“No. I’m sorry, Kathy, but no way.”
“But El, you promised the kids! You promised me.”
“Yes, I did. And I’m here, not at work today, aren’t I? But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out in public in…in that.”
“Well, it’s your own fault. You were the one who told me two weeks ago that you’d make sure to get to the costume store to pick up a Prince Charming rental that would fit. For me not to worry about making one or getting one for you. Instead it’s Halloween morning and I’m out scavenging through what’s left on the racks that would work, because you put it off until the last minute. And then you had to work late yesterday anyway. Now we’ve got two hours to get ready and get to the parking lot and I don’t have time to hear you whine and complain.”
“I know, I know, but…come on.” Elliot looked in despair at the pink and blue, satiny-shimmery nightmare. “There had to be some other prince costume that would have worked instead of changing character completely.”
“No. No, there wasn’t. Besides, I spent a month working on the Cinderella carriage decorations for the car, making the twins’ field mice costumes, and putting together my own costume. So you are going to do your part today and put. This. On. Now.”
Elliot knew from the look in his wife’s eyes and that tone of voice that to disobey her would leave him in serious trouble. Trouble like sleeping on the sofa for a week, if she allowed him back in this house at all instead of sleeping in the cribs at the precinct. So he picked up the nightmarish thing, where it lay on their bed, and stormed off to the bathroom to shower and change.
“Don’t forget the gloves,” Kathy called.
Elliot slammed the bathroom door shut behind him.
Elliot Stabler wished more than anything on God’s green Earth that he could will himself invisible. Just for this afternoon. His costume and wig were itchy, he was getting sweaty under all these stifling layers of cheap material, and his hopes that no one would recognize him here were already long since dashed.
“Nice costume, Elliot!” his neighbor Gary called, walking by in a classic Han Solo outfit with his young daughter making a darling Princess Leia.
“Trick or Treat!” the girl piped up, offering up her goody bag to be filled. Elliot tossed a bunch of mini chocolate bars in her sack from the plastic pumpkin in the open trunk.
“You build this all yourself?” Gary asked, admiring Kathy’s admittedly impressive Trunk-or-Treat decorations. Propped up over and around the car trunk was a cardboard and paper-maché replica of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, with a red carpet trailing down to a glass (well, plastic) slipper on a throw pillow. It was pretty elaborate, though not as over-the-top as the pirate ship the Morgani family had made, entirely surrounding their SUV.
“All my wife’s doing,” Elliot admitted.
“That outfit of yours, too?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
Gary chuckled. “I’m sure, man. Well, I’d say you folks are in the running for best decorations—and costumes.”
Kathy deserved it, Elliot thought. She did make a lovely Cinderella, with her hair all done up in a fancy bun and her flowing blue ballgown. Even Kathleen—who’d declared herself too old for trick or treating this year—had said so and needed a picture of her mom with Lizzie and Dickie in their field mice costumes. She’d then busted a gut at seeing her father come down the stairs dressed in, well, this.
“Trick or treat!!!” Three more brats in ninjas costumes came up to Elliot, expecting candy.
“Here. Here. Here.” He threw the peanut butter cups in their bags.
“I’m allergic to peanuts,” one of them whined.
“Fine. Take what you want,” Elliot said, holding out the pumpkin bowl to the complainer.
“Who are you anyway?” one of the others asked while the first was digging around. “You kinda look like my grandma.”
“I’m Cinderella’s fairy godmother, are you happy? Now bibbidi-bobbidi-boo yourselves off to the next car, will ya?”
The kids ran off laughing. Elliot found himself wishing Kathy would hurry up with the twins and their trick-or-treating around the parking lot. Standing here with the rest of his family unit was slightly less embarrassing than manning the car by himself.
Slightly. But not by much.
Well, at least no one from his job had to see him like this. He would never live it down if Liv saw him in this dress. Or the captain, or God forbid…
“Check it out, Fin. It must be the fairy godmother of drag queens.”
Elliot turned, recognizing that sharp voice anywhere but not wanting to believe he could be hearing things properly. But no, there was Munch, his expression an eternal deadpan while Fin looked ready to explode into laughter.
“What the…what are you two doing here?” Elliot hissed.
“Working, of course,” John explained. “What else would drag us out to the wilds of suburbia? And its obscure rituals of helicopter parenting and competition in lieu of allowing children the joys of knocking on random strangers’ doors demanding candy or threatening mischief?”
“You know that costume-wearing flasher who’s been hanging around Central Park and various school yards?” Fin more helpfully explained. “We got a call he was sighted at another one of these Trunk-or-Treat affairs in this area, earlier today.”
“Trust us, these kids don’t need to see the junk in his trunk,” Munch added. “So we’re on the look-out for a guy in an ill-fitted Superman outfit asking girls if they want to see his red kryptonite.”
“That’s just…that’s just wrong.”
A small boy in a Harry Potter robe came over, looked up at Munch and Fin, and asked them, “Who are you two supposed to be?”
“The Men in Black,” Fin replied, sliding on his pair of sunglasses to match John’s.
“Cool,” the kid said, then turned to Elliot, started giggling, and couldn’t even manage to ask for his treats. Elliot gave him a handful of whatever was at the top of his pumpkin pail to get him to go away.
“Y’know, Elliot, if I may,” John began, stepping closer. “If you’re gonna go for a drag costume, there are some simple things you could do to make it more convincing. I mean, maybe you don’t need to tuck with a voluminous skirt like that, but a corset under there would give you at least a little more feminine shape. Some contouring make-up would help, too, with that jawline of yours.”
“I’m not having this conversation with you, Munch. And if you’re speaking from experience, I really don’t want to know more.”
John raised his eyebrows, sighed and shrugged.
“John, Fin!” Kathy called out, coming back by the car with Lizzie and Dickie running in front of her.
“Kathy, you look stunning!” John declared.
“Thank you. But what are you guys doing here?”
“Completing my humiliation,” Elliot put in. Everyone else ignored him.
“We’re on the lookout for a suspicious Superman,” Fin explained. “You seen any as you walked about?”
“I’m not sure…I don’t think so, but, you might want to check with the other parents here.”
“We will,” Fin said, then whipping out his cell phone. “But first I need a family portrait.”
“Of course!” Kathy enthused at the same time that Elliot said, “No!” But there was no refusing his wife as she gave him that look again. So he sighed and tried to put on a smile as the little ones struck dramatic poses in front of them.
“Perfect,” Fin declared.
“Send me a copy?” Kathy asked.
“And then delete that from your phone history,” Elliot added.
“Fin, look—” John said suddenly. “Three o’clock. With the grey Honda at the end of the line of cars. Just pulled in.”
“Son of a bitch,” Fin said. Sure enough it was an tall, scrawny, balding guy in a baggy cheap Superman suit. “Fits the description to a T.”
“You guys need back-up?” Elliot offered.
“If he runs. Otherwise, stay here on back-up.”
Elliot and Kathy watched as Munch and Fin tried to look casual—as out of place as they were at this scene—and approached the new arrival. He had popped his trunk and was sorting out some bags of candy when Fin popped him hard, slamming his head against the trunk lid while reaching for his handcuffs.
“Thank goodness they were here today to catch that man!” Kathy said, trying to turn the childrens’ attention away from the developing scene that others in the parking lot had begun to gawk at.
“I could’ve handled it if he’d caused any trouble,” Elliot sniffed.
“Yes, I’m sure you could have, my darling. Though you might have ripped up that costume if there was a scuffle, and then we’d be out the rental deposit.”
“Oh! Morning, El,” Olivia said, as she ran into her partner at the elevators.
“So how was Halloween with the twins?”
“Eh, you know. Hardest part was getting them to bed last night while amped up on too much sugar.”
“I can imagine.” She took a sip of her coffee as they stopped on the second floor, several people getting off while others piled in. Elliot couldn’t make out what exactly was up with the glimmer of a smile Liv seemed to be having a hard time containing. “I saw Munch and Fin managed to bring in their Super-flasher-man.”
“Did he confess?” Elliot asked.
“Was crying like a baby and begging for mercy by the time they dumped him in holding.”
“Good. Don’t need a freak like that ruining kids’ Halloween. Or any day.”
They got off on their floor and walked to their desks in silence, Liv still smiling a Cheshire Cat smile that was making Elliot extremely nervous. He found Munch and Fin both there already, at their desks, John reading the day’s paper while Fin was on the phone.
“Looks like a slow morning so far,” Elliot observed.
“Almost as if someone waved a magic wand and granted a wish for peace and quiet, isn’t it?”
Elliot frowned, but said nothing. Olivia grinned and headed to the coffee station for a refill after exchanging morning pleasantries with the other detectives.
If those two sent that picture to Liv, I’m going to kill them.
He almost expected to find a giant print of it waiting for him on his desk. Instead, he found a book.
“Tricks of the Trade - A Beginner’s Guide to Crossdressing” was the title.
He must have been staring at it, flustered and turning beet red, for sometime before he noticed Liv giggling. With a grimace, he picked up the book and turned to stare down John.
“What? I thought you could use some pointers,” John said innocently. Fin snorted, then joined Liv in laughing.
Elliot dropped the book in the trash and decided this was the last Halloween he was ever going to take part in celebrating.