"So, Detective Vecchio, Constable Fraser. Why don't you tell me what brought you here." Dr. Allison Bradley gave her two new clients a sincere, hopefully reassuring smile.
Both were sitting rather uncomfortably in her comfortable chairs, but that was to be expected at the first session. Cops were seldom very good at this sort of thing, though these two did seem to be a bit of an unusual pair. They glanced at one another and came to a quick, completely nonverbal agreement about who would start. Detective Vecchio, who really looked more Polish than Italian, rubbed a hand through his hair nervously.
"Well, see, me and Fraser, we're partners, right? And that works real good some of the time. We got, you know, complimenting skills. He takes care of logic, and licking stuff that no human should put in his mouth, and patience and stuff like that. And I take care of driving, and instinct, and shooting guns since he refuses to get certified to carry concealed in Chicago, even though he's a millionth-level Mountie sharpshooter."
Constable Fraser looked vaguely - though politely - distressed and rubbed his eyebrow. "Evidently, you're also in charge of hyperbole."
"Yeah, well, somebody's gotta do it." Vecchio rolled his eyes. "Problem is, all of a sudden, we're driving each other ape shit. We argue all the goddamn time! We nearly called the whole thing off but we realized that we're a great team when we're not up all in each other's grills. So we decided to give it another try, but within a couple of days, we were right back to making each other crazy. And, you know, I got a buddy in the one eight that came to see you about some problems he was having with his partner, and it seemed to help. So I thought, hey, what the hell. It's on the department dime, it's confidential, maybe we should give this a shot."
Dr. Bradley gave her best professional and encouraging nod. "I see. And do you agree with Detective Vecchio's assessment of the problem, Constable?"
"In substance, yes. I'd also add that, although we can't discuss the details, previous to Ray I was partnered with another detective, who is now deep undercover. Ray inherited me when he came to the twenty-seventh precinct."
"Of course, everything you tell me will be held in strict confidence, and no case details will be recorded in the files. This is just about how you're relating to each other, not the specifics of the work. But let's go back to this idea that Ray inherited you. Most detectives are assigned their partners, aren't they? It's not generally a matter of choice."
"But, as I'm sure Ray mentioned when he spoke to you on the phone, as a member of the RCMP, I'm only informally affiliated with the Chicago Police Department. I developed a working relationship with my previous partner through what could only be called a series of coincidences, and ended up staying on, by mutual decision rather than assignment. A partnership was formed into which duty required Ray to step. But if the initial decision had been his to make, perhaps he would have made a different choice. Or rather, to put it more plainly, he's stuck with me whether he likes it or not."
Vecchio got more and more wound up through this little speech, until he finally unfolded his arms and exploded into gestures. "That is such bullshit! That is complete horseshit and you know it. I coulda gone my own way at any time, least after the first few weeks. This is just your typical passive-aggressive bullshit Canadian way of saying that you wish that V. . . your former partner was back instead of me."
They both stared at each other. Vecchio was breathing hard while Fraser didn't seem to breathe at all. Vecchio's face was plastered all over with hurt and surprise at himself, while Fraser could have slipped into a vegetative state, he was so still and blank.
"Well," Dr. Bradley said, "it would seem there are some lingering insecurities around the former partner. That's not unusual. Police partnerships can be intense."
"It's not true, though," Fraser said quietly.
"That I would trade Ray for my former partner. I miss him at times, you understand, as one does any close friend who is absent. That does not mean that I would trade."
"Hm. How do you feel about that, Detective?"
Vecchio rubbed his face with his hands. "I don't know. I mean, I sorta don't get it. Everybody says how great Fraser and his former partner got along. Why wouldn't he want his old partner back? I wouldn't blame him. How come they could get along so good and we're always sniping at each other?"
"Because I didn't," Fraser said.
"Can you elaborate, Constable?" asked Dr. Bradley.
"I didn't snipe at my former partner. One isn't always as objective about one's own behavior as one might wish to be, of course, but I believe that I didn't snipe at my former partner as much as I do at Ray."
"That's interesting. Why do you think that is?"
"I'm afraid I don't really know."
"Was your other partner a more easy-going kind of person?"
Fraser smiled just a little. "Not really, no."
"Did you find him less irritating?"
Fraser sat thinking on that for a bit, silent, and Vecchio began tapping a foot but didn't interrupt. Finally, Fraser said, "Actually, I frequently found him to be irritating. He was often impatient with me and he complained a great deal. He was vain to the point of ridiculousness about his clothing. He sometimes smelled overwhelmingly of garlic."
Vecchio snorted a laugh at that, but stayed quiet.
"And yet, evidently," Dr. Bradley said, "You didn't express your irritation to him. Why do you think that was?"
A little furrow appeared between Fraser's eyebrows. "I didn't want to appear rude."
"By your own admission, you seem to feel free to appear rude to Ray. What do you think would have happened if you'd appeared rude to your former partner?"
"I don't know. He might have dissolved our partnership, I suppose."
"Were you and he close, outside of work?"
"I thought so. I considered him my closest friend."
"But you still worried that if you weren't polite, he might abandon you."
"Yes. I suppose I did."
"Are there many people in your life that you feel comfortable enough with to forego being polite?"
"Not many, no. My late father, perhaps."
Vecchio piped up, with a wry grin. "Dief."
That pulled another almost-smile out of Fraser. "Diefenbaker is intentionally provoking."
"And Dief is?"
"His supposedly deaf, donut-loving, ear-licking, half-wolf. That he's rude to."
"Well. That's . . . unusual. All right, anyone else?"
"I suppose I've been known to be a bit sarcastic to Constable Turnbull at times."
"This is a colleague of yours at the Consulate?"
"Yeah," Vecchio interjected, "but Turnbull would try the patience of Jesus Christ himself. He doesn't count. I'm not sure that Turnbull even gets sarcasm."
"Even if we include Constable Turnbull, that leaves one wolf, one person who is no longer with us -" Fraser mumbled something, but Dr. Bradley couldn't quite catch it and decided to move on. "- a colleague whom you don't seem to think much of, and Ray. Two living people and a wolf seems like a short list of intimates."
Vecchio looked at Dr. Bradley. "Okay, you're the psychiatrist-"
"Psychologist," Fraser corrected.
"Don't start with me, Fraser." Vecchio turned to stab two fingers in the air toward him then turned his attention back to me. "What does 'Hmm' mean? How would you translate that from the Canadian? Because I'd really like to know. All day long, he's making with the 'hmm's and the 'ah's and I'd be surprised if even the wolf had the first fucking clue what it means."
"I thought the wolf was deaf."
They spoke together. "He reads lips."