Major Case Squad

Half an hour later, the two detectives had finished speaking to their colleagues. Alex sat back with a thud, frustrated. Of the six detectives she’d called, three hadn’t spoken to either Mike or Bobby at all on Friday; two had spoken to them, but had no useful information and the sixth was sure Mike had mentioned a bar, but now couldn’t remember which one.

“No joy?” Carolyn asked as she joined Alex at her desk.

“None,” Alex admitted. “What about you?”

“I hope so. I talked to Pete Styner. He couldn’t recall an exact name, but he said he remembers hearing Mike telling Bobby something about the intersection of Sumner Avenue and Gray Street as they were leaving on Friday night.”

“Sumner and Gray? That’s in the Bronx. What the hell would they be doing, going all the way over to the Bronx, just to go to a bar?”

“Mike’s idea, I’ll bet,” Carolyn muttered. “The idiot.”

“Don’t be so quick to judge,” Alex advised her. “Even if it was Mike’s suggestion, Bobby didn’t have to agree, and I told you he’s done his fair share of stupid things over the last five years.” She grabbed her keys. “Let’s tell Deakins, and then head out there.”

“The Bronx?” Deakins echoed incredulously when Alex and Carolyn told him what they’d learnt. “Had they both lost their minds? Cops do not go to that area of New York for a casual, off-duty drink!”

“We don’t even know if there’s a bar near there,” Carolyn started to say but Deakins cut her off, even as he stood up and grabbed his coat.

“There’s a bar just near that intersection called O’Reilly’s. It’s got a good reputation for serving high quality whiskey, and a bad reputation for the people who frequent it. It is not a cop-friendly environment. If Goren and Logan went there, and someone made them, anything could have happened.”

“Uh… Sir… What are you doing?” Alex asked as Deakins headed for the door. He looked back at them, a steely look in his grey eyes.

“I’m going with you, and before either you argue with me, hear me out. I don’t doubt you can back each other up adequately, but Goren and Logan both top six foot four, and Goren in particular is built like a brick wall. They were both armed, and now they’re both missing.”

Alex and Carolyn exchanged grim looks. Deakins’ point had been very firmly made.

“Okay,” Alex said ruefully. “Let’s go.”

Alex and Carolyn quickly realised that Deakins hadn’t been kidding when he said the area they were headed to was not cop friendly. From the moment they got out of the SUV, near O’Reilly’s, they were subjected to both hateful glares and vicious insults, even though they kept their badges and any other trademarks identifying features well hidden.

“If Bobby and Mike came here, they really were out of their minds,” Alex muttered as they approached the door of the bar. “Mike might be able to pull off the scruffy ‘I’m not a cop’ look, but Bobby would have stood out like a sore thumb.”

Nodding in grim agreement, Deakins leaned in and rapped hard on the door.

“We’re closed!” a voice hollered from within. “Come back at five!”

Exchanging glances with the women, Deakins knocked again, harder. A minute later, the door was opened by a sour-faced barman.

“I told you, we’re closed… Ah, shit. Cops?”

“Relax,” Carolyn told him as she pushed her way inside unceremoniously. “We’re not busting you for anything. Yet. We’re after information.”

“Oh yeah? What kind of information? And what’s it worth?”

Alex glared at him. “It’s worth us not bothering to haul your ass back to our precinct. Firstly, what’s your name?”

“Zach. Zach Brady.”

“Okay, Mr Brady. Tell us, did you see either of these men on Friday night?”

Alex held up photos of Bobby and Mike. For a split second, recognition flooded Zach’s eyes. Then, his gaze went dark as the shutters fell back into place.

“Don’t know ’em. Haven’t seen ’em. Don’t know what you want with ’em, but they haven’t been around here.”

Carolyn leaned in close to him.

“Are you positive about that?”

“Absolutely. So if that’s all you p… you cops want, you can just take yourselves the hell outta my bar.”

“We have good reason to believe that both of these men were here on Friday night,” Deakins said. Zach shrugged.

“Friday nights are always busy. Maybe they were here, but I don't remember.”

“I think you're lying to us, Mr Brady,” Carolyn said coolly. Zach didn't bat an eye. Slipping past Alex, he pulled the door wide open.

“Yeah, well, until you can actually prove that, lady, do me a favour and get the hell outta my bar. I got a reputation to uphold, and you three are sullying it.”

“We will be back,” Deakins warned him as they exited the bar. Zach smirked right back at him.

“And I'll be looking forward to it.”

“I’m going to try Bobby’s cell phone again,” Alex said, her voice laced with increasing aggravation. Pulling out her cell phone, she hit speed dial for her partner’s number, and waited. A moment passed, and at the same moment that Alex’s phone began to sound dial tones, they all picked up the distinct sound of a cell phone ringing somewhere inside the bar.

“What the fuck…?” Alex muttered. Careful not to cancel the call, she wheeled around and pushed her way back into the bar just as Zach was trying to close the door behind them.

“Hey!” Zach protested. “You can’t…”

“I suggest you shut up,” Deakins warned him threateningly as Alex and Carolyn went in search of the source of the ringing. Alex quickly found the phone stashed in behind the bar.

“This yours?” she asked, staring piercingly at Zach. The bartender reddened just slightly, but had the good grace not to lie again.

“Uh, no. It, uh… It got left here on Friday night.”

“By one of these guys?” Carolyn asked, indicating the photos again. Thoroughly embarrassed, Zach nodded.

“Yeah. Look, I’m sorry I lied, but I get cops in here all the time, harassing my customers. And I didn’t think there was anything wrong with those two. Mike’s been coming here for years, and the other guy seemed okay, too.”

“You’re a pretty good judge of character then, Mr Brady,” Carolyn said coolly. “They’re about as okay as you can get. They’re both cops.”

Zach’s jaw dropped.

“Cops? You’re shittin’ me! Fuck…”

“Maybe not such a good judge of character,” Alex retorted. Deakins laid a firm hand on Zach’s shoulder.

“How about you tell us everything you remember about their visit here on Friday night, and then maybe we can avoid that trip to downtown Manhattan.”

Mike awoke to a numb butt, and a sore and stiff neck. He looked around dazedly, blanking out for just a moment over where he was, before reality sank in once more.

“Shit,” he muttered sourly, and turned around awkwardly to get a look at Bobby. The other detective seemed to be sleeping peacefully for the moment, and Mike had no intention of waking him.

Shifting again, he looked over at the water bottles. Both were a fraction less than half full. They’d tried to be conservative in their water consumption to start with, but the grim turn of events with Bobby getting blood poisoning had sent those efforts flying out the proverbial window.

After a long moment’s consideration, Mike took both bottles and poured half the contents of one into the other, leaving them with one bottle that was three quarters full, and the other just under a quarter full. Mike place the three quarter full bottle on the floor by Bobby’s bed, and took the other as his own.

He knew damn well that if Bobby found out what he’d just done, that he’d object to it, but he had to find out first. Mike knew which of them needed the water more, and besides, Bobby was in no fit state to protest anything.

Taking the lid off his bottle, Mike took a small sip, relishing the cool liquid in his dry mouth. Bobby had been right, he reflected ruefully. Right at that moment, the water tasted better than any whiskey. He laughed bitterly. Ambrosia wouldn’t have tasted any better.

Resisting the powerful urge to finish off what was left in the bottle, Mike put the lid back on and pushed it firmly away.

“Wouldn’t wanna miss the grand finale,” he mumbled, and then laughed hoarsely at his bad humour.

“Mike…? What’s so funny?”

Mike twisted around to see that Bobby was awake, and watching him quizzically.

“Nothing,” Mike answered dismissively. “How’re you feeling?”

“Like I got beaten up, shot in the leg and locked in a cage.”

“Really? Me, too. Here, have a drink.”

Bobby started to object that they needed to be more conservative with the water, only to be brought up short when Mike held the nearly full bottle of water out to him. He stared at it for several seconds before looking back at his companion suspiciously.

“I thought we’d used more than this.”

“Guess not,” Mike answered with a shrug. “Go on, have a few mouthfuls. It’s okay.”

Still Bobby hesitated, though. Something was not right with this, but in his current, muddled state of mind, he just couldn’t figure out what that something might be. He knew Mike was pulling a fast one on him, but he simply couldn’t work out how.

“Will you drink?” Mike growled. “It’s not fucking tainted.”

Reluctantly, Bobby accepted the water and took a couple of tiny sips. Mike groaned and shook his head.

“Damn it, Bobby. You’re sick. You have blood poisoning. You have to keep hydrated. So will you drink the goddamn water?”

Frowning at Mike, Bobby finally gave in and swallowed a few mouthfuls.

“No more,” he said, pushing the bottle back to Mike. “Save it for later.”

“Good enough,” Mike conceded. He sighed heavily as he set the bottle aside. “I wish there was some way to know just how long we’ve been stuck in here.”

Bobby glanced at him with a grim smile.

“You really want to know that?”

Mike was silent for a long moment before answering.

“No. Not really. I just hate not knowing whether it’s day or night. My body clock’s all fucked up.”

Bobby chuckled softly.

“I don’t really care one way or the other.”

“I know you don’t,” Mike said, smirking when Bobby looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “I’ve seen your bedroom, Goren. You live like a damned vampire.”

“You want another pillow in the face, Logan?”

Mike grinned widely at him, and was pleased when Bobby grinned in return.

“Chill, pal. I was just kidding.”

Bobby smirked, but said nothing. Mike was silent for a few minutes before speaking again.

“Mind if I ask you something personal?”

Bobby hesitated in answering. He’d already shared more of his personal life with Mike than he had ever shared with anyone other than his partner.

“Hey, if you’re not comfortable, it’s okay,” Mike reassured him, breaking abruptly into Bobby’s thought process. Bobby swallowed back a sigh. What the hell did it matter, anyway?

“It’s okay,” he conceded quietly. “Go ahead. Ask.”

“Well… I just wondered… Out of all the variations on your name that you could go with, why opt for Bobby? I don’t think I’ve ever met a grown man who preferred being called Bobby over Robert.”

Bobby smiled faintly. Only one other person had ever asked him that question, and her name was Alex.

“It goes back to my parents. When Mum was doing okay, I was always ‘Bobby’ to her. When she deteriorated, I’d become ‘Robert’, and ‘Robert’ was almost always ‘one of them’. When I was ‘Bobby’ to her, it meant I could just be a kid again.”

“I get that,” Mike murmured. “But what about your old man?”

“According to him, Robert was what was on my birth certificate, and that was all he was going to call me. I guess he didn’t count things like ‘little bastard’, ‘reject’, ‘waste of space’ and ‘fucking little pansy’.”

“What a bastard,” Mike muttered.

“Yeah,” Bobby agreed. “He was. I decided pretty early that I preferred being called Bobby, mainly because Dad didn’t like it. I’ll never forget the day I actually told him that.”

“You told him? To his face?”

“Yes, when I was nearly thirteen, a couple of years after he walked out. He actually had the nerve to show up on Thanksgiving, but only because his current girlfriend had just dumped him.”

“So, what happened?”

“He was ordering me around… Robert do this, Robert do that. I turned around and said I wanted to be called Bobby. He went very quiet, and wanted to know why… I should have known better, but I didn’t think. I just said to his face that I wanted to be called that because I knew he didn’t like it.”

“And…?” Mike pressed when Bobby hesitated. The big detective stared up at the bars above their heads.

“I remember him grabbing for me, and nothing after that. When I woke up, I was in Emergency at the hospital with a fractured skull and a right arm that was broken in three places. Dad was gone, and Mom told the doctor that I tripped and fell carrying ice up from the basement. Dad never came home again after that.”

“Fuck,” Mike muttered. “That son of a bitch. I guess this is part of the reason we both became cops, huh? To try and help people, so that they don’t have to live with all the crap like we did.”

“That’s one reason,” Bobby agreed softly. He paused, and then asked quietly, “What about you?”

Mike knew what he meant without having to ask.

“I don’t really remember my father, and my mum only ever called me Mike when she was sober.”

“Which was how often…?”

“Try, never.”

“Mm. I figured.”

“Anyone calls me Michael now, and it just reminds me of her. So, I stick with Mike. It sounds better, anyway. You know, Bobby… we’re not all that different.”

Bobby glanced at Mike in mild amusement.

“How do you figure?”

“I know we’re totally different personalities, but we both survived a seriously crappy childhood. That’s gotta count for something.”

Bobby considered that, and had to concede that Mike was right. He did feel some small sense of solidarity with his fellow detective.

“Yeah,” he agreed quietly. “It does.”

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