Point and Click
Written by Saffron Bailey

"Do you think she likes chocolates?"

"All women like chocolates, but that's not an appropriate birthday gift," Frank Pembleton didn't take his eyes off the road as he replied.

Tim Bayliss looked out of the filthy Cavalier window and sighed. "Why not?"

"You can't get a woman anything fattening at any time when she's going to be examining herself for signs of getting old, that's why." At a red light, Frank turned to look at Tim. "You can't give them chocolate, or take them out for cheesecake, or even bring home a pizza on birthdays or anniversaries."

"What did you get Mary on her birthday, then?"

"We went out for dinner and I got her a cashmere sweater she had been admiring," Frank didn't even signal as he turned into the precinct motor pool. Tim cringed as the car behind them honked. You can take the boy out of New York, but you can't take the New York...

"But doesn't taking Mary out to dinner count as high-calorie?" Tim suddenly realized Frank was already out of the car and on his way inside.

"No, we went out for Vietnamese food," Frank answered as Bayliss caught up to him.

"Vietnamese food isn't fattening?"

"Mary hasn't quite mastered eating rice with chopsticks," Frank explained. "She eats less that way, so she doesn't feel full, so I don't have the 'honey, do you think I've gotten fat?' conundrum when we get home." He flashed Tim one of his thousand-watt smiles.

"So you practice intentional starvation on your beloved wife?"

Frank sighed heavily as he turned the corner and headed for the homicide squadroom. "Tim, this is why you are single."

"Is this a new reason, or one of the old ones?" Meldrick Lewis asked as he stood by the coat rack putting on his hat. Bayliss made a face at him and Lewis shrugged artlessly before heading out.

Bayliss headed over to his desk and sat down thoughtfully. He had less than a week to come up with a good present. Tim didn't want to ask his mom for an idea -- how do you explain that you want to get a present for your secret crush? There were raised voices coming from the other side of the squadroom and Bayliss turned.

"Get out of here, willya?" Kay Howard made shoo-ing motions with her hands. "If you're gonna be goin' on about that Big Brother stuff, I don't wanna hear it, 'kay?" Howard was sitting at the NCIC terminal, but internet browser was running.

John Munch, hovering over Kay's shoulder, was not to be dissuaded so easily. "Kay, I'm not telling you to be a nudge. I'm honestly concerned about your well-being," Munch dodged a disbelieving stare from Kay. "I don't want Nunzio and Tony coming to your door at 3AM looking for your life savings after some hacker buys three Mercedes with your credit card."

"First off, this isn't some shady internet corporation. It's Amazon.com, fer cryin' out loud! Second of all, the internet is pretty safe for buying stuff. Third of all, I dunno about your Visa, but nobody's buying a Mercedes with my credit limit. Fourth of all..." Kay sighed, "just go away, Munch, huh? I've got a headache."

Munch put his hands up in surrender and backed away. Spotting Bayliss with his face in his hands, he wandered over to bring cheer to his distressed colleague.

"What's the matter, Bayliss? You look like your kitten just drowned."

Bayliss grumbled silently as he lifted his head and smiled wearily at Munch. "It's nothing. I'm just trying to figure out a birthday present for... a friend.. and I don't know what to get her."

"I can help you with that, Timmy," Munch waved his arm expansively. "I've got plenty of experience with getting women gifts."

"That's sort of why I didn't ask you, John," Bayliss gave a lopsided grin. "I remember Felicia and the exotic fish."

Munch's smile faltered for a split second before the bravado kicked in. "Look, who better than a married man, or in my case, a thrice married one, to give romantic gift advice?" Munch peered intently at Bayliss over his glasses. "This is a romantic thing, right?"

"No, no... well... not yet. And you're also three times divorced, John. Something about your gift giving doesn't work."

"Fine. Fine. If you don't trust me, go talk to Kay. She's getting herself ready to be ripped off," Munch shouted those two words, drawing a glare from Howard across the room, "by buying her friend Valeria some videotapes off the internet. Everything Sarah Polley's ever been in, I think... all she's really doing is giving her credit card number to some thirteen year old hacker who's gonna use it to buy access to porno sites. Meanwhile, the government is probably tracking all of everyone's internet shopping, keeping tabs on who is buying anything dangerous or subversive."

"How can some quaint Canadian movies be considered subversive? Is "Go" going to inspire treason or sedition?" Pembleton asked as he sat down, returned from wherever he had disappeared to after he and Bayliss returned, carrying files for Bayliss and coffee for himself.

"Buying peat moss isn't dangerous either," Munch wagged a finger at Frank. "But when you buy it along with a few other things, which the goverment can now trace when you stop at Gardentools.com or wherever you go, suddenly you're ready to blow something up."

"Or fertilize your lawn," Bayliss suggested. Baiting Munch was one way to cure his doldrums. Baiting Munch when Munch was aimed at anyone else was that much better. That that anyone else happened to be Frank, who wasn't helping him come up with a gift for Rachel, well, that was just icing.

"But the government isn't going to take any chances with that anymore. Not after all those Canadian terrorist-wannabes," Munch was getting agitated. "They're gonna have the ATF on your door within the hour to drag your sorry ass off to Leavenworth."

"I don't think peat moss comes under the juristiction of the ATF, Munch," Pembleton smiled. "Or baking soda, or ammonia, or whatever else we used to make volcanoes with for the high school science fairs." Frank pointedly returned his attention to the open file on his desk.

Munch looked over to Bayliss for support, but Tim was scribbling something down in his notebook. Exasperated with his colleagues' lack of concern for the ever-creeping governmental intrusion into daily life, Munch went off to the coffee room.

Bayliss waited for the coast to clear before looking over at Kay, who was still pointing and clicking at the computer. Walking over as if by circumstance and not by design, Bayliss sat down next to Howard.

"Have you ever bought stuff off the internet before?" he asked.

"A couple of books last Christmas. It's pretty easy," Kay shrugged, "All you gotta do is find what you want and put in your credit card number."

"Can you get small stuff on the 'net?"

"Small stuff, you mean like flowers or you mean like diamond earrings?"

"Flowers. But not flowers." Bayliss furrowed his brow in thought.

"You buyin' something for your momma, or are you lookin' to impress a girl, Timmy?"

Why did everyone know that Bayliss wanted to buy a present for a woman? "A female friend."

Kay chuckled. "I'll be done in a minute, 'kay? Then I'll show you a site that outta be useful."

Bayliss didn't have to wait long. Kay finished quickly and then typed something in to the computer.

"Here. It's kinda rinkydink, but it's cute if you do it with something else. I sent my friend one."

"Thanks," Bayliss peered closely at the monitor before remembering his glasses were in his shirt pocket. This couldn't be that hard...

"I'll see ya next week, huh?" Kay tapped Bayliss on the shoulder. She was wrapped warmly against the winter weather.

"You won't be in tomorrow?"

"Nah, gotta catch a flight. Movies are a nice touch, but it's better in person, you know?"

Bayliss didn't, not really, but nodded anyway. "Before you leave, just show me how to take a look at the thing before you send it?"

Kay looked around the office to see who was around. Munch was still in the coffee room and Pembleton didn't look like he was getting up anytime soon.

"Alright," She leaned over Bayliss and went into the History list of the browser, bringing up her own transaction. "You click here and it shows you."

Bayliss nodded, wondering who the recipient was and suspecting that they were very lucky. "Thanks. Have fun."

"Intend to," Kay nodded and headed for the door. Following the instructions, Bayliss had his own finished pretty quickly. He scribbled down the address just in case.