young I wanted to be a detective because detectives could break the law and follow suspects into strip clubs and drink bourbon and still be righteous and sit knowingly silent in Sunday School. They didn’t have to answer teachers and explain themselves to their parents. And they could wear secrets under their clothes and carry x-ray glasses with lenses that perpetually spiralled in a hidden pocket.
And they could take time off from all the troubles in a small town and disappear for days on end without worrying anyone. They could wander down to the river after breakfast before the mist was off the waist-high bromegrass, and at the water’s edge lift rocks to find crayfish. Maybe ride all the way to Good Spirit Lake and settle in the dunes and watch the tiger beetles shoulder their way under the sand.
Few would guess a solitary detective playing in sand dunes. Unless they spotted the decoder watch; and metal-detector and pistol and infrared-scanner in the bicycle’s wire basket; and underneath, the black case with paper work that would never get done—that the chief always overlooked because of the genius of the boy-detective who could make himself look older so to follow suspects wherever their nefarious and always lascivious deeds took them.
And perhaps that’s the way it happened: All those years ago, while reclining against a red and white beach ball, a juvenile would-be-detective day-dreamed in technicolour behind his x-ray glasses—lenses spinning in some infinitely exotic world. Today, puffy-eyed and paunched with thinning hair he believes is his fault, he analyses procedures for young narcs fresh from Taser training and meets his squad for morning coffee and makes plans for next year’s hockey playoff tickets.