Giving Up the Ghost
Written by Rachel
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Well, since it was my challenge, I thought I had better get this out. Amazingly enough, most of this was written before I saw the finale. I hope you enjoy it. I'm anxiously awaiting any and all feedback!
As always, thanks to Vali and Marti for carefully examining this before it hit the light of day. You are my inspiration, my muse.
Tim walked into the cool office. The weather had finally changed for good and summer had arrived in Baltimore. He wiped the light covering of sweat he had accumulated during his walk from the car. Fortunately, the air conditioning was on in the waiting room. He nodded at the receptionist.
"She's running a couple of minutes late, Detective Bayliss," the woman said.
He smiled and sat down in a nearby chair. Say what you will about psychotherapy--at least Sue Morgan had a good selection of reading material. He grabbed the latest issue of "The Advocate" and flipped through it, looking up when he heard Sue call his name. Setting the magazine down, he moved toward the door into the private part of the office.
"Sorry I was late. Tuesday afternoon crisis. You know how it is?" she asked rhetorically. He nodded and followed her into the quiet office. No matter how many times he came in, it never ceased to amaze him how soothing the mere environment of her office was. The beige carpet, muted light.
There was tasteful art on the walls. Somehow the air seemed easier to breathe in here. He took his customary seat on the far end of the leather couch while she sat down in an oversized wing chair.
"How was your week?" she asked, resting her pen on a pad of paper.
"Okay, I guess," he answered, examining his fingernails closely. He paused and then looked up at her. "Work sucks."
"More than usual?" she asked, leaning forward toward him.
"It's just one thing after another. I mean, the shooting, that started it or maybe it finished it. I just find that I really don't care if I even catch the perp, if the case goes down."
"And is this a new feeling?" she asked.
"I come in here and talk to you every week, I would think that you would know the answer to that question," Tim spat out, bitterly.
"Tim, I'm just trying to figure out what's going on with you. You feel frustrated at work, it's stressful. What's been going on? What are you working on?"
Tim looked over at her, shifting his position on the couch. "There was a kid last week. That kid whose dad shot him killed his mom too. I was there."
"And that was hard, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," Tim said, running his hand back through his hair. "Kids are always hard. Why would anybody hurt a child?"
"It's hard to imagine. How did it make you feel?"
Tim sat for a moment. "Angry. I'll never get used to it. Nobody should hurt a child."
Sue took some notes. "What did it make you think of?"
Tim looked over at her. "What do you mean? I thought about the asshole who killed his own kid and then put a bullet in his head. What else would I be thinking about? Adena?"
"You brought her up," she answered.
"It always comes back to her. How are we supposed to be getting anywhere if every conversation we have comes back to the death of Adena Watson and what my uncle did to me," Tim said, his voice laced with weariness.
"Because everything you do is colored by your experience. It's not that I don't think you can get past what happened to you, or the experience of the Watson case, but I do think you need to deal with those feelings before we can really begin to resolve some of these issues."
"And in the meantime?" Tim asked.
"Why don't you think about what you want to accomplish here, professionally.
It might be time for a change," she responded. She stood up, signifying the end of his session. He thanked her and excused himself.
Walking back out into the heat of late spring he thought about her words.
*A change.* What might that be?
Tim walked into the darkened rowhouse after first going from Sue's office to the Waterfront. Even with big things to think about, he wasn't really in the mood to be alone. He had helped Billie Lou through the happy hour rush and then headed back out into the night. He had wandered the small streets of Fells Point until finally he had ended up on a bench looking out into the bay. He watched the sun set and then got up and headed toward home. It would all seem easier on a full night's rest.
Tim tossed the pile of bills, magazines and junk mail on the desk inside his door. He didn't have the energy to deal with any of it tonight. He dropped his keys next to them and headed upstairs. He pulled his sweat-sodden shirt off and dropped it on the floor. Next came the shoes and then the jeans. He crawled under the sheets and immediately fell asleep.
Tim came around the corner and without thinking moved in front of his partner. Frank was like a deer caught in the headlights of an on-coming car, except the it wasn't a car, it was one of Georgia Rae Mahoney's foot soldiers and his headlights were a gun trained right on Frank.
The bullet didn't feel like he thought it would. It was hot, tearing through his skin, bone and muscles. It felt like it was tearing him apart.
He fell into Frank's arms and then to the ground, his partner's arms still around him. He could hear Frank screaming, the helicopter, more shots .
The white light. How predictable, yet there it was drawing him closer. Tim moved toward it, like a moth to the overhead light outside the garage. It was warm and soothing. The passage was white, but more than that, it was brilliant. He looked up over his head, everywhere was the brilliant whiteness that calmed him.
He pulled up short in front of a small desk. An older wizened man sat there. He had a book open in front of him. Fancy-looking, but a three-ring binder, nonetheless. The old man looked at Tim and then began flipping through the book. He looked at Tim again and then stared down at the page on which he had stopped.
"You aren't due today," the man said.
Tim stared at him with a confused expression. "What do you mean?" he asked, leaning over to read the book upside down. The old man pulled it toward him, protecting its secrets.
"You. You aren't supposed to be here today. There's been a mistake." Tim stepped back and looked around the passage that seemed to have no boundary, to be set in a different dimension.
"And where is this?" Tim asked, pulling his attention back to the desk. "Is it Heaven?"
"Well, it sure ain't Iowa! It's the Next Step. Didn't you see the sign?" Tim looked over to the left where the other man was pointing. Sure enough there the neon sign.
"So, what is the next step?" Tim asked, chuckling slightly to himself. The other man shot Tim a look that might have killed him if he wasn't already dead. He was dead, wasn't he?
"Take the third door on the left. You'll have to make your decision there," the old man said, his voice flat and disinterested.
Tim looked to his left. Suddenly a series of doors he had not noticed were apparent along a wall that didn't seem like it had been there earlier. He moved carefully to the door and entered the room. It was nicely decorated with a light gray carpet, a comfortable-looking brown leather couch and a very large television. Tim walked over and sat down on the couch. As he was getting comfortable the TV turned on and tuned into a picture of him going to work that morning. He looked around to see if there was a technician who had started the tape, but no one was visible. *This was like Santa Barbara at its most surreal.*
"Tim Bayliss, this is your life," the voice-over began. "Through what can only be termed a 'cruel twist of fate' you have joined us at the Next Step prematurely. This poses a problem because only you can decide what is next. In the next few moments we will share with you a bit of 'what might happen.' After the presentation, you will have to decide. It is solely up to you, Tim Bayliss."
The door to the ER at Maryland Shock Trauma burst open. Tim trailed behind the gurney pushed by two EMTs and Frank Pembleton. He could see that the victim on the gurney was in great pain, almost convulsing. Tim moved next to Frank to see who it was. He barely recognized himself.
*My god, what was happening? He was standing next to Frank, he was on the gurney.*
Frank was pulling the other Tim's pants off, that Tim was screaming . . .
The screen faded back to black. Tim sighed and reached for the cold drink that seemed to have simply appeared on the table next to the couch. He wiped the condensation off and took a long drink as the next scene began to appear.
*Oh man, it was his mom. She was sitting by his side, there were lots of tubes. Munch, Lewis, they were all there. Now Frank came in and Mary.
Mary was there.*
Tim sat stunned on the couch while he watched Frank on the screen, taking his hand in his, holding it. Holding it for dear life, it seemed.
The scenes seemed to flash by faster and faster. One minute he was lying in the bed unconscious with tubes coming out from every angle, the next there was a nurse trying to help him out of bed into a wheelchair. A therapy room, his mom, his sister Jane. Munch was there, then Lewis. Now Stivers and Ballard. Where was Frank?
He watched himself entering the squad room, walking slowly up the steps. It was his first day back. Again, no Frank. Partnering with Munch? Who had thought that would be a good idea?
He and Munch were out on a case. Man, he looked like hell, too skinny and very pale. Hadn't he looked in a mirror? He looked like crap. Munch teasing him about Buddhism.
"Bayliss, you're rubbing my rectum the wrong way," Munch said as they walked out to their assigned Cavalier. Classic Munch.
Tim watched himself drive home and gingerly crawl out of the Jeep. He had hid from all of them how hard it was to recover from the shooting. He walked in the house, made and ate a solitary meal, and then sat down to work at his computer. The phone rang and Tim got up to answer it. Chris Rawls. Looked like they were making a date. The other Tim smiled at the memory. Those had been a couple of good months.
More scenes flashed forward. A few cases, lots of time in the coffee room.
Shifts at the bar, a trip to Florida. More time at his desk watching Falsone catch case after case. What was that look Mike Giardello had slipped him? Had he missed something?
Chris had disappeared The solitary meals and nights alone in the chat rooms and working on the web site continued. The other Tim had made friends across the world, in places like Indiana, Sweden, Portland, Atlanta. He was spending more and more time at home alone, less time at the bar or with people from work.
Tim leaned back against the couch and ate some of the popcorn that had also mysteriously appeared. This whole thing was strange. Then he set the bowl down and leaned forward. Gee had called his alter into his office.
Tim sat with his mouth gaping, watching again as his lieutenant, a man he trusted and respected, asked him to give up the one worthwhile thing he had left. He had never pretended that it would be easy to be a member of the Baltimore police department and have an alternative lifestyle, but for Gee to ask . . . no, *demand* that he change his personal life, give up his web site, his lifestyle. For what?
His thoughts were interrupted by the door opening. He looked over and saw a young girl. She didn't need to have a red raincoat on for him to recognize her.
"You have the face of an angel," he said slowly. She walked over to him, holding out her hand. He stood up and looked at her, knowing what it meant to follow her.
"Thank you," she said. He ran his hand over her face slowly.
"Hurry, you're going to miss the ending," Adena called to him from the door.
He turned and followed her out still unsure whether he was doing the right thing.
"Oh god, Tim, no!" Frank's voice pierced the night. Munch kneeled down next to Pembleton and his fallen partner. *They were back at the beginning of the scene. Back at Georgia Rae's house.*
"He'll be okay, Frank. We're gonna get him out of here. Just hold on, Tim," the detective said.
"He's gone. It's over." Frank said slowly as he laid Tim's still body to the ground.
Tim stepped over to take a closer look at his partner holding his corporeal form. He laid a heavenly hand on Frank's shoulder hoping it would bring him comfort.
"Don't worry, Frank. That poor sucker never had a chance. As far as I'm concerned, Georgia Rae's boys did him a favor. You have no idea what kind of a favor . . . "
With that it was just like the Wicked Witch of the West. He began melting, while at the same time feeling strangely released. Oh, his friends and family, they would feel bad, but if they knew what he might have had to go through, Tim highly doubted anyone would challenge his decision.
Tim sat up in bed, his body covered with a cold sweat. My god, what had that been? It was a dream . . . wasn't it? But it had been so clear. He crawled out of bed and headed for the shower. As the water poured down over his head and body he thought about it, about the conversation he'd had with Sue the day before. Why had he become a cop? Why was it so important for him to become a homicide detective?
He shut off the water and reached for his towel. Drying his hair, he wrapped the towel around him and padded over to the phone on the bedside table.
"Hey, long time. Are you around today? I could really use a little advice.
Thanks, yeah, that'll work fine." Tim hung up the phone and moved toward the closet to get dressed and start his day.
"So, how did you know?" Tim asked, leaning across the table and looking closely at his former partner. Frank looked so different now, relaxed somehow. The past eleven months out of homicide, working with the state of Maryland as a special investigator, had taken years off his appearance.
"I couldn't stomach it any longer. I couldn't take the doubletalk from people I respected. Gee, Kellerman -- even Stivers and Lewis. " Frank said, then continued, his eyes softening. "And, I couldn't forgive myself for what I did to you."
"But you have, haven't you?" Tim asked.
"Forgiven yourself. I mean, you didn't do anything wrong that night," Tim replied, holding Frank's steely gaze.
"I froze up, Bayliss. I froze and you were shot. I know what that meant.
I couldn't trust that I wouldn't do that again."
"But we've covered all of that. Hell, I even talked to Kellerman about it last fall. It's water under the bridge, Frank." Frank nodded. "But what I need to know is if I can make it. Can I not work homicide?"
"Only you can answer that Bayliss, but there was a homicide unit before either you or I got there and it'll still be there long after we're gone.
I'm not saying it's easy, but life goes on. It's gone on for Kay and Stan, even Kellerman. My life has gone on. I do my job and I get home to Mary and the kids. There's value in that."
"It's just--when I joined homicide I thought I could make a difference and now I find myself thwarted at every turn. I'm just not sure I ever did any good."
"I hope you don't mean that, Tim. You're a good detective and part of that is knowing when enough is enough."
"I should have left with you," Tim replied.
"Maybe, but you always would have wondered if you could have made it back.
After my stroke I probably should have left, but it always would have nagged at me. Everything we do is for a reason, it just that sometimes it takes awhile to realize what that is."
"I'm gonna do it," Tim said quickly. "I'm gonna tell Gee I'm done." Frank nodded. "Thanks for listening to me about all of this."
"I owed you," Frank responded. Tim smiled back at him.
Tim walked into the station house. He paused at the bottom of the steps.
Seven years. That was a good run. Maybe it was better to get out before there was nothing good at all about being in Homicide. He sighed and began his ascent.
He tapped on Giardello's office door. The lieutenant looked up and signaled him to come in. Tim entered, pulling the door closed behind him.
"Tim?" Gee asked.
"I have given this a lot of thought Gee, and I think that it would be best for me and for the unit if I resigned," Tim said, his voice clear, his gaze steady on Gee's face. Gee nodded.
"I see. And what is this about? The shooting? It was a clean shoot, Tim, you know that," Giardello stated. Tim shook his head.
"No. I mean the shoot, that definitely got me thinking about a lot of things, but this is about me not being happy. I deserve more of that in my life. I'm afraid if I stay here I won't be able to do my job very well anymore." Tim reached into his pocket and pulled out his shield. He slid it across the desk and then pulled his gun from the holster under his shoulder.
"I appreciate all you've done over the years for me, sir," Tim said as Gee accepted the badge and gun.
"You've been a fine detective, Tim. I can't say I'm not sorry, but -- I wish you the best of luck." Tim nodded and stood up. Pulling the door open, he walked through the squadroom to his desk. He pulled a box from underneath his desk and began filling it with the pictures and mugs that had sat on his desk over the years.
Tim pushed the door open to the bar. Billie Lou stood behind the long piece of gleaming wood. There was a couple of regulars at the end finishing up their taps, a couple of Johns Hopkins undergrads playing pool in the back.
"Hey Tim! I didn't expect to see you tonight," Billie Lou called out as she made her way down to the stool where he had sat.
"Unscheduled visit. I need to keep you on your toes," Tim said, a smile breaking across his face. "I need you to give these envelopes to John and Meldrick, okay?" He passed two white envelopes over to her.
"Are you okay, Tim?" she asked.
"Better than I have been in a long time," he responded. With that he got up and walked out. He climbed into his jeep and pulled out into the street.
Casting a final glance back at the street that had formed so much of his existence he headed west.