One to Grow On

Cousin Shelley


Schanke grumbled a 'Cap'n' to Cohen as he passed her, nodded at Natalie, grunted at Knight, and all but ignored everyone else. It had not been a good day. Every year Moira had gotten him gifts he loved--bowling balls, gloves, shoes, ball bags, shirts, the green felt cover for poker night made to fit their table perfectly. This year, she was visiting family and he wouldn't get his gift until next week. He knew he was acting like a little kid, but he didn't really care.

He followed Nick outside and watched, blinking, as his partner got in the passenger side of his own Caddy. He almost threw his hands up in the air. So no gift, and now he was becoming delusional.

As he slid behind the wheel, a bit amazed, he looked at Nick, who winked and smiled at him.

"It's your birthday, isn't it? Put the top down."

Schanke smiled and revved the engine.

"But if you put a scratch on it--"

"You'll kill me."

"I'll kill you."

"I know, I know."

"And I control the radio. No polkas."

"All right, all right. But none of that Nightcreeper or Nightcrawler fella either, okay? He gives me the heebie-jeebies, and it is my birthday." Schanke looked at him with his head tilted sideways, going for maximum sympathy.

"Fine. No radio then, make it simple."


They drove along in silence for a while, Nick only stomping a brake that wasn't there five or six times. And then there was. . . humming.


"It's the Beer Barrel Polka, everybody likes the Beer Barrel Polka. Okay, sorry. You know, Moira and Jenny are out of town, so I didn't get a birthday cake, but. . . I'll buy us each some birthday Souvlaki! My treat, I'll even eat it outside of the car, Knight, come on, if you'd try it I think you'd really like it."

"I think I just heard a call. Did you hear that? A burglary, we need to go."

"I didn't hear anything, where?"

"Whatever address is farthest away from your favorite Souvlaki stand."

"Funny, Knight, very funny."

A few strains of Beer Barrel Polka later, Schanke was practically bouncing in the seat as he drove toward his favorite eatery, and Nick drummed his fingers on the armrest, wishing for a freakishly early sunrise.