"Arthur, you don't have to help me pack." Harris looked up from setting a neat stack of clothing carefully into a box. Around the bedroom there were piles of clothing, books, and records waiting to be boxed.
Dietrich, carrying a roll of packing tape, paused in the doorway. "I just thought you could use the help."
"Oh believe me, I can, it's just...." Harris stopped midsentence, frustrated. It didn't seem right for Dietrich to help him leave when Dietrich didn't want him to go. On the other hand, saying so out loud didn't seem right either. He settled for an indirect approach. "It's not even that much stuff."
Dietrich seemed to understand. "It's all right. Really." He came into the room and sat down on his bed, next to a pile of filled but open boxes. "I thought I could tape these for you," he said.
"Yeah, thanks," Harris said. They worked without talking for a while. "Barney used an interesting metaphor to describe your reaction to my leaving," Harris said when the silence had stretched too long.
Dietrich looked up from taping a box. "Really?"
"Yeah, he said you'd 'grown accustomed to my face.' You know, like the song. From My Fair Lady."
Dietrich set the finished box aside and began working on a new one. "Strangely apropos," he said.
Harris waited, but nothing more was forthcoming. He finished filling the box he was on and handed it to Dietrich to tape. "Why?"
Dietrich stretched the tape across the top of the box, sealed it with a neat flourish, and set it on top of a growing pile. "That song is part of the happy ending tacked on by Tin Pan Alley. If you read Shaw's Pygmalion, those two characters aren't supposed to end up together." He leaned an elbow on the stack of boxes and met Harris' eyes briefly. "It wasn't meant to be."
Time for a flip answer, Harris thought to himself. Something callous, witty, and just a little bit cruel. Something along the lines of "Sorry, Arthur, I don't date self-absorbed intellectuals; I don't need the competition." But Dietrich's detached, pedantic tone hadn't fully masked an underlying bitterness that Harris could neither deny nor acknowledge, and he couldn't think of anything to say.
It occurred to him after a few minutes that he could have said quite simply, "I'm sorry, Arthur, I don't date men," and cauterized the whole situation. He wondered for a little while why it hadn't occurred to him at the time, and finally concluded two things: he wasn't ready to slam that door shut, and he really didn't want to think about it anymore.
"Hey!" Harris said as Dietrich came out of the bathroom into the little hallway without the check Harris had just given him in exchange for saving his life.
"Hey," Dietrich said, backing away from the angry detective. Harris backed him right into the wall and then put a hand on the wall next to him, creating a barrier.
"Did you just flush that check?" Harris demanded.
"I didn't just flush it," Dietrich said. "I tore it up first."
"Why did you do that?"
"So the alligators can't try to cash it."
"That's not what I mean and you know it."
"Because I'm angry," Dietrich said, his voice as bland as ever. "I feel insulted."
Harris wondered briefly if Dietrich ever raised his voice. "Why?"
"Look, I saved your life this morning. You've been acting as if I committed some terrible offense against you that has to be avenged."
"I'm sorry. I don't like to feel obligated."
"You're not obligated, Harris. I was just doing my job."
"Yeah, but... you still saved my life."
Dietrich shrugged. "So?"
"Don't you see, that creates something between us," Harris felt uncomfortable, trying to explain something he wasn't sure of himself. "And I want it gone."
Dietrich eyed him closely. "You don't like to let people get close to you."
"No, I don't."
"You tell me," challenged Harris. "You're the same way. That 'walking encyclopedia' act works real well, doesn't it?"
Dietrich was silent for a moment, then grinned. "You got me."
Sensing weakness, Harris went on the attack. "So what are you afraid of?"
Dietrich answered seriously. "I suppose I'm afraid of losing control."
Harris lifted an eyebrow. "Losing control of what?"
"Myself." Seeing Harris' continued puzzlement, Dietrich went on. "Suppose I didn't keep you at arm's length." He looked pointedly at Harris' arm, then took a step closer so that they were only inches apart. "Then what might happen?"
Harris took his hand off the wall, and put both hands on Dietrich's shoulders. "Nothing would happen," he said, shaking his head. "Especially not this," he whispered, leaning ever-so-slightly forward.
Footsteps sounded on the stair and both men jumped, moving apart. "So," Dietrich said as the door opened, "did you say you had tickets to the Philharmonic tonight? Oh, hello, Captain."
"Hi, Barney," said Harris. He knew his face was flushed and his heart was pounding, but somehow Barney didn't notice.
"Forgot my glasses," Barney said, heading into his office. He poked his head back out. "You two settle your differences?"
"We're working on it," said Harris.
"Good, good," said Barney, ducking back in. He called out through the open door. "I figured you'd kiss and make up eventually."
"Not quite," Harris muttered to Dietrich.
"Hey," Dietrich answered. "The night is young."
"You were right, that was a nice place for an after-concert drink," Dietrich said. "Convenient location, too."
Harris felt just a little foolish. "Am I that obvious?"
"Let's see--you're about to mention that since we're so close to your new apartment, it would be a pity for me to have to walk all the way back to my place. Especially at this time of night."
Dietrich's eyes were dancing with amusement behind his glasses. Harris gave in and smiled back. "And you know, there's never a cop around when you need one." He steered Dietrich around by the elbow and they began walking toward Harris' apartment building.
"You need a cop?" Dietrich asked as they walked along.
"Oh, I don't know." Harris shot Dietrich a sidelong glance; Dietrich made an apparent and not-too-successful effort to look innocent. Harris went on. "But I might want one."
They walked along in companionable silence for a couple of blocks. When they reached Harris' building, Dietrich suddenly stopped. "You realize," he said hesitantly, "the isolation and alienation peculiar to modern, particularly urban, life, can cause a sense of disintegration, a loss of human identity--"
Harris interrupted him. "Man, you're cute when you're nervous. Your words get longer and longer." He opened the door to the lobby and led the way toward the elevator. "Wait'll you see what I've done with the place since you guys helped me move in," he said, pulling the elevator door across and pushing the button for his floor. "You're going to love it."
Dietrich was quiet for a moment. Finally he said, "Look, Harris, I'm trying to say that I don't want to make the mistake of confusing a simple craving for existential affirmation for sexual attraction."
The elevator stopped tolerably close to the floor and Harris pushed the door open. Neither one spoke as they walked down the hallway. Harris broke the silence as they reached his door. "Well, Arthur," he said, unlocking first the doorknob lock and then the deadbolt, "I can think of one way to make sure." He opened the door. "After you."
The apartment was spacious and gracefully appointed. "Looks nice," Dietrich said as he stepped inside. "Reflects the style of the occupant."
Harris felt a flush of pride. "Thanks." He came in behind Dietrich and turned to lock the door. "Look, Arthur, I don't want to pressure you." He turned back to Dietrich. "If you're really not sure--"
As soon as Harris had completed the turn, Dietrich stepped toward him, putting one hand behind Harris' head and the other on the side of Harris' face. Harris found himself being kissed with an intoxicating mixture of fierceness and tenderness.
After a moment, Dietrich released him. "Now I'm sure," he said, with an obvious effort to sound ironic. But he was breathing hard, and absently stroking Harris' cheek.
"Watch out, Arthur, your humanity is showing," Harris said, laughing. He was surprised to see a flicker of something like fear in Dietrich's eyes, and even more surprised to realize that he felt it too. What are we afraid of? he thought. Ever the writer, he promptly found his mind supplying words to choose from: exposing weakness; vulnerability; involvement. Damn it all, he thought. He pulled Dietrich closer and kissed him back.
Harris lay staring at the ceiling for a long time after Dietrich had fallen asleep. That had been fun, he reflected. After the intensity of the first embrace, it had been a relief to find his partner playful and adept, but agreeably disengaged. No messy emotions during sex, no contentious dissection of intent afterwards. It had been a long time since he'd been able simply to relax and enjoy himself without a lot of involvement, and he got the distinct impression that Arthur was pleased as well.
There was something nagging at the back of his head, but every time he chased it down he lost his nerve and it slipped away. It had something to do with the day he found his new apartment, something to do with the sadness that had flickered across Dietrich's face before he managed to hide it. Drowsily, Harris brought the elusive memory into focus, and identified the expression more precisely: not just sadness in general, but a sense of loss, a sense of emptiness. Why that mattered now, however, he couldn't seem to figure out.
Maybe it had something to do with this morning, he thought, and immediately regretted calling it to mind. The slightest reminder put him back on the subway platform with Nicolas Baskin, the deranged air-traffic controller, waving the gun in his face. It had been a near thing, such a near thing. He saw the weapon again, right in his face, the finger starting to move on the trigger; he couldn't breathe and the world seemed to constrict to his death in the barrel of the gun. Then he heard a shout and felt a breeze generated by sudden movement from his right. The gun was knocked away to the left as it fired, and his vision refocused to see Dietrich pulling the weapon from the deflated gunman's hand. Before he could breathe a sigh of relief, there was the gun again, right in his face, and the whole event played out again. And again. And again.
The fifth or sixth time through--he lost count early on--things went differently. He heard the shout, and so did Baskin. The gun swung to Harris' right and fired; Dietrich crumpled beside him. Ignoring the air-traffic controller, Harris dropped to one knee beside Dietrich's body.
Suddenly Harris realized why he was haunted by the memory of Dietrich's expression, that sense of loss, that sense of emptiness; it was the way Harris himself was feeling as he knelt beside his friend on the platform. And then he knew why he'd been so angry with Dietrich for interfering that morning; it was because Dietrich might have gotten himself killed and left Harris alone.
It started over again, as Harris knew it would. He watched Dietrich fall; this time, he noticed, he got sprayed with Dietrich's blood. He hadn't realized they were so close. Then he remembered that dead people didn't bleed. "Arthur!" he cried, bending over the body, trying to find the wound and stop the bleeding. "Arthur!"
"I'm right here," said a voice beside him. "Wake up. It's all right. You're having a bad dream."
Harris opened his eyes, dazed. He wasn't on the subway platform; he was in his own bed. He was sweating and trembling; Dietrich's hand on his shoulder felt like a lifeline. "You're not dead? You're all right!" he exclaimed, and immediately regretted it. He'd given himself away.
"All right? Talk about damning with faint praise," Dietrich grumbled. "I was expecting maybe 'spectacular' or 'extraordinary.'"
For once Harris was grateful for Dietrich's incessant flippancy. "You win, Arthur. You're extraordinary. Extraordinarily insufferable."
The phone ringing at 2 a.m. was something Barney always dreaded. It was never good news. "Hello?" he said sleepily into the receiver.
"That you, Barney? Frank D. Luger here," said a familiar scratchy voice at the other end.
"Inspector? What is it?"
"I'm at Bellevue, Barney. Wojo was just brought in a few minutes ago with a gunshot wound to the stomach. Before they wheeled him into surgery he told us that some kookaboo name of Sondervaal says he's got it in for your whole squadroom."
"Oh my God," Barney said. "Is Wojo going to be all right?"
"The doctors think so, and they've promised to keep us posted."
"I remember Sondervaal...." Barney said, thoughtfully. "He was in a few weeks ago. Armed robbery, I think. We sent him down to the Tombs. He must have escaped since then." He paused, remembering. "He was ranting about how we were all going to pay for this, but I have to admit I didn't take him seriously. Maybe if I had, then Wojo wouldn't--"
"Don't beat yourself up, Barney," Luger said. "If I took seriously every raving lunatic who threatened me, I'd be living in a maximum-security joint with food-tasters and metal-detectors. But listen, I think we should round up the rest of the squad, whoever was on duty that day. For their own protection, y'know?"
"I couldn't agree more, Inspector," Barney said.
"I'm headed back to the precinct," Luger said. "I can take some guys with me and pick up Yemana on the way. You track down Har and D.D. I've ordered a couple of uniforms over to your apartment to protect Liz and the kids--don't leave until they get there."
Luger could grate on the nerves sometimes, Barney reflected, but there were other times when his experience proved invaluable. "Sounds like you've got it all covered, Inspector," he said. "I'll see you soon."
"Good-bye, Barney. Be safe."
"You too, Inspector," he said, and hung up.
Liz padded out in a bathrobe and slippers. "What is it, dear?" He explained quickly. "Oh, my God," she said, sitting down. Barney watched her carefully. His job was bothering her more and more these days, and he wouldn't have blamed her if she had blown up at him about the dangers of his work. She certainly had reason now. "Can I help?" she asked.
Barney breathed a silent sigh of relief and kissed her forehead. "I need to make some phone calls," he said. "There's a list of squad members' home phone numbers and addresses in the second drawer over there," he said, pointing into the kitchen. "Could you get it for me while I find my glasses?"
"Of course," she said, and went to the kitchen. Barney retrieved his glasses from the nightstand and began making calls.
"There's no answer at Dietrich's," said Barney a few minutes later. "Harris' line is busy--he probably left the phone off the hook. He does that when he's writing.
"How do you know?"
"Dietrich used to complain about missing calls back when they lived together."
"Oh, yeah," Liz said sleepily. "I remember that. They make a cute couple."
Barney smiled fondly. "Harris is probably home. I'll call the precinct, send a squad over to Dietrich's to check the place out, and arrange to meet with some uniforms over at Harris'. We'll rendezvous back at the 12th." He picked up the phone and dialed the station; he was pleased to find Levitt on duty. Levitt could be annoyingly officious, but he was also scrupulously careful and very effective in the field. Barney explained the situation and Levitt promised to make the necessary arrangements.
Relieved, Barney went into the bedroom to get dressed. As he was buttoning his shirt, Liz called. "There's someone at the door, Barney."
"Don't answer it," he said immediately, pulling on his coat as he hurried out of the bedroom. "Let me get it." Looking through the peephole, he was relieved to see two uniformed policemen. He opened the door, gave them their instructions, and went back in.
"Time for me to go, Liz," he said.
"Be careful, honey," she said.
"Of course I'll be careful," Barney said. "I have the most beautiful woman in the world to come home to."
"Really?" Liz asked, peering around. "Where is she?" They shared a nervous laugh and a quick kiss, and then Barney left, nodding to the uniformed policeman who stood guard outside his door.
Barney left Levitt and another man at the front entrance to Harris' apartment building and posted another uniform at the service entrance in the back, making sure each of them had a radio. He took a radio as well, leaving it switched off for the moment. He rode the elevator up and walked quietly down the hall, approaching Harris' door as softly as he could. No light shone through the peephole. He listened carefully, but all was silent. If Sondervaal was inside, he wasn't talking. Barney said a silent prayer and knocked loudly on the door.
There was no response. He knocked again. "Harris, it's Captain Miller! Open up!"
There was a pause, and then the sound of footsteps. Another pause, and the door opened, still on the chain.
"Is that you, Barney?" asked Harris. He was wearing a silk bathrobe and holding his gun off to the side. "Just a sec." The door closed again and re-opened without the chain. "C'mon in," Harris said, switching on a lamp. "Not to sound unwelcoming or anything, but what are you doing here?"
Barney held up a finger. "Just a minute." He pulled out the radio and activated it. "Levitt, this is Captain Miller. Harris is here and appears to be safe. Have you had any news on the others?"
The radio crackled and Levitt's voice came back. "Not yet, sir, but I'll keep you posted."
Barney turned to Harris. "Remember Mr. Sondervaal, who graced our squadroom a few weeks ago? Seems he took exception to the way he was treated. He shot Wojo--" Seeing Harris' alarmed reaction, Barney quickly added, "who survived. I don't know how serious his condition is. Before Wojo went into surgery, he told the doctors that the man said he was going to come after all of us. Luger's getting Yemana, I've got you, and there's a team going over to get Dietrich right now."
"Uh, Barney--" Harris' words were cut off by a crackle from Barney's radio.
Barney lifted the radio. "Yes, Levitt?"
"Sir, I've been in touch with Inspector Luger. He's picked up Yemana and they're both safe at the 12th."
"Thank goodness," Barney said, relieved.
Levitt continued, his voice grim. "Sir, the team we sent over to Dietrich's apartment reports that he's not there, and there are signs of forced entry."
Relief at Yemana's safety was immediately replaced by concern. "We have to consider the possibility of a kidnapping," Barney said.
"My thoughts exactly, sir," said Levitt.
Barney started to speak again, but Harris made a time-out gesture. "Hold on just a minute, Levitt," Barney said. "What is it, Harris?"
"It's okay, Barney," Harris said. "You'd better let them know. Dietrich's safe."
Too many facts, too many fears, too little time to reason things out. Barney gaped. "How do you know that?"
"Because he's here," said Harris simply. He walked over to the bedroom door, opened it, and snapped the light on.
"Hello, Captain Miller," said Dietrich, propping himself up on one elbow and squinting in Barney's direction.
Barney was tempted to ask, "What are you doing here?" On second thought, the answer seemed fairly obvious. Flustered, but wanting to project a cool and collected image, he focused on the task at hand. "Levitt," he said into the radio, "let Dispatch know immediately that Sergeant Dietrich is not in his apartment. He's here with me. Then tell Inspector Luger. I'll be in touch with you again shortly."
There was a brief pause, and then Levitt's puzzled voice said, "Yes, sir."
Barney turned to Harris. "You two had better get dressed and come with me. Now that we've got everyone accounted for, we can think about going on the offensive." Harris nodded and vanished into the bedroom. Barney thumbed the radio on. "Levitt, is there any indication where Sondervaal went after leaving Dietrich's?"
"None, sir," Levitt responded. "They did say he trashed the place but good--must have been frustrated not to find Sergeant Dietrich there."
Barney sighed. "Thanks, Levitt. We should be down in just a few minutes."
"Very good, sir," Levitt said.
Harris and Dietrich emerged a minute later, both fully dressed. Harris was yawning; Dietrich was rubbing his eyes. "Did you hear any of that?" Barney asked, gesturing with his radio. They both nodded. Struck by a sudden thought, Barney said severely, "You realize what this means, don't you?"
"Suppose you explain it to us," said Dietrich, putting his glasses on.
"If you'd been at your apartment, Dietrich, you'd be dead now," said Barney. "Being here saved your life." Dietrich looked at Harris. Harris looked at Dietrich. They both looked back at Barney. "Don't you see? You're even now. You can stop hissing and spitting all over the squadroom over who owes what to whom."
Dietrich looked abashed. "Sorry, Captain."
"Sorry, Barney," echoed Harris. Then he began to laugh.
"What's so funny?" demanded Barney.
"I was just remembering when you called Wojo and Wentworth into your office after they spent the night together. Somehow I imagine you gave them a very different little speech."
Barney grinned. "You're right, I did."
Dietrich gave Harris a puzzled look. "I'll tell you about it later, Arthur," he said. "Barney, where do we go from here?"
"That's actually a very good question, Harris," said Barney. "I don't know why he went for Wojo first, or Dietrich second. If we could only discover a pattern, we might be able to beat him to his next attempt."
"Wojo and I were the arresting officers," Dietrich said. "I'm not sure who else he had contact with."
"Well, we've got men on guard to intercept him at Yemana's or my place, and we'll leave someone here," Barney said. "But I keep getting the feeling we're forgetting something."
The radio squawked. "You still there, sir?"
"Yes, Levitt," Barney said wearily. "We haven't forgotten you." He lowered the radio and stared at the other two. "Yes, we have," he whispered. "Levitt was on plainclothes duty that day. He took Sondervaal down for pictures and prints." He raised the radio again. "Levitt, where do you live?"
"Sir? I'm not sure I understand--"
"Just answer the question," Barney said impatiently.
"Lower Manhattan. Around 28th and Lexington, sir," Levitt said quickly.
"Alert headquarters, Levitt," said Barney, "and have them meet us there with a couple of squad cars. Give them directions. We're going to your place."
"Levitt, I want you to drive," Barney said as they came into the lobby. "Carson, you stay here in case we guessed wrong. Don't try to tackle him by yourself. If you see him, stay out of sight and call for backup."
"Yes, sir." Barney repeated the same instructions over the radio to the uniform posted at the service entrance, receiving the same prompt answer.
The drive to Levitt's was grim. Harris and Dietrich were silent in the back seat; Barney sat in the passenger seat listening to the reports going back and forth over the radio. Levitt, for once, wasn't talking. With the lights on and the siren off, he seemed determined to set a record for speedy transit through Manhattan. Even at 3 a.m., however, there was enough traffic on the road to slow them down.
"Listen!" Barney suddenly hissed, pointing to the radio. A traffic stop was being reported nearby; the officer was reading off the driver's license information and asking for priors. The name on the license was Jonas Sondervaal. Desperate to warn the unsuspecting officer, Barney was about to grab the microphone and get authorization to interrupt when he heard the dispatcher's voice.
"Jonas Sondervaal is an armed robbery suspect recently escaped from custody. He is armed and dangerous and has a grudge against police officers. We have reason to believe he shot one earlier this evening. Handle with extreme caution. Confirm your location."
Sounding considerably more nervous, the officer repeated his location. "That's not very far from here, sir," Levitt said.
"Sounds like he was heading for your place, Levitt," Barney said.
"Sending two backup units to your location," the dispatcher announced. "Do not attempt to apprehend the suspect until they arrive."
"Levitt, head toward the location of that call," Barney ordered. "No siren."
As they reached the block, the radio crackled again. "We have the suspect in custody," the officer announced. "Proceeding to Manhattan South."
The three police cars were arrayed strategically around a single plain car that must have been Sondervaal's. "Levitt, pull up to one of those police cars," Barney ordered. "Not the one with Sondervaal in it."
Levitt obeyed. Barney got out and spoke with the officers, gesturing to Levitt and the other car. He came back. "Levitt, I want you to go down to Manhattan South with these guys," he said. "Stick around through the processing, okay?"
Barney grinned. "I'll feel more confident knowing that someone from the 12th Precinct is keeping an eye on things down there," he said, lowering his voice. He'd had run-ins with some of his counterparts at Manhattan South.
Levitt grinned back. "Never hurts to observe the competition, does it?"
"But discreetly, Levitt, discreetly," Barney said. Subtlety was not one of Levitt's strong points.
"I'll be your eyes and ears, sir," Levitt promised, adding in a stage whisper, "But they'll never know it from me." He bustled over to the other police car and climbed into the back.
"Really, Barney," said Harris with a broad grin as Barney got behind the driver's seat. "I know Manhattan South has given you grief in the past, but siccing Levitt on them?"
"It's his mean streak showing," Dietrich said. "Man can't be compassionate 24 hours a day, you know."
"Show some respect, you two," Barney said gruffly. "And behave yourselves back there. I've got a rear-view mirror and I'm not afraid to use it."
As soon as they walked into the squadroom, Luger greeted them cheerfully. "I just got off the phone with Bellevue. Wojo is going to be A-OK."
"They said he has the constitution of an ox," Yemana added, grinning.
There were relieved smiles all around. "We have some good news too, Inspector," Barney began.
"Yeah, I heard from Dispatch, you got that kookaboo behind bars where he belongs." Luger punched Barney on the arm. "Good work, all of you. Barney, I'd like to go over some details for my report--can we use your office?"
"Sure, Inspector," Barney said, following Luger into the office. As they left, Luger's voice clearly floated back to the men in the squadroom. "What's this I hear about D. D. being over at Har's place in the middle of the night?"
"Inspector, I don't pry into my men's personal affairs unless I have reason to believe that job performance--" The sound of Barney's voice, already muffled, was cut off entirely as Barney shut the door.
Harris sank into the chair next to Yemana's desk and put his head in his hands.
"Could be worse," said Dietrich, still standing.
Harris looked up and glared at him. "How?"
"Could've been Scanlon."
"Oh, thank you very much," Harris snapped. "Why don't we talk about something more cheerful, like bubonic plague?"
"Okay," Dietrich said, pulling a chair over and sitting down. "Did you know that it was the discovery of sulfa drugs in 1934 that finally provided an effective treatment for--"
Yemana laughed. "That's what you get for giving him ideas. Hey, Dietrich, what were you doing at Harris' apartment at three o'clock in the morning, anyway?"
Dietrich shrugged and looked at Harris. "A little of this, a little of that." He suddenly chuckled and winked conspiratorially at Yemana. "Harris is especially good at that."
Something about the absurdity of the situation hit Harris and he finally relaxed, settling back in his chair. "Thanks, Arthur," he said, "you're not so bad yourself."
"Thank goodness," said Yemana, absolutely deadpan.
"Hm?" Harris asked.
"Well, I had figured you were either doing... that, or trying to kill each other. And of the two, I prefer the former."
"Don't want to break in new officemates, eh, Nick?" Dietrich asked.
"Oh," said Yemana. "I hadn't thought of that. That's true too."
"Well, what was your original reason?" Harris asked.
Yemana hesitated. "You won't like it."
"Nick..." Harris pressed.
"It means I win the pool."
There was a shocked silence. Finally Dietrich said, "You mean you were betting on whether we were going to...?"
"Whether?" Yemana snorted. "I picked Thursday."