Famous Last Words
By Gemini and Brate
With Heidi DJ
Detective Henri Brown walked into the Major Crime bullpen. He passed right by Officer Kelley, who looked up from the files he was stacking on Rhonda's desk.
Kelley asked, "Hey, Brown. Did she pop yet?"
Everyone knew the detective was on pins and needles waiting for his wife to deliver their first child. The baby was already a week overdue, and everyone teased Brown about his child's predilection toward procrastination -- just like its father.
"Heck, if the baby doesn't come out soon I think she's going to go in after it," Henri said, shaking his head.
Kelley laughed in response. "I'm telling you, man, whatever she asks you to do, do it."
"I learned that a long time ago," Henri agreed with a wide smile. "Makes my life so much easier."
"I hear you, buddy." Kelley turned to finish giving Rhonda the files.
Henri walked the rest of the way to his desk. He greeted his partner, Brian Rafe, and then sat down, making sure his paperwork for their latest case was in order. No reason to get "The Man," Captain Simon Banks, irritated at him. It was enough to be dealing with a nine-months-plus-pregnant wife, he thought with a shudder.
The phone on his desk rang and he tried not to jump. He snatched it up with a terse, "Major Crime, Brown." When he heard his wife's voice on the line, Henri's heart started to race. "Is it time?" He could hear the nervousness in his voice. From the corner of his eye, he saw Brian and several others look up at him curiously. He shifted around, seeking a little privacy.
Shaundra Brown laughed on the other end of the line. "No, honey, you're safe so far. Actually I was calling for a favor."
"Anything." Henri hoped she couldn't hear his deep sigh of relief. Off the hook for now. He must have broadcasted the "Just a false alarm" message, for the others around him turned away and went on with their various tasks.
Shaundra spoke again. "I was wondering, Henri, if you would mind…"
"What can I do for you? Anything to make you happy, babe." Henri felt a surge of warmth well up in him. He would never admit it to the guys, but sometimes Shaundra just made him so happy. And the idea of the baby! He was going to be a daddy.
"Thank you, honey." Henri could hear the smile in her voice. "Could you please get me some of those fruit and spice cookies that you brought home last week? I've been thinking about them all morning and I really want some."
"Sure thing. I think Hairboy is coming in today. I'll find out where he bought them."
There was silence on the line for a moment. Then, "Hairboy?"
"It's, uh, it's just a nickname I call Blair."
"I see. Jealous?" she teased, referring to his baldpate.
"Not when I have you," Henri replied seriously.
"Good answer." She laughed lightly. "I love you."
Rafe, who was listening to the phone conversation from his desk next to Henri’s, started to make kissing noises. Henri quickly flipped him the bird and said, "I love you, too, babe," to his wife before hanging up.
Just after the phone was set down, Major Crime Detective Jim Ellison and Consultant Blair Sandburg came through the bullpen doors. They chatted quietly as they moved toward Jim's desk and hung up their jackets.
Henri grinned at them and boomed out, "Hairboy! Just the man I need to see."
"What'd I do now?" asked Blair with mock exasperation as he strolled over to Henri's desk.
"I need some of those special cookies you gave me for my wife last week. She's seriously jonesing for them… Craving Central."
Blair looked dismayed. "I gave you the last of 'em, man. Sorry."
"Please tell me you're joking. She's got a craving and I can't go home without them."
"Man, Naomi brought them with her the last time she passed through. The closest place they carry them is at this specialty shop in Seattle. It's in this quaint area, with lots of little shops. The street's pretty narrow, and the people are totally friendly. Anyway, you have to go… well, the easiest way to get there…. Hmm." Blair scrunched his forehead for a moment as he thought. "It's not too far from the herb shop; you could stop there and ask them to take you to Dell's place. Here, let me draw you a map." The consultant started to write out directions.
Knowing Blair's reputation for directions, Henri looked nervously at Jim, who shrugged and grinned. The message was clear: You're on your own, buddy.
Blair set down the pen and stood up. "Y'know, H, I think it would be so much easier for me to just show you. Why don't I ride along? I'm free for today. I was just going to hang out with Jim."
Frowning, Jim protested, "Hey, Sandburg!"
"You can do your own paperwork for once," Blair told his partner with a smirk.
Jim pretended to grumble as he settled himself behind his desk and turned on his computer.
"Great!" Henri said. "Let me clear it with the captain first." He hurried to Simon's office and knocked on the door.
Henri stuck his head in the door. "Captain?"
"I'd like to take a personal day, if I may."
"Shaundra's not in labor, is she?" asked Simon, suddenly sitting at attention, an eager expression on his face. Despite his protestations, everyone knew he was as excited about the newest soon-to-be addition to the bullpen as they were.
"No, sir," Brown said with a smile. "If she were I wouldn't be as coherent as I am."
Simon chuckled. "True enough." He relaxed back into his chair. "I don't see why not. Just out of curiosity, can I ask what it is you need the day for?"
Henri squirmed for a moment. Suddenly this seemed a rather… preposterous… request. Would Simon blow up at him for this? Too late now, H. Go for it. "Um, well, she's craving these cookies Sandburg brought in last week and it seems the only place to get them is in Seattle."
"Say no more." Simon held up a hand, an expression of understanding on his face.
The detective breathed a silent sigh of relief.
"I remember when Joan was pregnant with Daryl and sent me to get macadamia nut ice cream," Simon continued, a fond look of remembrance on his face. "Took me all night, but there was no way I was saying no to her." He leaned forward and picked up a folder from the stack on his desk. "It's slow today, so you go ahead. I'll give this assignment," the captain waved the folder, "to Ellison and Sandburg."
"Actually I was going to take Blair along. He's the only one who knows how to get there."
"Taking directions from Sandburg?" Simon snorted. "Good luck. Maybe you should leave a trail of breadcrumbs so you can find your way back. You sure you're gonna make it back before the baby comes?" He frowned. "I'm not so sure this is a good idea after all. Sandburg as navigator?" He cocked one eyebrow at Henri, a calculating look in his eye. "Maybe you better get out of here before I change my mind, Brown." Simon leveled his "captain" glare at the grinning detective.
"Yes, sir!" He chuckled as he left the office. After telling Blair they were good to go, he said, "Let me just grab my cell phone and we're outta here."
Ellison watched the pair leave from behind his pile of folders. "You two be careful."
"It's a food run, big guy," Blair replied. "What could happen?"
Jim hit "Save" and wiggled his fingers, relieved at an excuse to stop working on the reports. Damn paperwork. He stood and sauntered into Simon's office, carrying his coffee cup. May as well get a cup of the good stuff, along with whatever else I'm going to get dumped on me. He tapped on the door and walked in. "Hey, sir."
"Come on in, Jim. Have a seat." Simon got up and poured coffee into Jim's mug. "I hear you lost your shadow for today." Setting the carafe back on the heating element, he returned to his chair.
"Food run," Jim said with a smile. "What do you need?"
Simon handed Jim a file. "Benny Zatrobowski."
"The bookie?" The detective started to leaf through the folder.
"Yep. He's supposed to be setting up a meet between a hit man and Delta Castor sometime this week." Castor was one of the biggest numbers runners in Cascade. "We need to know where and when it is and who will be there." The captain leaned back in his chair. "We're doing this as a favor to Homicide. They want to keep it low profile. I thought your 'special talents' could be of use."
Simon explained further, summarizing the high points of the file and giving Jim some of the details the Homicide officers had passed on to him. Once he finished with the briefing, Simon suggested, "Why don't you take Rafe with you?"
"Try not to get lost without Sandburg to navigate," Simon said, trying to keep a straight face.
Jim looked up at his boss, then caught the hint of a twinkle in his eye. "Yes, sir. It'll be difficult, but I'll try to manage. Sir." He stood and threw a quick salute before leaving the office.
Simon laughed and returned to his paperwork.
Jim strolled over to Rafe's desk. The younger detective was perched with one hip on the edge of his desk, his back to Jim, talking on the telephone.
"That would be nice…. Uh huh. Sure." Rafe's voice was soft, gentle, and smooth.
Sounds like he's talking to a ladylove, Jim thought with an evil grin. He listened some more, but only with normal-range hearing, so he couldn't be accused of eavesdropping with sentinel hearing. No, he would only eavesdrop the way any other red-blooded detective worth his or her salt would do.
"Well, yeah, sugar, that sounds like fun. Maybe next Saturday night? Okay…. What?" Rafe suddenly seemed to realize that someone was nearby. He whipped his head around and almost fell off the desk at the sharp movement. He glared at Jim and turned away, shielding the mouthpiece from the other man. "Look, honey, I have to go now. I'll talk to you soon to set up details, all right? Bye."
"Honey? Sounds serious, Rafe." Jim looked at his fellow detective coolly, one eyebrow raised.
Rafe continued to glare at him. "Were you listening in on my call?"
"Absolutely not. I do not eavesdrop on phone calls my friends make to anyone called 'honey,' 'babe,' 'sugar cake,' or 'sweet buns.'" Jim was ticking the names off on his fingers, eyes raised to the ceiling as he concentrated.
"All right, all right." Rafe sighed, looking at Jim with mock exasperation. "You make me crazy sometimes, Ellison."
"Good," Jim said with a touch of cheerfulness. "I try to stay in practice."
Eyeing Jim warily, the younger detective asked, "So what's up?"
"Simon has a job for us."
Rafe raised his eyebrows. "Us? As in you and me?" He pointed back and forth between Jim and himself.
"Since your partner and my partner are currently searching the shops of Seattle for cookies, that leaves us both partner-less. I believe our captain is hoping to conserve resources."
"Ah, I see your point." Rafe checked his weapon, slipped into his immaculate suit jacket, and followed Jim, who grabbed his jacket on the way out of the bullpen.
Jim handed Rafe the folder as they waited at the elevator; the younger detective skimmed through it on the ride down.
"This is different," Rafe commented once they were seated in Jim's truck.
"What do you mean?" Jim pulled the truck out of the garage and headed down the street.
"I mean, usually it's H and me, and you and Blair."
"Today it's not."
"So… it's different."
"You're a stunning conversationalist, Ellison."
"Usually I don't have to talk. Sandburg takes care of that aspect of our partnership."
"Uh-huh. So," Rafe said, more than eager to change the subject, "where are we headed?" He opened the folder and looked at it more carefully.
"I know Benny Z likes to hang around the Fourth Street Station. I'm hoping to pick him up there."
"Good idea." Rafe nodded, then started reading the material to avoid having to watch Jim's driving.
Henri and Blair were about half an hour outside Cascade when Henri reached over and turned the radio down, muting the classic rock song that was playing. He could feel Blair looking at him quizzically, but it took a couple minutes before he got up the courage to ask the question that had been on his mind for the last twenty miles. "Blair, what do you think of me?"
The other man was silent for a long moment. Then, "It's very flattering, H, but you're a married man."
Okay, humor. I should have expected it. Though I was hoping, with Sandburg, that he'd understand. Well, maybe he will. Just have to let him know I mean it. "I'm serious, man. I mean, as a father."
"Ah, I see. The moment is coming and the closer it gets the more worried you become," guessed Blair.
"It's really gonna happen." Henri kept his eyes focused on the road.
"I hope so. I think Shaundra would be upset if it were a prank." Blair huffed a small laugh.
Henri couldn't help but laugh at that thought, too, remembering all Shaundra's comments lately, about this "giving new meaning to being heavy with child," and "not caring how it comes out as long as it comes out." Thinking of his own frustrations at not being able to relieve her discomfort in her last few weeks of pregnancy, he agreed that it had better damn well not be a prank.
"Okay, seriously, Henri. It's a perfectly natural reaction to be nervous about the transition to fatherhood. It's a big responsibility. I mean, all of a sudden, whammo, you're responsible for this life and everything that goes with it. Then you start questioning yourself, and there's a whole lot of uncertainty. But, man, you have nothing to worry about. You'll do fine. You and Shaundra have a terrific relationship. And I've seen you with kids; you'll be great. Anyone can see how much you love your wife and how excited you are about your child coming."
Henri took a long, deep breath and let it out slowly. "Thanks, Hairboy. I mean, that was one of the reasons we didn't want to find out the sex of the baby. We wanted to be surprised, and not have expectations either way. We are only hoping for a healthy child."
"That's the way to go." Blair was silent for a moment. Then he said, "Hey, did you know that in some traditional societies, men go through a 'sympathetic' labor and delivery? It's called couvade."
Damn, Henri thought, stifling a grin, he really does have a story for everything.
Blair went on, his hands gesturing in support of his words. "They dress in women's clothes, and they make an imitation 'baby' that they carry under their clothes. When their wife or mate goes into labor, the man goes through a simulated labor in another location, screaming through 'contractions' and 'delivering' the imitation baby at the same time the woman does."
"You're kidding me," Henri said, an incredulous look on his face. "Why would anyone do that?"
"The truth, man? There are two reasons: one is to confuse evil spirits who want to possess the infant, and make them enter the imitation baby instead of the real one; the other is to claim paternity publicly among the tribe or clan."
"Whoa. I think I'll just go with Lamaze."
Blair laughed. "I don't know, all that breathing and stuff."
"True, true." Henri grinned.
"Some men in all societies, including Western societies, have sympathetic symptoms of pregnancy along with their wives: morning sickness, headaches, fatigue, depression, insomnia, irritability," Blair continued. He looked curiously at Henri. "Hey, H, you ever have any of those?"
Henri thought back to those early months when he often felt queasy in the morning right along with Shaundra. But that wasn't the kind of thing a guy admitted to the other guys, even if the other guy was Sandburg. "Uh, maybe a headache now and then, but I always figured it was from taking care of Shaundra. You ever try to keep a pregnant wife happy?"
The two men laughed.
Then Henri snorted softly. "Actually, it's been great. She's been great."
"I hear you, man." Blair dropped a hand on Henri's shoulder for a moment then let his hand fall back to the seat. "Don't worry. You're gonna be great."
Henri swallowed, feeling gratitude, anticipation, love, and a touch of fear swelling up inside. Damn, I'm gonna cry in about two seconds here. He swallowed again, trying to keep the emotions from spilling over.
Blair must have sensed that the "emotionally honest moment" had lasted about as long as Henri could stand, because he switched conversational gears. "Hey, did I tell you about the cool post-doc class I'm taking this fall? It's a discussion course where we'll be reading about different myths and legends and trying to either prove or disprove them."
"What kind of myths and legends?" Henri asked curiously, glad to have something else to think about.
"Oh, Bigfoot, crop circles, Piltdown man, the Loch Ness monster--"
Henri broke into laughter.
"What's so funny?" Blair asked, frowning.
"Y-you're s-seriously taking a c-college class on that s-stuff?" Henri choked out between howls of laughter. He forced himself to keep the car steady on the road.
"Yes," Blair said defensively. "Just because they're legends doesn't necessarily mean they're not true. Take Bigfoot, for instance. Although the majority of sightings are hoaxes, twenty to thirty percent are still unexplained."
"B-bigf-foot," Henri chortled.
"Yes," Blair said, while glaring good-naturedly at the laughing man. "The first sightings of Bigfoot were actually way back in the 1830's, but there wasn't widespread interest until the second half of the twentieth century. One of the biggest things to really heat up interest was an article in the December, 1959, True magazine. It talked about the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California…."
Henri tried not to laugh -- too hard -- as Blair launched into his lecture, hands starting to fly once again as he warmed to his subject.
Benny Zatrobowski was right where Jim thought he would be. The bookie had to be available for business, since this was game night and there would be numerous bets laid down. He also carried a cell phone to take call-in wagers.
A short man with dark eyes, Benny was dressed in khakis and a brown leather jacket.
Benny shifted nervously in his chair, occasionally standing and pacing. Rafe didn't know whether his nervousness was from too many years in the bookie business, too much caffeine, or some other cause.
He knew the bookie had been arrested many times, but no heavy charges ever stuck. The police considered Benny to be more useful as an unknowing informant.
Benny often led the police to trouble spots, since he was involved with many of the underworld characters of Cascade, sometimes causing "misunderstandings" between himself and the Cascade police.
In order to keep their unknowing informant on the streets, the police would throw a few minor charges his way, then let him go.
A number of informants kept tabs on Benny and would then let the PD's detectives know what Benny was up to. That way, they kept a finger on one pulse of Cascade's underbelly.
Rafe sat in the truck next to Jim and watched the detective watch the bookie. It still impressed him to see what Jim could do and he loved seeing the hyper-senses in action -- although he always tried to remain nonchalant, like it was no big deal. Only the men and women of Major Crime knew Jim had all five senses heightened. The public only knew of two: sight and smell.
After a while, the younger detective went back to reading through the file to familiarize himself with the case. Both he and Ellison knew they were under orders to maintain observation only but, as Sandburg could attest, they were often amazed at how quickly a simple stakeout could turn into action.
"How does Benny Z know a hit man, and why would Castor want him to make the intro?" asked Rafe looking up from the file.
"Benny's well-connected and keeps quiet. He does business all over the city," Jim said absently.
"With Delta Castor?"
Jim brought his attention into the truck and looked at Rafe for a moment. As always, Rafe was amazed at how focused that gaze was. He felt as if Jim could read the messages snapping between the neurons in his brain. He didn't understand how any criminal could withstand the Ellison glare. He tried not to sigh in relief when Jim looked back at Benny.
"That's why this is so important. If we can catch Castor making a deal for a hired gun, it could break the door wide open for Homicide and give them leverage for arrests. Hopefully, once Castor's in custody, he can be rolled for bigger fish."
"So we'd better not screw up." Rafe sat quietly for a few more minutes. He tried to see what Benny was doing, but Jim had parked a block away to maintain their cover, and the normally-sighted detective couldn't see much. "Anything?" he asked Jim.
"Yeah, apparently the point spread on the game is Jags by 20."
"Wonderful, I'll call my bookie."
Jim chuckled. Then he groaned. "Oh, damn it."
Rafe perked up, coming to attention. "What?" He looked where Benny Z was standing, cell phone pressed to his right ear, still unable to see much.
"We have company," Jim answered, as a knock sounded on his window. He sighed at the interruption but rolled the window down.
"Well, if it isn't Super Ellison!" A bald-but-refusing-to-admit-it-so-he-wore-a-very-obvious-toupee man stuck his head into the window.
"What do you want, McCoy?" Jim asked.
Robert McCoy was an annoying reporter who had taken over for Wendy Hawthorne when she left "True Crime" for a more prestigious job. His segment was called "The Real McCoy." Real original, Rafe thought, recalling the title, as the man's face filled the window.
"Just wondering what the world's most sensitive detective was up to. Sniffing out some crime you've got your eye on, Ellison?" McCoy waggled his shaggy eyebrows as his overly suave voice boomed into the truck's cab.
Rafe could tell that Jim just barely refrained from groaning at the terrible puns. He knew that ever since Jim had "come out" publicly with two hyper-senses, McCoy had made it his mission to catch Jim in action. "Detective Rafe and I were just out getting some donuts," Jim said.
"And you've been sitting here for twenty minutes because…?"
"The view is spectacular."
McCoy pulled his head out of the cab, looked at the buildings all around, and snorted. "Pull the other one, Ellison. Come on; let me in on it. I can make you a star."
"Go away, McCoy."
"Not likely. As you well know, this is a free country. I can go or stay anywhere I please."
"Suit yourself." Jim started the truck and slammed it into gear, nearly running over the reporter's foot in the process.
"Now what?" Rafe asked, holding onto the dash for support.
Jim drove a couple blocks and stopped. After pulling over to the side of the road, he said, "You drive and I'll try to keep contact with Benny."
Blair directed Henri straight to the shop. Wisely, Henri refrained from making any comments about that being a pleasant surprise or anything else referring to Blair's well-known lousy sense of direction. The detective parked right in front of the store and they got out.
"Clouds are coming in. Could mean rain," Henri commented as he got out of the car.
Blair chuckled. "It always rains in the Pacific Northwest."
The two went in and Henri purchased three dozen of the fruit and spice cookies. As he paid for them, Henri explained the serious nature of their mission. Seeing that it was starting to sprinkle, the shop owner double-wrapped the treats in plastic to ensure their safe and dry arrival back to Henri's wife. Henri thanked the man, who wished them the best of luck, and followed Blair back to the car.
They were outside Seattle when it started actually raining. The rain was not heavy at first, but it was steady. As they reached a fork in the road, Henri turned left.
"Shouldn't we stay on the main road, H?" asked Blair, eyeing the new road warily.
"Trust me, Sandburg, this way's quicker."
Continue on to Act 2
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