You Can Care All You Want
by Mosca

Having a partner is like having a wife, only more permanent. I been married and divorced, and hell if I care where my ex is now. A partnership, on the other hand-- that's a real till-death-do-us-part arrangement. Way back when, Bolander used to rattle on about Mitch with more love and nostalgia than he did about his wife, and I chalked that up to the Big Man being crazy. Now, two partners later on in my life, I can almost see where ol' Stan was coming from.

Almost? Almost ain't enough to explain me on the docks as the sun goes down, eyeballing Mike Kellerman's boat for a sign he's home. It don't explain why I feel responsible for checking up on him every so often.

There's a light on in the boat, but that don't mean nothing more than Kellerman was too lazy to turn it off before he left. I knock on the door like I'm there with a warrant for his arrest. "Kellerman?" I shout. "Kellerman, you in there?" The bay licks the boat, and nobody answers.

Ain't no reason for him to be home. P.I.s, they work funny hours sometimes, staking out hotels with their zoom lenses poised to condemn. I got this feeling, though, this Crosetti hunch, that it ain't all so innocent.

Another thing I used to laugh at was Howard's ghost stories. Now, there's times I swear I've got the uneasy spirit of Steve Crosetti haunting the pit of my stomach like last night's lasagna.

I can't help peeking in the window of the room with the light on. There's a Jim Beam bottle sitting on the kitchen counter, a quarter-inch of bourbon barely keeping the glass damp. He's got dishes in the sink and sofa cushions missing, and there's a mean orange stain rubbed into his carpet. My apartment ain't gonna make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon, but Kellerman's living room reminds me of the insides of houses that my mama rushed me past when I was a kid.

I try the doorknob, but he remembered to lock it. What was I gonna do anyway, wash his dishes and shampoo his rug? I know I ain't responsible for him no more. If it ever was my job to keep him afloat, he fired me when he handed in his badge. I stare into his pathetic window and shake my head. "You used to be such a good man, Mikey," I say to myself. I start to ask what the fuck happened, but I know already.

"I'll check up on you later," I say, jangling my car keys out of my pocket, heading back to my better deal.


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