"What's the matter with people in this town? Can't anybody get together with friends for a good time without someone ending up on a slab?"
Danny's in a rotten mood. He doesn't appreciate having to drive all the way out to Maspeth to look at yet another corpse left over from another party. Traffic had slowed to a crawl on the BQE and there was no point putting on the sirens cause it wasn't like the stiff was going anywhere. Now he's got to deal with the irrationally numbered lanes, roads, and streets of Queens and he is seriously pissed off.
Lindsay ignores him. She's gotten a little too good at doing that, he thinks. Before, she'd try to amuse him or soothe his jangled nerves before they got to the crime scene. Now she looks out the window at the endless rows of boredom, looking for the correct number on the right street or lane or whatever the hell they're looking for. She's easier to deal with, but he thinks he liked her better when she gave a damn about him.
Flack is waiting for them at the crime scene and that is not going to be fun at all. This, he reminds himself, is why they're not supposed to get involved with co-workers. Because it always ends up like this.
Something happened over the summer. He doesn't know what, exactly. Flack was recovering from the bombing and Lindsay wouldn't or couldn't or didn't stay away. . Danny doesn't know how serious it was or if it ever got physical and he doesn't want to think about it too much because if he thinks of her that way he won't be able to do his job. Maybe it wouldn't matter so much if Flack and Lindsay were still together, but they're not.
Nobody's talking, but it's all there in Lindsay's eyes and Flack's posture when they have to be anywhere close to each other. Whatever went wrong, went seriously wrong. Lindsay left Flack with his guts all over the place and this time there was no way for Mac to come in and do his McGyver act with a shoelace.
Danny doesn't know who did what or why, so he can't really blame anybody. He blames them both for being stupid enough to let it happen, whatever it was. He prides himself on knowing better. He kept it all light and flirty, calling her "Montana" and never, ever letting her get close enough for him to care about that much.
"We're here," she says, and he turns off the music, golden oldies, the only thing they can agree on.
This isn't one of those downtown shindigs, where the vic is some gal in a dress that costs so much money it's barely there or a guy all decked out in a tux. They're walking up the front porch of some dilapidated WWII-era one-bedroom that might have looked nice when this was still the suburbs but has deteriorated along with the neighborhood.
The first thing he sees is Flack and the first thing he smells is vomit. Lots of it. Stale. With overtones of urine. Mac and Stella, are back in Manhattan working on some rich dude at the Soho Grand while the kids are out here dealing with this crap. He can smell that too.
Lindsay puts on gloves and starts processing the body while Danny looks around, trying to read the scene. There's obscene graffiti on the walls which are also decorated with dents and gouges of various sizes as if someone had decided to work out their aggressions by testing every item in a tool kit. He doubts the remaining guests are going to provide much in the way of eye-witness testimony as they don't look to be in much better shape than the deceased. He's starting to wonder if there's any crime to be found here beyond alcohol poisoning.
"What the hell kind of a party was this anyway?" he mutters.
"Hairy Gorilla," Flack answers, walking into the room. Danny glances back to where Lindsay is doing anything but acknowledging Flack's presence.
"You never seen this before?" Flack's gesture takes in every repulsive detail. "Come on. The real fun is the bathroom and the back yard." What could 'real fun' mean in this context? More bodies? He should be so lucky. The smells of puke and piss that had been nearly unbearable in the living room, aren't emanating from the bathroom, which mostly smells of alcohol, but from the back porch. He wouldn't exactly call what it overlooks a yard, but there may be something growing there. Hard to tell with the large puddle of vomit that has obviously been deposited there over the course of the "party". Danny feels very close to adding to the pile himself.
Either Flack is unaffected by the odor or he's built up a tolerance since his arrival on the scene. Danny grabs a bunch of his shirt and pulls it up in front of his face to block the fumes.
"So what does a monkey have to do with this?"
"Not a monkey. A Hairy Gorilla party," he says, as though Danny should know what he's talking about. At least Mac manages to give these lectures in a way that doesn't make Danny feel like a total idiot. Somehow he doesn't think Don has that particular knack.
"Go ahead, enlighten me."
"So let's say you're leaving somewhere that you never intend to come back to? A dorm, or your first crappy apartment, or even a girlfriend's house, only she doesn't know that you're leaving, or maybe she's thrown you out and she don't know you haven't left yet. The important thing is that you will not be there to face the music. You get a block of ice and throw it in the tub. Hopefully you wash the tub first. Call all your friends, I'm sure you've got tons, right, Messer? Tell them to bring a bottle of their favorite. Vodka, Gin, Southern Comfort, Wild Turkey, Jack, Johnny, whatever you got…"
"Oh no. Don't tell me you pour all that stuff in the tub and then…jeeze."
Danny stomach recoils at the very idea of all those liquors being combined in the human body, never mind the possibility of the unsanitary tub.
"You get the idea. Everybody drinks, everybody pukes and it's not about driving the porcelain bus. You want to leave the evidence because you're making a statement."
"That's disgusting. Give me a nice triple homicide with blood and brains on the wall. People really do this?"
"They sure do." Lindsay chimes in, coming out to the porch with her kit. "One of my brother's friends did it before he shipped out for basic training. He had a shack on the outskirts of Missoula and after he left they had to burn it down."
Now Danny is stuck with the stench of the pile in the yard and the equally unpleasant tension in the air between Lindsay and Flack.
"Please tell me the guy the on the floor is the host and that he's just proved that this shit is bad for you and we can go home."
"'Fraid not." Flack says. "No ID and none of the guests have any idea who it is."
"I don't think they know who they are at this point," Danny shoots back.
Flack continues, "The name on the lease is Brian Halpern, but according to the last woman sitting upright out there, the invite came from a guy named Terry, who's nowhere to be seen, and that ain't him."
"Terry got a last name?"
Flack gives his best "What can you do?" smile, and goes back to see if any of the guests wants to produce a last name or win a ride to Manhattan.
"Not just a PSA about binge drinking, huh?" he asks Lindsay, bringing her back from 'I hate Flack' land.
"Drinking's bad for you, but it's that bullet wound in the back of your head that really hurts in the morning."
She's so damn cute when she tries to be tough. Danny swallows hard, which is a mistake because he forgets to not breathe through his nose and the smell goes right to his stomach. He should definitely have skipped the hot dog before they got in the car.
"Can we get out of here?"
"Not yet. The ME's stuck in traffic."
"Naturally." He can see Flack with his pad out, taking notes, hopefully at least one of them will lead to 'Terry.' "You want to go outside and get some air?"
Danny doesn't know if she means she can handle the smell or Flack or both.
"All right, let's go get some more samples."
"You know we're going have to take some of that." She wrinkles her nose, looking down at the space in front of the porch.
"I was afraid you were gonna say that."
Danny watches her go back inside and wonders how the hell Flack could have screwed this up. She's smart, cute, sweet…everything Danny would want if he wanted….He's so happy to see the morgue guys that he doesn't bother giving them shit for their late appearance.
More traffic on the way back to the lab. More brain-dead, mother-fucking idiots who shouldn't be allowed to ride a tricycle, much less get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and interfere with a New York Police officer trying to get a bunch of smelly puke back to the lab-
Her voice makes him realize how tightly he's gripping the wheel and that she's staring at him. It's easier to let his mind go off on the brain-dead mother-fuckers than deal with her. What the hell happened with Flack? He thinks he wants to know, but doesn't ask, probably because he doesn't really want to know.
She's got that concerned, wide-eyed, 'maybe we could get together' expression that haunted him the first months they worked together. The look had faded away as she got more comfortable with her surroundings and him. It had been completely absent for the few weeks that everyone was supposed to pretend that Lindsay and Flack weren't going out. Now it's back. All he has to do is smile, suggest they go out for coffee, give her something to hold on to.
Nope. He doesn't want to end up like Flack. It's just not worth it, no matter how cute, sweet, whatever she might be.
"I'm fine, Montana," he says, his voice expressing nothing beyond friendly professionalism. It's his turn not to care about her, for both their sakes.
Not caring works until a few weeks later, when he spots Mac from a block away putting an affectionate arm around a long-haired brunette. The sight makes him feel like he's back at that putrid apartment in Queens.
Danny's never had any reason to believe that anything could ever happen, that Mac had those feelings. He's barely admitted the feelings to himself. None of that mattered as long as Mac was an unrepentant loner, married to the lab, still mourning his wife. Seeing him actually embrace a woman in public changes everything. Other people's feelings don't matter anymore.
Lindsay had planned to answer some emails, but the day's case was catching up with her. A scene that looked like a double homicide turned out to be a suicide pact between two teenagers. It was all she could do to make some herbal tea and curl up on the sofa in her flannel robe staring at the tv set, hoping her dead high school kids wouldn't turn up on the local news. "Romeo & Juliet" Stella had quipped, when Lindsay brought her the evidence that the "victims" had done it to themselves. She could just see it all over the Post in the morning. Justin and Valerie reduced to a tacky headline.
Don always had some choice words about the media when he saw the cameras and microphones anywhere near a crime scene. "Fucking vultures" was usually the opening salvo and the rant could go on until he ran out of breath and obscenities several minutes later. Then he'd catch himself and apologize to her, not realizing that she liked watching him get all wound up like that, and didn't mind a cuss word or twenty.
She didn't want to be watching Leno and she didn't want to be doing it alone. At least one of those problems could be solved with the push of a button. Jay was gone, but she was still alone and angry. They could still have been together if…It was too late the stop the tape in her head that began and ended with It's not my fault.
"He's such a nice guy," Stella had said in passing, one day as they were leaving Don's hospital room together. Lindsay doubted it had been meant as a warning, but she wished she'd taken it as one. It would have saved her months of frustration, disappointment, and the completely embarrassing spectacle at the fancy restaurant with the champagne and the ring.
The telephone did her a favor by interrupting. She was tempted to let the answering machine deal with yet another relative calling to find out why she wasn't coming home for Thanksgiving, but found herself up and grabbing it just before the crucial fourth ring.
"Yeah?" She had finally mastered the art of answering the phone like a cautious New Yorker. .
"Hey, it's me. I'm outside."
Danny. Sounding….stressed? But didn't he always?
"Outside your place. Can I come up?"
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing. It's not important. I was in the neighborhood." Washington Heights at half past eleven? "It's too late, huh?"
"Pretty late," she said, faking a yawn. Danny's voice was like a cup of coffee going right to her bloodstream.
"Come on Montana, I just…I want to talk to you for a second."
"You'll see me tomorrow at work."
She let the silence hang, listening to him breath.
"Yeah, ok, you're right. I'm sorry."
"Come on up. I'll buzz you in."
There was no time to do anything about her hair or the bathrobe. If he wanted to see her that badly, he could see what she really looked like.
"Hey," she greeted him, as he came up the stairs, unable to wait for the brownstone's rickety elevator. "What's going on? Something at the lab? You could have called for that."
"Yeah." He stood there facing her, but not really focusing. He might have had a few drinks and there was hint of cigarette smoke in the air. His shoulders hitched nervously under his windbreaker.
It had to be Mac. Only a fight with the boss got Danny this upset. Lindsay wondered if he realized how much Mac's approval meant to him. Whenever she tried to explain Danny to her friends back home, she always wound up using the word "raw". It was like he lived completely in the present tense, as if the past was too painful and the future not quite believable.
She understood Don. Cops were cops.. Mac was a soldier and she knew plenty of those too. Danny was something she'd never known before. His accent, his intensity, his demons, even his slightly obsessive interest in Mac Taylor, had fascinated her from the first awkward day on the job. At first she thought it was his bad-boy persona, but she quickly perceived how much of that was an act. She liked to believe that he knew "Montana" wasn't quite the stereotypical "good-girl" either. Don hadn't figured that out until it was too late.
Now he was standing at her door, finally focused on the fact that she was wrapped in a flannel robe that wasn't covering as much of her as propriety would require. She exhaled, letting it cover even less.
"What happened?" they both said it at the same time. He smiled, suddenly boyish and embarrassed about whatever he wanted to know, probably about her and Flack. She tried not to giggle, but it was pretty funny.
Maybe it wasn't that funny. She was still suppressing a snort when she realized that Danny had stopped completely. He was completely still, holding her gaze, letting her know why he was here. The next move was hers, something as simple as stepping back to let him inside. Kicking the door closed behind him, he pulled her close, cutting off what remained of her giggles.
She opened her mouth and pressed hard against him, letting him know that she wanted his tongue, his arms around her body, everything. Her eyes closed, allowing the rest of her senses to take over. She could make out the taste of beer and Danny's distinctive scent coming through the cigarettes that she wasn't supposed to know about. His facial hair rubbed roughly against her skin. Hands on her shoulders pushed her further into the apartment. She heard that voice whispering something in her ear about how long he'd wanted her and what he was going to do to her and how much she was going to like it.
His neck was damp against her fingers as her hands curled around the back of his head. It was no longer clear who was pulling and who was pushing. The bedroom felt like it was miles away. The couch would have made sense, but there was nothing sensible about this, especially when he was talking like that, making her legs tremble until she couldn't stay upright and the next stop was the living room floor.
His eyes ran over her body appreciatively. Lindsay had a brief moment of feeling like he was reading her as though she were a crime scene, but it didn't bother her. She couldn't expect him to leave his intensity at the lab and didn't want him to.
He wasn't wearing his glasses and she couldn't remember if he had them on when he came to the door or if he'd already taken them off. Hopefully she wouldn't be asked to testify about this and if she was, she'd just have to claim insanity caused by the fact that Danny was now lying on top of her, kissing her neck, making her body squirm against his. He wasn't talking anymore, but she already knew this was going to be good. He had total control as he started kissing her neck, teasing her by hinting with the very lightest touch of his teeth, but never giving her as much as she wanted.
One hand had gone between her legs and past her panties. The smug look as he felt how much he'd gotten to her made her want to smack him. Instead she put her hands behind her head, and letting herself revel in Danny's skill,. Her hips rose as her body demanded more. Again, she could see that cocky grin. He knew how good he was and he got pleasure out what he was doing to her. He proved the point by continuing his trail of kisses down her chest and stomach. Now he had his mouth and fingers working together. Each time she whimpered or her body twisted under his touch was a victory for him.
Whatever Mac had done to upset him so much was a gift to her.
"Danny, please," she gasped, her hips coming off the floor again. He face was buried between her legs, but she imagined that she could see him smiling, giving himself a high-five as flicked his tongue just a little faster, pushed his finger down harder and let his thumb brush her right… there, and….
The scream left her hoarse and almost giddy, as her body and tensed and relaxed over and over.. She forgot there was anybody with her and let herself curse as loudly as any cop ever had, or at least any cop who'd ever had an orgasm and knew how to really enjoy it, unlike some people she could mention.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…"
"Yeah, speakin' of that..."
"Huh, Oh….yeah. Yeah."
Reality was still a hazy thing. Danny could probably feel the tremors still going though her body. His hand was still touching her, his fingers pressing…How could he…how did he know? She though she might start screaming again from the sheer joy of having someone who could read her body that well. She put a hand on her chest to feel her own heartbeat and found the skin hot and moist with sweat. The floor was cold and hard under her back. Maybe now would be a good time to move to the couch, she thought, just as Danny finally moved his hand, leaving her feeling suddenly alone and empty.
Instead of suggesting the logical transition to a surface with some cushions, she watched Danny undress, stunned that he'd remained fully clothed while she was completely naked to him. The windbreaker, knit shirt and undershirt came off smoothly. She didn't have as much time to appreciate the view as he'd had, but instantly registered his taut abdomen, the definition of his arms and the sprinkling of hair in a nearly straight line from his torso to the top of his jeans, leading her eyes downward.
It was there that his dexterity finally betrayed him with a slight fumble over the buttons, unless he was just doing it to tease her, knowing how much she wanted to see him. There was something about his self-confident strut that always made her suspect he was…
What did her friend Tommy used to say? "There's only two things I hate honey, size queens and tiny dicks."
Tommy would definitely have liked Danny, especially since he now had everything off and even managed to make putting on the condom sexier than it should have been. Who else could do it with such panache?
She found herself moaning softly, almost humming with anticipation before he even touched her. Hands grasped, fingers interlocking. His mouth was on hers again, tongues playing over each other. She was still so sensitive that pain and pleasure danced at the edges of her brain, tipping over into total euphoria as he filled her. He stayed there, every part of them touching. She wanted to say something, either "please" or "you bastard" or "what took you so long" but it was all lost in his mouth and none of it mattered anyway.
She tried to hold on to the details, thinking she might want to use them in the future, but it all blurred into a single image that she couldn't even see, of her legs wrapped around his back and their hands clasped together. She could feel him moving inside her, knew she was twisting under him on the floor, looking for that one space, or position or moment, because she was so close and he was off on his one race now and if she got there at the same time it would be some kind of miracle.
He'd stopped kissing her and was whispering in her ear again, How good she felt, how hard he was going to come and wasn't he better than anyone she'd been with ever? "Huh, Linds? Huh? Best…fucking… ever?". He pounded into her just as she found her moment. It was a miracle. A fucking miracle even. The two of them, screaming, cursing, holding tightly, trembling, and did she mention cursing, together.
It was so good that it took awhile for it to sink in that she really should get off the floor, especially if Danny wanted to continue lying on top of her. The robe she'd stolen from her brother wasn't providing much in the way of insulation against the hardwood.
"Hmmmm," he answered, apparently unclear as to what his name might be.
"We should get up."
"You throwin' me out?"
"Just onto a bed."
"You got one of those? You been holding out on me, Montana." He eased himself onto the floor next to her, before getting up with a grunt that may or may not have been exaggerated.
"I wanted to see if you passed the audition first."
"And how'd I do?"
She didn't bother answering the question, but let him help her up off the floor.
"You got a bathroom around here too?"
She nodded and watched him walk away, a view nearly as nice as the front had been earlier. Sometimes she walked a little slowly when they were working together just to look at his butt. The unclothed version was even better.
He turned around, watching intently as she pulled the robe around herself and knotted the sash tightly. She tensed up, hoping this wasn't where he got serious and ruined the whole thing.
"You know this is never gonna work, right?"
She smiled and nodded.
As long as he knew that, they'd be perfect.