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Mark Spencer checked the address, to make sure he had the cross streets right. Honest to God, it didn't look like there should be a tattoo studio on this street, but whatever. Halfway down there was a neon chicken, right? So that had to be the Cock's Crow.
His fucking therapist had recommended the shop, of all people. He hoped to God the guy was as good as Andy said he was, because he needed this tat. The place he'd gotten his first one, when he joined the force, had closed down, and he needed someone solid.
The little bell above the door made him jump when it went off, but he supposed this late at night it was good to know people were coming in. Smart even.
"Be right with you." He couldn't see who was talking, but a well-inked hand waved from a black-glassed office. "Goddamnit, Rita. Either fucking work or don't. I don't give a fuck, but quit being a cunt and make up your mind. I got people who want a chair."
Mark's eyebrows tried to crawl into his hairline. Shit. Maybe this wasn't his kind of place.
"Sorry, man. I got this chick, she keeps not showing up for her clients. If you ain't got your reputation, you ain't got shit." A tall, lanky guy unfolded from a desk chair, long silver and black hair in a braid over his shoulder. There was ink on the man's neck, near his ears, even on his fingers--it was a riot of color and pattern. Amazing. "What can I do you for?"
"I'm looking to get an armband. Kinda like this one in size and shape..." Mark rolled up his sleeve to show off the sort of stylized, almost tribal, handcuff armband on his left arm. "But it's a memorial."
"That's nice work, man." The guy grabbed Mark's arm, looking closely. "You want it onthe same arm?"
"No, on the other, I think. I'm not about angel wings and shit. Pete was my partner. Like in cops, you know? So I want something sort of cop-themed, but all him."
"Cop-themed." The man had the lightest colored eyes. "Okay. Okay, I can work with that, probably. You have anything specific you want? His badge, maybe?"
Mark nodded. "Maybe his badge number? If you can make it kinda tribal." That would be less obvious, less likely to get him more admin leave.
"I can see that." A piece of paper was pushed over to him. "Write it down so I can sketch."
"You got it." Mark knew the fucking thing from memory, but he pulled out his wallet and checked, just to be sure. He had it written on an emergency contact card. It would suck to get it inked on wrong.
"So, what happened to him?" The tall guy straddled a stool, grabbed a pencil.
Mark's throat closed right up, and he had to clear it a few times to get the words out. "We surprised a couple of guys in the middle of a convenience store robbery. All he wanted was a lousy cup of coffee, you know?"
"Jesus. That sucks." The paper was eased out of his fingers, the long braid thumping to the counter as the guy started drawing. "Did you get hurt?"
"I took a shot to the leg. Nothing serious. Pete ... It was messy, you know? Real messy." Every night when he closed his eyes he could see Pete's staring eyes and the bloody pulp that had been the side of his fucking head.
"A shot to the leg isn't a walk in the park." The words were said like somebody who knew what he was talking about.
"Yeah. I lived." Swallowing the bile, Mark pulled his mental socks up. He was here to give Pete the memorial he deserved. Then he could move on.
He got a soft, wry chuckle. "Like that's the easy part."