My abs were screaming. Sweat slicking between my shoulder blades, I ignored the rhythmic grunts next to me.
Gut it out. Hank’s voice echoed in my head.
Gut it out! Gut it out! Gut it…
“Time!” the PT sergeant yelled.
“Holy shit, that’s gotta be a record,” my counter said.
I lay prone on the mat, abs twitching like an epileptic at a rave from ninety-one sit-ups in two minutes. Fair to middling for an Army Ranger. But for me, a first in my class and complete and total victory over jerked Tommy Narkinney.
Tucking my knees to my chest, I rolled up onto my shoulders and bucked to my feet Jackie Chan-style. Digging deep not to drop my head past my knees and suck air.
Hank’s Law Number Five: Make it look easy.
I called over to Tommy. “How many, Nark?”
He sat on the ground, forehead on his knees, breathing heavy, straw colored hair damp with sweat. “Eighty-eight.”
“Yeah?” I said. “Good job.”
Tommy frowned in suspicion. “And you?”
“Ninety-one.” I raised my arms over my head, easing the fire at my sides.
He rolled his eyes and flopped back onto the ground. “Fuck me.”
“McGrane!” the sergeant shouted with a former Marine’s perfect enunciation and eardrum-blowing volume. “Quit picking around. Resor wants you.”
And I knew why. I was finally going to join the ranks of Flynn, Rory, and Cash McGrane. Just as my older brothers had all been awarded Top Cadet, so would I.
It took every ounce of cool I had not to skip like a little girl out of the gym.
I trotted up the stairs to Reskor’s office and rapped on the thick, oak-paneled door.
Polished wood floors, Oriental rugs, leather chairs–it looks more like the office of a Fortune 500 CEO than the commandant of the Chicago Police Academy.
Hank’s Law Number Eleven: Heavy hitters don’t advertise.
I stood at full attention in front of Reskor’s desk, staring blankly over the top of his balding pate.
“Miss McGrane. Please take a seat.”
Adrenaline pulsed double-time through my veins. “No thank you, sir.”
“Sit.” Resor pointed at the chair.
He opened a manila folder on his desk, M. McGrane typed neatly across the tab. “Let’s see… ninety-eight percent on the written exam. Scored ‘expert’ on the shooting range, and a first in PT, as well.”
My knee started bouncing. I leaned forward, pressing it still with the heel of my hand.
“But I regret to inform you that you failed the psych review.”
“Huh?” “Failed the psych review” didn’t sound anything like “Congratulations, Top Cadet.” “I’m sorry… What did you say?”
Reskor closed the manila file. “You failed.”
The sweat on my forehead had dried to salt. I ran a hand over my gritty face. “There must be some mistake, sir.” The room began to warp at the corners. “On what grounds?”
“As you know, failure on any exam results in immediate dismissal from the cadet program.”
This can’t be happening.
“Please sir, on what grounds?”
He pressed the tips of his fingers together and gave it to me, right between the eyes. “The testing revealed you have an almost pathological need to be liked. The consensus of the peer review is that you are too thin-skinned to deal with the daily barrage of public hostility and unfriendly situations that a police officer encounters.”
A pathological need to be liked? Me?
I realized I was rocking back and forth in the chair and got to my feet. “Sir, may I reapply, sir?”
“In a year, you may.” His breath huffed out in a little sigh. “Reinstatement at that Academy is extremely rare. I see little point unless you can provide empirical evidence at that time to disprove the diagnosis.” Resor rose and held out his hand. “Not everyone is meant to be a police officer, Maisie.”
And like some idiot robot, I shook it. “Sir, yes sir.”
News of my disgrace traveled fast.
Tommy Narkinney was waiting for me in the hallway. “Tough bounce, kitty puncher.”
Before I had time to tell him what a jackass he was, two academy instructors, one male and one female, escorted me to my dorm room. They watched me pack my gear and walked me out to my car in the parking lot.
What the fuck?
I sat in my Honda accord and tried to remember how to start it, jumping when the female instructor knocked on the window. I turned the key partway and fumbled of the electric window switch.
“Hey.” She gave me a sympathetic frown-smile and said in a chipper voice, “Is there someone I can call for you?”
Jesus Criminy. My family.
“No, I’m fine. Really. Thanks.” I zipped up the window and turned the key fully in the ignition.
Three miles later I pulled into a 7-Eleven, got out of the car, and threw up.