The sultriness of the summer made Vince’s shirt stick to him even though it was well past midnight. The city was in the midst of a typical Californian heat wave that rolled through the smoggy streets like a stifling pall, and the night was a pitch-black blanket smothering the air out of Vince’s lungs. Not that he wanted to inhale the noxious fumes of burned tires, motor oil, and vomit that filled the alleys he aimlessly meandered through.
It had been the Fourth of July yesterday, and as a cop, he should’ve been parading along with the other cops to the sound of a cheering crowd and then having drinks with his buddies after the parade, taking selfies with his wife under the booming fireworks that sparkled overhead.
Yet he was alone, stripped of his badge and his marriage, and he’d hidden away in his apartment to hide from the festivities, too miserable and ashamed to join in.
Now that the Fourth of July was over, however, he ventured outside into the post-revelry lull, candy wrappers and colorful streamers crushed beneath his muddy sneakers. Stubbled and unkempt and weaving unsteadily from bar to bar, he resembled a homeless man more than he did a man with a respectable profession, a family, a place to go back to. A home.
. Interesting term, that. There wasn’t any of it left in Vince’s apartment; Vanessa had taken everything with her, along with herself, and that was what was most important. Vince’s mind kept flashing back to how he’d walked in on her fucking Mick—Vince’s partner
, for Christ’s sake—how she’d had her thighs spread open, her head thrown back, saying words Vince had thought only he’d ever hear.
Mick had tried to apologize. Even after Vince had dragged Mick off Nessa and hit him. And hit him again. And again. Nessa had been screaming, shouting, but Vince had continued hitting Mick until Mick had lost consciousness.
And Vince had been suspended. For putting a fellow officer out of commission. An absolute travesty, wasn’t it? Nessa gone, badge gone—except that he’d get his badge back in three weeks, but Nessa probably wouldn’t look at him for months. Why would she? He must’ve frightened her with his caveman-like display. Vince obviously had anger management issues. He’d never understood how angry he’d been until that day, though, when every frustration he’d ever had poured out of him, like the blood had poured out of Mick’s nose.
Vince would have to see a shrink about his berserker tendencies before rejoining the force, or he’d screw it all up again. It had begun to dawn on him that discovering his wife’s infidelity had simply been the final straw for a marriage that had become increasingly dissatisfying for them both. It was a marriage they should’ve worked on, but in their negligence, they’d allowed themselves to grow apart. They’d let pointless arguments and mutual resentment fuel the breakdown of their relationship.
Of course, seeing it like that was the mature approach. It was a pity that Vince was immature enough to be daydreaming about snapping Mick’s spine in two.
Vince had never harbored such violence within him, and it roiled and seethed like a caged beast, a dumb animal seeking an outlet. Not to mention that Vince hadn’t gotten laid in approximately forever, and knowing that Nessa had withheld that from him while giving it to Mick only compounded Vince’s rage. By now, sex was a perpetual hunger for him, an itch he couldn’t scratch…and didn’t want to scratch. He didn’t want a nameless pickup in some club, an inadequate substitute for the wife he’d loved, even though—if he was being honest with himself—he’d loved her less and less over the years.
Still. Vince had been faithful to her. Nobody could dispute that.
He’d been a good husband, once. Before he’d ruined it. He’d been a good detective too—the best of the best, with the highest arrest rate in the precinct, solving high-profile cases that had landed him photo-ops with the mayor and interviews on television. Hell, after that multimillion-dollar drug bust Vince had led last year, he was practically a household name. A hero.
Or he had been. Now, he was an embarrassment to the force. A pathetic, out-of-control, cuckolded loser.
Vince sighed. He waved at the bartender and slurred, “Gimme ’nother.”