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dS fic: "Death-Defying" 2/3

Fraser flashed to his feet with his gun out, real graceful, and pressed himself against the wall between me and the door. There was a knock. There was another knock, a silence, and then one more. Fraser relaxed and unlocked the door.

Denny burst in. "Hey, Ben," he said, throwing himself face-first onto the bed. "Miss me?"

"Just a little," Fraser said warmly. "Any problems?"

Denny had arched over to the far side of the bed and was rooting around in the packs there. "Nah," came his answer, half-muffled by the bed. "Dumped the van, picked up another vehicle, transferred our stuff. How'd things go this end? Ray playing nice?"

Fraser glanced at me. "We've … been getting to know one another."

Denny came up with a Snickers bar. "Didn't have time for lunch," he explained, peeling it open and chewing. An expression of pure bliss spread over his face as he settled back against the pillows.

"I'll go pick us up something to eat in a moment. Don't spoil your appetite."

"Oh," Denny said in a honeyed voice, "I got plenty of appetite left." His legs fell open and he trailed his free hand up the inside seam of his 501's, an invitation that belonged in a porno flick.

Holy shit. I'd tell them to get a room, only they had a room, and I was chained up in it, and I do not rent that kind of porn. I glanced up at Fraser. He'd turned his head to stare at the far wall, and the back of his neck was flushed red. "Denny, I thought we'd settled this," he said. He sounded pissed-off.

My stomach growled. Denny collapsed over onto his side, looking a little embarrassed.

"Oh, hey Ray, I'm sorry. I got another Snickers here, if you want?" I wasn't sure if he was apologizing for not offering me a candy bar in the first place, or for the whole sex kitten thing.

"No, that's okay, I can wait," I said.

"Right then. I'll be back within thirty minutes," Fraser said, pulling my handcuffs key out of his pocket and handing it over to Denny.

"Before you go, boss," Denny said, "I've got a tradecraft question."

Fraser was instantly 100% the focused professional. "Ask."

"Hypothetical situation. Let's say you're in a city, and somebody wants you dead."

Fraser nodded crisply. "It happens."

"So you stay in the same safe house for over a week."

Fraser looked like he'd just bitten into something sour. "Yes?"

"And you go out every day at the same time, show your face to the maximum number of people who are sure to notice and remember you." Denny furrowed his brow and tapped a finger against his lips, broadcasting 'confused' on all channels. "Is that a good thing?"

"There's no need for histrionics," Fraser snapped. "He would stand out as much in this area as I do, and I'm always careful to avoid sight lines." Fraser turned to me. "Ray, have you heard a rumor that I'm staying in Chinatown?" he asked, like I was settling a bet.

"Not from a source I trust, but yeah. Day before yesterday." Who was 'he'? Was there really somebody after Fraser?

"There, you see, it's working," Fraser told Denny.

"All that means is that the cops'll be on our asses soon."

"Since the port scenario didn't pan out, while we're waiting for other options to come to fruition," and Fraser didn't look at me when he said that, but Denny sure did, "we might as well stick with the fall-back plan. Any special requests for dinner?"

"Just don't get any chicken feet this time, those things are disgusting," Denny said.

Fraser nodded on his way out. Denny closed the door, locked it, and then leaned forward to rest his forehead against the wood. He looked tired, all of a sudden.

"Denny?" I said.

"Yeah?" he muttered to the door.

"Looks like you're maybe not completely on-board with this situation. If you're feeling trapped, scared, uncomfortable with what's going on, anything like that – I can help get you out."

Denny turned his whole body. Leaning his weight on the door, he asked, "Really?"

"Sure. I mean, what have you done in Chicago? Slashed a few tires, driven a getaway car. That's peanuts. I know the ADA. If you want out of the life, I could make sure nobody presses charges."

"You want to save me from Ben?" Denny started giggling. It made him look about twelve. "I'm sorry, that's too funny! Sweet, though. I can see why he likes you."

Denny walked over to the bed, sat down, and bounced a few times. "Look Ray, let me set your mind at ease. I was in a bad place a couple of years ago." For just a second I caught a sight of wounded eyes before he flopped backwards. "Ben helped me out, no strings attached. I signed on 'cause he's the best thing ever happened to me."

"Okay, I hear you," I said. "But if Fraser ever steps over the line, does something you didn't sign up for -"

He rolled over onto his side and stared at me. "Oh. Do you think we're fucking? I wish. He won't even -" Denny made a quick hand gesture down by the fly of his jeans. "you know, when I'm in the room. So if you're interested, go for it."

"Umm, no. I'm not …" What was I trying to say? Not interested? Not gay? Not trying to get in your boss's pants?

"Sure, Ray, sure. Just, if you were, it'd be fine with me. He needs somebody, something besides the job. Hey – are you from Chicago?"

"Born and bred. Why?"

Denny scooted around so he was up on his elbows facing me. "Does Chicago really have a cursed sports team?"

So I told Denny all about the Cubs, and Billy Sianis, and the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Then he told me this crazy story about a sled-dog that changed himself into a man and convinced a family he was a visitor from another village, so they would let him stay with them over-night, and he could get some quality time with their pretty daughter.

"When the sun rose," Denny said, "the man woke to find his daughter curled around the furry form of his lead sled-dog. He chased the dog out into the snow. Shamed at the thought of his favorite daughter giving birth to puppies, he grabbed her by the hair, dragged her to his boat, rowed out to a distant island, and abandoned her there."

I waited.

Denny got up and grabbed a bottle of water.

"So what happened next," I asked. "Did the sled-dog guy rescue her?"

"Well, Ray, it's a two-day story. You'll have to ask me tomorrow."

"Denny, I'm not planning on being here tomorrow."

"Oh, right." He took a swig of water and shrugged. "Too bad. I guess you'll have to decide what happens to her, tell the rest of the story yourself."

What was that about? Some weird Arabian Knights thing? Was he trying to convince me to stick around? I did not get this kid.

"Denny, tell me something."


"Why do you want to do this job?"

Denny polished off the rest of the bottle and tossed it in the trash. "Well, the money's good, and it's fun following Fraser around."

"And how about the future? When you're thirty, do you still see yourself following Fraser around?"

Denny crinkled up his face at me, like I'd just asked him what he was going to do when he got to the Moon. "Thirty? I don't really see that happening, Ray, but if it does, I'll figure something out."

I'd worked with gang kids who figured they were more likely to get a funeral than another birthday party. It was a dangerous state of mind.

"Denny –"

There was a double knock at the door. Denny dropped to one knee behind the bed, pointing his piece at the door. After a few seconds, I heard three more knocks. Denny stood up and holstered his weapon. A key scraped at the lock, and Fraser came in carrying a big grocery bag.

"Hello Denny, Ray," he said heartily. "Having fun?"

"Yeah," Denny answered. "Ray, tell him about the Billy Goat!"

Fraser unpacked a bunch of those little white paper take-out containers while I told him the story. Everything smelled great. Even without the handcuffs, I couldn't have handled the chopsticks, so the two of them took turns feeding me bites from their dinner.

I couldn't tell what any of it was. When I asked Fraser, he would only tell me the names in Chinese. According to Denny, we were eating 'rat tail soup', 'marinated walrus balls', 'stir-fried pigeon', and my personal favorite, 'mink lips in mint sauce'. Denny was cracking himself up, which started me going, and Fraser had this happy little crinkle to his eyes.

If I wasn't here, I'd be sitting on my couch watching re-runs, reheating last night's pizza, and washing it down with a few beers, or, if it was a bad day, a half-bottle of Stoli. And this feeling I was feeling, I recognized it from undercover jobs. You know you're going under a little too deep when your fake life, the one with the bad guys, starts to seem a lot more fun than your real life.

But I was a cop. I am a cop. And I'm not telling Fraser anything that could get anybody killed.

Denny checked his watch and jumped up. "Got to get going, I'm meeting some friends at seven."

He raced around, changing into black jeans and braiding his hair while Fraser cleaned up what was left of dinner.

"Where's my blue shirt?" Denny asked from the far side of the bed, tossing clothes out of the packs.

"You didn't bring it. Try this one," Fraser said, handing back the white button-down that had landed on the floor.

Denny slipped into it. "How do I look?" he asked breathlessly.

"Very handsome," Fraser answered solemnly.

Denny grinned at him, and was out the door.

"Have a good time!" Fraser called after him. Then he closed and locked the door.

What was Fraser to that kid? Dad, boss, sugar daddy, what?

"He's meeting friends? Isn't that a little weird when you guys are, you know, working?"

Fraser shrugged. "Denny's very friendly. And it's important that he spend time with people his own age. If he socializes exclusively with me, he might end up … peculiar."

I coughed to cover a sudden laugh. "Yeah, I can feel myself getting more peculiar by the minute over here."

Fraser was picking up the clothes Denny had thrown all over the place. He turned to look at me, lips quirked into a tiny smile. "Why, I had no idea you were so impressionable."

Once Fraser finished cleaning up after Hurricane Denny, he pulled out a book, turned on a bedside lamp, and flopped down on the bed to read.

After a minute, he sat up. "My apologies, Ray, I'm not used to entertaining guests. Would you like me to read to you?"

Apparently I was a guest now, which was a step up from hostage. "Uh, sure, Fraser."

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Fraser read me poems about wild, snowy places like a junkie craving his next fix. He made it sound scary, and beautiful, and clean, and more real than the city streets I'd known my whole life. I found that if I was careful, I could lay my arms on the seat back to make a decent pillow. Fraser had a nice voice.


I must have dozed off, because a knock at the door woke me up. Fraser was standing already, pistol out, finger on his lips telling me to be silent. I nodded. We waited for about 30 seconds, and then heard three more knocks. Fraser relaxed, walked across the room, and opened the door.

"Denny," Fraser said in a hollowed-out voice. I craned my neck to see. Fraser barked out an order in that funny language. Denny argued. Something was wrong, he sounded out of breath. Fraser helped the kid in, and as they brushed past me, I smelled blood.

Fraser laid Denny down on his back, on the bed, still arguing with him about something. He unbuttoned the kid's blood-soaked shirt and grabbed a towel to wipe his chest clean. Denny was trying to talk, but kept getting interrupted by a hacking cough. The wound was in the left side of his chest, just under the heart. I barely caught a glimpse before the area flooded with a fresh spurt of blood.

"Fraser – that doesn't look good."

"I know," he growled at me, wiping away the blood again. Denny was wheezing.

"You need to get him to a hospital!"

Fraser looked up at me, eyes wild, teeth bared. "He won't go. And even if he did … collapsed lung, there's too much blood loss, I think the bullet's damaged an artery, even if he went into surgery right now …"

Fraser was frantic. Denny started talking again, patting Fraser's arm, trying to talk him down. I wished I could understand what they were saying.

A quick, urgent spate of conversation. Then Fraser got off the bed, went to his jacket, and pulled out the silencer. He screwed it onto the muzzle of his gun, face pale and determined, as he walked back towards the bed.

"Uh … guys?" I said. They both ignored me. This was just fucked up. I had to get free of these cuffs, get to my phone, call an ambulance. "I'm not letting you do this!" I got to my feet and picked up the chair. "Stop!" Fraser walked past me, switched his gun to his left hand, and backhanded me into the wall.

Fuck. My ears were ringing, iron tang of blood in my mouth, like a knockout in the ring, and I slid down the wall back into my chair.

Fraser was on the bed, kneeling down with Denny's thighs between his legs. He leaned forward and gently pressed the silencer against Denny's forehead. Fraser asked a question. Denny answered, real soft, then closed his eyes and smiled. They were frozen there, like that, just for a moment, like some movie of the week that was about to fade to black. Then Denny choked, choked, his eyes shot open, and his hand fisted into Fraser's jacket. I closed my eyes and heard a loud 'fwip'.

When I opened my eyes, Denny was lying there, still and heavy. Dead doesn't look anything like asleep. It's just different. Details slipped through my mind – multiple gunshot wounds, stippling around the entry wound to the head, as if I was writing a report. As if that would make it so I wasn't chained to a fucking chair a few feet away from the corpse of a kid who'd been breathing a second ago. I've never been any good with dead things.

Fraser laid the pistol down on the bed, but he hadn't moved aside from that. He stared into the kid's dead eyes and whispered, "In the late nineteenth century, it was commonly believed the killer's image would be permanently burned into the retina of his victim."

"Uh, Fraser?" My voice was high and wavery.

"Yes?" Fraser was talking to me, but he wasn't looking away from that dead kid's face, not for a second.

"Have you ever thought of maybe retiring?"

"At times," he said hoarsely.

"Well, maybe you should think about it again. 'Cause I don't think this is good for you."

Fraser blinked a few times. "You may have a point," he said in a voice that almost sounded normal. He slid off the bed and rummaged around in the bags on the far side, came up with a Snickers bar. He peeled off the wrapper and placed it carefully in the kid's dead hand. I wondered if Denny was cold enough yet that the chocolate wouldn't melt. Then I decided I really, really didn't want to know. "But I can't stop," Fraser said.

It took me a second to remember what we were talking about. "Is it the money?" I asked.

Fraser sat down carefully on the bed and picked up Denny's other hand, held it gently. I noticed that the knees of his jeans were dark with blood. "No, I had enough money to retire on by the time I was eighteen. It's never been about the money, really."

He lay down on his side and placed Denny's hand on his chest, where the blood had pooled. He glanced at me over the body, then looked back at the wound and started to speak.

"When Joe was killed, I took out the shooters, and the man who ordered the hit." He reached down, touched Denny's chest, and then held up his gory hand. "Do you see? I attract Death. At least this way I can - I can find it the best possible targets," he said, low, stumbling over his own words. "Death and I went into business together that day," he said, stroking his eyebrow. It left a streak. "And I suppose no one's made me a better offer since."

Fraser looked me in the eye, and ... fuck. I'd delivered the bad news to too many front doors over the years, had people sit down before I told them about their son, their mother, their husband, their child. And some of them would cry, and some of them would scream at you, and some would faint. But the worst, the very worst, were the ones who just kept going, walking and talking like nothing had changed, right up until the moment when it smashed them to pieces. That look in Fraser's eyes; I recognized it. That was a countdown to him going boom.

He got up, and washed his hands and face in a bowl of water on the table. "So, Ray," he asked conversationally, "have you ever used your weapon in the line of duty?"

I stretched my shoulders, a little nervous about where this was going. "Yeah," I told him.

"And did you shoot to kill?" He dried his hands on a towel.

"That's how we're trained."

"I assume that you're a skilled marksman?" Fraser stripped efficiently out of his bloodstained jeans, put on another pair from his pack, and looked at me expectantly. "Well?"

"When I've got my glasses on, sure." Fraser's hands hovered over the pile of my stuff on the table. Then he picked up my glasses and tossed them to me. It was a good throw, right into my hands. I ducked down my head so that I could put them on. My chin jerked up, defensive, 'cause I know my glasses are kind of dorky looking.

A smile flitted over his face. "Charming. Now, given that you've had to use your weapon, and that you're skilled in its use, have you ever killed anyone?"

"Yeah." Three bodies on my jacket, and that was three more than most cops, but it's a big bad city, and I'm a good shot.

Fraser drifted closer, feet scuffing on the wooden floor. He looked funny, needy. "And do you remember their faces, Ray?"

"Yes." Doug O'Dell, who came at me with a tire iron when I responded to a domestic call. Frank Lepinski, dead of wounds sustained during a firefight, when he took a little boy hostage during a buy-bust. Giulletti, who I saw through the scope for maybe two seconds from the time when he pulled aside the curtain to look out and I called it in, until I heard 'green light' in my ear and pulled the trigger.

"Good, that's good," Fraser said, sinking down onto the floor in front of me. "I remember the caribou, but the men do tend to run together after a while," he whispered. "Could you kill again, Ray?"

"If I had to," I said to Fraser's bowed head, almost close enough for me to reach out and touch his hair. "That's why the badge comes with a gun, 'cause sometimes you have to, to protect people, to keep them safe."

Fraser took a deep, shuddering breath. Then he stood up, dusted off his pants, walked over to the table and picked up the towel.

His face was blank, didn't give me any clues to what was going on with him. He started wiping the towel across the table, the bowl, the mirror, and the doorknob.

At first I couldn't figure out what he was doing. Dusting? Why would he … Then it hit me. He was wiping off any fingerprints he'd left behind.

Fraser bustled around the room, unpacking and repacking the bags on the other side of the bed, scribbling a note on a piece of paper, wiping a few more things down with the towel. He put on his leather jacket, picked up the rifle case and one of the backpacks, and paused by the door.

"I've written Denny's full name, both in Inuktitut syllabary and phonetically, on the paper. I'd take it as a personal favor if you would speak his name out loud when he's buried. Your handcuff keys are on the table. You should be able to work your way over to them in a few minutes."

Fraser walked to the door. He pulled his cuff down over his hand and went to turn the doorknob. Then he stopped, turned his head to see me. And I held my breath, like you do before an explosion, counting down in my head. Three, two, one –

Fraser lunged across the few feet of carpet separating us, grabbed me by the shoulders, and crushed his lips up against mine. It wasn't a kiss. He was too frantic, angry, almost biting; trying to take something from me that he needed bad. I reached out with my cuffed hands, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him closer, turning my head and gentling my lips, trying to give it. After a minute he pulled off to the side, panting into my neck.

I brushed my lips along his cheek to his ear and whispered, "Let me help."

Fraser pushed away, fell backwards down onto the floor and lay there staring up at me like I was the one with the gun and the knife and the twenty-nine kills. Then he stumbled to his feet, grabbed the rifle case and backpack, and rushed out the door.

"See you around, Fraser," I yelled after him. Then it was just me and the dead kid in a room that smelled like blood and worse.

It took me five minutes to get across the room to the handcuff keys. I ran out to the bathroom, puked, and then called dispatch.


Denny was buried a week later. Nobody had claimed his remains, so he was cremated. They put the little box in the ground in the county cemetery. His full name was on a little metal plate, almost like a dog tag, that was screwed into a flat stone to mark the spot. I tried to get them to write it in his language, but they said they didn't have the right letters for that. The priest thought I was nuts, but I said Denny's real name and put the first shovel full of dirt on his grave myself. I hope I said it right. I'd been practicing, but it was tricky.

I went home to change after Denny's funeral. I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. Not in a creepy, drama-trauma way. Just … it was intense. Interesting. Fraser was interesting. You've gotta be pretty hard up for a day spent with a hired killer and his dead apprentice to be the highlight of your social calendar.

Maybe I was that hard up.

I mean, I could go out for drinks with the boys from the precinct, sure. But I'd never really cared about that. I wasn't a big people person. I'd get off shift, go home to Stella, and that was plenty for me. She was my best friend.

Now, with her gone, I mostly just went home. And my turtle's not much of a conversationalist. At work there was Douglas, my partner, who's … actually, he's kind of an asshole. He'd called in sick most of the week, anyway. Probably worried that my fuck-up would tarnish his image.

I had fourteen open cases on my desk. Denny's case was already closed. The Filipino gangsta wanna-be that shot Denny for flirting with his girlfriend at Club Tang was caught within a day. We had witnesses, ballistics, the murder weapon with his prints on it, even a confession.

The little punk was getting away with 'aggravated assault', even though the autopsy confirmed my testimony that Denny's chest wound would've killed him. His lawyer plea-bargained it down, and the DA went along because he wanted to hang the homicide on Fraser. My fist still hurt from punching a locker when Stella called to give me the news. I was a cop, she was an ADA, and there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it.

So now Fraser had 30 kills on his jacket. Thirty. An age Denny would never see.

The paperwork for getting kidnapped by a perp, and losing my service revolver (even though Campbell found it ten minutes later) and then being handcuffed to a chair while a kid was shot in front of you? Yeah, that paperwork took a few days to sort out.

IA kept trying to get me to admit I accepted a pay-off. I even thought they might be tailing me, trying to dig up some dirt. I kept getting this itchy feeling like I was being watched.

The Feds had me interviewed by a wet-behind-the-ears agent named Diego. He talked to me for maybe a half hour. At the end I tried to give him some ideas how we could stop Fraser taking out his target in Chicago.

Diego said, "The Bureau has a list of local underworld figures high-profile enough to merit Ben Fraser's attention. We'll catch him without any, ah, assistance from the locals." My union rep stopped me from taking a swing at him.

The Canadians sent over a Mountie chick, Constable Brighton, to interrogate me. She seemed to think that I should have over-powered Fraser with my mad kung-fu skills, or something, but at least she didn't assume I was a complete idiot.

Sergeant Harahan over at the 22nd said he'd have his boys checkout Denny's grave whenever they drove by on patrol, but that was a long shot. Fraser was good at disappearing. So the best way to stop Fraser from killing his target was to find the target first, get him into protective custody. Or jail. Fraser's targets pretty much all belonged there anyway. Of course, that meant I had to figure out who the target was, and that could be tricky.

I went back into work and looked through the case file that Constable Brighton had left for me, when she was done raking me over the coals.
Mother: Caroline Fraser, deceased November 22, 1967
Poor little kid.
Father: Sergeant Robert Fraser, RCMP, deceased September 3, 1994
That was three weeks ago. Fraser's dad died three weeks ago.

This was important, I could feel it, my cop senses were tingling. I called Constable Brighton, asked her for any information she could get me on Robert Fraser's death.

Twenty minutes later Verna, our Civilian Aide, slid a fax onto my desk. It was a one page incident report that said Robert Fraser died as a result of a hunting accident. A single .30-06 gunshot wound, through and through. No round or casing recovered. No suspects, not many details, and, as far as I could tell, not much of an investigation.

'Officers combed the area and found no evidence of foul play,' the report said. What the fuck?

When a cop takes a bullet, we don't close the case until we know for sure what happened. Suicide, homicide, accidental death – doesn't matter. It gets looked at, real close. There's an autopsy, interviews, photos of the scene. Actual police work gets done.

This "hunting accident" thing, there was something queer about it.

Okay. So, assume it's not an accident. Assume it's a murder. Assume Fraser's dad got murdered.

It could be personal. Somebody with a grudge. But this felt too … neat, to be personal. Tidy enough to be professional hit.

Maybe Fraser did it. I let the thought dangle there in my head for a second, but I didn't buy it. One, I was pretty sure Fraser would have told me if he offed his dad. Two, I'd seen Fraser's rifle, and it was a .308, not a .30-06. Shooters were loyal to their guns; they didn't play the field like that.

So, it wasn't Fraser. But it was a pro.

Maybe the Mountie pissed somebody off up there in Freezerland, and that somebody decided to bring in some out-of-town talent to settle things.

And Fraser, being in the business himself, finds out. What's he gonna do?

I remembered Fraser telling me, 'When Joe was killed, I took out the shooters, and the man who ordered the hit.' I didn't need any crime scene photos, any evidence – Fraser'd already done the legwork. And it led him here, to Chicago. Fraser put out a rumor that he was coming to Chicago to settle a score, and then he set a trap to catch a sniper. The sniper that killed his dad.

It all fit – Fraser was in town to kill a guy, and that same guy was gunning for him. That explained why Denny was so worried about Fraser wandering around Chinatown.

The hitter shouldn't be too hard to find, actually. Chicago had plenty of knee-breakers, thugs, and crooks willing to put a bullet in the competition for their gang or outfit. But perps with sniper skills who would take freelance jobs? Couldn't be more than a dozen. I had a connection, from an undercover job a few years back, who could point me in the right direction.

Time to shake some trees, see what fell out.

The first two guys I checked out were real helpful, once I told them I was looking for a witness to a crime that took place in Canada a few weeks ago. They both had solid alibis that placed them in Chi-Land. It was nice dealing with professionals – they never want to start anything with the police. The third guy on my list, Frankie Drake, didn't have a recent address, so I went to talk to his ex-wife.

That lady was at the ragged end of something. She said she hadn't seen Drake in weeks, but her black eye was telling me another story. I asked her to pass a message on to Drake, but as soon as the word 'Canada' came out my mouth, she flinched. Bingo. I gave her my card and told her to call if she thought of anything that might help.

I stayed outside of the apartment for a few hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of Drake. I even put in a call to the lieu, asked him to approve a second shift to keep an eye on her place. But Mrs. Drake's flinch connecting Frankie Drake to Canada, which connected him to Robert Fraser's death, which connected him to Ben Fraser, wasn't enough for Lieutenant Renton. Couldn't really blame him.

I left when it got dark, went to a diner near the precinct, took a really big piss, grabbed a burger since I'd missed lunch, and headed back into the bullpen to sign out for the evening. There was a 'While You Were Out' memo on my desk, re: Mr. Drake. There was no phone number to call, just an address across town.

"Verna," I yelled, "do you remember this caller?" Verna was our Civilian Aide. She was a lot like my mom, if mom was black and could hold her own in the heavyweight division.

"Sure do, honey," she yelled back from her computer.

"Was it a woman?" I was hoping Mrs. Drake saw the light.

"No, it was a nice boy. Real polite," Verna looked at me over her glasses. "Unlike some people around here."

I could only think of one polite boy who had anything to do with this case.

Read Chapter 3.