Friends and Foes
by nancy claycomb
Disclaimer: Of course none of the characters belong to me. They belong to Alliance. Please don't sue me for using them.
Author's Notes: Thanks for reading this! Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated. Take care!
Story Notes: In *MY* Due South alternate reality the series ended with Fraser heading back to Canada while Vecchio and Kowalski becoming partners in the department. This story picks up from there.
Ray Vecchio was in a great mood. He had just returned from a somewhat long lunch with the new girl in the records department. He had done his best to show off his most debonair personality to her and it seemed to work; they had parted company downstairs with the promise to do lunch again sometime soon. Ray's good mood lasted all the way until he reached his seat. On his desk, there was a large manila envelope that had not been there when he left.
"Anybody see who put this here?" he questioned.
Detectives Jack Huey and Thomas Dewey looked up from the file they had been going over.
"Not a clue," Huey answered for both of them.
"Figures with you two, " Vecchio retorted.
"Not me, either," Ray Kowalski said, walking over from his desk. " Why, what is it?"
By this time, Vecchio had torn open the envelope and had dumped out the contents. Scattered on his desk were some snapshots and a note. The first picture Ray picked up was of Benton Fraser, the second picture was Buck Frobisher and the third was of Vecchio, himself. The note said simply, `I haven't forgotten you detective. The two Mounties first, and then it's your turn.'
"We have to call Fraser, " Kowalski said, already dialing Ray's phone.
It had been six months since Fraser had returned home to Canada. During that time, Vecchio and Kowalski had become partners at the precinct. Things had been uneasy and uncomfortable at first, but both of them had tried his hardest to keep things running smoothly out of respect for Fraser. Each man knew how much Fraser had liked and trusted the other. They tried to use that to build their own partnership. Even though these men had been strangers at first, their common link of Benton Fraser had slowly drawn them into an alliance, and eventually a friendship.
"I got in touch with his outpost, but they said that he has been on assignment, and they haven't seen him for over a week," Kowalski said impatiently.
"Find out about Meg," Vecchio prompted. Fraser and Inspector Thatcher had begun to see each other socially since they had returned to Canada. Ray knew that Meg's new job had her traveling most of the time, however, there was a small chance that she could be in town.
"Well, thanks for nothing," Kowalski said. He slammed down the phone, and then filled in Vecchio. "Meg is in Ottawa in some meeting. He has orders not to disturb her."
Lieutenant Welsh had come out of his office when he heard Ray making the phone call. He walked over to Vecchio's desk and quickly shuffled through the pictures and the note.
"Get these down to the lab for fingerprinting." Welsh ordered. " Vecchio, Kowalski in my office, now!"
The two men followed Welsh into his office and closed the door behind them. Lieutenant Welsh sat at his desk with his hand clasped together on top of the file he had been working on.
"Detective Vecchio," he finally said. "You haven't been looking so good lately."
"Sir?" Vecchio questioned, crinkling his forehead.
"I said, Detective, that you haven't been looking so good lately and I think that you need a vacation," Welsh explained.
"He looks fine," Kowalski interrupted. "In fact..."
"No Lieutenant, you're right," Vecchio said nudging Kowalski. "I have been working too hard lately. I definitely need a vacation."
Finally Kowalski caught on. "Oh, right you are, Sir. He needs a vacation real bad. I think I should go with him just to make sure he takes one." There was no doubt in Kowalski's mind that he wasn't going with Vecchio to help Fraser.
"Take as much time as you need Detectives," Welsh said. "Check in when you get there and I'll give you the results of the lab work."
"Will do, Lieutenant," Vecchio said. Then he continued, "But will you please explain to me why I seem to spend all of my vacations frolicking in the snow in Canada?"
"Be careful," Welsh added. "And say `hello' to Constable Fraser for me."
"Thank you, Sir." Vecchio knew that Welsh had been as upset as anyone had when Fraser and Thatcher had returned to Canada six months ago. Although Welsh was never quite sure why Fraser was always hanging around the precinct all of the time, the truth was that he liked the Mountie; he was a good cop and a nice person, something that wasn't always easy to find in Chicago.
"We'll send you a post card," Kowalski added as the two men headed for the door.
Welsh followed along behind them and began barking out orders the second he reached the bullpen area. "Huey and Dewey start looking for anyone who may have seen who dropped off the envelope. Francesca make arrangements for Vecchio and Kowalski to visit Fraser."
"Hey, Ray, wait," Francesca said, ignoring Welsh and running over to her brother.
She gave him an affectionate hug and a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Please be careful," she said quietly. Then she turned to Kowalski. "You take care of him. If you let anything happen to him, I have you in the ground pushing up pansies."
"That's `daisies,' Frannie, it's `pushing up daisies.'" Kowalski said running his fingers through his short hair.
"Daisies, pansies, petunias, who cares? You will still be in the ground." Francesca said without missing a beat.
Ray Vecchio laughed at what his sister could do to his new partner; laughed until Frannie turned back to him and whacked him on the arm.
"And you, you take care of him," she said pointing to Kowalski.
Although she hated to admit it, in the year that Kowalski had been pretending to be Ray Vecchio, she had gotten used to having him around. Once you got passed that smart aleck attitude he put on for everyone, there was a decent person underneath. In truth, she felt as though she gained another brother. Now since her brother and Ray were friends as well as partners, Ray had been hanging around the house more than ever. Since Fraser had gone back to Canada, there had been an empty place at the table and Mrs. Vecchio had been glad to have Ray Kowalski fill it. In fact, she had taken it as her personal mission to add some meat on to his too skinny frame.
In less than two hours Vecchio and Kowalski were on a plane heading for the Canadian Territories and Fraser. After a bit, the flight attendant came by offering drinks and refreshments. Ray Vecchio took the peanuts that were offered, then quietly slid the pack into his coat pocket.
"Stealing peanuts are we?" Ray Kowalski asked, when he saw Vecchio's actions.
"No, I am not stealing peanuts." Ray answered, sharply. "I just thought that Diefenbaker might enjoy a snack other than dried caribou bones."
"I thought that you stopped and got doughnuts for Dief." Kowalski said.
"Well, yeah. But it has been awhile since I've seen him." Vecchio said sheepishly.
"Okay. Now think, " Kowalski said to Vecchio, after actually sitting still for ten minutes. "Who would have a grudge against all three of you?"
"Well, the Bolt brothers come to mind, " Vecchio answered after thinking awhile. "It could be some of their extended and demented family."
"Anyone else?" Kowalski said, still probing.
"Not that spring to mind at the moment." Vecchio answered.
"Not good enough," Kowalski said getting frustrated. "Think!"
"You can think, too, you know," Vecchio shot back. "They made you study my files and cases."
"Oh yeah," Kowalski said. He had studied Ray Vecchio's past for weeks trying to memorize the details and get the fact straight. But that seemed like a lifetime ago when he had first agreed to fill in for the other detective. So much had happened to him in that time. In reality, it had only been a little less then two years. He had worked with Fraser just shy of one year and it had just been six months since he had been able to resume his own identity as Stanley Raymond Kowalski.
"That was so long ago," Kowalski finally confessed. "How do you expect me to remember all of that stuff."
Ray Vecchio looked at Kowalski for a moment. He turned to stare out the window and seemed to concentrate on the clouds he found out there. His mind seemed to be far away.
"Ray, are you okay?" Kowalski asked concerned about his partner. "You're not airsick or anything are you?"
Ray Vecchio took his time before answering. At first Ray Kowalski wasn't sure that he was going to answer at all. "No, don't worry - I'm not going to throw up on you. It's just funny, you know. You can't remember the things you studied in my file; and I can't forget the things I studied and saw in Langostini's file. I still have nightmares about some of that stuff."
Kowalski was quiet. Ray rarely spoke about the time he had spent undercover in the mob. It was strange, for Ray Kowalski that time had been the best time in his life. He had really gotten his act together during that time when he was pretending to be someone else. But it was different for Ray Vecchio. Kowalski had known that that time had been hard on him. From the bits and pieces Ray had spoken about, he knew that Vecchio had witnessed some terrible sights during that year. Langostini had apparently been an animal and Ray had to portray him for a year. It couldn't have been easy.
Kowalski knew that Vecchio would never open up to him like he had to Fraser. Things had moved so quickly when Ray had returned that Fraser and Vecchio never really had a chance to talk, which was what Ray needed to do the most. Now that Fraser wasn't around, Ray Kowalski knew he had to try something to make his new friend feel better.
"Hey, you did a lot of good during that year. I saw the report of the list of names you helped bring down." Kowalski said. He wished he were better with words. He was never good at saying the right thing at the right time. `Just ask Stella' he thought to himself.
`Damn it, Fraser, where are you when I need you? Where were you when Ray needed you.' Kowalski thought. He was sure that Fraser would have had some Inuit story that would have made Ray feel better or at least laugh at.
"Remember, the best thing you did was to help nail Muldoon. Fraser won't ever be able to thank you enough for that. That meant a lot to him." Kowalski finally continued.
"Yeah, hooray for me. Step on up to the counter and I'll sign my autograph. You have no idea what I left go to get the big fish." Vecchio said sarcastically. Then he suddenly trailed off.
"Yeah, but..." Kowalski started.
"Wait, that's it!" Vecchio almost shouted, his past buried once again. "Counter! The three of us worked on that case together. It was the first time I met Buck Frobisher. That's when the two limping Mounties and I went after that guy - Geiger Counter. It was when we where rowing through the sewers while the rats were laughing at us."
"With Fraser, sewers and rats I believe, but there was never a guy named Geiger Counter." Kowalski argued. "That I would have remembered. Wait. Limping Mounties. That was when Fraser was stabbed in the leg. Wait, I know this one, don't help me."
Suddenly, Ray Vecchio could hear Fraser's voice in his head. The words were from an argument they had a long time ago. `Geiger, Ray, no counter, and he stabbed me in the leg.'
"It was Geiger," Vecchio finally said. "And he stabbed Fraser in the leg."
"That's what I said!" Kowalski said indignantly. "Wait a minute, wasn't this guy Geiger an old guy back then?"
"Yeah, but he worked out." Vecchio answered. He could remember how afraid Buck Frobisher had been. After Vecchio saw what he did to Fraser, he couldn't blame Buck. "He was one of the strongest, nastiest bad guys I ever met."
"How soon do we land?" Vecchio asked impatiently. He got more concerned as memories of Geiger came flooding back. "We have to get to Benny."
Kowalski was suddenly envious. He hadn't heard Ray call Fraser `Benny' in a few months. It quickly reminded him how close these two men had been. He remained strangely silent the remainder of the flight, pretending to be asleep much of the time. Actually, he was torn between jealousy and anger: jealous over Fraser and Ray's friendship and anger because of the jealousy. When he had first taken Ray Vecchio's place, he knew that Fraser was only pretending to be friends to protect Vecchio's cover. Through those months Fraser tried to convince Ray Kowalski that they had a friendship in their own right, but Ray had never been completely convinced. Now that they were both on their way to visit Fraser, Ray's old insecurities were beginning to surface once again.
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the plane landed. Thanks to Francesca's arrangements - or in spite of them, Ray Kowalski decided - a commuter plane was already waiting to take the two detectives to their final destination.
At first Vecchio was reluctant to board the small plane.
"The last time I was on one of these, Fraser and I crashed and I had to carry him through the wilderness for a week." Vecchio complained.
"Well at least you weren't pushed out of the plane into a thirty foot deep snow drift." Kowalski said trying to better him.
"Yeah, that's true," Vecchio agreed. " I guess we've both had our share of Mountie induced problems."
After a brief reflective pause, Vecchio continued. "Remind me again. Why are we hurrying up here to Eskimoville to save his life?"
"Because he is our friend and no one else would put up with either one of us," Kowalski said quickly. There was no hint of his earlier insecurities.
"Oh yeah," Vecchio said. "Of course, no one else would have put up with him either."
"That's a fact," Kowalski said, giving Ray a push towards the small plane.
Many air pockets later, the plane landed on a small airstrip near Fraser's outpost and cabin. The two detectives decided to go to the outpost first; after all, even though it was not the official motto, Fraser always got his man. Vecchio and Kowalski knew that Fraser would have to go to the outpost first to turn in the suspect.
Vecchio and Kowalski arrived at the outpost just after eleven o'clock and immediately placed a call to Chicago and Lieutenant Welsh. They knew that no matter what time it was in Chicago, he would still be there waiting for them to call. Even though he was their superior officer, he was also their friend. He had proved that over and over again in the past.
Welsh reported that the lab work gave them no real leads to go on. He also said that Huey and Dewey could not find anyone who knew how the envelope had been delivered.
Ray Kowalski told Welsh about Vecchio's suspicion about Geiger. Welsh checked the computer and it confirmed that Geiger had recently escaped. During his escape, he killed three guards at the prison.
"Look, be careful," Welsh said before hanging up. "It doesn't look like prison made Geiger any nicer."
"Ray, look," Vecchio said as Kowalski hung up the phone. He was holding an identical envelope to the one that he had received earlier that day. The only difference was that this one was addressed to `Benton Fraser, RCMP.'
Kowalski ripped open the envelope, not caring to whom it was addressed. Once again there were the same three photos and a note. Fraser's note was worded slightly different, but the threat was still the same.
"If he isn't back within twenty four hours, we're going after him," Vecchio said.
The outpost was equipped with small living quarters and the Sergeant offered the space to Vecchio and Kowalski for the night. They had briefed the sergeant on the situation and he also began checking for Buck Frobisher. After making a few phone calls the sergeant reported that he was having trouble locating the other Mountie. It seemed that Buck had resigned suddenly a few months ago, and no one knew exactly where he had gone.
The two detectives reluctantly retired to the barracks for the night. The two small cots were not very comfortable, but eventually the two Rays fell asleep out of shear exhaustion.
Ray Vecchio awoke early the next morning to a kiss - or more precisely - a lick.
"Diefenbaker? Get off me! And keep your wolf germs to yourself! I drool enough on my own, I don't need your slobber, too" Ray said, grumbling. Quietly, he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out the pack of peanuts from the plane. "Here - go chew on these instead of me."
Dief gave Ray one more lick as a `thank you'. He stopped briefly to nudge Kowalski a quick "hello" and then he grabbed the peanuts and took off.
"If Dief is here, Fraser can't be far behind, " Kowalski said groggily.
"You know, I was just beginning to convince him to break his junk food diet. It took me six months to do it, and thirty seconds after he sees you he falls right back into his bad habits." Fraser said, leaning up against the doorway with his arms folded across his chest. "Well, I guess that it could have been worse, you could have brought him a dozen doughnuts instead of one pack of peanuts."
Ray Vecchio's green eyes barely flickered towards his duffel bag; however, the ever-perceptive Mountie never missed anything.
"You didn't?" Fraser questioned.
"Don't worry, I'll save them for tomorrow," Vecchio said walking towards Fraser. "How ya doin', Benny?"
The two men embraced each other in a bear hug, fiercely patting each other on the back. For a split second, Ray Kowalski was very jealous, his insecurities getting the better of him; but only for a split second. The joy that these two men felt seeing each other was undeniable and contagious. Benton Fraser and Ray Vecchio had become Kowalski's best friends and if they were happy, he was happy. After all, it was because of the strength of their relationship, that he was able to establish a friendship of his own with each man. From the files he had studied and the stories that both Fraser and Vecchio told, Ray knew that they had been through a lot together, both good and bad. The special friendship that they shared was built, literally, on blood, sweat and tears. Ray Kowalski finally realized that he was lucky just to be part of it.
Finally, Fraser turned toward Ray Kowalski and also gave him a hug. "It's good to see you Ray. How are you doing?"
"Well, I've been keeping busy. Keeping Ray out of trouble isn't easy, but you know that as well as anyone." Kowalski said.
"So, did you two get lost?" Fraser asked
"Well, you know any excuse to come to the frozen armpit of the north..." Vecchio began.
"Did you open your mail yet, Fraser?" Kowalski broke in. He was never a big fan of small talk.
"I've been a little busy, Ray. I haven't had a chance." Fraser said. "When I brought the suspect in, my commanding officer informed me that you were here, so I came right here to the barracks."
"Let's take a little stroll to your desk," Vecchio said, putting his arm around Fraser's shoulder and guiding him in the right direction.
Kowalski and Vecchio brought Fraser up to date while he looked at the contents of the envelope. Vecchio mentioned his suspicion about Harold Geiger and the confirmation from Welsh that Geiger had recently escaped from prison.
"We have to get to Buck Frobisher right away," Fraser said. His hand unconsciously moved down his leg to where Geiger had stabbed him.
"We tried to get in touch with him but no one seems to know where he is. Your commanding officer has been trying to find him for us, " Kowalski said.
"He'll never find him," Fraser said, already starting down the hallway, "Follow me."
"I had almost forgotten how much fun it was following Roy Rogers around all of the time." Vecchio said. He took Kowalski by the arm "Come on, Dale."
"Right behind you, Trigger!" Kowalski laughed.
They took Fraser's jeep and drove northwest for three hours. After that, Fraser stopped the jeep and they ended up walking for another twenty minutes. Finally, they rounded a bend in the trail.
"Hey, I know this place," Vecchio exclaimed.
"Yes, Ray," Fraser said. "My Father's cabin. I finally got it fixed up - bathroom included.
They walked in and found Buck Frobisher sitting inside. He was in his bathrobe sitting by the fire reading a book. Had Kowalski and Vecchio not known who he was, they doubted that they would have recognized him. He looked very old and very tired.
"Benton?" Frobisher said. Then he nodded towards the two detectives following Fraser. "You said that you wouldn't tell anyone where I was."
"There is a problem, sir..." Fraser began
"The problem is that you can't keep a promise." Buck said scowling.
"Sir, there is no one that I trust more than these two men. But before you become too angry, I believe that you should see this." Fraser said as he handed Frobisher the envelope. "I received this one, Detective Vecchio received one in Chicago, and most likely there is a similar envelope, somewhere, with your name on it."
Frobisher leafed through the pictures and scanned the note.
"Nothing worse than I have received hundreds of times before," Frobisher said sounding even worse than he looked.
"We have reason to believe that the person responsible may be Harold Geiger," Fraser continued. "The detectives have discovered that he has recently escaped from prison."
"Yes, well, leave it to the Americans to lose a dangerous criminal," Frobisher said. "Well, I need some time to think. I'm going in for a nap."
And with that he turned, disappeared into the bedroom and slammed the door.
For the first time, Ray Vecchio looked around and realized that the cabin had been expanded. It now consisted of two bedrooms, a bath, and a combined kitchen/living room. Vecchio strongly suspected that it was Meg Thatcher's influence on Fraser that initiated the change.
Vecchio looked at Kowalski and then both detectives looked at Fraser with a puzzled expression.
"So, what?" Kowalski finally asked. "Does he want our help or not?"
The three friends sat down at the table. Fraser wasn't sure what to say. He was torn between keeping his promise to Buck Frobisher or giving an explanation to his two best friends. He stalled for time by standing and putting water on the stove for tea. For once, the two Rays remained silent. They both knew that if Fraser had made a promise that it would take a lot for him to break it.
Slowly, Fraser sat back down.
"Buck Frobisher is dying." Fraser said quietly. "The doctors began running tests due to his on-going digestive problems. They finally discovered that he has a rare intestinal disorder for which there is only one experimental treatment as of this time. According to the doctor the treatment itself might actually be worse than the disease. As of now, he has refused any type of medication what so ever. He made me promise not to let anyone know of his deteriorating condition. His daughter Julie and I are the only ones who know where he is."
"I guess he really doesn't care if Geiger gets him or the illness," Kowalski said.
"My guess is that he would prefer that Geiger kill him." Fraser said. "But, we can't let that happen."
The teakettle began to whistle, ending the conversation abruptly. Fraser stood and poured hot water into three mugs.
"So, when you fixed this place up, did you install some sort of modern communication system or do you still use smoke signals?" Vecchio asked.
"The inspector did encourage me to install a short wave radio through which calls can be placed." Fraser admitted.
Ray Vecchio smiled. So it was Meg's influence that brought about the modern conveniences. Ray made a mental note to thank her the next time he spoke to her.
"Welsh asked us to report in," Kowalski said. "Maybe he has something for us to go on."
Fraser placed a call through to Welsh. It was evident in the Lieutenant's voice that he was glad to hear from Fraser. Welsh did have bad news to report, however. The body of a border guard had been discovered a few days ago. There was no evidence linking Geiger to the killing, but it did sound like his work. Welsh concluded the conversation with his usual warning about being careful.
"Hey, I'm starting to get hungry," Ray Kowalski said when they ended the radio transmission. "Do you have anything to eat around here or do we have to go kill something?"
"I have doughnuts," Vecchio said. "Maybe we could convince Dief to share some with us."
The wolf raised his head and glanced towards Ray's duffel bag, whining a protest.
"You couldn't possible eat the entire dozen. You'll get sick," Fraser tried to explain walking toward the bag.
Dief whined again and then barked a warning when Fraser got too close.
"Just don't come crying to me when your blood sugar level gets thrown off," Fraser said, trying to reason with the wolf.
Fraser finally turned back toward Kowalski when he saw that he was getting nowhere with the wolf.
"Actually, the cupboard is quite well stocked. I've been trying to keep a large variety of food on hand, just in case Sergeant Frobisher gets hungry for any certain thing." Fraser explained.
The three men prepared a huge meal of spaghetti with moose sauce, as Ray Kowalski was calling it. They were all laughing, joking and reminiscing the entire time.
"Great, I finally get to eat somewhere other than the Vecchio house and I still get Italian food." Kowalski joked. " Tomorrow night I want Keilbassa."
They talked for a little while longer. Ray Kowalski was telling Fraser about Ray stealing the peanuts for Dief on the way up. The story reminded him of Vecchio's need to talk. Kowalski realized that this was the perfect time to let his two friends catch up privately.
"Well, if you two don't mind, I might just go get some shut eye, and then I'll take the late shift." Kowalski said, hoping to sound tired.
"Sure, leave it to him to get tired just as the dishes need to be done," Vecchio said sarcastically.
Fraser, of course, guessed what Ray Kowalski was doing for the two older friends. He patted him on the shoulder, as a `thank you,' and then showed him to the other bedroom.
By the time Fraser got back Ray Vecchio had finally realized the opportunity that Kowalski had given them.
"He's a good man," Vecchio admitted to Fraser.
"Yes, he is," Fraser agreed. " He did take some getting used to after you left, however."
The two men sat in silence for awhile.
"How are you really doing, Ray," Fraser finally asked.
"Truth?" Ray asked.
"That time took more out of me than I've admitted to anyone. It was hard, Benny. Knowing I was on my own; not being able to trust anyone; knowing that those people would kill me without even blinking an eye." Ray got quiet and then finally went on. " I gloss over it at home so Ma doesn't get upset. Most of the people at the 27th think that it was all buttermilk and limos. Welsh knows, but, ahh, you know him. Ray's been about the only thing keeping me sane. Do you know how many times I picked up the phone to call you to help me get the hell out of there? The only thing that stopped me was knowing that then the mob and the feds would be after me."
Ray went on to tell about some of the individual stories of different things that he had witnessed. Some things that were terribly wrong but he had to ignore to get the main Mafia heads.
"Everybody tells me that I did the right thing. We got the main guys, but it still doesn't feel right, you know?"
"I never did properly thank you for the part you played in catching Muldoon," Fraser said quietly. "If it hadn't been for you, I never would have known that he killed my mother. And I certainly never would have caught him."
Ray slowly raised his eyes and looked up at Fraser. "How about you? How are you really doing, Benny?"
"Truth?" Fraser asked.
Ray smiled and nodded. He knew that Fraser was incapable of saying anything else.
"It feels good to be back up here; it's my home." Fraser glanced around the cabin and then out the window for a moment. "It's strange, though. I spent my whole life up here, but I never knew how lonely it was. I never had any good friends up here, but I didn't realize it until I came back. You and Ray taught me a lot."
"And we did it all without uttering one Inuit story." Ray laughed.
Fraser went on, "I don't notice it as much, of course, when Meg is around, but she travels so much of the time with her new duties."
"Fraser, I know that it's not easy admitting you need other people." Ray Vecchio said, leaning back in his chair and interlocking his fingers behind his head. "Your father and your grandparents brought you up to take care of yourself. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to be around people you can trust. I sure learned that the hard way."
Fraser sat back quietly in his chair. He knew that Ray was right. It felt good having him here to talk to. Six months ago, all he had wanted to do was get back to Canada and his regular life. He had always felt like an outcaste in Chicago, and he thought that everything would be fine once he got back home. But things just weren't the same since he came back. *He * wasn't the same since he came back. For the first time in a long time Fraser felt at home. But, there was still one thing missing.
"And speaking of people you can trust..." Fraser said looking towards the bedroom door.
Ray followed Fraser's glance and knew instantly what he meant.
"You can come out now, Ray," Fraser and Vecchio said in unison.
Almost immediately the bedroom door opened.
"How'd you know?" Ray Kowalski stammered.
"Just `cause you're a good man doesn't mean you aren't nosey - that's what makes you a good cop." Vecchio said. "And besides, you got way too much energy just to go off to sleep like that."
"Well, you're just way too suspicious, Vecchio. That's what makes you a good cop." Kowalski said,
"I knew you two would hit it off." Fraser said, deliberately using the words he had used when the two Rays met for the first time.
"Yeah, but it took awhile," Both Rays said at the same time. They looked at each other and laughed.
"Nobody at the 27th thought that we would make it through the first week without killing each other," Vecchio told Fraser. "They were taking bets on who'd crack first."
"I think that Welsh only agreed to let us partner up for the entertainment value," Kowalski agreed. "We did have some pretty good battles in the beginning. It was a good thing that Frannie was there to keep Ray under control."
"Keep *me * under control?" Vecchio said, his temper stating to rise. "What about you? If you hadn't been such a slob, you wouldn't have lost the file and we would have ended up solving that case three weeks sooner."
"Me?" Kowalski shouted. "If you hadn't been in such a hurry to get to your tailors that day, you would have read the file before it was lost."
"I knew that you two would hit it off," Fraser said more forcefully.
Both detectives glared at Fraser and then at each other. Slowly, a smile came to each of their faces. Finally, they laughed.
"Okay," Kowalski admitted. "Some of the battles have been pretty recent."
"But Welsh does seem happy with our record," Vecchio said.
"At least we're better than Huey and Dewey," Kowalski continued.
"But we all know that doesn't take much," Vecchio commented.
Ray Vecchio stood and walked over to his duffel bag. He opened the box of doughnuts and took out two.
"Come on, Dief. How `bout the two of us take a walk and have snack." Vecchio said. Ray got his coat and headed for the door.
"Ray, you don't have to go," Kowalski said.
"Yeah, I know, but I want to. Just to remind myself how much I hate nature." Ray Vecchio opened the door and let Dief run out ahead of him.
The second the door closed. Ray Kowalski began pacing. Fraser knew that he had something to say and waited patiently for Ray to begin speaking.
"It's good to see you, Fraser. It's been quiet down in Chicago without you," Ray Kowalski said, finally. "Well, that is if you don't count the dinners at the Vecchio house."
"Understood," Fraser smiled. The Vecchio family was one of his fondest memories in Chicago. His time exiled in the states could have been sheer heck had it not been for the Vecchio family. Fraser had never known what a real family was like until he was able to share Ray's. Although his grandparents had loved him and taken care of him, they never really taught him how to express his emotions. And of course, his father never taught him much of anything until after he had died. Ray's family taught him more about being a family in three years, than his own family taught him in the thirty odd years before that.
"You know, on the way up here I realized how lucky I was," Kowalski began. "When I first said that I would fill in for Ray Vecchio, it was just to get away from my own screwed up life with Stella and all. Then, all of a sudden, Ray comes back and I find out that I don't even have a life to go back to - screwed up or not. The funny thing was, that I was more worried about giving up Vecchio's life that I was about giving up my own in the first place. What does that tell you, huh?"
"So, how are you doing now, Ray?" Fraser asked.
"I don't know." Ray admitted. "I just kept on pretending to be Ray Vecchio and hoped nobody would notice. Welsh let me stay on at the 27th, that was a big help. Other than that, I just kept on sharing Ray's life - same friends, same family."
"When I first got to Chicago, I had no family, no friends and a brand new job. I, too, thought that I was just sharing Ray's life. Then I realized that that had become my life, my *new * life. That was where I belonged at the time. There is no reason that your two lives can't include the same things." Fraser said. "When it is time to move on you'll know. "
Fraser paused and looked out the window. "Just make sure that you are moving on to something you want now, not just a memory of something you once had."
Kowalski stared at Fraser trying to figure out what he meant. Could he mean that he wasn't happy up here anymore? He never got a chance to ask. Just then Ray Vecchio and Diefenbaker came bursting back into the cabin.
"We have a problem," Vecchio said. He was holding up the third of the triplet envelopes. " We got back from our walk and this was on the doorstep. They know where we are."
"I led them right to Buck Frobisher," Fraser said rubbing his thumb over his eyebrow. "I should have been more careful."
"Hey, look," Vecchio said. "You know Geiger, he would have found Frobisher anyway. At least this way we're here to help him."
"Are there any tracks?" Fraser asked
"What do I look like, a Canadian?" Vecchio asked. "How should I know?"
Fraser ignored him. "I can track him down."
"No way Fraser," Kowalski said. " There is no way you are leaving this cabin. Remember, you got one of these envelopes, too."
"I could determine how many people he has with him," Fraser continued.
"Discussion closed, Fraser," Kowalski said more forcefully.
"Okay, then. We stay and wait for them to come." Fraser said
"Yeah, ...and?" Kowalski asked
"We arrest them," Fraser said simply
"Ooooh boy, I remember this plan real well. We wait here. Geiger and God knows who else come. When? We're not sure. And then when we least suspect it they shoot us dead with automatic weapons." Vecchio said using the same scenario he used the first time he and Fraser were trapped in the cabin. "Any part I left out?"
Fraser opened his mouth to speak, but Vecchio cut him off.
"And don't you dare say that you need Geiger alive to testify," Ray said.
"I was going to say, Ray, don't blow up my cabin this time with a grenade."
"You really did that?" Kowalski asked. "I heard that when I first got to the 27th, but I never believed it."
"All right, I promise that I won't use the grenade this time," Vecchio said walking towards his duffel bag.
"Unless it is absolutely necessary," Vecchio added as he dumped out the contents of the bag on the sofa. Once again he had packed a large assortment of guns and ammunition.
"Ray helped me pack this time," Vecchio said proudly.
"I have this friend down in the confiscated weapons room, one date was all it took..." Kowalski said.
"What about Buck?" Vecchio asked. "Should we tell him that Geiger knows where he is?"
"I already know," Frobisher said, standing in the doorway of the bedroom. He was completely dressed and looked much better then when they had first arrived. There was a spark in his eyes that hadn't been there a few hours earlier. "You three are about as quiet as a caribou in mating season. How is a person supposed to get any rest around here?"
"It's good to see you up and about, sir." Fraser said to Frobisher. "Since you are aware of the situation, do you have any suggestions?"
"Your plan is a sound one, son," Frobisher said.
"Plan? What plan? Did I miss something?" Kowalski asked.
"It's a `Mountie' thing, I guess," Vecchio responded.
"What are our assets?" Frobisher asked.
"Fraser knows this area better than anyone, we know not to chase a man over a cliff, and we have a few weapons of self preservation with us," Vecchio said.
Buck walked over to the sofa and took a look at the assortment.
"Explosive devises are never the answer, son." Frobisher reprimanded Vecchio.
"I told you that you shouldn't have brought them," Kowalski said grinning.
"Very wise, detective." Frobisher commended Kowalski.
Kowalski shrugged and then turned toward Vecchio. He hit him on the arm just like a five-year-old that had just conned his father into giving him the biggest piece of cake.
Vecchio just glared back. "So, do you two even have a plan?"
"Of course we do. We are going to apprehend the subject." Frobisher answered. "I let this man ruin my life once before, I am not going to let him ruin my death."
"Who says that he is trying to ruin it? I think that he just wants to cause it," Vecchio commented.
"Well, yes, that too," Frobisher admitted, heading for the door. "But either way, it is time to catch the villain. Benton get your hat."
"Oh, great; two freaks to deal with." Kowalski mumbled. "Fraser, are you really thinking about doing this?"
"Well, yes, Ray," Fraser said. "Geiger must be returned to prison, and we seem to be the only logical people who can do it."
Fraser and Frobisher disappeared out the door with Dief right behind.
"Well, we can't let them out there by themselves," Kowalski said. He picked a few choice weapons off the couch and headed for the door. "Let's go."
"Why is this my life?" Vecchio complained, picking out a few guns of his own. "How are we supposed to find them? Did you ever track anyone?"
"Look at the bright side," Kowalski said. "Maybe they'll find us."
Kowalski opened the door and was knocked backwards into Vecchio by the force of the punch that greeted him. The man on the porch was at least six foot three and must have weighed close to three hundred pounds. It wasn't Geiger but physically he was even worse.
Fortunately, Vecchio was able to keep his balance and get Kowalski back on his feet.
"I hate it when you are right," Vecchio said.
By this time, the man was charging into the cabin after the two detectives. Kowalski sidestepped the attack leaving Vecchio to take the full brunt of the lunge. The force of the tackle sent Vecchio flying into the kitchen. Both men went to the floor, but luckily Vecchio was able to squirm to the side so that he was not completely buried under the large man.
Kowalski jumped on the attacker, grabbing him around his neck in a chokehold. The man rolled over onto his back crushing Kowalski underneath.
"Would you get him off of me!" Kowalski gasped.
Vecchio grabbed the spaghetti pot and brought it down on the thugs head with all his might. The man was rolled aside by the blow giving Kowalski just enough room to slither out.
Vecchio took the pot and gave the man one last blow to the head. Finally, the man rolled over, unconscious.
"One down. See how easy that was?" Kowalski said rubbing his jaw.
After securing the man with some rope that they found in the cabin, Kowalski and Vecchio started out again. By the time they actually made it out, the two Mounties were long gone. The two cops decided to follow the main trail out to the highway hoping to find their two friends. They had just rounded the first bend in the trail when they came to a man tied to a tree with a belt. He appeared to have wadded up leaves in his mouth as a gag.
"Well, at least we know that we are on the right path," Vecchio said. The two detectives continued walking, barely giving a second thought the strange sight.
No sooner had they gotten past that man, then a third goon appeared out of nowhere; a gun pointed directly between Kowalski's eyes.
"Next time you're going first," Kowalski complained to Vecchio.
The man looked at Vecchio. "I know someone who is paying good money to find you. Let's go!"
Something caught Vecchio's eye on the trail just beyond the man. He had to keep the thugs attention just a few moments longer.
"It's nice to be wanted," Vecchio said sarcastically. "But you probably know that as well as anyone. How many states are you wanted in?"
The man backed up and motioned for his two captives to go down the trail ahead of him. The second he turned sideways to let them pass, he was promptly attacked by Diefenbaker. Kowalski jumped him while he was down and wrestled the gun away from him. Vecchio grabbed him up none-too-gently, and tied him to a tree with the remainder of the rope from the cabin..
"Thanks, Dief," Kowalski said. "I guess he felt he owed you for the doughnuts."
Diefenbaker whined in agreement. He then turned to Vecchio and barked, growled and whined out a sentence.
"Well, take us to him," Vecchio replied to Dief.
In a flash, the wolf was off down the trail.
Kowalski stared at Vecchio for a second. He started to say something and then just ran his fingers through his short hair.
"I don't *even * want to know," he decided out loud and then took off down the trail after Diefenbaker with Vecchio following behind.
At one point, where the trail narrowed slightly, Dief turned sideways, preventing the two cops from going any further. Kowalski and Vecchio slowed their pace and cautiously continued down the trail. Up ahead the path divided and went around a clearing that was just below the trail. They could see Fraser, Frobisher and Geiger in the clearing facing each other. For now, it looked like a standoff; neither side had an advantage.
Kowalski put his glasses on and scanned the surrounding area. He saw three of Geiger's henchmen placed at strategic points on the trail around the rim of the clearing. They were out of sight from Fraser and Frobisher.
"How `bout you and I make sure the odds stay even," Vecchio suggested.
"I'm good to go, " Kowalski answered. "Just you be careful. Remember they're after you, too."
Kowalski motioned that he would take the man on the right, while Vecchio would take the left fork of the trail. They would meet where the third man was positioned, almost directly across the clearing from them.
Kowalski circled around through the woods, and successfully managed to come out directly behind his man. Quietly, he closed in on the man and used his gun butt to knock him unconscious.
Across the clearing, Vecchio was stalking his prey. Because of the positioning of the man, Vecchio had plenty cover to use. He was able to maneuver to a close enough position to actually tap the man on the shoulder. As soon as the gunman turned toward him, Vecchio hit him with a well-placed punch to the jaw. The man fell silently to the ground.
"Why do I do that?" Vecchio muttered, trying to shake the pain out of his hand.
Vecchio looked across the clearing but he was unable to see how Kowalski was making out. He could no longer see the gunman that had been there, so he assumed that his partner had also been successful.
"OK, one to go," he said heading off towards the third villain.
As quietly as a city boy could go, Kowalski was sneaking up on the last man. He was doing remarkably well until he got about five feet from the thug. Kowalski heard the twig snap under his foot at the same time the henchman did. The man spun and immediately had his weapon aimed at Kowalski.
"You're under arrest," Kowalski said trying to sound convincing.
"Look again, cop," the man said. "I'm not the one with the gun pointed at me."
"Don't be so sure about that," Kowalski replied.
At that second, Vecchio pressed his gun into the neck of the gunman and cocked the trigger just under the man's ear for effect. It must have worked, because the man dropped his gun to the ground and raised his arms to surrender.
"Glad you could make it, Ray," Kowalski said. "I was afraid you'd be late."
"So how many people did Geiger invite to this little party?" Vecchio said, pressing his gun a little further into the thug's neck.
"Geiger hired five of us to take you out," the man said.
"Bad answer," Kowalski said reaching for his own gun. "Try again."
"Six," the man said quickly, "I meant six."
Vecchio used his handcuffs to secure the gunman, and then threatened him to keep quiet. After a second thought, he took a handful of leaves and shoved them into the man's mouth.
"Not only is that useful," he said to Kowalski, "it was strangely satisfying."
Meanwhile, down in the clearing, the stand off continued. Geiger was acting incredibly sure of himself, given the fact the he was standing face to face with two Mounties.
"How are the legs doing, boys?" Geiger sneered. "I told you that I'd be seeing you again."
"Harold Geiger, you are under arrest," Frobisher said.
"You're stupider than I thought," Geiger said. "You still don't get it do you? Today is the day that you are going to die. I've spent about twenty years of my life dreaming about this day. My plan was temporarily setback a few years ago by your friend here and that detective. But now I can kill all three of you at once. You three made it so easy by coming here to the same place; you almost took all of the fun out of the hunt."
"Geiger, you're going back to jail, " Frobisher continued. "I'll see to it if it is the last thing I do."
"Oh, this will be the last thing you do, all right. I can guarantee that." Geiger said. "But I am not going back to jail."
"Give it up Geiger," Frobisher went on. "Don't you know that we Mounties always get our man?"
"Well, that isn't really our motto," Fraser said slowly circling around the larger man. "In reality it is `Maintain the...'"
"I don't care what your motto is. Mine is never travel alone." Geiger said. Then he raised his voice "Boys how `bout if you help me out here."
Buck Frobisher scanned the surrounding area nervously while Fraser looked for cover. For an excruciating moment nothing happened. Then Ray Vecchio appeared on the trail above the clearing. "Sorry, Harold. Your friends got detained. They do apologize for not being able to make it."
"Hands in the air Geiger," Kowalski said coming down from the path, his gun aimed at the large man. "Keep `em where I can see them."
With one quick motion, Geiger spun and grabbed Buck Frobisher from behind. In a well-practiced move, he grabbed a huge hunting knife from its sheath on his waist and held it to Buck's neck.
"Don't move or you'll have one dead Mountie on you hands" Geiger said, the knife pressing into Buck's throat."
"Bad move, Geiger," Buck said, calmly, "These men all know that I will be dead in a few months anyway. If you would have grabbed Fraser, maybe they would have cared and surrendered to you. As it stands now, they couldn't care less if you kill a dying man."
Geiger held his ground keeping the knife pressed against Frobisher's throat. He was keeping a close eye on the three men around him.
"Actually, you are doing me a favor." Buck continued, calmly. "If you kill me, my family will be able to say that it was in the line of duty due to our previous case history. They will be able to collect over double the value of my life insurance. Go ahead! Kill me!"
"Just remember Geiger," Vecchio said, his gun still aimed at Geiger. "The second you kill him, you're a dead man, too."
"You would let me kill him, just like that?" Geiger questioned.
The other three men nodded and answered at the same time.
"It does seem to be what he wants," Fraser commented.
"Sure, why not," Vecchio said.
"Works for me," Kowalski chimed in.
Geiger was distracted by the answers the three friends gave long enough for Buck Frobisher to make his move. He grabbed Geiger's knife hand and pushed it away giving him time to turn and face his opponent. Geiger charged at him with his knife, but Buck was able to sidestep the attack.
"Benton, now would be a good time to help me." Frobisher grunted out.
"I understand, sir," Fraser said. "I will tell Julie what a noble thing you have done."
"No, Benton, you don't understand," Frobisher gasped, as he dodged another attack from Geiger. "I need your help."
"And you shall have it," Fraser said. "I will make sure that your last wishes are taken care of."
"Benton, get over here and help me. That is an order!" Frobisher said, struggling with Geiger over the latest attack. "I decided to have the treatment! That is if I can live that long."
"Oh, dear. I'm sorry, sir," Fraser said jumping Geiger from behind. "You had placed a rather convincing argument earlier to have him kill you. I assumed that this was just a continuation of that plan."
Fraser grabbed Geiger around the neck while Frobisher wrestled to take the knife away. Although Geiger continued fighting, finally the two Mounties were able to subdue him. Ray Kowalski joined the struggle at the very end and got the handcuffs on Geiger.
"I was wondering when you two would show up." Fraser said to both Rays.
"Well, we had a few obstacles to deal with along the way," Kowalski said defending himself.
"Speaking of which, we better go collect them before we forget where we left them." Vecchio added.
The two detectives gathered the various members of Geiger's gang while Fraser placed a call to the nearest Mountie detachment.
"Keep your eyes on him, boys." Frobisher said when the detachment came to take Geiger away. "I'm getting too old to keep arresting him."
"I'm not finished with you yet Frobisher," Geiger threatened as they were taking him away.
"Oh, give it up, man! At this rate we'll be chasing each other around in wheelchairs." Frobisher scowled. "Take him away, men."
Diefenbaker barked in agreement.
Once the commotion was over, Fraser placed a call through to Welsh to let him know they were all OK. While the two Ray were filling the Lieutenant in on the details, Fraser sat down at the table with Buck Frobisher.
"So, you decided to have the treatment, after all?" Fraser asked the older Mountie.
"Yes, Geiger made me realize that if I have to go, I have to go down fighting." Frobisher answered.
"The Inuit tell a tale about a dying wolf..." Fraser began. He was quickly interrupted by Diefenbaker who cocked his head and whined.
"In the story the wolf is caught on a glacier." Fraser began again.
This time Dief barked a warning.
"Oh, all right," Fraser conceded to the wolf. "I'll skip the details."
Diefenbaker lay back down again. He laid his head on his paws and sighed. He was content that once again his human had listened to him.
"Anyway, the point of the story, is that all creatures have an innate desire to live and be happy. They will always find a way and a place to do that." Fraser concluded.
"Inuit tail?" Vecchio asked, when they got off the phone and joined the two Mounties at the table.
"Aw, shucks, and we missed it," Kowalski said. "I hate to bring this up after all of the fun that we have been having, but Welsh wants us back ASAP. Apparently, he is getting some heat from higher up for letting two of his detectives take vacation at the same time with no notice."
"You have to go already?" Fraser asked.
Vecchio and Kowalski began discussing the timetable for getting home. Fraser stood and walked over to the window. He had just begun to feel at home again, and now his friends were talking about leaving already.
Buck Frobisher came and stood next to Fraser. "A very wise person once told me that the Inuit have a tale about a dying something or other. The point of the story is that all creatures will find a way and a *place * to be happy."
Fraser slowly looked up at Buck. He stared for a long while. Eventually, a smile came to Fraser's face. The funny thing was that Fraser was happy because he realized he had been wrong. All his life, he had grown up believing that home was a place. That was why he had missed Canada so much while he had been in Chicago. Finally, he realized that home was anywhere that your friends and family were. He looked at the two men sitting at the kitchen table and realized that they had become his family. That was where he belonged.
"Gentleman, if you would excuse me. Diefenbaker, come." Fraser said as he got his coat and hat. The wolf and the Mountie disappeared out the door.
Fraser and Dief walked down the trail where the criminals had been not long before. They came to a large fallen tree and Fraser sat down. The wolf settled in next to him on the ground. The two companions sat quietly for a moment.
"I want you to think about this for a moment, before you say anything," Fraser began slowly.
Diefenbaker barked frantically and wagged his tail.
"I didn't even ask yet," Fraser said. "How did you know?"
Diefenbaker whined out a sentence.
"Well, it is just that the last time I didn't ask you," Fraser said. "I didn't want to make that mistake again. I just wanted to make sure."
Dief whined again and thumped his tail.
"Good, then it is decided. We will ask to be transferred back to Chicago." Fraser concluded. "Of course, we will have to ask Ray to renew your wolf license."
"No, problem. Just get me to the photocopier." Ray Vecchio said.
Fraser looked up quickly. "I didn't hear you coming."
"Wow, Fraser didn't hear something, that's one for the record books," Kowalski joked. Then he continued, "Buck said that he thought you wanted to talk to us."
"So, you're thinking about coming back to Chicago, huh?" Vecchio questioned, there was a definite tone of excitement in his voice.
"I've given it some thought, very recently." Fraser admitted. "There are a few things I have to do first."
"Well, lets get shaking." Kowalski said. "The sooner the better."
"Boy will Frannie be happy to hear this," Ray and Ray said at the same time.
Buck Frobisher was standing by the window looking out. The four friends started back up the path towards the cabin. They each had a spring in their step that hadn't been there for awhile. As much as Frobisher hated to admit it, Harold Geiger had done some good things by coming here. He'd have to thank Geiger sometime.
"Bob, your boy is going to do OK with those two helping him out," Frobisher said to the unseen Bob Fraser. He was sure that even though his friend and partner didn't appear anymore, he was still hovering close by somewhere.
"Friends," Buck said, smiling. He went back to the table and sat down just as Fraser, Ray, Ray and Dief came back inside the cabin. " `Nuff said."
End Friends and Foes by nancy claycomb
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