Still dressed in his blue checked shirt and khaki pants, Mike leaned back against the pillows and sighed wearily. Steve sat on the edge of the bed.
“You sure you’re okay?”
Mike nodded, “Yeah, yeah, I’m just tired, that’s all.”
Steve frowned but elected to keep his concern to himself for now. He grinned as he stood and pulled the blanket up. “You charmed her socks off, you know that, right?” Mike smiled, keeping his eyes closed. “I’m gonna have to keep an eye on you,” Steve chuckled and was rewarded when Mike did the same.
The older man opened his eyes. “She’s a keeper, buddy boy. Gorgeous and smart. How did you get so lucky?”
“What lucky? Class attracts class,” Steve laughed. He sat on the side of the bed again, and his smile disappeared. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
Mike looked at him gratefully, understanding the concern. He took a deep, audible breath. “See, no coughing, no wheezing. I’m fine, really. I’m just tired. I was told to expect that, because of the pneumonia.”
Steve nodded. “I’ll be so happy when you’re better,” he said quietly.
Mike smiled affectionately. “You and me both. Look, take your lovely lady home so she can go to work, and you get your butt into the office for that meeting you have. I’m fine, I just want to sleep, okay?”
Laying a hand on Mike’s arm, Steve looked deep into his eyes and nodded. “I’ll see you later,” he said fondly, stood up and crossed to the door, turning back. “There’s a Giants-Dodgers game tonight; we can listen to it while we have dinner. Anything special?”
Mike grinned. “Surprise me.”
# # # # #
As the Porsche pulled away from the curb, Emily looked over at the driver. “Thanks again for that. I’m really glad I finally got to meet the mysterious Mike Stone,” she said with a slight giggle.
Steve snorted, “What do you mean ‘mysterious’?”
“Well, you talked about him all the time, whether you realized it or not, but never once offered to introduce me to him. I was beginning to think he was some figment of your imagination,” she teased.
“Really?” asked Steve puzzled, unaware he had been so verbal about his relationship with his partner.
Emily smiled and reached out to put a hand on his thigh, momentarily startling him. “Don’t be embarrassed. Like I said before, I think it’s terrific. And now that I’ve seen you two together, I understand it completely.”
Uncomfortable, Steve continued to stare out the windshield, trying to concentrate on his driving.
Noticing how ill at ease she was making him, Emily took her hand off his leg and looked away. “You do know how much he loves you, don’t you? It’s so obvious; the way he looks at you, the way he talks to you.”
As Steve’s hands fidgeted on the steering wheel, Emily looked out the side window and smiled warmly.
# # # # #
“Steve, you know Don Baker, from the PBA? And this is Eric Karlson, from the D.A.’s office; he working with Gerry.”
Steve shook hands with the two men, then nodded at O’Brien and took a seat as Rudy Olsen crossed around his desk to sit.
“So, gentlemen, where do we stand right now?” Olsen looked at O’Brien.
“Well, nothing much has changed in the past couple of days. The Annenbergs are still pressuring the Oakland PD to charge you with either manslaughter, which is a stretch of course, or more likely conspiracy to commit murder.”
There were snorts all around, which Steve found comforting. Before he could say anything, Olsen spoke up. “They can’t possibly think they have a snowball’s chance in hell with that, do they?” he asked derisively.
“Well, no,” O’Brien said calmly, “but we’re talking about a very powerful family with an unlimited financial resource. They are not going to stop until they get some kind of satisfaction, whether it’s punitive or financial.”
“Financial?” Steve and Olsen blurted out simultaneously.
O’Brien shifted uncomfortably. “If the Annenbergs can’t get charges pressed against you, then the chances are they will go after you financially, sue you in civil court for ‘wrongful death’.” He looked at Steve uneasily, knowing that the young officer had once before been faced with a similar situation. He saw Steve sigh dishearteningly and drop his head. He felt Olsen’s eyes boring into him.
“Well,” Olsen began strongly, wrestling the attention away from the ADA, “its not gonna get that far. Now we’ve got an entire team over there in Oakland helping out their guys in trying to find something, anything concrete that will connect that little bastard to the shooting. And we’ve got some irons in the fire that I’m not at liberty to talk about right now,” he finished quietly, ignoring the others questioning stares.
“My suggestion, and please tell me if I’m on the right track with this, Gerry, is we just keep mum about this whole thing right now. Nobody talks to the press. Nobody says anything. We let the Annenbergs and their mouthpiece do all the talking right now. Right?”
O’Brien nodded. “Absolutely right, Rudy. Morris Greenspan is very adept at manipulating the press and public opinion, there’s no way we can counter that right now as we have no facts to back us up.” He glanced at Steve. “It doesn’t matter that we know everything they are saying is bullshit, we have to take the high ground right now and maintain our silence. In this case, silence does not mean weakness.” He took a deep breath and looked at Olsen. “Right now we have time on our side but that is not going to last. I’d say we have only about a week, at the outside, until he demands, and will probably get, a sanction to move ahead with either charges or the civil suit.
“This is a very serious and dangerous situation for the Oakland mayor – there is an election coming up. He’s not going allow this to go on forever and jeopardize his chances for re-election. He’s going to apply political pressure.”
Olsen nodded. “Steve,” he said, looking at his inspector, “I want you to lie low for the next few days, let us do all the work, okay? Stay home, keep Mike company, and try to take your mind off all of this. Let us do the worrying, okay?” he said with a smile, trying to keep the edge out of his voice.
Steve nodded reluctantly, frustrated that he was not going to be allowed to be more active in his own defense, but realizing that Olsen was right.
“How is Mike, by the way?” the captain asked, desperately wanting to change the subject.
Steve looked up and smiled. “The pneumonia took a lot out of him and he’s pretty exhausted, but he’s getting better all the time. I’m gonna make sure he doesn’t leave the house for the next few days so that’ll help. You should come by and see him, he’d like that.”
Olsen’s smile was genuine. “That’s wonderful to hear and yes, tell him I will drop by soon, I promise.”
# # # # #
Steve opened the front door, balancing the large paper bag on his knee as he pulled his key from the lock and stepped over the threshold. He glanced around the living room but didn’t see Mike. He quietly closed the door and walked to the kitchen, leaving the bag on the counter then crossing back out and up the stairs.
a slight amount of unease, he pushed the bedroom door open. Mike, still dressed, was lying on top
of the covers, glasses on, reading a book. Steve let out a quiet relieved sigh and smiled as Mike
turned towards the door, looking at him over the glasses.
“Hi,” said Mike casually, lowering the book and taking off his glasses. “You were gone a long time.”
“Yeah, there was a lot going on and then I had to wait for our food,” he said vaguely as he crossed to the bed. “How are you doing?”
“Great, great. I slept most of the day.” Mike swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Food, you said?” he grinned, getting slowly to his feet. He could tell from his friend’s demeanour that something was bothering him but decided to wait a bit before confronting him on it. “I’m starving. What did you bring us?”
“I went to Mama’s,” Steve said with a broad smile.
“Oooo, Italian, great.” Mike carefully clapped his hands as they walked to the door.
# # # # #
“You want a little glass of red wine? I think you’re allowed,” Steve called from the kitchen.
Mike was in the living room, trying to locate KFSO on the radio. “Sure!” he yelled back, then stopped turning the dial when he heard the familiar voice of Al Michaels. “Game’s starting!”
Steve entered with two plates of lasagna and salad, putting them on the coffee table then retreating back into the kitchen for the glasses of wine.
Mike sat on the couch in front of the coffee table, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “This looks great,” he said enthusiastically as he picked up the cutlery.
Steve smiled to himself as he sat in the armchair, relieved to see his partner had gotten his appetite back, a very good sign.
“So,” Mike said casually, looking at his plate, “when are you seeing Emily again?”
Steve almost choked on his first mouthful of lasagna. “What?” he gasped, reaching for his wine glass and taking a sip.
Mike looked at him sideways, grinning slightly as he cut a piece of lasagna. “Emily? Remember? That stunning beauty that was all over you this morning?”
“Yeah,” Steve nodded with a wary smile and a chuckle, “I remember. And what business is it of yours, to be perfectly honest?” His tone was playful.
“Absolutely none. You know I just have your best interests at heart.”
Steve turned to look at the older man, a mischievous glint in his eye. “Well, Michael Stone, I believe you’re smitten with her.”
“Smitten?” Mike echoed bemusedly. “That’s my generation’s word, not yours. Smitten…” He snorted.
“Am I wrong?”
Mike looked at him balefully. “Thin ice, my boy, thin ice,” he threatened, wagging a finger.
Steve sat back with a laugh and took another sip of wine. “I could ask her what her mother looks like.”
Mike made a playful lunge at him, but pulled himself up short, wincing. “Ah, shit,” he said through clenched teeth, “I keep forgetting I can’t do that.” When Steve started to get up, Mike waved him back. “I’m okay, I just need a second.”
Aware that Steve was watching him intently, Mike decided to lighten the mood. He speared another piece of lasagna with his fork and with a sly sideways glance said innocently, “So, did you ever figure out where I got the newspaper from?”
Steve smiled and shook his head. “Don’t change the subject.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Mike said teasingly, “you gave up and you were too embarrassed to tell me.” He popped the piece of lasagna into his mouth.
“I didn’t give up, I just forgot about it.”
“Yeah, a woman’ll do that to you,” Mike said around the lasagna.
Steve shot him an exasperated glance. “You think I can’t figure it out.”
“I know you can’t figure it out, and you’re just too embarrassed to admit it.”
“Give me to the end of the ballgame – then I’ll tell you where you got it. Deal?”
“Tonight’s ballgame?” Mike asked pointedly.
“Ha ha, very funny. Of course tonight’s ballgame.”
“Deal,” Mike agreed smugly, tucking back into his lasagna.
# # # # #
Mike was asleep on the couch by the middle of the sixth inning. Steve didn’t have the heart to wake him and, as he sat in the armchair listening to the game and Mike’s gentle snoring, he tried to solve the riddle of the newspaper.
With everything going on in their lives right now, this little respite from reality was just the solace they both needed. Emily was right, he had to agree; he did know how much he was loved, and the truth in that simple fact was the unshakable foundation of his very existence.