|Idle Chit Chat
Author: SuperKateB PM
Goren and Eames play the husband and wife game to chat up a wife-killing cell phone salesman, and for once, there's use in a Bobby Goren breakthrough. (GorenEames.)Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Humor - Words: 2,772 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 42 - Follows: 2 - Published: 03-04-05 - id: 2291933
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Law & Order: Criminal Intent Fanfiction
Written by Kate "SuperKate" Butler
Detective Bobby Goren, master of the breakthrough, surveys the inside of the T-Mobile retailer from outside, hands thrust in his blue jeans and eyes narrowed through the lenses of small, wire-frame glasses. As with the jeans, the glasses created a persona, an elaborately built and characterized rouse he'd formulated inside and out. He'd explained his character – and mine, as well – over lunch across the street, his brown eyes darting to focus on me only when a bus stopped at its designated pick up and cut the store out of view.
(Once every seven minutes, actually. Dammit, Bobby, being your partner has trained me well in the art of clock-watching.)
"We're Midwestern suburbanites, decided we want a change," he informed me over a pastrami on rye, with large hand gestures and vocal embellishments – all the little details that make Bobby, well, Bobby. "You're a teacher, pretty white-bread, and I was in advertising but really want to do PR work. Unemployed, at least for now. No kids, maybe a number of nieces and nephews back in…. Indiana?"
I wasn't really listening. This is the art of being partners with Bobby Goren; you learn when to listen, and when your sanity can be damaged just by showing the least bit of interest. But it was my minute out of seven to grab his attention and I smiled. "Sounds good," I agreed, because, really, what else could I have said?
(No, Bobby. See, we should pretend we're partners who care deeply for one another and have more sexual tension than can be cut with a knife. Or, we should stop faking this whole marriage thing and just do it. We play pretend couple often enough, and I hear Vegas is nice this time a year. What do you say?)
"We want cell phones to keep better in touch." The bus moved, and his focus drifted away as he stuffed a few fries in his mouth. "You're worried about me, wandering around the streets looking for a job. And I don't like the shady school you're working in. Sound reasonable?"
"Yup." My burger had gotten cold, and my soda had gotten warm, unsurprising considering how long we'd sat at that table, waiting for Bobby's plan to ferment in his twisting, curving mind. "You really think the victim's husband will just hand out personal information as he tries to sell us phones?"
Bobby smiled as he stares out the window. "We've played dozens of perps before, Eames," he reminded me as he started digging in his pocket for payment. "Do you really think this one will be any different?"
(Oh, for the love of Pete, stop calling me "Eames." We've worked together for years. Do I ever get to be Alex with you?)
Pulling away from the window, Bobby straightens his t-shirt – one of those silly NYFD t-shirts that are so popular with tourists – and pushes the glasses up on his nose. "Ready, Eames?"
"Yup," I smile, and then glance down. His hand is palm-up in front of me, waiting. I stare at it for a moment and then place my palm against it. He locks our fingers together almost clinically – perfectly intertwined – and then leads me into the shop. I try to think teacher – bland, Midwestern, well-behaved school-teacher who probably has never seen a dead body or a pimp and his merry band of 'hos – and force the dumbest smile possible.
The victim's husband – our lead suspect, a thirty-something, slightly-balding, beak-nosed man who looks like a pedophile, but without the edge – guns for us immediately, pushing past the one other T-Mobile sales rep without a present customer to sidle up to us as we enter. "Welcome to T-Mobile!" he grins, and I grin back. "How may I help you to today, Mister…"
"Thomas." Bobby shakes his hand, a firm grip, and releases me for a brief second before wrapping an arm firmly around my waist. (Feeling territorial today, Detective?) "Jim Thomas, and my wife, Susan."
(Susan? What in the love of God's name was he thinking? Bobby, if I can't come up with the plots, at least let me pick the names!)
I shake his hand too, more limply, trying to channel a teacher. Instead, I channel a noodle-gripped female cop, and the salesman shoots me an iffy look as I drop my hand to my side. "We're looking for a cell phone plan," I inform him in the most sugar-sweet tone I can manage – not hard, since I have a one-year-old nephew. "I don't like my Snookums wandering the big, mean streets of New York City with no way to reach him! I mean, what would happen if the cat got out and I couldn't call him to help me look? I'd be beside myself."
Bobby just looks at me for a moment, surprised. (Ha. Worried, were you? Bobby Goren, meet Susan Thomas, ditzy school teacher from Nowhere, Indiana.) "Susie-kins, we need to worry more about you than me," he protested after a brief pause, nuzzling the top of my head with his cheek. "You're teaching in those nasty public schools. I've read the papers! I hear stories about bad inner-city schools! I need to keep better tabs on you!"
Mister John Q. Salesguy, Peter Leater – a name I only know that because his mile-long rap sheet for domestic disturbances is on my desk back at Major Case – smiles sheepishly at the two of us, nuzzling and snuggling in broad T-Mobile-fluorescent-light, and forces himself to swallow whatever disgust he had for the lovey-dovey nature of Jim and Susan Thomas. "I take it you're new to the city?" he asks. "And newlyweds, to boot?"
"Oh, not newlyweds!" Bobby laughs. I follow suit. (God, he's so corny. How did he get this corny?) "Susan and I have been married for thirteen years. High school sweethearts, we went to college together, and then moved back to our little hometown in Indiana together." More hair-nuzzling. His stubble reminds me of a scalp massage. "We're just not from around here, and it's a little scary, is all." He pauses, eying our gracious – if somewhat frightened – sales rep up and down. "Have you ever been married, Mister…"
He waves a hand. "Just call me Pete, and once." He's leading us to a bank of top-of-the-line phones, not that I'm surprised. They're obviously on commission, here. "The little woman and I divorced a few months back. Irreconcilable differences, and all that." He picks up one of the floor models and holds it towards Bobby. "Now, this is the Motorola – "
"Irreconcilable differences?" The patented Goren head-tilt comes into effect, and he disengages from around my waist. (Dammit, Bobby, just when I was starting to enjoy it. I hate your games.) "I love my wife, sir, and I can't imagine having differences that irreconcilable that I would give her up. What about you?"
Pete's unnerved, and I place a hand on Bobby's arm, trying to pull him back, like a fisherman does with a faulty cast. "Now, sweetie-pie, let's not pry into the nice man's personal life." I grit my teeth as I say it, because truthfully, I want to pry. But I'm Susan Thomas right now, and Susan Thomas is too damned nice for that.
The salesman waves me off, dismissing me. "It's alright, Mrs. Thomas," he addresses me calmly. "Truth is, I never really got along with my wife. We thought it was love, but it really wasn't. Simple as that." Bobby takes the model phone from him, and he flexes his hand into and out of a fist. His knuckles are crusted over with scabbing. An important detail, considering the fact his recently-ex-wife was pummeled to death less than a week ago. He smiles at me as I peer over Bobby's arm. "You two, though, you seem like you wouldn't have differences. Two peas in a pod."
"Thanks," I say. It's not what I would say to my best girl friend (if I had one) or to my mother (if we talked regularly), but it's the polite thing you say to sales reps who want to make their cool commission.
(Pete, my dear, you have no idea. You see that cuddling, those pet names? That's all I ever get. He won't call me by my first name. He won't even pretend I exist until we're playing games like this, and then, out of nowhere, we're all paper hearts and long-stem roses. But when we're not playing, when it's normal… Well, here's always this tension, Petey – can I call you Petey? – percolating in the air around us, waiting to explode. Maybe that's why we play husband and wife all the time, instead of friends or siblings or coworkers. Because we don't, the tension will push and push and push until the pressure is too much and we burst into little bits across your lovely T-Mobile store, and then you'd lose your commission and any other commissions for the rest of the day, what with cleaning up the carnage and all.)
"I like this model," Bobby decides, showing it to me. I take a passing glance at it, pretending to care but knowing that it doesn't matter. I have my station-issue cell back in the Chevy. "What do you think, pookie?"
(I think that it's messed up that you can call me pookie when we go undercover but can't even bring yourself to use my first name, that's what I think.)
I nod. "It's nice," I agree, "but I'm more worried about what plan to get." I glance at Mr. Salesguy, who is up on the balls of his feet, basically salivating at the prospect of making a sale. "I've heard that cell phone plans are really expensive, and I don't want to spend all the money on this nice phone and then drop all sorts of cash on a bill monthly bill!"
Bobby sets down the phone and makes eye contact with Peter, who is smiling and nodding like a trained corporate monkey. "She has a point. That could be a lot of money."
(Could be? Bobby, you are the master of peak-hour phone calls. Have you ever looked at my cell phone bill? That's what I thought. If one of us died and the department pulled our phone records, they'd think we were dating or, at the very least, sleeping together. I don't care how much you care about your partner, twelve calls a day is not normal! See, Petey? This is the tension I was talking about. You could slice it with a knife and serve it on club crackers.)
"We actually just created a new plan." Peter pulls a brochure off the nearest display and hands it to me, of all people. I open it up and glance at it, and I feel my cheeks warm slightly for what appears to be no good reason – the brochure is for one of those "couples talk for free" plans, which I've seen advertised on television while I'm trying to watch Survivor. "If you're signed up as a couple, you can talk for free any time. Perfect for keeping in touch. My wife and I used it before and during the divorce, and it really helped. I mean, we didn't have to pay for the hours we spent on the phone arguing."
He laughs. Bobby laughs. I smile and pocket the brochure. Small talk putters out and Bobby forms some eloquent verbal excuse of our "needing to discuss it" before taking Peter's card, promising to come back on Tuesday and chat more about it, and leading me out of the store. He kept his hand firmly planted in the small of my back until we made it to the car and slid into the seats.
"What a liar," I sigh, throwing the brochure in the glove compartment. I hand Bobby his badge, cell, and gun, and then pull out my own as well. The windows are tinted, so even if Pete expects anything, he can't see what we're up to. "There was no record of either Leater owning a cell phone, let alone being on the couples plan." I start up the department-issue SUV and maneuver it out of the entirely-too-small parking spot. "And his knuckles were scabbed to Hell."
Bobby nods distractedly, opening up the glove compartment again and flipping through the brochure. "When we get back, Deakins can call Carver," he states dully, staring down at the multicolored pages and rate charts. "A warrant for his DNA can't be that hard to come by. And I'm sure we could finesse a confession out of him. He doesn't have the traits of a long-time sociopath… Just a wife-beater."
(And you would know this because…? Bobby Goren, genius of the masses, jack of all trades and master of several dozen, to boot.)
The first half of the ride is in silence, Bobby staring at the pamphlet as I focus on driving through New York City traffic in a vehicle that is entirely too big for it. He hasn't taken off the fake glasses, and he looks charmingly average in jeans and a t-shirt. I wonder if he dresses that way on his day off. Which is funny, considering I can't remember him ever taking the day off.
We're turning a corner when he folds up the brochure and pockets it.
"Maybe we should look into one of those couple's plans," he decides, glancing out the window. "Seems like a good deal."
(…what? Excuse me while I swerve off the road and hit a taxi or a pedestrian or a fire hydrant. Did being around all those cell phones give you a brain tumor? I stopped being Susan when we got in this car, Bobby. I'm Alex now. Well, Eames. Hell, you could call me Pansy-Ass McGee and I would still respond to it.)
I slow to a stop at a red light and eye him curiously. "A couple's plan?" I reply casually, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel. "Why do we need a couple's plan?"
"Well, I just meant…" His twitchy nervousness sets in, and he trails off. I swear the man has very mild symptoms of Turrets Syndrome, because damned if he doesn't have the tiniest physical and verbal tics when you catch him at off moments. The pause is heavy with that familiar, noxious, overwhelming tension. "Partners," he finally said, smiling slightly as he glances my way, "are a lot like couples. They talk exclusively and often, and… I mean, they're close. They're a combination. They're… Two peas in a pod?" He briefly looks more fully in my direction. "What do you think?"
(I think that your charming, quirky, boyish smile could slay a girl at fifty paces. I also think that we've got another hour before we told Deakins we'd be back, and my apartment is nearby. I'm wearing sexy underwear, and I changed my sheets. Rwar, Bobby Goren. Rwar.)
The green light turns, and I smile. Yes, this is Detective Bobby Goren, master of the breakthrough… Even if he does lack in the arts of subtly and idle chit-chat.
"Sounds good to me."
Standard Disclaimer: Law & Order: Criminal Intent and all trappings thereof belong to Dick Wolf and NBC. I do not own it. Also, T-Mobile is not mine. Though I wouldn't mind being as rich as any of those three agencies, but I'm a starving college student, instead.
Author's Notes: T-Mobile commercials amuse me too much for words. I thought this up during a commercial break and had to share it, because it was a fun idea. I love my snarky Alex. If she had an inner monologue, it would sound like this. ;)
March 5, 2005