TWENTY-AND-ONE CHIHUAHUAS"Twenty-and-One Chihuahuas" features the Gamez family; I hope you remember them, they are the utterly adorable family Fraser and Ray rescued in a first season show called "They Eat Horses, Don't They." ;)
I'm not a big fan of the third season of Due South, and so have created my own alternate universe season in which Ray Vecchio never left on any bizarre -- dare I say stupid -- undercover missions. This "faux" third season represents my take on how the season should have gone and include not only stories I've written, but stories friends have written that fit the criteria for an episode of the show (for instance: a crime committed, Fraser & Ray solving said crime, a plot, a sub-plot, humour, emotional sub-text, etc.)
Comments? Please e-mail me at email@example.com
by Celeste Hotaling-Lyons
He was right. Maria Gamez was avoiding him. True, he hadn't seen her or her brood for a while, and that was nothing new--it was after all, a big apartment building , plus there had been that recent terrorist activity with which he had had to deal, and the resultant publicity--plus his own growing flirtation with the Inspector taking up so much of his attention and time. But Ms. Gamez hadn't tapped on his door recently to say hello, the usual dish of cookies or bowl of soup in hand, and just now, on the stairs... He'd offered her the usual cheery 'good morning', and she'd returned it, but those dark eyes had dipped shyly immediately she'd said it, and she'd scurried up the stairs ahead of him, shooing her two youngest along before her. She'd definitely avoided his eyes. Which added up to--a mystery.
She obviously wanted to be left alone. That's why Constable Benton Fraser was now tapping on her apartment door.
The door, still on its chain, opened a crack. An eye peered out at him. It was Mario, the eldest Gamez boy and a personal friend of Fraser's. "Yeah?" said Mario.
"Yeah?" From Mario? This was something new, and somewhat disturbing.
Fraser employed a new police procedural trick he's learned from Ray. It was called 'confrontation'. It could be misconstrued as rudeness, but Ray had explained that it was all just a part of the search for The Greater Truth, Justice, etc. etc.
"All right," Fraser growled in his best imitation-Chicago-cop voice, "Spill it, Mario--what's goin' on?"
Mario's dark eyes, so like his mother's, got rounder, a hint of fear creeping into them.
Fraser started apologizing. "Ah, Mario, I'm sorry, I just wanted to... I mean, if you don't want to... I didn't mean to.... Never mind, I'll just go."
The door shut in his face a moment, there was the sound of the chain being run off its track, and the door opened fully in invitation. Fraser entered the apartment.
A half-an-hour later, in the District 23 Detective Division, Ray Vecchio looked up from his computer to see his best friend standing before his desk. "Ah! Fraze, old buddy--good timing, I was just thinkin' about strappin' on the old feedbag. You wanna go to lunch with me?"
"Felicitous timing, indeed, Ray. I was just about to ask if you wanted to come to lunch with me. At Maria Gamez' invitation."
"Ms. Gamez! I like that lady, and her kids aren't too obnoxious. Yeah, sure, she did say once she got settled in, she wanted to have us over. I thought she mentioned having us to dinner, but lunch is good, too. 'Long as it ain't horse meat-burgers...." Ray was referring to the case that had introduced the two law-enforcement officers to the Gamez family, when young Mario had been poisoned by parasite-ridden horse meat.
"It will not be horse meat, Ray. Some traditional El Salvadoran fare perhaps, but not horse meat."
Ray should have known, he told himself later, that "there's no such thing as a free lunch." Hadn't his father told him that about a hundred-and-one times?
Fraser didn't broach the subject until they were on the stairs on the way up to the Gamez apartment. "Do you like dogs, Ray?" he asked.
"Dogs?" Ray mused, bounding up the stairs. "Well, Dief's okay by me. What, you want me to wolf-sit for you? You goin' somewhere?"
"No, not Diefenbaker, Ray; I meant dogs in general."
Ray shrugged. "Well, they're fine. I like 'em fine. I always wanted a dog when I was a kid, but my mother is from the old country and her people expect a dog to be a working member of the family, not a pet. Her attitude was: we got no sheep, we got no chickens, we don't need no dog. My pop's attitude was his money should be spent on beer and poker, not feedin' a damned dog." It was obvious his father's position on the subject still bothered Ray after all these years.
"So you bear no particular animosity towards the family Canus lupus, Ray? You might even feel, well... protective towards them, would you say?"
"I like dogs, okay? What are you drivin' at here, could you just get to the point? Man, I'm starvin'." The two had reached Maria Gamez' door by this time. Ray knocked. The door swung open....
...and Ray found himself face-to-face with twenty-six pairs of round, dark eyes, some of them human, most of them canine. The room was full--full--of baby Chihuahuas, tails wagging so hard it looked as if the tails were shaking their tiny, wriggly, brown bodies instead of the other way around. They barked their tiny barks in their excitement and surged forward on their shaky puppy-legs to investigate the intruders on their turf....
"I'm afraid these puppies could use a friend, Ray. I said we'd help."
Ray wandered into the apartment in a daze, Benny following close behind, shutting the door quickly to prevent the little dogs from escaping into the hall. Chihuahua puppies flowed about their feet, yipping, yapping, tumbling.... The five Gamez children followed, laughing, hugging puppies, rubbing puppy bellies....
Ray found that he'd lost his appetite.
"Fraser, for future reference, next time you ask me if I wanna go to lunch, I do not expect you to land me in the middle of a Disney movie. Ya got me?"
"Sorry, Ray. But you'll help? You said you like dogs."
"Yeah, I like dogs. These are not dogs. These are rats. Ratdogs. I hate ratdogs, Fraser."
"They aren't 'ratdogs,' Ray, they're Chihuahuas, and they're just little puppies...."
"Okay, they're not ratdogs. They're mousepuppies. But they'll grow up to be ratdogs. Stupid, yipping, nipping little ratdogs that a real dog, like a German Shepherd, could chow down in one bite. Oh, jeez; sorry, kids." That last was for the Gamez children who were looking at Ray as if he'd suddenly turned into the boogieman.
"Nonsense, Ray," stated the Mountie confidently, gently shaking a puppy off one shoe. "They're a perfect apartment dog; small, clean, intelligent. If they haven't been over-bred and you don't coddle them, treating them like regular dogs instead of toys, they don't grow up to be temperamental. Here's an interesting statistic for you, Ray! The breed is growing in popularity! Did you know that there are some 25,000 more Chihuahuas in the United States today than there were five years ago?"
"Yeah, and all twenty-five-thousand of 'em have the same name--'Taco Bell'--and owners who all think they're sooo darned clever for comin' up with that name."
"'Taco Bell'? That means nothing to me, Ray. Isn't that a phone company in one of your southern states?"
Maria Gamez, large platter of spaghetti-with-meatballs in her hands, came out of the kitchen at that point, saving Ray from having to explain what Taco Bell was to the non-fastfood-eating Mountie. Diefenbaker followed closely at her heels, hope in his eyes. Any meatball that hit the floor was going to be his; and not wasted on those scrabbly, annoying, young upstarts.
"Detective Ray! I am thinking I hear you and my friend come in--children, you have been making our guests welcome, yes?" she said in her soft-voiced, Spanish-accented English. "Sit!" she commanded in exactly the same tone of voice Ma Vecchio used to command her troops to the dinner table. Out of force of habit, Ray sat, the Mountie taking a seat on one side of the detective, a small boy whose name escaped Ray on the other. All the children put the puppies down and took their seats at the large table set up in the middle of the room. The puppies continued to wriggle and fight and play with one another where they'd been left.
"Constable Benny, he says spaghetti is your favorite, Detective Ray," continued their hostess. The first dish was placed in front of him, and he dutifully picked up his fork, though he couldn't help but keep taking looks over his shoulder at the horde of puppies. "So I make spaghetti, but I make the tomato sauce with a special flavoring to it from my country. I hope you will like it." She placed the second plate of spaghetti in front of Fraser, who smiled and nodded his thanks to her. Each child in turn got his-or-her plate, from the eldest to the youngest, Ms. Gamez serving herself last. Ray took up his fork, but Benny's cautionary hand stopped him from taking a bite.
The Gamez family folded their hands and bowed their heads. Ms. Gamez spoke. "We thank the Lord for the bounty which we are about to receive." "Amen," chorused the children. "Yeah, amen," said Ray, still a bit dazed. He twirled the spaghetti on his fork like a good son of Italy, then stuck the forkful in his mouth....
"Gaaah!" he choked, standing up in surprise. It was hot. Not hot as in not-cold, but hot as in incredibly spicy. "Jesus! It's burnin' my tongue off! Gimme water, quick!"
Fraser quickly snatched up a tray of rolls and offered it to Ray. "Not water, Ray, that just spreads the oils around. Starches work better to stop the burning. That's why you always get rice with Schezuan cooking."
Much to the evident amusement of the children, Ray stuffed a roll full into his mouth. The bread did help, and he sat down, taking the glass of water the tiny boy beside him offered to him.
"'Hey-zoose'," said the boy who had given him the water.
"Thanks kid. What?"
"My name is spelled 'Jesus,' but you say it 'Hey-zoose'. It's a 'Hispanic pronunciation,' my teacher said, when she taught my class about El Salvador, where my mommy and daddy came from," admonished Jesus politely. Oh, yeah, that was the kid's name....
"I knew that," said Ray, shooting dirty looks at the giggling children around him, an especially dirty look reserved for the innocent-looking Mountie sitting next to him. He looked under his chair to make sure no ratdogs had been damaged when he'd stood up so abruptly, and was pleased to see that all the puppies had run away at his outburst. The wolf looked up at him expectantly from beneath the table, in hopes of a meatball. "Suffer," the Chicago cop whispered at him, then sat back up.
"Detective Ray, I am so sorry!" cried Ms. Gamez, looking stricken. "Children!"
"I'm fine," Ray said, mopping his face with his napkin. "I actually like spicy food, I order four-alarm chili all the time--but ya gotta be ready for it, and I didn't realize it would be that hot. What, uh, what'd ya put in it, anyway?"
"Just a few chili peppers to give it some flavor, oh, and the oil I cooked the meatballs in had some ground Annato seeds steeped in it," said their hostess. No wonder it had been hot.
Ray took another forkful and ate it to show there were no hard feelings. It was pretty good, really--it was true, he'd just been unprepared for the assault on his tastebuds before. He had some more, and Ms. Gamez looked relieved.
Apparently the Mountie had decided it was time to get down to business, because he spoke up. "Ray. These puppies. I suppose you're wondering how it is you can help them."
"No," said Ray simply. He had some more hot-sauced spaghetti. It really was very, very good. He wondered if he could get Ma to try a few chilies in her sauce, he'd love to see his free-loading brother-in-law's face when he got a mouthful of the stuff.
"Let me re-phrase that. I suppose you're wondering how it is we'd like you to help them."
Ray was about to retort 'no' again, but a look around the table at the hopeful eyes of the Gamez kids stopped him. He sighed. "Take it from the top. I wanna hear the whole story from start to finish."
"Well, the story, it starts with me," said Ms. Gamez, her round cheeks coloring a bit. "I am meeting a very nice man, Mr. Enrico Montoyo, in my English-for-Immigrants class. He is born a Mexican citizen and owns a very nice pet shop in the northern side of Chicago. He gives my Mario a job in his pet shop and pays him good money." Mario smiled proudly and sat up very straight at the idea of being so grown-up as to have a job with good pay. "But then, something bad happens." Ms. Gamez fell silent, nodding to Mario.
Mario took up the tale. "My job is to clean up the petshop and sometimes I get to help feed the animals. I was sweeping up, by the back door by the alley, and I heard some men and Mr. Montoyo having a real bad argument in the front of the shop. One of the two men is with very dark skin and the other is with light skin and curly, yellow hair; they mostly spoke English, but with an accent, and sometimes they said things in Spanish, but using words I don't know.
"There was a crate in the alley that had been delivered only a few minutes ago by a delivery truck, and the two men were yelling at Mr. Montoyo that they wanted the crate now. But my boss, he says that he doesn't trust them and that he doesn't want the dogs to get hurt, he wants his dogs, it'll just take a minute. I looked into the crate and saw them," Mario quirked his thumb over his shoulder at the mound of now half-asleep Chihuahua puppies. "But Mr. Montoyo couldn't find the electric screwdriver he uses to open the crates fast enough and the men started to get angry. They said that Mr. Montoyo should worry more about what was going to happen to him, forget about what happens to the dogs, give us the crate now, and... and I got scared. They were so cute and so little. So...," Mario fell silent. He looked searchingly at Fraser, who just nodded. "So I kind of did a bad thing."
"What'd ya do, kid?" asked Ray, helping himself to another serving of spaghetti.
"I wrote my home address on the label on the crate with a big, black marker I had in my pocket. And I just got paid by Mr. Montoyo that morning for the whole week, so I took my money and I gave it to the delivery man who was just leaving, and I said he'd gotten the delivery address wrong," it all came out in a rush. "So he laughed and took my money and loaded the crate of puppies in back of the truck again and left. And I jumped on my bike and left, too, without saying good-bye to Mr. Montoyo. And I haven't gone back since this happened, which was late yesterday morning. I... I stole the puppies...."
Ray laughed into his napkin. "Kid's a pistol; huh, Fraze?"
The Mountie nodded, his eyes on Mario. "A very fast-thinking young man," he agreed, the corners of his mouth turning up slightly. Mario took a deep breath and let it out. His idol did not think he'd done wrong, and his apparent relief was palpable.
"So the puppies were delivered here, and Marguerite signed for them," Ms. Gamez picked up the tale. "They are very nice puppies, but why do these men want them?"
"Ah! Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Ray?" asked Fraser. Having finished his plate of spaghetti, he put his napkin on the table with an air of a man well-fed, and pushed away from the table. Ray did like-wise, though he'd managed to polish off two plates of spaghetti in the same time Fraser had had just one.
"I suspect I am. It ain't the puppies they want. Shall we check out the crate?" asked Ray.
"I had the boys put it in my sewing room. Children, you stay here," said Ms. Gamez, frowning at the inevitable protests that they all just wanted to see. "Policemen, they do not want children getting in their way when they do their very important jobs." She removed her napkin from her lap and lead the two law enforcement officials into the room where she made all the children's clothing.
The crate stood, abandoned, in one corner of the sewing room, which apparently doubled as one of the girl's bedrooms. It was a typical shipping crate for animals, smooth wood so that its living cargo wouldn't get splinters, the warning "Live Animals" in bright red letters on its side. It was actually very cleverly designed, one whole side on the short end could be lifted on its hinges to give easier access to the valuable animals inside. It was a brand-new crate, with very few nicks and marks on the outside. Fraser dragged it into the middle of the room, to get a better look at it.
"I'm sorry, I threw away the lining on the bottom," apologized Ms. Gamez. "It was filthy and wet, not a good thing to have in a room where Marguerite sleeps. She washed out the insides of the crate with hot water and soap. I am sorry if she ruined the 'evident'?"
"'Evidence'," corrected Fraser absently. "She did a fine job of cleaning. But I wouldn't worry, Ms. Gamez, whatever was being smuggled in this crate would not be where a large group of inquisitive puppies could get to it easily."
"I'm all in favor of puppy-poop-and-piddle being cleaned up, where ever it can be found," confirmed Ray, sitting comfortably on Marguerite's pink-blanketed bed. He watched in amusement when Fraser pulled open the door and crawled into the crate head-first. "Aaaaah," came his voice from within.
"What?" asked Ray.
"I need... I need something; a tool, a small pry-bar. Ms. Gamez, have you a screwdriver with a flat tip?"
She went over to her sewing box and picked up a small, forked tool. "Will this do?" she asked, handing it into the crate.
"Ah, yes, even better. A gimp, perfect. Thank you kindly." Scratching noises could be heard from inside the crate.
"A what?!" asked Ray, leaning forward. "What did you say?"
"A 'gimp', Ray, a small slicing tool used in making buttonholes."
The Chicago cop snorted his disbelief, leaning back on his arms. "You made that up!"
"No, he did not," said Ms. Gamez. "It is a gimp. That is what I was told by my mother, whose tool it was, when I am young and she is teaching me to sew."
"Ah, you're just on his side," dismissed Ray, bringing a smile to the small woman's face.
A clink from within the crate, and another "Aaaaaah!", and the Mountie backed out of the crate, gimp in one hand, the other hand fisted. He sat on the floor, cross-legged.
"What'd ya find, Christoforo Colombe?" Ray asked, leaning in to see. Ms. Gamez leaned over, too. The Mountie opened his fist, revealing a black velvet bag. He opened the bag and poured an almost liquid flow of shining, green gems into his hand. Ms. Gamez gasped in awe at the sight.
"I'da bet my paycheck it was drugs," said Ray. "I figured they'd used the puppies to confuse the drug-dogs at the border. But I like this better. Prettier, ya know?"
"Yes, Ray--it is quite the largest pile of jewels I've seen--well, since the last time I saw a pile of jewels." The Mountie looked uncomfortable for a moment, thinking of a spray of diamonds flung out on a railway station's platform, then dismissed the thought. He carefully poured the South American emeralds back into the velvet bag, and pulled the string shut. "Ray? It seems to me that men who wanted the crate so badly, they didn't even want to wait for its cargo to be taken out of it, would be pretty anxious to get their property back."
"That's true, Benny. That's very true."
"And approximately twenty-four hours have passed since Mario cleverly managed to get the crate out of these men's clutches?"
"Sounds about right, Benny."
"So, Ray, about how long would you say it might take them to figure out where the crate went, consult with the delivery man, and track it to this apartment?"
Several screams in unison came from the room next door, where the children had been left to eat their lunch.
"Approximately twenty-four hours," said Ray, pulling his gun and getting to his feet.
"My children!" Ms. Gamez went ashen. Fraser grabbed her arm and pulled her back from the door as she tried to go to her children.
"Ms. Gamez--Maria!" he whispered to her urgently. "No! Don't go in there yet. We have the advantage. They don't know there's a policemen here, they don't even know we know what they were smuggling. There's no reason for them to harm the children, unless we give them a reason. Let them take the crate, it's what they came for. They'll take it and go." Naturally, he did not mention to the already-terrified woman that shooting people was noisy work, and the smugglers would probably hope to get away quickly without attracting that sort of attention. He dropped her arm and crawled back into the crate. It was the work of a moment to tuck the gems into the cavity he'd found them hidden in and snap on its cover, then he reversed himself out of the crate again. "We'll arrest them outside, away from the children, before this degenerates into some sort of hostage situation."
"We will? Oh, yeah--we will," Ray quickly lowered the door on the crate, and he and Fraser pushed it back into its corner so it wouldn't look like it had been searched. "Ms. Gamez--can you just go out there and make them think you're only interested in the safety of the kids, and that they were only interested in the puppies? Don't let on you know anything at all?" He was betting the kids would be either too smart or too frightened to mention there was a cop in the apartment. "Ya think you can do that convincingly?"
She nodded tensely, straightened to her full height of four foot-eleven inches, and marched like a lioness out into the living room.
When one of the two jewel-smugglers came into the room a moment later, all he saw was a bed with a pink blanket on it, a sewing machine, some bolts of cloth... and a large wood-and-metal crate. "Amigo! Success at last! It's here!" The criminal, the blond-haired man Mario had described, tucked his gun back into its shoulder-holster and grabbed the crate, dragging it from the room. Moments after he left, Fraser rolled out from under the bed, and Ray peeked from the closet by the door. Without a word, the Mountie yanked the screen from the window and disappeared over the sill.
In the living room, Ray found the entire Gamez family engaging in one big group hug, the puppies yipping and milling about their feet. The smugglers had taken what they'd come for and left. "Thank God," Ray breathed. "Is everybody all right?" The general consensus was that everybody was fine, just scared out of their wits. Dief sauntered out of the hallway and looked about, confusion in his eyes.
"You! Useless! You come with me!" Ray shouted at the wolf, and the two went barreling out the front door. Mario shouted something to him as he went, but he didn't quite catch it, something about someone being a 'new guy.' He and the wolf flew down the stairs, Ray experiencing a sense of deja-vu as he ran. They hurtled out the front door just in time to see the two smugglers disappearing around the side of the building with their bulky load.
Meanwhile, jumping from roof-to-roof, Fraser was experiencing his own sense of deja vu. Hmmm... he was really getting to know the neighborhood well from up here. He looked down and saw his friend get the drop on the two smugglers as they loaded the 'empty' crate into their mini-van. It looked like a text-book arrest. Dief was being quite a help, keeping out of the line of fire, but making sure nobody bolted. He'd just climb down the side of the building now, and join....
...it was at this precise moment Fraser glanced down and saw a third man. A sniper. A man with light skin and curly, streaked blond hair. Ah. They'd made a ghastly error, had he and Ray, assuming that the two criminals in the apartment equaled the two men described by Mario, the two who'd threatened Montoyo--there was, in fact, a third man, who was even now being cuffed by Ray. Because the sniper was actually the second man in the shop, and now he was curled up against the edge of the roof of a building just across the way, out of reach, pulling out a shot-gun, clipping a sniperscope to it... oh, God, he could hear Ray's snide tones asking him how they ever coulda-made-such-a-goddamn-rookie-mistake; oh, God, please; he did hope he'd be hearing Ray ask him that question....
Fraser's razor-sharp eyes scanned the rooftop and the surrounding buildings. There has to be something he could use, something he could throw, something, anything--but there was nothing. Except...
There, below in the adjoining backyard. Unaccountably, down below him, someone had set up a trampoline. It might work, if he could just figure out the angle of inclination, the depth of bounce. He had only once chance, one chance in a thousand, a hundred-thousand, a million....
Constable Benton Fraser pushed off the roof and plummeted to the ground.
Down below, Ray was very pleased with himself. He had the cuffs on the one Chihuahua-threatening jerk, and the other one was being guarded by Diefenbaker until he got around to getting that one cuffed, too. He didn't know where the heck Benny'd got to, but that was okay. He probably stopped to help a little old lady cross the street or something.
"Hey, man, you in for some big surprise," snarled the cuffed idiot.
"Keep your mouth shut, at least until I read you your rights," Ray snarled right back, relieving the second jerk of a knife stuck in his boot. "...a guy can't even siddown to a nice plate of spaghetti in this part of town, he doesn't--"
Ray never saw it--it was more of a suggestion of something big and heavy whizzing through the air, then the sound of something resilient, a SPROING, if you will--but Ray never doubted for a second what it was.
Then there was a yelp and a shotgun fell out of the sky with a clatter. And when Ray finally had both creeps cuffed and had the luxury of looking up, he was not a bit surprised to see Benny clinging to the roof of a building with one hand, a skinny, blond guy dangling, screaming, from the other.
"My brother!" shrilled one of the smugglers. "Madre de Dios!!!! Save him!"
"Is that my big surprise?" asked Ray, delighted. "'Cos if it is, I gotta tell you guys, you sure know how to surprise a fella. Diefenbaker, guard these two. If one of 'em moves, rip both their throats out." Dief snarled and the two smugglers looked as if they totally believed the wolf would do just that. No one was moving until Ray got back.
Lieutenant Welsh had the file in front of him. He'd read it a few times, but somehow, he always found himself reading it again, re-reading the good parts. Vecchio and his Mountie friend stood, at attention, in front of his desk. As usual, he wasn't *quite* sure what the Mountie was doing standing at attention in front of his desk, but somehow he never *did* get around to asking him what he was doing there. It would have seemed, well, rude, to inquire.
"Detective Vecchio. This...," Welsh indicated the file, "this is very impressive."
"Thank you, sir, I'm a bit bowled over myself."
Welsh, a bit flummoxed by that, gave Vecchio the stare for a moment, but the detective just stood at attention, not meeting his eye. The Lieutenant shrugged and let it pass. "I mean, it's not everyone who goes out for lunch and returns with three felons, each with several warrants out for his immediate detainment and incarceration, let alone adding these new charges;" Welsh picked up the file and read from it, "Luis 'El Muerto' Romero; his brother Ricardo 'Demos' Romero; and their best friend, Cesare 'Amigo' Mantello."
"'Amigo'?" asked the Mountie.
"I think that's in the nature of ironic nomenclature," explained Welsh. "He's rather well-known for breaking legs, you see."
"It's not in the report, I was just wondering why the wolf didn't take out the two who busted in on the kids. I mean, it's good he didn't do anything, he'da just got himself shot, but a man wonders." Welsh peered over his desk to take a look at the Diefenbaker, who sat at attention. Diefenbaker whined.
"Ah, it was a conscious choice on our parts not to put that in the report, sir--it would have just embarrassed him," the Mountie hastened to explain. "You see, one of the children finally gave him the meatball he kept begging for. They were *hot*, sir. Hot, as in spicy, sir."
"He was in the can, drinkin' outa the toilet when those guys busted in. That's why nobody kisses dogs on the lips, sir," added Vecchio.
"He's quite brave--but he has to see you to save you," finished the Mountie.
"Ah," said Welsh. That explained it nicely. "The shopkeeper, a Mr. Enrico Montoyo, has agreed to testify against these three. He isn't even gonna be charged with being an accessory--he was never really in on it, they threatened to burn down his shop if he didn't do as he was told. The uniforms found him at home, his face busted up."
"Lends a certain credence to his story," the Mountie said approvingly. "Oh, sir, about those emeralds. Was there some sort of reward?"
"Quite a hefty one, in fact. I'm gonna go with the assumption you want the Gamez family to get it all."
The Mountie shook his head. "Ms. Gamez has indicated that she'd like half to go to the Ruberto family. The Rubertos have children the same age as Ms. Gamez and live around the corner from them. The two families have become quite good friends in the last few days, sir."
"And the Rubertos would be?" Welsh didn't remember seeing that name in the report, and he flipped through the pages trying to find it.
"Mr. Ruberto is a private sanitation engineer--he lives with his family in the house his grandparents built in the 1930s, back when it was an Italian neighborhood, sir. One of his regular pick-up stops is the Uptown Health and Racquet Club. They threw out an old trampoline last week, he gave it to his wife, who sewed up the rips in the fabric, then they set it up in their back yard for their children to play on."
"If it wasn't for that trampoline, I'da been toast, sir," added Vecchio.
"Ah," said Welsh. Yes, the trampoline was his favorite part. That about tied up all the loose ends, and he said so. "Well, gentlemen, I love a happy ending as much as the next man. This is gonna look very good on your record, Detective Vecchio. Is there anything you'd like to add before I file this one away?"
Vecchio looked pained for a moment. "Yeah, sir, there is something I wanna ask you, but I'd rather you didn't put it in the report. It's more like a favor, sir"
"Anything I can do for you, Detective Vecchio, you just ask it. After this one, you deserve it."
"Well, I know we're not supposed to accept gifts from crime victims, sir, and I really tried to give them back, but it quickly became evident that Mr. Montoyo would become quite angry if I didn't take them. I seen my mom get that way when someone won't take some food when she offers it--it's an ethnic thing, sir."
"I know all about ethnic things, Vecchio; you still shouldn't have accepted any gifts."
"I don't want them, sir! Honest!"
Despite his good mood, Welsh found himself getting a little annoyed. "You still haven't asked me your favor, Vecchio," he said, a bit more sharply than he meant to.
The detective leaned forward, a mad glint in his eye, causing Welsh to sit back in his chair in surprise. The Mountie just stared up at the ceiling, as if to disassociate himself from the scene.
"Do you like dogs, sir?
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