*I wonder what happens if I get to the end of this tunnel,
And there isn't a light
I've worn down the treads on all of my tires
I've worn through the elbows and the knees of my clothing
And I'm stumbling down the gravel driveway of desire
Trying not to wake up....*
"For the last time, John," Jeffries said, "I am not going to tell you that!"
"Why not?" Munch asked, accompanying her up the stairs of the old apartment building. "Your first sexual experience is a powerful, character-defining moment! I'm trying to do a little bit of partnerly bonding here." She ignored him. In a wheedling tone, he added, "Besides, Cassidy told me about his first time...."
"It's embarrassing. Cassidy was embarrassed so much around you that he stopped noticing it after a while. Did you tell him about your first time?"
Munch evaded the question by directing his attention to the uniform cop waiting on the landing. "Detectives Munch and Jeffries, Special Victims Unit. What have we got here?"
"Guy gets drunk, comes over to his girlfriend's place, and tries to rape her," the officer explained, leading them into the apartment. A woman with a bruised cheekbone was sitting on the couch, trembling, and muffled noises were coming from down the hall. "Halfway through, she grabbed a gun, tied him to a chair, and called 911."
"It's going to be okay," Jeffries told the woman. She nodded and started to cry, and Jeffries sat down beside her, offering her a Kleenex.
"Bitch!" shouted a voice. There was laughter, and the voice yelled again: "Shut up!"
Munch walked down the hall and surveyed the scene in the bedroom. The floor was strewn with torn clothes, and a bedside table had been knocked over. The uniform's partner was sitting on the bed, chuckling at the man who had been bound to the chair with what looked like a jump rope.
*The man in the chair. The face of the man in the chair.*
He hadn't seen it many times before, but he knew he was not mistaken. "You got his name," Munch said to the younger cop. There was no question in his voice.
"Yeah," the uniform said. "Frank Cantwell. Lucky she didn't waste his ass."
Munch was no longer listening. He turned on his heel and walked down the hall.
"John?" Jeffries called after him as he stormed through the living room.
"Cantwell. Frank fucking Cantwell. I gotta go call Kay."
Before she could stop him or ask any questions, he was gone.
Kay twisted her hands restlessly, watching the gray sky roll past her window. The landscape was quiet, and her thoughts were anything but.
Her partner, Hurley, had fallen asleep almost as soon as the train started moving. It was just as well. She didn't want to talk, not when she couldn't even put things in order in her own mind, which had been racing since she heard Munch's voice on the phone.
Rotation, she thought wryly, was the best thing that had ever happened to her. As pissed off as she had been (and still was, she added mentally, forcing herself into honesty) about being shoved out of Homicide, she had to admit it had given her some sorely-needed distance. Moving to Fugitive, with a new group of colleagues and a new kind of responsibility, had enabled her to push away the anger and the sorrow she'd brought with her. Now it was coming back with the force of a hurricane.
Frank Cantwell killed him, and got away with it.
Beau Felton. Her partner. Her friend. Who had been noticeably edgy about working with a woman when she joined the squad, but had become her best defender as soon as he saw that she was good police. Who had tried like hell to deal with his crazy wife, and wanted nothing more than a normal home for himself and his children. Who had gone undercover after his suspension, without ever telling her, barely even speaking to her. The damned, lazy, caring, foolish son-of-a-bitch.
And Frank Cantwell killed him, and got away with it.
The days immediately following his death had been some of the worst ones of her adult life. It still hurt like hell to think about how she'd fought tooth-and-nail with Giardello and finally realized that he simply didn't trust her abilities enough to let her work on Felton's murder. She'd been forced to the sidelines, making awkward conversation with Megan Russert and watching Pembleton handle the investigation with only half his heart in it. She'd hated seeing so much of the case tossed to Gharty and Falsone, who weren't even murder police -- or very good police -- at the time. And that horrible handful of hours when she had truly believed her partner capable of suicide. It hadn't been fair to her, and it hadn't been fair to Beau.
Frank Cantwell killed him, and got away with it.
She'd spent the last couple of years alternately trying to ignore and cope with the events of those few days. When Gee had been shot, she'd thought that she wanted to help with the investigation out of loyalty, though it was more than he'd done for Beau. Then, when Brodie brought the news of his death, she'd suddenly realized that the rift between herself and her former lieutenant would never be closed, and she hadn't been able to stop her tears. She'd been trying to accept it, just like she'd been trying to accept that she would never solve or resolve Felton's killing. That single phone call had offered her a chance she'd given up on.
She rubbed her exhausted shoulders and leaned her seat back a little, but did not sleep.
She was not going to let him get away again.
Munch was wired and irritable, which wasn't much different from his everyday demeanor. Jeffries was getting used to her partner's irascible behavior, though, and she could sense the edge underneath his customary negative attitude.
"You know, it's okay if you're nervous," she said, when he started to complain about the weather for the second time in an hour.
"I'm not nervous; I just hate Penn Station. Look at this ridiculous junk they sell here! Princess Diana teddy bears. I-heart-New-York ceramic mugs. If anyone coming through this place loved New York so much they wouldn't be in such a hurry to get out of here. And this coffee is worse than the junk that's been stewing in the squadroom."
He didn't even sound convincing to himself, so he changed tactics. "Anyway, it's a nerve-wracking situation. I'm in a different unit, two hundred miles away from Baltimore in the biggest city in the world, three years after we started looking for this little -" He stopped, searching for a suitable word.
"Asswipe?" Jeffries suggested, secretly enjoying the way Munch always seemed taken aback for an instant when she exercised her sailor's vocabulary.
"That'll do," he agreed. "Cop-killing asswipe. Lowest of the low. And he turns up here, out of the proverbial blue. So it's playing a little havoc with my nerves; you don't think that's an appropriate reaction?"
"I didn't mean that," she said, but let it drop.
Munch kept pacing intermittently, unable to stand still or stay silent for long. "I mean it about this coffee. It's swill. It's worse than swill. They probably make it by reheating the watered-down dregs left at the bottom of a bucket of swill."
"Same old Munchkin," Kay's voice said behind him.
He whirled around, smiling for the first time in hours. "Kay! Your train got in on time; I'm pretty sure that qualifies as a miracle."
"It's Amtrak, John, not Lourdes." She smiled back at him, wearily.
"Was your trip okay?" he asked, studying her with concern over the upper rims of his glasses.
She shrugged. "I got here, huh?" She indicated her companion, a short, forty-something guy with the map of Ireland on his face. "This is my partner. Greg Hurley, John Munch."
They shook hands. "You used to work Homicide in Baltimore?" Hurley asked. Munch nodded. "Yeah, I thought I recognized your name. You're the guy who always had some weird, paranoid theory and never made any sense."
Jeffries nearly choked on her coffee. Howard laughed outright. Munch shot a genuinely murderous look at Hurley and turned to Monique, who was guffawing into her napkin. "And this is my partner," he said in a tone of mock-affronted dignity. "Monique Jeffries, this is the estimable Sergeant Howard. Have I ever told you that she had the only one hundred percent clearance rate in the history of Baltimore Homicide?"
"Only one or two dozen times." That earned her another of Munch's drop-dead glances.
"Yeah, well, I'd love to take time for everyone to get acquainted, but this really isn't a pleasure trip," Kay said. "You guys got Cantwell in custody, right?"
"Safe and warm down at the precinct," Munch told her. "Cantwell didn't give up some of his old tricks. Our auto squad is crawling through his address book now, they figure they can make him for a whole slew of open car thefts."
"The more, the merrier." Kay pulled her hair back into a knot and looked up, eyes blazing. "Let's go start a fire under him."
The four cops navigated their way through the crowds. Howard walked like a New Yorker, Jeffries observed, purposeful and determined and direct. Something else occurred to her as they headed for the exit, and she turned to her partner, grinning.
He shook his head. "Don't you even try."
In the dullness of the Special Victims Unit headquarters men's room, Munch leaned against the wall, buried his face in his hands, and silently argued with himself.
In the back of his mind there was a scathing little voice, much like the one he spoke with when he was flaying a self-important suspect. *Okay. How do you think you're going to get through the next few hours without screwing up?*
Of course, he reasoned, this was more than a routine case. He didn't expect it to be one; it wasn't every day that a chance to nail a sleazy dicksmack like Cantwell came around. He knew he could work through the pressure. It just took a little extra concentration and control.
*Which you don't have. Not when it comes down to the wire, and if anyone knows that, Kay Howard does.*
He would like to believe that that wasn't true. That, in the years they'd worked together, he'd retained somehow a modicum of dignity. Of course he'd done some foolish things in those days, but he'd always stayed professional, reminding himself that she was a fellow detective -- a better one than he was -- and later, a sergeant.
*Exactly. She's observant, and you're pathetic. Look at all your sorry attempts to scope out her sex life. Could you be more obvious?*
He couldn't deny the effect she had on him, though. It took a lot for him to let his guard down with people, but there had been a handful of people scattered through his life who had simply looked right through him, leaving him with no resistance. Kay was one of them, with a vengeance. Very few women he'd ever slept with -- or men, for that matter -- had overwhelmed him the way she'd been able to, for years, with a well-placed glance. Very few insults hurled at him in moments of heartbreak rankled with him the way a single disappointed word from Kay could do. Without knowing how it had happened, he'd gotten wrapped around her finger. But if she knew this, or cared, she'd never shown it.
*She knows you. You're a coward, and a failure. Why in the world would she want you?*
He couldn't think of a reason.
Still, there was Cantwell. If nothing else, he could not let himself blow this unexpected chance. It was funny how he kept leaving Baltimore, and how it kept grabbing him back by the throat. For the sake of his years in Homicide, his (ridiculous, the voice in his head reminded him derisively) unrequited ardor for Kay and the respect she commanded as a cop, for the sake of justice and for Beau Felton, he had to steel his nerves and do this right.
As he opened the door and stepped out into the squadroom, he pushed self-mockery aside and mutely implored no specific God at all, in the only kind of prayer he ever indulged in:
*Please. Let her have this. Let her demolish that little bastard. Don't let me ruin everything. Not this time.*
Cantwell looked up from the invisible pattern he was tracing on the table as the two detectives walked in. "Finally some service," he said, sneering. "Can I get a cigarette in here, or what?"
"I don't smoke," Jeffries said, and turned to her partner. "You don't smoke, do you, John?"
"Nope," he said, standing in the corner and looking steadily at him.
"Guess you're gonna have to go without," Jeffries continued, sitting down opposite Cantwell, "until we're done talking."
"I definitely want to press charges against that bitch," Cantwell said, still grinning.
"'That bitch' would be your girlfriend Deanna?" Jeffries asked.
"She ain't got no right to threaten me."
"Wrong," she said. "In fact, not only did she have the right to threaten you, we've got you dead to rights on rape."
Cantwell blinked, and glanced sidelong at Munch, whose unnerving, angry stare had not changed. "That didn't happen," he said. "She's lying."
"We don't see it that way," Jeffries told him. "She's at the hospital now being checked out by a doctor and a counselor who can't wait to back up her statement. You shouldn't have been so rough with her, Frankie. She'll be great on the witness stand, bruised and defenseless, talking about what you did to her."
"I told you she's lying." Cantwell's grin returned. "If you had any proof I did anything wrong, you wouldn't be talking to me right now."
"Wrong again, Frankie!" she retorted. "Half the cops in the district are going through your apartment as we speak, calling all your contacts, digging through every last piece of your personal business. They've got a big string of grand theft auto charges to hang on you. I'm sure Deanna will be happy to give up some of your friends' phone numbers, won't she? You think they're gonna stand up for you when their asses are on the line? They're gonna sell you out like the rat bastard you are."
"Which basically means you're going to rot in jail and then burn in hell," Munch pointed out, from the shadows.
Cantwell's gaze flickered uncomfortably to him, and then settled on Jeffries again. "Could you go find me some smokes, babe?"
"You don't want me to leave you alone with this guy," she said, suppressing the urge to smack him. "He has a real problem with little pissants who push women around."
"I get it. This is supposed to be some 'good cop, bad cop' shit, right?"
"You watch too many movies," Munch said, his glare unwavering. "For you, no one in this room is a good cop."
Jeffries got in his face a little more. "See, we don't need you to tell us anything. We have a woman ready to get on the stand and swear you raped her. I'm sure the auto squad will find plenty of your dirty laundry, and even if they don't, they'll find something to hang on you. And the D.A. doesn't take too kindly to low-budget thugs like yourself. You're going to be in a cell for a long time... babe."
"Bullshit," Cantwell said. His pronunciation gave the word more syllables than it needed. "If you don't need me to talk, why am I sitting here?"
"We just wanted to see what kind of absurd, moronic story you'd come up with," Munch fired back.
Jeffries nodded. "Personally, I can't think of anything that could get your ass out of the sling it's in."
"Face facts; you're not exactly an intellectual," Munch said, approaching the table at last. He had not stopped glowering at Cantwell, whose smarmy facade was starting to slip. "Getting blitzed, beating and raping a woman half your size - it doesn't take a genius. And this car stuff just proves what you are: a worthless, dickless, small-time sleaze."
"That's not true!" Cantwell shouted, defensively. Then he realized how guilty that sounded, and he shrank back slightly in his chair. "You know, I really could use a cigarette."
"Yeah. Right. Whatever," Munch said. "I'm gonna go call the hospital, see if Deanna's rape kit is back yet." He stalked towards the door.
"I've got some typing to do," said Jeffries, and followed him.
They entered the observation room, where Howard and Hurley were waiting. "He's all yours," Munch said. "We've got him running scared."
Kay turned to her partner. "Greg? I-"
He interrupted her. "You want to go in alone. I understand."
She nodded. "Give me your cigarettes." He handed a pack to her and she strode out, grim but energized.
Sitting at her desk, going through a case file with Stabler, Benson watched the small, dynamic woman going into the interrogation. "You're letting her question the suspect by herself?" she asked Cragen, who was passing by.
"So?" Benson repeated, brusquely. "She's personally involved in the case; you don't think that she'll compromise the investigation?"
Cragen and Stabler stared at her blankly, as if she had suggested the sun might rise in the west.
"Guy killed her partner, Olivia," Elliot said at last. The tone of his voice was enough to make her drop the subject.
Kay regarded Cantwell wordlessly for a few seconds through the window set in the door. The anger and the sadness, always intertwined, rose in her, and she swallowed hard to check them. There would be time to deal with that later; she had work to do.
As she came in, he sized her up with a greasy grin, thinking, *It's just another dyke with a badge.*
Instead of taking the chair across from him, she sat down on the table and casually produced the pack of cigarettes. "Want one?"
They weren't his brand, but he was having a serious nicotine fit and didn't care. She lit one for him. "Did the other detectives read you your rights?"
"When they brought me in. Like I haven't ever seen 'COPS' before."
"Yeah, well, some things we gotta do by the book." She smiled ruefully. "Anything else I can get you?"
He shook his head. "I'm all right."
"I gotta tell you, it isn't looking too good for you up here," she said. "Some of these New York cops, they don't really care if you're guilty or not, 'long as they can clear a couple files off their desks. I guess it comes of working in a city this size. You're from Baltimore, right? Same as me."
"Yeah, born and raised in Bawlmer. Came up here a while back though. Better for business."
"You weren't running away from any trouble down there, were you?"
He laughed. "Cops down there are shit. Got their hands full with junkies and spades, killing themselves and each other. And they ain't all that smart. Nothing personal, you understand."
"Of course not. But I don't know if you should be so quick to judge Bawlmer cops. After all, they got you running, didn't they?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
His voice was hard-edged, and Kay felt panic at the edges of her mind. She was standing on a ledge, and the drop was unforgiving, and very sharp. *Stay in control,* she ordered herself. When she spoke, her voice was level and calm. "Well, you grew up down there, right? Your family and your friends are down there. That's where your roots are. Now, I don't think you're a guy who would ditch your hometown for no good reason. You didn't just pick up and head north because you got bored, did you?"
"I told you. "Better for business."
"Yeah, you told me," she said. "But, Frank - can I call you Frank?"
He was taken off guard; the other bitchy cop hadn't asked his permission. "Sure you can."
"Frank, we both know what business you're in, huh? So if you were having business problems back in Baltimore, it must've been because the police down there were on your back. You had to move your whole operation up here. I bet you even lost money on the deal. They ran you off, huh?" She sounded almost sympathetic, as if they were talking about factory layoffs or corporate downsizing.
"Nope." He was starting to sweat.
"Every car you tried to move, every doper you hired off the street; they were all over you, huh? You were gonna go down like any other common car thief if you didn't get out of there."
"No way," he persisted, sounding less and less convinced.
"Ran away with your tail between your legs," she said softly, looking straight into his eyes. She reached over, took the remainder of the cigarette from his hand, and ground it out. "I guess you never stood up to a cop in your life."
Her expression was pitying; it made him think of his mother telling him he'd never amount to anything, and he hated women like that. "The police down there couldn't bust me for bad parking," he told her. "They tried raids, they tried paying people off, they even sent in an undercover guy and they still didn't have crap!"
"An undercover agent," Kay's posture was still casual, her tone still conversational, and he did not notice the sharpness in her eyes. "And you're trying to tell me you weren't about to get busted? If they had someone on the inside, they must have picked up plenty of evidence against you, Frank. Just like I said, you got out because you had to."
"I handled the situation!" he insisted, jumping to his feet, getting angrier by the second.
"By wimping out!" she countered, and she got up and walked around, putting the table between them. "They were onto you, and you couldn't take the heat!"
"They had a guy on the inside, a guy who was giving them all the rope they needed to hang you, and you couldn't do anything but back off!"
"I handled it!"
"No, you couldn't handle it! Their guy put the pressure on you, and you just ran away from him like the little boy you are!"
He was so furious that the words were out before he knew what he was saying. "I didn't run away from no cop! I killed him!"
The words were heavy and still in the air for a few seconds, during which neither of them moved. Cantwell slowly began to sink back into his chair.
"I think maybe I better call that lawyer now."
"I think maybe you should," she agreed, quietly, heading to the door.
"Hey," he called after her, and she paused and looked back. The smile on his face was sickening. "I didn't run away. I wasted that motherfucker."
Her eyes met his. "I'm sure your mama would be proud," she said, and walked out.
She closed the door behind her and leaned against the wall, with a long sigh, gazing down at the floor. Munch came out from the observation room. She seemed pale, fragile, and exhausted. "Are you okay?" he asked. She looked up at him, and though she was shaky, her eyes were fierce and bright. She nodded.
Munch handed Kay her drink -- a gin fizz, her favorite and his specialty -- and sat down next to her on his old, comfortable red couch.
They hadn't talked much since they'd left the station. She'd felt a little guilty about leaving her partner to fend for himself, but he and Jeffries had discovered a mutual affinity for Knicks basketball. They'd last been seen in the coffee room, huddled over the sports page, passionately debating player stats. Kay doubted whether he'd even noticed she was gone.
"So," Munch said, raising his glass for a toast, "I haven't congratulated you yet. Congratulations."
She did not clink her glass with his. "I don't feel like they're really in order."
"Are you kidding me? Kay, you were brilliant in there. You had him cornered like a rat from the second you walked in. It was magical; it was masterful. You were note-perfect."
"Nah, I just did what I had to do." She sighed. "It's kind of strange; I just feel like I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"Anticlimactic," he suggested. "It's understandable. You waited for this a long time."
"It's not just that. Cantwell confessed; he didn't even take that much pushing. He'll be punished for what he did, held accountable. I should be satisfied."
"But you aren't," he said, softly. "You gave him what he deserved, but it doesn't make the pain of loss go away. It doesn't make things right again. You anticipate the moment, and when it's come and gone you realize how little difference it makes."
She was startled by this insight, and studied him wordlessly for a while. "Yeah," she said, at length. "I guess part of me thought that once I caught the guy, everything else would disappear. I mean, I knew it wouldn't bring Beau back, but I thought maybe -" She stopped, searching for words. "I'm still angry at the way I got treated during the investigation, you know? I never got things right again with Gee after that, and I wish I had. And I'm still mad at myself for giving him reason to distrust me."
"You never did that. You're the best detective I've ever known, and you were a great sergeant."
"If I was so great, how come things went so wrong, huh?" He waited for her to explain. "That was my squad, John," she said, trying not to sound choked up, though her throat felt tight. "I was in charge of keeping everything from falling apart, and I didn't do the job. If Gee thought I was really trustworthy he would have fought to keep me in Homicide. If I'd been there, or even if I'd seen the warning signs earlier, maybe everything would be different now. Maybe I could have made things better between Kellerman and Lewis, after the whole Mahoney mess. Then maybe that shoot-out would never have happened, and Pembleton would never have quit, and Bayliss...."
But neither of them could talk rationally yet about what had happened to Tim, and so they fell silent and sipped at their drinks, watching the sunset reflected in the windows of neighboring buildings.
"I don't know about what might have been," Munch said after a while. "I know what was. I know that none of those catastrophes were your fault, not in the slightest. Everyone made their own mistakes. And it also wasn't your fault that you weren't there to save Beau's life." Again, he'd hit closer to home than she expected. "You did right by him today," he told her. "Justice was done. So congratulations, all right?"
"Thanks." She brightened a little. "Just a routine interrogation."
"Every routine interrogation, every standard confession, means justice for someone. You used to say that we work for God, remember? Even the ordinary things are important. 'There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow.' "
"Is that Shakespeare?"
"Precisely, although it actually it goes back a lot farther than that. Old Billy Shaxbeard was a world-class plagiarist and propaganda artist for the totalitarian Tudor regime -"
He shut up, aware how tiresomely pretentious and pedantic he sounded. She was looking at him with a familiar smile: exasperated, amused, impossibly indulgent. And suddenly he simply could not accept the detachment between them, and could not let the chance go by. Without warning, he leaned over and kissed her.
It took her a few seconds to react, to pull away. "What in hell are you doing?" she gasped. He didn't -- couldn't -- answer.
She had vaguely suspected, on past occasions, that he might be attracted to her. She'd even imagined the prospect, mostly teasing herself, but also sternly reminding herself how absurd it would be. The kiss had startled her. But what had shocked her the most was the intensity, the sweetness, and the dawning awareness that there was so much more to this than desire.
He was watching her, waiting for her to respond. It did not matter that he didn't speak; anything he might have said was expressed in his eyes. There was passion, yes, and anxiety; a glimmer of hope and a hint of fear, as if he was waiting for her to push him away. And there was something else underneath all that: an unguarded tenderness that made her heart sting. She found herself dangerously close to tears, but she didn't want to cry, so she did the only other thing she could think of to do. She kissed him back.
Instantly she was second-guessing herself. She could think of so many reasons to stop: she was influenced by stress, loneliness and exhaustion; she was leaving town in a matter of hours; she knew him too well as a colleague and friend; it was Munch, for heaven's sake! Just as quickly, though, she knew she didn't care. She wanted this, needed this; her reasons didn't matter. Logic told her she was only embarrassing herself. *But if I can't make a fool of myself with John*, she thought, *when am I ever safe?* The gentle strength of his mouth and his hands reminded her of coming home at the end of a long journey, and she decided to stop worrying, stop thinking. And she let herself go.
The sky had been dark for hours, and Munch's bedroom was lit only by the dim, fragmented glow of the city lights outside. Kay emerged from his bathroom, drying her hair, wrapped in one of his unexpectedly opulent, oversized towels. He smiled at her, looking somewhat comical but endearing in his (black, of course) bathrobe. She sat down next to him, and he reached out and touched her shoulders, carefully massaging away the lingering tension of the day.
"I guess now I know how you got four women to marry you." She turned her head and winked at him. "And I'm not talking about back rubs."
He smiled, and might even have blushed a little. "I thought I heard you singing a little bit in the shower."
Kay nodded. "The one that always makes me think of Beau. 'Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies....'"
"I remember." The song was an echo from what seemed to both of them like a different life. "Cragen called, too, while you were in there. The lawyers did the extradition dance for a judge; the governor's ready to sign off on it. The Department of Corrections is probably readying a paddy wagon as we speak. It's pretty much out of our hands now."
She knew what he was deliberately not saying, and she brought it out into the open. "And I'm going back to Baltimore in the morning."
"I know," he said, with difficulty.
"I don't come up here often," she continued, in a cautious tone. "And you're sure you're staying for good?"
"What you said to Cantwell was true for me too, you know," he told her. "I lived my whole life in Baltimore, and I didn't leave without a good reason. I came to New York knowing what I was leaving behind."
"Yeah." She turned to look at him again. "Are you okay with this?"
"Well, I'm going to miss the crabcakes, but - of course I'm not okay with it, Kay! I would love to be with you, to have the last few years back and start over, to see if we could make this work. But we can't." He sighed. "I can't go backwards. I'm not stupid or selfish enough to imagine you could stay here. We don't have a chance together, so maybe... maybe it's enough for me that you know I love you."
She knew he was right. She was reluctant to admit the truth to herself, knowing it would only make things harder. But there it was, and so she made herself reply, truthfully, "I love you too."
It was more than enough. It was above and beyond anything he'd allowed himself to hope for. He slipped his arms around her; she leaned back against him, and they were quiet. After a while, he realized she had fallen asleep, finally overwhelmed by the fatigue she'd been fighting all day. He eased her into a comfortable position on the bed, towel and all, arranged the covers around her and settled himself beside her. He was drowsy, too, but he stayed awake as long as he could, to have as much as possible of the night to remember. He watched her sleeping peacefully, and before he finally closed his eyes, he softly murmured the song running through his head:
"Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies;
Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain,
For we've received orders to sail for Old England;
We hope in a short time to see you again...."
The departure board indicated that the southbound train was ready to start boarding, and the crowd in the terminal was coalescing into a line.
"All I'm saying is, I wouldn't want to live here," Hurley told the other three detectives. "Charm City has it all over New York. Better seafood, cleaner air, nicer people, lower prices..."
"...Higher crime rate," Munch added.
Hurley shrugged. "Hey, it keeps us on our toes."
"Better sports teams, too, but we've established that," Jeffries said. "It's too bad you're not up here for longer; John's buddy Lennie Briscoe over at the two-seven has connections with someone at the Garden. We could've gotten tickets."
He looked downhearted. "I'm missing it."
"You're gonna miss the train if you don't hurry up." Howard pointed out. They joined the queue leading down the stairs to the platform. "So," she said, "We take what we've got and give it to the State's Attorney, and some bottom-rung Legal Aid dope catches the case and pleads Cantwell down before you can say boo."
"Hey, he'll probably take life in prison for fear of the needle," Munch replied. "And even if not, we have the auto raps and the rape to tack on. He'll be watching the world from a cell for a long time."
"We'll send him back to your guys after we're done with him," Kay said. "And if you need anything else from the Bawlmer police, you know where to find us."
"Of course I do," Munch deadpanned. "Right across the street from the most money-losing bar in the state of Maryland. And you know you can count on us if you're ever chasing a deviant, disgusting pervert in our general direction."
"Friends in high places," Kay said. They laughed. "Well, don't let working sex crimes warp your mind, Munchkin. You're already warped enough. Take care of yourself, huh?"
"Goodbye, Kay." He looked at her with a serious expression. "Beau would be proud of you. I know I am."
Standing there, at the top of the stairs, she knew he was deferring to her rule about keeping her personal life away from her coworkers. She'd certainly had reason, a few times, to lecture him about invasion of privacy. She hated being discussed and dissected by the boys' club when she wasn't around Headquarters. It made her feel like a fool.
*And if I can't make a fool of myself with him...*
She couldn't leave things that way, knowing that it was the end. Impulsively, she turned back and hugged him, fiercely and tightly. He held onto her, eyes closed, breathing her in for the last time.
Then the moment was over, and they let go simultaneously, oblivious of Hurley's astonished stare and Jeffries' smirk of confirmed suspicion. Kay hurried unwaveringly down the stairs; Munch fought through the clusters of people, making a beeline for the door. They each carried a bittersweet ache away with them, a memory made of equal parts weakness and strength. As they walked away into their separate lives, neither of them looked back.
*It's a narrow margin,
Just room enough for regret
In the inch and a half between
'Hey, how've you been?' and 'Can I kiss you yet?'
So we talk, like nervous neighbors
Over a tall fence
True love, but for the lack of