"Hmm?" Tom Hanson did not lift his eyes from the file in front of him. This being Penhall's fourth or fifth attempt in the last hour to distract him, he accorded it no more attention than it deserved. But he'd reckoned without his partner's ingenuity.
"You ever take a good look at the insides of a pomegranate?"
Tom ruthlessly controlled the urge to look up. "Mmm."
Penhall leaned over the desk, spilling a pile of paperwork across the blotter with his elbows, and shoved a gutted and dripping section of fruit under Hanson's nose. "Ever notice how...sexual they are?"
"What?" Hanson finally glanced up from his forensics report, into Penhall's mischievous eyes. "Doug, what are you talking about?"
Hanson sighed and set down his file. He and Penhall were supposed to be preparing their testimony for tomorrow's court appearance, but Doug – never known for his long attention span – had decided by lunch time that he'd had enough. Only Fuller's frequent excursions from his office, to check up on their progress, kept him sitting at Hanson's desk, pretending to work.
"Do you have to shove that thing in my face? You're dripping purple gunk all over the files!"
"Look at it, man. All these twists and turns full of fat, juicy seeds. Like a fruit maze. It's so..." Penhall broke off, hunting for the right word, and his voice dropped to a gloating whisper. "...organic."
"Of course it's organic, Doug. It's a plant."
Tom's dry tone did nothing to dampen Penhall's spirits. He sat back in his chair and gazed admiringly at his sticky handful. "I always loved these things, even when I was a kid! I just didn't know why!"
With another, despairing sigh, Hanson buried his face in his hands and raked his fingers through his tousled hair. "I don't believe this. I put my life on the line, every day, and the man I depend on to guard my back has sexual fantasies about fruit." Lifting his head again, he turned accusing eyes on his partner. "You're insane."
"Huh. I'm the sanest person I know."
Tom shook his head, helplessly. "I can't even begin to tell you what's wrong with that statement. But for the sake of our jobs – which we're going to lose, if we screw up this testimony – could you try eating an apple, or something? Anything that's less...attractive?"
"No, man, I hate fruit. I'm only eating this 'cause Judy brought..."
The slam of the outside door interrupted him, and both men turned toward the stairs, where the sound of low voices announced that Hoffs and Ioki had arrived. The two officers came slowly up the stairs, obviously deep in heated conversation and not in any hurry to reach their desks.
"I am not!" Hoffs insisted, frustration plain in her voice.
"Yes, you are. What else would you call it?"
Under cover of their noisy progress, Penhall turned to Hanson and said, in a stage whisper, "Harry's sulking."
Hoffs stopped beside Ioki's desk, her feet planted wide and her arms crossed. "That's just plain stupid, Harry."
"Oh, so now I'm short and stupid! Thank you very much, Partner!"
"I didn't say that!" She took a calming breath, then suddenly started to chuckle. "It's ridiculous, and you know it. Why are you getting so upset about this?"
"I'm not upset," Ioki informed her, with exaggerated patience. "I'm just tired of having my face rubbed in it."
Hoffs' chuckles turned to outright laughter. "I'm not doing it deliberately."
He shot a long, burning look at her feet and the stylish, spike-heeled pumps she wore, then met her dancing eyes and lifted one eyebrow.
"Don't give me that look. I can't help being taller than you."
Tom and Doug exchanged a startled glance, and Hanson bit his lip to control a grin. "You get the feeling we just wandered into a Beatles movie?" he murmured.
"Do you know how tired I am of being shorter than my female partner?" Harry demanded.
"Hey, Ioki! You're shorter than everybody!" Penhall offered, helpfully.
"Shut up, Doug!" Judy and Harry chorused.
"We're actually the same height," Hoffs reminded her incensed colleague, while Doug dissolved in laughter on Hanson's desk.
Ioki pointed accusingly at her feet and retorted, "Not when you're wearing four-inch heels!"
"So, now I can't wear high heels? You're my partner, Harry, not my fashion consultant!"
"Too bad," Doug gasped, in between guffaws. "He dresses better'n you."
Penhall met two pairs of furious eyes and prudently shut his mouth.
"You can wear anything you want," Harry answered, through clenched teeth, "but please try to remember, when we're out in public questioning a witness, not to prop your elbow on my shoulder, as if I were a COUNTER TOP!"
Judy looked suitably shamefaced, though her eyes still twinkled with amusement. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."
"You might just as well have set a beer on my head."
"I'm really sorry." Harry eyed her thoughtfully for a moment, then a rueful smile wiped the ill humor from his face. She sidled over to him, long lashes veiling the mischief in her eyes, and draped an arm around his shoulders. "Hey, Partner, how about a trade?"
"You loan me those to-die-for earrings, and I'll let you wear my spike heels."
Ioki's less than enthusiastic response was drowned out by a fresh gale of laughter from Penhall. But both were silenced when Fuller's office door opened, and the captain strode into the room.
"Hanson! Penhall! How're you coming with your testimony?"
"Great, Coach. No problems."
"We'll blow 'em outta the witness box, Cap'n." As he spoke, Penhall scrambled for his chair and bent over the disorganized heap of papers on the desk.
"Good. Keep working on it. Hoffs and Ioki, in my office."
All disagreements forgotten, the two officers hurried to answer the summons. They disappeared into the office, and Hanson heard Fuller fire an irritated question at them, before the door shut. Breathing a sigh of relief, both for escaping the captain's bad temper and for the sudden quiet, Hanson bent over the forensics file again.
Five minutes ticked silently by. Tom shuffled through the file to locate a missing ballistics report. Hoffs and Ioki returned to their desks. The coffee machine began to sputter. And still it was quiet, until...
Doug Penhall tossed an arrest report onto the desk and leaned closer to his partner. "Hey, Tom."
"Ever notice how much an asparagus looks like..."