Finn and Munch entered the one-six, stamping their feet and brushing snow from their coats. Their argument carried seamlessly from the car to the street to the precinct without missing a beat.
"Every time you see a light in the sky, you immediately think little green men."
"Excuse me," Munch replied, hanging up his coat. "UFO does not mean alien aircraft. It means it's unidentified. As in Unidentified Flying Object? There are plenty of things out there more worrisome than aliens, and most of them were cooked up by our very own government."
"Here we go. It's always the same with you, either aliens or a government conspiracy. Don't you ever get tired of looking over your shoulder?"
"Just because you're paranoid…" Munch trailed off. He spotted Cragen standing in the doorway to his office, sporting that carefully blank look he reserved for when things were well and truly in the crapper. "…doesn't mean they're not out to get you," he finished softly.
"John. Can I see you in my office, please."
It wasn't a request, and Munch didn't treat it as such. Exchanging a raised eyebrow with Finn, he walked into the office. Cragen shut the door behind him.
They weren't alone.
Munch had never been particularly close to Frank Pembleton and doubted anyone else had been, either, but the surprise of seeing a familiar face from Baltimore had him grinning anyway. "Frank! What brings you to the Big Apple?"
Pembleton hadn't aged well. He'd apparently given up on keeping his head shaved egg-smooth. His scalp was now covered with gray stubble. He'd gained weight since Giardello's funeral, thickening around the middle and the neck. That stare was the same, though. Munch felt those eyes on him, like a pair of bloodshot hard-boiled eggs, and he started to remember why the man always irritated him.
It was Cragen who spoke next. "Detective Pembleton isn't here on a social visit, John. I'm going to need your badge and gun."
Bewildered, Munch looked from one to the other. "Cap, what the hell's going on it?"
"Your gun, Sergeant," Cragen repeated, a hard edge to his voice. Munch unclipped the badge and gun holster from his belt and laid them on the desk. "Backup too."
Wordlessly, he propped a foot up on the nearest chair and took off his ankle holster, passing it to his captain. "You want to tell me what's going on now?"
"John Munch," Pembleton intoned, "you are under arrest for the murder of Gordon Pratt."
His skin crawled with a sudden chill, and the bottom seemed to drop out of his stomach. His mouth, as usual, carried on without him. "Pratt? God, that went cold years ago. Bayliss never turned up any evidence."
Pembleton's jaw jutted out in that familiar, aggressive way. Munch was struck with the wild urge to smash the man in the face. "Lot of advances in forensics since then," he said, enunciating every word to death. "Ballistics. DNA. It's getting harder and harder to get away with murder."
"You're being extradited to Maryland," Cragen said. "The D.A. is seeking an indictment for murder one. I've contacted the union, they'll have a rep waiting for you in Baltimore. Until then, keep your mouth shut and cooperate."
Munch studied his captain, but the man's face gave no indication of what he was thinking. Pembleton's expression was hard and distant, and Munch knew any history he had with the man was irrelevant. To Frank he was now just another perp. Despite his captain's warning, he couldn't resist needling the man. "So what now, Frank? You gonna cuff me? Drag me out of my squad like some piece of shit junkie?"
"John," Cragen sighed.
Pembleton just stuck his jaw out further. "Do I need to? I assumed you could walk out of here on your own like a gentleman."
"Sure. We'll walk out together, just two old colleagues going for coffee." Munch rubbed his forehead, eyes closed. He stayed that way for a minute or two. The other men remained silent as he collected himself. "Okay," he said eventually. He reached for his tie, making sure the knot was straight and tight, then he buttoned his jacket and brushed off his cuffs. "Okay."
As Pembleton read him his rights, Munch thought back to his last trip to Baltimore. G's shooting and subsequent death, the bittersweet reunion of the old squad, and the shocking news that Bayliss had confessed to murdering Luke Ryland. Suddenly, he understood the set to Frank's jaw. He knew what had put gray hair all over that proud head.
Just before they reached the office door, Munch turned and looked the man right in the eye. "I'm not Bayliss, Frank. My conscience is clear."
Pembleton tilted his head and met his gaze. "I'm here to serve an arrest warrant, Munch. Your conscience is not my concern."
Maybe he was imagining it, but something in Frank's face spoke of relief. There would be no confessions, no begging for absolution. It would come down to the police work. The burden would be on the State of Maryland, not on Frank Pembleton.
Munch opened the door and stepped into the squad room.
The people, hunched over computers and files or sitting around bullshitting.
The new high-tech AV equipment that no one but he seemed to be able to operate.
The interrogation rooms. The crib. His desk.
He burned it into his memory, greedily storing every detail against the nightmare to come. When he turned to Pembleton, he saw the first sign of sympathy in the other man's face.
"I'm ready," Munch said. "Let's go."
AN: Thanks for reading and for the great reviews. I hope you enjoyed the series.