Keys

Chapter 7

Steve dropped the empty ice cream tub into the wastepaper basket and walked back towards the bed.

“I’m sorry,” Mike said quietly.

“What?”

Mike took a careful deep breath. “I’m, ah, I’m sorry … for earlier.” He was looking at the sheet in front of him, as if unable to make eye contact. “There was just so much coming at me all at once. I thought I was ready to hear it and … well, obviously I wasn’t.”

“It’s okay –“

“No, it’s not,” Mike interrupted. He looked up and met the younger man’s gaze. “I had a visitor.” He told Steve about Maureen Bidwell and what she told him.

“Wow,” Steve said quietly. “I had no idea. He sure kept it quiet, didn’t he?”

“Yeah. But you know, I’d probably do the same thing. Charlie loved this job as much as I do.” Mike closed his eyes, the strain of the last few hours evident on his face.

“Look, ah,” Steve said, “I’m gonna get out of here, let you get some rest. They told me you’re going to be released around 9 tomorrow morning, so I’ll be here in plenty of time.”

Mike nodded without opening his eyes, laying his head back against the pillow.

“You want me to lower the bed a little?”

Another nod. Steve went to the foot of the bed and lowered it slightly, then crossed to the door and picked up the overnight bag. He was about to leave when he stopped and went back to the bed. “You okay?”

Mike opened his eyes slightly and smiled. “Yeah,” he whispered.

“Good. I’ll see you in the morning.”

As Steve started to turn away, Mike asked, “What time is it?”

Steve glanced at his watch. “A little after four. Why?”

“Could you do me a favour?”

“Sure. Anything.”

“Find Jack. Talk to him. Make sure he’s okay. You’ll know what to say to him.”

Steve smiled. “Sure.” He reached out and put his hand lightly on the top of Mike’s head. “You go to sleep.”

Mike closed his eyes and nodded tiredly. He was asleep before Steve made it to the door.

# # # # #

The Bryant Street building was bustling when Steve got off the elevator on the third floor. It seemed to take him forever to get to Robbery, so many people stopping him to enquire about Mike.

In contrast, Robbery was quiet and somber. The half-dozen officers present were still dealing with the reality that one of their own would not be coming back. After fielding more questions about Mike, Steve asked if any of them had seen Jack Elliott recently.

Sergeant Ray Parker shook his head. “No, I don’t think anybody’s seen him since Charlie died. He was at the hospital with Maureen and Karen but then he left and I don’t think anybody’s seen him since.”

“I called his apartment last night, you know, just to talk to him,” added Inspector Peter Mueller, “and there was no answer. I mean, he could be there and just not answering.”

“Yeah,” agreed Steve. “Do you guys have his address? I might stop by.”

Mueller wrote the address on a piece of paper, and Steve folded it and put it in his jacket pocket. “This is my first time back since the shooting. This place is really buzzing.”

Parker shook his head, exhaling loudly. “We’re going 24 hours a day – everyone is here. You can feel the anger in the building. Everyone wants to get these guys.”

# # # # #

A little over an hour later, Steve was sitting at his desk in Homicide. It hadn’t taken long to get to Elliott’s apartment, and his insistent knocking had produced no results. He spoke briefly to the building manager and a couple of neighbours, but none of them had seen Elliott in the past few days either.

Now he sat at his own desk, trying to put himself in Elliott’s shoes, hoping to figure out where the young inspector had sequestered himself. He glanced towards Mike’s office, at the empty coat rack that was the usual home of his partner’s jacket and fedora.

He smiled to himself in the knowledge that he would be lucky enough to see that sight again; he could only imagine what Elliott was going through, and not for the first time since Monday afternoon was awed by the incredible luck that had spared him a similar grief.

Suddenly he sat up straighter. Without a word, he got up quickly and strode to the door.

# # # # #

The back door of the grey Galaxy opened and Steve Keller got in and slammed the door. He sat quietly for a few moments, then said softly, “How ya doin’, Jack?”

Elliott was in the driver’s seat, and in the rearview mirror he met Steve’s eyes evenly, without a smile or nod of recognition. “How did you know where to find me?”

Steve allowed himself a small smile. “I put myself in your shoes. Since you weren’t in the office or at home, I figured you’d be in a place that reminded you of the time you spent with Charlie. Mike and I spend almost as much time in the car as we do in the office; it just made sense.”

“I’m impressed. But what exactly are you doing here?” he asked flatly.

“A lot of people have been asking about you. They’re worried. They haven’t seen you for awhile and they just want to make sure you’re okay.”

“And they sent you to find out?” Elliott’s tone was almost confrontational.

Steve hesitated. Elliott’s demeanor was beginning to alarm him. “Yeah,” he started slowly, “Mike asked me to –“

“Mike?” Elliott interrupted. “Mike asked you to talk to me.”

“Yeah, he’s worried about you –“

“Oh, he is, hunh?” EIliott interrupted again, this time with a trace of contempt in his voice. “Why, is he feeling guilty?”

Steve felt a small wave of anger well up, but he sat back and took a deep breath. “What does he have to feel guilty about?” he asked carefully, although he felt sure he knew what the answer was going to be.

“I know what happened in the garage,” Elliott began forcefully. “I know all about the car keys, about Mike picking up Charlie’s keys. Why couldn’t he have just left them, let Charlie pick them up. Then it’d be me visiting Charlie in the hospital and you’d be burying Mike on Monday.”

Steve stiffened, not wanting to believe what he was hearing. Elliott had stopped talking, as if he realized he had gone too far. The tense silence in the car lengthened until Steve got control of his anger.

“Jack,” he began slowly, calmly, “it wasn’t just the gunshot that killed Charlie. There were complications, you know that.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Maureen Bidwell came to see Mike this afternoon. She told him that they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. And that was because of the blood thinners Charlie was taking for his high blood pressure. That’s what killed him.”

“Bullshit.”

“Jack, Charlie had diabetes and high blood pressure. She said he was going to take an early retirement because of his health.”

Elliott turned in the seat for the first time and faced Steve directly. “Bullshit,” he repeated. “I worked with Charlie for almost five years. I was with him almost every day. Charlie was fine. He wasn’t on any medication. I would know.” He glared at Steve defiantly.

Steve stared back, his mind racing as he tried to absorb what Elliott had just told him. Acknowledging that they were now on very shaky ground, and with no confidence that he could continue to speak to his colleague in a civilized manner, Steve just shook his head slowly. “Okay, Jack, okay. If that’s what you want to believe –“

“It’s the truth,” Elliott interrupted, then turned back to stare out the windshield. “They were Charlie’s keys,” Steve heard him mutter under his breath.

Steve waited for a few seconds, not rising to the bait then he reached for the handle and opened the door. As he got out, he said quietly, “Take care of yourself, Jack.”

He slammed the door and started to walk away, his mind reeling. Was Elliott right? Was Charlie Bidwell healthy? Would Maureen lie to Mike so he wouldn’t blame himself for Charlie’s death? Was Elliott in denial so he could cope with the death of his partner? Or had Bidwell kept Elliott in the dark about his condition?


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