Jon woke up to the sound of his phone ringing. It was already light out and the thin curtains of his office did little to shield him from the uncomfortably bright morning glare. He groaned painfully. His throbbing head and scratchy parched throat were nothing compared to the self-loathing washing over him. He sat up in his office chair, his neck aching from the awkward angle he’d fallen asleep at. His hand was curled in a fist around the neck of an empty bottle of Jack.
Forcing his eyes open, Jon slammed the bottle down on his father’s old oak desk with force, as if doing so would undo the fact that he’d given in. His 300 days sober chip was sat atop a pile of papers in the centre of his desk. Jon didn’t remember getting it out of his wallet where he usually kept it, he must have blacked out towards the end of the evening.
The phone had stopped ringing, it lay silent on the floor where it had been dropped during the night, a small crack scarring the top right corner. Stooping to pick it up Jon felt the urge to throw up, assaulting the back of his throat like a wave. Swallowing it back he retrieved the phone and then lay back in the chair with his eyes screwed shut, waiting for the feeling to pass. Once it had he looked down at the battered phone. It was 10:30 AM and he was two hours late to work. He was two and a half hours late to take his son to school. The self-loathing doubled in intensity. Sam must have walked himself, poor kid had almost definitely got in trouble for being late.
He had five missed calls. One from Sam at 1:00 AM followed by another two at 3:00 AM and 3:30 AM, respectively. The kid must have been upset; never ends well for him when his dad started drinking. Jon winced guiltily at the thought, bad memories making him wish the bottle of Jack wasn’t yet empty. The other calls were from his deputy and drinking buddy Alex, one at 9:00 AM likely meaning to let Jon know that he would cover things at the station. The second call, the one just missed, was more out of place. Frowning, Jon stood. He wasn’t calling back without some food and coffee in him. At that thought, the wave of sickness struck again. Maybe it’d just be water this morning. Nice tasteless water.
He hadn’t even reached the kitchen when the phone rang again. It was Alex. Jon set the phone down on the kitchen counter and walked over to the sink, trying to remember the last time Alex had called him twice in such a short period. The phone vibrated against the granite countertop indicating a text as Jon finished filling his glass. With an exasperated sigh and a quick gulp, which arguably made him feel worse, he snatched up the phone:
“Call me now!”
Jon groaned. Something must be wrong at the station, he wouldn’t have sent such a clipped message to a friend and superior officer otherwise. Begrudgingly Jon unlocked his phone, semi-drunk fingers moving clumsily to find the unlock pattern. On the second attempt, he made it. Alex picked up almost instantly.
“You have to get down here now!” Alex shouted into the phone, a highly distressed edge to his voice made him sound a few octaves higher than his usual gravelly voice that screamed serial smoker. “I’m about halfway down Pine road.”
“What the hell's wrong?” Jon demanded, Alex’s tone startling him into action as he began to move quickly through the house towards the stairs.
“Look, man, it’s not something you’ll wanna hear over the phone. Just get down here.” Alex sounded genuinely upset as if this wasn’t just another police matter, not just another small town burglary. Jon’s first thought was of Sam. Could he have been hit by a car on his way to school, beaten up, mugged? Jon’s mind was a terrifying whirlpool of crimes involving his son. It didn’t seem to matter to Jon’s subconscious that Pine road wasn’t on Sam’s school route.
“Just tell me Alex,” he growled, letting his tone denote that he was pulling rank. This was no longer a conversation between friends.
“It’s Lewis,” Alex almost whispered into the phone, stopping Jon dead in his tracks as he was grabbing his uniform up from the floor, where he’d thrown it before leaving for the bar last night. “He’s dead.”