“Just a reminder that bullying in the Nine- Nine will not be tolerated, even of Hitchcock. Whoever is stealing his lunch and leaving taunting messages in the tub of butter will be caught.”
“I believe it’s I can’t believe it’s not butter, not butter,” Jake said, leaning back against his intertwined fingers.
“Regardless,” the Captain said. “Finally, we have a new case to be assigned. The Kevea Garden Suites regularly hosts a relationship retreat for couples, and at the last retreat, there was a murder. There was a similar murder at a hotel in Phoenix that was also hosting one of these retreats.”
“So you’re saying the two murders are connected?” Jake asked.
“I’m saying they might be. In both cases, the murder took place in the hotel, but the bodies were dumped in the outdoor dumpster behind the kitchen. If we have a serial killer on our hands, they may strike again at this retreat, I’m going to need two of you to stay at the hotel, undercover, to investigate. Santiago, I’m going to need you to be the primary on this case.”
Jake turned around to look at Santiago, whose face was twisted into a smirk. She jerked her head towards the board where they were tracking their bet. The two of them were neck-and-neck on arrests, and if she cracked this, she might just beat him, and he would have to give up his car and, more importantly, his chance to get into her pants.
“Yes!” Jake said, drowning out Santiago’s “Noooooo.”
“I’m putting the two of you undercover as a married couple attending the workshop,” the Captain said.
“Married? To him?” Santiago squeaked.
“Awww yeah,” Jake said, fist pumping.
“That way you’ll be able to attend the workshops, interact with the other couples, investigate, and put a stop to whoever’s behind this.”
“Are you sure Peralta and I make sense as a couple?” Santiago asked. “He’s so...” she gestured a bit.
Boyle raised his hand. “Yeah, maybe you want a more believable couple, like Rosa and me? I could be a world-renowned pastry chef down on my luck, and she could be a horse trainer. We have a house in the suburbs, something real tasteful, I’m thinking a gambrel roof with an attached garage—”
“No. Absolutely not. Peralta and Santiago are going to be the married couple, whereas you and Rosa would look... off.”
Santiago looked like an unhappy turtle. “With all due respect, Peralta’s an overgrown child, and I’m—”
“You’re both the same age, with the same relative levels of attractiveness, and you’re both single. Neither of you are divorced, or wear exclusively leather, or are Gina.”
“What?” Gina said, shaking off the nap she’d just woken up from.
The Captain folded his arms. “This discussion is closed. You’re going.”
“We’re going to have to come up with a backstory,” Amy told Jake. He was leaning on her desk, as always, dangerously close to messing up her files, which she was in the process of relabeling.
“Let’s just steal Charles’s horse thing. And I make pastries, and maybe am French,” he said.
Amy rolled her eyes. “We need to plan this, or else it could all blow up in our faces. Where did we meet, how long have we been together, how did you propose?”
“Savant’s putting together fake facebook pages for us. I told him together for three years, I proposed at your baby sister’s wedding while you were wearing a feathered thing, and we met at Alcoholics Anonymous. Further, as the Mrs. Jake Peralta I always assumed would never exist, you have transformed my carefree bachelor days into nights filled with chores and yelling. The amount of sex I’m having remains the same.”
“If you’re done. None of that. I’m going to email Corey right now and get him to change everything. You proposed four years ago in Times Square—”
“I would never get engaged in Manhattan. I’m texting him and telling him to keep everything the same, and further, to call you ‘frigid.’”
“I’m not frigid! You can ask my date from last weekend,” Amy said.
Jake scoffed. “Sounds legit. What does he do?”
“Where does he work?”
“Collins, Fillmore, and Burke.”
“And where does he live?”
“Upper East Side.”
“And what did you guys do on this date?”
“We went to Little Italy, where I got the eggplant parm and he had pasta arrabiata with smoked sausage. After that, we went for a walk in the moonlight to a little Italian bakery Charles had recommended, where we split the tiramisu. And then we had the real dessert back at his place.”
“And what’s his name?”
Amy blanked. “It’s—”
“Thought so. If we’re going undercover, you’re going to have to be quicker on your feet,” Jake said, insufferably smug.
Amy huffed. “Well, this is why I wanted to go over everything with you. Preparation is the soul of... preparedness.”
“Role-playing’s my bread and butter. We’ll figure it out as we go.”
“That’s not how I work.”
“Which is why I have more arrests than you,” Jake said, whipping out sunglasses and putting them on, just so he could look over them at her.
“You have one more arrest than me. It’s not like the numbers couldn’t change. This murderer might be the arrest that puts me over the top.”
“Your way is wrong and my way is right and—”
Gina popped up out of nowhere, startling Amy. “You know, you two should just take the subway to Bonetown today, get all this tension out before you have to be a couple who isn’t getting along.”
“Thanks for the advice, but I’ll pass.” Amy made a face.
“Because right now you two are eye-fucking so much that I could actually get eye herpes watching you. Don’t worry, lil’ Amy, I’ll give you the talk your momma never did,” Gina said, swinging up onto Amy’s desk.
“Don’t do this,” Amy said.
Gina ignored her. “When a man and a woman work together, and they respect each other despite the fact they’re both pretty lame, sometimes the two of them get drunk and then make-out, and then they stop arguing all the time so that their much-hotter co-worker can get the seventeen hours of sleep a day she needs.”
“Seventeen?” Jake asked.
“I’m part Siamese cat,” Gina said with a purr.
“Ok, get off my desk,” Amy said. “That’s never going to happen, so you can just stop thinking about it, and if you do think about it, which you shouldn’t, you’ll hopefully stop leering when you do.”
“Mark my words,” Gina said, sliding back onto the floor. “It’s going to happen.”
“It won’t,” Amy said.
“It would be cool,” Jake said. “What?”
“It won’t happen,” Amy repeated, certain.
Amy was horrified. She waited for the barrage of lewd jokes, but Jake dropped his duffle, hopped on the bed, and started jumping like some sugar-high six year old, snorting with laughter every time he touched the ceiling. If he had a single thought about this one bed situation, he gave no indication.
It was all Amy could think about, however, especially when he dropped down on that bed and started wiggling his eyebrows at her. “Come over here, wife of mine. My mother always said my brother would get married first, which he did, but I still got fake-married first. Well, except for my Uncle Pete, who says he’s legally married to his sound board. They made a documentary about him.”
“They should make a documentary on you,” Amy said.
“That’ll get in the way of the Netflix miniseries. Come on—” and he was vertical almost instantaneously. “We should get to investigating.”
“Welcome to the Happy Home Couples Retreat and Seminar!” a far-too perky redheaded woman yelled. “I’m Jane—”
“And I’m Jonathan!” the blond man next to her said.
“And we’re your Relationship Coaches for the rest of the week! We’ve been where you couples are before. Tired, overworked. Sniping at each other.”
“And hating the in-laws,” he said, pausing for the obligatory laughter.
“And then one day, we realized that if we kept this up, we’d end up with the dreaded D—”
“The jokes write themselves,” Jake whispered to Amy.
“Divorce!” Jonathan, smiling entirely too much, said, “And we will work with you on your relationships. We have workshops and exercises designed to bring you two together! We’ve been running these retreats since 2004, and we’ve saved thousands of relationships. I’d like to take this opportunity to bring some couples up front to discuss their previous experiences with the Happy Home Couples Retreat and Seminar! But first, do we have any questions so far?”
“I have a question!” Amy yelled out. “Will we be able to switch to a room with separate beds? It’s just that’s how we sleep at home.”
Jake looked at her like she was out of her mind. “We do,” she hissed to him. “In our separate apartments.”
Jane looked appalled. “And what is your name?”
“I’m Amy Cramer-Balsom, and this is my husband, Jake Cramer-Balsom.”
Jake gave a sarcastic wave.
“Well, Ms. Cramer-Balsom, sleeping in the same bed is an important part of the seminar. You do want to improve your relationship, right?”
“And Mr. Cramer-Balsom, how do you feel about your wife’s question?”
Jake gave her a private smirk. “I just don’t think she’s taking this as seriously as I am. It makes me feel unloved.”
Amy felt the color drain from her face. Jonathan was giving her a look that said he was disappointed in her. It reminded her of Holt, and a little bit of her father. “No! I want to improve our relationship. I take this very seriously. I fully intend to work hard.”
“Let’s bring these two up to the front to get started on a little exercise!” Jonathan said, and Amy’s face burned scarlet as she climbed the steps to the stage. “All of you are going to reach into your packets and pull out your notepads and pens. You’ll be doing this along with Amy and Jake.”
The exercise was to list intimate gestures that she supposedly wanted from her supposed husband. That was embarrassing enough, but they were sitting on folding chairs facing each other, and every time she tried to peek at him, he was already looking at her. He caught her eye, wiggled his eyebrows, and wrote something on the pad. She could only assume that whatever he wrote was ridiculous, or gross.
“Time’s up! Amy, you’ll be reading your list in front of everyone.”
This was an actual nightmare. She pinched her arm, just in case. “I...”
“Can’t hear you!” Jane said cheerfully.
“I would like my husband Jake to engage in more kissing,” she said, hoping she couldn’t actually die from embarrassment.
You wish, he mouthed at her.
He made her so mad, sometimes. “And more foreplay,” she said, with a glare.
Jane winced slightly. “Amy, dear, I really need you to take this seriously. The point of the exercise is to identify more things for the two of you to do as a couple, not to blame your partner.”
“Sorry,” Amy mumbled.
Jane smiled encouragingly at Jake.
“My wife, Amy, is a wonderful person who works so hard, which makes intimacy difficult at times. She’s an in-demand massage therapist—”
Seriously? she mouthed at him.
“Who’s just so talented. I know I don’t have the skill she does, but I wish she’d let me massage her shoulders sometimes.”
The audience melted at his words, naturally.
“But mostly, I just want to hold her hand. Sometimes, I see these sweet little old couples holding hands, and I want that.”
Jane practically swooned. “There’s some vulnerability! You see what I was looking for, Amy?”
Jake looked at her. Nailed it.
Amy tried not to glare.
Jane grabbed both their hands. “I think I speak for everyone here when I say I want to see the two of you hold hands right now! Amy, I’m going to need you to take this seriously, like your husband.”
The audience, which evidently consisted of one murderer and a bunch of other equally terrible people, applauded.
Fine. She grabbed his hand, expecting it to be mildly sweaty, but it actually felt very nice. All warm pressure and surprising smoothness.
Jane waved her arms over their clasped hands like she was a magician. “Now, I’ll leave the massages for the two of you to do in private, but every time I see the two of you, I want you to be holding hands.”
“Great!” Jake said.
“Yeah, great,” Amy said.
Amy couldn’t process that she was actually in bed with Jake Peralta.
Sure, he was on the other side, and there was a pillow between them, but there he was, in bed, next to her, in bed next to her.
It was weird.
She hadn’t wanted to sleep next to him. After a long afternoon of couples’ sessions, covert interviews, and rampant theorizing about who the killer was, she’d planned on crashing on the floor.
Well, actually, she’d hoped he would volunteer to take the floor and leave her the bed.
“You have to be joking, Santiago,” he’d said. “The department sprung for this nice bed and we have an obligation to sleep in it.”
“Yes, but we’re not actually a couple,” she’d said, wishing she’d brought even thicker pajamas.
“We’re not paraplegic military analysts either.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing. Just like facebook relationship status has nothing to do with sharing a bed together.”
“Floor’s all yours.” Jake said as he threw back the covers.
Jake laughed when she climbed into bed with him only under the condition that the pillow stay between them, but it was important. It was a visual and physical reminder that they weren’t together just because they were in the same bed.
Which would’ve been completely fine, if not for the loud moaning that was coming from next door. Their neighbors, who were probably also a retreat couple, were making all sorts of noises. The lady was moaning like she was a porn star, and there was a rhythmic thumping followed by the occasional grunt.
It was ridiculous how embarrassing this whole thing was. Amy was a sexually active woman who’d taken several men to bed, and she shouldn’t care about it. This was a normal part of human sexuality, which was beautiful and not at all weird to contemplate.
The noises went on and on.
“This is dumb,” she finally snapped. “She’s clearly faking it. And it’s been going on for way too long. They’re both faking it.”
“Nonsense. I can go several minutes longer. Sometimes even with another person.”
“Well, I’m tired, and I want to sleep.”
“We could get revenge on them.”
Amy started ticking ideas off on her fingers.“By bringing them cookies so their mouths are too full to do that stuff. No, by calling their room and asking them to turn down the porn movie. No, by making those same noises, but louder, and then they’ll realize how obnoxious they’re being!”
“I was going to say by making covert references to this tomorrow morning in the opening session, but I can help you make whatever noises you—”
Amy rolled over and looked at Jake, illuminated in the moonlight. He had a light smile on his face, and a look of— hope, almost.
She refused to contemplate it. “Shut up. We need to get some sleep. Stay on your side of the bed.”
The woman next door moaned loudly.
They were in the middle of an exercise— recounting when and where they’d met, which for the Amy Cramer and Jake Balsom had involved a set up from their friend Charles— when their friend Charles popped up from beneath the table
“Charles!” Amy whispered.
“And Rosa,” Charles said, and Rosa peeked out from underneath the tablecloth.
“I will end him,” Rosa said, tilting her head at Charles.
“Sneaky,” Jake said, giving Charles a low-five.
“We’re here to give you some info on—” But Charles was interrupted when a lovely blonde woman cutting through the room spotted him.
“Charles?” she said.
“Caroline,” Charles said. “What are you doing here?” He scrambled up from under the table, then offered a hand to Rosa.
“Who’s this one?” Caroline asked. She was wearing a blue boatneck sweater and pressed slacks, and looked liked Rosa’s own personal hell.
“Is this— is this your ex-wife?” Jake asked.
“Are you remarried?” Caroline asked.
“Are you serious?” Rosa asked.
“Can I speak to you alone?” Charles asked.
“Sure,” Jake said, at the same time Caroline said “Yes.”
“No, I— Jake, Amy, Rosa, I need you in the hallway. Caroline, I’ll be back in a minute,” Charles said.
“He was never like this when we were married,” Caroline said to the man who’d come over to see what the fuss was, a swarthy looking gentleman with a really nice mustache. “I don’t think he’s ever told me to wait before.”
“That was weird,” Jake said. “I have to admit, I thought the ex-wife was mostly imaginary.”
“She isn’t. Holt wanted us to bring you guys some new photos from the Phoenix murder,” Charles said. He shoved a manila envelope into Jake’s hands. “He wanted to know how you guys are doing.”
“So far, we have no leads and no suspects, but Santiago does want to hold my hand, so I’d say we’re just having a ball,” Jake said.
“I was doing the exercise!” Amy said, a slight whine in her voice.
“This is funny,” Rosa said. “You two are the least believable couple I’ve ever seen.”
“Oh, I can think of a less-believable couple,” Jake said.
Amy shot him a dirty look.
“Charles, the pastry chef, and Rosa, the horse whisperer with a heart of gold, make a great couple—”
Amy sighed. “This is no good, Charles. Your ex knows you’re a cop.”
“But she doesn’t know the rest of you are cops,” Charles said.
“You’ve got to go—” Amy started.
“Charles?” Caroline said, slipping out the door into the hallway with them. “What are you doing here? Who is this woman?”
Charles winced. “Well, you see—”
“Are you both here to join the retreat?” Jane said, popping into the hallway. “Because you’ve caused quite a disturbance, and I’d hate to have to ask the hotel to escort you out.”
“Of course,” Charles said, his voice almost giddy. “I’m Charles, and this is Rosa, and we’re here to make our relationship even more perfect than it currently is.”
Elevators, Amy realized, were inherently awkward places. It was impossible to know what dumb thing she might blurt out in thirty seconds.
Plus, sometimes there were other people in the elevator, and they were making out like crazy. For instance, right this moment, while standing next to Jake, there was a couple in the corner sucking face like it might be the last thing they ever did.
The woman, in particular, kept making little breathy noises in the back of the elevator. The guy in her arms was quiet, but—
“Don’t stare,” Jake muttered at her.
“I’m not,” she muttered back.
When the second floor lit up, they exited quickly.
“I guarantee that was our noisy neighbors,” Jake said.
“Why do you think that?”
“Because I’ve now listened to her up close and she has the same high-pitched sex-squeak. Plus, I introduced myself to her yesterday during couples’ spin class. Nice lady. From Texas. Sarah Something, I think.”
“Well, the next time you talk to her, tell her to keep it down.”
The wave of chlorine hit her when she opened the door to the pool, but she was excited to get a little exercise in. Plus, this was the perfect chance to talk to some more couples.
Jake peeled off to go talk to an elderly couple by the towels while Amy removed her shirt and slacks. She placed the neatly folded pile on to a poolside lounger, then jumped in.
While Jake went to chat up retreat participants, Amy took a blissful twenty minutes to swim laps.
When she popped out of the water, feeling utterly better from the endorphins, Jake was there, holding out a towel.
“Hey honey, did you steal that bathing suit from a Mormon?” he asked.
“Oh, let me just get a bikini to make you happy,” she said, grabbing the towel and covering herself up. This had to be the most naked she’d ever been in front of him.
“Awww,” he said.
“Whatever. What’d you learn?”
“Well, that couple over there wants to give me hard candies. I also met those two over there—” he pointed at a middle-aged hispanic couple in the corner— “And I think we should talk a little more to them. They’ve been to these retreats before, although I’m not sure they’ve ever left New York, which I can respect. Now, while I was talking to them, I overheard a little birdy that says Jane and Jonathan were caught yelling at each other last night.”
“Maybe not all’s perfect between the golden couple?”
“That’s what I’m thinking. Maybe that extends to murd— mermaids. I think mermaids are the new vampires,” he said, as a hotel guest passed by a little too close to them.
She pulled him over to her lounger chair. “Do you really think they’re capable of murder?”
“Who knows? No two people can be that happy.”
“My parents are pretty happy,” she said.
Jake rolled his eyes. “No, they had eight kids. They’re probably just too tired to get divorced. No couple can be together that long and still like each other.”
She lowered her voice. “Really? Just because your dad walked out is no reason to assume all couples can’t—”
“Can you not do that?” Jake asked, gesturing towards her legs, which she was currently toweling off. “It’s distracting.”
“Distracting? What do you—”
“Guys! JAKE!” Charles yelled from across the room. “I have that thing you wanted.”
“Excellent subtlety,” Jake muttered.
Amy pulled her clothes over her suit, and started towel-drying her hair just as Charles reached them.
“Guys, I have some bad news. We found another body.”
It was much easier to investigate murder when not undercover. As it was, Amy was reduced to rubbernecking the uniforms who’d roped off the area.
“Well, we’ll get the report soon enough, once they ID the body” Jake said. “I think we need to one, not attract more attention, and two, not make the perp suspicious, should he or she be watching.” He put his hand lightly on her back and guided her away.
Amy glanced around to make sure they were alone. “Well, we know the victim’s a young guy, somewhere in his thirties, white, brown hair, medium build. Does that describe anyone at the relationship seminar?”
Jake pursed his lips. “Most of the people seem to be on the older side. There were those two thirty year old guys—”
“Chuck and Francois?”
“Yeah, but they’re black, so that’s a no-go.”
“Cute couple, though.”
“Definitely. Oh, what about, what’s his name, the one with that weird arm tattoo?”
“Kurt. We should check in on him,” she said, as they stepped into the elevator.”
“Wait!” Jake said, snapping his fingers. “Mr. Sanchez? Saratoga? Something? Sarah’s husband.”
“He’s just about that height. And we know they were both in the elevator with us on our way to the pool. And this elevator is only two turns from the kitchen behind which the first body was dumped. I’d say we have our victim, and he’s our neighbor. We need to go check on him.”
“Let me change out of my suit first,” she said, sliding the key in the door.
He leaned back against the door. “Feel free to take off whatever you want.”
“Ridiculous,” she said, opening the closet and pulling out a cardigan and some khaki slacks. She grabbed some new underwear too, covertly, and ran into the bathroom. She was as quick as she could be, blow-drying her hair without washing out the chlorine, but sometimes, sacrifices had to be made. She did take a minute to rub on some lipgloss on, though, since she was a married masseuse, not a single cop.
Jake gave her the same pained expression as when she’d been toweling off. “It’s the best I can do,” she told him.
He shook his head. “Come on, Santiago.”
Knocking on the Something’s door was reminiscent of their usual door-to-door duty, and for a moment, Amy wanted to hold up her badge.
“Hello?” Sarah asked.
Jake put on his most charming smile. “Hi, remember me?”
Sarah tilted her head. “Jake, from yesterday. Hello!”
“And I’m Amy.”
Sarah opened the door and ushered them in. “Yes, I remember you feel you aren’t getting enough foreplay.”
“Great. We just wanted to say hello. And your name is...?” Amy asked.
“I’m Sarah Saunders. Do ya’ll need a drink?”
The Southern hospitality felt out of place in a hotel room, but Sarah pulled out some beers she’d clearly stashed in the mini-bar herself.
Sarah bustled around the room until she found a bottle opener. “I’ve never seen you two at one of these. I’m here for my fourth retreat with my honey, Danny. He’ll be back any second.” She leaned against the dresser, gesturing so they would sit on the bed.
Amy glanced around at the room, which was the mirror image of their own, except that Jake had been in theirs for longer than six minutes and thus it was dirty already. The Saunders, though, had everything in its proper place. It was amazing how much nicer-smelling a room without Jake living in it was. “Really? Do you have a picture of him?” Amy asked. She’d only seen Sarah’s husband from across the elevator, but if they could see a picture of him, she would know if that body was Danny. “Because we were looking at the facebook page for the conference but his picture was a puppy so—”
Jake said. “We’re completely normal, I promise. Just trying to find other people our age, you know, it’s hard to meet people at these sorts of things.”
“But you sounded fun, you know, on facebook, through the wall—” Amy cut off quickly when Jake shot her a look.
Jake jumped in. “We’re your neighbors and we weren’t playing the music loud enough last night. I apologize for my partner— wife, for my wife.”
Sarah cringed. “Oh no, I’m sorry if we disturbed your sleep last night.”
“No, it sounded fun. Were that we were having that sort of fun last night, of course,” Jake said.
“Oh,” Sarah said.
“One step at a time,” Amy said, gritting her teeth. “Jane said our first step was holding hands more often in public.”
Jake saddled up beside her and grabbed her hand, giving the other woman a huge smile. “She’s never had this problem with other guys, only with me. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“I see,” Sarah said. She pulled out her phone and tapped at the screen a few times.
“Where is your husband, anyway?” Amy asked.
“Oh, he’ll be back soon.”
Jake squeezed her hand, clearly wondering if their neighbor was going to discover that her husband was actually under a tarp outside.
They made small talk about the conference, mostly Sarah’s impressions of the other young couples Jake and Amy hadn’t met yet. Amy made a bunch of mental notes, dividing everyone up into potential informants and potential perps.
They were interrupted by a click at the door, and suddenly, Danny, a medium built, white guy with brown hair entered. Amy tried to cover up her surprise.
Sarah made the introductions. “This is Jake and Amy, you remember them from yesterday? Anyway, they’re our neighbors to the right. They overheard us last night and came knocking today.”
“Oh,” Danny said. “I’m so glad to meet you both.” He gave them both firm handshakes. Afterwards, Jake didn’t grab her hand again.
Which was fine.
“Sorry if we kept you up,” he said. “It’s just so nice to have that vacation sex, you know how it is.”
Jake sighed. “Do I?”
Amy swatted his arm to shut him up.
Sarah grabbed her husband’s hand as he leaned up against the dresser with her, and Amy felt a little jealous of the casual intimacy she’d never realized was so appealing. “Jake and Amy are looking for other fun couples around their ages,” she said, shaking her hair a little so some of it fell over her eye. “Isn’t that exciting?”
“Oh, so you’re both in the lifestyle,” Danny said.
Jake gave the slightest shake of his head. Good, he was as bewildered as she was. “Excuse me?”
“It’s always so hard to meet other young people, especially at these things, where everyone has kids your age. I mean, don’t get me wrong, these relationship seminars are really good stuff, but it doesn’t always appeal to people until they’re older.”
“Meanwhile, we realized what we wanted young,” Sarah said. “And these things are an excellent way to ensure the lines of communication stay open at all times.”
“Like if Sarah wants to try something new, we do,” Danny said.
“Or someone new,” Sarah laughed.
Jake laughed too, and tried to catch Amy's eye, but she wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell her. “Oh my god,” he said, leaning into Amy. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“What is anyone saying?” Amy asked.
“Or, you know, if we want to hit on our cute neighbors and ask them if they want to come over tonight after the sessions, we do that,” Sarah said, rubbing her foot against Amy’s foot.
Oh, that’s what that was about. Oh god.
“You’re swingers,” Jake said, a smile on his face as he shook a finger at them.
“Guilty as charged,” Danny said.
“They’re swingers,” Jake said to Amy.
Amy had arrested her fair share of prostitutes, but this was something she’d only read about in Cosmo once.
“You’d be surprised how many of us there are at these conferences,” Sarah said. “But most of them are older. It’s a growing trend among Gen Xers. Closed relationships are just so... boring.”
Amy needed to get out of here, and fast. “Speaking of boring, though, we do have evening sessions starting soon, and I wanted to shower first— alone— but thank... you for... this and we’ll see you— later, at the sessions.”
Jake waited until they were back in the room to howl with laughter, into a pillow, as quietly as he ever did anything.
“So he wasn’t even part of the conference?” Jake asked Charles quietly.
“Yeah, he was just a hotel guest who checked in late last night, had a whopping nine drinks charged to his card, and then he wasn’t seen by anyone after that until he was found by the dumpster this afternoon.”
“What does Holt think of all this?” Amy asked.
“He thinks Charles is an idiot for getting us stuck here,” Rosa said. “I do too.”
“We can’t leave. It’ll blow our whole cover,” Charles said. “And their cover, too.”
“If another person asks me about breeding Danish Warmbloods, I’m going to rip off their hair,” Rosa said.
“I really need you four to come on over,” Nick, their station coordinador, yelled from over at their relationship station.
Right. They were going to play The Newlywed Game, which was going to fix their pretend relationship.
“All right, couples! Each of you is going to get a whiteboard on which you will write down your answers,” Nick explained cheerfully. “Each person will get a total of ten questions, with one point per question. So play your hardest!”
“That’s not the rules. Bob Eubanks would be disgusted,” Charles said, taking his seat next to Jake.
“Team Cramer-Balsom’s going to kick your asses!” Jake said.
“As long as we all have fun,” Charles said.
“We’re not a team,” Rosa said. Amy nudged her, hard, and her eyes flared but at least Rosa didn’t punch her. “Although we will win, because this matters for some reason.”
Nick pulled out a fake microphone. “Welcome to The Newlywed Game, where we will pit Rosa and Charles against Jake and Amy! First question: tell me the name of her first pet. Ok, Charles?”
“Rosa’s always loved animals, but her first pet was actually a Shetland pony named Peaches.”
“Rosa?” Nick asked.
“It was a horse, because I like horses, and his name was Horse.”
Nick looked concerned. “Oooh, I’m sorry. Jake?”
“He was a mutt named Barky.”
Amy flipped her board around wordlessly. She had had a dog as a kid, but it never occurred to her Jake remembered that story.
Nor did she think he knew the first type of car she drove (a Chevy) or her biggest fear (snakes), although he did think her favorite shirt was his when actually it was a pale pink peter pan collared blouse. She didn’t do as well, failing to know he hated bunnies or that his favorite place was the Brooklyn Bridge, though she did guess what six-year-old Jake wanted to be when he grew up (space cowboy).
Charles, who seemed vaguely hurt Rosa didn’t know he’d wanted to be a pirate, hadn’t fared much better. Rosa was a cipher, whether she was herself or her undercover self, and Charles failed to get any questions correct.
“Favorite type of bathing suit?” Nick asked.
Jake chewed on the end of his marker before writing something down.
Charles answered, “skinnydipping,” which made Rosa smirk. When she turned her board over, it said none. The two of them high-fived.
“One piece,” Jake said. “Not too much showing, but what’s showing looks great.”
Amy had indeed written ‘one piece.’ But somehow, that seemed less important than the look he was currently giving her.
“Are the department’s phones down, or...?” Jake asked as he buttered his muffin. As he’d explained to her that morning, there was nothing like a continental breakfast, which is why his pockets were currently loaded up with free yogurts.
“You don’t even eat yogurt,” she’d said when she saw that, and he’d scoffed like she just epically didn’t get it.
But suddenly, their quiet breakfast became another departmental meeting as Terry and Gina joined them.
“The phones work just fine. Speaking of, how come you’re hitting on your slutty neighbors but when I suggest a departmental sex party, no one RSVPs?” Gina looked entirely put out.
“You told her about that?” Amy hissed, and she contemplated punching him.
Jake shrugged. “We text.”
“None of that matters. You won’t believe what we found on the body,” Terry said. “Dr. Rossi said the deceased had engaged in sexual activity within a half hour before his death by suffocation.”
“So what you’re saying is that he was smothered to death with boobs,” Jake said with a smirk.
“That means he almost certainly was murdered in the hotel,” Amy said.
“Or! That he was super into running away after intimacy, which I understand.” Gina shined her nails on her sweater.
Amy frowned. “But more likely, he slept with his murderer and was murdered!”
Jake patted her hand. “And I thought you went on lousy dates.”
“What is wrong with you?” Amy asked as Terry glared.
“Focus. Now, we have some fibers that are going to take time to analyze, but it’s a start. Do you have any suspects?”
“Well, there’s Cathy, who keeps trying to get fresh with me,” Jake said, pointing to a blue-hair in the corner.
“You sure do like ‘em old,” Gina said, elbowing Amy.
“I’m younger than you!” Amy said.
“Background checks show we have at least one criminal in our midst, but he’s white collar,” Jake said, tilting his head towards a silver-haired banker type. “And we have more than few unpaid parking tickets. And there’s at least one couple where I’m sure she’s going to kill him, and I’ll tell you, I’m going to miss Boyle.”
“There’s also our retreat leaders,” Amy said. “They’re almost impossibly friendly, even in the morning, but we haven’t been able to dig up much dirt on them prior to these seminars.”
“I’ll text Savant,” Gina said.
“But seriously, they are really cheerful all the time. Jane and Jonathan must be hiding some—”
“Good morning!” Jane crowed, having materialized behind Amy. “Sorry to interrupt, but I thought I heard my name.”
“H-Hello,” Amy stuttered. She grabbed Jake’s hand before the lecture could start.
Jake, always smooth, smiled. “It’s so nice to see you this morning, Jane! I was just telling my wife that you’re a sight for sore eyes. We stayed up late doing that exercise you suggested. The one with the erotic touching. She asked me to start with hand-holding, but it went so much deeper than that. As did I. Go deeper, I mean.”
“That’s wonderful,” Jane said, giving Jake a smile. “Amy, I’m glad you’re finally participating the way I asked you to.”
Amy bit her lip to stop herself from saying the things she was thinking.
“And who are these two?” Jane said, a slight frown on her face. “You two are not supposed to be bringing in outsiders.”
“My name is Gina Gold, and this is my married lover. He’s Terr-ific.”
Jane frowned. So did Terry.
“We’ve run off from his wife to start over together, just me, him, and his wife’s dog, Mitzy. Don’t worry, we already paid our registration fee.”
Jane perked back up. “Well then! Carry on.”
“I’m not your lover,” Terry said.
“I know that, and you know that, and Jake knows that, and Amy doesn’t know what sex is, but all that matters is that we just proved that little miss sunshine will turn a blind eye to bad things for money.”
Terry looked impressed. “Good job. Never tell my wife any of that.”
Gina grabbed his hand. “ I would never have a conversation with someone I wasn’t getting paid somehow to talk to.”
“Close enough,” Terry said.
“Did you guys really register for the retreat?” Jake asked.
“Nah, but I want to hang around and see who seems suspicious, or hot. That guy over there’s giving me the eye.”
Amy “Gina! No, that’s Danny, our neighbor. The swinger.”
“The swinger? So he’s basically going to put out?”
“Come on,” Amy said. “We have couples’ yoga.”
Gina was a social butterfly, so naturally she’d introduced herself to everyone at the conference within a matter of hours. Now, how many of those people thought she’d wandered in from Crazytown, Amy couldn’t say, but Gina spent most of lunch with her and Rosa, going over her hunches.
“It’s not that white collar guy,” she said. “His energy’s all wrong.”
“That’s not something I can say to a judge,” Rosa said.
Gina continued. “Plus he has a herniated disc from some lesser sport. There’s no way he’s smothering a dude and then dumping him.”
“What about those lesbians from Connecticut? Tyra and, oh, Kelly.” Amy asked.
“Nah, this was a crime of passion, and those two haven’t gotten passionate about something other than Cheetos since the eighties.”
“That guy in the track suit gives me the creeps,” Rosa said.
“That’s just because he doesn’t shower. He’s harmless,” Gina said.
“I want to stab him with a fork,” Rosa said.
“Speaking of people you’ll probably stab with cutlery, how mad are you at Charles?”
Rosa glared. “Pretty damn mad. At least the room’s nice, if I’m stuck here.”
“You two sharing a bed?” Gina asked slyly.
“Please. Boyle sleeps in the bathtub.”
Amy looked at her, appalled.
“He has a pillow,” Rosa said.
That night, in bed with Jake, Amy was once again forced to listen to the moaning hour next door. After they politely declined the Saunders’ offer of a nightcap followed by illicit sex, Amy assumed her neighbors would get some sleep, but instead, they were even louder than they’d been two nights prior.
“If they don’t stop, I’m never getting to sleep,” Amy said, covering her face with a pillow.
“Whosit what?” Jake mumbled.
“I can’t sleep,” she said.
“So you woke me up?”
“Why should you get to sleep if I can’t?” Amy sat up and put a pillow in her lap.
Jake sighed, then sat up to, though he leaned against the headboard. “Sounds like they’re swinging.”
“They are not!” But all the same, she started listening, really straining, and—
“That’s another lady’s moaning,” he said, triumphant even in the dark.
“Damn, you’re right.”
They were both quiet a moment. “Would you ever?” he asked.
“What, cheat on my spouse?”
“No, not cheat, just... stay open.”
“No. I mean, if I ever married, which I probably won’t, but if I did, I’d want to be like Holt and his husband, or my Nana and Papa. Monogamy all the way.”
“Me too, actually,” Jake said. “Just me, and the supermodel who picks me.”
“I think my dad cheated on my mom, actually, and I just... sort of hate him for it.”
“That really sucks,” Amy said.
“Would it help if I held your hand?”
“Sure,” he said, and Amy grabbed at him.
“That’s not my hand!” Jake yelled.
“Oh god,” Amy said, her face flaming.
“Kidding. I just didn’t want this to be a Lifetime movie. Tell me something.”
“I don’t know. I just told you something personal. Your turn.”
Amy thought for a moment, then clutched the pillow to her chest. “I don’t hate sleeping next to you,” she said.
She could feel him smile in the dark. “Don’t hate sleeping next to you either.”
Amy was getting really tired of seeing the Saunders making out in the elevator. This time, the wife was in the corner, and her husband was practically on top of her, and it just wasn’t how she wanted to spend her breakfast, thinking about the two of them, acting out all the stuff she’d overheard last night.
And it had gone on forever. Someone had to be faking something.
Amy could barely keep her eyes open as she sat with her fake husband and her real coworkers for free breakfast.
“We should do this more often,” Gina said.
“Go undercover?” Charles whispered.
“Steal food?” Jake asked.
“Yogurt!” Terry said.
“Hang out together on the public dime in a nice hotel. Usually, the hotels I stay at are dingy and rent by the hour, but this one’s nice.”
“I thought you guys weren’t actually registered,” Amy said.
Gina cackled. “And why should I let that fact stop me from spending the night here?”
“I went home,” Terry said. “Let the record show I slept in my own bed last night.”
“He’s such a good person,” Gina said. “That’s why I’m glad I chose him as my DL lover.”
Terry shook his head and focused on his three plates.
“Savant said he’d be stopping by later to tell us some information on the happy hippies,” Gina said.
“Maybe he can hack into the system and delete this stupid retreat-prom from the program,” Rosa said. She’d been utterly pissed when she’d heard the retreat itinerary included a dance. “Because my good leather pants are at home, and because it’s stupid.”
Gina smiled at her. “I’ll do your hair. Maybe a nice Degeneres”
“Stop talking,” Rosa said.
“If prom’s tonight that means we almost are out of time to solve this,” Jake said. After that, there was one class in ‘Tools You Can Use in the Real World,’ and then check-out, and all their suspects would go home.
Amy felt her phone vibrate. “Guys, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but... they found another body.”
Jane dropped her smile and wrinkled her nose. “Amy, I see you have yet more friends here. Are they another couple?”
“Dude, gross,” Savant said. “He’s like a hundred years old.”
“I’m the boy’s... uncle,” Holt said.
“Convincing,” Jake said, coming up behind Amy and grabbing her hand. He did that whenever Jane was around and occasionally when she wasn’t, which was confusing. Even more confusing was the way he was stroking her thumb with his thumb, and the weird things it was doing to her stomach.
Holt’s eyes were on her, and she didn’t know how to properly convey with eye-contact that this was all for show.
“And he’s also my uncle,” Jake said.
“Wonderful. Carry on then,” Jane said, patting Jake’s shoulder reassuringly.
Amy rolled her eyes.
“You people need to know what’s going on,” Savant said. “I’ve been researching your marriage counselors, and you will be shocked what I found out.”
“I hope it’s juicy,” Gina said.
“I hope we can go home soon,” Terry said.
“I wish we could stay here forever,” Charles said.
“You’re sleeping in a bathtub,” Rosa said.
“Jonathan and Jane Johansson—”
“Jonathan Johansson? That’s a ridiculous name,” Jake said.
“You’re going to freak,” Savant said. “He went to prison in his twenties for making fake antiques and passing them off as genuine.”
“And what’s her story?” Rosa asked. “There’s something wrong with her.”
“She just really loves Jesus,” Savant said. “She was a Sunday school teacher and a missionary, too. But he’s done time.”
“So is he the guy?” Gina asked. “Because I’m willing to be done with this now.”
“There’s no physical evidence tying him to the crime yet,” Holt said.
“Which doesn’t mean a damn thing,” Jake said.
“It would to the District Attorney,” Holt said.
“Right. I’m just saying we might want to bring him in for questioning,” Jake answered.
“Non-violent offender who served his time? I need more evidence before I’m going to bring him in,” Holt said. “We have two dead, neither a participant in this retreat, and whoever it is is smart enough to get past our hidden cameras. That’s a problem.”
Jake sighed. “If you’d just let me bring in Jonathan. He seems guilty.”
“No,” Holt said, his word final.
Jake squeezed Amy’s hand.
“He might not be guilty, though,” Amy said. “I just don’t know.”
Jake let go her hand, and some part of her missed his warm steadiness.
“I need real evidence,” Holt said. “Get on it.”
Amy squeezed in the open door, and darted into the closet. She heard a noise; it sounded like someone was opening a drawer, then another.
What if they went for the closet next?
She ghosted her fingers over her gun, shoved into her waistband.
There was a click as the bathroom door closed. This was her chance. She sprang from the closet, narrowly avoided being seen by Jane, who was at the window. Amy dropped down and rolled under the bed.
Her heart was pounding, but no one yelled, so she forced herself to stop touching the gun.
The bathroom door opened again.
She heard a clinking noise, then the pop of a cork.
She felt the bed dip as someone sat on it.
“To another successful retreat,” Jane said. There was a clink as they toasted.
“Except for the murder, of course,” Jonathan said.
“Oh well.” Jane laughed. “I can’t believe how well we pulled this whole thing off.” Amy couldn’t believe she was overhearing this. She had known they were guilty. It was like Rosa said, no one could be that happy all the time unless they were lying about something. Yes. They could arrest them and she could be in her own bed, alone, by tonight. “Those idiots.”
“We just finish this year’s retreat, and we’re done. No more of these morons with their stupid marriage troubles.”
“Why does he keep cheating on me? I don’t know, lady, maybe it’s because you talk in that high-pitched whine all the time?”
“My wife doesn’t blow me anymore. Gee, I bet that has something to with that beer belly you acquired.”
“You know what you’re problem is? You’re terrible, and that’s why your marriage isn’t working.”
They both laughed, and Amy thought they sounded a little evil. Maybe a lot evil.
But none of this was evidence, of course.
“We have... fifteen minutes until we need to be downstairs.”
“Well then,” Jane said.
She had no evidence. Her relationship coaches had had sex on top of her. Afterwards, she’d poked around until her nerves got the best of her, and she’d found the couple was clean; if they were connected at all to the murders, they didn’t commit them in their room. And she still had to go to prom with her fake husband.
Life was shit.
It was, in retrospect, a mistake to let Gina do her eye makeup. The thing was, growing up in a house full of testosterone meant she really didn’t know much about the girly stuff. Gina’d been disgusted at the suggestion that she’d wear mascara and lip gloss.
“Are you really going to let your future children know you didn’t know how to be a woman?” she’d asked.
Amy felt her feathers ruffle. “I really don’t think womanhood is defined by—”
“Womanhood’s defined by contouring with bronzer.”
“What’s bronzer?” Amy’d asked, and at that, Gina decided she was doing Amy’s makeup.
The two of them had about as close to a pleasant time as the two of them had ever had, in that Gina mostly kept her mouth shut so she could concentrate.
“You look exactly as I hoped you would,” Gina cooed.
Apparently, Gina had hoped Amy would look like the 1970s.
“Oh,” Amy said.
“I love it,” Gina said. “Toodles.”
She washed her face, and put on her mascara and lip gloss. It would have to do.
“You look great, really great,” Jake said when she met him outside the decorated conference room.
“You look nice, too.” She admired his suit jacket. It was amazing, those few times she’d seen him cleaned up, how much nicer he looked when he was dressed in adult clothes.
“What about you, in your dress?”
She blushed. She was wearing a dress she’d gotten from the mall that afternoon in between spying on the Johanssons and attending a pottery-painting class, since everything she’d brought to the retreat was either slacks or blouses. She’d not had time to try it on, so the dress was low-cut and a little too short. “It’s too much skin.”
“Said no straight man ever.” He gave her a once-over that made her blush. “Welcome to terrible relationship prom.”
“I missed my actual prom,” she blurted out.
“Did you have important homework to do?” he asked, not unkindly.
“I had to write out my valedictorian speech. It took time.”
“I could’ve gone to mine but. That shit’s expensive. You have the limo and the tux and the dinner.”
“You spent the evening... playing laser tag instead?” she guessed.
“Paintball,” he said with a smile. “I got you something.”
He grabbed her hand again, something that felt rather natural by this point in the conference, only this time he twisted her wrist gently and slipped on a corsage.
She let go of his hand to examine it closer; it was a white rose on top of a lime-green ribbon.
“Gina said you’d be wearing green,” he said, gesturing at her black dress.
“Naturally.” She noticed then that his tie was white and green-striped. Given that she was certain he only owned ties that would drive Holt nuts, she was duly impressed. Probably borrowed it from Charles, but still.
She grabbed his hand.
“Hey slut!” Gina said, as she dragged Terry over. They looked like a fabulous prom couple; the quarterback and that weird girl who got a little too into her terrible art projects.
“Hi Gina,” she said.
“I was talking to Jake over here,” Gina said with a wink. Jake just smiled at her. “If I was talking to you, Princess, it would’ve been, hey Amish one.”
“You both look great,” Terry said. “Is this suit ok? I had my wife pick it out.”
“My prom date said that same thing,” Gina said. “Mr. Dawson was the best chemistry teacher I had.”
Oh god, Amy thought. “Let’s just go in.”
Terry held the doors open and they swept inside.
The conference room looked nothing like it had that morning. There was silver streamers, glittery tablecloths, festive mood lighting, and a big space in the middle carved out for dancing. A bunch of couples were already dancing, from the tiny elderly couples to the Saunders to the Connecticut lesbians.
Charles and Rosa were already in there. Charles was sampling something off a plate, and Rosa was twirling a lighter methodically. Rosa looked like she always did; full leather, although her hair was swept up in some sort of updo, and Charles was wearing a brown suit that might be kindly called vintage. Rosa was clearly the kid who lived in detention, and Charles was on the chess team.
Then she realized the man standing next to them, sampling a cookie, was Holt. He looked handsome in a suit, like the high school principal who was going to take away her valedictorian status at any moment because she had no evidence. She gripped Jake’s hand tighter as he pulled her towards their co-workers.
“Cramer-Balsom, Cramer-Balsom, nice to see you,” Holt said when he noticed them.
“Where’s the punk?” Terry asked.
“My nephew Corey’s playing with his screens right now,” Holt said. “I hope he’s not hacking the FBI again.”
“And how was everyone’s afternoon?” Holt asked.
Looking at her coworkers, Amy could see she wasn’t the only one who’d come up empty-handed.
“Get on it,” Holt said, and they split up.
Jake and Amy went over by the punch bowl when, out of the corner of her eye, Amy realized they were about to be approached again by their neighbors. Getting asked over by swingers againwas actually the very last thing on her list of things she wanted (1. approval, 2. success 3. a life partner who could understand the needs of a detective).
“Amy! Jake!” Sarah hollered over the music.
“Our neighbors are back,” Amy said, and Jake looked as horrified as she felt. “I’ll get rid of them.”
“Oh, yeah, you’re great at that. I have a better idea,” Jake said.
Before she could answer, though, Jake grabbed her face in both his hands and pushed her back against the post. He dipped his head down and kissed her. He was gentle at first, but gradually he deepened the kiss until they were tongue-to-tongue. She grabbed up for the back of his neck and pulled him closer. She could feel her heart pounding, or maybe it was his.
Amy opened her eyes, and noticed Sarah and Danny drifting over to talk to someone else. She closed her eyes again, and let the kiss stretch on. Just to make sure they weren’t coming back.
When Jake broke the kiss apart, she gasped.
“I think she’s gone,” he whispered.
“Yeah, they are.” They were still cradled together, and she felt reluctant to push him away; though they’d only kissed to scare away their neighbors, she still felt shivery over the whole thing.
“We should go— cop stuff,” he said, trailing his fingers on her bare arms.
“Yeah,” she agreed, and didn’t move.
The music cut out just then, and Jane and Jonathan came out to raucous applause and a silvery spotlight.
Jake broke apart from her then, grabbing her hand and holding it up as a reminder that they were completing their assignment.
Jane smiled wide. “Welcome, couples, to our final night of the Happy Home Couples Retreat and Seminar! Tomorrow, we’ll have check-out and a chance for you to offer us feedback, but tonight, we dance!”
“But first, we wanted to take some time to offer up some awards for growth and change. You’re all winners, of course, but we want to take a moment to acknowledge the extremely hard work some of you have put in.”
Amy let her mind wander while Chuck and Francois were brought upstage.
“I just wish we could’ve caught the killer,” she whispered to Jake.
He leaned over and palmed her face, and she turned her lips towards his instinctively. “We still can,” he whispered.
They clapped politely for the Melnikovs, who won ‘Most Likely to Succeed.’
“This really is like high school,” Jake muttered.
“I was ‘Most Likely to Succeed,’” she said. “I think about that sometimes when we’re getting shot at.”
“‘Worst Car,’” he said. “89’ Dodge Shadow. Held together with duct tape and bumper stickers.”
“Danger is my middle name.”
“No, it’s not. It’s Levi,” she said.
They were so busy teasing each other that they missed their names being called; they didn’t notice until the spotlight blinded them. As they walked up to the stage, hand-in-hand as they’d been since day one, Nick, who was DJing, played The Beatles’ 'I Want to Hold Your Hand.'
Funny, she thought, but she didn’t let go.
“‘Most Improved’ goes to Jake and Amy Cramer-Balsom. Amy, I’ll admit that when you first got here, I thought you weren’t taking this seriously at all. But over our time together, I enforced the hand rule, and since then, I’ve watched the two of you grow back into your natural intimacy.”
“It’s been an inspiration, truly,” Jonathan said. “Our system has worked well on you. I can see the love every time the two of you look at each other.”
“That’s lust!” Gina yelled from somewhere near the dessert table.
Amy glanced over at Jake, who was definitely already looking at her. He mouthed to her trust me? She knew, of course, that he was going to do something about this case. Time was running out, and tomorrow, everyone would scatter across the country and their chance of catching the murderer would be almost zero.
They had to act now.
Jake grabbed a mic from Jonathan. “Thank you so much for this award. Can we please cut the Beatles? Thanks, Nick. Now, I’d like to introduce myself. I know I claimed to be Jake Cramer-Balsom, but in actuality, I’m Jake Peralta.”
He paused for the gasp that didn’t come.
“Jake Peralta, detective for Brooklyn Nine- Nine, and I’ve been sent undercover solve a murder.”
And there was the audience’s gasp.
“Go Jake!” Charles yelled from the edge of the stage.
“That’s right, while you’ve been writing out erotic chore charts and, I don’t know, having mandatory eye contact, I’ve been here, with my detective partner-slash-not my life partner, Amy, investigating.”
“If you two aren’t dating, why are you still holding hands?” Gina yelled.
Jake let go quickly. “I don’t have a good answer for that,” he said, taking a second before he dove back in. “The point is, someone here has been murdering people, and I know who it is.”
“We know,” Amy said, because if this worked he was not going to get all the credit.
Jake looked straight at Jane and Jonathan, who were both on stage looking ridiculously nervous.
“First, two days ago, a young man at this hotel was murdered,” Jake said. The crowd was appalled. He spoke right over them anyway. “He had alcohol in his system and had had sex recently, and was murdered using suffocation. His body was clean of prints, but the perp’s MO was the same as the last time there was a retreat here in Brooklyn, as well as once in Phoenix. Always murder, always during the Happy Home Couples blah blah blah whatever Retreat. Then today, another murder, this time of a young woman, the same MO. So we asked ourselves, who had the motive, the opportunity—”
Amy couldn’t help but interrupt with her own hard-won knowledge. “Who was planning on skipping out soon—”
“Now, the perp made a fatal mistake, as this body had some biological evidence. We’re waiting on the results from the lab, but we should have them any second now...”
He pulled out his phone dramatically, but before he could swipe it back on, there was a sudden commotion as a couple sprinted for the door—
But it wasn’t Jane and Jonathan.
It was Sarah and Danny.
Their next-door swingers tried to make a break for it, her forest green dress hiked up around her thighs, his suit coat abandoned.
Terry stepped into Danny’s path and plucked him effortlessly from the floor, his legs still in motion even as he was held aloft.
Meanwhile, Charles and Rosa had fashioned a sparkly tablecloth into a line that they snapped in front of Sarah just as she reached the door. The sudden surprise knocked her on her ass, making it easy for them to detain her.
Jake looked ecstatic. “And it looks like our murder couple has been brought down by none other than Team 99! Let’s give your friendly NYC cops a round of applause, and then an additional one for the team here at Kevea Garden Suites! I’ve never seen such a clean hotel.”
“Probably because you refuse to spend more than fifty bucks a night on lodging,” Amy said, smiling into her own mic.
“Oh, she’s a comedian now. Everyone, let’s give a special round of applause to Ms. Amy Santiago, who is one fantastic detective and lousy joke-teller.”
She wasn’t going to pretend she didn’t enjoy the applause that followed.
Terry and Jake had hauled the Saunders to the station, and Gina had taken off to do whatever it was she did, which left Amy, Rosa and Charles to take care of things at the hotel.
“Charles, dear, does this mean you were in on all this too?” It was Caroline, the ex-wife, looking incredibly tasteful in a white dress.
“Of course. Undercover work’s always been my thing,” Charles said, giving Caroline a smile.
“I knew it!” she said. “I was telling George, there’s just no way Charles is married to that one.” She pointed a manicured finger at Rosa. “She’s just... there was just no way. Besides, I don’t think he’s been on a date since we broke up.”
“Just because we were undercover, doesn’t mean we aren’t actually together,” Charles said, looking pleadingly at Rosa.
Caroline, meanwhile, laughed her tinkly laugh. “Oh, it was just so sad, Charles, the way we separated and you just kept calling. George and I used to laugh about it.”
Rosa’s eyes narrowed, and Amy swung into action. She’d seen Rosa get into fistfights before, and they never went well. She immediately dived for her hands, but before Amy could stop her, Rosa touched Caroline’s shoulder. Not like someone about to punch someone else, but like a confidant. “Oh, I know I was skeptical of dating Charles. He was always trying to take me nice places and buy me things, and I’m much more casual than that. But then he took me to top of the Empire State Building—”
“That’s where we got engaged,” Caroline said, her smile fading.
“And declared he loved me more than anyone else, ever. It was very sweet. And we’ve been sleeping together ever since.”
“You’re lying,” Caroline said.
“Oh yeah, then how do I know about the mole on his—” Rosa leaned over and whispered something in Caroline’s ear.
Caroline huffed, then stalked away.
“That was amazing,” Charles said, looking at Rosa worshipfully. “How’d you know about my mole, though?”
“You talk too much,” Rosa said. “Sometimes I even listen.”
“That was one risky move you made,” Holt said, giving Jake and Amy his scariest glare. The two of them were in his office, while the Saunders were in a holding cell. “Lucky for you, they not only confessed to everything, but the lab confirmed that the woman who was murdered this morning had clothing fibers on her that matched several clothing items from the couple.”
“So how’d they do it?” Jake asked.
Holt said,“It was simple. They’d pick up strangers from the hotel bar, get them nice and liquored up, take them upstairs, engage in vigorous lovemaking, and murder them.”
“But how did they get the bodies out of the room?”
“That’s the interesting part,” Holt said.
“Yes, you sound interested,” Jake muttered.
“They would only go for people that resembled them.” Holt held up pictures of the victims, and sure enough, the both women resembled Sarah, and both men Danny. “Then, they would seduce the mark, murder them either during or right after the sexual activity, and then they would smuggle the body out of the hotel in plain sight by pretending the deceased was their romantic partner.”
Amy took a moment to process this. “Wait. Are you saying what I think you’re saying? We not only heard the murders, we saw them with the bodies?” This really put a gross spin on those elevator makeouts.
Jake laughed. “That’s the most awful thing I’ve ever heard.” She wasn’t positive, but this might the only time she’d seen Jake look queasy.
“We’re not good detectives,” she said.
“And the Johanssons? What about them and their whole ‘got away with it’ shpiel?” Amy asked.
“We brought them in for questioning as well, but it seems as though they were only referring to the fact that this was to be their last retreat before retiring. They’ve made quite a bit of money, and wanted to travel,” Holt said. “You two solved this case. Go home. Get some rest.”
“I need to get my toothbrush,” Jake said.
“Can we go back and get our stuff?” Amy asked. They’d been working non-stop since they caught their killers, and in their rush, there hadn’t been time to pack.
“That’s fine,” Holt said with a handwave. “See you two tomorrow.”
Jake saluted, only a little sarcastically. “Same bat time, same bat channel.”
The ride back to the hotel was quiet. Amy was exhausted, frankly, from the case, and the acting, and from having to sleep next to Jake of all people.
When she saw the Saunders’ room, tapped with police tape, she took a minute to cross herself. Catholicism wasn’t her thing anymore, necessarily, but she’d overheard two murders, and it just made her feel better.
Jake didn’t laugh at her for that, which was nice.
They packed up in companionable silence.
“Do we save the matching t-shirts?” he asked.
“Do you want to remember this?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Wasn’t such a bad way to spend time. Think of everything we accomplished.”
“We collared two murderers. Which means neither of us are closer to winning the bet.”
“The bet,” he said with a mirthless laugh. “I hadn’t even thought about that.”
“Like you ever think about anything else.” She’d gotten a year's worth of texts and facebook posts and notes dropped on her desk with ‘Do you think you’re going to win? Check no or obviously not’ written on them.
“Right, but mostly I’ve been thinking about what a good team we make,” Jake said, actually folding his t-shirt before throwing it into his bag.
“Yeah, we did pretty well.” She shoved her shirt in her own suitcase.
Jake zipped his backpack. “We should go undercover more often.”
“We did that one time, remember? With the clowns?”
“That was terrifying, actually. This was... better.”
Amy zipped her suitcase and nodded towards the door. “Ready?”
Jake grabbed her suitcase from her and dropped it down on top of his.
“Careful! My hairdryer—”
“I miss holding hands with you,” he blurted out.
Amy was without words.
“We did that a lot and I know it was supposed to make them think we were together but it also made me wish we were together.”
“Together? Together together? But you don’t even like me.”
“Wrong. I enjoy giving you a hard time. But I’ve always liked you. Only now—” He leaned over then and kissed her again, like he had just before they won an award and found their perps. But this time, they were completely alone. “Santiago, you do amazing things with your tongue.”
“I used to practice on my teddy bear. Oh god, I mean, on humans.”
“See, I shouldn’t even be ok with that, but you’re cute so I liked it,” he said, cradling her jaw and staring at her mouth.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been kissed like this. Jake was a way better kisser than her had any right to be, given how little effort he put into most things. But this, he was great at.
“I can’t do this,” she said.
He let go of her again, and she realized— that empty feeling she felt when he let go of her was the same thing she’d felt whenever he let go of her hand.
“Wait,” she said, and she grabbed his hand experimentally. Yes, that empty feeling went away, but now, she had the desire to bring him even closer.
“If you think you can just play with my feelings like that, you probably can, and probably will. It’s cool.”
She wanted to kiss him again, and so she did, pressing up against him in the process. The full-body contact made them both sigh, and he wrapped his free arm around her, pulling her even closer. She grabbed a fistfull of his shirt and pulled him against her, the rough fabric of his jacket pressing against her chest. She moaned a bit, and he growled, deep in the back of his throat.
He broke the kiss then, and she prepared herself to be told that Charles was in the closet, filming this for Youtube. Instead, he took off his jacket, then gave her an expectant look.
She gave him a thumbs up.
He started unbuttoning his shirt, going slowly as if to say, should I continue?
She nodded her permission, and leaned over to loosen his tie. It was the one from prom, the one that was supposed to match her dress.
Then he was shirtless. She reached over and traced his chest with her finger. He grabbed her hand and twisted to rest her hand on his bare back, bringing her closer to him again. They kissed again, and his voice was low as he said, “Take off your dress.”
“Take off your dress please,” she scolded automatically. When she realized what she’d said, she was concerned he’d ask again, using the magic word, and she’d have to take off her dress, or maybe that he wouldn’t ask and then she’d have to see him at work tomorrow and know he wasn’t interested enough to say ‘please.’
She couldn’t take the pressure, so before he could speak, she went for her own zipper. It was behind her, and normally she was pretty good at dressing and undressing herself, but this time, the zipper jammed on the fabric.
“Oh hell,” she said, and had to resort to sort of pulling it over her head, which way not easy and it messed up her hair, which is why she never wore it down, and this was just—
But then she caught sight of Jake, who was looking her over in her bra and panties. They weren’t even particularly hot underwear. “Come here,” he said, his voice husky and his pupils blown out. He put out a hand towards her.
She felt that deep-down warmth that came from being wanted, and grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the bed. She grabbed the pillow she’d used to keep them apart, and threw it in the corner of the room. It felt weird to be so disorganized, and she reminded herself to leave a really nice tip for the maid before she left.
He crawled up her body, peppering her neck with kisses before settling over her, warm, heavy, and hot.They made out, and his hands were everywhere: tangled in her hair, tracing her collar bone, trailing down her her sides.
She liked having him on top, but that wasn’t really her thing, so she flipped him over, pinning his wrist down in the process.
“Kinky,” he said.
“There’s more where that came from,” she said, hoping she wouldn’t have to back that up with actual proof because that was her one trick, really. She let his wrist go in exchange for more kisses, and his hands flew to her hips, anchoring her down. She realized then what he wanted, and more importantly, what she wanted. She ground down on him, and it was such a turn on, to see him squirm. She rolled off of him so he could remove his pants, though he kept his Hanes on.
She climbed back on top of him, rubbing up against him with only the thin fabric between them.
“You going to take off your bra?” he asked, his voice strangled.
“You going to go down on me?” she asked. She was a modern woman. She deserved this.
“Yes, please,” he said. She was so touched that he’d used that word without prompting that she didn’t even have time to be terrified before he was rolling down her panties, his fingers brushing over her legs. She squirmed a bit when she realized he was really going to do it. Normally, oral wasn’t a first date activity for her, but they’d been fake married, so leapfrogging over those regular steps was fine, plus she wanted it. Oh, how she wanted it, him, his tongue on her.
He licked her inner thighs until she was ready to scream. She pushed down on the headboard, trying to get him to be where she wanted. He looked across her body and grinned, moving farther down her thighs.
Bastard, she thought, and grabbed him by his hair, tugging him up.
“Whoa, Amy,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” she said automatically.
“No, I’m into it,” he said. “Really into it.” He then proceeded to show her just how into it he was, winding her up until she was breathless, then, right when she was about to come, he pulled away, nipping at her thighs again.
“Not good enough,” she said, and she grabbed his hair and maneuvered him back into place. He grinned up at her before he got back down to business. This time, though, she was right on the edge, and she came with a scream, squeezing her thighs together a little hard in her excitement. “Sorry,” she said automatically.
“I’ve never seen you come apart like that,” he said, wiping his mouth off on her hip bone. “That was awesome.”
“That was just the beginning,” she answered, moving towards him.
They tried to hide it at work, they really did. Jake was proud he hadn’t blurted it out, like, guys, check out my super hot lady friend I totally get to do it with on the regular.
But all the ridiculously hot sneaking around— and they pretty much kept it in their pants at work, except for that time by the copier— came to an end at a meeting.
“It has come to my attention that some people in our department don’t realize that departmental policy demands they disclose their relationship to their superior officer immediately,” Holt said, and Amy looked ashen, because Holt’s approval was more important to her than orgasms, Jake was pretty sure.
“That’s good information to know. Just in case, for the future, or the present. Whenever,” Boyle said.
Rosa rolled her eyes.
“Is this because of Santiago and Peralta?” Gina asked.
“What? I— what?” Amy said, and Jake wondered how she’d been undercover ever with that sort of response. Jake, meanwhile, immediately started shaking his head. Holt required ties and typed reports and for Jake to stop writing Hitchcock tickets for his terrible parking jobs, so if he knew two of his detectives were banging, he was sure to send one of them away. And Jake’d miss Amy too much if she got sent to some awful little suburban precinct.
“Because I was talking to my psychic about it, and she agreed, it could mess up the work vibe if they’re, like, getting fluids everywhere,” Gina said. “My desk has a lot of important nail polish on it. Also, I spilled nail polish on my desk.”
“Jake, you the man!” Charles said, twisting around to give Jake a fist-bump, which Jake returned, because he can’t leave a bro hanging.
Amy gave him a deadly glare.
“I knew a detective couple once,” Terry said. “He died rescuing a kid, and she’s now dating some drug kingpin. Nice couple though. Or they were.”
Rosa, meanwhile, reached into her pocket, pulled out a tenner, and handed it over to Gina.
“Yes, well,” Holt started. “I was surprised too.”
“How’d you figure it out?” Amy asked.
“Do you take me for a fool, Santiago?”
She cringed. “No, sir! I just meant... I thought we were.. not that we’ve been...”
“I have been dating since longer than you’ve been alive,” Holt said, and Amy shut up immediately. “And you better believe I had to learn how to hide relationships from a superior officer. Also, I’m your boss as well as a detective. You couldn’t pull this off if you tried.”
Jake lit up. “Would you put money—”
“No,” Holt said.
“Worth a shot,” Jake said.
“I just wanted you to know that, despite your failure to report this relationship to me, I will not be punishing either of you,” Holt said, and Jake let out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. He groped under the table for Amy’s hand.
She gave him a sly smile.
“Let me be the first to thank you, Captain, for your generous—”
“Stop,” Holt said. “The subject is closed until such a time as either of you gets promoted.”
“Let’s open this closed door right back up. What does this do to the bet?” Gina asked, not looking up from her phone. “Because I have some money riding on it, and you’ve already gotten a date, or laid, which is better anyway.”
“Seems to me that Santiago should get the car,” Terry said.
“Terry, man,” Jake said. “Bros before—”
“Before you finish that sentence, don’t finish that sentence,” Terry said. “She should get it because, even though we don’t know who won yet, she fulfilled the terms of the bet. Peralta should fulfill his.”
“Santiago gets the car for as long as they’re dating,” Holt declared, and he banged a gavel suddenly and decisively.
“Why do you even have a gavel?” Jake asked. “Did he always have one of those?”
“I can’t wait to drive your car everywhere,” Amy said, but the smile she gave him meant he didn’t really mind as much as he should’ve.
“Dismissed. Boyle, I need those files by noon,” Holt said.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Rosa said, pointing her fingers at Jake’s eyes, which was terrifying, frankly.
“Wait, what’s going on with Santiago and Peralta?” Hitchcock asked.
Amy grabbed Jake’s hand on the way out the door. “Don’t worry about it.”