"Nick! Nick!" Don whispered from the hydrangea bushes. He looked around. Dammit. His partner had vanished again. If he had a nickel for every time Nick stepped off into the twilight zone, Don would have the first year's college tuition for Jenny. "Knight!" he called out, more loudly, and a hand clamped down on his shoulder. Don jumped about six inches off the ground.
"Keep it down, Schanke. We're supposed to be hiding." Nick gave him a grin.
Don laughed. "It wouldn't make any difference. There's no one here."
"Yeah, well, just kept telling yourself you're here to please the Captain."
Don hunkered down against the hydrangea again. "Cohen would have our asses if something goes wrong," he admitted. He rolled his eyes. "We shouldn't be here, skulking around in the garden looking for some Councilor's imaginary enemies. We should be on the streets, solving crime--" Don stopped. He realized that Nick had vanished on him. Again.
Don groaned and squinted into the night. How the hell did that guy move so fast and so quietly? With blond hair like his, he should be easy to spot. He tried to see into the murky night, but even with the lights on around the house, it pretty much just looked like trees and shrubs to him. And certainly nobody sneaking about. Other than Nick and himself, that was.
"Find anything yet?"
Don jumped about a foot off the ground. "Yeesh, Natalie. Make some noise or something."
Natalie shrugged, but didn't exactly look apologetic. "Sorry." She held up a clear plastic evidence baggie that contained something dark and lumpy. "I just thought you wanted to know that Forensics finished with this."
"It's dirt." She pushed the baggie into Don's hands. "Common dirt. You need to find something better to go on or Cohen's going to have a fit, you know." She folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. If nothing else, everyone had a common understanding that not pleasing Cohen was a very bad move.
Don put the bag of dirt in his pocket. "If there's anything to find. Just because the Councilor is hearing noises and thinks someone is sneaking around his property at night doesn't mean that someone actually is." In fact, Don thought, it was more likely than not, that the Councilor was just having some power play over the police force. It'd happened before. Back a few years. Don still remembered the hours upon useless hours of going through the trash heap looking for a couple of used up tv dinners because the guy thought someone had tried to poison him. And then it turned out that the guy was just becoming severely lactose intolerant.
Natalie peered through the hydrangea bushes. "No luck, then. Hey, where's Nick?"
Don managed not to jump at all that time. He was starting to get used to all the coming and going.
"I found some footwear impressions. In the dirt below one of the windows. By the rose trellis."
Natalie gave Don a smug look and Don took a deep, steadying breath. Dirt again. "Let's go see it, then, buddy."
They risked using the flashlights. Don squatted next to the impressions. There were lots of them. Sneaker treads, if he knew his stuff. The well manicured lawn ended just before the trellis, and the dirt was soft, just perfect for leaving marks.
"Looks like someone wearing sneakers," Natalie said.
"Size eight," Nick said.
"How can you see that?" Don tried angling the flashlight, but he certainly couldn't see much impression detail in the dark.
Nick ignored his questions, as usual. If Schanke had a nickel for every time Nick ignored one of his questions, he'd have college tuition for Jenny's second year paid off. Nick looked up at the house. "I think I just figured it out."
Natalie looked up too. "Me, too."
Don scowled. "Well, then someone let me in on the secret!"
Nick laughed. "How old's your daughter?"
"Well, she's--" Don gasped. He looked up. "The scoundrel!"
The three of them went and tucked themselves behind another overly large hydrangea to wait it out. Natalie smirked and punched Nick in the arm, who grinned and ducked his head. Don tried to rationalize getting souvlaki for dinner, considering the new diet he was supposed to be on. The trees loomed darkly, the bushes swished in the evening air, and whatever it was that did all that chirping and peeping all night long did all the chirping and peeping.
Then, they saw him.
"Bye, I love you," whispered the Councilor's daughter, like Juliet at the window.
"I love you too," he whispered back. In the darkness, the leaves on the trellis rustled, the trellis creaked, and as soon as his sneakered feet hit the ground, Nick grabbed one arm and Don the other.
Don gave the boyfriend credit. He didn't jump.