STREET SCENES by Laura Mason

Forensic Exercise

"Five minutes." Right, Gloria. Tell yourself that it's not worth putting your lab coat back on, and using up another pair of gloves. He'll be back in just five minutes.

More like five days, probably. I put my coat on again, feeling slightly more professional as I finish logging in the contents of a missing woman's nightstand. They found blood in the room; I've got the bedclothes in another bag, waiting to be checked over. Most days Im happy to be here at the precinct, instead of being on the crime scene team. I know it's an important job. I always try to concentrate, to be careful and do my best work. But it's boring sometimes, counting someone else's birth control pills and bagging their lives for the file.

I suppose that's why I help Ray. Makes me feel like part of the investigation. And usually he'll take me to lunch later, explain what happened and how I helped. Ray tells a good story.

Geez, I sound like Angie. Ray isn't lying, I know that. For one thing, Elaine confirms everything, no matter how crazy it sounds. And sometimes the Mountie is along -- he doesn't lie, it's some Canadian thing, Ray says. Anyway, Fraser always corroborates Ray's tale, every far-fetched detail.

Elaine's crazy for the Mountie, of course. She never notices Ray when blue eyes is around. I guess lots of women don't, based on what I've seen. He's tall, handsome, and that uniform! Yikes. Of course women love him. He's Prince Charming and the dog might as well be a white charger. A lovely fantasy.

But I know Ray. Ray is every guy I went to school with. No prince, but a good guy, solid. He chose to be a cop, but he doesn't throw his weight around with everyone. He remembers birthdays and anniversaries -- I remember how shocked Angie was on Sweetest Day when Ray brought her flowers. Just a nice guy. And just as sexy as the Mountie, in his own way.

Ray seems to be growing out of that awful macho attitude all cops have -- I suppose it's 'cause his record's been so good in the last year, he doesn't need to puff himself up. Elaine figures he'll get a promotion soon.

But I still tend to look at Ray through Angie's eyes, and see someone who just doesn't measure up. Well, she's my friend, the one who introduced us. Angie's the one who talked to me when they started having problems, too. I took her out for drinks after the divorce was final. And then Angie left the force. But my feelings for Ray were still there, had even grown, despite all the stories she'd told me. But I never did figure out the right time to ask Ang how she'd feel if I started dating her ex.

Ray didn't make it any easier on me. He stayed friendly, despite knowing that Angie and I were friends. He never avoided me. So was I stupid to feel some hope? We never talked much about Angie, but I saw the sadness in Ray after their divorce. Those eyes -- I kept hoping I could be the one who'd put a sparkle back in his eyes.

Well, he's been happy lately, but I know that's not because of me. Not even because of any evidence I've slipped him. No, there's a new woman in his life. You can just tell, even though Elaine doesn't know who it might be. Ray's so much more content. He's found someone special. And that's good. Good for him. I'm happy he's happy.

"Here ya go. Back in 15 minutes, as promised." I jump a little, dropping the address book I've been staring at for the last five minutes. Ray flashes me a smile. Poor guy looks so tired -- and still that secret joy is shining through.

"Did it help?" I ask as I take back the evidence bag he's holding out to me.

"You betcha. We're going after the guy now. See ya." A kiss. On the cheek, of course. Friendly.

Oh Ray.


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