“Wolf! Get in here!”
Wolf lifted his head, pale blue eyes set in a lean face sweeping coldly over the length of the squad room where they all had their desks. The Captain's voice didn't sound happy, which meant he was about to dump all over Wolf's already miserable day; three muggings and a home invasion, none of which were likely to ever be solved because all the witnesses claimed they hadn't seen a thing.
City life sucked.
Moving here from their small hometown in the country had been the biggest mistake he and his wife had ever made. They'd done it to take care of her dying grandmother, but now they felt trapped.
Wolf got up from his battered, metal desk. The nameplate said “Grayson Wolf”, then under that it added “Detective” but that was a matter of opinion according his grumpy boss. He headed across the room.
Heads lifted briefly as he passed. Donnally grinned at his bad luck at getting called. “Go get 'em, Gray Wolf.”
He nodded wearily. The play of words on his name was already old before he was out of the Academy. It didn't help that his features were usually described as wolfish by people even before they knew his name. His penetrating wolf-like gaze and loner attitude simply reinforced the impression.
The name plate on the Captain's desk simply said, “Mark Huntsman.” No rank, no indication of what his position was, just the name. It was a minimalist name plate, like the man behind it.
Wolf sat down in the only chair before the old wood desk. “Yeah?”
Captain Huntsman handed him a thick file, papers bulging out of the manila folder. “I'm giving you the Red Riding Hood case.”
“Grimm has that case,” he argued.
“Grimm is coming up with bupkis,” Huntsman countered. “I'm reassigning it to you.”
Wolf sighed as he reluctantly took the heavy case file.
Two other detectives had had it before Grimm and they'd both come up empty too. The cat burglar they'd nicknamed Red Riding Hood had been plaguing the city for over a year now, and they weren't any closer to catching her than they were when she first struck. In fact, the only thing they knew for sure was that she was a woman. Three detectives had taken a swing at it and struck out. Now it looked like it was his turn at bat.
“The mayor is royally pissed off about it,” Huntsman continued gruffly, “and you know how it is; it rolls downhill.” The mayor's house had been one of the first places Red Riding Hood had broken into and he'd been in a high dudgeon about it ever since.
“Now, get out there, find her, have her for dinner, and don't come back until you do.”
It was clearly a dismissal.
Wolf bared his teeth in what was supposedly a smile, but looked more like a snarl. “Sure thing.” He got up and left
Grimm was getting off the phone with a witness when he passed his desk. “Thanks for nothing.” He hefted the file at him.
Grimm spread his hands helplessly. “I did the best I could,” he apologized, “but that broad is good, she doesn't leave any evidence. She's gotta have someone helping her.”
There was a popular theory around the station that she had an unknown accomplice acting as a look-out for her. It was the only way to explain how she'd been able to get away with her brazen crimes.
Wolf sat back at his desk and stared morosely at the file. Once Huntsman had reassigned it the first time he'd known it was just a matter of time before it landed on his desk. Sure enough, here it was. Now what was he supposed to do?
The clock on the wall chimed five o'clock.
Relieved, he pushed back from the desk. He'd worry about it tomorrow. His wife had promised lamb stew tonight before they went out and he didn't want to be late for it.
The weak winter sun was going down as he left the station, long cold shadows stretching out across the streets. He gratefully slid behind the wheel of his new pickup and started it up. Warm air began pouring out of the vents in less than a mile. Crimson's new “job” was really paying off, he smiled to himself, unaware of how fierce it made him look.
A few minutes passed and he found himself pulling into the cracked driveway of the old house they'd inherited from Crimson's grandmother. Along with a mountain of debts, he reminded himself sourly. It was why she had to get a “night job” to help pay the bills.
He pushed his way through the overgrown hedges surrounding the broken sidewalk leading to the front door. He kept promising himself he'd trim them back but somehow he never found the time.
“I'm home!” he shouted as the front door banged behind him. His voice echoed through the huge rooms of the old place. The smell of lamb stew filled the air.
“I'm in the kitchen!” she called from the back of the house. Her voice always had crystal clear, bell-like quality to it. He followed the sound of clattering dishes to the brightly lit, over-sized kitchen where servants had once prepared meals for the family when Crimson's grandmother was a young girl.
She turned as he came in, her raven black hair tied back to keep it out her way. Deep blue eyes met his pale ones. Her ruby red lips curled in a welcoming smile as she swayed across the room and slid into his arms for a long kiss.
She sighed and rested her head against his chest in contentment. He put his chin on top of her head, savoring the moment.
He found his gaze resting on the red-hooded cape hanging by the back door and wondered where they should go tonight.
“So,” she smiled up at him, “how is my big bad Wolf today?”
“Well, the Captain gave me the Red Riding Hood case.”
She stepped back to stare at him in surprise. “And?”
“And . . .” he paused for effect, “. . . he said I should have you for dinner.”
A sultry smile crossed her face.