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Friday Slide Show: Night Watch Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

16 October 2020

Ever since he'd made detective, Nick Nessuno has had a hard time getting dressed for work. The job requires him to don "plain clothes" from a wardrobe that is anything but, if you ask him.

Were his faux wingtips (with the gumshoe soles) "plain clothes"? How about his Willie Mays home jersery? Not to mention his extensive T-shirt collection that goes back to the 1970s.

The idea that Nick Nessuno would be seen walking around in "plain clothes" was simply preposterous. You might as well have looked for him walking out of the house without combing his hair.

If nothing else (and that was within the realm of the reasonable), Nessuno was a meticulous if meh dresser.

So it was with some relief that he looked over his latest assignment. He'd be back in uniform.

Not his old sergeant's uniform, though. He'd be wearing a custodial coveralls. Dark navy, long sleeved. In the mirror, he looked like a sort of a middle-aged Spiderman, in his humble opinion.

He needed the outfit to navigate inconspicuously the confines of a medical office. He'd been on a few stake-out there since we last saw him but now it was time to infiltrate. Not to confront anyone doing anything but to collect evidence of someone having done something.

The idea that Nick Nessuno would be seen walking around in "plain clothes" was simply preposterous.

Or, lacking that, proof that no one had done anything, which (in his considered opinion) was more likely.

So he squirmed into his coveralls and, absent-mindedly, slipped into his faux wing tips for the assignment.

He entered the building at the end of the day from the front, nodding to the medical staff with thermometers and laptops monitoring visitors for signs of Covid-19. He had his temperature taken and continued on to the basement where he had been instructed to equip himself with a cleaning cart full of supplies and a big 25 gallon plastic bag.

From there he ascended a few floors to the department under investigation. None of the offices were locked so he didn't need a key. And no one was left by the time he arrived on the floor.

That's how he liked things, working alone.

It was a peculiar place, he observed. The waiting room was long and narrow with walls covered in graphics rather than the usual medical staff photographs and paintings. A rush job, he thought.

But the big wall with the small icons that were colored to spell out "LOVE" softened his evaluation. That must have taken some time, he thought. He took out his mobile to photograph it.

At this feet he saw the carpet had been plastered with "6 ft." decals to mark safe physical distancing on the way up to the counter. He was amused that the decal said six feet on it but showed two. The wide angle lens on his phone even included his own two wingtips.

That's the kind of shot that wins contests, he told himself.

The garish furniture amused him, particularly a green couch because it was strapped with blue tape to allow only one person to sit on it. And the end table had nothing on it to read but a hand sanitizer bottle.

The short wall sported a heart-shaped graphic in which the top half were bands of clouds and the bottom bands of ocean shots with a narrow band of green between them.

That wasn't as interesting as the opened doors that flanked the graphic, which gave Detective Nessuno a sense of the brevity of life. In one door and out the other before you have a chance to experience much of the world.

He studied a poorly illuminated graphic a long time, trying to decipher the message. It was a grid with one abstract road and red abstract buildings with blue letterforms outlined in green. What did it say?

"Emerge," it read left to right. Not a bad motto for any medical office. Get outta here!

But the waiting room was not where any evidence would have been.

No, he had to explore the exam room. So he wheeled his cart beyond the waiting room to the door of the exam room and poked his head in.

It looked like an ordinary medical exam room. Storage cabinets, a counter, a sink, red biohazard disposal bins.

Then he took a closer look around.

On the floor he found an odd piece of paper taped down in front of a blue wall. It had five arrows pointing in different directions alongside and away from the wall.

That was it!

It proved definitively that nothing had ever happened here. The arrows were an alignment guide for a model standing in front of the blue screen: left side, 45 degrees left, full frontal, 45 degrees right, right said. It worked for the back, too.

But there were no scuff marks on the target. Nobody had ever stood on it. Nothing had ever happened.

He took a photo, again including his wingtip gumshoes, and hurried back to his car. Just in time, too, because he'd left the lights on.

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