Mike Kellerman huddled into a ball on his couch, feeling the gentle rocking of the water under his boat. On the surface, it looked easy enough. Easy to take out one slightly used ex-murder police in a heavily armed urban area. Guns came cheap in Baltimore.
It couldn't be a lack of courage. Mike Kellerman had never doubted his own courage, but then he'd never doubted his integrity either… before. Before the corruption accusations, and certainly before one rushed, uncertain moment that had ended up with a bullet in Luther Mahoney and his ultimate disgrace.
And now it was already over, the part of him that had a point. Sacrificed for the good of the department, of his ex-partner. The ungrateful bastard, Lewis.
But he had gotten lucky, really, he could have easily done jail time and now...
He was so lucky and now the thing that had mattered most was gone. No more Mikey the cop, no more speaker for the dead. All that was left was the cold end of a gun or… or what?
Suddenly he wasn't sure. He needed a drink, but he couldn't help remembering the biker laughing at him in that bar. Laughing at the guy who wasn't a cop anymore… Maybe his unit would get called in when they found his body. Maybe it would be Lewis. Maybe he'd feel guilty then.
God. Just… God. With a violent gesture Mike slammed his head into the couch. That was a stupid thought, it was all so stupid. Maybe he really was afraid of dying. Maybe his catholic upbringing just wouldn't let him go through with it.
Maybe he should at least get a gun. A gun to replace the one Falsonie had taken in the box. And what right had the rookie had to ask for it? What right? Never mind.
He'd get himself a gun and then he'd have a choice to make. A gun and a drink.
The plan seemed to ease something inside of him. Now he knew what he was doing. It would work. He smiled, pulled on his jacket and went out bar hopping.
Dim lights skittered across a wooden bar, and Mikey realized it was getting hard to focus his eyes. Tired as much as drunk, though. First the red ball… And then… he hadn't had much sleep after.
It was well after two in the morning when he stumbled back into the marina, smashed out of his mind. Not that it mattered. No place to go tomorrow anyway. No place.
He fingered the gentle edge of his purchase. Not exactly a legal weapon, legally obtained, but it would do. Hell of a way to con himself out of a hangover. He smiled sweetly to himself and hummed the bars of some sappy pop song.
All was right now. It was gonna be okay.
Except for Lewis there waiting in front of his boat. He blinked; taking the sight of the light skinned black man in, not someone he had expected to see again. Ever.
In his state it was quite a cause for amusement. So he started laughing. Hoarse and bitter laughter.
"Mikey?" Lewis sounded nervous. Moved up to Kellerman gingerly. Mike watched him, and stopped laughing after a moment.
"What are you doing here?" He demanded. "It's over."
"I came," Lewis sighed and ran a nervous hand through his hair. "I came to see if you were okay."
"I'm fine, Lewis. Sympathy visit fulfilled. You can leave now." He started to move past his former partner, but Lewis blocked the way.
"Listen man, I know it's rough, but its not the end of the world. You aren't being charged with anything, you still have a chance to be something else." Lewis reached out to touch Mike's shoulder.
"Oh golly gee, thanks. Why didn't I think of that?" He smacked his forehead. "Just the thing to make it all better! You're a genius, Lewis. Go home."
"Mikey--" Meldrick began.
"Why the hell are you being so nice to me, all of the sudden? You couldn't say two words yesterday," Mike demanded suddenly.
"I…" Lewis met his eyes for a brief moment and then dropped his gaze. There was something deep and confused in those eyes. Something Mike had seen in his own from the moment Luther Mahoney had gone down. Hadn't even realized it before now, but it had been there.
"So this is guilt, huh? I blow the back of my head open and you feel bad because you didn't try to stop me. Or maybe, just maybe it bothers you that I took all the heat for Mahoney and you got out intact. Well? Partner?" Mike smiled until the expression slipped into a sneer.
"Gee isn't exactly gonna be handling this thing with kid gloves, Mikey. Me and Stivers are in for a hell of time proving ourselves to him," Lewis said, still not meeting Kellerman's gaze.
"For filing a false report, as far as he knows. If he found exactly how Mahoney got your gun and how I ended up shooting the shit bastard, you'd be out on your ass too. If he didn't decide to press charges after all." Mike laughed again, suddenly unable to hold it back.
"Jesus, get a grip. You can still tell him if you want." Lewis was suddenly angry, again.
Mike collected himself with an effort. The alcohol buzz was wearing off and he just felt tired. "I didn't tell when the great Frank Pembleton had me in the box, and I'm not going to give it up now. Sleep easy, Meldrick. Go home."
He drew himself up and stumbled toward his boat, when suddenly the ground was a lot closer than it had been. Lewis caught his elbow just before he hit the ground. He started to help Mike to his feet, when his fingers accidentally brushed against the gun.
"Dammit, Mike!" He shouted, grasping his ex-partner's face in his hands. "What good do you think this will do? If they find your body tomorrow morning, if you--"
"You'll what? Just what am I supposed to do? Keep chartering the boat? Get a goddamned PI license? It was my life man, being a cop. It was everything I ever wanted. You know it." The last was whispered. Mike tried to squirm out of Meldrick's grasp, but he was held fast.
"Why don't we at least go inside. This is a public place. We have to talk." Lewis whispered.
"Look, I'm tired. I haven't exactly had a funfilled couple of days. They won't find my body tomorrow morning, I swear. Just let me--"
"I didn't let you before, and I won't this time. No one else is dying on me, Kellerman, particularly not you." Without another word, he guided his former partner inside, and for once Mike didn't quite know how to protest.
"So now what?" Mike mumbled. The adrenaline of the argument had faded and his exhaustion hit him again in full blast.
"You need to get some sleep. I'll be here." Lewis moved Mike to the bedroom and laid his down like he was a rag doll. Mike watched him through wary, exhausted blue eyes.
"Maybe I don't want some sleep. Or you here, maybe…" he shook his head, as if to clear it.
"And I'll take that gun." Lewis pulled it away without much protest on Kellerman's part.
"Falsone took my gun, you know. Like I was some sleazebag murderer in the box. Took my gun… it's not right." Mike whispered. Lewis looked away, something shifting in his stomach.
"I'm sorry, man." He managed. He moved to pull off Mike's boots.
"Really, Meldrick. You wouldn't have any designs on my person, here…" Mike whispered.
"Shut up, Mikey. Go to sleep." And, unable to do anything else, Mike did just that.