Fraser leaned back in his chair and read over what he had just written. Seeing it on paper didn’t make it any easier, though. It only made it more real.
It can’t be. It’s simply not possible. I must be deranged – as people have assured me I am time and again. When Ray told me that he wasn’t seeing Luanne anymore I felt relieved… yes, almost ridiculously pleased. God, I feel awful that I could find satisfaction in Ray’s plight at all. But the feeling was so strong that I was rather helpless against it.
Why—why should I be relieved that Ray is not dating her anymore? Why shouldn’t I want my friend to be romantically involved with a beautiful young woman, who has shown much admiration for him, and who had, after all, been nothing but true to him?
There’s only one possible reason—well, maybe two, but I don’t think I am suffering from a personality disorder. The only possible explanation that would fit the fact that I felt relief at hearing that Ray is no longer romantically attached is…. jealousy. And I can’t fool myself for even one second to believe that I was jealous of Ray. I am quite confident that my emotional state will not suffer due to Luanne Russell’s absence. Imagining that Ray might leave on the other hand…
This is unbearable. I know that I said I had given Ray’s thoughts on being open for emotional involvement some consideration, but I hadn’t meant that I wanted to start looking now. Or so close. And I wasn’t!
It’s not possible. I’ve always known that my heart is not to be trusted if left to its own devices. All I need is some time, and some distance. And then I will be able to look at Ray and see nothing but a good man and a dear friend.
The next morning, after Fraser had finished his guard duty, Ray called.
“Hey buddy, are you free to do some real police work?”
Obviously,Chicago’s crime syndicates didn’t think much of Fraser’s plan of time and distance. He was sorely tempted to make an excuse, but he couldn’t help it… he really wanted to see Ray again.
Despite Ray’s cheerful demeanor it was quite obvious that he was still subdued. The smile seldom reached his eyes and instead of Ray’s constant running commentary on anything and nothing, he was rather quiet. He seemed to be lost in thought. It wasn’t in Fraser’s nature to pry, but maybe all Ray needed was some encouragement to breach the topic.
They were on their way back from the scene of a break-in and Fraser was keenly aware of how close they were walking. The need to break the silence was overwhelming.
“Ah, Ray… you seem very preoccupied today. If I can help you in any way, you know I would.”
Ray looked a little rueful. “Yeah, sorry… I’m just, you know, thinking if I could’ve done things with Luanne any differently. Truth is I think it was bound to fail.”
“Why is that?” Fraser was honestly curious.
Ray laughed, a little embarrassed. “You’ve seen her… I mean, wow. Probably a 9 on the scale if I ever saw one, beautiful… whereas…” Ray managed to bring his hair in yet more disarray before he shrugged.
“Whereas?” Fraser prompted, mystified.
Ray hesitated for a second and then nodded, almost to himself, apparently reaching a decision.
“Can I ask you something? …do you find me attractive?”
For a second, Fraser was sure he was walking down stairs and that he had just missed a step. If he had to identify the emotion that was skipping through his heart he’d say it was akin to the feeling you got when you knew you’ve been caught at something you shouldn’t be doing.
His startled silence must’ve given the wrong impression because Ray’s voice sounded a lot smaller when he asked again.
“Well, find me attractive?”
Surely it was all in his own head. Ray couldn’t be asking… no, he must’ve misunderstood.
“In what sense?”
Ray looked at him as if Fraser wasn’t speaking the same language. “In the sense of, you know,” he laughed, slightly embarrassed, “being a woman.”
“Do I think you’re an attractive woman?” Fraser was blithering, just buying time, and he knew that he was making a fool of himself; his mind simply couldn’t get past the fact that Ray would ask him something like that.
“Heh, no,” Ray shook his head slightly. “I’m not the woman—you’re the woman.”
“I’m the woman?” What exactly was Ray trying to achieve with this line of reasoning?
“You pretend that you’re a woman, okay?” Ray said in a soft voice. “Find me attractive?”
Ray’s gaze was penetrating and Fraser had never been able to lie. All or nothing then.
“Very much so, yes.” Fraser only now realized that he had taken his hands behind his back, almost as if he were at parade rest – his fallback position when he needed to feel in control. Thankfully, he didn’t think Ray had figured that out yet.
Ray looked pleasantly surprised before he hastily added, “You’re not just saying that?”
Fraser felt hot and his brow was itching uncomfortably.
“Well…I’m not really qualified to judge, Ray.”
Ray snorted and shook his head. “Yeah, maybe that’s the reason. Maybe the women see something you don’t? A women thing, something that works like a big ‘keep away’ sign?”
“Ray, I’m sure—” He sure what? He was sure that Ray would find someone else? Dear God, the last episode had been bad enough. Fraser wasn’t sure if he could stand watching a second time…. but he would have to, right? Sooner or later.
“Nah, don’t worry. I appreciate it and everything, but it’s fine. I was rushing into it anyway… if I had taken the time to get to know her none of this would’ve happened. I’ll get over it,” Ray grinned in a reasonably good imitation of his usual self. “She wasn’t right for me anyway.” He looked thoughtful before he smiled at Fraser again.
Fraser felt a tug at his own lips. Ray had no idea how much charisma, how much vibrancy he possessed. Fraser could almost see the danger flashing as warning signs in front of his eyes at the route his thoughts were taking.
He needed something to distract himself, something to keep such thoughts at bay, something—oh, good.
“Ray, quick, there is a woman two blocks from here who is being robbed as we speak.” Fraser cocked his head to the side to be sure that he had traced the scream of the woman to the right source and started running.
“You—uh—what?—Hey—Fraser!” Ray looked around in confusion for a second before he sprinted after his friend.
Ray was still angry at him when they said goodbye. Really, how should Fraser have known that the man would be willing to aim a loaded gun at his chest? Yes, of course, there might have been a less provocative way of getting the man to surrender, but it seemed the quickest possible way at that time to just confront him head-on.
Honestly, as if Fraser had been looking for trouble on purpose. Well, it had been a very convenient moment, but that was beside the point. There had been a crime and it was their duty as officers of the law to prevent it.
Of course, the handbag hadn’t been worth a human life. But Fraser had not tried to get the handbag back so much as he had acted on principle. It didn’t matter how much worth the actual object of the theft possessed. It was still a theft and he had the means to catch the thief.
Well, he had tried to explain it to Ray, but apparently he hadn’t been very successful at it.
But when Fraser called him the next day to make another attempt at explaining himself, Ray sounded like his usual self.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Ray dismissed his elaboration on the right of the Chicago citizens to feel safe. “That’s just the Canadian way of life,” Ray sighed. “Or it’s something in the Canadian water,” Ray muttered and Fraser wasn’t sure if Ray was still talking to him.
“I can assure you it meets all the requirements. The last test results showed—“
“Not important, Frase—” There was shouting in the background and Fraser heard Ray curse quietly. “Gotta go Fraser, duty bellows.”
“Goodbye, Ray.” Fraser did feel better even though he still felt as if Ray hadn’t fully understood what he had been trying to explain.
A few days later, they were on their way to grab some dinner when Ray got a call. Rumors and whispers about a gun shipment were keeping the city ofChicagoabuzz with activity. Ray had been following leads all through yesterday and today. Almost all of them had been false, though.
Ray put his cell away and sighed. “Looks like I gotta skip dinner… sorry, buddy.”
“I understand. Can I be of assistance?”
“Nah,” Ray shook his head. “I have to talk to an old acquaintance of mine. Chances are he won’t talk to me if you’re there.”
“Of course. I hope it will be more rewarding this time.”
“Yeah… me too.”
Fraser’s dinner was uneventful, but his thoughts kept returning to Ray. There had to be another explanation for his emotional state, for his… feelings for Ray. Ray was his friend and maybe Ray’s kindness had caused him to feel disproportionately possessive of the other man.
And of course Ray was very attractive… that was nothing but the truth, but that didn’t mean that Fraser had to put it into a context that wasn’t… well, that wasn’t ‘buddies’ as Ray would phrase it.
“Come on, Dief, let’s go for a walk,” Fraser said. Maybe walking would help him clear his head. Dief bounded joyfully out of the door and Fraser smiled at his companion. At least one of them didn’t seem to have a worry in the world.
“It could be a simple reaction to my loneliness…” Fraser mused as they turned the corner of yet another block. It was fairly warm and it was still bright out; the strange half-light of late summer that always deceived you into thinking that it was still early evening.
Even a city likeChicagolooked cleaner and brighter in the summer.
“… but I haven’t been lonely lately…” Fraser watched the water of theChicago Riverpass underneath the bridge. People were milling about, couples hand in hand, office workers who had worked overtime, a young woman with her dog… .
The truth was, even now, he simply wanted Ray close. He would’ve liked to touch Ray’s expressive hands to find out if they were as warm as he thought they were, he wanted to… Fraser felt his face heat and he pulled at his collar… he wanted to know if Ray’s lips were soft the way they looked when Ray smiled his easy, carefree smile. Fraser even harboured an urge to run his fingers through Ray’s hair to discover if it would bristle or feel soft against the skin of his fingertips.
Fraser’s feet carried him further and further, as if his thoughts needed the space. This wanting to touch Ray… that was a lot more than simple jealousy, Fraser had to admit. With surprise Fraser took in his surroundings. In awe, he stared at the familiar apartment complex at the end of the block. Without knowing it, his feet had carried him to Ray’s home.
Fraser straightened his hat and walked briskly past it. He would not give in to these foolish impulses.
Dief whined in inquiry.
“No, we will not visit Ray… what would I say? That I was just in the neighborhood?” Besides, Fraser thought with a small jolt, he’s not home. Sometimes he cursed his knack for observation. He hadn’t intended to look for a light in the window. He just happened to have noticed it without any effort on his part.
They had left Ray’s apartment two blocks behind when a shot rang out.
“Dief!” Fraser shouted and took off in the direction of the noise. The feeling was exhilarating. Despite the worry that people’s lives were at risk the thrill of the chase pushed every other thought out of his mind. It was a welcome distraction.
As it turned out, the shot came from one of the larger convenience stores another block down the street. Fraser managed to use the element of surprise to tackle one of the two robbers. Their momentum caused them to fall behind one of the big shelves which, according to the neatly stacked products left and right, clearly happened to be the laundry detergent aisle.
Using his bulk Fraser pinned the man to the floor and secured his hands with his lanyard.
Not a second too late. An instant later the other hooded figure appeared at the mouth of the aisle with a gun pointed at Fraser.
“Get away from him,” the man shouted, his voice shaking slightly. “GET AWAY FROM HIM OR I’LL BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF!” The man shouted again.
Before Fraser could even move a muscle, a safety catch on a gun was released and a blond head with experimental hair appeared from behind the shelf.
“You hold it right there!” Ray aimed his gun at the robber. “Drop it.”
The robber hesitated. “I SAID drop it! You harm so much as the buckle on his hat and you’re dead meat, understood?”
The gun clattered to the ground and with a few efficient moves, Ray had the second robber in hand-cuffs.
Fraser heard the siren of an approaching police car. No, make that two. The shots must’ve alerted the whole neighborhood.
“Your timing is really remarkable, Ray.”
“You were just lucky that I was on my way home. I heard shooting, so here I am. What I didn’t expect to find was my partner being held at gun-point. You wanna explain that, Fraser?”
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow in confusion at Ray’s biting tone.
“It’s much the same as your explanation, I’m afraid. Dief and were taking a walk when I heard gunshots. So I went to help.”
“No, Fraser. It’s not the same. See? I got a gun. I radioed for backup before I went in. Why didn’t you call the police? Why didn’t you at least call me? You went in there, with no weapon, no backup, no nothing!”
“Really, Ray, you make it sound so unreasonable. People could’ve died while I waited for assistance.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of their enforcement. It wasn’t the radioed backup, just a patrol car that had reacted to the shots. They left the robbers in their care to take them back to the police department.
Once they were outside, Ray took a deep breath. He looked at Fraser with a worried little frown that was etched between his eyebrows.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes, Ray. I’m fine,” Fraser said. After all, this was the merest infatuation and it would pass. And if he thought of his uncle, Tiberius, insanity probably ran in his family. He shouldn’t be overly surprised by this development. He was just a little single-minded at the moment, no need to complicate things for Ray.
Ray didn’t look convinced.
“How did the meeting with your informant go?” Fraser tried to change the topic.
“Infor—oh, you mean Sonny. Uh, he’s dead.”
Fraser raised his eyebrows. “I thought he told you to meet him?”
“Yeah, yeah, I came, we met, he went to the can, he didn’t come back, and I found him dead a couple of minutes later. No idea, really. He and another guy were having a go at each other when I came into the bar, some kind of beef over a wager. I took the other guy back to the station, but his hands hadn’t touched the knife that was sticking out of Sonny’s gut.”
“Did you get any information from Sonny before he died?”
“No—he kept talking about ‘Nautilus,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean.”
“Nautilus? Ray, it’s a name—frankly, I’ve always thought it’s a legend, but according to some there is an arms’ dealer behind that name. Now, no one has any idea who ‘Nautilus’ is, but if that’s who is behind the latest gossip then every bit of caution is applicable.”
“Huh… okay… so if we find Nautilus, we find out where and when that arms deal is going down.”
“Precisely. However, I would not underestimate Nautilus. Whoever hides behind this persona has successfully eluded the law these last 20 years.”
Fraser tried to concentrate his thoughts on finding Nautilus; however, thinking about their current case always brought him back to thinking about Ray, which in turn left him in dire need of a distraction.
“Sir, is there anything else I could do?”
Thatcher tried to hide her surprise, but Fraser’s earnest eagerness at taking on more work took her aback.
“Surely your tasks are sufficient to keep you occupied, Constable?”
Fraser rubbed his eyebrow. “Well, yes, that is—ah, I’d be happy to be a little more occupied. I wouldn’t mind taking on additional chores,” he explained. How could he tell her that he needed less time to think? He needed a respite from his own mind.
“That—I’ll see what I can do,” the Inspector told him with a suspicious-looking frown. Fraser sighed inwardly. Why did everyone always suspect that it would lead to havoc when he wanted to help?
He knew that he was trying Ray’s patience, but it wasn’t anything he did on purpose. He was just so busy not thinking about Ray that his whole being was on the look-out for something else to occupy his time and this beingChicagothere was always some crime to distract him if he was listening hard enough or looking close enough.
I know that my behavior when it comes to crime is slightly exacerbated by my need to distract myself from thinking about Ray – or about my situation with Ray. There really is no excuse for it, but I am completely unable to help myself. It is not a conscious desire of mine to get into trouble… it simply happens whenever I try not to think. Ray has been enquiring about my recklessness more and more adamantly lately, but I can’t bring myself to tell him. I couldn’t bear to hear Ray’s kind words of apology… or worse, the awkwardness between us that has to result from such a confession. I don’t want to impose my feelings on Ray and I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable or obligated to me as a friend in any way. For all of these reasons I keep silent whenever my eyes meet Ray’s questioning gaze. It is really for the sake of our friendship that I keep this from Ray. I am sure that with a bit of effort and some concentration I will be able to master myself. Until then I just have to stay occupied.
Fraser closed his notebook and sighed. He had written this entry as a sort of reminder before he was to meet Ray to investigate some rather straightforward jewelry theft. There came a knock on the door, but before Fraser even had time to stow his writing supplies away Turnbull had already bustled into the room with… oh dear. Fraser grabbed his notebook and stashed it into the breast pocket of his serge before Turnbull could reach his desk, armed with a feather-duster and Lemon Pledge.
Constable Turnbull was a real hazard when he went about his cleaning duties. He was remarkably thorough and very devoted, but it was better not to get in his way. He tended to be a little single-minded when he was in the middle of dusting. Fraser didn’t even want to think about the incident with the Russian ambassador and the pine-scented floor polisher.
Ray was in a cautiously good mood when Fraser arrived. Well, Fraser supposed that Ray took it as a good sign that he didn’t encounter Fraser already surrounded by people carrying guns by the time they met.
Ray’s good mood didn’t last long, though, when Fraser found out that the suspect in that jewelry heist was nothing but a red herring. The real culprits were the purse-snatcher and his lawyer. Well, the supposed-to-be-purse-snatcher and the-supposed-to-be-lawyer, anyway.
Really, it hadn’t been Fraser’s intention to have a stand-off with the two culprits – and with one of them aiming a knife at him – in the parking lot of the 27th precinct… and Fraser didn’t even want to go into the explanation of why they had again ended up at the 2-7 instead of Ray’s district.
Ray was out of ammunition; Fraser had counted the rounds before Ray had even opened his mouth to tell him that he had no bullets left. He tried to keep the attention of the lawyer – and with him the knife – trained on himself. He heard from behind some empty crates Ray rant about getting behind some cover as well, but Fraser knew that he wouldn’t have enough time anyway. It was better to see this through.
“You want this knife?” The bald man who had posed as the lawyer asked.
“I would appreciate it, yes.” It was impossible to tell what was going on behind the dark sun-glasses the man was wearing. Next to him, the purse-snatcher twitched nervously.
“Here, it’s yours—”
Fraser was prepared to catch the hilt, but at the very last moment, the man switched hands. And Fraser realized that this would change the angle of entrance and that there was nothing he could do to change that. He felt a dull push as the knife hit him, but before he could puzzle out why he didn’t feel a stab, let alone pain, Ray gave a strangled cry behind him.
Fraser spun around. Ray—he must’ve left his cover to protect Fraser when the knife was thrown. He had sunk down on one knee, throwing a knife away that had been embedded in his jacket.
“Dear God, Ray…” Fraser fell to his knees at Ray’s side to have a look at the wound. A second knife, how could he have missed the second knife? The nervousness of the purse-snatcher… he should’ve anticipated something like that. He hadn’t seen the second knife. His lack of observation had almost… “Ray, let me see your wound.”
Ray gasped for breath. “It’s—calm down, it’s just a scratch.”
Fraser’s fingers were busy pushing Ray’s jacket aside and keeping Ray’s hands away from the wound. There was a dark stain above the sixth rib, coloring Ray’s gray shirt in— “Ray, it’s blue.”
Fraser, confused, looked up into Ray’s eyes. Ray managed a grin. “Pen. Breast pocket of my jacket. Told you it’s just a scratch… pity, I really liked that pen.” Ray pulled up his shirt and he was right. Even though Fraser could make out a small gash of several centimetres, it couldn’t be deep. There was no blood; the wound was only covered in the ink from Ray’s pen. Relief in bone-numbing intensity flooded through Fraser.
“The perp!” Ray shouted and used Fraser to push himself into a standing position. The two men had almost reached the gate that led out of the parking lot. Even running, Ray wouldn’t be able to catch them.
A growl resounded suddenly and Ray couldn’t keep his grin in as Dief shot around the corner to chase the perps right back into Ray’s waiting arms.
“Good work, Dief.” The bald man took a step away again and Ray snarled. He raised his gun over his head. “On the ground—or I will beat you to death with this empty gun.” The effect of that threat was really remarkable to witness. Watching the two criminals cower on their knees, Fraser really saw the power behind Ray’s rather creatively phrased punishments.
Fraser threw Dief a sidelong glance. “Yes, it was rather good of you to join us after all. You know, I am not allowing you to accompany me to the police station everyday so you can collect donuts—we do have duties.”
Ray laughed and bent down to ruffle Dief’s fur. “Don’t worry, he’s just in a sour mood because he misjudged the knife-thing. That’s gotta be worth a red-letter day in the calendar.”
Ray straightened again and all of a sudden Ray’s inquisitive gaze was solely focused on Fraser’s eyes. There was a hint of playfulness to the smile that was tugging at the corner of Ray’s lips and Fraser swallowed hard.
Ray reached out, until his fingertips almost touched Fraser’s forehead. Fraser’s heart was pounding and the sudden need to deny everything was overwhelming. It was—too much… there was too much he couldn’t say and he couldn’t let Ray see and… he jerked away from the touch.
“Oh.” Ray’s eyes hardened. His hand fell uselessly back to his side. The relieved playfulness of a moment ago had evaporated and Fraser had a strong urge to hang his head in misery. Instead he straightened his shoulders and pushed his hands behind his back.
At that moment, Huey and Dewey appeared around the corner with drawn guns to investigate the commotion outside. Fraser helped them take the two criminals into custody. By the time he was finished reporting what had happened, Ray was gone. Fraser swallowed a lump of bitterness that he could still feel lodged somewhere in the area where his heart should have been.
Ray… I’m so sorry… Fraser thought as he watched the spot where his friend had been mere minutes ago.
Fraser thought about Ray’s almost-touch all the way back to the Consulate. He had over-reacted. Ray had only been fooling around. The longer he thought about it the more convinced he felt, that Ray had simply been joking. The way he had held his hand… he had probably only tried to take a mock-fever. Fraser almost smiled so clearly could he imagine the words Ray would’ve said. Fraser, you’ve got a fever! No way did you miss that knife. What—you sick or something? Quick, call an ambulance. The world is ending.
And Fraser had ruined it all by making a mountain out of a molehill. Did he honestly think Ray would see the moment he touched Fraser? Did he really believe that his feelings for Ray could be read so plainly on his features that a simple touch was enough to expose them? It was ridiculous. All his trying to protect Ray had only ended up hurting him. Fraser stifled a sigh. Why could he never get these things right?
Back at the Consulate, he opened his serge only to halt his movement in its tracks as he came across a rip in the fabric. Just a small one, a bit underneath of his heart as if… the knife! He had forgotten all about it when Ray had been hurt. Confused, he realized that his Henley didn’t have a scratch. That at least explained why he hadn’t felt any pain. The pocket! Of course, how could he have forgotten about the notebook in his pocket?
Fraser opened the button on the breast pocket and pulled his notebook out. There, right where the knife had hit him was a small gash. The knife had penetrated the leather cover and cut into quite a few pages more. Fraser’s ill-executed attempt to catch the knife must’ve dislodged it before he had time to realize it.
There was no question whether the notebook had saved him; judging from the depth of the gash Fraser’s chest wouldn’t have fared half as well as the leather cover. Still, he felt relieved when he placed the notebook back in its resting place in the drawer of his desk. There was so much inside of it by now that he felt childishly protective of it. He knew it was irrational; it was just an object, after all. But human emotions, especially those triggered by sentimental reasons, were hardly ever logical.
Fraser was almost afraid to see Ray again. His friend hadn’t called since he vanished from the crime scene and Fraser feared that he would have some explaining to do the next time they met. The situation had gotten wildly out of hand; Fraser had no difficulty admitting that.
Instead of getting better these feelings he had for Ray had only gotten stronger the more he had tried to repress them. There was no solution to this problem. It was selfish, but there was no way that Fraser could give up being Ray’s friend. So no matter how much Ray deserved his honesty, in this point Fraser just couldn’t confide in him. He would only end up hurting himself by confessing; he wasn’t ready to let Ray go.
Lost in thought Fraser hadn’t seen the man coming out of the shipping office. They bumped shoulders as the man stepped into the street.
“Oh, pardon me,” Fraser excused himself.
“Watch where you’re going,” the man muttered, shoving quickly past Fraser.
Bewildered, Fraser looked back. How odd, he could’ve sworn he’d seen that man before.
“Did you recognize him?” He asked Dief.
The wolf barked.
“I didn’t think so.”
Fraser had almost reached the curb when the memory hit him. The FBI’s Most Wanted List, second picture to the right. A major arms deal about to go down and one of the most looked for perpetrators known to the federal bureau appears at a shipping office inChicago— that could not be a coincidence.
Fraser turned around on his heel and followed in the direction the man had taken. It didn’t take Fraser long to find the rather generously proportioned Black gentleman again. He followed at a discreet distance.
They were walking in the direction of the docks! A while later Fraser watched the man enter an apparently abandoned warehouse.
A warehouse that seemed to get a lot of visitors for a derelict building with boarded-up windows, Fraser mused as another well-known face from the Wanted List entered the building.
After watching for several hours Fraser was fairly certain that this had to do with the gun shipment. There were three men in total in that warehouse, and each one of them had been convicted for smuggling or dealing with weapons. But taking the risk of becoming active in more or less plain view… that meant… the arms deal had to be close.
Ray had probably checked with the harbor control. There had to be a ship that fit all the criteria. And he needed to get closer to that warehouse. Now was not the time to let personal feelings interfere with his work.
From the nearest payphone, Fraser called Ray.
“Ray, hello. This is Constable Benton Fraser speak—”
“Hello is enough, Fraser,” Ray sounded winded. “Listen, I checked the cargo ships—something’s fishy. There’s a ship with a crew that’s got a rap sheet as long as my arm. I mean it; each and every one on that boat has done time. And here’s one more thing, the ship? It’s called the Robert Mackenzie—”
A look of astonishment flittered over Fraser’s face. But the Robert Mackenzie…
“It sank, Fraser. The damn ship sank in 1969.”
Right, Fraser remembered the story. It got caught in a gale known as the Witch of November. The Robert Mackenzie was carrying 28,110 long tons of high-sulfur coal bound for the steel mills in Detroit… Captain Phillips’ last transmission read “32 down on the Robert Mackenzie”.
“It’s a fake!” Ray continued. “A damn fake. I looked into the registration and turns out it’s Russian. I do not know how they get the arms over the border, but the damn thing sails from a Canadian port. That’s gotta be our ship or I’ll eat your hat. Now all we need to know is where the deal is supposed to go down. I know where the ship is gonna dock, but I don’t think they’ll be stupid enough to make the exchange on board.”
“I know where it will take place. That’s why I’ve called you.”
“I’m at the docks. There is an abandoned warehouse—well, lately it hasn’t been abandoned. In fact, three of the most dangerous criminals of the FBI’s Most Wanted List are currently employing it as their hideout.”
“Stay where you are. Give me the directions; I’ll be right there.”
True to his word, Ray arrived at the docks less than twenty minutes later. Ray handed Fraser a coffee without so much as a word and Fraser wasn’t sure if that was meant as an apology for Ray’s abrupt departure after the knife incident or if Ray’s silence was the important part of the message which would mean that he was getting the silent treatment.
He couldn’t exactly blame Ray for it. On the other hand, Ray really had no reason to be so upset about Fraser’s recent behavior. Fraser had only done what any officer of the law would’ve done in his position. It was only that the average officer didn’t get into half as many conflicts involving loaded weapons as Fraser had lately.
They kept watching the warehouse while Ray filled Fraser in on the missing information. The ship was supposed to arrive early the next morning and Ray radioed for backup. All that was left to do was keep an eye on the warehouse to make sure that nothing happened before then.
It was going to be a long night.
It was impossible to conduct the surveillance from the relative comfort of Ray’s car; it was too conspicuous and there was no parking opportunity as close as they needed to be to monitor the activity inside of the building. It wasn’t terribly cold yet, but Fraser realized with sudden surprise that the summer had come and gone. Ray was wearing a light leather coat over his black t-shirt and Fraser hadn’t even noticed until now that his serge wasn’t uncomfortable to wear anymore in the current temperatures.
They were huddled close to each other on the roof of the building next to the warehouse. Trying to stay in the shadows wasn’t the most comfortable position, but it was the ideal location to catch at least a glimpse through the grimy warehouse windows. The light was dim and flickering – an oil lamp in all probability, but it was enough to ascertain that their prey was still inside.
Ray had taken the first shift. Fraser hadn’t really been able to get any sleep, but he had managed a passable imitation of it. A deep enough mediation was actually quite refreshing. Ray on the other hand had fallen asleep fairly quickly once Fraser had taken over the watch. Even in sleep Ray looked exhausted and tired. Fraser’s hand itched to smooth the lines of worry away from Ray’s features.
He could smell Ray; his warm skin, the leather of his jacket, his hair product… even over the dampness of the approaching rain. Fraser inhaled shakily. Ray’s low even breathing drove him to distraction. There was a faint hint of sandalwood that Fraser couldn’t place, but something in that scent quickened his pulse.
This couldn’t go on anymore. He had to draw the line. He would keep this professional.
By the time Ray woke up, Fraser was tense and irritable. It took more concentration to let his head rule his thoughts instead of his heart than he was used to. Fraser looked at his watch, trying to quench his impatience. He needed to move, he needed to do something, he needed to get a decent distance away from Ray.
Ray yawned and blinked slowly.
It was still an hour until the ship was due to arrive. And at least half an hour before their backup would be in position. Fraser scratched his eyebrow. If they were unlucky it would take even longer before anything happened. It would take some time to get the weapons out of the ship and they wanted to catch them at the deal, not only for the transport.
Ray put on his glasses and squinted at the warehouse.
Involuntarily, Fraser’s gaze grazed Ray. His breathing hitched. Ray looked delectable, with his sleep-tousled hair, the slightly red lips from the early morning chill, and the mellow sluggishness that came from having just woken up.
Fraser bit his lip and focused his attention back on the warehouse.
“Hey, Fraser—one of the guys just vanished,” Ray rubbed his palm over his chin with a soft scratching sound, trying to wake up fully.
“There.” Fraser pointed to the right where a man had just appeared on the roof of the warehouse.
“What’s he doing there?” Ray asked confused. “He didn’t see us, did he?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Fraser answered thoughtfully.
The question was answered a second later when a shot rang out from the adjacent building. Fraser and Ray jumped up and ran along the side of the roof to get closer to the scene of action.
Another man had appeared on the roof of the building next to the warehouse. Behind the shelter of a scaffold Fraser could make out a man in a black coat and a black hat. Another bullet whistled past in the direction of the warehouse, but their suspect quickly dove for cover.
“Nautilus! It’s over. I had you three years ago with the diamond merchant and the 9,000 pairs of fake French blue jeans atAntwerp.” The man in the black coat shouted over the roof.
“Nautilus?” Ray mouthed at Fraser with a puzzled frown.
“Who are you calling Nautilus? I have never been toAntwerp!” Their suspect shouted back.
“Ray we need to get closer.” Fraser pointed to a roof on a level a little further down. If they jumped down they could use the ladder on the other side to get on top of the warehouse.
Before Ray had time to answer, Fraser jumped down. Ray followed a moment later. “Fraser!” Ray hissed at him, but followed him up the ladder anyway.
“And again last year, at the boat show inBuenos Aires. Remember that? With that freight full of fake Dave Clark Five memorabilia?” The man in the black coat aimed again, but missed.
“I hate the Dave Clark Five!” The other man shouted, slightly exasperated.
The man didn’t appear to be listening. “Twenty years. For twenty years I’ve hunted you, Nautilus.”
“Damn it! I’m not Nautilus!”
Fraser looked around the crates behind which Ray and he were hiding. “Excuse me. I think he’s right. Twenty years ago he still would have been a child,” he interrupted.
Ray groaned behind him. “Fraser, shut up.”
“That’s a valid point. That’s a valid—Oh, so you’re the one!” The man with the black hat shouted triumphantly.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you. My name is Constable Fraser, I first came toChicagoon the trail of the killers of my father and—but that’s not important right now. I’m a little unclear who you are, maybe you could enlighten us?”
“The name is Pike—” He didn’t have a chance to say more on the subject as a bullet ricocheted off the wall.
“I don’t care who you guys are. You’re dead!” Their suspect got sudden backup in the form of his two accomplices.
“Jesus!” Ray crouched lower behind the crates as more gunfire resounded. “You’re just like a big fucking red target,” he muttered darkly in Fraser’s direction.
“All right. Let me get this straight. You’re not Nautilus, right? Okay, and he’s not Nautilus, right? And I’m not Nautilus – so Nautilus isn’t here?” The man named Pike clarified.
“I’m afraid so,” Fraser called over the flying bullets.
When Fraser risked another glance over the rim of the crates, Pike had vanished, but the three FBI suspects were hot on his heels.
Ray and Fraser left their cover to pursue the fugitives. The three men obviously lost sight of Pike once they reached the end of the roof – he was nowhere to be seen. A moment later, all three of them turned around. Suddenly, three guns were trained on Fraser and Ray.
Under the deafening crack of guns being fired, Ray and Fraser ran to the side until they reached the edge. There was another roof a little lower and without hesitating they jumped down.
Not a second too late. They had barely taken cover under a small metal roof before their three pursuers reached the point where they had jumped. There was no way out. They couldn’t go back up for fear of getting shot and the only thing left was further down. But there was no further building left. Only the lake down below. Make that far below.
Ray looked at the rounds he had left and shoved the magazine back in with a disgusted snarl.
“Great. And what now?”
“The way I assess it, we could stand our ground and wait for backup, or we could give up. Now, if we stand our ground, they’ll likely shoot us. If we give up, well, they’ll likely shoot us anyway. What else could they do?”
“Well,” Ray fired another shot in the direction of the gunmen. “They could surrender, but I wouldn’t count on that.”
“You know something?” Fraser asked. “We could jump.”
“Like hell we could.”
“No, no. Would you make a jump like that if you didn’t have to?”
“Look, I have to and I’m not gonna.”
“All right, I’ll go first.”
“All right, you go first.”
“No means no!”
“What is wrong with you?”
“I… I can’t swim.”
“Oh.” That declaration took Fraser by surprise. “The quality of the water alone will probably kill us.”
Ray didn’t look particularly relieved by this. Another round of gunfire bounced off the abused metal roof.
“On three,” Fraser counted down. “One.” They rolled from underneath their cover. “Two.” They were almost at the edge. “Three.” They plunged 40 feet down.
The sound of police sirens was loud in the air and the three suspects were already being led away in handcuffs by the time Ray and Fraser were back on dry land. Fraser might have miscalculated the arrival of their backup slightly.
Ray was livid. “That’s our backup, Fraser! If we had waited two seconds, they would have been here. Which means we didn’t have to jump – because in case you had forgotten: I CAN’T SWIM! I’m not FUCKING waterproof!”
“Ray, you are overreacting. Why are you so upset—”
“Oh, I’m upset? That’s rich. You never listen to me! That’s what got us into this mess. Because you go around risking our necks without even consulting me! Fuck, you don’t even talk to me! You haven’t been telling me squat, Fraser!”
“No, see that’s why we’re getting stale: communication. We’re just not doing it!”
“What do you mean? It is our duty—”
“Fraser, shut up, I mean it. I can’t take this anymore.”
“We are officers of the law. I have a uniform and you carry a badge and my Sam Browne is–”
“Look, I don’t want to hear it! I don’t want to hear it! I don’t understand, I don’t want to hear it! You’ve been telling me nothing but bullshit these last few weeks and I’m sick to death of it.”
“Ray, I think you should be reasonable—”
“Look— I swear – I swear to God I will punch you in the face! Fair warning.”
“Well, what does that mean, you’re going to punch me?”
“Just shut up or I’ll have to punch you.”
“Ray, this is ridiculous—” Ray’s fist collided in a white-hot flash with Fraser’s cheek. He felt his lip split as Ray’s knuckles impacted with his face. Fraser reached up with his thumb to wipe a trickle of blood away.
Ray stood there with his eyes frozen wide, breathing heavily.
Fraser’s cheek was damp where Ray’s fist had hit. It was too late. There was nothing more to say. He had done it all wrong. Fraser picked up his hat and turned around. He didn’t look back.
But he felt Ray standing there, watching him leave.