Smiles Like the Wolf Before He Bites by Jay S

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Title: Smiles Like the Wolf Before He Bites
For: Stars
Pairing/Characters: Fraser/Kowalski
Warnings:
off screen violence, abuse of nursery rhymes
Vidder's/Author's/Artist's Notes: A truly amazing amount of love and thanks go out to my beta, who manages to keep me in check and on track. <3


no one believes you when you lie.
When you really need them they won't come by.
Only cry wolf when it if true,
Then your friends will believe in you.



"What the hell kind of a name is Taffy?" Ray asks, a scowl on his face that has nothing to do with the situation at hand, Fraser knows, but rather the cup of coffee and bowl of cereal going to waste back at the apartment.

"I believe it is a diminutive form of the Welsh name Dafydd meaning David," Fraser explains.

"Thank you, Fraser, that was metaphorical."

"I think you mean rhetorical, Ray," Fraser corrects, and adds, "My; this place is in quite a state."

"It's like every packrat's wet dream," Ray agrees, "C'mon, he's in the bedroom."

The 'he' in question is Taffy Maddock, a kleptomaniac with a real sweet tongue on him -- at least according to Ray. In the car, Ray had explained how Taffy's been arrested several times but never actually been charged as the people he's been caught stealing from always seem to find it in their heart to forgive him. If anything, Ray had said, they apologize to him. Taffy Maddock could talk his way out anything. Except for this, it would appear, as he currently has a poker stuck through his head.

"Man, that's gruesome -- and without coffee too," Ray says, making a face. Fraser gives him a disapproving look, because the scene might be gruesome, but comments like that are never appropriate and he doesn't think coffee would improve it any. Ray makes another face, this one more of an apologetic what? I can't control the shit that comes out of my mouth 24/7, before he addresses the coroner with a, "What can you tell me about Taffy?"

"He's dead, dude," Fraser hears the coroner -- Steve, if he's not mistaken -- say, though his attention has for the most part drifted to taking in the details of the scene. There are classic signs of a struggle -- a smashed lamp on the floor, bed covers in complete disarray, defensive marks on the victim's wrists -- and dried blood all over the bed and floor. "Cause of death is a perforating injury. The murder weapon would appear to be a poker."

"That's just great, but is there anything you can tell me that I can't, y'know, plainly see for myself?"

"Estimated time of death is three AM," Steve says, "Though I'd say he'd had the poker in him for a while before that. It didn't kill him immediately."

"What do you mean it didn't kill him immediately?" Ray shouts, "He has a poker going through his skull! Who the hell survives a poker through their fucking skull?"

"People have been known to survive gunshots to the head, Kowalski," Steve points out, saving Fraser from doing the same.

Although he does think it fitting to add, "In fact, one of the Icelandic sagas has a man dying three days after his enemy cut his head with a sword. One could argue that if a man could survive such a wound for several days, it is entirely within the realm of possibility to survive being stabbed with a poker."

"Yeah, okay," Steve says after a moment, "What the Mountie said. I mean, this dude hasn't been here for days, but there's no doubt the poker is the reason this dude died. It's just that at the angle it's at, it would just paralyze him as he bled out."

Ray whistles. "That's harsh."

"I doubt it was the murderer's intention," Steve says, "But it's hard to run an object, no matter how sharp, through someone skull. It looks like the poker glanced off his forehead, passed through his eye instead and exited his neck."

"Okay, what else?

"The murderer brought the poker with him," Fraser says, turning around and blinking slightly as Ray and Steve are looking at him.

"How'd you figure?"

"It's only an assumption, of course, but well," Fraser says, gesturing behind him into the living room. "There is a fireplace, yes, but it's closed up and there is no tool stand. Taffy Maddock would have no use for the poker, and so it seems the most likely scenario is that the murderer brought the poker with him."

"Okay," Ray nods, "That's useful, that implies planning, that implies intent. Okay, so the murderer enters the house, throws a poker at Taffy's head but his aim's not so good, they end up in a struggle. Finally the murderer gets a good grip around the poker again, and drives it through Taffy's skull."

"What makes you say the poker got thrown first?"

"There's a mark on the wall, like the end of the poker," Ray says and points. There is indeed a mark in the wall, rather similar in shape to the curve of the hole. "See? You're not the only one who can notice weird little details, Fraser."

Fraser looks down, corners of his mouth tugging up slightly. "I never said I was, Ray."

"Nah, but it was implied," Ray shrugs at him, grinning, and turns to Steve, "You find anything more, you call me right away, okay?"

"Don't I always?" Steve asks and sounds insulted, "I know I'm no Mort, but where's the trust, man?"

"Probably with your pot stash," Ray replies. "Alright, Fraser, let's grab some breakfast before we head to the station. The guy who called it in won't be there until nine."

"Very well, Ray," Fraser agrees. "Some more sustenance than the two bites of toast this morning does sound good."

"Nah, dudes, I can't go. Autopsy to perform -- even on an empty stomach, you know how it is. Thanks for asking, though." Steve says, and Ray just rolls his eyes.

"Who the hell goes through the trouble of bringing their own murder weapon and then leaves it at the crime scene?" Ray asks as they walk down the stairs. Diefenbaker starts barking before they even hit the bottom, none too pleased with having been left behind in the backseat.

"Perhaps our murderer was not thinking clearly," Fraser suggests, "After all, killing someone does alter your state of mind a significant amount -- perhaps the killer never realized the actual ramifications of his actions until after Taffy was already dying. and panicked."

"That's stupid," Ray says, shoving Dief's muzzle away before he can even try to lick his ear. "Someone brings a poker with them to run it through some poor bastard's skull; they'd have to be a real idiot to not realize the end result is going to be a lot of blood and a dead body."

"The mind works in mysterious ways," Fraser replies before turning to Dief, who's barking commentary isn't helpful, "A wolf your age shouldn't have any of those foods you are listing off, especially not for breakfast. You heard the veterinarian: you are on a diet."

"I thought it was God," Ray says, and when Fraser looks over, he's frowning in confusion. Fraser frowns back, equally confused.

"While I agree that Doctor Jenkins is a remarkably capable young woman and the best person in Chicago to deal with Dief, I would not go so far as to say that she is God, or for that matter, that God would take special interest in Diefenbaker's cuisine."

Ray snorts. "I didn't mean Doctor Jenkins, Fraser, I meant that it's God who works in mysterious ways, not the mind."

"Ah, of course," Fraser's features smooth out with understanding as he considers the rest of Ray's words. "Well, I don't see why it can't be both."

Ray shrugs. "Yeah, no, you're right. You're right. Man, I could really go for some waffles."

Dief barks his agreement on the waffles with great enthusiasm, and Fraser can't help but smile a little, even as he tries to make it clear that under no circumstances or promises of good behavior is Dief getting a plate of waffles to call his very own.

*


The precinct is in total chaos when they get there, not that this is a particularly different state of things than usual, although Fraser has to privately admit the mimes lining the hallway are a new, disturbing addition to the chaos.

"Right, okay," Ray says, after a brief detour to his desk. "What do you think, Fraser? Is this Jack Farlough waiting for us in interrogation a suspect, witness, someone innocent or what?"

"You know I don't like to speculate, Ray," Fraser answers, and as Ray opens the door to interrogation Room 3, adds, "Why don't you ask him? I'm sure he's much more capable of answering your question than I am."

Ray grins at him and disappears into the room. "First things first, did you kill Taffy Maddock?"

"No!" Mr. Farlough says, sounding a little bit offended, but mostly confused. "What kind of question is that? I called it in, Taffy was my friend!"

"Yeah, well, sadly friendship ain't a sure-fire protector against murder," Ray says, "Do you know who did it?"

"If I did, it would have been the first thing I told you," Mr. Farlough replies, "I really don't know anything. I had a meeting with Taffy and he didn't show, so I went over to his place. I just thought he'd slept in or something, but the door was open so I knew something was wrong. I'd already called 911 when I saw -- when I saw the bedroom."

"You'd already called 911? Based on what?"

"What you gotta realize about Taffy is that he'd never leave his place unlocked, and certainly not leave the door open. He's a klepto. He knows how easily stuff can get stolen, which is why he's so paranoid. Especially lately."

"Why?" Ray asks. Mr. Farlough's sitting perfectly centered at the table, and all Fraser can see of Ray is his back. He's relaxed, not as tense or jittery as if he'd even remotely suspected this guy for the crime. Fraser can easily see why Mr. Farlough's been disregarded as their suspect -- he's a man of small build and scrawny to boot. There is no way someone of his statue would manage to stick a poker through Taffy Maddock. "What's happened lately?"

"Don't you have the reports on it?" Mr. Farlough asks, "Taffy said he'd call, he'd been having break-ins."

Ray stares for a moment, complete silence, and then laughs. "You're telling me a petty thief called about a robbery?

"It wasn't a robbery," Mr. Farlough corrects, "Nothing was stolen, but he knew for certain there'd been someone there. Not just once either, it was at least twice."

"Okay, okay. Let me see if I got this right: a petty thief calls the police, saying someone's broken into his place but nothing's been stolen, and you're surprised the police didn't consider this a priority?"

"You're supposed to protect the people, aren't you?" Mr. Farlough snaps, arms crossed over his chest. "I mean, Taffy might've had a problem with letting other people's stuff remain in their possession, but he wasn't a bad guy. He was still a citizen and that's who you're supposed to protect, so I gotta ask: who outta the two of us is the most to blame, you for not taking the break-ins seriously or me for calling it in?"

Dief starts growling, fur puffed up and clearly not Mr. Farlough's biggest fan. "Diefenbaker," Fraser admonishes, "Quiet or you'll ruin the interrogation."

"Now listen here, smart-ass." Ray says, and there's nothing relaxed about his posture anymore. "There ain't no one in this precinct to be blamed for Taffy's murder. You can say shit like that after you've busted your fucking ass everyday making sure the robbers, rapists, murderers and every other scumbag in this city end up where they belong -- and that place is behind bars. Have you seen the circus out there? That's a good day, so I'm real fucking sorry your thieving friend's non-robbery troubles got lost in between us making sure some asshole who raped a girl and a scumbag selling drugs outside a school go to jail."

There's an icy silence in the room and Fraser thinks of going in, diffusing the situation some, but then Mr. Farlough looks down and nods, "You're right. It's just -- Taffy was a friend, can't you understand I'm upset about this entire thing? No one should have to find their friend like that."

"Yeah," Ray nods, "I'm sorry. We're both a little out of line, so let's take a step back, shall we? Do you know of anyone who'd want to harm Taffy?"

"No," Mr. Farlough shakes his head. "Taffy was great. I mean, he might steal from you, but if you explained to him why it was important to you, he'd give it back no problem. He always said sorry too, he just couldn't help himself, was the thing. No one would want to hurt Taffy."

"Petty thief loved by all," Ray nods his head, "Got it. So there's nothing you can think of? No reason why anyone would want to hurt him?"

"None," Mr. Farlough says, his voice holding no room for doubt at all. "I just can't believe anyone would hurt Taffy."

"Alright well," Ray says, clapping his hands together, "Obviously there's someone out there disagreeing with you, but okay. You come up with anything new, doesn't matter how small the detail, you call me, okay?"

"Will do, Detective." Mr. Farlough says and disappears out the door. Ray stays in the room until Fraser opens the door and pops his head in, "Ray? Ray. Ray. Ray."

"Yeah, I'm coming." Ray says, and moves out past Fraser into the hall. "Let's check out the break-ins."

*


"Detective Kowalski?" Fraser looks up at the voice, not that he can see much in the total darkness of the precinct. There's a few candles lit around the place, but there's hardly enough light for all the areas of the bullpen to be illuminated. Whoever's talking remains nothing more than a shadow. "This is his desk, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," Fraser says, waves a hand. "Detective Kowalski just stepped out for a moment to use the restroom. I'm sure he'll be back any second. Why don't you take a seat while we wait?"

The shadow pulls out the chair and sits down, becoming Mr. Farlough as the light from the candles arranged haphazardly around the desk by Francesca reaches him. "Thank you. I tried calling, but there was no answer. I guess I know why now."

"There seems to be a snag with the electrical system," Fraser explains, "I'm afraid it's been like this all morning."

"Fraser, the lights better come back on soon, because I doubt the ability of the idiots in this place to pee and hit what they're aiming for under normal circumstances, but now I swear the bathroom smells even worse than usual. I don't want to know what I stepped in." Ray stops as he realizes Fraser's not sitting alone and says, "Jack, what can I do for you?"

"You asked me to contact you if I could think of anyone who'd want to harm Taffy," Mr. Farlough says, "And well, I did. I'd forgotten about it, but Taffy had a big fight a few weeks ago."

"Oh yeah? With who?"

"Peter Karler," Mr. Farlough says, "They're friends. Or were, I guess. They had this big fight and Taffy told me Peter threatened him."

"You recall what for?"

"No," Mr. Farlough shakes his head. "He never told me."

"Alright, any idea where this guy lives?"

Mr. Farlough lists off the address, ending it with a, "I'm sorry I didn't remember it earlier."

"Don't worry about it, you'd had quite a shock," Ray says, waving it off. "We'll head on over there right now."

"Uhm," Mr. Farlough says, while Ray's pulling on his coat, "So there's been no progress?"

"I can't discuss an ongoing investigation," Ray says, "Though I can tell you, I looked up the police records -- we did send a cop over to check out the break-ins Taffy reported. Filed a report about it and everything. There were signs of forced entry, he recommended Taffy get a new lock and count himself lucky nothing had been stolen. Chicago PD saw no further cause for concern."

"I didn't mean what I said," Mr. Farlough says, "I just -- like you said, I was in shock. Didn't have a clue what I was saying."

"Yeah, I know." Ray nods, jittering a little. "Just wanted to let you know, we might be a bunch of good for nothing assholes most of the time, but when it comes to our job, we try our absolute fucking best. We'll do our best with this case too."

"Thank you kindly for coming down personally, Mr. Farlough. We'll contact you if we have any more questions."

"No problem," Mr. Farlough says, shaking their hands. "I just hope it helps."

*


The door to Peter Karler's apartment opens before Fraser's fist actually connects with the wood. It takes him a moment of surprise to drop it back down to his side, and by then Ray is already talking, "Uh, hi, I'm Detective Ray Kowalski of the Chicago PD and this is my --"

Mr. Karler cuts him off with an amazed, "Man, you guys are like psychics. I was just about to call you!"

"Oh yeah?" Ray asks, "Why's that?"

"It's been 24 hours since my wife disappeared," Mr. Karler says, grinning widely at them. He's young, mid-twenties by Fraser's guess, with long black hair pulled back in a ponytail and a pair of glasses perched high on his nose. "That's the limit, isn't it? I thought it was, so I was waiting, and you know, it's been 24 hours on the dot. How'd you know?"

"Ah, well, Mr. Karler," Fraser says, "As it so happens, we're here on a different matter entirely."

"Your wife's missing?" Ray asks, "How do you know for sure?"

"Please," Mr. Karler says, "Come on in and I'll tell you all about it. Just make yourself at home; I'll go make some tea. That is, if you want?"

"That'd be lovely, if it's no trouble," Fraser takes off his hat as he steps inside after Ray, who's busy declining the offer of tea, and then promptly bumps into him on the way out of the hallway as Ray suddenly stops.

"That right there," Ray says, voice pitched low, "is fucking creepy."

Fraser's inclined to agree. The living room is certainly very abnormally decorated and with a definite theme, namely, pumpkins. Everything is a mix of orange and black, even the bookshelves, and the couch and lamps have definite resemblances to pumpkins. "Don't judge, Ray."

"Don't tell me whether to judge or not," Ray mutters, "I'll judge whoever I want to judge and I judge this guy to be a nut job."

"Ray, he seems perfectly harmless," Fraser says, just as Mr. Karler comes back into the room.

"I only had pumpkin tea," Mr. Karler says, "I hope you don't mind."

Ray gives him a look that Fraser pretends not to notice, instead taking one of the cups from Mr. Karler with a smile, "Thank you kindly, pumpkin tea is just fine."

"Great," Mr. Karler beams at him and then adds, "Oh, you wouldn't like any cookies, would you? I just made some."

"Are they pumpkin cookies?" Ray asks, barely flinching when Fraser pinches his side. There's a whine from outside the door, full of self-pity and hunger, and Fraser sighs.

"Is that a dog?" Mr. Karler asks, frowning, "Did you guys have a dog?"

"Not a dog, exactly, as Diefenbaker is half-wolf and very much his own canine, but yes, he is with us." Fraser explains, and under his words there's the low howl of a wolf feeling left behind, especially when there are cookies involved.

"Well, why didn't you say so," Mr. Karler says, disappearing for a moment and returning not only with a plate of cookies that do smell delicious, but also a deaf half-wolf looking very pleased with himself. "He's a real beauty."

"Okay, well," Mr. Karler says, finally sitting down and his eyes settle on Fraser. "You're like no cop I've ever seen."

"Ah," Fraser brushes a thumb over his eyebrow, "I'm Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police. I first came to --"

"Yeah, that's not important right now," Ray interrupts, "So your wife's missing. Excuse me for saying, but you don't exactly look all that broken up about it."

"Well, she's my ex-wife." Mr. Karler says, "For a few years now. She wasn't such a big fan of the pumpkins and I wasn't willing to change such a big part of myself. But we remained great friends, and she was supposed to meet me yesterday for lunch. She never showed."

"You sure she didn't just stand you up?" Ray asks, and Mr. Karler shakes his head so vigorously Fraser thinks for a moment his glasses are going to fall off.

"Nuh-uh," Mr. Karler says, "Not my Arlene, she would never stand me up. We were friends, I told you, and I've called her several times -- not to mention her workplace, her friends and her parents. None of them have heard anything from her, and she wasn't at her apartment an hour ago."

"You do know stalking is a criminal offence?"

"Yes, why?"

"No reason," Ray says, taking a big bite out of one of the cookies. He makes a go on motion with his hand.

"I became increasingly anxious, but I thought I remembered how the police wouldn't consider it a missing person case unless the person has been missing for twenty-four hours, so I waited, and like I said, I was just about to call when you two showed up." Mr. Karler blinks at them, frowns, "Wait, why are you here? Did -- did something happen? Arlene's not dead, is she?"

"I'm sure she's fine," Ray says, "The thing is, we're here on another case. We've been informed you knew a guy named Taffy Maddock?"

"That little thief," Mr. Karler snarls, "He stole my Copper Engraved Pumpkin!"

"Your what?"

"My Copper Engraved Pumpkin, it was handmade in Mexico and worth well over $2000."

"For a pumpkin?"

"Ray," Fraser warns before turning to Mr. Karler. "Now, Mr. Karler --"

"Peter, please, I'm too young to be a Mr. Karler."

"Alright, as you wish, Peter. I'm afraid that Taffy Maddock died very recently under circumstances that unfortunately require some investigation. Your name was brought to our attention, specifically in connection with a fight you had with the deceased?"

"Yeah, we fought," Peter says, "But then, when someone who's supposed to be your friend steals your most prized possession, isn't it understandable I'd be a little upset?"

"Oh, I'm not disagreeing with you, Peter," Fraser says, "In fact; I am surprised you didn't report this to the police."

"I decided to talk to him first," Peter says, shrugging, "I mean, I figured there might be a chance he'd give it back if I asked, besides I wanted to let him know he wasn't welcome here any more if he couldn't restrain himself."

"And did he give you back the pumpkin?"

"Yeah," Peter gets to his feet and from a pumpkin shaped cabinet under the window he retrieves a large copper pumpkin. "But still, things like this, I don't forget right away."

"Of course, may I see it?" Fraser asks, and at Peter's nod he gently lifts it from Peter's hands until it is securely positioned on his lap. "My, it is a real piece of art."

"Right, okay, so Taffy steals your pumpkin and you decide it's time for some revenge, is that it?" Ray asks, and Dief's pushing his nose at the pumpkin, whining low and confused in his throat. "Break-in a couple of times, get the lay of the land and then whack him?"

"What? No, I'd never actually harm Taffy. He pissed me off, sure, but just because I'm pissed at him doesn't mean I want to kill him."

"But you threatened to."

"Yeah, and every time you've told someone you were gonna kill them while you were pissed off, you meant it?"

It would appear Peter has him on that one, Fraser thinks, and lifts the lid off the pumpkin. "Oh. Oh dear." Fraser says, right as Dief starts barking like mad, hackles raised.

"What the fuck, Frase? What's going on?" Ray asks, craning his neck to see into the pumpkin and then he's on his feet, gun drawn and telling Peter to get the fuck on the ground now. "What the fuck kind of a sicko are you?" Ray shouts, cuffing Peter's hands behind his back and hauling him off the floor. "Jesus fuck, I knew the pumpkin obsession meant you were a nut job, but I figured you at least were a harmless one."

"What are you talking about?" Peter wails, and his voice is honestly confused and despaired. "I didn't do anything."

"I'm afraid the evidence suggests otherwise," Fraser says sadly, and displays the contents of the pumpkin to Peter. Peter takes one look and promptly vomits all over the floor.

"Great, this is fucking great," Ray mutters, "Bring that thing with you, will you? Make sure you don't touch anywhere except where you already touched, maybe we won't have disturbed the evidence too much."

"Alright, Ray," Fraser says, and places the lid back on top of the dust and the severed hand.

*


"You deal with him," Ray says, waving his hand at the scene taking place on the other side of the glass. "Do that thing you do that makes everyone spill their guts to you."

"I don't do anything special, Ray," Fraser says, "I merely present them with some new viewpoints on the matter they might not have considered beforehand, and make sure that they understand that I would be more than happy to listen to whatever's on their mind."

Ray nods enthusiastically. "Yeah, that."

"I would have thought a collar like this, you'd want to interrogate the suspect yourself, Ray."

"Yeah, but he's crying." Ray says, like that explains it all. When he sees that it doesn't, he adds, "I hate it when grown assholes cry. If they're gonna cry, they shouldn't have fucking done the crime."

"Have you considered that Peter Karler is, in fact, crying because he didn't commit the crime and is devastated that his ex-wife is dead?"

"Of course I did, Fraser," Ray answers, and he sounds offended. "What kinda cop d'you take me for? Of course I fucking considered it, and then I remembered we found him in possession of a pumpkin filled with his ex-wife's ashes and her severed hand, and I got pissed off all over again."

"Just because Mr. Karler collects pumpkin paraphernalia does not mean he killed his former spouse."

"No, but it does make him fucking psycho, and in my world, Fraser, fucking psychos have no trouble killing their ex-wives," Ray retorts, looks into the interrogation room and scoffs at the man who hasn't stopped crying. "Are you gonna interrogate him or am I going to have to go in there and kick his head just so I feel like he actually has a reason to cry?"

"No," Fraser says, heading for the door. "I'll talk to him, Ray."

The hallway is busy as always, and Fraser has a hand on the door to interrogation when Francesca goes, "Oh, Fraser, Ray's not around? Okay, good, 'cause I've been meaning to talk to you. Since we haven't, y'know, since you came back and all. Talked, that is. Not alone, anyway."

"I'm sure, Francesca, we can find time to talk in private after I've had a talk with Mr. Karler," Fraser tries, but Francesca is shaking her head, holding a hand up to stop him.

"It's just; when word came back you and Ray were staying up there to hunt after the limb of some turtle --"

"Hand of Franklin," Fraser corrects, which does have the desired effect of pausing Francesca's words for a moment.

She stares at him like she usually does when she thinks he's being not particularly bright. "Yeah, that's what I said. Franklin the turtle, right? Anyway, that's not the point. The point is, that got me wondering, you know, well not really wondering, more like just plain thinking and --"

"Francesca, I am sure a woman like you has indulged in cerebration many times, and I am flattered you would do so over this instance, but now is rather a bad time to discuss this particular matter," Fraser says, pressing down on the door handle. "Have a nice day."

"Cerebra--what?" Francesca says, and Fraser closes the door. That might've been a bit rude though hardly as bad as Ray could've been, he thinks and then focuses on the task at hand.

"Mr. Karler, I am extremely sorry for your loss."

"I can't believe anyone would harm her," Mr. Karler says, "She was just the sweetest person I knew."

"She had no enemies?" Fraser asks, "No one she'd fought with recently?"

"None," Mr. Karler shakes his head, sniffles and looks up with tear-filled eyes. "She wouldn't hurt a fly or even say a bad word about it."

"Even so, I must ask, Mr. Karler, where were you between 10 PM and 12 AM two nights ago?"

"Was that the last time anybody heard from her?"

"I'm afraid so, Mr. Karler," Fraser replies.

"I was at work," Mr. Karler says, after a few moments more of renewed weeping. "I work at an all-night diner. I had the night shift with my manager, I was there until one."

"I'm afraid you'll have to stay here until we've confirmed your alibi," Fraser says, "Would you perhaps like a glass of water? Some nutrition?"

"No," Mr. Karler says, "I'd just...like to be alone."

"Of course," Fraser nods, "You may stay here unless someone else requires the room. There'll be a guard posted at the door. If you wish to speak to myself or Detective Kowalski, you merely need to tell the guard. Or yell loudly, that seems to be the most efficient way here."

Mr. Karler doesn't crack a smile at the admittedly feeble joke. He isn't listening.

*


Mr. Karler's manager isn't at diner when Ray and Fraser get there. "He usually doesn't come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays," the waitress who's helping them out says, and then leans closer than absolutely necessary to whisper, "I don't really like him, personally. I mean, a job like this, I know I shouldn't expect much, but he's pretty disgusting, y'know? It's why I keep trying to get the shifts I know he won't be working or in the diner."

"If you'd like to file a criminal complaint, Miss Gokey, then I assure Detective Kowalski and myself would make personally sure they can't be traced back to you." Fraser assures her, trying to regain some space between them. "You don't need to tolerate any unwanted behavior, from a superior or anyone else, and you should not hesitate to alert the proper authorities."

"Oh Heaven's no, I didn't mean it like that," Miss Gokey says, shifting closer, and behind her, Fraser can see Ray mouthing 'Heaven's no?' with a baffled expression on his face. "And please, call me Jill. No, no, what I meant was that I just don't like the look of him. You'll see what I mean when you meet him yourself. You'll see why I don't like working with him."

"If you say so, Miss Gokey," Fraser says politely, "We seem to be keeping you from the other patrons."

"Oh, right, that's all your questions then?" Miss Gokey asks, straightening herself up and Fraser lets out a little sigh of relief.

"Nah," Ray says, stepping in, smirking slightly at Fraser. "Just, hand us your manager's address along with the check, yeah?"

"Of course," Miss Gokey says, and leaves them to their lunch.

"Do you want to report any unwanted behavior, Fraser?" Ray asks, once Miss Gokey is out of earshot.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," Fraser says, drinking the rest of his milk.

"Don't pull that dumb Mountie crap with me, pal," Ray says, laughing, "We spent two months with no one but each other and the dogs, there is no act you can pull off anymore that I can't see through."

"You seem awfully confident about this, Ray."

"That's because I am, Fraser, I am so confident about this. You want to know why? Other than the whole tundra thing, I mean?"

"At this stage I don't think an answer in the negative would stop you," Fraser says, holding out a small strip of chicken to Diefenbaker, who is currently lying under the table.

"It's because we're partners, a duet," Ray says, stabbing his finger onto the table. "You can't change what we are, and what we are is greatness defined, which means I know that you are annoyingly perceptive about nearly everything, and that includes human behavior."

"Oh Lord, I didn't realize, I'm sorry," Miss Gokey says, reappearing with two slips of paper. "I never would've acted that way if I knew," she adds, giving them both an apologetic look. "I feel like such a fool."

Before Fraser can say anything, she's gone back towards a table full of teenagers in the corner. Ray's laughing again, shoulders shaking silently as he pulls out his wallet and places the money on the table. "As fun as it is watching you dash the heart and hope of young waitresses, we better get going."

"You're not finished," Fraser points out, even as he slides out from the booth and placing the Stetson back on his head.

"It's a sandwich, Fraser," Ray says, grabbing it along with his coat, "It really doesn't require me stationary to eat it. Oh hey, lucky us, the guy doesn't live too far off."

"In that case, Ray, I suggest we walk."

"What? No, Fraser, c'mon, what if we need to arrest this guy?"

"Then we call for back-up," Fraser says, holding the door open for both Diefenbaker and Ray to slip through. "Some exercise will do us good."

"If that's some sort of Canadian snide comment about my body weight--" Ray starts, crossing his arms defensively.

"Not at all, Ray, I'm merely stating that daily exercise that isn't chasing down and handling suspects and perpetrators is generally a good thing. In fact, I was thinking we could make it a daily thing. I know we already take walks with Dief, but I thought perhaps better, both for us and the environment, if we started walking more."

"Fine, okay, we'll walk." Ray says, rolling his eyes. "Not only do I have to put up with women flinging themselves at you left and right, now I gotta suffer through you becoming all proactive about the environment as well. This is Chicago, Fraser, not the North Yukon Territories. Us walking is going to do exactly squat for the environment."

"It's the North-Western Territories and the Yukon, Ray, as I am sure you know by now," Fraser says, "and every little bit helps."

"Yeah, sure," Ray says, kicking a crushed can of Fanta before sighing and picking it up, throwing it in the nearest trash can. He turns to Fraser, a look on his face that seems to say, are you happy now?

"I didn't say anything," Fraser says, hiding his smile.

Ray rolls his eyes. "Yeah, like you wouldn't have mentioned it as karma coming back to bite me in the ass a week from now when someone gets a lucky punch in."

"Ray, I would never take any kind of pleasure out of you getting hurt," Fraser assures him. He almost expects his father to join them as they walk past the alley, making some quip about how he'd sure get a little laugh out of it, but everything stays silent. As it should be.

Dief whines a little, like he understands too, and if Ray wasn't right there, Fraser'd remind him that this is how they've wanted it. His father is at peace, as is his mother.

"What's up with Dief?" Ray asks, "He missing that she-wolf?"

"Yes," Fraser says, "Among other things."

"Like what?"

"The same sort of things he missed about Chicago when we were up North."

"What, like, the fish and the snowstorms and thinking warmth would never be nothing but a dream ever again?"

"You liked it up there, Ray," Fraser reminds him, and Ray shrugs.

"Yeah, did you hear me say I didn't? I'm just saying that there's a couple of luxuries from Chicago we should import, for y'know, next time." Fraser smiles at him, and though he doesn't know what he's about to say, his mouth is open anyway, when Ray says, "We're coming up on the manager's apartment. Man, what the hell is that garbage all over the pavement?"

Dief's growling, low and dangerous and on-edge, hackles raised. Fraser looks at him and back to the chunks strewn all over the sidewalk and partly in the road. It's like a giant block of ice has been thrown off the top of the roof, but there's something wrong about this ice. He picks a piece up, studies it by sight and smell first. He's just about to lick it when he realizes, looking by the entrance to the apartment building.

"Ray," he says, gently placing the piece back on the ground, his eyes never leaving the frozen eyeball. "You'd better call for the coroner and back-up."

"Why, we gotta body?"

Fraser gestures to the pieces. "I think, Ray, that this is the body."

*


"I'm afraid our man Fraser's right," Steve says, shaking his head in disgust. "This here is one thoroughly dead dude."

"How'd you know it wasn't a woman?" Ray asks, although they had been assuming it was Howard Tucker as his apartment had been empty and, after the door had been kicked in, had shown clear signs of a struggle. "For that matter, how the fuck did this happen?"

"There was one rather intact and revealing piece of the body," Steve says, "It wasn't that hard to figure out, and I gotta say, an open casket funeral is way out of the question for this dude. Ain't no way to put him properly together. As to how it could've happened? Man, my only guess is like some bad magic, or y'know, liquid nitrogen. Like, a lot of it."

"What is it?"

"It's this cryogenic fluid which can cause rapid freezing on contact with living tissue." Steve says, "Which, y'know, is what this could be. But man, I've never heard of anyone freezing an entire body with it before."

"Let's try and make sure it doesn't happen again," Ray says, with a shudder, "Man, what a fucking crap way to go. Okay, who'd have access to it?"

"I'd think near about anyone with money, really, dude," Steve says, "I mean, you can order this shit from companies."

"Great." Ray says, "Call me if you find out anything else."

"I keep telling you, man; when don't I?" Steve shouts after them.

"What's the matter with you?" Ray asks, as they head back upstairs. "You didn't say a word."

"I'm trying to recall something," Fraser says, "I feel as though there is something very familiar about all of this, but I can't quite put my finger on it."

"Yeah?" Ray asks, bouncing a little on his feet. "I gotta tell you, Fraser, I am hoping you remember it real soon, because I really don't like this. We never shoulda left Canada." They exchange a quick smile before Ray's running off to tell Francesca to look for any liquid nitrogen suppliers in the area and get a client list off of all of them. "I think we should call back Jack Farlough. He seems to be at the centre of all of this in a way, so I figure he might help. Have him look over the list of people who've bought liquid nitrogen lately and see if he recognizes anyone."

"Sounds like a plan, Ray," Fraser says, "I'll try to remember what it is about this case that seems familiar, in case it proves helpful."

"Greatness."

The information dances infuriatingly just out of his reach, leaving him in the dark until Mr. Farlough is there to look at the list of liquid nitrogen buyers.

"Oh man," Mr. Farlough says, eyes wide. "Oh man oh man oh man. Humpty's dead?"

It's almost instantaneous, the memory flooding over him, and he cuts Ray's reply off with, "'Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief; Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef.'"

"Fraser, what the hell is wrong with you?"

"Ray, they've all been murdered as nursery rhymes characters," Fraser says, and Ray's expression at its most skeptical. "'Taffy was a Welshman' ends with Taffy having a poker thrown at his head while he was in bed. Peter Karler I assume to be 'Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater', who had a wife and couldn't keep her, so he put her in a pumpkin shell and kept her there very well."

"That -- that's crazy, though," Ray says, "I mean, like, serious grade-A the-president-is-actually-a-robotic-squi
rrel crazy."

"'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.'" Mr. Farlough says, looking terrified and slightly sick, "'All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.' Is that how you found him?"

Ray glances at Fraser, then sighs and nods. "Listen, I know this is all a hell of a lot to take in, but I'm going to be getting a list soon, of all the people who might've had the means to do this. You going to be okay to look over it?"

"Yeah," Mr. Farlough nods shakily and swallows. "I'll help anyway I can, I swear. I didn't really know Peter, but Taffy was my friend and Howard supported me when everyone else told me no one was going to buy my candlesticks."

"Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray."

"What?"

"A word outside, please?" Fraser says, then to Mr. Farlough, "Please excuse us, Mr. Farlough."

Mr. Farlough waves them off, head in his hands, and Ray follows Fraser out the door into the chaos of the hall, looking confused. "What now?"

"I think perhaps we should consider the possibility that Jack might be the next victim," Fraser says, "based not only on the fact that he knew the previous victims, but also on the fact that he has a nursery rhyme which could lead to his death."

"I might not remember my nursery rhymes like you do, Fraser, but weren't there a lot of different ones with a guy named Jack in them? What makes you so sure one of them could fit this Jack?"

"'Jack, be nimble. Jack, be quick, Jack, jump over the candlestick.'" Fraser recites, sees the moment Ray gets it. "'Jack jumped high, Jack jumped low. Jack jumped over and burned his toe.'"

"I hate this fucking case," Ray says with feeling. "Although, that doesn't mention death specifically. I mean, the guy burned his toe. Worse things happen."

"One could also see it as Jack not only burning his toe, Ray, but also knocking the candlestick over."

"Fire," Ray says, after a moment, "Shit, you don't think he'll have done it now, do you? I mean, there's really no clear fucking timeline for when this psycho's been doing this shit, other than Taffy dying Monday, and Arlene and Howard sometime in between then and now."

"I don't know, Ray," Fraser says, "but I will go contact the fire department."

Ray nods, "Tell Welsh too. He needs to fucking know about this mess, and I have to admit, I'm really glad I'm not the first in line of fire. Sorry, Frase."

Fraser doesn't respond as Francesca chooses that moment to appear, papers in hand. "It took a while for Miller Carbonic Inc to cough up their clients, but here you go, Ray, just like you asked."

"Good luck, Fraser," Ray says, taking the papers and spinning back into the bullpen.

"Well," Francesca says, and despite the fact that they've been back for over a month, her voice still seems surprised when she adds, "I see prolonged exposure to you really hasn't improved him at all."

*


Matt Redmond had been pretty popular once, according to Jack Farlough. Very charismatic, very handsome and equally attentive to all the people around him.

"We all gravitated towards him," Mr. Farlough says, nails scraping lightly over the table in Interrogation Room 2. "He'd make us all feel so included and much smarter than we really were in university. It was an ego-boost to be considered his friend, and we all got to know each other because of him. Taffy and I, we were most alike. Peter and Howard had huge plans for the future. Matt sat in the middle, in a way the fifth wheel and yet always more like the carriage. None of us considered the possibility that our friendships could last outside of his presence, and it lasted all the way until university was over and we were all facing the world of job hunting. We were moving on, while Matt wasn't.

"He'd call us, all hours of the day, first with fairly normal things. Did we want to see a movie? Get some lunch? Basic things like that. Then as our lives got busier and busier, the calls would turn weirder and weirder. He'd tell us his apartment building was burning down, that he'd been mugged, that he was in the hospital. Absolutely anything to get us to come running. We kept trying to tell him that it was getting too exhausting, until I couldn't take it anymore. I'd just gotten hired at this advertisement firm, I couldn't take his bullshit anymore, so I told him I'd had enough and I stopped showing up." Mr. Farlough takes a deep breath, twirling a ring around on his finger.

"Taffy told me Hum--Howard was the next to leave. 'Too busy inventing the next grand meal of eggs,' as he said. Peter had faulted me for giving up, for leaving, which is why I lost touch with him too. But when Howard left, Peter wasn't far behind in realizing that the way Matt was carrying on -- because he was still calling, still leaving messages about how he was being mugged and murdered and robbed -- wasn't something any of us should continue to indulge him in.

"Taffy was the one who stuck it out. For weeks after we'd given up, Taffy kept answering the calls and showing up. He was the one who tried to get Matt better, by taking him out and talking to him, and then a couple of days before -- before all of this started, he fooled Matt into meeting with a psychiatrist."

"Fooled?" Ray prompts, when the silence has lasted for a while.

"Matt wouldn't go. We'd all tried to get him to seek help, but he wasn't -- he wasn't really ill. In his mind, yes, but he was functioning. He had a job, just like us, operating the controls for an industrial furnace. I never really knew where he worked or what exactly it was he did, nothing other than that. So, anyway, Taffy fooled him. Led him to the psychiatrist under false pretenses, and then drove off before Matt could climb into the car again. I was meeting Taffy to discuss how it'd gone, when this entire nightmare started."

"I am sorry for your loss," Fraser says, quietly, and Mr. Farlough's entire body shakes, but he makes no further sound.

They leave him to mourn in peace.

*


Matt Redmond seems barely aware of the questions being asked of him, the answers that are demanded. He sits with his left knee bouncing, twitching and repeating to himself, "I am the wolf, I am the wolf, I am the wolf."

By the time the lawyer shows up, they've gotten no further. Ray steps off with barely a fight -- that is, he does fight, but it is only to show that he doesn't like it. "I fucking hate this case," Ray says, slamming his fist into the wall. "Fucking nutcases that suddenly lose it and go on murdering fucking rampages for no other reason than to make my life hell. I bet he's going to do the whole fucking insanity plea thing too."

"Ray," Fraser says, stopping the hand before it can make contact with the wall as Ray swings again, drawing his thumbs over the sore knuckles. "In this instance I think it is relatively safe to assume that he will be sentenced guilty but mentally ill."

"Yeah," Ray says, slumping forward as the exhaustion lets itself be properly known. "I just haven't slept all that much since clusterfuck started."

"I know, Ray," Fraser says, "Perhaps --"

"Go home, the two of you," Lieutenant Welsh says, as he walks past, "You look beat. I'll take over the questioning, so long as you're both here bright and early 8AM tomorrow morning."

"Thank you kindly," Fraser says, while Ray wastes no time getting into the bullpen to grab his keys and jacket.

"Food, walk the dog, a beer, some friendly wrestling, and lots of sleep," Ray says, on their way to the GTO. "Sounds like Heaven."

"Sounds like home," Fraser agrees, and they step out of the precinct smiling.

epilogue

"It's not that cold," Ray says, "I don't get why you didn't want to spend Christmas up here for the past two years."

"Ray, you've got your jacket on indoors." Fraser says, and when Ray raises an eyebrow as if to say 'and your point is?, he adds, "We're sitting by the fireplace."

"Your wolf pushed me into a pile of soft snow, Fraser," Ray says, inching a little closer to the fire.

"As I recall, you were the one who started the game."

"Yeah, but then I didn't know that Canadian snow apparently parts like water when you're pushed into it by a wolf!"

"Besides, Ray, we didn't have a place to live before now," Fraser takes their plates over to the sink and goes about cleaning them quickly.

"We could've rented a cabin," Ray says, "We didn't have to build one, we could've just bought one or something."

"My father used to say it was important for a man to build his own cabin," Fraser says, "Not only would it provide you with shelter, but it would provide you with a home that nothing else could ever compare to."

"Maybe your dad was onto something with that one," Ray admits, "Even though this place doesn't have a TV or even a radio yet, it's pretty cozy." They're quiet after that, and Fraser can imagine that Ray's busy looking around the small cabin.

It's quite a simple home for now. The cabin has four rooms -- bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and living room -- and a small kennel outside. Sparsely furnished for now, but Ray has plans for things to add. Fraser's content with the cabin as it is, perfect simply because it was built by himself and Ray.

Fraser finishes the dishes before returning to the couch, and enjoys the silence broken only by the crackle of the fire for several minutes until Ray goes, "What, no book today?"

"I was thinking of doing something else tonight," Fraser says, "Although there appears to be a hitch in my original plan."

"Yeah?" Ray raises an eyebrow, "What was the hitch?"

"You put on an extra layer," Fraser says, his tone utterly forlorn. Ray looks at him for a long moment, before he starts to laugh, and he's still laughing when Fraser tugs off his jacket, quieting only when Fraser starts kissing him.

There's a disgruntled whine from Dief not longer after, and the sound of his claws scraping over the floorboards as he trots into the bedroom, and the door closes behind him.

Ray and Fraser, understandably, are much too busy with other matters to take much notice.

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10 Comments

Stars said:

Eeeeeeeeee this was marvelous! So well plotted, and clever and funny and spot-on Ray & Fraser voices. Poor Dief on a diet, bwah! And OMG Steve the coroner has to be one of the funniest OMCs evar! \o/

So many lines made me snicker, but I have to quote the first one: Ray makes another face, this one more of an apologetic what? I can't control the shit that comes out of my mouth 24/7

because that is when I knew I was going to love this story. &hearts &hearts &hearts

THANK YOU SO MUCH SANTA!!! :D :D :D

I loved the casefic aspects of this, and the subtle (and not so subtle) undercurrent of crazyness that runs through this whole story, and how sane Fraser pretends to be.

Clever and funny and yeah, an amazing read! Thank you.

spuffyduds said:

Ooooh, CREEPY casefic. Well done. The shattered body--THAT'S gonna stay with me.

And I especially love how much of a character Dief is--he acquires information his human co-cops don't have, and gives it to them, and it makes a real difference in the case. Nifty.

omens Author Profile Page said:

Wacky and creepy and sooo funny! I liked this a lot, and I love how Fraser sees Ray. All of your OCs were great, too. Wtg, Santa! :D :D

Azamiko said:

Very cool, especially the nursery rhymes.

leslieo54 said:

"You put on an extra layer," Fraser says, his tone utterly forlorn.

Heh. Very cute. I love casefics with an undercurrent of F/K - you know, where they're together and happy but it's not the focus of the story. And this is a really interesting one - great job! (You caught me right from the start because Taffy was my great-great-grandfather's name, but your story kept me reading. Thanks for sharing it.)

This was such an enjoyable read. Crazy case, lovely undercurrents, great other characters, good fun!

This was a very enjoyable read, JS! The wacky casefic which is so in keeping for dS, our boys getting to do real police work, the subtle hints of their relationship without detracting from the story.

The precinct is in total chaos when they get there, not that this is a particularly different state of things than usual, although Fraser has to privately admit the mimes lining the hallway are a new, disturbing addition to the chaos.

This made me laugh, for its beautiful, background detail and Fraser's reaction to it ♥

Luzula Author Profile Page said:

This is a great casefic--crazy and a bit creepy, but still with lots of humor to lighten it up. Your dialogue is awesome, and I especially like the way you write Ray K.

Mal Author Profile Page said:

This is absolutely brilliant. I am all giddy with delight at your writing, and then giddy all over again with glee over the impeccable characterizations and perfect voices and the inspired lunacy of the story itself. Marvelous!

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This page contains a single entry by agent129 published on November 19, 2009 12:50 PM.

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