Repetition and routine, Annie believed, were the key to staying sane in the face of adversity. She woke up at a reasonable hour each morning, showered and dressed, had a healthy breakfast, brushed her teeth, and started her day.
It tended to go downhill from there.
By roughly ten in the morning, Annie was camped out in front of the television, the Xbox fired up, and a rapidly increasing stack of empty soda cans on the table beside her armchair. On particularly bad days, there would also be an ever-growing pile of Twizzler wrappers, the colorful bits of plastic often drifting to the floor unnoticed.
Occasionally -- really just occasionally
-- Annie would look into her office, the walls pinned with missing persons posters, the whiteboard filled with half-scribbled notes from the days that she actually tried to do her job. They were all dead ends; there were more nameless Does than there were verified reports of the missing, and still they never seemed to match up. Whoever had made the decision to send her out into the desert definitely had some sort of cruel streak, she often thought. She had lived for investigation,, the thrill of the discovery of a new lead, the triumph of solving a problem and putting someone behind bars where they belonged. It was good work, heroic even. But this? This was a Gordian Knot of the dead and disappeared that could never truly be solved, a punishment devised to break her.
They wanted her to resign, she knew. They wanted her to give up her badge and go running home with her tail between her legs. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.
She had a salary, a home, a car… everything she needed. And a whole lot of free time. If she chose to spend that time melting her brain with mindless video games, so be it.
It’s not like they would fire her.
It was a Sunday, which meant a call home to Momma in the evening, to titter and lie about what a great assignment she had and, no, sorry Momma, you know I can’t discuss the details of an investigation, but that was still a few hours away. For now, she had a cold can of Dr. Pepper and a half-chewed Twizzler hanging out of her mouth, and even better, one of her buddies had signed into Fortnite.
“Hey, you up for a Duos run?” she asked over her headset.
“Sure thing,” the gruff voice on the other end responded. Male, she thought, maybe late thirties. Still nothing more than a name on the screen and a voice in her ear.
Annie nodded to herself. “Let’s do this.”