Officer Tompkins had already had a hard day.
His soon to be ex-wife wouldn’t return his calls, and every time he met with her lawyer it looked more and more like he was going to lose his house. His car had been hit that afternoon while he was picking up his lunch, and no witnesses had been found. And now, five minutes before the end of what had already shaped up to be a double shift from hell, he was dealing with what by all evidence appeared to be a lunatic.
The man’s eyes were wild, darting back and forth as he recounted his complaint, as though he expected to be attacked at any moment. His face was pale and wan, as though he hadn’t seen the sun in a very long while, which, judging from his grease-stained lab coat and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in days, may well have been the case.
But the worst part was the complaint itself. Theft is always a horrible thing, but this man was behaving as though the world was ending. His statement bordered on babbling, circling round itself as it spiraled toward gibberish. When Tompkins let him, the man would slump into his chair, muttering “What have I done?” and “I’ve unleashed a monster” to himself, as though the Officer wasn’t even in the room, as if the man had forgotten completely that he was in a police station.
Tompkins was tempted to kick him to the curb, file his incomplete, incoherent complaint, and head home for a good night’s rest. But it was his job, and he took it seriously even on the days he didn’t want to. He was a good cop.
Even though sometimes he hated being a good cop.
He breathed deeply, attempting to settle his temper, and tried one more time.
“Please calm down, sir,” he asked, doing his best to sound reasonable, “and try to describe the man who stole your watch.”
“No, no,” the madman muttered, “you don’t understand. You couldn’t understand, why would I expect you to understand. How could anybody? It wasn’t a watch, it was so much more than that. Don’t you see, he’s stolen my time machie…”
…Officer Thomas had had a hard day. Fortunately, the station was empty other than himself. There hadn’t been a report in nearly half an hour, and in five minutes his double shift would finally be over.