Author's website: http://www.squidge.org/~foxsden
Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been, Alliance Atlantis.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Ramius for the research assistance, such as it was.
Dedicated to LauraKaye, on (or just after) her birthday. Turnbull yay!
Turnbull sighed inwardly and looked at the clock on his desk as the door closed behind Constable Fraser. Threefifty -six. For the next hour and a half, the Consulate -- well, the Law Enforcement Liaison Office annex, anyway - - was his to command. He decided to concentrate on enjoying this, rather than on the vague envy he felt toward both his superior officers. Wouldn't want that to deepen and develop and turn into resentment, after all, would he? No, siree. Why, he was in charge! That wasn't a situation that arose every day. Of course, he was in charge of no more than himself; being left in command when one was the only staff member in the building amounted to the same thing as being left at home alone without a babysitter ...
Hmm. All right, so maybe he did resent Constable Fraser and Inspector Thatcher just a bit. Constable Fraser had his friends at the police department, and Inspector Thatcher had a whirlwind social life of her own, and the end result was that Turnbull was left alone in the building on his birthday. Not that he had plans, though it would have been nice if either of the senior officers had asked before leaving. Not that they, or anybody in Chicago for that matter, knew that it was his birthday.
Turnbull sighed again. When he'd first come to Chicago, it had frankly been a relief to be nobody special. He hadn't been anybody special in Canada either, of course, but with a name like Turnbull, one spent a lot of time disclaiming any connection to the curling star. For a short time, it had been quite pleasant to be the only Turnbull anyone had ever heard of. Before long, though, he'd begun to wish there were someone -- anyone -- in town who'd smile knowingly when he introduced himself as "Renfield Turnbull -- no relation." Or who would appreciate the coincidence that Constable Fraser had two co-workers, one named Turnbull and one called Ray.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. He'd mind the Consulate for another -- he looked at the clock again -- forty-two minutes, and then he'd close up, walk home, change into civilian attire, and go to a restaurant where he could sit at the bar and buy himself a drink. Possibly also a dessert with a candle in it.
He spent the next half-hour completing the day's reports, heading and dating the next day's reports, balancing his checkbook, and checking each room in the Consulate to make sure all the light bulbs were working. Really, he couldn't blame Inspector Thatcher and Constable Fraser for getting out of here at the earliest possible opportunity. There were times when the place was a flurry of activity, but there were times when it was -- speaking with complete candor -- not.
Turnbull replaced the box of light bulbs in the supply closet, took another turn around the building making sure the windows were secured, shut off all the lights, gathered his belongings, and exited. He heard the click of the door locking behind him, but tested it to be sure anyway; when he was satisfied that it wouldn't open, he turned to walk down the steps -- and bumped into a man who had been standing right behind him.
"I do beg your pardon," Turnbull said with a deferential nod. "Excuse me." He moved to step around the man, but the man blocked his path.
"You the other Mountie?" the man asked.
Turnbull sighed. That was the essence of it, wasn't it -- Constable Renfield Turnbull, RCMP, with a modestly impressive service record, crackerjack marks in school, savant-like intelligence, and a presence worthy of his name (coincidental though it might be) on the ice sheet, was here in Chicago no more than 'the other Mountie.' "I am a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or a Mountie," he said to the man. "I assume from your question that you are here in search of my colleague, Constable Benton Fraser, and I regret to inform you that he is not on the premises and the building is closed. If you'd like to call tomorrow during business hours, you should be able to find him --"
"You assume wrong," the man said, taking a half-step closer. "You Turnbull?"
In the back of his mind, Turnbull considered the man's potential to harm him. He, Turnbull, was about eleven centimeters taller, but the man appeared to outweigh him by possibly as much as fifteen or twenty kilograms. It would be a near thing, if it came to that. "I am Constable Renfield Turnbull, yes," he began.
The man took his arm above the elbow. He had a grip like the bite of a horse. "Come with me, Red," he said, and started to pull Turnbull down the front steps.
"I beg your pardon," Turnbull said, concentrating on not struggling. "Perhaps you'd better tell me where you're taking me?"
The man led him to a nondescript van idling in a No Standing zone. "Just shut up and get in, and nobody has to get hurt, 'kay?"
"But I --" The man's grip tightened -- Turnbull wouldn't have thought it possible -- and he raised an eyebrow. Turnbull cleared his throat and nodded, and the man opened the back door of the van. Turnbull got in and fastened his seat belt, noting with dismay that there was a partition blocking his view of the windshield; he couldn't see out the front, and there were no windows in the sides or the back. He'd have to concentrate on the apparent speed of the vehicle and the number of turns it took, if he was to know where he was being taken.
It wasn't more than ten minutes before he was thoroughly disoriented. Between the rush hour traffic and the fact that the man turned corners with startling frequency, Turnbull had no idea where he was. When the van stopped and the man let him out, it was in a featureless indoor parking lot. "I need you to put this on," the man said, handing him -- a blindfold?
"Now, really," Turnbull said, "this is going a bit far. I think I deserve at least an explanation of --"
The man leaned closer, 'getting in his face,' as the expression went, and tapped at Turnbull's chest with his forefinger as he spoke. "Shut. Up. You hear me? The easier you make this, the easier it's going to be, all right? We're almost there, but I can't have you see where we're going. It'd, ah, spoil the surprise." The man grinned smugly and smacked Turnbull lightly on the side of the head. "Nobody's gonna hurt you. Put the damn blindfold on."
Turnbull gritted his teeth and did as he was told. The man led him through a door, up a flight of stairs, through two more doors, and onto an elevator. When the elevator opened, they went down a corridor, around a corner, and through another door -- into a room Turnbull could tell was crowded with people, although nobody was speaking.
"Here he is," the man said.
"Thank you kindly, Tony. You can go ahead and look, now, Turnbull."
Turnbull yanked off his blindfold and stared.
The break room at the 27th precinct was full of people. All of Constable Fraser's friends from the Detective division were present, obviously; there was a cluster of smartlydressed people hanging together, some of whom looked familiar as friends of Inspector Thatcher's from various diplomatic corps at other consulates in the city; Francesca Vecchio was next to a woman who could only be her sister, and the Tony who had brought him here had taken a seat on the woman's other side. On a table in the center of the room, in addition to an assortment of beverages and paper products, was a cake decorated to look like a curling sheet. Constable Fraser, out of uniform, approached him with a beaming grin and slapped him on the back. "Happy birthday, Turnbull. Surprise!"
Everyone cheered. Turnbull could only gape. Inspector Thatcher came to stand at his other side. "Close your mouth, Constable," she said, not without warmth. "Something to drink?"
"I'm sorry if Tony startled you," Constable Fraser said as the conversation in the room picked up again and they moved around to the drinks side of the table. "We did ask him not to be rough."
"Oh, he wasn't rough at all, sir," Turnbull assured him. "Just ... cryptic."
"Yes, I'm afraid that's a feature of Tony's whether he intends it or not," Constable Fraser said with a slight grimace, handing him a Coca-Cola. "Here you are."
"Hey, Turnbull!" Detectives Huey and Vecchio came to join them, bumping Turnbull companionably on the shoulder. "We didn't know it was your birthday until this morning," Detective Huey said. "Why didn't you tell us, man?"
"Well, I -- ah -- that is -- I mean --" Turnbull stammered.
"It's a rhetorical question," Fraser said. "Ready to cut your cake?"
"Oh, I --" Someone handed him a knife, and he shrugged and cut into the cake at the blue-icing hog line. Just as quickly, someone took the knife away again.
"You go schmooze," Francesca insisted. "It's your party. We'll get this cut and served."
Still bewildered, Turnbull turned back to Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio. "Sir, I'm -- I don't know what to say," he said frankly. "I hadn't -- that is, I never expected anything like -- thank you, sir."
Constable Fraser smiled. "It was my pleasure, Turnbull." Lieutenant Welsh called to Constable Fraser from the other side of the room. "Excuse me." Constable Fraser smiled again and departed.
"So. Turnbull," Detective Vecchio said, looking up at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes, Detective?" Turnbull said politely.
"Call me Ray," Detective Vecchio said -- and then, unbelievably, he winked. "That's, like, a thing, right? Ray? Turnbull? That must get to be a drag, you being into curling and everything."
It occurred to Turnbull that he might still be sleeping -- but he blinked and shook his head sharply, and this was quite clearly not a dream or a hallucination. "It can be, yes," he said. "I didn't realize you followed curling, Detec-- Ray."
"I didn't used to, but I got hooked when I was locked in a room with some Canadians this one time," Detective Vecchio grinned. "And I could tell you a couple things about having a name someone else already had." He leaned closer, and Turnbull had to bend his head to hear what Detective Vecchio said next. "So that's two things we got in common. I bet I could think of at least one more ..."
Detective Vecchio winked again and went to get another soda. Turnbull accepted the paper plate someone handed him with a piece of his birthday cake on it. Unless he was very much mistaken, he'd just been propositioned.
This was turning out to be quite a good birthday after all.
End Off His Guard by Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org
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