Notes: Thank you all for the tremendous support and the enthusiastic feedback on the pilot 🙂 You guys are honestly amazing. Therefore this story will be continued a chapter per week.
During the drive to the assumed target, Fraser sneaked glances at his new companion. How could he not have been sure if he had seen this man when he had vanished around the corner? He was radiant, feral, a frenetic energy that filled the whole car.
It would’ve been impossible to imagine that. Fraser took in the blond spikes, the metal bracelet around the wrist, the soft stubble around the mouth – yes, a vision so full of life it was hard to imagine it.
But something was off, something—
“Where’s your partner?” Fraser asked suddenly and before he could stop himself.
A dark look flitted over Ray’s features before he tried to conceal it with a casual shrug.
“Don’t got one,” Ray shrugged again. “I’m fine by myself, I work well alone.”
Somehow, Fraser didn’t quite believe that. Ray seemed to be a very open person, very expressive in his emotions, and rather impulsive. He couldn’t picture that Ray would prefer to be alone. But it was hardly his place to question Ray on this point.
When they reached the house, there was already smoke curling out the windows.
Fraser was already halfway out of the car when Ray’s words penetrated his focused mind.
“Look pal, I won’t risk my neck for a burning building.”
A wave of bitterness surprised Fraser and before he could help himself the words had fallen from his lips. “Ray Vecchio would.” He said it quietly but determined, and he knew that it wasn’t the blond Ray’s fault that he wasn’t Ray Vecchio. Fraser was just missing his friend.
“Fraser, I really can’t.”
But Fraser was already out of the car and on his way inside of the building. On the first floor, Fraser found Francesca and her brother-in-law and helped them to escape through the window.
Downstairs again, the fire department was already on the scene and about to enter the building. Fraser was met by Ray at the side of the building.
“Francesca, did you notice anything unusual?”
But Francesca was already shaking her head. Ray mumbled something about traces of perfume.
“Ah, yes, I’m sorry. Francesca, this is Detective Ray Kowalski.” He gestured towards his new acquaintance. Francesca smiled hesitantly, but Ray was busy scribbling into his notebook and only looked up shortly to nod at her.
“Listen, Fraser, I know that this thing… with my brother… can’t be easy for you, but it’s really for the best. It’ll get better, I’m sure of it. So if there’s anything I can do…”
Fraser gave a tense shake of his head. Francesca was only trying to help, he knew that.
Once Francesca was out of harm’s way, Ray and Fraser went over their options.
“I’d say we let someone look for that van. It must’ve driven off somewhere, so someone must’ve seen it.”
Ray got out his cell and gave a description of the van and its license plate. A minute later he stowed his phone away with a satisfied smile.
“It’s at the docks. Do you wanna find out why someone’s got a beef with you? Although…” Ray grinned. “From the stories I’ve heard, I’d say there’s more than one person you’ve pissed off in the past.”
Fraser wanted to argue the point, but Ray couldn’t stop laughing so Fraser gave up on it after a while.
They found the blue van parked directly at the lakefront. They got out and Fraser immediately realized their mistake.
The sound of a gun being cocked froze them right where they stood.
Behind one of the shipping containers, a woman emerged. Her hair was in disarray and she threw a half-smoked cigarette away as a pleased smile appeared on her face.
Fraser couldn’t help but notice that there was a strange feverish glint to her hard eyes.
“He was a good man. A great artist.” She said in a slightly unsteady voice. “You had NO RIGHT—” her voice rose in volume before she stopped abruptly.
The gun was trained steadily on Fraser’s chest, and not for the first time did Fraser realize that he had to rely solely on the power of persuasion. Reasoning wasn’t the most effective when the opponent wasn’t all mentally there to begin with.
Ray had obviously taken a similar stand on this point for he didn’t even seriously try to get her to surrender.
Horrified, Fraser realized that Ray was riling her up – was indeed stepping right in front of him. Before he could even open his mouth to ask what Ray thought he was doing, a shot rang out.
Ray staggered and collapsed to the ground in front of Fraser.
Completely on autopilot, Fraser jumped at the woman who looked strangely vacant, in a content, almost happy way. He bound her hands with his lanyard without encountering any resistance.
Shocked, Fraser knelt down next to the almost stranger who had risked his life to save him.
“Ray!” Fraser exclaimed and reached for Ray’s chest to shake him. His fingertips brushed Ray’s hand and he realized for the first time that Ray’s fingers were covered in specks of ink, like those of someone used to a lot of hurried note-taking with a bad-working ballpoint pen.
It was a loveable trait, this carelessness. Fingers spattered with the residue of words.
“Ray,” Fraser repeated a bit softer.
Ray scrunched his face up in a pained grimace. “Ouch,” he gasped. His eyes flew open and he looked at Fraser with small grin.
“Don’t worry. I’m wearing a vest.” He sat up and, rubbing his chest, stood up with a slight wince.
“Are you sure you are alright, Ray?”
Ray nodded. “Yeah, think I would be telling you this and able to stand and breathe in front of you if I hadn’t been wearing one?” He grinned.
“Yes, of course.” Relief flooded through Fraser. How very foresighted of Ray.
Before the blue-and-white arrived to take their assailant into custody, Fraser managed to get the whole story out of the woman. How she had met Motherwell and how his ‘art’ had influenced her, how she had wanted to avenge him. The woman’s name was Greta Garbo.
And in a way, Fraser felt as if he had solved a case. With his partner. With this other Ray.
“Ray, would you like to get something to eat with me?” They had reached Ray’s car. Fraser was quite unwilling to let this meeting come to an end already. A shy smile spread over Ray’s features.
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
It was the first night in which Fraser didn’t feel the need to write in his notebook. He smiled softly and placed it into the drawer of his desk.
He felt almost happy. No one could replace Ray Vecchio and he was still worried for his friend and he still missed him, but Ray Kowalski was a good man. Someone who seemed to be very loyal very quickly if Fraser thought back on how Ray had saved his life twice in the course of a day.
…well, technically the first time Ray hadn’t saved him, but Ray hadn’t known that Fraser hadn’t been in any danger.
Fraser was… he was glad that he met Ray Kowalski.
Maybe he should’ve asked Ray for his phone number or at least his address. Maybe they could’ve gotten together again, Fraser wondered two days later. He had neither heard nor seen anything of the impulsive man.
And even though Fraser wasn’t so sure about his ability to judge other people’s characters, not after what had happened… but that wasn’t important right now, he was pretty sure that he had not failed in his assessment of Ray Kowalski.
It helped to know that Dief had liked him, too, almost immediately even. He had only left Ray’s ear alone after the detective had enunciated very clearly that he did not appreciate the attention the wolf bestowed upon his ear.
Fraser smiled fondly. Such a prickly character, this Ray.
Unconsciously, Fraser realized that he was spending more of his free time in a different area of town. An area that just happened to belong to the 17th precinct. His subconscious must’ve guided him here in the hope of meeting Ray again.
His day passed uneventfully though.
With a heavy heart, Fraser pulled his notebook out again that night. He looked a little sadly at the battered cover. Writing did help, but it was no substitute for companionship. Dief brushed against his leg.
“No, I know,” Fraser smiled at the half-wolf. “You’re a good companion.” He just missed human companionship despite his lupine friend.
Why am I confined to Chicago of all places? Is this the worst punishment they could think of? Is the past so hard to atone for? Fraser gripped the pen harder in sudden anger. Should I have left things unacknowledged? How has lying ever helped anything? Even knowing what good it did me, I would do it exactly the same way again.
He took a deep breath to calm himself. It is our past decisions that form who we become. I know why I am here and I know that I will be here for an indefinite amount of time longer. Even here I carry my past with me. Every time I introduce myself, to justify my being here, I tell people that I came here on the trail of the killers of my father.
Is that who I am? I don’t think it is, but it is the reason why I ended up here. And I suppose it says something about my character after all. I ended up here because I couldn’t let things rest. I have to stay here because I couldn’t step down from what I believed to be right. In a way, I indeed tell people something vital about me when I tell them the story of how I came to be in Chicago. Someone who can’t let go of the past. Someone who can’t let an injustice pass by unpunished – even at the cost of my own happiness. Someone who left his home for a lone manhunt on the trail of someone long gone. Why was I even surprised that Ray Vecchio had to leave? I should’ve known it. It’s my punishment. I think we are all haunted by our past; we carry it around with us on our backs, unable to get rid of it. Mostly, we are simply good at ignoring it. I… I want to see. I don’t want my past to design my future.
The day after, the Inspector dismissed him early to ‘make sure there was nothing to interfere with her meeting with an interior designer for the renovation of the conference room’. He wasn’t sure if his superior officer had tried to insinuate that he himself was a possible hindrance for the renovations, but he took his leave without protest anyway.
He took Dief for another long walk only to realize after a while that he had again ventured into a part of town he had seldom visited before he met Ray. They passed a graveyard gate and on a whim, Fraser decided to enter.
The solitude of a cemetery had always been consoling to Fraser. The quiet fit there, it was peaceful. He walked along the row of tombstones until he came across a little crypt – for a second he thought he saw a movement behind the iron railings of the window.
Intrigued, Fraser drew closer. It had rained this morning, showing clearly two sets of fresh footmarks leading to the door. But only one pair of feet had walked back. The other pair must have entered the crypt.
He tried the door and it opened almost noiselessly to the push of his hand. His eyes adjusted quickly to the near dark. A sense of excitement washed over him as he moved noiselessly over the stone floor. The stained-glass windows threw a strange half-light into the crypt.
For a second, he caught the glimpse of blond hair right behind the statue of a mourning angel. In a flash, the coat whipped around and vanished from sight.
Cautiously, he approached the window. The red and blue of the stained-glass painted patterns on the floor. The moment he passed the statue, someone moved from the shadows and pointed a gun at his head in one swift motion.
“Hello, Ray,” Fraser couldn’t quite contain a small smile.
The blond man released the breath he had been holding and shook his head. “You do have a death wish, you know that Fraser?”
Fraser just smiled again.
“Are you on a stake-out?”
“So what if I am?”
Fraser looked keenly at his new acquaintance. Ray sounded defensive, so whatever had brought him here was probably personal rather than professional.
“Maybe I could be of assistance,” Fraser offered, feeling immediately foolish. He had no jurisdiction here and Ray was a capable officer, what good could his help do?
But Ray relaxed and showed him another one of his tentative smiles. “Yeah sure, I could use someone to help me pass the time.”
Fraser sat down next to Ray. “What are you investigating then?”
“The reason I became a cop.”
Fraser waited for more to follow, but Ray didn’t say anything more.
“Have you ever been married?” Ray asked quite unrelatedly.
“Ah, no. I haven’t… I have come to the conclusion that I am not made for married life.”
Ray smiled at that. “See, apparently, me neither. At least if you asked my wife.”
Fraser was confused. “I take it you and your wife had a row?”
Ray’s smile widened into a grin, but his amusement didn’t reach his eyes.
“You could say that. She’s my ex-wife now.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”
Ray shrugged again in that self-deprecating way he had. With a sigh, he stood up and went to look out of the window again.
“It was bound to happen.”
“Why do you say that?”
“’cause I’m a fake. I was a con-job then and I’m a con-job now.”
Fraser shook his head in bewilderment.
“Look, you might think I’m this skinny guy with the experimental hair and the job at the 1-7. But that’s not who I really am. It’s important that you remember that,” Ray said, looking seriously at Fraser. “I’m a guy who, when he was 12 years old, pissed his pants during a bank robbery, a guy whose ex-wife was also there and thought – for all of her life – that he did it so that she could get away.”
Ray sighed and gestured aimlessly around the crypt. “I’m a guy who’s never himself—I… I’ve worked undercover most of my life. I’m the guy people need me to be. It’s… Fraser, I’m just one big lie, you can’t believe me.”
“Ray—” Fraser frowned. He had never met anyone who wore his heart on his sleeve like Ray did, no one more blatantly himself… didn’t it take someone who knew himself very well to become someone else?
A high-pitched wail interrupted him. Astonished, both men looked at each other. As if of one mind, they raced outside. There, near the big birch tree, stood a young girl of maybe six years of age who was crying in an intensity one might think heaven was about to fall down.
Ray stopped and looked completely at a loss now. He pocketed his gun again and looked at Fraser for pointers.
“Uh… hey there,” Ray tried for introductions. The child stopped for a micro-second to look at him before she broke into renewed howling.
“Jesus…” Ray muttered.
“Yo-ho-hou,” the child hiccupped, “a-a-a-re not m-m-m-y m-o-m-my.”
“No, but we’re the police,” Ray tried again. The child looked suspiciously at him for a second. As if she had forgotten that she should be crying, the wailing started again.
“He really is a detective. And I am a Mountie,” Fraser explained gently. The child’s mouth dropped open. “A real one?” All tears were apparently forgotten at the sight of Fraser’s red uniform.
“Can you help me find my mommy?”
Ray sighed again. “I should’ve known that you take all of this ‘keep the citizens safe so that they can tuck their children in at night’ serious.”
Fraser was affronted. “Of course I do. Don’t you?”
Ray looked comically at him for a moment before he shook his head bemused. “You’re something else, Fraser.”
Ray looked at the child. “Did you come here with your mother?”
The child pushed her chin out. “You’re a bozo. My mother said I’m not allowed to talk to bozos.”
Ray gnashed his teeth and Fraser had to smother a smile. “Detective Kowalski is only trying to help. Can you tell us if your mother brought you here?”
The child nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, we came here to visit grandma. But then I found this—” the girl pulled a dream-catcher out of her pocket. “It was lying on one of the gravestones. And I wanted to see if it could fly, because it’s got a feather, you see?” To prove her point, she held the dream-catcher at the feather attached at the bottom.
“What’s that?” Ray interrupted the child’s tale.
“It’s a dream-catcher. It’s supposed to entangle bad dreams,” Fraser explained.
Ray looked thoughtful.
“And? Did it fly?” He asked the girl. The girl hesitated for a second before a grin split her mouth wide. “It flew really well.”
“And when you retrieved it you couldn’t find your mother again?”
The girl’s chin began to wobble with renewed anxiety. “No,” she hiccupped.
“Can you tell me your grandmother’s name?” Fraser asked gently.
Ray rolled his eyes at her. “Gladys what? She got another name?”
The girl raised herself up haughtily. “Grandma Gladys.”
“Oh, that’s really helpful.”
Fraser thought it safer to interrupt the discussion. “Can you tell me your name?”
“I’m Mary Caunce.”
“Nice to meet you, Mary. My name is Constable Benton Fraser, this is Detective Ray Kowalski, and over there, at the statue of the dog, is Diefenbaker, he is half-wolf.”
Mary gave a cry of delight and took off in the direction of Dief.
Ray gave Fraser a look torn between exasperation and fondness. “So, how are we gonna find her mother?”
“Oh, I have a good memory for names. I passed Gladys Caunce’s grave on my way to the crypt. The dream-catcher must’ve flown quite well if it took her so far. I believe her mother will be looking for her around there.”
They fetched Dief and Mary and followed the path about halfway back to the entrance. From the distance, Fraser could make out a woman looking hurriedly around, obviously searching for someone.
He took Mary onto his shoulders. “Is that your mother over there?”
Mary gave a shout. “YES! MO~MMY!” She called out.
The woman looked up and raised her hand to her chest in relief. She came running across towards them.
“Thank you so much. How did you find her?” The mother asked breathlessly. She looked at her daughter with a stern gaze. “Mary Ellen Caunce, how often do I have to tell you that you have to stay close?”
“Ah M’am, I’m sure she meant no harm. Your daughter found a dream-catcher and followed its flight. We met her near the crypt and promised to bring her back.”
“God, I can’t thank you enough.”
“It’s alright,” Ray assured her.
The woman couldn’t tear her eyes away from Fraser. He pulled at his collar. “No thanks are necessary, I assure you.”
The woman smiled and took her daughter by the hand.
Once they were a safe distance off, Ray turned to Fraser with a thoughtful expression on his face. “You know, I always wanted children. My wife Stella and me, we used to fight about it. Looking back, I don’t know why I wanted kids. I’m really not good with them. I don’t even like them all that much.”
Fraser bit his lip. He considered keeping quiet on this point, but Ray had been brutally honest with him today, he deserved Fraser’s opinion.
“Maybe the children were just a metaphor.”
“I don’t know. Security perhaps?”
Ray thought about that for a while. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. It didn’t matter in the end anyway.”
They were almost back at the crypt now.
“Ray, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what exactly is it that you’re hoping to accomplish here today?”
Ray smiled. “I’m commemorating an anniversary.”
Fraser raised his eyebrows at that explanation. “An anniversary? I thought you said you were investigating the reason that made you become a police officer.”
“Exactly.” Ray stopped in front of a gravestone that was decorated with fresh flowers and a lit candle.
The inscription read “Marcus Ellery.” The day of his death was today a few years ago.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” Fraser said to Ray.
“Marcus Ellery was the guy who robbed that bank when I was a kid. That day, I promised myself I’d become a cop. A few years ago, there was another bank robbery. I was a rookie, but me and my partner, we took the call. I cornered him, everything was under control. Marcus Ellery was about to drop his gun, when the sirens went off outside. It was just our back-up. He panicked and ran. My partner shot him in the back. He had almost reached the door handle. The bullet hit him deep in the spine. He died later in the hospital.” Ray was quiet for a second before he continued. “His gun wasn’t even loaded.”
“Every year I come here to remind myself what kind of person I am. What kind of cop I don’t wanna be. But everyone’s some mother’s son—see the flowers and the candle? That’s from his mother. So I wait until she’s gone. She blamed me for the death of her son, which is fair, I guess. She’s probably right, just like my wife. A con-job, like I said.”
“You’re a good man, Ray. And I’m sure your wife saw beyond that one incident and saw the whole person.”
“What do you mean?”
“In December 1988, a young boy was being held in a warehouse. You went in, even though you knew your cover had been blown. You drew fire, you were wounded, and yet you managed to rescue the boy – your first citation.”
“Hey, how do you know that?”
“Oh, well, I looked through your files.”
“You’re a real nosey-parker, aren’t you?”
“I wanted to know what kind of person I would be proud of calling my friend.”
Ray’s gaze zeroed in on Fraser’s. “What was that last part?” He asked quietly.
Ray smiled. “Lend me some money?”
“Friends and money don’t mix, Ray.”
Ray snorted and placed the dream-catcher he had neglected to return to Mary on Ellery’s grave.
“Come on, I’m finished here. Any place I could drop you off?”
Back at the consulate, Fraser made tea and opened his notebook again. Since he met Ray it seemed important to make a note of everything that had occurred. Fraser knew that it was foolish to believe that a transcript of the events would help his brain to remember the moment. In a year, those entries would no longer recall the events themselves. He would read them like a stranger would, with no emotion or visual recollection to accompany them.
But right now, he felt it was his duty to remember as much as possible. There was something about his newfound friend that Fraser wanted to never forget. It was more a vague feeling than anything Fraser could put his finger on. It seemed all the more important for that to put his experiences into writing.
This was how Ray Kowalski became my friend. I think that Ray understands very well how much power the past has on us; it seems like he spent his lifetime escaping his past. He’s a very brave man and I believe that he has left his past well behind him already – well, save for his ex-wife possibly. But this seems to be quite the fresh wound so I can only hope that he will heal with time. I would like to meet the woman who had the courage to walk away from him. No doubt will she be a formidable woman. No other than someone very headstrong and self-assured could capture this man so completely, I’m sure of it.
Ray’s talk about family and children reminded me again how very agreeable such a plan is. Make a home, found a family, raise children. I, who was never at home somewhere very long, am longing to come home sometime. I can understand Ray, wanting children to assure himself that his home, his family, would always be there. I envy his courage to create something permanent. I am too afraid to even grow roots. I never settled down anywhere. I still don’t. I’ve never made a home. I’ve never come home to someone.
Fraser stared at the page he had just written. Suddenly, he had a lump in his throat. What had Ray said? He was a liar. Yes. And so was Fraser.
Okay… I did make a home with someone. Maybe it was the devastation of that that burned me for future experiences. Once bitten, twice shy. Isn’t that what people say? But I don’t want to think about her tonight. This entry was supposed to be cheerful.
Fraser read what he had written so far. Oh dear. ‘Cheerful’ wasn’t exactly the word he’d use to describe it. Maybe that’s what the shop owner meant when he said that it didn’t work for everyone? It seemed to draw the dark thoughts out of Fraser’s head… his life had brightened since he had begun writing in the black notebook, though.
From that day on, Fraser saw Ray more and more often. Looking back over his accumulated journal entries, he and Ray had run into each other again and again.
There had been the case of Janet Morse, the bounty hunter who had come to him for help. During one of their pursuits, Fraser had met Ray on a similar goose chase and they decided to pool resources.
And then a few days later, Fraser went to watch one of the boxing fights that were sponsored by one of the youth programs of the neighborhood. No one was more surprised than Fraser to learn that Ray had coached one of the young men himself. The resulting death of one of the fighters and the gang activity afterwards wasn’t a very nice chapter, but Ray had proven to be exceptionally true to his beliefs, even if that meant accepting a truth he rather wouldn’t have faced.
Fraser had been very proud of his friend for solving this case.
The rate with which his notebook grew in written pages was also alarming. At that rate he would rival his father in a few years’ time.
Ray is so very different from myself. Where I am reason, he is instinct. Where I rush in he hesitates; whereas he is hot-blooded where I am rational. We make quite the pair I believe, and more than once did I wonder what Ray Vecchio would make of him. I’m sure they would get along fine; they are both outspoken, honest, and caring men.
I’ll go by the 27th in the next few days in the hope that Lieutenant Welsh has some news for me. But I don’t hold out much hope for any news from Ray Vecchio. I think the less I hear, the safer he is.
There’s still so much that I don’t know about the other Ray, but I am grateful to call him my friend. We’ve been seeing a lot of each other lately and I have to admit that I enjoy his company very much. I think he holds my own company in much the same esteem for he does not appear to have many friends or social dates either. I really don’t understand that; he is far from being a solitary character.
Then again, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t happy about Ray’s rather free schedule. Part of the reason for Ray’s free time is probably his divorce. As he put it, his wife ‘got’ most of their friends when he moved out. I’m still very curious about Stella Kowalski. His talk of her is very fond, despite their separation.
I think it must be even lonelier after you have been used to sharing your life with someone. Ray doesn’t like to talk about it, even though I would like to help.
A few days later, Fraser was going for a walk with Dief when he noticed a beautiful couple on the other side of the road.
She was radiant, fair with honey-colored hair and a fragile-looking summer dress, and he looked important and self-assured in his gray suit.
Afterwards, Fraser wasn’t sure what happened first. He knew that he recognized Ray’s car, but a second later he saw a hooded figure with a gun leaning over one of the cars further down the road. And then everything happened at once. Ray leaped out of his car and ran at full speed towards the woman and Fraser realized at almost the same time that he was too slow to actually stop the gunman and instead ran in the direction of the well-dressed man to pull him out of the line of fire.
A shot rang out, but when Fraser looked around he found Ray, and the woman, her romantic companion, as well as himself on the ground, unhurt.
The woman stood up and threw Ray a nasty glare. Ray looked immediately abashed. At least the gentleman in the expensive suit looked just as confused as Fraser felt.
“Stella, are you alright?” The smooth baritone of the man cut through the confusion. Fraser’s head snapped towards Ray.
Stella brushed the dust of her dress and motioned towards Ray as well. “Frank, this is my ex-husband, Ray.”
Ray tried to smile, but it looked rather painful. Alderman Frank Orsini did quite a good job at a jovial handshake though.
Fraser himself was still staring at the young woman in the violet dress. This was Stella Kowalski? Somehow he had expected someone… warmer.
Maybe Ray and he had more in common when it came to women than he had thought so far.