Infected short: Saint Patrick’s Lament

Just a couple of things, as a bit of background.

I’m putting together a collection of holiday related Infected universe set shorts. Why? Because it struck me as a kind of funny idea, as holidays don’t really mean a lot to Roan or his friends. But in the course of writing these, I have discovered there are things I actually want to say. Be it ruminations on them themselves, as characters, background info, or small moments that never made it to the novels but feel like missing scenes.

Which brings me to Connor Monaghan, Roan’s tragic, bad boyfriend. For a man who’s never technically showed up in any of the Infected novels (a dream sequence doesn’t count), he plays a huge part. Roan did love the guy, and yet Roan also left him shortly before his suicide. He was a fantastic writer but a very troubled man, and I think he left emotional scars on Roan. Nothing like the ones Paris would leave, but still. It also established Roan had a thing for artists. Connor, ironically enough, also helps Roan from beyond the grave. (How? You will find out when Epitaph comes out on the 18th.)

I never wanted Connor to be the cliched “troubled artist”. He is based on an actual person, who I won’t identify here. But to me he was a very important person in Roan’s life, and Connor very much saw Roan through the trauma of quitting his life as a police officer and figuring out where he was going to go from there. I could probably tell you all about their relationship, from how passionate it was, to how ugly it could sometimes get, to Connor’s ultimately losing battle with the bottle and his own personal demons. There might be another story in there.

But, here we are. And while nothing could be more groan inducing than an Irishman showing up on Saint Patrick’s Day (of course!), it also seemed weirdly ironic, especially considering how ugly that holiday can get. So without further ado, this tiny short takes place in Roan’s beat cop days, when a case brings him in contact with one adorable witness, who will change his life. Only he doesn’t know it.

**

St. Patrick’s Lament

Roan wondered what it was exactly that people got out of Saint Patrick’s Day, beyond a legal excuse to get shitfaced. He couldn’t figure it out.

Oh, he probably had some Irish in his blood, to go along with all the Scottish and the cat, but he never understood not only the appeal, but the point. Then again, maybe he had to think of it as a gay pride parade gone to seed, because people did used to discriminate against the Irish. It seemed weirdly ironic to think of a group of white people discriminating against another group of white people, but people discriminated against each other for all sorts of stupid reasons, all the time.

Roan was reminded needlessly how horrible people were as one of a handful of cops in Pioneer Square, attempting to bring a sense of calm and control to the scene of what had become a minor riot. It spun out of a bunch of college kids getting wasted at a bar called O’Reilly’s, and picking a fight with a group of other kids. The two groups clashed, and a big guy who was apparently a college athlete of some stripe (Roan didn’t know, as he didn’t follow sports in any capacity) ended up badly beating an innocent bystander. When the original cops showed up to try and bring a sense of order, they were confronted by a lot of drunk, angry young men, and quickly realized, guns or not, they were way outnumbered.

Now the entire street seemed to be an outdoor disco of strobing red and blue lights, as cop cars lined both sides of the avenue, and the sensible/not that drunk people had cleared out. That left the extremely drunk behind, and goddamn, there were a lot of those. But at least the cops could match their number now, and it was slowly but surely dawning on them that this wasn’t a fight they could win.

With the crowd calmed, the EMTs were able to get in there and do their work, although cops always stood by, waiting to intercept any ne’er do well. Roan was part of a cordon of beat cops protecting the ambulances when Lieutenant Yang asked him to take some witness statements.

Roan obeyed – it wasn’t like he had a choice – but it did make him wonder if Yang was mad at him. He wasn’t one of the ones who hated him for being gay or infected, but it was more than possible he hated him for other reasons. Roan didn’t kid himself. He was confrontational and a sarcastic bastard, and it was amazing how many cops didn’t share his sense of humor. Or, in some cases, any humor at all. It didn’t help that one of the main reasons Roan became a cop in the first place was people telling him he couldn’t. He took it as a personal challenge, and never actually stopped to consider whether he wanted to be a cop or not. To be brutally honest, he wasn’t sure. Some things he liked about it, but others he didn’t, and a lot of his fellow cops were just dicks.

And dealing with the public could be … challenging. Like now, trying to take the statements of people who saw nothing helpful, who told rambling stories that clouded the issues, or told bald faced lies they didn’t even have the decency to be ashamed about. He didn’t even bother to talk to people who were past a certain level of drunkenness. He knew he’d get nothing useable out of them, beyond some choice curse words, and possibly vomit. Finding an unbiased witness to the beating was proving a frustrating waste of time.

Roan stopped to review his notes, and see if he could construct any kind of narrative from what he had now. Nothing coherent. Either the perp just attacked the victim for no reason, or the victim threw a racial slur that only a couple people could hear, or tried to protect a guy who assaulted the perp first (a story told by one guy, and incompletely echoed by two guys within earshot), or just stepped in front of the guy’s fist repeatedly. Or his friends beat him up for no known reason, and framed the perp for it so he wouldn’t play in the big game on Sunday. It was hard to pick his favorite for worst explanation possible.

“Umm, Officer?” Roan turned, and found himself face to face with one of the cutest guys he had ever seen in person. He had adorably messy black hair, and blue-green eyes as bright as gemstones. This shock was brief, as it was mitigated by the fact that he had blood smeared on his white t-shirt. “I saw what happened.” He had an accent that Roan couldn’t immediately place. When the penny dropped, he almost thought it was a joke. He was Irish? Or was he just a great mimic? It didn’t sound phony.

Roan flipped open a clean page on his notebook, and asked, “Is that blood yours?”

The man glanced down, as if not sure what he was referring to. “Oh, no. I tried to help the guy, but I’m not exactly a doctor. I was just trying to keep it from getting worse.”

“That’s appreciated. What’s your name?”

“Connor Monaghan.”

Oh jeeze. If that was a phony name, he might as well have called himself Irish McLeprechaun. “Can you spell that?” He did, and also gave him his address, which was just down on Slate, not too far from here. “Can I ask if you were drinking tonight?”

“You can, and as hard as it is to believe, I haven’t had anything to drink yet.” Roan raised an eyebrow, and Connor gave him a deeply endearing crooked smile. “I know, a sober Irishman on Saint Patrick’s Day? But this bar is a dive and only serves swill. If I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna drink the better stuff.”

Roan couldn’t help but smile at that assessment. He was one hundred percent correct. And god, was he cute. His lilting voice was just icing on that cake. “Good call. Can I ask why you happen to be here then?”

“Sure. I was visiting my friend, Lonna, she’s a bartender here. She’ll vouch for me.”

“Full name please.”

“Lonna Nystrom.”

She was on his interview list. It wouldn’t be a hardship to add a question or two. “Did you see the fight?”

Connor snorted. “I wouldn’t call it a fight. He just grabbed this guy walkin’ down the street and started wailin’ on him, for no reason I could see. That guy never had a chance to defend himself. He was out with the first punch.”

“And the other man kept hitting him even though he was down?”

Connor nodded. “He sat on his chest and just kept punchin’ him. His friends tried to get him off the guy, but he just wouldn’t stop. It was kind of crazy. I know some people are angry drunks, but he’s a psychotic drunk.”

That corroborated the story of some of the more sober witnesses who didn’t have a side in the fight. The fact that Connor was sober, and simply a bystander, would bring a nice heavy weight to the story. He wanted to see the perp get out of this.

The whole time Roan was writing, he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, that Connor was studying him. After a very long moment, he said, “You look familiar. Have you been in the news lately?”

Goddamn it. Roan didn’t want to admit being him could be a huge pain in the ass, but yeah, it could. He considered lying, but Connor was looking at him with such certainty, he knew it was pointless. “I’m the infected cop.”

“Oh yeah,” he gasped. “I shoulda known. Can’t be that many redheaded cops.”

“Not really,” Roan muttered, hating to admit it. But Connor was still giving him that crooked smile, not at all freaked out by Roan’s infected status, which was the usual response.

“So what are they giving you more shit about?”

Roan gazed at him curiously. “Who?”

“Your fellow boys in blue. Do they give you more shit for being infected or being gay?”

So he’d read enough of the articles on him to pick that up as well. “What makes you think they give me shit?” Roan tried to keep his expression blank, scrubbed of all emotion, but judging from the look Connor gave him in return, he hadn’t done well enough.

“I know Seattle’s pretty liberal,” Connor said. “I wouldn’t have moved here if it wasn’t. But I’m not sure any place is that liberal.”

Roan couldn’t help but smirk. “I guess not. So, are you willing to come down to the station and fill out a report?”

He shrugged. “Sure. That asshole oughta get the book thrown at him.”

Wow. A cutie with a hot accent and a sense of justice. Roan could love this guy, assuming he was gay. Was he? The fact that he hadn’t seemed upset that he was gay was a good sign, and Roan was half convinced he was checking him out. Or, cops just made him wary. Sometimes it was hard to tell. “Great. There have been enough contradictory statements that one by a person without a side in the fight is gonna count for a lot.”

Connor rolled his eyes. “Oh God, his friends. Yeah, they were some prize pigs as well.”

That was a great way to put it. He wondered if there was any way to ask Connor if he was single without sounding like a creep. Roan was about to try his luck, when he heard raised voices, and turned to see some of the drunks near the periphery of the scene decided to try their luck and be assholes, getting into a shoving match with the cops and each other. Roan had to leave to help out, but as he put his notebook away and headed for the trouble, he glanced back at Connor, who gave him a friendly smile.

Maybe some interest there? Of course, it was absolutely gross to even consider picking up a guy at a crime scene. Way beyond the pale.

But hey, he lived on Slate. If Roan happened to run into him when he was off duty, that was okay, right? Roan kind of hoped so. Because there was a little coffee shop on that street, and Roan could see himself becoming a regular there from now on. Of course, if Connor wasn’t gay, he’d feel like such an ass.

But what was life without a bit of risk? No one knew that better than him.

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