This ran a bit to the ridiculous, but I hope you still find it fun.
Andrej walked into the bullpen and stopped in front of the large whiteboard he and Zayne shared with the pair of female detectives in the bank of desks next to them. The board was generally used to break out their cases, listing evidence, suspects, and all the other things necessary in navigating the insane maze any homicide investigation turned into. Although, sometimes, it was used to help them figure out what to have for lunch. It was a very versatile board.
But nothing on the board made any sense to him. There were a bunch of brackets and lines filling the board, more on the outer edges, narrowing to one single line on each side in the middle, with a box dead center.
“Oh hey,” Trish Rollins said, slipping past Andrej and into her chair. “I can’t believe I beat you here. That’s a first.”
Squinting at the board, Andrej gave up trying to decipher it and turned to the redheaded detective. “Did Zayne also beat me in this morning?”
Trish snorted. “Not likely. Why?”
“That is his handwriting, no?” He waved a hand at the whiteboard.
“Ah, yeah, it is,” she said. “But he stayed late last night to work on it. I think he did a good job.”
“Now, if he could only apply himself this well to his job,” Hilary Maxwell said, coming in and setting her coffee down on her desk. Turning, she studied the board and nodded. “He always was good at killing time.”
“But what is it,” Andrej asked, leaning in to read the names written along the lines filling the edges of the whiteboard.
“How do you not know what that is, Zeklos,” Jake Hansen asked, coming into the homicide bullpen. “You’ve never seen a tournament bracket before?”
“Cut him some slack, Hansen,” Zayne said, playfully elbowing the narcotics detective as he squeezed past him. “Zek’s not native, he’s been imported from what I’m starting to believe is a very odd country.”
“There is nothing wrong with my country,” Andrej muttered, considering Americans were the oddest bunch he’d ever met.
Zayne looked around at the small group of detectives assembled in the area. “Where’s Rosewood?”
“Here, cowboy,” James said, jogging across the room towards where they were all gathered. “Sorry about that, my captain grabbed me before I could escape.”
“Okay, good,” Zayne said, slapping his hands together. “Who wants to play teacher and explain this to Zeklos?”
Trish lifted her hand. “I got this.” She walked over to the whiteboard and started explaining how a sports tournament worked, showing how the winner of each bracket moved on to the next. “Make sense?”
“Da,” he said, winking at her. It drove Zayne and James nuts whenever he’d slip into his native tongue, but for some reason, Trish and Hilary found it amusing. “But these are not sporting teams. The Knights are not on here anywhere.”
James looked at Zayne. “Where did we go wrong? Of all the sports we watch, he falls in love with hockey.”
“And soccer,” Zayne added. “But that he liked before coming to the states.”
Ignoring the boys’ prattle, Hilary pointed at one of the brackets. The names Ramos and Halliday were listed, each on their own lines. “The Chief of Police is offering bonuses to certain detectives who complete a list of continuing education requirements.”
“Why,” Andrej asked. “Are they not required every year?”
“They are,” Hansen said, “however, some months your caseload is too big, or you’re too tired.”
“Or,” Zayne said, “they’re just too lazy.”
“Like you, Reyes,” James teased.
“Like I used to be, thank you, gingerbread,” he replied. “Zek’s got me on the straight and narrow now.”
“Meaning, he got tired of listening to me nag him,” Andrej laughed. “Am I correct in guessing that these are the offenders who have not completed their courses?”
“You are,” Hilary said. “As you can see, none of us are on here because we all value our jobs more than these idiots do.”
“Which is why we thought we’d have a little fun,” Trish said. She held up a stack of papers. “We’re each going to pick which detective out of each pair will complete their required courses first and move on to the next bracket.” She pointed at the next set of lines that were currently empty of names. “Each week, whoever has the most correct guesses gets bragging rights. At the end, whoever has made the most correct choices will win the pot.”
“Pot?” Andrej frowned. “Are we placing bets on this?”
“Er, you do remember where you’re living, right,” James asked. “This isn’t Bucharest any longer, Andy.”
“Yes, I am aware I intentionally moved to Sin City, Jay,” Andrej said, giving the redhead a glare. “However, is this not illegal betting?”
“Not… technically,” Trish said.
“Not if it falls under a certain dollar amount,” Hilary clarified. “And since we’re only putting five bucks in each week, we won’t have to worry about crossing into the illegal zone.”
“Just morally grey,” Jake laughed.
“I want no part of this,” he said. “However, you may all have fun with it.”
“I knew he was going to say that,” Trish said. “But I still want you to keep track, even if you don’t want to bet on it.”
“Because she’s positive you’re going to win,” Zayne said. “And she’s probably right. You’ll be the only one of us to use your actual detective skills to make your choices while the rest of us will be doing more of a ‘I hate that prick, so I know he’ll flake’ kind of thing.”
“Probably a good thing you’re not on that list, Reyes,” James deadpanned.
“Right,” he agreed. “Because we all know Zek would whoop my butt in this.”
“I do not understand, but I wish you all luck.” Andrej shook his head and sat at his desk, opening the case file he’d been reading the night before.
“I guess that’s progress,” Zayne said. “I mean, he didn’t make us stop, right?”
“Okay, Reyes,” James groaned as he handed over the small pile of cash from the pool. “I still think Andy helped you, but you won fair and squarish.”
Zayne snorted. “Don’t be mad, gingerbread, I still love you.”
“Gross,” James joked. “Gotta get back down to narcotics before my captain realizes Jake’s at his desk and I’m missing. See you later.”
Once James was gone, Trish nudged Hilary. “Let me see the sheets.”
“Why?” She straightened the papers and handed them to her partner. “Zayne won, I triple checked.”
“Nah, I believe that. He’s got a good gut instinct for who’s a slacker and who isn’t,” Trish said. She shuffled through the pages and pulled one with extremely neat and tidy handwriting onto the top of the pile. “Hm, just like I expected. Andy would have beat us all.”
Hilary smirked. “Oh, he was very thorough with it, too.” She tapped a spot where he’d made notes as to why he thought Jenkins would finish before his partner, Tredescu. “His reasoning is sound, too.”
“He’s way too predictable,” Trish said. “But it’s also rather adorable.”
“Zayne,” Hilary said, drawing the Texan’s attention.
“Do yourself a favor and use that money to take Andy out to a nice dinner.”
He beamed. “Way ahead of you,” he said. “Already made reservations.”
“Reservations for what,” Andrej asked, returning from wherever he’d gone.
“You’ll find out later,” Zayne promised. “Now, we have a case?”
“Don’t we always,” Andrej asked. “This is all I know so far.” He pulled a file out of the basket on his desk and opened it, beginning to give Zayne as many details as he had at the moment.
Zayne leaned in, listening intently. Once Andrej had finished, he nodded and said, “Well, let’s go, baby. This case isn’t going to solve itself.”
Possibly to be continued. I haven’t looked at next week’s words yet so… who knows?