Jim enters his apartment, flipping on lights as he goes. His shift dragged on late tonight, some kind of BS paperwork drill he and Miles blew off a few weeks back. They were stuck tap, tap, tapping at their computer keyboards until past 7. Naomi must've called at least three times. Dinner plans had to be changed, and she was disappointed and blah blah blah. Jim's lucky he don't have to deal with that shit. No one gives a rat's ass when (or whether) he makes it home at night.

Another one of Miles' wacky ideas is that Jim needs to settle down, and Miles is always on the warpath trying to set him up with this or that girl he knows, friend of Naomi's, neighbor, girl he met at the coffee shop. Always these smart chicks, another of Miles' weird fuckin' notions being that Jim likes brainy broads. That's one Miles won't let go of. Latest is this gal who works for his dad, and fact is, Jim might just say yes in order to shut Miles up.

Jim whistles as he pops a meal in the microwave, uncaps a beer, sorts through his mail, bill, junk, junk, bill, package from Amazon . . . Good. Something new to read while he eats. He pulls the cardboard strip. Moneyball on top of two other books backed by cardboard, wrapped in plastic. He punches through the plastic with his bottle opener, rips through. He sets Moneyball aside. Next is The Fortress of Solitude. Then The Time Traveler's Wife? The fuck? He turns it over, reads the blurb. Sounds like a chick book to him. He tosses it on the pile of bills and junk. Must've clicked the wrong button on Amazon.

The microwave beeps. He removes his meal, grabs Moneyball, leans against his kitchen counter. He can't keep the new book open and eat at the same time, so he pushes the book aside. He eats his meal in a few gulps, contemplates popping another in. He takes another swig of beer.

He chuckles to himself. July 8 and all is copacetic. No files to obsess over tonight. Nope, he's run all his leads. That thing down in Tustin turned out to be hot, hot, hot, and now he's got a lead on the guy . . . Alan Seward (probably not his real name, the cop in Jim knows) . . . Course he's gotta chase Mr. Seward halfway across the globe, but when you spent most of your life on this, goin' to Australia ain't no big deal.

He's got his roundtrip LA-to-Sydney tickets bought and paid for, and already worked up a lie to tell nosy Miles (trip to Palm Springs). All's he's gotta do is get to Australia and track down Mr. Alan Seward, and . . . and . . .

And then what?

Ah, Voice of Reason, wonderin' when you'd show up this evening. Voice of Reason intrudes from time to time, usually when Jim's getting ready to do something stupid or impetuous. James, stop, when he's thisclose to giving some mouthy junkie a good pop in the kisser. No surprise that Voice of Reason's decided to question his half-baked plans upon arriving Down Under.

Whaddaya mean, then what? Shut up, Voice of Reason.

He decides not to let Voice of Reason interfere anymore tonight. He's gonna go out and enjoy himself, that's what. See what Voice of Reason thinks about that (for about a year or so, Voice of Reason's been a female voice). He thinks maybe he can piss off Voice of Reason by hooking up with some random chick in a bar. Jim realizes he's a little insane sometimes.

But who the fuck cares if he's a little insane? Maybe he only came here tonight to shut up or piss off Voice of Reason, but the result is Detective Jim Ford sitting at the bar, with this hot chick's hand on his inner thigh. She smells nice, she looks fantastic, and although she probably ain't gonna be winning any MacArthur Genius Grants in this lifetime or any other, she's not a complete dingbat, so at least Miles may be happy about that . . .

Miles and his harebrained ideas . . .

The non-dingbat leans in closer, and Jim dips his head to plant a kiss on the base of her neck. She's got gorgeous blonde hair, and maybe Jim's a little more drunk and a little less stable than he thought he was. OK, maybe he's way more drunk than he thought . . .

Here's one of Miles' more ridiculous theories: you can judge how much Jim's had to drink based on the color hair of the girl he goes home with.

Red heads mean he's stone cold sober, maybe, just maybe, a drink or two. They don't come a dime a dozen, gingers don't, and that fiery temperament thing ain't no joke. Gotta stay on your toes, keep your mind clear. Jim's about 99.99% sure this is behind Miles' current obsession with setting him up with that gal down at his dad's museum. Keep Jim on the straight and narrow.

Raven-headed gals mean he's put back more than a few . . . sometimes just enough to be relaxed and go with the flow, sometimes enough to be belligerent and itching for a fight. Still his great shame how the whole thing with him and Ana went down. They had a good deal going, till they had to go get in some stupid fucking argument over . . . shit, he don't even remember anymore. Weapons count down at the armory? Hell he can't remember, and he had to go and get himself in his cups, run into Ana down at the watering hole, and next thing he knows they're doin' it in the backseat of her car. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. Poof! There goes their partnership, and not two weeks later Ana goes and gets herself shot. Jim's convinced it never woulda happened if they were still partners. Still hates himself for that. She's gonna be OK, but word around the force is she turned dark after that.

Brunettes? Well now, he's gotta be pretty fucking drunk to hook up with one of them. It ain't so much the bein' with them, it's the after . . . after they leave or after he stumbles outta their beds . . . he feels lost. Like, what the hell was he thinking? And of course it ain't nothin' but a roll in the hay, and what the hell made him think it would be more, and why does he feel so damn low? So, no, he steers clear of brunettes, unless he gets too drunk.

Blondes? Whooooo boy. He's gotta be fuckin' hammered to wanna mess around with one of them. They creep him out . . . big time. Not that he ain't attracted. He kept a Christie Brinkley poster in his high school locker like every other red-blooded male in the 1980s. That, actually, is what makes it so difficult. He's totally attracted to them. They're the ones he looks at first in the bar, or discreetly follows with his eyes on sidewalks. It's just . . . they all make him feel so damn weird. They ain't right. They're too . . . short or chatty or jumpy or ignorant or . . .or something . . . So, when he can manage to get plastered, that's who he goes for first: hottest blonde in the room, and if he's shitfaced enough, none of that other stuff matters.

Like right now, it don't matter none that this current one is too . . . something. Always something. She strokes his thigh, giggles in his ear. Too easy. That's what. This one's too easy.

Jim's drunk enough that it don't matter. Just 'cause Miles' theories are dopey don't mean they ain't true.

"Wanna get out of here, Blondie?" he murmurs in her ear.

She giggles - again. Too giggly. Too short. Too dumb. Too easy.

He staggers off his barstool, loops an arm around her waist. He sways there uneasily, throws a handful of twenties on the bar.

Aren't you a state? Voice of Reason notes from outta nowhere.

The blonde chick giggles again, some more, and his stomach turns. He feels slimy, and the chick is creeping him out. Too short. Too chatty. Too easy. Too dumb.

"Know what?" he asks. "On second thought, that ain't such a good idea." He disentangles himself from her, and bangs out the front door.

When the cab drops him at his apartment complex, he stands at the curb for a good long while, staring into the sky. The stars are muted by the city's light pollution. He once lived someplace where the stars were so bright and clear. Where was that? Rural Alabama?

The sky makes him feel so lonely. Maybe he don't wanna be alone. Maybe another of Miles' dimwitted ideas is actually true. Maybe he shoulda brought Blondie home. Except Goddamn Voice of Reason had to butt in, dammit.

"You just had to say something," he growls at the stars, really to Voice of Reason. Great. Now he's talking to himself.

The 2005 chapter of this exists only in my head. What I've been doing of late is just regurgitating half-written chapters I'd already done. 2005 means starting from scratch, and that means . . . that means, wait. I'll probably get around to it sooner or later, but no guarantees.