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Watch Your Back

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First, she gave up drinking. She thought that might make him go away.

When it didn’t, she broke up with Ed. Perhaps that would satisfy him, she reasoned—her putting an end to the best relationship she’d ever had with a man. Because she didn’t deserve to be happy, right? Not after her many failures. That’s what this had to be about.

But that didn’t work, either. All it did was make her feel more alone than before.

Alone except for this shadowy figure, someone who shouldn’t be there. Someone who was dead. And yet there he was, flickering in and out of the periphery of her vision, always watching her.

Silent.

Not angry, at least, just...sad.

Of course he was sad; he was dead. And it was her fault.

Why else would he be haunting her?


“I am so, so sorry about what happened. Please know that I am,” she told him in a whispered, shaky voice one night in her office. Everyone else had left while she stayed on doing paperwork. She knew Noah was at home waiting for her, and Lucy was no doubt tired and wanting to be relieved of her dutires. But since all this had begun, Olivia had started to dread going home. Having the ghost follow her there. Because if nothing else, she needed to keep Noah safe.

Though a ghost couldn’t harm the living...or could he? By driving one mad, if not bringing direct physical harm?

“What can I do? How can I make this right, please tell me!” she begged, on the verge of tears.

He remained silent. Mike Dodds simply stood against the wall of her office, watching her with those sorrowful eyes.


After a few months, she got used to it. As much as you could get used to the ghost of one of your former colleagues following you everywhere. At least he wasn’t covered in blood, like he’d been the day of the shooting. Or hooked up to machines like in the hospital, his mind gone as his body was kept alive until his family pulled the plug.

She threw herself into her job. She couldn’t bring Mike back, but she could do her best to save as many others as possible. Get all the rapists, the abusers, the men like Gary Munson off the streets. She leaned harder on hesitant victims, those who weren’t sure they were up to testifying. As far as she was concerned they had to. She needed to make them see that it wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity.

She got mad at Barba when he wouldn’t prosecute cases, arguing they didn't have sufficient evidence yet. Or when the law wouldn’t support the charges she thought should be brought. It alienated her from this once good and close friend; even when he tried his best to please her and do as she demanded, it was never enough.

She pushed her detectives harder than before, though often she ended up doing their jobs for them when it seemed they weren’t up to the challenge. When Fin decided to take the sergeant’s exam after all, she wondered if it was because he wanted to take her job. They’d all started treading lightly around her at the precinct. She swore they were whispering behind her back, saying and thinking things about her that might have originated as concern but now had become resentment.

Or maybe she was being paranoid. It was hard not to be, with a silent ghost shadowing your every move.


Lucy was sick—the stomach virus. John had taken over emergency baby-sitting duties for the evening without protest.

“They say he’s not developing skills as fast as he should for his age,” Olivia fretted, when she got home and John regaled her with their activities of the day.

“He’s a great kid. I’d try not to worry too much about what some ‘experts’ have to say. He had a rough start in life, but now he’s got you.”

“Yeah, terrific.”

John frowned and looked at her with concern. She hated that look; she’d been getting it from too many people of late. “Olivia, are you okay? Fin’s said...well,” John stopped himself short, only increasing her aggravation.

“Oh, no, do tell me what my sergeant’s been saying about me behind my back.” In the corner of her eye, she spotted Mike’s reflection in the window glass. You’re not my sergeant any longer. Leave me alone.

“Only that you seem to be under a lot of stress lately. Maybe wearing yourself thin. If you need someone to talk to, or...anything. Just don’t forget you’ve got a lot of people around you to lean on. People who care about you.”

But did they, really? She wondered about that. She made her best efforts to reassure John with polite noises, to get him to stop asking questions and exit.

She needed peace and quiet. Some relaxing time with Noah before she collapsed from exhaustion.

She put the boy to bed and read him his favorite story while Mike loomed in the doorway.


She was going to have a drink tonight.

Giving up alcohol out of guilt hadn’t made him vanish, so why was she still depriving herself? Maybe if she got drunk, for at least one night, she would forget about him. She could forget that lurking shadow, that presence always hovering nearby.

In fact, she would keep drinking until that happened. She didn’t care what anyone else might think about it.

Not that she had anyone close to her, anymore, who would notice. She’d driven them all away. So she went to the bar where she and Ed used to meet, used to drink, and she got a double bourbon to start. And then another to continue. A man tried to buy her a round but she refused him; tonight she was drinking alone.

She caught Mike’s image in the mirror behind the bar, and ordered a third round.


“Can I call you a taxi, miss?”

“No, I’ll be fine.” She slid off the bar stool and took a moment to find her feet. Her balance was nearly shot, the room spinning and the floor wobbly beneath her. But she would find her own way home. The subway, uptown. She’d done it many times with Ed; the way was practically burned into her memory cells so she could function on automatic.

She stumbled outside into the bracing cold air, which focused her enough to choose the right direction to walk. One foot in front of the other. Step by step, make her way back to her apartment. She paused, at an intersection, waiting for the “Walk” signal. Glanced in the glass window of a corner storefront. And she smiled, because she didn’t see him there.

Good. Mission accomplished.

The subway entrance was up ahead. Now she just needed her MetroCard. She knew she had it on her. She fumbled for it in her purse as she rushed across the street, for she thought she heard the rumbling of a train approaching below. She didn’t want to have to wait around for the next train at this hour.

She was at the top of the steps down into the station when she recovered the card from her purse, slid it into her coat pocket. She went to take that first step down.

What happened next, no one would ever be able to determine, really, for sure. In her inebriated state and hurry, she must have missed the step, they’d say. Or perhaps hit a small patch of ice, refrozen in the chill of the February night.

No one but Olivia would know she’d been pushed.


She felt the darkness closing in around her broken body. And it was all right. This was how it was meant to end. Just like her mother.

No escaping fate.

He peered down at her now, closer than ever before. His eyes almost black, her periphery vision failing now.

“I'm sorry,” she tried to apologize once more, but no words would come.

And Mike Dodds smiled, for the first time since his death.