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Dream Man(4)
Author: Linda Howard

“Do you know what the hell time it is?” Dane barked. Trammell consulted his wristwatch, a wafer-thin Piaget. “Seven oh two. Why?” He strolled inside. Dane slammed the door with a resounding bang.

Trammell halted, belatedly asking, “Do you have company?”

Dane ran his hand through his hair, then rubbed his face, hearing the rasp of beard against his callused palm. “No, I’m alone.” He yawned, then surveyed his partner.

Trammell was perfectly groomed, as usual, but his eyes were dark-circled.

Dane yawned again. “Is this a very late night, or an early morning?”

“A little bit of both. It was just a bad night, couldn’t sleep. I thought I’d come over for coffee and breakfast.”

“Generous of you, to share your insomnia with me,” Dane muttered, but he was already on his way to the kitchen. He had his own share of bad nights, so he understood the need for company. Trammell had never turned him away on those occasions. “I’ll put on the coffee, then you’re on your own while I shower and shave.”

“Forget it,” Trammell said. “I’ll put on the coffee. I want to be able to drink it.” Dane didn’t argue. He could drink his own coffee, but so far no one else could. He didn’t much care for the taste of it himself, but since the caffeine kick was what he was after, the taste was secondary.

He left Trammell to the coffee and sleepily returned to the bedroom, where he stripped off his pants, leaving them in their original location on the floor. Ten minutes in the shower, leaning with one hand propped on the tile while the water beat down on his head, made waking up seem possible; shaving made it seem desirable, but it took a nick on his jaw to convince him. Muttering again, he dabbed at the blood. He had a theory that any day that started with a shaving nick was shit from start to finish. Unfortunately, on any given day his face was likely to sport a small cut. He didn’t deal well with shaving. Trammell had once lazily advised him to switch to an electric shaver, but he hated the idea of letting a razor get the best of him, so he kept at it, shedding his blood on the altar of stubbornness.

Dressing, at least, was easy. Dane simply put on whatever came to hand first. Because he sometimes forgot to put on a tie, he always kept one in his car; it might clash with whatever he was wearing, but he figured a tie was a tie, and it was the spirit rather than the style that mattered. The chief wanted detectives to wear ties, so Dane wore a tie. Trammell sometimes looked horrified, but Trammell was a clotheshorse who tended toward Italian silk suits, so Dane didn’t take it to heart.

If any other cop had dressed the way Trammell did, or drove a car like Trammell’s, Internal Affairs would have been all over him like stink on shit, which was an appropriate way to describe IA. But Trammell was independently wealthy, having inherited a nice little bundle from his Cuban mother as well as several successful concerns from his father, a New England businessman who had fallen in love while on a vacation in Miami and remained in Florida for the rest of his life. Trammell’s house had cost a cool million, easy, and he never made any effort to tone down his way of living. His partner was such an enigmatic son of a bitch that Dane couldn’t decide if Trammell lived as luxuriously as he did simply because he liked the life-style and had the means, or if he did it to piss off the bastards in IA. Dane suspected the latter. He approved.

He and Trammell were opposites in a lot of ways. Trammell was whipcord-lean, and as aloof as a cat. No matter what the circumstances, he always looked elegant and cultured, his clothes hanging perfectly. He liked—actually liked—opera and ballet. Dane was the exact opposite: he could wear the most expensive silk suit made, perfectly tailored to fit his muscled, athletic frame, and he would still look subtly unkempt. He liked sports and country music. If they had been vehicles, Trammell would have been a Jaguar, while Dane would have been a pickup truck. Four-wheel drive.

On the other hand, Dane thought as he wandered back out to the kitchen, nature had balanced itself out in their faces, in a kind of backwards way. In person, Trammell was smoothly handsome, but in photographs his face took on a sinister cast. Dane figured his own face would frighten children and small animals, assuming there was any difference between the two, but the camera loved him. All those angles, Trammell had explained. Trammell was a camera buff and took a lot of photos; he was never without his camera. Dane, being his partner and constantly in his company, was naturally in a lot of the photos. On film, the brutal lines of high, prominent cheekbones, the deep-set eyes and cleft chin, all became brooding and intriguing instead of merely brutish. Even the broken nose somehow looked right in a photograph. In person, he looked grim, his face battered, his eyes a cop’s eyes, watchful and too old.

Dane got himself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. Trammell was still cooking, and whatever it was smelled good.

“What’s for breakfast?” he asked.

“Whole wheat waffles with fresh strawberries.” Dane snorted. “There’s never been any whole wheat flour in my house.”

“I know. That’s why I brought it with me.” Healthy stuff. Dane didn’t mind. He could be pretty damn affable when someone else was doing the cooking. When they were working they mostly lived on junk, whatever was fast and easy, so he didn’t mind balancing it with low-fat, nutritious shit whenever they had the time. Hell, he’d even learned to like sprouts. They tasted like green peanuts, fresh out of the ground and not quite developed, with the hulls still soft. He’d eaten a lot of green peanuts when he was a kid, preferring them over the fully formed ones that had to be shelled.

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