Ray spends a week staring at the walls, trying to convince himself not to waste good money on a ticket back to Inuvik. He'd said what he'd had to say, and he'd even been right for a change. Fraser'd agreed with him, anyway, which had to count for something. After that week, even going back to work sounds like a good idea -- so Ray hacks off his hair until it looks semi-normal, manages to shave pretty decently with a dull razor that's lurking in the back of his medicine cabinet, and picks up the phone.
Welsh doesn't ask too many questions when Ray calls him up, which is probably the only good thing about the crappy coffee they serve at the station. "So the Mountie's back in Canada?"
"He's doing all right up there?"
"Hey, he's home, yeah?" Truth is, Ray hasn't even tried to call Fraser since he got back. Not that he knows where to call, anyway. "Me, on the other hand, I'm looking for work."
"Not for long, you won't," Welsh grunts. "You might be surprised to hear this, but apparently your time in this station marked a high point in my career."
"Uh. No kidding."
"Believe me, I wish I was. After you left, Huey and Dewey walked out on me to start a comedy club -- "
"Seriously?" It's not a terrible idea. Better than the Quest turned out being, anyway.
" -- and the force decided to replace the four of you with some kids who've just barely made detective." Welsh sighs. "I hate to say it, Kowalski, but you're my best bet. I'll transfer Fenrich out of here and stick you in -- you'll have to deal with his partner, but she's not too bad, considering."
Partners. Ray can do partners. "I'll do it. When do I start?"
"Gimme a week to sort out the paperwork."
And just like that, he's got his life back. No more Fraser to watch his back -- but then he'd kept himself alive for years before Fraser came along. He'll do fine.
"Oh my god," Ray's brand-new partner says, "we're going to die."
Normally, Ray'd agree. There's two guys trying to blow their heads off, which is never good, and they're rapidly running out of cover. Thing is, partners means balance, so if she thinks they're going to die, Ray's got to pretend he thinks saying they've got a chance in hell even if they don't. "Uh, well, maybe they'll stop shooting at us."
"Right, great. And why would they stop shooting at us?"
Good question, Ray thinks, and squints at the two guys. He could maybe try shooting the guns out of their hands, but he hasn't tried it in months and if he misses --
"Well?" his partner demands, clutching her gun to her chest like it's a teddy bear or something.
Ray frowns at her, puts two and two together -- the way she'd introduced herself as Sally before remembering she had a badge and a rank, the complete and total panic in her eyes. "Nobody's ever shot at you before, have they?"
"Yeah, that's what I figured." What the hell. If he misses, he misses. Better that than leaving it to her, right? She just a kid, barely even a rookie. "You just stay down, okay?"
"And what're you going to do?"
"I'm gonna save the day. Just watch." He feels the weight of his Glock in his palm, counts to three in his head, and lets muscle memory take over. He's only got half-a-second to be glad he remembered his glasses -- and then there's two bangs, and the perps're howling and clutching at their suddenly bloody fingers. "Hey," he mutters to himself, half-surprised. "Nice."
Sally dashes past him, gun leading, shouting, "Hands up! On your knees! You have the right to remain -- "
Let her do what she knows, Ray thinks, pulling his cuffs from his pocket. "Hey, Sal, catch!" She grabs the cuffs out of the air without even looking, and in a couple of minutes Ray's got two thieves arguing with each other in the back of his squad car.
"Some first day, huh?" Sally says, climbing into the passenger seat. He just smiles at her, too distracted to form a coherent sentence. He'd never had this problem before Fraser. If there was something he had to do, he did it. He knew what he was good at and what he was bad at, and when he was good at something, he didn't sweat it. Christ, what if Fraser's ruined his career? What if -- "Look," Sally says suddenly, all serious, "I'm sorry."
Ray looks up, surprised. "Why? You did good. Better than I did, first time somebody decided to chuck some bullets my way."
"Yeah, well, I panicked." She smiles sheepishly, cheeks flushing a pretty pink, and Ray suddenly realizes that the kid's gorgeous. Really, seriously gorgeous, the kind of girl that Ray doesn't get to talk to much, never mind work with. "They say you're the guy who found the Russian sub, up north," she says, brushing a wisp of blond hair out of her eyes.
"Uh. Yeah, that was me." Ray coughs. "Well, actually, my partner did most of the finding. I just tagged along and didn't die." He's babbling. God, he hates the stupid things that come out of his mouth when he babbles. "But, um, that was me. Yeah." He starts the engine, because chit-chat isn't a good reason to just sit there, even if it is distracting as all hell. Change the subject, he thinks. Talking about Fraser isn't a good plan. "Uh, nice ring," he says, catching a glint of silver on her hand and hoping it's from a boyfriend, a fiancee, something. Even he's not pathetic enough to go grabbing somebody else's girl.
"Hm?" She looks down at the little band, surprised. "Oh, a friend bought it for me when I graduated from the Academy. She said it was so it'd hurt more if I punched somebody in the face." Ray snorts. If she punched anybody in the face with those hands, she'd probably just end up breaking a finger.
She grins back at him, showing him a perfect row of white teeth and a little dimple in her left cheek. "Everybody talks about you, you know. You're like, I dunno, some kind of legend." She crosses her legs, and he tries not to see just how long they are, because they're partners, and it's stupid to fool around with your partner. No exceptions. None. "I thought you were older, for some reason."
A spatter of rain smacks into the windshield. Ray clicks the wipers on, and tries not to think about how sleet feels in the back of a dogsled: cold, and sometimes Fraser'd stop just to warm Ray up -- "Yeah? Well, I'm pretty old. Older than you, anyway." Too old for her, is the point he's trying to make, here. Too many scars, too many fucked-up memories.
She just smiles, and says, "You don't look that old."
"Looks aren't everything," he warns her. "Even you've got to know that."
But she asks him out just the same. And he says yes, because he can't say no, can he?
Fraser looks Dief squarely in the eye. "Now Dief, it's very important that you listen to me."
Dief grumbles at him, and puts his paws over his eyes.
"Oh, for -- " He grabs Dief's muzzle and forces it up. "I want you to know just how much I appreciate the time and energy you've invested in our friendship."
Dief moans and rolls onto his side, exasperated.
"Yes, yes, I know that you dislike conversations of this nature, but humor me, please." Dief sits up primly, nose in the air. "Thank you. Now -- I know we've had a similar conversation before, but I just need to confirm that you -- well, that your opinion of me hasn't changed over the years."
Dief woofs, and tries to lick his ear.
"Well, see, while that's very loyal of you, I must beg you to reconsider your position. After all, there are a great variety of things with which you might have been able to entertain yourself, were it not for my intervention."
Dief tilts his head, confused.
"For instance, imagine all the nachos you could have eaten in Chicago, had I not been there."
"Not to mention all the attractive females you might have, ah, befriended -- "
Dief barks, wagging his tail.
"All right, then, there might have been others -- " Dief growls. "Yes, I'm well aware that wolves mate for life, but you can't expect me to believe that simply because Maggie had pups -- " Dief growls again, less forgivingly this time. "All right, fine. What I mean to say is, should you like to part ways with me, and I would perfectly understand if you were to do so, you should say so now."
Dief stares at him.
"Any time now."
Most imprudently, Dief bounds into his lap and gives his face a good, sound lick. Fraser squeezes his eyes shut, fingers tangling in the fur around Dief's neck
"So you're staying, then." A wet tongue laps at his nose. "All right. Then I'm sorry to tell you that I'm going to have to leave you in quarantine for a few days. That is, I've been assigned an undercover position in Chicago -- "
Dief backs away, tilting his head suspiciously.
"In the asylum I stayed in, earlier. They might have succumbed to corruption once again. In any case, I suspect they might have, and with my record, my commanding officer was only too glad to grant my request -- "
At that, Dief turns 'round and stalks out the door.
"No, Ray has nothing to do with it -- he left, if you recall?" Fraser shouts after him, but Dief doesn't turn around. He is, after all, deaf.
But he'll be back, Fraser thinks. He's not like Ray. Ray had just -- left, without a single friendly word for comfort or disillusionment. The sooner Dief lets Fraser realize that Ray's not coming back, the better. Besides, Dief is more easily satisfied than Ray. He'll probably be even happier in the Vecchios' home than he is up here; he's the one who's been telling Fraser to go to Chicago in the first place, after all.
And maybe he doesn't think much of Fraser's reasons for going. Maybe he thinks that they ought to be chasing after Ray. Well, that's not going to happen. Ray's gone. Fraser can accept that. He just -- can't stand to just live here like this, utterly alone but for the occasional lost tourist and even more occasional malfeasant. The hours of time for idle thought, which he'd once luxuriated in, now torment him with memories that he has no right to.
He needs company -- and pathetic though it may be, he'd never gotten along with people better than he had when he'd gone undercover in the asylum. Perhaps his intentions aren't entirely noble, but no one seems eager to point that out.
It's weird, dating again, the whole awkward do-it-don't-do-it thing pounding through his head every damn minute. First of all, he'd never actually dated Fraser, which was probably why the whole thing fell apart. But the other thing is, he knows it's too soon. Maybe he'd been stupid to trust Fraser as much as he had, but he still had, and so it's just as stupid to pretend that he hadn't and get into this right off the bat. There's supposed to be some kind of transition period, and it's probably supposed to last a lot longer than a week. And maybe he's known that he swings both ways since junior high, but even he probably needs a breather when he's switching from a guy like Fraser to a girl like Sally.
Still, she's cute, and she thinks he can do anything, which feels, well, you know. Inspiring, or something. She'll do anything he asks her to -- which he tries not to do too much, because it makes him feel funny -- and she's smart enough to figure out what he wants even when he doesn't say anything at all. She'll make a good cop, someday, if she ever gets to work on her own.
These days, though, that's looking less and less likely. "What's that?" she asks, squatting down next to him.
He rolls his eyes. "What's it look like?"
"Um, a footprint."
"There's my genius," he grumbles, and she smacks him upside the head.
"Okay, fine, picture this: we're taking a nice, leisurely walk in the beautiful city of Chicago -- "
" -- and suddenly you stop and start sniffing footprints like some kind of dog. Pardon me if I'm a little confused." She stands up and folds her arms, leather jacket creaking a little.
Ray shakes his head. "Look, doesn't this thing look familiar to you?"
"The footprint? No. C'mon, Ray, we've got to head home soon, let's at least make it to the end of the block -- "
"Hang on a sec," he says, and she goes quiet. It's not that Ray makes a habit of memorizing the soles of people's shoes, like some people he could name; it's just that this one's triggering something, and he's not sure what. If Fraser -- but Fraser's not here, and besides, Ray can figure this out on his own. No problem. Just give him a couple of minutes, and he'll get everything sorted out --
There's a flicker of movement inside the jewelry store on his right, which wouldn't be so weird, only the store's closed, and in a rush Ray knows exactly where he's seen that print before --
"Down!" he yells, and Sally goes down like the good girl she is just as the display window explodes in their faces.
"It's the same guys," Ray tells Welsh. "Don't you get it, they're the same guys!"
Welsh would probably be a lot more interested in this if he was, you know. Listening. "Are you sure you don't need to go to the hospital, Detective?" he says, eying the cut on Ray's forehead.
"No, sir," Sally chips in. "He recognized the footprint, so we ducked."
Welsh stares at her for a minute, taking in her blush and eyeliner and probably jumping to some completely accurate conclusions. "Kowalski," he says slowly, "would you care to elucidate?"
"Yes, sir. The other cases we were working on, the jewelry store arsons -- I don't think they were arson. Or not just arson, anyway."
"No, sir. Before the display case exploded, I saw a couple of pieces missing."
"Maybe they were sold."
"I don't think so, sir. They don't leave displays empty, it's not good for business." Ray coughs. "Not that I'd know, sir, but -- I just notice things, you know?"
Welsh leans back in his chair. It creaks a little. "I suppose you mean to say that they're covering up jewelry heists by blowing the place up afterwards?"
"Uh, yeah. And the other two, they were both on Friday nights, this one's on a Friday night, so I figure this is maybe how they chill, you know? It's a whatchamacallit, an M.O.."
"And how do you intend to find the thieves, Detective?"
"Uh." Ray exchanges a glance with Sally. She shrugs. There's a smudge of blood near the corner of her mouth, but otherwise she looks fine. Perfect. Wide blue eyes, hair still swept up into that neat ponytail, pale white skin, and this right here would be letting a relationship interfere with work. Damn it. "I'm not sure, I -- "
"Then maybe," Welsh suggests, "you should get on that tomorrow morning."
Sally's right next to him when he steps out into the bullpen. For a second he feels that warmth at his elbow and dives headlong into a memory of somebody else walking with him, like this, keeping close after getting chewed out by Welsh. It's almost like dizziness, and it makes him stop dead right outside the door.
"Let me drive you home," Sally says, taking his arm, which is all wrong. Fraser's voice was never that soft or high, and Fraser wouldn't ever have dared touch Ray like that with everyone and their mother watching. Not even at -- Ray checks his watch -- a quarter past three in the morning, because guys aren't supposed to do that. Cops aren't supposed to --
"Yeah, okay," he says, trying for the millionth time not to think about Fraser. There's no point to it, and besides, who the hell needs Fraser when he's got somebody like Sally on his arm? This is good. This is normal -- except for the thing where Sally doesn't actually know that he sometimes fucks guys, which he should maybe do something about. "Look, Sal, I -- I've got to tell you something. About my last partner."
She frowns at him, getting that little confused wrinkle between her eyebrows. "Can it wait until we've slept?"
"Oh. Uh, yeah. Sure."
The secretary at the asylum gives him an odd look, and Fraser fights a smile. "So, you're a Mountie."
"And you're in Chicago because..."
Fraser leans over the table furtively. "Well, I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father, and for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I remained, attached as liason to the Canadian Consulate. Of course, I've gone back to Canada since then, but I've returned for an undercover mission." He clears his throat, and lowers his voice to a whisper. "I think that the strain of the role has, well -- " He taps the side of his head.
"Which would be why you're in full dress uniform."
"Ah." Fraser looks down at himself. "Well, that would appear to have been a bad choice on my part, wouldn't you say?"
"I guess." She peers at him. "Any friends or family?"
"Ah, no, but I do own a deaf half-wolf, who is able to read lips in three different languages."
"Three different languages," she echoes. "I see. And does anyone talk to him, aside from yourself?"
"No ma'am, but I'm convinced that he understands every word he sees."
"I see. And your name..."
"I'd, ah, prefer not to say."
She nods, and gives him an overbright smile. "Well, then. Would you like to stay with us for a while?"
Fraser smiles back. "That would, I imagine, be most pleasant." Hopefully, they won't actually be guilty of any wrongdoings this time; his last stay really would have been pleasant, if it hadn't been for the fear of being slipped experimental medication.
Ray scrubs at his face, squinting at the pile of rubbery debris that somebody from the bomb squad dropped on his desk. He can't make head or tail of any of it. It just looks like, you know -- plastic, little bits of wire, and he figures that if the bomb squad couldn't find anything, he's got no chance in hell. 'Course, Fraser wouldn't care about what anybody else'd found, because he always sees shit that nobody else can --
Not helpful. Definitely not fucking helpful. There's been two more exploding jewelry stores in the last week, three more injured bystanders, lots more pissed off press, and he still can't fucking focus. He sighs, and looks up to check on Sally.
She's not looking at him, of course; he gave her a job to do, and she's doing it like the serious schoolgirl she probably never was. Look for a pattern, he'd said, and she'd brought up long lists of known patrons on the computer. She's been staring at that screen all day, and she's starting to get tired lines around her eyes, which almost makes her look like somebody he's supposed to be dating, rather than a twenty-five year old kid.
Most kids, though, probably wouldn't let somebody as old as Ray get away with something like fucking a guy. And that's probably even fair, if Ray thinks about it, which he tries not to. But Sally just -- she doesn't even care, and Ray doesn't get that. Maybe she's just too damn young to know when not to trust people.
"Hey, Sal," he says softly, and she glances up at him.
"Hey," she murmurs back, giving him a little smile.
He leans forward, like he's about to tell her some big secret. "You know what I'm thinking?"
She leans in, too, her eyes going all big and curious. "What?"
"You," he says, totally serious, "need a coffee break."
She blinks, then laughs at him like she's supposed to. "Nah, I'm fine. I don't want to lose my place in these lists."
He grins. Absolute nut, is what she is. "Look, it's a jewelry heist, okay? Nobody's expecting you to solve the case tomorrow. Hell, we can even take the rest of today off, if you want."
Her eyes crinkle. "And won't Welsh have a problem with that?"
Ray snorts. "Hey, I'm the international legend here, yeah? Let me take care of that. C'mon, I'm buying."
The asylum gave him a counselor, but as the counselor was only interested in dispelling Fraser's notion that he was a Mountie, she wasn't particularly helpful. As before, though, he finds himself having confusing, enlightening conversations with the hospital's patients. The staff don't mind; they've decided that he's harmless and well-intentioned, and it helps keep the patients in some sort of well-tempered order.
"We met in a cafe," Mrs. Rupert says, smiling fondly. "Albert was an arrogant twerp back then, of course, but I didn't really know any better. I thought he was wonderful."
Fraser listens intently, mesmerized by her rough, ancient voice. His own grandmother had never been given to wistful diatribes, and his mother -- well, his mother likely hadn't been either. At any rate, he'd never really had much of a chance to listen to stories like this.
"He was trying to get Joanna's attention -- young men were always trying that, she was such a lovely girl -- but she wasn't having any of it, of course. She was going steady with someone at the time, Tim Barton or someone like that. Anyway, if she'd given him the time of day, he probably wouldn't ever have looked at me. As it was, well, he did. He said -- he thought my hair was lovely." She smiles ruefully, patting the greying bun pinned to the back of her neck. "Perhaps it even was, back then."
"And then?" Fraser prompts. "Did you marry?"
She blinks at him, apparently surprised that he's still listening, and then lets out a robust laugh. "Heavens no, son, we were barely fifteen! And we hardly knew each other, really. But, well, he lived in the neighborhood, and over the years...he always took care of me, you know. He wasn't always with me, but he always looked out for me." Her wrinkled hands smooth her collar absently. "Have you ever had anyone like that, dear?"
Fraser opens his mouth, shuts it again. He'd looked out for Ray, not the other way around -- at least, he hadn't wanted it to be the other way around. Ray was his to protect and his to care for, and he'd simply not done it well enough. Ray'd needed something that he couldn't give, and that was that. "No," he admits finally, "not really. But it must be wonderful, to have someone like that."
Mrs. Rupert nods gravely. "Yes. It was. And you're right, we did marry eventually, though I think no one was quite as surprised by that as we were. After that there were the children, who were devils incarnate, all three of them -- you never knew what they were going to do next, never knew how to help them along, though of course Albert and I did our best. They turned out happy enough, I think, so I suppose all's well that ends well." She smooths her skirt over her knees, a little smile curving her lips. "Helen came to visit just last week, you know. She brought her little girl -- such a dear thing, that one is, just five years old and already asking the most intelligent questions. Albert must be proud of her."
Fraser smiles. "I'm sure he must," he says, but he seems to have said something wrong, because the vague hint of a frown is creasing her brow.
"He doesn't ever visit," she says uncertainly, clearly troubled. "Not once. I've had to do so much for him lately, what with the cancer. It just sapped his strength. I think he must be ashamed of himself; that's why he doesn't visit." She smooths her hands over her knees again, reflexively. "He's a terribly silly fool, Albert is. Of course I don't mind it -- he's my husband, what else would he have me do? And after everything he's done for me." She lapses into silence, then, rocking back and forth in her chair. Nothing Fraser can say or do will rouse her.
Eventually, an orderly comes to walk her back to her room, and Fraser watches her go, feeling oddly subdued. When the orderly returns, he turns his bright smile on Fraser. "Come along now, John. It's time to turn in for the night."
"Oh, thank you kindly." Fraser rises from his seat agreeably enough, and starts down the hallway. "Excuse me if you're not permitted to say, but do you by any chance know where Mrs. Rupert's husband is?"
The orderly shakes his head disapprovingly. "Now, John, you don't want to bother yourself with that."
"No, but I do," Fraser insists. "She's really a very nice woman, and I want to know what happened to her."
He sighs. "There's not much to tell. Mr. Rupert died of colon cancer two years ago. She just can't accept that it's happened; she can't even remember that he's gone, which keeps tripping her up. She can remember his illness, but she can't understand what she's doing here if her Albert's dying somewhere without her. It just doesn't compute, and so she gets herself into these spells." The orderly drops his eyes. "It's a shame, really. She's so alert on her good days; you'd think we'd be able to do something for her."
But there's nothing wrong with her mind, Fraser tells himself later, staring sleeplessly up at the ceiling. The real problem is with her heart, so to speak, and this is only a mental asylum.
He can't imagine how he would react if he were to find that Ray had died -- if he simply walked into the lunchroom and found the obituary smiling up from the Chicago Tribune. He'd blame himself, of course, no question. It's not a matter of being egocentric, it's just simple fact. He and Ray were partners, and now they're not, and that's Fraser's fault.
Blowing out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, he presses his palms against his eyes. He can't waste any more time obsessing over this. Ray is alive, and probably even happy, and that should be enough. That will be enough.
"I can't do this anymore," Ray croaks, eyes itching with tiredness. "This isn't going to work."
Sally frowns at him. "But you said -- "
"I know what I said, and now I'm saying that it's not gonna work, okay? Maybe there's a pattern, maybe there isn't, but we're wasting time with this." Of course, if Fraser were here, he'd probably have figured it out three days ago. But Fraser isn't here; he's up in Canada, probably solving some case involving reindeer and not missing Ray at all. "Look, why don't we just -- " A thought occurs to him, a nice one, one that'd work real well if he could maybe get the whole precinct to work with him. "Get me a map," he tells Sally, rummaging in his own desk for one. He's got one somewhere, he's just not sure where exactly --
"Why don't we just get you a map, and that'll solve everything?" she teases, handing him one from one of her drawers. "Sounds good to me."
He ignores that, and squints at the little red lines weaving their way around his city. "Okay, here's where the last hits were," he says, grabbing a pencil and marking them out. "All in the same neighborhood, so probably these guys aren't going too far from there. And within, what, five miles of there, there can't be that many jewelry shops -- "
But Sally's already on the computer, tapping at keys. "Four," she reports a second later. "We could plant cameras -- "
Ray shakes his head. "Uh-uh, no good, we'll just lose our evidence when the shop goes boom. But think about it: if we plant one guy in each store, one of us'll probably end up catching somebody in the act. And if we've got a gun and the perps don't," he says, leaning back in his chair, "we might even be able to make an arrest. Imagine that."
Sally's not convinced. Hell of a time to start asking questions, really. "But they've got bombs. What if -- "
Ray waves that away. "Bombs take time to set, and they'll have to wait until they're clear. That'll give us plenty of time to get out, if we need to."
"And who's going to stake out a jewelry store?"
Ray snorts, and levers himself out of his chair. "C'mon, Sal, you've gotta know cops by now. We love it when shit blows up. We've got four detectives in this precinct, and we got four stores to watch; you do the math." He sets off for Welsh's office. The Lieu'll be happy that Ray's finally got a sane plan.
But Sally catches his arm. "Wait, you're going to send me on a stake-out by myself?"
"Well, yeah, that was kinda the plan."
"Ray, I'm hopeless in a situation, you know that -- I won't even remember to take the safety off my gun -- "
He grins at her, and puts a hand on her shoulder before she works herself into a full-fledged panic-attack. "You'll be fine," he says gently. "Okay? Just trust me. You'll do great. Or are you chicken?"
"No," she says without even thinking, glaring at him.
Atta girl."Greatness. C'mon, pitter-patter, let's get at her." He shadow-boxes his way across the bullpen, 'cause hey, he's just made his very own plan for the first time in months. Sally probably thinks it's nothing unusual, but he's proud of himself.
Ray's never minded stake-outs much, not for the first hour or so. That's before the whole romantic idea of it, as Welsh puts it, gets totally crushed by boredom. After that, though, he starts to fidget, and even that hadn't been so bad back when he and Fraser were -- whatever they were. Fraser'd had good hands, gentle hands that knew exactly how to keep Ray from fidgeting, knew exactly the spot in his back that always got sore from slouching in the Goat's front seat.
Everything's different now. Fraser's not here, and Ray hasn't even been able to bring the Goat out since he got back here. Too many good memories in that car, and even if only half of them are Fraser's, that's enough. Ray's got enough good memories gone bad without driving around in one, and the force gave him a work car for a reason.
"Kowalski here, no action, over," he mutters into his walkie talkie, just to get the fidgets out of his skin.
"Jefferson here," Sally mutters right back, and it's strange that he has to think to remember her last name. "No action, over."
"Fogharty here," says another voice. "We figured we'd keep quiet if there wasn't any action. What, you want an update every five minutes, or what?"
Ray winces. "Nah, that's okay. Sorry. Over and out." He drops the walkie talkie back in his lap, where it crackles, "Kline here, no action, over." Ray ignores it, and swears that the next time he touches that radio it'll be because there's actually something happening.
After an hour, Ray's glasses are starting to give him a dull ache in the back of his head, and Ray's starting to wonder if maybe they got the day wrong, if maybe nobody's coming today at all. Maybe he'll give it another hour, head back after that and try again later. It's only breaking and entering, after all, it's not like anybody's died or is in danger of dying --
And then he sees it: a flicker of movement near the back door. "Kowalski here, I've got movement, over and out," he whispers into the walkie talkie, and then he's off, gun in hand and feet barely making a sound on the pavement. This is Chicago, where Ray knows exactly how to walk without falling on his face or tipping off the perps. Right here, right now, Ray feels like a legend. He's the guy who was standing on the Russian sub when it busted out of a lake. He's a cop, not just the Mountie's partner.
The perps haven't bothered to switch on the lights -- big surprise -- and Ray has to squint to make out the dark shapes moving around inside. He waits until the perps start talking to each other, and then slips noiselessly through the door.
There's no light switch by the door, and Ray doesn't want to risk somebody popping off a shot at random, so he just feels his way along the wall, fingernails scraping against grubby primer, and listens.
"You got the bomb?"
"Yeah, right here -- "
"Fine, so set it right this time, yeah? No close calls like last time, or I'll make sure you end up in the brig."
Fine, Ray thinks. Two guys against one cop with a gun, no problem. All he needs now is the lights -- and then he feels the switch under his palm. Ray shuts his eyes, counts to three, then counts backwards to one, and flicks it.
"Chicago PD!" he yells, swinging his gun arm up. "Hands up! On your -- " and then he notices, bright one that he is, that there's a third guy in the room. Big guy, the type you don't expect to say much, and he's right at Ray's elbow. "Um. You know what, I'm just kidding around, you guys go ahead -- "
The big guy next to him just grunts and hefts Ray up by the collar. "Get rid of him, Vince," the leader says, and next thing Ray knows, he's flying through the air, smashing through the window and --
-- on the ground, something sharp jabbing him in the back and boots all around his head. He dimly hopes that this isn't the rest of a gang, come to finish him off. "Oh my god, Ray," says a familiar voice, and then Sally's face is hovering over him, her forehead all wrinkled and her ponytail swinging over her shoulder. "Ray, are you all right?"
"'M fine," Ray mumbles, just as Fogharty shouts, "Hands up! Chicago PD!"
Her hands are on his face, cool and slender, nothing like Fraser's. Fraser's hands are always warm, even when they're in a tent and it's twenty below out. "I don't know what happened," she mutters shakily, "I just saw you flying out the window, I thought the bomb went off -- "
"Nah, I'm good." Ray tries sitting up, and finds that he's really pretty okay, now that he's got that sharp thing out of his back. "I got lots of practice falling on my face. What's up with you? Your hands're freezing," he says, and wraps his hands around hers.
She shrugs, face going pink. "Just scared, I guess."
"Yeah?" He gives her hands a squeeze. "Don't worry about me. I've survived real stuff, like pirate ships. This's nothing."
She smirks. "Pirates. Right. So I guess you don't need to be, uh, coming home with me, then, if you're feeling so great."
Ray freezes, and blinks at her. He thinks he knows what she's saying. Not that he's an expert on women, or anything, but he has just pulled a pretty impressive stunt. Then again, there's that thing where she's insanely young, and she probably means something totally innocent, or she should. She's got no clue who he is. "I could go for that," he says cautiously. "If you want to, I mean. If you're sure."
Her cheeks flush a little brighter, and a shy little smile replaces the smirk. "I'm sure," she says, and helps him to his feet.
Continue to the rest of part 4 and the epilogue...