Model Cadet

This needs a proper name and some editing.

I know it looks easy, but you should try it sometime. None of us ever had, really, until we met her. Then it got to be a thing I knew most of us tried even though we never talked about it. I mean we were tough guys, tomboys, not the type to be practicing our catwalk strut. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially that sashay with the jaunted hips and high heels.

We had to try it because she seemed to best the rest of us at every turn. We couldn’t fathom it. She was a model, for Christsakes. We couldn’t even figure out how she’d gotten past the drug screening. I mean, doesn’t everyone know models do coke and heroin all day to stay so thin? And where’d she get the energy to keep running hills after even the former firefighter had practically passed out? Models don’t eat, right?

Truth was, we rarely saw her eat. She was always training, studying, polishing, practicing. I don’t even know if she slept. Some of us even started a rumor that she was a factory model, some Japanese-engineered robot model designed to best us all. Except she wasn’t.

She was Sabrina Stevenson. Blond hair, blue eyes, cheekbones you could sharpen your knife on. And she was the best cadet of us all.

While the rest of us had trouble holding a formation because we were exhausted and our muscles were refusing simple tasks, she stood like a mannequin. When those of us who’d been taught over and over to look at people when they spoke to us, she immediately mastered the art of looking through our instructors – it was almost creepy. When the bulk of us were struggling with aches and pains, passing ibuprofens and ice packs under our desks, she sat rigid and unmoving, her left wrist barely moving across the page and her neck clicking from up to down in steady movement as she took notes.

The first few weeks, when summer’s end dealt us sweltering conditions, sweat glistened on her while it ran in rivers off the rest of us. When winter settled in that fifth weekend of training, and the rest of us were shivering, she clenched her jaw and seemed oblivious to the goosebumps and blue nails.

The women especially hated her. While they constantly got reprimanded for their hair touching their collars, for escaping wisps of brown, blond, and even silver, her hair remained perfectly shellacked and coiffed until she chose to let it down in a blond poufy waterfall before walking her blistered – and often bloody – feet down to the communal bathroom.

Roberts couldn’t take it. He’d been in the Army before deciding he wanted to be a cop. Unlike some of us former waitresses, bus drivers, and accountants, he was immune to most of the stuff killing the rest of us. Which is why he was convinced there was no way she was a model as she’d informed us during our first opportunity to casually introduce ourselves.

“That bitch is a spy, some secret KGB operative or something, former CIA trying to nose around in the lives of little people or something.”

The rest of us just kind of looked at him. I mean, what does one say to such a statement? Sure, we were all thinking she might be superhuman, but his argument logically made no more sense than the robot theory. We were in training to work in rural PDs. Wouldn’t a spy want to work in a metro area, we asked.

He harrumphed us and marched off to ask her himself. Maybe he was planning to try out some of the interrogation techniques from the next chapter in our training manual. Though, he didn’t really seem like the type to read ahead.

She was busy stretching. Some crazy yoga-looking stuff most of us probably couldn’t have managed without ending up in traction, especially after all the running and push-ups. Strong muscles aren’t necessarily flexible muscles, you know?

The rest of us sat on our haunches trying to stay warm and catch our breaths before the next round of torture.

We watched him approach, ask if he could join her. She made a gesture of welcome, but uttered nothing. He sat and touched his toes. She put her face on her knees and wrapped her arms around her feet almost to the elbows.

I nodded at the group like that proved my robot notion.

He said something we couldn’t hear.

She answered in clipped tones.

He responded, angry enough we caught the phrase, “Seriously, who the fuck are you?”

She again gave him calm, clipped words, and arranged her legs out beside her in what was nearly a cheerleading split.

He tried to imitate her but he could only get his knees a foot or two apart.

She said something, this time longer, followed by her putting her face on the grass midway between her far-flung knees.

He didn’t bother attempting that and got up to return to the group.

We waiting, knowing he’d time the story just right. He always did when he told us about his Army exploits.

“She’s gotta be lying,” he finally said.

Why, we ask.

“She says..” He rubbed his temple like he was trying to wrap his brain around something. “She says her whole family got murdered. They were all left for dead at her parents’ old farmhouse. Some degenerate shot and raped her and her sister, shot them all in the head. She keeps her hair long to hide the scar.” He didn’t look like the same man who’d told us about exploding IEDs taking out dozens in Iraq.

We sat stunned for a moment before we started asking questions, answering them among ourselves like a demented Fox News panel.

“How is she alive?”

“No one knows.”

“So she’s not a model?”

“No, I’ve seen her in magazines.”

“So she doesn’t get cold?”

“You know they shoot those bikini pics in winter, right?”

“She have a vendetta?”

“This isn’t the comics, nimrod.”

“Who raised her?”


“Is that why she’s so stand-offish?”

“Wouldn’t you be?”

The rest of the day, the rest of training, we couldn’t get that story out of our heads. It made her seem even more aloof, special even, and yet wholly human. And while we wanted so badly to have empathy, we still half-hated her for the effortlessness she put into each of our private torments.

Years later, I caught her on the news. She was making the rounds on the talk shows. She’d gone on to join the FBI; she’d written several novels and her latest was on the best-seller list; she still had incredible cheekbones.

I’d gone a little soft around the middle. My wife liked to pat it just before bedtime and whisper “sweet dreams” in my ear.

I didn’t have sweet dreams that night, though. I dreamed of her, the young her. Because one of the first thing those of us all did when we got our hands on the internet again – and later police databases – was research her story. We all knew the details, some had even read the autopsy reports. A couple of us even studied it when we went back for degrees to move on up in the ranks.

I dreamed of her six-year-old nightgown covered in blood. I dreamed of her mother’s screams. I dreamed of lights and sirens and tiny bloody fingerprints.

I also dreamed of her as an adult, a very capable adult who seemed to know no hardship, who seemed unable to register pain. I dreamed of her cold eyes trying to warm up to the show’s host.

And I knew that despite assurances from her lawyer – and even from her bosses – that the man she’d killed during a bust had been executed.

She’d tracked him down through the years. She’d put herself into a position where it would be her job to stop his continued inter-state criminal behavior. And on that fateful morning in late June when her team had finally made their move, she’d made sure arrest was not in his future.

I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of her.