DISCLAIMER: Rizzoli & Isles and its characters are the property of Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro and TNT television network.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Boston Stranger Redux

By D.S.


"Homicide?" the distraught Prius driver exclaimed. "Why is Homicide here? It was just an accident." He looked over to where a pretty blonde in some sort of . . . racing suit or something . . . knelt beside the unnaturally configured body that lay in front of his car. "Oh, my God."

Calmly, Jane assured him, "Standard procedure, Mr. Turner." A moment later, she wandered over to Korsak and murmured from the side of her mouth, "Why the hell are we here?"

The seasoned detective nodded toward the object of Dr. Isle's attention. "Mayor's cousin."

"Oh, for--" Jane bit her tongue. Just to make the next Thanksgiving dinner a little easier for His Honor - "We did everything we could, Grandma" - the city of Boston was paying overtime to three Homicide detectives and a medical examiner who, until an hour ago, had been within two runs of a highly coveted win over those Narcotics assholes. She was even going to let Maura bat again, since it seemed to make her so damn giddy. But no, for the second time in a row, the grudge match of the year had been brought to an unexpected halt.

Stepping out of a house across the street, Frost walked over with the electronic note thingie that he had paid for himself.

"You know you're not supposed to go in alone," she pointed out to her less experienced partner.

"It would take some nerve to do me in with Boston Homicide fifty yards away," Frost replied.

"It's not just that," Jane explained. "What if she accused you of something?" An unpleasant memory surfaced of one of those rich fraternity brats accusing rookie patrolwoman Rizzoli of stealing half his stash. "Witnesses, Dude."

"Sorry," he said, and he probably was. He pressed a button on the device and proffered it to Jane, who glowered at him. "Right." He looked down at the tiny screen. "Okay. Mrs. Easterbrook just happened to be looking out her living room window at the time -"

"Always looks out the living room window," Jane interpreted. She turned slightly so that she could watch Maura while Frost reported, in case the Medical Examiner needed anything.

"--and happened to notice Mr. Benson there--" He gestured toward the forty-something balding man with cigar in mouth, disinterestedly mowing his lawn.

"Was spying on Mr. Benson," Jane said.

"--and so she saw the whole thing. Our vic either didn't see the guy coming, or she tripped or something," Frost continued. "Took a header right into the Toyota's path. Nothing the guy could do about it."

Two technicians from the M.E.'s office had arrived, Jane noticed, and, after running an eye over their boss's unusual attire, listened as she apparently gave them instructions. How was Maura as a boss, Jane wondered. Meticulous, no doubt. Forgiving? Probably. But as far as--


"Huh?" Oh, yeah. "Was he speeding?"

"She doesn't think so," Frost replied. "But she doesn't drive much, so it's possible. It's 35 along here."

What the-- Was Maura telling her guys to . . . ? She hurried over to her friend, arriving just in time to hear, "--be there in about an hour."

"No, no, no," Jane said quietly to her friend. She helped Maura to her feet.

She had planned to ask Maura if she wanted to go for a drink or something, maybe to talk about men - for example, about why Detective Dale Hutton spent half the game over by Homicide's dugout wasting Maura's time, and what exactly he had said to make Maura laugh so hard that one time, and, maybe, for her friend's own good, letting Maura in on a few of the love-'em-and-leave-'em rumors about Asshole Hutton - rather than spend the evening watching her friend press depressingly sharp objects into unresisting flesh.

"Got an eyewitness - it's accident all the way," she assured the M.E. "You don't have to do anything."

Confused, Maura replied, "But the Mayor--"

"Called Homicide, yeah, I know."

"And me," Maura noted.

"Okay, yeah, but it's just a family thing," Jane said. "Just keeping his mother off his back. Believe me, I know."

Maura kindly did not make any number of truthful responses to that observation. With an apologetic expression, she said, "I told the mayor I'd look into it."

And, of course, Maura didn't lie. But it wouldn't be a lie if there was nothing to look into.

"Sheesh, Maura, I can see from here," Jane tried again. "Multiple fractures, probable head injury and internal bleeding. Three Thousand Pound Car 1, Clumsy Pedestrian 0."

"That may well be," Maura conceded. "But you know I don't like--"

"To guess." There was no point in arguing when Maura got like this. "Got it."

"I do want to be able to answer his questions," Ms. Conscientious said. "It looks as though she had a skin allergy, so I'm a little surprised that she was out unprotected in this heat."

Grasping Maura's shoulder and gently turning her around, Jane pointed down the block. "Drug store, grocery, post office," she said. "She didn't have far to go."

"Oh. Well, I might at least be able to give some piece of mind to her family," Maura said.

By cutting up the woman? Jane kept the thought to herself.

"Did she have anyone?" Maura asked. "I mean, other than the Mayor."

"Husband," Jane replied. "IT guy. He's been in Saudi Arabia for the last three months installing sound systems or something."

The doctor cringed, no doubt imagining the horror of being summoned home for the saddest of reasons.

Jane checked her watch. "It's probably the middle of the night there."

"1:34 a.m.," Maura said. "All of Saudi Arabia is in a single time zone."

Of course.

Lowering the zipper on her heat-resistant, form-fitting "uniform" a few inches, Maura continued, "I didn't have any plans for tonight, anyway. Unless . . . ?" she looked at Jane inquiringly.

"No, right," Jane said quickly. She had plenty to do that didn't involve Maura Isles. Maybe she'd go introduce herself to that cute new superintendent's assistant on the first floor; he looked as though he'd know what to do with a pipe wrench. Or she could always call Frankie.

It was hard not to feel a little sorry for the dedicated doctor, though, even if it was entirely her own fault, and a few hours later Jane found herself strolling into the morgue with two bags of Chinese in hand.

The focused Dr. Isles failed to notice her entrance, apparently, and Jane wondered again about installing some kind of security in this place. Her mind returned frequently to the shock she had experienced of walking in on a serial killer holding a gun to her friend's head.

"Kung Pao?" she called over.

Yep, her presence had not been noted; the doctor's jerky motion confirmed that. "Jane," Maura said, partly in greeting and partly a chastisement for startling her.

"Sorry," Jane said. "Next time I'll fire up 'Ten Thousand Men of Harvard' before I come in."

Resuming her inspection of Pamela Pfeiffer's innards, Maura mused, "I'm surprised you know that one."

"Hey, I get invited places," Jane said, half-defensively. "I'm surprised you know it," she countered. "Actually, no, I'm not surprised. You probably even know the Latin version."

Maura looked up at her with an odd expression. "There is no Latin version."

"Yeah, there is," Jane said. "I heard it. Hell, I sang it."

"It's not actually Latin," Maura said. "Some students made it up."

Goddamn it. "So I sat there with Keith Kendall chanting what the whole time?"

With a small wave of a scalpel, Maura assured her, "It's not that vulgar. Who's Keith Kendall?"

"My one and only Ivy League mistake," Jane said, throwing in a small groan for effect.

"How big?"

Paraphrasing her friend's own words from a conversation weeks earlier, Jane said, "I was twenty. All my mistakes were big." Not interested in going down that particular road, she snatched up one of the fast good bags and shook it. "Getting cold," she taunted.

"Just a few more stitches . . . ."

For want of anything else to say, Jane asked, "Anything interesting?"

"One can always find something interesting," Maura said vaguely.

"'In bed,'" Jane muttered.

Maura placed her needle on the tray beside her. "'Table' would be more accurate," she said, as she drew a sheet up and over Mrs. Pfeiffer's chest.

"No, I meant--" Jane felt like an idiot. "You just sounded like a fortune cookie: 'You can always find something interesting.'"

"You can," Maura said. "What would that have to do with beds?"

"You know, the fortune cookie thing," Jane said, wishing she hadn't yielded to childish temptation in the first place. "You read the fortune and then you add, 'In bed.' It's a sex thing. I mean, if you're a teenager. I don't do it or anything." At Maura's puzzled expression, Jane closed her eyes. First she doesn't know what fluff is, and now fortune cookies? "You oughtta sue that boarding school," she muttered.

Dropping her gloves into the disposal bin, Maura walked over and reached into one of the bags. The cookie easily snapped in two - Wong Chen's were always just the right consistency - and Maura drew out the small sheet of paper. "'You will spend time with a close friend,'" she read.

Her brow wrinkled, and Jane snatched the paper from her. "Like I said," she said. "It's just a stupid game."

Normally, Jane Rizzoli enjoyed a good ass chewing. Not when it was hers, though. "Yes, Sir," she said again. "I will ask Dr. Isles."

She gestured toward Korsak, asking for some undefined help. He shrugged; what could he do?

"No, I didn't," she told the voice on the other end of the line, as if it was any of His Honor's business whether she had seen Maura Isles yesterday. "I believe she was in court assisting another law enforcement agency." Which meant trial prep the night before; hence Jane's quiet evening alone watching television. "I will definitely ask her when I see her." She rolled her eyes. "Yes. Yes, I'd be happy to do that, Sir. Yes, I'm sure he must be very concerned. Yes, Sir."

Eventually, the torment ended, and as Jane eagerly pressed the End Call button, she cried out to no one in particular, "Could someone please tell Maura to release that damn body?"

"The crosswalk pancake?" Korsak said with surprise. "Doc still has her?"

Pointing at the cell phone through which she had just experienced a side of Mayor Johnson not ordinarily shared with the voting public, she said, "Apparently."

"Something going on?"

"That's what I said," Jane replied. "I left her a message yesterday, and what do I hear back?"

Simultaneously, both detectives said, "'I don't like to guess.'"

"So, does she think the guy plowed into her on purpose or something?" Korsak asked.

Jane held out her hands. Hell if she knew. "Husband got back last night, so now I've gotta go play 'Oh, did you want your wife's body back?'" she groused. 'Thank you, Maura."

She reached for the phone and then, after debating with herself momentarily, clipped it to her belt.

"Oh, what the hell," she said, unclipping the phone again and hitting a familiar pre-programmed number. As expected, she heard the pleasant tones of a woman informing the caller of her unavailability and requesting the leaving of a message. "Maura, the Mayor wants his cousin back. I guess you've been tied up on that Weinberg thing with the DEA or whatever. You wanna get some pizza or something? Call me."

She had witnessed a wide range of emotions among the bereaved, from wild sobbing to clipped formality to outright laughter. It was hard to know how anyone would react. Again, her mind flashed back to the jolt of fear she had felt at seeing Maura in the hands of a killer. How would she have reacted if he had pulled the trigger? She paused a moment at that thought, then rang the doorbell.

Mr. Pfeiffer was about average, she decided, less stunned now that he had had three days to absorb the fact that someone he had last seen waving goodbye at Logan International was now dead. Still, Jane couldn't imagine the guilt, or whatever it would be, of having a loved one die like that while you were helpless to do anything about it. What if Jane hadn't walked into the morgue that night? What if she had simply been called the next day to the scene of a newly discovered body . . . .

"No, Sir, we don't," she answered, catching the end of the husband's question. "It was a professional courtesy. The Mayor was apparently very fond of your wife."

He smiled weakly. "Everyone was," he said.

Uh huh. Jane struggled for something else to say. Had this been a homicide, it would have been easy: Who wanted your wife dead? What's your financial situation? She could have badgered the man all night, to use Maura's rather hurtful choice of words. But this . . . . She had already done the obligatory "sorry for your loss" spiel. What else was there to talk about? "Damn, those Priuses are quiet," or "How 'bout them Red Sox?"

There was the funeral, of course, but luckily he hadn't mentioned that yet. Jane might still escape without having to remind the man what the medical examiner had been doing to his wife while he was opening a very small bag of peanuts on a very long flight.

A lyrical sound permeated the room, and it took Jane a moment to realize that it was apparently the doorbell. "What is that, some kind of Bose?" she said without thinking. She'd never heard a doorbell like that.

"Wireless," he said. Pointing at his own chest with a touch of humor, he said, "IT geek."

Ah, yes. Frost would have liked this guy.

Jane waited patiently, hands clasped behind her back, as another neighbor dropped off a rectangular dish covered with aluminum foil. "The old traditions are nice, aren't they?" she said politely as Pfeiffer carried the dish past her toward the kitchen, presumably. Did rich people bring covered dishes? she wondered. Did they even know what they were? She'd have to ask Maura.

She was mulling over how to announce her impending departure when her cell phone rang. Checking the caller i.d., she answered contentedly, "Maura - about time." With someone she normally spoke to several times a day, two days of radio silence was disconcerting.

"I know," Maura replied. "But I had to be sure."

"Sure of what?"

"We actually finished Weinberg Monday night, and I had a theory about Mrs. Pfeiffer, so I ran some more tests. Yes on the pizza, by the way; I'd love to."

"And?" Some time today, Dr. Isles . . . .

"And I was right. I think her husband may have poisoned her."


"Hg(CN)2. It's a toxic mercury compound, most likely introduced into the system over the past few months."


"Since Mrs. Pfeiffer didn't work outside the home, natural exposure is unlikely," Maura went on, oblivious to Jane's turmoil. "It may have been introduced through the ventilation system, but there are also signs of direct application, something she would have started using after he left for Saudi Arabia. Repeated small dose exposure. The garbage hasn't been picked up; you might want to check dumpsters in the area."

"But . . . we saw the . . . ." That was as much as Jane was willing to say with Husband-Now-Suspect No. 1 down the hall somewhere.

"The accident, yes, and technically that killed her," Jane went on. "But she was already dying. Mercury impairs peripheral vision and motor functions. So, she couldn't see the car coming--"

"--and she couldn't avoid it."

"You can see why I didn't want to guess on something like this," Maura said.

From immediately behind her, Jane heard the unmistakable click of a hammer being pulled back. "I wish you had," she said softly, raising her hands and allowing Pfeiffer to take the phone from her.

"What's going on, Mr. Pfeiffer?" Jane asked as calmly as she could. Sensing that he had moved back a bit, she turned around slowly, and saw something that looked like a hearing aid tucked into his left ear. He pulled it out to show her. "Wireless," he said. "Like cell phones. Really not very secure." He pointed the gun toward the one on Jane's hip. "Toss it on the couch," he ordered. "Slowly."

"If you heard our conversation, then you know that your wife was killed by the car," Jane said. "Nothing before that matters."

It wasn't true, of course. From what Maura had said, it sounded like attempted murder at least. And if he had planned on his wife falling into traffic, or in front of a train, or down the stairs, maybe it could still be murder. Jane didn't know all the nuances of the Massachusetts penal code, but neither would this guy.

Instead of responding, he held out Jane's cell phone. "Call her back," he said. "It's pizza time."

Jane froze. "No." No - she would not put Maura in danger.

Pfeiffer grabbed a pillow from the couch and pressed it against the barrel of his gun. "You call her back, or I do you right now and then go see her about my poor wife's body."

Maura. Jane's brain hurriedly tried to process her options, but the bastard gave her no time.

"Three, two, --"

"Okay," she shouted. "Okay." She took the cell phone from him.

"You're to pick her up," he directed. "Tell her to meet you outside at the curb." He shoved the listening device back into his ear.

Damn it. With Pfeiffer listening, she couldn't warn Maura. Jane slowly began to press digits, hoping that Pfeiffer wouldn't find it suspicious that she was dialing the full number. Fuck. Why hadn't Jane ever suggested a code word to Maura? Anything more subtle than that would go sailing over the genius's head, producing an inevitable, "I don't understand, Jane."

It wasn't like Korsak. Jane could hang up on that guy with a "Don't forget the donkey," and the veteran would calmly reply that of course he wouldn't. But Maura . . . sweet, wonderful, clueless Maura . . .

The only warning Jane could realistically give someone like that, she knew, was a final one, the shouting of an urgent, "Maura, Pfeiffer's after you!" before a bullet ended her ability to speak.

This could be the last time she ever spoke to Maura Isles, Jane realized.

The friendly greeting startled her. "Hi, Jane."

"Maura," Jane began. She cleared her throat. Pfeiffer raised the gun warningly, and she said with forced cheeriness, "Hey, I talked to Korsak and Frost. They're handling the warrant, so I'm done for the day. You still up for pizza?"

"Anything you want."

It took so little to make her friend happy, Jane realized. "I'll swing by and pick you up," she continued. "Meet me out front in twenty?"

"How gallant."

"That's me," Jane said. "Gallant and . . . and . . . ." To hell with it. "You know, I love you, Maura."

A moment passed, and then she heard, "Thank you, Jane. I love you, too."

The call ended and Jane closed her eyes, waiting for what she knew might happen.

"I let you have that," Pfeiffer said. "Don't screw with me again."

Jane planned to screw with him plenty, if she could just get an opening. At every red light, every turning of the corner, she ran tactical scenarios through her mind for dealing - preferably in a fatal way - with the armed killer hidden beneath a pile of linens in the back seat. For Christ's sake, she would be pulling up in front of a police station. What if she picked Maura up, and then--no.

"Where is she?" Pfeiffer's anger interrupted Jane's train of thought.

Good question. "Maybe we're early." But then she saw her, on the corner, standing behind one of the food carts, handing cash to the vendor and waving a hot dog at Jane.

Looking at her friend, as beautiful as ever in a stylish red and black dress and five hundred dollar heels, wielding what Maura had once declared one of the world's grossest food substances, Jane made a decision and pulled up to the curb.

Maura walked over to the car, a hot dog in each hand. As best she could with her hands otherwise occupied, she gestured for Jane to roll down the passenger window. "Sorry," she said "I couldn't wait. Korsak said you like hot dogs . . . ."

She did indeed.

"Are you going to let me in?"

As she had already warned Pfeiffer she would have to do, Jane reached for the Unlock button, waiting for the soft "thud" that would let someone else join the party.

Suddenly, two hot dogs flew into the air. Maura's face disappeared from view, and both of the car's back doors jerked opened simultaneously. "Freeze!" two male voices shouted, but Pfeiffer wasn't freezing.

Jane heard the gunshots, knew Pfeiffer's gun was probably still aimed in her general direction, knew the bastard was firing blindly. Instinctively, she rolled forward, vainly trying to squeeze as much of herself as possible into any available space below the dashboard, until another volley of shots rang out - .38s this time - and it was quiet.

"Jane!" she heard from outside the car.

"Maura?" She scrambled out the passenger door, tumbling head first onto her friend, who lay beside the curb in the same spot on which she had landed when one of the officers crawling toward the car took her out at the knees. "Maura, you okay?"

"I'm fine." Maura laid a hand on Jane's arm. "We were so worried."

"Korsak? Frost?" Jane yelled.

"All present and accounted for," her young partner called out.

Korsak added, "Your upholstery's gonna need some work, though."

Jane laughed. "Just like when we were partners," she said. She turned her attention to Maura. "How'd you know?"

"I know you, Jane," Maura pointed out. "I may not be able to lie, but I can tell when you are."

"Really?" That could be a problem.

"Well, not always," Maura admitted. "But this time I knew something was wrong. I called Korsak and Frost, and they said you hadn't spoken to them. Korsak said you had a code word, and he came up with this plan."

"I didn't say Rizzoli's code was hot dog," Korsak interrupted, "I said Rizzoli is a hot dog."

"My mistake," Maura said fondly. With her usual grace, she got to her feet and began brushing dirt from her designer dress.

As Jane's adrenalin began to subside, another, more embarrassing memory came back to her. "Uh, I did try to alert you," she said to Maura. "You know, said stuff that wouldn't sound right."

"You did?"

"You know, the . . . ." Jane glanced over at the other detectives. "The end of the call."

Maura looked at her. "That was code?"

"Well, it's not like I run around saying . . . I wouldn't . . . ."

"Of course," Maura said stiffly. "I should have known."

Drawing her friend away from the crowd, Jane asked, "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," Maura said unconvincingly. "You were using code."

Maura was hurt? Jane couldn't have that. "Well, it wasn't just code," she said. "I mean, we get along great, Maura. You're . . . ." Heck, why not say it? ". . . You're the best friend I ever had, Maura. I wasn't going to let Pfeiffer get to you."

"Thank you."

Somehow, it didn't seem enough. "I mean it, Maura." Jane couldn't stop herself. "If anything happened to you, I couldn't . . . You're . . . All I want to do is . . . You're all I . . . ."

Maura was smiling broadly at her now.

"What?" Jane asked.

"I love you, too, Jane."

The women stared at each other.

The next morning, a contented Homicide detective shoved an empty pizza delivery box into the still sleeping Medical Examiner's trash. Maybe she'd vote again for that mayor after all.

The End

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