Look Again
Written by Maggie the Cat

---I. Snark City---

Look at them.

They're a team. A family. Bayliss mother-henning Pembleton, Munch and Megan bickering like siblings...even Kay and Meldrick know each other's faults and habits although they argue all the time. Gee behind that office door, ready to come bursting through like a kindergarten teacher if we get too rowdy.

Am I ever really gonna belong here?

"Yo, Mi-key!"

Meldrick drops heavily into his seat across from me, grinning all over that.../face/ of his. He's got something clever to say. I can feel it coming, and I don't wanna encourage him, so I don't answer. Not like that would stop him. If the guy had played football with the same unstoppability as he bugs people, he woulda been a megastar.

"What you mopin' around for? Sex life got you down? Or should I say--/lack/ of a sex life?"

He finishes it off with that annoying, wiseass, "Heh heh" that he does. God, that drives me nuts. I like the guy and all, but he sure knows how to be irritating when you're not in the mood for it.

Still, I don't say anything snarky (about, say, Barbara Shivers) to put him in his place, because I don't feel like a fight. Although, considering Barbara's stupid name, I wouldn't even /have/ to be snarky to insult her.

So I just narrow my eyes at him, flick my hair out of my face, and go back to the ballistics report I'm pretending to read. Meldrick doesn't press, because he doesn't really want to know why I'm mopey. He likes me enough, and he's even nice to me, but I'm not really, /truly/ his partner in his mind. He's never gonna forget Crosetti and we both know it.

Aw, hell. Might as well call it lunchtime and go get a beer.

---2. Mrs. Bolander---

Look at her.

Sitting there all gussied up, prim, every bleached hair in place. Settling in. Making a nest. Soon she'll be burning her initials into the desk and covering the phone in Battenburg lace.

Ever wonder why I wear the dark glasses? Vanity, you might say. An affectation. An indication of a nature distrustful of scrutiny. Weak corneas. Well, it could be any and all of these possibilities, but, to tell you the truth--I'm something of a voyeur. Not the exciting Jimmy Stewart-telescope-open window kind, though. I just like to observe people when they're relaxed, at ease, unaware.

And what do I see when I look at my new partner, the once promoted/twice demoted Megan Russert?

Right now, I see her lunch. Yogurt, Granny Smith apple, something that looks like dry wedges of pita bread. And a triple hazelnut vanilla double froth with extra who knows the fuck what cappucino. The food of champions, if you happen to be either a champion anorexic model or a champion beat poet.

Now Stanley Bolander--/there/ was a man who had lunches. Not just lunches, but moveable feasts, veritable banquets wrapped in waxed paper. Granted, his tastes weren't exactly epicurean, but there's a certain charm to old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs food. You'd never catch the Big Man eating yogurt and pita wedges.

And when he had a green apple, it was a fucking Golden Delicious.

---3. Nursemaid---

Look at him.

I can't believe he's back already. He should be at home, resting, recouperating. Of course, it's no surprise that he's here--nothing keeps Frank Pembleton from avenging the dead with aloof intensity.

God...to think we almost lost him....

I hate seeing him like this. I know he prefers to be at work, feeling useful, but....

"Do you need help with that, Frank?"

Bite my tongue. He gives me that /look/, the same look he probably gave his mother when the nurses handed him to her, all bundled up and newborn, and she baby-talked at him. That look that says, "You can't /possibly/ be speaking to /me/. I am /Frank Pembleton/."

So I grin half-heartedly and sit back down in my chair. I rearrange pencils and try to hold still while he struggles to find the arm-holes of his coat.

I tell myself, sure, it's hard for you to see Frank this way, Tim. But imagine how screamingly humiliating it must be for /him/.

Just imagine.

---4. Checks and Balances---

Look at me.

I've done so well for myself. I worked my way up through the department, all the way up to Sargeant, with nobody to thank but myself. I steered clear of all the sexism, the politics, the backstabbing. I made it. But there's something missing.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not having a mushy moment here where I wonder if having a baby might make me complete--it's just sometimes, I wish I had somebody to share all this with, huh?

But then, that's one've those occupational hazards of being murder police. You sacrifice all that personal stuff for your job, because your job is what makes the city a safer place. I may not always agree with Frank, but he's right about that. We avenge the dead so the living have peace of mind.

That's what I feel when I put down a case and that name turns to black on the board, or when I get a suspect to spill it all in the Box. When I go home to an empty apartment, though....

I can't help wondering if maybe the Carries and the Kellermans of the world have it right, and we should be living for fun.

Oh, come /on/, Kay. Carrie's a nutcase and Kellerman's here in Homicide, not exactly the most fun place in Baltimore. Not exactly the best examples.

Maybe I'm starting to understand Beau's train-wreck marriage. Maybe he just had to cling to Beth and the kids because at least he knew he had somebody to go home to at the end of a long, hard day. Maybe it helped him face all the murders to know that he could raise his kids different.

Then again, /he/ didn't have a perfect clearance, huh?

---5. Color Code---

Look at it.

A marvelous thing to behold. A map, a plan, a scheme in a world and a profession in which there is no certainty but death.

See how the red offsets the cool, cold black? See how it sparks the board with life?

That's because those names in red /are/ still alive. They're haunted souls, waiting for the release that only comes from the stillness of black. They /want/ to find the black. They seek it.

Help them find the still, dark quiet of the black. Dedicate your existence to it. Sacrifice your heart, your mind, your life if needs be....

---6. Answers---


Lewis looked up at his partner, who was leaning earnestly across the desks, pale eyebrows furrowed.

"What, Mikey?"

"Gee's standing there staring at the board again."

Lewis snorted. "'Sat all? Leave the man be, Mike. What Gee sees when he stands there looking at the board ain't for the rest of us mortals to know."

Mike slowly sat down again, never tearing his gaze from the imposing form of his Lieutenant. "Gee's pretty scary, isn't he?...."

Not even glancing up from his newspaper, Lewis nodded. "Terrifying. But don't nobody else wants the job."

"No shit," Mike said. "I wouldn't want to hafta deal with us either. We can be a real pain in the ass."

Giardello turned towards Kellerman, giving him the smile that always made Mike think he'd just done something horribly wrong and death was imminent.

"Yes, Kellerman--you /are/ a pain in the ass. In fact, all of my detectives have been pains in the ass at one time or another." The grin grew wider and more insidious. "But as long as you can keep turning red names to black ones, I'll suffer the pain in noble silence."

Another smile, around the squadroom for everyone's benefit, and Gee headed back to his office. He knew that by the time his door banged shut, the noise ould be drowned out by the chatter of his detectives, busy at work, busy gossipping and jibing each other.

He shook his head, musing over the changes and the constancy of the job. The people, fine people, who rotated through the Homicide unit, giving up time and sweat--and, too often, blood--to get the job done. He trusted them, respected them, counted on them. And sometimes he wished the rest of the city could see just how much these detectives sacrificed.

The bureaucracy, in its less self-assured moments, would demand of Giardello answers to the questions the public was pressuring them with. "When will it be safer to walk the streets? What's being done to clean up the city? Who should we look to for justice?"

And Giardello always had the same answer.

"Look to us."