Smoke billowed out of the speakeasy. Officer Arlington averted his gaze, clenching his jaw. He hated it. He hated all of it – the jazz, the booze, and especially the bribes. But he didn’t have a choice. His son was sick; the polio treatments were so expensive. He always patrolled just outside – half to keep the ne’er-do-wells aware that there was a line that could be crossed, and half to make himself feel he wasn’t entirely worthless.
He was staring, boring a hole into the entrance when a young woman – one of those flappers, though hiding her dress under a long coat – came up to him and asked for a light. He scoffed and shot her a look.
Most of the speakeasy’s clientele knew better than to engage him, and when they did left him alone after they realized his disposition. This woman just repeated her question.
“I don’t smoke on the job,” he muttered, and turned away.
“Well, you also don’t do your job,” she smirked and his eyes became slits as he whipped around back at her.
“I’m here to make sure none of this gets out of hand.”
“Per the law, this is all out of hand, unless I’m mistaken.”
He said nothing. He wished she would go away.
“Come on in, and have a drink. You look like you could use some fun.”
A year on this beat and no one had ever engaged him. He finally looked in the woman’s eyes and for once didn’t find the thickly drawn kohl outline corpse-like. He just saw kindness.