Lieutenant Abigail Marsh was taking time out of her hectic morning to straighten up her office. She shoved files in cabinets and desk drawers, not being concerned as to what order they were in. She'd need to retrieve them later anyway. She opened her middle desk drawer, and with a sweep of her hand, deposited the stray pens and pencils into it. Next she grabbed for the loose stack of reports sitting on the corner of her desk. In her haste, Abby knocked the papers onto the floor.
"Damn," she mumbled as she bent to retrieve the papers that had fluttered this way and that.
The sound of a throat being cleared caused Abby to look up from her crouched position. Her eyes traveled up long legs clad in navy blue trousers, discreetly bypassed the man's crotch, hopped over his belt buckle, then journeyed up the tie and the mammoth neck it surrounded until they came to rest on her visitor's face.
"Lieutenant Marsh," the man nodded gravely.
Abby smiled weakly. Shit.
"Good morning, sir."
"I don't expect you to be on your knees when I enter your office, Lieutenant. Being seated behind your desk will suffice."
Abby rose, trying to unobtrusively straighten the skirt that had hiked its way up her thighs. "Yes, sir." She wondered for a moment if she should pick up the wayward papers, or leave them as they lay. A quick glance at the intimidating man made her decide to leave them.
With a wave of her hand, Abby indicated to the looming presence that he should have a seat in one of the chairs across from her desk.
"Can I get you a cup of coffee, sir?"
"No, thank you. I'm fine. Besides, this is not a social visit. I have an important matter to discuss with you."
Abby folded her hands in front of her, resting them on her desktop. She gave the large black man her full attention. "Yes, sir. What is it?"
"For quite some time now, far too much confidential police business has been leaked out of this department, your department, to the press and onto the streets." The man's dark eyes held Abby's as he reminded, "We've discussed this matter before, Lieutenant."
Abby tried not to squirm under the man's intense stare. "Yes, sir. I know, sir. And I have discussed it several times with my people. I've made it clear to them that they are not to be discussing anything they hear in this department with anyone. Not wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, no one. They have all assured me that they understand that. They're professionals, sir. I'm very confident that no one on my staff is violating department policy."
"Possibly it is not your staff we need to be concerned with."
"How often are those two Simon brothers in your office, Lieutenant?"
"Oh, sir, no. You're way off base if you think Rick and A.J.--"
"How often, Abigail?"
Abby gave a casual shrug. "Not that often. Once every few weeks, I suppose."
The man arched an eyebrow. "You suppose? Try once every few days. That estimate would be considerably more accurate from
what I've been told."
"Sir, Rick and A.J. Simon would never--"
The man rose, all six foot six, and two hundred and thirty four pounds of him. "The discussion is closed for now, Lieutenant. As of this very moment, I do not want to see, or hear of, either Simon brother setting foot in this office. Or anywhere in this police department for that matter. Internal Affairs is conducting an investigation. If they come to the conclusion that these leaks are being generated by the Simon brothers, I promise you I will have their licenses. I'll bring so many charges against them, that the only place they'll be playing detective is on Alcatraz."
"But, sir--" Abby attempted to debate.
"No buts, Abigail. And if you want to continue to be in charge of the Homicide Division, you'll see that these rules are followed," came the firm decree.
The man bent down and leaned toward Abby, resting his knuckles on her desktop. In a softer tone of reason he said, "You're a woman, Abby, and I'm a black man. That means we're both well aware of how difficult it has been for each of us to rise to our present positions. Don't jeopardize what you've worked so long and hard for because of a couple of private dicks who decided they were detectives when they got their first decoder rings out of a box of Cracker Jacks. If you're smart, you'll disassociate yourself with the Simon brothers. No dropping by their office, no phone calls, not even a Christmas card."
For the first time since this conversation began, Abby was defiant. "That was advice, right? Not an order?"
The man shook his head as walked out the door. "It's advice you'd be wise to take."
Long after the man had left, Abby remained seated at her desk. When it was late enough that she could use the excuse that she was going to lunch, Abby gathered her purse and exited the office. She wouldn't make it obvious as to where she was going. She'd take an indirect route, then, park the car behind the Simons' office building rather than in the lot that faced the busy street.
Abby slipped into the Simon and Simon office right at noon. The brothers were seated behind their desks with lunch spread out before them.
"You know, ever since Mona died Erica hasn't been the same," Rick was saying. "I think she's going off the deep end. Man, that was a sad funeral. It really tore me up."
A.J. looked up from the file he was reading while eating a tuna croissant. "Erica's been going off the deep end for a long time now. She's been married what, seven times?"
"Eight. No, make that nine. Anyway, all this trauma she's had the past year, what with reliving the sexual assault she experienced at sixteen, then the same guy trying to rape her seven-year-old daughter, then her mother dyin.’ I don't know, A.J. I'm real worried about her."
"Knock, knock," Abby said, looking slightly sheepish for eavesdropping as she lightly rapped on the inside of the door. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything. If you guys are discussing a family matter, or a client, I can return later."
A.J.'s face turned beet red with embarrassment. Rick quickly reached for the remote control and hit the mute button.
"No, no, Abigail, it was nothing like that. Come in," Rick invited.
It was then that Abby caught a glimpse of the television screen.
With great amusement she teased, "A soap opera? You two big, strong, masculine hunks are soap opera junkies?"
"I'm not!" A.J. defended himself. "It's Rick who's the soapy in the family."
Abby smirked at the blond man. "Yeah, right, A.J. It's obvious that you don't know anything about this show."
Abby gave A.J. a look of disbelief. She seated herself in a chair across from his desk while Rick extolled the value of All My Children.
"Hey, this is a great show. Don't knock it. Everything I know about women, I've learned from watchin' this soap."
"That's obvious, Richard."
Rick made a face, mimicking the woman. "That's obvious, Richard." Using the remote, Rick clicked the T.V. off. "So, Abigail, did you come by here for a reason, or do you derive perverse enjoyment from interrupting a guy while he's eatin' his lunch and watchin' his favorite T.V. show?"
Abby's teasing mood nose-dived considerably at Rick's question. She hesitated before confessing, "I came by here for a reason."
The brothers exchanged glances. "And that reason is?" A.J. prompted.
Abby looked over at Rick, then back at A.J. before starting to rise. "Listen, guys, I didn't mean to interrupt your lunch. I'm sorry. I...I'll come back later. It can wait. It wasn't that important anyway."
A.J. rose as well. "Whoa. Whoa. Just wait a minute. Sit back down, Abby. Please."
Abby hesitated a moment before reseating herself. Again, the brothers exchanged glances at the gross display of uneasiness that was out of character for the self-confident police lieutenant.
In an attempt to help her relax, A.J. changed the subject for a moment. "Have you had lunch yet?"
He slid an untouched still wrapped tuna croissant across the desk to her.
"A.J., this is your lunch," Abby protested.
"Just eat it. It was buy one sandwich get one for free down at Ellen's Deli today. I've already had a bowl of soup and a sandwich. I don't need that one, too. I'll end up throwing it out if you don't eat it."
Abby smiled slightly. With a nod of her head she indicated to Rick. "What about the human garbage disposal over there? Won't he eat it?"
Between mouthfuls of his second deluxe roast beef sub, Rick negated, "Don't like tuna. You eat it."
Abby reluctantly, but gratefully, accepted the offered sandwich. A.J. leaned back in his chair to be within reach of the small refrigerator behind his desk. "Pepsi or 7-Up?"
"I'll have a 7-Up. Thanks."
The three sat together for the next few minutes while Abby ate her lunch. The brothers didn't pressure Abby into talking about anything in particular, but rather conversed with her on whatever subject she brought up, ranging from the weather, to the trip their mother had just returned from.
When the last napkin and soda can was deposited in the garbage, Rick rose and came over to sit in the chair next to the one Abby occupied. "So, Abigail, what'd you need to talk to us about?"
Abby looked from Rick to A.J. before finally beginning. "I should have mentioned this to both of you two months ago when it was first brought to my attention, but well...well, I never thought anything would come of it. I thought I had smoothed things over that day."
"What things?" A.J. asked.
"Chief Thorton stopped by my office in February and talked to me at length about the fact that the department, my department specifically, seems to have sprung a leak somewhere, so to speak."
The Simons nodded their understanding as to the meaning of Abby's words.
"He spoke to me about the fact that information was getting to the press, and onto the streets, that was making solving certain cases, and convicting certain criminals, difficult. He also spoke to me about people being in the department that didn't belong there."
"You mean us," Rick stated.
"He didn't specify your names at the time, but it was implied. He seemed to be satisfied when he left that day, with my promise to talk to my staff and reiterate to them the importance of keeping what they see and hear at work confidential, which I did. I didn't feel at that time, nor do I feel at this time, that the leaks are being generated from anyone who works for me."
"And so I take it something more has come of this?" A.J. guessed.
Abby nodded. "Yes. Thorton came to see me this morning. Only today he was considerably angrier than he was the last time we talked. I assured him that I had discussed the situation with my people, and that I didn't think anyone on my staff was talking out of turn."
"But it wasn't anyone on your staff he was concerned with," Rick surmised.
Abby looked down at the floor to avoid making eye contact with either brother. "No, it wasn't. This time it was the two of you he mentioned."
"And what exactly did he say?" A.J. asked.
"He said Internal Affairs is investigating the source of the leaks right now. He said, and I quote, ‘If they find out the Simon brothers are generating these leaks I will have their licenses. I'll have so many charges brought against them that the only place they'll be playing detective is on Alcatraz.’ Then, off the record, he told me that I'd be wise to have no contact with either of you whatsoever. No visits, no phone calls, not even a Christmas card."
"You never sent me a Christmas card anyway," Rick wisecracked.
"It's not funny, Rick," Abby scolded. "We could all end up in hot water over this."
"Over what?" A.J. asked. "Rick and I haven't done anything wrong. You know that. We haven't been in this business for this many years not to know when to keep our mouths shut. We've never repeated anything we've heard or seen in your department, Abby."
"I know. I know." Abby pacified A.J.'s rising temper. "Believe me, I don't for one minute think either of you is responsible for these leaks. The problem is, Thorton does."
"Aw, he's just still pissed at me for blowin' up the mayor's car that time." Rick dismissed.
"You blew up the mayor's car?" Abby asked incredulously.
Rick smiled in remembrance. "Yep. It was cool. You shoulda' been there."
"I'm glad I wasn't. It was bad enough that I was there when you two stole the patrol car. I'm more than happy to let Downtown Brown take the heat for the mayor's car."
"He did too," Rick confirmed. "Thorton was mad. Town wouldn't talk to us for a week."
"He's a kind hearted soul," Abby said. "If it would have been me, I wouldn't have talked to you for a month."
A.J. turned the conversation back to the business at hand. "So what does all this mean? What does an investigation by Internal Affairs entail?"
"To start with, it will probably involve every member of my staff, as well as myself, being thoroughly questioned. From there, they may talk to people from other departments, though I don't really know for sure. A lot will depend on what conclusions they come to after interviewing my department members."
"Who else besides someone on your staff could be leaking this information out?" Rick asked.
"There are a lot of possibilities, I suppose. Secretaries, file clerks, receptionists, maintenance people, the cleaning crew...it could even be the guy that stocks the soda and candy machines on our floor. Any one of those people could be privy to, or overhear, pertinent information. And you both know what the media is like these days. They'll buy practically any little tidbit of gossip whether there's an ounce of truth to it or not. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that someone is getting paid quite lucratively for what's finding its way out of my department."
"But Thorton didn't mention any of those people? The file clerks, or secretaries, or anyone else that might be on your floor in a given day? A.J. asked. “He only mentioned Rick and me?"
"That's right," Abby nodded.
Rick looked over at his brother. "He's gunnin' for us, A.J. He has been for years, and now he's finally found his opportunity to put a noose around our necks."
As A.J. nodded his agreement Abby said, "Look, guys, don't take this the wrong way, but can you blame him?"
A.J. asked, "What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, come on, A.J., can the innocent act," Abby chastised. "Aside from the mayor's car and the stolen patrol car, there was the time Rick borrowed Hannrahan's computer terminal and somehow managed to erase all the information stored on every hard drive throughout the entire building. Then there was the time last year when you got caught at the Annual Policemen’s Ball in a hotel room with Thorton's daughter."
"Hey, I was dancing with her and my cuff link got caught in her zipper! We were only trying to get it loose without tearing her gown,” A.J. defended himself. “I told Thorton that when he burst in on us."
"Yes, well, whatever the reason, it didn't look too good when Thorton found you in his nineteen-year-old daughter's hotel room with her dress unzipped halfway down her back. He has yet to forgive you for that."
"Regardless of our past indiscretions, exactly what could all this mean for us?" Rick asked.
Abby shrugged. "If Internal Affairs finds anything that implicates you guys--"
"Which they won't," A.J. said.
"They shouldn't," Abby agreed. "But if they do, then it will mean just what Thorton said. He could have charges brought against the two of you, have the state take away your licenses, and in the worse case scenario, you both could serve time in prison."
Rick let forth his high-pitched laugh. "Oh, is that all? Well, Mom shouldn't be too upset over that, should she, A.J.?"
"No, not in the slightest," A.J. agreed. "I'm sure she'll be very calm when we explain it all to her."
"I can talk to Cecilia about this if you want me to," Abby offered.
A.J. shook his head. "No, that won't be necessary. We're not going to tell her unless we absolutely have to."
"Yeah, like when the day comes that we have to pack our suitcases for our stay in prison," Rick said.
"If Internal Affairs comes to the misguided conclusion that Rick and I do have something to do with all of this, will we have the right to an audience with them before formal charges are filed against us?" A.J. asked.
Abby thought a moment. "Well, an officer employed by the department has that right, but I don't know if it would apply to you two. The head of the personnel department is a good friend of mine. I can ask her about that. This is a unique situation, so I don't know if she'll readily have an answer at her disposal, but I know she'll try to find out for me, while at the same time keeping our conversation confidential."
"When you talk to your friend, find out who our lawyer would petition for that right," A.J. instructed.
"Your lawyer?" Abby asked.
"Our lawyer?" Rick echoed.
"Yes,” A.J. nodded. “Thorton's crafty, and it's no secret that there's no love lost between us and him. As you said Rick, he's gunning for us on this one. If he can pin these charges on us, he'll take it all the way and nail us right to the cross. As soon as Abby leaves, I'm going to call Dave and talk to him about all of this. See what advice he has for us. I'm not so sure Thorton hasn't already made one big error. I don't know if Internal Affairs has the right to investigate private citizens who are not on the police department's payroll. We're not going to be caught with our pants down on this one."
Rick laughed. "Like you were caught last year in Thorton's daughter's hotel room."
"Rick! For God's sake! I had my pants on! I had all my clothes on. It was just an innocent dance. The girl is half my age. I only danced with her in the first place because it was ladies choice and she asked me. My cuff link got caught in her zipper! That's all there was to it!"
"Yeah, yeah, I've heard the story before, and I still don't believe it," Rick dismissed.
"Well, you'd better start believing it," A.J. advised, "because I have a feeling that's just but one of the reasons Thorton has a vendetta against us."
Abby rose. "I've got to get back to the station, guys. Ironically enough, for as much as I've often wanted to kick your rear ends out of my office, I now find myself apologizing to you when I say this. I'm sorry, but for the time being I can't risk having you two seen anywhere near my office, or my department."
"We understand, Abby," A.J. assured. "We won't put your job at risk."
"I know we sometimes help each other out on cases," Abby went on to say. "I don't want to lose that resource. But for now, if you need to get in touch with me for any reason, call me at home. If I need you guys, I'll do the same."
"That's fine," A.J. agreed. "And please, keep us abreast of what's going on with this investigation."
"I will," Abby promised. "It feels kind of funny, you know? Being barred from contacting either of you. As much as I hate to admit this, you've both become somewhat like brothers to me."
Rick's eyes twinkled as he tried to act indignant. "Somewhat?"
As always, Abby got the best of the eldest Simon brother. "Yes, somewhat. There's a built in margin of error there for all the times you two drive me nuts, and just in general make nuisances of yourselves."
The two men chuckled as they rose to see Abby to the door.
"Don't worry about all of this, Abby. It'll work itself out," Rick said as the three came to a halt in the office doorway.
"Yeah," A.J. agreed. "We've been in tighter spots. Try not to worry, and we promise not to cause you any more trouble. At least not until all this blows over."
Abby shook her head with affection. "Thanks, guys. I'll call you from home tonight, A.J., to see what your attorney said."
"See ya', Abigail," was the last thing Lieutenant Marsh heard from her friends before she discreetly exited their office via the back stairway.
Abby talked to her friend in personnel, who subtly did some research into whether or not the Simon brothers had the right to defend themselves before the Internal Affairs Board. Unfortunately, because of the uniqueness of the case, she wasn't able to give the lieutenant a definite answer. As she told her, "I'm sorry, Abby, but I just don't know for sure. There's nothing in the personnel policy that covers an investigation of private citizens. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has one ever been instigated before. It's my opinion, that in this case, the Simons should have the same rights an officer employed by this department has. That means they should receive a formal declaration of incident, as well as a chance to answer to all charges before a board made up of their peers. I can talk to Chief Thorton about this if you want me to and let him know how personnel would stand on an issue such as this."
"No, Gwen, I don't want to you to that. At least not right now. Thorton's hot enough under the collar over all of this. I don't want you getting mixed up in it as well. The Simons were going to talk to their lawyer. Let me see what advice they get from him first."
Gwen bowed to Abby's wishes that day, while at the same time assuring the lieutenant that their conversation would remain strictly confidential.
Three days later Rick and A.J. stirred the hornet's nest up further with Chief Hewett Thorton. Their attorney served papers demanding their right for an audience with the investigators from the Internal Affairs Department, if those said investigators came to the conclusion that the brothers were the source of the Homicide Department’s leak.
Hewett Thorton stormed into Abby Marsh's office that afternoon, bypassing the formality of going through Hannrahan to make an appointment with her.
Thorton slammed the office door. The glass was still rattling in its pane as he marched over to the picture window that faced the squad room and savagely pulled the blinds on curious eyes.
Abby remained seated at her desk, calmly accepting the man's temper tantrum. She had been expecting it.
He waved the papers from the attorney in front of her face. "Do you know what these are, Lieutenant?"
"No, sir, I don't."
"These are papers that were delivered to me personally less than fifteen minutes ago by the Simon brothers' attorney! The man had the audacity to inform me that we are violating his clients' rights by conducting an investigation without informing them as to the reasons why! He also told me that the Simons expect to be allowed to sit before the Internal Affair's Board and answer any charges that may be brought against them with their attorney present, before those said charges are filed in a court of law!"
Knowing that any police officer within the department had those same rights, Abby answered the angry man with, "That seems fair."
"Fair! Fair you say! And do you think it's fair that confidential police business is getting out on the streets?"
"No, sir, I don't. But, on the other hand, I don't think it's fair to accuse someone of something and then not give them the right to defend themselves."
"They do have the right to defend themselves! In front of a goddamn judge they can defend themselves until they're blue in the face for all I care!"
"But that's not how the process works for any officer who is employed by this department."
Thorton slammed his fist on Abby's desktop. "They're not employed by this department, damn it!"
"But if we're going to have Internal Affairs investigate them as if they are, then I believe they have a right--"
Thorton's eyes narrowed to mere slits. "This is your doing, isn't it? I could have your badge for this, Abigail. You know that, don't you?"
"Yes, I know that."
"Then why did you do it? I thought I made myself clear the other day that you were to stay away from the Simons!"
"No, what you said was that the Simons weren't to be in this office, which they haven't been. True, you advised me not to see them, but that wasn't an order."
"I didn't think I needed to make it one! I thought you were intelligent enough to read between the lines!"
"Hew, please sit down," Abby urged quietly. She deliberately used his first name in an effort to put them on equal footing. "Let's talk about this, rather than shouting at the top of our lungs so that the entire department can hear every word that's said. If you're concerned about leaks, this is a good way to have another one spring."
The angry man remained as he was for a moment. He finally snared the leg of a chair with his size fourteen shoe and gave it a violent jerk away from the desk. His anger boiled even hotter when the chair toppled to the floor. Abby kept any amusement she was finding over this childish tantrum to herself as she watched while Chief Thorton bent to retrieve the chair. He slammed it into an upright position before finally sitting down.
When the man was settled Abby stated, "Rick and A.J. Simon are my friends. I do not intend to deny that fact to anyone. I did not promise you that I would not see them on my own time."
Abby held up her hand, stopping the man's interruption. "On the other hand, I do respect the fact that there is an investigation being conducted by Internal Affairs. That is why, as your sources may have revealed, the Simons have not been seen in this department, or even in this police station, since you talked to me on Monday. Nor will they be seen on the premises until the investigation is completed."
Thorton waved the papers in his hand. "And did you advise them to speak with their attorney?"
"No, sir. I did not. The only thing I told them was that there is an investigation underway due to information leaking out of the station, and that their names had come up as suspects. You did not tell me that the Simons couldn't be privy to this information."
"I didn't think I had to tell you that," the man scowled.
"I still maintain, sir, that any officer employed by this police department, and who is being investigated for wrong doing by Internal Affairs, is immediately notified by being served a declaration of incident report. The Simons have that right as well."
Having nothing else to resort to the chief growled, "I could put you on suspension for this."
Abby nodded. "That's your right as my superior. Before you make a decision in that regard, though, I want you to understand something, Hew. I love my job. I think you know that. And like you said the other day, I've worked long and hard to get this far. I would never intentionally do anything to tarnish the name of this police department. But, I also have my own personal set of morals when it comes to my loyalty as a friend. Rick and A.J. Simon are my friends, just as I am theirs. I don't believe, for one minute, that either of them has ever said anything out of turn in regards to things they may have seen or heard in this department. I realize you don't think much of private detectives, especially not the Simons. I respect that. I know that over the years they've caused their share of problems."
"That's an understatement."
Abby fought back a smile. "And while I often find the two of them to be a big pain in the butt, they've come through for me more times than I can count on numerous investigations. You know as well as I do that they have contacts on the streets we'll never have. You're well aware that throughout the past fifteen years they've come to the aid of Downtown Brown and myself many times, and have never billed us for a minute of their time. They've always viewed it as an even trade off. They help us when they can, and we help them when we can, if what they ask for is within reason. And whatever else you might think of them personally, they're both first rate investigators. They have a lot of friends in the department. If word gets out that Internal Affairs is investigating the Simons and that the proper procedures weren't followed in regards to their right to defend themselves, you'll have a major rebellion on your hands."
"And quite possibly a lawsuit according to their attorney," the man finished angrily.
"I know Rick and A.J. well enough to say that if you treat them fairly, they'll treat you fairly. I seriously doubt that they've spoken to their attorney about a lawsuit at this time. I imagine the man meant that it could come to that if the Simons' rights are violated."
The chief pinned Abby with a hard gaze. "And just whose side are you on, Lieutenant?"
"I'm on the side of the department, Hew, if by that question you mean do I want to find the source of these leaks. Yes, I do. I just don't want to see someone take the fall for it if they, in fact, are innocent."
"So that's what you think? That I'm framing the Simons?"
Abby carefully chose her next words. "No, I don't think that you're framing Rick and A.J. At least not intentionally."
"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I know there are incidents from the past involving the Simons, that to this day stick in your craw. I--"
"Stick in my craw, you say? Stick in my craw? You’re damn right those ‘incidents’ stick in my craw! They blew up the mayor's car for God's sake! And if that wasn't bad enough, they stole a patrol car with a convicted felon in the back seat! And if that wasn't bad enough, I stumble upon A.J. Simon in my daughter's hotel room at the Policemen’s’ Ball last year! My little girl does not date men twenty-five years her senior who also happen to be white!"
Again, Abby had to hide her smile. "I believe it was far more innocent than that."
The chief waved a hand in dismissal. "Yes, so I heard. That doesn't mean I like it any better."
"Hew, listen to yourself," Abby pleaded.
"Who taught me everything I know about being a good homicide investigator?"
The chief answered warily. "I did."
"That's right. You did. And one of the first things you told me was that before you begin any investigation you have to wipe all preconceived notions from your mind. Any prejudice you might harbor for a person, or group of people, has to be completely forgotten if the investigation is going to proceed in a fair manner. Hasn't it dawned on you that you're proceeding with this investigation of the Simons based on nothing more than your own prejudices against them?"
"I don't appreciate you accusing me of such a thing, Abigail."
"I know you don't. And I'm not accusing you. I'm simply pointing out that those circumstances could be coming into play here. As you were fond of telling me, you're the only one who can decide if prejudices and preconceived notions are clouding you’re perspective."
"So what exactly do you expect of me?"
"Just be fair, Hew. Please. That's all I'm asking. If Internal Affairs is investigating the Simon brothers, then they should be investigating every person in this department, myself included. That goes for the cleaning crew, the guy who fills the soda machine--"
"The guy who fills the soda machine!"
"He's in this department more than Rick and A.J. are," Abby pointed out smugly.
"Oh, for God's sake, Abigail! Now you're being ridiculous!"
I'm being thorough. And I learned that
trait from the best there is. Hewett
Gordon Thorton himself."
The man leaned back in his chair, massaging his forehead. "I still should suspend you, you know. Don't you sit there thinking for one minute that I won't, simply because when you were a rookie I was your boss. I can still kick your ass to the moon if I have to."
"I know that. And no, I've never thought that our past working relationship exempts me from whatever discipline you deem necessary for my actions."
The chief rose. "I don't know what discipline I deem necessary at precisely this moment, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Obviously, I can't prohibit you from seeing the Simons, and since you won't heed my friendly advice in that regard, I'll say only this. You've got an abundance of common sense, Abigail. If you're going to continue to see Rick and A.J. Simon on a social basis use caution with what you say to them. Remember that there is an investigation underway. I understand that they are your friends, and that you have loyalties to them. I would also like to think that I'm your friend, and that you have loyalties to me and to this department."
"I do, Hew.” Abby confirmed. “You know that."
"Enough loyalties that if I am able to prove the Simon brothers are the source of our leaks you'll stand by me and testify against them?"
Abby nodded. "If you can prove that to me, I'll stand by you and testify against the Simon brothers."
"I plan on seeing that day come to pass."
The chief's dark promise hung heavy in the air long after he departed Abby's office that afternoon.
Two days later Abigail Marsh was knee deep in a murder investigation. A star witness who was to testify within the week at the trial of a well-known area drug lord had been found murdered in a two bedroom bungalow in a quiet San Diego neighborhood. What made this investigation all the more stressful for Lieutenant Marsh and her detectives, was the fact that the man was under police protection at the time of his demise. Abby was just thankful that job hadn't fallen under her jurisdiction. By the way Hewett Thorton was impatiently pacing back and forth at the crime scene, Abby knew someone was going to be in hot water over this entire affair. Very hot water.
The black man loomed over Abby as she went about her work. "Have you found anything yet?"
Abby rose from the chalk-marked outline on the kitchen floor. She turned and looked up at the chief.
"No, sir, we haven't. But we've only just begun. The guys from the lab have just started to dust for fingerprints. We have a lot of work to do here yet before we can draw any conclusions as to what happened." As tactfully as possible Abby suggested, "Why don't you go back to the station. As soon as I find out anything I'll come up and talk to--"
"Don't dismiss me as if I'm in the way, Lieutenant," the chief rebuked.
Several detectives unobtrusively turned from their work to see what the fuss was all about.
With a nod of her head, Abby indicated to her people to get back to work and to mind their own business. Lowering her voice she said barely above a whisper, "I'm not dismissing you, Hew. I'm just saying that I think the job here will be accomplished more quickly if..."
When Abby stopped there for lack of knowing how to finish her thought in a way that would be well received, the man finished it for her.
"If I'm not here intimidating everyone while they work."
Abby nodded. "Yes."
The man looked around the room, taking note of investigators from various departments hard at work gathering evidence. He let his breath out in a heavy sigh as he reached in his suit coat pocket for a Rollaids.
"All right. I'll return to the station for the time being." A warning finger appeared under Abby's nose. "But I want you to report to me first thing when you arrive back there. I want to know everything that's happened here. I don't think I have to tell you that unless you come up with some awfully good answers as to how and why Bartley was murdered, the department stands to sustain a very embarrassing black eye over this entire mess. The press is going to chew us up alive and spit what's left of us out on the breakfast tables of every citizen in this city. At best we're going to come off as incompetent, at worse we're going to look like fools. The commissioner is going to have my black ass over this one. I'll be lucky to find a job as a beat cop when he's through with me. If I have to take a fall like that someone, or several someones, are going to fall right along with me."
Boy, I'm sure glad I can't be held accountable for this screw-up, was Abby's thought. A thought that quickly changed to, oh shit, when she caught sight of Rick and A.J. Simon entering the room.
Abby shook her head no and mouthed the words, “Get out of here,” to the brothers, but to no avail.
The lieutenant's odd behavior rewarded her a puzzled look from the chief. "Lieutenant, what's your problem?"
The man turned, following Abby's gaze over his left shoulder.
"You two!" He roared, causing everyone in the room to once again look up from their work. "How the hell did you two clowns get in here?"
Rick indicated with a jerk of his thumb, "Through the door."
"Don't be a wise ass, Simon. You two are in enough trouble as it is. What are you doing here? There's a police investigation going on."
"We know that," A.J. acknowledged. "We have a vested interest in the outcome of that investigation."
"And just why is that?" Thorton asked.
"Because Bartley's wife contacted us yesterday morning inquiring as to whether or not she could hire us to protect her husband," Rick explained.
"She what?" Thorton bellowed.
"It seems Mrs. Bartley didn't have much faith in your department, Chief," A.J. said. "She said her husband wasn't getting the protection he had been promised. He was fearful for his life."
"So you two took the job?"
Rick shook his head. "No, we didn't. We told her we couldn't as long as her husband was under the department's witness protection program."
A.J. added fuel to Thorton's barely controlled fury. "But maybe we should have." A.J. indicated to the chalk outline on the floor. "It's rather obvious that the man wasn't getting the protection he had been promised."
Thorton took a step toward the blond man. He balled one enormous hand into a fist. "Why you two-bit private dick. I have half a mind to give you exactly what you--"
Abby stepped in between the two men. "Hew, calm down. Please." She then turned to the Simons and hissed, "And you two keep your smart comments to yourselves."
Rick ignored Abby's order. "Look, Abigail, he's been after us for years. Maybe now's the time for the three of us to have it out."
"You aren't going to have anything out, verbally or physically, while I have an investigation going on here," Abby informed all three hot-tempered men. "If you don't stop this nonsense right now I'll report you," she turned to the chief, "to the commissioner." She turned back to Rick and A.J. "And I'll be instrumental in seeing that the state pulls your licenses."
Thorton turned away, taking a calming breath, while trying to regain his professionalism. He caught sight of curious eyes upon him.
"Don't you people have enough work to keep you busy?" He barked.
The investigators discreetly returned to their duties.
This is going to make for some interesting shoptalk, Abby thought with chagrin.
The chief ran a hand across his aching forehead before returning his attention to the Simons. "And just exactly who did you two tell where we had Bartley hiding?"
A.J. threw his head back in frustration. "Oh, give me a break! We didn't tell anyone!"
"You didn't tell anyone?" The chief mocked. "Funny thing then, isn't it? The two of you are already under investigation by Internal Affairs, when suddenly you become privy to where Bartley is being kept. The next thing we know we have a murder investigation underway. Tssk, tssk, boys. It doesn't look very good for either one of you."
Rick didn't hesitate to get in the man's face as he ground out between clenched teeth, "Look, Thorton, maybe you'd better quit worrying so much about me and my brother, and start concentrating your investigation within your precious police department. It seems to be a rather strange coincidence that Mrs. Bartley would try to hire us, complaining that her husband wasn't getting the protection he had been promised, then the next day he turns up dead."
"If you were so concerned about Bartley, then why didn't you let someone in my ‘precious department,’ as you put it, know that his wife had sought your help?"
"We tried," A.J. said. "But you've got us so blacklisted that no one would return my calls. Evidently the word is out that if you talk to the Simon brothers Thorton will have your head."
"Why didn't you contact Abigail? I thought the three of you were the best of friends."
Rick ignored the man's sarcasm. "We did try to contact Abby. But she was up in L.A. at some seminar, or so we were told anyway. It's my understanding that she didn't get back in town until two hours ago."
Abby nodded. "I was only in the office long enough to hear about Bartley's murder before I left to come over here."
"If you don't believe us you can ask Hannrahan,” A.J. stated. “He'll tell you we left a message for Abby to give us call."
"I intend to check that out," Thorton confirmed.
"We tried to make someone aware of this situation, Chief Thorton," A.J. emphasized. "Unfortunately, you've done a good job of letting your people know that they're not to talk with us. Maybe if you didn't already have my brother and me tried and convicted, Bartley's death could have been prevented."
The anger Hewett Thorton had been fighting to contain erupted in a shout and waving fists. "Just get the hell out of here! Both of you! Neither of you has any business being at the scene of a crime! Go on before I have you both thrown in jail for hampering a police investigation!"
The discreet nod Abby gave the brothers indicated to them Thorton meant business. They both turned and headed for the front door without saying another word.
At the look Abby was giving him, Hewett Thorton balked, "Don't say a word, Abigail. I'm in no mood to hear it. You're already treading on thin ice with me."
"I wasn't going to say anything," was Abby's innocent comment.
"Good, because the only thing I want to hear from you involves me receiving a complete report regarding this investigation. How soon can I expect to see you in my office?"
Abby looked at her watch. "Around four."
The man turned for the door. "I'll be waiting." On an afterthought, Thorton stopped. He turned once more to face Abby. "Oh, and Lieutenant?"
"I hope it comes as no surprise to you that the first thing I'm going to do when I get back to the station is have Internal Affairs beef up their investigation of the Simons."
Abby shook her head at the man's retreating back. "No, sir. That comes as no surprise," she said in a muttered sigh.
Later that same afternoon, A.J. was at his desk skimming through a case file. He broke his attention away from the manila folder long enough for his eyes to track Rick's progress across the middle of the floor.
"You're going to wear a path in the carpeting if you don't sit down," A.J. cautioned.
Rick stopped his pacing and turned on his brother. "Sit down!" How the hell can I sit down? And speaking of which, how can you just sit there so calmly and act like nothin's goin' on?"
"I can sit here so calmly because there isn't enough room in this office for both of us to pace and wave our fists in the air at the same time."
Rick growled at his sibling's flip remark before plopping his lanky frame in a chair across from A.J.'s desk.
"I"ll tell you, A.J., I've just about had all I can take of Thorton. We weren't doin' anything wrong today. We've been at crime scenes before without ever getting flak about it. And damn it, we had a good reason to be there!"
"I know. I know," A.J. agreed. "Unfortunately, whether or not we had a good reason to be there doesn't change the fact that Thorton wouldn't listen to us regarding Bartley. Did you get the impression that, no matter what it takes, he's going to do his best to see we take the fall for the leak regarding Bartley's location?"
"No kidding. I bet he's got the Internal Affairs people scrambling like mice right now trying to dig up everything they can find on us."
"Which we both know won't be anything," A.J. stated with confidence.
"Well, at least not anything that they don't make up themselves," Rick corrected.
"Yes, but still, we've got too many people at the station who know us, and whom we can count as friends. I don't think anyone will believe--"
"It's not a matter of what our friends believe, little brother. It's a matter of what a judge will believe. And Thorton's influential enough to cause us a helluva lot of problems."
"Do you really think it will go that far?"
Rick shook his head. "I don't know. But we've both known people who have been set up before. Unless we can find out what Internal Affairs has on us, and where they're going with all this, I'm afraid you and I are not going to like the outcome."
"Which will be?" A.J. asked with trepidation.
"At worst, we could end up spending five to eight years sharing a cell together at the state penitentiary."
A.J. put his head down on his desk. "Oh, Lord, not that. It was bad enough when you had your boat parked in my backyard and slept on my sofa. I don't think I could take eight years of sharing a nine by nine cell with you."
A sly grin spread across Rick's face. "Well, there's always the alternative."
A.J. lifted his head. "And that is?"
"You could always share a cell with a six foot seven inch goliath named Tiny who has a thing for cute blonds."
"Uh...I guess if it comes to that point, you'll do," A.J. quickly amended.
Rick couldn't help but laugh at the expression on his brother's face. "I honestly don't think it's gonna come to that, A.J., but if Thorton somehow trumps up charges against us and this thing gets dragged into court, it's gonna cost us a fortune in legal fees to clear our name."
"Not to mention the fact that the publicity it generates will kill off most of our business," A.J. stated.
Rick nodded. "That too. And that's exactly why I've been pacing the floor and thinking for the past two hours."
"Thinking? It scares me when you spend any great amount of time indulging yourself in that unusual foray into your mind."
"Ha. Ha. Seriously here, A.J. How have you and I always operated?"
A.J.'s brows knit together. "What do you mean?"
"Ever since we were kids, if we had a problem, how did we solve it?"
"That's right. Together. Without relyin' on anyone but each other."
"And while that theme would make for a great Hallmark greeting card, where are you going with this, Rick?"
Rick reached up with his index finger and pushed his cowboy hat back on his head so he could have unobstructed eye contact with his brother. "You agree with me, don't you, that in order for us to be able to fight this thing we have to know just what Internal Affairs has on us? Or rather, thinks they have."
A.J. gave a slow nod. "Yes. That would be helpful."
"And for as many friends as we have at the police station, none of them are going to risk Thorton's wrath, and quite possibly their jobs, by talking to us regarding anything they may know about this case."
Again, A.J. nodded. "That's true, I suppose. And I can't say that I blame them. Everyone needs a paycheck."
I don't blame them either. The only exception
to that rule is Abby, and I think we both know that Thorton's going to keep her
in the dark for fear that she'll pass any information on to us she might become
"That's true," A.J. agreed. "After the blowup he had in her office the other day over our attorney, I doubt he has plans of inform her of anything else where we're concerned."
"I think it's highly unlikely. Which is why we're right back to where we started."
A.J. was confused. "Which is where?"
if you and me are gonna get out of this mess unscathed, we've only got each
other to rely on. We're gonna have to
investigate this thing ourselves, A.J."
"I've already given that possibility a considerable amount of thought, Rick, only to come to the same conclusions you just mentioned. Number one, no one, no matter how much friendship they may feel toward us, is going to discuss this with us for fear of losing his or her job. Number two, the only person who will discuss it with us - Abby, won't be privy to enough information to be able to pass anything of use on to us. Short of doing a black bag job on Thorton's office, I don't have any other suggestions."
A slow grin spread across Rick's face. "Great minds think alike, kid. That's just what I was going to suggest."
A.J. sat bolt upright in his chair, frantically waving his hands. "That wasn't a suggestion! That's not even a consideration! Just forget I ever mentioned it!"
"No, A.J., really. Just listen for a minute."
A.J. shook his head. "I don't want to hear it. Rick, there's absolutely no way you're going to convince me to break into Thorton's office."
"Not even with the thought in mind of a nine by nine prison cell and a very lonely man named Tiny?"
A pained expression crossed A.J.'s handsome features. As far as he was concerned, either way he was setting himself adrift in a leaky boat. "As much as I hate to ask this, what did you have in mind?"
"Basically, exactly what you just said. A black bag job of Thorton's office."
"Why Thorton's office? Why not the Internal Affairs Department?"
"Because I've already done some checking, and there's a very sophisticated alarm system surrounding its perimeter. Not that you and I couldn't get around that if we had a mind to, but the vice squad and the swat team share that same floor. They're on duty twenty-four hours, of course, which will make it almost impossible for you and me to get on that floor undetected. Especially considering how many people we know in both those departments."
A.J. took an educated guess at Rick's line of reasoning. "And you're assuming that since the floor Thorton's office is on is strictly administration, that it will be deserted during the wee hours of the morning."
Rick nodded. "That's right."
"And you're also assuming that since Thorton seems to have a desire to hang us out to dry, that any information Internal Affairs has gathered pertaining to us will have been photocopied and be in a folder somewhere in his office."
"That's what I'm hoping."
"I don't know, Rick,” A.J. shook his head. “It's a long shot. Thorton may not have any information regarding the investigation in his possession."
"Oh, I have a feeling he does. I think Thorton's keeping right on top of this one."
The blond detective chewed on his lower lip. "If we get caught we'll--"
"A.J., how often have we ever gotten caught doing a black bag job?" Rick asked with disgust.
"Often enough! More times than I'd like to remember."
"No, no. I don't mean almost caught, or caught by someone who didn't figure out what we were doin.’ I mean, caught-caught. You know, caught-and-sent-to-jail-caught."
"Well...never so far. But, there's always a first time for everything. And if Thorton catches us I can guarantee you that you'd better pack your favorite pillow and fuzzy slippers, because we'll be in for a long stay in that cozy little prison cell you've been warning me about."
"It isn't gonna happen, A.J. That's the beauty of this whole thing. I've got a plan."
A.J. threw his head back against his chair and looked up at the ceiling. "Lord, help me. My brother's got another plan."
"Just listen to me for a minute," Rick persuaded. "Carlos's cousin, Tomaso, owns the cleaning service that's contracted to clean the police department. I already talked to him and managed to finagle us a spot on tomorrow night's cleaning crew."
A.J. looked at his brother and shook his head. "Rick, I don't know about this one. If we get caught--"
"If we do--"
"A.J., we won't get caught. Trust me."
"I'm not going to waste my time reciting to you the number of occasions you've asked me to trust you, only to later find myself in a passel of trouble."
"Hey, it beats sittin' around here waitin' for Thorton to hang us. We gotta do something about all of this. And whether you want to admit it or not, this investigation by Internal Affairs has got you as worried and uptight as it has me."
A.J. reluctantly conceded to the truth in Rick's words. "Okay, you're right. It does. And you're also correct when you say that we've got to do something about all of this. I'm just not exactly sure breaking into the office of the Chief of Police is the wisest of ideas."
"Okay. Fine,” Rick shrugged. “I'm open to suggestions."
A.J. threw his brother a dark look. "Don't do this to me, Rick."
Rick's eyebrows arched innocently. "Do what?"
"You know perfectly well that I don't have any other suggestions right at the moment."
Rick rose to walk over to his desk, smiling in triumph. "Well, you've got until tomorrow night at eleven. If you don't come up with anything better by then, we'll be dusting and mopping our way right into Thorton's office."
"And from there, very likely dusting and mopping our way right into a prison cell," A.J. muttered.
Promptly at eleven p.m. the next evening, Rick and A.J. walked into the basement of the police station with the rest of Tomaso Escobar's cleaning crew. The brothers were dressed for the part in denim coveralls supplied by Carlos's cousin that had his cleaning company's logo on the back. Their uniform was made complete by the blue baseball caps Tomaso provided them, along with security badges that they clipped to the front breast pocket of the coveralls. The name stitched on A.J.'s coveralls proclaimed him to be Juan, while Rick was Marco.
None of Tomaso's employees paid much attention to the Simon brothers as everyone collected their cleaning carts and supplies, and then headed for their assigned floors.
The brothers followed the same routine they watched the other men go through before pushing their cart onto an empty elevator and pressing the number 10. The tenth floor was strictly administrative offices. Rick was correct in his assumption that at this time of night the floor would be empty of any police department personnel.
The Simons stood behind their cart, watching numbers flash as they passed various floors. Rick commented to his brother, "If we're lucky, we'll make it all the way to the top without anyone gettin' on with us."
"We'd better be lucky," A.J. declared.
A.J. had no more than made that statement when a bell chimed softly and the car stopped on the fifth floor. The brothers dropped to their hands and knees behind the cleaning cart as the door slowly opened to admit two men engrossed in conversation.
From their vantage point on the floor, all Rick and A.J. could see of the men were their pant legs and shoes. The brothers exchanged glances, indicating to one another that they recognized the men’s voices. They were two detectives from Burglary that the Simons knew fairly well.
Rick immediately began picking up cleansers and utensils off the bottom shelf of the metal cart, rattling away in rapid Spanish as he did so. While A.J. was by no means well-versed in the Spanish language, he picked up enough of what his brother was saying to figure out that Rick was pretending to take inventory of their supplies. Where it seemed appropriate A.J., threw in a "Si′, Marco," or a "No, Marco."
The brothers' charade got by the detectives. When the elevator reached the eighth floor it came to a stop. The two men exited the car with barely a glance in Rick and A.J.'s direction.
A.J. slowly pushed himself up off his hands and knees. "Whew. That was close."
Rick rose as well. "We've had close calls before," he said nonchalantly.
"Yes, but not when we're a mere three floors above the jail cell Thorton would be more than happy to incarcerate us in if he catches us playing cleaning crew."
"You know, A.J., you're a real drag on a job like this. You take all the fun out of it."
"Well, excuse me," came the blond man's sarcastic retort.
The remainder of the ride to the tenth floor was uneventful. Rick held the elevator doors open, peering cautiously down the long, well-lit hallway in both directions before he and A.J. departed the car.
As Tomaso had promised, the floor was empty. Although the hall was kept brightly illuminated with overhead florescent lights, the offices Rick and A.J. passed were dark and deserted.
The brothers pushed their cart to the end of the hall. They stopped in front of the office that had lettered on the window, Hewett G. Thorton, Chief Of Police.
A.J. reached in his back pocket for his set of lock picks. With Rick keeping watch down the hallway, the blond man set about opening the door.
"Of all the places I've ever broken into, this has to take the cake," A.J. muttered as he went about his work. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this."
Rick spared a quick glance in his brother's direction. "Just shut up and get us in there. We don't have all night, you know."
"I know. I know. Keep your pants on. I've almost got it."
A.J. had barely finished his sentence when he heard a faint click. "Got it." He opened the door wide enough for the cleaning cart to fit through.
A.J. entered the office followed by Rick and the cart. Rick retrieved two flashlights from a bucket and handed one to his brother. The older Simon then closed the office door and relocked it.
A.J. turned his flashlight on, quickly arcing it around the room. "This must be the outer office," he said.
Rick observed what he assumed was the desk that belonged to Thorton's secretary, several filing cabinets, a computer terminal, a fax and copy machine, and a sofa.
There were two doors in the room, one of which proved to lead to a small coat closet. A.J. tried the knob on the other door, only to discover that it was locked. Once again he pulled out a lock pick. "What do you want to bet me that behind this locked door is Chief Thorton's throne?"
"Don't wanna' bet you anything, 'cause I have a feeling you're right," Rick said from over his brother's shoulder.
In a matter of seconds, the brothers found themselves in Thorton's office. Rick pushed the cleaning cart into a dark corner, leaving it out of the way for the time being.
The room wasn't nearly as pretentious as Rick had expected it to be. It contained one rather battered looking wooden desk, two chairs, a computer terminal, and a filing cabinet. The brothers left the lights off in this room, just as they’d left the outer office dark. Instead, they used their flashlights to illuminate the darkness.
Rick went to work picking the lock on the cabinet while A.J. sat behind Thorton’s desk and opened drawers. The blond detective was careful not to leave anything out of place as he looked through hanging folders and loose papers.
The lock on the cabinet popped. Rick glanced over his shoulder. "Find anything?"
"No. Nothing. Go ahead and see what he's got in there."
Rick started with the bottom drawer, shining his light on folders that contained subjects that started with the latter half of the alphabet. "Sanders. Senters. Sigmund. Sizers. No, no Simon in here."
As he looked through a folder, the preoccupied A.J. suggested, "Try the I's. See if he's got anything filed under Internal Affairs."
Rick nodded and moved up one drawer. He fingered through the files labeled with the letter I. "Ah, ha. I think we've hit pay dirt here, A.J."
"What'd you find?"
"A nice, neat little dossier on us provided to the good chief by his ever-efficient Internal Affairs Department."
Rick shut the metal drawer, then laid the file on Thorton's desk. He looked over A.J.'s shoulder while his brother opened the file and scanned its contents with the help of his flashlight.
A.J. read out loud as he skimmed through the papers, "Chief Thorton, at this time we have been unable to uncover any evidence that would lead us to conclude that Richard and Andrew Simon are the sources of any information leaks within the department. Past incidents involving the Simon brothers include blowing up the Mayor's car in 1983, and stealing a police car in 1987. There have been numerous other minor incidents over the years that seem to have involved the Simons, but finding department personnel who are willing to confirm these incidents has been next to impossible. The Simons seem to have many loyal friends within our ranks."
"That's nice to hear," Rick commented.
A.J. nodded, then continuing to read. "In an effort to be fair and present both sides, I must also report that Richard Simon has played Santa Claus for the past twelve years at our annual Christmas party for inner city children. The Simons have always donated generously for gifts for the children, and both volunteer their time at this event. They both play on our charity softball team each June, as well as volunteer their time at our twenty-four hour auction each September."
Rick laughed as A.J. finished with, "I don't believe I have to tell you, as well, that the Simons donate money to, and attend, our annual Policemen’s Ball."
"No, after that little incident with Thorton's daughter last spring I don't suppose they have to tell him that," Rick quipped.
"Very funny, Rick," A.J. retorted. The blond searched the file thoroughly one last time. "That's it," he concluded. "Except for this."
Rick shined his flashlight on a scrap of paper A.J. held up. In what then lanky man guessed was Thorton's handwriting, he read, "See Selina's file."
"Mmmm, I wonder who Selina is," Rick mused.
"I wonder who she is, why she has a file pertaining to us, and what might be in it," A.J. elaborated.
"Well, I suppose we could..." Rick started to say, only to cut himself off in mid-sentence when he heard someone fiddling with the lock on the outer office door.
The brothers shut off their flashlights. A.J. quietly shut Thorton's desk drawers and grabbed the manila file from Internal Affairs right before he slid out of the man's chair and joined his brother on the floor. The men used the desk for cover as they listened and waited.
Within a few seconds the Simons were able to tell that someone had gained entrance into the outer office. The brothers exchanged glances in the dark when Thorton's office door was silently opened. They could tell whoever had entered had paused a moment as if assimilating himself to the dark room.
A.J. caught a whiff of familiar perfume as the person crossed over to the file cabinets. A small penlight was turned on as the stranger began searching through Thorton's files.
From his seated and secluded position, A.J. held up the manila folder Rick had retrieved. "Looking for this?"
"Aaaaah!" Came Abigail Marsh's startled cry.
The brothers rose as one from behind the desk, sardonic smiles plastered across their faces.
Tension eased out of Abby's rigid body. "What the hell are you two doing in here?"
"Oh, I'd venture to guess the same thing you are, Abigail," Rick supplied.
Abby rested her hands on her hips. For comfort and ease of movement, she was dressed in blue jeans, a gray sweatshirt that read, San Diego Police Department, across the chest, and Nike running shoes. "Do you know what Thorton will do to you guys if he finds you here?"
"Yes. And do you know what he'll do to you, if he finds you here?" A.J. tossed back.
Abby chose to ignore A.J.'s question. She crossed the room to the desk. "Did you discover anything?"
Rick gave the lieutenant his flashlight while A.J. handed her the file. She quickly read through its contents. She looked up with a smile. "This is good. There's nothing substantial here whatsoever."
A.J. nodded his head in agreement. "There certainly doesn't appear to be. We're curious, though, as to who Selina is, and what kind of information she may have."
"Selina's Thorton's secretary," Abby said.
Rick thought a moment. "She probably has a copy of everything that's in this file, plus any notes Thorton has written about the whole thing."
A.J. headed for the outer office. "Let's go look."
Flashlights were once again used as the three carefully rifled through the secretary's desk. Just as Rick had suspected, there was a file identical to the one they had found in Thorton's office. The only thing it contained that was different was the papers the Simons' attorney had served the chief with, as well as their attorney's business card.
A.J. craned his head, looking at the file his brother held. "Well, that doesn't tell us anything more than we don't already know. We might as well photocopy what we've found and get out of--"
Abby held up her hand from where she was seated behind the desk. "Hold on a minute, guys. Look at this."
The lieutenant passed back an unlabeled file she had found hidden among some phone books in the back of a desk drawer.
A.J. stood at Rick's shoulder and shined his flashlights on its contents. Not being familiar with the wide variety of police cases Abby was, it took the Simons a few minutes to draw any conclusions about what she had found. When they came to a paper with information written on it pertaining to the deceased Bartley, Rick and A.J. began to see the light.
A.J. looked at his brother. "It's Thorton's secretary who's been leaking info out of the department."
"There's phone numbers here of practically every reporter and sleazy street contact in town," Rick observed. "Geez, she documented every call she made, and even has a nice little ledger here where she recorded the amount of money she was paid."
Abby tapped a finger against her cheek. "I believe when Thorton's presented with this information, it will get him off your backs for good."
"And yours too," A.J. added.
"Thank God, 'cause I've about had my gut full of that guy," Rick said.
"I would suggest we..." Abby began, only to be cutoff by A.J.'s, "Shhh. I think I hear something."
The three listened for a moment, hearing the distinct click of high-heeled shoes against the tile floor in the hallway.
Flashlights were distinguished as Rick muttered, "For chrissake, what is this tonight? Grand Central Station?"
Folders were returned to their proper places and the desk quickly put back into order. Abby rose from the chair and crouched down behind the wooden structure with the brothers.
When the footsteps didn't move on down the hallway, but rather came to a stop in front of Thorton's office door, the three exchanged frantic glances.
A.J. looked over at the small coat closet. In a strangled whisper he urged, "Come on."
With the blond leading the way, the three crawled to the tiny closet. There was just enough room for the two men to sit side by side on its floor. As it was, they were crammed together tightly with their knees bent to their chests, shoulders and elbows smashed together. As they heard a key turn in the lock on the office door the brothers gave up trying to make room for Abby, and simply pulled her into the confined space. The lieutenant found herself seated on a raised knee of each of the brothers. Both Rick and A.J. had a hand at Abby’s waist in an effort to steady her on her precarious perch.
"The door!” Rick whispered. “The door!"
Abby reached out and managed to close the closet door just as the office door was opened.
Light filtered in underneath the closet door, leading the three people inside to believe that whoever was out there didn't have any reason to worry about being caught in a place he or she didn't belong. A.J. wondered if it was Thorton, Selina, or one of Tomaso's cleaning crew.
The trapped trio didn’t have to wonder over the person's identity for very long. They soon heard a woman's voice and guessed she was talking on the phone. Abby cocked her head, putting her ear close to the door, straining to hear the woman's conversation. She could hear a desk drawer open, then, heard the woman give information to someone over the phone concerning the Bartley case.
Within a few minutes the call came to an end. Abby heard a desk drawer close, then the sound of footsteps on the carpeting. The light that was seeping in underneath the closet door ceased. The office door was firmly closed behind the intruder.
The three detectives remained in the hot stuffy closet a full five minutes longer. After conferring back and forth in hushed tones, they decided it was safe to emerge from their hiding spot.
Abby opened the door and got off the brothers' knees. Rick and A.J. tried in vain to rise at the same time within the tiny space. After struggling together for a few seconds in a perfect imitation of a Laurel and Hardy routine, A.J. finally stopped his movements, allowing Rick to exit the closet first.
The brothers stretched their stiff legs while Abby ran a hand over her behind. "You two have the hardest knees."
A sly smile spread across Rick's face. "That wasn't my knee."
A.J. choked back a laugh at his brother's remark - a remark that Abby matched with a withering look. "Believe me, Richard, it was too big to be any other part of your anatomy."
Again, A.J. laughed, then said, "If you two are through exchanging sexual innuendos, let's finish up and get out of here." He crossed to Selina's desk, retrieving the file that matched the one in Thorton's office, as well as her own private file of contacts and police information.
The trio made quick work of photocopying the contents of both files before A.J. returned them to their proper places. It was decided by Abby that she would anonymously get the copies of Selina's file to Thorton, and that Rick and A.J. would accompany their arrival with a well timed phone call.
"But don't you guys call,” Abby cautioned. “Thorton will recognize your voices."
"We won't," Rick assured. "We've got plenty of friends who know how to keep their mouths shut, and who owe us favors. Don't worry; we'll take care of it on our end. You just see to it that this file gets delivered to Thorton tomorrow at twelve-fifteen."
"I will," Abby agreed. The lieutenant knew that Selina took her lunch hour promptly at noon each day. She also knew that only on rare occasions did Thorton take a lunch break. Like the Simons, Abby had several street contacts that owed her favors. She knew she could get one of them to deliver the papers to Thorton, and be long gone before the Chief even realized what he was holding in his hands.
After the plans were set, the trio parted company. Abby peered cautiously out the door, then slipped into the brightly lit hall. She crossed over to a stairwell that would take her all the way down to the police garage where she had left her car.
Rick and A.J. exited next, pushing the cleaning cart. They'd have to get to the basement in the same manner they had arrived on the tenth floor. The brothers were fortunate this time, and reached their destination without incident. They put the cart where it belonged and slipped out a side door that led to the street where A.J. had parked the Camaro. It was one thirty in the morning when A.J. dropped his brother off at the marina, and then headed for his own home. Neither Simon slept well that night. They were both too keyed up over the information they had discovered, and the desire to see this incident through to the end.
Three weeks later the Simon brothers could be found seated across from Lieutenant Marsh's desk. Abby was filling the brothers in on the charges that had been filed against Chief Thorton's secretary, as well as the fact that Internal Affairs had discovered the names of several contacts the woman had within the police department. Thankfully, none of those contacts were any of Abby's people in Homicide.
The conversation the three were having ground to a halt when Abby's office door was opened.
"Oh. Excuse me, Lieutenant,” Chief Thorton apologized. “I didn't realize you had company."
"That's quite all right, sir. Did you need to see me about something?" Abby inquired.
"It's nothing that can't wait," Thorton said. "Please call me when you're free."
The man turned away without ever having acknowledged the Simons' presence. Before he could make good on his escape, Rick stopped his exit.
"You know, Hew, I think this should be a new beginning for us. You know, let bygones be bygones and all that jazz. Me and A.J. are willing to forgive and forget if you are. You don't even need to apologize to us for accusing us of doing something your own secretary was actually the culprit of."
Hewett Thorton inhaled deeply for self-control, then slowly turned around. His dark gaze came to rest upon the smiling brothers.
"First of all, Simon, it's Chief Thorton to you. And second of all, if you think for one minute that just because Internal Affairs has dropped its investigation concerning you two that automatically discounts the years of trouble you bozos have brought me, you've got another think coming. I'd advise you to finish up whatever business brought you to my station today and then get the hell out of my sight!"
With that, the door slammed and the chief stomped out of the squad room, retreating to his office up above.
Rick looked at his brother and shrugged. "I guess that means we aren't going to be friends."
A.J. shook his head and deadpanned, "Doesn't look that way."
Abby shook a warning finger at the brothers. "You two behave yourselves where Chief Thorton is concerned. Don't egg him on like that. He's dealt with enough flak from the commissioner over the fact that Selina was the cause of the leaks. He doesn't need any grief from you guys."
Rick scoffed, "Aw, Abby, give us a break. The guy deserves it. He's a jerk."
"He's a very good cop, and also a friend of mine," Abby informed the pair. "Just like you two are friends of mine. I've just about had it with defending all of you to each other. All I'm asking is that you're polite to the man. You don't need to have him over for dinner, but please, be civil to him when you do see him."
"And is he going to be civil to us?" Rick asked skeptically.
"He was being civil until you got his temper riled," Abby pointed out.
"He was ignoring us!" Rick declared.
"And for him, that's being civil," Abby defended. "To be frank with you guys, we were all damn lucky that Thorton never looked beyond the papers and phone call he anonymously received. If he had investigated as to how all the information came to light we supplied him with, I'd be willing to bet a week's pay that he would have found the three of us at the heart of it. I have a feeling he looked the other way as a favor to me."
"That still wouldn't have changed the fact that his secretary was guilty of leaking information out of the department and causing Barley's death," A.J. stated.
"No, it wouldn't have," Abby agreed. "But he could have still charged us with breaking and entering had he taken the time to pursue just how all of this was uncovered."
"That's true," A.J. conceded.
"As it is, the man could have continued to ban you two from the station, but he hasn't."
"He didn't exactly welcome us back with open arms either," Rick pointed out.
"No, and he never will," Abby said. "But he is tolerating your presence here, and will continue to do so as long as neither one of you causes any trouble. So please, as a favor to me, don't get his dander up."
"Okay, okay," A.J. agreed. "We'll be nice."
"Richard?" Abby questioned.
"Will you be nice, too?"
Rick looked at his brother, then back at Abby. "Oh, all right. I'll be nice."
"Practice for me," the woman urged.
In a schoolteacher's tone, Abby instructed, "Come on, Richard, practice being nice. Now how are you going to greet Chief Thorton if you run across him in the hallway?"
In a monotone Rick replied, "Hello, Chief Thorton. How are you today?"
"Well, it could use a bit more life to it, and a good deal more sincerity, but I suppose that will do for now. You go home and practice that ten times a day like a good boy until you get it right."
"Yeah, yeah," Rick dismissed with a grumble.
A.J. rose from his chair, pulling his brother with him. "While Rick goes home and practices being nice, I need to go home and get ready for an evening out with Dianna. Lieutenant Marsh, as always, it's been a pleasure doing business with you."
"Bye, guys," Abby replied before turning her attention to a stack of papers on her desk.
"See ya', Abby," Rick said. "Oh, and Abby?"
Abby looked up from her work. "Yes?"
Rick bent and kissed the woman on one cheek, while A.J. followed suit and gave her a kiss on the other.
In her left ear Abby heard Rick's, "Thanks for all your help with Thorton and Internal Affairs."
In her right ear, Abby heard A.J.'s, "Thanks for standing by us."
Abby blushed bright red at this unusual bit of attention from the Simons - attention that had been viewed by every member of her department.
The wolf whistles, cat-calls, and teasing from the squad room continued long after the brothers had departed.
Abby finally rose from her desk to shut her office door. She gave her employees a mock glare. "Don't you people have enough work to keep you busy?"
The lieutenant returned to her desk, shaking her head and smiling. "Good friends are hard to come by. Even two who are as big of a pain-in-the-butt as Rick and A.J. Simon. I guess they're worth all the trouble they cause me."
Abby's one-sided monologue was interrupted by the ringing telephone. She picked up the receiver, answering with, "Lieutenant Marsh."
"Lieutenant, this is Chief Thorton! Get up to my office this minute! Rick Simon just backed into my car out in the parking lot! My brand new car! The one I bought yesterday! What the hell was he doing parked in the V.I.P. lot anyway? I expect some answers, Abigail, and I expect them right now!"
The connection was broken as Hewett Thorton slammed the phone down in Abby's ear. As the lieutenant rose to make her way up to the angry man's office, she gave a weary sigh and mumbled, "Then again, maybe the Simons aren't worth the trouble they cause me."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
*This story was inspired by a Current Case idea in the May 1994 edition of the S&S letterzine, Brothers, Partners, and Friends, published by Wizard Words Press.