To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those of us who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.
Hermione Gingold, “The World is Square”
He is the biggest, craziest motherfucker in Major Crimes, and I’m here to tell you that Major Crimes is full of big, crazy motherfuckers.
I mean, I was in Vice for five years before I finally got bumped up to MC. I’ve seen some shit, okay? But nothing, absolutely nothing comes close to the shit I saw up there. Yeah, I know, you’d think three days wouldn’t be long enough to see much. Well, there are some places where three days is a fucking eternity, and Major Crimes is one of ’em. I’m telling you, you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve seen that mental case Ellison in action.
I know, I know. Hey, all my time in Vice I heard about the great Jim Ellison. Army hero. Toughest SOB in Cascade. Smartest cop on the force. Local boy made good. Cop of the Year three years running. Hell. When I heard I was his new partner, I just about shit in my pants – and I’m no slouch. He should have been glad to have me, after his last so-called partner. I got the best closure rate in Vice, and my record is clean as a whistle, unlike certain longhaired, four-eyed freaks who shall remain nameless.
But was he glad to have me? Hell, no. First day on the job, right? First fucking day, and he starts with me, before we’re even out of Banks’ office. I mean, Ellison looked at me like I was something his cat barfed up the whole time Banks was introducing us. Thought for a minute he wasn’t going to shake my hand, but he did.
And Banks gave me a real talking-up, too – knew my record cold and said Major Crimes was lucky to have me on board. “I think you two will make a good team. Let’s try it out for a couple weeks and see how it goes,” he says.
“Yes, sir,” says Ellison, all ice. And no kidding, there’s this little muscle in his jaw that starts twitching all over the goddamn place, like it’s going to jump out of his face and do the fucking Macarena on Banks’ desk, I swear to God. I should have known right there he was crazy, but I thought he was just strung out.
You know, from all that Superman crap. Do you believe he’s still got reporters asking him if he’s some kind of mutant? We had to ditch a couple of ’em while I was riding with him. It’s been over a month since that went down. And who’d have thought that anybody with half a brain would believe that shit in the first place? But the eggheads at Rainier believed it, so of course the whole damn world ran out and bought stock in Captain Senses, or whatever the fuck Shit-for-Brains Sandburg called him.
Anyway, my first day partnered with Ellison was hell. Total hell. So was the second day, come to think of it, and the third day – well, there was no third day. Fuck, let’s take this one day at a time.
We spent the morning going over Ellison’s open cases – not that there were that many. Hell, you could count ’em on one hand. I figured he’d be a little behind the eight ball what with his “partner” being gone for three weeks. I mean, the little geek was probably useless on the street, but eggheads are great at paperwork. But man, Ellison closes cases faster than I can whip my dick out, partner or no partner. A call came in just as we were finishing up – homicide down by the harbor – so we headed out.
We go down to the garage and get in his truck, which is this powder blue piece of crap Ford. You’d think a detective with his seniority could afford something hot, so I kind of kid him about it, to break the ice, you know? I mean, we’d spent the last two hours going over those cases and I don’t think he said more than ten words the whole time.
“1969?” I say. “Hell, nothing made in 1969 is worth shit, Ellison.”
Well, Ellison peels out of the garage like a bat out of hell. Doesn’t even look at me. “Do me a favor, Corbin,” he says after a minute, and he’s holding the steering wheel so tight his knuckles are white. “Keep your opinions to yourself.”
“What’s your problem?” I say, and I’m getting pissed. I can cut a guy some slack when he’s strung out, but he’d been giving me this Mr. Freeze garbage for hours, and I’d just about had it. “It was a joke.”
“I’m not laughing.”
“Yeah, I noticed. You got something against me, Ellison? Cause if you do, let’s have it out in the open.”
He looks at me, and his face changes a little bit, and he says, “No. I’ve got nothing against you.”
“Then what the fuck is the problem? You think I’m not a good enough cop to ride with you?”
“You’re a good cop, Corbin.”
“You’re damn right I am.” I breathe and try to cool off, try to remember he’s been through the ringer for the past month. “Look. I know that little prick screwed you over good. And I know getting used to a new partner doesn’t come easy-”
Ellison slams on the brakes, and if I hadn’t had my belt on I’d have gone right through the windshield. There’s squealing brakes and horns blaring and people yelling all around us, but he’s staring at me like he doesn’t hear any of it – hell, he looks like he wants to fucking skin me alive and stomp on what’s left. “Let’s get something straight,” he says, and he’s almost hissing he’s so mad. “You’re not my partner.”
Shit green! I’d be damned if I’d let that pass. “The hell I’m not! Look, Ellison, I busted my ass to make Major Crimes. I’ve earned this-”
“You’re not my partner. I don’t give a damn what you’ve earned.”
“What the fuck-”
“My captain says you ride with me – so you ride. But you’ll never be my partner, got it? I don’t care how good you are. You’re not my partner. Do you read me?” His face is as white as his knuckles, and that damn jaw muscle is jumping, and his eyes are like some psycho perp’s – and I don’t mind telling you, the hair on the back of my neck went up. You don’t mess with Ellison when he’s pissed.
I was mad as hell, but I didn’t say anything. I mean, I read him all right. I read him just fine. He’d been screwed by that bastard Sandburg, and he never wanted another partner. Hell, if I’d been in his shoes I might feel the same way. Your partner is the one guy you trust to watch your back; you don’t expect him to stick a knife in it. And it sure looked like Ellison had considered Sandburg his partner, even if he wasn’t a cop. Which was pretty damn stupid, because nobody but a cop can understand what being a partner’s about. But, hell, I guess even the Cop of the Year gets stupid once in awhile.
So anyway, I let it go. I figure maybe he needs time to get over what happened and get used to the idea of a new partner. And to get used to me. I mean, he doesn’t know me from shit. I could be another asshole trying to ride his coattails and sell his ass down the river for all he knows. I think maybe once he sees me in action he’ll come around.
So we get down to that stretch of railroad down by the harbor, you know the place? Forensics is already down there, and there’s this poor son of a bitch in a business suit lying face-down in the mud beside the tracks with his head bashed in. Ellison talks to the uniform that found him, and to the lead forensics guy, and I’m standing there like a fucking idiot, you know? He doesn’t introduce me – hell, I might as well be the goddamn invisible man. So I introduce myself – as Ellison’s new partner.
Ellison gives me that dead meat look again and turns his back to me. And while I'm making small talk with the forensics guy, I can see him out of the corner of my eye going over the stuff in the evidence bag. Stuff from the guy's pockets: keys, pocketknife, business card case, loose change. He opens up the business card case and mutters "Avery Charges" under his breath. Then he squats down beside the body and calls over to the forensics guy again.
“No wallet, Ray?”
“Nope,” says Ray, packing up his kit.
“Cigars?” I turn to look at Ellison, but he’s staring off down the railroad track.
“No, no cigars. Why, Jim, you want a smoke?” Ray laughs to himself. Guess he’s used to Ellison’s weird shit.
“Thanks, Ray,” says Ellison, kind of distracted-like, and starts walking down the middle of the tracks, heading toward the warehouse district.
I’m staring after him. “Ellison, where the hell are you going?”
He doesn’t answer me, and Ray laughs again and gives me a look. “You better get used to that if you’re going to work with Jim. He does his own thing. Better stick close to him, though, if you want to be in on the bust.”
“The bust?” I’m staring at Ray now. “What bust?”
Ray shrugs. “I know that look. He’s onto something. Better get moving.”
“I’ll be damned if I’m hiking down an active rail line to god-knows-where because Ellison’s got some hunch he won’t even tell me about,” I say, and I sound pissed because I am pissed.
Ray shrugs again and picks up his cases. “Your funeral.” He walks off toward his van, then stops to talk to the M.E. for a minute. They look at me, then pretend they weren’t looking at me, then start talking real soft and shaking their heads like there’s something wrong with me.
With me! Was I the one strolling down one of the most active rail lines in the Northwest, going nowhere, when we had a case to solve? Shit! I look down the line at Ellison, and he’s really moving now, almost jogging. “Son of a bitch,” I say, not loud enough for anybody to hear. I get back in the truck and start it up, then swing onto this narrow access road that runs along the east side of the tracks, and follow the loony toon. It only took me a minute to catch up to him.
I slow down and roll down the window. “Hey! Ellison! Where are you going?”
He doesn’t answer me. He doesn’t even look at me. He’s staring straight ahead and taking these deep breaths, like … hell, I don’t know what it was like, except fucking weird.
“Ellison!” I yell this time, but he keeps right on going. “Fine. I’ll meet you at the Cyclops complex.” I floor it and leave him behind, disgusted. I mean, who can work like this? With a partner who won’t talk to you? Hell, with a partner who won’t even admit you’re his partner? The guy must be nuts. Or an asshole. Or both. Shit!
The Cyclops Oil storage complex is only a few hundred yards ahead, so I pull into the first parking spot I see and turn off the engine. And I wait. And I wait. And I wait some more. And just when I’ve decided to let Ellison play with himself and go get myself a Big Mac, I hear the train whistle.
I jump out of the Ford and run over to the tracks. I can see Ellison; he’s slowed down and he’s bent over a little, like he’s looking for something. I hear the train whistle again. Hell, everybody for five miles around must hear the train whistle. But does Ellison hear the train whistle? Fuck, no! So much for Superman. Or if he does hear it, he doesn’t give a damn. You know what he does? He squats down on the tracks.
You heard me! He squats on the fucking tracks! Well, I start yelling. And he ignores me. He picks something up and smells it. I see the headlight of the train coming around the bend; it’s coming on fast and I start running toward him, shouting at the top of my lungs. But he’s not moving.
“Ellison! Move! Move!”
He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t even look up. There’s no way in hell I can get to him in time, and even if I could, there’s no way in hell I’m getting myself killed trying to save a guy who wants to die as bad as Ellison does. He must have heard the train, heard me yelling. But he doesn’t move – that is, until that damn engine is almost on top of him, blaring its horn nonstop. Then suddenly he looks around, like he’s waking up from a nice nap, gets a load of what’s coming up behind him and rolls out of the way, just in time to avoid being trackburger.
He lies there for a minute looking like somebody had punched him in the head a few times, then gets up and walks toward me, holding something to his nose.
“Are you fucking mental?” I scream at him over the noise of the train.
Ellison stops in front of me and shoves something into my face. “Have a cigar.”
I smack the thing away from my face. “If I want a cigar I can buy my own!”
“Sometimes a cigar isn’t just a cigar,” says Ellison, and he looks at me like I’m supposed to know what the fuck that means. Then he kind of grimaces and turns toward the warehouses and storage tanks. He starts walking fast, like he knows where he’s going.
“Now what? Dammit, Ellison, we’re supposed to be working a homicide!”
“That’s what I’m doing,” he says, all ice again. “So just stay out of my way.”
“And what the fuck do cigars have to do with it?”
“Nothing.” He starts walking even faster; he pulls his gun. “Keep your voice down.” He points to one of those corrugated steel maintenance sheds off to our right. He heads over that way with his gun raised, moving like a guy who’s seen a lot of action.
I follow him, not knowing whether to call for backup or a straightjacket – and then I see that the padlock on the shed door’s been forced. Shit. I pull my gun from my holster and flatten myself against the shed, wondering if Ellison knows what he’s doing after all. Ellison looks at me and nods, all business now, and with this one, truly smooth move he turns and kicks the door in.
Yeah, it was impressive. There’s no mistaking that Ranger combat training, you can see it in the way he moves. Those lowlife perps inside the shed saw it, that’s for damn sure. I was right behind Ellison, and man, they couldn’t get on their faces fast enough. Oh yeah, they were the ones. Found Avery Charles’ wallet on ’em, and the pipe they used to pound his head in. And a few of Charles’ expensive cigars.
How the hell should I know? Maybe he’s one of those … whaddya call ’em, idiot savants. You know, the crazies who can play Beethoven or do math in their heads. Well, you tell me, then! There’s no denying the bastard gets results. He closes cases. He’s one tough motherfucker … and there’s also no denying he’s fucking certifiable. He sits on railroad tracks when the fucking trains are coming, man!
Anyway, that was the first day. Oh, except for one thing.
We hauled in those perps, and I was flying pretty high. You know how it is when you make a clean collar in record time. I was juiced – I’d done a damn good job backing Ellison up going through that door, and I expected him to say so. You know, maybe admit he might have been wrong about not wanting me for a partner. Well, he didn’t say so. He didn’t say a damn thing.
So we’re standing at the counter in Booking, doing the paperwork, and I say, “Not bad work for two guys who aren’t partners.”
Ellison doesn’t even look up, and I start to get pissed again.
“I came through today, Ellison.”
“That’s something partners do.”
“Drop it, Corbin.”
“Guess coming through’s something you’re not used to, huh?”
Ellison’s head jerks up.
I try again. “Look, Ellison, I’m not going to screw you over, okay? I’m a cop, not some egghead freak out for a free ride-”
“Corbin.” There’s something in his voice that stops me cold, even though he’s staring straight ahead and not looking at me. “You bad-mouth Sandburg one more time, and so help me God, I’ll knock you into next week.”
Yeah! I swear to God, that’s what he said. He’s lost it, I’m telling you. I mean, after what that little scumbag tried to do to him, he’s playing big brother? Well, what could I say? You don’t argue with a crazy man.
And that was the first day. Think so? Well, hold on to your ass, man, it gets better.
I get into the station the next morning, okay? And everybody’s all gathered around Banks’ secretary’s computer. They’re all reading the screen and laughing and talking.
“He’s had enough of LA. Yeah, more like LA’s had enough of him, if I know Sandburg.” Rafe is kind of cackling, like he likes the idea of Sandburg trashing LA.
“When’d you get this, Rhonda?” Taggert is reading over her shoulder, and he’s grinning. I don’t know Taggert too good, but he’s not the grinning kind, you know?
And Rhonda is like, I don’t know, beaming, like she’s just won the lottery or something. “It came in just before I left last night.”
“He sounds good!” Brown looks at Rafe, but Rafe is reading the screen again and laughing.
“He sounds great. Does Jim know?” Conner asks this in a real low voice, and everybody kind of looks at each other for a second.
“I don’t know,” Rhonda says, real soft. “Blair doesn’t say they talked. Just that he’s coming back.”
“They need to talk,” says Conner in that weird accent of hers. Yeah, Australian. Not bad to look at, but I can’t hardly understand a word she says. And damned if she isn’t all wound up, too! You know, all happy and excited. “They should have talked before Blair left.”
“Yeah, well, you know Jim,” says Taggert, and he’s shaking his head.
Well, fucking-A! The little bastard was coming back to Cascade, and here they all were celebrating! I couldn’t fucking believe it. That hippie prick should have been prosecuted. I mean, he totaled Ellison’s life, trashed his rep, made him a bad joke for every lowlife in Cascade. It’s driven him one hundred percent pure bugshit, and his so-called friends want him to go back for more?
“What the hell is there for them to talk about?” I say, and I’m pissed again. Hell, I spent my whole time in Major Crimes pissed, come to think of it. “Talking to Sandburg is what got Ellison screwed over in the first place. I’m surprised you guys didn’t get together and accidentally break that freak’s legs.”
Well, the whole damn bullpen gets like the morgue on a Sunday morning. I mean, everybody stops what they’re doing and stares at me, even the fucking doughnut girl, and then that big motherfucker Brown straightens up and says, “What did you say?”
And I straighten up too, so I’m almost as tall as him, and I say, “I said that scumbag Sandburg is a backstabbing freak, and somebody should have taught him not to fuck with a cop’s rep. You got a problem with that?”
“You bloody moron,” says Conner, and her nose is all wrinkled up like she smells last week’s garbage on me. Rhonda rolls her eyes and turns her back to me.
“I think you’ve got a problem,” says Rafe, and he’s looking at me like he’s thinking about wedging a meat cleaver up my ass. “And I’d get rid of it damn quick if I were you.”
“Sandburg was part of this squad for three years,” says Taggert, and Christ, this guy looks like a big, black teddy bear, but don’t get him mad. “You’ve been here two days.”
Well, Christ on a crooked crutch! That tore it. I mean, that just fucking tore it. “A part of the squad? That little bastard wasn’t a cop, he was a tag-along and a leech who tried to make a freak out of Ellison for a quick buck, and the only reason he called off the scam was that he lost his nerve! Shit! With friends like you, it’s no wonder the poor bastard’s melted down.”
Then Brown comes at me, but Taggert blocks him and Rafe grabs Brown’s arm, and I know they aren’t going to pound me, no matter how mad they get. Probably because deep down they know I’m right. “Sandburg’s a cop in every way that counts,” says Taggert, and it’s weird how the guy can be that mad and stay that quiet. “He could have a gold shield any time he wants it.”
Yeah, do you believe that? No, I swear, that’s what he said. So now my mouth is hanging open – I mean, the idea of that waste of space on the force was too damn much. “You are shitting me! No squad would have that little-”
“This squad would!” Rafe was yelling now, and for a minute I thought he’d push past Brown and Taggert. “You know jack shit, Corbin. There’s not a guy here-”
“Or a woman,” says Conner in a real bitchy voice.
“-who doesn’t owe Sandburg his life. You are fucking out of line!”
“Corbin,” says somebody behind me, and I turn around, and this fist the size of fucking Mount Rainier blasts my nose back into my brain, and then I’m lying on my back watching the ceiling tiles spin before I know what the hell’s going on.
And then Ellison leans over me and says, “I told you what I’d do if you bad-mouthed him again.”
Yeah! Yeah! Crazy, man, he’s crazy, they’re all crazy motherfuckers! So there I am, lying there, and I hear someone laughing – that bitch Conner, I think – and then someone says, “Uh … have I come at a bad time?”
And Ellison’s face goes kind of blank, and his eyes get big, and he looks over toward the door where the voice is coming from. And then he gets this look on his face like … hell, I don’t know. Like he’s in church.
So I look over, and goddamn it to hell, that asshole Sandburg is standing there. He looks like some throwback to ’69, just like Ellison’s piece of crap Ford – tan as some surf bum and wearing these ripped-up jeans and this damn hippie vest … shit, what a fucking freak! And he looks nervous. Hell, he should look nervous! He’s got balls coming here, major balls.
But Rafe says, “Hell, no, Sandburg. Just doing a little delousing,” and heads back to his desk and starts shuffling this big pile of reports.
“Looking good, Hairboy,” says Brown, and he sits down beside Rafe and opens this file folder in front of his face.
“Welcome back, Sandy,” says Conner, all sweet now, and she fucking steps over me and heads toward the break room. “Coffee?”
“Uh … yeah, Megan, thanks,” Sandburg says, but he’s been looking at Ellison the whole time. “Hey, Rhonda.”
“Coffee sounds good.” Taggert walks around me and gives Sandburg a pat on the shoulder. “Good to see you, Blair.” And he follows Conner.
“You, too, Joel.” Sandburg’s voice is soft.
Rhonda starts humming to herself, and I can hear her typing really fast.
Fucking crazy assholes.
“You okay, man?”
And then I realize that the little freak is talking to me, but I’m too pole-axed to say anything. It’s like I went to sleep at home and woke up at Cascade Psychiatric, you know?
“He’s fine,” says Ellison, and he sounds like he’s got something stuck in his throat. Sandburg gives him this look, and Ellison laughs – well, almost laughs. “He’s resting.”
“Uh-huh.” Sandburg almost smiles.
“So.” Ellison steps over me like I’m a cigar butt or a squashed soda can and walks over to Sandburg.
“So.” Sandburg watches him, still looking kind of nervous.
“How you doing?” Ellison’s voice is real quiet, you know, like he’s talking to a little kid, or some animal that might run off if he scares it.
“Okay.” Sandburg shoves his hands in his pockets. “You?”
“Okay.” Ellison just looks at Sandburg for a minute. Then he says, “I did what you said. I thought about it. I’ve thought about it a lot, actually.”
“Yeah?” Sandburg looks kind of sad now.
“And I figured it out.”
Sandburg gets this look on his face, like he’s concentrating really hard. “You did?” He sounds a little out of breath.
Ellison nods, and he’s serious and smiling at the same time. “Yeah. I know why I got so mad.”
“And I know why you … called the press conference.”
“Yeah?” Sandburg’s gone all googly-eyed now, and he pulls his hands out of his pockets and starts to talk really fast, waving his hands around like he’s about to take off. “You … uh … want to, like, go someplace and talk? We could go get some breakfast down at Marco’s – I know you like the pancakes there even though that syrup they use is all caramel coloring and sugar – have you ever even had real maple syrup, man? Naomi knows this guy in Vermont who-”
And all of a sudden that crazy motherfucker grabs Sandburg around the waist and pulls him real tight against him, and he takes the back of Sandburg’s head in his other hand, and then he fucking kisses him, hard.
Yeah! You heard me! I’m talking flat-out no-holds-barred tonsil-diving, and if you think Sandburg was fighting him off, then you’ve got another think coming. Hell, he was giving as good as he got, from where I was lying – well, he’s got his arms around Ellison’s neck, and if he pushed himself any closer to the guy he’d be behind him, okay? And I look over and see Rafe and Brown going about their business like nothing’s happening, and Rhonda typing up reports like two guys aren’t sucking face ten feet away, and I fucking lose it.
So I get up off the floor and wipe the blood off my nose and shove Banks’ door open and go in. I thought maybe he wasn’t in there, seeing as how he didn’t come out to see what all the yelling was about. But he’s in there all right, whistling and pouring himself a cup of coffee, and he looks pretty damn surprised to see me come barging in, but I just don’t give a flying rat’s ass.
“What the hell are you running here, Banks?” And I’m yelling, yelling loud enough for the whole bullpen to hear – hell, I want the whole station to hear. “This is supposed to be a Major Crimes unit, not a fucking insane asylum!”
Banks looks at me over his glasses and puts down the coffee pot. “Is there a problem, Detective?” And man, he’s like ice, but I am beyond cooling down.
“Is there a problem?” Shit, I don’t even know where to start, so I grab his arm and drag him to the door. “Does that look like a problem to you?” And then I groan, ’cause it’s gotten even worse – Ellison’s hands are all over Sandburg’s ass, and Taggert and Conner are back with their coffee and talking at Conner’s desk with the doughnut girl, who gives them their change and then wheels her cart right past these two guys tonguing each other without batting a goddamn eye.
“Ellison!” says Banks in a loud voice, and I’m thinking this Twilight Zone episode is just about over. Banks will reprimand the whole bunch, suspend Ellison for slugging me, send the poor bastard over for a psych evaluation and throw Sandburg out on his ass.
And Ellison comes up for air, grinning like the crazy man he is, and says, “Sir?”
“Take the rest of the day off. Hey, Sandburg.”
I kind of stumble away from Banks and fall into the first chair I can find.
“Hey, Simon,” says Sandburg, and his face is so red it looks like sunburn.
“Thank you, sir,” says Ellison, and he looks back to Sandburg. “I figured it right?” His voice is so soft I can hardly hear it.
Sandburg gives him this dumb-ass, goofy grin. “You figured it right.”
Ellison straightens Sandburg’s glasses. “Sorry it took me so long, Chief.”
“Worth the wait,” says Sandburg, even softer than Ellison.
Ellison smiles and puts his arm around Sandburg, and they start walking for the elevators.
Sandburg calls over his shoulder, “Later, guys,” and everybody’s saying goodbye and see you later and waving like it’s the end of the fucking day and not nine in the fucking morning.
And I look up at Banks and realize that he’s just as crazy as the rest of them.
Banks looks down at me, and the bastard’s smiling. “Problem solved,” he says. “Will there be anything else, Detective?”
“I want out,” I say.
“Out of what?”
“I want out! I want out of this loony bin!”
Banks looks at me, and there’s this weird gleam in his eye, and somehow I know, I just know that he never expected me to stay. He fucking knew this would happen. Son of a fucking bitch. “I’m sorry to hear that, Corbin,” he says with these big, innocent eyes. “But I’m sure you’d be welcome back in Vice, if that’s what you want.”
So here I am, thank Christ. And from what I hear Ellison is permanently shacked up with his boy-toy. Nah, he’s left the force. He and Sandburg are PIs now – got a good business going, too, what with all the consulting contracts they’ve got from the PD. They’re in and out of Major Crimes all the time, and they still hang with the squad. Goddamn crazy motherfuckers! Well, at least they’re not on the force.
I feel bad for Ellison, though. He was one hell of a cop once. He’d still be a happy, normal guy if that bastard Sandburg hadn’t come along. It’s enough to fucking break your heart.