A Bitter Suite

Written by Evermore

Author's Note:Thanks to Iris Gray and Indalia for beta reading. Many many thanks to Beth, who must have read four drafts of this puppy, at least. Beth is Super-Beta. Also, this is for Maggiecat, who asked me for a happy story ... but this ain't it.

Pembleton was sulking behind his desk, that was the only way to describe his behavior. He stands there, arms crossed stiffly, a stormcloud on his brow, practically daring someone to cross his path. But, then, Pembleton had always had a foul temper, and it had gotten worse with each passing year in the Homicide Unit. Fortunately -- or perhaps unfortunately, depending on your point of view -- he also became a better detective with each passing year.

It was no wonder the man couldn't keep a partner. I would assign a rookie, and then start counting days before said hapless rookie returned to my office, begging to be transferred anywhere so long as Pembleton didn't work there. So far, the record for shortest time stands at three hours fourteen minutes, and the longest time stands at fifteen days. Each time, a little more of the man got locked away behind a cast-iron wall, never to be seen or heard from again. It would be a shame to lose him to sheer standoffishness, arguing with everyone, regardless of rank. I've tried to put Pembleton back in his place, telling him to just get over himself, and simply accept a partner, any partner, but all to no avail. Apparently, the perfectionist didn't want just any partner; he wanted the *right* partner.

Too bad there's no Partner Fairy in Baltimore.

All of this made me more determined to keep a close eye on the Homicide Unit, particularly after losing Howard last year.

A senseless death, too. Kay had been serving a warrant on a murder suspect when everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. Felton and Bolander had both been injured, but not as seriously. Thank God for that. One of Lieutenant Jasper's QRT units had been present, but something about their actions had been off somehow, like they were all out of order with each other. Call it whatever you damn please, miscommunication, internal tension, or dumbass natural stupidity, but no one talked to anybody else about anything. Naturally, Jasper's now going on about how this is his problem and he'll solve it.


When one cop, any cop, dies, it's a tragedy. When a cop dies because a fellow cop was careless or negligent, it's criminal. And Jasper has the nerve to say it's his problem to solve. One of my people died -- that makes it my problem. It's every cop's problem because next time it could be you or one of your own people.

What exactly happened, he won't say, but apparently the three squad members neither liked nor trusted nor even respected their squad leader. Besides which, Hutchinson rarely attended the drills, using his rank as a way to avoid work. This man had been a fine officer, once upon a time, but he'd been in the role too long, and his mates no longer trusted anything he said. Given everything I was told later, I wouldn't trust him either ... but, in this case, that dislike cost a good detective her life.

Hell, a great detective. No one else, before or since, has had a perfect closure rate three years running. Of course, her rate staggered a bit, but that was due to taking on some of Crosetti's cases. Another fine detective lost from the same unit. When was that, exactly? Some two years before?

I suspect we'll lose Munch in another year or two. He hid it well, but he had been fond of Kay Howard. When news of her death reached the squadroom, it hit everyone hard, but him most of all. After all, he'd been there, on the scene when it all went down and in the line of fire, but he hadn't even been touched by a bullet. John paled, whiter than I ever believed possible, and fled to the men's room. Eventually, pain and grief gave way to rage and fury, and only the bathroom appliances were there to take the abuse. It's just as well he hadn't had a suspect waiting; I can just see the lawsuit coming from that.

Now, Munch is angry and somewhat resentful. He hides it well, but the anger simmers underneath his skin like a slow cooker. Outwardly, he hasn't changed much -- possibly he's become more of a sarcastic bastard than he was before, but otherwise ....

And now the Felton matter. This unit is destructing before my eyes and there's nothing I can do to prevent it. True, Felton had been working undercover but he still should have had a proper back-up in place. Auto Theft and IIA should have had their asses before a goddamned firing squad for a fuck-up of this magnitude. All I can do is make sure none of the people responsible for this fiasco ever wind up assigned to the Homicide Unit -- except as a name on the board -- because I can just hear the accusations flying. I can't say it's completely impossible, though, that Falsone might have arranged Felton's death solely to win his spot in the unit.

In your dreams, boy.

Unpacking his desk, Lewis is on the edge of tears. This is the second partner he's lost in less than five years -- Crosetti and then Felton -- so I suppose I can't blame him for being upset. Now this forced transfer to Vice, not even to Fugitive Squad where there was some chance he might catch the rat bastard who slaughtered his partner, but instead to *Vice*. That's something else I wish I could change, but it's out of my hands.

Bolander is quiet, seated at his desk, listening to a small transistor radio. He's due to retire any time now, in fact, he could retire any time he wished in the time it took to type up and sign the papers. Most people don't know why he's still here even, why 'Stan the Man' is still working the dreary dismal job of murder police when he could be out somewhere fishing or practicing his cello or visiting with old partners.

I know why he's still here, after all this time.

From here, I can catch the whiff of old paper, yellowed and cracked with age. Here and there in places, someone -- probably Bolander himself -- has added plasticine covers in a vain attempt to protect the scratched and spidery handwriting and dulled typeface in the old records. The music swells in the background, a delicate blend of strings, but the gruff detective isn't hearing the notes.

Instead, he's remembering one of his early cases, the one he couldn't close. The one that haunts his days and nights to this day.

You never forget your first case.

You never forget your first murdered child.

And, if that same first case and same first murdered child add up to an open case after twenty-eight years, that's cause for a detective's hell.

Bayliss, Timothy James. Nine years old. Found by a jogger early one snowy January morning, laying there face down in a snowbank, half covered by the evil white stuff, like it was in collusion with his murderer. Frost hung off his eyelashes, miniature icicles of sorrow; yet the snow continued to fall softly, a crying sky's weeping gone cold to ice. Dressed in little dungarees, a red-and-white baseball shirt, and sneakers. Raped and strangled, then dumped on a street like yesterday's garbage.

The coroner found one strange thing, though, something that should have closed the case. Timmy had fresh toothpaste in his mouth, along with fluid that no child should know about. This crime had occurred at home, that much was clear, but the family wouldn't talk.

They had no *idea* who had hurt their little boy. They had no *idea* how this had happened. Yes, he had eaten and then gone to bed. They had no *idea* how he wound up outside.

Bolander had been certain that both parents and several of the other family members knew exactly what had happened. At least, they knew who had done this, but they weren't talking. They never did ... and a child's murderer got away clean. That had been a terrible thing for the unit, but Bolander bore most of the pain and guilt. The scene was cleared too soon, he said. Too many people had trampled it before the crime scene unit arrived, he said. Much of the evidence had been lost in the snow or compromised or otherwise ruined, he said. Lots of witnesses and no one would talk, he said.

And Stan Bolander couldn't let it go.

Dead children are hard to handle. Everyone on the case suffers from something while working it, and the effects are ten times worse if you have children yourself. You see each dead child as your own. I know. I have three kids myself, and I dread every call about a murdered child.

Another bad child-murder case some five or six years ago, the Adena Watson case, ruffled lots of feathers. Luckily, Pembleton had been in the squadroom that evening and in a reasonably good mood. He took that case, and ignored everyone else on the scene, damn the pouring rain and the fact that everyone sane wanted the scene closed so they could get in under cover. It was just him and the girl, no one else mattered, that much was clear. But it paid off -- the smug bastard found a tiny scrap of evidence that otherwise would have gotten lost in the rain or during collection -- and closed the case.

Bolander looked into getting Risley Tucker for the Bayliss rape/murder, but it didn't wash. So, the man stays here in this damned job, hoping for a lead. After waiting so long, I know that call will never come. I also think that, after Stan finally does retire, he may turn to the bottle and drown the nightmares of a cold little dark-haired boy with big hazel eyes. A little boy, asking 'why?'

Now, though, a new detective will be joining my angels of justice to replace Lewis. I'll probably have to pick out a few more people to fill all the empty slots; the detectives have done well picking up the slack, but they can't keep those kind of hours forever. Even though they're my people, they're not perfect; we are only men, speaking for the dead. He's a good detective with some investigative experience. That sort of experience will do him good in this division.

He's recently come off an extensive undercover job, and by all accounts had done a great job of it. Such behavior might even merit him a small recognition of some kind, at the very least a notation in his record. Hopefully, he's retained some of the patience that sort of long-term undercover demands.

Mike Kellerman will be a good addition to the unit. True, he talks a bit excessively, and he's given to overemotional responses. Still, he's a good detective with a mostly good record in Arson and a short span in Auto Theft.

I'll have to pair him with Pembleton, and this time Frank will just have to deal with it. The higher-ups are starting to look sideways at me, and I won't have that. Time to get in his face and make him deal with it, come hell, high water, and bureaucratic B.S. red-tape.

It just wouldn't do to have one of our detectives hauled off for murder.