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due South: The Ray Switch Remix, Part Two

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Episode 3.01: Burning Down the House

Ray shuffled while he waited in a modified time step. The guy who’d told him it would take awhile to transfer a call to Fraser hadn’t been kidding; he’d been on the line for at least five minutes now, waiting. Normally, it would have driven Ray nuts, but today was anything but normal.

Finally, he heard a click on the line, followed by a burst of static, and then Fraser’s voice came through.

“Benton Fraser here.”

“Hey, Fraser,” Ray said, and he couldn’t help but smile at the sound of his friend’s voice.

“Hello Ray! Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, no worries. It’s just – “ Okay, he could do this. “I needed to let you know I might not be at the airport to pick you up.”

“Ah,” Fraser responded, far too quietly, and Ray knew just what he was thinking.

Ray scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Hey, it isn’t like that! Don’t you even think that, okay? It’s just, there’s some stuff going on and I might not be there and it wouldn’t be buddies of me not to let you know.”

There was a pause, but Ray wasn’t sure if it was the connection or Fraser. “Then this doesn’t have to do with possibly avoiding a conversation?”

“Absolutely no.” Ray confirmed, then lowered his voice. “You have no idea how much I want to have that conversation.”

“Me too, Ray,” Fraser responded, and Ray could swear he heard the smile in the other man’s voice. Shit.

“Okay then,” he replied, leaning a hip at the edge of the table the phone was on.

“Ray, do you need me back sooner?”

“You asking personally or professionally?” Ray teased, hoping to deflect.

Fraser went right with it. “Well, I was referring to whatever case it is you’re working on, but…”

Ray laughed. “Nah, there’s nothing here you can help with.” He sobered up as he continued. “It’s a done deal, just crappy timing.”

He could hear the hesitation in Fraser’s voice with his next words. “Okay, Ray. Then I suppose I’ll see you soon.”

Ray closed his eyes as he answered, and did his best to keep his tone light. “Soon as I possibly can, Ben.”

Ray hung up the phone and moved to sit on the edge of the hotel bed. The agent assigned to “educate” him nodded her approval. Not that he gave a damn what she thought, but he gave her a tight smile in return. After all, she’d let him make the call. True, it had taken a lot of convincing, but she didn’t have to and they both knew it. Ray ran a tired hand over his face as he thought about how much things could change so fast…


Ray was working late, cleaning up some of his old paperwork of all things. But it beat going home to an empty apartment, and since Fraser was back in Canada for another week he might as well get something productive done. Besides, it’d be a kick to see the look on Fraser’s face when he came back to find Ray’s desk tidied up and his paperwork, well maybe not all done, but a lot better.

He was just about to tackle another pile when Welsh called him into his office.

“Close the door behind you, Kowalski,” Welsh said, and the combination of wanting a closed-door meeting in a nearly empty office plus the tone of Welsh’s voice had the hairs on the back of Ray’s neck standing on end.

Ray came in and sat on the couch, leaning forward and trying not to telegraph his unease as he waited to hear what was going on.

The lieutenant regarded him for a minute before speaking. “You’ve been doing good work, Ray. You and the Constable, you’ve been a good partnership, a good balance.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“It’s made the whole department look good. I just want you to know that.”

Ray went from uneasy to very, very worried. “What’s going on, sir? Has something happened with Fraser?”

“As far as I know, everything with Fraser is fine,” Welsh answered, then sighed deeply and looked past Ray for a few seconds before focusing back on him. “The call came down today. You’re going back under. Deep under.”

Ray blinked at the finality in Welsh’s voice. “You mean somebody asked if I wanted to do another undercover job,” he countered.

Welsh shook his head. “I mean you’ve been tagged. There’s nothing I can do about it. And before you ask, I tried.”

Ray sat back hard and crossed his arms over his chest. “I won’t do it.”

“Then you’re out,” Welsh replied harshly. “I’m sorry, Ray,” he went on, tone softer, “this is big – federal level big, and they want you.”

Shit. Federal. They could and would boot him out for refusing to go, no matter how good he was. Ray stood and ran his fingers through his hair as he started to pace. “How long?”

“You have a week before you leave, but unofficially you’re already gone. The Feds want the time to go over your cover. As for how long you’ll be under, I wish I could say, but apparently it’s all need-to-know, and I’m not on the list.”

“Well I sure as hell should be! They can’t just do this – I got a life.” He stopped. “I have to call my folks, and Fraser, and – I have people who are gonna notice if I’m not here.”

“You can’t.” Ray looked at him in shock. “What I do know is that this is no ordinary job – you look a lot like a guy they’ve been watching, and you’re going to replace him. So we have to pretend it’s business as usual around here, which includes acting like you’re not gone.”

Ray snorted at that. “That’s going to be a hard sell when I don’t show up for work.”

“Normally, yes. But the Feds have also arranged for someone to take your place while you’re working with them.”

Ray couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Wait – there’s a guy who’s going undercover as me while I go undercover as somebody else? That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Tell me about it.”

“If this guy looks enough like me to cover, why not make him do the Fibbie gig?”

“You’ll have to ask the FBI that question. You want my opinion, it’s because you’re so damn good at undercover.”

Ray sat down again, slumping over. “Dammit, why did this have to happen now? I have a life, I have friends – I was just starting to like being Ray Kowalski again. Why can’t this other guy just do the job instead of me?”

Welsh said nothing, and Ray raised his head just enough to look up at him. “Will you tell Fraser what happened? That I had no choice?”

Welsh nodded. “I’ll let him know whatever I can.”

“Thanks, Lieu.” Ray stood again and exhaled heavily. “I guess I better make sure my life’s in order for someone to take over.” He went to open the door and stopped, hand on the knob. “And thanks for trying.”

Ray shook himself out of the memory and ran a hand through his hair, actively not looking at his keeper. He’d done what he could; it was time to go.

***********

Fraser decided to go straight to the station when it became clear Ray was unable to meet him at the airport. Something had sounded off when they’d spoken earlier in the week. Fraser wasn’t sure what was going on, but instinct told him something was wrong.

“I know it’s a long walk, Diefenbaker, thank you,” he replied when Dief had balked at the trip. “Honestly, you’re acting like foot travel isn’t your normal mode of transportation. Unless there’s some sort of arctic wolf rail system hidden in the Territories, you should be used to this.”

Dief whuffed at him and Fraser just shook his head. “It isn’t as if Ray didn’t warn us this might happen. And no, I couldn’t take a cab, as well you know. Mr. Mustafi is one of the only drivers I know willing to talk a half-wolf as a passenger, and unless his schedule has changed, today is his day off. Besides, the walk will do us both good – help stretch our legs after the long flight.”

Dief whined, and when Fraser spoke again, his voice had lost its stern edge. “Ray would have been here if he could, Dief. You know that.” He picked up his duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go see if we can’t find him.”

It wasn’t the hardest hike they’d ever had to take, not by a longshot. But by the time they reached the station, both Fraser and Dief were tired. The plane trip had been long, and while a big part of Fraser just wanted to go home and collapse for a few hours, he knew he wouldn’t rest until he’d seen Ray.

But it was as if the universe was conspiring against him, and Fraser was thoroughly disconcerted by the time he reached the bullpen. In his attempts to find Ray, he'd been directed and redirected throughout most of the station, and with each new suggestion, he became more uneasy. Jack’s reaction especially had him concerned; he’d looked at Fraser almost with pity.

So when suddenly a stranger came up and put an arm around him with a happy, "Benny! Buddy!" he was totally at a loss as to how to respond.

He extricated himself from the other man as politely as possible and asked, “I’m sorry, have we met?”

“Have we met?” the man laughed. “You get hit on the head again, Benny? Or did you come back from Canada wanting to be a stand-up comedian instead of a Mountie?” He was still smiling, but Fraser noticed it didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m your partner, Ray, funny guy.”

Fraser shook his head, confused. “I’m sorry, I thought you said you were my partner, but of course that can’t be true. I have a partner. Ray Kowalski.”

“Ri-ight,” the man drawled, and Fraser could hear a hint of impatience. “That’s me. Your partner. Stanley Raymond Kowalski.”

Fraser didn’t even try to hide his disbelief. “You’re Stanley Kowalski?”

“Only to my ma. You know that.” He stopped Elaine as she was walking by. “Hey, Elaine, you have that file for me yet?”

“Sorry, Ray. Just on my way down now,” she replied, then left too quickly for Fraser to ask her anything.

‘Ray’ started toward the break room. “Hey, you want something? Maybe they started stocking pemmican now.”

Fraser followed after him, grabbing a piece of paper and an inkpad as he went. There was something going on here, and he was determined to find out just who this man was. Because no matter what he said, he wasn’t Ray Kowalski.

Fraser started his investigation by trying to determine the man’s height, based on his own, while ‘Ray’ got a cup of coffee.

“Does Canada have different personal space boundaries?” he asked, looking Fraser up and down.

Fraser stepped back a pace. “Sorry.”

After that, it was easy enough to trick the man into giving him his fingerprints, though it got him a suspicious look.

‘Ray’ narrowed his eyes at Fraser as they walked back toward Ray’s desk. “Seriously. What’s with you? You did talk to Welsh, right?”

Before Fraser could answer that he’d tried but hadn’t really had the chance, Ray’s phone rang.

“Kowalski,” the man answered, giving Fraser a see, it is me look. He nodded and uh-huhed a few times, then passed the phone to Fraser. “It’s for you, Fraser.”

He took the phone automatically. “Benton Fraser here.”

“At the station first, I see,” said a voice he couldn’t identify. It seemed it was his day for unknowns. “That’s a shame. I was hoping to give you a warm welcome at home. If you hurry, maybe I still can.” Before he could respond, Fraser heard a click and a dial tone.

“What is it, something wrong?” the Ray-pretender asked when Fraser handed him back the receiver, frowning.

“I need to go my apartment.”

“I can take you,” the man replied, grabbing his suit jacket off the back of Ray’s chair.

Fraser wanted to protest, but honestly, whatever was going on, no one at the station was worried about it, so whoever this man was, he must be harmless enough. And he had a car. Ray’s car, as it turned out.

This is your car?” he had to clarify.

All that got him was an eye roll and a muttered, “Give it a rest,” as they climbed into the car, Dief taking his normal backseat spot.

They were a few blocks away from the station when Dief decided to greet the imposter in his own way.

“Hey! No licking the driver, mutt!” he called back with a glare in the rearview mirror.

“You know he can’t hear you,” Fraser replied.

“I know he can’t or won’t hear you. No proof he can’t hear me, and unless he wants me to crash this car, he better lay off.”

Fraser twisted in his seat to better face Diefenbaker. “Best do as he wants for now. There’s no need to create a safety hazard.”

Dief whuffed a protest, curled up on the seat and closed his eyes. Fraser shook his head; he was sure this conversation wasn’t over.

Whoever this ‘Ray’ really was, he knew how to get to Fraser’s building. They had to park about a block away; the street was blocked by police cars, fire engines and ambulances. Part of Fraser was proud to see it; not so long ago, he was fairly certain this area of town wouldn’t have warranted such a turn-out. But anything good he felt was squashed flat as he saw it was his building that was on fire.

Fraser and Dief were out of the car as soon as it stopped, rushing toward the building. He didn’t look back to see if Ray was following, though he thought he heard him identifying himself as a police officer. It looked like the fire department had things fairly well in hand, and Fraser was immensely relieved to see so many familiar faces. He stopped to check on each one, feeling Ray’s eyes on him the entire time. But the other man made no move to talk to anyone beyond the authorities on the scene.

Once it was established that the fire was out, Fraser made his way to his apartment. The fire, he’d been told, had started on his floor, and even braced for it, the sight took him aback. First his father’s cabin, now this… Fraser sifted through the remains of his things.

“Damn shame, son,” he heard, and was too tired to even be surprised at his father’s appearance.

“Thank you for your concern, Dad.”

“Well, you read most of the journals already though, didn’t you? And I’m still here, so you didn’t lose everything.”

Fraser sighed. “You’re sorry because your journals were burned? What about the rest of my things? My home is gone – doesn’t that matter?”

“Come now, Benton, this was just temporary housing. Chicago isn’t your home.”

“It is now.” A flash of light caught his eye, and he bent down to retrieve a broken bottle. He sniffed at it, then wrapped it up and put it in his belt pouch.

“Maybe it’s a sign,” his father suggested.

“A sign?”

“That’s time to make some changes.”

Fraser looked up at that, but of course his father was nowhere to be seen. He started searching through the ashes again, looking up when he heard someone approach. It was Ray, tiptoeing carefully through the mess. Well, his partner or not, if this man was truly a detective, his help would be welcome.

“I don’t think this was an accident,” Fraser said as the fake Ray approached.

“Come on – this whole neighborhood is a fire hazard. I was talking with the firemen and their best guess is bad wiring.”

“I seriously doubt it, though I’m sure that’s what someone wants us to believe.” He pulled out a bottle from his belt pouch. “I found this.”

“So what? Your favorite aftershave got busted?”

“This isn’t mine, which you would know if you were who you claim to be. I think it was used as an accelerant.”

That earned Fraser a dubious look. “You really think this was arson?”

“Yes.”

“But why? There’s no way the insurance money would be good enough, not on a place like this.”

“I believe it was personal. The caller at the station wanted to wish me a warm welcome home.” He started walking back down to the ground level.

“That doesn’t sound so fishy.”

“I didn’t recognize the voice. And they made it clear that I should come here, and quickly.”

“Okay, maybe you have a point,” he acquiesced. “So what do you want to do now?”

“I think we need to make sure they don’t do this anywhere else.” Fraser stopped as he realized the next possible target. Oh dear. He started moving faster, changing to a run toward the car as soon as they’d cleared the building.

“Hey! Where are we going?”

“The Consulate,” Fraser called back.

***********

“This isn’t the way to the Consulate,” Fraser challenged.

“It’s a different way, maybe, but trust me, we’ll get there just fine.”

Fraser couldn’t help but add, “This isn’t your normal route.”

‘Ray’ rolled his eyes. “Well, I don’t normally watch my partner’s building burn down,” he shot back. “It’s a day for changing things up. Trust me, this is just as fast.” He stared intently at the road, and Fraser didn’t know what to add.

After a few moments, he asked if he could borrow ‘Ray’s’ cell phone.

“Knock yourself out,” he answered as he handed it over. “Maybe you’ll find somebody that wants to talk with you.”

Fraser tried Inspector Thatcher’s direct line, but there was no answer. Knowing he would regret it but having no other choice, he dialed the main number for the Consulate. The conversation he had with Turnbull was, as expected, equal parts unhelpful and frustrating, and he ended the call as soon as he was able. At least he knew there was no fire yet; Turnbull hadn’t sounded at all panicked.

‘Ray’ was chuckling as Fraser returned the phone to him. “What that guy lacks in catching clues he makes up for with volume. That was like the Canadian version of Who’s on First.”

“Turnbull is… well, Turnbull,” Fraser replied, trying to rein in his growing impatience.

***********

Ray had barely stopped the car before Fraser and Dief were jumping out of it. Again. Ray stayed back, waving to indicate he’d follow them in soon. He needed a minute before he had to deal with another round of whatever game Fraser was playing.

Bracing himself, he opened the door and walked into the Consulate. Turnbull was at the front desk, and gave him a wink and a thumbs up as he entered. Ray resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the man and kept walking, picking up the pace when he heard raised voices.

He got to Thatcher’s office just in time to see Fraser helping someone large, unnaturally blond, and very well-muscled off the floor. He was stammering out an apology to the man, and Ray was sorry he’d missed whatever happened. Thatcher cut a glance his way as he walked in, and Fraser followed her gaze.

“Ah, detective, glad you’ve joined us,” Fraser said, suspiciously glad to see him. “Inspector, you remember my partner, Ray?”

Ray nodded once and smiled at Thatcher in acknowledgement. “Inspector Thatcher, a pleasure to see you again.”

“Detective Kowalski,” she replied smoothly. Ray saw Fraser start at that, and hid a smirk at the reaction. “If you’re here for Fraser, he’s all yours. Please. Take him away.”

“Not a problem, glad to have your cooperation with the whole liaising thing, as always.” He gave her his most charming smile, which she completely brushed off. “Come on, Fraser,” Ray said. “Check the place out if you need to, but I think coming here was a bust.”

Fraser hesitated, then turned to Thatcher. “And you don’t need to know why I came in here?”

She sighed and crossed her arms. “Was it for personal or professional reasons?”

“Professional, sir. Of course, the arsonist seems to have taken a personal interest in me, but my reasons were and are entirely professional.”

Ray could just hear the resignation in her tone. “An arsonist.”

“Yes.”

“And you think they’re after you,” she went on, which apparently was Fraser’s cue to really let her have it with the details.

“Well, my apartment building did burn down today, which considering this is my first day back in the states, and the leading call I received, does make it seem likely.” Ray thought maybe he wanted to say more, but a look from Thatcher shut him down.

“They haven’t been here,” she stated.

“It doesn’t appear so, no.”

“But if you stay, they might come here.”

“Ah. Yes. I see your point, sir.”

“Good. Dismissed.”

Fraser nodded. “Understood.” He turned to Ray, gave him a look, then started to turn and say more to the Inspector, but a glare from her obviously made him reconsider. Ray hid a smile at Fraser’s discomfort as he started back to the car, Fraser staying behind for a minute to talk with Turnbull.

That smile was completely gone a few minutes later in the car, because, wow. One thing Ray could say about Fraser – subtlety was not his strong suit. Remembering bits he’d read about undercover work, he wondered just how the man had survived; his acting skills were non-existent. Not that he was trying too hard – he’d made it clear from the get-go that he didn’t even want to play along with this crazy scenario. Personally, Ray thought he was right – there was no way this was going to work. But that wasn’t his call to make, and Fraser pushing him wasn’t helping anybody.

He tried to be patient, joked around, worked on getting the guy to play along. Let the whole fingerprinting thing slide, even. But when Fraser tried to feed him putty to get a dental impression a few minutes after they left the Consulate, Ray was officially done.

Ray spat out the inedible bite and just gave into his frustrations. Enough was enough. "You gonna measure my dick next?" he snapped, glaring at Fraser as he bagged up the sandwich. Fraser looked up at that, startled, and Ray felt a twinge of triumph. The Mountie was ruffled - good. About time he got a little of his own back.

“Of course not, Ray. I’m sorry if you feel like my behavior isn’t what you’re used to.” His voice was even, and his tone gave nothing away, but it was all Ray could take.

“Okay, that’s it. I get it, okay? I don’t measure up to Kowalski – you can cut the crap now.”

And it looked like that had ruffled Fraser a little more. “You’re admitting that you aren’t Ray?”

Ray smiled. “Nope, just that I’m not Kowalski.” At Fraser’s now lost look, Ray sighed deeply. “Look, you said you talked to Welsh. What did he say that has you acting so crazy?”

“Well, we didn’t have much opportunity to talk, as he received an important call.”

“His accountant? Yeah, he’s been getting those all week.” Ray watched the road, then turned to Fraser briefly, eyes wide. “You mean he didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

Ray barked out a laugh at that and hit the steering wheel. “No wonder! Okay, let’s start this again.” He reached a hand out and Fraser took it, confused. “I’m Ray - formerly known as Vecchio, now going by Kowalski. Pleased to meet you, partner.” He tried to shake hands, but Fraser’s grip was non-existent.

He could feel Fraser’s stare as he drove, and could practically hear the wheels turning in his head. “Vecchio. You’re Francesca’s brother, the policeman in Florida.”

“Got it in one! But I trained here, did some of my beat work here. I’ve been gone long enough there’s a chance, or so somebody seems to think, no one will know me. And being Frannie’s brother, I know a lot of what’s what around the station already. We talk pretty regularly. So as long as you and I can get along, it should be a good fit.”

Fraser nodded, looking more at ease but still disturbed, from what Ray could tell with his focus split between the road and their conversation. “What is it? Come on, spit it out. I’ve only known you a couple of hours, but I can tell something’s bugging you.”

“I was just thinking… you’ve been to the Consulate before, haven’t you?”

“Yep,” he replied with a nod. “Last week. Welsh thought I should probably introduce myself, let Thatcher in on what was going on, that kind of thing.” He didn’t add that he’d gone in hoping that maybe somebody there could clue him in on why keeping Kowalski’s presence in Chicago active was so all-important, but it had been as much a mystery to her as it was to him. He also didn’t say that she’d only grudgingly agreed to keep up the charade as long as it ‘didn’t interfere with Constable Fraser’s Consulate duties’.”

“Ah, that explains it, then.”

“Yeah, she and your kook of a colleague already know what’s what. I guess you’re the only one that got left out of the loop.” Ray shot him a contrite look. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s not your fault.” Fraser was quiet for awhile longer, and Ray just concentrated on the road. “Ray, may I ask you something else?”

“Shoot,” he replied with a shrug. Somebody had to fill the poor guy in; might as well be him.

“Do you know where Ray Kowalski is? What his assignment might be?”

Unfortunately, that was one subject he couldn’t help with, and it was probably the only one Fraser really cared about. Ray shook his head. “Sorry. I do know it’s big – Federal level stuff, or else they wouldn’t have pulled me in from out of state. But the who and where, how long…Welsh might be able to give you more, but that’s all I’ve got. Well, and that and they wanted someone to keep his cover, so they called me in.”

“I see.” He was silent for awhile. “I don’t suppose he left any sort of message for me?”

Ray shrugged. “If he did, it wasn’t with me. But given his organizational skills there’s a chance it could be on his desk or at his place and I’d never see it. You think you could help me figure out his system, assuming he has one?”

“You’re staying at his apartment?”

“Well, it might look weird if I started shacking up with Frannie and Elaine, so yeah. Gotta keep up the illusion.” It got quiet again, and Ray thought about how Fraser must be feeling. He’d been so sure the guy had been messing with him deliberately, punishing him for Kowalski leaving, but now he knew better. To lose a partner like this had to suck, and everything Ray had read and heard pointed to them being a pretty tight pair.

“Listen, I’m sorry I don’t know more. And just because I didn’t see a message didn’t mean it wasn’t there. You know the guy a lot better than I do – you should do your own search.” He knew how lame it sounded, but Fraser looked better for hearing it.

“Thank you kindly, Ray.”

“So,” Ray said with a slap to the steering wheel, “what do we know about this arsonist? Do you really think it’s just you they’re after?”

“I was my building that was targeted.”

“Yeah, but most of the people with a grudge here wouldn’t hold it just to you, would they? I mean, you and Kowalski closed a lot of cases – could just as easily be someone after both of you.”

“That’s true.” Fraser frowned for a minute, then his face cleared. “There was one case, nearly two years ago. A performance arsonist by the name of Zoltan Motherwell.”

Ray nodded. “I remember that name. But he’s locked up, right?”

“He’s in an institution. But even if it isn’t him directly, he could be giving out the orders.”

“Okay, so tell me where to drive. We have a firebug to visit.”

Ray called in the request as he drove, so getting in to see Motherwell was easy enough. Motherwell eyed both Fraser and Ray warily when they entered the room, and had frowned when Ray was introduced.

“You don’t look like Detective Kowalski,” Motherwell said cautiously.

Ray resisted the urge to sigh. This was going to happen a lot; he might as well get used to it. “Yeah, well that’s what working with this guy will do for you,” he said with a gesture toward Fraser. “I get it all the time. So you gonna tell me what you know or are we going to keep bringing up sore spots with me? Because I have to tell you, that route will not help you.”

***********

Motherwell hadn’t known much, but they’d been able to get a name from him – Greta Garbo.

“What is it with you and crazy names?” Ray asked as they went back to the car. “Stanley Kowalski? Greta Garbo? Seriously, couldn’t it just be Joe Smith or something that we’re after?”

“The uniqueness of the name does make the individual easier to find,” Fraser pointed out. “And Ray didn’t go by Stanley.”

No making fun of the name; Ray filed that fact away. “Okay, so do you want to call this in and get laughed at, or do I get to do the honors?”

Fraser held out his hand for the phone. “It isn’t safe to split your concentration. I can call.”

He did, and somehow no one laughed, just said they’d look into the name and call back. Ray got the feeling that was something else he’d have to get used to.

“You bring out the nice guy in everybody you meet, Benny?” he asked after Fraser hung up.

“Not everyone, Ray,” Fraser replied. Ray got the distinct impression he was being teased.

“Okay, got it. You and I didn’t get off on the right foot. But hey, we were both a little misinformed, so I don’t think it counts.”

Fraser looked thoughtful. “What did Ray tell you about me?”

“Nothing.” Fraser gave him a doubtful look, and Ray shrugged. “Seriously. By the time I got here the Fibbies had him locked up so tight Houdini couldn’t have gotten him out. All I had was case files and what the other detectives and Lt. Welsh could tell me. And Frannie, of course. So I’d already heard of you before I got tapped for the job.”

Fraser didn’t say anything in response, just looked out the window. Ray watched the road, but felt it when suddenly Fraser tensed up. “What?”

“I think we’re being followed, Ray,” Fraser stated. “The van two cars behind us. I saw one like it near the Consulate, and at the Institution.”

Ray looked in the rearview mirror; sure enough, there was a beat up van a little ways back. “You sure it’s the same one? Pretty common vehicle.”

“Sure enough to be concerned.” He looked at Ray. “What if a place isn’t enough to be the next target? What if Garbo’s gotten more personal?”

“You mean personal like going directly for you?” His eyes widened and he gripped the steering wheel tightly. “You mean like they’re gonna blow up the car?”

“It’s a distinct possibility. She would have had time while we were in with Motherwell. The fact that we were there at all would have let her know we were getting close, and felt we forced her hand. If she rigged the car to explode, all she would have to do is follow us to see the results of her handiwork.”

Ray turned to him, a slightly panicked look on his face. “You’re not even a little freaked out by this. Is this a normal day for you?”

Fraser scratched his eyebrow as he answered. “I don’t know that it’s typical, but I suppose this kind of thing is known to happen.”

“Geez Louise. No wonder they had to go all the way to Florida to find you a new partner.”

“You just keep driving, Ray,” Fraser said, determined. He rolled down the window. “I’ll check and see if I can find the igniter on the outside of the car.”

“How are you going to -hey! What are you doing? You can’t-“ Ray gave up as Fraser climbed out the window.

“Except apparently you can,” he went on, shaking his head in disbelief. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, they really weren’t kidding about you, were they? You really think you’re some kind of super-cop. I thought Welsh was joking when he said I’d have to watch out for you. I figured, hey, a guy leaves his own reprimands in his files, he’s a pretty careful guy. And yeah, there were a lot of kooky case files, but maybe that was all Kowalski. But no, if today is any indication, it’s you that’s the freak show magnet, and you’re like the head freak.”

Ray nearly crashed when suddenly Fraser was right there on the outside of the driver’s side window. “Why did I think this was a good idea? So what if things weren’t going so great in Florida? Maybe I was getting a little sloppy, letting the split with Ange get to me. But I could’ve gotten back into the swing of things there. But no, I had to be the bigger guy. Had to listen to my Lieu when he said, ‘Vecchio, they need you at home more than we do here.’ Had to give in to missing Gino’s East, and Crabs & Things. And now I’m here and I can’t even go to the old neighborhood because they might know who I am. And to top it off, I get partnered with a crazy man and his deaf half-wolf. This is the looniest deal I’ve ever been a part of!”

Fraser slid back in and Ray turned to him, hopeful. “You find it?” Fraser shook his head. “Of course you didn’t. That’s it - I’m pulling over!”

“No, Ray!” Fraser started, but Ray had already slowed down. As soon as he did, smoke started pouring in.

“Well, now we know where the igniter is,” Fraser said. “Decelerating again could trigger an explosion – we need to keep moving.”

“Dammit!” Ray pounded the steering wheel. “What are we going to do? The car’s going to blow up, with us in it!”

“Not necessarily, Ray.” Ray gave him a look of utter disbelief. “All right, it likely will explode. But we don’t have to be in it.”

“We don’t?” Ray replied, incredulous. “Is it going to drive itself now? Or wait, let me guess – the wolf can drive.”

Fraser shot him a look. “We need to get it somewhere safe, that is, somewhere where it won’t cause more damage.”

“Please tell me you have an idea.”

Fraser pulled at his collar, but went on. “The lake.”

“The lake,” Ray repeated flatly. “You mean Lake Michigan? You want me to drive the car, which may or may not explode on the way, into Lake Michigan.”

“Yes.”

Ray ran a shaky hand over his face as he drove. “You know, I lived in Florida for years, Fraser. And do you know what Florida has? It has beaches. Lots of beaches, near lots of ocean. And I went to them all the time. But not once did I ever feel the need to jump in. And now, here I am back in Chicago less than two weeks and you want me to voluntarily drive us into a lake that’s probably so polluted that swallowing any of it would kill us?”

“If you have a better solution, I’d love to hear it,” Fraser answered, tight lipped.

The thing of it was, he really didn’t, and he knew they were running out of time. “Hold on, and I hope you and the wolf can swim,” he replied, gritting his teeth as he accelerated. “We survive this, I should get a medal,” he muttered to himself. “Above and beyond the call of duty doesn’t even begin to cut it.”

***********

Of course, it wasn’t enough to drive into Lake Michigan. On purpose. As soon as Ray, Fraser and Dief had gotten back on dry land (and out of the mass of rubber ducks that were in the boxes Ray had crashed through), they found themselves at gunpoint. It had been Garbo in the van, just as Fraser had said.

Ray just stared as Fraser tried to talk her down. It was one thing to read about it, but to see the guy actually do it was unreal. And it wasn’t working; Ray could see it in her face, even if Fraser apparently didn’t.

He could see her tensing to fire, and shoved Fraser out of the way. As he did, a shot rang out and he was propelled back by the force of it hitting his chest. He heard more than saw the wolf jump Garbo, and shifted enough to see Fraser using whatever that rope thing was on his uniform to tie her hands.

“So what, you set them up, the wolf knocks them down?” he coughed out. Man was he going to have a bruise.

“Ray! You shouldn’t speak, and don’t try to move,” Fraser admonished as he moved to where Ray was sprawled.

“I’ll be fine, Benny,” he replied, unbuttoning the middle button of his shirt to reveal his body armor.

“You’re wearing a vest,” Fraser said, dumbfounded.

“Well, yeah,” Ray replied with a grin, reaching out his hand. Fraser took it and helped him stand. “Told you they warned me about you. Walking, talking, big red target with a tendency to find crazy cases. So I figured I’d play it safe.” He looked out at the lake. “Damn. I’m glad I left the Riv in Florida. When I read you were hell on wheels, I thought that meant you were a crazy driver, not that you totaled cars for fun.”

Fraser still looked a little shocked. “The Riv?”

Ray nodded. “Oh yeah. 1971 green Buick Riviera. Nature’s perfect car.”

Fraser nodded. “Ah. Well then, there’s something you and Ray have in common – an appreciation of automobiles.”

Ray took the statement as the olive branch it was. “Okay. I can work with that,” he said as he moved to search Garbo’s van. Luck was on Ray’s side; he found a cell phone, which he used it to call for back-up.

“Looks like she’s going to get to follow in her mentor’s footsteps some more,” he told Fraser when he got off the phone. “She has a record, and Huey and Gardino found a lot of very interesting stuff at her apartment, including a case full of that perfume you recognized.”

***********

It didn’t take long for back-up to arrive, and soon enough Fraser and Ray were back at the station. They hadn’t walked two steps into the room before Lt. Welsh called them over.

“Ah, Constable,” the Lieutenant started, once the door to his office was closed. “I see you’ve found your partner.”

“Yes, sir,” Fraser replied. “Ray was kind enough to fill me in on the details of his assignment.”

“Good, that’s good,” Welsh replied with a nod. “And I see you’ve already introduced him to your style of police work,” he said, gesturing to their still-damp clothing.

“He did indeed, sir,” Ray replied, before Fraser could. “And may I say, it’s everything I was told and more.”

“Yes, well, at least you had the benefit of some warning,” Fraser countered, rubbed the wrong way by Ray’s tone.

“Gentlemen,” Welsh stopped any retort with that one firm word. “Is there going to be a problem with this assignment? For either of you?”

“No sir,” Fraser answered immediately. “I’m sure we can work together.”

“It’ll be fine, sir,” Ray agreed.

“That’s what I want to hear.”

Fraser couldn’t take not knowing any longer. “Sir, is there anything you can tell me about Ray? That is, about Ray Kowalski?” He could tell by the look on the Lieutenant’s face that he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“I’m sorry, Fraser. The Feds were tighter than tight-lipped on this. If it helps, he tried to stay until you got back, but no dice. And he was as upset about it as you are now.”

Fraser didn’t even try to deny he was upset. “He was?”

“I’m surprised I don’t have a hole in my wall. He would’ve said no, if he’d had a choice. They just didn’t give him one.”

Fraser nodded. “His undercover skills are very impressive. I’m not surprised he garnered their attention.”

It got uncomfortably quiet then. Welsh looked down at the papers on his desk, then cleared his throat. “Anything else?”

“No sir.”

“Then if you’ll excuse me, Constable, I need a few minutes with the good Detective here.”

“Of course, sir,” Fraser nodded at both men and left. But once out the door, he felt at loose ends, suddenly felt overwhelmed by the events of the past few days. He needed to move, to be alone. He wanted to throw something, to rail at the unfairness of the situation. But instead, he calmly put on his hat and made his way toward the door. Before he got very far, Jack Huey stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm.

“Hey, do you have a minute?”

Fraser sighed. All he wanted to do was leave. “Of course.”

Jack nodded and led him to one of the interrogation rooms. Once there, he closed the door and leaned against it. “Okay, let it go.”

Fraser looked at him, confused. “Let what go?”

“Whatever it is you need to say, to do. I know how you feel, losing a partner suddenly, even though at least Ray’s still alive, just gone. It’s a nasty shock, and you have every right to be upset, maybe even angry-“

“Angry?” Fraser interrupted. “Of course I’m angry. This callous disregard for our partnership, our friendship, is appalling. I understand not letting him tell me over the phone, for security reasons. But not even a note, for God’s sake! It’s unconscionable.” He looked at Jack, anguished, and sat down heavily in a chair, suddenly drained. He slumped over, hat in his hands. “Not even a note, Jack. He’s just… gone.”

Jack walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. “I know. But look at it this way – at least there’s a chance you’ll see him again. He’s good at this, better than you know. You’ve seen him in action – you have to know he can do it.”

Fraser looked up at that. “I’m sorry, Jack. You’re quite right. It isn’t as if he’s died, just been reassigned. I shouldn’t have reacted like this.”

“Dammit Fraser, yes you should,” Jack countered. “I didn’t say that to make you feel bad. Losing a partner in any way is hard, and you two are one of the tightest partnerships I’ve ever seen. It’s got to hurt. I just wanted you to know that I get it. And if you need to talk, or just yell, or whatever the Canadian version of being pissed off is, I’m here.”

Fraser smiled at that. “Thank you, Jack.”

He shrugged and a small smile appeared. “Nothing less than what you did when Louis died. You and Ray, you got me through it. Just returning the favor. Speaking of which, you have a place to stay tonight?”

Fraser blinked at that, startled by the question. “I’m sure I can stay at the Consulate,” he finally answered.

“Or you could sack out on my couch. My place isn’t much, but there’s room for you and Dief for a day or two, until you figure out what you’re going to do next.”

“I appreciate the offer, Jack, truly. But Dief and I will be fine. There are suitable quarters at the Consulate. Besides, it will save me from hearing Diefenbaker grumble about the walk to work.”

Jack chuckled. “If you’re sure.”

“I am. But thank you.” His next words were quiet. “For everything.”

Fraser left the interrogation room feeling if not better, at least calmer than he had all day. Ray was still in Lieutenant Welsh’s office, and Fraser made his way to Ray’s desk. It looked different, neater, and Fraser couldn’t help but wonder if that was because his Ray had gotten it ready for his departure, or if this new Ray was more organized than the man he was impersonating. He noticed that the bottom right drawer was slightly ajar and went to close it, but it kept catching on something. Fraser knelt down to take a closer look, and pulled the drawer out to see what was causing the problem. He saw a glint of metal and reached for it, assuming it was a paper clip that had slipped down. Instead, he pulled out a familiar length of ball chain.

He stood and stared at it, unable to believe what he’d found. He was so engrossed that he didn’t hear Ray leave the Lieutenant’s office, or see him walk over to talk with his sister.

***********

“What’s up with the Mountie?” Ray asked, shooting a look in Fraser’s direction. “He looks like he’s seen a ghost or something.”

Frannie followed Ray’s gaze, gasping as Fraser held up the chain, and Ray edged over to her. “What is that?” Ray whispered.

“It’s Ray’s bracelet,” she answered just as quietly. “He never took it off. If he left it here, that’s a good thing, right? Like he figures Fraser will keep it safe for him?”

Ray watched as Fraser ran the thin metal chain through his fingers, then oh so carefully tucked it into the pouch on his belt. “He sure thinks so,” he replied.

Fraser noticed them and walked over. “Diefenbaker and I will be going now,” He said. “Good night, Francesca, Ray.”

Ray put a hand on Fraser’s arm as he turned to go, stopping him. “Hey, you want to go out, grab a bite or something? Celebrate the case?”

Ray saw the briefest flash of pain in Fraser’s eyes, gone so fast he wasn’t sure he’d really seen it. “Thank you kindly, Ray, but no. It’s been… it’s been quite a day.” He nodded at them both. “Good night.”

Ray watched Fraser walk through the door and thought about following him, then shook it off. If it were him, he’d need time to process all this stuff; better to give Fraser his space.

“So, Frannie,” he said, slinging an arm over her shoulder. “What are you and Elaine doing for dinner?”

 

Episode 3.02: Eclipse

Ray ignored the phone as he pulled on a black turtleneck. The machine could get it.

After four rings, the automated voice rang out. “We are unavailable to take your call. Please leave a message at the tone.” Ray was unsurprised to hear Lt. Welsh’s voice. Again. It was the third call Ray had let go to voicemail this morning, and he was betting if he checked he’d have as many on his cell. Sure enough, it started ringing. Ray made a face and left the phone on the kitchen counter, next to the morning paper. Walking over to the closet, he shrugged into a black leather jacket and pocketed his keys.

Ray slung the duffel bag by the door over his shoulder and left without looking back. He had more important things to do today than anything at the station.

***********

Fraser watched the dreamcatcher as it slowly twisted in his hand, the light catching on the beads holding the newly-added eagle feather in place. The phone rang, startling him out of his reverie, and he carefully placed the item on his desk before he answered.

“Canadian Consulate. Acting liaison officer Constable Benton Fraser speaking.”

He was greeted by a familiar voice. “Constable, good, I was hoping to get you and not your associate.”

“Lieutenant Welsh, how fortuitous. I was planning on calling you later. I was thinking about having a small birthday celebration for Ray, and wondered if it would be all right to hold it at the station? It could be a surprise party, which should be easy enough, as Ray likely won’t be expecting anything like this. I know it sounds strange, but since Ray’s birthday – Ray Kowalski’s that is – is coming up soon, this would, I believe help with the illusion that nothing has changed, that Ray is still here.”

“Except that he isn’t,” Lt. Welsh stated flatly.

“Well, no, of course he isn’t but I thought-“

Fraser,” the lieutenant interrupted. “Am I to take it by this conversation that Detective Kowalski is not with you?”

“Ray? No, I haven’t seen him since the day before yesterday.”

“Has he maybe called you? Told you he had urgent business somewhere?”

“No,” Fraser replied with a frown. “Sir, do you suspect foul play?”

“At this point, that better be what it is,” Welsh muttered darkly. “He isn’t answering his home or cell phone, and Ms. Vecchio says she talked to him last night after he left the station. But today, nothing. And he needs to be here, Fraser.”

“Is there a case he might be investigating that’s taking his attention?”

“Nothing that should make him ignore my calls.” Lt. Welsh’s voice got quiet. “IA is here, and they want to see him.”

“They want to see Ray?” Fraser asked, hoping the Lieutenant understood his meaning.

“They want to see Detective Kowalski,” the lieutenant confirmed. “We’re stalling them as best we can, but it doesn’t make him look good. I need him found, and I need him found now.”

“Of course, sir. I’ll get on it right away.”

“Thank you, Constable. When you find him, make sure to impress upon him the importance of returning my calls.”

“I will, sir.”

“And Fraser? You get him in here, and you can throw whatever kind of party you want.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” He hung up the phone quickly and grabbed his hat. “Come on, Diefenbaker,” he said, gesturing for Dief to follow. “We need to find Ray.”

He was almost to the door when he decided to reach over and grab the dreamcatcher to take along.

***********

Fraser was uneasy about going into Ray’s apartment, but he’d tried knocking, and calling out, and there’d been no answer. Beside him, Dief sneezed, and Fraser glared down at him.

“Yes, I know I have a key, but that was from Ray, not Ray. He has no idea I have it, and I should probably give it back, at least for now.”

Dief flicked an ear in a decidedly dismissive fashion.

“Oh all right, I’ll use it. This time. But only because Ray could be in there, unconscious or injured.” He pulled out the key, carefully opening the door after unlocking it.

A quick survey of the apartment found it empty, with no signs of forced entry or struggle. “It appears the only breaking and entering was done by us,” he observed, totally unsurprised when Dief ignored him to sniff out the kitchen, probably looking for dropped food. Ray wasn’t the neatest of eaters. Well, Ray Kowalski wasn’t. He’d no idea whether or not this new Ray had the same habit of eating at the counter.

The apartment looked a little neater, he supposed. More organized. It made the place seem slightly off, and Fraser suddenly felt like he was intruding, something he’d never felt here before. He and Ray had spent many nights here, working on cases over pizza, or relaxing on the couch watching a sporting event. Ray had been to Fraser’s apartment too, of course, several times, but more often than not they ended up here.

Ray had even gotten Diefenbaker food and water dishes, and a small bag of kibble. He’d claimed that it was because he was ‘tired of the mutt mooching off my dinner, Fraser,’ but considering the amount of food Ray still snuck Dief, he knew that was just bluster.

Fraser shook himself free of his reverie. Being here was harder than he’d thought it would be. He swallowed audibly, rubbing his eyebrow, and moved to the kitchen to get Dief and leave. As he approached he saw Ray’s phone on the counter next to a newspaper – today’s, he noted – and one look had him calling out, “Dief! I know where we need to go.” Grabbing Ray’s phone, he hurried them out of the apartment.

***********

They made it to the cemetery in decent time, Fraser having been fortunate enough to find a cab willing to take Dief. On the way there, he made a call to the station.

“Elaine, I need for you to look up a plot for me,” he started, glad to have gotten her. Elaine was efficient and able to keep a confidence, both of which would likely be useful today.

“Do I even want to know why you need this, Fraser?” she asked after he gave her the details.

“At this time, all I feel I should say is that it will help me get Ray to the station,” he responded.

“Give me a few minutes and I’ll get the info for you,” she answered with a sigh. “Where can I reach you? The Consulate?”

“I’m borrowing Ray’s phone,” he replied, which was true enough; he fully intended to return it to Ray as soon as he found him.

“Okay. This is me not asking. I’ll let you know what I find out as soon as I can.”

“Thank you kindly, Elaine. For everything,” he said as he hung up.

Elaine was as good as her word, and was able to not only give Fraser the information he needed, but a little more about the situation with Internal Affairs. Once at the cemetery, Fraser started toward the plot. He wasn’t too far along when a familiar voice spoke beside him.

“Off to find your new partner, then?” Fraser Sr. stated.

“Master of the obvious now, dad?” Fraser replied, letting the sarcasm through. “I’m almost surprised to see you here. I’d think you’d want to stay away from reminders that you’re dead.”

“No reason to get snippy, son. I just thought I’d check in, see how you were.” He looked past Fraser, and Fraser knew that wasn’t the only reason his father had decided to appear.

“And there’s nothing else, Dad?” Fraser pushed. “You just stopped by to say hello? Really?”

“Well, there is one thing,” his father admitted with obvious reluctance. “This new partner of yours, have you told him about me?”

“That you’re haunting me, you mean?”

“Not a very nice way of putting it,” Fraser Sr. huffed. “I prefer to think that I’m here to help you.”

Fraser let that go. “No, I haven’t said anything. Why?”

“No reason. Just, I was thinking maybe this time you might not bring me up.”

Ah. “Did it bother you that Ray knew when you were around?”

“I just think it would be better for all concerned if we kept our conversations between the two of us, that’s all. Nothing wrong with that.”

“I agree,” Fraser said, hiding a smile at his father’s look of surprise. “Of course, it would be easier if you’d time your visits to when no one else is around, you know.”

“Well, now, I’m not sure that can be helped. You need my guidance when you need it, not when it’s convenient.”

Fraser rolled his eyes, but before he could reply a shot rang out. He started running toward it, fear running through him. This was not good at all.

“You go that way,” he gestured to Dief, and Dief split off to take position. Fraser knew he would be easy to spot, but Diefenbaker could get the literal jump on whoever it was, if need be.

He didn’t notice that his father stayed behind, watching them run off with a satisfied nod.

***********

As it turned out things weren’t at all what Fraser had feared. The shooter turned out to be an elderly woman, her target the earth in front of her husband’s plot. Fraser apologized profusely for tackling her to the ground, and cautioned her on gun safety. In the middle of it he heard a snort, and looked up to see Ray watching them, arms crossed over his chest, the look on his face a mixture of amusement and annoyance.

Fraser finished talking with her, and she promised to stop by the station with a copy of the will to prove she was just following out her late husband’s wishes, as she claimed. It wasn’t how he’d normally handle such a situation, but given the urgency of Lt. Welsh’s orders, Fraser felt it was the best way to proceed.

“Only you would find a little old lady shooting her already dead husband, Fraser,” he said, shaking his head as the woman left. “It’s like you attract all the crazies.”

“I don’t think trying to follow her husband’s last wishes is a sign of insanity, Ray.”

“Of course you don’t,” Ray replied, rolling his eyes. “So since I’m sure this isn’t your usual beat, you want to tell me how the hell you found me?”

“You left a folded newspaper on the counter at the apartment,” Fraser answered, ignoring Ray’s frown at his words. “Once I saw the name, it was easy enough to ascertain where’d you’d be.”

Ray gave him a shocked look as what Fraser said sunk in. “You broke into my apartment?”

Fraser stiffened at that. “Of course not. I have a key. And I only used it because there was a chance you were injured or perhaps kidnapped.” He pulled at his collar, not meeting Ray’s eyes. “I can give it back.”

“Yes you can,” Ray agreed firmly, then his voice softened. “You really thought someone had snatched me?”

“It was a possibility.”

Ray looked like he was going to say something, but he visibly stopped himself, his eyes going cold. “Well, this isn’t a party – you aren’t welcome here.” His tone was final; Fraser ignored it, same as he had the frown.

“I’m sure I’m not, but here I am anyway. You’re needed at the station. Lieutenant Welsh has tried to contact you several times.” He blinked, remembering, and pulled Ray’s phone out of his belt pouch. “You left this on the counter,” he said, holding it out for Ray to take.

“I know that,” Ray replied, rolling his eyes as he took the phone from Fraser. He scowled at it and turned it off. “I am choosing to ignore him. They can get by without me for a day.” He waved a hand dismissively, and Fraser almost had to grit his teeth to get the next words out in a civil fashion.

“As a matter of fact, they can’t. Not today. Internal Affairs is there investigating an old case, and they want to see you.”

“You mean they want to see ,” Ray corrected.

“And as that is currently who you are, they need to see you,” Fraser countered.

Ray rolled his eyes. “Give me a break. Isn’t IA going to pick up on the fact that I’m not the guy they really want?”

“It doesn’t matter. They have to go along with the ruse, or risk exposing Ray and jeopardizing not only his life, but the case the FBI is building.”

“And not even IA’s ballsy enough to try that,” Ray finished with a shake of his head. “So why come after Kowalski now at all?”

“I don’t know,” Fraser answered. “It may be that they weren’t informed of the undercover assignment, and once at the station had to follow through to keep up the pretense.”

Ray narrowed his eyes. “You think it’s something else?”

“They could be trying to lay groundwork for when Ray returns,” Fraser answered carefully, rubbing an eyebrow with his thumb. “He isn’t the most careful with what he says, or whom he offends at times. I’ve no doubt he’s ruffled feathers with someone in Internal Affairs at some point.”

“Great,” Ray drawled out, voice heavy with sarcasm. “So what do they supposedly need me for?”

“I don’t know all the details, but apparently they’re having some difficulty reading Ray’s writing in an evidence log.”

Ray barked out a laugh. “No surprise there – have you seen the guy’s chicken scratch? It’s like some crazy combination of doodling, English and Sanskrit.” He gave Fraser a measured look. “So you just need me to go in and cover for Kowalski?”

Fraser felt himself bristle at the words. “Covering implies there’s something that needs to be hidden. I need – that is, Lieutenant Welsh needs you to come in and do your job, to be Ray.”

“But whatever it is IA is trying to pin on him, you don’t think Kowalski did it,” Ray pressed.

“No,” Fraser replied, voice firm with conviction. “I don’t.”

Ray shrugged and turned away. “Well, they want me so bad they can wait a day. I have plans. Which you obviously figured out, seeing as you’re here and all.”

Fraser watched Ray dig through the duffel bag. “I knew you’d be here once I saw the paper, yes. But I’m not at all sure I understand why you would possibly throw away your undercover assignment, risk Ray's life, and perhaps even ruin your career for this.”

Ray stopped and looked straight ahead for a long moment before answering. “A woman died because of Zuko. A woman who was important to me.”

“She was important to him too, Ray,” Fraser responded, then gentled his voice. “Irene was Frank Zuko’s sister after all. And it was an accident.”

Ray turned to look at Fraser. “How the hell do you know about that?”

“I took the liberty of looking at your official file, once I'd ascertained your identity.”

Ray looked at him suspiciously. “You break into my place, you look through my files… you’re not as squeaky clean as you want people to think you are, Fraser.”

“I’ve already stated that I didn’t break into your apartment. And as for the files, I felt there might be information there I would need.”

“You were checking up on me,” Ray stated flatly.

Fraser gave him a knowing look, but his tone remained patient and even. “I'm sure you were briefed on the cases Ray and I worked together before starting this assignment.”

“Fine, we’re even. Whatever.” Ray waved a hand at him dismissively and continued his search. “Then you know why I have to do this.”

Fraser shook his head. “As a matter of fact, I know nothing of the sort. What I know is that it isn't just your life you're risking.”

Ray sighed deeply. “You’re worried. Well, don’t be. Zuko hasn't seen me in years, Fraser. Trust me, I've changed a lot,” he rubbed his head. “If I do go out there to see him, he'll never recognize me.”

“But he'll know who you aren’t,” Fraser replied. “We - Ray Kowalski and I, that is - had occasion to meet Mr. Zuko on a case. He may not realize you're Ray Vecchio, but he'll know in an instant that you aren't Ray Kowalski.”

Ray stood up tiredly. “Is that all that matters to you, Fraser? Keeping Kowalski's cover? Because I don’t have to identify myself at all, you know.”

“Of course not, but it is a paramount concern.” He paused briefly, then decided to try another line of thinking. “And it matters to you as well. You're a fine policeman, Ray.”

Ray gave him a sidelong glance. “You sure about that?”

“I am,” Fraser replied with a nod. “And I know it’s hard, but you can’t blame-“

Ray cut him off with a snarl. “I can blame whoever I want, and you have no right to tell me otherwise, Fraser!” He turned away as he went on. “If Irene hadn’t been so upset that night, she wouldn’t have lost control of the car.” He wiped a hand over his face and gave Fraser a tired look. “How much of this do you know?”

“Just what was in the official files. But I’d like to hear more, if you want to tell me.”

***********

Ray moved to the steps and sat down, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. “It goes back farther than the accident,” he started. “Hell, it’s pretty much the biggest story of my life.” Fraser just waited patiently, and when Ray realized that, he shrugged and went on. “Pop, he wanted me to make something of myself, you know?”

Fraser nodded. “It’s an admirable goal.”

Ray snorted. “Maybe for most kids, but not if they had my Pop. His idea of successful was for me to get in with the Zuko family.” He saw Fraser’s eyes widen slightly, and nodded. “Yeah, that’s the kind of a guy my dad was.” He sighed and looked down. “And I did. Work for them, I mean. Started when I was a kid, delivering messages, maybe a package or two. Nothing big, and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I don’t know if it would have mattered. Because all of a sudden, Pop was proud of me, telling me what a good kid I was, talking me up to his friends.” He shook his head. “I was a big name at the pool hall. But he finally cared, and I ate it up.”

He was quiet for a minute, grateful that Fraser didn’t ask anything, just let him be. “So, anyhow, the only downside that I saw at first was that it was the Zukos I was helping out.”

“You didn’t like them?”

“I didn’t like Frankie,” he clarified. “Never have, never will. Guy was a punk and a bully when he was six, and I haven’t seen anything to make me think he’s ever gonna change.” He shrugged. “So I did the jobs, but stayed away from Frankie and his gang. For awhile, it was pretty easy. I think Frank’s dad told him to leave me and mine alone, so he did. Which just made the job seem even better, especially when Frannie started growing up, getting noticed by boys.”

“May I ask what changed?”

“Irene.” Ray lost focus for a minute, remembering, then shook himself. “Irene Zuko, Frankie’s little sister. She’d been away at some boarding school, and to be honest even if she hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have paid her any attention. I had enough girl stuff in my own house to want to talk to Frankie Zuko’s kid sister. But then one summer she comes home and bam! That’s it.”

He smiled softly and looked at Fraser. “I’m telling you, Benny, first time I saw her, really saw her, I was sure I was looking at an angel. Didn’t even know who she was, just knew I wanted to be with her. And the real kicker was she wanted to be with me, too. And I didn’t even care who her family was, didn’t make any difference to me once I found out.”

He blew out a long breath. “God, I loved her like crazy. Anyhow, the real irony of all this is that Irene’s the reason I became a cop. She made me want to be a better person. And I knew that there was no way I could stay with the Zuko family, do their dirty work, and still face her. I’m not sure she really knew what all was going on – it was like none of it could touch her. So I quit. For her, and for Ma – she worried more and more. Plus, once Pop died, a big part of why I was even doing it died too, I guess.” He looked at Fraser. “She made me want to be a better man. You ever feel like that about anybody?”

“I’ve wanted to change for someone, yes,” Fraser answered hesitantly. Ray filed that away for later. “Okay then, so you know. Anyhow, I quit doing odd jobs for the Zukos, and really started paying attention at school. Almost too little too late, but I figured I’d have a better chance of college, and making detective, if I showed I was serious. And I was.”

He smiled, thinking back on that simpler time. “Irene, sometimes she’d help me study, even if it meant chancing missing curfew. She was something else.” He let himself get lost for a moment, then shook himself and went on.

“So I graduated, and told my folks I wanted to go to the Academy, and try to take night classes on the side. Figured I could get the jump on things, start my beat work early. Irene’s dad, he had no trouble with the idea. I’m pretty sure he figured it was an easy way to get a cop on the payroll, cheap. Hell, he may have even greased the wheels, got my application approved – I don’t know. I never asked.”

“I’m sure you would have gotten in on your own merit, Ray.”

He shrugged. “Maybe. Anyhow, it didn’t matter, because he was wrong. About me, I mean. I didn’t want to give him an in – I wanted to get out and take Irene with me. And Frankie – he could see it in my eyes, knew exactly what I was planning. So he tried to convince his dad I was no good, to keep me and Irene apart.”

Ray looked down at his hands, twisting his fingers together slowly, trying to keep his cool. It was still hard to do, even after all these years. Especially today. Fraser stayed silent, his presence decidedly non-judgmental for once, and it was because of that that Ray went on with his story.

“So, what happened next was no big surprise. Frank was pressuring Irene to leave me, and trying to get anyone and everyone he knew on his side to convince her. He bad-mouthed me to anyone who’d listen. And I was fighting just as hard to keep us together. Which left Irene caught in the middle.” He stared at the wall in front of him for a minute before going on.

“That night… well, that night we fought. It was nothing huge, not a blow-out or anything. Just more of the same, but everything was really getting to her, and I just didn’t see how bad she felt. If I had, maybe… Anyhow, we argued, she left.” He sighed heavily. “It was the last time I ever saw her.”

Ray rubbed a hand over his mouth as he went on. “After she died, I just kind of stopped caring. I kept going to school, for awhile at least. And to work, mostly to keep my mind off things, and to be honest, putting away guys that worked for the Zukos, or somebody like them, made it hurt a little less. But not enough, and I started getting sloppy.”

He looked up at Fraser, but again, found no judgment on the man’s face. “I was just so damn angry, y’know? At Frank, at me, at the entire world sometimes, for being like it was. So I was taking it out on whoever was closest, usually perps. I know I wasn’t making any friends at the station either, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.”

He gave Fraser a wry grin. “It was Ma that finally called me on it. Man, she’s a little thing, but you do not want to cross that woman, believe you me. I was scaring the hell out of her, acting like I was, and one day she finally had enough, and thank God she did. She let me know in no uncertain terms, using a couple of words I didn’t even know she knew, that I had to stop acting like I was. If she hadn’t, well I know I wouldn’t still be a cop, I was screwing up that bad. She snapped me out of my funk enough to see how low I’d gotten. So we decided maybe what we all needed was a new start. A change of scenery. She talked to her brother in Florida, got everything squared away with him while I looked into transferring. Not surprisingly, my Lieu was all for it. Ma made out to everyone that the move wasn’t about me, that my uncle needed family around him, and everybody pretended to believe it.”

Ray leaned back and closed his eyes. It felt kind of good to have told the story, which kind of surprised him. “So now you know that I’m maybe not the guy you thought I was. Or maybe you already knew that stuff too. Whatever. But you also know that today’s the anniversary of Irene’s death, and that matters more to me than the job.”

He looked down at his hands, lost in memory, and waited for Fraser to say something. Fraser, of course, didn’t let him down.

“Why are you here today?” Ray’s head snapped up at that to face Fraser, who held up a hand, stopping Ray ‘s angry retort. Hadn’t the guy heard anything he’d said? “What I mean is, what do you hope to accomplish? I understand the importance of the date, but your purpose in being here just isn’t clear to me.”

Ray blew out an angry breath and calmed himself; the question actually was a fair one, he supposed. “Honestly? I don’t know. To watch the show, the crocodile tears Frankie will have, maybe. To confront the bastard, say all the things I always wanted to. Or maybe I just want to pay my respects when there’s nobody else around.” He shrugged. “Haven’t really decided yet.”

“You don’t believe he truly mourns the loss of his sister?”

“If he really loved her, he’d have let her do what she wanted to do, let her be happy.”

Ray watched Fraser consider that for a minute, then he nodded to himself and sat next to Ray.

“I have something for you,” Fraser said, and pulled a loosely wrapped package out of his belt pouch.

Ray looked down at the package, confused. “What’s this?”

“It’s a, well, it’s a birthday gift, of sorts.”

Ray frowned but went ahead and removed the paper. Holding up the item, he shot Fraser a puzzled look. “And I say again, what is this?”

“It’s a dreamcatcher,” Fraser explained. “When hung in your bedroom, it’s supposed to catch the nightmares before they reach you, letting only the good dreams filter through.”

Ray turned it over in his hands. “And you bought this for me?”

Fraser shook his head. “I didn’t buy it. I made it.”

“You made this,” Ray repeated, letting his fingers trail over the string webs within the circle, then down the long feather hanging from the bottom. He may never have seen one of these things before, but he could tell it wasn’t something you could just throw together. His eyes narrowed. “You made it for Kowalski, not me. What, he have a lot of bad dreams or something? You think he and I have that in common?”

If his tone offended Fraser, as usual he wasn’t letting it show. “I think everyone is haunted by something, Ray,” was all he said.

“That’s the truth,” Ray replied with a sigh, looking at the dreamcatcher again. Okay, so he made it for Kowalski, but he’d given it to Ray. That had to mean something, right? Ray stood up and grabbed his duffel bag. “Alright, you have me convinced. Let’s go.”

Fraser gave him a startled look. “Are you sure?”

Ray nodded decisively. “Yeah. If I really want to honor Irene’s memory, I need to respect what she wanted. And it wasn’t this. I can come back later, do this right. Like you said, they need me to be Kowalski, so that’s what I’m gonna do. So come on, Benny, let’s get out of here.”

Fraser frowned, the look so fleeting Ray almost missed it. “What?”

Fraser looked at him, confused. “I beg your pardon?”

“That look you just gave me,” Ray answered, waving a hand in Fraser’s direction as Ray started leading them toward where he’d parked. “The one like I just insulted the Queen or something. What’s that all about? You can’t be mad we’re leaving?”

“No, of course not.” Fraser hesitated, then apparently decided it would be best to just answer the question. “Ray, Ray Kowalski that is, never called me Benny.”

“What did he call you? Benton? Ben? Please tell me he didn’t call you Constable like Welsh does.”

“No, he was never that formal. Typically he called me Fraser.”

“I call you that sometimes. So just look at Benny as me adding something to the mix. I like it.”

“Be that as it may, if you’re wanting to be more like Ray-“

“Maybe I’m not – did you ever think of that?”

“No,” Fraser answered matter-of-factly. “I suppose that because, at the moment, it’s your job to be him. I thought we established that.”

“Yeah, but you know and I know that I’m no carbon copy of the guy.” Ray sighed as he unlocked the passenger door to let Fraser in. “Listen, are you going to call me Kowalski?”

“Certainly not.”

“Then I’m not calling you Fraser. Most of the time, anyhow.” He opened the trunk and tossed the duffel in. “End of discussion.”

***********

Once at the station, derailing IA’s investigation had turned out to be surprisingly easy. Of course, it helped that they seemed to have no idea that Ray wasn’t the Ray they were looking for. Ray and Fraser watched the men pack up their things and exchanged satisfied looks.

Fraser nodded toward the IA officials as they left. “Thank you, Ray. I’m not sure exactly what they hoped to do in there, but you stopped them very nicely.”

“Yeah, well, long as you’re sure they weren’t after anything legit,” he held up his hands to stop Fraser’s protests, “and you already said you were, so don’t start again. I’m just saying, it’s the least I could do, especially considering I have no desire to spend my time doing time for something neither of us did.”

“True. I just wanted to thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Benny.”

The hint of a smile played at the corners of Fraser’s mouth, and Ray couldn’t stop himself from grinning in response. Looked like the name was gonna stick.

***********

At the station the next afternoon, Ray stood back and took everything in. The party Fraser had arranged was like nothing he’d ever seen, and he found himself a little in awe of the guy’s powers of persuasion. A splash made him turn just in time to see Lt. Welsh bobbing for – was that a fish? Yeah, more than a little in awe.

He supposed the idea made sense – throw a party for Kowalski, and people would think he was still there. But considering that everyone in the room knew for a fact that he wasn’t Kowalski, Ray had to wonder just why Fraser had wanted this so bad. If he didn’t know better, he’d think maybe Fraser was getting a weird kind of payback for nobody letting him know about the switch-up when it happened.

Frannie walked over to stand next to him. “Hey, you should go out, be part of this,” she said, nudging him with her hip as she leaned against the wall next to him. “This is for you, after all.”

Ray sighed his response. “Yeah, I know. It’s just, all this crazy stuff,” he waved his arm to indicate the room, “it makes me wonder if Fraser’s even for real, you know?”

“Of course he’s for real,” Frannie replied with a frown. “Fraser’s the most honest guy I know.”

“And this doesn’t seem over the top or anything?”

She looked around and shrugged. “Maybe. But hey, I’ve never been to Canada. Maybe all their parties are like this.”

Ray sincerely doubted that. But before he could say so, Frannie gave him a shove. “I’m serious. Go talk to people. Have fun.” She gave him a wink. “It’s your birthday.”

“Okay, okay,” he held up his hands in surrender, and started over to the refreshment table, hoping that at least the food would be recognizable.

“Nice work with IA, Ray,” Dewey said as Ray was walking past him and his partner Jack.

He stopped and shrugged. “Just doing my part.”

Jack huffed out something under his breath that Ray didn’t catch, but the tone was less than pleasant. “I’m going to get some cake,” he said to Dewey, barely nodding at Ray as he left.

“What’s with him?” Ray asked, thumbing in Jack’s direction. “He’s acting like I ran over his dog.”

Dewey shook his head. “Don’t mind him. He just doesn’t like guys who come in to replace other guys, no matter what the reason. It isn’t personal.”

“Sure as hell feels personal.”

“Tell me about it. But he just needs time to get used to you. Trust me.”

“He can take all the time he wants. I’m not here to be his friend. I’m here to do a job.” He shot Dewey a look. “So Huey’s still not liking you as a partner?”

“He’s okay,” Dewey shrugged. “It’s not like he brings up Gardino all the time or anything. Hell, based on what I’ve read and heard I don’t know if they were all that great as partners. But I still get the feeling that as far as Huey’s concerned, I’m lacking something.”

Ray nodded at that. “I know the feeling. Hey, you ready to blow this joint? I haven’t had a decent meal all day.” He shot a dubious look towards the refreshments. “And I have serious doubts about the edibility of whatever’s over there.”

Dewey barked out a laugh at that. “Yeah, it didn’t look like a normal birthday spread. So, you really want to blow off your own party?”

Ray refrained from rolling his eyes. “You and I both know this isn’t really about me,” he replied. “So, dinner?”

Ray could see surprise, wariness, and finally something that looked like cautious hope flit across Dewey’s face before he gave a hesitant nod. “Sure. I know the best Italian place in town. Interested?”

Ray laughed. “Italian, huh? You’re setting your sights pretty big, thinking you can find something that beats my ma’s cooking.”

“You mean your Polish mom, all bigos and kielbasas?”

Ray slung an arm over Dewey’s shoulder and grinned. “That’s the one. Lead on.”

 

Episode 3.4: Strange Bedfellows

“Hey, Benny,” Ray called out as Fraser and Diefenbaker entered the bullpen. “Perfect timing – I have some paperwork I need your help with. And before you start with the I’m sure when they said we should liaison it wasn’t to fill out forms because I do those all the time for Canada speech, this is older case stuff Welsh gave me. And since it’s in Kowalski’s chicken scratch, it’s pretty much illegible. I am hoping you can translate it into English better than I can, or else I may never get a new case again.”

Fraser just nodded. “Of course, Ray. As it happens, I’d rather not be at the Consulate today, so this is fine.”

“What, Thatcher giving you a hard time again? Or is Turnbull on another cooking tear?”

Fraser gave Ray a look he couldn’t interpret and pulled at his collar as he answered. “No, it’s just, well there’s some construction going on nearby that’s quite distracting. At least I found it to be.”

“Only you would find the noise of this place better than hammering, Fraser,” Ray said, handing him a file.

“You’re sure that there aren’t any active cases we need to be working on?”

“Not today, buddy. Like I said, Welsh has me deskbound until this is cleared up, which means we’re both stuck here. Personally, I think he’s trying to avoid any more IA hassles, which is fine by me.” Ray stood and clapped his hands together. “I was just about to get a coffee – you want a water or anything from the break room?”

“No, Ray, thank you kindly,” Fraser answered, giving Ray an odd look.

Ray stopped short. He hadn’t spilled anything on himself, had he? He did a quick check and nope, that wasn’t it. “What?” he asked, holding out his arms. “You don’t like the shirt, is that it?”

Fraser fiddled with his collar. “It certainly is colorful.”

Ray smoothed over the front of his shirt. Yeah, it was kind of bright, but he had others that made this one look washed out. Still, it probably was the least subdued thing he’d worn around Fraser. “Yeah, my uncle down in Florida knows a guy – got a sweet deal on it.”

“Yes, well it’s just… if you’re really wanting to emulate Ray’s sense of style-”

“He has one?” Ray shot off.

“As I was saying,” Fraser went on, “if you’re wanting to dress like Ray, you need to know that he would never wear anything so bright. I believe he once stated that wearing flashy colors made him feel like a walking target.”

“And yet he was partnered with you,” Ray deadpanned, shaking his head. “Well I’m not doing the ratty t-shirts and jeans thing. If this isn’t a reasonable substitute, then maybe I’ll just have to start changing Kowalski’s style. Give him a little more class.” As Fraser gave him a dubious once-over, Ray glared and added, “I’ll have you know these shirts are the height of fashion in Florida right now.”

“Yes, well, considering the average age of the population there and all the factors that come with advanced age, I have no doubt you are correct.”

“Excuse me, did I just hear you insult my shirt?” Ray asked, eyes narrowed.

“Of course not,” Fraser replied, all innocence.

“I better not have, “Ray huffed. “Like you’re one to talk about loud colors anyhow.”

“If you’re referring to my uniform, it isn’t as if I had a choice.”

“Really? They only do the uniforms in red in the RCMP?”

Fraser tugged at his collar. “Well, technically not, but this is the compromise Inspector Thatcher and I have come to in regards to dress code.”

“Okay then. Mounties in glass houses do not get to throw stones. Or question my fashion sense. I’ll be back in a few.” He glared at Diefenbaker when he tried to follow. “No. You stay with Fraser. You’re banned from the break room, remember?”

Dief lowered his ears, his tail drooping noticeably, but Ray kept the stern look on his face, and finally the half-wolf seemed to get the idea, turning to rejoin Fraser.

Ray shook his head as he started walking again. “Now he’s got me talking to the mutt…” he muttered.

***********

A couple of hours later, they were farther along than Ray had expected. Fraser was pretty adept at reading Kowalski’s handwriting, or maybe he was just remembering the case himself. Ray didn’t care, as long as the work got done and Welsh got off his ass about it.

Ray was shuffling through the stack of files when movement at the edge of his peripheral vision caught his attention. He looked up and stopped, caught by the sight of a beautiful woman entering the bullpen. Ray frowned; something about her was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. He thought hard, then came up with it.

“Hey, isn’t that my ex?” Ray asked, nudging Fraser with an elbow. “The pictures in the file did not do her justice.”

Fraser looked over at her and Ray saw something flicker across his face, almost a look of distaste, before it settled into what he was starting to think of as Fraser’s Mountie Mask. He wondered what she could’ve done to get that kind of reaction – nothing he’d read covered it. She made Fraser nervous too – he was already rubbing an eyebrow.

“Ray,” he said, leaning in to speak softly, “perhaps you could go ahead to Interrogation Room One, and ASA Kowalski and I could meet you there.” He gave Ray a look, and understanding dawned.

“Right, it’d be weird to meet someone I’m supposed to have been married to. Good thinking, Benny.”

A few minutes later the interrogation room door opened.

“So what’s with the cloak and dagger, Constable,” ASA Kowalski was saying. “It isn’t your style at all. And I’ve got a court appearance I don’t want to be late for, so this had better be quick.”

Fraser closed the door behind him before answering. “I simply thought you’d prefer a private setting to meet the man protecting your ex-husband, rather than doing so in front of a room full of witnesses. Assistant States Attorney Stella Kowalski, this is Ray. Ray Vecchio, that is, though for now of course he’s Ray Kowalski.”

Stella’s eyebrows raised in disbelief. “You’re supposed to be my ex-husband? And people believe this?”

Ray smiled at her charmingly. “Hey, it’s all in the attitude.”

“It certainly can’t be anything else – you two are nothing alike.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked him over critically. “You definitely have a different sense of style. Where’d they find you?”

“Florida. But I’m from here originally.”

“They brought in someone from that far away and still didn’t come closer to getting somebody that at least looked like Ray? That’s just crazy. And dangerous.” She glared at Fraser. “What were you people thinking?”

“They didn’t ask me,” Fraser replied, and Ray tried not to flinch at his tone. But he must’ve moved or something, because Fraser sent him an apologetic glance before going on. “But having worked with Ray - this Ray - I believe that he’ll do his level best to keep up the pretense, despite the obvious physical differences.”

“And you think that will be good enough?” she challenged.

He nodded, and Stella sighed, then turned back to face Ray. “Okay, so we’ve met. I don’t know how you think anyone is going to believe any of this, but I’ll play along.” She gave him a hard look. “Just remember, we’re supposed to be divorced. Constable,” she nodded, then left the room.

Ray turned to Fraser with a grin. “That is one hell of a woman, Benny.” He looked down at himself and frowned. “And I’m thinking maybe you’re right - a wardrobe change is in order.”

Fraser cocked an eyebrow at that. “Really?”

“Hey, I’m in Chicago again – I need to dress the part, right?” He could see by the look on Fraser’s face that he wasn’t buying the reason, but didn’t really care.

“Ah.”

“What is it with you and the ahs? Did Kowalski find that as completely annoying as I do?”

Fraser gave that some thought, then nodded. “Yes, I believe he did.”

“Great,” Ray responded with a grimace. “I find something we actually have something in common, and it’s that you make us both crazy?”

“Apparently.”

Ray threw his arms up in disgust. “This is my life.”

***********

Fraser left to take Dief outside, and Ray thought a break sounded like a perfect idea. Seeing his sister hard at work, he decided to go bug her for a few minutes to pass the time.

“Hey, Frannie,” Ray said as he leaned against the edge of her desk. “How’s the Civilian Aide thing treating you today?”

“Fine,” she replied, shoving him aside to pull a folder out from under where he’d parked himself. “Busy. What about you? Is it so quiet you have nothing better to do than socialize?”

“Jeez, forgive me for wanting to say hello to my sister,” Ray answered, leaning in to hiss out the last words. “This is the least suspicious place we can talk, you know.”

Frannie’s expression softened and she gave him a real smile. “Sorry. It’s just been a real busy day, y’know? I have no idea how Elaine didn’t end up killing somebody here. Nobody has any respect for what this job’s about.”

“We respect it, we just don’t have time to take care of stuff,” Ray replied easily.

“You look like you have time now. Want to help me file?”

Ray held his hands up. “Not a chance. I’m sure there’s a case out there somewhere to save me from filing.” But he grabbed the stack from his sister when she stood, and followed her to the filing room.

She smiled her thanks as she started putting them away. “So, you and Fraser getting along okay?”

He shrugged. “I guess. Not like we’re best buddies like he and Kowalski were, but I’ve had worse partners.” He’d tried to keep from sounding bitter, but the look Frannie gave him let Ray know he hadn’t succeeded.

“Be nice, Ray. He didn’t even get to say good-bye – of course it’s going to take him some time to get used to working with somebody else. It’s a normal reaction.”

“Maybe,” Ray conceded. “But normal’s the last word I’d use to describe Benton Fraser.”

“Why? I mean, I know he does stuff differently, all Canadian and polite, which I’m sure seems unnatural to you. But he’s a regular guy too, you know.”

“He’s living in his office” Ray countered. “That seem like a regular guy thing to you?”

“It’s just temporary though, right?” Frannie asked, eyes wide. “Until he finds a new place?”

“I don’t think so, Frannie. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s acting like he just got dumped.” He leaned in close and lowered his voice. “Just how close were he and Kowalski? There something you maybe didn’t tell me about?”

Frannie gaped at him. “They were friends, Ray. And yeah, they spent a lot of time together, but that was it.”

“You sure about that?” he asked, eyebrows raised. “Or is that your crush talking?”

Frannie smacked his arm. “I told you, that crush thing was over a long time ago. So shut up about it, especially here, okay?”

“Okay, okay,” Ray answered, rubbing his arm. “When’d you learn to hit that hard?”

“You just got soft, working on your tan down in Florida,” she teased, but he could see a hint of satisfaction on her face. She really was trying to get in shape, he knew. It looked like she was taking the whole becoming a cop idea more seriously than he’d figured she would. Ray didn’t envy the call she’d have to make to tell Ma. He winced inwardly – the one he’d get from their mother right after wasn’t going to be much fun either.

Ray set the files on top of the nearest cabinet. “Okay, you start insulting me, I think maybe you can finish these on your own. I need to get back to my desk anyhow.” He ruffled her hair and jumped back before she could hit him again, grinning as he left the file room.

***********

Ray met Fraser in the hallway, Dief slinking alongside him. “What’s with the wolf?”

“He’s just trying to make me feel guilty, Ray. Ignore him.”

“Guilty? For what?”

“For not letting him accost total strangers for food. He’s had his kibble, and I know for a fact that he’s snuck off with at least one donut since we got here, despite being banned from the break room.” Dief sneezed and Fraser rolled his eyes. “If the powdered sugar on your whiskers wasn’t enough proof, the drop of jelly on your paw is enough to convince any jury.”

Ray chuckled at the exchange. “And after that he thought he’d scam somebody outside out of their lunch?”

“More like begging the hot dog vendor, but yes, that’s essentially it.” He glared at Dief. “It’s ridiculous and unbefitting conduct, as is your sulking.”

Dief situated himself under Ray’s desk, his back to them both, and Fraser sighed. “You can pretend you don’t hear me all you want, but I see your ears twitch when someone opens a candy wrapper, so don’t think I’m fooled.” Fraser turned his attention to Ray, face contrite. “I’m sorry about that. These last few days he’s been insufferable. What would you like to work on next?”

“Honestly? Dief has the right idea - lunch. And not here, or hot dogs, even though that’s what got me thinking about food. You hungry?”

“I suppose so.” He crouched down. “But you’re staying here,” he said to Dief, who whined in response.

Ray shook his head at the exchange. “Okay, then. We’ll go out, get a bite, clear our heads and be ready to tackle more of this pile when we get back.” He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair, and the two headed out.

***********

“Now that was what I call a good idea, Benny. It’s a beautiful day, we get out, get some air, some food, relax a little. And you know that waitress was totally flirting with you,” he said with a wink.

“I hadn’t noticed,” Fraser replied as they walked toward the car.

“How could you miss it? She wrote her phone number on the bill.”

“She seemed perfectly nice, but I’m not interested.”

“Not your type, huh? So what, you prefer somebody who can track a moose?”

“Don’t be silly, Ray. Moose are ridiculously easy to track.” He looked up at the sky as they reached the car. “The term lunch hour is one we’ve definitely taken some liberties with today. I hope Lt. Welsh agrees that our extended break was worth it.”

“Welsh won’t care. And I don’t know why you do either – it isn’t like he’s your real boss.”

“When I am acting in my capacity as Liaison, he most definitely is my superior officer.”

“Just blame me if he gets mad, then,” Ray shrugged.

“All right.”

Ray stopped in his tracks. “Wait, you’d really do that?”

“Well, this was your idea. And you did drive us all the way out here.”

“Yeah, but isn’t it against the Mountie Code or something to make somebody else the fall guy?” He shook his head. “I bet you wouldn’t make Kowalski take the heat.”

Fraser started to reply, then he looked past Ray and stiffened. “Gun.”

“What?”

“There’s a man with a gun. Come on!”

Fraser moved and Ray followed, pulling his gun out as he ran. They were able to scare off the gunman, who escaped. And both Fraser and Ray were shocked to see that one of the intended victims was Stella Kowalski. She was equally surprised to see them.

“Are you following me?” she asked, glaring at Fraser.

“Of course not. Our appearance here was completely a fortuitous circumstance.”

Stella frowned and looked like she was about to argue the point when the man with her put a hand on her arm. “Stella, they saved our lives. Why are you upset with them?”

Ray jumped in. “She’s just surprised because she knows us, Mr…”

“Frank Orsini. Alderman Frank Orsini,” the man clarified.

“Alderman Orsini, right. I’m Ray Kowalski. Detective Ray Kowalski. This is my partner, Constable Benton Fraser.”

Orsini’s eyes widened. “Kowalski? You’re Stella’s ex-husband.”

“The one and only.”

“Well, whoever you are, thank you. Like I said, you saved our lives.”

“Just doing our jobs.” Ray heard sirens. “And it sounds like company’s on the way to take your statements.”

***********

Filling in the officers who arrived took more time than Fraser had expected, in part because Detective Dewey seemed to have trouble believing Fraser could remember events with such detail and accuracy. Frustratingly, Ray had a similar reaction. It made for a somewhat tense ride back to the station.

***********

Fraser reached for the next file in the stack and suppressed a sigh. It shouldn’t bother him that Ray had doubts about his detective skills – after all, they hadn’t been partners all that long. Ray Kowalski had had a similar reaction when they first started working together. Still, he’d hoped that his record here would have negated that doubt with this new Ray. That it hadn’t stung.

They hadn’t been working long when Lt. Welsh entered the bullpen and called them into his office. “Gentlemen,” he said as they entered, “just who I was looking for.”

Following closely behind him was Stella Kowalski. Fraser was wholly unsurprised to see her frowning at him, and to a lesser extent, at Ray.

“Three times in one day – lucky me. Is there something the State’s Attorney’s office needs?” Ray asked smoothly as he closed the door behind them. “I’d be happy to assist in any way I can.”

Fraser barely kept from rolling his eyes at that; ASA Kowalski had no such need for restraint. She waved an arm in their direction as she faced Lt. Welsh. “Are you sure this is going to work?” The derision in her tone was unmistakable.

“The Alderman asked for the best; that’s what he’ll get,” he replied, taking her upset in stride as he faced Fraser and Ray. “It seems that little shootout you stopped wasn’t an isolated incident. Alderman Orsini has been getting death threats, and we’ve been asked to help with his protection. You two are officially his bodyguards until further notice. And Constable, before you ask, yes, I’ve already cleared the assignment with Inspector Thatcher.”

Fraser nodded. “Of course, sir. Do we have any leads as to who might be making the threats?”

The lieutenant glanced at ASA Kowalski, who sighed and nodded. “Nothing definite, but he’s been a big part of the Manor Point Project, and some people aren’t very happy about it.”

“That would be the new development project that will leave a great many people without homes, correct?” Fraser asked.

“It’s a renovation project for an area the desperately needs it,” she replied defensively.

“It all depends on who you’re talking to, I suppose,” Fraser replied blandly.

“Will your dislike of the Alderman make working with him too difficult, Constable?” ASA Kowalski challenged.

“Of course not. That would be unprofessional. I don’t know the Alderman well enough to like or dislike him, and I certainly wouldn’t judge him solely on what he supports politically.”

“Hey, maybe he can tell us why this is such a good deal,” Ray interjected, earning a glare from both Stella and Fraser.

Stella shook her head. “You don’t need to be bothering him, either of you. Frank’s a very busy man.”

Fraser didn’t miss the use of Orsini’s first name. Neither did Ray, who shot him a knowing look, but refrained from commenting.

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep him safe. We’re the best, remember?” Ray said, a hint of challenge in his voice.

ASA Kowalski gave them both a hard look before turning to Lt. Welsh. “Just see that you do,” she said, then left.

“You heard the lady,” Welsh said, and handed Ray a slip of paper with an address on it. “Here’s where Orsini is supposed to be tomorrow afternoon. It’s a public appearance, speech he’s giving. You two will meet him in the morning and go from there.”

“Can I just ask why the good Alderman wasn’t here too, sir?” Ray wondered as he put the address in his pocket. “Or why he won’t need us tonight? If he was so worried about being guarded, shouldn’t he have come along?”

“Ours is not to reason why, Detective,” he answered, looking pointedly at the door.

***********

Ray nudged Fraser with his shoulder as they left Welsh’s office. “So, Stella and the Alderman. You think it’s serious?”

“I think it’s none of our business,” Fraser replied.

“Of course it is. If we’re going to protect him, we need to know who he comes in contact with, what their angle is, if they’re suspicious. Not that I think she is, but she’s gotta be on our list, especially if she spends a lot of time with the guy.”

When Fraser just nodded absently at that, Ray knew he wasn’t really listening. Didn’t matter; it sounded like the two of them would have plenty of time to talk while they were guarding Orsini.

“Okay, so we should do some research before we meet with the guy tomorrow, seeing how my ex-wife wasn’t very forthcoming.” He sat at his desk and started typing. “Let’s see what we can find.”

They found plenty to interest them, including the name of the development project Orsini was currently backing, as well as the name of its most vocal opponent. Satisfied that they had a good course to follow the next day, Ray shut down his computer and offered Fraser a ride back to the Consulate. When Fraser didn’t even fight him on it, Ray figured it was time to see what was bugging his partner.

He waited until they were in the car to ask about it. “What’s been going on with you today?”

“What do you mean, Ray?”

“I don’t know, it’s like you’ve been weirder than normal or something.”

Fraser glared at that. “Thank you for your opinion on my behavior. It’s good to know you find me less than normal on a regular basis.”

Ray rolled his eyes. “You know what I meant. What’s got you so touchy?” He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers and pointed at Fraser. “This is the week the shrink is at the Consulate, isn’t it?” When Fraser didn’t answer, Ray nodded and went on. “What, are you nervous about it? Are they gonna think being polite and helping old ladies cross the street and helping save the citizens of Chicago makes you a nutcase? Come on, Fraser! Yeah, you have your quirks, believe you me, but if nothing else, look what else they have to work with. I mean, Turnbull works there too, for crying out loud. The guy’s gonna take one look at him and decide that you talking to wolves is way less interesting than anything Renfield Turnbull could come up with.”

“That’s not very charitable, Ray,” Fraser said, but the words had less impact than they should, since Ray could see the barest hint of a smile on Fraser’s face.

“Maybe not, but it’s the truth.” Ray clapped Fraser on the shoulder. “Hey, how about I help you out?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I could help you practice, so you don’t have to worry. You know, I could throw words out, you say whatever comes to mind, that kind of thing. Like I say red, you say blue, you know?”

“Ah. Well, thank you kindly for the offer, Ray, but I’ve already had my evaluation.”

Ray waited, but Fraser didn’t say anything more. “And?” he finally said, flapping one hand at Fraser in a tell me what happened gesture.

“I don’t know. The psychologist wasn’t at all forthcoming. I suppose he wanted to speak to the Inspector first.”

“But you know it went okay, right?”

The look Fraser gave Ray was far from encouraging, but he nodded. “I’m sure things will be fine.”

***********

The next morning they met Orsini and a few of his team, including his assistant, Jerry. They also saw Stella leaving the Alderman’s house, but neither man commented on it. They spent the morning following Orsini and his men from meeting to meeting. Nothing exciting, nothing suspicious, other than the way it felt like Jerry kept trying to ditch them to speak privately with his boss. Something about the situation just didn’t feel right.

“I’m getting tired of this, Fraser,” Ray complained as they had to once again hustle to keep up with the man they were supposedly here to protect. “I mean, I get that they might have something confidential they need to talk about, but why have us here if they’re not going to let us do the job?”

“Ah, well I’m sure that the Alderman appreciates our presence. But you’re correct in thinking that there are things they’re trying to keep from being heard.”

“You think?”

“I know,” Fraser responded. “While I will admit that some of it has been hit and miss, I’ve heard several things this morning that make me think we have some research to do once we’re done with the Alderman for the day.”

“Seriously?” Ray asked, surprised. “Even with them so far away?”

“My hearing is excellent, Ray,” Fraser reminded him. “Sharper than they realize. Nothing I’ve heard is admissible, of course, but I see nothing wrong with it being a springboard for a more in-depth investigation.”

Ray smiled for the first time that morning. “Fraser, you keep on being our secret weapon. I knew this guy couldn’t be trusted.”

***********

After a lunch meeting, with Fraser and Ray seated several tables away, they went to watch Orsini address concerns about the Manor Point project. There was already a crowd gathered to hear him when they arrived, and Fraser and Ray stayed at the edges to try and get a better look around, see if anyone looked suspicious or familiar.

“Ray,” Fraser leaned in and nodded his head toward a man standing a little away from the rest of the gathering. “Isn’t that Damon Reese?”

Ray glanced over as unobtrusively as he could. “Yeah, I think you’re right. Wonder what kind of trouble he’s gonna stir up today. Word is he’s been the biggest thorn in Orsini’s side this whole time. Let’s go see what he as to say.”

But Reese was just as upset with recent events as Orsini, although for completely different reasons. He was the first to admit that he didn’t like the Alderman, but swore that he’d never do anything to actually harm the man, if for no other reason than it would do nothing good for the group trying to stop the Manor Point project.

“Right now, we’re the underdog,” Reese explained. “But with a little bad publicity we become thugs or worse. Not the image we want, and no way would we jeopardize what we’re trying to do here.”

Fraser believed him, and even though he didn’t want to, so did Ray, which left them back at square one for suspects. After checking back in with Orsini, they found out he was going home, then to a dinner date later that evening. Fraser and Ray made sure he got back to his place safely, then went back to the station to do some research before they had to meet Orsini for his date. Hopefully something Fraser had overheard would pan out.

They looked more closely into Manor Point, and everything Ray read, coupled with what Fraser had overheard, made him sure Orsini was nowhere near the honest politician he portrayed. But of course, that didn’t mean he still didn’t have to do his job and protect the guy. He dropped Fraser at the Consulate and went home to change, disgusted with the way the day had gone.

Ray was glad for the chance to clean up a little before dinner, and took a few extra minutes to make sure he looked his best. He had no doubt that if Frannie could see him she’d tease him mercilessly for ‘dressing to impress’ someone like Stella, especially since she was a) his supposed ex, b) part of his job, and c) involved with someone. But despite all that, he still made the effort, and felt not at all bad about doing so. After once last once-over, he went to pick up Fraser at the Consulate.

Ray just shook his head when he saw Fraser still in his uniform. “You couldn’t put on a suit? You’re gonna stick out like a sore thumb.”

This is formal enough, Ray. Besides, I haven’t had a chance to replace some of the clothing lost in the fire.”

“Have you even tried? I mean, you’re still living in your office, for crying out loud! Don’t you think you should maybe take a couple of days, get your life back in order?”

“My life is fine the way it is, thank you kindly.” Fraser’s tone made it clear that the subject was closed, so Ray decided to let it go. For now, at least.

“Let’s hope your Mountie shrink agrees with that,” Ray muttered. “Come on, we don’t want to be late.”

***********

Orsini and Stella were waiting for their table when Ray and Fraser arrived. “Ah, Detective, Constable. Here to keep us safe even at dinner – your dedication is commendable.” Orsini gave them a slick smile as they shook hands. “I have to say, Detective, you’re not quite what I expected, based on what Stella’s told me about you.”

Ray resisted the urge to wipe his hand on his pants; the guy was as oily a politician as he’d ever want to meet. He just smiled and shrugged. “What can I say? I’ve been undercover a lot – that can change a man.”

Orsini nodded sagely at that, and Ray was hard-pressed not to roll his eyes. “You know, a part of me felt very foolish arranging to have the two of you protecting me, but considering the day I’ve had, I think it was the best idea. Besides, it’s not just me I’m worried about,” Orsini moved closer to Stella, putting an arm around her shoulder in a not-so subtle move that, had she actually been Ray’s ex, would have had him mad in a second. “I have to say I’m impressed, Detective Kowalski. I’m not sure I’d be able to be so objective, if I shared the past the two of you had.”

Ray smiled broadly. “Hey, as far as I‘m concerned, we have a clean slate. It’s like we never met before today.” He saw Stella roll her eyes at the statement and his grin widened.

Ray could see by the look on Orsini’s face that he knew he was missing something, but he had to hand it to the guy – it didn’t make it past a brief frown. “I’ll just go see what’s keeping our table,” he said.

Stella watched him walk off, then looked Ray and Fraser over. “I see one of you at least changed for dinner.”

Ray spread his arms and gave her a nod. “I do know how to dress for the occasion.”

She gave him a small smile. “Yes, you do. Much nicer than that shirt earlier.”

Orsini came and joined them. “Gentlemen, I’ve gotten the two of you a table. Not too close,” he assured Stella, “but we’ll be in plain view. Will that work?”

“That should be fine, Alderman,” Fraser answered.

“Good, good. And order whatever you want. It’s on me – I insist. Least I could do for making you come out here tonight.”

True to his word, the table was near enough that Fraser and Ray could keep an eye on Orsini and Stella somewhat inconspicuously. Ray kept finding his gaze returning to Stella who, despite the romantic atmosphere, did not look to be having the best of times.

“Hey, maybe it’s a good thing Kowalski isn’t here, you know?” Ray said.

“Why is that?”

“Because I don’t care how long it’s been over, it’s never easy seeing your ex with someone new.” Fraser made an odd face at that, but before Ray could follow up their waiter came by to take their orders.

After he left, Ray asked Fraser, “So tell me, how well do you know Stella?”

He watched Fraser carefully consider his answer before speaking. “As ASA Kowalski works closely with the 27th Precinct, I’ve had several occasions to interact with her on a professional level. I’ve found her to be extremely capable and intelligent, and quite good at her job. “

“That’s it?”

“Well, I suppose I also found that she tended to lose objectivity when she worked directly with Ray. She could be uncharitable and at times adversarial. It was more than a little off-putting.”

Which was pretty hard-hitting stuff, considering it was Fraser talking. “So you don’t like her.”

“I didn’t say that, Ray. I don’t know her.”

“And since you were Ray’s partner, you never got the chance. That had to bug you, having somebody actually resistant to your charms,” he ventured.

“On the contrary. It’s refreshing, in a way.”

Not the answer Ray was expecting, but it felt honest. “Only you would like that a woman doesn’t like you, Fraser.” Ray looked over at Orsini’s table again. “I don’t get it. She and that guy, they just don’t fit. And him bringing her here when he knows there’s threats on his life, that just isn’t the way to do things.”

“She knows the risks as well as he does.”

“Maybe. Doesn’t mean she should take them.” He shot a glance at Fraser. “Do you think she’s involved in whatever Orsini’s doing?”

Fraser shook his head. “I doubt that. Her record is impeccable, and she isn’t the type.”

“See, that’s what I thought, too. Again, I don’t see how those two fit. Look, how about I distract her for a few minutes and you see what you can get out of him. He’s not gonna talk to me – I’m supposed to be Stella’s ex, after all. But you, all clean cut and honest and sincere – I bet you can get him to slip up.”

“I can try, though it seems to go beyond our duties.”

“You going to put our duty to one guy, a guy that I really don’t think is honest, above protecting Chicago as a whole?” He stood up, and Fraser joined him.

“Well, when you put it that way, Ray…”

***********

“Is there something you need, Detective, Constable?”

“Just thought I’d see if maybe Stella would like to dance. We used to go out a lot – she’s a terrific dancer.” Ray held out a hand, smiling. “What do you say, Stella? Want to take a spin around the dance floor for old times’ sake?”

Stella shook her head. “I don’t think it would be appropriate, Ray,” she answered with a glare.

Orsini smiled indulgently. “It’s fine with me if you want to.”

That seemed to decide something for her; Stella stood abruptly and took Ray’s hand, smiling tightly. Once they were dancing, she leaned in to whisper angrily at Ray. “What the hell was that?”

Ray let her anger roll off him. “Just keeping up the cover. And hey, if it means I have the prettiest woman here in my arms, that’s just a bonus.”

She glared at him a moment more, then relaxed a little. “You as smooth a dancer as you are a talker?”

Ray’s grin widened. “Try me.”

They danced for a minute, moving smoothly over the floor. Then Stella pulled back enough to look Ray in the eye. “So, would you be this cool and collected if I really was your ex-wife?”

“Sure,” he answered easily. “And yes, I know that because I have an ex, with whom I am still friends. Not like best buddies or anything, but she still comes to Ma’s for dinner twice a month.”

“That sounds entirely too healthy.”

Ray chuckled. “Believe me, it took a little time to get to that point. But the divorce was as much my fault as hers, and we were both willing to own up to that.”

She shook her head and smiled wryly. “Like I said, entirely too healthy. But I envy you that.”

“You and your ex don’t have it so easy?”

She sighed. “Nothing with Ray and I was ever easy. Not that it wasn’t worth it, at least for a while. But things were always complicated between us. The divorce didn’t change that.”

Ray pulled her just the tiniest bit closer to him, and smiled when she didn’t resist. It gave him the gumption to tell her what he’d been thinking since he’d first seen her with Orsini. “You’re going to tell me this is none of my business and you’re probably right, but I’m gonna say it anyhow.”

“What?”

Ray nodded toward the table. “Orsini. He’s not the right guy for you.”

She stiffened in his arms and started to step back. “You’re right – it’s none of your business. You don’t know either of us well enough to say that. Or are you just trying to stay in character, because that’s just the kind of thing Ray would say.”

Ray pulled her closer and turned them, making sure they didn’t get too close to her table. “I know his type. And I may not know a lot about you, but I know it isn’t yours.”

“And what is my type?” she challenged.

“Clean and aboveboard,” he answered. “Which Orsini is not. Fraser overheard him, and he’s going to screw the current residents out of their homes with this Manor Point thing, not keep the promises he’s been making.” She scowled at Ray, but let him go on. “Look, I know I haven’t been back in Chicago long, but I’ve known guys like Orsini my whole life. I’m not saying he’s trying to play you, because for all I know his intentions are completely honorable where you’re concerned. But if he isn’t dirty, I’ll eat my tie. And this is one of my favorites,” he ended with a grin.

Stella didn’t smile, but she didn’t stop dancing either, so Ray counted it as a small victory. Still, he knew it was time to change the subject. “So, how did the court date go?” She blinked in surprise and Ray elaborated. “You told Fraser you had an appearance. Just wondered if it went okay.”

“As well as could be expected, I suppose.”

“What was it? Murder? Robbery?”

“Divorce and spousal abuse.”

It was Ray’s turn to look surprised. “That doesn’t seem like the kind of case your office would normally take, am I right?”

“It isn’t. I’m helping out my friend, Diane Weston, whose soon-to-be ex is nowhere near as emotionally mature as you about divorce. He was controlling and abusive, and I’m pretty sure he still has no idea why she left him.” She frowned. “Dwayne even followed us out of the courthouse, tried to talk her into coming back to him. I thought we were going to have to get a policeman to make him leave. She was pretty shook up after that.”

“Good thing for her she’s got a friend like you to help her out.”

“I suppose. I just wish she would have let me help sooner.” The music ended, and Stella stepped out of Ray’s arms. “Thank you for the dance.”

“Anytime,” Ray answered easily as they walked back to her table. Champagne was being delivered as they arrived, and Ray had to hand it to the guy – he knew how to treat a lady.

Just as the waiter was about to open the bottle, Fraser stopped him, taking it and quickly throwing it overboard. Before anyone could question his behavior, a small explosion rocked the boat. Orsini, though obviously shaken, gave Fraser a look of respect. “That’s twice in as many days. I don’t suppose you’d consider a career change to private security?”

Rather than answering, Fraser turned and dove into the water. Stella and Orsini turned to Ray, who just shrugged. He had no idea why Fraser’d done that, but he was sure there would be a long explanation once he came up for air.

***********

There was; Fraser had wanted to retrieve what he could of the bomb before it got washed away, and as luck would have it, he’d been able to find the detonator. He took it back to the station, and Stella and Orsini gave their statements and looked over mug shots, but didn’t see anyone they recognized. Finally, Stella asked if she could go, and Ray offered to take her, since Lt. Welsh had already sent Orsini home.

“You didn’t have to walk me all the way to my door, you know,” Stella said as she got out her key.

“I kind of think I did.”

Stella gave Ray a stern look. “Listen, the only reason I agreed to this is that you aren’t actually my ex-husband. So don’t lay it on too thick, especially when there’s no one here to see the act.”

“Believe me, my reasons for doing this have nothing to do with pretending,” he replied, more seriously than he’d meant to, and Stella’s gaze locked with his for a long moment. The air got tense, and Ray couldn’t tell for sure if it was a good tension or not, so he grinned and deliberately worked on lightening the mood. “Escorting a beautiful woman to her door safely is one of the perks of being a cop.”

“Is it now? I don’t remember hearing about that particular perk before.” she asked, eyebrow raised and a wry smile playing at her lips. Ray was surprisingly relieved that she’d gone along with the mood shift.

“It’s a lesser known fact, that’s for sure,” he replied with a teasing grin.

“Well, then I guess I don’t need to thank you for making sure I got home. The job is its own reward, right?”

Ooh, she was quick; Ray liked that. “I guess that’s true. Take care of yourself, Stella. And if you need anything, you know where to call.”

“Goodnight, Ray,” was all she said as she opened the door. But she said it with a smile, so Ray was happy with how the evening had ended.

Well, one portion of it, anyhow. Ray was in no way tired, so he decided to see if Fraser wanted to do some more surveillance work, so he stopped by the Consulate. It was locked, of course, but Ray hadn’t grown up in the neighborhood he had without learning a few tricks, and the lock on the door was ridiculously easy to pick.

He was surprised Fraser hadn’t heard him; in fact, he hadn’t even known Ray was in the building, and had nearly jumped out of his long johns in shock when Ray had opened the door. Muttering something about chainsaws, he quickly got dressed, and the two of them went to follow the guy who’d thrown a bottle and him and Reese earlier that day.

Interestingly enough, the man, Joe Mendleson, met with Orsini’s assistant, Jerry. And when Fraser snuck up for a closer look at his car, he told Ray that the tire treads matched the ones he’d found the day someone had tried to shoot Stella and Orsini, right down to a nick in one of the tires.

They waited until Mendleson was alone, then Ray took him in for questioning.

A warrant found the gun used in the shooting, and Ray told the guy he could go down for attempted murder. That was all it took for him to start talking. According to him, the attempted shooting and disturbance at the rally had all been planned by Orsini and his assistant, to help make Orsini more sympathetic, and Reese and his opposition look bad, so that Manor Point would go through without a hitch.

The only thing he didn’t admit to was the bomb at the restaurant, but Ray didn’t think about that too hard. He had enough to get a warrant for Orsini’s arrest, and he was a man on a mission.

***********

Meanwhile, Fraser had stayed with Orsini, making sure to listen in on the man’s conversations as best he could while still trying to protect him. He was glad to see Ray arrive, as the Alderman had been complaining about the lack of a Chicago police presence. He stopped complaining when Ray told him why he was there.

“Fraud, conspiracy, and attempting to blow up a boat, and that’s just for starters,” he said with a grim smile. “Fraser, how about we escort these gentlemen to the station?”

***********

Fraser’s brow furrowed as he watched Orsini and his men being escorted to booking. “There’s something here that doesn’t fit.”

Ray gave him a look of disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me. We have these guys dead to rights. Tell me you don’t want to mess that up.”

“Not at all. I agree that Mr. Orsini and his associates are guilty.”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“I keep thinking about the attempt made on Orsini’s life at the restaurant. It doesn’t make sense.”

Ray gave that some thought. “He did seem pretty shaken up about it.”

“Precisely, and well he should. Had we not been there, he could have been seriously injured or worse.”

Before Ray could respond, Frannie walked up to them, holding out a piece of paper. “Hey, Fraser, here’s that list you wanted. You know, the serial numbers?”

I asked for that list, Frannie,” Ray grumbled, grabbing the list before Fraser could look at it.’’

“Whatever,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “Not like you’d even thank me for getting it. Fraser here’s the only guy at the station who appreciates the work I do.”

“Thank you kindly, Francesca,” Fraser responded automatically, obviously trying to stay out of the argument.

“See?” Frannie said, waving an arm in Fraser’s direction. “You could learn from him.”

Ray ignored her. “Look at this, Fraser. This is what we got back on the detonator from the bomb.”

Fraser looked over the list. “According to this, a prototype was used. That would mean the detonator never left the factory.”

“Meaning it was an inside job,” Ray finished, and glanced over at Frannie, who was still there, watching them. “Don’t you have something to do other than harass those of us actually trying to work? Like maybe get an employee list for the place?”

“Look at the next page, Ray,” she shot back. “Already got it for you.”

“Very good thinking, Francesca. Thank you,” Fraser replied as Ray read over the list.

You are very welcome,” she replied. When Ray continued to ignore her, she stomped off, muttering.

“So nobody on Orsini’s team worked there. Which means there’s somebody still out there who actually does want Orsini dead.”

“It seems the most likely scenario.”

“Yeah, unless” Ray’s eyes widened as he read. “Fraser, Orsini wasn’t the only one at that table.”

“You think that ASA Kowalski could have been the real target?”

“Yeah, I do. And that means she’s still in danger.” Ray grabbed his jacket and started toward the door. “Come on, I’ll explain on the way! And Frannie, see if dispatch can get someone to Stella Kowalski’s apartment now!”

***********

“Look at the last name on the list, Fraser,” Ray said as he pulled out into traffic. “Stella told me about a divorce case she was helping a friend with, real nasty case. The guy’s name was Dwayne Weston. That’s just too good a coincidence to be true.” He tossed his phone and wallet to Fraser. “Here. Call her, see if we can warn her. Her business card’s in my wallet, home number’s on the back.”

“She gave you her number?”

“I thought it would be a smart thing to have, considering how close she and Orsini seemed to be, okay?” Ray answered, exasperated. “Is now really the time to be judging me?”

“Of course not, Ray.” He tried the number. “No answer.”

“Well let’s hope that’s a good sign,” Ray said, pushing on the gas pedal.

***********

Stella let them in, glaring at both Ray and Fraser. “Come to tell me I told you so, Ray?”

“Came to save your life, is more like it,” he shot back. “Seriously, Stella. That bottle bomb at the restaurant – it was set by Dwayne Weston.”

“Diane’s ex? But why?”

“Because I want my wife back, and it’s her fault she left in the first place,” Weston said as he closed the apartment door. He had a gun trained on the three of them. “I wouldn’t try anything,” he warned and moved forward to set a bomb on the table.

Ray and Fraser exchanged a quick look, and Ray started talking. “Hey, buddy, I get where you’re coming from. I’m divorced too, you know? But you have to let go, move on.” He moved up a couple of steps as he talked.

“Get back!” Weston shouted, shoving the gun forward. “And you don’t know anything!”

“I know you don’t really want to do this.” Ray took another step forward.

“I said get back!”

Ray rushed him then, and got the gun away without trouble. “Fraser, the bomb!”

Fraser was already on it, grabbing the bomb from the table and running to the balcony. He held it until the countdown was almost to zero, then threw it so it would explode midair.

“Did you really need to wait that long?” Ray asked Fraser as he cuffed Weston.

“I had to make sure it wouldn’t hit anything, Ray.”

“I guess.” He turned his attention to Stella. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she answered, wrapping her arms around herself. “Thank you for saving my life.”

“Another perk of the job, saving the fair maiden,” Ray quipped, and Stella gave him a small, but real smile.

“I’ll just see if back-up has arrived,” Fraser said. No one acknowledged the statement as he left.

***********

“You want to go grab a cup of coffee or something, maybe get out of here for awhile?” Ray asked Stella after Weston had been taken away.

“No, I’ll be fine. But thanks.”

“Okay, then. Guess I’ll be going. If I don’t leave soon, Fraser will walk himself all the way home.” He shrugged. “Take care, Stella.”

“You too, Ray.” Ray was almost to the door when she called his name. “Ask me another time. I might just take you up on the offer of coffee.”

Ray smiled. “I will definitely keep that in mind.”

He didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the night.

 

Episode 3.7: Mountie and Soul

Fraser gave Ray an apologetic look that was almost sincere, and Ray sighed heavily as he reached for his wallet to pay for their lunch. “Don’t tell me, you only have Canadian cash in your hat. Again.” He pulled out a few bills and handed them over. “How long have you been here now?”

“I do work in Canada. It’s perfectly reasonable.”

“Only to you, Benny.” He shook his head. “What would you have done if I didn’t have the money? I can’t always bail you out.”

“Understood.” Fraser looked upset for just the briefest moment, and a light bulb went off in Ray’s head.

“I missed something again, didn’t I?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“This,” Ray waved the money at Fraser, “with the money. It was another of those things you and he did, and I missed whatever cue I was supposed to have.” He glared at Fraser. “You have to stop doing that. Yeah, I’m him, but that doesn’t mean I know everything about him.”

Fraser lost all expression. Good, meant he was trying to hide something, which meant Ray actually got some kind of reaction. Now maybe they’d get somewhere.

“You’ll have to forgive me, Ray.” Ooh, the words were nice, but that tone was cold and snippy as hell and rubbed Ray the wrong way. “This is all still an adjustment for me, you know.”

“And it isn’t to me?” Ray shot back. “You think this is all fun and games for me, being home but not? Close enough to my old hangouts to see them, but I can’t go to them? The only people who know who I really am are Welsh, who is my boss and therefore doesn’t count, my sister, who I don’t even know if I recognize anymore, what with all the cop stuff, and you. My partner. Who seems incapable of cutting me any slack whatsoever. Who in fact seems to want to make me feel even less capable of doing this job right than I already do.”

Fraser looked stricken at that. His response was subdued and genuinely contrite. “I’m sorry, Ray. This isn’t easy for either of us, I know. I’ve been quite selfish to act otherwise.”

Ray couldn’t help but feel bad, even though really, he hadn’t done or said anything wrong. There was just something about Fraser that made you want to be nice to him. Damn. “It’s okay, Benny,” he finally said, putting an arm around Fraser’s shoulder. “How about we work on trying to figure out how to do this partner thing together, okay?”

Fraser nodded, and while he still didn’t look happy, some of the lines of tension left his face. “Okay, Ray.”

Ray grinned. “Great, because I have a lot of paperwork that I could use a partner’s help with.”

***********

Fraser put the file in the stack and looked around, frowning slightly “Ray, have you seen Diefenbaker?”

Ray checked under his desk and shook his head. “I thought he was next to you.”

“He was, but he appears to have slipped away.” He stood up. “I’ll be back as soon as I’ve found him. He’s already on probation at the Consulate – you’d think he’d try to be on better behavior here.”

Ray chuckled to himself as he watched Fraser walk off – that wolf got under Fraser’s skin like nobody’s business, and weird as that was, it was nice to see something got to the guy.

A few minutes later, movement out of the corner of his eye caught Ray’s attention and he looked up, expecting to see Fraser. Instead, it was a boy, maybe twelve or so, looking at Ray warily. Ray waited, but the kid just stayed silent and stared, so he finally prompted him. “Can I help you, kid?”

“I’m looking for Ray Kowalski.”

Ray gestured to the nameplate on his desk. “You got him.”

The boy frowned. “You ain’t him.”

“You want proof?” Ray asked, moving to take out his badge. The boy backed away at that and was turning to leave, when a voice called out, “Willie?”

“Big Red!” Willie relaxed noticeably as Fraser and a guilty-looking Dief approached. “Hey, I’m looking for Ray, and this joker,“ he gestured in Ray’s direction, “is no help.”

Dief bounded over to Willie, who immediately knelt down to pet him, still keeping his attention of Fraser.

Fraser rubbed an eyebrow as he answered. “Ah. Well you see, this is Ray. Not the Ray you’re looking for, of course,” he leaned in to add quietly before Willie could correct him. “Perhaps we should take this conversation somewhere less public.”

One they were in the interrogation room, Fraser continued.

“Ray, this is Willie Lambert. Ray and I met him on a case, and when I lived on Racine he helped with Diefenbaker when the need arose. He also took boxing lessons from Ray.” Fraser gestured toward Ray. “Willie, it’s a long, and somewhat classified story, but this Ray is my partner now.”

“Hey,” Willie greeted him non-enthusiastically.

“Hey,” Ray responded in the same tone.

Willie turned his attention to Fraser. “So you know where I can find him?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

Willie shook his head. “He ditch you, too?” he asked, disgusted.

“Ray hasn’t ditched anyone, Willie,” Fraser replied, giving Willie a look.

Willie’s eyes widened. “So this is a work thing, like he told me he used to do?”

“Yes.”

“Damn.”

“Is there something we can do to help?” Fraser asked, indicating himself and Ray.

Willie shook his head. “I don’t know. Ray, he was cool, knew how to keep things quiet, y’know?”

“I can do that,” Ray stated, and Willie just looked at him. “Trust me,” Ray sighed. “I can be your friend too.”

After a long moment and an encouraging look from Fraser, Willie nodded. “Okay.”

“Great. So what’s up, kid?” He tried to sound enthusiastic, and really he kind of was. At least it was a break from filling out forms.

Willie rolled his eyes and turned to Fraser. “You remember Levon, right?”

Fraser thought for a moment and then nodded. “He’s one of the older boys. I believe Ray mentioning he had a lot of promise.”

“Yeah, he’s good, no doubt. But there’s something going down that just ain’t right. He was sparring with Deron – he’s pretty good, maybe even better than Levon – and out of nowhere – bam! He knocked Deron flat, and the guy didn’t get up again.”

Ray whistled. “Sounds like a lucky punch.”

“More like unlucky. When I said he didn’t get up, I mean he still hasn’t. Dude’s in a coma.”

“From one hit? That seems unlikely,” Fraser commented.

“Try telling Levon that. Or anyone at the gym for that matter. See, Jamal was there – that’s Deron’s brother, and he didn’t take it too good.”

“So?” Ray asked. “Sounds like Levon can take care of himself.”

“In the ring maybe. But Jamal’s with the Rollin 22s, and that’s a whole different game.”

“Is Levon associated with a gang?” Fraser asked.

“You mean like is he back in with the Cabrinis?” Willie shook his head. “Naw, he’s stayed out. Ray drilled it into his head that the gang was no good for him and it stuck.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Still stayed friends with a couple of them, though. And there were plenty of people from both gangs there when Deron went down. Levon was lucky nobody came after him right then and there.”

“Where is Levon now?”

“That’s just it – nobody knows. He went to ground when he found out Deron wasn’t waking up. Nobody’s seen him, and it’s getting ugly at the gym. That’s why I wanted Ray. He was always good about getting folks to chill.”

“We talking about the same Ray here?” Ray had to ask. “Because peacemaker is not a title I’ve ever heard used for the guy.”

Fraser shot Ray a look that was almost a glare. “Ray’s methods are often unconventional, but Willie’s right. He would have been able to talk to the people at the gym, keep things from getting out of hand, even if he had to threaten them to do it.” He straightened. “I don’t know that I’ll make a good substitute, Willie, but I’m willing to try. Some of the boys there know me, and they know I’ll be honest with them if nothing else.”

“Yeah, but what can you tell them that will help?”

Fraser looked like he was at a loss. “Well, I suppose I’ll know that when I see what the situation is. I’ll come by later to speak with whomever is there. Will that work?”

“Guess it’ll have to.” Willie replied with a shrug. “I’ll go back, see if I can make sure there’s somebody there for you to talk with.” He started to leave, but turned around with his hand on the doorknob. “Thanks, Fraser.”

“Don’t mention it,” Fraser responded. “And Willie, of you do see Levon, try to get him to come here. Not because he’s in any kind of trouble, but because we can protect him.”

Willie nodded. “I’ll do what I can, Fraser, but I ain’t making any promises.”

After Willie left, Ray asked Fraser, “What was that all about? You get all over me to make sure I’m keeping Kowalski’s cover, and then you tell a kid all about it?”

“Ray mentored Willie,” Fraser explained. “There’s no way he’d believe you were him. And as Willie already found out, it seemed to make sense to tell him what was going on.”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s just – is there anybody in this town Kowalski doesn’t know? Because just once, I’d like for someone to actually believe me when I lie about who I am.”

***********

They decided to start with witnesses to the fight itself, and were able to get in to see Franco Devlin.

“Don’t know the guy, but from what I’ve been able to find out, he’s pretty big stuff around here, almost a legend,” Ray said as he drove.

“I believe I remember Ray mentioning him once or twice,” Fraser commented.

“Yeah? Anything that will help us?”

“Only that he’s a good trainer, but that he’s unable to keep fighters once he’s trained them.”

“So what, he gets them all ready for the big time, then they ditch him? That can’t sit well with the guy.”

“Perhaps. Or maybe he’s happy doing what he does for the young men in the community.”

“You keep thinking that way, Fraser. Me, I’m gonna keep a suspicious eye on him.”

Devlin was all sympathy and concern when Ray and Fraser interviewed him, which just made Ray more suspicious.

“I’m telling you, there’s something about this guy I don’t like.”

“He showed concern for both fighters, and was extremely forthcoming,” Fraser remarked.

“That’s exactly what I mean. He was too helpful. Americans just aren’t like that, Fraser. Maybe you never have trouble getting statement up in Canada, but down here we always put up at least a little resistance.”

“It’s truly frightening that you think that way.”

“Yeah, well, it’s kept me alive on the job up until now,” Ray replied. “Where to next?”

***********

Ray was sorry he’d asked. “You sure this is a good idea?”

“Willie asked for our help, Ray.”

“Yeah, but here? On the 22’s turf?”

“Trust me, Ray, it will be fine.”

Fraser nodded in greeting to several people as they walked. “Hey,” one called out, pointing at them, “Big man’s dressed for work today!”

Fraser nodded at the man and Ray just stared at him. “They know you here, too?”

“Ray volunteered here, and I helped out from time to time.”

“I still don’t get how if this is one of Kowalski’s haunts, you think it’s a good idea for me to be here.”

“It may be best to simply refer to you as Detective,” Fraser conceded.

Ray rolled his eyes. “Great.”

***********

They started by asking around for Jamal; Deron’s brother hadn’t been seen at the hospital, and both Ray and Fraser thought it was a safe bet that he’d gone from his blood family to his chosen one. They were having no luck, but definitely attracted someone’s attention; before they knew it they were being “escorted” by four very tall, and likely very armed young men to meet with Denny Edwards, the leader of the Rollin’ 22’s. Ray gave Fraser a worried look as they walked, but Fraser was unconcerned, and even Dief seemed relaxed.

“You see, Ray. People are by nature willing to help.”

“Or they just want you to go away because you’re stirring up trouble, Benny,” Ray shot back quietly as they were taken into a room. “We’re gonna be lucky to get out of this with all our teeth the way you’re bugging everybody.”

Denny was seated at a table with two more men, and a young woman, all of whom looked at Fraser and Ray with suspicion and derision. Jamal was nowhere to be seen.

“So, you’ve been asking around for one of my boys,” Denny said.

Fraser removed his hat and nodded at the young woman, then Denny. “I take it you know who we are.”

“Yeah, I know,” Denny huffed. “Heard about a crazy dude with a wolf that likes to go around thinking he’s a one-man neighborhood clean-up crew. Haven’t been around in awhile, though. Some folks figured you gave up.”

Fraser winced inwardly but his voice was even when he answered. “I’m here now.”

Denny smirked. “That just means they at least got the crazy part right.”

“I would hope you’ve also heard that I’m honest.” Denny shrugged noncommittally, so Fraser went on. “I believe, as does my partner, that there’s more going on than meets the eye. That’s why we wanted to talk with Jamal.”

“You sure you’re not just saying that because you and your pals are buddies with Levon?” Denny countered.

“I’m saying it because it’s the truth.”

Denny eyed them speculatively. “You just don’t want a fight.”

“It would be in everyone’s best interests if there wasn’t, yes.”

“What about Deron’s interest?” Denny sneered. “You thinking about those? Somebody’s gotta pay for what happened to him!”

“I agree. And we’re looking into it, but if you interfere with the investigation, we may never find out who’s responsible.”

Denny shot up from his chair and got in Fraser’s face. “I know who’s responsible – Jamal told me everything that happened at the ring, and my boys backed him up. Or are you calling them all liars?”

Fraser didn’t even flinch. “Do you really believe that one punch was enough to put someone into a coma?”

“That’s what they said they saw.”

“And I’m not disputing them. But there’s more to this than outward appearances.”

“You sure of that?”

“We’re here, aren’t we?” Ray interjected, annoyance lacing his words. “Look, you have no reason to trust us except Fraser’s rep. But you also have no reason not to let us do our job. We’re on the same side with this.”

Denny and the others laughed at that. “Yeah, right. The 22’s and the cops, all buddy buddy. You want us to hold hands and sing songs next?”

“I want you to let us figure this out without anybody getting hurt,” Ray shot back. “I get where you’re coming from, believe me. Place I grew up, the rules weren’t so different as here. And that’s how I know there’s somebody pulling some strings in the background, trying to get away with something. If this were my turf, I’d want that person taken down, not some kid that’s been set up.”

Fraser could see that Ray’s point had gotten to Denny in a way his words hadn’t. The young man was still frowning, but he gave them a grudging nod. “Okay, then. You two can look around, see what’s what. I’ll let word go out that it’s cool to talk to you. But only to you two, got it? We don’t need this place crawling with cops.”

“Got it,” Ray replied with a satisfied smile. He turned to Fraser. “You ready to go find the real bad guy?”

Fraser inclined his head toward the door. “After you, Ray.”

Ray passed in front of him, and Fraser heard him chuckle under his breath as they left the building.

Once they were outside, Fraser complimented Ray on his handling of Denny.

“Ah, you just have to know what buttons to push, Benny,” Ray responded waving his hand to dismiss the compliment.

“Yes, and you knew exactly the right button. We should be able to make some real progress on the case now.”

“Not if we keep standing around here flapping our yaps. Come on, let’s go ask some questions.”

***********

A couple of hours later, they were no closer to finding out who might want to frame Levon. Ray was getting tired of walking, and of the dirty looks he was getting almost exclusively, and ready for a break, if not for the day, at least for long enough to grab something to eat, sit for a few. But of course, that wasn’t meant to be.

As soon as they rounded the corner, Ray could tell there was trouble, would have known even if it weren’t for the group starting to mill around the alley up ahead. Fraser had to have sensed it too – they exchanged a glance and sped up, moving purposefully toward the crowd. Fraser got there first by a few steps and Ray let him start on crowd control while he slipped past them to the alley. He bit back a curse when he saw the body. And there was no doubt that’s all it was now – the guy was obviously dead. Even worse, he knew who it was – Jamal, Levon’s brother. This was not good.

Ray pulled out his phone and called in for back-up, then gestured for Fraser to join him. When some of the people tried to follow, Ray pulled out his badge, knowing the move exposed his gun. He didn’t like the show of force, but he liked the idea of them contaminating the crime scene less. Crouching low but careful not to touch the body, Ray scanned him, trying to find some clue as to what happened.

He looked back to see that Fraser had followed his footsteps as best he could and was peering around the area, looking at the bigger picture.

“Anything?”

“Not from this angle,” Fraser responded. “How about you?”

“Not without touching the body, which I don’t want to do.”

“His face shows some significant bruising,” Fraser observed. He leaned in, voice quieter as he went on. “Ray, this is-”

Ray held up a hand to stop him. “Yeah, I know.” He sighed and pulled out a handkerchief and a pen, then used them to carefully examine what he could. “Looks like he put up a fight,” he said, indicating the swollen and bloody knuckles. “ But he was worked over by a pro.” He looked up at Fraser. “You still sure Levon had nothing to do with this?”

“I wouldn’t mind hearing the answer to that myself,” a new voice chimed in, and the people at the edge of the alley moved to let Denny through.

“I see bad news travels fast,” Ray remarked with a frown.

“I keep an ear out.” He got a step closer, then Fraser shifted just enough to let him know not to go any farther. Denny glared at him but stopped. His glare turned to a full-out scowl when he got a look at the body.

“Yeah, we know,” Ray sighed.

He looked at them both. “Thought you were gonna take care of this.”

“We are,” Fraser answered. “But you can’t honestly expect that we could have foreseen this. It had to have happened while we were talking with you.”

“Whatever. Just know your time just got a lot shorter. Folks hear about this, they’re gonna want to do something about it. Jamal had a lot of friends.”

Ray gave him a measured look. “Can you keep it under control?”

“For now,” Denny shrugged. “But it’ll heat up fast, and I don’t mind telling you that right here, right now, I don’t see that as a bad thing.”

“Just give us the chance you promised, Denny,” Fraser said. “That’s all we ask.”

Denny gave them a hard look. “Last anybody saw Jamal he was supposed to be getting Deron’s stuff out of his locker at the gym,” he commented.

Ray took it for the peace offering it was. “We’ll be sure to look into that. And if his stuff’s still there we’ll take it to the hospital. Give it to his family.”

“You do that,” he nodded, then looked from Fraser to Ray to the body and back to Fraser again. “You never answered the question. You still think Levon had nothing to do with this?”

“Yes. But if I’m wrong, I won’t hesitate to bring him to justice.”

Denny got in Fraser’s face, a finger poking him in the chest. “You better. Or we will.” Before he could say or do anything else, the sound of sirens became audible, and he backed away, face still contorted with anger. As the sound got closer, he and his gang slipped into the crowd.

Ray watched them go with a scowl, then started working on getting everyone out of the way so the paramedics and police could get where they needed to. He rubbed a hand over his head tiredly; it was going to be a long night.

***********

Once they were back at the station, Fraser went right down to the morgue, and Ray followed. Dief stayed behind, slinking under Ray’s desk when he saw where they were headed. Ray almost wished he could join him there; the morgue was not his favorite place.

Mort was already at work; Ray could hear him humming along with some classical thing that he turned down as soon as he saw them enter the room.

“Sorry, sorry,” he said with a smile. “Don’t get a lot of visitors down here, you know. The music keeps me company.”

“That’s quite all right, Mort,” Fraser replied. “It’s a lovely piece of music.”

“Yeah, it was really nice,” Ray added hastily when they turned to him. “So, hey, have you found out anything about cause of death we can work with?”

Mort’s smile didn’t dim in the slightest, and Ray was glad he hadn’t offended him by getting right to business.

“He was beaten to death, but I suppose you already surmised that. But look here,” Mort pointed to several darkened areas of the body. “The pattern of bruising indicates that the attacker knew precisely where to hit for maximum effectiveness.”

“Which makes Levon an even bigger suspect,” Ray said with a pointed look at Fraser.

“Or a target.” Fraser shot back.

“You really believe in this kid,” Ray said wonderingly. “Was he one of Kowalski’s favorites or something?”

“Ray didn’t work with Levon as much as he’d liked to have, and I only met him a few times. He was trying to make something of himself, stay out of the gangs and get out of a bad situation. But even if we’d never met, I’d still say he should have the benefit of the doubt. After all, he’s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

“Yeah, I know, truth, justice and the Canadian and American way, I get it. But I’ve been around this kind of thing all my life, in one form or another, and I have to say, nobody’s as innocent as they want you to think.”

Fraser sorted through the items Jamal had been carrying when he was found, and stopped at a small pill bottle. “Mort, I know it’s too early for a toxicology report, but I’d – we’d be very interested in anything you find.”

“That’s just a diuretic,” Mort pointed out.

“I realize that, but I’d still like to see the report.”

“You suspect drugs were involved?”

“I think the results will be enlightening,” Fraser said, looking again at the bottle.

“Those wouldn’t have contributed to his death,” Mort observed.

“You’d be surprised,” Fraser replied, setting the pills back on the table.

Mort just shrugged. “I’ll have it to you as soon as possible,”

“Thank you kindly,” Fraser nodded.

“Yeah, thanks, Mort,” Ray said, starting to edge toward the doorway. Seeing a dead body at a scene was one thing; morgues creeped him out.

“What was that all about? Why do you think this is a drug thing all of the sudden?”

“I don’t think it’s a ‘drug thing,’ at least not in the sense you’re implying.”

“What then? And don’t get all mysterious and vague on me – I’m your partner.”

“I want to see if there are any traces of steroids in Jamal’s system.”

“Steroids?”

“Yes. And we should most definitely check with the hospital as well, see If Deron’s bloodwork shows anything.”

Ray shook his head. “You think this has to do with dirty fighters?”

“It’s just a theory, Ray.”

“If Deron’s stuff’s still at the gym, it might give us some answers.”

“That it might.”

***********

They collected Diefenbaker and Ray drove them to the gym. Devlin was there, and more than willing to let them check out Deron’s locker. Deron’s things were still there when they opened it. “Looks like Jamal never got this far,” Ray said.

Fraser wasn’t convinced. He held out Deron’s jacket for Dief to sniff. The half-wolf whined a little and sneezed, and Fraser nodded. “Exactly.”

“What? The mutt’s allergic to the jacket?”

“No, but he doesn’t particularly like soy sauce.” Fraser held the jacket out for Ray to see the stain.

“Is that-”

“Yes,” Fraser interrupted, startling Ray. Fraser never interrupted. But he rolled with it; if Fraser stopped him down there had to be a reason.

“Okay, so if it’s okay with you, Mr. Devlin, we’re going to take this stuff, get it to Deron’s family,” Ray said, saving his questions for when he and Fraser were alone.

“Of course, Detective.”

***********

“You really think Levon’s gonna be here?” Ray asked as they left the building. “I mean, he’d have to have been hit in the head pretty hard to think that’s a smart idea.”

“It might not be smart,” Fraser answered, “but it’s familiar, and he does have friends in the neighborhood, and an aunt.”

“Yeah, but when those friends know they’re being watched, just how loyal are they going to be? This is the least safe place the guy could go.”

“That’s why we’re here, Ray. To make it safe.”

Ray rolled his eyes and decided to change the subject. “Hey, what was that all about in there? What did you find?”

“Soy sauce, Ray. The same kind as was on Jamal’s clothing.”

“So they both like Chinese food. Big deal,” he shrugged. “I like Chinese food.”

“Yes, but what if that isn’t it. What if Jamal had been here, and had picked up his brother’s things?”

“What, and somebody else brought them back? Why would they do that?”

Fraser started to answer, then focused on something over Ray’s shoulder. “Ray – look.”

There was someone a few blocks down the road being chased by several other someones. They started running too, trying to catch up. The man being chased veered down an alley, and Ray swore as they lost sight of him. They got to the alley and saw that whoever the guy was, he was about to be caught.

Fraser started to move forward, but Ray stopped him. “I got this, Benny,” he said, pulling out his gun and firing two shots in the air. Everyone stopped and turned to see where the shots were coming from. Sure enough, one of them was Levon. Ray sighed; he should have known. When you were with Fraser, luck did seriously wacky things.

Ray and Fraser started forward again, and the pursuers scattered. Ray didn’t try to stop them.

“Man, I thought I was a goner for sure!” Levon said as they approached. “You guys saved my life.”

Ray holstered his gun and pulled out his cuffs. “Levon, I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Jamal Martin, and possibly the attempted murder of Deron Martin.”

“I didn’t kill anybody!” Levon protested. “I could never do that!”

“I’m sorry, but for now, this is how it’s gotta be,” Ray answered as he cuffed the kid. “You have the right to remain silent…”

Levon hung his head, shoulders slumped in defeat as Ray cuffed him.

“It’s for your own safety, Levon,” Fraser told him quietly. “It isn’t safe for you on the streets, especially with someone trying to implicate you in Jamal’s murder.”

“I know you can call whoever you want when we get to the station, but it was me, I’d make sure it was somebody who likes to talk,” Ray suggested as they put Levon in the back seat of the car. “The faster word gets out that we have you and not the 22’s, the better chance there is of this not turning into a gang war.”

***********

Ray and Fraser left Levon at the station with Huey and Dewey.

“We’ll take care of him,” Dewey said as Huey took him into an interrogation room.

“Please see that you do,” Fraser answered. “There’s a good chance he’s innocent.”

“Thanks, Tom,” Ray said, and jerked his head in the direction of the door. “Come on, Fraser, we have a package to deliver.” When he got no response, Ray turned to see that Fraser wasn’t next to him; he’d walked over to Ray’s desk and was looking through a file.

“I thought we had places to be,” he remarked.

“We do,” Fraser replied absently. “Ray, this is the toxicology report for Jamal.”

And,” Ray prompted when Fraser just kept reading.

“And there was no trace of the diuretic in his system. Those pills had to belong to Deron.”

“So he took some pills, so what?”

“So, if he was using steroids, he’d need a diuretic to flush his system so that he’d pass drug tests.”

“That’s pretty slick thinking.”

“Yes it is,” Fraser agreed. “And I have to wonder if Deron was the one who came up with the idea.”

“You think it was Devlin,” Ray guessed.

“It makes sense. He needed a champion, and by all accounts Deron was the most promising fighter he’d trained in years.”

“Guy’s practically a local legend. You really think it’s him?”

“I don’t think we can discount him.”

“Okay, so let’s go to the hospital, see what the docs can tell us.”

***********

Deron was awake when they got to the hospital. Ray and Fraser went to speak with him after Fraser somehow talked a nurse into letting them see Deron’s chart. What they found was no surprise.

“Deron, the doctors found traces of steroids in your system,” Fraser told him. “Enough to cause disorientation and contribute to your coma, if not cause it outright. Were you feeling yourself in the ring that day?”

Deron looked away, refusing to answer.

“Look,” Ray chimed in, annoyance coloring his voice, “you don’t want to talk, fine. We can’t make you, and the docs would love the chance to kick us out, let you rest. But we’re trying to track down a murderer here, so if you know something, tell us.” Deron stayed silent, and Ray threw his hands up in the air in disgust. “Fine, have it your way. It’s just your bother’s killer we’re talking about here. And maybe we’ll find the guy on our own. Or maybe your buddies in the 22’s will. Or maybe an innocent man will go to jail or worse, because you refused to talk. You’re the one who’s gonna have to live with that, not us.” He started toward the door. “Come on, Fraser, we’re done here. This is just a waste of time.”

Fraser looked troubled, but followed Ray to the door. “If you think of anything, please -” he started.

“Come on, Fraser,” Ray interrupted. “This guy’s no use to us.”

“Wait!” Deron called out just as the door was about to close. Fraser opened the door, and he and Ray leaned in. “You two really on the up and up? I mean, you’ll go after the guy no matter who it is or who he’s connected to?”

“That’s our job, Deron,” Fraser said as he walked back in. “If they’re guilty, it doesn’t matter who they are. We’re bound by law to bring them to justice,”

“What he said,” Ray agreed. “So, what do you know?”

To neither man’s surprise, Deron admitted that Devlin had been supplying him with steroids, tried to help him bulk up. He insisted that he’d been planning on quitting them.

“Well, you have that chance now,” Fraser observed. “Rest up, then try again on your own to be the best.”

***********

From the hospital, Ray and Fraser went back to the gym to confront Devlin. He admitted to supplying the steroids, but denied knowing anything about Jamal’s death. Fraser saw Mason, Devlin’s assistant, flinch when the topic was brought up, and confronted him about it. He got swung at for his trouble, but between his boxing skills and Ray’s gun, they subdued Mason, and both men were arrested.

***********

Back at the station, Levon was freed, though he was cautioned to watch his step until word had spread about Devlin’s arrest.

The next day, Willie showed up at the station to thank Fraser and Ray for their help. Ray looked quietly pleased, and Fraser insisted it was just them doing their job, thanking Willie for bringing the matter to their attention in the first place. When it was time for Willie to head home, Fraser walked him out.

“So, Fraser, been awhile since we’ve seen you. Folks in the neighborhood, they thought maybe you’d moved back to Canada or something. Where you living now?”

“Actually, in a sense I have moved back to Canada.” At Willie’s confused look, he elaborated. “I live at the Consulate, where I work.”

“At your office? What’s up with that?”

Fraser rubbed an eyebrow. “It’s just temporary, until I find a suitable apartment.”

“Uh huh,” Willie’s tone made it clear he didn’t believe Fraser at all. “Well, I should probably go. Been nice knowing you.”

Fraser put a hand on Willie’s arm to stop him. “Wait. You make it sound as if you’ll never see me again.”

Willie gave him a look that said exactly that. “You mean I will?”

“Of course you will.”

“Yeah, heard that one before. Ray said he’d help too.”

Fraser frowned. “That isn’t fair, Willie. Ray didn’t abandon you. He was chosen for a very important assignment.”

“So important he couldn’t even tell anyone goodbye?”

“Exactly, “Fraser answered. “He couldn’t even tell me.”

Willie’s eyes widened at that. “No way.”

“Yes way. I promise you, Willie, Ray would have said something if he could have.”

“I guess so,” Willie grudgingly admitted. “Man, how come he couldn’t tell you?”

“I was out of the country at the time. Though I’m not sure it would have made a difference to those in charge.”

Willie’s eyes narrowed as he looked Fraser over. “You don’t believe he’s coming back, do you?”

Fraser was taken aback. “Of course I do, Willie. Why would you think otherwise?”

“Because if you really believed he was coming back, you’d have a place to live,” he explained. “You holing up at work, that’s just a way to keep from laying down roots. You used to be all for being part of the community, man. What changed?”

Fraser blinked in surprise. “I… I hadn’t thought of it that way, to be honest. And I’m not saying you’re right about my lack of housing. But you’re entirely correct in that I’ve been remiss in keeping in touch. I know at least a few of my old neighbors should still be in the neighborhood.” He thought for a moment, then looked at Willie. “Perhaps you could help me?”

“How?”

“Show me where they live now, so I can check in on them. The ones that wouldn’t mind, of course.”

“Sure, Fraser. I could do that.” He nodded slowly, and the hint of a smile played at the edges of his mouth. “There’s some folks, not all of them probably, but some who’d be glad to see you again.”

“Thank you, Willie. I think… I think I’d like that very much.”

“Maybe I can even get you to lighten up, sound more like a real person,” Willie added with a teasing grin.

“If anyone can get me to be down with my bad self, it will be you, Willie,” Fraser said, and smiled as Willie chuckled.

 

Episode 3.8: Spy vs. Spy

“Hey, Frannie,” Ray greeted his sister, leaning on the edge of her desk. “You had lunch yet?”

“I am not your gofer, Ray,” she shot back, still focused on the computer screen in front of her.

“I didn’t say you were,” he replied. “I was actually trying to ask you to lunch.”

She looked up at that. “Why?”

He leaned in to answer, voice quiet. “What, a guy can’t ask his sister to lunch?”

She considered that, then nodded. “Okay. Sounds good to me. Oh, and you’re buying,” she ended as she got her purse out of the desk drawer.

“Of course I am,” Ray muttered as he followed her out of the bullpen.

***********

“So, what’s this about?” Frannie asked once the waiter had taken their order.

“I already told you, I just wanted to take my sister to lunch,” Ray replied, irritated.

She leaned in, eyes narrowed. “Shouldn’t you ix-nay on the o-bray talk?”

Ray sighed. “Francesca, no matter, where I live or what name I use, I will always be your big brother. Deal.”

The waiter arrived with their drinks then, and both were silent until he left, Frannie watching Ray.

“Okay,” Ray conceded, “so maybe I just wanted something familiar, just for awhile.”

“You’re surrounded by familiar stuff,” Frannie pointed out.

“Yeah, but not as me. It makes a difference, more than I thought it would.” He took a long drink of his iced tea before going on. “I mean, on the one hand you’re right, I’m home, I know the streets, the neighborhoods, so that’s nice. But at the same time I can’t go to my favorite places without possibly being made. I can’t even go to our house without making elaborate plans, for crying out loud. I guess I never figured I’d feel homesick when I was actually in Chicago.”

Frannie placed her hand over her brother’s. “I guess I didn’t think about how hard some of that stuff might be.”

“Yeah, well, to be honest neither did I when I agreed to do this.” He frowned at his glass, then blinked and gave Frannie a small smile that was almost real. “So help me forget about it for an hour, okay? Let’s just catch up.”

Frannie took the change of mood in stride. “Sure, Ray. What do you want to talk about?”

“How about Elaine? How’s she liking the job now that she’s official?”

Frannie smiled. “She likes it a lot, no surprise, especially since she’s the only rookie to come in with an arrest already under her belt. The weird shifts are kind of hellish, and I don’t see her near as much, but it all works out.”

“So the roomie thing is still good?”

“Yeah. She’s got a little more distance to get to work, but no big.”

“And she still wants you to join the force too.”

Frannie shrugged. “She thinks I’d be good at it. And the more I work as a CA, the more I think she might be right.” She narrowed her eyes and gave Ray a suspicious look. “Why? Did Ma tell you to discourage me, too?”

“She doesn’t like it, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know that I do either,” Ray admitted, “But I get that it’s not up to us.”

Frannie looked surprised at that, then smiled softly. “Thanks, Ray.”

“As long as you’re doing it for the right reasons, and not just following after some guy or something -”

“Ray!” Frannie interrupted, reaching across the table to smack his arm. “I told you I was over my crush – quit making a deal of it.”

“Just kidding, Frannie. Jeez, lighten up,” Ray grinned. “Seriously, I’d say stick with the CA thing awhile longer, get a good idea of what working at the station’s really like and if you still want it, I’ll take your side, try to convince Ma.”

Frannie gave Ray an intent look, then relaxed, smiling. “Okay.”

“Okay. So, since you brought up being over your thing for Fraser, does that mean you’re seeing somebody else now?”

“It does not, and it’s none of your business.”

“Hey, I was just wondering if you had somebody around to help with the house. I mean, there’s all sorts of stuff that always needs fixing around that place, and if you had somebody who was taking care of it, I wasn’t going to offer my help.”

“Thanks but no thanks, bro. Elaine and I have gotten pretty good at the handyman stuff, and if we can’t handle it, we know how to use the phone book.”

The waiter returned with their order, stalling the conversation.

“Okay, so my turn to grill you,” Frannie said after their food was put on the table.

“Shoot,” Ray replied, waving his fork in her direction.

“You and Fraser getting along any better?”

Ray grimaced for a split second, then shrugged. “I don’t know. Every time I think we are, something happens to throw the fact that I’m not Kowalski in my face, and it feels like we go back two steps.”

“Give it time, Ray,” she advised. “Fraser and Ray were good friends, and I don’t think Fraser’s had a lot of those. This isn’t easy.”

“For either of us,” Ray added with a sigh. “And I know, Frannie, but you asked, so I answered. It isn’t like I’m quitting or anything, just… it’d be nice if something about this assignment was easy.”

***********

Ray walked Frannie back to her desk and kissed her cheek. “Thanks for coming out with me,” he said with a small, but sincere smile.

“Any time. Now let me get back to work,” she replied, smiling to take any sting out of her words. “This place doesn’t run itself.”

Ray saluted her with a grin. “Yes, ma’am!”

He was walking back to his desk when Dewey strolled into the bullpen and waved at him. Ray nodded a hello in response and met him at his desk.

“Hey, you just get back from lunch?”

“Yeah, me and Frannie grabbed a bite,” Ray answered, then glared at Dewey when Dewey gave Frannie with a less-than-respectful glance. “Don’t even think it,” he said, poking Dewey in the chest. “She’s out of your league.”

Dewey laughed and held up his hands in mock surrender. “Sorry, forgot about the protective brother thing. No thinking bad things about Frannie – got it.”

“That’s better,” Ray nodded, satisfied. “So, you and Huey have anything good going right now?”

“Nah, it’s been pretty quiet. How about you? What crazy thing has the Mountie got you doing?”

“Nothing, and don’t jinx it,” Ray replied. “It’s been normal, run-of-the-mill, no stupidly dangerous stuff, and I’d like to keep it that way, thank you very much.”

“Well, good luck with that,” Dewey replied, inclining his head toward the door. Ray turned to see Fraser and Diefenbaker walking in. “I’m gonna go find Jack. Don’t want to find out the hard way that Fraser’s crazy is contagious.”

“See you later, Tom,” Ray said with a grin as Dewey left. He felt Fraser staring at him and turned to face him, slightly annoyed. “What?”

“Lt. Welsh will be delighted to see how you and Detective Dewey have buried the hatchet,” he said, leaving Ray confused for a second until he remembered hearing about how Kowalski and Dewey hadn’t gotten along.

Ray narrowed his eyes. “You don’t think Tom and I should be friends, do you?”

“Nonsense, Ray. And good afternoon to you, too.”

“Hi, Benny,” Ray replied, shaking his head and chuckling. “So, how’s things at the Consulate?”

“Well, aside from receiving the wrong shipment of forms, which will set back some of my paperwork by several days, things are the same.”

“Thatcher sent you over because you don’t have enough to do and you’re making her crazy,” he interpreted.

“The Inspector thought my time could be better spent liaising,” Fraser clarified, cheeks slightly reddened.

“Well, then let’s see what we can find,” Ray replied, throwing an arm over Fraser’s shoulder. “But fair warning, it’s probably more paperwork.”

***********

Two hours later, Ray pushed his chair back from his desk and stretched. “I gotta take a break. My eyes are starting to cross and my back is killing me. How about you, Fraser?”

Dief whined before Fraser could answer, and Ray chuckled. “Look’s like that’s two votes for a change of scenery.”

Fraser looked at the clock and nodded. “Actually, Ray, I was thinking about walking over to the Senior Center.”

“Don’t tell me – another place you and Kowalski volunteered.”

“Just me, actually, though Ray’s been there. We had a case-”

“Yeah, I remember reading something about it,” Ray interrupted. “So what, you feeling the need for a visit?”

“I haven’t been there in some time, and I thought I should change that. You’d be welcome to come along – it’s near the park, and it’s a nice day for a walk.”

Ray shrugged. “Don’t know that I’ll go to the Center, but yeah, I could use some fresh air. I’ll at least go to the park with you.”

“Excellent!”

Just as they got to the edge of the room, Lt. Welsh called out to Ray. “Going somewhere, Kowalski?”

“Not if you need me here, sir,” Ray answered, stifling a sigh.

“That what I like to hear, Detective. I need to go over a few things with you in regards to your last reports.” He shifted his attention to Fraser. “No need for you this time, Constable. It looks like you were leaving.”

“I was, but if you need me, Lieutenant…”

“I’m sure Ray and I can get things ironed out just fine, but thank you.” Welsh quirked an eyebrow at Ray and went back into his office.

“Sorry, Benny. Duty calls.”

“Of course, Ray, I understand. If you get done soon, feel free to come and meet us.”

“Will do.”

***********

Fraser left the Senior Center with a smile. “They certainly seemed happy to see us, Diefenbaker,” he said. “And it was very nice for Gladys to have kept that sweater she made for you in case we visited again.”

Dief sneezed loudly.

“Language, Dief, really. And I promise that once we’re out of sight I’ll take it off, but there’s no point in being rude. It’s a lovely gesture and you should be appreciative.”

Dief snorted, and Fraser ignored him. “Come along. Lets see if we meet up with Ray along the way back.”

They followed the path through the park, and true to his word, Fraser removed the offending sweater from Dief as soon as they were a safe distance from the Center. Dief shook himself all over, and Fraser watched with amusement.

A little farther down the path they reached the chess tables, and Fraser was pleased to see Mr. Hanrahan was there, setting up pieces. Diefenbaker loped over to him, wagging his tail, and Mr. Hanrahan looked up with a smile.

“Well, look what the wolf dragged in!” he exclaimed, giving Fraser a sharp look. “Wasn’t sure I’d be seeing you again, after all this time. Thought maybe you’d found yourself a girl and had better things to do than spend your time with an old man like me.”

Fraser ducked his head in an attempt to hide his reddening cheeks. “I’m sorry about that, Mr. Hanrahan. Things since I returned from Canada have been, well, strange and busy, I suppose is as good a way to say it as any. I hadn’t realized just how distant I’d become until someone pointed it out to me recently.”

“Good for them,” Hanrahan replied with a decisive nod. “Not good for a person to wall themselves off from their friends.” He looked around quizzically. “Speaking of which, where’s your partner, Constable? Has he finally given up on trying to beat me at chess?”

Fraser rubbed an eyebrow as he answered. “Ray’s been, well, things have changed, and I’m not really at liberty to explain, I’m afraid.”

“Something hush hush,” Hanrahan concluded knowingly. “Say no more. If anyone understands that, it’s an old CIA man like myself.” He gestured toward the empty chair across from him. “Have time for a game?”

Fraser looked up at the sky and made a mental calculation. “I believe I do, thank you kindly,” he replied, and sat down to play.

“I see you’ve been by the center,” Hanrahan said offhandedly as he set up the pieces. “And you made Gladys happy. Dief laid down and put his head on his paws, and Hanrahan laughed. “Ah, the sacrifices we must make. How long did you make him wear that god-awful sweater?” he asked Fraser.

“Not long at all, despite the way he’s behaving.” Fraser answered. “I’m surprised you’re here alone.”

Hanrahan waved a hand dismissively. “Ah, most of them think I’m more of a joke than anything, you know that. Gets old after awhile.”

“I suppose it would. Have you had any contacts from the CIA lately?”

“If I had, I couldn’t tell you, could I?” he replied gruffly.

“I see your point,” Fraser replied with a small smile, and reached out to move a chess piece.

***********

“Thank you for the game,” Fraser said as he conceded the victory to Hanrahan, who started packing up the chessboard.

“My pleasure, Constable. But you’re out of practice. Get that partner of yours to play a game or two with you. He’ll keep you on your toes.”

“He’s certainly good at that,” Fraser agreed as he helped gather pieces.

“And tell him to stop by for a game when he can,” Hanrahan said.

Fraser had to swallow before he could get an answer out. “I’ll tell him as soon as I see him,” he promised. “Do you need any help getting back home?”

“I’m fine, don’t you worry,” he said, waving Fraser off. You take that half-wolf of yours for a good run, get him a treat or something. He surely deserves it between Gladys’s latest atrocity and then having to sit here with us.”

***********

Fraser had reached the edge of the park when he saw Ray walking toward him.

“Sorry about that, Fraser.”

“Not a problem. Did you get everything squared away with the Lieutenant?”

Ray huffed out a humorless chuckle. “Yeah, just some filing stuff that needed fixing. No big deal, otherwise I’d still be there. So you get to make your visit?”

“I did indeed, thank you for asking.”

Ray gestured to the bundle in Fraser’s arms. “And they gave you clothes? So I’m not the only one who thinks you wear the uniform too much? And don’t give me anything about how it’s different today because you’re wearing brown and not red.”

“This is Diefenbaker’s, actually,” Fraser replied. “And I’m on duty, today. It only makes sense that I’d be in uniform.”

Ray looked him up and down. “Yeah, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in civvies. Do you even have real clothes?”

“That’s just silly, Ray. Of course I do.”

Suddenly, Diefenbaker started barking, and started running. “What’s with the mutt?” Ray asked.

“Something’s wrong,” Fraser answered as he started running to follow. “I couldn’t quite catch what he said – his grammar is appalling when he’s in a hurry, but we need to follow him.”

“Of course we do,” Ray groused as he trailed behind. “Timmy’s fallen into the well, and Lassie there will lead us right to him.”

***********

Ray ran across the street just in time to see Fraser head into an alley. He got there soon after, and saw an old man on the ground, Fraser standing protectively near him, Dief at his side. There was a man standing there that must’ve decided he’d had enough, and started out of the alley, only to run into Ray.

“Out of my way!” the man grunted, pushing at Ray. Ray pushed back hard; the man hit the wall and fell to the ground.

Ray spared a glance at Fraser. “You okay?”

“We’re fine, Ray,” Fraser replied, carefully helping the old man stand. “You are fine, aren’t you, Mr. Hanrahan?”

The guy Ray had shoved was still down. Ray frowned and knelt to check him. “Must’ve banged his head harder than I thought,” he said, shaking the man. When that got no response, he checked for a pulse, then looked up at Fraser with wide eyes.

“Holy shit, I think he’s dead.”

***********

The man was dead, and Lt. Welsh was not happy about it.

“Tell me again what happened, Detective,” he said to Ray.

Ray sighed and tried to keep his cool. “Dief saw something, I don’t know what, you have to ask Fraser, and took off. We followed, and I was last to get to the alley. Fraser’s friend was on the ground, and the dead guy was trying to escape. He pushed me, I pushed back, and then next thing I know, he’s dead.”

“You didn’t hit him.”

“I didn’t hit him,” Ray confirmed. “I don’t even think his head hit the wall that hard when I shoved him away from me. Ask Fraser – he was there, he can tell you.”

Welsh raised an eyebrow. “Believe me, I will be asking the Constable several questions about this, because the man that’s in the morgue right now – not an American citizen. And the last thing we want is an international incident on our hands. Do I make myself clear?”

“As crystal, sir.”

“Good. Then send Fraser in, ask his friend if he knew the man, see if he can give us anything to work with, but be gentle this time, detective.”

Ray fought to keep from rolling his eyes. “I’ll just ask him some questions, sir.”

***********

Ray found Fraser, Dief and the old man in one of the interrogation rooms. Fraser looked up as Ray opened the door, relaxing when he saw who it was.

“The Lieu wants to see you, Fraser. I can stay here.”

Fraser hesitated for a brief moment, then nodded and stood. “I’ll be back shortly, I’m sure,” he told his friend as he left.

Ray watched him go, then leaned against the door after it was closed. “You doing okay there, Mr. Hanrahan?”

“As well as can be expected. And it’s H. Most everyone calls me that.”

“Fraser doesn’t,” Ray pointed out.

“That’s true enough.”

“Well, we didn’t get properly introduced what with all the craziness. I’m Detective Ray Kowalski.”

If he hadn’t been watching for it, Ray would have missed the brief look of surprise on Hanrahan’s face. “Good to see you again, yes,” he replied. “I almost didn’t recognize you in the suit.”

Ray hid his relief – for once, somebody was going with his cover, and he wasn’t going to question it. “Yeah,” he replied with a smile. “I thought I’d try for a more serious look, instead of the whole I shop at Goodwill thing I had going before. See how that works for me. So,” he went on, “and I’m sorry if this is something you’ve already talked to Fraser about, but did you know the guy who was after you?”

Hanrahan shook his head. “No, but I know what he was after.” He pulled a scrap of paper out of his jacket pocket and slid it toward Ray.

Ray picked it up; it was a theater ticket. “You think he wanted your ticket to the ballet?”

“It isn’t a ticket, Detective – it’s a sign.”

“A sign,” Ray repeated.

“Yes. It’s been over fifty years, but finally, I’ve been called back to duty.”

“With a ballet ticket,” Ray clarified dubiously.

“What did you expect, an engraved invitation?” Hanrahan answered, sounding exasperated. “This is the CIA – of course it can’t be obvious.”

“Ri-ight,” Ray drawled. “Of course it can’t. Hey listen, I should have asked, do you want some water or coffee or anything?”

“Some water would be good, thank you,” Hanrahan answered, and Ray had no doubt the old man knew Ray was just wanting to get out of the room for a few. Whatever. He took the out.

“I’ll be back in a minute. You just sit tight. And while I’m at it, I’ll see if the Lieutenant’s done with Fraser.”

Fraser was just leaving Welsh’s office when Ray got to the bullpen. Ray made a beeline for him, and pulled him aside, explaining what he’d been told. Fraser nodded along and Ray could tell it wasn’t just because he wanted to humor the old guy.

“You really believe this guy’s story?” he asked once he’d finished. “That he’s an agent waiting for activation?”

“This isn’t the first time he’s mentioned his affiliation with the CIA. Why wouldn’t I believe him now?”

Ray sighed. “There are so many reasons I could give, but the truth is, I think I believe him too.”

A surprised look crossed Fraser’s face. “Really? May I ask what convinced you?”

“He’s got you for a friend,” Ray replied, as if that explained everything. “That means that no matter how improbable the story, it’s almost sure to be true. And true or not, we need to come up with a plan, otherwise I get the feeling H will take matters into his own hands.”

***********

They got back to the interrogation room only to find that Mr. Hanrahan had gone.

“Diefenbaker, you were supposed to watch him,” Fraser admonished. Dief put his head on his paws and whined.

“You’re guilting the wolf when the guy basically gave the entire department the slip?” Ray asked.

“When you put it that way, it does seem a little ridiculous,” Fraser admitted. “But we need to find him before he does something foolish.”

“Wouldn’t skipping out on the police, who are protecting you, count as foolish?”

“Well, yes, but I’m sure he had good reason to leave.”

“Okay, so let’s get his address and make sure he’s safe. I already have one dead guy on my hands.”

Fraser frowned at that. “I’ll meet you at the car, Ray. I need to check something with Mort before we leave.”

Ray suppressed a shiver. “Not a problem – I avoid the morgue whenever I can anyhow.”

***********

On the drive to Hanrahan’s apartment, Fraser told Ray that he hadn’t been responsible for the man’s death; Mort had found traces of cyanide in his mouth. That combined with a number of other clues led Fraser to believe the man was Russian.

“I do not want to know how you know all that,” Ray said, holding a hand up to interrupt Fraser. “So this guy ate a poison capsule rather than get caught? I’m not sure that makes me feel better.”

“No, but it does tell us that we really do need to find Mr. Hanrahan quickly.”

***********

Hanrahan’s apartment was empty when they got there, and the landlady, Ruth, said he’d moved out. Fraser didn’t believe her, though he didn’t tell her that. He simply spoke with her, asking questions until Mr. Hanrahan revealed that he’d been hiding in her apartment. Fraser and Ray took Hanrahan aside and told him what they could about the case.

After a brief discussion they convinced Hanrahan that it was too dangerous for him to try and make the meet. Hanrahan reluctantly gave the ticket to Fraser, on the promise that he’d be told what happened afterward.

“And make sure you tell them about me, Fraser,” he insisted. “That I’m ready if they need me.”

“I’ll be sure to tell them should the subject come up, of course, Mr. Hanrahan,” Fraser agreed.

Ray clapped his hands together. “Okay, so you’re going to the theater, and I need to get back to the station, see if they’ve ID’d the body yet.” He looked down at Dief. “The wolf isn’t going with you, is he?”

Dief looked up at Fraser, then put his ears back when Fraser shook his head. “Oh, please, it isn’t like you’d be able to hear any of it. And you’ve never liked the ballet,” Fraser responded, then turned to Ray. “I’ll be taking Diefenbaker back to the Consulate first, unless you’d like him to go with you.”

“I’d like both of you to come with me, but since we don’t have time, I’ll just drop you two off at the Consulate.”

“Thank you kindly, Ray.”

“My pleasure, Benny. It means I don’t have to look at a dead body for a few minutes longer.”

***********

Fraser was glad that Mr. Hanrahan hadn’t insisted on going to the ballet that night, because it actually had been a meeting place for some kind of arms transaction. After a very odd conversation with the woman next to him, and a chase that had Fraser on stage at one point, he’d left the building, only to end up in the car of someone equally strange, and possibly as dangerous as those he was trying to escape.

The car pulled away from the curb before Fraser had even had a chance to close the door. He yanked it shut, barely keeping himself from falling out in the process. As soon as he was safely seated, he looked to the front seat, and the rumpled man driving more precariously than either Ray on their worst day.

“Not to sound ungrateful, but who the hell are you?” Fraser asked, flustered by the events of the past few minutes.

“Canadian,” the man grunted, rounding a corner at too high a speed.

Fraser regained his balance. “You’re Canadian?”

“I thought maybe it was a cover of some kind,” the man replied, which was still no help at all. “But now I think you’re really RCMP.”

“I am RCMP,” Fraser replied, befuddled.

“So you admit Canada is involved,” the man said, turning to face Fraser for far too long. Fraser gestured at the oncoming traffic and the man snorted and turned back around, swerving back into the proper lane at the last second. “No changing the subject – answer the question.”

Fraser thought back to what he’d been asked. “I have no idea what you’re asking. Involved in what?”

“Clever,” the man chuckled, “but it won’t work. You tell me what you know, not the other way around.”

“I’m only asking for a frame of reference,” Fraser protested with a frown. “How do you expect me to answer the question if I don’t know what you’re talking about? And why should I, when I don’t even know your name?”

The man turned around again, eyes narrowed. “It’s Pike, does that help?”

“Not really,” Fraser admitted, and the conversation went on from there, never getting more coherent, until finally Pike thumped the steering wheel in obvious frustration.

“This is worse than I thought,” he said, turning back to face the road just as Fraser was sure they’d be hit by oncoming traffic. The car swerved suddenly, pulling up next to the sidewalk. “Get out,” he told Fraser. “It isn’t safe, I understand that now. I’ll be in touch, possibly from Mexico. But you didn’t hear that.”

Fraser was all too glad to get out of the car, though he had barely started exiting before Pike started driving away. Fraser flung himself away to avoid being either dragged along or run over, then stood and brushed himself off. Looking around, he realized that at least Pike, whoever he was, had left Fraser within reasonable walking distance of the station.

***********

Fraser reached the station to find Ray still there, though he was less than happy about the situation.

“Soon as I got here, Welsh stopped me, all good of you to return, detective.” He rolled his eyes. “Then he tells me there’s people from Ballistics in IA who want to talk to me about the dead guy.”

“But you didn’t shoot him,” Fraser said.

“I know that, you know that, and as it turns out, even IA knows that, but they don’t have a shoved a guy to death section, so they sent over Ballistics.” He blew out a frustrated sigh. “And the fact that it was really poisoning didn’t seem to matter either, so don’t even ask.”

“Do they have any leads as to the identity of the man?”

“No, which is raising red flags, because there should be something, but it’s like the guy didn’t exist.”

“Well, combined with what happened at the ballet, I’d say there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye.”

“Wait, don’t tell me there really was something to that ticket,” Ray said, disbelieving.

***********

“You have got to be kidding me,” Ray said with a humorless smile after Fraser had filled him in on the evening’s events. “Now we have Russian accents and code phrases added into the mix? Don’t tell me, they were looking for Moose and Squirrel.”

“I assure you I’m serious, Ray,” Fraser replied with a puzzled frown. “And they didn’t mention wildlife at all. Why would they?”

“We have got to get you some American culture,” Ray sighed. “But right now, we need to figure out who the guy in the morgue is. FBI files were a bust, so I’m stumped.”

Fraser gave Ray a small smile. “Then perhaps it’s time for the RCMP to come to the rescue,” he said. “Do you think Francesca would mind me using her computer?”

***********

It didn’t take long for Fraser to find the information they needed in the RCMP files, which he shooed Ray away from once he saw that they were classified. Ray pretended not to sulk from across the room, and tried to sneak a glance at the screen every so often, but it was like Fraser had radar on him or something, and he never saw a thing. It was annoying.

“So the guy was KGB?” Ray exclaimed once Fraser found his file. “You have got to be kidding me!”

“I’m serious, Ray. And apparently, the woman at the ballet thought I was part of a group called the Colonels.”

“This just keeps getting crazier and crazier. I need to better tell the Lieu what you found.” Ray frowned. “Better yet, you tell him – he’s already mad at me. And he’s not gonna like this one bit.”

***********

That had been an understatement. After being reassured that Fraser had only used RCMP resources (and getting over his apparent surprise that their records were more up-to-date than the FBI’s), he gave Ray strict orders to stay out of the case, and told them both to leave. Ray expected Fraser to argue, but he merely nodded and left Welsh’s office without protest. Ray followed him, confused.

“I can’t believe you didn’t fight Welsh on that, Fraser.”

“Well, he didn’t forbid me to keep working on the case,” Fraser pointed out. “In any event, we have more pressing concerns. Based on what we’ve learned, I believe Mr. Hanrahan may be in danger.”

Ray thought about that. “Okay, so this isn’t the way we should probably do this, and I know I’m gonna regret it, but what if we take them to my place?”

“Your place, Ray?”

“Yeah. It should be safe, and it won’t be anyplace anyone would suspect.”

“I suppose that’s true enough…” Fraser trailed off.

“Okay, Fraser, what gives?” At Fraser’s confused look, he rolled his eyes and went on, trying to keep as much of the irritation out of his voice as he could. “You obviously don’t like the plan.”

“It isn’t that. It’s just that I don’t know that I feel comfortable using Ray’s apartment as a safe house, Ray,” Fraser said.

“And I don’t see where we have much choice,” Ray countered. “If you had a place, maybe we could take them there, but you don’t, and I’m betting Thatcher wouldn’t want us using the Consulate.”

Fraser grimaced. “No she wouldn’t. And she’d be right. It could cause an international incident.”

“Yeah, and I’ve already got that covered with the KGB stuff. So where you crash is out, and I don’t have many other places that I can use. We don’t know who to trust at the station, so we can’t use a regular safe house. There’s my old house, but then somebody might spot me or it might put Frannie or Elaine in danger, so it’s no good. That leaves the apartment.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Listen, I don’t know if this makes it better or worse, but it isn’t quite the same as last time you were there.”

“You’ve changed it?” Fraser sounded like he didn’t approve. Before Ray could respond, Fraser shook his head. “Of course you have. My apologies.”

“Hey, it’s nothing major, but I did put away some pictures, and clothes, just little stuff like that. It’s all safe in storage for when he gets back, okay?” Ray rubbed the back of his neck. “I just figured you’d notice and I didn’t want to throw off your game.”

“Thank you, Ray.”

“Okay,” Ray said, “So we have a plan. Let’s go get H.”

***********

Even though Hanrahan still refused to tell Ruth exactly what was going on, he insisted that she come with them, sure her safety was at stake as well, and between H and Fraser, Ray agreed. The drive over was quiet and tense. Even Dief was feeling it, looking up at Hanrahan and Ruth with sad eyes from the floor of the backseat.

When they got to the apartment, Ray went up first to check it out, then Fraser and the rest followed.

Fraser surveyed the room while Ray got Hanrahan and Ruth settled in. Ray watched him out of the corner of his eye, and just knew by the way Fraser was standing that he’d have something to say once they were alone.

“Okay, so you two should be fine here,” Ray assured them. “Fraser and me, we need to go check in at the station, but we’ll be back real soon, okay?”

Diefenbaker yipped and sat down near the couch.

“Excellent suggestion,” Fraser nodded. “Dief has volunteered to stay and help keep watch.”

Ray held back a chuckle; he was pretty sure Dief just wanted a comfy place to crash for the night, but he kept it to himself.

***********

“I see you kept a picture of Stella,” Fraser commented as he got in the car.

“Yeah,” Ray replied nonchalantly. “Made sense to keep it. Part of the cover, right?”

“Of course,” Fraser responded, tone just right to annoy Ray.

“Wait a minute. Are you seriously upset not at the stuff I changed but at something I didn’t pack away?” He glared. “You make no sense whatsoever, I hope you know that.”

“I think you should drop me off at the Consulate,” Fraser said, and Ray rolled his eyes at the change of subject. “I need to do more research on the Colonels.”

“More classified research that only Canadians get to see,” Ray clarified. “Fine, whatever. I’ll take you there. Tomorrow morning we can meet up at H’s place. I want to look over it again, now that we know KGB was involved.”

“Where will you sleep tonight?”

He sighed. “I figured I’d try the station. Maybe there’ll be a free holding cell I can crash in.”

***********

Frannie found Ray in a cell the next morning, banging on the bars to wake him up.

“Thanks a lot,” Ray groused, rubbing his sore neck. “What’d I ever do to you?”

“You want a list?” she shot back. “You have a visitor, time to get up.”

“Fraser does not count as a visitor.”

“Duh,” Frannie replied with a snort. “It’s a woman, says her name is Hanrahan.”

That woke Ray up completely. “Take her to my desk and give me a minute to clean up. I’ll be right there.”

***********

The woman in question claimed to be Hanrahan’s daughter, and everything seemed to be in order. She even had paperwork proving her identity. To be honest, if he hadn’t been working with Fraser the past few months Ray would’ve believed her in a heartbeat. As it was, there was this tiny feeling of doubt he was having trouble ignoring. But he escorted her to his car anyway, offering to drive her to her father.

Of course, Frannie calling and telling him Hanrahan’s daughter had died two years earlier proved his gut feeling right, but it didn’t matter, because by then he had a gun trained on him.

He blamed not trusting his instincts on a severe lack of sleep. That lack was also the only thing that explained his next move, which was to refuse to take the woman to H. She threatened to shoot, and he swerved the car to the curb. She was shaken up enough that Ray was able to escape the car, only to have someone pull up and demand he get in.

Not seeing a lot of options, Ray got in the car. As soon as he was partway in, the guy driving sped off without waiting to see if Ray was actually in the car.

He got himself situated and leaned over the front seat. “I’m betting your name is Pike,” he said with a glare.

“And I know yours is Ray Vecchio,” Pike replied, shocking Ray. “Now that roll call is done, we need to get down to business.”

“How did you know my name?”

“I know everything about everything,” Pike replied without a trace of smugness. “Things you know, things you don’t, things you never want to know.” He tapped his head. “It’s all up here.”

“Does that include how to drive like a sane person?” Ray wondered as Pike took a turn too fast, sending Ray sliding across the back seat and into the door.

“It includes knowing about Ray Kowalski,” Pike said, and Ray immediately sat up straight.

“What do you know?”

“I know he’s good at undercover. Good enough that the Feds took an interest a couple years back, started making sure he was picked for harder stuff. Tested him, and he passed with flying colors. I also know he bears a striking resemblance to Michael Straczynski, the Bookman’s right hand man.”

“The Bookman?”

“You wouldn’t know him – Vegas mafia. He’s not big, but he works for men who are.”

“And now Kowalski works for him,” Ray surmised.

“There was a shall we say, interestingly-timed accident that made it easy to slip Kowalski in, yes,” Pike answered. “Which left a vacancy here that had to be filled quickly.”

“Which is why they didn’t worry about how much I don’t resemble the guy I’m supposed to be,” Ray finished. “Jeez, what a mess.”

“That isn’t a mess. This is a mess,” Pike counters, pointing his half-chewed cigar at Ray. “I’ve been tracking Nautilus for years, and this is the closest I’ve come. Only you and the alleged Mountie keep showing up, and I have to wonder why.”

“If we’re in over our heads, blame Fraser. It’s like his super-power,” Ray huffed.

“Maybe,” Pike concedes. “Or maybe you two know more than you’re letting on.” His eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Get out.”

“What?”

“Get out of the car.”

“But it’s still moving!”

Pike swerved to the curb and screeched to a stop. “You have two seconds.”

Ray believed him, and got out, rolling as the car took off before he was completely out. Standing, he brushed himself off and started limping toward Hanrahan’s apartment.

***********

Fraser met him outside, and was surprised to see Ray on foot. “Where’s your car, Ray?”

“Had to crash it to get away,” Ray explained. “Once again, I am reminded why I’m glad that the Riv is safe in Florida.

“Get away?”

“Yeah. Somebody was trying to use me to get to Hanrahan. Showed up at the station pretending to be his daughter”

“His daughter died years ago.”

“I know that.” Fraser gave him a look. “Okay, I know that now. But I didn’t at first, and I was tired and her story sounded right, so I started taking her to my place. Sue me for trusting somebody. Your bad habits are rubbing off on me.”

Fraser ignored that, asking, “Can you describe the woman?”

“I can describe her gun in great detail. It made a real impression,” Ray responded.

“Really, Ray, you need to focus,” Fraser said, shaking his head. “She wasn’t holding you at gunpoint the entire time you were with her.”

“Fine. She was about this tall,” he said holding up his hand, “reddish-brownish hair, attractive, seemed nice until she wanted to kill me. How’s that?”

“It sounds like the woman I met at the ballet. Did she have a Russian accent, by chance?”

Ray rolled his eyes. “Give me a break, Fraser. I think I would have noticed that right off the bat.”

“Right. Sorry.”

They got to the hallway leading up to Hanrahan’s apartment, and Fraser stopped Ray with an arm across his chest. He pointed toward the door, which was slightly ajar.

They approached carefully, and after listening for a minute but not hearing anyone moving inside, they went in, only to find a body in the closet. Fraser recognized it as one of the men that had been at the theater.

“This is not good, Fraser. A guy poisons himself rather than risk arrest, then I get held at gunpoint, and now another guy’s dead… there’s got to be more to this than we know. H must either know something, or have something that several people want really bad.” He picked up the phone and called the station, then tried his apartment. After getting no response, he double-checked the code they’d agreed to use and tried again.

“We need to get to my place now, Benny. I think somebody may have found your friend.”

***********

Ray and Fraser rushed up the stairs, Ray with his gun drawn and ready. The door was closed, but not locked, and Fraser opened it carefully. After a few seconds with no response, Ray inched his way in, Fraser right behind him. The apartment was quiet.

Ray checked the bedroom and bathroom, but they were empty. He was moving toward the kitchen when Fraser called out to him in distress.

Ray rushed over to find Fraser kneeling next to Dief. “What happened?”

Fraser leaned over to sniff at the bowl by Diefenbaker. “He’s been poisoned.”

“You want I should call the vet?” Ray asked, moving to a stack of papers by the phone. “I know Kowalski kept the number here, just gimme a sec to find it.”

Fraser sniffed the bowl again, then looked over the contents carefully. “I believe he’ll be all right. He didn’t eat enough for it to be fatal.”

“You sure?” Fraser nodded. “Well, I at least need to call the station,” Ray said, picking up the phone. “They need to send out a team to dust for prints, the whole nine yards.”

Ray made the call. “All set. I’m going to do a little looking around outside, see if I see anything suspicious.”

“Thank you, Ray,” Fraser said, petting Dief’s fur gently. “We need to find whoever poisoned Dief and took Mr. Hanrahan and Ruth.”

“About that… Fraser, I didn’t see any sign of forced entry, did you?”

“No,” Fraser replied, then frowned as he thought. “And Dief wouldn’t have taken food from just anyone.” Ray tried to hide a doubtful look at that, and Fraser glared at him. “Not in a situation like this,” he clarified.

“If you say so,” Ray said heading out the door.

There was someone parked in the alley right behind his apartment, and when Ray started walking toward the car, the driver pulled away, narrowly missing Ray in the process. He pulled his gun and yelled out, “Police!” but they didn’t stop.

Ray fired a couple of shots, but it didn’t slow the guy down. When Fraser ran out of the building a few seconds later, Dief in his arms, Ray was watching the car turn a corner.

“We need to follow that guy,” Ray said, stepping into the street and pulling out his badge. “Police,” he told the first car coming toward him. “We need to use your car!”

***********

“I cannot believe I’m doing this,” Ray complained shortly after, leaning out the car window to watch Fraser sniff the asphalt. “There is no way you can be tracking the car I shot at.”

“Of course I am,” Fraser responded. “The trail is obvious, if you know what to look for. There’s gas leaking from one of the shots you took, flat tire marks, and here’s where they started driving on a rim, necessary since you shot out a tire.”

A car honked behind them and Ray glared back at them. “Police business!” he shouted. “Find another way around if you can’t wait!”

“Thank you, Ray,” Fraser said, standing up and pointing. “They went that way.”

***********

Much to Ray’s surprise, a few blocks later he spotted his car, parked by the dock. He pulled over, and Fraser checked on Dief, who seemed to be starting to wake up a little. Satisfied, they crept closer to the ships and cargo, sneaking around behind boxes, trying to find one or more of the suspects.

Following the sound of voices, they saw the woman that had met with Fraser and tried to abduct Ray. She and another man had semi-automatic rifles and were watching as crate upon crate was being loaded onto a ship. Pulling out his knife, Fraser went to a nearby crate and opened it. Out poured a multitude of rubber ducks; behind them were guns. Lots of guns. “Russian make,” Fraser noted. “This must be what the meet was all about.”

“Had to be more to it than that, Fraser,” Ray whispered back. “Otherwise, why bother making a grab for me to get to Hanrahan?”

Unfortunately, they weren’t as quiet as they’d hoped. Fraser and Ray looked through a slot between boxes just in time to see guns being leveled at them, and ducked before either could be hit. Ray returned fire as he and Fraser tried to find either a way to get closer to disarm them, or a better hiding place. Ray would be happy with either.

He ducked behind a wall of boxes to find Ruth, kneeling next to an unconscious Hanrahan.

“What happened to him?” Ray asked, scanning the area and hoping they’d be safe here.

“He wanted to be a hero,” she replied sadly.

“We get out of this, I’ll buy him a medal myself for bravery,” Ray said, inching around the corner just in time to see Fraser tackling the woman that had pretended to be H’s daughter.

“Didn’t think he had it in him to take down a woman,” Ray chuckled. “You two stay here. I need to cover Fraser.”

Fraser and the woman were still fighting, but at least she was now unarmed. Just as Ray got close, a voice called out, “I knew I’d catch up with you, Nautilus!”

Ray whirled around to see Pike behind a nearby box. “Who? What? Pike! How’d you get here?”

“I’ve been on her trail for years!” he answered. “Almost had you more than once,” he went on, recounting where and when he’d almost captured Nautilus.

But the woman denied being there, or even being Nautilus. And somehow, Fraser knew exactly who they were talking about. Ray was the only one confused, and it was pissing him off. He and Fraser were going to have a talk about partnership and communication after this was over.

Once a timeline had been established, and it was obvious the woman was too young to have been the person he’d been chasing for twenty years, Pike turned his suspicions to Fraser.

Between Pike and Fraser, the woman was distracted enough that Ray was able to come up behind her. For once, he was grateful for Fraser’s ability to get people to talk. She surrendered and he cuffed her.

“So if this isn’t Nautilus, whoever that is,” Ray said, giving Fraser a severe look, “then who is?”

“That would be me,” Ruth said, holding a gun on them all.

Fraser, of course, looked unsurprised. Before she could shoot them, Mr. Hanrahan came up to Ruth started talking to her. It didn’t look like it was working, though, and just as Ray was sure the old guy was about to be shot, Dief jumped in from out of nowhere and knocked Ruth down.

Ray grabbed the gun away while Fraser apprehended Ruth, praising Diefenbaker all the while.

“So, Pike, now that we found Nautilus, what are you going to do?” Ray looked up as he asked, but Pike was gone.

***********

“Every time we get a case, it just gets weirder and weirder,” Ray grumbled as he watched Ruth and the Russians being taken away by the Feds, who had mysteriously arrived minutes after Pike had disappeared.

“First we have an old guy who just happens to be your friend, one you haven’t seen in months and as soon as you do – bam! He gets involved in some kind of international spy thing. Then somebody tries to kidnap him. Then we try to keep him and his lady friend safe, only she’s the one we should’ve been worried about all along!” He glared at Fraser. “Have I missed anything?”

“There’s Pike-“

“Do not say that name aloud, Fraser. I do not want you invoking his presence or something. That guy’s a maniac.”

“Understood.”

“I’m telling you, Fraser. One day there’s gonna be an invasion of flying monkeys, or aliens or hell, let’s be a little more realistic, a nuclear sub’s gonna be hijacked, and I will be not at all surprised to find you right in the middle of things.”

Fraser’s mention of Pike made Ray realize something. “Hey, Benny, speaking of that guy who’s name I don’t want to hear. Well, he told me some stuff you should know…”

 

Episode 3.9: Asylum

Ray ran, the pain in his head making it hard to think. The shouting and gunshots didn’t help either. All he knew was he needed to get away, get somewhere safe so he could regroup, figure things out.

He tripped on uneven pavement and cursed under his breath, barely stopping himself from falling. This wasn’t good, running with no destination. He ducked into an alley for a minute, breathing heavily, taking stock of where he was. Think, Vecchio, where’s safe?

It came to him in a flash, and Ray was off again, this time with purpose. He didn’t stop running until he was through the Consulate doors, sliding on the slick surface and catching himself on the reception desk. “Fraser,” he panted out, “I need your help.”

***********

Ray had to say this for the guy - Fraser didn’t let much throw him. In short order, he had Ray in the Inspector’s office and after looking over Ray’s head wound and declaring that it didn’t look too serious, he’d started cleaning it carefully. Ray was too tired and freaked by the whole thing to do anything but let Fraser have his way. Fraser’s only concession had been to keep his questions to Ray to health-related issues, but Ray knew he was itching to know what was going on.

“The meet went wrong from the get-go, Fraser,” Ray started, once he felt a little more like himself. “Volpe was one of Kowalski’s contacts.”

“Surely someone would have told you that before letting you set up a meeting.”

Ray huffed out a sarcastic laugh at that. “Yeah, you’d think that, wouldn’t you? But nobody said a word, and the guy made me on sight. I was pretty much screwed from the minute he laid eyes on me.”

“May I ask why you went to meet with him in the first place?”

“Everything I heard led me to believe he’s a small-timer who’s been getting too big for his britches lately. It was just supposed to be me sussing out what’s what, no arrests, just intel.” He thought about it and frowned. “I was also told he called in wanting the meet, which now that I think about it means he probably called for Kowalski.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter now. He got angry and accused me of setting him up, I defended myself – verbally only, mind you – and the next thing I know, I’ve got this bump on my head and he’s on the ground.”

Fraser started dabbing some foul-smelling salve on Ray’s wound. “Do you suspect someone at the station?”

“Ow! Watch that stuff, Fraser - it stings! And it stinks.”

“That’s because it’s made from-“

“Never tell me,” Ray interrupted. “And to answer your question, I suspect everybody right now. Present company excepted, I guess. And Frannie. And Welsh and, aw hell, Fraser, I don’t know. My head hurts too much to think straight. Did you ever hear Kowalski mention Volpe?”

Fraser thought about it for a minute, then shook his head. “No. But if it was one of his contacts from a case prior to our meeting, or from when he was undercover, he might not have said anything. I do know that he didn’t use Volpe as a regular contact while we worked together.”

“That’s what I figured. This whole set-up stinks worse than that goop you’re putting on my forehead.”

“Ray, were you able to check Volpe’s condition? Is he still alive?”

“Not sure,” Ray shrugged, wincing. “I just know there were cops I didn’t recognize with their guns drawn, chasing me and I didn’t wait around to see why.”

“They were just doing their jobs, Ray.”

“Maybe. But my gut told me to run, so I did.” He looked up at Fraser, but the man’s face was unreadable.

“Why did you come here?” Fraser asked almost hesitantly.

“Truth?” Ray winced as Fraser touched a cotton ball to the cut on his forehead. “Because I got nowhere else I can go in this town and be safe. Not anymore.”

“Ah, I see,” Fraser replied, his voice even. “Well, I will of course help you as best I can.”

“Never doubted it for a minute, Benny,” Ray replied honestly, and from the corner of his eye he saw Fraser’s surprised smile at the statement. But really, it was only the truth. Fraser may be too believing, amazingly naÔve, and way too nice of a guy, but Ray knew he could trust him.

“Well, I think we at least need to let Lt. Welsh know what’s happened,” Fraser said after a minute.

Ray sighed, wincing again as Fraser finished with the first aid and put a bandage over the cut above Ray’s eye. “Yeah, we probably should. And maybe we can rule out the 2-7, or at least a good chunk of it. But that leaves a lot of people on the list.”

“Perhaps I could go in, do a little research.”

“I can do it,” Ray answered.

Fraser gave him a calculating look. “Ray, tell me again what happened today.”

“And I’m the one with a head injury,” Ray said, rolling his eyes but told Fraser the short version of his story. Fraser nodded, then, before Ray could respond, he had Ray in handcuffs and was reciting Ray his Miranda rights.

“Get these cuffs off of me right now, Fraser,” Ray ground out with a glare.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Ray,” Fraser replied cool as a cucumber, with just a hint of genuine remorse.

It did nothing to quell Ray’s anger. “This isn’t funny. Get them off.”

“It isn’t meant to be,” Fraser said, and Ray could see the stubborn set to his jaw. “You’re in Canada now, and I have to do my duty.”

“And your duty is to arrest your partner even though you have no facts, no evidence? What kind of crazy legal system do you have here?”

Fraser knelt so he was at eye level with Ray. “Think about it. You’ve just been arrested on Canadian soil.”

Ray frowned as he thought, then his face cleared as he got what Fraser was getting at. “Which means that if anyone out there wants me, they have to jump through hoops to get me.”

“I’m afraid so. The law is quite clear on matters of extradition.”

Ray smiled. “Benny, you are a genius.”

***********

It didn’t take long for Ray to revise his opinion. This is a stupid plan,” Ray announced. “I already hate being stuck here. How am I supposed to clear myself from the Consulate?”

“I told you I’d help, Ray,” Fraser responded.

“Yeah, but you’re still here,” Ray pointed out.

“Only for a few minutes more. Here,” he said, turning on the television, “perhaps this will hold your interest.”

The news was on, and they had tuned in just in time to hear Damon Cahill, candidate for State’s Attorney, making some very strong statements about justice being served in the Volpe murder, even if it turned out the police were implicated.

“Wow, that was fast,” Ray said, sitting back in shock. “He must’ve been at the station when the call came in.”

“Perhaps,” Fraser said, lost in thought. “Well, at least now we know that Mr.Volpe was murdered. That gives us a place to start.”

“My being framed wasn’t enough?”

“Well, yes, of course it is, but now we know the extent the individual framing you is willing to go. It seems like you running from the scene of the crime was the best course of action.”

“Like I said, instinct told me to run, and I’ve learned to trust my instincts.” He waved a hand at the TV screen. “That guy is just looking to revive his campaign, and lucky me, I get to be issue of the week.”

“His campaign isn’t going well?”

“Not according to Stella. And from what she’s said, it’s a good thing, too. Guy’s kind of a sleazeball.”

“Well, our first course of action to clear you is to gather evidence.”

“Again, hard to do from Canada.”

“Not if we start with you,” Fraser pointed out. “For instance, if Volpe was shot, there would be blowback, which you won’t have. “

“Except I do,” Ray said, “because I had to do some recertification at the range today.”

“Ah. Well, that does make matters more difficult.”

“And the inside job thing more likely.”

Before Fraser could respond, there was a knock at the Consulate door. “Stay here, Ray,” Fraser said, and Ray sighed and settled into the couch.

Fraser opened the door to see Huey and Dewey. “Welcome to Canada. How can I help you gentlemen?” Fraser asked, cool and polite.

“Do you know where Ray is?” Dewey asked.

“He’s in my custody,” Fraser answered.

“We’re here to take him in, Fraser,” Huey said apologetically. “Sorry, but it’s our job.”

“I understand, Jack,” Fraser replied. “And I hope you understand that I can’t hand him over to you. As I said, he’s in my custody.”

“I don’t think you understand your position, Fraser. We may not like it, but we’re here on official police business.”

“I understand completely. But as I said, Detective Kowalski is in my custody. I arrested him here, on Canadian soil. And as that is the case, I cannot release him to you. If you were to submit the proper paperwork, of course, the situation would be entirely different,” he finished reasonably.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Dewey scoffed.

“I never kid about justice, Detective Dewey,” Fraser replied coldly, then turned back to Jack. “Do you have the necessary forms? If not, I would be more than happy to provide them.”

“I think we’re going to need them, Fraser,” Jack replied.

“Of course. If you gentlemen wouldn’t mind waiting here, I’ll be right back with everything you need.”

“Except Kowalski,” Dewey muttered.

“Exactly so,” Fraser said as he closed the door.

When he returned a few minutes later, Jack took the forms, leaning in to say, “Stalling for time? Slick move, Fraser. You need any help, let me know. You say the guy’s innocent, that’s enough for me.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Fraser replied just as quietly, giving Huey a tiny nod.

Fraser watched as the men left, forms in hand, and once they were gone he breathed a sigh of relief. He had the law on his side, but that hadn’t made the situation any less nerve-wracking.

***********

“That was pretty cool,” Ray said, watching Fraser from the doorway. “Except for the part where you actually gave them the forms so they could extradite me.”

“It’s part of my job, Ray. Besides, they have to be filed with the American Embassy in Ottawa, so it isn’t like they’ll be back in a few hours,” Fraser explained.

“Really? Ottawa?”

“Oh yes,” Turnbull chimed in from behind Ray, startling him. “And there’s precedent as well. Constable Fraser has matters well in hand.”

Ray felt a little of the tension he’d been carrying leave his body. “Okay, so if I don’t have to worry for awhile, I have more pressing concerns.”

“Like what, Ray?” Fraser asked.

“Like the fact that I’m starving,” Ray replied, rubbing his stomach.

“We have a well-stocked pantry for visiting guests,” Fraser replied. “I think in this instance you technically qualify for that status.”

“Great,” Ray said, rolling his eyes. “Bring on the putty sandwiches and pemmican.”

“I’d be happy to make you something, Detective Kowalski,” Turnbull offered. “I’ve been trying new recipes, and had some interesting results.”

“Or there’s always pizza delivery,” Fraser counter-offered.

“Pizza,” Ray immediately replied, afraid of what Turnbull might make.

Turnbull looked like he wanted to argue the point, but then thought better of it. He nodded. “I’ll go get the phone book.”

“You made the right choice,” Fraser said after Turnbull had left. “When Turnbull says his food is interesting, I can assure you he means in the Chinese interpretation of the word. Even Diefenbaker won’t try his food now.”

***********

Once the matter of feeding Ray was settled, Fraser agreed to go to the station and bring back Ray’s secret stash of files, and Ray promised not to leave the Consulate.

“Huey and Dewey are stationed outside the door waiting to arrest me if I step foot back on U.S. soil. I know I need to stay here,” Ray told him.

Fraser didn’t respond, searching Ray’s face for something. Finally, he nodded, satisfied that Ray would keep his word. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Try to get along with Turnbull if you can, please. I’d consider it a personal favor.”

“I didn’t realize you liked the guy,” Ray said.

Fraser pinked slightly and looked over Ray’s shoulder. “It isn’t that. I’m afraid my reasons are entirely selfish. If he thinks you don’t like him, or he’s done something to offend you, I won’t hear the end of it. He’ll pester me for hours trying to find a way to rectify the situation.”

***********

Ray paced the room, trying not to watch the clock. He hated feeling trapped. “I have got to get out of here – I’m going nuts.” He started to move toward the doorway, but Turnbull stopped him with a surprisingly firm grip on his arm.

“Constable Fraser was quite clear, Detective. You have to stay at the Consulate. I’m sure he’ll be back soon with the evidence needed to exonerate you.” Turnbull smiled and gestured to the couch. “Until then, you’re more than welcome to watch curling with me.”

“Curling?”

“It’s quite an exciting sport, truly. Sure to take your mind right off of your troubles.”

***********

When Fraser returned, Ray nearly jumped off the couch. “Fraser! Finally!”

Turnbull waved him in. “Sir, you’re just in time!”

Fraser moved to stand behind the couch, and Ray couldn’t believe how quickly Fraser forgot everything but what was on the screen. When he joined Turnbull in yelling, “Sweep!” Ray was pretty sure he’d seen everything. He shook his head in disbelief, and suddenly Fraser seemed to notice him.

“Sorry about that, Ray, but I’m glad you got to see that too. What an exciting end!”

Ray couldn’t believe his ears. “They were pushing rocks-“

“Stones,” Turnbull corrected.

“Stones,” Ray went on, grimacing in disdain, “across the ice with a broom. Forgive me if I don’t think that’s the most exciting thing going on in my life at the moment.”

“You have a point, Ray. But you have to admit, curling is a fine sport.”

“I will admit no such thing. You know,” Ray observed, “just because that Mountie shrink declared you acceptable doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re nuts, Fraser.”

“Understood,” Fraser responded, unrepentant.

Ray shook his head, amused, then looked at Fraser and tried to hide his disappointment. “So I guess you weren’t able to get the files,” he said.

“The men investigating the case were quite adamant about my not taking potential evidence from the station,” Fraser said. “Or letting me too near any of your things, for that matter. Fortunately,” he went on, reaching into his pants, “your sister wasn’t watched as closely.”

Fraser pulled the files out, and Ray grinned. “You did it! That’s great, Benny! But please, don’t ever mention my sister while reaching into your pants ever again, okay?”

“Okay.”

***********

After looking at the files, Fraser decided the best course of action to take would be to meet with Gus Fillion, who Ray described as an old-school gangster-type. Ray wasn’t so sure, but it made sense. Fillion and his main rival, Eddy Herndorff, had been getting along too well lately, and Volpe was the only link that Ray or Fraser could see.

They were arguing whether or not Fraser should go alone when Turnbull came for Fraser. It seemed that Cahill and Lt. Welsh were at the door.

Fraser was wholly unsurprised to hear Cahill ask that he surrender Ray to their custody. He refused, politely, of course, and tried to explain Ray’s innocence, but even with Lt. Welsh vouching for Fraser’s honesty, Cahill wasn’t listening.

The law was on Fraser’s side, however, so they left empty-handed. Satisfied that they’d be left alone for awhile now, Fraser returned to debate strategy with Ray.

***********

“Don’t you have guest rooms or something?” Ray complained hours later, when Fraser offered to get the couch ready for him to sleep on.

“Well, there’s the Queen’s bedroom, but that’s only for honored dignitaries.”

“What if I promise never to tell anyone I slept there?” Ray asked hopefully. “Cross my heart and hope to die. Come on, Thatcher’s not here, and isn’t due back for a couple of days. I’ll help clean up, and she’ll never know.”

“I’ll just get you some bedding,” Fraser replied. “I’m told this couch is quite comfortable.”

Once in his office, Fraser opened the closet door, relieved to find not his father’s office, but just the clothes and extra bedding he’d been hunting for. He reached in and pulled out a blanket, almost dropping it when his father spoke up behind him.

“Of course it’s just a closet, son,” Fraser Sr. said. “You’d have a hard time explaining where you got an Inuit blanket from, considering you haven’t told this one about me yet.”

“I thought you didn’t want me to,” Fraser said, hoping his father hadn’t noticed how startled he’d been. “You didn’t seem to like that Ray knew about you.”

“That had everything to do with his attitude,” Fraser Sr. scoffed. “Maybe this new partner of yours would show me some respect.”

“Do we really have to discuss this now, Dad?” Fraser asked.

“Good to see you’re taking our earlier talk to heart,” his father went on, oblivious as always to his son’s discomfort. “Didn’t expect it, to be honest. You seemed pretty attached to the Yank.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Your new partner, son. It’s good that you’re helping him. Interesting plan, too.”

“He’s being set up, Dad. Of course I’m going to help. How I feel about him as a partner has nothing to do with that.” He gave his father a curious look. “I’m actually surprised you’re approving of this course of action. While legal, it is adhering much more to the letter of the law than its spirit. And there’s a good chance that I’ll have to resort to more devious measure before this is through.”

Fraser Sr. nodded. “I do understand, you know”

“You do?”

“Of course I do,” his father huffed. “You think you’re the only one to ever face an ethical dilemma? 1961.”

Fraser just gave him a confused look. “I haven’t read your journals from that year, I’m afraid,” he finally said.

“Wouldn’t find this there if you had. Had to do with Russians, a land dispute, and me being ordered to force a village of thirty-two families to move to an even harder life than they already had.”

“Did you do it?”

“Of course I did. Officially, at least. Unofficially… this doesn’t leave this room.”

Fraser had to wonder what kind of repercussions his father thought the RCMP could take that would reach beyond the grave. “Of course not,” he replied, trying to remain serious.

“Unofficially, I plotted out the land, got one of the young men from the village to move up there, and we built him a post office to live in and collect relocation checks.”

“What happened to him?”

“Well, I think he works at a record store in Winnipeg now, why?”

“What I meant was, what happened to the village?”

“Then you should have asked that. Be specific, son. The people of his village collected the checks, got themselves a lawyer and won a case fighting the relocation.”

“So you helped them despite your orders.”

“I did my duty to the people of the village. That’s who I was sworn to protect. You can’t do this job if you do it without letting what feels right enter the picture, son.”

This was possibly the most helpful conversation he and his father had ever had. “Thank you, Dad,” he started to say, but Fraser Sr. had disappeared, leaving him alone in his office.

***********

“Here you go, Ray,” Fraser said as he returned, handing Ray the bedding. “I suggest we both get some sleep. It will give us clearer heads and a fresher perspective.”

Ray nodded, then made himself ask, “Why, Benny? I mean, why are you doing all this? Why do you believe me?”

Fraser looked honestly confused. “Why wouldn’t I, Ray?”

“Is it really that easy for you?” Ray laughed ruefully. “I know your default setting is to help people, no matter how bad things look, but you actually believe me, and I don’t get it. If I really was Kowalski, sure, that would make sense, but… you don’t know me all that well.”

Fraser took a sheet from Ray and started making up the couch. “While it’s true that I hadn’t met you until recently, and yes, the fact that you’re having to live a deception really isn’t a point in your favor, I do feel like I know you.”

“You mean you read my record.”

“Yes, as well as hearing stories about you from Francesca. And I’ve worked with you, long enough to know that you didn’t do this. So of course I believe you.”

“So is this how it was with you and Kowalski? You meet the guy and bam! Instant trust?”

“What Ray and I have is…unique. He likened our working relationship to a duet.” He turned away, smoothing down the sheets. “That we were also close friends was a surprising, but welcome addition.”

Ray gave him a sidelong glance. “You think we’ll ever have anything like that?”

Fraser turned to face him. “You’re my partner. And I think… I think you’re becoming my friend.”

Ray stared at him, a little shocked. “Was that hard to say?”

Fraser raised his eyebrows, smiling wryly. “Not as difficult as it might have been a few days ago.” He looked at the now-made couch. “So, will Diefenbaker have to keep watch on you tonight?”

Ray thought about it for a few seconds, then shook his head. “Hey, you’re trusting me with a lot here. Least I can do is do the same for you.” He clapped Fraser on the shoulder. “Good night, Benny.”

“Good night, Ray.”

***********

Fraser nodded to Jack and Dewey, stationed across the street from the Consulate, and Jack gave him a tired wave in return. He could see Dewey watching the exchange with a puzzled frown. He felt a little sorry for them; they’d obviously been there awhile already. If they were still there when he got back, Fraser would stop and see if they needed anything. It wasn’t their fault they’d been assigned this duty.

Dief must have sensed his train of thought, or at least part of it. He barked at Fraser as they walked.

“It all depends on your behavior, Diefenbaker. You’re much more likely to get something from the diner down the street if you actually keep your focus on the task at hand and not on your baser instincts.”

Dief snorted at that.

“No, I don’t think I’m asking too much of you,” Fraser replied, “but if you really believe that, we can talk about your duties, of course. Just understand that it would be a complete renegotiation, not just you getting a few more treats for no more work.” Fraser was wholly unsurprised at the half-wolf’s lack of response. “That’s what I thought.”

***********

The time spent with Fillion was valuable only in that it gave Fraser more reason to suspect that Fillion’s rival, Herndorff, had more to do with the case than Fillion himself. True, he had to take that information with a grain of salt, seeing as the two were rivals, but it wouldn’t hurt to follow up on what Fillion had told him. If nothing else, Fillion seemed to keep very up-to-date on local goings on; he had known Ray was at the Consulate.

***********

Meanwhile, Ray had decided that promise or no promise, he had to get out and try to clear his own name. The trouble was how. He couldn’t just leave; he’d be arrested on sight. Ray started snooping around, trying to come up with something that would help. He couldn’t believe his luck when he opened a closet and found a spare Mountie uniform.

Perfect. Now all he had to do was find a way to distract Turnbull long enough to put the thing on and sneak out. And luck was on Ray’s side; not a minute after he thought that, the phone rang. It was the Dragon Lady, calling in to terrorize her people from wherever the hell she was. Ray almost felt sorry for Turnbull as he listened to him stammering on the phone. Almost. Ray rushed changing clothes and made his way to the front door. Time to give the disguise a try.

Holding his head high, Ray stepped out the door, walking purposefully. He didn’t spare a glance to Huey or Dewey, even though the need to look over his shoulder was getting stronger by the second. But after a couple of minutes with no one stopping him, Ray realized he’d really managed to get away with it.

“You are one slick SOB,” he chuckled to himself.

That was, of course, when he felt the gun pressed to his side.

***********

Ray woke up with a nasty headache, and tried to check it, only to realize he was tied to a chair.

“Ah, you’re awake,” he heard Fraser say, and Ray groaned, only half because of the pain. Of course Fraser was here. He made himself look up. Yep, there Fraser was, just as trussed up as Ray. They were in a warehouse of some kind. Ray had no idea where; once he’d been shoved into a car, they’d knocked him out.

“I see you decided to do some investigative work on your own,” Fraser said calmly.

“And I see you found out why not using back-up is a bad thing,” Ray responded, tugging at the ropes.

“It’s a decent disguise,” Fraser went on. “ Though I hope you realize that you’ve given me another reason to arrest you, Ray. Impersonating a Mountie is a serious offense.”

Ray huffed out a laugh at that; of course that’s what Fraser would be focusing on right now. “Tell you what – I make it out of this without getting killed or put in jail and I’ll write a formal apology. Think that would cover it?”

Fraser frowned. “Considering the extenuating circumstances, it might. But you’d need to apologize to Turnbull in person as well. And have his uniform cleaned, of course.”

Ray sighed. “Being arrested might be the easier way to go with this one. He’s just gonna give me a sad face and make me feel guilty.”

“Technically speaking, that’s because you are guilty, Ray.”

“Shut up, Benny.” He tugged on the ropes again “So, Fillion or Herndorff?”

“Fillion’s not smart enough to snag the two of you,” Herndorff answered as he walked up to the two of them, flanked by three of his men.

“He’s smart enough to be setting you up for this,” Ray answered. “That’s why I was coming to see you. I figured we could cut a deal.”

Herndorrf laughed, and Fraser leaned over to Ray. “I believe Mr. Herndorrf has already made a deal with the police. I can hear the sirens getting closer.”

“Sharp ears, Mountie,” Herndorrf said. “I’ll just be leaving the two of you here. Turning in Volpe’s killer is going to get me all kinds of favors.”

“That wasn’t me!” Ray protested, but Herndorff just laughed and left.

“Great,” Ray said as they were left alone. “So now what? Cahill’s going to make sure this all gets pinned on me and if there’s really someone on the inside helping him, I’m done for.”

“We’ll just have to make sure they don’t find you then,” Fraser said, watching the door.

“How are we going to do that? You have some trick for dislocating your shoulder to get out of the ropes or something?”

“I do, but that won’t be necessary. Diefenbaker will help us.”

Ray looked around. “The mutt’s here?”

“He should be soon. I believe he was following the men who brought me here.”

“Great. So now we’re stuck unless Rin Tin Tin comes to our rescue.”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind, Fraser.” There was a clanging noise outside the door, and Ray called out, “Dief! In here!”

“You do remember that he’s deaf, Ray,” Fraser said.

“I still don’t believe it. And I have to do something. Dief!”

Sure enough, Diefenbaker came through the door. Fraser got him to bring them a knife from a nearby table, and moments later they were free.

Before they could leave, the police arrived, forcing Fraser and Ray into hiding. They took to the rafters, and Dief hid under a car. Luckily, no one thought to look up, and Fraser, Ray and Dief were able to make their way back to the Consulate.

***********

Later that evening, there was a knock at the Consulate door. Fraser opened it and was surprised to see Lt. Welsh.

“Sir, this is unexpected.”

“And does that mean I’m not allowed inside?”

“Oh! Of course not, excuse my manners. Please, come in,” Fraser answered quickly, opening the door.

“That you, Constable,” the lieutenant said as he walked in. “And Vecchio, you might as well come out and hear this too.”

Ray moved from his spot around a corner to face his boss. “Sorry about that, sir.”

“I can’t stay long,” Welsh said, facing them both. “I just thought that you’d like to know that Cahill has friends in high places.”

“How high?” Ray asked.

“High enough to put a rush on the extradition. He’ll be here at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, and he’s planning on making a media circus out if it. He didn’t like you making him look bad, Constable, and it looks like he’s planning on returning the favor.”

“I see. Well, thank you for letting us know, Lieutenant.”

“You have anything you can tell me?” Welsh wondered.

“Yeah, that I didn’t do it,” Ray said. “There’s a leak in Major Crime, and it isn’t me.”

“Do you have any speculation you’d care to share as to who the leak is, Detective?”

Ray nodded. “It’s gotta be Kilrea. He’s been mixed up in the entire thing since Volpe was killed. I bet if you check you’ll find out he was even at the range when I was. He sees me, knows I’ll have blowback on my hands… perfect chance to get rid of Volpe for Herndorrf and frame me.”

“I’ll check the records at the range,” Welsh said. “Anything else?”

“What did the officers at the murder scene have to say, Lieutenant?” Fraser asked.

“I haven’t been given access to those report,” Welsh said with a sour look. “But I know who they were, and I can find out where they are right now. Not that I can follow up on such information, you understand.”

“Of course, sir,” Fraser replied. “Thank you.”

***********

Fraser went to talk with one of the officers, Officer Tibbett, and found out that they’d found Volpe and Ray through an anonymous tip. Unfortunately for the caller, Tibbett had recognized the voice as one of Cahill’s employees.

Fraser called the Consulate and told Ray what he’d learned, then called to order pizzas for dinner. They arrived at the Consulate just as he did, and Fraser paid for them, handing one to Ray before taking the other to Huey and Dewey, still stationed outside the Consulate.

“I’m afraid I don’t have any beverages,” he said as he handed a bewildered Dewey the box.

“That’s okay, Fraser, we have enough coffee here to last the night,” Jack said with a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

“I know you’re just doing your job, Jack, Detective Dewey,” Fraser replied, tipping his hat to them. “Good night, gentlemen.”

***********

“That was a nice thing you did,” Ray told Fraser as he entered the building. “Not everybody’d be that understanding.”

Fraser shrugged and took the pizza from Ray, leading him to the kitchen.

“Hey, we got an anonymous call while you were out,” Ray said with a grin. “Well, except I knew it was Frannie, but hey, you didn’t hear that from me. Anyway, Kilrea was on the range the day I was, even though he had no reason to be, since he’d done his qualifications the day before.”

“That’s good news, Ray,” Fraser said as he got out plates and paper towels.

“Yeah. Even better, it looks like there’s a tie to Fillion, too, some player they brought in from out of town for a big job. Welsh has somebody looking into it on the sly.”

Fraser just nodded and handed Ray a plate.

“What, no cloth napkins? I am offended,” Ray teased. When Fraser didn’t respond, Ray took a deep breath and blew it out. “Look, I’m sorry about today, okay? I just, I don’t know, got a combination of stir-crazy and a really-bad-feeling, and I had to get out. It isn’t that I don’t trust you, you know that, right?”

“I appreciate your saying so, Ray.”

Ray could tell that was all he was going to get. The meal was spent in a tense kind of silence as they watched curling. Ray tried to look interested, and hoped Fraser saw it as the olive branch it was.

***********

The next morning there was a crowd waiting to get into the Consulate. Fraser and Turnbull met everyone at the door, and insisted that each person leave any and all firearms at the desk. There was a lot of grumbling, but with Fraser backing Turnbull up and quoting the law at them, everyone seemed to do as they were asked.

Ray watched it all from a side room, surprised to see not only Cahill and the press, but Herndorff and Fillion there too, along with some of their men. It made for a very tense group.

Finally, Cahill had had enough, and demanded that Fraser turn Ray over to him. He handed over the proper paperwork with a flourish, a nasty smirk on his face.

“So if you’ll just hand over Detective Kowalski, we can let you get back to your business,” Cahill said.

“I’m afraid it isn’t that simple, Mr. Cahill,” Fraser replied, placing the papers on the desk behind him and picking up an envelope. “You see, there was a witness to the murder, and there’s a sworn affidavit in this envelope that will not only exonerate Detective Kowalski, but implicate someone here.”

He looked over everyone in the room. All were fidgety as his gaze stopped on each man as he spoke of their possible connection to Volpe and reasons for the murder. Finally, Cahill couldn’t take it; he grabbed the envelope from Fraser.

“This is evidence, and you’re obstructing an investigation!” he declared.

“To be completely honest, it’s a blank piece of paper. But it’s been very revealing, don’t you think?”

Cahill glared as he ripped open the envelope to see what was inside. “There’s no proof of anything, then.”

“Only in your actions.”

“No proof at all that I was involved,” he reiterated. Then everyone turned at a commotion in the hall. Inspector Thatcher appeared in the doorway and focused her irritation at Fraser.

“Constable! I expect an explanation of-“

She stopped as Cahill grabbed her, pulling out a gun he’d hidden and pressing it against her side.

“That’s a mistake, Mr. Cahill.”

“The only mistake is you not checking me better for weapons! If anyone tries anything, I’ll kill her,” he said as he started backing out of the room.

Cahill couldn’t see the look on Thatcher’s face, but Fraser could. He almost felt sorry for Cahill, who the Inspector disarmed handily.

As he was cuffed, Thatcher walked over to Fraser. “I expect a full report, by tomorrow morning, and this place had better be spotless.”

“Understood, sir.

***********

Fraser and Ray watched Cahill get taken away. “Well, it looks as if you’re free to go, Ray.”

“That it does, Benny, and I have to say, as helpful as it was to be in Canada, Chicago’s looking pretty good right now.” He started toward the door, then stopped and turned back to face Fraser. “Thanks. For everything.”

“Thank you for trusting me.”

Ray smiled. “Hey, what are partners for?”

***********

“You have no idea how nice it is to be able to go where I want, see who I want,” Ray told Stella as he took a sip of wine. “Just to get out of that Consulate. I mean, it’s nice and all, but I don’t know how Fraser can stand living there.”

Stella shook her head. “I’m sure he can give you all kinds of reasons why it makes sense to be there, and how wonderful it is. He might even believe them.”

And that was as good an opening as any. “So I’ve been wanting to ask, what do you have against Fraser anyhow? And don’t tell me it’s nothing – I’ve seen how you look at him.”

“How’s that, Ray?”

He chuckled. “Pretty much the opposite of every other woman around.”

She looked down and smiled softly as she twirled her fork in her pasta. “It really isn’t anything I can pin down.” She looked at Ray. “It’s just if something seems to be too good to be true it probably is, that’s all.”

“You think Fraser’s too good to be true? Because again, not the impression I get from you.”

Ray certainly does.” Her brow furrowed in a way Ray couldn’t help but find endearing “From the way he told it you’d think Fraser walked on water.”

Ray shook his head. “He does do some pretty unbelievable stuff, that’s for sure, this past few days being a prime example. But as his partner I can tell you that him being some kind of white knight is definitely not the case.”

Stella leaned forward. “Wait a minute. You mean there’s actually some dirt on the Mountie?”

Ray rolled his eyes and snagged an olive from his salad. “Nah, the guy’s squeaky clean.”

Stella raised her eyebrow and smiled. “Come on, Ray – you can tell me.”

“Nothing to tell. I’m serious. Any black marks in his file are probably ones he put there himself. But he’s just a regular guy, is what I meant. He’s not a saint, unless being the most annoying person on the planet can get you nominated for sainthood – then he’s a shoe-in. He’s stubborn, and knows everything and nothing all at the same time, and he’s like a crazy-magnet. But he really does try to treat people the way he thinks everyone should be treated.”

“He’s really that… nice?” Stella asked dubiously.

“Most of the time, yeah.”

Stella sat back and took a bite of her dinner, a small frown on her face. “Well for a nice guy he almost got Ray killed a lot.”

“That’s the crazy-magnet thing. And the stubborn thing. And the believing everybody’s good until they prove otherwise thing, all rolled into one. But still, you gotta admit that Ray wasn’t the safest guy around either. I mean, I’ve read the guy’s file and some of the undercover jobs he took were dicey as hell.”

Stella gave him a cold look. “What are you implying? Ray’s a good cop!”

“I’m just saying that he did some seriously risky stuff way before Fraser entered the picture.” Ray sighed. “Believe me, I hear about him often enough to know just how good of a cop he is.”

Stella reached over to cover Ray’s hand with hers. “I’m sorry. It’s got to be really hard being in this situation, replacing somebody like this. How about we change the subject – anything you want.” Ray turned his hand under hers to squeeze it briefly in thanks.

“Sounds good to me. Because I may have to be somebody else, but that doesn’t mean I need him in my face 24/7. Besides,” he added, running a thumb over the back of her hand, “there’s another Kowalski that I find much more interesting.”

Chapter Text

Episodes 4.2-4.3: Mountie on the Bounty

Of all the places Ray thought he might die, voluntarily jumping into the river from a stupidly scary height while being shot at had actually never made his list. Yet here he was, ready to jump. And of course, Fraser was right next to him.

He glared at Fraser as he tried to prepare himself to take the plunge. “And you still think you shouldn’t carry a gun!” he shouted. “Maybe you could at least carry extra ammo for me then, like the big red boy scout you are.”

“I don’t see how that’s relevant right now,” Fraser shot back. “And boy scouts don’t wear red, not even in Canada.”

Ray rolled his eyes. “If we live through this, I may kill you myself,” he muttered, ducking instinctively as another shot rang out from above. Then he took one more deep breath, and they both jumped.

***********

Ray pulled himself out of the water and leaned over, hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. He watched Fraser climb out, looking for all the world like he did this kind of thing every day. It was like nothing could faze the guy.

“Jeez, it’s a good thing I can swim,” he was finally able to say. “If you’d made Kowalski jump off like that you’d have to have pulled him out. I mean, I read the guy can’t swim, right?”

“That’s correct. It’s another way in which you two are nothing alike,” Fraser pointed out, and Ray felt himself tense even more. They’d been going along okay for awhile after the Cahill thing, but it was still touchy, and Ray was getting really tired of it.

“Yeah and in this case it’s a good way.” Ray shook himself and looked down in disgust at his ruined suit. “I am getting too old for this.”

The sound of sirens made them both look up, just in time to see the men that had been shooting at them drop their weapons, now surrounded by police. “Great,” Ray said in disgust, gesturing up at the scene. “We didn’t even have to almost get killed.”

“We had no way of knowing that, Ray,” Fraser pointed out tersely.

“Really?” Ray challenged. “Because I seem to remember you being able to hear police cars from pretty far away when Herndorff had us. Something happen between then and now to decrease your hearing? Is Dief’s selective deafness contagious, maybe?”

“The angle we were at, combined with the distance, made it impossible,” Fraser replied icily.

“Oh, so you admit there’s something you can’t do!” Ray crowed.

“There are many things I cannot do. And right now, it appears that having a civil conversation with you is at the top of that list.” He turned to go and Ray stopped him, a hand on his arm.

“Where are you going?”

“I thought I’d change,” Fraser said, looking at Ray like he was an idiot for even asking.

Ray gave him an incredulous look. “So what, you’re just going to walk back to the Consulate?”

“Did you have a better idea?”

Ray clenched his hands into fists as he started to answer. “Actually-“ A voice called his name, and Ray looked over to see an officer waving him over. He gritted his teeth as he went on. “You know what? You go ahead. I’ll clean up here. The walk might do you some good.”

***********

Fraser was in the process of changing when his office door opened and Inspector Thatcher walked in.

“Constable, I need to-“ she stopped as she saw his state of undress, then turned away. “Is there some reason you’re out of uniform in the middle of the day?”

“Sorry, sir,” he answered as he moved behind the desk to better block her view. “There was an incident at the lake that-“

“Never mind. I’m sure you have your reasons. Just be in my office in five minutes. In full uniform, Constable.”

“Understood.”

***********

Exactly five minutes later, Fraser knocked on Thatcher’s door. She called him in and he stood at attention, waiting for her to speak. The words, when they came, were a shock.

“You’ve been offered a transfer.”

At one time, these were the only words Fraser wanted to hear. He’d imagined this situation countless times during his hours of guard duty, dreamed about it more than once. They signified acceptance, forgiveness, a return to the home he loved.

Faced with the reality, he found himself hesitating. He should be eager to trade the combination of grime, noise, people and buildings that kept him on the edge of claustrophobia for the snowy expanses of a blessedly quiet, sparsely populated NWT. To be where he fit, where things made sense, honing skills he had no real call to use here.

His answer was right there, practiced and ready, just on the tip of his tongue. But when he began to speak, what came out was, “May I have some time to decide?” Because if he left now, he might never see Ray Kowalski again. And he’d had enough unfinished business in his life. There was no reason to add to it.

Inspector Thatcher looks puzzled, as if he’d answered her in an unexpected way, but she nodded. “Of course. It’s a big decision. You have through the weekend – headquarters will be wanting an answer on Monday.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Fraser returned to his office still stunned. He sat hard on the edge of his cot, and Dief nudged him with his nose.

“I’m all right, Dief,” he said, rubbing Dief’s ear. “It seems we have a decision to make.”

***********

He hadn’t made any real progress when there was a knock on his door a few hours later. He opened the door to find Ray there, looking contrite.

“I just wanted to make sure you got here okay, Benny,” he said as Fraser moved to let him onto the room. “Kind of a long walk.”

“I’m fine, Ray. Thank you kindly for checking.”

Ray looked at him closely. “You sure you’re okay? Because you’re looking kind of pale. You swallow lake water or something? Do we need to get you to a doctor?”

Fraser shook his head. “No Ray, it isn’t that. It’s just, well I had a bit of a shock when I got back here, and I’m still coming to terms with it.”

Ray’s eyes narrowed. “Thatcher didn’t give you grief again, did she? Because stupid as it turned out, it was still police business.”

“No, it wasn’t that,” Fraser assured him. “Would you like to sit down, Ray? he asked, offering Ray the desk chair as he sat on the cot.

Ray shook his head. “I’d like to know what’s going on. You’re starting to freak me out here.”

Fraser wouldn’t look Ray in the eye. “I’ve been offered a transfer, Ray.”

Ray’s voice was toneless as he responded. “And you’re gonna take it.”

Fraser looked up at him helplessly. “I haven’t decided. But… it’s a chance to go home. To do good work.”

“And you aren’t doing good work here?” Ray asked, annoyed. “Or is it just that you’re tired of helping Americans?”

“Of course it isn’t that. While I am proud to be Canadian, I don’t believe national pride should be a determining factor as to who is deserving of help.” He rubbed an eyebrow, frowning. “The transfer is a sign that I’ve been forgiven, that I’m welcome again.”

Ray shrugged. “And a chance to drop a bad partnership with no guilt.” He held up a hand before Fraser could respond. “Look, I know I’m no Ray Kowalski, but I thought we were starting to click. But hey, you don’t feel it, you do what you have to.”

“It isn’t that we don’t work well together,” Fraser insisted. “You’re a fine officer, as I’ve said.” Fraser dropped his head. “I’m sorry if you’ve thought otherwise, Ray.”

“I need to get back to the station. I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” Ray said tonelessly, moving to open the door. “Maybe I’ll see you at the station tomorrow.”

Fraser started to get up to stop him, but sat back down when he realized he had no idea what he could say that would help.

***********

Ray went back to the station in what might charitably be called a bad mood. All he wanted to do was sit quietly at his desk, put in his time and go back to his crappy apartment. Or maybe terrorize a perp, just a little, but that would involve finding one, and he was in no mood. Instead, as soon as he walked in Welsh called him into his office.

“You’ve been offered a transfer,” the Lieutenant said as soon as the door was closed. He went on, saying something about how the higher ups had been informed of Fraser’s possible transfer, but Ray really wasn’t listening.

Shit. Part of Ray really wanted to hear those words, especially after Fraser’s announcement earlier. The “Hell, yes!” was almost out of his mouth when he realized that while Fraser had told him a lot of reasons why he should take the transfer, he’d never actually come out and said he was leaving.

This had been the most bogus undercover job he’d ever been part of, hands down. Impersonating a cop he was nothing like? Bizarro-world for sure. And the cases fell right into line with it – stuff that was too incredible to be true, except he was living it, every day.

Saying yes would be the safe thing, the smart thing to do. He could ditch being Kowalski, go back to Florida, to being Ray Vecchio again. Go back to normal police work, instead of a partner who regularly drove him nuts, and day after day of wildly bizarre cases. Besides, once Fraser was gone, what excuse did he really have for staying?

The answer to that was easy – Stella Kowalski. They’d only been to dinner a few times, plus lunch or a cup of coffee now and again, but there was definitely something there. Ray hadn’t felt this way about somebody in a long time, and it was nice, better than nice, even if he did have to pretend he was her ex.

If he left, he’d never get to see where they were going. Unless they tried to do the long-distance thing, but those never went well; the odds were terrible, and if Pop had taught him nothing else, he’d made sure Ray knew just how hard it was to go against the odds.

Of course, he could come back – see if he could be transferred back to Chicago as himself. Not to the 2-7, of course, but there were other precincts.

“Detective,” Lt. Welsh said, interrupting Ray’s reverie. “Did you hear what I said?”

There were too many variables, too much to take into account. Which was how Ray found himself asking, “Can I have a day or two to think on it?”

“Of course. But you realize that if Fraser takes his transfer, there’s really no reason for you to stay here.”

It was easy enough for Ray to hear what wasn’t being said; no Mountie, no Kowalski needed, real or fake. “Yeah, I got it.”

Ray left Welsh’s office and saw Tom Dewey at his desk. It looked like he was getting ready to leave for the day.

“Hey, Dewey, you busy?” he called out.

“Who’s asking?” Tom replied.

“The guy who’s buying the first round,” Ray answered back.

“Well, what do you know – my schedule’s completely open,” Tom grinned. “Lead the way.”

***********

Ray shook his head. “So I just don’t get it. Why now?”

“Well, I can see it being one of two things. One, the higher ups knew that if Fraser leaves, they wouldn’t need you here anymore. Or two, somebody up there finally got smart and figured out nobody in his right mind was buying that you were Ray Kowalski.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dewey.”

“You know what I mean,” he said, taking a drink of his beer. “Doesn’t matter how good an act you played. You look nothing like the guy – why would anybody think you were him?”

“Yeah, I know. But we’ve done some good work. Sure, the guy lives for risking his life and mine in the craziest ways, but at least it’s never boring, right?”

“Do you want to stay, Ray?” Tom pressed. “Because I thought you two weren’t getting along so good.”

“It’s just the crazy life-risking stuff I have problem with. Well, and the fact that he won’t carry a gun. And that he thinks he can talk his way out of anything.”

“Yeah, just little stuff, no big deal,” Tom said with a wry grin. “Maybe this is your chance to get out of this without serious injury.”

Ray took another long drink of beer. “Maybe.”

***********

“You know, even if you do go home, you should try to patch things up with the new Yank first.”

Fraser was pleased that for once his startlement at his father’s appearance hadn’t shown. That it wouldn’t have mattered, since it was only him and Dief in the office, didn’t change how he felt.

“Why is that, Dad?” he asked.

“Leaving a partnership with things unsaid, that’s the kind of thing that will haunt you, son.”

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want that,” Fraser replied, not even trying to hide his sarcastic tone. “I already have enough haunting me, don’t you think?”

“I didn’t mean it in a literal sense, Benton,” Fraser Sr. huffed. “And there’s no call for using that tone.”

And as always, his father disappeared to assure he’d have the last word. Fraser rubbed a hand over his face and stood. Much as he didn’t want to admit it, in this instance, his father was right. He needed to talk with Ray.

***********

Ray wasn’t at his apartment, so Fraser decided to try the station. His desk was vacant when Fraser arrived. He looked around, but it appeared that while Ray had been there, he hadn’t stayed long. Fraser was debating whether or not to leave a note when Jack walked over and said hello.

“Hey, Fraser. Something going on?”

“What makes you think that, Jack?”

“Well, the fact that you’re here and Ray isn’t, for one thing. And the fact that Ray left here five minutes after he showed up, and took Tom with him for another.”

“Was it for a case?” Fraser asked, stung at the thought.

“Only if the case involved bootlegging,” Jack answered. Fraser frowned, puzzled, and Jack elaborated. “They were going to a bar.”

“Ah.” Fraser thought for a moment, then nodded. “That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. “Jack, do you have time to talk?”

Jack’s eyes widened. “You’re suggesting we go to a bar?” He grabbed his jacket. “I’m there, Fraser. Because there is definitely something going on.”

***********

Fraser took a sip of his tea as Jack processed what he’d told him about the transfer.

“That’s… that’s a really big deal, Fraser,” Jack finally said. “But I have to ask, is it really what you want?”

“I honestly don’t know, Jack,” Fraser replied, torn. “There is a part of me that’s been waiting to hear those words from the day I was first assigned to the Consulate.”

“And the other part?” Jack prodded, his voice gentle.

“The other part can’t imagine leaving, especially with Ray still gone,” Fraser admitted.

Jack nodded like he’d known that would be Fraser’s answer. “It isn’t like you can’t leave contact information for the guy, you know,” he pointed out.

“I know that. But it would feel like I was giving up, if I were to leave like this.”

“You mean, giving up on him coming back?”

“I suppose,” Fraser said, thinking and on what his return would mean. “It might be for the best for Ray, the current Ray, I mean, if I went back to Canada.”

“How do you figure that?” Jack asked, eyebrows raised. “I thought you two were working well together.”

“It’s been getting better, yes, but it still isn’t – not that I expected this to be like it was with Ray – the first Ray, I mean – of course it wouldn’t be. But there’s still a level of distrust. But that’s not what I was referring to. This has been harder on Ray than he wants to admit, being home but not as himself. If I weren’t here, he wouldn’t need to pretend.”

“He also wouldn’t need to be in Chicago at all,” Jack pointed out. “Listen, Fraser, I think you need to take Ray- either Ray – out of the equation here. What do you want to do?”

Fraser looked down at his tea and shook his head. “I have no idea.”

***********

Fraser went back to the station with Jack, no closer to knowing what he wanted to do than he’d been before. When they walked into the bullpen, they saw Ray at his desk.

“You need to talk some more, you know where to find me,” Jack said, clapping Fraser on the shoulder before heading over to his desk.

“Hello, Ray,” Fraser said when he got to Ray’s desk.

“Hey, Fraser,” Ray answered. “You and Huey have a good chat?”

“Jack’s a good friend,” Fraser answered.

“Yeah, I’m sure he is,” Ray said, then sighed as he pushed his chair back. He stood and gestured to Fraser. “Come on. We need to talk.”

They ended up in an interrogation room.

“Okay, so I know I left in kind of a hurry earlier. It’s just, you shocked the hell out of me, Fraser.”

“Trust me, Ray. I was equally surprised when Inspector Thatcher told me.”

“I’ll bet you were,” Ray chuckled, then sobered. “So since then, I’ve been thinking, and maybe this is a good thing for you after all,” Ray admitted reluctantly.

“What do you mean?” Fraser asked, obviously surprised.

“Well, you’re basically living in Canada already, right? Haven’t found yourself a place in Chicago, only barely use US currency, and you keep everyone at arm’s length, always on duty.” Ray paused, and when Fraser didn’t say anything, kept going. “So I guess if that’s how things are, if you went back to Canada you’d at least have more than a cot in an office.”

“I hadn’t thought about it that way,” Fraser said at last.

“Yeah, well sometimes it takes an outside point of view.”

“So you think I should take the transfer,” Fraser said.

“I think you gotta do what you gotta do,” Ray shrugged. “But before you go, can you do me a favor?”

“Of course, Ray, anything.”

Ray shook his head. “And of course what I’ve got isn’t anything crazy, the one time you say that,” he said. “I need to go back to the lake, make sure we didn’t miss anything at the scene. You’re the tracker guy – you want to come with?”

“Lead the way.”

***********

The drive was uncomfortably quiet, and it was driving Ray nuts. Searching for something to talk about, he settled on the most obvious topic – Fraser leaving.

“So,” Ray wondered, “are they going to give you any time between leaving here and heading back to Canada?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No particular reason. I just, I guess I was wondering if you were thinking about taking a vacation, maybe somewhere warmer than here, say, Vegas, for example.”

Fraser looked honestly surprised at the suggestion.

“Come on, Benny,” Ray scoffed, “you can’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, especially since Pike told us just who Kowalski is undercover as.”

“Of course I have,” Fraser responded. “But Ray doesn’t need me there. In fact, my trying to find him could only endanger his life.”

Ray couldn’t stop from snorting. “God forbid you ever do that.”

“My point is,” Fraser went on, looking sharply at Ray, “that when I see Ray again, it will be because he’s back in Chicago and not before.”

Okay, so maybe the silence was better. Didn’t matter; they were there. Ray parked and got out of the car, and Fraser followed suit.

A look-around didn’t reveal anything new, but they kept looking anyhow. Ray didn’t know how Fraser felt, but for him, saying there was really nothing there would be like closing a door.

Finally they had to go back to the car. Ray was searching for something to say when out of nowhere, a body hit the hood of his car.

Ray stared at it, then rubbed a hand over his face. “Is that a body on my car?”

“That’s a body on your car,” Fraser confirmed.

“And it just fell from the sky?”

“Well, I’m sure it wasn’t-“ Ray glared and Fraser reconsidered. “It just fell from the sky.”

“Only when I’m with you does this kind of thing happen,” Ray said, pointing an accusing finger at Fraser. “I hope you know that.”

As Fraser and Ray approached the body, it twitched a hand and let out a moan.

“Jesus! How can he still be alive?” Ray exclaimed, pulling out his phone to call for an ambulance.

Fraser took a closer look. “He may not be for long,” he answered, turning the man just enough for Ray to see he knife embedded in the man’s back. He groaned again, and this time it sounded like he was trying to speak.

Fraser leaned in, and the man exhaled the words, “treasure chest.” And with that he gave a last rattling breath, then stilled.

“Did he just say treasure chest, Fraser?”

“Yes he did.”

“And is that a hook I see instead of a hand?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And is he by any chance wearing an eye patch?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.”

Ray rubbed a hand over his face. “I lived in Florida for years, right next to the ocean, never saw one pirate outside of Disney World. A couple of months with you and there’s a real live dead one, and he’s on my car.”

“He isn’t necessarily a pirate,” Fraser started, and Ray just glared at him. ”It is of course a possibility.”

“I’m really, really getting too old for this,” he muttered to himself. “Well, if this is gonna be our last case together, Benny, at least it’s a memorable one.”

***********

After the body had been taken away, and the scene examined, Ray and Fraser returned to the station. Ray could tell that Fraser was itching to go to the morgue.

“You want to see if Mort’s found anything yet, don’t you?”

“Don’t you?” Fraser countered.

“I’d rather wait up here for the results,” Ray said as he sat down at his desk. “Maybe do some research.”

“Until we know who he was, what research are you going to be able to do?” Fraser asked, eyebrow arched.

Ray rolled his eyes. “I don’t know, but it sounds better than going down there.”

Fraser honest-to-God shrugged. “It’s up to you, of course. I’ll be in the morgue if you need me.”

Ray watched Fraser leave, then growled in frustration as he got up to follow him. When he got downstairs, Fraser was, of course, next to Mort, looking at the corpse. Ray stayed close to the door, leaning on the door jamb. “Having fun?”

“Ah, Ray, you changed your mind,” Fraser said.

“Whatever, Fraser.” He gestured toward the body. “Anything we can use yet?”

“Definitely,” Fraser answered, waving his hand for Ray to come in. “It appears that he has a tattoo of a map.”

“Of course he does – he’s a pirate,” Ray responded with a snort.

“I don’t think that’s been established yet, Ray. To assume so seems premature.”

“Eye patch, hook, map, treasure chest, knifed on the waterfront,” Ray ticked off. “It’s not like this is a stretch. Listen, you and Mort have fun down here. I’m gonna see what Frannie can find out. We may not have a name, but this guy’s got enough distinguishing characteristics that something should turn up.”

***********

Fraser got back to the bullpen to witness the tail end of an argument between Ray and Francesca having to do with pirate slang, if he was hearing them correctly. Deciding not to get involved in sibling matters, he waited for them to finish before asking Francesca what she’d discovered. He was pleased to hear that she’d found out the pirate’s identity – Billy Butler. She’d also obtained his address, so Fraser and Ray left to see if they could find anything that would give them a clue as to who killed the man, and how he ended up on the hood of Ray’s car.

The investigation just got more interesting from there, because not only did they find an actual treasure, in the form of a solid gold bar – in Butler’s things, but while they were at Butler’s favorite bar all the talk starting turning to stories of a ghost ship haunting nearby waters.

***********

Ray left the bar with a headache. “Seriously, Fraser, did you piss off some higher being or something? Who gets cases like these? Ghosts, stolen gold, treasure maps – if I wasn’t right in the middle of it, I wouldn’t believe any of it.” He gave Fraser an appraising look. “Do you believe any of it?”

“Well, the body and the gold are hard to deny, Ray,” Fraser started. “But to answer your question, I don’t think there’s a ghost ship. However, someone is using the tragedy of the Robert Mackenzie for ill-gotten purposes, and that doesn’t sit well with me at all.”

“Yeah, the bartender said something about that. What’s the story?”

Fraser told Ray of the doomed ship, and the thirty-two men who lost their lives manning it. “That their memory is being abused like this is unacceptable,” Fraser finished, obviously upset.

Ray nodded and gripped Fraser’s shoulder. “Then we’ll stop them.”

***********

They took the gold back to the station and asked Frannie to look into the numerical code on it, to see if that would help them discover just who was behind the murder. When they got there, she had some interesting news for them.

“That guy Butler is dead, Ray,” she said.

“Wow, your investigative skills are really sharp tonight,” he returned, rolling his eyes.

Frannie whacked him on the shoulder. “I mean, he’s supposed to have been dead for like, a year. I found an article on him on the computer. Here, come see,” she said, taking Ray’s arm to lead him to her desk.

And there it was, in black and white. Billy Butler had been listed as missing for over a year after the Whaling Yankee had gone down with all hands. Ray had Frannie pull up a complete roster of the missing crew, and as he and Fraser looked it over, they recognized more of the crew.

Fraser had Frannie print out pictures of the men they’d seen, and the two left to ask around at the pier.

“Dief’s staying at the station?” Ray asked.

“He’s been expressly forbidden from fieldwork after his behavior last week.”

Ray chuckled. “Oh yeah. How long did it take to get the fish stink out of his fur?”

“Too long,” Fraser said, shooting a disgusted look back toward the building.

***********

For once, Fraser’s method of just walking up and questioning random people wasn’t working. Ray would have been amused if he’d had another way to get the information they needed. As it was, it was just irritating him. As was the ghost ship talk he kept hearing; sailors sure were a superstitious set of SOBs.

They finally got some answers, including a name, and went back to the station to follow up. The new name yielded a lot of information, as the guy had a huge rap sheet. Not coincidentally, so did pretty much the entire crew of the Whaling Yankee.

Ray shook his head as he looked over the list. “Either the owner’s a really good Samaritan, doesn’t do background checks, or, and this is my best bet, he wants to hire crooks for some reason.”

***********

Of course, questioning the president of the freight company did them no good. Ray wondered if this was the universe’s way of keeping Fraser and Ray as partners; that if they never solved the case, Fraser could never leave. When he told Fraser as much, Fraser shook his head.

“Mr. Wallace did give us another place to try, Ray.”

“When did he do that?”

“He mentioned that he hired his crews at Union Hall.”

“Right. So that’s the next place to go. Got it.”

And Union Hall is where they finally caught a break. Their suspect, Vic Hester, had hired onto the Henry Allen, scheduled to leave Sault Ste Marie at 9:00 the next morning.

“We’re going to have to leave now if we want to get to Sault Ste Marie before the ship departs,” Fraser said as they walked back to the car.

“Without getting the go-ahead from Welsh? Or even telling anybody where we’re going?” Ray asked, sure he was hearing Fraser wrong.

Fraser crossed his arms over his chest. “Do you have a problem with that, Ray?”

“No, but I can’t believe that you don’t,” he answered, pointing at Fraser.

“Time is of the essence. I can write myself up for not following procedure later.”

That was more like it. “As long as you have your guilt covered. Let’s go.”

***********

The trip there felt like it took forever. Ray drove the entire way, and other than a tense set to Fraser’s jaw, he made no indication of disapproval for the speeds Ray drove. They got there just as the ship was about to set sail, and headed straight to see the captain.

Captain Smithers had no problem with Ray and Fraser being on board; in fact, he was a friend of the family, and was more than happy to share stories about teaching Fraser to tie knots and how he and Fraser’s dad had been buddies back in the day. Ray only half-listened, since some of it seemed to be in some weird Canadian code, given how strange Fraser’s responses were.

Fraser must have picked up on Ray’s attitude. He’d tried to hide it, but he was tired and hungry and wanted to actually get the case worked on, find the guy they were after and get back to Chicago before Welsh went ballistic.

“Thank you again for your help, sir,” Fraser said, extending his hand for the captain to shake.

“Not another word, Benton, my boy,” Smithers insisted. “Anything I can do to help Bob Fraser’s boy is no trouble at all. I have to ask, though – do you have anything else to wear, either of you? Going to be hard to go by unnoticed like you are now.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” Ray protested.

“Nothing, if you’re a city detective, Ray. But Captain Smithers is right – neither of us will be believed to be crew members as we are now, especially me.”

“I think I have some things that will fit, not to worry,” the captain told them. “Might not be the nicest things you’ve ever worn, but you’ll blend in wearing them.”

“We’d appreciate that, sir.”

***********

Once they’d changed, Fraser and Ray were given a brief tour of the ship and assigned tasks. Ray was dead on his feet, but did his best to keep up with the rest of the crew. Mostly he kept quiet, watching them so he knew what he was supposed to be doing, and listening in on their conversations whenever he could.

He and Fraser were assigned to the same basic area, and he could see his partner doing basically the same thing, only he didn’t look half as tired as Ray felt. He wondered if maybe Fraser hadn’t been joking that time when he claimed to be able to take thirty-second naps that actually did him any good.

By the end of their shift, Ray was more than ready to sit down, eat something quickly, and find a place to bunk down for a few hours. He knew it wasn’t going to happen when he heard Fraser steering the conversation to the ghost ship rumors. It seemed like everyone there had heard about the Mackenzie sightings, and a few, their main suspect included, claimed to have actually seen the ship.

“Are you buying any of this?” Ray whispered to Fraser as he took another long drink of his coffee.

“I believe that the men here have heard the rumors, and that they’ve seen something. I strongly doubt it’s really the Mackenzie.”

“Good,” Ray nodded. “Because I’ve seen a lot of things in my time, but I’m not sure I can buy ghosts.”

Fraser gave him an odd look, but before Ray could ask about it, Hester started in on the story again. “God, does this guy never shut up about ghost ships and seeing dead guys?” Ray complained.

“Perhaps this would be a good time to look around the ship, see if we can find any evidence,” Fraser suggested. “It appears that the bulk of the crew is here.”

“Yeah, which means if I leave now, everyone’s going to see me,” Ray pointed out.

“I could distract them, I suppose,” Fraser offered.

“You do that, and I’ll gladly get out of here and do some snooping.”

Of course, Fraser, nutcase that he was, decided the best way to create a distraction was to start singing. And because it was Fraser, it worked. Ray just sat back and watched as every single person joined in. Except Ray, and he knew that was going to look worse then hemming or hawing when somebody asked him something. Fraser must have figured the same thing; he gave Ray a pointed look, then nodded almost imperceptively toward the door.

Ray gave Fraser a tiny smile of acknowledgement, and casually made his way out of the room. Hopefully, everyone would be so busy bonding over sea shanties that Ray could do some serious digging.

It didn’t take too long for Ray to hit paydirt, in the form of a bunch of transistors and radio equipment. He wasn’t sure just what it was being used for, but it was definitely out of place. He went back to tell Fraser about the find, then slipped away again to see if there was anything else worth seeing.

That’s where his luck ran out. Ray had just snuck into another room when Hester slammed open the door. It looked like Ray needed to work on his drunk act; the guy didn’t buy it for a second, and before Ray could react, Hester had a gun on him and was calling out the door for help. He quickly had Ray cuffed to a pillar, but instead of questioning him, Hester just left Ray there, shooting Ray a menacing look as he hurried out the door.

***********

The sound of gunfire and several explosions that rocked the ship had Ray doubling his efforts to free himself. When water started seeping in under the door, his determination was laced with real panic. He started shouting as he struggled against his restraints.

Ray’s voice was giving out, but he yelled again when he heard someone outside the room, figuring no matter who it was, things couldn’t get much worse. There was a steady pounding on the door, and then it burst open. It was Fraser, thank God.

“Ray! What happened?” he asked as he sloshed his way over to where Ray was secured.

“I don’t think they bought the drunken sailor routine,” Ray quipped, yanking at the cuffs again. “You have a way to get me out of these?”

Fraser ducked under the water instead of answering, and Ray felt him testing the bonds. When he came up for air, the look on his face did not give Ray hope.

“I don’t suppose you know where the keys are?”

“I know exactly where they are – Hester’s pocket, where they’re doing me zero good.”

“I could try to pick the lock,” Fraser offered.

“Or you could just shoot the cuffs off,” Ray said.

“I don’t have a gun, Ray.”

Ray rolled his eyes. “Like that’s news. I do. They missed the one in my ankle holster.”

Fraser looked at Ray in shock. “How could they miss that?”

“I don’t know. Not like I was going to ask them about it. Hey guys, did you see that you really didn’t disarm me? Oh, okay, let me tell you where I have my extra gun. Just get it and see if it’ll fire.”

Fraser ducked under the water and got the gun, bringing it up to check it first.

“Brace yourself, Ray. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Not going anywhere, Benny. Just be careful, yeah?”

Fraser was, of course, and broke the cuffs with one shot.

“Great work! New could you please tell me what the hell happened up there?” Ray asked as Fraser helped him get rid of his restraints.

“We were attacked by the ghost ship,” Fraser answered.

Ray stopped for a second to gape at Fraser. “You are not telling me you believe that now!”

“Of course not, Ray – that’s just silly. In actuality it was the Whaling Yankee, made to look like a ghost ship, and the crew was similarly outfitted to appear to be a crew of the undead. Once I convinced the crew that it wasn’t a supernatural occurrence, everyone calmed down considerably.”

“Then what happened?”

“They fired on us. Captain Smithers distracted them so I could come down and try to find you.”

“Jeez, you think he’s okay.”

“I’m fairly certain he and the crew have been taken aboard the Yankee. These men seem more interested in theft than outright murder.”

“Hester had no trouble with the idea of leaving me down here to die,” Ray pointed out.

“That is true,” Fraser conceded. “And if we don’t get out of here soon, he’ll have succeeded.”

“Then what are waiting for? Lead us out of here, Fraser.”

***********

They started making their way to the upper deck. The corridors were filling with water pretty quickly, and soon, it was almost easier to swim then than to walk. Ray tried not to freak out when he looked out a window and saw fish swimming by, but it was tough not to panic.

At least, it was until he really got a good look at Fraser. “Please tell me I’m hallucinating. I was kidnapped, this boat is sinking and you took the time to change into your uniform?”

“To be fair, it wasn’t sinking when I changed, nor did I know about your situation. I only knew the ship was about to be under attack.”

“Oh, well that’s okay then,” Ray replied, voice dripping with sarcasm.

“I was needed in my official capacity as a member of the RCMP,” Fraser went on, ignoring Ray’s tone. “It wouldn’t have been right arresting anyone while out of uniform. Besides, it helped with my credibility considerably when I was convincing the crew that there was no ghost ship.”

“Fraser, you are certifiable. Seriously deranged. I could be dead now, but hey! At least you look like a Mountie!” Ray pushed past Fraser. “I need to get out of here before I kill you myself.”

He started moving more quickly, shoving floating debris out of his way, when he recognized a piece of flotsam.

“Hey! My phone!” he exclaimed, grabbing it before it floated out of reach.

“Do you really think that will help?” Fraser asked as Ray started dialing.

“Unless is somehow manages to shock and kill me, there’s no way it can hurt, Fraser. Besides, nobody knows where we are, remember? Come on, come on,” Ray chanted softly as he waited to hear a ring.

The sound of a connection being made had him cheering and slapping his hand on the water. “Yes!” He kept listening, and Fraser stopped whatever the hell he was doing to move closer and listen.

The sound of his sister’s voice as she answered was the sweetest thing Ray had ever heard. “Frannie! Frannie, it’s Ray!” he shouted, trying to make sure she heard him through the static. “We’re on a boat, and it’s sinking!”

Whatever she said in reply was too broken up to understand. “Just give her our coordinates, Ray” Fraser said as he rattled them off. “That’s the most important piece of information they need to find us.”

Ray nodded, yelling the coordinates into the phone as Fraser gave them, then kept talking, repeating the message until the phone gave off a loud burst of static and went silent.

“That’s it – battery’s either dead or too waterlogged to work. Thing’s a piece of junk.” Ray threw the phone and it hit the far wall, then dropped with a loud splash. “So you think any of that got through?”

“I really don’t know. But we need to keep working to get out. If we don’t those coordinates will end up being for our graves.”

Ray refused to think like that. They’d jumped off a city version of a cliff two days before and made it; they’d get out of this too. “So how are we supposed to get out of here? Don’t tell me they taught Sinking Ship Survival at Mountie School.”

“No, but we did have to learn how to survive falling through ice, and there are similarities. I think I know the layout of the ship well enough to guide us out. Get as good a breath as you can, and follow me.”

***********

It wasn’t enough. All Ray could feel was the burning in his chest, and his vision was starting to get black around the edges. He faltered mid-stroke, and part of him wondered if he should just relax and give in. Then he was being pulled and Fraser’s mouth was on his. Shock made him gasp, and he took in air. Between that and needing to know just what Fraser had been thinking, Ray was motivated enough to keep moving.

***********

“What the hell was that, Fraser?” Ray sputtered once he was able to speak without feeling like he was going to pass out.

“What was what?”

“That, that kissing thing!” he sputtered, flummoxed that he even had to clarify.

“Buddy breathing,” Fraser answered calmly as he continued to tread water. “I have excess lung capacity, and you looked as if you needed the air. It’s standard procedure.”

“You ever buddy breathe with Kowalski?” Ray challenged.

Fraser looked over Ray’s shoulder. “The situation never presented itself. And I believe we have more important things to worry about right now.”

“Like what?”

“Like how to get the rest of the way out of the ship without being dragged down with it.”

“Yeah, that definitely sounds more important,” Ray had to agree.

Fraser looked around. “I have an idea, Ray. It may sound a little far-fetched, but I believe it will work.” He swam over to a set of fire extinguishers and started taking them down, then pulled on the fire hose next to it.

Ray just treaded water and watched him work. Fire extinguishers. Fraser wanted to use fire extinguishers to get them up and out. At this point, Ray was beyond protest. It would either work or they’d be dead. And if they didn’t do it, they’d be dead for sure. At least this way they’d be going out with a bang.

***********

And of course, this being one of Fraser’s insane ideas, it actually worked. Sure, for a minute Ray thought he’d survived the ship going down only to kill himself falling back into the water once the extinguishers ran out of juice. But after the shock of hitting the water hard wore off, he was able to swim up and finally get his head above water.

He saw Fraser close by, gulping in huge gasping breaths just like Ray was. It was putrid, the air a combination of fish and smoke and whatever had leaked out of the boat as it sank, but Ray was pretty sure it was the best thing he’d ever smelled. Once he got his bearings, he shucked off the makeshift rocket launcher and swam closer to Fraser.

“Okay, so you got us out of the boat without killing us. Now how are we going to get to shore?”

“We’re not going to shore, Ray. We’re going over there,” he answered, nodding past Ray. Ray turned in the water and saw a ship in the distance.

“You think they’ll help us?”

“Most certainly not. That’s the counterfeit Robert Mackenzie.”

“The ghost ship?”

“That’s what they want everyone to think. It’s the ship that attacked us. I was able to get a decent look at several of the crew, and I recognized them as being associates of Billy Butler.”

“So more pirates?”

“Indeed. And they’ve been exploiting the story of the Robert Mackenzie to work with minimal interference.”

“And that’s the ship you want to go to. The one with murdering pirates that sunk the boat we were on.” He shook his head before Fraser could answer. “Don’t say it. I know it’s where we’re going, so save your energy for another argument. I have the feeling this isn’t the last one we’re going to have before this is over.”

***********

They made it onto the ship without being noticed, and snuck into the cargo hold. Two guards making their rounds came close enough for Fraser and Ray to overpower them, and once subdued, Fraser and Ray had taken the men’s clothes to wear, to better blend in.

Now you’re worried about the uniform,” Ray couldn’t resist saying.

Fraser just shot Ray a look as he continued to change clothes. Once they were dressed, Fraser started checking out the cargo while Ray kept watch. Spying two men walking in, he moved to Fraser and pointed them out. “Isn’t that-?”

“Mr. Wallace, the president of the freight company? Yes it is.” Fraser tried to listen in, despite the distance. What he heard wasn’t good. They were planning on blowing up the ship, and given that the cargo was basically toxic waste, the environmental damage would be severe.

“But why blow up the ship?” Ray wondered.

“To hide what they were really after,” Fraser said as he opened a crate.

Rays eyes widened. “That’s a lot of gold,” he whispered.

“Ray.” Ray didn’t respond. “Ray,” he hissed, just the tiniest bit louder, and Ray reluctantly tore his gaze from the gold. “We need to get off this ship now, find some way to stop Wallace and his men.”

“Any suggestions?”

“Yes,” Fraser responded, pointing. “Follow me.”

***********

They were almost able to get to the submersible without being spotted. By the time someone realized that Fraser and Ray weren’t part of the crew, they made it into the tiny ship, and had escaped before anyone could stop them.

“You do know how to drive this thing, right?” Ray asked once they were safely away.

“The controls are fairly easy to guess at,” Fraser responded absently as he pushed a button.

“Which translates to you have no idea what you’re doing.”

Fraser looked up at that. “I wouldn’t say that.” He turned a knob, then quickly turned it back when it made the craft shudder. Ray smothered a laugh, and Fraser glared at him. “If you’d like to try, you’re welcome to switch places.”

Ray held his hands up. “No way. You say they’re easy, I’ll take your word for it.”

***********

They went for a little while in relative silence, the only sounds coming from the engine. It was getting warmer, and the air was moist. Fraser pulled at his collar.

“Any idea how far we have to go, Benny?” Ray asked. “Because it’s getting kind of uncomfortable in here.” When Fraser didn’t answer right away, Ray frowned and scooted forward a tiny bit. “Do you even know if we’re going the right way?”

“It s a fair question, son,” Fraser Sr. added as he appeared behind Ray, which put him partway into the submersible.

Fraser stared at his father a moment before turning back to focus on the controls. “I believe we’re headed the right way,” he finally said. “We should arrive at Six Fathoms Shoal soon, at which point I should be able to navigate by dad reckoning.”

“But you aren’t sure,” Ray pushed.

“No,” Fraser admitted reluctantly. “I’m not sure. But based on the factors I had to work with, this was the best course to take.”

“Were you ever gonna tell me this was all guesswork?” Fraser stayed silent, and Ray pushed his shoulder. “Jeez Louise, Benny! This is my life, too – you could at least ask my opinion, pretend like what I think matters!” He slid back as far from Fraser as the cramped quarters allowed. “You expect me to just trust you, but you don’t trust me. I get that I don’t go with logic like you, and I’m not all instinct like Kowalski must’ve been. But I’m a decent cop.”

“He has a point, Benton,” Fraser’s father agreed. “I know he isn’t your Yank, son, but he seems like a good man. And he is your partner now. You have to trust that… trust him.”

“I am trying,” Fraser finally said. “And I do realize that you aren’t Ray Kowalski.”

“Then stop expecting me to react like Kowalski, because it’s just not going to happen,” Ray said with a deep sigh. “I can pretend to be him, but there’s limits, and I’m getting tired of fighting you. Even undercover I have to do things my way. I don’t know any other way of being a cop. And if you can’t do that, maybe we shouldn’t be partners.”

Fraser faced forward for the longest time, then slowly turned to see Ray watching him, hurt and anger plain on his face.

“I’m sorry, Ray. You’re absolutely right. My expectations have been unreasonable, and it’s been a part of why we’re not working well together.”

Fraser waited, but Ray remained silent. “I should have told you I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about this,” he went on, “and asked if you agreed with the course of action I thought we should take.”

Ray kept glaring for a few more seconds, then relaxed and moved forward again. “Damn right you should have, and don’t you forget it next time. So, how far do you think we still have to go?”

Fraser looked at the radar. Then looked at it again, still unable to believe his eyes.

“Fraser, you’re starting to scare me. What’s going on?”

“It’s… we need to surface, Ray.”

“You sure about that?” He leaned forward to look at the radar. “What’s that weird blip?”

“I don’t think you’ll believe it until you see it. Prepare to surface.”

They submersible broke through, and as soon as it was feasible, they opened the hatch. Ray looked out, then ducked back in to talk to Fraser.

“Fraser, is there a pirate ship over there?”

Fraser came up to join Ray, and they both looked at the ship heading their way. “I don’t believe so, Ray. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a replica of the HMS Bounty.”

“Like, as in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, Bounty?

“Yes.” He narrowed his eyes. “And it appears to be manned by RCMP officers.”

Ray shook his head. “Of course it is.”

***********

Fraser’s father was already on board when Fraser and Ray got there. Fraser watched him go from station to station, peering over people’s shoulders and commenting on how he’d do things differently. Fraser thought it was a good thing no one else could hear him; the man was practically asking to be made to walk the plank.

“Ah, you two finally made it, I see,” Fraser Sr. said when he noticed them.

Fraser restrained himself from rolling his eyes. “Some of us had to use actual traditional transportation rather than just appearing out of thin air,” he responded.

“Yes, yes, yes. No need to apologize, Benton. You’re here now.” He clapped himself on the chest and took a deep breath. “Just smell that sea air. Good for the soul.”

“Have you ever even been at sea?”

“Not important, son. Not important.”

***********

Fraser and Ray were introduced to Sergeant Thorn, who was also captain of the vessel. She seemed happy to see them, in large part because it meant her ship was getting official time in use.

“But how did you know where to find us?” Ray asked.

“You told us, we told them,” was the reply from behind him.

Fraser and Ray turned around to see Inspector Thatcher and Lt. Welsh.

“See, the phone call worked,” Ray said to Fraser.

“It was a good idea, Ray.”

Ray’s gloating smile turned genuine. “Thanks, Benny.”

Between the four of them, they were able to figure out just what Wallace’s plan was, and what they needed to do to try and stop it.

“So how did you guys get all this info?” Ray asked.

“Actually, Ms. Vecchio was surprisingly helpful with that,” Lt. Welsh answered.

Frannie?

The Lieutenant nodded. “She’s a natural at interrogation. Unique style, definitely, but it works.”

Ray was still shocked. “Frannie interrogated a suspect and it worked?”

“You have water in your ears or something, detective?”

“No sir,” Ray replied quickly. “Just surprised, sir.” He leaned in to whisper to Fraser. “Maybe this whole police academy thing isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

***********

They got settled in on board, and Sgt. Thorn even had a spare uniform for Fraser. Ray rolled his eyes when he saw it. “You and the uniform – that’s a real partnership, right there,” he teased. “Go get changed – I’ll help hold down the fort up here.”

“It was quite kind of the Sergeant to lend him one, wasn’t it?” Ray heard as Fraser left. He turned to see Constable Turnbull next to him.

“You came along too?”

“Of course I did,” Turnbull said with a wide grin. “This was a chance at the adventure of a lifetime.”

“Or as I like to call it, a normal Fraser Tuesday,” Ray responded with a sarcastic smirk. “Never thought I’d say this, but it’s good to see you, Turnbull.”

***********

It took just over half an hour for the ship to meet up with the Yankee. Sgt. Thorn and her crew, along with Turnbull, Thatcher and Welsh got her ready for battle, while Fraser and Ray made their way back over to the Yankee.

“I can’t believe Thorn was willing to get into an actual sea battle,” Ray whispered as they snuck on board.

“I believe we’ve actually helped the Sergeant achieve one of her life’s dreams, Ray. It’s just lucky that we were hours closer than the Coast Guard.”

“Yeah, lucky,” Ray snorted. “That’s what I’d call it too.”

***********

Fraser and Ray split up once they got to the cargo hold, circling around. Fraser found Hester, and with Ray’s help, he was quickly subdued and relieved of his weapon. Fraser handed it to Ray.

“Just for now, of course. In two minutes I’ll want it back.”

“You want me give you back the gun,” Ray repeated.

“Yes, when the time is right.”

“And you’re actually going to fire it. You’re not going to, I don’t know, throw it at the guy or something.” Ray just shrugged at Fraser’s annoyed look. “Hey, I’ve never even seen you on the range, and you refuse to carry. What am I supposed to think?”

“Ray, whether or not I carry a gun in Chicago is irrelevant. I’m a police officer – of course I know how to shoot a gun.”

“Well, so do I. That’s why you gave it to me, right?”

“No, I gave it to you because we’re in American waters, and I don’t have a permit.”

“Then why do you want it back?”

“Because in just over 80 seconds, we’ll no longer be in American waters.”

“You’re gonna use a technicality like that?”

“It isn’t as if you firing the gun is our only option.” Fraser paused, then went on, a look of resolve on his face. “Ray, earlier you asked me to trust you, and I did. Now I need for you to trust me.”

“Fair enough. You give the signal, I’ll get you the gun.”

“Thank you kindly.”

***********

Ray was glad he did. Watching Fraser shoot was a revelation. The man’s aim was incredible. He took out all three of the wetsuits quickly and cleanly before Wallace could even react.

“We are having the gun conversation again when we get back to Chicago, Fraser,” Ray informed him as soon as Wallace was secured.

“You won’t change my mind, Ray,” Fraser insisted. “Just because I can fire a gun doesn’t mean I believe I should carry one. Violence begets violence.”

***********

Back on the Bounty, Fraser was glad to see Captain Smithers and some of his crew. His father was less pleased, and Fraser left him harassing the poor man, though at least Smithers was unable to hear it.

After checking in with Inspector Thatcher, who was kind enough to overlook his leaving without informing her, as well as the unfinished paperwork he’d left behind, Fraser looked around and found Ray, who was just finishing up with Lt. Welsh.

Ray waved to him, and Fraser walked over.

“Thatcher read you the riot act?” he asked.

“The Inspector was unexpectedly understanding, actually. Was Lieutenant Welsh angry with you?”

“Nah. Turns out he used to work lake boats with his uncle, so this was kind of like a really strange trip down memory lane.”

“Ah. Well, that’s good to hear.”

“Yeah. Of course, the fact that we recovered stolen gold and kept a bunch of toxic waste from being spilled didn’t hurt.”

“I think perhaps that was a factor in Inspector Thatcher’s mood as well.”

“So, that transfer…” Ray said, leaning against the railing.

Fraser mirrored his pose before answering. “I don’t believe I’ll be taking it.”

“You sure about that?” He nodded to indicate the Mounties manning the ship. “Looks like you’d fit right in.”

“Perhaps that’s why I shouldn’t take it. My talents are more unique in Chicago.”

“You can say that again,” Ray chuckled. “For what it’s worth, Benny, I think you’re making the right decision.”

“Thank you kindly, Ray,” Fraser replied, then gave Ray a questioning gaze. “And you’ll be staying as well?”

“Hey, where else can I go to work and come home with a story like this?”

“So you aren’t still wanting to return to Florida?” Fraser wondered.

“I only miss three things about Florida – Ma’s Sunday dinners, listening to Uncle Louie and his buddies swap bullshit stories at the bowling alley, and the Riv,” Ray said with a smile. “Right now, I think I’m right where I need to be.”

Fraser smiled back. “I’m glad to hear that, Ray.”

 

Episode 4.5: Easy Money

Ray arrived at the scene of the robbery, but before the officer at the scene could fill him in, he saw a familiar flash of red.

“Fraser! What are you doing here? Do you have a police scanner or something hidden at your office?”

“Don’t be silly, Ray. I was here with my friend Quinn when the robbery occurred. So naturally, I tried to apprehend the suspects.”

“Naturally. Okay, so no police scanner, just your usual luck, got it.” Looking more closely at Fraser, Ray realized he was injured. “You should have one of the paramedics look you over.”

“I’m fine – it’s just a scratch, really. The powdered horn Quinn had with him took care of it just fine.”

Ray looked over at the older man being tended to by the paramedics. “I don’t see Quinn using any homemade remedies. He just had to help, right?”

“In fact, he caught one of the robbers before saving my life on the roof.”

“You were on the roof? Why were you on the roof?”

“I was in pursuit of the suspects.”

“And since this is you we’re talking about, of course they went to the roof. Sorry, forgot who I was talking to for a second.” He looked over at Quinn again. “He gonna be okay?”

Fraser followed Ray’s gaze to where Quinn was being tended to by a pretty young paramedic. “He’s fine. I think he’s just enjoying the attention.”

Ray chuckled. “Good for him. How do you know Quinn again?”

“When I was a child, he taught me tracking, woodcraft, hunting. I owe him a great deal.”

“Yeah? I thought your dad taught you that stuff. Like mini-Mountie training or something.”

“My father wasn’t around very often.”

“Oh. Well, there’s worse things than absent fathers.”

“Like what?”

“Fathers who are there, showing what not to do by example.” Ray shook himself. “So, what happened?”

“We had just finished speaking with Mr. Carruthers’ assistant Mr. Goody and were walking through the mall area when the men rushed past us. When I tried to stop them, one drew a gun and fired. I pursued him, and Quinn went after the other man.”

“And somehow you ended up on the roof. Okay, so save the rest for the Duck Brothers, because really, they don’t believe me when I tell them this stuff.”

“Then you aren’t on the case?”

“Oh, I’m sure I will be, but they wanted to do the initial questioning, and Welsh okayed it. I only came along to get out of paperwork. So did Quinn ever get to talk to the head honcho?”

“No, they put him off, and told him at most he could get five minutes of the man’s time, three weeks from now.”

“By which time the deal’s done and his village is the new Atlantis, right?” Fraser and Ray headed over to Quinn and Ray nodded at him in greeting.

“Sorry to hear your trip here looks like a waste of time,” Ray said. “Big business only wants to hear the sound of cash registers.”

Quinn gave him a considering look. “I’ll have to remember that.” He smiled at the paramedic and thanked her, adding a wink that made her blush as she left.

“You haven’t changed, Quinn,” Fraser said as he helped his friend stand up.

“I’m not dead yet, Ben.”

“Did I hear you saying something about listening to the voices of nature?”

Quinn smiled. “Some folk appreciate a little bit of native mysticism.”

Fraser shook his head. “Well, to be honest I’d rather see you put your powers of persuasion to use charming young ladies than pursuing Mr. Carruthers.”

Quinn’s smile faded. “You think it’s a lost cause.”

“It isn’t just what I think, Quinn. The rest of the village has already relocated.”

“So I should do the same? Let them destroy the land, lose the home my family’s had for longer than I can remember?”

“I don’t like it any more than you do, and I’m sorry it’s coming to this, but perhaps it’s time to move on.”

“Like you did when that slumlord tried to evict you?” Quinn countered.

“How’d you know about that?” Ray asked.

“Ben writes me pretty regularly,” Quinn answered. “Told me all about the two of you thwarting his building being torn down, saved everyone’s homes. I was particularly impressed with how you paid people to come in and listen.”

“Yeah, I’m all heart that way,” Ray answered, trying to sound like he knew exactly what Quinn was talking about. The whole thing sounded familiar, but he’d only gotten the broadest picture of that case. “Listen, “he said, changing the subject, “I need to get back to the station, see if I can get the guy you caught to talk. Huey and Dewey are taking statements. You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine, Ray. Thank you kindly,” Quinn answered, and Ray tried not to roll his eyes.

“Canadians. Polite even when you’re being pushed around.” Ray turned to Fraser. “Okay, so, I’ll see you later, yeah?”

“Of course, Ray. I do need to get back to the Consulate, but I’ll meet up with you afterward.”

“And we’re still on for dinner, right? That is, assuming I get to take a break.” They nodded, and Ray gave Fraser a smirk before turning to Quinn. “Good, because I bet you have all sorts of stories about Benny here as a kid that he doesn’t want me hearing. See you two later.”

***********

Fraser watched Ray leave, shaking his head at his friend’s insistence that he wanted to hear what he hoped would be embarrassing stories of Fraser’s youth.

“Ray’s not quite what I expected, based on your letters,” Quinn said.

Fraser heard the questions underneath that statement. “No?”

“Oh, it’s that way, is it?” Quinn chuckled. “A mystery for me to solve? I can do that. Who taught you to track after all?”

“Don’t,” Fraser replied, putting a hand on Quinn’s arm. “I wasn’t challenging you. All I can say is that yes, things are different, and no, I can’t explain why right now. When I can, I will.”

“I think there’s a lot of things different from what you’ve written. It would be a good story to hear, when the time is right.”

***********

Fraser and Quinn were in the Consulate’s kitchen, Fraser heating water for tea while Quinn sat at the table and watched.

“So,” Quinn said calmly. “You live here. How concerned should I be?”

Fraser sighed inwardly; he’d been expecting this conversation since giving Quinn a tour of the place the day he’d arrived. “If I say not at all, would you leave it at that?” Fraser asked.

“I would if it were the truth,” Quinn replied.

Fraser gave Quinn a sharp look, then moved to the cabinet to get out the tea. “This isn’t that different from living in assigned housing.”

Quinn nodded. “But it is different,” he said gently.

“It isn’t as if I’ve totally isolated myself,” Fraser told him. “You’ve met my friends and co-workers.”

“That I have,” Quinn agreed.

“I have ties to the community. I’m not isolating myself,” Fraser said, then realized he was repeating himself.

“Aren’t you?” Quinn asked, tilting his head. “What would your father say if he knew you were living like this?” he wondered.

“He approves – that is, I’m sure he would approve.” Quinn was silent for a long minute, and Fraser hoped he’d finally gotten his point across.

“Hmmm.” Quinn finally said as he stood. “He would at that. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?” He started toward the doorway. “I’m going to rest a little before dinner, if that’s all right. You go on to the station, get some work done.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ll be fine, Ben. Go. Do your job. And take Dief with you – how’s a man supposed to get some rest with all his chatter?”

***********

“Fraser – finally!” Ray said when Fraser and Dief walked into the bullpen. “Welsh is getting a lot of pressure on this one, which he’s been nice enough to share with the rest of us. Turns out the MO matches a string of robberies.”

“Is that why the press is all over the building?”

“Yep. They’ve even named the guys the laughing bandits, mostly because every time we don’t catch them we’re made more of a laughing stock.” Ray rolled his eyes. “Like any of us want to talk with reporters if they’re gonna be that kind of helpful. Bunch of jerks, the whole lot of them.”

“But we do have a suspect in custody now.”

Ray pulled Fraser close and put a hand over his mouth. “Keep it down, Fraser. They hear that, they might want to talk with me, and we both know that’s a bad idea.”

Fraser nodded, and Ray removed his hand. “Has he asked for an attorney?” Fraser quietly asked.

“Yeah, he’s with him now.” Ray opened the file folder he’d been carrying and showed it to Fraser. “Name’s Jeff Storey. Nothing big on his rap sheet so far, but it looks like he’s made the big time with this.” He started toward the interrogation rooms. “I was questioning him when his lawyer showed, but I figure he’s had enough time for me to at least check in. Want to come along?”

“Of course.”

They slipped past a small group of reporters who were, luckily for them, preoccupied with asking Lt. Welsh and even Frannie questions about the cases. Ray stopped just out of their line of sight and listened for a minute.

“You know, she’s not half bad at that,” Ray remarked.

Fraser started to answer, then grabbed Ray’s arm. “Ray,” he whispered, voice urgent, “Storey’s accomplice is here.”

“What! Where?”

Fraser pointed him out and Ray gave Fraser a questioning look. “You sure? That’s supposed to be his lawyer.”

“He tried to knock me off the roof of a building,” Fraser answered dryly as he started toward the man. “That kind of thing makes an impression.”

Unfortunately, they were spotted, and the man was able to escape in the crowd.

“Dammit!” Ray said. “Maybe we deserve to be laughed at, if the thief can just waltz in and talk to his partner right under out noses.”

“Why would he want to, though, Ray?”

“What?”

“Why would Storey’s partner take that kind of risk? Unless, of course, he had to.”

Ray snapped his fingers. “Because he doesn’t have the diamonds, and when they split up, he didn’t get to see where Storey stashed them.”

“It makes sense.”

“Come on, Fraser,” Ray said running toward his car. “If he doesn’t have them, they’re still at the crime scene, which means we have a chance to find them first!”

Fraser got in the car, and Ray stopped to look at him. “What?” Fraser asked.

“Is the wolf not going with us, or has he figured out how to open doors on his own?”

“He said he’d meet us there.”

Ray got in and started the car as Dief ran past them. “Of course he did. Why did I even ask?”

***********

“How’s Quinn liking Chicago?” Ray asked as he drove. “Aside from jerkwad CEOs, that is.”

“I think he’s finding it a little overwhelming.”

“This his first time in the US?

“Yes. It’s also the largest city he’s ever spent any real amount of time in.”

Ray nodded. “That would be a lot to take in. Seems like a pretty smart guy, though. I’m sure he’ll get the hang of city life in no time.”

“I’m not so sure,” Fraser answered. “He is extremely intelligent – I’m not disputing that. But his knowledge and skill set don’t do him much good in such an urban environment.”

“What, you mean the tracking and hunting stuff?”

“Among other things, yes.”

Ray thought about that for a few seconds, then shrugged. “Well, the way I see it, he taught you all that stuff and you found a way to use it here, so it’s obviously possible.”

“True. But that’s because I live here, and have a job that made adapting those skills feasible. Quinn doesn’t have anything like that.”

“Because he’s just visiting, I get it. So then maybe he just has to deal with being out of his element for a little while, then he can go home and be big man on campus again, or whatever the Inuit village equivalent is. Plus, he can see how well you’re doing here, which has to make him happy, right?”

I suppose so.”

“Okay then. So is that why he didn’t come to the station with you? Because he was feeling out of place or something?”

“He’d never say so, but that’s part of it, yes.”

“What’s the rest?” Ray asked.

Fraser frowned. “I’m not sure. He’s been behaving strangely all afternoon.”

***********

When they got there, Diefenbaker was waiting for them by the entrance.

“How the hell did he beat us here?” Ray wondered.

“He took a short cut,” Fraser answered.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Not at all. Please, don’t say anything to him about it. He’s going to be smug enough as it is.”

Ray pinched the bridge of his nose, then opened the car door. “Whatever you say, Benny.”

They went in and made a thorough search, especially of the area where Storey had been caught. There were no diamonds to be found, but when Fraser was searching he found a piece of ornamentation from Quinn’s jacket, a leather strand with a claw tied to the end. It could have been dropped when they were there earlier, but he had trouble believing it wouldn’t have been picked up then.

Fraser pocketed the bit of leather while Ray was on his phone, setting up surveillance for the building in case Storey’s partner returned.

“This is not good, Fraser,” Ray said after he hung up. “Welsh wants me back at the station and it’s definitely not because he wants to tell me how happy he is with how the case is going.” He sighed then started toward the door. “You coming?”

Fraser looked back at the building, then shook his head. “I don’t think so, Ray. Dief and I need to have a talk anyhow, so we’ll just walk.”

“You sure? I’ll bet Welsh has plenty of yelling to go around.”

Fraser gave Ray a small smile and shook his head. “I’m sure.”

“If you were anyone else, I’d call you a coward for not going back.”

“Understood. See you later, Ray.”

“If I live that long, Benny.” He started to leave, then stopped and turned back to face Fraser. “Is there something going on I should know about?”

“What do you mean, Ray?”

Ray raised an eyebrow. “I mean, Quinn’s not the only one acting weird. It’s a hell of a walk from here to the station or the Consulate. What are you really doing?”

When Fraser didn’t respond, Ray sighed and walked over to him. “Listen, Benny, I don’t know how else to put this so I’m just gonna ask it. Do you think Quinn knows more than he’s letting on?”

“About what, Ray?” Fraser replied blandly.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Ray gave Fraser a serious look. “Do you think he knows where the diamonds are?”

“I don’t believe he’s one of the thieves.”

“I absolutely don’t think that either,” Ray agreed. “But how bad does he want to save his town? He came all the way here, then got the brush-off. So, how much farther would he go?” Ray held up a hand before Fraser could answer. “I’m not saying he stole anything, but you two did split up to chase the thieves. He could’ve seen where the jewels got stashed and kept the info to himself. Being at the right place at the right time… might have been too good an opportunity to pass up.”

Fraser frowned, and when he spoke, he was obviously conflicted. “I’d like to be able to tell you that I know for a fact Quinn would never do what you’re suggesting, but I can’t. The truth is, what you’re saying is perfectly plausible. He’s desperate to keep his lands safe.”

“Then we need to go talk with him, before he goes from one bad choice that’s an easy fix to one that’ll get him in big trouble.”

Fraser nodded. “That’s what I was going to do.”

“Were you going to tell me?”

“Once I’d talked with Quinn, yes.” Ray scowled at that response. “It just makes more sense for me to find him alone, Ray. He knows me. More than that, he trusts me, and I trust him to do the right thing.”

Ray thought for a long minute, then nodded. “Okay, you say you have this covered, I’ll believe you. But you keep me in the loop, understand?”

“Of course.”

“Okay. You want a ride back to the Consulate?”

“I don’t believe that’s where Quinn is.”

“Then how are you going to find him?”

“I’ll track him, of course. I found a clue here. I have no doubt there are others.”

“So what is this, some Canadian rite of passage? You use a cheeseburger wrapper or something to track a guy down and you’re a man or something?” Ray threw up his hands in disgust. “We do not have time for this, Fraser.”

“It’s the best way I know to find him, and when I do, he’ll appreciate the effort. It will go along way in getting him to tell me what he knows.”

“Whatever -it’s your call. If I hadn’t seen you track a car by a gas leak, I’d say you were crazy to do this, you know that, right?” Walking back to the door, he muttered, “I’m gonna get yelled at and he’s busy playing I Spy. Just my luck.”

***********

Fraser and Dief spent the rest of the afternoon tracking Quinn, finally finding him at the Power building where this had all started.

“You been tracking me, Ben?” he asked.

“I thought you were going to rest at the Consulate,” Fraser replied.

“I did. Then I came here.”

“You took a very circuitous route.”

Quinn just shrugged. “Lots to see.”

“I would have thought you’d seen enough of this particular building.”

“Why are you here, Ben?” Quinn asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

”I think you know why,” Fraser answered.

“Following up on the robbery, I expect.”

They entered the building and Fraser started toward the elevator where Storey had been caught. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help?”

“You want me to help you track someone in the city? That’s not my area of expertise, you know.”

“Tracking is tracking, no matter the location. I found you, didn’t I?” Fraser replied. “And you might see something I don’t. Give me a different perspective.”

“Okay,” Quinn agreed..

***********

Ray returned to the station to find several messages on his desk, but before he could read them, Lt. Welsh waved him over to Frannie’s desk.

“Nice of you to stop by, detective,” he said.

“Yes sir, thank you sir,” Ray replied with minimal sarcasm. “What’s going on?”

Frannie rolled her eyes and pointed at the computer screen. “What’s going on is the guy pretending to be Storey’s lawyer left prints, and there was a match in the system. I’m pulling up the records now.” She tapped a few more numbers on her keyboard and hit Return. “Okay, that should do it.”

As the file came up, both Ray and the Lieutenant leaned over Frannie’s shoulder to read. “Tim Kelly,” she read aloud. “Looks like he’s got a serious rap sheet here.” She started scrolling down the list. “Three convictions for aggravated assault, arrested three times for extortion – geez, the guy’s wanted in 34 states.”

“I need printouts of Kelly’s picture, Ms. Vecchio. Lots of them. Make sure everyone here gets one.” Lt. Welsh raised his voice so everyone in the room could hear him. “I want this guy and I want him yesterday, you got it? Bus stations, airports, car rental places – check them all. And the press better not hear anything about how somebody with this kind of record slipped past us.”

“Of course, sir,” Ray answered, and others nodded as well. “The last thing I want to do is get in front of a camera.” Ray nudged Frannie when she didn’t say anything and she nudged him back.

“Like I would say anything I wasn’t supposed to!” Ray and Welsh both looked at her. “Well, I’d never do it on purpose,” she amended.

“Consider yourself educated,” Welsh said. “Get to work, Kowalski. And where’s your partner? He should be working on this too.”

“He really should,” Ray agreed. “I’ll go find him. Right after Frannie gets me a copy of Kelly’s mug shot.”

Ray started to leave the bullpen when Dewey called out to him. “Hey, Ray – your phone keeps ringing off the hook. What’s up with that?”

“No idea. I’ll check my messages later.” He went to sit on the edge of Frannie’s desk. “What’s the hold up?”

“Printer issues. I’ll have it for you soon, okay? Now, get your carcass off of my desk,” Frannie finished, pushing at Ray’s leg.

***********

Fraser let Quinn lead him around a bit, patiently waiting for his friend to tell him the truth. It wasn’t until Fraser took Quinn to a fence Ray sometimes used as a source that Quinn admitted he’d taken the jewels from where Storey had hidden them, and left them at the Consulate for safe-keeping.

“Considering that Constable Turnbull’s the only one there at the moment, that might not have been your best decision,” Fraser said.

“After everything I just told you, that’s the thing you criticize?”

“If you knew Turnbull better, you wouldn’t question that.”

***********

Turnbull was delighted to see them when they got to the Consulate, and was attempting to convince them to try the ratatouille he’d just made when there was a knock on the door.

Guiltily relieved at avoiding the gastrointestinal distress he was sure the meal would cause, Fraser went to answer the door as Turnbull near-dragged Quinn into the kitchen.

Tim Kelly was on the other side, and he shoved his way in, gun drawn and pointed at Fraser.

“I want the jewels, and I want them now,” he growled.

“I don’t have them,” Fraser replied. “And I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to surrender your weapon. You see, you’re on Canadian soil now and-“

“Shut up!” Kelly interrupted, pulling back the hammer to cock the gun. “If you don’t have them, you’re of no use to me.”

“I know where they are,” Quinn said from the kitchen doorway. “But I’ll need his help to get them.”

“All right,” Kelly finally said, gesturing with the gun for Quinn to step closer to Fraser. “But I’ll kill you if you try anything.”

“If you kill him he can’t help you,” Fraser pointed out.

Kelly turned the gun on Fraser. “Do I really need you too?”

“I do,” Quinn reiterated. “Besides, killing a Mountie just gets the rest of them on your trail. And they never give up.”

“Fine,” Kelly growled. “Both of you get moving. And don’t try anything or maybe I won’t care if I’m hunted. Not like it’s anything new.”

Just as they were at the front door, Turnbull started out of the kitchen. One look at Fraser and Quinn being held at gunpoint and Turnbull panicked, backing into the kitchen so fast he slipped and fell, the ratatouille he’d been carrying spilling to cover him head to toe.

When he recovered enough to stand, he peeked out and saw the entryway was empty. This was unacceptable. He was a Mountie, and his help was needed. Turnbull knew what to do.

***********

“Ray, your phone’s ringing. Again.” Huey complained.

“So?”

“So since watching that printer isn’t fixing it, come answer the call and put the rest of us out of our misery.”

“Fine,” Ray said, stomping over to his desk. “Kowalski,” he barked.

“Detective?” It was Turnbull. Sounding out of breath and freaked out. Great – he probably set the Consulate on fire or dropped the Queen’s picture and broke it or something.

“Fraser isn’t here,” Ray told him.

“I know that - I most definitely know that! He was – oh, Detective, I’m afraid he’s been kidnapped!”

That got Ray’s attention. “What? Turnbull, have you been in the cooking sherry again?”

“I’m serious, Detective. He and Quinn were taken from the Consulate by a man holding a gun on them.”

“Did you get a good look at the guy? What did he look like?”

“I’m better with visuals,” Turnbull protested. “Could I draw you a picture and fax it over?”

“I don’t have time for that.” Ray fought down his irritation. “Just tell me what you saw.”

Turnbull described the man, and Ray swore. “Kelly – had to be him. I’m on it.”

Ray slammed the phone down and ran to Frannie’s desk. “You said Kelly bought tickets to somewhere – where was it?”

“You planning a vacation?”

“I’m planning on saving Fraser and Quinn’s lives. Where were they to?”

“Acapulco,” Frannie replied, face pale.

“Thanks,” Ray, said as he moved quickly toward the interrogation room.

Two minutes later, Ray came back out and told the cop stationed at the door to take Storey back to his cell.

Frannie was waiting by the door. “Did you find out anything?”

“Kelly has a hideout on Cardero. That’s where I’m headed.”

“Hey, Ray, your phone-“ Huey began, only to stop as Ray glared at him.

“I do not have time for this. You don’t like it, take the damn thing off the hook. Or better yet, find Tom and follow me. I have a bad feeling about this.” Ray was out of the room before Huey had time to reply.

***********

Huey and Dewey, along with Lt. Welsh, met Ray at the closed shop that served as Kelly’s safehouse. They’d just finished checking the building for possible escape routes when Kelly leaned out the front door. He confirmed that he had Quinn and Fraser, and then yelled out a cell number for them to call him on.

“Sounds like it’s time to call in the SWAT team,” Lt. Welsh said.

“Only if you want them both dead,” Ray growled. “We don’t have time to wait, sir. That’s Fraser in there. He’ll provoke the guy until Kelly kills him just to shut him up.”

“If you have a better idea, I’d like to hear it,” the lieutenant replied.

“All I know is if we wait, we’re not going to have hostages. We’re going to have corpses.”

“And I’m not disagreeing. But the only way in or out is through the front, so it isn’t like you’re going to be able to sneak in and free them.”

“No, but maybe we can do something so big and obvious it‘ll freak the guy out,” Ray said, looking around. “Somebody call the guy back and keep him distracted.”

***********

Inside the building, Fraser and Quinn were working on getting out of their bonds, and watching for their chance to try and escape. Kelly was getting more and more anxious, pacing and muttering. He still kept his gun on Fraser and Quinn, and his increasingly erratic behavior was starting to worry Fraser. If something didn’t happen soon, Kelly might shoot one of them just to prove he was serious.

“Your friends seem to be taking their time,” Quinn whispered.

“I’m sure they’re just waiting for the right moment to act,” Fraser whispered back, nodding when Kelly’s cell phone rang. “You see?”

Quinn nodded, shifting to work on the ropes around Fraser’s wrists some more. Fraser felt them loosen, and gave Quinn a miniscule nod as he started working himself free.

He heard Kelly make what sounded like fairly unreasonable demands, and knew they didn’t have much time. He quickly shifted to Quinn’s rope and was able to free him, then himself just as Kelly told the police they had a minute to do as he demanded. They were out of time.

Fraser got Quinn’s attention and shot a pointed look at the nearest hiding place. Quinn nodded, and as soon as Kelly’s attention wavered, Quinn ran, getting behind some boxes just as Kelly fired at him. Fraser’s relief that his friend was at least temporarily safe was short-lived as Kelly aimed the gun at Fraser’s chest.

“Any reason I shouldn’t shoot you now?” he sneered.

“You’d lose a hostage,” Fraser replied.

“Your friend won’t make it out of here. Way I see it, one hostage is plenty.” Just as he was about to pull the trigger, there was a huge crash as several garbage cans came crashing through the skylight. The front door was forced open at the same time, and Fraser used the distraction to kick the gun from Kelly’s hand.

Ray came in, Lt. Welsh behind him, guns drawn. Outnumbered and unarmed, Kelly surrendered.

Fraser looked up to see Huey and Dewey looking in from the roof, and waved his thanks.

Quinn came out of hiding then and joined Fraser. “Your friends are good at picking the right moment,” he said with a smile.

“They are at that,” Fraser agreed. “What will you do now?”

Quinn’s smile disappeared. “Now I have to go back home, tell everyone I failed.”

“I don’t think they’ll see it as a failure,” Fraser said, putting a hand on Quinn’s shoulder. “You made the attempt. That’s what’s important.”

“Maybe. I need to thank you, by the way.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because you trusted me not to take those jewels.”

“No thanks needed, Quinn. Think of it as repaying the trust you had in me all those years ago. You let me make my own mistakes then. How could I do any less now?”

“Better watch it,” Quinn said with a small chuckle. “You’re starting to sound like me.”

Fraser grinned. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

***********

Once Kelly was safely booked and behind bars, Ray was able to go back to his desk to see what all the phone calls were about. He read the messages, then took them to Frannie.

"Frannie, do you know anything about Ma coming in to town?"

Her eyes widened at the question. "No. Why, did she call you?"

He held up a stack of messages. "I got a huge pile of these. They all say family's on the way in."

“Did you even bother reading them before now?”

“Excuse me for being busy doing my job,” Ray replied, sarcasm lacing his words. “Besides, if Ma hasn’t said anything to you, then it’s just some weird joke.”

Frannie grabbed the papers and flipped though them. "Oh no,” she whispered, face showing her panic. It's not our family - it's Ray's."

Ray just stared at her. "You mean they don't know?"

She shook her head. “They aren't close. Ray talks to them sometimes, I think, but he hasn't seen them in years." She smacked him on the arm. "Did you ever actually read the stuff they gave you about him?"

"Give me a break, Frannie. Of course I did." He snatched the messages back and waved them at her. "I just didn't think these meant Kowalski’s folks. They're what - in Arizona, right?"

"Based on those? I'm thinking not so much. What are you gonna do?"

He thought fast and furious, then snapped his fingers. "I'm gonna call Stella."

A phone call later, Stella Kowalski was on her way. Fraser stiffened slightly when Ray explained the situation.

“What’s with the look? I figured she could help us explain the situation to Kowalski’s folks.”

“I think that between the two of us and Lieutenant Welsh we have the situation well in hand.”

“Come on, Benny,” Ray scoffed, “put yourself in their shoes. They come for a visit and some strangers tell them their son is so deep undercover nobody can contact him? I don’t care that it’s cops doing the telling – if it were me, I’d be upset, maybe even suspicious. But if Stella backs us up, things should go smooth.”

Fraser nodded reluctantly. “I see your point, Ray.” Fraser looked past Ray and frowned slightly. Ray turned to track Fraser’s gaze and grinned. “Great! She’s here.”

“Stella,” Ray said with a smile as he walked over to her. “Thanks for coming in. I know it’s bad timing.”

Stella shook her head. “I just can’t believe no one told Damien or Barbara what was going on.”

“Well, it was kind of a last-minute deal – guess it just got overlooked, since they aren’t local. Frannie says this is the first time she can remember them coming here, and Kowalski’s been with the 2-7 for years.”

Stella nodded. “Yeah, Ray and his dad haven’t always been on the best of terms. I can’t believe they’re here now – that they aren’t going to be able to see Ray is really going to be hard on them, especially Barbara.”

“You keep in touch with your ex in-laws?” he asked, surprised.

“Like your ex doesn’t have dinner with your family a couple of times a month,” she retorted. “They’re good people. And Barbara and I always got along.” She sighed. “Do you know when they’re supposed to get here?”

“Any time, based on the last message I got. Welsh said we could use his office to talk, or I have Room Three set aside if that would be better. What do you think?”

“I think that having the Lieutenant there will help, but his office is too visible.”

***********

As soon as the Kowalskis arrived, they were escorted to the interrogation room where Fraser, Welsh, Ray and Stella were waiting. Damien looked angry; Barbara seemed more worried than anything. Both were happy to see Stella, and Ray sent Fraser an I told you so look.

“Stella, what’s going on? Has something happened to Stanley?” Barbara asked her.

“He’s fine, Barbara. It’s just… complicated,” Stella replied. “When’s the last time you heard from Ray?”

“It’s been months. The last time he called he warned us about that, said he was going to be very busy, and from what he wasn’t saying we guessed it was undercover.” She looked around the room. “Is he still working on that case? He’s never gone so long.”

“He is, Mrs. Kowalski,” Welsh answered. “And Ms. Kowalski is right – it’s complicated. But we’ll answer whatever questions we can. Would you two like to have a seat?”

Damien sat down, but Barbara moved to where Fraser was standing, back and out of the way. “You’re Stanley’s partner, Benton Fraser.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. “I’m pleased to meet you both,” he went on, nodding to Damien.

“It’s good to put a face to the voice,” she answered. “My son thinks a great deal of you, you know.”

“And I him. He’s the best partner I’ve had the chance to work with.”

Ray tried not to wince at that. “Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski, I’m Ray Vecchio, and I’m filling in while your son is gone. Like the Lieutenant and Stella said, this is kind of a convoluted story, but I promise you, it’s working.”

Barbara gave Fraser a smile and then sat down next to her husband. “Go on, Detective Vecchio,” Damien said, “tell us about our son.”

***********

“Damn,” Damien huffed after they’d been briefed. “So we made the trip for nothing. And dragged the Goat all this way, too.”

“Someone should have let you both know, Damien,” Stella agreed.

Ray looked annoyed at the implication that he was in the wrong, but Fraser questioned Damien before Ray could complain. “Mr. Kowalski, did you say you brought Ray’s car with you?”

Damien nodded, giving his wife a look, and they both stood. “Yeah. Thought I’d surprise him, plus it’s just going to waste with me – hardly ever gets out of the garage.”

Fraser turned his hat in his hands, worrying the brim. “Would you mind – that is, could I see it?”

“You want to see the GTO?”

Fraser nodded. “Yes, please. Ray spoke of it often.”

Barbara patted his arm. “Well, then of course you should see it.”

They went out to the parking lot, and Damien led them toward the back of a large RV, where a black car was attached as a tow. “So, he talked about the car, huh?” Damien asked Fraser.

“Quite often. He’s very proud of the work you two did restoring it. To bring it to him is a lovely gesture.”

Fraser gestured toward the driver’s side door. “May I?” At Damien’s nod, Fraser opened the door and settled in. He could picture Ray behind the wheel all too easily, tapping his fingers on the dashboard in time to music, pounding on the wheel in frustration, or smiling as he drove, window open, elbow propped up, wind ruffling his already unruly hair. Fraser felt an almost physical pang in his chest and shook himself to banish the images, then got out of the car, closing the door behind him with care.

He stood there, hand on the door for a minute.

“Benton,” Barbara said, voice gentle, “would you like to have dinner with Damien and I tonight? Nothing fancy, but it’ll be home cooked.”

“I couldn’t intrude,” Fraser started, but she hushed him with a look and a hand on his arm, as gentle as her voice.

“It’s not an intrusion. And you could tell us about Stanley, how he’s been. We haven’t seen him in a long time. It would be good to hear your side of some of the stories he’s told us.”

Fraser hesitated, but at the look in her eyes he nodded. “Of course, Mrs. Kowalski. Thank you kindly for the invitation.”

“It’s Barbara,” she answered. “And no thanks necessary. You’re Stanley’s partner. That makes you family. And you,” She said, turning to Ray, “are taking your father and I out to lunch tomorrow. We didn’t come this way to not see our son.”

Ray recognized that tone – it was the same one all moms used when they knew there were going to get their way. “Yes ma’am – that is, mom,” he replied, and she gave him a small, tight smile.

“All right then,” she said, looping her arm though Fraser’s. “Come on, Benton, let me give you a tour of our temporary home.”

 

Episode 4.8: Ladies Man

“Constable Fraser, there’s someone to see you,” Turnbull leaned in the doorway to say.

Fraser looked up from his paperwork. “Do you know what they want?”

“No. I’d never ask that. It’s presumptuous.”

“It’s your job, Turnbull,” Fraser pointed out.

“But you’re the liaison,” Turnbull protested.

Fraser fought down a sigh. “Is it Ray, Turnbull?”

“No. Why would you think that?” Turnbull asked, puzzled.

“Because you mentioned my job as liaison with the police department.”

“Ah,” Turnbull replied, “but I would have just told you it was Detective Kowalski, assuming he let me even announce him. He usually doesn’t-”

“Turnbull,” Fraser interrupted, holding up his hand.

“Yes?”

“Do you know who’s here to see me?”

“Yes.”

“Then could you please tell me who it is?” Fraser said as evenly as possible.

“Of course. It’s Ms. Vecchio.”

“Francesca? And she’s here on police business?”

“Well, as I said, I didn’t ask, but I assumed, unless…” Turnbull stopped and turned red. “Oh, I didn’t mean to make assumptions about your personal life, of course. It’s just that you’ve never had a young lady here – that is, I haven’t seen – that is – I’ll just send her in.”

Fraser did let himself sigh then. “Thank you, Turnbull.”

A few moments later, Turnbull opened the door for Francesca. “Do you need anything, Ms. Vecchio? Tea, perhaps?”

“Nah, I’m good, but thanks, Rennie,” she replied, patting him on the arm.

“Of course,” he replied, and Fraser could see he was blushing. “I’ll just leave you two then.” He nodded to Fraser and closed the door.

“Good morning, Francesca,” Fraser said. “Won’t you please have a seat?”

Once she sat down, he did the same. “I didn’t realize you knew Constable Turnbull,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” she said with a smile. “I met Rennie when you and Ray were doing that pirate thing. He was a big help.”

“He was?” Fraser couldn’t hide his surprise, but if Francesca heard the doubt in his tone, she ignored it.

“Sure. I mean, he really pitched in, did whatever he was asked to do. It was nice to have some help. You have no idea just how not helpful some of the guys at the station are.” She looked around the room. “So, this is your office? Seems kind of… small.”

“It’s adequate for my needs.”

“I guess.” She shifted in her chair. “So you’re probably wondering why I’m here, right?”

“I am curious. Turnbull thought you were here on police business.”

“I sort of am, in a really roundabout way.” She leaned in and lowered her voice to a near-whisper. “Can we talk here? I mean, about Ray? Is it okay?”

“It should be. Is something wrong with Ray?”

“I don’t know about wrong,” she answered, sitting up straight, “but there’s something going on and it isn’t good. Ray’s been really, really irritable the past few days. And I’m not talking he just didn’t get enough sleep or coffee or whatever. He’s either super-quiet or he’s lashing out at everybody.” She sighed. “It’s bad, Fraser, whatever it is. Last time Ray acted like this was right after Irene died.”

“Has anything happened that would trigger this behavior?”

“If it has, he’s not talking about it. At least not to me. I’ve tried, but he either ignores me or tells me that he doesn’t want to blow his cover by spending too much time with me. Like us going to lunch together is gonna do that,” she huffed.

“I’m not sure I’ll have much more luck than you, but I’m certainly willing to try.”

“Would you? Because I’m worried he’s going to do something stupid, either say the wrong thing or actually haul off and hit somebody he arrests or something.” She sighed deeply. “I’m telling you, Fraser, I love the guy, but brother or no, if he doesn’t calm down I’m going to hurt him. And at this rate, I’m going to have to stand in line to do it.”

“I’ll go to the station this afternoon,” Fraser told her. “I had been wondering why Ray hadn’t asked for my help these past few days.”

“He’s not asking for anything from anyone,” she said as she stood up. “Thanks, Fraser. I mean it. He’s a good guy and a good cop. I don’t want whatever’s eating him up inside to mess that up.”

“He is,” Fraser agreed. “I’ll do my best.”

***********

Jack was walking out of the bullpen as Fraser was walking in, and he put a hand on Fraser’s shoulder as he passed. “Good luck, Fraser. He’s in the worst mood I’ve ever seen.”

“Thank you for the warning, Jack.”

Ray was at his desk, glaring at a folder. Dief took one look at him and trotted off toward the break room. Fraser watched him go and shook his head in disgust.

As soon as Fraser got close, Ray flipped the folder shut and slapped a hand on his desk. “You here to check up on me, Fraser?” he snapped. “Did Welsh call and tell you to keep me in line?”

“Hello, Ray,” Fraser answered, ignoring Ray’s adversarial tone. “I’ve not spoken with the Lieutenant. And I haven’t been in several days, so it seemed like a good idea to come by. I was hoping there would be a case we could work on.”

Ray focused his gaze on Fraser, like he was looking for some kind of deception. Finally satisfied, he shrugged and gestured toward his inbox. “You want to find something to do, be my guest,” he said, standing. “I was just getting ready to leave.”

“If there’s anything I can do to help-“ Fraser began.

“I’m just leaving, not working, Fraser. I’ve had enough of this place for the day. You never feel like that? Oh that’s right – you get tired of work it’s too bad for you, because you live there. Must be nice, loving a job enough to have it around you 24/7.”

Ray started to leave and Fraser followed. “Ray, if there’s something going on that I can help with-“

“Did you not hear me say I wasn’t working?”

“I wasn’t referring only to work,” Fraser answered. “We’re friends. Friends help.”

“Yeah, well this is something no one can help with.”

“You can’t be sure of that. Why, I know a story about a man who thought he had no choice but to do everything for himself.”

“This guy live at work and talk to a deaf half-wolf?” Ray asked as Dief trotted up to them. He took a long look at the both of them and held up his hands. “Fine. If it will save me a long, boring Inuit story, I’ll tell you.”

***********

Frannie watched from the doorway as Fraser tried to approach Ray to talk with him. She doubted that anything Fraser said would have provoked the snarl he got in response, and Frannie was unsurprised to see Fraser stiffen and take a step back. She watched him try to talk to Ray only to be interrupted more than once. But Fraser kept at him until Ray threw his hands up in disgust and gestured for Fraser to follow. They were headed in Frannie’s direction, so she quickly slid out of the way, and pretended she was heading to the file room.

Turning around to see where they were going, Frannie saw Fraser and Ray duck into an interrogation room, one of the ones with the one-way glass and the intercom. She fidgeted for a few seconds, torn between giving her brother his privacy and needing to know what was going on with him. Need won out; she gingerly opened the door and slipped inside, making sure she wasn’t seen. Tiptoeing over to the intercom, she gently turned it on, catching Fraser and Ray mid-conversation.

“So, I know you read my file,” Ray was saying. “How far back did you go?”

“I read as much as I could find,” Fraser answered, and Frannie saw him tense up. “I wanted to know about the man replacing my partner.”

“Hey, not judging, just wondering,” Ray replied, sounding honestly surprised at Fraser’s defensiveness. “You remember reading anything about the Botrelle case?”

“The name is familiar, but not because of your service record.”

Ray nodded. “Yeah, it’s been in the papers lately. Beth Botrelle’s going to be executed in two days.”

“She was convicted of killing her husband, wasn’t she? And he was a policeman, if I remember the article I read. Do you know her?”

“You could say that,” Ray replied with a humorless laugh. “I was one of the cops assigned to the case. I might as well be the one putting the needle in her arm.” Ray grabbed the back of a chair and bowed his head.

“Was this case the reason you left Chicago?” Fraser asked.

“No, but it was a definite symptom of the problem.” Ray shook his head and started pacing. “I wanted to be a cop, don’t get me wrong, but I was still pretty messed up about Irene when I was a rookie. I did better than skating by at the Academy, but once I was on the force I got, I don’t know. Sloppy, I guess. I let other people take the lead, and I just followed right along.”

“And the Botrelle case?”

“It felt a little too close to home or something, I don’t know. Somebody dies and it’s the person they love who did it? And yeah, I know, Irene was an accident, but it didn’t feel that way then. So I know I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Do you think Mrs. Botrelle might not have done it?”

“She was washing blood off her hands when we got there – it was pretty open and shut. But I remember…” Ray blew out a deep breath. “I remember finding this scrap of paper that was almost too bloody to read, and handing it over to Franklin. And I never followed up on it, never signed off on the chain of evidence. He said he’d taken care of it for me, and I just went along.” He sighed heavily, shoulders slumping. “After that case, I knew I needed to get out. Still wanted to be a cop, but I knew there was no way I could do it here. So I talked to the family, made some calls, and we moved to Florida.”

Fraser thought for a minute. “Ray,” he finally said, “if you’re really unsure about the case, we should try and look at the case files, perhaps even the evidence. See if anything was missed.”

“I didn’t say I was unsure about Botrelle being guilty.”

“No, but it’s still bothering you, enough so that you’re taking it out on everyone around you.”

“Do you think there might be something?”

“Given the heated nature of the events, it’s entirely possible something small might have been accidentally overlooked. And if not, it would give you peace of mind to see for yourself, wouldn’t it?”

Ray nodded. “Yeah, it probably would. But we have no legit reason for needing to see any of that stuff, especially with me being Kowalski.”

“Well, then, we may have to be a little… creative.”

“Creative?” Ray actually perked up a little at that.

“Within the law, of course,” Fraser clarified.

“Of course.”

Frannie stayed in the room until Ray and Fraser had left. Once she was sure they were long gone, she opened the door and hurried back to her desk. She spent the rest of the day preoccupied, wondering what, if anything, she could do to help her brother.

***********

Lt. Welsh called Ray into his office almost as soon as they left the interrogation room. Ray figured it was to yell at him for being so mad at everyone, and told Fraser to wait for him at his desk. It turned out that wasn’t it at all.

“Your presence has been requested at the state prison,” he told Ray.

“What?” Ray asked in shock. “Who would want me there?”

“Beth Botrelle has asked to see you, Detective Vecchio. And you’ve been given permission to go.”

Ray sat down on the couch. “Do I have to?” he asked, looking up at Welsh tiredly.

“Dying woman’s last request,” Welsh replied blandly, then shrugged. “But it’s your call.”

“I’ll let you know,” Ray said getting up and going to the door.

“Better make up your mind soon, Detective,” Welsh said.

“Believe me, I know.” He left the Lieutenant’s office and called to Fraser. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

***********

Ray took them back to his apartment. “Make yourself comfortable,” he said, gesturing toward the couch with one hand as he pulled his tie loose with the other.

Fraser placed his hat on the table and sat down on the couch.

“That’s comfortable?” Ray asked, staring at Fraser. “You’re sitting at attention.”

Fraser relaxed his back a little and leaned into the couch.

“That’s better.” He went to the kitchen. “You want anything?”

“I’m fine, Ray, thank you kindly.” He hesitated, then asked, “What did Lt. Welsh say to you?”

Ray took a long drink, then watched the ice clink around in the glass as he tilted it back and forth. “Beth Botrelle wants to see me.”

“Are you going to go?”

“I don’t know. I don’t see how it could be a good idea,” Ray said as he started to pace. “I mean, the undercover thing is flimsy enough as it is. It feels like tempting Fate for me to go there as me.”

“I don’t believe you would have been approached if it weren’t safe to do so,” Fraser said after a minute.

“Yeah, special dispensation from the Feds,” Ray snorted. “Figures the first time I really don’t want to be me is the time they okay it.”

“I certainly understand why you wouldn’t want to go.”

“Do you?” Ray asked, eyes hooded.

“Well, only in the abstract sense, but yes. I can see how it would be difficult to face a case from your past, especially when your job is to ignore that past in its entirety.”

“That’s not why I don’t want to see her, though. You know that, right?”

Fraser nodded. “Yes, I do.”

Ray looked long and hard at Fraser, then nodded. “Yeah, I think you do. It feels like there’s a story there somewhere.”

“There is, but it’s a long one,” Fraser said.

“Got a lot of Inuit in it?” Ray asked with the barest hint of a smile. “Or sled dogs or crazy chases? Ooh, how about some moose?”

“It has some of those things in it, yes.”

“And does it have some crazy moral you have to be Canadian to understand?”

“No, this isn’t one of those stories.”

“Then sometime soon you and me are going to go out and you’re going to tell me.” He rubbed his hands over his face. “I’m going to go see her. I have no idea what I’ll say, but I’m going to go.”

“Do you want company?”

“Yeah,” Ray finally said, “I think that would be good.”

***********

The trip to the prison was quiet and tense, and it didn’t get any better once they were there. Botrelle’s lawyer Carolyn Sherman was there as well, eyeing Ray and Fraser suspiciously.

“Any idea why she wants to see me?” Ray finally asked.

“You’ll have to talk to her about that. But I will say it’s against my better judgment.” The arrived at the door and Sherman stopped them before they tried to have the guard open it. “She doesn’t deserve any of this. And she’s got less than 48 hours unless I come up with something to clear her. So don’t make things any worse on her than they are, got it?”

That said, she signaled for the guard to let them in. Botrelle ignored Fraser once she’d gotten a good look at him, and said she wanted to speak with Ray privately. Fraser nodded and started toward the door. Sherman had a silent argument with her client that she obviously lost; she followed Fraser out.

Ray just stood there, waiting, with no idea what to say. Botrelle just watched him for a long time, then finally she shook her head.

“Could have been anybody, you know?” she said.

“What?”

“That found me in the shower. That arrested me. It could have been any cop there. Just happened to be you.”

Ray blinked, confused. “That’s why you wanted to see me?”

“Basically,” she replied with a shrug. “Listen. I’ve done this dance four times now. Once they got close enough that I felt the needle start to go in. I don’t want to die, but I’m tired of waiting. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.” She leaned forward in her chair, arms resting on the table. “And given I have nothing but time here to think and wait, I got to wondering how I’d feel if I were you. I didn’t like the idea of you blaming yourself, so I asked if I could see you.”

“You don’t blame me?” Ray had to ask.

“You’re not the one who put me in here,” she insisted. “You’re just the one who found me first.”

***********

Ray left the room visibly shaken. One look at him had Sherman going back in to check on her client.

“Ray?” Fraser started, but Ray just shook his head and kept walking.

“I can’t do this right now,” he said. “But we are definitely going to find out what happened to that piece of paper. Because Beth Botrelle did not kill her husband. If I’m sure of nothing else, I know that. No ifs, ands or buts. And we don’t have much time to prove me right.”

***********

“Hey roomie, long time no see!” Elaine said with a smile as Frannie opened the back door and walked in. “I can’t believe our schedules finally synched up enough to have dinner together.”

“Hey, Elaine.” Frannie put the bags of food she was carrying on the counter. “The lasagna should still be warm, and Giorgio sent along extra breadsticks.”

“That man has it bad for you, Frannie,” Elaine teased, then frowned when Frannie didn’t say anything back.

“How was work today?” Elaine asked as she poured herself a glass of wine, then tilted it in Frannie’s direction. Frannie grimaced and nodded, and Elaine got out another glass. “That bad, huh?”

“It wasn’t work,” Frannie sighed, taking the glass from Elaine. “Thanks. It was Ray.” She gave Elaine a brief rundown of what was happening. “He’s trying to pretend the Botrelle thing isn’t bugging him, but it is, and he’s just taking it out on everyone.” She shook her head. “If Fraser hadn’t cornered him and dragged him off to an interrogation room, I’m pretty sure somebody there would be under arrest for assault right now.”

“That case has every cop in this town on edge one way or another,” Elaine remarked. “Especially at the 1-9. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.”

“Yeah, the 2-7 isn’t much better, especially with Ray there.”

Elaine quirked an eyebrow. “So he yelled at you.”

“At me, at Fraser, at the vending machine guy,” Frannie listed, sighing again. “There was no talking to him today. But he and I yell all the time, that isn’t what’s bothering me.”

“Then what is?” Elaine moved to get plates out of the cabinet as Frannie unpacked the carry-out bags.

“It’s just… I’m worried about him. Until today I’d forgotten how torn up he was when he was on the case originally. Between it and still being crazy over Irene’s death, he was a mess. Now I see him sliding back, acting like he did then.” She pulled serving utensils out of a drawer and removed the lids from the food containers.

“And he won’t talk with you about it?” Elaine asked, dishing out a serving of lasagna and grabbing a breadstick.

“He won’t talk to anyone, that the problem,” Frannie replied, carrying her plate over to the kitchen table. “Well, except Fraser finally got him to say something,” she amended. “But I don’t know how much good it did.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Frannie started to shake her head, then reconsidered. “Maybe there is. Can you look at the files without getting into trouble?”

“Why would you want me to do that?”

“Ray’s really worried he might have missed something. I don’t know if it would help, but it’s not like he can just walk in and ask to look at them, you know?”

Elaine gave Frannie a dubious look. “I might be able to, yeah, but if anything happens, I could be in major trouble. You sure about this?”

“I’m sure I want to let Ray know you could look if he needed you to. But only if it’s okay with you.”

“Frannie, how long have we been friends? Plus, your mother practically adopted me, so I figure that means we’re family. And family sticks together. Just have Ray let me know where and when he wants to see the stuff and I’ll do my best.”

Frannie smiled, the first real smile she’d felt on her face all day. “You are a life saver. In this case, Ray’s life, even if he doesn’t know how close to death he is.” She took a bite of her lasagna. “So, your turn. How are things at the station going?”

***********

I don’t know if this is such a good idea,” Ray said as they approached the 2-7.

“It makes the most sense to try and get the file in a straightforward fashion,” Fraser replied.

“Maybe. It just doesn’t feel right, asking for access without them knowing who really wants to see it.”

“You could ask for special dispensation for that as well,” Fraser suggested.

“Yeah, I guess,” Ray said halfheartedly. “But on what grounds? I mean, Botrelle’s on death row, so I can see why they’d grant her request. I have no clout.”

“Would you rather not try at all?”

“I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t,” Ray replied, shaking his head. “And I’m thinking there’s some people here that would be more than happy to help me off myself if it came to it. I’ve been kind of an ass lately.”

Ray hesitated at the door.

“Is there something else going on, Ray?”

“Did you know a lot of people earlier were actually wanting to celebrate her execution?” Ray answered with a grimace.

“While I don’t condone such behavior,” Fraser replied carefully, “she is a convicted of killing a policeman. It wouldn’t be the first time that kind of reaction occurred.”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s the first time I’ve been part of the case, though.”

“But no one knows that.”

“Welsh does. He made them all shut up about it once he heard the talk.”

“The lieutenant is a good man.”

“Yeah, he’s not too bad. Kept me from popping anybody if nothing else.” Ray braced himself and opened the door. “Okay, ready or not, here we go.”

Things were uncharacteristically quiet in the bullpen, and everyone gave Ray space.

‘You certainly did make an impression,” Fraser observed.

“Yeah. I’m thinking it’s gonna take a couple rounds of drinks or me buying everyone lunch or something to smooth this one over.” Ray looked from his desk to Welsh’s door. “So, fill out the request forms first, or see if Welsh will just call in a favor to get us access?”

***********

They decided the best course of action would be to ask Lt. Welsh. It took a bit of persuading, but he agreed to make a call to see if they could have access to the files and evidence.

Ray scrubbed a hand over his face as they left Welsh’s office. “I need to get out of here for a couple of minutes. You’re good here?”

“I’m fine, Ray. I can find plenty to do. Take your time.”

Ray walked out of the bullpen and was heading toward the door when a familiar voice said, “Heard a rumor you were back.”

“That’s all it is – a rumor,” Ray shot back as he spun around, arms wide and a smirk on his face. “I was never really here.” He shook his head. “Sam Franklin. What the hell are you doing at the 2-7?”

“Just dropping some stuff off,” Franklin laughed. “So, hypothetically speaking, if you were to come back, would you be having anything to do with the big news story of the week??”

“More than I want to.”

“How’s that?”

“My presence was requested at the prison,” Ray told him.

“Ooh, that’s tough,” Franklin said with a wince. “Did you go?”

“Yeah,” Ray replied, shrugging.

“What’d she want? Are you her new angle for a last minute reprieve?”

“Honestly? I’m not sure what she wanted. But it didn’t really matter – not like there’s anything I could do, right? She’s already had her trial, and it sounds like she’s out of chances.”

“Still,” Franklin prodded, “it must dredge up a lot of memories.”

“Not really. It was a long time ago, you know?” Ray spotted Fraser at the end of the hall and shifted, edging slightly in that direction. “Listen, I hate to cut this short, but well, me being here really is kind of on the QT in a weird way, and I don’t want to jinx it by talking with old buddies. Nothing personal.”

“Sure. I need to get back to my precinct anyhow. But when you can, you should come by, have a drink. There’s still a couple of us there that you’d remember.”

“I will, thanks.” They shook hands, and Ray resisted the urge to wipe his on his pants leg. As normal as that conversation had sounded, he’d felt an undercurrent of something there that had him on edge.

“Who were you talking with just now, Ray?” Fraser asked as Ray joined him.

That was my old boss, Sam Franklin.”

Fraser raised an eyebrow. “And he just happened to be here today? That seems like a fairly large coincidence.”

“Tell me about it,” Ray held up a hand. “No, don’t really tell me about it. But yeah, it felt like he was fishing for something.”

“And did you give him anything to worry about?”

“Nah. If I’d gone to see him at his precinct maybe I’d have said more, but here? The whole conversation felt off.” Ray shook himself. “Come on, Benny. Let’s go see if we can track down that evidence.”

***********

A Welsh-sanctioned trip to the office where the evidence logs were stored turned out to be more frustrating than anything, though Ray was amused by the woman flirting with Fraser, if only because she actually liked some of the same things he did, including the nasty bark tea he’d made the mistake of trying when he stayed at the Consulate. Fraser was either ignoring the flirting or oblivious to it, but that was par for the course. That said, he didn’t seem too freaked out by her, which was interesting.

Nowhere near as interesting as hearing they weren’t the only ones that had asked about the evidence for the Botrelle case, however. The woman either couldn’t or wouldn’t give them any real information on who else had been asking around, and Ray was trying very carefully to tiptoe around asking, so she wouldn’t get suspicious.

As she left the room to get the log that would tell them just where the evidence was being stored, Ray pointed out a couple of photographs, including one of Jake Botrelle.

“Who’s that with him?” Fraser asked.

“You mean you don’t recognize Ronald Reagan?”

“That’s just silly, Ray. His films were quite the hit in Dawson’s Creek. I remember the night –“

“Robert Bedford,” Ray interrupted. “Current State’s Attorney with aspirations of Governor-hood.”

“Well, he does seem to have connections.”

“Yeah, and he uses them good, all the time putting it out there that he’s just like everybody else. Calls himself “Ordinary Bob.”

“You don’t sound as if you like the man.”

“Anybody who tries that hard to be normal? Definitely isn’t.”

***********

They managed to get into the warehouse where the evidence was stored, but the box was missing. Ray thumped a hand on the shelf in frustration. “This can’t be good.”

“That someone covertly took the evidence before we could? Some would say that’s karma.”

“Well, karma can bite my ass. I need to see that paper.” Ray started to say more, but Fraser held up a hand.

“There’s someone in the building,” he whispered.

***********

It was close, but Fraser and Ray escaped the building unnoticed and snuck back to Ray’s car. Ray was complaining loudly to Fraser about the situation when his cell phone rang. It was Frannie.

One very short and frustrating conversation later, Ray turned around and headed toward the Vecchio house, to see what Frannie refused to tell him about over the phone.

***********

It was the missing evidence box.

“Where did you get all this?” Ray held up a hand before Frannie or Elaine could answer. “No, I know where you got it. The more important question, and I hope to God I’m wrong on this one, is how did you get all this?”

“Relax, Ray,” Frannie huffed. “It’s all above board. Well, maybe not completely, but mostly. Elaine got it. And she used all the right procedures and everything, so get your shorts out of a bunch.”

That answer made Ray more nervous. “Elaine, if there’s anything here worth hiding, and I think there might be, then sticking to procedure is going to make things a lot worse for you than sneaking the files and stuff out would have.”

“Well then,” Fraser said into the tense silence, “it seems like we need to look through this as quickly and thoroughly as possible and return it before anyone goes looking for it.”

It wasn’t long before they realized that all the evidence was mislabeled.

“This is really sloppy work,” Frannie complained.

“On the contrary,” Fraser said. “This form of misdirection is rather elegant, and there’s a definite pattern. If I’m right, the bag we need is number one hundred and eleven.”

Ray found it first. “This is it!” he exclaimed, then frowned. “At least, I think it is. It definitely isn’t the eyebrow pencil that’s supposed to be in this bag.”

Ray pulled out the piece of paper and frowned. “I don’t know if this is it or not,” he finally said.

“You think the evidence was tampered with?” Elaine asked.

Ray blew out a breath. “I don’t know. It’s been so long, who knows if I’m remembering it right.”

Before he could look any more, Ray’s cell phone rang. Lt. Welsh wanted him back at the station right away.

“We’ll keep looking, Ray. See if we can find anything,” Elaine said.

“Fine, but get that stuff back where it belongs and soon. I have a bad feeling about this.”

***********

Fraser and Ray walked in to the bullpen and were immediately waved into Lt. Welsh’s office. They saw then why the summons had been urgent; standing there waiting was Robert Bedford, who focused his attention on Ray as soon as he was in the door.

“I’m given to understand you’ve been to see Beth Botrelle,” Bedford said without preamble.

“She asked to see me,” Ray answered. “What was I supposed to do?

“Understandable,” Bedford replied. “But that doesn’t explain why you’ve been looking into the case. I was told you’d been by to see the evidence logs.”

Ray tried to play it off. “Yeah. I just wanted to make sure I remembered it all right.”

“Admirable, I suppose, but a waste of time. Beth Botrelle was tried and convicted. It’s a little late to stir things up now.” He leaned in a little closer to Ray. “And given that you aren’t even supposed to have been involved in the case at all, Detective Kowalski, it seems like a very dangerous thing to be doing.”

Ray tensed. “Are you telling me I shouldn’t follow my instincts?”

“I’m telling you to leave the case alone.” He spared a glance for Fraser. “Both of you.”

After Bedford left, Ray turned to Lt. Welsh. “Did you hear that? That was practically a threat.”

“Or it was a reminder of your current assignment,” Welsh countered. “Maybe you need to take a few days off, until this blows over.”

“Until she’s dead, you mean.”

“Do I need to make this official?” Welsh asked, his tone full of warning.

Ray started to answer, but a flicker of movement from Fraser stopped him. “No, sir.”

“All right, then. Glad to hear it.” Welsh picked up his phone and gave Fraser and Ray a dismissive nod.

“I can’t just give up on this, Fraser,” Ray said as they walked to his desk.

“I wouldn’t ask you to, Ray. There’s definitely something going on. We’ll just have to continue using unorthodox methods to find out what.”

“Well, you get any ideas in that direction you let me know. I’m fresh out.”

“Actually, I did have something in mind.”

***********

This is your bright idea?” Ray hissed. “Coming to my old precinct?”

“They should have what we need, and the only other way to get it would be to enlist Elaine’s help.”

“No way,” Ray said, his tone brooking no argument. “She did more than enough already.”

“Then we do this my way,” Fraser said.

“I just hope it doesn’t end us up in a cell, that’s all.”

 

Ray stayed back and watched Fraser charm the officer on duty into letting them have access to Jake Botrelle’s effects from his desk. It was amazing; for a guy who never dated, as far as Ray knew, Fraser was very good at getting just what he wanted from the ladies. Maybe it only worked in the line of duty.

Once they were back at Ray’s place they looked at what they’d gotten. They’d hit the jackpot; Botrelle’s daytimer was in the box. A quick look showed repeated references to someone or something called Mermaid. Ray was at a loss as to what it might mean.

“Beth might know, but there’s no way they’ll let me back in there,” Ray said. “Not now.”

“No, I suppose not,” Fraser agreed. “But we can go to the next closest person.”

***********

Fraser visited Carolyn Sherman while Ray kept working on the daytimer. When he returned to Ray’s apartment, he had the crime scene videotapes in hand.

“Nice work, Fraser,” Ray had to admit. “Hopefully this will shed some light on things.”

“I hope so, Ray. Ms. Botrelle is running out of time.”

They watched the tapes several times, but couldn’t see enough of the paper Ray questioned to know if it was the same. He stood up as Fraser rewound the tape. “God, if we’re watching this again I need more coffee,” he said as he stretched. “You want anything?”

Fraser shook his head, then glanced down and saw the coffee ring Ray had left on a file on the table. Ray followed his gaze and snorted. “Please. You don’t get to judge my neatness in my own home. It’s like a rule or something.”

“I wasn’t going to judge, Ray. On the contrary, I think it’s brilliant.”

“My staining a file is brilliant? You sure you don’t need something to keep you awake?”

Fraser pushed play, then started forwarding the tape. “Look here,“ he said when he’d gotten partway through it. “I think I see what caught your attention as far as that paper in evidence is concerned.”

Sure enough, the paper Ray had picked up all those years ago had a stain on it. One that was conspicuously absent now.

“I was right,” Ray said, triumphant. Then he sat down with a thump next to Fraser. “That means this whole thing is a set-up.” He leaned back on the couch and looked up at the ceiling. “Jesus, what the hell do we do now?”

Fraser started to answer, but Ray put a hand on his arm and pointed up. Fraser looked up, and Ray could tell the second he saw the bug Ray had just discovered.

“I guess I just need to go ahead and meet with the newspaper guys, huh Fraser?” he said, loud enough to be sure the bug would catch every word.

Fraser caught on right away. “Oh, yes, Ray. Definitely. Where was that meeting again?”

“Wayne and Shuster,” Ray threw out. “And I need to leave now or I’ll be late. You coming?”

“Of course, Ray.”

***********

Ray parked a block away and they watched to see who came to the meet. To their surprise, it was detectives Huey and Dewey.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” Ray asked.

“Us? What about you?” Dewey shot back. “We got word of a drug meet.”

Fraser and Ray looked at each other. “This isn’t good,” Ray said. “We need to get back to the apartment and now.”

“You want us to go with?” Dewey asked.

“No, you two get back to the station and tell everybody it was a bust – that nobody showed. You got that? Nobody was here.”

“Okay, but you’re telling me what’s going on later,” Dewey told him.

***********

Ray’s apartment was trashed when they got back, and the evidence was gone. Given that the apartment was still bugged, they waited until they were outside to talk about it.

“Dammit!” Ray said as they left the building. “Now what do we do?”

“We go to the station. I think I have a way to identify one of the men.”

“They leave a footprint or something?”

“No, I recognized their scent.”

“Their what?”

“Their scent. It’s distinctive, and I smelled it at the warehouse as well. That would indicate it’s someone on the force.”

“We don’t keep lists of colognes at the station.”

“No, but there are photos. And if I’m right, one of the men we passed in the hall a few minutes ago will be our man.”

“Only you, Benny,” Ray said, clapping Fraser on the shoulder. “Okay, come on. What do we have to lose?”

***********

Ray was wholly unsurprised that Fraser was able to identify the man. What was interesting is that the officer in question had been working with Bedford on a waterfront corruption case at the time of Jake Botrelle’s murder.

“It’s not enough, though,” Ray said. “And it still doesn’t explain that whole Mermaid thing.”

“No it doesn’t,” Fraser agreed. “I think it’s time I paid Ms. Botrelle’s attorney another visit.”

“You do that,” Ray said. “I have another lead to follow.”

***********

Fraser’s conversation with Ms. Sherman led to one directly with Beth Botrelle, only this time it was Fraser who spoke with her. She didn’t know what Mermaid meant, but was able to tell Fraser that Callahan’s, which was also mentioned more than one, was a storage place Jake had charged money to. And that Jake had spoken with Bedford on the night he was killed. She thought if anyone would know what it all meant, it would be him.

***********

While Fraser was with Botrelle, Ray called Sam Franklin and asked him to set up a meeting with Bedford. All it took was making Franklin think Ray was wanting his help, and pretending like he didn’t suspect Franklin was involved. Considering he’d had months having to lie about himself, Ray thought this was a pretty easy sell.

***********

The meet was set for Callahan’s, and Ray went there with Franklin, while Fraser recruited Huey and Dewey’s help in getting to the contents of the area Botrelle had rented. It was nearly empty, save for an attaché case of money and a notebook. Fraser flipped through it and nodded; it was exactly what they needed.

He left the evidence with Huey and Dewey and went in search of Ray. When he got there, Fraser saw that Ray was being held at gunpoint by Franklin. Bedford was there too, and Franklin had a second gun, Ray’s unless Fraser missed his guess, aimed at Bedford.

Bedford was asking Franklin why he was doing this.

“Because you helped kill Jake – hell, you might as well have pulled the trigger,” Franklin was saying. He glanced at Ray. “Do you even know what that paper you found was? It was a suicide note. Jake got a call from Bedford that night and then he killed himself.”

“So Bedford needs to be brought to justice,” Ray said. “Why not let that happen?”

“Because then Franklin would be implicated,” Fraser said as he stepped into view. “And not just for tampering with evidence. He was Bedford’s partner.”

“Fraser,” Ray sighed with relief. “You took your time getting here.”

“Sorry about that, Ray.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Franklin said. “You think I won’t just kill all three of you?”

“I think you won’t have the chance,” Fraser said. He was right; just then, back-up arrived, and Bedford and Franklin were placed under arrest.

“Please tell me somebody called the prison,” Ray said as he looked at his watch.

“It’s been taken care of,” Fraser assured him.

Ray wiped a shaking hand over his face. “We barely made it.”

“Yes, but we did make it in time, that’s the important thing. Ray, you saved Beth Botrelle’s life.”

“Seems only fair, since I’m the one who took it from her in the first place.” Ray replied bitterly.

“You know that isn’t true,” Fraser said, voice filled with conviction. “You trusted a superior officer. There’s no shame in that.”

Ray gave Fraser a hard look. “Can you honestly say you wouldn’t be feeling the same in my place?”

“I might,” Fraser conceded. “But I hope someone would be there to tell me that it wasn’t my fault, help me to see things objectively.”

Ray slumped, hands gripping the steering wheel tight. “I guess I should thank you then.”

“That isn’t why I – Ray, you don’t need to thank me for anything.” Fraser turned in his seat to face Ray as the car stopped in front of the Consulate. “And if you need to talk, I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”

“Thanks, Benny,” Ray answered. “But I think I just need some time, you know?”

“Of course, Ray.” Fraser put on his Stetson and opened the car door. “I’ll see you at the station tomorrow afternoon then.”

“See you,” Ray nodded.

***********

Ray drove around aimlessly, letting the traffic distract him, but it wasn’t really working. He found himself in front of a tall apartment building, and before he could overthink, he parked and went inside.

Once upstairs, he knocked on the door. After a minute, Stella opened it, looking at Ray in surprise. Her look changed almost immediately to concern, and Ray had to wonder just what she was seeing.

“Ray, what’s wrong?” she asked gently.

“Wrong?” he gave a strangled laugh. “For the first time in a really long time, there’s a lot less wrong than there was.” His voice broke on the last words, and Stella opened the door wider.

“Do you want to come in and talk about it?” she asked, putting a hand on Ray’s cheek.

He turned his head to kiss her palm. “Yeah, I think I do.”

 

Episode 4.10: Mountie Sings the Blues

“So what’s the big deal with this woman again?” Ray asked Fraser as he looked through his binoculars down at the crowd in front of the Music Hall.

“Tracy Jenkins is one of Canada’s up and coming musicians,” Fraser told him. “To hear Turnbull talk about her, she’s the Canadian equivalent of the Beatles.”

“Huh. Do you like her stuff?”

“I suppose,” Fraser answered. “I don’t get the chance to listen to a lot of current music. But she seems like a fine example of the kind of musical artist Canada has to offer. And she’s a very nice person besides.”

“That’s right, you got to meet her today. How’d that go?”

“She was very gracious. She even pretended not to notice when Turnbull fainted.”

Ray laughed. “Why am I not surprised he did that? Well, she must be good, or we wouldn’t be jumping through these hoops for her,” Ray said. “There’s a lot of musicians that come through Chicago, and we don’t have to do guard duty for them.”

“The threats Ms. Jenkins has been receiving are enough of a concern that our presence here makes sense,” Fraser reminded him.

“I guess so,” Ray sighed. “It just seems like overkill.” He looked over the ledge. “Hey, our fake Tracy is in position.”

Just as Ray said that, a shot rang out and the woman fell to the ground. “Officer down!” he shouted into his walkie-talkie, scanning the crowd and the nearby buildings, trying to see where the shot came from.

***********

Ray and Fraser got split up as they tried to find out what happened. Fraser made sure Tracy was all right while Ray worked with the police on crowd control. After things had calmed down a bit, Fraser was able to convince Tracy that she’d be safer staying at the Consulate.

Fraser got a squad car to take Tracy and her manager, George, to the station, then left a message for Ray with one of the closest officers and went to get the Consulate ready. Now that Fraser knew she’d be safe, his biggest concern was keeping Turnbull from doing himself an injury out of overexcitement once he found out.

***********

“What’s with all the hubbub?” Ray asked as he walked into the Consulate a few hours later.

“You haven’t heard?” Turnbull stopped straightening the picture of the Queen and turned to face Ray, shocked. “We have a celebrity staying here!”

“You mean that country singer?” he asked, pretending not to know her name just to needle Turnbull. It worked, and Ray had to fight to hide a grin.

“Ms. Jenkins is more than just a singer,” Turnbull answered as he gave Ray a stern look. “She sings, she plays guitar and piano, and she writes her own songs. She’s a true artist.”

“I’ll bet she gets the Queen’s rooms,” Ray grumbled.

“Of course Ms. Jenkins gets the Regal Suite,” Turnbull clarified. “She’s one of Canada’s greatest treasures.”

“Whatever,” Ray huffed. “Listen, do you know where Fraser is?”

Fraser came around the corner right then and nodded to Ray. “I didn’t expect to see you, Ray. How is Officer McCafferty?””

“She’s good – bullet didn’t hit anything vital. Forensics is still working on finding what they can from the bullet, so Welsh wanted me to come over, see what you needed from the department as far as security.” He looked around the wide hallway. “You sure this is the safest place for Jenkins to stay?”

Turnbull started to bristle, and Fraser shot him a look that stopped whatever he’d been about to say. “You were safe enough here when Mr. Cahill wanted to arrest you,” Fraser pointed out.

“Yeah, but nobody was actively trying to kill me,” Ray replied. “So, what do you think? Will a couple of guys outside watching the place be enough?”

“That should be fine. Turnbull and I can take care of things in here.”

“And you have me,” Ray added, holding up a hand and placing the other on his chest. “I promise to do my best not to fire my gun on Canadian soil, and to do like you ask as long as it makes sense.”

“Admirable goals,” Fraser replied dryly. “You’re welcome to help, of course.”

“So, we found a head shot at the scene,” Ray said.

“Someone was shot in the head?” Turnbull near-shrieked.

“A head shot, Turnbull, a photograph,” Fraser clarified, waving Ray into his office.

“You know better than to discuss case details in front of him, Ray,” Fraser chided once the door was closed.

“Sorry, Benny. I thought he’d be too preoccupied with getting the place perfect to listen.” Ray shot a glance back toward where Turnbull was still cleaning. “So, the Dragon Lady’s good with all this?”

“Inspector Thatcher was concerned at first, but warmed up to the idea.”

“Meaning you’re on guard duty as soon as this is over, am I right?”

“Most likely, yes,” Fraser admitted with a small sigh. “But Ms. Jenkins’ safety is more important. So you were saying you found a photograph?”

“Oh, yeah. It was a publicity shot, so at this point it looks like a crazed fan is what we’ve got.”

“You sound like you have doubts about that.”

“Only because she’s Canadian. Do you guy even have stalkers?”

Fraser quirked an eyebrow at that. “That’s just silly, Ray. Obsessive personalities aren’t unique to America.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to insult you by saying your people are too polite to stalk somebody,” Ray snarked. “Anyhow, Jenkins’ manager is getting us a list of all the local fan clubs in the area. If we’re lucky, the guy who’s doing this will be on the list.”

“That seems like a sound line of investigation,” Fraser said approvingly. “Is Ms. Jenkins still at the station?”

“Yeah, at least until her stuff gets packed up and brought over here. Seemed like the safest place, plus it gave her some time to look over mug shots, see if she recognized anyone. It’s a long shot, but you never know.”

***********

Detectives Huey and Dewey were Tracy’s escort to the Consulate. She seemed calmer than she had at the station, but Ray could still see the tension in her eyes and movements. Dewey motioned to Ray as Huey got her situated with Turnbull and Fraser.

“What happened? Forensics find something already?” Ray asked.

“Nothing like that, but there’s definitely something going on,” Dewey answered. “Tracy’s husband showed up at the station. Tried to throw his weight around, pull the I’m related to the star, don’t mess with me thing.”

“I take it that didn’t go over well with the Lieu.”

“Didn’t go over well with anyone, especially her,” he said, gesturing to Tracy. “Seems like theirs is not a match made in heaven.”

“Is that why he isn’t here now?”

“Pretty much. She sent him off to a hotel, but he might show up. Seemed like the type.” Dewey shrugged. “Figured you should know.”

“Thanks, Tom. Anything else?”

“Nope. The ride here was smooth, nobody tailing us. Didn’t find anything at the hotel either.”

“Is there something I need to know about?” Fraser asked as he joined them.

“I’ll tell you later, Benny. Right now we need to get everybody settled in for the night.”

Dewey walked back over to Tracy and smiled. “Much as I hate to say it, we need to head out. Can’t watch over you from in here,” he said.

“I’m sorry you two have to do this,” Tracy told them with a forlorn look.

“It’s our job,” Huey replied. “And in your case, it’s the least we could do for such a fine performer as yourself.”

“You two are too sweet. Thank you both for everything.”

“Not a problem, Trace,” Dewey said with a nod. “Hey, Ray, Fraser, we’ll be outside if you need us.”

“He called her Trace!” Ray heard Turnbull whisper to Fraser, and Ray shook his head, thankful that he wasn’t going to have to deal that particular crazed fan.

***********

The next morning Ray and Fraser went to the station to see what progress had been made on the case. George had brought not only a fan list, but the most recent set of letters Tracy had received. Fraser, Huey, Dewey and Ray each took a stack and looked them over, separating them into piles according to how likely a suspect the writer was.

“Hey, Frannie, run a check on this guy,” Ray said, holding up a letter.

“What did you find, Ray?” Fraser asked.

“Local guy, sends her lots of letters, as in over one hundred. All of them crazy, and vaguely threatening. Plus, he writes like whoever wrote Tracy’s most recent fax.”

“Here you go, Ray,” Frannie said, handing Ray a printout. “You’re welcome, Ray. It’s so nice you noticed how quick I got that, thanks,” she muttered as he turned away.

“Thank you kindly, Francesca,” Fraser called out as she walked back to her desk, giving Ray a stern look.

“Yeah, Frannie, thanks loads,” Ray added, rolling his eyes at Fraser before looking at the sheet. “Hey, we might have a winner here,” he told Fraser. “Carver Dunn. Loitering, disturbing the peace… he even has a restraining order out on him for stalking some singer. Sound familiar?”

“Did he try to shoot the other singer?” Fraser asked.

“Not according to this, but maybe he’s escalated.” Ray grabbed his keys off his desk and motioned for Fraser to follow him. “Come on. I have a couple of questions for this guy.”

***********

They brought Dunn in, but while he did fit the crazed fan profile, it didn’t look like he was their man. Once he’d gotten a lawyer and was free to go, they set a tail on him just in case, but Ray didn’t think it would do any good. Tracy’s manager, who saw Dunn leave, was less than happy but there was nothing else anyone at the department could do.

***********

Fraser excused himself to escort Tracy to a recording session; Ray promised to catch up with him later. Unfortunately, the session didn’t start off well. It was obvious even to Fraser that the woman Tracy’s husband had hired was not a professional singer, and her lack of skill meant they had to keep stopping. Tracy finally had enough, confronting her husband as to just why the woman had been hired. Things got more tense, and Fraser stood back and tried not to witness the domestic dispute.

After Tracy’s manager made a disparaging comment and the back-up singer left in a huff, Tracy called for a ten-minute break. Fraser wandered over to the piano and played a few notes, head cocked and gaze unfixed. A few more tries, and then he quietly picked out the melody line Tracy had just been singing, but in a different key.

“You’ve got a good ear,” her guitar player said, and Fraser shrugged, letting his fingers fall from the keys.

“It just seemed to make sense to modulate the song to better suit Ms. Jenkins voice,” he replied.

“I told you, it’s Tracy,” she said as she re-entered the room. “And don’t sell yourself short. It’s a good call, and one somebody should have made before now.” She tilted her head. “You got a good voice to go with that ear?”

***********

Ray arrived at the studio and Earl, Tracy’s bodyguard, led him to where Tracy was recording. Ray questioned him as they walked, and found out the man’s previous job had been with the Memphis PD. He seemed like an okay guy, but there was something a little off about him; Ray filed the feeling away for future reference.

He was surprised that Fraser wasn’t in the booth; they were supposed to meet here. Then he looked through the glass and his eyes widened in shock as he realized Fraser was there, as part of the band. Ray watched and listened; Fraser’s voice was actually pretty good, and he hit the timing just right, which was kind of surprising, seeing how he was swaying really awkwardly in time with the music.

As soon as they took a break, Ray went to the door to the recording room and motioned for Fraser to join him. Once he was there, Ray leaned in and whispered, “You’re doing back-up on her record?”

Fraser tugged at his collar as he answered. “I didn’t mean to be, Ray. It’s just, she was having trouble with the woman her husband hired, and I made a suggestion that led to her asking me if I could sing, and one thing led to another-“

“And it all ends with you singing with Tracy Jenkins.” Ray shook his head in wonder. “Only you, Benny. You know, you didn’t sound half bad.”

Fraser looked surprised and pleased by the compliment. “Why, thank you, Ray.”

“Of course, you could use some work on moving to the beat, but not like anybody’s gonna see that on a record, right?” Ray teased. He snapped his fingers as he thought of something. “You know, you can never tell Turnbull about this. It’ll crush the poor guy. Not only are you guarding her, but now you’re on her album.”

“I hadn’t thought about that. I’ll be sure to find a gentle way to break the news.”

“You do that,” Ray chuckled. “So, you guys ready to blow this popsicle stand?”

“I believe so.” He glanced around. “Ray, did you see Tracy when you walked in?”

“Well yeah, but she was in here singing.” He looked at the sound booth; it was empty. “Come on – we need to find her.”

A quick search of the studio revealed that she’d left the building. Ray called Huey and Dewey, who were watching Dunn’s house, and alerted them to keep an extra-sharp eye on the man, at least until Tracy was found.

***********

“He’s still there, right?” Ray asked after updating Huey and Dewey.

Dewey hesitated, and Ray repeated his question. ”He’s still there, right?”

“We’re pretty sure he is,” Dewey finally replied.

“We’ll check and get back with you,” Huey added, as Dewey hung up the phone before Ray could say anything else.

“We have got to stop trying to start new careers during stake-outs,” Huey said. “Unless having to find a new job is really what we want to do.”

Dunn wasn’t there. Just as Huey and Dewey were really starting to panic, the call came in that there’d been a shooting nearby.

“Is it wrong to feel relieved that we need to answer that call?” Dewey asked.

“It’s not wrong, it’s survival,” Huey answered. “A real murder’s more important than the possibility of something happening to someone.”

“I just hope Lt. Welsh agrees with you on that.”

As luck would have it, they didn’t have to worry about what the Lieutenant would think, because the person who had been shot and killed was Tracy’s bodyguard, Earl.

“Guess that takes him off the suspect list,” Dewey observed. “We better let Ray know.”

***********

“I cannot believe they let the guy get away from them!” Ray exclaimed as he drove to the crime scene. “And now Tracy’s missing and her bodyguard – who I thought was hinky, by the way - is dead, which means,” he sputtered for a moment. “I don’t even know what that means, other than things have just gotten a lot more complicated.”

“The two crimes might not be related, Ray,” Fraser pointed out.

“Do you really believe that?”

“I’m just saying the possibility is there. And Earl wasn’t our only suspect.”

Ray looked at Fraser out of the corner of his eye as he drove. “What do you have, Benny?”

“Nothing conclusive. But Tracy and her husband argued-“

“At the station,” Ray interrupted. “Yeah, I know about that.”

“And again today at the studio.”

“He was there?”

“Yes,” Fraser confirmed, “but he left before you arrived. I tried not to eavesdrop, of course.”

“Of course,” Ray said agreeably. “So what did you accidentally without meaning to hear?”

“Tracy wasn’t convinced that the woman singing back-up had been hired for her vocal skills. And the argument didn’t seem to be a new one.”

“That explains why she had him stay at a hotel.” Ray nodded slowly. “So marriage on the rocks, guy might be losing his meal ticket, or maybe he’s threatened by her success, maybe both. He wants to get rid of her, but needs to throw suspicion off him, so he invents a stalker.”

“It’s pretty far-fetched, Ray.”

“Since when do you have a problem with that?” Ray teased. “Sounds like we need to do a more thorough check on the guy when we get back to the station. What could it hurt?”

***********

After interviewing the waitress at the club where Earl was killed, and securing a promise from the manager that he’d forward the security tape to the station ASAP, Fraser and Ray went to the 2-7. They were immediately called in to Lt. Welsh’s office; Huey and Dewey were already in there.

The Lieutenant wasn’t happy, especially when Huey and Dewey confessed that their new-found interest in songwriting had been what distracted them when Dunn left his house.

“I have to confess that I too was distracted by the lure of the music business,” Fraser seemed compelled to add. “Had I not been so caught up in helping Ms. Jenkins on her album, I’m sure I would have noticed her leaving.”

“You’ll be happy to know that she’s safely back at the Consulate,” Welsh informed them. “Inspector Thatcher called to let me know, and to ask if we needed another liaison.” He looked at Fraser. “Apparently your fellow constable is having difficulty containing his enthusiasm.”

“Yes, sir. I’d heard that as well,” Fraser said, looking embarrassed.

“And how about you?” Lt. Welsh asked, focusing his attention on Ray. “Any dreams of stardom you’re planning on trying to achieve instead of working on the case?”

“No sir,” Ray replied, barely hiding a smug grin.

If the answer satisfied the lieutenant, it didn’t show. “Get out of here, all of you. This case just got a lot hotter and I want it solved before anyone else dies.”

***********

“Can you believe that Huey and Dewey are trying to write country songs now?” Ray asked with a chuckle after they were out of the others’ hearing range.

“Turnbull tried his hand at it as well, and I’m afraid Ms. Jenkins was forced to listen to a piece of it this morning.”

“It was bad?” Ray asked.

“It was Turnbull,” Fraser answered, as if that explained everything. Actually, Ray thought with a chuckle, it pretty much did.

“Well, I don’t know if the one Huey and Dewey are cooking up is any good, but if Welsh catches them at it again, it’s gonna have to be a number one hit, because they’ll be looking finished here.”

Fraser started to reply, but someone calling Ray’s name interrupted him. It was a courier with the promised videotape.

“Come on, Benny,” Ray said, waving the cassette. “Let’s see who Earl was waiting for.”

The tape didn’t show who killed Earl, which came as no surprise to Ray; he’d figured they wouldn’t get that lucky. But Fraser caught sight of the person Earl was meeting, and Ray’s eyes widened when he recognized the man. It was Carver Dunn.

“Oh this is very not good,” Ray said to Fraser. “Let’s keep this to ourselves until we have something more, okay? Because if Dunn is the murderer, Huey and Dewey will definitely be needing new jobs.”

“Of course, Ray.” Fraser looked at the clock. “Would you mind if I went back to the Consulate for now? With Earl dead, that leaves only Inspector Thatcher and Turnbull as Tracy’s protectors, and while I have no doubt the Inspector is more than capable…”

“Yeah, she could use real back-up,” Ray nodded. “Go on. I’ll let you know if we get anything else after Forensics has done their thing with the evidence from the club.”

***********

Inspector Thatcher was visibly relieved to see Fraser. He had no doubt her reaction had more to do with his presence meaning she could leave him with Turnbull than anything else. Still, it was a nice change to have her happy to see him.

Telling Tracy about her bodyguard’s death was difficult. She called her manager, George, and he said he’d be right over.

“Would you like to be alone?” Fraser asked.

Tracy didn’t answer for a minute, then looked up at Fraser and shook her head. “Could you just sit with me until George gets here?”

“Of course.” He didn’t sit, but Fraser did relax his stance. “I hate to bring this up now, but after the recent events, it would be best if you didn’t make any public appearances until we get things straightened out.”

“Straightened out? A man is dead!”

“I meant no disrespect,” Fraser replied gently.

Tracy sighed heavily. “I know you didn’t. And I know I can’t miss that performance.”

“Is your life worth the stage time?”

“It isn’t about that. Well, it is, I guess, but… it’s just I don’t want to disappoint all those people who bought tickets, that’s all.”

“They’d be more disappointed if something happened to you,” Fraser pointed out.

“I’ll think about it,” Tracy said as George entered the room. He pulled her into a tight hug, and Fraser saw that as a cue to leave.

***********

The evening was a surprisingly normal one, all things considered. Tracy’s husband didn’t try to stop by, the press was uncharacteristically silent; all in all it was quiet. After everyone was settled in for the night, Fraser found himself unable to relax. On a whim, he pulled out his guitar and was playing it quietly when he felt eyes on him. Looking up, he saw Tracy in the doorway, a bottle of wine and two glasses in hand. He put the guitar down, blushing.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was playing loudly enough to disturb you.”

“I wasn’t disturbed,” she replied easily. “And I’m sorry I interrupted. Would you like a glass?”

He shook his head as he answered. “I was just tinkering, really.”

“It was nice,” she replied, moving into the room and leaning against the wall. “Play something for me? Please?”

Fraser picked the guitar back up. “All right.” He played for a minute or two, losing himself a little in the song. When he was finished, he looked up to see a soft smile on Tracy’s face.

“You really do have a good feel for music,” she said. “That was lovely.”

“I’m sure you’ve heard a great deal better.”

“Maybe, but it takes more than technical skill to do more than string notes together,” she answered, nodding toward Fraser. “There was a story in there, and not just the words the songwriter gave it. You putting something of yourself in there, even a little bit? That’s what tells me you’ve got talent. Because while just about anybody can learn the mechanics of music, not just anyone can really make it sing.”

She looked at Fraser appraisingly. “You know, you’ve got a decent voice, and you’re certainly easy on the eyes. Plus, you know how to handle yourself.”

“Thank you,” Fraser answered, unsure as to where the conversation was headed.

“Just stating the facts,” Tracy said with an easy smile. “And the fact is, if you’re interested, we could use someone like you on the tour.”

Fraser blinked in surprise. “I’ve honestly never considered anything like that before.”

“Well, think about it. I mean, if you’re happy here I don’t want to lure you away, but it isn’t a bad life.” Her eyes clouded over. “And after Earl, it would be good to have someone like you with us.”

“I must admit that I’m flattered, of course, but I don’t think I could leave the RCMP.” Or Chicago, he thought.

“I figured as much, but it was worth a try,” she replied with a shrug. “Still, think about it. We’re here for a few more days – you might change your mind.”

They talked awhile longer, about her start in the music business, his cabin in the Territories. And he found out where she’s slipped off to earlier that day - she was planning on divorcing her husband and had gone to speak with her attorney. It made Ray’s theory sound more plausible, but Fraser didn’t say anything to her about it.

***********

The next day they got a break on the case. A patrolman spotted Dunn leaving a music store and brought him in. A search of his backpack yielded no weapons, but he had a lot of Tracy Jenkins paraphernalia, including a pair of stockings.

When confronted, he confessed to meting with Earl at the club to buy the stockings from him.

“He’d get stuff for me, more personal than stock photos and autographs. Nothing pervy, I promise! Just, I wanted something that was actually hers, you know?”

Ray pulled Fraser aside while Huey and Dewey continued to question Dunn.

“So, what do you think?” Ray asked.

Fraser looked up from the receipt he’d gotten from Dunn’s backpack. “Well, he’s not the most balanced individual we’ve come across. But he’s not guilty, at least of murder.”

“How could you know that?” Ray hissed.

Fraser held up the receipt. “The time stamp on this shows he wasn’t at the club when Earl was killed. Assuming the clerk at the music store can confirm Mr. Dunn’s presence there, he’s innocent.”

“Dammit!” Ray swore after he looked at the receipt. “Every time we think we have something, it turns out we’re totally wrong. If this checks out we’ll have to let Dunn go.”

***********

It did check out; a clerk was able to identify Dunn and confirm the man’s alibi. He left the station swearing to be more aboveboard in his fannish pursuits from then on.

Ray scowled as Dunn left. “So Dunn’s off the hook and Earl is dead. If you ask me, my theory that Tracy’s husband is our guy is looking better all the time.”

“I have to agree, Ray,” Fraser said.

“So what changed your mind?”

“I spoke with Tracy last night, and she told me she’d met with divorce attorneys – that was where she was yesterday afternoon.”

“That would explain why she was sneaking around,” Ray said.

“It would indeed. Have you done a search on Dwight?”

“Frannie has,” Ray said. “Don’t know if she’s found anything yet.”

She had, and was happy to tell them about it. “So at first nothing, and I mean nothing, came up on the guy – it was like he didn’t exist,” she explained. “Then I did a little digging online and found out the guy changed his name years ago. Don’t know exactly why, but he did, and once I knew that – bam! The information just came to me, easy as pie.”

“Great, fine, could we please just have the file?” Ray asked impatiently.

“You know, some people would be impressed at my determination. Some people would appreciate the lengths I go to for my job.”

“Yeah, and some people are in a hurry to catch a murderer before he does it again.” Ray held out his hand. “The file?”

Frannie handed it to him, and he started reading. “Tracy met Dwight in 1982 at the Sixteen Acre Lounge, which was run by her now-manager George. Her band leader was also – Frannie, what the hell is this? This isn’t a rap sheet.”

“That’s from her official website. There’s unofficial stuff in there, too. I swear, these fans are better than some detectives I know at finding out information.”

Ray kept reading. “Hey, it says her husband has a record.”

“Yeah, it’s amazing what you find on the internet. So?” Frannie asked.

“Could you run a check on Mr. -“ Fraser looked over Ray’s shoulder, “Mr. Parsons, please, Francesca? It will have more details than this, and they’ll be more reliable as well.”

“Sure, Fraser. Not a problem.” She gave him a sweet smile that turned cold when she turned it to Ray. “All you had to do was ask.” The phone rang as she started entering the information into the computer.

“Fraser, it’s Rennie,” she said, handing him the phone.

Fraser straightened up, which Ray hadn’t thought was possible, and looked like he was preparing for battle when he answered the phone. But the call was brief and to the point.

“Ray, Tracy’s left the Consulate. Turnbull heard her saying something to her manager earlier about not wanting to miss her performance.”

“Even after being shot at? After her bodyguard being murdered? Come on, Fraser,” Ray said as he started toward the door. “Frannie, call me once you’ve got the info on Tracy’s husband, okay?” he called back.

They passed Huey and Dewey on the way out. Ray barely acknowledged hem but Fraser stopped at something they’d said. Ray stopped too farther down the hall and called to Fraser impatiently.

“You can update them on the case later, Fraser,” Ray admonished.

“Actually, it was something Dewey said about talent managers that caught my attention.”

“You mean like they can’t find one because they don’t have any talent?” Ray joked as he unlocked the car doors.

I mean like there are some rather well-known ones in the same building Tracy visited yesterday.”

“Interesting coincidence. So?”

“So Tracy might not have been sneaking out to avoid Dwight yesterday.”

“You think she was trying to find a new manager?”

“It’s certainly possible. And even if she wasn’t George might think she was, if she hasn’t told him about her plans to divorce her husband.”

“And that gives us a whole new theory to work with,” Ray said. He threw the printouts at Fraser. “Here. See if there’s anything actually useful in these while I drive.”

***********

When Ray and Fraser got to the Music Hall, one of the musicians was outside grabbing a smoke. Seemed like the perfect time to ask a few questions.

“So you’ve been with Tracy for a long time,” Fraser asked.

“Oh yeah, I knew her when she was still just a cocktail waitress at George’s place,” Muddy replied. “Man, those were the days. We all hung out together, Tracy, Dwight, George and me. We all loved her like crazy.”

Ray jumped on that. “Really? You all loved her?”

“Well, yeah. She was like a little sister to me, still is. It wasn’t like I ever wanted to go out with her or anything.”

“And did George feel the same as you did?” Fraser asked.

“No, he definitely saw her differently. But she only had eyes for Dwight. I don’t think she even noticed how George watched her. But he seemed to take being just her manager okay.”

“How did that come about?” Ray wondered.

“Well, his place burned down and he used some of the money to produce an album for her. The rest, as they say, is history,” Muddy replied.

“That’s quite a coincidence,” Fraser commented, giving Ray a look.

“Good coming from bad, that’s how we saw it,” Muddy said with a shrug. He threw his cigarette on the ground and stamped it out. “Look, Tracy’s expecting me on stage, so I need to get back in.”

“Of course,” Fraser said with a nod. “Thank you for your time.”

As soon as Muddy was through the door, Ray turned to Fraser. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“George certainly had the means and the motive, especially if he thinks Tracy’s looking for new representation.”

“Then we better get in there, because I’m getting a really bad feeling about tonight.”

***********

Tracy was already on stage by the time Ray and Fraser got inside. They were searching for anyone or anything suspicious when a shot rang out. Ray went to cover Tracy while Fraser tracked the shooter, knocking him out of the scaffolding.

It was George, and he recovered quickly, grabbing Tracy and putting a gun to her head as he tried to get away. But the fall, along with Tracy talking to him as he tried to move, had him off-balance, and Ray was able to safely disarm him.

***********

The show was postponed a night as Tracy and her band were needed at the station to give their statements. Dwight followed along, and made sure he was never far from Tracy, and that she had anything she needed.

Once they were done, Tracy walked over to Ray’s desk, where Fraser was sitting.

“Thank you again. You saved my life.”

“I’m just sorry it turned out to be your friend. I know that kind of betrayal can be… difficult.”

“Stuff the great songs are made of,” she joked, but it sounded hollow. “You’ll be at tomorrow’s show, right? I made sure everyone here and at the Consulate got tickets if they wanted them. Least I could do.”

“Of course. Thank you kindly.”

“You give any more thought to coming with us? Sounds like you might have a few things to sing about yourself.”

Fraser shook his head. “My life is here.”

“I figured you’d say that. At least come sing with us tomorrow night,” she insisted. “I’m still short a back-up singer.”

“I don’t know…”

“Well I do,” Tracy replied. “I’d consider it a personal favor.”

***********

The next afternoon, Fraser was back at the station. “Ray, once we’re done with this file, I really need to go, if that’s all right,” Fraser said as he read.

“Sure. So what’s the hurry? You have a big date tonight or something?”

“It’s Tracy’s last night in town. She invited everyone to come to the performance.”

“Hey, that’s right – it’s your big debut,” Ray replied. “So are Kowalski’s folks coming to hear you sing tonight?”

“I’m not really singing, Ray. It’s just back-up on one song.”

“Whatever,” he brushed off the protest. “So are they?”

“I wouldn’t think so. I didn’t invite them.”

“Why not?”

“Why would I?”

“You guys seemed to hit it off, that’s all. I mean, you’re over there once a week or so for dinner, right?”

“Mrs. Kowalski can be very insistent,” Fraser replied, a hint of a smile on his face.

“Which obviously doesn’t bother you. And why would it? Home cooked meal, someone fussing over you. Plus I’ll bet you get to hear lots of embarrassing stories about Stanley.” Ray shrugged. “I get it, it’s nice to have that connection.”

“You still visit as well, don’t you?”

“Not really. I mean, I’ve stopped by a couple of times, but it’s really awkward. I’m more of a reminder that their son’s in danger than anything else.” Ray saw Fraser flinch a little at that, and winced inwardly.

“What about you? Will you be there tonight?” Fraser asked.

Ray shook his head. “Sorry, Benny, no can do. I’m having dinner with Stella.”

“I see.” Fraser kept his attention on the computer screen as he spoke. “You seem to be spending a great deal of time with ASA Kowalski.” His tone was neutral, but something about it set Ray on edge. He must finally be getting better at translating Canadian, because he was pretty sure there was an unspoken, What on Earth are you thinking, Ray? there. Must be his day for unexpected questions.

“Yeah, so?” he answered, not bothering to keep the irritation out of his voice. “She's supposed to be my ex, right? Who says we can't still get along?”

Fraser glanced up at that, his look clearly showing just how little he believed the justification. But did he actually call Ray on that? Nope. “While that may be the case, she and Ray - the real Ray, of course - have a more... complicated dynamic.”

Ray rubbed his head, ignoring the “real Ray” crack and trying to push away the headache the conversation was starting. He decided to take a different approach, put Fraser on the defensive. “Just why is it you don't like Stella?”

Fraser took the tactic in stride. “I never said I didn't like her.”

Ray laughed humorlessly. “You didn't have to. She doesn't like you either, if it's any consolation.”

Fraser nodded at that. “I never thought she did.”

Ray wasn’t sure where to go from there. He’d expected some kind of polite rebuttal; it was a standard Fraser move. Or maybe some long-winded story that in Fraser’s world applied to the situation. But this calm acceptance, like he didn’t even care – that was just weird.

“Well,” he finally said, “I’m sure you’ll be a big hit. Just try to move a little more like a person and less like a metronome, okay?”

***********

As promised, Tracy pulled Fraser up on stage for “Nobody’s Girl.” After the song was done, he went back to his seat and was surprised to see Ray there.

“Ray! You made it after all,” Fraser said with a smile.

“Yeah. Turns out Stella likes Tracy’s music,” he said with a nonchalant shrug. “Besides, how often am I going to get to hear my partner sing with a star, right?”

“If I’d taken her up on her offer to tour with her, quite often, actually,” Fraser responded.

“She wanted you to go with? You sure she wasn’t just being polite?”

“I don’t believe so, Ray. She genuinely seemed to think I’d make a good addition.”

"That's what she said?" Ray asked, eyes wide. “Really?”

"Yes," Fraser replied.

"And you turned her down. Of course you did. You could have gone all over the country, had women hanging off of you, and you chose to stay here.”

“The thought of that kind of life just didn’t appeal to me.”

“No, I guess it wouldn’t. Tell me something though, Benny - did you seriously consider going?"

"Seriously? No. I was flattered of course, but my duty is here."

"So you didn't even entertain the idea, not for a second?"

Fraser frowned. "Is there a reason you won't let it go, Ray?"

"Hey, we were surrounded by people with delusions of stardom. Just wondering if any of it rubbed off on you, that's all."

“Well you can rest assured, Chicago is where I need to be. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Okay then,” Ray said. “Well I am – going that is, but only to find my date. Have a good time and live a little, will you?” He nudged Fraser with his shoulder as he moved past him, and got the hint of a smile for his efforts. Considering that for anyone else it would be a full-out grin, Ray was pretty pleased with himself.

“I’ll take it under advisement.”

 

Episode 4.14: Hunting Season

Fraser was changing a light bulb when he heard the main Consulate door open. He started to turn to see who was coming in, lost his somewhat precarious balance on the railing, and fell. Turning the fall into a roll, he landed without injury and popped up in front of the visitor, the spare light bulb still in his mouth.

“That’s quite an interesting welcome,” a young woman in red serge said. “Is it standard for Chicago?”

Fraser put the light bulb on the desk and shook his head. “Only when I’m caught off guard,” he replied. “Constable Benton Fraser. Can I help you?”

“I’m Constable Maggie Mackenzie. I’ve just arrived from Inuvik, and I hope you can help me, yes.”

Fraser led her to his office to discuss things further. Once there, she sat her bag down and pulled out a photo. “These are the Torelli brothers. They’re suspected in the murder of their guide.”

“And you followed their trail to Chicago?”

She stood a little straighter. “Does that surprise you?”

“A little. I haven’t met many Mounties as determined as you.”

Maggie frowned. “They killed a man, and they should be brought to justice. If you don’t think you can help, I’ll continue the search on my own. I’m sorry to have taken you time.” She started to grab her bag, but Fraser stopped her, a hand on her arm.

“I’ll do what I can,” he told her. “In fact, I’m liaison with the local police department. I’d be more than happy to take you there and see if they can help. You can leave your things here if you’d like.”

She hesitated, then nodded and put the pack back down, keeping a smaller bag to take. “I’d appreciate that. Thank you kindly.”

As they started to leave the office, Fraser winced as he heard his father’s voice. “Nice work, son. Don’t let this one out of your sight.”

Fraser chanced a quick look back. Sure enough, there was Fraser Sr., looking over Constable Mackenzie appraisingly.

“I’m sorry?” Maggie said

“For what?” Fraser asked.

“It’s just – I thought you said something, but I didn’t quite catch it.” She shook her head a tiny bit, then opened the door, gesturing for Fraser to exit. “Lead the way, Constable.”

It didn’t feel right going through the door first, but she was right; he knew where they were going and she didn’t. Once they were outside, he made sure she was all right with walking to the station. She gave him a look like he was foolish for asking, which he supposed was deserved.

“I assure you, a little hike like that will be no hardship, Constable.”

“It’s Benton, actually,” he said. “Or Fraser. It just seems unnecessary to keep calling each other Constable.

“All right, Benton. As long as you call me Maggie.”

“I’d be pleased to, thank you kindly.”

***********

Once at the station, Fraser introduced Maggie as he gave her a mini-tour, ending at Ray’s desk.

“And this is my partner, Detective First Class Ray Kowalski. Ray, this is Constable Maggie Mackenzie. She’s here looking for two murder suspects, and I thought we might be able to assist.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ray said, shaking her hand. “Any friend of Benny’s is a friend of mine.”

“That’s good to know,” Maggie replied, pulling some papers out of her satchel. ‘If you have anything on these two men, that would help a great deal.”

Ray took the papers and read them over. “Torelli… doesn’t ring a bell, but we can see if they’re in the system.”

“Thank you kindly,” Fraser and Maggie said simultaneously, and Ray chuckled.

“I’m going to be polited to death before this is over, I can just feel it.”

Maggie looked from Ray’s amused face to Fraser’s long-suffering one. “Constable, if it would be all right, I’d like to take a short break. I believe I saw a facility I could make use of.”

Fraser blinked, then realized what she meant. “Of course. We’ll be right here.”

Ray nudged Fraser with his elbow as they watched her walk away. “Hey, she’s pretty, she’s a Mountie… you should ask her out, Benny.”

“Really, Ray. This isn’t the time.”

Ray waved that off. “Whatever. Any time can be the right time.”

“I hardly know her,” Fraser pointed out.

“So? That’s what dating is for. You do have dating in Canada, don’t you?”

“He has a point, son,” Fraser’s father said as he suddenly appeared just behind Ray. “Young, strong, capable. She’d make a fine wife.”

“I’ll thank you kindly to stay out of this,” Fraser nearly spat out.

Ray frowned deeply. “Hey, just an idea. No need to bite my head off.”

“Sorry, Ray,” Fraser replied, genuinely contrite. “I didn’t mean you, well that is to say, I was talking to… never mind. I’m just sorry.”

“That’s okay, Benny.” He sat back down and started typing. “Hey, where’s the mutt? He’s usually all over pretty girls.”

Fraser gave a disgusted snort. “He’s back at the Consulate, sulking.”

“You got him back on a diet again?”

“It isn’t a diet. He overindulges on things he has no need of, and wouldn’t get in the wild. I see nothing wrong with reminding him of that.”

“And he disagrees.”

“Vehemently. Frankly, given his attitude, I’d prefer he not be here.”

Ray shook his head and laughed softly. “Only you, Benny.”

***********

As it turned out, the Torellis weren’t Chicago natives; they were listed as living in Green Bay. Ray promised to do a search for known associates and get the information to them as soon as he had something. Given how late it was, Fraser and Maggie went back to the Consulate, promising they’d be back first thing in the morning.

***********

Fraser made them a simple supper. A few bites in Maggie started yawning, and pushed her plate away with her food half-eaten. “I’m afraid I’m done for.”

“Yes, I should have realized. You’ve had a long trip, and Chicago can be a lot to take in. Let’s just get you set up for the night.”

She stood and took her plate to the sink. “Where am I bunking down?”

“We have the Queen’s Suite, but it’s for visiting dignitaries, I’m afraid. Or you could sleep on one of the couches. Ray said – well, they’ll do in a pinch. Or there’s my bed.” Her eyes widened, and Fraser was quick to add, “That is, you’re welcome to use my cot, and I could sleep elsewhere.” He felt his ears and cheeks heat up, but Maggie didn’t comment on it.

“My bedroll will be fine, but thank you,” she said with a nod. “To be honest, these are better accommodations than I’d expected to have. I hadn’t planned far enough ahead to secure lodging.”

“If you’re sure,” Fraser trailed off.

She looked around the room. “Yes. And you’re sure it’s all right for me to stay here?”

“Oh yes. I’ve lived here for months.”

“Really?” she said, then nodded approvingly. “That makes sense.”

Her reaction surprised Fraser. “You don’t find it odd that I live at the Consulate?”

“On the contrary. It seems eminently practical.”

“Oh, I like this girl, Benton,” Fraser Sr. said, suddenly appearing right behind Fraser. “Reminds me of her mother. Looks just like her, in fact.”

“I’m sorry, did you say something?” Maggie asked, turning to face Fraser.

He looked back at her, confused. “No, I didn’t.” A thought occurred to him. “Why? Did you hear something?”

“For a moment, I thought… don’t mind me,” she finished, shaking her head. “It was a long trip here, and I’m still not recovered. I’m sure that’s all it is.”

Fraser wasn’t sure he believed her, but when he tried to see his father’s reaction out of the corner of his eye, he found that he’d disappeared.

“Well, I should let you get some rest,” Fraser said. “Come on, Diefenbaker.”

Dief looked at Fraser, then trotted into the room to lie down next to Maggie, facing away from Fraser.

“I’m sorry, he usually isn’t like this.” He shook his head. “Actually, he’s always like this. No manners whatsoever.”

“It’s all right,” Maggie said with a small smile. “He’s welcome to stay with me tonight, if it’s all right with you.”

“You’re sure?”

She smiled at Dief and reached down to ruffle his fur. “Yes. He’s like a reminder of home.”

“All right then, but if he bothers you, feel free to send him back to me. Oh, you’ll have to speak very clearly to do so, and make sure he can see your mouth.”

“Of course. Good night, Benton.”

“Good night, Maggie.”

***********

The next morning Fraser was sorting through paperwork when there was a sharp rap on his door, which immediately opened. Inspector Thatcher strode in, and did not look happy.

“Fraser, there is a strange woman in the kitchen.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared.

Fraser resisted the urge to pull at his collar. “Yes, sir.”

“Constable, I realize that, for whatever nonsensical reason, you’ve decided to make this your residence, but it is still the Canadian Consulate. You cannot have… overnight guests. It puts us in a very unprofessional light.”

“Yes sir. But sir, she isn’t, that is I didn’t,” he took a deep breath and started again. “Constable Mackenzie is here on business, sir. You were out when she reported in yesterday.”

The Inspector raised an eyebrow. “Constable Mackenzie?”

“Yes. She’s in Chicago on the trail of two murder suspects. We of course went to the station to seek Ray’s assistance, and by the time we were finished for the day, it was late enough that I thought it best if she stayed here, rather than waste time and energy finding a place to stay. I was sure that had you been here, you would have agreed this was the best course of action.”

If Fraser had to guess, he’d say Inspector Thatcher was counting to ten to calm herself. Or maybe twenty; she didn’t speak for quite a long time. Finally, she shook her head. “Fine,” she said, voice resigned. “As long as it’s temporary, and everything stays above-board.”

“Of course, sir,” Fraser replied earnestly. As if there could be any other answer.

***********

Apparently, the Inspector wasn’t the only one ready to jump to the wrong conclusion. At the station, Ray had given Fraser a surprised look that quickly morphed into a knowing grin when he told Ray about Maggie’s accommodations.

So, she spent the night at the Consulate,” Ray asked in a leading tone.

“Yes, she did. I offered the use of the couch, of course, or even my cot, but she declined, having had the foresight to bring a bedroll.”

“And when you offered her your cot, were you planning on being in it?”

Fraser gave Ray an affronted look. “Really, Ray. I’ve told you, I have no interest in pursuing Maggie romantically.”

“You sure? Because there’s something about her, about the two of you together. I can’t put my finger on it, but she isn’t like most girls.”

“If by that you mean she’s treated me solely as a person, a peer, and not as an object, yes, there is something refreshingly different about her.”

“But not refreshing enough to want to go out with her.”

“I don’t understand your sudden fascination with my personal life,” Fraser replied, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

“Maybe it’s because you don’t seem to have one, and as your friend, I’d like to see that change,” Ray replied. “Seriously, Benny, I’ve never seen you even try to go out with anyone since I got here. You barely spend time with anybody outside of the station.”

“That’s not true. I visit the Center very week. And I have dinner with the Kowalskis on a somewhat regular basis.”

“Okay, so you’re getting a little better. So why not take the next step?”

“Because I have no interest in doing so,” Fraser said with finality.

Ray held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, I’ll let it go. Just trying to help.”

***********

Frannie saw Maggie at an empty desk looking though a book of mug shots and decided to see how she was doing. “You’re with Fraser, right?” she asked as she walked up to Maggie.

“Yes, I am,” Maggie answered with a nod “Constable Maggie Mackenzie.”

“Frannie Vecchio. I’m a Civilian Aide here, so if you need anything, just let me know.”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Maggie replied.

“You sure? Because you’ve been at that for a while now. If it were me, all those faces would start to look alike.”

Maggie slid the book away from her and stood. “A short break is probably in order.” She started toward the door and Frannie followed her.

“You and Fraser seem to be getting along,” Frannie remarked.

“He’s a capable officer, better than I expected, quite frankly, given the posting.”

“What’s wrong with working in Chicago?” Frannie asked, eyes narrowed.

Maggie must have realized her mistake; she shook her head as she answered. “Nothing, I’m sure. I wasn’t trying to impugn your city. It just isn’t where one would expect to find an officer of Constable Fraser’s caliber and abilities. His skills must be going to waste here.”

“The citizens of Chicago don’t think so.”

“No, I suppose they wouldn’t,” Maggie answered. “I meant no disrespect.”

“I know you didn’t,” Frannie sighed. “It’s just that Fraser has it kind of tough here. People don’t see him for who he is. I guess I expected that since you’re a lot like him, you’d understand.”

“You think we’re alike?”

Frannie shrugged. “I guess that’s weird, huh, since I don’t really know you, but yeah, I do.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should,” Frannie replied. “So, do you like being a Mountie?”

“Yes. It isn’t an easy job, but it’s fulfilling.”

“I’m on the waiting list for the Academy. That’s part of why I work here. Wanted to get some experience first-hand. Figured it couldn’t hurt.”

“That sounds like a good plan.”

“Yeah, my roommate, Elaine, she started out as a Civilian Aide. Graduated from the Academy with honors, even arrested a guy at her graduation.”

“It sounds like you have a good role model.”

“I have a couple, yeah,” Frannie agreed.

“Well, Maggie said, “I don’t mean to be rude but I really should be getting back in. The trail isn’t getting any warmer.”

“Oh sure, yeah. Sorry if I kept you too long.”

“You didn’t. It was nice talking with you.”

“You too.”

***********

“There you are,” Ray said as soon as Maggie came back in. “We were wondering where you wandered off to.”

“Have you found something?”

“Have I found something?” Ray grinned broadly. “You could say that. I have the name and address of one Tommy Ellis, formerly an enforced roommate of Mark Torelli.”

***********

Ray, Fraser and Maggie found Ellis at a boarding house in Sherman. He looked at a photo of the Torellis and their victim, but couldn’t identify the man. He went on to tell them he hadn’t seen or heard from Mark Torelli since leaving prison. Maggie was unconvinced, enough so that she tried to take Ellis’s pulse to track his heartbeat as they questioned him. That was too much for the man; he closed the door on them, refusing to help without a warrant.

“Okay, then,” Ray said, clapping his hands together. “Looks like we need to get ourselves a warrant.”

“Will that be difficult?” Maggie asked.

“For us?” Ray said, indicating Fraser and himself. “Not a problem. There are advantages to working with a guy like Fraser. You end up with a rep that says help the guy follow his crazy hunch, it’ll pay off.” He grinned. “Since we haven’t caused any real trouble or damage yet, Welsh should sign off on it, and there are plenty of judges around who like Fraser.”

“They appreciate my attention to detail,” Fraser explained. “It assures cases that are clear cut, with less time wasted.”

They split up then, Ray heading back to the station, promising he’d have an easier time selling the story on his own, and Fraser and Maggie back to the Consulate.

***********

Frannie was still there when Ray came in. “Hey, you have time to help me get Welsh to agree to asking a judge for a warrant?”

Frannie eyed him suspiciously. “Why do you need my help?”

“I don’t. Just thought you’d want to see the procedure.”

“You just think he’s more likely to listen to me because I’m a woman.”

“You’re not a woman. You’re my sister.”

Frannie rolled her eyes and Ray chuckled. “Speaking of women, I saw you talking to Maggie earlier.”

“So?”

“So, what did you think of her?”

“Why, are you interested? I thought you had a thing for Kowalski’s ex?”

It was Ray’s turn to roll his eyes. “I wasn’t asking for me.”

“What, is Fraser interested? And he asked you to ask me about her?”

“Fraser says he doesn’t see her like that, but I don’t know. There’s something about her… they’d be a decent match, don’t you think?”

“You’re a worse yenta than Ma is what I think,” Frannie huffed. “She seemed okay, I guess, but she’s not interested. I think she had a bad break-up or something recently.”

“Did Maggie tell you that?”

“No, just, there’s something about her that’s really sad. Don’t push, Ray. If Fraser says he doesn’t like her like her, let them be. Trust me – if that’s how he feels there’s no changing his mind.”

***********

Later that evening, Fraser sat at his desk, letting the strands of Ray’s bracelet slide through his fingers, back and forth as he let himself get lost in thought. Or at least he was until his father’s voice startled him.

“So, have you thought about it, son?”

“Thought about what exactly, Dad?” Fraser asked, irritated, as he carefully laid the chain bracelet on his desk.

“Constable Mackenzie, of course. She seems like a fine young woman.”

“You said she reminded you of her mother.”

“Yes, indeed. Another fine woman. I met her, oh, a long time ago. Some time after your mother died, don’t worry. Quite the spitfire when she waned to be, that one.” He looked lost in thought for a moment, then turned his attention back to Fraser. “Doesn’t matter now, and you’re distracting me from my point.”

Fraser didn’t want to ask, but he did it anyway. “What point would that be, Dad?”

“That you’re not getting any younger.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, I was hoping for grandchildren at some point.”

“Grandchildren?” Fraser repeated, dumbfounded. “And what were you planning on doing, haunting them so they need therapy by age five, maybe? Why on earth would you be worried about grandchildren?”

“Really, Benton, there’s no need to bring up my shortcomings.”

“You’re dead. I’d say that’s a pretty big shortcoming.”

“Not a very polite way of phrasing things. Thought I taught you better than that,” Fraser Sr. harrumphed.

Before Fraser could respond he heard footsteps coming closer. A moment later, Maggie knocked on the barely open door, and Fraser called for her to come in.

“The sound in this building must be playing with my hearing,” she said, looking around with a puzzled frown. “I thought I was going to interrupt a conversation, but you’re alone.”

“It’s just me,” Fraser assured her. It was the truth; his father had disappeared again. “Was there something you needed?”

“Not really. Just couldn’t sleep.”

“Ah. I know the feeling. It’s hard to remain idle in the middle of a case. I’ve felt that many a time.”

“Yes, it is,” Maggie nodded, but looked distracted. “May I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Why are you here?” She held up a hand. “I mean, why are you in Chicago?”

“Well, I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father and have remained, for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, attached as a liaison with the Canadian Consulate.”

Maggie blinked. “That’s some speech. Sounds like you give it a lot.”

“It comes in handy now and then,” Fraser admitted. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just – forgive me, but it doesn’t seem like this is where you belong. I know I don’t know you all that well, but Chicago doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, and everything I have seen tells me you agree. You’ve made no real home here, you have a half-wolf for a companion… it just seems obvious that you miss the open spaces, the wildness of home.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t know that I could last a week here.”

“I can see how you’d feel that way, but this is where I’m stationed.”

“You could ask for a transfer,” she pointed out.

“But I haven’t,” he replied shortly, and Maggie ducked her head.

“I’m out of line,” she said. “I apologize.”

Fraser sighed. “No, I’m the one who should apologize. I told you you could ask.”

“Yes, but I didn’t leave it alone. My mother tried and tried to teach me not to be so blunt or so curious, but apparently it never took.” She gave him a rueful smile. “She said it reminded her of my father when I’d get like that, and I got the impression it wasn’t necessarily a good thing.”

“That’s something we have in common, then. Anyone who’s ever met my father tells me I’m as stubborn and to the point as he ever was.” He shifted the chain on the desk, lining it up so it was parallel to the blotter. “I’m here because there are some things I don’t wish to leave unresolved.”

“Ah. Well, I can understand that,” Maggie said. If I may ask, did you catch them? Your father’s killers?”

“I did.”

“Good. Considering how far you came, the determination that took… well, I’m glad it paid off.”

“Thank you kindly,” Fraser said, giving Maggie a thoughtful look.

“Is there something on your mind?” she asked.

Fraser hesitated, then took a breath and plunged in. “I know this may seem strange,” he started, “but I was wondering if I could ask you about your family.”

Maggie tensed up, standing straighter than Fraser would have though possible, and her face became an impassive mask, betraying nothing. “Is there something in particular you want to know?” she finally replied, voice flat.

“It has to do with your parents. I believe that your mother knew my father.”

She relaxed her stance, and Fraser had to wonder what it was she’d thought he would ask. Because just for a moment, he was sure he’d seen fear in her eyes.

“Your father was Robert Fraser, correct?” Fraser nodded, and Maggie did too. “Yes, she knew him. She talked about him sometimes, and he visited her while on patrols – I remember seeing him once or twice, when I was young. He was a fine officer. We were sorry to hear of his passing.”

The conversation stuttered to an awkward halt, and a few moments later Maggie started toward the door.

“Well, I should be getting back to my bedroll. Morning will come soon enough. Good night, Benton.”

“Good night, Maggie.”

***********

The next morning, Fraser was surprised to see Maggie in civilian clothes. “I thought it might help me blend better,” she explained.

“That it will,” Fraser agreed walking toward the kitchen. A quick check of the pantry and refrigerator showed little to offer.

“I’m afraid we’ll need to go out for breakfast today,” he told her. “All we have is coffee and tea, and whatever this is that Turnbull made,” he motioned to a dish in the refrigerator with a grimace, and Dief added a whine.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine with some tea. It will go nicely with my pemmican.”

“Pemmican?” Fraser echoed.

“Yes. I made it myself. Would you like some?”

“I haven’t had pemmican in far too long,” Fraser admitted. “It’s just not available in the city.”

“It’s in my pack. Let me go get it.”

“Wonderful,” Fraser said with a smile. “I’ll put on water for tea.”

Just as Maggie started toward the door, it swung open and Barbara Kowalski came in. “Benton, I’ve brought everyone some fresh paczki. I hope that’s all right with -” she stopped when she saw Maggie. “Oh, I’m sorry. I should have knocked first.”

“Nonsense, Mrs. Kowalski,” Fraser said, taking the plate from her and putting it on the counter. “It’s very kind of you to think of us.”

“You don’t eat enough, and it’s Barbara. I keep telling him that, but he doesn’t listen,” she said to Maggie, holding out her hand. “I’m Barbara Kowalski. My son is Benton’s partner with the police.”

“Ah yes, I’ve met your son,” she replied. Barbara’s brow furrowed at that, and Fraser gave her a tiny head shake. If Maggie noticed, she didn’t comment on it. “I’m Constable Maggie Mackenzie,” she was saying. “It’s good to meet you.”

“Thank you, dear,” Barbara replied. “So are you new here?”

“Maggie’s in town pursuing a suspect,” Fraser clarified.

“Like you did when you met Stanley,” Barbara said with a nod.

“Stanley?” Maggie asked.

“That’s Ray’s first name,” Fraser explained.

“Ah.”

“Well, if you’re still here on Friday, you should come to dinner with Benton. I always tell him he can bring friends, but he never does.”

They spoke for a minute or two longer, then Fraser walked Barbara to the door, thanking her again for bringing the food, and promising he’d see her on Friday evening, as long as work didn’t interfere.

“See, even your Yank’s mother thinks you should spend more time with Mackenzie,” his father said. Fraser turned to see the man leaning a car parked outside the Consulate.

“Give it a rest, Dad,” Fraser hissed as he edged outside, closing the door behind him.

“Stubborn. Get that from your mother, rest her soul.”

“If you don’t have anything useful to contribute, I have work to do,” Fraser said as he started to go back inside. Before he could, Maggie came through the door, joining him on the stairs.

“I wasn’t aware that there were any Sergeants stationed here,” Maggie said, glancing at the spot where Fraser’s father had just been.

“There aren’t,” Fraser answered cautiously.

“Visiting then?”

“Not that I’m aware.”

Maggie looked down the street, a confused look on her face. Fraser followed her gaze but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. “Are you sure? Because I’m certain I saw you speaking with him before I came up.”

Fraser tried to hide his surprise. “You saw me talking with another Mountie?”

“Yes, an older man.”

“That’s… that’s remarkable.”

“May I ask why?”

“I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you,” he replied. “But I’ll see if I can’t arrange a meeting. I think you’d find it very interesting. In fact,” he said, “if you’d follow me, I might be able to do so right now.”

Maggie started down the stairs, then looked even more puzzled than before as Fraser opened the Consulate door and gestured for her to go in. He led her to his office.

“Now, I know this will seem strange, and you’re right to wonder if I’ve a hole in my bag of marbles, but would you mind opening that door?”

Maggie looked where Fraser was pointing. “This door? The door to the closet?”

“Yes.”

“You want me to open your closet door.”

“Yes,” Fraser repeated. “Consider it an experiment.”

She gave him a dubious look, but opened the door to reveal… a closet. Fraser suppressed a sigh. Of course his father wouldn’t make things easy.

“What exactly am I looking for?” she asked.

“Nothing, apparently. Perhaps we should head to the station.”

***********

When they got there, Ray had just arrived. Fraser went to talk with him, while Maggie went to see Frannie. She handed Frannie a piece of paper, then joined Fraser and Ray at Ray’s desk.

“You make a new friend?” Ray asked.

“Frannie’s looking up a name for me,” Maggie answered, looking decidedly uncomfortable. “I have a confession to make. Benton, after we talked, I still couldn’t sleep, so I went back to speak with Tommy Ellis.”

“With no back up?” Ray asked disbelievingly. “You could have gotten yourself killed!”

“Obviously, that didn’t happen. And he seemed less intimidated by me than he did by the three of us – he even gave me a possible name, the one I gave Frannie just now.”

As if on cue, Frannie walked over, a small stack of papers in hand. “Hey, this Zefferelli guy’s a real piece of work,” she said, handing Maggie the papers. “Lots of arrests, and two convictions, both for bank robbery.”

“Thank you, Frannie.”

“No problem. I even got you a current address. Well, assuming he hasn’t skipped town.”

***********

Unfortunately, it looked like Zefferelli was no longer at the address Frannie had found, and Ray was doubtful he was even in Chicago. His landlord was owed back rent, and his rooms were cleared out. Fraser and Maggie checked them over thoroughly, even going so far as to taste a bit of mud that had been tracked in, much to Ray’s disgust.

“God, and I was hoping that was just a Fraser thing,” he said with a shudder.

“It’s a viable way to find clues,” Fraser said, and Maggie nodded.

“Tell that to forensics,” Ray shot back. “Looks like Ellis played you. Luckily, I got us that warrant, so I’m thinking it’s time to pay him another, more intimidating visit.”

Only when they got to Ellis’ apartment building, it was just in time to see the paramedics taking away his body.

“This is not good,” Ray said. “We need to get back to the station, find out what’s going on before Welsh tears me a new one.”

“It isn’t your fault the man’s dead,” Maggie said.

You know that and I know that, but the Lieutenant has his own way of looking at things.”

As they were getting into the car, Ray’s cell phone rang.

“It’s for you,” he said, handing it to Fraser once he’d answered. “Dragon Lady,” he whispered.

Fraser gave Ray a scolding look as he took the phone, and Ray just grinned, totally unrepentant.

A few yes sirs and no sirs later, Fraser handed the phone back.

“Ray if you could drop me at the Consulate, I’d appreciate it. I can meet you and Maggie at the station.”

“Is something wrong, Benny?” Ray asked.

“I’m sure it has to do with the high tea she’s serving later today,” Fraser answered. “Given that Turnbull is in charge if I don’t help, that seems the most likely answer.”

“Since when does tea trump a murder?” Ray asked with a frown.

“Would you like to ask her that?” Fraser countered, and Ray held up his hands in surrender.

“A stop at the Consulate it is. Maggie, maybe you being new around here will keep Welsh from using some of his more colorful threats.”

***********

As soon as Fraser was in the door, Inspector Thatcher called him into her office.

“Constable, did Ms. Mackenzie tell you what she was doing in Chicago?”

“Of course she did. She’s pursing two murder suspects.”

“And did she tell you that the man they allegedly murdered was her husband?”

Fraser did his best to hide his surprise. “No, she neglected to mention that.”

“Then I’m sure she also neglected to mention that she was told to leave the case alone, and that she’s currently suspended.” Thatcher shook her head. “Really, Fraser, I understand that you want to help, but Mackenzie is trouble. She refused to listen to her superiors at home. She lied, or at the very least left out important facts when enlisting your aid. She needs to go home, let things go through proper channels. The way she’s behaving now suggests she obsessed with finding her husband’s killers and while I sympathize, we cannot help her any further. It’s dangerous, not just to her but to anyone around her. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir. I understand completely.”

Thatcher looked long and hard at Fraser, who just stood there. “All right then,” Thatcher said, apparently satisfied. “Where is Ms. Mackenzie right now?”

“She’s at the station with Ray,” Fraser answered.

“Then you need to go and get this straightened out before it becomes an international incident.”

“Yes, sir.”

***********

“Sounds like Mackenzie got the short end of the stick,” Fraser Sr. said as soon as Fraser was out of Thatcher’s office. “Tell me you’re still going to help her, son.”

“Of course I am, Dad. It would be hypocritical of me not to, considering the circumstances surrounding my being in Chicago, wouldn’t it?”

“True, true. Plus, she needs a friend here. Someone she can count on.”

“A friend. Now you’ll be satisfied with that?”

“Well, all relationships have to start somewhere, don’t they?”

“Just leave it alone, Dad. I have some research to do before I go to the station.”

Fraser went to his office and booted up his computer, then started accessing files on Maggie Mackenzie. He wanted to know as much as possible before confronting her. He initially skimmed over her family history, but something about it snagged his attention.

Fraser went back to see what had attracted him, then read it again. And everything just fell into place. Well.

“I knew you were more interested than you were letting on,” his father said as he leaned over Fraser’s shoulder to look at the file.

“I have good reason to be,” Fraser answered. “There’s no easy way to say this so I’m just going to tell you. Dad, you need to stop looking at Constable Mackenzie as a possible addition to the family, and realize that she already is family.”

“What do you mean, son?”

Fraser couldn’t believe his father hadn’t figured it out. Or maybe he was being deliberately obtuse. “According to the records, her father died a full year before she was born. That means he couldn’t have been her father. Think about it. Her age, the times you were with her mother, the fact that she can see you… it all fits. There’s no chance of you gaining a daughter-in-law with her. You already have a daughter.”

“That isn’t possible,” Fraser Sr. replied after a long moment of silence.

“Really? So you didn’t sleep with her mother.”

“There were times we offered one another comfort,” he prevaricated.

“The kind of comfort that would leave her with a child to raise?”

“She would have told me if that were the case,” Fraser’s father protested.

“Are you sure?” Fraser pressed. He leaned against his desk, arms crossed over his chest. “If she had, what would you have done?”

“How can you even ask that?” Fraser Sr. replied, offended. “I would have married her, of course.”

“Just because of the baby? Would she have wanted that?”

Fraser Sr. smiled. “No. That woman was very independent. She’d made it clear from the start that she wasn’t interested in anything like that. To tell the truth, it’s part of why we got along so well.”

“Well, then her not telling you she was pregnant makes sense.”

Fraser Sr. considered that. “I suppose it does. It’s an interesting theory, I’ll give you that, son. it still doesn’t mean Maggie’s my daughter.”

“She can see you. Don’t you think that’s significant?”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Buck can see me too, and I’m certainly not his father.”

“I would hope not,” Fraser replied with a snort.

Fraser Sr. shook his head. “I just can’t believe it. A daughter. I have a daughter.”

“I think you do. And she’d like to meet you. Well, that is, she doesn’t know it ‘s you she’d be meeting, or who you really are to her, but she’s expressed an interest in meeting the Sergeant she’s seen me speak with.”

“I don’t know, Benton…”

Seeing his father unsure about anything was disconcerting. “Well, you have time to think about it. I need to go and make sure she doesn’t do something she’ll regret.”

***********

When Fraser got to the station, Maggie was gone, and Dief with her. Fraser filled first Ray, then the Lieutenant in on what Inspector Thatcher had told him. For the moment, he kept the rest to himself.

“And you didn’t know about any of this, Constable?” Welsh confirmed.

“I only knew what I told you, sir,” Fraser answered. “I had no idea she’d been suspended. But even if I had, I would have at least listened to her case. She’s a fine officer, and an excellent tracker. If she says the trail leads here, then it likely does.”

“Even though the men she thinks did it have air-tight alibis,” Welsh said.

“Yes, sir.”

“So you don’t think we led her to Ellis and then she killed him?” Ray asked.

“No. I know how this looks, but you have to remember, I’ve been in her situation, or near enough. And at the time my superiors were concerned about my behavior too. But I kept on the path, and justice was served.”

“But that’s you, you’re all about justice,” Ray pointed out. “What if she isn’t? What if she’s all about revenge?”

“I highly doubt that she is. But if I’m wrong, then I suppose you’ll have that chance to say I told you so that you’ve been wanting.”

What I want is for her found and found now,” Welsh told them. “That way if anyone else turns up dead, she’ll be the one with an air-tight alibi – she’ll be with you.”

“We’ll get right on it, sir,” Ray said, and Fraser nodded in agreement.

As they started toward the door, Frannie ran after them.

“Hey, are you two meeting up with Maggie?”

“We hope to,” Fraser replied.

“Well, then you can give her this,” Frannie said, handing Fraser a piece of paper. “It’s about that guy that was killed. Looks like he wasn’t as clean as she thought.”

Fraser and Ray looked over the information. “Casey Richmond was a bank robber and a known associate of the Torellis. There’s the connection,” Fraser said.

“You think she knew?” Ray asked.

“Only one way to find out. Thank you kindly for this, Francesca.”

“So, where to next?”

The Consulate,” Fraser said. “Her things were still there earlier. I can’t imagine she’d just leave them.”

“Why? Because you wouldn’t?” Ray asked. “What is it with you comparing her to what you’d do? I thought you didn’t like her, but the way you’re protecting her makes me wonder.”

Fraser hesitated, then decided to tell Ray. “I have a confession to make.”

“You do like her!”

“Of course I do, but not like that. Ray, I believe that Maggie is my half-sister.”

Ray looked like someone had hit him with a two-by-four. “What?”

“I had a chance to look over her personnel record earlier today and what I found, combined with what my father’s told me, that is, what I know about his history, strongly suggests that he’s Maggie’s father.”

“Do you think she knows that?”

He shook his head. “I think there are a lot of things she may not know, but the only way to find out is to find her.”

“And you think we’ll do that at the Consulate.”

“I do.”

“Okay, so that’s where we’ll go.”

***********

Once there, Ray waited in the car, at Fraser’s request. “I believe she’ll feel less trapped with just me, Ray,” Fraser had told him on the way there, and Ray had agreed. Plus, he had pointed out, that way there would be a lookout on the outside of the building.

Fraser made his way past the Inspector’s office without detection, which was a good thing. As he approached his office, he heard movement coming from inside; quiet whispers and a soft sneeze, one he easily recognized as Dief’s.

Fraser quickly opened the door and stepped inside, closing it quietly behind him. Maggie stood frozen in place, her pack in hand. Dief sat by the window, giving Fraser a look that clearly said what took you so long?

“Maggie, what are you doing?”

“I didn’t kill anyone,” she said, standing tall.

“I never thought you did,” he responded easily.

She seemed taken aback by that. “Thank you,” she finally said. “But your belief won’t be enough for the police, and every second I’m delayed means the trail gets colder. I have to go on alone.”

“No, you don’t. And you shouldn’t. Maggie, Ray and I can help you.” She looked doubtful. “Is it because you’re worried I’ll find out you’re suspended from duty?”

“If you know that, you know why you shouldn’t help. I can’t risk your career that way.”

“You could have told me,” he said, ignoring her protest. “Knowing what you do of me, how could you think I’d be anything but understanding?”

“It’s different. You were still on active duty.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered to me any more than it does to you if I hadn’t been on duty. Family is more important.”

“I appreciate what you want to do, Benton, but I can’t let you.”

“Then you’re going into the investigation blind,” Fraser told her. “Do you even know why your husband was with the Torellis?”

“He was their guide.”

“He was a past associate of theirs,” Fraser corrected gently. “His real name was Casey Richmond, and he robbed banks.”

“That isn’t true.”

“I saw the file myself, Maggie.”

“He wouldn’t have lied to me like that!”

“Maybe he didn’t see it as a lie. Maybe he was trying to start over, make a new life for himself. But his past caught up with him.”

He could see her fight tears, but her voice was steady when she spoke. “He would have told me about this,” she said.

“If you think he would have, then I’m sure you’re right. But he didn’t get the chance. And if you go after his killers now, like this, you’ll never have justice. Vengeance, perhaps, but not justice. Is that really what you want?”

“No,” she whispered, anguish clear in her voice. “But it’s all I have left.”

Pushing past him, she threw open the door and ran out. Fraser let her go.

Unfortunately, Inspector Thatcher had seen Maggie run from the building. “Fraser! Why did you let her leave?”

“I believe it was the right thing to do,” he replied.

“Only if you wanted to add yourself to the list of suspended officers. Consider yourself relieved of duty.”

“Yes sir.”

Fraser left the Consulate and walked over to Ray’s car.

“I saw your sister run off that way,” Ray said, pointing. “Figured you wanted me to wait for you, though.”

“You’re absolutely right, thank you, Ray.”

“So how’d it go in there?”

“Inspector Thatcher has placed me on suspension.”

“For what?”

“I let Maggie go, against the Inspector’s orders.”

“So where does that leave us?”

“Officially, I am no longer qualified to liaise with the local police.”

“How about unofficially?” Ray asked.

Fraser opened the passenger door. “What I do as a private citizen is my own business.”

Ray grinned and opened his door. “Okay, that’s all I need to know. Oh, except for what I was really asking about, which was how did it go with Maggie.”

“As I’d thought, she didn’t know about her husband’s past.”

“Did she know about you?”

“I didn’t say anything about that. I thought one familial shock a day was enough.”

“So what now?”

“Now we follow her.”

“Does she even know where she’s going?”

“I’m sure she does. She’s been nothing if not methodical, and I’m sure she’s got something concrete by now...” he trailed off.

“What? I know that look - what are you thinking?”

“The concrete. That’s the key.”

“You mean the stuff you both licked off the floor? The city’s covered in concrete – how is that going to help?”

“It was fresh, which means it’s likely from a construction site. And given that they were watching banks, it stands to reason the site is near one.”

Ray pulled his phone out of his pocket and tossed it to Fraser. “Call it in, see what Frannie can find.”

“I don’t know that I should, Ray. I’m not working with you in an official capacity.”

“It’s that or you take the wheel, since you hate when I talk on the phone and drive.”

“I don’t hate it. It just isn’t safe.”

“Whatever. Call or drive – your choice.”

Fraser started dialing.

“Good for you, son,” Fraser Sr. said. “Well, not the getting suspended back there part – mark like that will take time to clear up, but the pursuit of justice is more important than red tape.”

“I don’t suppose you could go ahead and check on her,” Fraser whispered as he waited for Frannie to pull up the information they needed. “Seeing as she’s family and all.”

“Huh. Hadn’t thought of that. I’ll let you know,” he replied, and vanished.

A minute later he was back, looking shaken.

“What is it? What happened?”

“She can see me.”

“I thought we’d established that.”

You’d established that,” his father huffed. “This is the first time it’s been proven to me, and it’s unsettling.”

“But she’s all right,” Fraser pressed.

“I’m sure she is, Benny,” Ray answered. “You just tell me how to find her and we’ll make sure of it.”

Fraser gave his father an expectant look.

“She’s walking on a city street.”

“That’s the best you can do?” Fraser asked, incredulous.

“What, am I supposed to be psychic or something now?” Ray shot back.

Fraser glared at his father, then turned to Ray. “I’m sorry, Ray. I didn’t mean – that is, hopefully Francesca will have something for us soon.”

***********

She did, and Ray was just parking when Fraser spotted the Torellis entering a bank. He didn’t see Maggie, but suspected she was close.

Fraser and Ray rushed to the building and saw Maggie facing the Torellis, gun raised. The Torellis seemed so surprised to see her they didn’t notice Ray sneaking up on them, and he was able to disarm one of the men easily. Seeing his brother caught, and with Maggie still holding him at gunpoint, the other Torelli lowered his weapon.

Maggie still kept the gun aimed at him, a determined look on her face.

Fraser tried to reason with her. “Maggie, please, don’t do this. You’ve caught them. They’ll pay for your husband’s murder.”

She grimaced. “I don’t think jail is enough.”

“It has to be. We’re not judge, jury and executioners. You’ve done what you came to do. Let the police take it from here.”

“He wasn’t going with them,” she told Fraser. “He told them he was done. That’s why they killed him. He was trying to start a new life with me.”

“Then don’t you owe it to his memory to continue with that life?” Fraser asked gently. “What would he think if you ended up in jail because of him?”

Maggie’s eyes widened at that, and she took a deep, shuddering breath.

“I need for him to say it. Then you can have him.”

Torelli sneered, and Maggie cocked the gun. ‘Okay, okay! I did it. I killed Richmond. Happy now?”

Maggie lowered her weapon and Ray was quick to cuff the man and read both of them their rights.

“No,” she said, “but at least I got a confession.”

“You made the right decision, Maggie,” Fraser told her.

“It doesn’t feel like it.”

“I’m sure it will, in time.” He looked over and saw his father in the corner. “In the meanwhile, there’s someone you should meet.” Back up had arrived and Ray was occupied, so Fraser felt safe in leading Maggie away.

“Maggie, I’d like to introduce you to Robert Fraser.”

She gave him a disbelieving look. “Your father? But I thought he was dead.”

“That hasn’t seemed to have stopped him from visiting, more than he ever did when he was alive, in fact.”

“Well. It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” she said, giving him a salute.

He returned it with a satisfied look, and Fraser refrained from rolling his eyes. “Nice to see someone showing me the proper respect.”

“Give her time, Dad. She barely knows you.”

“So, can everyone see you?” Maggie asked.

“No, just a select few.”

“And how did I get to be on that list?”

“That’s something I wanted to talk with you about,” Fraser said, rubbing his eyebrow. “While there are a few people outside of me who can see my father, they’re all either family, or someone as close as family.”

“But I’m neither.”

“We’re not so sure of that,” Fraser replied. “I had a look at your personnel file during the case – I didn’t mean to pry, but we needed to find you – and I found some discrepancies that suggested that perhaps the man you were told was your father wasn’t. Your father, that is.”

“You mean because he died a year before I was born,” Maggie said matter-of-factly.

“You know about that?”

“Of course I do. It’s basic math. But I saw no need to confront my mother about it. I’m sure she had her reasons for making that claim.” She gave Fraser’s father a pointed look.

“She was a wise woman, that mother of yours,” he said. “Knew I would have tied her down if I’d known, so she didn’t tell me. In fact, I had no idea about any of this until well, not long before you. I hope you believe that.”

“I do.” She looked from one man to the other. “So if he’s my father, that makes you my half-brother.”

“Yes it does.”

She thought about that for a minute and then gave Fraser a small smile. “I think I like the sound of that. I’m pretty short on family nowadays.”

***********

Once the Torellis were taken into custody and everything was settled, Ray explained the situation to Lieutenant Welsh, who then called Inspector Thatcher to put in a good word for Fraser. It took some doing, but he was reinstated, albeit with a fair share of guard duty on his agenda.

***********

A few days later, everything was back to normal, and Maggie was ready to head back home.

“Are you certain you can’t stay longer?” Fraser asked.

“I’m sure,” Maggie answered. “I have a lot of explaining to do, and staying in Chicago will only make things worse.”

“If you need corroboration, be sure to have them contact me. I’ll vouch for you.”

“That’s kind of you.”

“That’s family,” Fraser replied.

Maggie nodded. “I suppose it is.”

“Would you, that is, I was wondering if you’d object to staying in contact?”

Maggie gave him a slow smile. “I think I’d like that. I’ve never had a big brother before.”

“And I’ve never had a little sister.”

Maggie quickly moved in to give Fraser a hug. “Thank you for everything.”

Fraser hugged her back. It wasn’t as awkward as he thought it would be. “You’re welcome.”

***********

Ray shook his head as he watched Maggie leave. “I should’ve known she’s your sister. All the signs were there.”

“You mean the fact that she’s also a Mountie with a strong sense of justice?”

“Nah, I mean she’s stubborn, close-mouthed, had no trouble sleeping at the Consulate, and the real kicker? She came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of a relative. Not that we knew that one at first, of course.” He gave Fraser a sly look. “Any of that sound familiar?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, Ray,” Fraser said, hiding a smile.

“And I’m sure you do. Come on, Benny. Dinner’s on me. I can tell you all the stuff you have to watch for with little sisters…”

 

Episodes 4.15-4.16: Call of the Wild

Something was coming. Fraser could feel it, like thunder at the edge of a storm that rumbled too low to hear. He was tense, fidgety, unable to keep his focus, even on guard duty, though he still hadn’t slipped enough to need to report himself.

He’d think he was imagining it, but his father had noticed it too, as had Dief. Dief’s behavior he could pass off as a reaction to Fraser’s own tension, but for his father to have commented on it… that had been a surprise.

Whatever it was, it hadn’t extended itself to Ray. He went on business as usual, though Fraser could feel Ray’s sidelong glances. Even if Ray didn’t sense anything out of the ordinary, he noticed Fraser’s behavior was off. Fraser knew that he was just waiting for Fraser to let him know what was going on. Another way in which he was different from the man he was impersonating; this Ray’s patience was of a larger capacity.

Even so, Ray not commenting on Fraser’s inability to concentrate was unusual, though appreciated.

Fraser thought maybe he just needed to get away. Not an easy task in the city, but there were places he could go, parks and the like, that sometimes helped him re-center himself. That’s how he ended up ice fishing with his father at the city reservoir. His father joined him, still acting as unsettled as Fraser.

Finding a dead body at the end of his line didn’t help matters.

***********

“And you were at the City Reservoir why again?” Ray asked as he watched the body being taken into the morgue.

“I was ice fishing,” Fraser told him again.

“There are no fish there. It’s just drinking water. You know that, right?”

“Considering I found a dead body, does it matter why I was there?”

Ray sighed deeply. “I guess not. Come on, let’s go see what Mort has to say about this guy.”

***********

Mort had quite a lot to say. The body had been identified. The man’s name was Cartwright, and while he’d been shot, it wasn’t the bullet, but the poison it had been coated with, that killed him.

“That’s not all, Benny,” Ray said as he read through Cartwright’s file. “The guy had been linked more than once to weapons dealers, both local and not.”

Fraser looked through the man’s effects as Ray spoke, but found nothing more. He’d been stripped clean before being dumped into the reservoir.

“Looks like we’ll need to do some digging, see what his most recent associates have to say,” Ray told Fraser as they walked back to the bullpen.

***********

After a couple of hours of phone calls and computer searches, they came up with a name, and went to see if Cartwright’s friend could shed any light on his recent activities.

When they got to his building, the first thing they saw was a dead man hanging half out of his car. Fraser and Dief started running toward the car when Ray yelled, Police! Stop!”

Fraser looked up to see a grenade launcher aimed at the car he was headed toward, and he, Ray and Dief dove for cover. The man fired, then drove off.

“What the hell have we gotten into, Fraser?”

“Muldoon,” Fraser answered.

“Was that supposed to mean something to me?”

“But he’s dead,” Fraser Sr. said as he appeared. He looked as shaken as Fraser felt.

“Obviously not,” Fraser replied. “Unless he’s gained the ability to launch weapons from beyond the grave.”

“Unless what?” Ray asked.

“Sorry, Ray. The man we saw is Holloway Muldoon. He was formerly a friend of my father’s.”

“Until your dad died?”

“Until he betrayed my father’s friendship and proved himself to be a criminal. He took advantage of Dad’s good standing to deflect suspicion from himself.”

“Ooh, that had to hurt,” Ray said, shaking his head. “How is it he’s still around? Don’t you guys always get your man?”

“My father tracked him for over a year,” Fraser replied. “Until Muldoon fell to his death at Six Mile Canyon.”

“Eighteen months,” Fraser’s father said, subdued. “I should have known that fall wasn’t enough to kill him.”

“Only he’s obviously not dead,” Ray said at the same time. Fraser tried to keep up with Ray’s conversation. Usually he didn’t have trouble splitting his attention, but his father’s quiet reaction was atypical, and that bothered him.

“We need to get back to the station, Ray. This just became a lot more complicated.” He glanced at his father. “And personal.”

***********

The body they’d found was Cartwright’s associate, a local fence. A search of his effects yielded a note about a meet which referenced Cartwright.

“Okay, so the rest of this is gibberish. What gives?” Ray asked.

“It’s code,” Fraser responded taking the paper from Ray. He looked it over. “And not too complicated, fortunately. See, every third letter references-“

Ray held up his hand. “Benny. Stop. Just tell me – can you read this?”

“Yes.”

“And what does it say?”

Fraser read over the page. “Old Cart Trucking.”

Ray slapped the paper with the back of his hand. “Looks like we have our next clue in the Muldoon scavenger hunt. Come on, Let’s grab the address and head out.”

***********

Of course it’s abandoned,” Ray groused when they pulled up next to the building. “I’ll bet it’s full of rats and roaches too.”

“Are you afraid of rats, Ray?”

“Afraid? No. Disgusted by, definitely. You know what though, at least it isn’t lizards.”

“Lizards?”

“They’re the Florida version of roaches,” Ray explained. “Always skittering around, climbing up walls – it’s creepy.” He made a face. “I took Ma miniature golfing once, and one jumped out of the hole when she hit the ball in. Nearly scared the life out of her.”

“I don’t think you have to worry about that here.”

“Nah, the vermin here are tough – they’d just throw the ball back.” He unlocked his door. “Ready to go exploring?”

“Whenever you are.”

***********

They weren’t two feet into the building when the sound of a weapon being cocked froze them in their tracks. “FBI! Throw down your weapons and stand where we can see you,” a voice shouted out.

“See, what’d I tell you?” Ray said, voice laced with disgust. “Rats.”

He was no less disgusted once they were back at the station. ‘You can’t just tell us to let this go,” Ray was practically yelling at Agent Maddox.

“Of course I can,” Maddox replied smugly. “And that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

“But we’re already part of the case,” he protested, turning to Lt. Welsh. “Lieu, tell him this one’s ours.”

“We do have prior claim,” Welsh pointed out

“I highly doubt that,” Maddox’s partner snorted.

“Okay, then we have what’s probably one of your snitches in our morgue, and two of my people had a grenade launcher fired at them,” Welsh countered. “In my city. Forgive me if I think we have the right to work on this.”

“Lieutenant, I think we need to speak about this in a more private setting,” Maddox said, leading him away.

“A few minutes later Welsh was back, alone.

Ray took one look at his face and dropped his head, asking, “We lost this one, didn’t we, sir?”

“We did indeed. Our assistance is not officially needed.” He held up a hand to stop Ray’s protest, and gave Fraser a significant look. “That said, if someone here were to unofficially continue the investigation, I don’t think I could stop them. Especially if they’re not technically one of my officers.”

“Understood,’ Fraser replied. “Sir, if I could ask your permission to leave. I believe I’m needed at the Consulate.”

“Of course, Constable.”

“And if Ray could drive me, that would be most helpful.”

“Never let it be said that the Chicago police department is anything but helpful. Detective, escort the Constable to the Consulate, please.”

“Yes, sir,” Ray said with a sharp nod and a quick grin.

***********

“You were pretty quick to want to get out of there, Benny,” Ray commented as he drove.

“Well, we were told our help was no longer needed.” Ray gave him a long look, and Fraser added. “Plus, I have files on every encounter my father had with Muldoon, including all the time he spent tracking him.”

“So if we see what your father figured out about him, we’ll see if there’s a pattern to follow. Good thinking.”

***********

“It turned out there was a lot to go through; they even enlisted Turnbull’s help, for which he was overly, loudly grateful.

“Hey, Fraser, I thought your dad took thorough notes,” Ray remarked.

“He did. Why – what did you find?”

Ray showed Fraser the journal he had. “There’s a three week gap here. Not one word.”

Fraser looked at the first date and nodded grimly. “That would be the day my mother died.”

Ray winced. “Oh. Sorry.”

“No way for you to have known, Ray.”

“Sir,” Turnbull cut in as he placed a journal in front of Fraser, “I think I found something.” He pointed at a specific passage and after reading it, Fraser stood up and gestured for Ray to follow.

“What did he find?” Ray asked.

“Muldoon always doubles back. We can find him just where we did before.”

***********

It wasn’t as simple as that, of course. But two days later, Muldoon did indeed reappear, this time with a canister of Russian nerve gas in the grenade launcher. Fraser was able to read the label, and despite having to deal with a small hole in it, they were able to get the canister safely to the station.

***********

When they got to the 2-7, Fraser was surprised to see Inspector Thatcher speaking with Lt. Welsh. She gestured him over when she saw he’d entered the room.

“That canister you found, was it Russian?” she asked.

“Yes, but how did you know about it?” Fraser responded.

“We got a call about a shipment coming through, with enough nerve gas to take out several cities.”

“We got the call?” Fraser asked, surprised. “Someone chose to warn the Consulate?”

“Not just someone, Sergeant Buck Frobisher. He was your father’s partner, was he not?”

“He was,” Fraser replied with a nod.

“Naturally, when he told me what he knew, I decided to involve local authorities. But of course you’d already found evidence that the rumors Frobisher heard are true.”

“So now all we have to do is make a connection and find the buyers before Muldoon makes the sale,” Lt. Welsh added. “I don’t suppose you unofficially found anything at the scene that would help?”

“Actually, I did,” Fraser told him. “We found a footprint.”

“A footprint,” Thatcher remarked. “And how will a random footprint help?”

“It was a very distinctive footprint,” Fraser answered.

***********

“I don’t know, Benny. Something doesn’t feel right about this,” Ray said as they walked through the hotel lobby. “I mean, look around – this is the last place I’d pick for an arms deal.”

“Which makes it the ideal location to actually have such a meeting,” Fraser pointed out. “And the print I found belonged to a shoe worn by an employee, don’t forget.”

“An employee or a collector – you heard the manager. People started stealing those shoes.”

“Well, unless you have a better suggestion, I don’t see any harm in at least looking around.”

“Maybe,” Ray conceded. “Just, let’s do a little more looking around and then call the station, see if they’ve got anything more for us on this. Unofficially, of course.” He looked around and shook his head again. “Something just isn’t right.”

They split up, Ray going to talk with the hotel staff, Fraser searching. Fraser noted the patrons of the hotel automatically, filing away details as extraneous or possibly worth following up as he went along. But as he rounded a corner, something made him stop.

He replayed the previous moment in his head - three men, all well dressed, nothing out of place. Two of them, tall, bulky and looking not-quite comfortable in their suits, were obviously guarding the man in the middle. He was as tall as they, but while they were bulky, he was lithe, moving with grace and assurance. He had dark hair worn slicked back, and wore a suit that was obviously tailor-made for him. Fraser didn’t get a clear look at the man’s face, and likely it was no one he should know, but there was something about him... Fraser thought about it more, trying to discern what had caught his attention. The man in the middle had checked his watch as they'd walked; that flick of the wrist, the long fingers toying with the band, sparked recognition.

Fraser found Ray and grabbed him by the arm, moving purposefully in the direction the trio had taken.

“What’s going on, Benny?” Ray asked.

“Just trust me, Ray. This is important.” He pointed toward the elevator the men had gotten on. “May I have your cell phone, please?”

“Why?” Ray asked, handing it over.

“So you can call me and tell me what floor that elevator stops on,” he said, running toward the stairs.

***********

“What are you doing, Fraser?” Ray stage-whispered as Fraser stopped in front of one of the rooms.

Fraser ignored him and knocked on the door. A moment later it opened and one of the men Fraser had seen stood in the doorway, scowling at him.

“What do you want?” he asked belligerently.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to disturb you, but I was wondering if I could speak to your associate.”

A second, larger man moved to stand next to the first. He didn’t look any happier about Fraser being at the door than the first had.

“What?”

“Ah,” Fraser said, “I should have been more specific. There was another gentleman with you. Might I speak with him?”

“Boss,” the first man called back, and at that Fraser saw the third man move into view, “there’s a crazy guy in red out here wants to talk with you.”

“Ray!” Fraser couldn’t help but say when he saw Ray Kowalski. And it was him, Fraser was sure, despite the different hair, the expensive suit and tie, and the thin, wire-rimmed glasses he wore.

Ray gave absolutely no sign of recognition, and Fraser instantly realized his mistake in speaking as the two men eyed both he and their boss suspiciously.

Fraser was trying to think of what to say to fix what he’d done when Ray moved forward a step, a bored look on his face. “That supposed to mean something to me?” he asked.

Grateful for the chance to extricate himself from a potentially volatile situation, Fraser shook his head as he answered. “No, I’m sorry. I don’t suppose that it should. We’ll just be going.”

“I don’t think so,” one of the men said, and Fraser found himself at gunpoint.

Ray crossed his arms over his chest, and Fraser could see a flash of irritation cross his face. “Looks like you’re going to get that chance to talk after all,” he said.

The men stepped back to let Fraser in, and given that there was no other choice, Ray Vecchio followed in behind him. Fraser could feel him glaring at Fraser’s back, but there was nothing he could say at the moment.

Ray sat down on the couch, leaning back and stretching his arms across the back cushions. Nothing in his body language showed any tension, and his face was free from worry. “So. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” he asked, looking at each of them in turn. “You two some kind of weird welcome wagon?”

“I could find out for you, Boss,” the second bodyguard said, a glint in his eyes that Fraser found not at all comforting.

“Different town, different rules. And did I ask for your help?” Ray’s voice was calm and smooth, with just a hint of menace. It was enough; the man backed down immediately, shaking his head and stepping back.

Ray gestured for Fraser to answer. “My name is Benton Fraser, and this is my associate, Ray Kowalski.” He saw Ray’s eyes widen a tiny bit, but other than that, he gave no sign he knew the name.

“Check them,” Ray told the first man, who holstered his gun once he was sure his partner had them covered. He patted them down, retrieving wallets, Fraser’s knife, and Ray’s gun. He started flipping through a wallet as he walked over to his boss.

“That one’s a cop!” he exclaimed, pointing to Ray.

“They’re both cops,” Ray said with an exasperated sigh as he stood up, hand out for the wallets. “You never heard of the Mounties? Did you think that was a doorman’s get-up or something?” He shook his head at the man and turned his attention back to Fraser and Ray. “I ask again – what made you decide you needed to speak with me? I’m just a visitor to this fair city.”

The man that had taken their weapons leaned in toward his employer. “Boss, they gotta be here because they know about the meet,” he whispered loudly.

Ray shot a murderous glare at the man. “How are you still alive?” he asked, low and dangerous, and the man blanched.

“I didn’t mean-“

“I don’t care what you meant. I know what the rumors are. Jesus, if you know them then it’s safe to say they’re common knowledge. I want to hear what they have to say, moron, see how they want to play this. And now, you’ve shown them part of our hand. Do you think that makes me happy?”

The man paled further. “No, boss,” he answered meekly.

“Hey, you know, I think this is all just a misunderstanding,” Ray said from next to Fraser. “I think we just got our wire crossed, transposed a room number or something. No harm, no foul, right?”

Ray took off his glasses and pulled out a cloth to clean them with. “I have to hand it to you, you’re funnier than the cops at home. Ballsier too. So this was all a mistake, that’s what you’re telling me?”

“Yes,” Fraser answered. “We didn’t mean to intrude.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Ray answered with a small sigh. “But now I have to do something I really don’t want to do.”

“Should we take care of them?” the one with the gun trained on them asked, giving them a nasty smile.

“Not in here!” Ray answered. “It’s bad enough I’m going to have a political mess to clean up – do you want to add a bunch of blood and gore to it, too?” Ray nodded toward the bathroom. “Easier clean up. You know what to do,” he told his men nonchalantly.

***********

The two men looked at each other and nodded, then shoved Fraser and his partner toward the door. Almost as soon as it closed, the sound of two loud thumps and a couple of muffled groans filtered through the bathroom door. Ray leaned against the opposite wall and waited.

Less than a minute later, it got very quiet. The door opened, and Fraser walked out. The Kowalski-wannabe followed cautiously.

Ray pushed himself away from the wall and looked Fraser up and down, a wry smile on his face. “Benton Fraser. You know, I should have known you’d find me here, even if this isn’t your kind of place. Fits with your brand of luck.”

“And I’m very glad that it does.” Fraser grinned at him. “It’s good to have you back in Chicago, Ray.”

“Truth to tell, I agree, but my handlers may not see it the same.” He looked over at his replacement, who looked pretty tense, like he still wasn’t quite sure what was going on. “So you’re the guy they picked to be me?”

Fraser nodded and went to introduce them. “Ray, this is Ray. That is, Ray Vecchio.”

Ray’s eyebrows shot up at that. “Vecchio? As in Frannie Vecchio?”

Vecchio nodded. “My kid sister.”

“Ooh, gets better all the time. And I thought they were crazy having me play Vegas mob,” Ray said as he tugged at his tie. “This I will not miss,” he stated emphatically as he threw it to the ground.

A pained noise from Vecchio made Ray look over. He seemed fine, but was staring unhappily at the ground – no wait, at the tie. “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” he said, rolling his eyes. “They picked a style pig to be me? Hell, they should’ve tapped you for the Bookman gig – you’d have been in heaven. Except the Feds are a little pickier about making sure their replacements actually look like the guy they’re supposed to be.”

“Ray’s done an admirable job in your stead, Ray,” Fraser told him.

“And I had a lot more hair when I started,” Vecchio added.

“Yeah?” Ray chuckled. “He scare it off of you trying to kill you in wildly bizarre ways, or just make you want it pull it out in frustration?”

“A little of both,” Vecchio chuckled.

“Well, you’re still in one piece and so is he, so that’s something.” Ray held out his hand, and Vecchio took it. “Good to meet you.”

“You too,” Vecchio replied. “Nice as this love fest is, though, shouldn’t we do something about the guys in the bathroom?”

“You’re quite right, Ray.” Fraser said. “We need to call the station, have them take the men into custody.”

“Wait,” Ray said, holding up a hand. “Not the 2-7. If we take them there, there’s no way I’ll be allowed to go near the place, and I’m guessing somebody’s going to need a statement.”

“You don’t think this blew your cover enough to come in?” Vecchio asked.

“It probably did, yeah, but I don’t want to be the one to put the final nail in that coffin.”

“Understood,” Fraser said, and Ray gave him a big smile. “What?”

“Been too long since I heard you say that, that’s all, Benton buddy.” He took his glasses off and ran a hand over his face. “Okay, so you make sure those two goons can’t move or yell out when they wake up, and I’m going to call my contact, see if there’s any way to salvage this.”

Ray got off the phone a few minutes later, shaking his head as he approached Ray and Fraser. “Okay, so it looks like this might just work out,” he said. “They aren’t at all happy with you,” he said, pointing to Fraser, “but they think they can work with this, put their own guys in place as my bodyguards.”

“Couldn’t be worse than those two bozos,” Vecchio told him. “I’ve seen better guards at school crossings.”

“Yeah, well, you should count yourself lucky they’re dumbasses, or else this could have gotten real ugly real fast,” Ray replied.

And your meet, Ray?” Fraser asked. “Have we compromised that?”

“Doesn’t look like it, which is the only reason you two aren’t in custody right now.” He quirked an eyebrow at Fraser. “Seems like they remember telling you two to back off. This is big, Fraser – we’ve been working on the set-up for months.”

“Yes, we know.”

“You know,” Ray deadpanned. “I’m here to help catch an arms dealer, real cagey, cold-hearted and connected. Nobody’s been able to touch the guy, it’s like he’s almost more rumor than a real person. And you know about it.”

“His name is Holloway Muldoon, yes, and that’s why we’re here,” Fraser said.

“Of course it is,” Ray said with a snort. “Case like this would be like some kind of Fraser-magnet. Do you know how dangerous this is? Two agents have already gotten killed over this since we got here a couple of days ago.”

“Would their names be Cartwright and Callow?” Fraser wondered.

Ray shot Fraser a sharp look. “You knew them?”

“We made their acquaintance in our morgue,” Vecchio told him.

“You two are the ones that found them,” Ray said and rolled his eyes. “Of course it was you – who else, with all the cops in the city, would find the two guys connected to what I’m doing? You know, if the Feds had told me Fraser was involved I could have told them he’d end up finding me, whether he knew about me being here or not.”

“As you said, they did try to warn us off the case,” Fraser told him.

“Which was another mistake I could have told them to avoid. They should’ve at least pretended to have you working with them.”

“So the Feds are morons, which we knew, and Fraser and I have jumped feet first into a very dangerous operation, which was also a given,” Vecchio interjected. “Now that we’re all caught up, what do we do with Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber in there?”

“It’s taken care of,” Ray told them. “My contacts have local police connections, so they’re gonna have someone pick them up, take them there and bury them in paperwork until the meet goes down. Once they’re allowed a call, my cover is pretty much blown.” He looked at his watch. “They should be here any minute – you two need to be gone when that happens.”

“Ray,” Fraser said, stepping in closer. “Do you want us to stay, to help? I know as much about Muldoon as anyone – my father tracked him for eighteen months.”

“If it were up to me, I’d say yes in a heartbeat, but it’s not my call,” Ray told Fraser regretfully. “But I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again soon.” He turned to Ray. “Keep taking care of him, yeah?”

Vecchio gave him a wry smile. “What else am I gonna do?”

“And you…” Ray turned to Fraser. “Stay out of it, okay? Just like when we met and tracked Drake to that bar – you stick out like a sore thumb just as much here as you did there.”

Fraser gave him a small nod. “Understood, Ray.”

Ray clapped him on the shoulder. “Get out of here, then. This is going to be two hours of clean-up at least.”

***********

Leaving Ray and the hotel room was the last thing Fraser wanted to do, but he knew he had no choice. Ray, on the other hand, looked like he couldn’t get out of there fast enough. They didn’t speak the entire way to the car, but once on the road, Ray was quick to start talking.

“I cannot believe we almost blew a Federal project and a cover we’ve been keeping forever!” he said, eyes wide. “Jesus, Benny, what were you thinking?”

Fraser felt himself redden. “I wasn’t. I saw Ray and went with my instincts.”

You? Mr. Logic? Hoo-boy, now I see why you don’t always just go with your gut. We could’ve gotten killed, or blown the whole deal and ended up in federal prison.” He blew out a breath and calmed down a little. “So, where do you want to go now?”

“The Consulate, please. I want to look through my father’s files some more.”

“And I need to check in with Welsh, let him know what’s going on. You sure you don’t want to be there for that? It’ll be a fun time.”

“Normally I would, but-“

“But you think you’re going to solve this one looking through your dad’s stuff. Okay, but when Welsh yells at me I have no problem telling him exactly how much of this is on you.”

“Thank you, Ray. I’d expect nothing less.”

***********

Fraser watched Ray drive off, then changed out of his uniform. He was about to leave his office when something occurred to him, and he went back to his desk, opening a drawer. Fraser reached in carefully and pulled out Ray’s bracelet. Even if he couldn’t give it back now, he wanted it with him, for whenever the time was right.

Satisfied he had everything he needed, Fraser slipped back out of the Consulate and started walking. Assuming he’d interpreted Ray’s code correctly, it would take awhile to reach his destination.

Fraser arrived at the bar and scanned the crowd. He breathed an inward sigh of relief as he say Ray talking with the bartender, turned partially away from the door.

Ray jumped and tensed as Fraser touched his arm gently; seeing his reaction, Fraser backed away, looking apologetic.

“Sorry, Fraser,” Ray said, working to relax his body.

“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He paused. “I thought about calling your name, but didn’t think it would be wise.”

Ray chuckled humorlessly. “Good call. I haven’t been allowed to even think about answering that name for so long, I’ve pretty much programmed myself to not listen for it,” he replied with a shrug. “Coming out of an assignment like this, it’s going to take some time to get that back, and I’m not done yet.” He gestured toward the tables in the back of the room. “Come on. We need to talk and I don’t have much time.”

Once they were seated, Ray got right to business. “Tell me what you know about Muldoon.”

Fraser filled him in, Ray only interrupting to ask for clarification.

“And your dad, he have anything more to say?” Ray asked once Fraser was finished.

“He’s been unusually close-mouthed since we found out Muldoon was still alive,” Fraser admitted.

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Ray asked with a smile.

“I’m not sure. Normally, I’d appreciate the lack of interference. But there’s more going on than what he’s telling me, I’m sure of it. I just don’t know how to find out.”

“Well, here’s what I know. That nerve gas you found – just the beginning. There’s a second stage to this deal and whatever it is, it’s big.”

“I don’t like you going in without me,” Fraser admitted.

“Well, you can’t be there. So whatever you do, stay away from the meet I have at nine tomorrow, got me?” Ray said with a wink.

Fraser nodded, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. “Got you.”

“Good,” Ray said, slapping his hands on the table as he stood. “Because I have to get back before they start freaking out.” He reached over to put his hand on Fraser’s arm, squeezing gently. “Be careful, Ben.”

“You too, Ray.”

***********

As Ray had predicted, he’d gotten yelled at by Lt. Welsh, especially when he couldn’t give him any real information about what the Feds and Kowalski were up to. Fraser’s absence hadn’t helped, but for some reason, Welsh let it fly without too much fuss.

Too restless to go back to the apartment (which wasn’t his home, never was, and soon it definitely wouldn’t be), Ray stayed at the station. It wasn’t his best idea; he couldn’t concentrate on any of the case files, and kept fidgeting in his chair.

Ray moved a stack of files from one side of his desk to the other, then back again. This sucked. He’d always known this gig was temporary, but he also thought he’d get some warning before it was over. Having Kowalski just drop into his life like this was unsettling. Not being able to just switch out who he was yet didn’t help matters.

He reached over to put a pen in the holder and misjudged, knocking over the entire thing. Swearing under his breath, Ray started cleaning up the mess.

As he was putting the last few pens back, Dewey came over and sat on the edge of Ray’s desk. “So I hear you might be done with this assignment soon.”

Ray looked up sharply at that, but Dewey had been quiet; no one was paying them any attention. “Yeah? Just where did you hear that particular rumor?”

“Guy I know at my old precinct. Said he and his partner got called in to pick up some goons at a hotel and he recognized the guy there. Could have been somebody’s twin, if you know what I’m saying.”

Ray leaned in, fixing Dewey with an intense glare. “Did he say anything to anyone? Other than you, I mean?”

“I don’t know,” Dewey shrugged.

“Well, somebody better tell him to shut his trap,” Ray said as he sat back, voice sharp. “He ever think that maybe keeping a guy’s cover is worth more than some inter-station gossip?”

Dewey frowned, puzzled. “But if he’s here, doesn’t that mean he’s done with the undercover thing?”

“If that were true, he wouldn’t just be in Chicago, he’d be at the 2-7. Your friend needs to learn to think before he blabs.”

“Jeez, sorry I said anything,” Dewey said with a grimace as he stood up. “I just figured if anybody knew it would be you.”

“Yeah, well, even if I did know something, it wouldn’t be my story to tell.” Realizing just how defensive he was getting, Ray ran a hand over his face and gave Dewey an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Tom. I’m just – there’s a lot going on, okay?”

“And it isn’t your story to tell. Got it. But hey, just so you know, if he does come back? Not everybody’s going to be ready to throw the guy a parade.”

Ray gave him a small smile. “Thanks.”

Just then, Ray saw Fraser walk in. It threw him for a second, because he could probably count on one hand the times he’d seen his partner out of uniform, and this was one of them.

“Fraser,” he called out. “What are you doing here? Did you find something in your dad’s files?”

Fraser pulled at his collar as he approached Ray’s desk. “I’m afraid I wasn’t completely honest with you, Ray. I didn’t need to check anything at the Consulate.”

“Then why’d you tell me you did?”

“Because I needed to meet with Ray alone.”

Well. That certainly told Ray where he stood, didn’t it? “You ditched me.”

“Ray and I needed to exchange information.”

“So you lied to me and ditched me,” he pressed.

“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it, yes,” Fraser conceded. “I’m sorry, Ray.”

“Whatever,” Ray said, cutting him off. “Let’s go talk to Welsh.” He started toward the Lieutenant’s office, not looking to see if Fraser was following.

***********

“So Kowalski didn’t have any details on this second part of the plan?” the Lieutenant asked.

“No sir. But he was able to tell me when and where he’s meeting Muldoon tomorrow. With the admonishment to stay away, of course.”

“Of course. I’d have to say the same thing, were you to ask. As it is, all I can say is that we won’t be needing your services tomorrow morning. I’m sure you can find some way to keep busy.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you sir,” Fraser answered.

“And you’re looking a little peaked, Detective,” Welsh went on, looking at Ray. “Maybe you should catch up on your rest.”

“I’ll be sure to do that, sir,” Ray responded.

“Oh, and Constable, have you had a chance to talk with Inspector Thatcher?”

“Not since I saw her here, sir. Why?”

“She mentioned something about Muldoon and your mother. Does that mean anything to you?”

“No, sir. Are you sure that’s what she said? Could she have meant my father?”

“You’ll have to ask her. I just know it had to do with her conversation with Frobisher, and whatever he said, it worried her.”

***********

Ray drove Fraser back to the Consulate, the silence in the car awkward and tense.

“I’ll pick you up in the morning,” Ray said as he pulled up in front of the building.

“Thank you, Ray,” Fraser replied, reluctant to leave the car with so much unsettled. “Ray, I truly didn’t mean to hurt you when I went to meet with Ray.”

“I know that, Benny,” Ray said with a sigh. “And I get it, I do. He was your first partner. I’m just the guy filling in for him.”

“I don’t see you that way at all. I never have,” Fraser insisted.

Ray gave him a small, sad smile. “No, I guess you didn’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that with him back, I’m pretty much a third wheel. Don’t worry about it – I knew this was part of the gig.” He nodded toward the building. “Go on, get some sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Fraser wasn’t convinced, but he couldn’t think of anything more to say. “All right, Ray. Good night.”

***********

When Fraser got to his room, he heard shuffling noises and thumping from behind the closet door. He opened it and found his father there, packing.

“Were you even going to tell me you were leaving?” he asked, startling his father.

“Of course I was,” Fraser Sr. replied, gesturing toward his desk. “Got a note ready right here.”

“A note?” Fraser asked, incredulous. “You weren’t even going to tell me face to face?”

“It isn’t like I’m leaving forever,” he replied.

“I’m sure you thought the same thing every time you went back into the field when you were alive. You can’t be certain you’ll return now any more than you were then.”

“And I have no more choice now than I did then, Benton. Muldoon – he’s the reason I’m still here. I can feel it.”

“What really happened between the two of you? And what does Mom have to do with any of it?”

His father looked startled at that. “Who’s been talking to you?”

“No one, but I can read, both what you wrote, and between the lines to what you didn’t say.” He stepped closer to his father. “Tell me, Dad.”

Fraser Sr. looked torn. “He didn’t fall to his death,” he finally said.

“I think we’ve already established that,” Fraser responded dryly.

“No, I mean… I killed him, or thought I had, anyhow.”

Fraser was so shocked he couldn’t speak for a moment. “Why?”

But it appeared his father was back to his evasive ways. “Some things are best left unsaid, son. Now, I have to go, but I will be back. I promise you that. Until then, keep a sharp eye out and watch your back. Muldoon’s like no one you’ve ever faced.”

***********

After Ray dropped Fraser off, he still couldn’t shake the tension that had built up, the feeling that tomorrow, things were going to be bad. He pulled out his cell phone and made a call.

***********

The next morning, he picked Fraser up well before the meet, and they went to get in place. Ray sighed with relief when he saw they weren’t alone.

“Ray?” Fraser asked as he saw other members of the 2-7 there. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on is that we’re not letting Kowalski do this alone. He may be with the Feds now, but he was a Chicago cop first, and we take care of our own.” He flashed a grin at Fraser, who still looked stunned. “Come on, we don’t have a lot of time.”

 

From their vantage point, Ray saw when Kowalski and his new, fake bodyguards arrived. Ray had to hand it to them – the guys looked a lot like the original guards, at least from a distance.

Unfortunately, Ray’s reinforcements were the only law officials there. A barely-discreet distance behind them were both FBI and ATF vehicles.

“Shit, do they want this to go to hell in a handbasket?” Ray growled. “Muldoon can’t help but know it’s a trap now.”

The words were just out of Ray’s mouth when the first round of gunfire rang out. Fraser was out of the car in an instant; Ray quickly followed, shooting Lt. Welsh a what can you do? look when he heard Fraser calling his name.

Ray ran in and saw Fraser ducking behind a long planter. He made his way over and it turned out Fraser wasn’t alone; Kowalski was hidden there with him, and nearly pulled the trigger until he saw who it was.

“We need to split up,” Ray said. “Kowalski, you go with Fraser, who still refuses to carry a gun in the US, by the way. I’ll take care of the guys here.”

“No way you can cover all these guys on your own,” Kowalski protested.

“I won’t have to,” Ray told him. “Welsh will send in back-up, and I feel sorry for your bosses if they try to stop him. Now go, before he gets away.”

Fraser nodded and gripped Ray’s shoulder. “Be careful.”

“What he said,” Kowalski added, and ran off to follow Fraser.

“You both owe me big time for this,” Ray muttered as he braced himself to fire.

***********

Fraser and Ray nearly had Muldoon, who tried to shoot them but had run out of bullets. He tossed his gun away with a growl and ran, ducking into a mall with an indoor fair. It took some doing, but they finally caught up with him again.

“You might as well surrender,” Fraser told him. “We know that you’re out of ammunition.”

Muldoon just smiled and pulled out a canister. “I have better than bullets right here. So you have a choice – take me in and let everyone in the building die, or take care of this while I get away. How bad do you want revenge, Benton Fraser?”

“How does he know who you are?” Ray asked.

“I have no idea.”

Muldoon gave them a nasty smile. “Really, Benton. I know it’s been years, but don’t you remember me? I would have thought you would, considering the impact I had on your life.”

“You mean the time my father spent away while in pursuit of you?”

“I mean the reason he was after me in the first place,” Muldoon corrected. “Come on, you really don’t think he was so obsessed without a personal reason, do you?”

“My father was single-minded in the cause of justice.”

“Your father wanted me dead,” he shrugged. “Only fair, I suppose. After all, I killed his wife.”

Fraser paled. “You what?” he whispered.

“You mean Bob didn’t tell you? I shot her, Benton. Watched her drop like a sack of potatoes.”

Fraser felt a hand on his arm, holding him back, and realized he’d lunged forward, trying to get to Muldoon.

“You have sixty seconds,” Muldoon said with a laugh as he pushed a button on the canister and ran.

Fraser stood there, stunned and Ray shook him hard. “Come on, we don’t have time for this. Save people now, process later.”

Fraser nodded and they got to work, defusing the bomb with seconds to spare. Just as Ray sighed with relief a shot rang out, and both men ducked. After a full minute with no more shots fired, they carefully sat up and looked around.

Ray Vecchio was on the ground below, bleeding and unconscious.

***********

Fraser and Ray extricated themselves from the crime scene as soon as they could and headed to the hospital. Francesca was there, and as soon as she saw them, she pulled both men into a long hug, then asked what had happened.

Fraser and Ray filled her in, Francesca never letting go of their hands as they talked. Once she was up-to-date, they sat quietly, Ray with an arm around her shoulder.

After awhile, she stood up suddenly and wrapped her arms around herself. “I can’t just sit here waiting anymore. I’m going to the chapel. You’ll let me know if you hear anything, right?”

“Of course, Francesca,” Fraser told her.

“I’ll walk you there,” Ray said. “And then I’m going to find the cafeteria, grab some caffeine.” He turned to Fraser. “You want anything?”

“Some tea would be nice, if they have any.”

“One tea, got it. I’ll be back in a few.”

Fraser watched them leave, then paced the room a few times before sitting down. The chairs weren’t particularly comfortable, but moving around wasn’t doing anything to calm his nerves.

He stood back up just as the door to the waiting area opened and Mr. And Mrs. Kowalski came in.

“Benton,” Barbara said, making a beeline for Fraser. “We came as soon as we heard. We thought it would look bad if we didn’t and he’s been so good, taking care of things like he has and -” She stopped and looked at Fraser, a stricken look coming over her. She took Fraser’s hand as she went on. “Is he – Ray’s going to be fine, isn’t he?”

Fraser covered her hand with his, the question snapping him out of his shock at seeing them there, what it would mean. “They believe so, yes. Ray’s still in surgery, but the doctors were confident.”

“You sure about that?” Damien asked. “You don’t look like things are fine.”

“It isn’t that. It’s just, perhaps you should sit down,” Fraser said, moving so Barbara could take his chair. “I have something to tell you.”

Barbara sat, still holding Fraser’s hand in hers, and gave him a worried look. “What’s going on?”

Before he could answer, the door opened again, and Ray came through, two cups in hand.

“Hey Fraser, they didn’t have tea, but I found you some…” He trailed off as he saw who was in the room. “Mom? Dad?”

Barbara’s grip on Fraser’s hand tightened. “Stanley?”

They all stayed that way, frozen, until Fraser squeezed Barbara’s hand gently and said. “That’s what I was about to tell you.”

Barbara pulled away from Fraser to stand, and he could see tears shining in her eyes. She walked over to Ray and put a hand on his cheek.

Ray briefly leaned into it, then turned to look for a place to put down the cups. Fraser quickly stood and took them; Ray gave him a grateful look before returning his attention to his mother. “Hey, Mom. I’m home,” he said, sweeping her into a hug.

When they pulled apart Ray moved to shake his father’s hand. “Dad. Didn’t expect to see you guys here.”

“At this point the feeling’s mutual,” Damien replied, voice gruff. “Thought you were on assignment, not that you told us or anything.”

“I was. Just got back in town. And it isn’t quite official yet or I’d have gotten word to you,” Ray said, glancing over at Fraser. “I didn’t even know you were in Chicago.”

“That’s entirely my fault,” Fraser told them. “Things were so chaotic when Ray got back that I hadn’t had the chance to tell him about your arrival. And then Ray was shot, and I’m afraid it just slipped my mind.”

Damien didn’t look like he liked that answer, but Barbara gave him an understanding smile. “That’s all right, Benton. The important thing is that Stanley’s home safe.” She looked back at Ray and wrinkled her nose. “Your hair is dark.”

Ray rubbed at it self-consciously. “Yeah, well, soon as I get to be me again it’s going back to blond.”

Barbara frowned at that. “Get to be you? But you’re back.”

“Yeah, but like Fraser said, everything was pretty crazy and we haven’t got the transition all figured out yet. And the shooting just makes it crazier. But it should get settled soon.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot, then said, “Listen, it was really cool of you guys to come down here, but you really don’t need to stay. We can let you know how Ray’s doing and all.”

“Are you sure?”

“I know how much you hate hospitals,” Ray answered, putting an arm around his mother’s shoulder. “Come on, I’ll walk you to your car and you can tell me a little about how long you’ve been here, start playing catch-up until we can do it right. You’ll be okay here, right, Fraser?”

“Of course, Ray. Take your time.”

***********

While Ray was gone, the doctor came in to tell him that Ray was out of surgery, and that everything looked good. The news wasn’t unexpected, but was a relief to hear nonetheless. Fraser made a quick call to the precinct to let them know, and was about to go to the chapel to find Francesca when Ray came back in.

“Wow. Totally did not expect that today,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe they’re really here. They said you’ve been stopping by pretty regularly. Dad thinks it’s helped, given Mom something to focus on, so thanks.”

“It was no trouble. Ray, I was just about to go to the chapel. If you wouldn’t mind waiting here…”

“Did you hear something?”

“Yes. Ray’s out of surgery and the prognosis is excellent.”

“So he’s gonna be okay?” Ray asked.

“It appears so.” Fraser rubbed his eyebrow. “He was very lucky, the doctors say.”

“Good. That’s good,” Ray replied, distracted. He looked at the floor, rubbing the back of his neck. “Look,” he began, “I know that things can’t be like they were, that this guy’s your partner now, but I hoped, well, I thought maybe…”

“Ray Vecchio is a fine officer, a good partner, and my friend.” Fraser responded.

“Yeah, I get that, I do -” Ray stopped at the touch of Fraser’s hand on his shoulder.

“But it was never the same as you and I, Ray, our duet. That isn’t something that could ever be replaced.”

“There are red ships and green ships, but no ships like partnerships.” Ray quipped, smiling shyly.

“Exactly.” Fraser responded.

The two men stared at each other for a long moment, then Ray moved closer, right into Fraser’s personal space.

"There's something I promised myself I'd do if I made it back and you were still here. You can punch me after if you have to, but I just have to know." And without any further warning, Ray kissed him.

Fraser froze for a split second; Ray was kissing him. Then Ray started to pull away and Fraser realized he hadn’t kissed Ray back. That wouldn’t do at all. Reaching for Ray, he pulled them chest to chest and returned the kiss. Fortunately for them both, Ray caught on a lot quicker than Fraser had; he responded immediately, mouth opening and the tip of his tongue tracing the seam of Fraser’s lips.

Fraser let him in and pulled him closer, and they exchanged kisses for a long minute. Then Fraser realized just how public the setting was, and reluctantly pulled away.

“So, I guess you’re not going to hit me,” Ray said, a twinkle in his eye.

“Hardly. I can’t imagine a circumstance in which I’d voluntarily do so.”

“Really?” Ray grinned. “Because I’m pretty sure I could make it happen.”

“I wasn’t issuing a challenge, Ray,” Fraser told him. He reached for Ray’s hand and tangled their fingers together. “I think we have a lot to talk about once this case is done.”

“I’d say that conversation is way overdue,” Ray agreed with a grin. “But right now you need to go get Frannie, let her know her brother’s gonna be okay. I’ll stay here until you bring her back, in case the docs come looking. Then you are staying here with her while I go back to the station to do some more research.”

“Are you sure, Ray?”

“It’s not cool to leave Frannie alone right now, and me being here is too weird.” Ray shrugged. “Besides, you’re going to want to see him when he wakes up. I know I would if it were my partner.”

“I’ll fetch Francesca, but when you leave I want to go with you,” Fraser told him.

“You don’t think I can handle a little research?”

“It isn’t that at all.”

“I know. You just need to keep your eye on this. I get it.” Ray gave Fraser a teasing look. “Plus, you can’t stand to be away from me now that I’m back, right?”

Fraser considered protesting, but in the end he just nodded. “That’s it of course, Ray,” he replied solemnly.

“Ray laughed. “Okay, so I’ll wait for you to see Vecchio, then we’ll both head to the station. That work for you?”

“It does. Thank you, Ray.”

“Go on,” Ray said with a wink. “Get Frannie before I tell you all the other reasons us alone right now is a bad idea.”

***********

Fraser and Frannie waited together until finally, a nurse came and told them Ray was waking up. She warned them he’d be very tired, and limited the visitors to one at a time. Fraser insisted Frannie see him first, for which she was grateful.

He was about half-awake when Frannie walked into the room, and she put a big smile on as she approached the bed, trying to ignore all the tubes and wires and machines around her brother.

“Hey, Frannie,” he murmured, lifting his hand to get her to sit next to him.

“Hey yourself, big brother. Which I can finally call you again in public.”

“Yeah, looks like my job here is about done. Like how I tried to go out with a bang?”

“That isn’t funny, Ray.”

Ray gave her a puppy dog look. “Aw come on, it’s a little funny.”

She shook her head. “It’s worse than the jokes Dewey keeps trying out at the station.”

“Ow. I think that hurt more than the bullet.” Frannie wrapped her arms around herself and tried not to get upset. Ray must have sensed it; he stopped joking and gave her an apologetic smile. “Okay, no more bullet jokes. I promise.”

“Thanks,” Frannie said with a shaky smile. “So, the doctors all say you’re gonna be fine. The bullet didn’t hit anything major.”

“Major enough I’ll end up desk bound if I stay on the force, though, since they couldn’t get it out,” Ray returned with a tired smile.

“Yeah, there’s that.” She reached for Ray’s hand and squeezed it gently. “That really sucks.”

“There’s worse things. I could be six feet under.”

“Don’t even joke about that! You promised!”

“I’m not joking. I’m just saying, it could happen. Hazard of the job.” He caught her eyes and held her gaze. “You sure you still want to be a cop?”

“You think I have what it takes?” she asked hesitantly.

“What, you don’t?” Ray scoffed. “You’ve been working toward this since before I got back.”

“Yeah, I have. And I really think I’d be good at it, Ray.”

He smiled. “I know you will. And if it’s what you want, I’ll back you, tell Ma not to give you too much grief.” He turned his hand in hers and squeezed. “As long as it’s really what you want. You sure you wouldn’t rather, I don’t know, raise a bunch of kids or something?”

Frannie laughed. “At this point me having kids would have to be by Immaculate Conception.” Her smile softened, and she leaned in to kiss Ray on the cheek. “Thanks, bro.” She sat back and a teasing light entered her eyes. “You know, you’re going to get a chance to defend me soon. I talked to Ma earlier and she’s on her way.’

“Aw, Frannie,” Ray groaned. “Can’t you call her and tell her I’m fine!”

“I did! But you know Ma. She needs to see for herself.”

Ray sighed. “I know. Thanks for the warning. At least I’ll get some good home-cooked meals out of this. She’s staying with you and Elaine, right?”

“Yes, and you are too, no ifs ands or buts. Now that Ray’s back, you don’t have to pretend any more, right? So staying at home while you recuperate just makes sense.”

Ray gave a tired nod, and Frannie stood up. “I should let you rest. Besides, Fraser’s here and I know he wanted to come in for a second too.” She leaned down and kissed Ray’s forehead. “Take care of yourself, Ray. Come home soon.”

She left the room and went to find Fraser and Ray. When she got back to the waiting area, she saw they weren’t alone; Elaine was talking quietly with them. They turned as she entered, and Elaine gathered her up into a huge hug.

When she pulled away long moments later, Frannie could feel the wetness on her cheeks, but she still smiled. “He’s tired and kind of out of it, but he knows you wanted to see him,” she told Fraser.

“Thank you, Francesca.”

***********

Fraser opened the door as quietly as he could. Ray was laying there, eyes closed, looking pale, but much better than he had when they’d first reached him at the mall. He walked in a few steps and Ray opened his eyes, turning his head to see who had come in.

“Hey, Benny,” he rasped out, and weakly waved Fraser over to his bedside.

“They say you’re going to be fine, Ray.”

“Yeah, the docs came in when Frannie was here, told me the same thing. Couldn’t get the bullet out, but it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Ah, that’s something we have in common then.”

Ray shook his head. “No offense, but that’s one club I never wanted to join. I never even wanted my ear pierced.”

Fraser cocked his head. “I think you’d look dashing with one,” he decided.

Dashing? Who still says that word?”

“Quite a lot of people.”

“Only in your dreams, Benny,” he chuckled, and it turned into a cough. Fraser got him a glass of water, which Ray gratefully drank.

“I should let you rest.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty beat. But I have two things to say first. One, this wasn’t your fault, me getting shot. So don’t beat yourself up over it. I know how you get.” He glared at Fraser until Fraser nodded.

“Okay,” Ray said, satisfied. “The second thing is, go get that guy. Get Muldoon and bring him in, you and Kowalski. And don’t let anybody stop you.” He closed his eyes for a long moment. “I expect the full story when you get back.”

“Of course. Ray, I’m sorry you won’t be able to be part of his capture.”

“Are you kidding?” Ray said, indicating his bandages. “I already am part of it. Just didn’t want to hog all the glory.”

***********

“How’d it go? He gonna be okay?” Ray asked as soon as Fraser left the room.

“He’s going to be fine,” Fraser told him, then gestured toward the door. “Did you want to see him?”

“Nah, I just needed to get out of the waiting room. It was getting a little too chick-flicky in there for me.”

“Ah. Well, Ray wishes us luck and told me not to let anything stop me from bringing Muldoon to justice.”

“”We’re going to need all the luck we can get for that,” Ray agreed, walking away from Vecchio’s room. “Hey, are you going to be able to do that? Bring him in, I mean. I heard what he said about your mom…”

“If Muldoon killed my mother, then justice is long overdue. Or are you worried I’ll take revenge?” Fraser shook his head. “My father took that route, and look where it led him.”

“Well, you ever forget that, just ask me and I’ll remind you why it’s a bad idea.”

“I’ll be sure to do that.” Ray looked down the hall back toward Vecchio’s room as they started to turn the corner, then stopped and looked again, puzzled.

“What is it?”

“I think I need to have my eyes checked,” Ray told him with a small shake of his head. “For a second I thought I saw Stella, going into Vecchio’s room.”

Fraser pulled at his collar. “Ah. There’s something you should probably know.”

That sounded less than good. Ray crossed his arms over his chest. “Okay, shoot.”

“Ray’s been seeing your ex-wife. I believe it started as a way to maintain his cover, but it seems to have evolved into something more.”

“Something more like they’re serious about each other?”

“Ray hasn’t confided in me, but yes, I believe so.”

Ray looked back toward the door. “Huh.”

“Does that bother you?” Fraser asked.

“Should it? I mean, you know the guy better than I do. Is he the type to treat her right?”

Fraser nodded firmly. “I believe he is. He’s a good man.”

“Then who am I to stop him from a chance with her?” He saw Fraser’s look of surprise and quirked an eyebrow. “Not the reaction you expected?”

“I honestly don’t know what reaction I thought you’d have.”

“Well, I’m always going to love Stella, no question, but I stopped being in love with her a long time ago. Wouldn’t be fair to try and keep her from being happy, would it? Especially considering that kiss back there.” He gave Fraser a warm smile. “Come on, we have a bad guy to catch so we can get to more important stuff.”

***********

When Ray woke up, he saw Stella at his bedside, reading. He smiled and turned to face her better, and she put down her book when she saw he was awake.

“You gave us all a real scare,” she said, brushing the back of her hand over his cheek.

“Yeah, well, figured it was time to play hero, see how that felt.” He grimaced. “Don’t recommend it.”

“I’ll remember that,” Stella replied with a soft chuckle.

“So, I don’t know if they told you, but Ray’s back,” Ray started. “Your ex, Ray, that is.”

“Yeah, Barbara called me with the news,” Stella replied, waiting for him to go on.

“Which means I get to be me again,” he went on. “And I was thinking, hit like this, I could retire on it. Start something new.” Ray took her hand in his. “Maybe we both could, if you want to. We’ve been dancing around this long enough, Stella. Pretending we didn’t care too much, because we had to, to keep him safe. But now… I’m done pretending. I love you, you have to know that.”

Stella squeezed his hand. “I love you too, Ray.”

“Then marry me.” Stella’s eyes widened in surprise, and Ray took their clasped hands in his free one. “This isn’t some near death thing, and it isn’t any kind of territorial your ex is back and I need to stake a claim bullshit. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now.”

“And you picked now to propose because…”

Ray grinned at her. “Thought I’d play up the sympathy angle, just in case.” He tugged their hands and she inched closer to him. When she was close enough, he raised one hand to cup her cheek, serious again. “You don’t have to answer now, Stell. I just want you to know where I’m at, what I want.”

Stella leaned into his touch, then bent to kiss him softly. “I’ll think about it, Ray. I’m definitely not saying no, but I need time.”

Ray felt his heart flip in his chest. “I can wait. Take all the time you need.”

They sat that way for a minute, both taking it all in, then Ray decided to lighten the mood. “So I don’t know if I ever told you this, but my uncle was always after me to take over the bowling alley for him, let him retire.”

She took the change in topic in stride. “Really? Are you seriously considering it?”

He shrugged. “Just saying I’ve got options.” She quirked an eyebrow, and he feigned annoyance. “What? I’m not the bowling alley mogul type?”

“I don’t know if a bowling alley is going to be the thing that sways me, that’s all,” she replied with a smile.

“It’s on the beach, if that makes a difference.”

“It might,” she answered, scooting up on the bed to sit next to Ray when he moved to make room for her. “Tell me more.”

***********

Fraser and Ray went back to the station, Ray keeping half-hidden as they walked in, and letting Fraser take the lead as they walked to the bullpen. He barely acknowledged anyone there, going straight into Lt. Welsh’s office.

They updated the lieutenant on Ray’s condition, and found out that both the FBI and ATF were less than pleased with events at the meet. Ray was quick to point out where he thought they could put their assessment, and Fraser was glad that no agents were actually there to hear his anatomically impossible suggestions.

As they sat there, Fraser could see Ray get more and more tense. When the Lieutenant finally released them, Ray nearly bolted for the door.

“What’s the matter?” Fraser asked when he caught up with Ray.

“I can’t be here,” Ray mumbled.

“Of course you can. The Lieutenant made it clear that you were allowed back at the station.”

“It isn’t that,” Ray said, shaking his head. “I can’t – I’m not ready for this. I haven’t gotten myself in the right head space to be here.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Course you don’t – you’ve never had to do long-term undercover work.” Ray ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “Look, I’ve been pretending to be a guy who lived on the edge of legal, and had no trouble crossing the line when it suited him or his boss. That guy did his level best to stay out of places like this, and had very specific ideas of what he’d do to anyone who tried to bring him in.”

“But you aren’t that man anymore,” Fraser replied.

“I know that here,” Ray said, pointing to his temple. “But it hasn’t sunk in the rest of the way yet. I worked hard to make myself into that guy, make his responses seem like they were natural to me. Which means now my instincts are screaming at me to run, and I don’t think I can ignore them much longer.” He darted a glance at the door. “I gotta get out of here.”

“Then let me come with you. Unless that would make things harder for you.”

Ray put a hand on Fraser’s back. “I think you coming along is the best idea in the history of ideas. Come on.”

***********

“You know, I had them drive by your place on the way to the hotel when we first got here,” Ray said offhandedly as they walked. “Knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t help myself.” He turned to Fraser. “When did it burn down?”

“The day I got back to Chicago,” Fraser told him. “It was a day of changes for me.”

“God, Ben, I’m so sorry,” Ray said. “That had to suck royally.”

“It was just a place,” Fraser said.

“Do not do that,” Ray responded, scowling. “It was a place you were making into a home. Do you have that now, in your new place?” Fraser hesitated, and Ray’s scowl deepened. “Please tell me it isn’t as bad as where you were before. I mean, the people were nice and all, but even you have to admit the neighborhood itself had its downsides.”

“It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose. I’m currently living at the Consulate. Which has moved since you left Chicago,” he added.

“Yeah? It have living quarters now?”

“After a fashion.”

Ray stared at Fraser, then groaned. “You have got to be kidding me. Please don’t tell me you live in your office, Fraser.” When Fraser didn’t respond, Ray groaned again. “Why wouldn’t you find yourself a new place?”

“At first, it was a temporary solution. But then it just became easier to stay there, instead of finding a new apartment.”

Ray could hear a lot of what Fraser wasn’t saying and it killed him a little. He wanted to say something, make it better, but he couldn’t find the words. “Well, soon as this is over, that’s the first thing we’re going to fix.”

***********

Turnbull met them at the Consulate door and practically dragged both men into the building. Somehow, his exuberance actually relaxed Ray; Fraser had no idea why it would, but he was grateful to see the tension leave Ray’s body.

As it turned out, Turnbull had news. He’d just gotten off the phone with Frobisher, who was able to give them a local lead he’d obtained. Fraser gathered a few things and he and Ray headed for Trumble Airfield, hoping to catch Muldoon before his plane took off.

Turnbull wished them luck, and let them know that he and the Inspector planned on meeting them in Canada.

 

The airfield was where their luck ran out; Muldoon’s plane was already on the runway. That didn’t stop Fraser, and therefore Ray, from hitching a ride on the plane. Literally.

They couldn’t last long that way, though, and made their way into the plane, which was small enough that they were found easily and tied up. Fraser was able to free them, determine where they were headed, and came up with an escape plan. Of course, it involved jumping out of the plane without a parachute, but it was still a plan. Ray refused to go along with it, and in the end Fraser finally pushed him out of the plane, then jumped. This was when their luck kicked back in; neither man died, or was even hurt in the fall.

***********

“What’s got you grinning like that?” Ray asked as he pulled himself out of the hole he’d created on impact. “Is this some kind of shock thing? Did you shake something loose when you hit the snow?”

“I’m fine,” Fraser answered, turning his smile in Ray’s direction. “I’m home. Welcome to Canada, Ray.”

Ray shook his head, his voice laced with affection that belied his irritated look. “Only you, Fraser. Next time, can we do this right? Maybe arrive with the plane, let it do the whole landing thing? And make sure we actually pack gear so we don’t freeze to death five minutes after we get here?”

“Sure, Ray, if you want to do it the easy way.”

“Fraser, nothing with you is ever easy. But it’s always worth it.” Ray clapped Fraser on the shoulder. “Come on, lead us to shelter, heat and food. Or did you forget your manners when you landed?”

Fraser rolled his eyes and pointed. “This way. We have two days until the rendezvous. If we keep up a steady pace we should be able to get there in time.”

“Two day of trudging through snow with no food or water -”

“There’s snow, Ray,” Fraser said calmly.

“I know there’s snow! I have eyes, and other body parts, all of which are very aware of the snow.”

“I just meant we could use that as a water source.”

Ray gave him a chagrined look. “Oh, right. Yeah, I knew that.”

“We’ll be fine. Trust me.”

You’ll be better than fine!” Fraser’s father piped in as he appeared next to Ray, a disapproving frown on his face. “Why I was able to track Muldoon for eight solid days in worse conditions, no stopping. This is a walk in the park.”

“Ray isn’t used to this, Dad. He’s been in the desert, remember?”

“City life,” Fraser Sr. scoffed. “Makes you soft.”

“He’s insulting me, isn’t he?” Ray asked as he looked around, trying to see Fraser’s father.

“He doesn’t understand. And given that he’s dead, I don’t see how he has any right to judge anyone’s physical limits.” He deliberately turned away from his father. “Come on. We’ve got a long way to go.”

“Right behind you, Fraser.”

***********

Fraser did find them shelter of a sort before it got too dark, and enough wood to keep a small fire going through the night.

“So, you were pretty cold to your dad earlier,” Ray said.

“He had no right to judge you like that.”

“Fraser, your dad always judges me,” Ray replied with a small laugh. “It’s his thing. You’re mad at him for not telling you about your mom, which is perfectly fair.”

“Is it?”

“Of course it is. Hell, if my old man kept something like that from me, I’d be pissed as hell.”

“I just don’t understand why he didn’t tell me,” Fraser sighed.

“Maybe next time you see him, you should ask.”

His father’s voice came from the darkness just beyond the firelight. “Yes, Benton, maybe you should.”

Ray chuckled and curled up next to the fire. “Now’s as good a time as any, Ben. I’m gonna try to catch some shuteye. You go work things out, and if you need to talk about it after, wake me up.” At Fraser’s surprised look, Ray went on. “I’ve told you before – you get this look when he’s around.”

Fraser watched as Ray fell into a fitful sleep, wishing they had more than the meager fire to keep him warm.

“Not cut out for this kind of life,” Fraser Sr. observed. “If you ask me, he’s not going to make it through the night.”

Fraser kept his gaze on Ray’s shivering form as he answered. “Dad, if you don’t have anything useful to say, I’ll thank you kindly to shut your damn mouth.”

“There’s no need for that kind of language, son.”

“There’s no need,” Fraser spat out, “for you to cheerfully pronounce Ray’s impending death, which you have no way of knowing and which I will do everything in my power to prevent.”

“Strong words for someone you haven’t even seen for so long.”

“How long were you and Buck estranged?” Fraser’s voice softened as he went on. “He’s my partner, Dad. Time and distance did nothing to change that.”

“I can see that.” Fraser Sr. looked them both over. “Your Yank’s a smart enough man, I suppose. Good eye, pays attention.”

“You’ve certainly changed your tune,” Fraser replied quietly. “I thought you didn’t like him.”

“Are you telling me I have any choice in the matter?” his father replied. “Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your mother’s parents couldn’t stand me.”

Fraser looked away at the mention of his mother. He stared into the flames for a long time, finally asking, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were so young when it happened. There was no way I was going to burden you with it. Then as you got older it just got easier to say nothing.”

“Didn’t you think I had a right to know?”

“To be honest, I didn’t look at it that way at all. I just knew what I’d become when she died, and I didn’t want you following that path. I still don’t.” He sighed. “Can you understand that, son?”

Fraser nodded after a long moment. “I suppose I can. But it’s going to take awhile.”

“I don’t know how much time I have, but you take all you need,” his father told him.

Fraser turned to face his father. “What do you mean by that? You’re dead. What else could happen to you?”

“I’m not sure. I just have this feeling, like everything’s about to change.”

Fraser looked at him more closely. “You do seem a bit more, well transparent than usual.”

“Probably just a trick of the light. Never mind me, son. Get some rest. You two will need it.”

***********

Early the next morning, Fraser woke first, then jostled Ray as gently as he could. “Ray, I need you to wake up now.”

It took a few more tries, but Ray’s eyes finally started to open. “Whu -” he started, then coughed. His next words came out raspy and low. “Is it time to move?”

“If you can.”

Ray nodded, then closed his eyes again as if the move had either pained him or made him dizzy. “Yeah, just give me a minute, okay?”

“Of course.” Fraser put a hand on Ray’s shoulder. “We’re going to get out of this just fine, you know that.”

“If you say so, Benton buddy,” Ray responded quietly, then gave Fraser a weak grin. “I figure you owe me one for me saving your butt last time we were in Canada. I may not be one hundred percent, but at least I’m not blind, paralyzed, or calling anybody Steve.”

“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?” Fraser sighed melodramatically.

Ray’s grin widened. “Not a chance.”

***********

It was a rough trek, and Fraser feared for Ray’s life more than once. But they kept moving, up and over a mountain, through deep snows and over ice. Fraser had to carry Ray on his back, which delighted Ray, who called it payback. Fraser didn’t share his sentiment, but refrained from saying anything.

Finally, they were close to their goal. Ray was looking better than he had since they first arrived, and Fraser was cautiously optimistic. That optimism grew when Ray insisted on being able to walk, which was fine until he overstepped and fell into an ice fissure, Fraser right behind him.

It was a long slide down, but before they got so far that they lost daylight they stopped their descent, wedged tight. They tried shifting, but it soon became obvious that the two of them were well and truly stuck. Ray looked at Fraser, at the situation they were in, and that was it. He couldn’t help but laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Fraser asked.

Ray fought to get himself under control so he could answer. “It’s just, there I was undercover with the mob for months. One wrong word and I could have been killed or worse, but I made it through scot-free. And now here I am, being myself for the first time in forever, and within two days I’ve been shot at, pushed out of a plane with no ‘chute, and now stuck in an ice crevasse, where we might possibly die.”

“And that’s humorous?”

Ray flashed Fraser a bright smile. “No, but the fact that despite all that I’m glad to be me again is.”

“Ah. Well, while I can’t say I’d recommend the circumstances, I have to admit I’m glad you’re you again as well,” he replied, finding himself smiling back.

“So, what are the chances that somebody will find us?”

“Do you really want to know?”

Ray scrunched his face. “Probably not. So tell me something else.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Tell me how you’ve been. What it’s been like to work with a fake me. Hey, what did your dad think of the whole thing?”

It was Fraser’s turn to make a face, which made Ray laugh. “So either he hated the guy, or thought he was a better deal than me. I’m guessing it was the second one.”

“What makes you think that?”

“That fight you two had when we landed here, for one thing. Plus, he hasn’t been around that much. I figure he’s making himself scarce because of me.”

“He has been conspicuous in his absence,” Fraser agreed. “But I don’t think you have anything to do with it. He was acting strangely before you showed up.”

“Okay, but I don’t hear you saying he didn’t like Vecchio.”

“He liked that Ray didn’t know about him,” Fraser admitted. “I think he finds you unnerving.”

“Well, he creeps the hell out of me, so we’re even.” He sighed. “Not like he could help if he was here anyhow.”

“Not like he’d be a big help even if he could,” Fraser replied. “The man is infuriatingly unhelpful, preferring anecdotes to action.”

“Yeah, Pa Kettle there likes to give you Eskimo stories instead of straight answers, Mr. Pot?”

Fraser frowned as he leaned back as far as the tiny space would allow. “Are you saying I take after him?”

“And start a fight in close quarters like this?” Ray said with a grin. “Not a chance.”

“Good.”

Ray cocked his head. “I don’t suppose you have an Inuit story that would get us out of this?”

“I’m afraid not, Ray.”

Ray sighed. “You know, if it weren’t for the we’re stuck and probably going to die part, this wouldn’t be too bad. We’re alone, no one to interrupt.”

“We’re nearly immobile,” Fraser added.

“Yeah, but nearly’s the key part,” Ray said with a wink.

“You can’t be seriously suggesting anything?”

Ray leered, then shook his head. “Nah. With my luck it’d only make things worse. So talk to me, Fraser. Tell me about this place. And I don’t mean the crevasse. Tell me about your home. Make me love it like you do, in case it’s the last place I see.”

***********

Fraser did as Ray asked, telling him about the ice fields, the tundra, the aurora borealis, everything that made Canada beautiful to him. Then he talked about the Franklin expedition. Ray listened, making comments and asking questions now and again, mostly just enjoying how Fraser’s voice washed over him. He’d been serious when he said he was glad to be himself again, even in a situation as dire as the one they were in.

A shadow fell across them, and Ray looked up, but didn’t see anything. “Is it supposed to be getting dark now?” he asked.

“No,” Fraser answered, then called out. “Hello! Is there anyone up there?”

A face suddenly appeared at the top of the hole. “Benton Fraser, is that you?”

Fraser smiled. “Delmar Huggins. I haven’t seen you since, what, fourth grade?”

Delmar nodded. “Sounds about right. You want I should leave you two to what you were doing, or were you needing help getting out?”

“Is he serious?” Ray hissed.

“Some help would be appreciated, thank you kindly,” Fraser called up.

“Only you would know somebody out in the middle of frozen nowhere, Fraser.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m the one you’re stuck with, isn’t it?” Fraser replied.

“Yeah,” Ray said warmly. “It really is.”

***********

Delmar was not only able to help them out of the crevasse, but he turned out to be an amazing source of information. He knew not only about a group with heavy armaments nearby, but a Mountie encampment at King’s Creek. Fraser and Ray thanked him, and headed toward the Mounties. Fraser was sure he’d find Buck Frobisher there.

He was correct, and Frobisher was pleased to see them both.

“Ah, detective. I see you’re back to your old self again.” Frobisher nodded as he greeted Ray. “Much better look, I have to say.”

“He met Ray Vecchio while he was impersonating you,” Fraser leaned in to whisper.

“Did he realize it wasn’t really me?” Ray whispered back.

“We were never quite sure, and it seemed best not to ask.”

“Your compatriots thought you’d be here when they arrived,” Frobisher went on. “They’ll be glad to see you finally made it.”

Before Fraser could ask whom he meant, Inspector Thatcher and Turnbull came into view. Turnbull gave out a cry when he saw them and surprised both Fraser and Ray by pulling each of them into a full-body hug. Inspector Thatcher was much more dignified, but seemed pleased to see them.

Then Fraser heard a familiar bark, and smiled as he knelt down to say hello to Diefenbaker.

“He insisted on coming along,” Turnbull said with a watery smile.

After a brief recounting of how they’d gotten from Chicago to King’s Creek (with several muttered “of course you did”s from Thatcher), Fraser told the group about the gathering at Diamond Head, and the coordinates of the rendezvous he’d overheard on the plane.

“Unfortunately, we still don’t know who it is Muldoon is meeting with,” Fraser ended.

“Ah, but we do,” Frobisher said with a grin. “Inspector Thatcher here brought news along with her strong arm and steady hand.”

The Inspector looked flustered for a millisecond by Frobisher’s comments, but shook them off. “He’s correct. In cooperation with the Chicago police department, we were able to ascertain who the buyer is. His name is Cyrus Bolt.”

“Bolt?” Ray said, sitting up straight. “As in, related to the crazy Bolt brothers Bolt? Same guys who wired us to blow up a courthouse, and tried to take over a train full of Mounties Bolt?”

“He’s their cousin,” Thatcher confirmed, and Ray sat back with a groan.

“This case just keeps getting better and better.”

Frobisher just nodded, as if he’d taken Ray’s complaint seriously and agreed with it. “Based on the information you two brought us, I’d say we could reach the rendezvous point by midday tomorrow. Best get some food,” he said clapping his hands together and standing up. “Why don’t you come with me, Benton, get enough for you and your partner to eat and bring it back.” He looked down at Ray, still sitting by the fire. “No offense, son, but you look like you’re a little out of your element.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Ray replied with a tired smile and a nod to Fraser. “Go on, I’ll be fine here.”

***********

When Fraser came back, Ray was sitting by the fire, absently petting Dief. Fraser handed a plate to Ray.

“I’m invoking the food rules on this one, got it?” Ray said as he took it.

“No telling you what it is. I remember,” Fraser replied as he sat down next to Ray.

“So, you and Frobisher have a good talk?” Ray asked once Fraser was settled.

“We did. He gave me some insight on my father’s behavior.”

“Good. Thought maybe that’s why he wanted you to go with him.”

“Where are the Inspector and Turnbull?” Fraser asked, looking around.

“Nowhere near each other, if Thatcher has her way. Turnbull was driving her nuts. Hey, I got good news – they were planning on releasing Vecchio from the hospital right around the time Thatcher and Turnbull left to come here.”

“That is good to hear.”

“Yeah. I guess he’s going to stay at Frannie’s for awhile. And his Ma came to town too, so it sounds like he’s got plenty of people to make sure he does what the docs tell him.”

“I wish them luck.”

“Why? Is he as bad a patient as you are?”

“Probably not, but he is stubborn.”

Ray gave Fraser a playful nudge with his shoulder. “Well if anyone’d know about that, it’d be you.”

They ate in companionable silence for awhile, watching the flames as the night got darker.

“So have you thought about it at all?” Ray asked, eyes on the fire in front of them. “I mean, what you’re going to do once this is over?”

“Not really.”

“You’re kidding me,” Ray huffed out. “You always have a plan.”

“I’m finding with all the changes these past few days, it seems better not to think too far ahead.”

“I hear that. Thatcher was making noises about transferring back to Canada. Turnbull looked like he was about to cry when she said it, but I don’t know if it was for good reasons or bad.”

Fraser nodded. “I’m not surprised she’d try to turn this into an opportunity to move up.”

“I’m not surprised by anything that woman does,” Ray told him. “Hell, determination like that, I bet she could overthrow a small country if she put her mind to it.”

“Ray!”

“I meant it as a compliment! Now if it were Turnbull, I’d say keep that man away from anything political, even if you have to run him over to do it.”

“I think he has aspirations of becoming a chef, actually.”

“Not sure that’s much better,” Ray said with a shudder.

Fraser tilted his head. “What about you, Ray? Once we’ve caught Muldoon, you’ll be taking time off, I’m sure.”

“Oh yeah. Assignment like this is going to take a little time to get past. They definitely won’t want me back right away. Well, except to debrief of course.”

“Of course,” Fraser agreed. “After that, will you visit your parents? Perhaps accompany them back to Arizona? I’m sure your mother would love it.”

“I’m sure she would too, but I’ve had enough desert to last me a lifetime,” Ray said. “So, no to the extended stay at Casa Kowalski. I’ve been thinking about it, and I want to go on an adventure.”

“An adventure?” Fraser looked around. “You mean this is all too tame for you?”

“Hardy ha ha,” Ray said, shifting on the log to nudge Fraser again. “I mean something where getting shot at is not a regular occurrence.”

“Ah. Do you have anything specific in mind?”

Ray grinned. “Yeah, matter of fact I do. I’m thinking I’d like something colder, a little farther north.”

“Just a little?”

“Okay, maybe a lot. I want to go looking for that hand of Freedom thing, the one you were talking about when we were trapped.”

“You mean the Hand of Franklin.”

“Yep. I’m gonna need some time to detox after the Bookman deal, and staying out of sight is a good idea right now. Plus, you promised you’d teach me how to drive a sled.”

“I did indeed.” Fraser gave Ray a serious look. “Are you sure you want to, though? It’s quite an undertaking.”

“As long as I’m away from sand and unbearably dry heat, I’ll be fine. It’ll be greatness.”

“Well, if you’re serious -”

“Which I am,” Ray interjected.

“Which you apparently are, you’ll need a guide. And some training. And some time to get snow-ready.”

Ray gave Fraser an innocent look. “You know anybody who might want to help with that?”

“As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking about taking some time off myself. Not planning mind you, more like toying with the idea.”

“Well, you do know the territory,” Ray said.

“I do. And if you don’t mind rough accommodations, my cabin would be a good place to prepare.”

“Rough? I’m thinking compared to what we’re talking about doing it’s gonna look like the Ritz.” Ray looked back at the fire as he went on, hating how insecure he felt. “You think you’ll be able to put up with me? In close quarters like that, I mean, with no intermediaries.”

“I think I’ve been waiting a long time for just that,” Fraser replied, and leaned in to give Ray a brief kiss.

“Okay, then” Ray said when they moved apart, ducking his head to hid a shy smile. “It’s a plan.” He sat back and stretched, then yawned. “Probably need to get some shut-eye before things get crazy tomorrow, huh?”

“We probably should,” Fraser agreed. Before Ray could stand up, Fraser put a hand on his leg. “I have something for you.”

“Is it a triple-thick blanket or a gigantic coffee overloaded with chocolate? Because those both sound pretty good right now.”

Fraser shook his head as he reached into his belt pouch. “More of a luck charm, I think,” he said, holding out Ray’s bracelet.

“You did find it,” Ray said as he took the chain from Fraser. “I hoped you would.”

“It’s never been far from me,” Fraser replied. “But I think it’s time it was returned to its rightful owner.”

***********

The next morning dawned bright and clear. Frobisher rallied the men with a speech that while quirky, definitely had an impact, even bringing Turnbull to tears.

Before they left, Fraser tucked a note into a makeshift collar for Dief, and sent him on his way.

“Reinforcements,” he told Ray and Frobisher when he saw them watching.

“Considering there’s no pastry shops in the middle of nowhere, he might actually get the message there,” Ray said with a wink.

“I have to admit I took that into account,” Fraser replied.

***********

The group arrived at the rendezvous point to find themselves the only ones there. Frobisher quickly set his men up in as strategic of locations as he could, while Ray and Fraser checked the map.

“And you’re sure this was where they said?” Ray asked. “I mean, there was kind of a lot going on, would’ve been easy to hear something wrong.”

“I’m positive, Ray. We just need to wait.”

The ice shifted beneath them, and Ray grabbed Fraser’s arm for support. “Any chance we could find someplace more stable to wait? One fall through the ice was enough for me.”

“We’ll be fine,” Fraser assured him.

Ray looked around. “If you say so. But I have to wonder why anybody’d choose this place for a meet. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why not just make the trade back in Chicago?”

“We’ll find out soon enough.”

“We better. I hate waiting.”

Fraser started to reply, then saw his father next to Buck. The two were speaking quietly.

Ray turned to say something, then followed Fraser’s gaze. “What? The old guy lost it or something?”

“No, he’s talking with Dad.”

“Hey, I almost forgot that Frobisher can see him.” He watched Frobisher for a minute. “What do you think they’re talking about?”

“They were partners for many years. I’m sure they still have a lot to say to one another.”

The ice shifted again, this time with a large crack that had Ray swearing. “I don’t care how safe you say this is, I am not feeling it!”

Frobisher started yelling for his men to stand ready, and Ray and Fraser looked around, trying to see what had changed.

Ray looked down and paled. “Fraser, I think we need to move. Now!” He grabbed Fraser by the arm and pulled him away just as the ice below them cracked open, and a submarine surfaced where they’d been standing.

“Jesus! What the hell is that doing there?” Ray exclaimed, eyes wide.

“I think we just found out what Muldoon was delivering to Cyrus Bolt, Ray, and why it had to be here. Unless I miss my guess, that is an upper class Russian Nuclear Submarine. Come on.”

He boarded the sub, and Ray followed. As they did, the sounds of a fight could be heard – Bolt and his men had arrived.

“You sure this is the right place to be?” Ray asked.

Fraser looked up and nodded. “I think everything’s well in hand,” he replied, pointing to the Mounties parachuting in. “Diefenbaker was successful.”

***********

They saw Muldoon, but he escaped before they could get to him. Fraser and Ray clambered out of the sub, ready to give chase. Grabbing the reins of one of the Mountie’s horses, Fraser swung himself into the saddle. He reached a hand out to Ray, who shook his head.

“You’ll make better time without me. Go on, get your man. I’ll catch up.”

Fraser nodded and took off. He finally caught up with Muldoon in a mine shaft, and wasn’t at all surprised to see his father already there. What was somewhat shocking was that Muldoon could see and hear him.

Muldoon’s capture was anticlimactic, other than the fact that Fraser’s father was actually able to knock Muldoon out with a punch to the jaw.

Fraser used his lanyard to tie Muldoon’s hands behind his back, then looked up at his father, who seemed even paler than he had a few nights before.

“Dad? What’s happening?”

“It’s the end of the line for me, son. With your help, I finally got my last man.”

“So you’re just leaving?”

Fraser Sr. looked down at himself. “Doesn’t look like I have much choice in the matter. Would’ve thought you’d be happy to see me go, as irritated as I made you.”

“I kind of got used to it,” Fraser said softly. “I’ll miss you.”

“Good to know, son. Good to know. But I think you’ll be busy with that Yank of yours. It’s probably best I’m not around for that, don’t you think?”

Fraser felt himself start to blush. “So you’re all right with Ray and I?” he asked.

“I’m not sure that’s the phrase I’d use, but…” his father’s voice trailed off as he looked behind Fraser like he’d seen a ghost. “Caroline?” he whispered

Fraser looked behind him and gasped. A figure was approaching, surrounded by soft light. She smiled and reached out to stroked Fraser’s cheek and hair. Then she turned to her husband, took his hand, and they faded away as Fraser watched, tears glistening on his cheeks.

When he took Muldoon out of the mine shaft, Ray was there, leaning over, hands on his knees as he caught his breath. He motioned toward Muldoon. “See you got your man.”

“With my father’s help, yes.”

Ray straightened up and gave Fraser a sharp look. “Hey, what happened? Are you okay?”

“I saw my mother, Ray. She smiled at me, and then she took my father’s hand, and they walked off together.”

“Like for good?”

“I don’t know. But I could feel how proud she was, how much she loved me. It was… indescribable.” He wiped a glove over his face. “I’m sorry, it just caught me off guard.”

“Don’t apologize. If it were me I’d be bawling like a baby.” He smiled at Fraser and gestured in the direction they’d left. “Let’s get him to the authorities, get this show on the road. Sooner we get him taken care of and close this case, sooner we can sled off into the sunset.”

Fraser took a deep breath and nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”