Conversations

Author's Note: This is my first attempt at a Homicide story, after having seen a few of the first episodes, so please bear with me.

"Are you Frank Pembleton?"

His one night off and people were still asking for him. Frank opened his eyes and saw his surroundings, remembering that he had walked into an after hours diner for a cup of coffee and a quiet place to think, and it would seem he wouldn't be getting either.

He looked to where the voice had come from. There was only one other customer in the place that hour of the night: a young girl, 15 or 16, she looked like she was average height and build, she had short light wavy hair, a slightly tanned skin, and she was dressed in a white T-shirt, light blue jeans, and he noted, a pair of beat up dirty white sneakers. She didn't look like she had any business being out this hour of the night. Frank saw that before her on the table was a plate of some kind of noodles covered in white sauce with peas and a glass of milk; he guessed she was out to dinner but it was after 11 o' clock and that was late for someone of her age.

"Yes," he answered.

"The Frank Pembleton who works for Baltimore Homicide?" the girl asked.

"Yes," he answered, wondering where these questions were going.

"I thought so," she replied, somewhat smugly, "I could tell…I just knew that I'd recognize you anywhere."

Frank opened his eyes wider to make sure he was awake and this wasn't a dream. He had never seen this girl before in his entire life. "Do I know you?"

"No," she answered, "But I know you."

He was tempted to tell the girl that it was late, he was tired and in no mood for mind games, but in all honesty he was too tired to even do that.

The girl started laughing…it wasn't a humorous laugh, but a knowing one. Frank had heard it many times before from smartasses who thought they knew everything, or at least enough, when in reality they knew nothing, and weren't too far away from getting their asses kicked. Now, the last thing he wanted to do was start it up with a teenaged girl, but if she started treating him like every other jackass he had to deal with, she wouldn't be treated any differently.

"Yes sir, I know you," the girl said as she turned around in her chair to get a better look at him, "You're that uppity token cop that can't stop bitching long enough to pull the stick out of your ass."

Frank felt himself get up from his table before he was aware of it. He went over to the girl and just about grabbed her as he said, "What was that?"

"You heard me," the girl said, "You're the cop nobody likes and everybody wishes would die."

"Who is everybody?" Frank wanted to know.

"Got a phone book?" the girl asked as she swallowed a forkful of her food, "It's very ironic, don't you think? You a homicide detective, and the day somebody blows your brains out, ain't nobody in the world going to give a damn about you. Oh sure, the other cops will put in the usual investigation, about a week's worth, but ain't any of them going to be sorry you're gone. Hell, I'll bet your own wife will be banging a white guy the day after she buries you."

Frank did reach out and grab her this time, he grabbed her by the neck and pulled her up to her feet.

"Oooooh you better be careful, detective, you're starting to act just like them whitey cops, and we all know that's the last thing you want to be like, ain't it?" the girl asked him.

"Who the hell are you, kid?" Frank demanded to know as he let go of her and shoved his hands into his pockets.

"My name is Maureen Marr, and frankly detective, I've about had it with you…all your bitching and whining about how all the white cops in your precinct are all racists whether they'll admit it or not, can't stand working with a nigger…that's your own word I do believe, and you can't stop bitching about people not calling streets by their new names of some black leader or other," the girl said, "Would you bitch and moan about people forgetting the name of Martin Luther King Boulevard if it was Benjamin Rush Boulevard, or would it be okay to forget the new name then?"

"What the hell do you want with me, kid?" Frank asked.

"Personally, I'd love to see you lying in a ditch, with the word 'black' burnt all over your body," Maureen said, "African American my ass, you, Frank Pembleton, don't own a copyright or patent on putting a whole continent into your heritage, you are a black cop who makes everything of every day about you being black and being stuck working with a bunch of racist white cops who don't have a clue, do you deny that?"

"I don't play a race card," Frank told her.

"Oh don't you? You go on and on about how you deserve a promotion more than anybody else and how it does not have anything to do with you being black. Would it be as vital to you to mention that to everybody else you work with if you were white like them?" she asked.

"I don't know you, I never met you, how the hell do you know so much about me?" Frank wanted to know.

"Aha! You admit it!" the girl said, "As for how I know, I have my sources, and that's a privilege you can't ever break, Mr. Pembleton, and one more thing…take off the damn tie!"

The girl reached out and grabbed Frank's tie and jerked it so hard she choked him. He grabbed for her hand but not before she pulled a pair of scissors out of her back pocket and in one swift movement, severed the bottom of his tie from the rest of it.

"This was a $50 tie!" Frank told her.

"$50?" the girl repeated, and looked at the piece in her hand, "Well that's far below the monetary amount required to make vandalism a felony so it's none of my concern. Besides, this," she held up the piece she'd cut off, "Is only worth about $14 now so we'll split the difference."

"That does it!" Frank was about to go through the roof.

"What does what?"

Frank turned around to the other voice and saw the obviously tired waitress staring at him. Frank turned back around to face the girl, but when he looked, he didn't see her. He looked up and down the diner and didn't see her. The diner's front door had a bell over it so it rang whenever somebody came in or went out; it hadn't rung so he knew she hadn't gone out the front door, but then where was she? Frank turned back to the waitress and asked her, "Where'd she go?"

"Where'd who go?" the middle aged woman asked.

"The girl who was in here," Frank said. Was this woman really that stupid?

"What girl?"

What girl? Frank turned back and looked again. He went over to the table where the girl had sat. There was her plate and her glass, both empty, and money on the table. The waitress went over and pocketed the money and grumbled something about somebody forgetting to bring the dishes into the kitchen.

"Be back in a minute with your coffee," she told Frank.

As she headed back to the kitchen, Frank ran to the door and went outside and looked around. There wasn't anybody around. No sound whatsoever, no cars, no traffic coming or going, nobody…the entire block was quiet as the dead.

"Where the hell did she get to?" Frank asked himself.


Maureen Marr. Frank remembered that name the entire drive back home, and he thought about it all night as he tried to sleep. The name didn't mean anything to him, and he certainly would've remembered seeing that girl someplace before.

When he woke up the next morning and got ready for work, he started to think that maybe it had all been a dream. And if it hadn't…of course, he didn't know why the idea hadn't come to him before. Bayliss must've put her up to it. That was the only explanation…Bayliss was being a sore ass again and blaming Frank for somehow being the direct cause of it. Well…Frank's next thought was cut off as he looked at his clothes…he pulled out the tie he was going to wear that day, and found it had been cut into two pieces. He pulled out all the ties he owned and all of them had been cut in half.

Frank swore to himself that he was going to tear Bayliss a new one as soon as he saw the bastard. He got dressed and got in his car and headed for the station. It was a wonder he didn't crash as far away as his mind was from his driving. He just kept thinking about that girl, and Bayliss, and the things she had said to him last night, and cutting his tie in half! If he wasn't in homicide, he would've killed her himself if he could. And if he saw her again, he just might.

He heard sirens. Looking up in the rearview mirror he saw three police cars behind him. Frank glanced back at them and then looked at the road ahead and he almost had a collision. He embedded his foot against the brake and his car screeched to a halt and he could feel the rubber peeling off from the tires beneath him.

There were about 20 cars parked crazily on the road ahead, what the hell was going on? The other police cars passed him and then stopped about 15 feet ahead of his car. Frank got out of his car and saw a bunch of people standing around and the police were ordering everybody to get back. Pembleton went on ahead and identified himself to the other cops.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Dead body," one of the cops answered.

"Why wasn't homicide called?" Frank asked.

"Because the caller didn't know it was already dead at the time," another cop answered.

Frank walked with them over to the side of the road where there was a slew of large metal garbage cans that were all on their sides like they had been knocked over. The garbage that had been in the cans was thrown out all over the street and held together between the cans like a vile paste. One officer moved a large flattened cardboard box and one of the metal canisters and they saw the body and Frank almost had a heart attack. It was the same girl he had seen at the diner the night before. She even looked the same…well she was dressed the same. Same white T-shirt, same blue jeans, same beat up dirty white sneakers, same everything, there was no question about it, this was the same girl. This was Maureen Marr.

Dry blood stained about half of her body. Her eyes were closed which was the only dignified way about how she looked. Blood stained the side of her head though there were no visible wounds. The tips of her fingers were caked in dry blood; it looked like she had worn her nails off trying to dig out of something. There was a jagged tear in the side of her shirt and a horrible stab wound underneath the fabric. Her hands were bruised from right beneath the blood marks to just under her elbows; but Frank couldn't figure out if that kind of bruising came from her attacker or if she had been thrown up against something at the time it occurred.

"She's been dead at least a week," one of the cops said.

Frank could tell as much from looking at her…but he had seen her only last night, it wasn't possible. He didn't remember dialing the phone, he was just aware of the phone pressed against his ear as he listened to it ring, once, twice…

"Homicide, our day begins when yours ends."

Frank wanted to scream at Munch to stop being such a smartass.

"Munch, it's Pembleton."

"Where are you?" Munch asked.

"I'm at Harbor City Boulevard, I mean!" he remembered, "Martin Luther King Boulevard…" he couldn't think, "Look, just get somebody out here, you can't miss it, there's about 50 damn cars out here, a girl's been murdered…and tell Gee he'll have to assign somebody else to this case because I can't take it!"

He hung up before he could hear Munch's response. How in the hell was it possible that he had been having a conversation the night before with a girl who had been dead for a week?