This was written at the request of many of you. Hope you enjoy.
For those of you who don't watch Homicide: Life On The Street but enjoy the crossovers, this story is based on the 1998 season ender entitled, "Fallen Heroes". In the course of Frank explaining it all to Jim, hopefully he will explain it to you as well. But if you have any questions, you know you can email me.
To the fans of Homicide, I wish to stress that this is from Frank's point of view so this isn't telling all the story. Also, a lot of it is my point of view so you may not agree with all my interpretations.
Even after the darkest of nights, morning comes.
Jim Ellison was getting ready for bed when the phone rang. Normally he would have already have turned in since it was nearly midnight, but he'd watched a playoff game that had gone into multiple overtimes. Already stripped down to his boxers, he padded around the dark loft, double checking the door to make sure he hadn't inadvertently engaged the chain because his loftmate, Blair Sandburg, was still out playing the tomcat. And because the tomcat had neither feline nor Sentinel vision, after he checked the lock he turned on a lamp. The light was harsh to his eyes and he knew he wouldn't sleep comfortably until it was turned off, but it was easier to take than the swearing he would hear if Sandburg came home in the dark and tripped over something.
Jim sighed as he heard the muted ringing. At night, only the extension next to Blair's bed had its ringer activated. But even with the door closed, it was loud enough for Jim to hear and so he went for kitchen phone, expecting to hear one of two voices. The late night caller would be either his captain, Simon Banks, informing him he needed his best detective (Simon was not above using flattery if he had to) or Blair begging for a ride home because (surprise, surprise) his car wouldn't start. Either scenario would require him to put on clothes and drive away from the siren call of his bed. Ah, duty and friendship. Sometimes it was difficult to be an honorable man in the nineties.
"Ellison," he said gruffly as he lifted the receiver.
"Jim, it's Frank Pembleton."
Jim almost zoned from shock. Never in a million years would he have expected to hear the Baltimore detective's voice. It was true that he and Frank were friends, but Frank wasn't big on communicating during the day, much less at night. As he glanced at the clock to confirm the time, he realized it was three hours later in Baltimore. Shit. That meant... He steeled himself for bad news. "What's up, Frank?"
"Tim was shot tonight."
Jim pulled out a chair from the table and sat down hard. Tim Bayliss was Frank's partner. Through a series of coincidences and contrivances, he and Blair had worked with the two homicide detectives on several occasions and had come to know, respect, and like them. "What happened?"
Frank's frustrated sigh came clearly through the phone. "What didn't. It's been a very long, very dark night, Ellison."
"I'm sure it has, Frank." Jim knew all too well what it felt like when your partner was shot. "How is Tim?"
Jim interpreted the message and empathized with Frank; there was only one thing worse than having your partner shot... "Where are you, Frank?" he asked suddenly.
"I just wanted you guys to know. Sandburg and Tim are kinda tight."
"I'll tell Blair as soon as he makes it home."
"Still on the prowl, is he?"
"You know the kid. When the phone rang, I half suspected he was calling for a ride home. It was either that or Simon calling me in."
"I didn't know you led such exciting nights. If you think they may call, I'd better let you go--"
"No," Jim interrupted quickly. He needed to keep Frank talking so he could gauge his friend's emotional state. The homicide cop was an intense person and in some situations, that could mean trouble. "It's okay, Frank. Blair and Simon both know to try the cell phone if they can't get through on this line. It's on standby up in my room."
"And, of course, you can hear it." Frank didn't know Jim was a Sentinel, but he knew he had extraordinary abilities. "I bet your cell phone is always on, with a fresh battery in place and a backup recharging. There's a name for people like you, Ellison."
"Yeah, responsible. You should know, Frank. You're one of us."
"Not tonight. Tonight, I was not responsible. Tonight, I got my partner shot."
Jim's unease grew with that telling statement. "Where are you, Frank?" he asked again.
"At a pay phone."
"Where?" Hopefully at the hospital where there would be people nearby, people who would understand what he was hearing in Frank's voice. "Where are you? Is Gee there or Mary?" Gee was Lt. Al Giardello, Frank's commander. Mary was Frank's wife.
"Gee was still at the hospital when Mary and I left. I wanted to go home, look at my babies. But I couldn't stay there. Told Mary I needed to go out, be by myself for a while. She wasn't happy about it, but it was too late to get another sitter."
Shit, shit, shit. "So where are you?"
"I don't know. I was just driving along, saw the phone, and remembered that card you gave me."
The card that was given with the unspoken instructions to call when the situation got too heavy for him to bear alone. "Give me the phone number, Frank." He reached for a pen and notepad.
"So I can call you back. I'm thinking you don't have a pocketful of quarters and pretty soon an operator's going to interrupt us and make a demand for money. If I call you back, we can avoid the whole ugly scene."
"This isn't necessary, man. I'm just going to drive around a bit more, then go home to Mary."
Jim believed Frank believed what he was saying. But on nights like this, beliefs changed quickly. "I need to know what happened, Frank. Sandburg will expect me to have the details. You know how much he loves questions."
"That's why he makes a good pseudo-cop."
"Pseudo-cop. I like that one, Frank. Now give me the number." He wasn't surprised to see his hand tremble as it wrote down the number Frank rattled off. Frank could have been stubborn and ignored him. Now for the next scary part. "I'm going to hang up, Frank, and call you right back. Don't leave, man. Just stay there and pick up the phone. Please."
"Whatever floats your boat, Ellison." Click.
Jim held his breath as he dialed the number, releasing it only when Frank picked up on the third ring. "So what's the story, Frank?" he asked as if there hadn't been an interruption. He sent his senses out in search of his partner. Come on, Chief. I need you.
"I... I don't know where to start."
"Being a master of the box you know the beginning is always a good place."
"What?" The rapid change in subject was not a good sign. "You quit what, Frank?"
"The job. I turned in my badge to Gee. I'm a free man, Ellison."
"Free in what way?" With relief, he heard his roommate enter the building. He began scribbling on the notepad.
"Free from the shackles of public servitude. I'm my own man now."
"You weren't before?" He opened the door, startling Blair who was reaching out with his keys. Signaling his partner to be quiet, he handed him the notepad.
I'm talking to Frank. Tim has been shot. It doesn't look good and Frank's blaming himself. He's at a pay phone, the number's on the other side. Call Gee at the hospital. Have him trace the number, the get someone to surveil Frank. Tell them not to approach as long as I keep him talking.
"It's not about good detective work anymore, Jim. It's about politics, looking good in the eyes of the public, covering your ass instead of exposing someone else's. I couldn't live like that, with that. It was time for me to give it up."
Blair got his cell phone out and dialed information. Jim turned back to the conversation with relief. "You said a lot went on tonight, Frank. Tell me about it."
"If you want the beginning, that was a year ago."
"In the beginning God created Luther Mahoney. That was mistake number one."
"Who is Luther Mahoney?"
"Was, Jim. That's the key point in this whole farce." A few seconds of silence. "Who was Luther Mahoney? A player who dogged the department for years. He controlled most of the drug action in the city and was responsible for several "industry" related deaths. But he was pure Teflon. Couldn't get anything to stick on him and he liked throwing that up in our faces. Things came to a head after there was a shooting in a park. There was a confrontation between Mahoney and three of ours-- Lewis, Stivers, and Kellerman. Stivers was still in narcotics back then."
Jim nodded. He was familiar with Stivers. She had worked with them on what they had labeled the "Little League" murders, a serial case where all the victims had been children who played baseball. A gruesome case that still gave Jim nightmares; not because of how the children had been murdered, but because of how he had solved the case. "Isn't Lewis one of Tim's partners in the Waterfront?" That was a bar across from the police station.
"Damn, Ellison. Gee's looking for a couple of detectives. Sure you don't want to relocate, seeing as how you know everyone?"
"I'm sure, Frank. And I don't know everyone. What about this Kellerman?"
"Kellerman has had a rocky career. He was a former arson officer, accused but cleared of taking payoffs. Maybe if we'd taken into consideration Luther Mahoney was involved in that as well..."
"What happened in this confrontation?"
"Kellerman shot and killed Mahoney. There was the standard investigation and it was deemed a righteous shoot. Mahoney and Lewis had struggled. Somehow Mahoney got Lewis's weapon and Kellerman shot to protect his partner. Lewis, Stivers, Kellerman. They were all there and their reports all matched."
"But?" He reached out for a note from Blair. Good news. Mary had called Gee earlier and he already had people out looking for Pembleton. And Tim was still hanging in there.
"A few months ago, Luther's sister, Georgia Rae, showed up in town. Hit the city, Gee, and the three detectives with a wrongful death suit. Lewis went a little nuts, punched Georgia Rae and got himself suspended. While on suspension, he decided to have a little fun with the Mahoney crew. Next thing we know, the Mahoney empire is self-destructing. And somebody was providing us with the information to get the killers. The names were going from red to black on the board so fast... We should have known there would be retribution, that nothing in life comes without a price tag."
Jim rubbed his eyes, not because he was tired but because he could feel what was coming. "Tell me, Frank."
"Georgia Rae had a son. Street name: Junior Bunk. A few months after Mahoney was planted, Junior went on a shooting spree to avenge his uncle. Shot Kellerman in the arm. Actually killed a woman when he was trying for Stivers. He spent six months in prison."
"On a murder conviction?" Jim asked in disbelief. Blair handed him a mug of hot coffee and sat down at the table with him. He motioned for his partner to go to bed, but Blair just shook his head.
"Georgia Rae bought herself a judge. Big mistake. You see, the feds found out about the judge and he was going to roll on Georgia Rae. Kellerman-- I don't know where that boy's head was-- decided to let the whole world know about the deal the judge had cut. Needless to say, when the judge ended up dead today, the feds were not pleased."
Today. Apparently the prologue was over and the main story was about to begin. "A murdered judge is a big deal."
"Yeah, I told Tim we'd caught the mother of all red balls. I didn't know how prophetic that was. To make a long story short, we discovered Junior Bunk was the killer. Tim and I tried to break him in the box but prison had changed the boy and we got nowhere. He was in the bullpen waiting to be transferred to the jail when... I'm still not sure what happened because Tim and I were in Gee's office when the first gunshots were fired. All I'm sure of is that five minutes later, we had three dead officers, two shot detectives, and a very perforated Junior Bunk."
A harsh laugh crackled through the line. "Oh no. That would have been too easy, man. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows how to prolong a joke, delay the punchline for the maximum effect. It was two other members of the unit who were shot-- Gharty and Ballard; Gharty in the chest and Ballard in the leg. Both are doing reasonably well."
Jim was stunned. A shootout in the bullpen. Three dead cops and two homicide detectives down. And Frank wasn't finished. He looked up when Sandburg's cell phone trilled. Frank was under surveillance. Good. Because Jim felt his friend was starting to descend into the darkest part of his nightmare. "What happened after the shooting?"
"Gee declared war on Georgia Rae. The department took it to the streets. We busted every Mahoney operation in the city looking for her. Let's just say the drug business hit an all time low in Baltimore tonight. After a lot of dead ends, we tracked Georgia Rae to a friend's house. We arrived in time to hear gunshots. Her friend rushed out screaming something about they had killed Georgia Rae. Seems everyone wasn't happy with the way the cops were coming down on them and they blamed Ms. Mahoney. Tim and I went around the back. One of the gunmen came out. I had him, Jim. I could have shot him. But somehow I lost it. One minute I had my gun trained on him, the next I was lowering Tim to the ground. According to what I was told later, he threw himself in front of me, taking the bullet that was meant for me. It went through the vest and into his back. I saw the wound in the hospital, Jim. Blood everywhere. Tim saying he was okay because he was wearing his vest..."
Oh God. Jim wanted to throw down the phone and bury his head in a pillow. In his mind, he'd been where Frank was. Zoned and coming out of it only to find his partner's body crumbled defensively over him. That was why he knew he couldn't put down the phone. "Stay with me, Frank. You aren't at the end of the story yet."
"No, not the end, Ellison. You see, I still had a big role to play. Instead of being at the hospital waiting for my partner to get out of surgery, I was in the box interrogating a fellow officer."
Jim could only thing of one thing to say. "Fuck."
"My sentiments exactly. Gee found out that the whole of the night was caused by one lie: Luther Mahoney's death was not a justified shoot. I warned Gee not to go through with this can of worms but he was insistent and I did as my master bade me to do. I questioned Lewis. We had worked side by side for years, yet I had him in the box with his lawyer present. Yes, it was sickening, but I had a job to do, right? An injustice had been perpetrated and I, Frank Pembleton, had been called upon to correct it."
Jim cursed the lieutenant under his breath. What had the man been thinking? All the Mahoneys were dead-- Luther, Georgia Rae, Junior Bunk. Why pursue the investigation? Why involve Frank? Hadn't the man suffered enough? "I can't believe Gee asked you to do this," he said softly.
"It gets worse. Lewis didn't give up Kellerman directly, but what he didn't say led me in the right direction. I got Kellerman into the box and the man admitted that Luther's gun was down when he shot him. He said he did it to protect his partner. That he was a good cop. I don't know. I just know I got what Gee wanted me to get. Like the faithful puppy that I was, I lay this bone at Gee's feet and he proceeds to tapdance around it. We'll just get Kellerman to resign and re-bury the mess, he says. Wouldn't want Stivers and Lewis to suffer just because they were covering for another officer. What if it had been Tim, Gee asked. I told him it wouldn't have been Tim. Not my partner. He told me to let it go. That whatever happened from then on was on his conscience, not mine. It doesn't work that way with me."
"I know, Frank." The detective had a very strict code which he lived by. Although he played the lapsed Catholic well, his Jesuit schooling still dominated his life. In Frank's opinion, there were rights and there were wrongs and the gray areas were battlefields to be won or lost. "Is that why you quit?"
"Partly. Also because when I can't be trusted to protect my partner, it's time for me to step down. Maybe I should have never come back after the stroke."
"You think the stroke had something to do with you freezing?"
"I don't know. I've never been comfortable with using deadly force. It just seems contradictory. How can I sit in the box and judge someone guilty if I have done the same? My being a cop wouldn't make my wrong no more right than theirs. But I always thought when push came to shove, I could, I would, protect Tim."
"Was the gunman aiming at Tim?"
"Then protecting Tim wasn't at issue, was it?"
"You know what his mother said to me? She said Tim had talked about me. Said I wasn't the kind of man who had friends. But that he was one. He told his mother that he was my friend."
Jim pinched the bridge of his nose to hold back the tears. Frank needed him to stay strong. "You're his friend too, Frank. I know that for a fact. I'm the expert on friendship, remember?"
"That's right, Pembleton. Don't forget that."
"What is it, Frank?"
Jim looked at the clock. After five which meant past eight in Baltimore. It had been morning for quite a while there. But maybe not for Frank. "Yeah, Frank, it's morning. If you hold on long enough, it always follows the night."
"I wasn't so sure of that."
"Yes, you were, Frank. That's why you called; you knew the morning was coming. You just needed someone to hang with until it got here."
"Mary's going to be furious and I need to check on Tim. Thanks for the ear, Ellison."
"You're welcome, Frank. And remember what I said about my cell phone."
"It's always on. I'll remember. And Jim?"
Jim hung up the phone, stretching the kinks out of his neck and shoulders. He smiled as he looked at his partner, his cheek against the table as he emitted soft snores. Grad students could sleep anywhere and in any position. He looked at the notes sprawled across the table. Memorizing one of the numbers he found there, he made a quick call. Then he woke his partner. "Hey, Chief. You're drooling on the furniture."
"Huh?" He lifted his head slowly, at first confused to find himself in the kitchen. Then he remembered. "Tim?"
"I just called the hospital. He's still holding on."
"He's still holding on too."
Blair leaned back, combing his fingers through his hair. "I've been where both of them are, Jim. I don't know which one I feel for more."
"It's a tragedy from all points of view."
Blair put on water for tea. "You look wired, man, but if you want to go to bed..."
"Won't sleep. So I'm guessing you want to hear what happened?" Blair nodded eagerly. His reaction to Gee's actions were similar to his.
"I can't believe that Gee would put Frank through that!"
Jim shrugged, having had time to think about it. "Maybe he thought Frank needed the distraction. When you were in the hospital following the Golden incident, I was out on the street finding the perps."
"Yeah, but you weren't going after your own people and Simon certainly didn't ask you to compromise your ethics in the end. It was wrong of Gee, Jim."
"Well, if it was, he's certainly paying for it. Losing Frank has to be a devastating blow."
"You think this a permanent decision, that Frank's not going to change his mind?" Blair asked. In some weird way, Jim and Pembleton had bonded. If anyone could predict what Frank would do, it was Jim.
"If it was just this Kellerman thing, I think Gee would have a chance to make him reconsider. But he froze when his partner needed him. That's not easy to get over." His eyes said a lot more.
"Hey, you're not Frank, Jim. His episode tonight could have been a petit mal-- a mini stroke. Tim was worried about him, you know. He'd started smoking again, ignoring doctor's orders. Your zones aren't a medical condition and they are expected. Getting you through them is part of my job description, remember? Besides, you're always there when I really need you."
Jim smiled as he listened to his partner defend him. That was another difference between him and Frank; he knew where to look when he needed a dawn. "Hey, Chief, guess what?"
Blair didn't even bother to look toward a window. "It certainly is, Jim."