She’d been working for the department for nearly three years now, and still failed to receive promotion. In the beginning she’d diligently taken on every task and assignment with enthusiasm; she was the youngest member of her graduating class to be awarded her flight clearance within days of graduating from Crimson Blood Academy. Her test had become the stuff of legend–usually it took fledglings several tries to get through the course (especially the stealth challenge), but she’d done it in one try. Not to mention the perfect score on her written exam. But the accolades had stopped there.

Despite her qualifications and early accomplishments, by now her peers had all passed her by. While she shuffled papers and issued citations to civilians for revealing themselves in public or misusing blood bank donations, they were being promoted to detective, or at least given more interesting assignments than cleaning up after the idiots who couldn’t keep their fangs to themselves.

Ortega sighed as she leaned back in her chair, nursing her third cup of corpse tea. She hated working overnight shifts, but ever since the uptick in unauthorized human deaths in the neighborhood, the rest of the unit was struggling to keep up. And since she still hadn’t been promoted to detective, she was stuck shuffling papers and babysitting the new recruits.

The shit thing was that she absolutely should’ve been promoted months ago, back when Tony and Victor were. But even though they both had less experience than her, the lieutenant insisted three years on the job wasn’t enough to be considered for detective. Even though she graduated top of her class. Even though she’d helped solve the high-profile murder of that famous actress last year. Despite all of her contributions and clean record, here she was.

“Why so gloomy, Ortega?”

Torn from her brooding, her gaze snapped upward to see Sergeant Nicolae.

“Haven’t you heard? We’re vampires. Gloomy is our thing.” Ortega smiled up at him to show that she was being sarcastic; Nicolae was Romanian and sometimes the nuances of English escaped him.

“Aha, a joke,” He laughed good-naturedly. “Good to see you’re coping with desk duty.”

Ortega shrugged, taking a sip of her corpse tea. It was cold and watery and tasted like trash, but it was caffeinated and she was exhausted.

“What choice do I have, really?

To her surprise, Nicolae dragged a chair over to her desk and sat down. They’d always had a good rapport, but he wasn’t usually the type to get personal with his people.

“Listen, Ortega. I know you’re frustrated, and you have every right to be. Tony and Victor did well on their exams, but I’ll be honest and say the main reason they gained promotion wasn’t due to their skill as police-monsters. Tony’s father is in the government, and Victor…well, let’s just say he knows more than he should about the chief of police. You didn’t hear this from me, but all the higher ups believe it should’ve been you. It’s just…”  He trailed off.

“Just what, Nic?”

Nicolae frowned.

“After years on the force, I’ve learned that the rotten thing about this job isn’t the work itself, but the internal politics. If you don’t play the game, then promotion is that much harder.”

Ortega rubbed her palms over her face and tired eyes.

“So basically you’re saying if I have blackmail material on you or the lieutenant, I’ll have a better chance of getting promoted.”

Nicolae winked.

“I could tell you a few things about our good lieutenant.” He leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially: “He sleeps in a floral nightdress.”

The two of them were still laughing together as Tony and Victor strolled into the station, their evening shifts ended while Ortega still had at least 8 hours on the clock.

“Laughing about all the paperwork you’ve got, Ortega? Better not make any mistakes.” Tony smirked, satisfied with what he thought was a witty attack.

“Yeah, she’ll never make detective monster at this rate.”

Ortega and Nicolae exchanged a look. They had a lot of fangs, mouthing off like that in front of the sergeant, and they knew it.

Nicolae stood from the chair, straightening his back to demonstrate his impressive 6’ 7” feet, tall even for an elder vampire. Tony and Victor looked appropriately nervous.

“You better treat Ortega with respect, boys. Considering the sort of intel she’s got, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was your boss in a few years. Don’t get too comfortable.”

With that, he walked toward his office, whistling cheerfully.

“What did he mean by that?” Tony demanded.

Ortega shrugged, nonchalant.

“Don’t worry about it.”

The two detectives flashed their fangs at her, but she could smell their fear as they hurried away to clock out.

Her spirits raised, Ortega finished off her corpse tea and got back to work.

wooden armchair

Photo by Michelle Ding

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