Fells Point Fromage VIII: Body of Evidence

Everyone here but me belongs to NBC, Tom Fontana, Dick Wolf, and those folks. I'm not looking to buy, heck, I'm not even serious about renting.I'm just squatting. Don't sue, I'm poorer than I look.

Mike Kellerman woke up to the sound of gentle breathing near his ear and an arm across his chest. Comfortable and still mostly asleep, he didn't move, not wanting to disturb his bedmate.

Bedmate? Groggily, Mike racked his brain to figure out who he was sleeping next to.

"Gotta work on those bourbon goggles, Mikey," Kellerman thought to himself. "If you can't even remember who you went to bed with, it wasn't worth it." He tried not to move and thus wake up whomever was sprawled across his body. It was not a considerate partner who greeted his lover with a look of shock and surprise first thing in the morning.

This was his weekend off... he had taken the boat out with Cassidy... they had gotten stuck...

Oh.

Fuck.

Opening one eye slowly, Kellerman was greeted by a close-up view of Brian Cassidy's left ear. The rest of Cassidy was draped across both him and the rest of the bed. Brian's head was resting on the pillow close to Kellerman's and his left arm was across Mike's abdomen.

Brian shifted slightly in his sleep and Kellerman realized that he had to get Cassidy back to his side of the bed quickly. If the younger detective's arm slipped any lower on his stomach, Kellerman was in trouble.

"Here's a question for you, Brian," Mike mentally asked Cassidy. "Which is more embarrassing. Waking up with your arms around one of your co-workers that isn't Kay Howard, or waking up with your arms around one of your co-workers that isn't Kay Howard and finding out he's got a hard-on?"

Kellerman pondered his options as he lay there. If he just said something, he risked Cassidy's hand drifting farther south before he realized what he was doing. If he tried to move Brian's arm, he would have to face Cassidy's embarrassment at being draped all over him. His bathrobe was too far away to grab and cover up.

Mike looked around the boat, as if the answers would be written on the walls somewhere. He paused when his glance fell on the napkin holder that sat on the counter over the fridge. Annie had made that damned thing in one of her arts-and-crafts classes. The ones she would go to when he was on night shift back in the days when he was on patrol...

That's it, Mike realized. I'll make like Annie.

In the last months of their marriage, after she had started cheating on him and before he had figured it out, Mike would come home late from work and slip into bed next to his wife... who would promptly roll over onto her side with her back to him. Annie always slept on her back, same as he did. But she would roll over, away from Mike's searching touch.

Who'd of thunk that a cheating wife could provide so many varied life lessons, Mike wondered. How to deal with a broken heart, how to force yourself to learn to cook and clean up after yourself. And how to avoid letting your co-worker realize that you've got an erection. Fascinating.

Mike closed his eyes and rolled over slowly, the way he thought he might if he was asleep. He felt Cassidy's hand slide across his belly and then rest on his hip. And then disappear completely.

From behind him, he heard what sounded like Brian holding his breath. Kid must have woken up and realized where his paws were, Mike reasoned. He could hear Brian slowly but surely edge his way across the bed to the far side.

The next thing Mike heard was the sound of Cassidy trying to gently climb out of the bed without waking him up. The light in the cabin, even with the blinds drawn, was a bit dimmer. I must have fallen back asleep after crawling out from under Cassidy, Kellerman thought.

"I'm up, Brian," Mike mumbled as Cassidy continued his painfully slow movements towards the foot of the bed.

"About time," Cassidy said, hopping off the bed. "You sleep like a hibernating bear. I need a lift back to shore. Unlike you, I gotta go to work today."

"You used to be a swimmer," Mike rolled over onto his stomach. "Shore's not that far away."

Cassidy stretched his long frame back across the bed and reached for his pillow, bonking Kellerman on the head with it. "I am not getting into that filthy water. Get up."

Mike kicked the sheets off and stumbled out of bed. Cassidy was in the bathroom and Kellerman padded down the steps to the galley to put up coffee.

"I can't ever get used to this," Brian said as he emerged from the head. "Coffee and breakfast at two in the afternoon."

"You eat Cheerios for dinner," Kellerman stared at him. "And we're cops. We drink coffee and eat donuts 24/7."

"Yeah, but that's by choice. It's different when you have to eat it."

"You can have a ham sandwich for breakfast if you want," Kellerman shrugged. "I've even got some leftover lasagna."

"Nah, I can't eat anything for breakfast except breakfast food," Cassidy shook his head.

"So how do you eat Cheerios for dinner?"

"There's never a wrong hour for cereal. It's luncheon meat and dinner stuff that's got a time limit."

"Whatever," Kellerman dug out the last of the burritos from the freezer and stuck it in the microwave. Seeing Cassidy's disgusted expression, Kellerman chuckled. "Don't worry, I've got Pop-Tarts."

Brian pulled a pair out of the box and stuck them in the toaster. Reaching over his head, he grabbed a banana from the sparsely populated fruit bowl.

Kellerman turned around from checking on his burrito to see Cassidy pouring his coffee, half a banana coming out of his mouth.

"Don't practice your deep throating techniques in front of me, Cassidy." Kellerman grinned. "You're gonna make me nervous after-the-fact about sharing a bed with you."

Brian nearly gagged on the fruit. Had Mike woken up before he did? Did he know? He took the banana out of his mouth.

"You wouldn't wake up if a rocket landed in your living room," Brian accused. "How would you know if I did anything?"

"I wouldn't, that's what makes me nervous." Mike chuckled, hoping to cover his discomfort.

"Well, I'm an innocent little lamb, especially compared next to you," Cassidy grinned insouciantly. "I'm going to take a shower."

Kellerman finished his burrito and his coffee and still hadn't heard Cassidy turn the water on.

"You get lost in there, Cassidy?" Mike knocked on the door. "It's too small for even you to misplace anything like a shower nozzle."

"How do you get the water to turn on?" A perplexed voice asked after a moment.

Kellerman chuckled. "Here," he said as he opened the door, "It's easier to do it than give directions."

"Hey," Cassidy yelped. "I'm naked in here."

"I noticed," Kellerman grinned. "You getting modest all of a sudden? What do you have that I don't?"

"A winning smile and a charming personality?" Brian quipped.

"That's it, no hot water for you," Kellerman turned to leave.

"Wait, wait, come back here," Cassidy grabbed an arm. "I need you..."

"Oh, really?" Mike leered, careful not to look down. "I'm sorry, I'm spoken for. But I will tell you that to get hot water, all you have to do is turn the wheel to the left."

Kellerman left the tiny bathroom, which was really too small for two grown men to be horsing around in. Hearing Cassidy contentedly splashing around, humming what sounded like Depeche Mode, Mike went up to the wheelhouse to begin the trip back to the docks.

*****

"Aha, so the dashing Brian Cassidy has escaped from his imprisonment on Blackbeard's ship to return to his faithful partner," Munch looked up as Cassidy dropped his mail on his desk and sat down.

"Faithful partner? You'd drop me like a hot rock if you could find someone who'd actually obey you," Cassidy sniffed with mock indignance. "I'm just filling in for your own true love."

"Oh, come on, Brian, a little self-confidence," Tim Bayliss patted Cassidy's shoulder as he stood behind him. "Munch was a pale shadow of himself while you were away with Kellerman."

"That where you were yesterday?" Lewis asked after he finished swallowing his bite of donut. "I tried to call your place. I needed an answer to a hockey question."

"A hockey question?" Munch asked. "Since when do you care anything about hockey? I thought my junior associate was the only one here who indulged in watching toothless Canadians skate around with weapons on frozen mineral water."

"Two-thirds of hockey players have never lost a tooth," Frank Pembleton pointed out.

Cassidy smiled. Frank's enjoyment of hockey was a fairly well-kept secret in the office. Bayliss, who had heard it from the retired Beau Felton, had told Cassidy about it late one night at the Waterfront.

"We had some guy at the Waterfront last night who said he was a former hockey player," Lewis, pointedly ignoring Munch, leaned forward to talk to Cassidy. "I wanted to see if you knew the name or not."

"What was it?"

"I don't remember now," Lewis shook his head after a moment. "I think he wrote it down on a napkin. I'll bring it in tomorrow."

"Bayliss, come look at this," Frank, grinning broadly, waved Tim over. "Read this paragraph and tell me what's wrong with this."

Bayliss picked up the confession and squinted as he tried to make out the writing. He then started making strange gestures with his left hand as he mumbled to himself and looked up blankly to the ceiling.

"Have you gone Pentecostal while we weren't looking, Timmy?" Munch asked. "Are you speaking in tongues? Is divine wisdom leading you to the solution of your case?"

"..April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one, except for February." Bayliss suddenly grinned broadly and turned to Frank. "Hah!"

Pembleton, smiling still, pulled on his hat and reached for his coat. Bayliss was already halfway out the door.

"I hate when they do that," Lewis groused.

Gee came storming by just then, not talking to anyone and not breaking stride until he passed by the board. Pausing, he looked over the pattern of red and black and then turned to face the squadroom. Glaring at the detectives, he stormed into his office and slammed the door.

"Let me guess, today was his meeting with Barnfather and Russert," Cassidy spoke after a respectful silence.

"Uh-huh," Lewis nodded. "And this here is where we all take a couple of folders and go work out of the front seat of a Cavalier, 'cuz if Gee gets his hands on us today, we're gonna be working Auto Theft." With that, he picked up his things and walked over to the key rack.

Munch, who had been leaning back in his chair, sat forward. "You know, Lewis might not have such a bad idea. What say you we head over to the Randy Rabbit and check up on our leads for the Essensa murder."

A crash from Gee's office and a stream of curses in Sicilian sent Cassidy scurrying for his notebook. "Good idea."

The two left in a hurry, much to the amusement of Kay Howard, still sitting at her desk filling out paperwork.

A few more minutes passed and Gee's door opened. The Lieutenant emerged, surveyed his domain, and walked over to Howard's desk.

"Well?"

"You had Lewis out in under a minute and Cassidy and Munch out in three," Kay reported, not looking up from her forms.

"Not bad, not bad at all," Gee laughed deeply.

Kay put down her pen and reached for her coffee cup. "Considering our clearance rate is higher than it's been in three quarters, I'd consider that a pretty impressive performance on your part," She took a sip of now-warm selzer and grimaced. "But you have to stop grinning before you come through the doors, ya know?"

Gee nodded. "But I had such a wonderful chat with Barnfather that it was so hard getting the spring out of my step."

"The sounds of destruction were a nice touch to cover it up."

"Hmm? Oh," Gee shook his head sadly. "I keep forgetting that I oiled the wheels on my chair. It doesn't require nearly the gusto it used to to push from place to place and I'm still overcompensating. I knocked over a picture frame." He made a gesture that Kay had long ago realized was Sicilian for "Shit happens and life goes on."

"Barnfather was quiet, huh?" she asked. The two of them had spent an hour going over the figures for the quarterly review and Howard felt no small amount of pride for her part in their unit's increased production rate.

"Like Death in a Fellini movie," Gee smiled beatifically. "Here, let's go celebrate with espresso and pastry across the street."

Naomi was left to mind the store.

*****

"And here we are, the Randy Rabbit," Munch announced as Cassidy pulled in to the parking lot. "It just rolls off the tongue. The Randy Rabbit. It's such a terrible name, it almost works."

"Well, it's a silly name, but it's a silly crime," Brian shrugged as he followed Munch into the tavern. "Hostess killed by a five hundred pound person and we haven't got a single lead."

"You'd think they'd keep a list of the morbidly obese," Munch mused. "Track them, like buffalo or something."

"That's crude," Cassidy chided. "Especially coming from someone with no body fat."

"As if you should talk," Munch gestured down towards Cassidy's own slender waist.

"I'm not talking, though, am I?" Brian returned cheekily.

"Ah, Detectives, you're back," A small, beady-eyed man approached them as they stood in the entryway.

"Mr. Coursehare," Cassidy nodded at the owner. Munch giggled behind him and Brian subtly stepped backwards and onto Munch's foot to get him to stop.

"The other busboys you wanted to question are here today. I'll go get them," Coursehare turned and went back in the kitchen. His thick Scottish accent made it difficult to understand him, so Cassidy didn't nod in agreement until after the man had turned away.

"Will you stop," Cassidy hissed at Munch. "The guy named the place after himself. We knew that. It's not that funny."

"It's even better than Mr. Swordfish and Mr. Fish living next to each other," Munch disagreed.

The two busboys emerged, and Cassidy and Munch each direct one to separate tables a distance apart.

"So did you see what happened?" Cassidy asked.

"Yeah," Brent Peterson nodded. "Darlene was working the front and this huge broad comes in -- really, really fat -- and she says something to Darlene. Darlene shakes her head and then reaches for the phone and then the fat lady pulls out a gun and shoots her. Bang. Bang. Bang-Bang."

"Four shots. Bang. Bang. Bang-Bang," Munch confirms, looking over at Freddie Dwyer.

"Yeah, and then the guy looks around, like he wanted to see if anyone saw him," Dwyer agrees.

"So you got a look at his face," Munch prompts.

"Yeah. Dark hair, freaky eyes, and a missing front tooth."

"Freaky eyes how?"

"Wild, you know, like he was lit up on something," Dwyer shrugs. "You know what else was weird? He had a really thin face for a fat guy. Like he was normal from the neck up or something."

"So she was pretty?" Cassidy asked.

"Nah, not pretty, just not as ugly as you'd expect for someone so... tubby." Peterson made a face. "She didn't have a double chin or nothing, but had kinda nice hair. She'd be pretty if she lost a few hundred pounds."

"Okay, sit here for a second?" Cassidy asked. He went over to Munch, who was waiting for him in a quiet corner away from Dwyer.

"What've you got?"

"A fat guy with a skinny face in a blue sweatsuit," Munch reports. "Dwyer thinks he was tripping on something."

"A guy? Did you say a guy?" Cassidy whispered loudly.

"Yeah," Munch looked confused. "Dwyer was pretty sure about that."

"Cuz I got a fat chick with a skinny face and nice hair and a blue sweatsuit," Cassidy makes a face. "And Peterson's pretty sure."

"So who do we trust?" Munch flips back through his notes. "The other waiting customers heard a man's voice."

"I'll check back with Peterson," Cassidy turned.

"Brent, my man," Cassidy sat back down. "How's your eyesight?"

"Huh? What, you don't believe what I told you?" Dwyer looked suspicious.

"I believe you, it's just I gotta figure out how all the evidence fits together. You saw a chick, but someone else heard a man talking."

"Women can have deep voices," Peterson sounded defensive.

"Yeah, they can," Cassidy shrugged. "What made you think it was a chick, though?"

"She had boobs, man," Peterson shook his head. "Not big ones, but she had 'em."

"Fat guys have breasts, too," Cassidy ventured. "Was there anything else that made you think it was a she?"

Peterson thought for a moment. "Nah, I mean, I was cleaning up table sixteen, over there," he pointed towards a corner. "The light bulb over that table is dim. I didn't see up close until I came by with the dishes and I looked at her... him?.. from the side. I only got a quick look at the face."

"Okay, no problemo," Cassidy nodded. "You've still helped out. Thanks a lot."

Munch was waiting for him by the register. "No go?"

"He's not sure now," Cassidy shrugged. "We've got someone, probably male, in a blue sweatsuit. This someone, probably male, has a thin face and longish dark hair.."

"... and a missing front tooth," Munch added.

"And a missing front tooth. And you said was probably high as well, right?"

Munch nodded.

"And this someone, probably male, after shooting poor Darlene four times, busts outta here like a sprinter," Cassidy finished. "Does something not fit here, or is it just me?"

****

"It doesn't sound like a fat person," Kay Howard said after a pause.

"What do you mean it doesn't sound like a fat person?" Munch waved his arms. He and Cassidy had reluctantly returned to the squadroom and sought out Kay's advice rather than face the wrath of Gee. "The guy.."

"..or girl.." Cassidy put in.

"...Or girl, is uniformly described as weighing between three hundred and four hundred pounds. This doesn't sound like fat to you?"

"But nothing else fits, Munch," Kay shook her head. "The guy, and I think we can say it's a guy, walks quickly into the restaurant, does the dirty deed, and runs outta the place. When was the last time you heard of a four-hundred-pound anything walk quickly or run away, huh?"

"There are ponies that can run pretty fast," Cassidy spoke up. Kay and Munch stared at him. "What?"

"And he's described as having a thin face by everyone, right?" Kay continued.

Munch thought for a minute. "Cassidy, what does the ex-boyfriend do for a living?"

Brian flipped through his notes. "He is a set designer for a repertory group at Hopkins."

"Fake fat?" Munch pondered aloud. "Come, Cassidy, let's go visit the fellow in his work environment and see if we can't find something out."

The pair walked by a very smug looking Bayliss and Pembleton coming out of the box.

"Nice chat?" Cassidy asked Bayliss.

"Oh, yes," Frank answered for him. "Mr. Holzinger's alibi has been reduced from airtight, to relying on a faulty calendar from Shopper's Drug Mart."

"Huh?" Cassidy didn't even try to pretend he was following.

"Our suspect originally told us that he was in Landover for an art show on November thirty-first," Bayliss spoke.

"But there are only thirty days in November," Cassidy grinned.

"And Mr. Holzinger in there," Frank gestured at the box, where the suspect in question could be seen through the blinds, "now tells us that he made a mistake because his Shopper's Drug Mart calendar accidently put a November 31st in."

"Whoops," Cassidy giggled. "I better go, Munch gets apoplectic when I make him wait for his ride."

"Apoplectic?" Bayliss asked aloud after Cassidy fled. "Who uses 'apoplectic' in a sentence?"

"People with vocabularies, Tim," Frank started walking towards his desk. "It would be nice to have a partner with a diverse and complex vocabulary."

"But you hate it when I use words you don't understand," Tim followed after Frank, speaking at a volune just low enough for Pembleton not to hear.

****

"So the guy stole a fat suit?" Lewis asked Cassidy as he wiped down the bar. It was yet another quiet night at the Waterfront.

"They were staging 'Henry IV, Part I' at Hopkins," Cassidy took a sip of his ale. "He went to the murder dressed as Falstaff in a sweatsuit."

"Willie B is rolling over in his grave," Munch shook his head as he filled two glasses of beer for patrons.

"Speaking of rolling over, you manage to live through a night at Mike Kellerman's floating palace?" Lewis asked.

Cassidy raised an eyebrow. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Mikey's a nervous sleeper," Lewis explained. "He's awake at every noise. Every time you roll over, he's up and staring at you. Boy always sleeps on his back, so he's always able to give you dirty looks. And then he gets on you for him getting a lousy night's sleep."

Brian covered up his sudden realization that Kellerman had probably known exactly where Cassidy's hands had been when he woke up by taking a long drink of Bass. "He slept like a log as far as I could tell," he finally said.

"Nah, that was jus' Mikey being polite," Meldrick shook his head. "He likes you. Me, I'm his partner, so he gives me crap for every little thing."

"Oh," Cassidy nodded. "Lucky me."

Meldrick went to go take care of the two ladies sitting at the end of the bar and Brian was left alone with his ale.

(Mike wasn't on his back when I woke up...where the hell exactly on him was I flopped? And why had Kellerman not said anything about me being draped all over him? Mike really wasn't the type to spare feelings by not embarrassing the hell out of me... Maybe he just didn't mind? Mike?)

"Cassidy, you look like you are still in high school and just got caught feeling up the pretty girl in the locker room," Lewis had returned. "What's up, cheese boy?"

"Nothing, nothing.."

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