A/N: This story takes place late in Season 3.
Brenda and Fritz were munching popcorn and watching the movie they'd rented, but even though his beautiful fiancée was snuggled under his arm, Fritz's mind wasn't on her or on the romantic comedy playing out on his DVR.
"Honey, why don't we decorate the house this year?" Fritz was in the mood to celebrate by doing more than deliberately buying too much Halloween candy.
This caught Brenda off guard. She hit the pause button and focused on Fritz. "Decorate the house? You mean inside the house? What on earth for?"
"It would set the mood."
Brenda rolled her eyes, "But if it's anythin like the last two years Priority Homicide will get called into work and you'll be answerin the door by yourself. Do you plan on invitin the kids in?"
"No, but when we open the door people will see that we've decorated. I think we need to wear costumes too."
"What part of bein called into work did you not understand?" His burst of enthusiasm clearly had taken her by surprise.
"Didn't you tell me that Pope decided that he could save money this year if Priority Homicide didn't work Halloween?"
"Yes, he did say that," she admitted. "But that means just about everythin would fall on Central Bureau and Taylor is never gonna allow that to happen. We always have to take the hard stuff so Central can take care of all the nuisance calls."
"Given how much focus Pope's putting on cost cutting I was hoping that maybe he meant it this year."
"That would be nice, but I guarantee you that Taylor's screamin will win out."
"Let's rent costumes anyway. Who knows? Maybe you won't get called out until after the kids finish their Trick or Treating."
"Why does Halloween mean so much to you, anyway?"
"I don't know. Maybe because last year you were on administrative leave and so depressed that you couldn't enjoy Halloween or Thanksgiving at all."
"And we had so much fun two years ago, remember?" Fritz pushed on with a wink and a smile.
Brenda couldn't help but smile in return. "True. But the way I remember it, costumes didn't play any part in the fun that we had." She put her arms around his neck and said, "As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember that the only part of the fun that clothin played was when we took it all off."
"I definitely remember that. And you're right. That was the best part," Fritz agreed and kissed her.
"Fritz, what are you doin? We need to check out and go buy the candy." Brenda was standing in the aisle of the Hollywood Costume Emporium while Fritz, his arms loaded down with both her Cleopatra and his Mark Antony costumes, was trying to look at decorations. "You're about to drop your helmet."
"I think we at least need to decorate the front porch," he said, ignoring Brenda's warning, "Let's see. There's an electric outlet on the porch. These are some great cobwebs. They're fiber optic and they change color."
"Fritz! They're fallin. Grab your helmet," Brenda cried in exasperation as she attempted to catch the costume falling from Fritz's grasp. His centurion's helmet and her arm bracelets clattered to the floor.
"Here, I'll take these up to the register while you check out those pumpkins. I think we should get a big one for the porch and a little one for the front window. We can carve some real ones to sit on the steps."
As she stood there watching Fritz scoop up their costumes and take them up to the cashier her irritation was infused with amusement. He's just like a kid in a candy store. But she saw him saying something to the man behind the counter and a small groan escaped her when she saw the cashier give him a shopping cart. Why is he bein so impossible? We're never gonna get out of here.
When Fritz returned with a triumphant smile, Brenda asked, "Do we really need a buggy? We're not buyin the whole store."
"The sign said if we rented costumes we'd get a discount on other decorations. I definitely want one of those big cobwebs and one of those ghosts, too. Did you look at the pumpkins?"
"No. I'm much more interested in buyin the candy," Brenda explained as Fritz put one of the cobwebs, a witch, and a ghost into the cart.
Fritz was at a loss to understand Brenda's disinterest in the decorations but he just replied, "They have candy up front by the check-out."
"I saw that when we came in but it's not the good kind. We need to go to the grocery store to get the kind I like."
Fritz knew that Brenda wanted to buy way too much chocolate candy so that she would have an excuse to stuff most of it into her candy drawer, in spite of Dr. Dioli's admonition that she should give up all sweets. But he also knew that bringing up the doctor's instructions would provoke a fight, which he really didn't want to have in public, and which he knew wouldn't do any good anyway. So he ignored the candy issue and just said, "Let's get one of these big pumpkins and this mummy for the porch and a small pumpkin for the front window."
"And then you'll be satisfied? Because if you buy anythin else there won't be room on the porch for the kids," Brenda said in an exasperated tone.
"And then we can get some candy. But I think we should buy it here so we can get the discount and then we'll be completely done. The kids will like it. It's candy, so what's not to like?"
Fritz had wisely left his last sentence about her not being able to eat it unspoken but Brenda read his mind. "I'll look at it when I get up there. But if it's not good enough I'm not buyin it," she said firmly.
Brenda's intense scrutiny of the brightly colored cellophane candy bags banked in the aisle next to the checkout lines amused Fritz. I think I know where the expression 'like a kid in a candy store' originated, he chuckled to himself. However, he knew which side of the discretion vs. valor struggle he needed to be on, and decided to serve his own self-interest. He would wisely keep his thoughts to himself.
After checking out of the grocery store with bags of chocolate candy, they were finally finished and on their way home. Fritz looked at the green glow of his car's clock and realized that he just might be able to catch the fourth quarter of the 49ers game. But Brenda had other ideas.
"All this shoppin has made me hungry. I sure would like some ice cream," she said wistfully.
"Don't we have some of your sugar-free ice cream in the freezer?" Fritz asked as he saw his game's time clock running out.
"Yes, but there's a Cold Stone Creamery on the way home and Detective Daniels said that their Double Chocolate Devotion ice cream cupcakes are better than sex," Brenda asserted.
He knew the sugar issue was completely dead so he just replied, "Hmmm. I'm guessing that if we don't stop, I'll never get to test that comparison?"
"You got that right, mister, so just turn left at the next light," Brenda said brightly.
"So, if I take you there, do you promise that I'll get to check out Detective Daniels' hypothesis when we get home?" he grinned.
Brenda laughed and said, "We'll see. Just get into the turnin lane."
Halloween night, after putting on their costumes, Brenda turned to Fritz and adjusted his tunic, "Mmm, mmm, mmm. Now I understand why Cleopatra flipped out over Mark Antony."
Fritz put his arms around her and replied, "You've always been a sucker for a military man."
"It's my upbringin. I love male authority figures," she admitted. She pushed him away and began stuffing blonde hair beneath a black wig. As he tried to draw her back into his embrace she laughed, "Easy there, big fella. Go make sure there's plenty of candy in the bowl and the pumpkins are all lit."
"You know, I just decided I love Egyptian women. They've got an air of sexual intrigue," Fritz said with a grin.
"Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian. She was Macedonian Greek," Brenda retorted.
As he let her go, Fritz continued his teasing, "And did you know that Mark Antony was the father of Cleopatra's first two children?"
"Oh, you are so subtle. It's a good thang this is the twenty-first century and birth control is very effective."
Fritz sighed, "Sometimes I really wish for the good old days."
"Just go and make sure everythin is ready while I get this wig on right, will you please?"
Fritz checked the candy bowl and noticed that quite a bit of it was already missing, even though not one child had rung their bell yet. As he topped off the candy he hoped that they'd have enough Trick or Treaters to take it all. Then he put on the CD of spooky sounds he'd picked up at a convenience store when he'd paid for gas.
That CD and the decorations seemed to draw all the neighborhood children and both Brenda and Fritz enjoyed answering the door. They oohed and ahhd over each child's costume but they were both happy when the steady stream of children had tapered to a slow drip. Finally, they were able to just sit and relax with mugs of hot, spiced cider.
Several minutes later when the doorbell rang again, Brenda set her cider down and said, "It's gettin late. I thought the kids were finished comin. Oh well, I guess it's my turn," she sighed as she got up and headed to the door. But she was surprised to see a grown man in a Guy Fawkes mask who didn't say a word. He just handed Brenda a cupcake with a white flag on it. Then he turned and disappeared into the darkness.
She turned and walked back into the living room with the cupcake. When Fritz saw it, he asked, "What's that? Who was that?"
"I don't know. A man in a mask just handed this to me and left. He didn't say anythin to me."
"Well, Cleopatra had strange powers. Men all over the world fell in love with her," Fritz teased as Brenda sat beside him on the couch.
"Wait a minute. There's some writin inside this flag," she said as she removed the note glued to a toothpick and read it to herself.
My Liebchen, I've had many years to think about you and I look forward to seeing you again. Soon, my Liebchen, soon.
She was momentarily frozen. Her heart stopped beating for a minute and her stomach rolled.
Fritz saw her face turn white. Immediately, his body tensed and he was on full alert. "What is it? What does it say?"
"Nothin, Fritzi, It's just a practical joke." Brenda's voice was shaky.
Fritz was unconvinced. "No, it's no joke. You're as white as a ghost. Tell me what it says," he demanded. When Brenda didn't respond he took the note from her hand and read its small, precise printing. "This sounds like a threat. Do you know who sent it?"
She looked at him and knew that she had to tell him something. But what, and how much? She wasn't sure, so she said, "I think it's from a man in one of my old cases. Years ago. He's supposed to be in prison."
"Who is it?" When she didn't reply, Fritz continued, "Well, if he's supposed to be in prison, it should be easy to confirm."
"Right. I'll make some calls tomorrow," Brenda said in a distracted voice before her mind snapped back to the present. "It's gettin late so I don't think we'll have any more Trick or Treaters. Come on, let's clean up in here," and she picked up their cider mugs and went into the kitchen.
But Fritz wasn't ready to drop the subject. He followed her and asked, "Was it one of your old Metro or Atlanta cases?"
"So it's a CIA case," he concluded. "Well that really is an old case, then. But you're not exactly reassuring me, Brenda. So why don't you just tell me what this is all about?"
Brenda sighed and closed the dishwasher door. "I don't know what I can tell you right now. I'm gonna have to make some calls tomorrow and then I'll tell you as much as I can. I promise."
Fritz started to speak but Brenda interrupted him, "Fritzi, you know the protocol as well as I do. You know I can't talk about it yet."
"Ok, but promise me that you'll call Elaine Donahue first thing tomorrow morning."
"She's now the Chief of Station here. Didn't you know that?"
"Elaine is the new COS? No, I didn't know that. When did that happen?"
"Not too long after Richard Branch was arrested. She's had the job for almost a year now."
"Good. I'm glad that we wrote those letters tellin how instrumental she was in catchin Branch. They must have helped her. I'll call her tomorrow," Brenda promised.
She got up and moved to the door. Looking out the window, she saw no one on the street. The Halloween decorations on the porch swayed in the breeze and her eyes were drawn to the ghost. Instead of the happy grin she had seen when she hung it up, she now saw an evil leer, and a shiver went through her. She turned off the porch light and turned away from the apparition.
To Be Continued…
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