It’s four months before Detective Rosa Diaz begins to suspect Gina Linetti, civilian, has moved in with her.
The apartment looks the same, her sleek leather couch shining and well oiled, pin lights highlighting fine china on their shelves. The marble counters bear only the faintest marks of where endless whiskey tumblers have sweated rings.
But there’s a foreign and half-eaten pint of triple chocolate macadamia nut gelato in the freezer that shouldn’t be there. And with one of her many sharp knives, Rosa retrieves a glittery hair clip from the crack between her mattress and bedframe. She extracts from her own closet a pair of mustard yellow spandex workout pants and holds them uncomprehending up to the light.
She vows then and there to follow the clues wherever they might lead her, even if she doesn’t like what she finds.
Rosa, a detective to her very core, knows how to solve a mystery. She slams a case brief down on the desk of her first suspect slash possible witness. "How long have you known?"
"Rosa, Rosa," Jake says. "I figured out the case mere moments after da— I mean Captain Holt— assigned it to us. The perp is clearly the moustachio’d man. How do I know? Well, it always is. No one would wax their moustache to such a curled perfection other than one who is in the habit of twirling said mustache around his finger."
"I wasn’t asking about the case," Rosa says. "I was asking about…" she darts her eyes to the desk of the woman in question. "Gina."
Jake follows her surreptitious look and then leans in, always ready for intrigue. "Gina? What did she do this time?"
He has known her since they were kids, so Rosa knows he will take this seriously. He’s seen firsthand what Gina does to snitches, so Rosa can trust him to keep his mouth shut.
"Maybe you don’t know?" Rosa says. "I found some of her stuff in my apartment. And I need to know what it means."
"I’m sure it’s nothing. She's pretty good at picking locks."
"No, I mean, I let her in, but—" Rosa says. Jake gasps but she shuts him up with a look. "—but it’s just, I am getting the feeling that maybe she...lives there."
Jake stares at her blankly. "At your apartment."
Rosa stares back. "Yeah."
"And now she’s leaving her stuff there. And living there. Without you noticing."
"Yeah. You of all people should realize she’s wiley."
Jake nods, squinting into the middle distance. "Like a coyote."
"She probably did it subtly and insidiously. It probably happened right in front of me and I didn’t even see it."
"Well did anything happen leading up to this...moving in?"
Rosa considers this, thinks about the all-nighter she just pulled, hours spent connecting the many bits of evidence with red yarn, until she'd hammered an entire, complex evidence chart into her livingroom wall. "Well, it was May. We’d been—"
"—involved," Jake finishes. "I knew it."
"Shut up, no. We were just...talking," Rosa corrects him. She waits until he puts up his hands in concession. "Anyway, when you and me were falsely imprisoned I called her and—"
"Aw, she was your one phone call? This is getting cuter by the second."
"Shut up, Peralta. I was only calling to ask her to take care of my…" she pauses, looking at Jake, who’d been her partner for years now, the best partner she’d ever had if she was ever pressed to admit it. "Can I trust you?"
Jake springs to his feet. "A thousand times yes, mi’lady —"
"Sit down, Peralta!" She tries to lower her voice as he lowers back into the chair. When she's sure everyone's finally looked away again and gone back to their work, she admits, "...fish."
Jake’s mouth opens in joy. "Is it cute? Is it gold?"
"Yes. And yes."
"And then what happened?"
"That’s as much detail as I can give you at this time."
"I understand. Hm. Well, I’ve solved a case on much less." Jake finds the carmelly peanut candy bar he keeps in his desk for occasions like these, when he really needs to ‘chew things over.’ He chews things over for a long time then says, "I got nothin."
Rosa rolls her eyes. "Great."
He puts up a finger. "But! Give me a couple hours to mull it over and I’ll get you your motive!"
Rosa isn’t hopeful.
"Boyle," she says, accosting her second possible source as he is heating up what appears to be an oily medly of mushrooms in the breakroom microwave. "You’re clingy and overly romantic. Your eating habits disgust me. But you also have a successful marriage, and you and Gina are like family to each other."
He smiles. "Correct. She’s like a sister to me, you would never guess we didn’t grow up in each others’ pockets. In fact, once when we were at a Boyle family reunion—"
"I haven’t even gotten to the point of my story yet."
"Still gross." She goes into interview mode and barks out. "Ok, Boyle. In all the time you’ve known Gina, has she ever left anything at your place?"
"No, Gina is very meticulous."
Charles smiles. "Why? Is she leaving stuff at your place? You know, I’ve found that that’s a sign that someone wants to be closer to you and—"
"Ew, Charles. I don’t want to know about your gross habits. Is there any other reason someone would do something like that?"
He strokes his chin for a full minute, during which time Scully and Hitchcock snore on the breakroom couch, and Holt and Terry have a muffled conversation by the coffee. Then Boyle comes back with, "I got nothin. What did Jake say?"
"He couldn’t solve it."
"Then I definitely can’t." His eyes light up. "Hey, I know. Did you try asking Gina directly?"
"Of course not." Rosa rolls her eyes and mutters. "I can’t believe I’ve been trying to take advice from you dummies."
Boyle’s eyes grow three sizes. "You’re planning on taking advice...from me?"
"Was." Rosa yanks the door open with a clatter. "Advice over."
Amy’s no help either.
She slaps her palms down on her desk and gapes. "She knows where you live?"
Leave it to Amy to read between the lines. She might be one of the best detectives around but she really can’t keep her cool.
Rosa stares her down. Amy’s look of wonder turns to barely concealed glee.
"I promise I won’t ask her the location or any other details about your decorating style." She puts her hand over her heart. "Although why you would trust Gina of all people to—"
"You tell anyone, and I’ll burn your Holt quotes diary. I know where you keep it." She looks at Amy’s drawer. "Filed under ‘H’ for ‘Holt.’"
"Filing it under any other letter would be wrong. Ok, I’ll keep my mouth shut." Rosa is inclined to go ahead with questioning but then Amy says, "Rosa, can I just say, I have been waiting for the moment you decided to open up to me. I am all about girl talk. I mean, in theory. I’ve never done it really, but I am so here for you. So what were you going to ask me?"
Rosa stands. "Nothing. You already know too much."
As she leaves, she hears Amy pound a fist on the desk, and say to herself, "Dammit, Santiago!"
It’s been a long and unproductive day. The cases are piling up. Robberies, gambling rings. Innocent peoples’ lives are at risk but all Rosa’s been able to do is stare blankly at the case briefs, visions of triple chocolate gelato and glittering hair clips dancing before her eyes. When she becomes too antsy to sit, she spends the entire afternoon pacing the break room with a mug of coffee, trapped in her thoughts, finally taking a sip only to find her coffee cold. The mug shatters as it hits the tile floor but it does little to satisfy Rosa’s despair. She cleans the shards despondantly. They're like the shards of her fractured mind.
At four thirty-five pm, the old copy/fax machine jams when she tries to print out an email Gina had sent her yesterday, x’s and o’s and the "my dearest Rosa" swimming before her eyes. What does it all mean? She takes out her frustrations on the beeping machine, smashing the top with her police baton and retrieving the crumpled email but no one blinks an eye at the sound, a fact which she's not exactly proud of.
At five, despairing and having made little headway on her unofficial case, she slings her leather jacket over her shoulder and makes to leave. To go home and sip whiskey on her couch and stare at the wall until dawn.
Before she can get very far, Gina’s chair spins to reveal Gina herself, fingers steepled, one eyebrow artfully quirked. "Well well well," she drawls. "If it isn’t Detective Diaz."
Rosa pauses, caught out by the very person who has consumed her thoughts.
"Trying to sneak out early?"
"Maybe," Rosa says.
"You do know I have eyes and ears around the office. Please, sit." Gina nods to the spinny chair that has been placed across from her desk as if for this very purpose.
Rosa takes the bait. She lowers herself into the chair and eyes Gina with suspicion. "You know I’ve been asking about you."
"Oh yes," she says. "In fact, every one of your three witnesses came forward with very little threat of blackmail. I’ve been doing an investigation of my own, you see. Why has Rosa been acting so suspicious all day, avoiding this side of the office and pacing like a caged bear, when just last night we were enjoying a film on your couch without a care in the world?"
"And why was a blanket duct taped over one of your walls this morning? Curiouser and curiouser, methinks."
"Ok, I’ll break." Rosa stares her dead in the eyes and asks, "Do you live with me?"
"Ho ho," Gina crows.
"That’s not an answer. You’ve been at my place every night since...well, since I got back from jail. And your stuff is everywhere. All evidence points to cohabitation. Do you deny it?"
"I do not," says Gina raising an eyebrow, which is answer enough. Rosa is surprised to feel a tentative — relief. Now that she’s gotten a clear answer, that her suspicions are confirmed, she feels on more steady ground.
"As I thought," she says. "Why wasn’t I made aware this?"
"Allow me to bring this scene to the attention of the jury," Gina says, in tones of one weaving a tale that she remembers from long off years. "The time was 9:35 p.m. September the 29th, the day we ordered delivery…"
"Thai," Rosa fills in. "Papaya salad, spicy. Very spicy."
She remembers because it happened three days before she went to prison. Gina had asked her out for a drink, which turned into a couple more. This faded easily into going back to her place, as always, which turned into—
"Very spicy," Gina lands on. "Yes. Some might venture to say...too spicy."
"I fail to see how this led to four months of you—"
"Ah ah ah." Gina raises a finger. "There’s more."
Rosa settles into the chair more comfortably. This could take a while.
"I went to answer the door. The delivery man said, ‘here’s your order.’ I paid, you said you’d get the next one. You took a bite and I did as well. A minute later, you were crying—"
"I was not!"
"Three tears!" Gina says, and pulls up a photo on her phone of Rosa with a mouth full of food, eyes...watering.
"It was sweat," Rosa says. "In my eyes."
"Objection overruled." Gina puts her phone away and leans back so far Rosa is sure her chair is going to flip over, but somehow Gina pulls it off.
She puts her boots up on the desk and folds her hands over her stomach, squinting at the ceiling. The only thing that would complete the picture more would be if Gina had a cigar smoking away between her glossy lips.
"Well?" Rosa says after a time.
"Ah yes. Our story continues. After we finished I went to grab my keys. You said, ‘Where do you think you’re going’ and I said, ‘Wouldn’t you like to know,’ and you said ‘Stay,’ and I said ‘Maybe.’"
"Ah." Now that Gina mentions it, Rosa does remember something like that going down. "But your place was under renovation. Adding a jaccuzzi tub or something, right? I was being nice."
"Ah, but there’s more. I did stay that night—" she pauses while both of them remember what went down after thai food, then continues, "And it was three nights later that you were thrown in the slammer. Wrongly accused and beautiful. How you kept your lipstick so on point while suffering such indignities we would all like to know. Everyone on my blog at least."
"Anyhoo, you requested my presence for an undetermined period of time, calling me from prison to request I tend to Mr. Guppy. I honored the recently incarcerated’s wishes. Now twice asked to stay, I stayed. And I fed your fish. Is he not alive to this day?"
"He is." Rosa’d returned to find him swimming around happily in his tank. "Hm."
"Aha!" Jake says, skidding up to them in his chair. "I’ve figured it out! Rosa! You two are togethe—"
"Jake, hold this," Gina interrupts, handing him a fire extinguisher.
He looks crestfallen. "Ok," he says.
She raises an eyebrow. "Now turn it on."
"Oh," he says, waggling his eyebrows meaningfully. "I see you’ve got this covered. I understand." He looks only a little disappointed as he turns on the fire extinguisher which propels him away, halfway across the office.
"So, my evidence rests. What say ye?" Gina drops her feet from the desk and in a stage whisper, says, "But in all seriousness, the bathroom renovation was finished weeks ago, so I can go home if you w—"
"No!" Rosa shouts. "I mean, no. It’s fine. You can stay, I mean, if you want."
If Rosa were questioned at gunpoint, she might admit that she likes having Gina around. Even loves it.
A smile spreads across Gina’s face as Rosa fumbles to save her dignity. "I mean, stay if you need to. You could probably rent out your place, now that it has a badass jacuzzi tub."
"Any other reason you might want me to stay?"
Rosa squints at Gina, who looks adorable in her pumpkin-print crewneck sweater. "I like the way the sunlight shines off your dumb hair, ok?"
"As I thought," Gina says smugly. "Oh how the tables have turned. The detected," she waves to herself. "Has become the detective."
Rosa looks at her for a long time. Then says, "Do you want to get out of here?"
"I see defeat suits you. Proposition accepted," Gina says, and puts her bejeweled cell phone into her bag.
As they leave together, Rosa's arm linked through Gina's, she hears Holt saying, "I must confess myself confused. Nay, flummoxed."
"Why’s that, sir?" asks Terry.
"I had believed they were...dating."
"Oh they are, sir. And just wait til Rosa finds out."
Rosa can feel her mouth quirking into a smile against her will, but no one catches it as the elevator doors close behind them.