My very first piece of flashfic, please be kind!
It wasn’t everyday you’d find Ray Kowalski in Marshall Fields being fitted into a $4000 Armani suit. Of course it wasn’t everyday Ray Kowalski became Italian.
He stood in front of the wall mirror – one of those ones designed for dwarves that always screwed up Ray’s back and knees when he tried to fold himself down to see his full reflection – and tried to see how much of a dork he looked. Hmm, according to this mirror he no longer had a head.
Ray took a half-step back to get a better view, careful not to tread on the penguin-suited guy, who was doing God knew what to his inseam. Oh okay, not bad at all, he mused, smoothing his hands down the soft, silky material of the charcoal grey jacket. If Stella saw this, she’d probably have an orgasm. Not at him in the suit, understand, the sight of him hadn’t given her an orgasm since she was twenty. Just at the suit itself. It was exactly the kind of thing she was always on at him to wear, didn’t seem to get that you can’t be a cop and wear that kind of shit. Not a detective anyway, maybe a lieutenant at a push, but a street cop would have zero cred if he walked around looking like he’d fallen off the cover of GQ. Besides, Ray liked his trademark jeans and t-shirts. They felt like him. He didn’t have to pretend to make them work; they just fit.
The penguin guy’s hand was moving higher up Ray’s inseam and he had to bite his lip. Not that he liked this guy. Not at all. It was just an instinctive response to someone’s hand making intimate with his inner thigh; it’d happen whoever’s hand it was. Right, said the Stella who lived in his head, Just keep telling yourself that, Ray.
Ray only just managed not to hit his own head. Why the hell was his internal Stella still hanging around in his brain? How was that fair? His external one had thrown him out a year ago, had divorced him two months ago, surely the one consolation of an empty bed, in a sad, empty apartment, in a scummy block full of lonely, empty divorcees would be a break from internal Stella nagging?
The penguin’s hand returned to his calf, and Ray breathed out in relief. That had had the potential to be damn embarrassing, but no harm no foul right?. It was only cos he hadn’t gotten laid in so long after all. You’re in denial, Ray, Stella snorted, heterosexual males do not get hard-ons from guys touching them up just because they’re horny.
Ray wasn’t in denial. Not about being queer. He knew he was, always had known. But that wasn’t a reason for Stella to leave him. Just cos he could like guys didn’t mean he didn’t love her. And he did love her, dammit. He loved her so damn much, even now. Even though she hadn’t really been his Stella for years, he still loved her. When he looked at her he didn’t see the cold, rather hard woman in the power suits. He saw the seventeen year old virgin in the soft summer dress, who’d given him a shy smile as she untied her braid of golden hair, and let him lay her down among the flowers in the park and make love to her one summer night in ’77.
“Sir?” Damn. Penguin was standing up and raising his eyebrows. Ray didn’t have a flying clue what he’d said. “Is everything alright, Mr Vecchio?”
Ah. That would explain that. He wasn’t used to the name enough yet, was gonna have to work on that. Ray reckoned he was doing pretty good, seeing how he’d only been briefed for the gig ten days ago. He wasn’t the first choice to replace Vecchio, obviously. Ray wasn’t too offended – or surprised – to learn that. If the feds had been looking for the anti-Vecchio, they couldn’t have done much better that Ray Kowalski. No, when they’d first spotted the similarity between Vecchio and Langostini, before they’d even approached Vecchio about doing the gig, the feds had searched the entire Chicago PD to find someone to be Vecchio while Vecchio wasn’t. It’d taken a while, but eventually they’d found a guy who looked enough like Vecchio to be good, but not enough like Langostini to be better, and got him lined up to slip into place when the time came. Problem was the guy slipped in front of a bullet two weeks ago, leaving the feds with a scummy little hole in their watertight plan. And that’s where Ray came in. He wasn’t Italian. He looked nothing like Vecchio. But he was a professional at undercover, and more importantly he wanted out of his own life so bad anybody else’s looked pretty damn good.
Ray had been doing Vecchio 101 for ten days and he was doing pretty damn good. He could tell you every teacher and every crush Vecchio had had from grade one up; he knew every car Vecchio had ever owned – weirdly, they all seemed to be Buicks, maybe the guy had an obsession. He could name and date family members, though picking them out of a crowd still needed work, mainly cos they’re were so fucking many of them. Ray knew every partner Vecchio had had. Especially the current one. The Mountie.
Ray had known about the Mountie since before he knew about Vecchio. Every cop in Chicago knew there was a renegade Mountie with a white wolf roaming around. They’d all had to do their fair share of reassuring citizens that no, they hadn’t just spotted a madman, he was a cop, honest. And, if Vecchio’s files were any indicator, a damn fine one at that.
Ray was looking forward to this gig. It was going to be his new start. His chance at shaking free of all the shit that had attached itself to his life lately. He could start again. He could be Joe Namath, James Bond, and John Lennon, but hell why stop there? He could be Steve McQueen, James Dean, David fucking Bowie if he wanted. He could be anybody he liked. As long as he was also Vecchio. That was the only proviso. Be Vecchio, hang with his crazy partner. Easy. Ray was even forward to meeting the Mountie. Yeah, he was hot, but that wasn’t the reason … not really. The guy just had something about him. Something that drew people in. Ray had felt a tug looking at the photograph shoved in the file the feds had on Vecchio; he’d felt it even stronger when they’d driven him by the Canadian Consulate and he saw him standing guard. He wondered if Vecchio felt the pull, and if he did how the hell he was managing to pull far enough away to be Langostini.
Vecchio and the Mountie seemed quite an odd combo to Ray, he’d read and re-read their files, learnt every detail of their cases together. He could see why they’d got to be friends, but not why they kept being. Vecchio must have something pretty good to keep the Mountie orbiting like that, they seemed so different. The Mountie didn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d be comfortable around someone like Vecchio. Loud, brash, crawling in designer labels, wearing shit like … Ray looked over himself again … shit like this.
“No,” he said, finally answering the penguin’s question. “No, sorry, changed my mind. I don’t think Armani is what I need. You can’t make a new start wearing someone else’s clothes.”
Penguin guy looked like he didn’t understand, but Ray reckoned that maybe, just maybe, the Mountie would.