Written by Maggie the Cat
We’ll have dinner.
Tim is dead set on having me turn him in right away,
take him downstairs and have one of those second-shift
imbeciles slap the cuffs on him and cart him off to
prison. He wants punishment--swift and harsh and
I want to put it off. For Christ’s sake, I need time
Nothing had seemed *real* since I’d come back to
Baltimore. Even Giardello’s shooting seemed distant,
something that I was only vaguely affected by. I know
better than to believe that muffled feeling, though.
The problem was, it was only too easy to fall back
into the streets of Bawlmer and let myself remember.
What it had been like. How much of a difference we
made. How good Tim and I were together.
He does enough of that for both of us-always has.
From the minute I saw him, looming on the front steps
of the Homicide Unit, I knew something was wrong.
Tim’s never been one for much personal grooming, but
the wild beard and wilder eyes shocked me. I could
barely look at him. He was hiding something,
something painful and personal that was ferreting
about inside him. Whenever there’s a radical change
in Tim’s looks, you can bet that he’s going throug-
No, wait. I can’t make judgements anymore. I don’t
know him anymore.
I’m still doing God’s work, but not in the avenging
sense of the word. Mary says it’s mellowed me now
that I deal with students and priests instead of
murderers and witnesses. She’s thrilled at the new
direction our lives-our *life*-has taken. And she
knows just how much I’ve missed having my partner
around. But then this shooting happened, and she came
with me to Baltimore with only the mildest words of
reservation. I assured her, no, it’ll be fine. Tim’s
living his own life now. It won’t hurt either of us.
And then he greets me with a stuttered declaration of
Jesus. I thought that the only thing wrong with Tim
was his...his feelings for me. And those, while I’m
sympathetic towards them, just can’t be requited, at
least not in the way he wants. We can’t go back to
Homicide. We can’t go back to partners. God, why
can’t he ever understand that life isn’t *like* that?
But it turned out to be something much, much worse.
Murder. *Execution.* Tim? The guy who cried over
Jake the police dog, who suffered paroxysms of guilt
over Adena Watson, who constantly banged his knees on
those damned low desks? Good ol’ Tim Bayliss? What
am I supposed to fucking do about that? I can hardly
believe it myself, and he wants me to take him in? To
be his executioner? The man took a bullet for me. He
took a *bullet* in his goddamn back-he’s always had
trouble with his back-and now he wants me to do this
No. Dinner first. Stall him until I think of how to
Jimmy’s. Almost like old times, if you didn’t count
the strain, the grey hairs, the puffy eyes. Two men
sitting in a corner booth of the deserted restaurant,
seeming simultaneously anxious and exhausted.
Tim had resisted, demanded that Frank take him down,
threatened to turn himself in. It had taken all of
Frank’s considerable persuasive skills to get him to
agree to dinner, although neither of them was in much
of a mood to eat. They’d chosen the most
inconspicuous table in the place and stared blankly at
the menus, saying nothing until the waiter came.
Frank pursed his mouth. “Coffee-“
“Don’t have coffee, Frank. It’s not good for you.”
“Coffee,” Frank repeated forcefully. And clam
chowder.” He looked up at Tim, willing him to order
something. To do something as normal as eat.
Sighing, disinterested, Tim pushed the menu at the
waiter. “I’ll have the rosemary potatoes,” he
mumbled. The waiter whisked away and silence
“Rosemary,” Frank murmured. “That’s for remembrance.”
A wan smile, a weary tilt of the head. “Are you
calling me Ophelia?”
It was a bit unnerving to both of them how quickly the
answering smile came to Frank’s face. “Maybe,” he
said, leaning back.
Tim’s voice sounded broken when he spoke, stained,
swollen. “I feel like I’m drowning, Frank.” He
screwed his eyes shut. There had been enough weeping.
“I know, baby.”
Opening his eyes just a slit, just enough to see
through the thin haze of threatening tears, Tim *saw*
his partner for the first time since they’d come back
to Baltimore. He saw the lines on Frank’s round
forehead, the creases on his face, the weariness in
his gaze. He saw...he saw *helplessness.* In Frank?
“You don’t know what to do,” he said slowly. His
mouth felt numb.
“No. No, Tim, I don’t.” Frank spread his hands, a
gesture of surrender that Tim found inexplicably
terrifying. “What do you *want* me to do? You want
me to bring you down for this...for this *killing* and
leave you to rot?”
“It was a murder, Frank.” Now that he had started
talking, the numbness was spreading down, down, across
his chest, his arms, reaching into his fingertips. He
couldn’t stop now for anything. “A murderer has to
answer for his crime, no matter what. Justice has to
be clear across the board for the system to work. You
have to speak for those who can no longer speak for-“
“Don’t quote my own fucking words at me!” Frank
leaned across the table, rage sparking in his eyes.
“I know damn well what I said! Jesus, Tim-did you
ever stop to think that maybe I was *wrong?*”
“You-you were-I have to be punished,” Tim finished
dumbly. He could hardly keep up with the
conversation, he was so tired.
“For what? For filth like this...this Ryland.” If
Frank could have spit, he would have. “All the good
you’ve done, all the wrongs you’ve avenged and the
lives you’ve saved, and it has to end like *this.* I
can’t do it, Tim.”
He felt the hysteria rising to thread among the
numbness. “You *won’t.*”
“No, I can’t.”
“Frank.” Tim sounded almost amused now, dubious.
“Frank-you can’t? Whaddyou mean, for Godsakes? I
killed him! I *killed* him!”
“Keep your voice down!” Frank looked furious. It was
comforting, in an odd way. “You need *help,* Tim.
You don’t need to be railroaded for something you
didn’t mean-“ he kept talking over Tim’s protests,
“-you didn’t *mean* to do.”
“I’m not crazy,” Tim said suddenly, more clearly than
he’d said anything else all night. “Whatever else you
might think, Frank, I knew *exactly* what I was doing.
I wasn’t having some...some psychotic episode, or
schizophrenic lapse, or whatever else the shrinks
might wanna say about it. Lewis and Sheppard, they
never figured it out, and they’re good police. But I
*planned* it. I made *sure* I wouldn’t get caught.”
“So why do you want to be caught now?”
Astonished, Tim slumped back against the seat. “I...I
don’t know,” he blinked. “I just saw you and I…I had
to tell you. I could barely live with what I’ve done
myself. I couldn’t keep it from you.”
Frank rubbed one hand against his brow, sliding it
roughly over his head as though it would help him
process all this. “And you knew I would make sure you
paid for it.”
There was so much Tim wanted to say. That Frank, who
knew him better than anybody else did, would be
certain to see his desperation. That in some small,
bitter way, he wanted to show his partner just what
happened when you deserted your best friend. That he
secretly hoped that Frank would find some magical way
to smooth away the snags and make everything okay
But instead, he just said, “Yes.”
The waiter brought their food, the sudden earthy
smells making both Frank and Tim reel at anything so
solid, so very much *there* and indisputable and...
The coffee was screamingly hot as Frank drank it. Tim
sipped miserably at his numb, cold water.