"Nothing," Brian replied, quickly covering the shoebox on his lap.
"Nothin', huh? Then since you got time to play with nothin', you can take this call." She handed Cassidy a slip of paper.
Cassidy put the shoebox in his desk drawer and used the oft-forgotten lock to secure it. Getting up, he scanned the office for his partner. Looking towards the coffee room, a black shoe-clad foot could be seen propped up on a chair, and Cassidy went off.
"C'mon, Munch, we gotta go... uh, hi, Mike." The body attached to the shoe was most definitely not Munch. "You see my dark shadow?" Cassidy asked Kellerman, who was half-buried under the various pages of the Baltimore Sun's sports section.
"Try the can. He came by and grabbed the front section about ten minutes ago," Kellerman waved a page at Cassidy. "Hey, mister hockey fan -- how bad are the Tampa Bay Lightning?"
"They're so bad, you could probably be their leading scorer," Cassidy chortled.
"I don't know how to skate," Kellerman replied.
"Neither do they," Cassidy returned. "Why do you want to know?"
"I told my niece I'd take her to a Blues game when I'm in St. Louis for the holidays," Kellerman explained. "The only home game is against Tampa."
"That's a gimme win," Cassidy assured.
"Good. My niece is nine, so she's not a real graceful loser." Kellerman rolled his eyes.
"Must run in the family," Meldrick Lewis quipped as he passed by the pair on the way to the fridge. "Bow wow wow..."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Kellerman asked.
"You back to bein' a dog, Mikey," Lewis shook his head in mock disappointment. "Hittin' on a witness. That is un-pro-fessional." Lewis wagged his finger at Kellerman and Cassidy smiled.
"I was not hitting on any witnesses," Mike said. "Like you should talk. You givin' the crowd that Fat Albert schtick... That was unprofessional."
"And that redhead you were talkin' to for a half-hour really had that much information?" Lewis wasn't letting this go.
"Gave me three names," Kellerman returned.
"I was there for that part, Mikey," Lewis smiled triumphantly. "So what was the next half hour of conversation all about? You know, the part that started off with you askin' if all redheads had green eyes... Dog-like, Mikey, that was prime dog right there..."
"That's lame, Mikey, really lame," Cassidy shook his head. "You couldn't think of a better pick-up line?"
"I wasn't picking her up," Kellerman sounded beleaguered. "And why are you getting on me? Go get your partner off the shitter."
Cassidy raised his arms in surrender and left the break room. Lewis was listing great cartoon dogs for Kellerman and had resorted to invoking Scrappy Doo.
Pembleton, who was typing a report, looked up when he heard a distant thud, but the passing Cassidy didn't seem concerned, so he went back to the report. Why did he and Bayliss end up with perps who used words like "paraphernalia" and "asphyxiation" in their confessions but always spelled them wrong? And why did this only happen when it was his turn to type the report and thus to correct the myriad errors? Because Bayliss, with his penchant for run-on sentences and his morbid fear of the semicolon, would transcribe the confession in blythe ignorance. Or, even worse, would intentionally leave the words misspelled in order to let the perp's 'character' shine through in the confession....
Cassidy was just on the way to the men's room when he stopped short and thought of something. He came up behind the seated Bayliss, put his hands on Tim's shoulders, and whispered in his ear. "You got Kellerman in the Secret Santa drawing, right?"
Brian thought he saw Bayliss blush at the feel of him whispering in his ear. Timmy covered it well, though, looking flustered instead. "It's supposed to be secret, Brian." Cassidy gave him a look of bemused scorn and Bayliss sighed. "Yeah. I ended up with Mike."
"Perfect gift idea -- a dog collar and leash." Cassidy's eyes gleamed.
Bayliss looked skeptical, but Cassidy held up his right hand. "Scout's honor."
"I thought you got tossed out of the Boy Scouts, Cassidy," Tim said, still not convinced.
"I did. Irish kids don't belong trampling through the woods of New Jersey. But why would I lie about something like this?" Cassidy asked. "Something that would fit a large dog. Just don't tell him I told you."
Bayliss considered the information. If Cassidy, who had gotten closer to Kellerman in a few months than everyone except Meldrick had in a few years, was telling him, it was probably true. He nodded. "Thanks, Brian."
Cassidy continued on to find his partner.
Once inside the lavatory, Cassidy bent down to check shoes. "Just like third grade," he muttered to himself, spotting Munch's dapper pair.
"Munchkin! Oh Munchkin! Wherefore art thou, Munchkin?" Cassidy did a drum solo against the stall door.
"Go away, Cassidy, I'm busy contemplating our President's latest faux-pas," Munch growled.
"He'll have more later. We got a call now, though. Contemplate faster and make sure you wash your hands when you're done. I'll meet you in the motor pool."
"You know, Cassidy," Munch said as he fiddled with his tie, "in Shakespearean English, 'wherefore' doesn't mean where. It means why."
"I knew that," Cassidy didn't take his eyes off the road. He didn't know that, and without looking, he knew Munch knew that, too. "I wonder 'why you' all the time."
Munch looked over his glasses at his partner. "You should show more respect to your elders, Brian," Munch began. "Bayliss is going on vacation at the end of next week. I could take some personal time and you'd have to go out with Pembleton until Timmy got back. And then where would you be?"
"Handcuffed to the passenger-side door of Frank's Cavalier," Cassidy suggested. "Speaking of, have you figured out what to get Frank for the Secret Santa thing?"
"I still don't see why I have to be involved," Munch started, "I don't believe in Santa. I never believed in Santa. As far as I am concerned, this is a commercialized celebration of the birth of Judaism's most notorious apostate. I shouldn't be commemorating it."
Cassidy rolled his eyes. They'd had this conversation at least half a dozen times since they had drawn names the previous week. "Consider it a present to Frank for becoming just as disillusioned with the whole thing as you are."
"I was never illusioned, hence I can't be disillusioned. Frank's moment of revelation should be its own reward," Munch shot back. "Besides, how do you know I ended up with Frank?"
Cassidy shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "You've been window shopping while we're out on calls. If you'd ended up with one of your partners from the Waterfront, you'd just give them a 'Get A Bar Shift Off Free' card. If you had gotten Kellerman, you'd just give him a bottle of Beam. I know who got Gee and Kay, so that leaves Frank."
"Or you," Munch reminded him. "I'm not sure whether to be dismayed that my choice of gifts is so banal as to be predictable or whether I should be in awe of your brilliant detective skills."
"I'm brilliant, you know that," Cassidy beamed. Munch shook his head.
"Remember, Brian, it's flu season. My flu could coincide with Bayliss' vacation, and I'm not sure Frank is as much in awe of your detective skills as you are."
As Cassidy pulled into a vacant parking space, he hopped out of the car and ran to the passenger door as Munch stepped out, inspecting the handrest and finding it suitable for cuffing. "I'm sorry John. I love you, I love you, I love you. I'd never do anything to hurt your feelings." Cassidy threw his arms around an unimpressed Munch and gave his partner a desperate squeeze as Munch tried vainly to swat him away.
"Hey, Cassidy, is this why you never let Sanchez take you out?," sergeant Sally Rogers called from across the street. "She's a helluva lot better looking than your partner..."
"Sergeant Rogers!" Munch exclaimed as he finally pried Cassidy off of him. "A stake through my tender heart. Everywhere I go, I am maligned..."
"Oh, c'mon Munchkin," Cassidy smiled. "We all know you have a thing for tough-talking women in sergeant's stripes." He turned to Rogers. "I'd be careful around him if I were you."
"Ignore him, Sally," Munch, bowing dramatically, indicated that she should lead them to the body, "I have his punishment all lined up and it involves Frank Pembleton and a set of handcuffs."
"You Homicide boys are a little too kinky for my tastes," Rogers shook her head as she took them to the scene, the parking lot behind a pet shop.
"So who'd you get?" Lewis asked his partner as they headed down the stairs of the precinct house.
"I told you I'm not telling," Kellerman didn't even break stride. "I've got it all taken care of. My cousins in Wisconsin are coming through for me.... What do you care? I thought you were just going to the Dollar Store."
"Wisconsin? Well, they may need to come through for me, too."
"Huh? Why?" Kellerman checked the number on the keychain and headed towards the appropriate Cavalier.
"I got Gee!" Lewis waved his arms. "What do I get him? If I get him something stupid and he finds out it's me, I'm gonna be pullin' cold cases 'til Easter. I gotta get something nice, but I don't know what."
"Sucks to be you," Kellerman shrugged as he got into the car, but he looked thoughtful rather than gloating. "Why don't you just get him a large box of fancy pastries and a bottle of wine?"
"'Cuz that's what we always get him for his birthday. I gots to be original."
Kellerman rolled his eyes. "We got him a giant tiramisu last year, not pastries."
"Same thing," Lewis pointed out. "'Sides, he's on a diet 'til Christmas. Gettin' the poor man sweets would be cruel and unusual punishment. Not to mention suicide."
Kellerman honked the horn loudly as two patrolmen decided to have a leisurely conversation by the garage exit. "Get off the decaf, boys!" Mike muttered.
"That's it!" Meldrick perked up.
"What's it?" Kellerman wheeled out onto the street.
"An espresso maker! I'll get him one of those espresso-makin' machines!" Lewis said excitedly. "Or maybe a cappucino maker..."
Kellerman smiled. "You really wanna jack Gee up on caffeine?"
"He's happy when he's caffeinated," Lewis smiled. "It's when he's got low blood sugar and we're down to decaf that he's at his worst."
After finishing with the scene and engaging in a battle of wits with the seriously off-kilter Doctor Griscom, Cassidy and Munch drove to the victim's apartment and, after finding out that he lived alone, got the superintendent to open the door.
"Oh. My. God."
The super laughed at the detectives' reactions. "Mr. Joseph was a dog-lover."
"And Imelda Marcos liked the occasional pair of pumps," Cassidy retorted. "Look at this place. Dog art, dog furniture, he's probably even got dog dishes."
"Just wait until you see the bedroom," the super snickered.
"What, dog-print comforters over a doggie bed? Instead of mirrors on the ceiling, there's a picture of his first poodle love?" Munch wondered aloud as he followed the super down the hallway.
Cassidy poked through the kitchen drawers, whistling at the various dog-themed items he found. "Fido soupbowls, bone-shaped silverware, doggie teakettle... Hey, Munch! His sugar tin says Puppy Chow on it! John?" Getting no reply, he headed towards the back of the apartment, deciding against carrying a pair of puppy salt-and-pepper shakers to show his partner.
Walking along looking at the walls, with dog photos and artwork, Cassidy didn't realize Munch was still standing at the bedroom doorway and bumped into his partner. The contact shook Munch out of his stupor and he shook his head, moving to the side to let his partner see.
The super cackled and Munch chuckled.
"The walls are covered in fur." Cassidy moved past Munch and the super and into the room.
"In the 1640's, the Turkish Sultan Ibrahim I covered the walls and ceilings of his rooms in the Topkapi Palace with fur," Munch began. "Imagine how many animals had to be skinned."
"You think this is real dog?" Cassidy had been petting the wall, but pulled his hand back abruptly.
"It ain't," the super spoke up.
"It's probably cow," Munch told Cassidy.
"It's not that neither," the super giggled. "It's not any animal, it's some sort of polyester."
"In that case," Cassidy took off his coat, went across the room to the space of wall between two windows, leaned back against the wall, and started making snow angels.
Munch smiled benignly at his partner, so clearly enjoying the feel of the fake fur against his skin. There were moments when Munch was thankful for having a partner who could find bliss in something so silly as fake fur. He let Cassidy swim against the wall for a few moments.
"Stop purring, Brian. We've got to get back to
the pet shop." Munch finally spoke up. He tossed
Cassidy his coat and headed out towards the
kitchen, where the super had gone to unplug the
Cassidy followed and, after getting the apartment keys from the super, he and Munch headed back towards the car.
"OW!!!!" Cassidy yelped as he reached for the car door handle.
"I meant to warn you about the static electricity, Brian," Munch stifled a grin. "Sorry."
"Bayliss, do me a favor, willya?" Kay Howard sidled up to Tim as he poured himself coffee in the break room.
"Sure, Kay, anything for you," Bayliss replied as he reached for the sugar. "What can I do?"
"Find out Meldrick's hat size?" Kay looked almost sheepish. "He's had that porkpie for years. I'm not sure if it's 'cuz he likes it, or 'cuz he's too cheap to get a new one."
Bayliss laughed gently. "No problem. I'll check at the Waterfront tonight, he won't even know."
"Thanks, Timmy." Kay smiled. "How's you're present hunting goin'?"
"I got a hot tip last week, actually," Bayliss sipped the coffee and then grimaced.
"Frank made the pot, huh?" Howard chuckled. "How come you don't tell him you don't like that rocket fuel he brews?"
"I like it," Tim denied, "I just like it with a lot more milk."
"Uh-huh," Kay shook her head. Pembleton would never hear a world about his too-strong coffee from Bayliss.
"Hey, guys, what's up?" Kellerman asked as he went into the fridge for the milk.
"Not much," Kay spoke up. "That's a lot of milk there, Mikey. You willin' to make the dairy run?" She gestured towards Kellerman's half-filled coffee cup.
"What am I supposed to do? It's Pembleton Turpentine," Mike shrugged as he reached past Bayliss for the coffee. "Come springtime, I'm gonna have him come over and make a big pot so I can refinish the deck on my boat..."
Howard and Bayliss were still chortling when Munch walked into the break room.
"Uh-oh, here comes the Grinch," Kellerman said loud enough for Munch to hear.
"And pleasant holiday tidings to you, too, Kellerman," Munch replied. Kellerman had been grinning, so John didn't get worked up about it. "Your partner has seems to have purchased a package of dog stickers, by the way. Your desk is getting decorated as we speak..."
Mike smirked. "He's just jealous," he said. But he went off to intercept Lewis anyway.
"John! John! You're not gonna believe this," Brian Cassidy came running into the break room, out of breath and cheeks still flushed from either the exertion or the cold. He waved a manila folder. "Autopsy came back on Fabian Joseph."
"And?" Munch dropped his teabag in the trashcan.
"Anaphylitic shock.... caused by exposure to dogs." Cassidy could barely get the words out, he was laughing so hard.
"What?" Munch yelped.
"Dogs. Joseph was very allergic to dogs. Someone put him in contact with one," Cassidy reported breathlessly. "Or many, considering he was found outside the Chateau Bow Wow."
Bayliss and Howard looked between Munch, slouched against the refridgerator, and Cassidy, who could barely keep himself from dissolving into a puddle of mirth on the floor. "Care to explain?" Howard finally asked.
"Fabian Joseph was a dog-lover," Munch sighed. "And not your run-of-the-mill dog-lover. We're talking world-class obsession. Dog-leg chairs, dog-print couch, dog art, dog dishes..."
"And a bedroom covered in fake dog fur," Cassidy added, breaking into another round of soft laughter.
"But no dogs," Munch continued, "and Cassidy and I couldn't figure that out. At least not until now. So all we have to do now is figure out who knew about the allergy and then threw Joseph to the pooches."
"Okay, everyone, it's time!" Gee called out. "Santa has arrived!"
The office had been blissfully unbusy all afternoon, so it was perfect timing. Everyone gathered around the Christmas tree put up outside Gee's office.
"Santa's first delivery is to.. Bayliss," Gee read the name from the box he was holding.
Tim carefully undid the ribbon and tape that covered elegant wrapping paper. "Just tear it, Bayliss!" someone, probably Kellerman, called out from the other side of the group.
"Wow." Bayliss said as he lifted the lid. "Someone in this office has great taste." He turned the box around so that everyone could see the crisp blue Arrow dress shirt and tastefully matched tie.
"Or someone's wife does," Lewis muttered, leaning slightly towards Frank Pembleton.
"Mary had nothing to do with this. It's not hard to improve Bayliss' wardrobe," Frank said, not losing his placid smile. "As with many other aspects of his life, Tim doesn't realize he looks better in blue."
"How'd you know what size collar?" Lewis asked.
"Unlike you, Meldrick, I am an excellent detective," Frank flashed him a wicked grin. "I detected."
"You broke into his locker and looked at his spare's what you did," Lewis muttered. He was about to say something else when Gee picked up a large box.
"Santa's next delivery goes to... Brian Cassidy." Gee handed the box off.
"You weren't that good a boy, Cassidy," Lewis quipped as he passed along the big package.
Cassidy eagerly tore through the wrapping paper and took off the lid of the box. His face registered shock and a bit of what only Munch could recognize as dismay.
"It's a Mr. Cheesehead," Cassidy lifted the stuffed hunk of anthropomorphic Swiss Cheese out of the box. "Who knows someone in Green Bay?" Nobody answered as they were all collapsed with laughter. Cassidy had hoped the cheese jokes would have ended by now.
"What's that in its hand, Cassidy?" Howard asked.
"An envelope... with two nice tickets to the Rangers at Capitals game next month!" Brian beamed. "Thanks to whoever, although they're still on the hook for the Cheesehead doll..."
Gee picked up another box. "Santa has even decided to visit Munch this year."
Munch made short work of the wrapping paper, obviously done up by a guy. Not from Kay, then. Any dismay was replaced by surprise. "The Baltimore Jew's Christmas Survival Pack?"
"What's in it? Besides a life jacket," Kellerman asked.
Munch turned the package over and read aloud: "Includes three free rentals from Blockbuster Video, a $20 gift certificate to Shining Moon Glott Kosher Chinese Takeout, a dreidel, and a coupon for a dozen jelly donuts from Dunkin' Donuts."
"Jelly donuts? Are you sure that's for you, and not Gee?" Frank asked.
"Jelly donuts are Chanukah food, especially among the Israelis," Munch replied thoughtfully. "Most American Jews aren't Sephardic, but they've picked up on the tradition. Danke Shein to my mysterious benefactor."
Kay reached for the next package. "Santa got this one for little Al Giardello," she said as she handed over the box.
Gee smiled broadly as he undid the wrapping paper. "Bene!" He announced as soon as the paper was off the top of the box. "An excellent present. Thank you, Santa, wherever you are," he said as he unwrapped the rest of the cappucino maker. Lewis breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
"Hey, look here," Kay called out. "Santa decided Frank was a good boy this year. But not very good..." she passed on a very small package.
Pembleton undid the ribbons and wrapping paper with characteristic grace. There was a slim box underneath and he opened it it slowly. And just stared.
"Frank Pembleton speechless," Kellerman cracked. "That's Santa's present to all of us."
"Thank you very much, whoever went to the trouble of securing these," Frank said quietly as he turned the box around. Inside was a pair of tickets to the New York Metropolitan Opera's production of "La Boheme." Pembleton snuck a glance at Cassidy, suspecting him, and Brian looked back innocently. After Pembleton looked away, Cassidy exchanged a knowing look with Munch. The latter's call to Lennie Briscoe had definitely been worth it -- the NYPD's supply of twofers had produced an unusually good offer.
Gee put down his newly beloved caffeine producer to reach for another box. "I never would have thought it, Meldrick, but Santa is apparently a lot more forgiving than I am," he said as he handed over the round box.
"A drum. This is the drum I asked Santa for when I was five and he's waited thirty years to give it to me," Lewis suggested as he undid the wrapping paper.
"Well?" Kellerman asked, arm around the recently arrived Kim Laramie.
"Not a drum, but not bad, either," Lewis reported. Reaching into the box, he pulled a brown felt porkpie out of the box and put it on. "I'm now even more the fashion plate than ever, thanks to my Secret Santa... Ooh, there's a second one," he said. "Geraldine! Who here knew I was a Flip Wilson fan?" He pulled out a woman's hat and spun it on his finger, clearly delighted.
Gee shook his head in bemused disbelief and reached for the next box. "Santa's gift for the lovely Kay Howard," he said as he handed her a box.
Kay heard something loose in the big box and shook it gently, confirming the rattle. Opening it up, she found a lot of wrapping paper and two small wrapped rectangles. The first was obviously a book, and Kay opened it first. "Edmund Spenser's Sonnets," she read the cover aloud, tilting her head to the side in a gesture of one unsure of what to make of it. The second box looked to be a jewelry box. Opening first the wrapping and then the box, Kay found a small green gem on a simple silver necklace. "Well," she said, not expecting anything so nice. "Er.. Thanks." As Gee reached back for the next present, Kay snuck a peek at Munch. Who else would give her jewelry and a book of poetry? But Munch was looking elsewhere, probably by design, Kay figured.
"Kellerman, your turn," Gee handed over a long, thin box.
Kellerman opened the box with Lewis looking on. Cassidy couldn't decide which was more precious. The look on Mike's face when he opened the box, the look on Lewis', or the look on Bayliss' face as he saw Kellerman's and Meldrick's reactions.
"Mikey, Mikey, Mikey," Lewis finally giggled. "You's gonna be truly whipped like a dog, now. Which is good, 'cuz you are most definitely a dog."
"What's in the box, Mike?" Howard asked from across the group.
Munch leaned forward. "Well, my dear sergeant," he reported, "it seems our young detective is now the proud owner of a very nice leather riding crop."
The squad broke out in various states of giggles and shouts of disbelief. Kellerman blushed red enough to match the Santa caps Bayliss had distributed to everyone but only Cassidy and Tim had put on.
"Remember, Meldrick," Munch intoned, "Stop before you break skin and try not to hit any important nerves..."
As Lewis picked up the crop and looked like he was considering where on Kellerman it would be best to apply the crop, Cassidy stared at Bayliss, who was most definitely not laughing. Bayliss finally looked up.
'What the hell?' Cassidy's eyes wondered at Bayliss.
The tall detective shrugged slightly and gave Cassidy a bewildered look. "I have no idea," Bayliss mouthed. He looked to say more, but Munch had turned to talk to him.
After the giggles quieted down and the last of the presents were distributed -- Judy and Naomi each walked away with gift certificates for an afternoon of relaxation and massage at a local health spa -- there was a dispute about whether egg nog was a necessary part of the Christmas experience, but eventually everyone headed back to their desks and got ready to go home for the evening.
Kellerman carried his present back to his desk much in the way someone might carry a live snake, gingerly, as though it might bite. Lewis was still occasionally bursting out in giggles and Cassidy really wanted to corner Bayliss and find out what had happened.
"No wonder my parents never let me stay up to see Santa," Cassidy joked at Kellerman. "How would you explain S&M to a six-year-old?"
"You want me to break this in on you, Cheese-boy?" Mike retorted.
"Hey, it wasn't me," Brian shot back. "I'm not into pain." He surreptitiously looked over at Bayliss, who was headed into the locker room. With everyone else occupied by the crop, Cassidy slipped away.
"Tim, what the hell happened?" Cassidy asked once inside.
Bayliss, eyes still wide with disbelief, ran his hands over his face. "I don't know. I went out to get a leash and collar, like you suggested, and I found one -- I even looked it over myself -- and got them to wrap it up... and then this."
"You didn't get this at Petland Discounts, then," Cassidy replied dryly.
"Uhhh... no. Place called 'All Due Restraint' on the Block," Bayliss sounded embarrassed. "Frank and I had a case across the street from it a few years ago, so I remembered the place."
"Uh-huh," Cassidy didn't sound like he believed him and Bayliss blushed even deeper. "So you picked out a leash and they wrapped the crop instead?"
"Apparently," Tim sighed. "Guy behind the counter even offered to let me try it on. I told him it wasn't for me, but I don't think he believed me..."
"You've got a thinner neck than Mikey, trying it on wouldn't have done any good." Cassidy shook his head sharply to lose the image of Tim on a leash.
"So what do I do now?" Bayliss asked.
"Nothing!" Cassidy laughed. "Mikey doesn't know it's you. If he finds out, you can explain then. I'll even help you. In the meantime, stop looking so guilty."
Cassidy played with his french fries and snarfed his burger, much to the amusement of Bayliss, who was tending bar at the Waterfront that evening. Kellerman had promised to stop by, but had not as yet shown up and Cassidy was making Lewis nuts by making dominator jokes ("Me and Mikey don't got that sorta relationship, Cassidy", "Sure you do, you diss him all the time, 'cept now you get to say it with leather", "Gonna use that thing on you if you don't stop talkin' 'bout us like that", "Hey, I call'em as I see them") and coming up with interesting uses for a riding crop. Bayliss was trying to laugh along, but failing miserably. Munch, on his third bourbon, was not laughing at all.
With Bayliss busy with customers and Lewis having stormed off to the kitchen, Cassidy leaned over to his partner. "Don't like your present, Munchkin? You look awfully down..."
"My hungry eyes through greedy covetize/ Still to behold the object of their paine/ With no contentment can themselves suffize/ But having pine and having not complaine..." Munch recited, eyes closed.
"Why are you quoting Spenser at me?" Cassidy asked.
"Spenser's Amoretti cycle. Someone loves Kay and now she knows it," Munch sighed. "I'll no longer be able to playfully woo our dear sergeant because she'll be seeking that someone out."
"She knows who it is, dingbat," Cassidy shook his head. "How many Homicide cops can tell Edmund Spenser from 'Spencer for Hire'?"
"But it wasn't me," Munch knocked back the rest of his bourbon and swayed slightly as he stood up to reach behind the bar to grab the bottle. Cassidy steadied him and guided his partner back to his barstool. Munch eyed him suspiciously. "You know Spenser from Robert Parker, though, don't you?" As the realization dawned on him, Munch looked as horrified as one half in their cups could look. "How could you, Brian?"
Cassidy laughed and Munch looked ready to punch him. "Calm down, partner. Kay doesn't think it was me."
"But it was you," Munch accused.
"John, She thinks you are her Secret Santa," Cassidy put his finger to his lips, indicating secrecy. "And I won't tell her if you won't. Didn't you see her sneaking peeks at you after she opened her present?"
Munch just stared.
"Come on, Munchkin," Brian put his arm around his, "Cheer up. Our lovely sergeant was quite pleased with her presents."
"Why'd you do it?" Munch asked.
"You were so down after we drew names," Cassidy explained. "When I ended up with Kay, it seemed like the perfect opportunity."
"Spenser? Not Shakespeare?"
"I stayed awake in English Lit," Cassidy shrugged. "I know half of Willie B's sonnets are to guys or about death and growing old and ugly."
Munch shook his head. "Amazing. You can't tell cheese from foreplay, but you can choose Spenser's love poems over Shakespeare's."
"Gee, thanks, Munch," Cassidy looked irritated and took his arm away, sitting up straight. "Kick me right after I do something good for you."
Munch smiled. "Relax, Brian. I am merely observing that you are a man of many splendors."
"This old lush botherin' you?" Lewis walked over to the pair, having gotten over Cassidy's exploration of his and Kellerman's off-duty time together.
"Yeah. Now I know why he can't keep a partner," Cassidy responded.
"Well, I'll distract you by lettin' you whup my ass in pool," Lewis gestured towards the back. ("No pun intended," Bayliss quipped and everyone else stared until Bayliss turned back to a customer.) Cassidy got up and headed towards the table.
Munch watched them go and then flagged down Bayliss. "Timmy, let me see Cassidy's bar tab?"
Bayliss rooted through the book and pulled out Cassidy's envelope, handing it over to Munch, who looked over the contents briefly before handing it back. "Toss it in the garbage."
"What?" Bayliss looked surprised.
"Put the envelope in the trashcan, Timmy, and don't start another one until Valentine's Day," Munch said. "And don't tell Brian, either. I'll cover it."
Bayliss, who had watched, but not heard, the exchange between Cassidy and Munch, did as he was told.