The floor of the detectives division was a blur of movement. Human and alien officers in blue, and technicians in yellow, hurried from desk to desk speaking to the plain-clothed detectives. Storm Hamilton couldn’t remember a time when they had had so many open cases.
He threw off his brown suit jacket and collapsed into his black leather chair. The chair creaked as he leaned back, resting his feet on his cluttered desk. He tore off his hat, feeling the worn felt of the brown fedora between his fingers. He gave it a sniff. What was that smell? he thought with a tinge of revulsion. He tossed it onto the empty hat stand on the corner of the desk.
Compared to his, the desks of the alien detectives—all of the detectives besides Storm—were pristine and orderly. There were no pictures, no personal items of any sort. Some of them had case files or other work materials neatly stacked on them, or sorted neatly in filing racks, but that was it. That and the curved computer monitor that rested on every one.
Detective Drake, Storm’s alien partner, sat down at his empty desk, the one opposite Storm’s. The tall grey man was hard to see past the mountain of decorations on Storm’s desk. Placed on the human’s desk, directly between them, was a large picture in an old wooden frame. It held a photo of Storm and a friend at the base of Everest. Storm also kept a coffee pot sized statue of Buddha—the fat version—next to his monitor. On the other side was a pile of chaotically sorted paperwork and a stack of books.
The way Storm arranged his desk irked the Seraphim, and he liked that. He often found himself in a culture clash with the aliens. But the books were a source of more severe trouble. The captain had tried to force Storm to remove them. Storm countered this by threatening to quit; being the only human detective on the New London Police force, he knew it was something they couldn’t ignore. The issue the greys had with the books was their strong connection to the past—a violent and dark past the Seraphim wanted people to forget. Storm’s collection included, amongst other things, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and The Maltese Falcon.
“Are you ever going to clean up that desk of yours?” Drake asked.
“What do you mean? It is clean,” Storm replied. “I wiped up that coffee spill this morning.”
“You know that’s not what I mean.”
“Humans need a little chaos,” Storm said, sinking into his chair. “It helps us think.”
“Think, maybe,” Drake said. “But not process or analyze. It’s a distraction.”
“Life is a distraction,” Storm said.
“What about you? Why don’t you have any pictures or personal touches?” Storm asked his partner, leaning forward to watch the grey man’s high, slanted eyes.
“Life is a distraction, as you say. Personal feelings and thought interrupt the efficiency of work. And anyways, we like to keep our private lives private. Unlike you humans, we don’t share our family life with the world. The joys we experience at home are for our family alone.”
“So you have a family, then?” Storm asked. It felt odd to ask this to a partner of several months. But Drake had never mentioned it before.
“Yes, I have a mate…a wife, and a daughter.”
“Oh, how old is the girl?”
“She is about 14 Earth years old.”
“So what’s that in Seraphim years?”
“She is the equivalent of a six-year-old human.”
“Oh, that’s a precious age.”
“Indeed. She has finally mastered the piano and can move on to the violin. She enjoys human music.”
“You are well aware we don’t study past culture. Only modern music.”
“Oh, you mean that dull, repetitive, clangy stuff.”
Piano chimes began to play and Drake reached down for his phone. He gestured to Storm with a finger, suggesting it would only take a moment.
Storm heard an alien voice on the other end, but couldn’t be sure of its sex. Male and female greys sounded even more alike than they looked. And it didn’t help his snooping that they spoke in their own language. Storm made out a few words he recognized like home and dinner, enough to conclude Drake was speaking to his wife.
After a few more words, Drake placed the phone reverently on the desk. The gray man was smiling, a rare phenomenon. He turned to Storm.
“I think it is human custom to invite colleagues to one’s home for a collective dinner, is it not?” Drake asked.
“Depends on the humans, but yes, usually.”
“Would you like to join my family for dinner tonight?”
“Well, this is unexpected.”
“It was my wife’s idea. She says we have been working hard and need a break.”
“That’s a very human thing to say.”
“We are not as different as you think.”
Storm rose to his feet and donned his suit jacket and fedora. He wasn’t sure what to think about this turn of events. He had never been asked to the home of a Seraphim before. He needed to be on his best behavior. And anyways, it wasn’t like he had a family of his own waiting for him. Even a Seraphim meal should be better than the crap instant food he kept at home.
“If you are willing, would your bring your Everest picture?” Drake asked. “I imagine my daughter would love to hear the story.”