Disclaimer: (cries with joy) I actually own this! What a difference from fan fiction...

A/N: This is one of the quirky writing assignments I received from my creative writing teacher. It just goes to show why the class should not be given free reign over the assigned characters. My peers gave me the two or three main characters, but mostly the man you will meet in the next few sentences. I promise you'll enjoy it, though. It's worth a laugh or two.


Aaron Daniels stared thoughtfully into the swirling amber liquid, fingers tightening around the glass, as his mind struggled to come to a decision. His inner confusion was evident on his face, as his brow furrowed and his lips thinned. Aaron was certainly distracted that evening, which was only to be expected. It wasn't every day that a man contemplated the future of his very existence. The choice he made would either lead to a life of true happiness... or down a road of dark despair.

Aaron sighed. It looked like his days as a bachelor were over.

But it was all worth it.

Samantha Baxter was everything he could ever hope for in a woman; witty, intelligent, understanding, hardworking... and absolutely gorgeous. The two had known each other since college, but had only agreed to date seven months ago. It may have seemed like a short time to anyone else, but Aaron was sure she was the one.

Sam completed him in every way, and he was ready to take the next step in their relationship. Aaron wanted to propose.

Thinking of the impending question, one that could either make or break his love life, Aaron released his drink to pat the lump in his pocket, reassuring himself of the small box safely stowed there. It was a delicate diamond ring that had cost Aaron more than he could really afford, but for Sam, it was a worthwhile investment.

Realizing there was really no question of taking the plunge, Aaron drained the last of his glass and slid off the bar stool. His heels clicked against the tile floor as he stood, and Aaron brushed the wrinkles out of his denim skirt.

"Leavin' already, Erin?" the bartender, old Joe, asked of his most frequent customer as he collected the empty glass.

Aaron tucked a long strand of foe-blonde hair behind his ear and replied in a softer tone than his normal voice. "Yeah, it's getting late, and I'm expected back at home."

Joe gave a teasing wink. "That's one lucky fellow waiting."

Aaron's smile froze as he forced himself to nod. "Right, lucky guy..."

Then the thirty-six-year-old man turned his back on Joe, hitching his purse up on his shoulder, and walked toward the exit. As he stepped with a familiar grace in the black pumps, Aaron winced as another dilemma plagued his thoughts.

Just how was he going to break the other news to Samantha? He could just imagine that conversation...

Hey, honey, I have this hobby of dressing up as a woman after work. Oh, and I borrowed your cashmere sweater last week; it's still at the cleaners. You don't mind, do you? About the cross-dressing, not the sweater.

This was going to take some work.


Harold's fingers typed out the last sentence methodically, the clicking almost inaudible beneath the dull roar within the office. He felt a sneer twisting his face as he watched his coworkers, the NYPD's finest officers, gather around the water cooler and gossip like a bunch of old women. The topic on everyone's lips, of course, was the "Serial Strangler," as creatively dubbed by the Daily Post.

They had tried to keep the murder case under wraps, but by the third victim, a nosy reporter, had managed to find the body before anyone else and called her editor before even contacting the cops. The public was now frightfully aware of the situation, and Harold's office was under extreme pressure to get it solved.

His boss was leaning heavily on everyone, including Harold, to make miracles happen, so it was inconceivable to him that the others could have so much free time. Harold was bogged down with filing all the legal reports, which he was just now finishing. His coworkers, however, seemed to consider themselves on a break now that the boss was tied up in his office. All of the ire normally aimed at spurning their efforts was instead directed at the detective team assigned to the case specifically. Not even the missing persons department two floors down could miss the hoarse screaming of Captain Wallace.

"-GET YOUR ASSES IN GEAR! I WANT A FULL REPORT ON THE LAST MURDER ON MY DESK IN TWENTY MINUTES, AND THEN I EXPECT ANSWERS! NO MORE OF THIS IDIOCY! WHAT DO I PAY YOU TWO FOR IF IT'S NOT RESULTS? AND ANOTHER THING-"

Saving the last document to his hard drive, Harold set the long reports to print. He watched the old machine try to cough out the papers with impatience, and glared around the room while he waited.

"-did you hear about the last one?" Maddie Thompson prodded in a loud whisper.

"Another prostitute?"

"No, no! Get your facts straight-"

"That was the fourth victim-"

"This time it was a college girl-"

"-out drinking with her friends-"

"-but I heard she survived-"

"Really?"

"Talk about a lucky break-"

Harold listened without comment to the conversation. So, the last victim hadn't died? That was good news. Maybe now they would finally get some idea of who the killer was. At least then Harold wouldn't be expected to come in at all hours. It was bad enough he'd been regulated to a desk job despite all of his hard work, but the way Wallace was personally breathing down Harold's neck as an outlet was a bit too much.

There was a loud crash from the sealed office door. It was obvious that Captain Wallace had let his infamous temper get the better of him while scolding his detectives.

Harold scowled at the thought of the two bearing the full weight of Wallace's fury. He spared them no pity, and instead felt a sigh of remorse escaping for himself. With those two on the case, he was likely to be in the office past midnight for countless nights to come.


Sam tried not to fidget as her superior vented his frustration. She looked at her lap shamefully as he berated their lack of progress, and wished fervently that she could just go home and let Aaron comfort her after such a miserable day.

She was only a junior detective at the department, and had once aspired to joining the FBI, but she now knew that was unlikely to happen. Sam truly loved to help people, she just wasn't very good at it. She was slowly learning in her time with the NYPD that she didn't have the right knack for solving a crime. She tended to think too much within the box, and if she had to stare down one more bloated corpse, she was going to hurl all over the crime scene.

It was fortunate that Sam had been paired up with Frank Reynolds, a man going on his twenty-second year with the department. He was a hard-working detective with the patience of a saint, in her opinion. Of course, he was also getting on in years, and some doubted his sleuthing prowess.

Sam knew that if they didn't crack this case soon, Frank was likely to go on his over-due retirement, whether he wanted to or not, and she herself would end up with a desk job in the cubicle next to that creep, Harold.

"-AND ANOTHER THING-" Wallace roared as he paced behind his desk.

Frank cut in politely, or as respectfully as one could while putting a halt to the other man's raging. "Eh-hem, sir, I think we may have a lead this time."

"Oh, really?" the captain asked sarcastically. "And what would that be?"

"The last woman attacked," Sam injected in a small voice. "She got away."

"She managed to cause enough of a commotion that a couple in the parking lot came running," Frank elaborated. "The killer ran off at the first sign of witnesses, and left the girl lying by her car. She's in the hospital right now under a guard."

"WELL, THEN, WHAT ARE YOU SITTING AROUND HERE FOR?"

"She's, er, not awake yet, sir..."

"AND I DON'T CARE! THE SECOND THAT GIRL IS COHERENT, I WANT TO KNOW WHO ATTACKED HER! UNTIL THEN, YOU TWO SHOULD BE OUT ON PATROL AND ASKING QUESTIONS; ANYTHING BUT WASTING MY TIME HERE! NOW, GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!"


Sam sighed as she fit the key in the door and entered the apartment she rented with her boyfriend. Today had been just one stressful situation after another thanks to her latest case. Sam didn't even have the comfort of enlightening her boss in their next meeting, as the girl in the hospital was still unresponsive. The doctors had refused to even let her and Frank into the room to see her, so their knowledge on the girl was limited to whatever her friends could tell them in the waiting room. It wasn't much as they were still hysterical, and couldn't go two minutes without sobbing on each other's shoulders.

Sam had finally begged an early leave from her partner after such a hectic day, from the attack they had failed to predict, to the dressing-down at the office in hearing range of every person in the building, and finally the brutal questioning of two women who looked ready to gouge her eyes out with a cafeteria spoon for intruding on their pain.

Dropping her bag on the kitchen counter, Sam rubbed her eyes and fought the desire to slip into a long, hot bath and never come out. This was only a break, after all. She had planned to meet Frank in only a few hours to go over their notes again.

She was sure she had enough time for a quick nap, at least. Aaron had said he was working late at the restaurant, so she had the whole apartment to herself, with nothing to do but read her case files one more time. Seeing as they weren't very informative to begin with, that would be a complete waste of time.

Stretching her limbs and holding back a yawn, Sam trudged wearily toward the bedroom, kicking off her shoes and dropping her jacket on the back of the couch as she went.

She entered the small room, taken up by a large, soft bed and twin dressers. Sam was already half-asleep as she pulled the curtains shut to block out the mid-afternoon sun. She pulled her lagging body toward the mattress, and was just about to sink gratefully into it, when she heard a noise.

There was the shuffling of cloth and heavy breathing coming from her closet...

Sam was much more awake now.

Without making another sound to alert the other person, Sam tip-toed across the room and peered into the walk-in closet. The racks of clothing obstructed her view, and the ceiling bulb was turned off. Sam could just make out a shadowy figure, mumbling and trying to dig through a pile of her shirts.

Sam dashed into the closet and used one hand to restrain their left arm, and another went around their neck, all before the stranger knew just what kind of rampaging female had hit them.

"Who are you? What are you doing in my home? Tell me!" Sam barked as she tightened her grip.

A dozen possibilities flew through the junior detective's mind as she spit out a wad of thick blonde hair that was in her face. The other woman was much taller than Sam, and thick-chested, as Sam had trouble keeping a hold of her.

Just who was this woman to be digging through Sam's clothing? Was she a burglar? Or maybe Aaron knew her... What if this was his girlfriend? Was Aaron cheating on her? Sam saw red.

"S-Sam, stop!" the other choked in a raspy voice as their air was cut off. "It's me! Aaron!"

The other turned around, and Sam realized quite suddenly why it had been so difficult to hold on. She now knew for certain that Aaron wasn't cheating on her. Somehow, that didn't make her feel any better.

It was her boyfriend standing before her, in a pair of denim shorts, with a lopsided wig, and two crooked lumps on his chest poking through one of her own blouses.

"Sam, I can explain-"

"Oh. My. God."


Reporter Beth Bently stepped out of her car and into the very parking lot where another young woman had been brutally attacked less than twenty-four hours ago.

The yellow tape was still around the area, and an overweight officer sat dozing in his car nearby. If he was stationed to keep out nosy civilians, then he wasn't doing a very good job.

Beth took a quick snap of his position with the digital camera she carried in her purse. Her journalistic muse flared to life at the thought of her next article: "Just how well is the public protected? Serial killer on the loose, and police sound asleep."

"I like it!" Beth made a mental note as she stepped toward the crime scene, heedless of the warning tape. A couple of kids watched her without comment as they too ogled the dark smear on the pavement.

Beth made a face of disgust as she snapped a couple of shots of the rather large blood stain.

"No wonder the girl is still out of it," she muttered apathetically.

She had tried to enter the hospital on her own and offer condolences to the family while getting a quick word. The orderly at the front desk had let her pass, thanks to her very sophisticated and charming appearance. Unfortunately, one of the cops on guard duty had recognized Beth and turned her back at the elevator.

Really, the expression of distaste on his face was no surprise. The entire department had learned their lesson after Beth had come upon the third victim and spread the word. Their efforts to keep the entire affair hush-hush went down the drain when every household in NY knew of the "Serial Strangler" with the morning edition of the Daily Post. The killer's title was a nice touch, if Beth were to say so herself.

Finished with her perusal of the crime scene, it was old news after all, Beth walked toward the crowded bar nearby. Joe's was certainly popular with the regulars; it was no wonder the killer had struck there twice.

One might think that a couple of deaths would scare away the customers. Instead, it had the affect of drawing in even more. Teenagers were absolutely fascinated by the grisly case, and Old Joe certainly wasn't complaining about the extra business.

Beth herself found it a stroke of good luck, what with the perfect opportunity for interviews. However, tonight Beth was looking for one man in particular: Harold Finch, office worker for the NYPD, with access to all reports, and utterly smitten with one female journalist.

Beth held back a laugh. Harold was truly pathetic to believe her had any chance with her, but even idiots had their uses.

The bell over the door jingled as she entered the dimly-lit establishment. The tables were already full, and the customers were well into their drinks. That was just perfect for Beth.

Taking care to keep her head held high, and with a sultry smile on her lips, Beth scanned the room for a familiar balding head. She pouted in disappointment. Harold wasn't around, which meant he must be working late. That was really too bad. With the amount of time he'd been spending on the case, Beth was sure he'd have a few tidbits for her article.

Ah, well, common interviews would have to tide her editor over for the time being. Beth zoned in on the first sucker that looked willing to chat with a pretty girl. She found one easily enough at the counter. After thirty minutes of flirting, Beth had a full account of the last attack, as heard by a man lying in the gutter outside.

Somewhat satisfied with the half-coherent quote, Beth chose to take a restroom break before moving onto the next man. She always had an urge to wash her hands of drunken filth after sitting with one of them for any period of time.

Standing at the sink and rubbing her hands under the automatic drier, it wasn't until Beth glanced at the mirror to check her make up that she noticed something was off. She reached into her purse, her hand brushing the camera as she searched for the thin tube of lipstick. Something in the mirror above her caught her eye, and Beth looked up. She didn't have time to scream before a pair of black-gloved hands wrapped around her throat.

The police wouldn't find her for two hours, when another woman would storm into the bathroom after ditching her inebriated date. She would find the former-reporter lifeless beneath the sinks, with her face a breathless blue. The contents of her purse would be spilled around her, including the digital camera with its blinking red light.


Sam sat at a desk for once, watching the computer continue an extensive profile search. She rubbed her sleep-deprived eyes and tried to focus on the mug shots flashing across the screen.

She hadn't slept well at all last night, after running into that disaster with Aaron. She just wasn't sure what to think about him anymore. A part of her insisted she kick the cross-dressing male to the curb, while another part tried to make excuses that things may still work if they spoke to a couples' therapist... or three.

After a night of tossing and turning in her childhood bedroom, Sam had left early in the morning, roused by her jingling cell phone. There was another murder victim in the Serial Strangler case. This last one was a real shocker for the department. The ultimate annoyance, the little fly on their wall, and the pain in the captain's neck, Reporter Beth Bently, was dead. They might have thrown a farewell party for her if the situation weren't so serious. Her newspaper was also on the warpath after the loss of one of their own.

Still, in death, Beth had done at least one favor for the department. Her camera-carrying habits had finally come in handy when she caught a blurry shot of her killer when the camera fell out of her purse and onto the flash button. Enough of a man's face was visible that they need only find a match in the computer, or simply keep on the lookout.

It also helped that Frank had been to see the formerly-comatose victim. She hadn't been able to see much in the dark, but was at least able to give them a height and weight estimation, which narrowed the search down just a little bit more.

Sam's drooping head snapped up from the desk when the monitor began beeping. Every officer in the vicinity froze as a profile match came up.

Male, Caucasian, 6' 3", age fifty-six, past arrest including a case of domestic homicide where unfaithful wife was strangled in her sleep, suspect still eluding captureā€¦ The "Serial Strangler" was none other than-

Sam gasped. He may have had a different name, but she and anyone else who visited Joe's Bar on a regular basis would recognize him immediately. The killer was-


"Hey, Joe, can I have another one?" Aaron, or Erin, as he went by when wearing feminine clothing, begged the bartender while slapping the counter.

Considering his girlfriend had found him in such a compromising position, given him no chance to explain, and then packed a suitcase and left for her mother's, Aaron thought himself perfectly entitled to a night of drowning his sorrows. Who cared if he was too hung over to work tomorrow? The love of his life thought he was a freak, and right now the closest friend he has was an old man who thought he was a woman.

"Rough night, Erin? Let me guess, your boyfriend dumped you?" the bartender asked as he collected Aaron's empty glass.

"Something like that," he replied dejectedly.

"Why don't we find you something stronger? I've got some of my best alcohol in the back." Joe grinned. "I don't offer my private stock to just anybody! Why don't you come back and try some?"

Aaron sighed and slid off his stool. He stumbled a bit under the beer's affects, and followed Joe behind the counter.


Harold Finch was sitting in the very same bar at a time when he was most-needed at work. His boss was sure to kill him later for skipping out while everyone else was hot on the killer's trail, but Harold had needed a reprieve. He had, after all, just lost one of the few women who'd ever given him the time of day. Sure, Beth Bently was a conniving slut, but she was at least easy on the eyes.

Harold took another swig of his drink. Reynold's and Baxter were probably doing just fine without him anyway. All they had to do was match up the photo image to some guy in their files, the very ones Harold spent so much time working on himself.

He took another sip. He couldn't wait until this was over...

Groaning a bit at the thought of getting up, Harold realized he needed to use the restroom before he drank anymore. He stood up and wobbled toward the far corner of the room. As he went, he noticed the bartender leaving his post with some blonde. His hand guided her from behind as he led her into a storage room.

Harold found it just wrong that even an old man like Joe had a better time with the girls than him. He wondered where they were going...

Just as he reached the bathrooms, Harold heard a barely audible thump. Only someone close to that area would have been able to hear it, and most of the customers at the counter were out cold. It came from the storage closet.

Harold decided to check just in case. You couldn't be too careful when there was a murderer on the loose. Maybe the bartender was hurt, and the girl was being strangled at that very moment...

As soon as the door shut behind him, and Harold took a good look at the cowering girl on the floor, he was hit over the head with a bottle of rum.

Harold wasn't going to be of much help.


Aaron was in shock, to tell the truth. First, his old friend the bartender led him into a back room, seeming quite a bit like he was flirting. Aaron hadn't noticed it at first, being a little slow on the uptake after a few drinks, but something was very obviously up when Joe shoved him into a wall.

Then that other man showed up, giving Aaron was brief glimmer of hope. Wasn't he that loser Sam always complained about from work? Aaron could see just how useless Harold was when he was unconscious on the floor in five seconds flat.

To make matters worse, Joe began to give one of those diabolical monologues about the unfairness of life, and something about his grudge against pretty women who used men. Aaron had tuned him out, too preoccupied that his own cross-dressing landing him in such a mess.

Aaron was cornered by the one and only "Serial Strangler"... who thought he was a woman. Now, how to fix that little misunderstanding?

"L-look, Joe, you've got it all wrong-"

"Don't give me that, you little bitch! All women are the same- sneaky, manipulative whores, just like my wife!"

"N-no, I mean-"

"But I'll show you all! I won't stand for your wicked ways anymore!"

He wasn't listening.

Then Joe reached for Aaron's throat. To think, it was going to end this way... And he'd never have the chance to work things out with Sam-

"FREEZE!"'

Two familiar cops chose that moment to kick the door in and stand with both their guns aimed for the old man.

"Don't move a muscle, Joe," Sam began in an authoritative tone, "we've got the place surrounded- Hey, is that Harold?" She glanced down, distracted by the lump of useless flesh lying in a pile of glass shards.

Her partner, Frank, stepped over him with barely a glance to cuff the perpetrator.

"Sam!" Aaron cried in relief.

"Aaron?" she gasped, sounding much less delighted. "What are you doing here, and why are you dressed like a woman again- Never mind, I don't want to know-"

"You're a man?" Joe appeared more than a little horrified, not even noticing as his cuffs snapped shut.

"That's your boyfriend?" Frank asked with a twitching eyebrow.

"I- um- that is-" Aaron stood there awkwardly.

"Don't ask," Sam muttered.


At last, the Serial Strangler case was solved. Joe was sentenced to thirty to life, and his bar was sold to the highest bidder, a wealthy man who Aaron might have sworn was really a woman. He- she- they remodeled it as a strip club in some twisted kind of memorial to the victims. Sam and Frank received their due in media attention. Sam would never need to worry about a desk job again after the congratulations sent by the higher ups. Frank found his salary more than doubled, and gave into his final retirement with a trip planned for sunny California. Even Harold, after awakening in the ambulance with a killer headache, was given his due. All Captain Wallace knew was that Harold was the first at the scene, and immediately gave him a pay raise. Harold went from filer and coffee brewer to detective in training and donut fetcher. He was ecstatic.

Sam and Aaron managed to work out their differences with the agreement that Aaron would limit his girl's night out to once a month. He even managed to drag Sam along on those outings, if only because their therapist recommended it. Their relationship wasn't perfect, but they were working on it. Six months later, Aaron proposed and the wedding was set. They became the happy Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Daniels, and life was just perfect... Well, almost. Now they just had to figure out how to break the news to Sam's parents.

Hi, Mom, Dad. You know, it's the funniest thing, but my husband has this hobby of borrowing all my clothes, especially the skirts and heels. You don't mind do you? I promise the kids will never know!

That was still going to take some work.


REVIEW!

(snickers)

I still can't believe I wrote this. Trust me when I say that it gets worse- the characters, not my writing, because you know how awesome I am, lol.