Chris Owen

Shady Ridge and the Neon Sky

103 pages / 42500 words



Hank is happy with his life in Shady Ridge, the small town he grew up in and now works as a police officer in. And if he has to go to the Neon Sky, a gay bar a couple hours away in the middle of nowhere once every six months or so to get his jollies, well it's working for him.


At least it is until Charlie joins the force. A giant of a man, Charlie has left the big city after a nasty break-up and come to Shady Ridge for a little peace. Hank's immediately attracted, and when he runs into Charlie at the Neon Sky, finding out they're batting for the same team... well it just might turn Hank's ordered world upside down.

Hank Brodnax was sitting at the front desk, diligently studying the dust motes floating by the big window, when the door opened. A gust of hot air made the motes scatter and dance, some of them twinkling brightly in the sun. They must have been leftover glitter from Tamara Ordoyne's dress, Hank figured. She'd been pretty damn sparkly when they'd hauled her in Saturday night for being drunk in a public space. Well, that's what they said they'd brought her in for; in truth, they were trying to keep the peace. That dress had been about to start a scrimmage on Sycamore Drive, and a riot wasn't something Shady Ridge's finest were equipped to deal with.

Hank tore his gaze away from the dust and tried to focus on the figure coming in the door, a big dark shape framed by the bright light. "Can I help you?" he asked, squinting.

"I hope so," the man said, moving into the small reception area. "I'm Charles Hise. New incoming officer. I was told to stop in as soon as I got to town."

Hank blinked at him, only partly because of the way his eyes were watering from the change in light. "Were you, now?" he said. He didn't know they were expecting anyone new. "What did you say your name was?"

"Hise." The man stepped a little closer and dropped a folder on the desk. "Charles Hise."

"Huh." Hank leaned forward and put one elbow on the desk as he flipped open the file. The top sheet was a standard cover letter introducing one Charles Hise, late of the Albany police department, to Captain Erik Casado. The signature at the bottom was completely illegible, but the typed name under it was Captain Tanya Seaberg.

"Is there a problem?" Hise asked as Hank took his time flipping through the folder.

"No," Hank said slowly, noting that there were hire papers, tax forms, all the crap they had to fill out for benefits, and a sealed letter from some doctor, which Hank could only assume was about Hise's fit for duty medical exam. "No problem, except no one let me know we'd hired on." He sat back in his chair and flipped the folder closed as he reached for the phone.

"Huh," Hise said, his tone perfectly matching Hank's. "Imagine that."

Hank paused with his finger hovering above the button to speed dial his captain and barely managed to swallow a grin. He appreciated everything that Hise had put into those two words but had no intention of letting Hise know that. He pushed the button and sat back again, taking a look at Hise as the phone rang in his ear. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the light, Hank could pick out some details other than 'large.' Hise was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and looked a little tired around the eyes. Probably not used to the heat. Or maybe it was the humidity.

"Casado," the captain barked in his ear. Under his voice, Hank could hear the clink of silverware and the murmur of many voices.

"Hey, Cap, it's Hank. There's a guy here at the shop who says he's a new hire." Hank watched Hise smirk at the wording and added the descriptors 'very tall' and 'very broad' to his inventory. The man looked like some freakish combination of linebacker and marine, standing there at parade rest. Even his dark hair was regulation to a fault.

"He's early." Casado didn't sound surprised or even particularly interested, and he was likely talking with his mouth full of pie. "That's all right. You can take him around over the weekend, break him in."

"Cap?" Hank sat up a little straighter, losing every bit of lazy he had in him.

"You heard me. Dump him into uniform -- is he right there? Let me talk to him."

"But, sir." Hank glanced at the clock and then at Hise, standing there with his hands behind his back and his legs braced. "I got twenty minutes left on my shift and then I'm off for two days." And it hadn't been easy, getting Friday night through Monday morning off, either.

"Wonderful, you'll have lots of free time to make sure he won't get lost on patrol. Let me talk to him. Now."

Sometimes love is complicated. 

Copyright 2016 Chris Owen