Production No. CVT514
written & compiled by:
edited by: Lisa Krakowka and Kelly Dunn
(additional writer and editing credits for this story are at the end)
MEET THE CAST
February 13th, after taking a witness statement
"Oh, not you too, Chief?"
"What do you mean 'not you too, Chief?'" Sandburg asked mockingly.
"Those," Jim pointed to the candy hearts that Blair was eating, "Aren't you the one that is always commenting that junk food is bad for you?"
"I'll have you know that there are two, no three, times a year when candy isn't junk food. Plus, look they've updated the messages on these things. This one says 'page me,' and the green one I just ate said 'e-mail me.'"
"Uh huh." To Blair, Jim sounded unconvinced.
"What?" Blair popped a yellow candy heart into his mouth. "Want one?"
"Nothing. No. Just, get in the truck." Jim walked to the other side of the truck, shaking his head in thought and looking over at Sandburg. "Another trip to the Sandburg Zone," he muttered under his breath as he climbed into the truck.
Shivering, Blair reached for the heater controls, batting Jim's hand away. "Just dial down the heat or dial up the cold."
Jim was about to comment but thought better of it. Sandburg was right; he was using his senses to dial down the cold. Especially with the unexpected cold front that had settled over Cascade. One good thing about the cold front-- the criminals were staying indoors.
"Whatever you say, Chief," Jim replied. "After we interview this witness, we can call it a day. Head back to the station to update the reports, then go home. You can play on your blue computer."
Blair paused in his skimming of the file he held. "That's great." Blair ignored the comment about his iBook. Jim still had the dinosaur loaner from the computer tech people on his desk at work, he just had to wait until Jim complained about it to return the comment.
With the thought that he didn't want Blair to know he'd been right about using his dials, Jim decided that a return to the original topic was in order. "Besides, after the events of last week and one Ms. Allison White, I'd think you'd be avoiding this Valentine's thing."
Blair shook his head, turning only slightly as to not give up his relaxed, lounging position. "I didn't miss the change in topic. We'll talk about that when we get home. As for the other," and Blair launched into lecture mode, "I'll have you know that Saint Valentine's and the month of February are..."
"Major Crime, Detective Taggart speaking."
"This is Sergeant Anderson down at the desk, there's a young woman here to deliver flowers to you," the desk sergeant said with a smile in his voice.
"I'll be right down. Thanks."
Sergeant Joe Anderson was a delightful older gentleman who took the position of desk sergeant at the Central Precinct seriously, yet always seemed to have a smile on his face and a kind word, though Taggart thought the criminals might disagree.
The sergeant was still new to the position, having moved to it after a shooting incident left him unable to work as a detective in Homicide. Not only was his position relatively new, but so was the new front desk set up.
No longer was it a sealed-in low counter. Now the counter was raised a couple of feet off the ground. Those who worked the counter either had to stand or sit on tall barstool-like chairs. From this position, Sgt. Anderson could see the comings and goings of the precinct. The new corner mirrors and cameras aided in keeping those out who weren't supposed to be there.
After the Golden-spiked pizza incident, the Zeller shootings last year, and the attempted poisoning of Inspector Connor last week, no visitors were allowed anywhere without expressed authorization from a power that be--department captain, the police commissioner, etc or being cleared through the desk.
The only problem with the new system that Joe Anderson saw was the frequent deliveries the people in this building got--especially during the holidays. The desk had already stopped at least a dozen or so delivery people. Plus, the deliveries had to be signed for, then someone from the desk had to take them up to the appropriate offices.
Joel approached the desk, and Sgt. Anderson waved him up and to the side. "I was about to leave for the day when this nice young woman arrived," Joe indicated the young woman holding a vase of flowers and wearing a shirt that read: May's Flowers, "I was going to sign for them, but then I didn't want to leave them here overnight. I took the chance that you were still up there."
"Thanks, Joe," Joel said. He turned to the delivery girl. "I'm Joel. I believe those are for me." The girl handed Joel the clipboard and indicated he should sign on line fifteen. He then took the huge vase of flowers and handed her a ten-dollar bill.
"Thanks!" The girl said, surprise at the generous tip. "Enjoy your flowers."
Smiling, Joel admired the flowers for a moment then, placing his face close to the fragrant blooms, he closed his eyes and inhaled the soft, spicy scent.
"Must have some sweetheart," Joe commented.
"Yes, I do."
February 14, Major Crime, morning
A young man with an ID badge identifying him as one of the civilian aides assigned to Sgt. Anderson walked into the Major Crime office balancing two packages, a clipboard, and a vase of roses. He stopped at the first desk that had a person sitting behind it. "Excuse me, could you tell me where Rhonda Cameron is?"
Rafe looked up from his desk and covered the mouthpiece of the phone he was talking on. "Blonde hair, right over there." He pointed at Captain Banks' assistant.
The aide handed Rhonda a long slender box, much like a candy box, that had a simply hand written card attached. "With Love, CM."
"And, could you sign on line twenty-three please?" Rhonda signed for the object and the civilian aide quickly departed with his other deliveries. Today was going to be busy. Not only was it Monday, but it was Valentine's Day as well.
Henri Brown wandered by Rhonda's desk to see what type of sweets were just delivered to everyone's favorite office assistant.
"Sweet-talking Rhonda won't get you anywhere, H," Joel Taggart told Henri as he came out of Simon's office. "Besides, didn't Lori send you to work with a large bag of Hershey Kisses?"
"Yes, and the bag is sitting open on my desk for everyone to enjoy," Henri answered. "I just wanted to see what Rhonda had in the box."
Simon came out of his office with several manila folders, handing two of them to Rhonda; he handed the last one to Henri. "Since it looks like you need something to do at your own desk, here's the paperwork back on your last case. Write up the final report and sign off on it. Other than that it looks fine."
It was mid-morning, and for a change, all the members of Major Crime were in. Most were sitting at their desks, catching up on paperwork or cleaning out old case files from their file drawers, and most had noticed the huge bouquet of multi-hued carnations sitting on Joel's desk.
"Hey, Joel?" Blair asked, "I noticed you got those last night. What's the occasion? There's something besides just Valentine's, isn't there?" The rest of the group waited for his response, just as curious as their youngest member but not nearly as assertive about what could be a very personal thing.
"I know. They were delivered right before I left yesterday. My wife always sends me flowers on the thirteenth. For us, it's much more important than Valentine's Day could ever be." The burly detective had a soft, almost dreamy smile on his face.
Sensing a story, Blair prodded, "Tell us about it."
There were several nods of encouragement as he picked up his can of diet soda and took a sip. Joel wasn't used to talking this much, certainly not about such personal things, but these people were friends, and he hadn't been in Major Crime last year at this time of year. His fellow detectives pulled up chairs and got comfortable, realizing that his story might take a while. Captain Banks leaned against the wall behind his detectives, an indulgent smile on his face. Things were slow and he knew Joel's story and recognized it as a good way for his people to bond... not that he'd admit to such a thing.
"You knew that I used to be a soldier, that I was in Vietnam?" he asked. Seeing most of the detectives nod, he began to explain the history behind the flowers.
"I was just a kid..."
...Fresh out of high school, Joel enlisted. Not everyone who went to 'Nam was drafted. Some people enlisted, thinking that it was the right thing to do. Joel was one of those. For him, it was a chance to improve his life, get out of the poverty he grew up with. He had gotten married practically right out of high school. He and his wife were both working hard to get ahead. And, he knew that he was going to be drafted, so he and his wife decided that it might be better if he just volunteered. That way, he had a chance to choose which branch of the service he served. Joel went Army. In boot camp they discovered that he had a talent for explosives, and the training began. When he finally got sent to the front, he was already halfway through his enlistment.
Joel spent several months terrified out of his skull while he was overseas. Scared every minute of every day, not to mention every night. It wasn't one of the better times in his life, he could assure you. He saw friends... He stopped, deciding not to follow that particular route, knowing that if he did, he'd probably bring back some of his nightmares of that time. Taking a deep breath, he continued with the story they wanted to hear.
Joel's Army squad got captured. They were taken to a POW camp, he didn't know where. For the most part they were kept in tiger cages, only taken out for questioning. The Army listed them as MIA, and his wife had been notified. She never gave up hope, though. She kept telling everyone that he'd come home. She was home with their first baby, and Joel had left before she could tell him she was pregnant. And worse of all, it seemed the Post Office or the Army had problems delivering mail to Joel, as evidenced by the returned letters on the table.
His squad was held at the POW camp for about four months before they were rescued. It had just been one of those right time, right location things: a bunch of POWs were being transferred to another camp when they came across a patrol. The Cong were wiped out and the POWs were rescued. None of the half-dozen soldiers were in very good shape, so they were all airlifted back to Clark, where they spent several weeks in the hospital, recovering and being debriefed...
"...But what's that got to do with the flowers?" Megan asked, puzzled.
Joel chuckled. "I was getting to that..."
...When Joel was released from the hospital, not only was his enlistment up, but after having been held as a POW he could be discharged from service if he wanted it. He got his discharge papers. And, instead of going to Hawaii, he got sent straight home, only the notice to his wife that he had been rescued had been lost in the bureaucratic mess of the war.
On February thirteenth, Joel got off the plane in Cascade and took a cab home, wanting to surprise his wife. He bought her a bunch of her favorite flowers, looking forward to seeing her after so long. He had no idea about the baby or that she didn't know that he'd been rescued. When he got home, he just walked in. She was in the kitchen, crying. She'd had a kind of regular crying session when things got rough. But it seemed that the one that day was caused when one of their relatives told her that morning that Joel wasn't going to come back and that she should just get on with her life.
She didn't hear him come in. Although, since he was still on crutches, he don't know how she could not have heard him, but she hadn't. He came up behind her and set the flowers on the table in front of her, then leaned down and whispered, "Honey, I'm home." She turned around, saw him and then fainted dead away. Joel was, to say the least, shocked. Not as shocked as she was, but still. Joel was pretty shaken up over her reaction. She'd just slumped down over the table, she didn't fall on the floor, or anything. And, just as he started to panic, he heard a baby cry. The baby was in a bassinet, over in the corner, the crying was all it took to bring his wife back, she came to and sat up, shaking and staring at him, like he was a ghost or something. She stood up and went over to the baby and picked it up. She just kept staring at him. Joel looked at the baby in her arms and asked, like an idiot, "Who's that?" And, very calmly, she turned the baby for Joel to see, and introduced him to his son...
...The awe on Joel's face more than twenty-five years later as he recalled his first meeting with his son brought a similar sense of wonder to his audience.
"Anyway, once we figured out what all had happened, we settled down and eventually, things got back to normal. After I finished healing, I applied here, went through the academy and started working on the streets. The following February thirteenth, I was called back to the precinct from patrol. I walked in and there was this bouquet of flowers waiting for me. Everybody was raggin' on me so bad, I thought I'd die from embarrassment. But when I read the card, it didn't matter what anyone else thought or said." With that, he pulled the medium-sized card from its little stand and opened it, holding it so the others could read it: "Every year, on this date, she sends me carnations, because I remembered they were her favorite...and I guess they're mine, too."
There were very few dry eyes, as each person read the words on the card, the same words that came every year with the matching bouquet of flowers: "My Love: You promised that you would come back, and you did, right at the moment I had given up hope. I thank God every, single day for bringing you into my life and this anniversary, as on every other, I just wanted to remind you of how much you mean to me, and how much I love you."
Megan's eyes appeared to be watering, as did the eyes of several other detectives and officers of Major Crime who had listened to Joel's story. A sniffle or two was also heard.
Throughout the story, Captain Banks had stayed leaning against the wall, sensing that it was time for his people to get back to work before more developed the weepy-sniffles. He stood to look more like the Captain he was before making his announcement. "Just because crime is down doesn't mean it's stopped. Get back to work." Simon took the folder that Rhonda lifted to him and returned to his office.
The other members of Major Crime quickly moved back to their desks and busied themselves. Another case file from their captain was not what they wanted to receive.
The chiming at the elevator alerted Jim that he hadn't been dreaming, that he had indeed heard Blair's heartbeat and smelled chocolate, chocolate and roses in the vicinity of his partner's heartbeat.
Without looking up Jim asked, "I thought you were just going down to records?"
"I was. I mean, I did."
Looking up and indicating the objects in Blair's hand, "Then," Jim said, "what's all that?"
"Yes, you know. Deliver, to take something to someone else and leave it with them."
Jim looked exasperated. "I know that, Darwin. I mean, what are you doing making deliveries?"
"I'll explain in a sec." Blair took the box of chocolates over to Detective Dills' desk, then placed the roses on Carter's desk. Both detectives were out on calls, and would enjoy the surprises when they returned.
"Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah, explaining the deliveries. I was coming back up through the lobby when I passed Sergeant Anderson's desk. There was this delivery guy trying to leave things with him. And you know how they've been since Ms. White and the poisoned chocolates. They're still being extra careful about who and what finds its way from down there to up here. Sort of like they did after the Golden pizza incident. Anyway, when I heard he had things for people up here, I told him I'd take them." Stopping Jim before he could say anything, he added, "After the packages and delivery guy were checked out."
Jim nodded. But Blair wasn't watching his partner, he was watching Carter's face as she came in and saw the flowers on her desk, and the emotions that ran across her face as she read the attached card. Those MasterCard commercials are right, he thought, moments like these were priceless.
"Whatever, Chief. Want anything from the breakroom?" Jim asked.
"Coffee," came the standard reply.
Coming back into Major Crime, two cups of coffee in hand, Jim passed by Henri's desk, where the detective seemed to be having a quiet disagreement with whomever he was talking to on the phone.
"What's with H?" he asked Megan, who only shrugged that she didn't know and returned to the files spread out on her desk.
Hanging up the phone, Henri grabbed his coffee cup and headed toward the breakroom. He didn't acknowledge anyone he passed, and seemed to still be deep in thought a few minutes later when he returned to the bullpen. So deep in thought, he almost plowed over Blair trying to get back to his desk.
"Come on Henri, what are you so grumpy about, man? Don't tell me that you and Lori had a fight on Valentine's Day?" Sandburg's voice broke through his funk, and Brown smiled in spite of himself.
"Nah, her folks are coming for a visit. They didn't even ask, they just told us what day they'd get here."
Rafe was puzzled. He knew Brown derived great pleasure from tormenting his father-in-law. "Come on, they do this to you almost every year. What's the problem?"
"Grandpa's coming with them."
Sandburg looked back and forth between the two partners. "What, doesn't he think you're good enough to be married to his granddaughter?"
Rafe almost choked on his coffee. "Sandburg, he's a Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Clan!"
"What?!" Sandburg gaped at Brown.
Megan added, "You've got to tell us how you met."
"I'm probably never going to hear the end of it until I do, right?" Henri looked at the faces that surrounded him, nodding their agreement.
"Okay, I was working my way through school as a plumber and a call came for an emergency repair..."
..."Brown, you available?" The voice crackled through the ancient radio and Henri fumbled to pick it up.
"Brown here sir. I just finished the broken tub faucet repair at the sorority, and one of the girls told me about a study group tonight, so I was hoping..."
"One of the girls?" The dispatcher's laughter seemed to make the radio vibrate.
"Mr. Jacobs, if I don't get my economics grade up, the coach is gonna bench me."
"Okay, kid. They asked for Montgomery, but he's got another hour before he finished installing that water heater over on 4th street. Tell you what, you go and get this job started, and he'll be there as soon as he's done. When he shows up, you can go to your study group."
"Thanks, Mr. Jacobs."
"I've got fifty bucks riding on Friday's game. If you don't play and Ol' Miss loses, I'm taking it out of your hide."
"Yes, sir." Brown bit back his laughter as he wrote down the address he was given.
Twenty minutes later he pulled up in the driveway of an old brick building. No street numbers were on the exterior of the building and Brown wasn't sure if he had the right place. Before he could call in a request to confirm the location a man ran out of the door.
The short, mousy looking man came up to the truck, pushing his stringy blond hair out of his face. "Thank God you're here. We're knee-deep in water and we can't get the main valve shut off." Suddenly he looked past the Forestview Plumbing truck and saw the man driving it. "You're black."
Henri hadn't registered anything past 'knee-deep in water' and was pulling on his waders as he unloaded the truck.
"I said, you're black."
"No, I'm Brown." The meaning of what was being said to him didn't quite click in his haste to stop the damage being done inside the structure.
Bypassing the still jabbering man, Brown headed up the stone steps, only to be stopped by an imposing figure at the top.
"Who in the hell are you?"
Henri looked up for the first time. Standing in front of him was a tall white man with steel blue eyes and a shock of white hair. Deep lines across the aristocratic face indicated an age that belied the strength he exhibited.
Grandma Brown had always told her favorite grandson to never let a stranger intimidate him. Henri drew himself up to his full height and never let his gaze wander from his questioner. "I'm the plumber, sir. Name's Henri..."
"He's black, sir!" Mousy had caught up to them. Panting, he repeated himself, "He's black Mr. Thompson."
With all the patience ever found in a college sophomore, Henri finished introducing himself. "Brown. Not black, Brown. Henri Brown, the plumber. You did call for a plumber, didn't you?
"We were expecting Mr. Montgomery." As he spoke, two large men stepped out of the door and joined Thompson, flanking him in a protective stance. A slight nod from the older man sent them back a step, but they continued to watch the now nervous Brown.
"He's on a job on the other side of town, and there's no one else available. The call sounded like it was an emergency, so they sent me to get started until he can get here." Brown made to walk back down the steps. "If you'd rather wait for him, you're more than welcome to. He should be here in about an hour or so."
"Grandpa!" The feminine voice caught Brown's attention and he turned back around as a petite blond stepped out from behind the group of men. She was beautiful, barely coming up to Henri's shoulders, with straight hair that hung to her waist in a neat braid. Her voice was vaguely familiar to him.
"Do I know you?" Henri asked. "Your voice sounds familiar."
She smiled warmly at him, obviously pleased at the recognition. "We're in English Lit together, but I sit in the back."
"They make you sit in back of a nigger, Miss Lori? What kind of school are you going to, child?" Henri caught the warning glance from the girl's grandfather, but his muscle man did not.
"Excuse me?" She whirled around, causing several of the men on the porch to duck in order to miss the whip-like braid. "I will have you know, Mr. Parker, that I have never met a 'nigger' in my life. I have, however, met many fine African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Orientals..."
"I'm sure Mr. Parker didn't mean any harm, child."
"Grandpa, I don't think Mr. Parker is the point here. You know what I think of your views, yet you still come up with excuses for me to come visit you while you're here. No more, if you want to see me, you come to my home, with my friends." Before the stunned man could react, she changed the subject. "Are you really going to let your basement flood because of the plumber's skin color, or are you going to let him fix it?"
Thompson was fixated on the first part of his granddaughter's comments. "You're leaving? You're not going to stay and visit with me?"
"Only if he does."
"This man is one of my classmates. I'm not leaving him here with your vile friends, so if he is staying to work on the broken pipes then I'll stay. Otherwise I'm going."
Family stubbornness showed as the two locked eyes. Eventually the eldest conceded defeat. With only the slightest grimace on his face, he turned towards Henri. "Mr. Brown, isn't it?"
"Mr. Brown, we seem to be in a bit of a dilemma here. Would you mind making some emergency repairs until our regular plumber arrives?"
Henri wasn't sure any job was worth the hassle this one obviously was. One look at the beautiful face waiting for his answer gave him back his resolve. "Of course. Let's see what it's going to take to get you folks high and dry again." Swallowing hard, he followed them into the building.
One look at the photos on the walls removed any doubt Henri had about what kind of place this was. Although it was impossible to identify any of the figures in the pictures under their robes and white pointed hoods, he was reasonably sure they were in the room with him.
Henri had the repairs well under way by the time Montgomery arrived on the scene. "Sorry, kiddo," he whispered in his thick Southern drawl. In a louder voice, he continued, "That's a great temporary repair you've got there, Henri. I've got the new section of pipe out in my truck. You want to give me a hand bringing it in? Then you can go to your study group."
"Thanks, man. I've got to ace that economics quiz or the coach is gonna have a cow."
"Economics?" The young woman spoke for the first time since the repairs had commenced. "Is it for Professor Martin's class?"
"Yeah, do you have him too?" Henri was sure he would have noticed that beautiful face in more than one of his classes. "I've got him first thing in the morning."
"Yuck! Afternoon's bad enough. Do you think I could tag along with you to your study group? That's my worst subject."
"Lori, the campus at night is no place for an unescorted lady." Thompson's concern shone through his arrogance for once.
"Don't worry sir, I'll make sure she gets home all right." Brown was sincere when he made the offer and it showed in his voice.
Before Thompson could come up with another objection, his granddaughter cut in. "See, Grandpa, I'll be fine. You always said Ol' Miss has the best defense in the league. Who better to protect me than the player of the week?" Shifting gears, she turned to Henri. "We've never been formally introduced. I'm Lori Thompson."
Henri quickly wiped his palms on the seat of his pants before taking the proffered hand. With a slow smile and his most debonair voice he answered her. "Brown, Henri Brown. It will be my pleasure to escort and protect you Madame."
Lori giggled and leaned close, speaking in a voice only Henri could hear. "I think economics just got a lot more interesting...."
..."We started dating shortly after that."
"And I thought they would never get married," joked Rafe.
Brown turned to stare at his partner and smiled up at him. "Ha ha, partner. Just wait until you find the right person and meet her family." The detectives and officers that were or had been married all smiled at that comment.
Megan, having turned to answer her phone, was now getting her coat and signaling Joel that they had to go to a crime scene.
"Oops, guess we're up next," Joel told Henri. "But don't worry, I'm sure Lori can handle her grandfather." Turning to Megan he asked, "So, what are the prelims on the case?"
"A man in a giant red heart suit robbed the Crown Jewelers on 5th," Megan waited for the reaction from Joel. She didn't have long to wait until he stopped putting on his coat and turned to look at her.
"You're joking?" he asked.
"That doesn't sound much like a case for Major Crime though," offered Blair.
Megan smiled. "This is the third store he's hit in the last hour. The first was a candy store and the second was a florist."
"Still doesn't sound like a case for Major Crime," Rafe joined the conversation.
"Oh, agreed," answered Megan. "His first two takes only totaled about fifty dollars each. However, the ring he stole from the jewelry store is worth about a hundred thousand."
Joel shook his head slightly. Jim muttered something about Valentine's Day bringing out the nuts, which earned him a pat on his shoulder from his partner.
"Just one question," said Joel as he and Megan walked out of the bullpen and toward the elevator. "A human heart or a paper cut-out heart?"
Megan waited until they were in the elevator and the doors were closing to answer, "A paper cut-out."
"And it's only morning," muttered Jim.