What It Feels Like For a Girl
By S.E. Olsen
Sometimes when his partner's away from her desk, Goren likes to look through the items on its surface.
He doesn't mean to pry but it's one of his detective's habits, to survey the physical possessions of others, often without their permission. There are times when it is appropriate and even necessary for him to do so. At a crime scene or in the context of an interview, such a search can yield invaluable observations and insights into people, information that not only gives him a distinct advantage in solving his cases but also makes him appear as if he has some kind of near psychic abilities in getting a read on others. But there are times when this practice can get him into real trouble.
Today Goren finds himself in front of Eames's desk in search of a nearly completed DD5 form that he figures has followed the second law of thermodynamics and migrated from his desktop to hers. He carefully picks up each neat stack of papers and serially flips through them, trying to carefully replace every stack as exactly as he can in order to avoid the embarrassment of detection. When his long fingers encounter a rigid piece of plastic approximately a quarter of an inch thick, he stops leafing through the pages and extracts it from the pile. As he ferrets out the jewel case with his left hand, he sets the papers down with his right. The image behind the acrylic shows an intent bluish-green left eye peering out from behind a short shock of blunt cut lemony blonde hair. Goren recognizes the face as one belonging to a woman so famous she has become an icon with just a first name and studies the title reflected in the iris: 'GHV2'.
"I thought she said she was into ABBA, not Madonna," Goren mumbles as he circles back to his side of the pair of desks they inhabit, mildly confused but curious at the significance of his finding. He surveys the largely empty squad room to ensure that no one is watching him, roots through his desk drawer until he finds a set of headphones, stuffs the CD into his zippered brown notebook and proceeds cautiously towards the holding area.
When he reaches the holding area, Goren is relieved to find that no one is awaiting processing in its tiny cell and that no other detectives are around. He sets the brown notebook down next to the booking computer, unbuttons his single-breasted suit jacket with a free hand, and seats himself in front of the computer on a small but sturdy stenographer's chair. He quickly extracts the metallic coated circle of plastic from the jewel case and stealthily pops it into the computer's CD-ROM drive, connecting the headphones to the CPU. Once he has the jewel case safely hidden underneath his notebook, Goren launches a web browser window and leans back in the chair, acting nonchalant, assuming if anyone should walk by they will believe he is merely doing some kind of online research and will therefore leave him to cogitate on the significance of his partner's music in peace.
As the browser window's contents slowly fill up the screen, Goren skips forward to a track with an intriguing sounding title. While a nationwide list of police officer's benevolent associations gradually grows in front of him, he hears the sound of a bell-like reverberating synthesizer over which a whispery English-accented female voice speaks softly...
...Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
'Cause it's okay to be a boy.
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
Because you think that being a girl is degrading.
But secretly you'd love to know what it's like
What it feels like for a girl...
As Goren listens, fascinated, his eyes seize upon the name of one particular city on the monitor and his thoughts are instantly taken back to a summer six years earlier...
The sweltering heat of the nation's capitol on a late Friday afternoon in July threatens to melt the resolve of even the hardiest of souls in the hotel ballroom in attendance at a police detective's convention. Goren slides his head lower onto the balled fist supporting his chin and stifles a yawn. While it has been an educational week, it is becoming difficult to fight off the urge to sleep as a police chief with a faintly Midwestern accent drones on about the application of total quality management principles to police investigations. Goren lolls his head a little to shake off the sluggishness and begins to scan the room to see what his colleagues are doing. To his left and a few rows ahead of him a lone woman with short brownish-blonde hair listens to the chief with an expression of guarded skepticism. Although she is petite and has a girl next-door attractiveness about her, there is something appealing about her tough customer posture and her practical pantsuit.
A few rows behind him, Goren hears whispering and a barely suppressed snicker of laughter. Goren turns his head in the direction of the sound and sees two men carrying on a running commentary on the lecture to keep themselves awake. The younger one wears a conspiratorial grin as he leans in to make some kind of comment to his older companion whose eyes roll slightly in exasperation. The younger man is somewhat burly and boyishly attractive, but Goren notes that excess is taking its toll on those inherent good looks and prematurely aging the man. The older man fits the classic physical archetype of a seasoned cop: gray hair that is balding on top, determined eyes deep set inside a slightly doughy face and arms firmly crossed over an ample frame. The older man catches Goren's eye and nods in acknowledgement before Goren looks back at the lecturer.
When the speaker finally concludes his presentation, Goren rises and stretches but lingers at his table, pretending to study the conference schedule as he gathers up the conference notebooks.
"Lecture was a hell of a waste our time, don'tcha think?"
Goren turns to see the older detective standing beside him gesturing toward the speaker.
"Well, it wasn't the best talk I heard this week but he had some good points."
The younger detective comes closer, grinning sardonically. "You're kidding me right? I mean there's just no way you could ever make that TQM crap work in a squad room."
The older detective calls out to the petite woman as she is passing by clutching her conference notebooks under an arm following a stream of people walking towards the exit. "Well what did you think of that speech, hon?"
The woman pauses, a little taken aback at being addressed so informally, but stops in front of them and shrugs noncommittally. "If you ask me, sounds like more CYA paperwork designed to make the big brass look good."
"Thank you," exclaims the younger detective as he directs his next remark to her chest, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "I'm Beau Felton, Baltimore Police --"
"Baltimore Murder Police, Beau," chides the older man. He turns to the woman and smiles to soften his tone. "Stanley Bolander, also Bawlmer Homicide."
Goren awkwardly extends his hand to the woman and stammers, "I'm, uh, Detective Bobby Goren, N.Y.P.D."
The woman's eyes soften and she smiles slightly as she takes Goren's hand and shakes it warmly. "Alex Eames, also of N.Y.C. So which unit are you assigned to, Bobby?"
"Manhattan Task Force on Narcotics. You?"
"I'm also in Manhattan but I work Vice. Small world, huh?"
Felton rolls his eyes, more than a little annoyed at the instant connection Goren has made to the woman. "So what are we supposed to do from now until the cocktail party tonight?"
"I know a little place nearby where we can all get a little something to eat. Nothing fancy but the food's pretty good," says Bolander. He waves his hand as he speaks to the New Yorkers. "You two interested?"
"Yeah, why don't we get the fun and games started a little early?" adds Felton as he steps between Goren and Eames.
Eames and Goren trade looks of acquiescence around Felton before Eames answers for both of them.
"We're game. Lead on, detectives..."
...When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak...
The bar in Georgetown to which Bolander takes the group to is more of a dive than a 'place' despite its enviably trendy location on M Street. But while the patrons inside are not the most stylish in customers, it's homey informality appeals to everyone in the group. They settle into well-worn wooden café chairs around a dilapidated square table that has a piece of brown paper secured to its top with a few small pieces of masking tape. Goren runs a finger over the paper, curious as to its purpose.
Bolander rises and addresses the table generously. "First round's on me. Whaddya think, Beau? Natty Bos all around?"
"Get a pitcher, Big Man," Felton calls after Bolander as the older detective makes his way towards the bar. "That's, uh, National Bohemian. It's a Bawlmer brand of beer."
Eames and Goren nod as Bolander returns with four wooden mallets and four empty frosted beer mugs. "You two like soft shell crabs?"
"Oh so that's what the paper's for," observes Goren softly before he turns to Eames to explain. "They just cook the crabs whole and serve them in a pile right on top of the table."
"I don't think I've ever had them before," Eames says taking the mallet passed to her by Felton.
"I could order you a hamburger instead, or a salad if you don't eat meat," adds Bolander as he hands out the glasses.
Goren leans forward. "Well I'll try them Detective --"
"N,o not 'Detective'. Just Stan or Stanley here --"
"Stanley. They sound delicious." Goren smiles as a tired middle-aged waitress brings the ordered pitcher and fills his mug. Goren touches her hand, silently volunteering to dispense the rest of the drinks so she can take the order. She lets go of the pitcher and walks over to where Bolander is seated, pad and pen in hand.
Eames smiles as Goren fills her mug first. "Well, then I guess I'll try them too, Stanley."
"Bring us a large order of blue crabs, a couple of baskets of fries and a couple of orders of hush puppies," Bolander says. "Anybody need anything else?"
The waitress takes a beat to see all four detectives shake their heads 'no' and goes off to attend to other customers.
Eames takes a drink and sets her mug down gently. "Thank you, Stanley. That sounds like an awful lot of food."
"Hey a big man deserves a big meal, don'tcha know." Felton quickly looks around the bar and continues. "Well it's certainly no Jimmy's but it's a pretty good bar considering we're in the heart of Yuppieville."
"Yeah, it's not bad at all. No tourists here. You think my partner's gonna screw up the Waterfront and turn it into yet another damn tourist trap?"
"Well, if he does it'll mean more red balls, more paperwork and way more overtime than that TQM garbage," grins Felton as he boisterously takes a swig of beer.
A 'you're-being-an-idiot-again' look clouds Bolander's face as he lays a hand on Felton's arm and shakes his head disapprovingly.
Eames lets a beat pass before speaking again "I understand that Baltimore is struggling with a rising homicide rate. That must be difficult."
Bolander throws his head back in disgust. "God-dammed drug dealers. Those stupid yos and cornerboys'll just as soon shoot ya as look at ya. Back when I first started it was made guys who first caused us problems, but at least they had a code they followed. You know what I'm talking 'bout, Bobby, 'cause you've seen it too."
Goren eyes the group thoughtfully. "The poverty, the racial tensions and the lack of educational opportunities don't seem to help the situation in the inner cities. It's a very complex problem..."
The group nods, approving his philosophical summation of the situation.
"So, Alex, I understand you work Vice. Tough duty," muses Bolander as the waitress sets a basket of hush puppies between them. Bolander takes one and pops it into his mouth before scooting the basket closer to Eames.
"It can be," Eames replies as she blows on her hush puppy to cool it down "But lately it's been very rewarding. I've been working with a task force investigating unlicensed and after hours social clubs --"
"I've read about those places in some investigative news stories in the Times." Goren says interrupting as he wipes his mouth with a paper napkin. "They tend to take advantage of illegal immigrant women, many of whom speak no English and are desperate to earn a living so they can support themselves and their families. Eames, do you speak Spanish?"
"Poquito. Just enough to get by. To get back to my point, it's far more gratifying than just stinging johns."
Felton leans towards Eames and grins. "Still, I'll bet you're very good at walking that walk and talking that talk, Alex."
Bolander sets his jaw annoyed while Goren looks around uncomfortably, noting Eames's rising anger in the way her eyes narrow. Eames cautiously leans forward closer to Felton's face. "You're damned right I am." She confidently leans back into her chair and bites through the hush puppy, chewing through it easily. "It's usually not that hard."
Bolander smiles and lets out a low whistle at the double-entendre "Whoa there, Beau. I think she's got your number." Bolander cocks his head towards Goren and observes conspiratorially "Beau here thinks he's quite the ladies man."
"Isn't it a little self-defeating to hit on women while you're still wearing a wedding band?" Goren points to Felton's left hand before appraising Felton's reaction.
Felton snatches up his beer mug and barks "I don't see that it's any of your business" before downing the rest of the beer and slamming the mug on the table. "But I happen to be separated."
"This time? A couple of weeks. What the hell kind of difference does that make?" Felton angrily pours himself another beer spilling amber liquid down the side of the glass.
Goren lowers his voice. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah well shit happens, Bobby. Let's change the subject already. So how come you two got sent to this godforsaken conference?"
"Actually I was sent because of my 'meritorious service'."
"Me too," adds Eames running a hand through her hair to deal with the tension. "And it hasn't been that boring."
"Well, I seriously doubt Beau and I were sent here as some kind of reward," Bolander says resignedly.
"I thought it was supposed to be a way to ease us back into service after the Gordon Pratt shooting Stan."
"Don't you think if that were true, Beau, that our lieutenant would have sent your partner here too?"
"What, this is like a punishment from Gee?"
Bolander doesn't answer, choosing to gnaw intently at a French fry. Felton gulps down the second beer and avoids looking at either Eames or Goren. The Manhattan detectives know that their Baltimore counterparts have made some kind of revelation but neither one wants to broach the topic.
Goren finally breaks the awkward silence, rising a little uncertainly. "If you'll excuse me...I need to, uh--"
"No problem. It's the last door on the right down that hallway past the jukebox, Bobby." Bolander waves his hand in the general direction of the jukebox.
."I need to use the ladies...is it down that hall--"
"The door opposite the gents, Alex," Bolander says signaling for the waitress.
"Why don't you let me get the next round, Stanley?" Eames says as she gets up.
"Uh-uh. Your money's no good here."
Eames watches Goren start for the hallway with an anxious look in her eye. "Then at least let me pick something out on the jukebox for you?"
"I think there's still some Elvis on it, like maybe 'Hound Dog' or something."
"The King then, coming right up."
Eames takes quick strides to catch Goren. Just as he's about to reach the men's room door, she steps in front of it, holding out her hand to stop him. "What was that all about back there?"
Goren stops perplexed. "I'm sorry?"
Eames steps aside and pulls Goren along with her to allow another male patron to enter the restroom. "You know what I'm talking about. I don't need you to fight my battles for me, Bobby."
"I wasn't aware anyone here was at war."
"No one is...at least not yet they aren't. I mean it's nice of you to want to look out for the little woman cop but you ought to have asked me if I needed your help first. Believe me I know how to handle guys like Felton."
"Excuse me for saying so, Eames, but no woman should have to handle anyone." Goren replies irritated. "Felton knows better--"
"And so should you" Eames snorts and shakes her head. "Do you have any idea what it's like for a woman doing this job?"
"No, I don't, Alex." Goren relaxes his posture and opens his arms slowly turning his palms upward. "Perhaps you could explain it to me?"
"How long have you got?" Eames laughs derisively at Goren but softens her features when she sees that he is genuinely interested in listening to her. "It's hard, Bobby. I come from a family of cops but still it's very hard for me to get along in a squad room full of men. Imagine having to put on a mini-skirt and four inch heels and a badge, do your job better than all of them put together and then explain how your promotion to first grade has nothing to do with what they're thinking."
"You must have done an exceptional job because hardly anyone from Vice gets elevated to first grade. Congratulations."
"Well I'm glad at least you can see it that way. Baby's still got a long way to go on the force, even if she's got a whole carton of Virginia Slims and the vote."
Goren smiles faintly at her joke before changing topics. "You'll have to let me buy you a drink at the reception...unless you think...I mean...I wouldn't dream of...you know...it's just to celebrate our promotions..."
"Don't worry, you're not my type, Bobby. But you are something else, you know that?"
Eames looks Goren in the eye and smiles at him benignly for a few seconds before touching him playfully on the arm.
When Goren finally recovers his wits, his tone becomes thoughtful. "Did you happen to notice the scar on Stanley's head?"
"Yeah. Gunshot wound. I hate to think he and Beau got hurt on the job. I have a hard time imagining what that must be like--"
"Then don't." Goren trades a look of understanding with Eames before he speaks again.
"So what kind of drink will I be getting you?"
"If you can find me a decent margarita in this town, I'll be duly impressed..."
...Hurt that's not supposed to show
And tears that fall when no one knows...
At the farewell cocktail party, once Goren has brought Eames the promised margarita they spend very little time conversing with each other but they try to remain in each other's line of sight. Although they have very little in common they both somehow find it reassuring to know that the other one is nearby. As Goren and Bolander discuss an old and somewhat infamous unsolved homicide case -- the death of a young girl in the 1930s in Baltimore - Goren keeps a watchful eye out for Felton who when not drinking copious quantities of vodka busies himself with following Eames as she circulates around the room. Bolander also watches Felton but with more bemusement than concern and stays focused on sharing details of the crime he and Goren have spent most of the evening discussing.
When Goren and Bolander's conversation has gone on for nearly two hours and they have kicked around nearly every plausible theory of the crime, Eames comes over to join them with Felton following her closely.
"Alex." Bolander nods his head in her direction.
"Stanley, I just wanted to come over and thank you for the food, the drinks and the hospitality this afternoon."
"My pleasure. You gonna turn in now?"
"Afraid so. My flight home leaves at 7:30 in the morning and I'd like to get a good night's rest before then. But I thought I'd stop by and express my gratitude first."
Felton speaks haltingly, slurring his words "Aw, Alex. You're no fun. What would you say to me seeing you to your room?"
Goren looks to Eames who waves him off with her eyes. Undeterred, Goren speaks.
"My flight's only forty-five minutes after yours. Make sure you call me in the morning."
"We'll split a cab to the airport, just like we agreed earlier. Good night, guys."
Goren pauses to watch Eames head towards the elevator banks with Felton and watches them get into a car together. When the doors close, Bolander touches Goren's forearm.
"If I were you wouldn't worry 'cause Beau's not a morning person."
A little distracted, Goren turns to Bolander. "Oh...Stanley...it's not what you think...we're not..."
"Beau's a screw-up, but he's having a tough time of it what with his wife leaving and taking the kids and him and his partner and me getting shot. But as screw-ups go Beau's heart's in the right place. The bullet Kay took hit her heart and could've killed her, but good old Beau stayed right by her bedside 'til she came to."
"Beau's partner's a woman?"
"You wouldn't expect him to get along well with a woman at work, but he and Kay make a pretty good team. She's done a lot to whip his butt into shape, but since the shooting...well I don't know. I'm thinking maybe he and I should retire, especially me. Sometimes I have trouble remembering stuff anymore Bobby. Maybe I'm just getting too old to be a murder police."
"I'm sorry, Stan."
Bolander smiles reassuringly and pats Goren on the shoulder. "What's say we take that elevator upstairs and turn in already?"
...When you're trying hard to be your best
Could you be a little less...
About an hour after Goren has gone to sleep, he is awakened by the sound of loud music coming from the hallway. He quickly pulls one of the hotel's terrycloth bathrobes on and goes to his door to investigate but is horrified at what he sees outside. Among scattered empty beer cans all over the floor are six or seven male police detectives in various states of intoxication and undress including Bolander who is seated on the floor in his underwear, his back against a wall, grinning and staring off into space while a young topless woman is in the middle of performing an act of fellatio upon Felton who stands against the opposite wall with his eyes closed, pants at his ankles, gripping her head in his hands and moaning enthusiastically.
Goren slips back behind his door and closes it softly before sitting back down on his bed, conflicted and upset over what he's seen. There is a part of him that would like to simply forget it, to let the boys be boys and just go back to sleep. But Goren knows once he closes his eyes he'll see not only a young unfortunate woman engaging in an illegal sex act with a law enforcement official, he'll see a young Hispanic taxi dancer in an unlicensed social club struggling to get paid or a young female cop standing out on the beat freezing to death in her mini-skirt, heels and badge fighting to earn the respect of her male coworkers.
When the guilt becomes unbearable, Goren reaches for the phone and dials the concierge at the front desk.
A hand suddenly landing on his left shoulder stirs Goren from his reverie.
"Enjoying the CD?"
Goren yanks off the headphones and turns towards Eames. "You startled me." As he fumbles to remove the CD from the computer, he knocks his notebook and the jewel case to the floor. "I'm sorry, but I was looking for--"
"I had one of the secretaries retype your Five for you, Bobby. I noticed you hadn't finished it yesterday and since I was planning on coming in to catch up on paperwork today, I thought I'd help you finish this one as well." Eames hands Goren the missing form as he sheepishly tries to collect himself. "It's just one more margarita you'll owe me."
"Thanks, Alex." Goren watches Eames as she bends over to pick up his notebook and the CD. "You sure you're not angry?"
"Hardly. I know better." When Eames straightens up, she points to the computer screen. "What were you working on?"
"Just doing a little surfing. Nothing important."
Eames notes that the link for the Baltimore/Washington area detectives benevolent association is a different color than all the other links, suggesting that Goren clicked and visited it. "Thinking of moving?"
"No. But I was thinking of that convention in '95, the one where we first met."
Eames nods remembering. "Those two detectives we were with, Felton and Bolander. I heard they got suspended for 'conduct unbecoming'. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that would you?"
Goren quickly holds up the CD and points to Eames's head and then the jewel case. "I see you've got the same hair cut."
Eames looks at Goren skeptically but takes a strand of hair between her thumb and forefinger and twirls it thoughtfully. "Yes, but I could never dye mine that funky yellow color."
"So does Captain Deakins need to see us?"
"No so long as we turn in our Fives before shift ends today. Why?"
"If I bought you a second margarita would you promise not to anyone about the CD?"
Eames rests a hand on her hip as she hands Goren his notebook. "Buy me a third margarita and you can keep it."