[Needless to say, this story is set on the morning of the group's first meeting]
Sgt. Esterhaus shuffled papers at the dispatch desk in the Angelus Police Department HQ for Epsilon Sector.
The building had originally been Peter Wilson High School before closing down and being renovated for its present function. For this reason, the dispatch desk sat on what used to be the foyer in one of the entrances and was normally an island of order among the chaos flowing around it.
At this hour of the morning, though, there was little traffic, and Esterhaus took advantage of the lull to catch up with the inevitable paperwork that collected.
The door sensor sounded and the sergeant looked up. And stared.
A young woman stood just inside the door, apparently lost. She was wearing a denim jacket over a T-shirt with the words "I'm Unreliable" emblazoned on it. Tattered jeans, scuffed sneakers and hair in disarray completed the image. Slung over one shoulder was a garment bag, while a duffel bag dangled from her other hand. Mirror sunglasses hid her expression as she looked around.
"Can I help you, Miss?" Esterhaus said, in his polite "business" voice.
The woman glanced over to the desk sergeant and shuffled closer unsteadily. The stench of stale cigarettes and booze wafted from her, making Esterhaus's nose itch.
"Whurrdalockrums?" she mumbled.
Pulling his head back as the aroma grew stronger, Esterhaus replied, "Excuse me?"
The young lady hawked to clear her throat and, for a second, Esterhaus thought with horror that she was going to spit on the floor. Instead, she coughed and croaked in a voice only barely more intelligible.
"Where are the locker rooms?"
"And why would you be wanting to know this, Miss?"
The woman (or girl, Esterhaus could not gauge her age) stared at him, her eyes still concealed by her sunglasses. Finally, she answered, "XSWAT transfer. I'm to report in."
The police shared the building with XSWAT, a situation that had its pros and cons, as far as Esterhaus was concerned.
"This is the APD desk, Miss. You want the other door."
That wasn't quite true, but something about this disreputable vagrant made Esterhaus nervous and he had no qualms about dumping whatever trouble she was on XSWAT's lap.
She riposted in a tired but plaintive tone.
"But don't we use the same locker rooms?"
Esterhaus explained with strained patience, "Yes, but you report in at the XSWAT desk, not here."
He looked down to check the extension for the XSWAT desk as he reached for the phone to call them, but when he looked back up, the girl was gone. He looked around to see if she'd gone around the desk, but there was no trace of her.
Esterhaus got up and went out to the door to look out, but he still could see no sign where the mysterious visitor had gone. He looked around in increasing concern.
"Where the hell did she go?"
* * * * *
Detective Neal Washington was typing a report in the small classroom-cum-office he shared with the other detectives in the precinct. He suddenly felt as if he was being observed.
He looked up to see a girl, hauling a couple of bags, standing in the doorway and looking at him behind sunglasses.
Washington grinned. The girl was probably a lost rookie, trying to find where to go. And she looked hot.
Her question confirmed his suspicion. "I'm looking for the locker rooms."
His grin widened. "Down the back stairs, sugar. Here, I'll show you the way."
The girl gave a small sigh of exasperation. As Washington stood up, his hand knocked his coffee cup onto the papers strewn on his desk.
"Shit!" he exclaimed, as he saw his notes threatened by the spreading dark liquid.
He quickly picked up the cup and dabbed at the growing stain. He looked up but the girl was gone. She'd apparently seen enough and gone off on her own.
Washington grumbled at the lost opportunity.
* * * * *
Officer Joe Coffey let the water run down his face as he showered in the precinct locker room. He'd just come off the graveyard shift and looked forward to changing into civvies, finishing up his report and heading home for a well-deserved sleep.
He caught movement from the corner of his eye. He turned to see what it was and froze.
A woman was standing right there, in the men's lockers, luggage at her feet, staring at him with her head tilted.
There was something about the way she stood, the way she looked. He felt as if he had just come upon a deer standing in a clearing while walking through the woods. She had that same air of tentative curiosity that was a breathless split-second from flight.
Suddenly, he realized he was standing there buck-naked and yelped.
"What the hell?!?"
The woman blinked, the spell broken, and spoke calmly, as if watching men shower was an everyday activity for her.
"Sorry. Wrong bathroom."
She picked up her bags and turned to leave. Coffey sputtered and grabbed a towel as he splashed out of the shower area, intent on confronting her.
When he reached the entrance, though, she was nowhere to be seen.
* * * * *
Coffey, now dressed, was in heated discussion with Esterhaus at the dispatch desk as the sergeant fiddled nervously with his still incomplete paperwork.
"I'm telling you! She was right there!" Coffey complained.
"Look, Joe, I'm not saying you didn't see her, but what do you want me to do about it?"
"Excuse me, Sergeant?"
The two officers turned towards the voice. A well-groomed young woman wearing a crisp XSWAT uniform stood at ease in front of the desk. In her hands was a stack of papers.
"Um, yes?" Esterhaus said in confusion. Neither of the two men had heard or seen her come up.
"I was told I needed to hand these transfer records to you." There was something vaguely "off" about the new arrival that rasped against Esterhaus's nerves. He accepted the paperwork and busied himself in studying it to avoid showing his discomfiture.
Coffey just stared at her. He recognized her face as that of his locker-room intruder, but her demeanor was light-years away from the lost girl he'd glimpsed then.
After a few seconds, she acknowledged his scrutiny in a cool tone.
"Yes? Can I help you?"
Coffey stammered, "I'm sorry, but were you...? I mean, did you...?"
The woman continued to regard him without expression.
Finally, he gave up.
She gave a small nod.
"Very well, Officer...?"
He realized she was asking for his name.
"Ah, Coffey. Joe Coffey."
She nodded again.
"Good day, Officer Coffey. Perhaps we'll see more of each other another time."
She turned around smartly and walked away. Coffey realized belatedly that he hadn't gotten her name.
"Hey, Sarge. What's the name on that transfer?"
Esterhaus looked at Coffey with amused irritation.
"And why should I be telling you this, lad?"
"Aw, c'mon, Sarge, don't bust my chops. Who is she?"
The sergeant harrumphed and examined the form in front of him. "It says 'Elizabeth Yasha.' What kind of name is that?"
Coffey looked at the departing figure. He replayed the name out in his head. Elizabeth....
Down the hall, Officer Yasha continued on her way, a small smile playing on her lips.