TAE made a point of the fact that both Rays must be called "Ray". She said she'd like to have an actual case, the Rays bicker and have long-suffering Benny between them.
It was a toss-up which venture would fall apart first, the search for the hand of Franklin or the romance between Ray Vecchio and Stella Kowalski. Both undertakings had important elements working against them. Ray Vecchio faced the problem that Stella ultimately preferred women. This was not the problem for Fraser and Ray Kowalski, (it was a condition they both shared, as it happened) but rather the fact that Ray preferred weather that didn’t call attention to itself.
Two weeks into the expedition it became clear to Fraser and Diefenbaker that Ray was not particularly happy. He began slowly to stop griping and became silent most of the time. This tipped the Canadians off that all was not well. One night over a campfire they discussed it while Ray slept. Fraser and Dief decided that one of them should feign illness. Fraser hated to be the one to play false, even though unnecessary moaning and writhing wasn't actually lying.
Dief's acting skills proved up to the task. Abdominal pains seemed generic enough, and they had an excuse to head back to such civilization as was available in the far north. Thence they returned to Chicago, with everyone feeling virtuous about having made some kind of sacrifice. They resumed their old habits and from time to time Ray Vecchio called to let them know what was happening in Florida.
What was happening in Florida was this: the bowling alley was a wild success . Stella left him after three months, but as consolation Ray was raking in money hand over fist.
So successful was the bowling alley venture Ray found he could easily finance another. What better place for the next in the “Ray’s Bowling” chain than his hometown where his mother and his old friends could console him over his breakup with Stella?
Dumping Rays seemed to be a habit with her. So she went off in search of another Ray-heart to break and Ray hired a Canadian assistant to run his bowling alley, having found this nationality reliable in the past and there being no shortage of Canadian “snowbirds” in Florida. So, three months later everyone was home: Fraser with never any change in job and name, Ray with his old job but original name, and Ray with his old name and new status as entrepreneur.
Lt. Welsh called Ray into his office.
“New assignment, Kowalski. Right up your alley. Seems somebody bombed a bowling establishment.”
“Right up my alley. Very funny, sir.”
“Don’t mean it that way. I mean the owner of the bowling alley is somebody we all know and love.”
“Don’t tell me.”
“’Fraid so, Detective.”
Ray ran both hands over his spikes. “Why me? Don’t you need somebody neutral?”
“Here’s the thing,” Welsh leaned back in his chair and made a large stretch, a gesture designed to make the moment somehow more casual. Ray wasn’t buying it, however. He stayed tense. “Fraser’s going to want to help investigate this, so I figured if I give you the case, he can do it officially.”
“Fraser’s not official. Never was.”
“Granted, but this way at least it’s officially unofficial. So it’s the two of you. Go solve it, Kowalski.”
“What’s to solve? Has to be Zuko.”
Welsh leaned forward again. “Assumptions? Did I ever teach you to make assumptions? You get paid for detective work. Go detect.”
Ray and Fraser found Ray standing in the burned out ruins of his latest business venture. Upon seeing them, he picked his way through the rubble to where they were and gave Fraser a hug. “Benny. Good to see you.” Then he glanced at Ray and muttered, “Kowalski.” The terse word fell just short of being an actual greeting.
Ray took the Mountie by the arm and tugged him away from Ray. “Here’s what I figured so far, Benny .” whereupon he begun outlining the evidence.
“Just a minute, um, sir,” Ray put in from behind. “You want to maybe just give me the facts?” So saying, Ray pulled out his police notebook and a pencil.
Ray gave him a withering look. “I’m beyond the facts already.” Significantly. “Detective.”
“Sir,” also significantly, "maybe you should let the police handle this.”
“Not anymore, Vecchio. You’re a pin-jockey. Me and Fraser, we’re police.”
“Well, Ray, since I’m not in my own jurisdiction, that’s not entirely an accurate . . . ”
“Shut up, Fraser”
“Yeah, shut up, Fraser.”
“Sorry, Ray. “
Ray and Ray looked at each other fiercely, daring the other to take ownership of Fraser’s response. Fraser picked up on the fact that he was one apology short. “Sorry, Ray,” he added.
“So, Vecchio, you wanna just tell us what happened?”
Ray took twenty minutes and a lot of pointing and arm waving to talk them through what he knew of how his bowling alley had got from bowling alley to smoking rubbish pile. Ray took copious notes all the way through the story. Fraser drifted about, sniffing, poking and tasting as he listened. At a strategic point, he pocketed a piece of paper which, for reasons which are not important right now, didn't get all burned up.
Ray then asked Ray a series of questions. To each, Ray answered with some variant of “I already told you that. I thought you were taking notes.”
“Gotta be Zuko.” opined one Ray. (Pick one. Doesn't matter)
“So, at least we agree on that,” said the other Ray (the other one you didn't pick before.)
“I have a hunch,” said Fraser.
“You don’t have hunches!” both Rays exclaimed together. (Again rendering unimportant which Ray was which.)
‘I had one of YOUR hunches, Ray. Sure felt good.” He made a point of looking first at Ray and then at Ray, just to avoid trouble. “If you two don’t mind, I’ll see you both later.”
Whereupon, Fraser headed over to the sidewalk, hailed a cab, and took off to parts unknown, leaving the Ray’s to interact without any buffer.
The parts didn’t remain unknown for long. Fraser went straight to the 27th and found Francesca behind her desk.
“Francesca, we have to talk.”
“Sure Fraszh, what’s up.” She wasn’t being as simpering and coy as she usually was, which went to confirm for Fraser the suspicions he’d been having. Fraser motioned for her to follow him.
He took her to the corridor and said, “Francesca, I’m afraid it is necessary for you to face the wall.”
She looked puzzled. “The wall of reality? You getting married, Fraszh?”
“No, Francesca, I mean turn around, spread your legs and place both hands against the wall.”
Her face lit up. Action at last! Not the kind she was expecting and sort of embarrassingly public, but she’d take what she could get!
“I’m performing a citizen’s arrest for arson. You bombed your brother’s bowling alley, didn’t you?”
He outlined the evidence to her: the scent of her usual cologne, bits of broken fingernail the colour of her favourite polish, threads of the same material as her favourite skirt. As a final, telling indictment he held a slip of paper under her nose which, in her very own handwriting, said, “I did it. So sue me. Francesca.”
She sniffed. “He’s insured, he won’t be hurt in the long run. I just wanted to get your attention, Fraszh. Coming to your room didn’t do it. Arranging myself a marriage didn’t do it. Crying over your freakin’ corpse didn’t do it. Working right under your nose all the time didn't do it. What’m I supposed to do? All I could think of was committing a crime.”
Fraser thought about it. He did seem to like female criminals. Maybe . . .
“Francesca, how about this? You turn yourself in and plead guilty, there will be a minimal jail term, and when you get out I’ll take you to a little place called Fortitude Pass.