Oh, it HAD happened before in the past...not very often certainly, but it had happened a few times—although most people would have found it hard to believe. God knows that Captain Edward Murphy, hard-bitten veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department found it VERY hard to believe. It was a sight he had observed only a few times and it was the same as coming across Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster in your backyard. You were seeing it with your own two eyes and yet…your mind was telling you it had to be impossible.
The biggest part of the job of being Captain was dealing with all of the detectives under one's command. Every single one of them was different: different personalities, different methods of doing police work, different backgrounds, different lifestyles; different ways of handling the intense stress and pressure that came with being in the LAPD. Trying to bring them all together into a working, cohesive team that produced high quality results was often along the lines of trying to herd cats. Captain Murphy, however, was damn good at his job. He was an old hand; having been a cop so long he couldn't remember what it had been like as a civilian. Oh sure, his temper could get the better of him at times, but he had a reputation as firm, yet fair. One of the reasons he was so successful in his tense and anxiety-ridden position was his ability to work with all the detectives—no matter how they approached the job. Some needed discipline, some needed leeway—some needed a father figure. He had learned quickly how to read the personality of each man on his team and react accordingly. So when a detective didn't respond the way he was used to, the way that he had anticipated, had planned for…well, dammit, it really threw a monkey wrench into the cog that Murphy had so painstakingly greased over the years.
And now such a situation was before him. Murphy leaned forward in his chair, elbows on the desk, hands tented together. It wasn't easy, but he managed to keep the expression on his broad face noncommittal as he continued to stare at the detective sitting across from him. The seat's occupant, however, was not looking back. In fact, it was as if he wasn't in the room at all…
Oh, it HAD happened before in the past…not very often certainly, but it had happened a few times. The simple truth was that Detective Sergeant Martin Riggs was at a complete loss of words. No snappy comeback, no smart-assed comment, no yelling, no over-the-top, all-out psycho ranting and raving. It had now been over ten minutes since Captain Murphy had brought him into the office, sat him down and told him the news…ten minutes and not a peep. Not only had he not said a word, he hadn't even moved. It was as if he had been frozen in place. Quite frankly, it was all giving Murphy a severe case of the willies.
Finally he stirred… Riggs's head slowly raised, his steely blue gaze latching onto the supervisor.
"Where is he?" His voice was flat, barely audible.
"I sent him home."
The lids of Riggs's eyes lowered slightly as that familiar menacing glint began to reappear. It was like watching Frankenstein's monster being reanimated; the way the stillness slowly went out of him, replaced by such a concentrated form of intense energy that he had no choice but to explode. Because if he didn't, he surely would have burst apart at the seams like a balloon filled with too much air. And so explode he did. He shot out of the chair, the transformation back into his usual self complete. "This is total BULLSHIT!"
Ah, yes…THIS was the reaction Murphy had been waiting on. He unfolded his hands, spreading them out onto the desktop. He never would have thought it, but he was actually glad to have Riggs storming all over his office, swearing, kicking at the chair, beating his fist on the desk. This, he knew how to handle. After all, a cop's life was filled with enough uncertain factors. It was always nice to have something you could rely on, even if it was the volatile temperament of Martin Riggs. Suddenly, Riggs sat back down in the chair but by the look on his face, Murphy knew he was ready to erupt again at the slightest provocation. Not that Murphy would give him any. Besides he could understand what the detective was feeling because he was feeling the same thing. Total BULLSHIT. He ran a hand through his thick shock of grey hair, his own expression livid.
"You know it's a lie."
Murphy looked up. The tone of Riggs's voice was edged with vehemence, his whole manner confrontational, as if he was daring the Captain to disagree with him. "Riggs," he said reassuringly, "you know I know that." He gestured with one hand, a look of frustrated helplessness drifting across his countenance. "But you also know that my hands are tied. I have no choice but to proceed this way."
Riggs exhaled softly, his whole body sagging downward. "You're right. I know. It's just…" He stood up again and stepped over to the window, staring out onto the busy street below. Another moment of silence passed before Riggs glanced over, mouth set into a determined line. "I'm going to check on him."
Riggs was at the door of the office when he stopped abruptly, turning to the captain.
"And I AM going to get to the bottom of this."
The hard, unyielding look on his face left no doubt for Murphy that that was exactly what he was going to do. After all, this WAS Riggs. The faintest of a smile touched the corners of Murphy's mouth. "Martin, I expected nothing less."
Normally, Riggs busted through the side door of the Murtaugh residence like he'd been living there his whole life. Not that anyone minded because the fact of the matter was, in most ways Martin was part of the family— neither side was quite sure what that relationship was… kind of a son, brother and crazy uncle all rolled into one—but still family and despite all the differences between Martin Riggs and the Murtaughs, somehow it all seemed to work. This time, however, Riggs found himself hesitating outside the door, his expression pensive, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. He peered in through the glass window of the kitchen door, but no one was in sight. After a long moment, he finally raised a fist, and knocked gently. No one came. After another minute had passed, Riggs rapped again, this time louder. He was about to knock a third time when Trish suddenly appeared from around the corner. A relieved look came to her face as she walked into the kitchen and gestured to Martin, who slipped inside. She came up to him, quickly encircling an arm around his waist in a quiet greeting, head buried against his shoulder. They stood there in silence until Trish finally broke free and turned away. "Do you want some coffee?" she asked.
Trish's voice was calm, but Riggs noticed the slight tremble to her hand as she grabbed a cup out of the cabinet. He took the filled mug with a grateful nod of his head. Pouring herself a cup, she sat down at the table, Martin joining her. They sat in silence, sipping their coffee, Riggs staring at Trish, hoping to get an idea of how to begin the conversation but her gaze stayed focused on the tabletop. Looked like he had no choice but to just plunge in. "Where's Rog? His car's not here."
Trish looked back up. "He went to the grocery store."
"The GROCERY STORE?" Riggs's tone was slightly incredulous. He gave a tiny smile, one hand rubbing across his chin. "Shit…I don't think that would be MY reaction."
"No… I imagine not." Trish returned the smile but it faded as quickly as it had appeared. "Oh, Martin…" she whispered, the composed mask she had been wearing suddenly falling away. "I just can't believe this."
"I know, I know. It's SUCH a load of bullshit."
"What did the Captain tell you?"
Riggs frowned. "Not much really. Just that Roger had been accused of planting evidence on a couple of cases… that he was suspended until further notice." He gave a shake of his head. "That's all I know."
Trish nodded, a hand brushing away the tears that had begun to well up in her eyes. "Then I guess you know as much as I do."
Riggs looked surprised. "That's all he's told you?"
"Yes—" She stopped, her sentence interrupted by the sound of Roger's vehicle pulling into the driveway. Taking in a deep breath, Trish squared back her shoulders, hands knotted together tightly.
Martin glanced up, his head tilting in the direction of the door. "Maybe I should leave…"
Trish's eyes jumped upward, pinning Riggs with that look only she could give—one that was somehow deeply maternal and fierce all at the same time. "Don't be ridiculous, Martin," she said quietly, but firmly. "Stay here." Standing, she made her way back over to the coffee maker. "I don't know…maybe in this situation, it would be easier for Roger to talk to you first anyway."
Martin nodded his head. "Okay."
Trish was standing at the table, refilling their cups when the kitchen door swung open and in walked Roger, arms loaded down with groceries. He glanced over at the two, but said nothing, putting the bags down on the counter top. Turning around, he looked at his partner, his expression unreadable. "What are you doing here, Riggs?"
Martin gave a smile, lifting his cup. "Enjoying some coffee."
Frowning, Roger grabbed his own mug out of the cabinet, filling it to the brim. "Last time I checked they had coffee down at the bullpen."
Riggs waved the comment away, his smile widening. "Hell, Rog, you know the only thing that shit's good for is cleaning out carburetors and dissolving rust stains." He straightened up in the chair, his demeanor turning serious. "Besides, I wanted to see how you were doing."
"How I'm DOING?" thundered Roger. Spinning on his heel, he faced Martin with narrowed eyes. "How the hell do you THINK I'm doing?" He gestured wildly with one hand, coffee spilling out onto the tiled floor. "I've just—" Roger bit off the rest of the sentence then quickly stormed out of the kitchen without another word.
Trish gave a low sigh, the sadness in her face coming back full force. "Martin," she whispered, one hand squeezing his forearm. "Please go and talk to him. I know you can get him to come around."
Riggs stared off in the direction that Roger had gone, his eyes doubtful. Although he didn't want to admit it, he wasn't as confident as Trish seemed to be. It certainly wasn't that he didn't want to help, he just wasn't sure that he could. Most of his experience was on the other end of such a situation with Roger trying to calm him down. Now that the tables seemed turned, he didn't know how to proceed. Turning back around in the chair, he met Trish's unwavering stare and she gave an encouraging nod of her head. Riggs still didn't look convinced but he stood up anyway and strode after his partner.
Roger was exactly where Riggs had figured he would be—in the workshop above the garage. Roger, God bless him, was a lot of things, but unpredictable wasn't one of them. Upon completion, the workshop had quickly turned into his sanctuary from the pressures of the job—a place he was able to escape to—a place to relax. He was now hunched over his workbench, screwdriver in hand, fiddling with his latest creation. His body stiffened at the sound of approaching footsteps but he didn't bother to turn around. Martin hesitated briefly in the doorway, feeling suddenly like an intruder, but he set his jaw in determination and walked over. Looked over his partner's shoulder. "Hey, nice birdhouse, Rog."
"Thanks." Roger held the object up, eyeballing it critically. "Trish's been after me to make one for the backyard."
"I'd say you have a real talent for it."
Roger slammed the birdhouse onto the workbench. "Good thing," he said angrily, "since I'm gonna have to find some way to support my family."
"What?" Martin stared at his partner incredulously, arms flinging out to his side. "I can't believe I'm hearing this shit! Rog, you sound like you're giving up already."
"I'm not giving up, Martin," snapped Roger. "Alright? I'm just…I'm just—" he broke off and turned away. Began pacing back and forth, shaking his head. He finally came to a stop, staring at Riggs steadily. "I just find this all impossible to believe. I have over twenty-five years in this career. Over twenty-five damn years with a spotless reputation. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before." He sighed then sat down heavily in a nearby chair, shoulders sagging downward. "I haven't got a clue what to do next."
Martin nodded, his lips pressed into a thin line. He stood there regarding the other man for a long moment then grabbing a chair; he brought it over by Roger and sat down, straddling it backwards. "Then it's a good thing I'm your partner," he said matter-of-factly.
Roger looked up. "Why is that?"
"Because I do know what to do next." Riggs gave a small shrug, his grin defiant. "It's no secret that my reputation is far from spotless—in fact, at this point, it pretty much looks like a Dalmatian."
Roger gave a tiny smile in spite of himself. "Okay, Riggs…you could use a good steam-cleaning. So?"
Riggs made an exasperated motion with his hands. "So…I can help." His eyes turned grim. "I've dealt with those soulless rat bastards at IA before."
A worried look suddenly flickered across Roger's face. He straightened up, one hand slicing through the air. "I—I don't know, Riggs. I don't think the answer is to bring MORE attention onto myself. I'm innocent and the truth is gonna come out."
"THE TRUTH?" spat Martin vehemently. He gave a disgusted growl, leaning in close to Roger. "Rog, you don't get it, do you? Those bastards wouldn't know the truth if it came bearing gifts and started humping them on the leg!" His voice and level of intensity crept up yet another notch. "For Christ's sake, if given the chance they would convict Santa Claus of breaking and entering. They're like sharks in a feeding frenzy." An angry finger jabbed into the air for emphasis. "They will eat you for breakfast!"
Roger hesitated, staring at him, trying to think of the best way to handle the situation. Despite what Riggs was saying, he still wasn't convinced he wanted his perpetually half-crazed and overly zealous partner off his leash or not. "So," he finally murmured, "what am I supposed to do?"
Martin took in a deep breath, exhaling sharply. His eyes were still blazing like white-hot fire, but he seemed to calm down a bit. "We need to be proactive, Cochise, not reactive." A faint smile suddenly broke through his clouded countenance like a ray of sunshine after a fierce thunderstorm. It was funny, but this was when he could feel the calmest—when things were at their craziest—when his mind was preoccupied with working out the details of a case, looking at all the angles, figuring out the best way to approach it. It was then that so many of the other things fell off the radar, mercifully disappearing from his view—at least for the time being. He gave an enthusiastic nod of his head, fingers drumming rapidly on the back of the chair. "We find out exactly what they seem to think they have on you, any evidence, who said what—the whole enchilada. And then we start our own investigation." Riggs's expression turned stone cold again. "Someone has obviously set you up to take a fall, Rog. We've gotta find out why." One hand ran through his dark hair as he shifted in his seat. "Look," he said quietly, "ya gotta tell me exactly what's going on—y' know…details."
His chair scrapping against the floor, Roger got up, going over to the workbench. He leaned against it, hands resting on top, his gaze focused inward. Neither of them said anything. Finally Roger looked over. "I've been charged with planting evidence…on three different cases."
Riggs nodded encouragingly. "Okay. Which ones?"
"The first involved a series of home invasions right here in Glendale…another involved a couple named Haywood, they were killed in their jewelry store and then the last one was a case down in Newton, the vic was beat to death at a bus stop—real brutal stuff."
A perplexed frown creased Martin's face. His arms crossed over his chest as one hand came up to rub across his jaw. "How come I don't remember any of these?"
"Because," replied Roger, "you didn't work any of them. It was after you'd been shot by Rudd. You were still in the hospital."
Riggs grimaced, eyes darting away. "No wonder I don't remember…" There was a long pause before he finally turned back at Roger. "They partnered you with Alex Haven while I was on medical leave, right?"
"That's right. Both him and a patrol cop named Richard Dunn from Newton are the ones accusing me of this." Roger slammed an angry right fist into his left palm. "I just don't get it. I ended up working with Haven for a long time. He stayed with me almost the entire time that you were out. We got along fine—no problems at all…I thought he was really good—especially considering the circumstances." Roger's mouth pulled downward. "I mean…for a while there, the doctors didn't know if you were gonna make it or not. I was on constant edge…I could barely concentrate at work and I know I didn't pull my fair share." Another deep frown creased his forehead. "Alex seemed to take it all in stride though, really sympathetic. I'd cut out early, come in late…spend a lot of time up at the hospital and he never had a problem with it. He said he understood." Roger sighed deeply. "I thought he was a stand-up kind of guy."
Martin nodded slowly, eyes staring off distantly. Looking over at him, Roger had the impression that although his partner was still seated in front of him, his mind was a million miles from where they sat in the workshop. Riggs suddenly gave his head a hard shake, as if to clear it. Looked back over at Roger. "What about this Dunn guy?"
"Don't know him at all," shrugged Roger.
Riggs rose to his feet. "Okay then, we've got a lot of work ahead of us. I guess we better get started."
"And here I thought being suspended at least meant I'd get a little vacation," grumbled Roger.
Grinning, Riggs clamped a supportive hand down on his shoulder. "Not with me around, Cochise."
The early morning had arrived gray, rainy and windy—the kind of day that the tourist office liked to promise never happened in Southern California. Although the sun had risen, it had proven ineffective against the storm clouds rolling in from the ocean. Shivering slightly in the misting rain, Riggs gathered the jacket he was wearing closer around him; fumbled in his pocket for some matches and quickly lit a smoke. He glanced about, taking in the surroundings—ever alert, as always. Other than a few joggers and a bum that was urinating into a nearby trashcan, he had the boardwalk to himself. At the sound of footsteps, he turned to his left, a small smile parting his lips as a figure approached.
"All right, Riggs," growled out a voice from beneath a hooded sweatshirt. "This better be good. I should still be curled up in bed right in the middle of my dream involving a hot tub and some Playboy Bunnies."
"Hmm…never had that one before." Riggs' smile widened into a grin. "But I did have this dream once involving a troop of trapeze artists and a monkey…"
Another growl. "Y' know, Riggs, you really are insufferable."
"Yeah—put it in my file."
"Oh, I'm sure it's already in there. A million times over."
Reaching up, the man pulled back the hood, revealing the florid, sad- sack features of Mac Simmons. He was a veteran patrol cop with one of the longest service records around and one of Martin's oldest friends in LAPD-one of the few that stood by Riggs when others treated him like a pariah.
Many people were put off by his look—his facial features were molded by nature into an expression that was one of constant gloom and melancholy but in actuality, he was an eternal optimist. A happily married man with two well-adjusted adult children. He had a Zen like approach to the job that had never let the grime and shit from the streets attach to him; unfortunately, a far too unusual occurrence among the uniforms walking the beat.
"Look, I'm about to catch my death of pneumonia. Why in God's green earth did you drag me all the way out here this morning?" The man tightened the hood over his head again.
"I need your help."
Mac stared out at Riggs for a long moment, lips pursed tightly. "Sounds serious."
A faint sigh issued out from the depths of the sweatshirt. "You're in trouble again, Marty…?"
Riggs shook his head. "No, but my partner is." Reaching up, he patted Mac on the back. "Come on, I'll get us some breakfast and tell ya what's going on."
"Jesus…I don't know, Riggs…" Mac took a gulp of coffee, shaking his head. "What you're asking…"
Riggs nodded in agreement. "You're right—and I wouldn't ask if I weren't sure."
Mac didn't look convinced. "There's an unwritten law about this kinda stuff, Marty and I don't think I need to tell you that." He kept his head down as he toyed with the last remnants of the massive sausage and cheese omelet in front of him. "I mean…to investigate one of our own…" He finally raised his gaze upward. "I'm not one of those cockroaches from IAD…"
"Believe me, I know," murmured Riggs. "And the thought of bringing down an officer is not something I enjoy." He paused a moment, blowing thoughtfully over the top of his coffee cup, eyes focused outside. Then turned back to Mac. "But there is no other explanation. I don't know why he's doing this, but Dunn's lying and he's gonna ruin an innocent man. I can't let that happen." Riggs leaned in closer resting his elbows on the table. "That's why I'm talking to you." His voice was urgent. "Maybe there's some way that I can get the truth from Dunn without him losing his job. I'm willing to do whatever it takes, but I gotta clear Roger."
Grimacing, Mac's eyebrows collided together into one hairy line. Gave a shrug of his shoulders. "Dunn's well-liked enough at the station. Seems like a pretty straightforward kinda guy—never heard of anything bad. Kinda keeps to himself. He's partnered with Terrence Michaels."
"Yeah," nodded Riggs. "I remember Terrence. He was at Newton when I was there."
"Dunn's been working with him for about four and a half years now."
"Where was his training?"
"Rampart Division." Mac rubbed a hand along his jaw, his expression turning uncomfortable. "Look, Marty…I don't want you to take this the wrong way—really, but…" His voice trailed off.
"Look," the older man sighed. "You know what it's like on the streets. And the crap you hafta deal with has turned lotsa men before—" He hesitated, one finger tapping against the table top for emphasis, "—even ones like your partner."
Riggs frowned tensely, staring down into the depths of his cup as he swirled the liquid around. He knew, of course, that what Mac was saying was true. Especially in a big city like L.A. They worked ridiculous, long hours, their lives always on the line—and then after busting their hump, forgoing any semblance of a normal life, sustaining on bad take-out food and even worse coffee—most of the time, they ended up with nothing. Riggs had felt that frustration many times before, watching as someone he had collared get off—watching as a week later they were back on the streets, murdering, raping and selling their wares to ten year olds. You shoveled and shoveled and shoveled and yet, the shit never seemed to lessen. It was enough to tear down the strongest of men. Thinking back, Martin could distinctly recall several different cases where in a cold rage, he had done the very thing that Roger was being accused of. He had managed to stop himself, never going all the way through with it. In the end, he realized that even he didn't want to cross that line. That once that step had been made there was no going back. But Roger? His mind raced through so many of the cases that they had worked on over the years—all the times dependable steadfast Roger had been the voice of reason, pulling Martin back from doing something he would later regret—honest Roger who wouldn't even take that bastard Arjen Rudd's drug money…
He finally looked up, his face matter-of-fact. "No," he said with a determined shake of his head. "Not Roger. I'm telling ya, no way."
"Alright," Mac answered, satisfied. He smiled but his eyes remained grim. "I'll see what I can find out."