FAKE First Year Together: A New Day (May)
Rating: Chapter 15 is totally worksafe. The boys have been a little too busy at work, not to mention caught up in fears and self doubts recently to get back into bed. But soon, I promise you...
Spoilers: To Volume 7
Timing: Set in May directly after Book 7 ended
Summary: Ryo is coming to terms with the changes in his relationship with Dee, as well as his new sexual identity. Meanwhile, Dee and Ryo help a young runaway, while trying to find enough evidence to expose a crooked cop. This story explores homophobic attitudes but is primarily a love story between two men.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They are the property of Sanami Matoh. I am not making any money from this.
Author's notes: I believe in a strong and equal Ryo and Dee. Sorry to JJ-lovers, but he doesn’t make an appearance in this chapter, even though his name comes up a few times.
Thank you to Blue Simplicity who is the best friend and beta a girl could have!
Ryo sat across from Drake in a little Chinese restaurant, sipping jasmine tea and hoping he could remember not to rest his elbow in a small greasy patch he had already detected on the laminated tabletop. He also hoped that the food was better than the shabby interior and relative lack of customers during what should have been a busy lunch hour indicated. He belatedly recalled that Drake never picked good restaurants and cursed himself for not having countered Drake's suggestion with an option or two of his own.
"How's the food here?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing out of the ordinary. Just good old plain, serviceable Chinese food," Drake replied. "They have some good lunch specials though, and cheaper than you might think."
A waitress appeared and unceremoniously dumped a pair of menus on the table.
"Menu!" she said. "Hurry up, decide. I'm busy." Then she stalked off.
"Thanks, Lily," Drake called out to her retreating back and opened up one of the menus. He and Ryo studied them in silence for a minute.
Suddenly, Ryo closed his menu and put it down. The last time he had been sitting across a table from Drake had been yesterday in the break room when Drake had become uncharacteristically upset with the ribbing that was par for the course at the 27th.
"Drake,” he began, "Was there something different about Megan?"
"Huh? Oh, um, not really. I mean, she's a great girl and all, but not... you know, 'The One'."
Ryo smiled. "I'm relieved," he said. "You seemed to be taking it harder than usual."
Drake looked a little sheepish. "Sorry about that. I really shouldn't have yelled at you guys the way I did. It was just a combination of things, I guess."
Ryo waved a dismissive hand. "Don't apologize. No harm done."
"It was kind of like the last straw, you know? A couple of other things were going wrong, and then Megan comes by and breaks up with me at work! Can you believe it?"
"That IS pretty tacky."
"She wouldn't listen, wouldn't let me have my say. It was frustrating, man. She just cut my balls off for me and left."
"JJ sure seemed worried about you."
"Yeah," said Drake, his voice softening. "He's being a real sweetheart. He thought I was mad at him."
"Oh for spending too much time chasing around after Dee while I'm doing the boring stuff."
"Mmm," said Ryo, picking up his menu again. What could he say to that one? That was exactly how he saw it. But Drake didn't seem to mind.
"Funny thing was," Drake continued, "It WAS kind of his fault that Megan broke up with me."
Drake looked across the table at his handsome and seemingly asexual co-worker, and wondered yet again if there was a chance that Ryo could be gay and just seriously in the closet. Somehow, Drake simply couldn't imagine his shy, mild-mannered colleague cruising the studs in a gay bar. But he'd been working with this man for two and a half years and had hardly ever seen him with a woman. Except for that chick -- what was her name? -- Meredith, about six months back. But she hadn't lasted. Until Meredith had come along, JJ had been convinced that Ryo was gay. Drake, however, had never been sure. In his professional capacity, he was ever alert to the potential for dissemblance, experience having taught him that no one with a secret was ever one hundred percent forthcoming with the police. However, he preferred to take his friends and co-workers at face value. Life was easier that way. Ryo claimed to be straight, so Drake chose to believe him. And if he was straight, Ryo had a right to know what people were saying about the CI Division of the 27th. He hesitated, knowing that the other detective would probably be as stunned as he himself had been. But maybe the 'queer' label was why the poor guy hadn't been able to get a woman. Every time Drake got dumped by another girlfriend, he secretly took solace from the fact that even though he wasn't a pretty boy like Dee or Ryo, he was at least getting dates.
Drake had more or less talked himself into a decision. It was his duty to tell Ryo that the women at Megan's precinct, plus a few other police departments, were under the impression he was gay.
He took a deep breath and plunged into the whole sorry story.
When he had finished, Ryo was blushing furiously. "What the hell--? How could they think that?"
Drake shrugged apologetically. "Who knows how rumors get started? Anyway dude, it's not just you. It's all of us."
"Even Sheldon? He's, like, sixty."
"I don't think anyone cares about Sheldon's sexual orientation one way or another."
"And what about Eliza?"
"Oh, no not her. Everyone knows she has a boyfriend. And before you mention it, not Marty either because he's married. It's just us single guys who don't have girlfriends."
Just then the waitress reappeared and glared at them. "You boys ready?"
"Yeah," said Drake quickly, picking up his menu again. "I'll have a number 15."
"And you?" The waitress transferred her basilisk gaze to Ryo.
"I'll have a number 15 too," he said with a smile, handing her his menu.
"You want egg roll or extra rice?"
Both men shook their heads and she disappeared again.
Drake looked at Ryo in surprise. "I didn't know you liked chicken's feet," he said.
"Huh?" said Ryo in alarm, but then Drake chuckled.
"I'm only kidding. You didn't exactly read the menu."
"Well, I figured I couldn't go wrong ordering the same thing as you. Besides, the sudden discovery that all the single guys in the 27th are gay, including me, really threw me for a loop. So, what DID I order?"
"House Special chow mein. It's got a little bit of just about every creature under the sun in it, but it's actually pretty tasty."
"There'd better not be any creature's feet in it, or I'll make sure no one ever goes for lunch with you again."
"Well, I'll always have JJ," said Drake. "He'd eat lunch with me no matter what."
Ryo smiled and poured more tea for himself and Drake. But behind the smile, his mind was furiously processing this new information. So much for staying in the closet for a while. If he was widely thought to be gay, it had to be Dee's fault. His mouth tightened a little. Then he forced himself to relax.
"Drake," he said casually, "How much does it bother you that a certain subset of NYPD females now believe you're gay? I mean...does it freak you out?"
"Well, I gotta admit, it did at first," replied Drake. "Because I really had no idea until Megan pointed it out. And you know JJ, always hugging and pouncing. He's a pretty touchy-feely little guy. I guess to an outsider it looks like I'm condoning all that man-to-man affection. But what am I supposed to do? Backhand him and tell him to get the hell off?"
"Dee does that to him all the time, and it's never been known to work."
"No," Drake agreed. "I don't think anything could discourage JJ from being so...affectionate. And then there's Dee. He's so far out of the closet that he couldn't find it again if he needed to change his shirt."
"He's a pouncer, too," murmured Ryo, who was aware that he was skating on thin ice.
"Yeah, but at least he limits his affections to you and you alone. JJ jumps on almost anybody, but I think Dee gets the brunt of it. Followed by me. I swear I get more hugs from JJ in an average week than I ever did from Megan. OR Cordelia," he added, referring to Megan's equally short-lived predecessor. "Anyhow, with JJ grabbing Dee and me, and Dee grabbing you, I guess it's unavoidable that their victims -- that's you and me, dude -- are gonna get talked about."
"And then there's Rose," said Ryo, wanting to get off the topic of Dee and his victim.
"Yeah, and what a piece of work he is. Kissing you in broad daylight like that! On a busy street, too. I think there are still rumors circulating about that one, even though it's been a while since it happened."
"Don't remind me," growled Ryo, flushing at the memory. He had rarely been more embarrassed or shocked in his life than when the Commissioner had taken that particular liberty.
Drake grinned. "Good thing you clocked him one. I don't know many guys who would've had the guts to punch out the Commissioner of the NYPD. Potential career suicide."
"Yeah, but what with the potential of a sexual harassment suit, we ended up at a stalemate. He's hasn’t tried it again since."
"What I don't get," Drake said, "is why you were so pissed off about the Commissioner trying to kiss you, but you always forgive Dee."
Ryo sighed. "I don't know why, but I can never stay mad at Dee."
"So what are we gonna do now?" Drake asked as he unwrapped his chopsticks and broke them apart. "We got ourselves a rep, through no fault of our own, for being gay."
Ryo was silent.
"Does it bug you?" Drake asked.
"Yes and no."
"Yeah, me too. Yes, it bugs me because I really like girls and a gay label is going to make it even harder for me to get a cute one, but on the no side, gayness in general doesn't bug me. I've even been JJ's 'date' a couple of times when he wanted to go clubbing and not get hit on."
"Really?" Ryo was surprised. He himself had never willingly stepped into a gay bar unless he was working. "What was it like?"
"Pretty wild. Got my butt pinched." Drake took a sip of his tea and chuckled. "But JJ defended my honor."
"Did you see anyone you knew?"
"No, thank God. I'll admit I was a little nervous about that. But JJ made sure we didn't go anywhere where we might run into other NYPD people."
"Did you dance?" Ryo couldn't resist smirking a little. Drake was famous for his two left feet.
"No way, man. I draw the line at dancing. I just stood around and tried to look butch. JJ wanted to dance but I promised I'd seriously embarrass him if he left me alone. "
"Must be hard for him sometimes," murmured Ryo, looking at his chopsticks.
"Who, JJ? I don't think so."
"Well, you gotta remember, he's been out for a long time. Pretty well everyone in his life knows he's gay. He's got a good job, lots of friends...He's good-looking...He's got everything he needs."
"But don't you think that gay people have to endure a lot of direct and indirect discrimination?"
"Come on dude, this is New York City! It's not that hard being gay here. We're not in rural Nebraska. I don't think JJ and Dee could get away with behaving the way they do in a place like that without getting themselves lynched. But here in the city, there's a pretty high level of acceptance. Even the Commissioner of the NYPD doesn't try all that hard to hide his sexual orientation."
"But still, we hear about incidents."
"Yeah that's true. Like those two homophobes that came in threatening to press charges against Dee last week, for example. He got JJ to run 'em off."
Ryo looked interested. "Mm? I didn't hear about that. What two homophobes?"
"Oh, I'm surprised Dee didn't tell you. Apparently Dee was kissing a guy in a parking lot somewhere and two douchebags came up and gave him a hard time. He punched them both out and told them to beat it, but then they showed up at the precinct a couple of days later with the license plate number from Dee's car."
Ryo almost choked on his tea, but by the time he had recovered enough to ask for more details, the waitress was suddenly there, snapping, "Move hands! Got hot plates here. Sheesh."
She slapped the plates down in front of the two detectives, who barely managed to get their elbows off the table in time. Ryo was so distracted by her brusque manner that he forgot to ask for more tea before she swept off. But Drake remembered.
"Lily!" he called, holding up the empty teapot. "More tea, please!"
Lily stopped halfway across the restaurant and heaved an exaggerated sigh before she turned around. "Pay extra!" she snapped, pointing a finger at him. "Don't drink fast next time." Then she stamped away to the kitchen.
Ryo turned incredulous eyes to Drake. "We have to pay for the tea in a Chinese restaurant?"
"Maybe, maybe not. She's normally a fiery little thing, but today she's extra ornery," said Drake tolerantly. "I wonder why?"
"Maybe she's heard we're gay," remarked Ryo staring glumly at what looked like a large octopus tentacle that was draped over the top of his chow mein.
Ryo glanced over at Thomas, who sat quietly in the passenger seat of the car. His body seemed to be drawn in upon itself in some way so that he looked smaller than usual in his fashionably oversized clothes, and there was an anxious little furrow between his brows. Ryo knew he was nervous because this was the first time in their short acquaintance that the normally chatty and confiding boy had fallen silent.
"Are you ready for this?" Ryo asked him.
"I-- Yeah, I guess so."
"Remember, this is just a chance to talk things out a bit," Ryo said encouragingly. "You don't have to go home today if you're not ready to."
"But can I stay with you?" Thomas asked quickly, turning beseeching eyes toward the detective beside him.
"I doubt Lieutenant Smith would allow it," Ryo answered gently. "It seems your dad has complained about me. If you choose not to go home, you'll be placed in temporary foster care. I've met the family you would be staying with. They're very nice."
Thomas gave him a doubtful look before casting his eyes down and playing with the strings of his hoodie. "Ryo--" he began and then hesitated.
"I just wanna...I wanna thank you for being so nice to me. I've been really happy staying with you the last couple days. I wish my dad could be more like you."
"Well thank you, Thomas," said Ryo, ignoring the part about the boy's father. "We've enjoyed having you stay with us too."
"You and Dee, you're so great together. You're the first real gay couple I've ever met. You guys seem so happy with each other. I mean, you're so normal."
"Uh...I'm glad you think so. Though sometimes I think mealtimes at our house are anything but."
Thomas looked at him again and his eyes looked a little damp. "You guys have really given me hope," he said. "Dad thinks I'll never be happy and I'll have a bad life for sure if I'm gay, but now I know he's wrong."
"I know he's wrong, too," said Ryo warmly. "Your happiness is up to you and will come from the choices you make."
"Now if I could just stop getting beaten up at school..." said Thomas with a self-deprecating grin.
"Which that brings us to something I've been meaning to talk to you about," said Ryo. "Have you ever thought about trying any martial arts?"
"Uh, well once I went to my friend Clifford's Kung Fu class, but the guys were really, um, big, and kind of tough and mean. I didn't think it was for me."
"Bikky used to do Kung Fu," Ryo said. "But when he started getting really serious about basketball, it kind of fell by the wayside. I do Karate, myself," he added. "I started when I was about your age. I know what you mean about the macho attitudes of the guys at your friend's Kung Fu class, but not all clubs are like that."
"But isn't it really hard?" Thomas asked. "Even if they're nice to beginners?"
"No sport is easy in the beginning. It always takes time and effort for a person to become good at it. But I think that learning a martial art is a practical way to increase fitness, strength and self-confidence. Not to mention self-defense."
"Huh," said Thomas, who appeared to be thinking about it. "Um, so...do you think I could come with you sometime when you do your Karate?"
"I haven't gone to a Karate class in about 2 months." Ryo sighed. "I got really busy and then I got out of the habit. But it's definitely time to go back."
"Are you, like, a black belt or something?"
Ryo confirmed that he was and had been since he was seventeen.
Thomas looked at him in admiration and then sighed. "Just like Bikky," he said. "You don't have to take shit, either. You can make people respect you."
Ryo almost smiled as he thought about the precise amount of respect he was able to command from the Chief and his co-workers on a daily basis. Thomas seemed to have a somewhat exaggerated idea about the powers that a black belt conferred on one. Ryo knew that if the boy had any idea of how much shit cops had to take just as a daily part of the job, he would be disappointed.
"Thomas, I'm going to start going to my classes again next week," he said. "But at my dojo on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings they have a teen class. It's from six to eight pm. The kids range in age from thirteen to eighteen or nineteen, and they go from beginner all the way up to black belt. If you're interested in trying it out, I'll be happy to go with you and introduce you to them."
"Yeah, I'd like that. If no one wants to beat the crap out of me on my very first day, of course. Uh, when? Next week?"
"How about tomorrow?"
"Yeah? Cool! So I'm not really saying goodbye to you today. I'm gonna see you again tomorrow?"
"Yeah," said Ryo, smiling. "And I think you'll like the class. They're a nice bunch of people, boys AND girls. And don't worry. No one's going to beat you up. I'll write down the address for you when we get to the station. Let's meet there at a quarter to six, okay?"
Thomas agreed enthusiastically and then lost himself in verbal imaginings of how cool and popular he would be once he had mastered Karate that were so unintentionally funny that it was difficult for Ryo to refrain from laughing. He just loved the innocent enthusiasm of kids. If only the harsh vagaries of life didn't so frequently crush it out of them. He thought of Eddie, all washed up at twenty with nothing to look forward to except jail or death. Eddie had been a laughing child once, some mother's hopefully beloved baby, and now he was selling drugs and boosting stolen merchandise to survive. Yet Eddie had taken Thomas in and looked out for him during the boy's brief stint as a runaway. Perhaps there was still hope for Eddie. There was certainly hope for Thomas.
Ryo and Dee stood with Thomas outside the closed door of the Chief's office. They could hear Lt. Abernathy's big rolling voice inside, cheerfully reminiscing with his old friend, Lt. Warren Smith.
"Shall we go in?" Ryo asked Thomas, his hand on the boy's shoulder. The boy's body felt as hard as a rock underneath his hand. Thomas stood looking at his shoes for a few more moments until Dee nudged him.
"Yes? No? You need more time?"
"No, it's okay," said Thomas in a small voice. "We can go in. Only--" Suddenly he turned around and fiercely hugged first Ryo and then Dee.
"Thanks. For everything," he said in a shaky voice. "You guys are great."
"You're not so shabby yourself, kid," said Dee with a grin. "Ready to face a couple of cantankerous old farts?"
Thomas grinned bravely at Dee. "Let's go. And don't worry. I remember what you told me and I won't say anything about anyone’s sexual orientation except mine."
"Thanks, bro," muttered Dee conspiratorially and then rapped on the door. "We're here, Chief."
"Good. Get your butts in here," the Chief called back and Dee pushed the door open.
Mike Abernathy greeted the two detectives jovially, but did not get out of his chair to shake their hands.
"Tommy-boy!" he exclaimed. "Och, what a worry you've been to your poor old dad."
"Dad, you know I prefer 'Thomas'," the boy said impatiently, although his voice shook a little. "'Tommy is for little kids. I'm almost fourteen. Where's Mom?"
"Your mother sends her apologies, but she had a very important appointment that she couldn't miss. But you'll see her at home later, won't you? She’s been just beside herself with anxiety about you."
Dee and Ryo exchanged glances.
"I might not...Dad, I might not be at home later," Thomas mumbled, looking down at his shoes.
"Tommy, what's this, what's this? And here we've been missing you so much these past ten days."
"Let's introduce Thomas to the Chief before we begin our meeting, all right?" Ryo interposed smoothly. "Thomas, this is Lieutenant Smith. He's our boss. Chief, Thomas Abernathy."
"Nice to meet you, sir," said Thomas, stepping forward and extending his hand. The Chief transferred his cigar from has right hand to his teeth and offered a meaty paw to the youth.
"Welcome to the 27th, son."
"Sir, are you a Chief or a Lieutenant?" Thomas asked suspiciously.
The Chief emitted a shout of laughter. "According to my paycheck, I'm still only a Lieutenant like your dad over there," he growled. "Chief is just my nickname around here."
"Yeah, he liked that one better than 'Mein Fuhrer'," said Dee. "Besides, it's easier to pronounce."
"Quiet, Laytner. Let's not confuse the kid. Have a seat, Thomas. Let's get this show on the road. Mclean, you and Laytner sit down too."
Thomas took the seat that was furthest away from his father, and perched on the edge of it, looking for all the world like he was poised for flight.
The Chief assumed his responsibility as chairman of the meeting and began to speak, and as he did, Thomas' eyes, which had been darting all around the room, came to rest on him.
"Thomas, we've called this meeting so you can tell us what happened to make you run away from home. Your father came to me very worried indeed, so I sent these two id-- er, gentlemen to find you. Now I'm sure you had your reasons for leaving home the way you did, and I'm looking forward to working through this problem with you. You may of course participate in the decision-making process of where we go from here."
"Yes sir. Dee and Ryo explained to me that I had choices."
Lt. Abernathy's eyes narrowed momentarily, but no one noticed except Dee, who was watching everyone from underneath his lashes.
"So, can you tell us what happened then?" the Chief continued.
"I had a fight with my father. Actually, many. A really bad one the night I left."
Bit by bit, with the Chief's forthright but kind coaxing, the story came out. Thomas was gay and Mike was unhappy about it. Their life together had devolved into a series of power struggles over Thomas' friends, activities, truancy from school, and above all, his sexual orientation. It had escalated to the point where Thomas felt he couldn't live with his parents anymore and had left home shortly after midnight, nine days before.
"He smashed my computer!" said Thomas in an aggrieved voice. "And all my CDs. He threatened to send me to boarding school in Ireland. Ireland! I'd be all alone there."
"Did he at any time behave violently toward you?" asked the Chief, and Thomas lapsed into silence as the atmosphere in the room became charged with anticipation. This was the main question, the heart of the matter. Thomas' answer to this question would determine the tone of his and his father's relationship, not to mention their respective futures.
"N -- No," stammered Thomas, and Ryo bowed his head, while Lt. Abernathy suddenly seemed to sit up a little straighter.
"Are you sure, son?" probed the Chief.
"M-hm," the boy nodded, not meeting anyone's eye.
"Do you want to go home with your father today? Or would you prefer to stay with a very nice family that is awaiting a phone call from me?"
"I don't want to go home with him if it's just going to be the same old scene," replied Thomas. "I'm sick of defending my sexual orientation all the time and fighting about my friends and that stupid school he knows I hate."
"Tommy, you know we can certainly talk about those things," offered Lt. Abernathy. "I am not an unjust man and I've fair missed you these days you've been gone. I may be an old dog, but I fancy even I can learn a few new tricks if I must."
"Dad, I'm glad you said that, because I've given this a lot of thought, and I want to switch schools. There's a school where people like me can feel comfortable. It's called Harvey Milk High School."
Lt. Abernathy looked suspicious, especially when Dee began nodding in assent.
"Good school," Dee remarked to Thomas. "I know a girl who goes there."
"And what exactly would this, er, 'Henry Milk' high school be about?" Lt. Abernathy asked cautiously.
"It's a gay high school, sir," said Dee. "Harvey Milk. In the Hetrick-Martin Institute in the East Village, on Broadway, I think. It was the first school of its kind in the country." He noted with relish that Mike was absolutely horrified and was trying to disguise his reaction as mere surprise.
"Now, Tommy, surely you're too young for such a place! Why, you're still in middle school."
"Dad, my middle school year will be over in another month. I'm gonna turn 14 in July. Harvey Milk accepts kids who are 12 years old. I think I'm old enough."
His father sputtered and protested, but Thomas remained adamant. Finally the Chief intervened.
"Mike, I know it's an unconventional place, but you did say you would be willing to compromise here. One of your main concerns is that your son's grades have been slipping. He claims he's being persecuted for his sexual orientation at other schools, so let him try this one as long as his grades go up."
Lt. Abernathy glared at his old friend for a moment and then heaved a long-suffering sigh, saying, "I daresay you're right, Warren." He turned to Thomas. "I expect to see some serious improvement in your grades, young man. If you fall back into partying, I'll pull you out of that place so fast your shoes will stay behind."
"No problem, Dad," said Thomas who was finally starting to look happy. "Once I'm not constantly worrying about being BEAT ON," -- just for a split second a spark of challenge appeared in his eyes -- "I'm sure I'll be able to concentrate more on my schoolwork."
Over the next fifteen minutes, Ryo marveled as Thomas entered into negotiations with his father with a skill, focus, and discipline that he never would have guessed at. His hapless parent, effectively backed into a corner, was forced to agree to most of Thomas' demands. In addition to being allowed to attend the gay high school, he was to have a later curfew on weekends, his father was no longer to enter his room without permission (Mike vetoed a lock), he would not be sent to Ireland, he would be allowed to choose his own friends, he would not have to listen to any more derogatory comments about the fact that he had turned out to be gay and he would be permitted to have a cell phone. In return, he would not openly flaunt his sexuality and he would maintain a B-average in his grades with an eye toward improving them further.
Finally, the deal had been done. Thomas was satisfied that his father had agreed to these things before witnesses, and therefore the Chief decided to draw the meeting to a close.
"So Thomas, in light of the fact that your father has shown himself willing to compromise and make adjustments so that you can feel comfortable at home again, are you willing to go home with him today?"
Thomas hesitated, watching his father's face. He seemed to be consciously enjoying his last moment of power. "Yes," he said.
"Aw Tommy, come here and give an old man a hug," cried Mike, opening his arms. Thomas hugged him back, clinging tightly, and Ryo could see that Thomas really did care about his dad, deep down. It was difficult for him to understand, since he knew that the man had beaten his son mercilessly and repeatedly denied him the right to be himself. He looked up in time to catch Mike glowering at him over the top of Thomas' head with such malevolence that he couldn't help but feel chilled. This is far from over, those eyes seemed to say.
It was only when he heard Thomas saying, "And remember, you promised to buy me a new computer. A good one this time, not like that crappy one you wrecked," that he realized that Thomas had obviously been in touch with his father in the last couple of days. The computer had not been part of today's negotiations. It added a new facet to Thomas' character, one that Ryo had not seen until today.
"Yes, boy, we'll go shopping for it together this weekend," soothed Mike. "Thank-you Warren, and thank you, Detectives, for looking after my boy." He shook the Chief’s hand and gave Dee and Ryo a curt nod. "We've got to be going now." He gathered up his coat which had been hanging on the back of the Chief's door and took his leave, one arm tightly around Thomas' shoulders.
"Bye, guys," Thomas called over his shoulder. "Nice to meet you, Lt. Warren!"
"That's 'Smith', you little punk," murmured the Chief good-naturedly as man and boy disappeared down the hall. He turned to his two detectives and said, "Good job, boys. You got that man out of my hair in only a week."
"I'm afraid their reconciliation isn't going to last," Ryo said.
"Yeah, I know. The kid lied about the beatings."
"Isn't there something we can do? What if he seriously hurts Thomas next time?"
"We got no proof. That cell phone you talked about is either at the bottom of the river or in the hands of that junkie you can't seem to find. Even what the doctor said is inconclusive. Without the kid's word, we got nothing. We've got to let it be for now. He might change his mind in the future, but for now he's choosing the devil he knows over the devil he don't."
The Chief could see that Laytner understood how the kid felt a little better than McLean did. The man had had a rougher upbringing; he had seen firsthand how fear or desperation sometimes drove people to bargain away their dignity one crumb at a time. McLean, with his well-known soft spot for kids, looked truly distressed. Well, the best cure for that was hard work. The best cure for almost everything, according to the Chief, was hard work.
"All right, back to work, boys. I'm sure you have things to do. I'd appreciate an update on where you're at with the Lydgate family by the end of the day. It's not technically murder until we get a little more evidence. The D.A. doesn't like what you've got so far, so you'd better come up with something better or someone's gonna walk."
"Yes sir," said Ryo, taking the hint. "See you later, Chief."
"Yeah, bye Lt. 'Warren'," said Dee, shooting him a cocky grin.
The Chief couldn't help but grin back. Bastard.
"Hey, hey, Ryo, wait up," said Dee, hurrying behind his rapidly moving partner. "Where are we going now? Don't you know it's smoke time?"
"I don't know about you, but I'M going back to the fingerprint lab," retorted Ryo. "I spent a couple of hours this morning with Jeff, lifting prints off all those packages of heroin, but I only checked for Eddie's in front of him. Now we're going to look for a couple of bigger fish. Or at least I am. You'll probably be too busy smoking."
"Hey, I can skip the occasional smoke when things start getting interesting. Maybe we should have brought that girl in just so we could’ve fingerprinted her to eliminate hers from the mix."
Ryo shook his head. "Poor thing," he said. "But we don't need her. Like you said earlier, this evidence is inadmissible. All we're after is information. I don't care if the pope himself left prints on those bags. It's Abernathy and Shaver I want to nail."
Dee chuckled. "That’s my little crusading worker ant."