The Missing Piece

 

By Anmodo

 

Friday, January 22nd, 2003 – 8:15 pm

While descending the stairwell in his apartment building, Danny Taylor’s cell phone began to ring.

“Taylor,” he answered quickly as he turned the corner to walk down the last flight of stairs.

Upon hearing the voice on the other end, he stopped in his tracks. Shaking his head, he mentally berated himself for not checking the caller ID before answering.

“What do you want?” he asked in a short tone.

“Look, I told you before that I couldn’t—“

Cut off by the voice on the other line, he listened while running a hand over his face in obvious frustration.

“I don’t have time to meet you right now. I’m on my way out,” he responded in a softer tone. Continuing to listen, he sighed deeply before relenting.

“Okay. Okay. Fine. I’ll be here,” he said before hanging up and continuing down the stairs.

Pulling his leather jacket tighter around him, he stepped out into a bitterly cold January evening. Hunching his shoulders against the frigid air, he quickened his pace and disappeared into the darkness.

Monday, January 25, 2003 – 8:15 am

“Hey. Morning,” Martin called out to Sam and Vivian as he approached his desk.

"Morning," the two women replied in unison.

"Everyone have a good weekend?" he asked as he folded his coat onto the back of his chair.

“It was so cold that I didn’t even leave my apartment. I literally hibernated,” Sam replied, shivering at the memory.

“That sounds like heaven. Reggie had two birthday parties this weekend. Can you imagine? We just got over the holidays and parents want to throw birthday parties. I don’t know where they find the time,” Vivian answered before asking Martin, “Did you get down to D.C.?”

“I cancelled. I'll be in for a major guilt trip, but I didn’t think I could deal with another Fitzgerald family weekend so close after the holidays,” Martin responded. Grabbing his coffee mug from off his desk, he held it up. “I’m getting coffee and a bagel. Anyone want anything?”

“No thanks. I’m set.”

“No thanks,” replied Sam.

Ten minutes later, Jack walked into the bullpen. “Morning," he greeting them gruffly. Without missing a beat, he addressed Vivian, asking, “Viv, did you get a chance to review the Holland report from Friday? Danny said he was going to have you look it over before handing in the official report.”

She frowned. “He told me he’d e-mailed it to me, but I didn’t see it in my inbox this morning. I left early on Friday so I’m not sure what happened.”

“Where is Danny?” Jack asked, looking at his watch.

“Haven’t seen him yet,” Sam replied and then smiled at him slightly. “But it’s not even 8:30, Jack. Let’s give the guy a break. Maybe he had a big weekend. Something tells me he wouldn’t let the cold weather get in the way of his fun.”

“When he does show up, make sure he gets you that report. Van Doren needs it by noon,” Jack said as he looked in Viv’s direction.

“Will do,” Viv replied.

“Morning, Jack,” Martin called out, returning to his desk with a coffee and bagel in hand.

“Morning,” Jack mumbled as he headed toward his office.

“He get up on the wrong side of the bed?” Martin asked, still not sure how to tell the difference between Jack being Jack and Jack in a really bad mood

“Danny was supposed to send me a report on Friday. I didn’t have it in my inbox, so he was just wondering where it was,” Vivian explained.

“That might be my fault,” Martin responded sheepishly.

“Your fault?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, he’d planned on staying late on Friday to finished it, but I asked him to fill for one the guys at the basketball game – so he said he’d come in this weekend or early this morning to finish it.”

Her eyes widening in surprise, she asked, “You got Danny to participate in the FBI basketball league?”

Martin nodded. “It wasn’t easy, believe me. It took me all afternoon. He said he could think of about a million other ways to spend his Friday evening, but he finally took pity on me,” Martin explained before telling her the kicker. “And I told him I’d finish his expense spreadsheet this quarter.”

“That explains it. He’d do anything to get out of completing the dreaded spreadsheet. As would I,” Samantha added as she smiled sweetly at Martin.

“That doesn’t explain why he hasn’t completed the Holland report. He didn’t come in this weekend or early this morning. That’s not like Danny,” Viv said as she turned to face them.

Sam picked up her phone. "Traffic's a bitch this morning. He probably just got held up, but I'll call him to find out."

She dialed his cell phone number and then listened to the rings. “No answer,” she said as she listened to Danny’s outgoing message. “Danny, it’s Samantha. It’s Monday morning and we’re just wondering where you are. I know it’s still early, but Viv’s got to finish reviewing your Holland report before turning it over to Jack. Give us a call if you're on your way.”

“Maybe he’s on the subway,” Sam said as she hung up the phone.

“I’m sure he’ll be here soon,” Martin said as he returned to his desk.

10:30 am

Two hours later, Danny still hadn’t arrived.

“It’s not like Danny to be late all, but definitely not like him to not call or to miss a deadline,” Viv said as she tapped her pen on the center table.

Martin watched as Sam spoke into her phone. She was leaving Danny yet another message. They’d called his home and cell phone three times each.

“Could he be somewhere other than home? Does he have a girlfriend?” Martin asked.

Viv and Sam looked at each other and shrugged. “No telling,” Sam answered as she closed her cell phone. “You never know with Danny. Did he seem okay on Friday night?”

“Yeah, he was great. He hit the winning jump shot to win our game. He was pretty psyched about it, even though he said that playing with a bunch of FBI agents was lame,” Martin answered with a smile, shaking his head. “I invited him to come out with the team to celebrate at McHale’s pub, but he said he had a thing. That was at about 7:30 on Friday night. I thought it was strange that he didn’t want to go, but…”

Viv and Sam shared a knowing look as Martin trailed off.

“What?” Martin asked.

“Nothing,” Viv answered quickly. “Danny’s just not the type to fraternize with people from work. He does his own thing.”

“Yeah, I sensed that,” Martin replied. “Back to where he might be: What about family? Does he have any family we could call?”

Viv and Sam shared another look.

“What?” Martin asked again, slightly frustrated this time.

“I honestly don’t think he has any,” Sam replied in a quiet tone.

“What do you mean? You mean he doesn’t have family in the city?”

“No, I mean I don’t think he has any at all.”

Martin frowned and was about to asked another question, but Jack interrupted as he walked into the bullpen.

“Any luck on tracking Danny down?” he asked, his voice now laced with concern.

“He’s not answering his phones, and he hasn’t called in,” Sam responded, worry now creeping into her voice as well.

Pondering something for a few moments, Jack sighed heavily. “I don’t want to dwell on this too much or make a big deal about it. It’s most likely nothing, and he’ll be here or call any minute. But in the four years that Danny has worked for me, I don’t think he’s ever been late or not shown up without calling. So if you guys would indulge me, I’m thinking we should make a couple of phone calls and maybe stop by his apartment.”

“I think you’re right,” Viv said, rising from her desk. “It’s probably nothing, and we can take turns thumping him in the head when he shows up, but it wouldn’t hurt to just make sure everything is okay.”

“I know Danny’s building. He lives about ten blocks away from me. I’ll check that out,” Samantha volunteered.

“Great. You and Martin go. Viv and I will make some phone calls here,” Jack responded.

Watching Martin and Sam gather their coats and walk out of the bullpen, he pulled a chair over to Viv’s desk. “Something’s not right, Viv.”

“I could tell you are more concerned than you wanted to let on. This really isn’t like Danny at all, Jack. Do you want me to start all the preliminary calls?” she asked in a hesitant tone.

Jack nodded as he rose from the chair. “I’ll call Lieutenant Davis at NYPD. Maybe he can sniff around without making anything official."

As Jack walked back toward his office, Vivian picked up her telephone started dialing the first number on the list of hospital and morgues that she kept taped to her desk.

11:15 am

“This isn’t the best neighborhood,” Martin said as he parked his car on the street.

“It’s actually been getting better. They’re slowly regentrifying this area. Danny figures if he stays here long enough, this neighborhood will become a hot spot. Of course, he’s been saying that since I first met him. He’s lived here for a long time.”

They exited the car and approached the front door of his building. Finding Taylor on the control panel, Sam pressed the corresponding button to buzz his apartment. After a few moments, she pressed it over and over again.

“Either no one is up there or this thing isn’t working,” she said in a frustrated tone.

Just then, the door opened and a young man walked out. Before the door could close, Martin grabbed it. Holding it open, he waved Samantha through, then followed her in.

“You know which apartment is his?” Martin asked.

“Third floor is all I know,” she said as they started to walk up the stairs.

They got to the third floor and both sighed gratefully when they only saw four doors. Wordlessly, they each went to a door on either side of the hallway and knocked. No sound came from Samantha’s door, but Martin heard someone stir after he knocked a second time. He knocked again until he heard a female voice call out, “Hold your horses. I’ll be there in a second.”

“That’s definitely not Danny,” Martin whispered.

When Sam heard that, she immediately went to the next door and knocked. While she waited for an answer, a young woman finally answered the door Martin waited in front of.

"Can I help you?" she asked in a slightly annoyed tone. Sounds of children playing came from her apartment.

“I’m looking for Danny Taylor’s apartment,” Martin said, flashing his FBI ID. “Do you know which one is his?”

“Next door,” she said motioned to the door next to hers. “But he hasn’t been home all weekend.”

Turning, Samantha walked over the where Martin was standing. “How do you know that?”

“I usually hear when he comes in or out. These walls are pretty thin. I figured he was working. He works a lot. But when he is around on the weekend, I usually see him on Sundays.”

“Sundays?” Martin asked.

“There’s a 10 am Mass at St. Luke’s. I take my kids to it; I see him there sometimes. And when Danny’s home on the weekend, he’ll usually check in on me. My husband is serving in the Gulf – has been for nearly a year now,” she said as her tone saddened.

“I’m sorry. I’m sure that's very hard for you. I’m Samantha and this is Martin. And you are?” Sam asked.

“Karen. Karen Ruiz.”

“Thanks for helping us, Karen. So he wasn’t here at all this weekend?” Samantha continued.

“Not as far as I know.”

“Do you know if he has a girlfriend? Has he spent a lot of time away from the apartment recently…like maybe he doesn’t live here all the time?” Martin asked.

“He’s pretty private. I don’t know much about him. My husband got to know him a little before he left for the war. My husband’s Cuban, like Danny, so they had a little bit in common. Anyway, before my Andy left, he said that Danny was trustworthy and that he’d look out for the kids and me since we don’t have any family here. So Danny makes sure we’re okay. It’s not like I see him every day or even once a week. He’s just a friendly face in a not so friendly neighborhood. That said, I don’t think he has a regular girlfriend or someone he goes and sees. He seems to be here most of the time when he’s not working. But recently, a woman has been stopping by his apartment. She was here on Friday night.”

Danny? Danny?” a female voice called out from the hallway.

Opening her door, Karen poked her head out. “He’s not here, honey.”

Strange. He said he’d be here tonight,” the woman said as she looked over at Karen. “Do you know where he could be?”

I actually haven’t seen or heard him much all week, but I thought I heard him leave earlier tonight, around eight or eight-thirty.

Do you have a pen and piece of paper? I’d like to leave him a note,” the woman asked.

Sure,” Karen replied.

“I gave her a pen and paper. She scribbled a note to him and slid it under the door. Then she thanked me and left.”

“Did she seem angry?” Samantha asked.

“A little, but more annoyed than angry. She looked tired. She was wearing hospital scrubs, like maybe she’d been working a long shift at the hospital.”

Before they could follow up with another question, Samantha’s cell phone rang. “Spade,” she answered.

“You got anything?” Jack asked.

Turning away from Martin and Karen, Sam answered, “His neighbor says she doesn’t think he’s been home all weekend. Apparently, a woman was here on Friday night looking for him, but other than that, his neighbor doesn’t know where he might be. Have you found anything?” she asked in a hesitant tone, knowing that Jack and Viv were contacting hospitals and morgues.

“No. Nothing. I know it’s not even noon yet, but since it seems like he hasn’t been home in days, maybe you should try getting into his apartment. There might be something in there that will tell us where he went and why.”

“I’ll find the super to let us in,” Sam responded. “I’ll call you back.”

Closing her phone, she turned back to Karen and Martin. “Is there a super on the premises?”

“On the first floor,” Karen replied. “You want him to let you into Danny’s place?”

“Yes. We work with Danny. He isn’t the type to not show up for work, so we just want to make sure he is okay.”

Nodding, Karen opened the top drawer of the bureau by her front door. “In that case, I can give you my key.”

“You have a key?” Martin asked curiously.

“Don’t get any ideas. Danny’s just a friend of our family. Besides, Danny’s not my type. Who needs tall, dark and handsome when I have my Andy – he’s short, stocky and probably only handsome to me,” she said as she handed Sam a picture from the top of the bureau.

Sam looked at the picture of Karen, who was short and plump in a very cute way, her twins and her husband in his serviceman uniform. “You have a beautiful family. I’m sure your husband misses you like crazy,” Sam said with a smile.

Karen smiled and then continued. “I only have a key because Danny takes pity on me. He pays me every week to do some light housekeeping. Mostly, I just pick up his dry-cleaning and unload his dishwasher. He’s a low-maintenance guy who keeps his apartment neat as a pin,” Karen said. Opening the door to his apartment, she told them, "Stay as long as you need. Drop the key off when you're finished. I can't leave the twins alone." With a quick glance at them, she hurried back to her apartment.

Sam and Martin entered, quickly surveying the one-room apartment to make sure Danny wasn’t lying unconscious or that there weren’t any obvious signs of foul play.

“She’s right,” Sam said in a surprised tone. “Besides the unmade bed, it’s as neat as a pen.”

“This is weird,” Martin said as he glanced in the kitchen area.

“What?” Sam responded, turning to him.

“Just this. I mean, are we actually supposed to start rummaging through Danny’s things like we would on a case? I haven’t known Danny long, but from what I’ve gathered so far – he’s not going to like it.”

“Well, then, let’s start slow. We won’t start going through drawers and medicine cabinets just yet,” she said as she turned back toward the door and picked up the note that the woman had slid under it on Friday night. “I’ll read this while you find his answering machine and see if there are any messages that might tell us where he is.”

“Okay,” Martin replied as he walked toward the nightstand, next to the bed.

Feeling a little nervous, Sam opened the folded note and began to read aloud:

Danny,

I stopped by tonight like we planned, but you aren’t here. Call me tonight when you get home. I’ll be on-call for the rest of the night.

Em

“Hmmm,” Samantha mumbled as she silently read over the note again. Then she heard a beep coming from where Martin had found the answering machine.

1st message – “Hey, Dan the man, you said you’d be at the 9:00 meeting. What gives? Call me.”

2nd message – “This is getting ridiculous, Danny. You’re the one who said you don’t like games. Call me. Don’t call me. Just…I…just…I don’t want it to end like this, on a bad note. So call me. Please.”

3rd call – hang up

4th call – hang up

5th-8th messages – from Samantha

“Okay, so we’ve got one message on Friday night at 10:30 pm from an unidentified male who Danny was supposed to meet at 9:00.”

“He did say that he had a thing when he left the gym on Friday,” Martin said. “But I just thought he was blowing me off. And then the next message definitely sounds like the woman who was supposed to meet him at 11. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the two hang ups are from her as well.”

“You’re assuming she’s some overly needy stalker chic?” she asked, arching her eyebrow.

“Maybe Danny’s trying to avoid her,” Martin replied. “Maybe he just had to get away for the weekend.”

“Then why would he ask her to meet him here at 11?” Sam asked skeptically.

“Maybe she just said that to Karen. Maybe she was lying.”

“Maybe,” Samantha finally agreed hesitantly.

“Okay, so the note isn’t giving us much. The messages didn’t give us much either. So now do we have to start rummaging?” Martin asked, his tone and facial expression a dead giveaway as to how much he dreaded the task.

Sighing, Samantha considered Martin’s question. She didn’t want to start tossing Danny’s apartment anymore than he did. “Let me give Jack an update. Maybe he can run some phone records and we can find out who the mystery people are. In the meantime, let’s try to get some more information out of Karen.”

While walking back to Karen’s apartment, Samantha gave Jack the update on the messages. After agreeing to run the phone records, he said he was going to send a crime scene unit to Danny’s apartment. He told Sam to wait to look around until the CSU team arrived.

XXX

“What else can you tell us about the mystery woman you saw on Friday night?” Martin asked as they sat at Karen’s kitchen table while her twins watched Barney on television. “What does she look like?”

“Like I said, she was wearing scrubs – so a doctor or a nurse? She seemed kind of young though. I’d say no more than 25. About your height,” she added, looking at Samantha. “Pretty, even without make-up. Brownish hair pulled back in a clip. In good shape. I’m not sure how much more I can tell you. I’ve only seen her a couple of times, and usually it’s dark when she comes around.”

“How long has she been coming around?” Martin asked.

“For the last couple of months. A couple nights a week.”

Looking up at Karen with a curious gaze, Samantha asked “Just at night?”

Nodding, Karen answered. “As far as I know. I mean, he may go on dates with her, but when I’ve seen her, she comes over to his apartment late at night, stays for a few hours, and then he walks her downstairs in the early morning and puts her in a cab. Look, I don’t think this woman is like the love of his life or anything. I don’t think it’s a serious thing. Not to be crass, but it seems like you know…a casual thing…to me.”

“Why would you say that?” Samantha asked, as she and Martin shared an uncomfortable glance.

“The walls are thin, Agent Spade. They’re not watching movies over there when she comes over. And she doesn’t spend the night. I don't sleep well with my husband gone, so I pretty much hear everything. But I would never complain to Danny. It’s not a big deal. I remember what it was like when my husband and I first got together. Usually I just turn on my iPOD and tune it out. The only reason I’m telling you is because it’s the only thing I really know about him that relates to that girl. And you seem worried, so I thought I should tell you.”

“Have you ever heard them argue?” Samantha asked, remembering the tone of the woman’s answering machine message.

“Just once, about a month ago.”

Curled up on her couch, Karen clicked through the channels. Yawning, she looked over at the clock that read two o’clock in the morning. Deciding it was time to go to bed, she turned off the television. Immediately after turning it off, the voices next door resonated through the walls.

Don’t do this, Danny. You don’t understand—“a female voice called out.

I understand perfectly,” he responded in a raised tone. “I’m not an idiot. Get out!”

Leaning closer to the wall, Karen strained to hear the woman’s response, but she began speaking in quietly.

I don’t want to hear this,” she heard Danny yell. “I don’t care about your…issues, all right! Just get the hell out.”

“I've never heard Danny raise his voice like that before. It surprised me. I think the woman started to cry or something, because his voice got lower after that. And if she did go, she must have left after I went to bed, because I didn’t hear the door open.”

“Has Danny had any other relationships? More serious girlfriends? Or anyone you can think of who may know where he is?” Martin asked.

“I’ve only known him a little over a year, and like I said before, we’re not close or anything. I’ve seen maybe two other women, but no one as regular as this one. It’s too bad, really. Danny’s a sweet guy. I offered to introduce him to my twins’ preschool teacher – a nice girl. But he said he didn’t have time to date right now.”

Before Sam could ask her next question, they heard several sets of footsteps entering the hallway.

Leaning over to Martin, she whispered, “That’s the crime scene team.”

“Crime scene? You think something bad has happened, don’t you?” Karen asked in a worried tone.

“Honestly? We don’t know. We just know that it isn’t like Danny to just not show up at home or work for three days. We’re just being cautious,” Samantha said in as calm a tone as she could muster.

“Let me know if I can help in any way.”

Giving Karen a reassuring smile, Martin responded. “You’ve already been a great help, but if we can’t find this women soon, we’ll need you to work with a sketch artist.”

“Whatever you need,” Karen said as she watched them rise from their chairs and head out into the hall.

Samantha and Martin joined the CSU team in Danny’s apartment. The CSU immediately started the process of dusting for prints and checking for signs of foul play. While Martin conferred with one of the CSU team, Samantha called Jack.

“The CSU team is here. Should Martin and I start going through things?”

“Yeah. I’m afraid you'll have to, Sam. Danny’s in trouble. There’s got to be something in that apartment that will lead us to him,” Jack told her, his voice betraying him with worry.

Sensing Jack’s worry and near emotion in his voice, Sam nodded while pinching the bridge of her nose as she tried to remain focused. “Any hits on the messages?”

“The man’s voice belongs to Jim Weatherly. He hasn’t confirmed as of yet, but I’m willing to bet he’s Danny’s AA sponsor, and Danny was on his way to a meeting Friday night. Weatherly is on his way in for an interview. We’ve traced the phone call from the woman to a public phone at St. Vincent’s hospital.”

“That makes sense with what Karen said about her wearing scrubs. And St. Vincent’s is just a couple of blocks from here. If we can’t find anything more here, maybe Karen can come with us to canvass the hospital for this mystery woman.”

"In the meantime, Viv’s trying to get a list of hospital employees with pictures to show to Karen. She may recognize someone."

“Are there any other angles to work, Jack?” Sam asked desperately.

“We’re working on a few things here. Viv’s running his financials, and we’re compiling a list of anyone he’s put away who might have an ax to grind. We’ll find him, Sam. We will,” Jack said soothingly.

Hearing the reassurance in Jack’s voice helped Sam keep a reign on her emotions. “Good. Okay. Um, we’ll call if we find something here.”

XXX

After ending her call with Jack, Samantha joined Martin in the bedroom area where he was watching the CSU team check for blood residue.

“Jack says we should start our search,” Samantha said.

“Great,” Martin replied sarcastically.

“I’ll check the closet. You take the dresser,” Samantha said as she walked toward the closet, which was neatly organized with suits and dress shirts in an array of colors. Looking down, Samantha couldn’t help but smile. “I think he has more shoes than I do.”

Martin smiled as well. “Well he definitely has more ties than me. He likes his clothes,” he said as he opened the top drawer. Martin found clothes, mostly t-shirts and jeans, in the drawers until he came to the bottom drawer of the dresser. There he found a lockbox, which was most likely where Danny kept his gun, and a large shoebox. First, Martin checked the weight of the lockbox and confirmed Danny’s gun was in there – meaning wherever he was, he was likely unarmed. Next, he carefully lifted the shoebox out and set it on top of the dresser.

In the meantime, Samantha moved over to Danny’s night stand. Opening the top drawer, she shook her head in embarrassment.

Catching sight of her, Martin asked, “What is it?”

“It’s…nothing. Apparently, Karen was right about his ‘relationship’,” Sam said as she pointed to an almost empty box of condoms. “At least he’s being safe,” she said as she closed the drawer.

Just as uncomfortable as Samantha, Martin opened the lid to the shoebox. The first thing he saw was an old picture. Martin could only assume that it was Danny and his parents.

“Take a look at this,” Martin said as he handed the picture to Sam.

Walking toward him, Sam took to picture. “That’s definitely, Danny. Look at that smile.”

“Where are his parents? Are they from New York?” Martin asked.

Sam shook her head. “Florida. Danny was born in Florida. Around Miami, I think.”

“So his family is there?”

“No, I’m pretty sure his parents have been dead for a long time. That’s what I was trying to say earlier. I don’t think he has any family, Martin. He never leaves town for holidays. He never talks about family at all.”

Martin smirked. “Well, neither do you, but I’m pretty sure you have one somewhere.”

Smiling slightly, Samantha answered. “You haven’t known me that long. I’ve known Danny for four years, and he’s never once mentioned his family.”

“If he doesn’t have any more family, then who do you think this is?” he asked as he handed her a picture of an even younger Danny and an older boy.

“I don’t know. A relative? A cousin, maybe?”

“Maybe,” Martin said as he dug deep into the box.

“I bet these are his parents’ rings,” Sam said as she took out two gold bands. Probably all he has left of them.”

“Do you know how they died? Or who Danny grew up with after they died?”

“I’m pretty sure he was in foster care. He’s mentioned things in passing about the system. He seems to know quite a lot about it – like during the William Hope case.”

Nodding, Martin felt a pang of guilt. In the short time he’d known Danny; he’d made a lot of snap judgments about him, never taking into consideration the type of past Danny came from.

At the bottom of the box, Martin pulled out several chips. He recognized them as AA chips because he’d had an uncle who’d received a couple of chips before falling off the wagon.

“Danny’s in AA?” Martin asked holding up a couple of the chips, not sure whether Samantha would know or not.

Samantha nodded knowingly. “Yeah. He…uh…he doesn’t ever drink, and goes to meetings pretty regularly.”

“I had no idea,” Martin responded, shaking his head.

“It’s not something he comes out and tells people. Jack actually told me by accident. Danny said it wasn’t a big deal that I knew, but it wasn't something he ever wanted to talk about. That's probably the reason he didn't go to that bar on Friday. He might have gone with just you, but with everyone else...it would have been uncomfortable for him.

“It looks like he’s been sober for a while,” Martin said looking at all the consecutive chips.

1 pm – FBI Office

In deep thought as she reviewed Danny’s finances, Vivian was startled when Jack approached with a photo of Danny in hand.

“It’s too soon to do that, Jack,” Viv said as she motioned toward the photo.

“Van Doren says we can’t keep working on it unless it’s an official case, and if we start the timeline at the point when Martin last saw him, then he’s been missing well over forty-eight hours. She's giving us twenty-four more hours. If he doesn’t turn up, then she wants to hand it off to a more objective team.”

Arching her eyebrow, Viv responded. “I’m surprised she’s giving us this much leeway.”

“She may be a stickler, but even she knows that no one knows more about Danny than us. We’re the best prepared to find him, even though the more I think about it, the more I realize we don’t know a whole lot,” he said as he put Danny’s picture up on the whiteboard. “Will you start the timeline with what we know so far?”

“Of course,” Vivian responded, rising from her chair. Taking a moment, she looked at Danny's photo. It was obviously his FBI badge photo. “That picture doesn’t even look like Danny. I think he was doing his best tough guy, Pacino impression.”

This made Jack smile. “It’s the only one I could find.”

Spending a few more silent moments, they both became uneasy as they considered the direness of the situation. Finally, Viv tried to refocus on the investigation. “I haven’t gotten much from his finances. No major withdrawals or credit card purchases in the last week. He has a hefty amount of debt because of student loans and a couple of credit cards, but nothing he hasn’t been able to handle. Other than that…”

“Maybe Martin and Sam will get further at his apartment—“

“Jack,” an agent called out as he approached them. “Mr. Weatherly has arrived. He’s in your office.”

“Thanks,” Jack responded. “Or maybe Mr. Weatherly will have all the answers,” he continued, glancing at Vivian.

“I’ll call Sam and see if she has any updates to the timeline.”

“All right,” Jack replied as he turned toward his office.

XXX

“Thanks for coming so quickly, Mr. Weatherly,” Jack greeted.

“What’s this about? Is Danny in some kind of trouble?”

Taking a seat in his desk chair, Jack let out a breath. “We’re not sure. He hasn’t shown up for work today. We can’t locate him anywhere and no one has seen or heard from him since Friday evening. When’s the last time you saw him?”

“I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks, but I talked to him on Thursday night,” he replied, not explaining further.

Jim Weatherly wasn’t quite what Jack had expected. For some reason, he’d expected someone closer to Danny’s age, but his man was close to fifty.

“How long have you known Danny?”

“Going on about six years now.”

“You met him in AA?” Jack asked, not wanting to beat around the bush.

Jim hesitated and took a short breath as he leaned forward. “Listen, we usually don’t like to divulge that kind of information, but if it will help find Danny then I guess I will talk to you about it.”

“Danny told me about his problem a long time ago. He also says he goes to meetings regularly. Has he been going as regularly lately?”

“As far as I know, yes. We don’t go to every meeting together, but he usually goes twice a week. Danny’s very cautious about his addiction. Some addicts only go to meetings when they need to. Danny uses the meetings as preventive actions.”

“So you were supposed to meet him on Friday night?” Jack asked, getting back to the timeline.

“Yeah. He…uh…he me called the day before just to talk, you know. But I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was hiding something. So I told him to be at the Friday meeting.”

“Hiding what?” Jack asked, starting to feel impatient.

“I'm not sure, but I think it was something to do with a conversation we had about a month ago. He tried to talk to me in that roundabout, don't-come-right-out-and-say-it fashion of his.”

What’s up, Danny?” Jim asked after the meeting ended.

Smiling widely, Danny replied, “Nothing. Everything’s fine.”

You don’t look fine. When you walked in here tonight, you looked pissed off. Something happen at work?”

No. It’s not work,” he responded, his smile fading.

Then what? A girl?”

Danny smirked as he rubbed his eyes. “Am I that predictable? You may want to find someone new to sponsor.”

No way. Not when I’m finally getting good at figuring you out. What happened?”

Shaking his head, Danny leaned back in his chair. “I kind of jumped into something with this woman, and now it seems that she’s not who I thought she was,” Danny replied, and then pondered the statement before continuing, “Actually, Jim, I’m just an idiot. Old habits, you know? Serves me right.”

What serves you right?”

She’s been lying to me. Or more accurately, she’s just neglected to tell me a whole hell of a lot.”

Were you falling for her?”

Danny shrugged before responding in a low, frustrated tone. “I don’t know. This? This is why I shouldn’t date. I always do this.”

“Did you think he was in trouble?” Jack asked voice full of concern. “Like maybe…maybe he was close to falling off the wagon?”

“We’re all close to that. That’s why we go to meetings. I know it seems like Danny has it together, but he has weak moments. Getting a call from him like that wasn’t unusual. I called him less than a month ago when I was going through a tough time.”

“Why was this so tough for him? I mean, it doesn’t sound like he’s been with her all that long.”

“It has more to do with the type of relationship. That’s what he was struggling with.”

“What do you mean?”

Jim shrugged and ran his hand over his chin. “Look, I want you to find him, but spilling things he’s told me in confidence, to his boss, seems kind of low.”

“I understand how you feel, but his relationship with this woman is the only variable we have to go on right now. Nobody’s perfect. I’m certainly not. I’d never judge Danny, Mr. Weatherly.”

Nodding, Jim started to explain. “When Danny was drinking, and even after he got sober, he wasn’t very good in relationships. He struggled to stay committed, would lose interest fairly quickly, and in general, just kind of floated from one encounter to the next.”

“Danny’s always seems to have an active social life. I hardly think—“

“I’m not talking about a social life. And maybe it was natural for a young guy like him. What do I know? I was married when I was twenty-one. But Danny would often feel bad about the way he’d handle things with these women. It’s something he really worked hard to get better at: to communicate better, to be more sensitive. Especially recently. He even went though a period - he called it a 'dry period' - where he didn't date at all. He was just tired of falling into unhealthy patterns.”

“So how does that relate to this woman?” Jack asked with a shrug.

“Apparently, he met her one night, and pretty much started to sleep with her right away. But he didn’t intend for that kind of relationship. He wanted and even tried to get to know her, but she seemed pretty set on just keeping their relationship one-dimensional. This confused Danny.”

Jack’s eyes widened at the revelation. “So she was just…what? Using him?”

“I’m not sure what her issue was, but it bothered Danny. He thought it was some kind of karmic payback for the way he used to be.”

“You said that he first talked to you about this a month ago?”

Jim nodded. “He tried to end things with her, but couldn’t. That’s what he was struggling with. He knows she’s bad news, but he couldn't seem to turn her away when she came to see him.”

“I guess that’s what he meant by ‘unhealthy’.”

“Right. You may know this already, Agent Malone, but Danny struggles with doing the right thing and feeling guilty about things not in his control. He’s not a weak person, by any means, but I think he’s searching for something…something to fill a void.”

“Actually, I rarely see that kind of vulnerability in him. He’s very controlled at work. I’d never guess—“

“He’s had years of practice,” Jim interrupted in a sad tone.

“Do you think that this thing with this woman could have triggered him to start drinking? Or maybe even triggered a more drastic reaction?”

“He never really told me how he felt about her. I mean, I think he felt badly about the track he was going down with her, but I don’t know if he was in love with her. I guess if he was, and she rejected him, that could trigger him. But this is Danny, Agent Malone. I’d be surprised if he’d go off the rails over something like this.”

“Yeah. Me, too,” Jack replied solemnly, hoping with all his might that they were right."

Danny’s Apartment – 2 p.m., 67 Hours Missing

“That was Viv,” Martin said as he closed his phone and walked over to where Samantha was sitting at Danny’s kitchen counter.

Samantha looked up from examining the small date book Danny had kept by the phone. "Does she have anything new?" she asked.

“Not really. Nothing pops on his financials. There’ve been no recent parolees that jump out as being a threat to Danny. We just seem to be running into a bunch of dead ends,” he replied in a frustrated tone. “Any luck with that?”

Glancing up, Samantha shrugged. “Maybe. There are a few names and telephone numbers that we should call—“

“What’s going on here?” a woman’s voice asked from behind them.

Turning around quickly, Martin and Samantha watched as a young woman entered Danny’s apartment and walked toward them.

“I said, ‘What’s going on?” she asked again, her voice more demanding the second time.

Taken aback by the woman's abrupt tone, Martin asked, "And you are?"

“Emily. I’m Emily. Who the hell are you and what are you doing in Danny’s apartment?”

“I’m Special Agent Spade and this is Special Agent Fitzgerald. We’re friends of Danny, and we are looking for him. Are you ‘Em’? ‘Em’ from the note we found under his door?”

She nodded. “I left it for him on Friday night, but he never called me. Did something happen to him? Is he okay? What’s going on?” she asked, her voice escalating.

Judging from Karen’s description, Sam realized this was definitely the woman they were looking for. She was young, just as Karen had said , and very pretty, with light brown hair and an olive complexion. Dressed in a pair of jeans and a heavy turtleneck sweater, she also looked tired and worn out - also much as Karen had described.

“We aren’t sure. No has seen or heard from him his since 7 pm on Friday night. He didn’t show up for work this morning.”

Emily sank down onto the couch. "Oh, my God," she said in a dismayed voice.

“How did Danny seem on the telephone that night?" Martin asked. He carefully watched for the young woman's reaction.

“He was…he was okay, I guess. I don’t know,” she replied, running her fingers through her hair.

“Your note and your phone message made it sound as though things weren’t that great between you,” Martin said, sounding a bit accusatory. “What exactly were you fighting about?”

Looking up at Martin, Emily responded in a frustrated tone. “Excuse me? But how is that any of your business?” she asked, rising from the couch and folding her arms across her chest.

Feeling just as frustrated, Martin didn’t back down. “Well it would be helpful—“

“Emily,” Samantha interrupted in a gentle, but firm tone. “It would seem that you are currently the closest person to Danny right now. We need to know a little more about your relationship and about Danny’s mindset in order to figure out where he might be.”

Becoming more and more nervous, Emily stammered, “I understand, but I’m not really sure how much I can help you. Danny and I…well…it’s complicated.”

Samantha studied the young woman for a moment, trying to quickly decide the best way to get her to talk. Realizing she would have more success one-on-one, she turned to Martin. “Martin, I’ll finish with the CSU team here. Why don’t you take this and head back to the office?” she suggested, handing him the date book.

Martin’s first instinct was to protest, but then he saw the focused expression on Samantha’s face and realized she must have a plan. “Right. I’ll, uh, I’ll get on this right away,” he responded, taking the date book and heading for the door.

Turning back to Emily, Samantha motioned for her to sit back on the couch. “I apologize for my colleague’s abrupt tone. We’re just worried about our friend. Have a seat. I’m hoping you can help us, Emily.”

“I’ll do whatever I can, Agent Spade, but I, um, I don’t know that much about him,” she replied, shame creeping into her voice.

Samantha smiled slightly. “Look, I understand. Okay? Let’s just start with a simple question. What’s your last name?”

“Phelps.”

“Is it Dr. Phelps? I understand you work at the hospital.”

“How did you know that?” Emily asked, taken by surprise.

“Danny’s neighbor saw you in scrubs the other night and we traced your phone message to St. Vincents.”

“Oh, right. Um…I’m a first year resident.”

“That must be exciting work. I’m too squeamish for it, myself.”

“Right now, it’s just exhausting. I work all the time.”

“How long have you known Danny?” Sam asked, trying to get back on topic now that Emily seemed more comfortable.

“About two months ago, I came to a party in this building. Two floors above us. I didn’t know whose party it was. It was a friend of friend. I was just looking for a place to unwind after having worked 72 hours. I had lost a patient, so I was feeling pretty crappy.”

“Danny was at the party?” Sam asked in a surprised tone.

“No. The party was awful…it was way too loud and they were playing awful music, and serving beer out of a keg. I’d gone downstairs to the front entrance to get some peace and quiet.”

Sitting down on the front steps, Emily shivered in the brisk November air as she took out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter she’d bought at the bodega down the street. Not only was the party lame, but it was also smoke-free. Emily wasn’t a frequent smoker, but occasionally did it just to help herself relax.

Shaking out a cigarette, she then tried to light it with the new lighter.

Damn it!” she cursed as she realized it was a child-proof lighter. “Son of bitch,” she continued as she tried and failed to light the cigarette.

Maybe that’s some sort of cosmic sign that you shouldn’t have that cigarette,” she heard a man say as he approached the front stoop.

Not bothering to look up, Emily rolled her eyes. “Thanks for the tip,” she said as she continued to struggle with the lighter.

And then she heard him laugh as the lighter seemed to spark, but not light amid all her fiddling. Looking up, she gave him an exasperated glare. “So glad I can amuse you.”

Extending his palm, he motioned for her to give him the lighter. “I’d hate for you to accidentally set this building on fire. I have a killer rent control deal.” In one smooth motion, he popped the child-proof seal off the lighter and ignited the flame. Holding the light in front her, she covered his hand with her palm to light her cigarette.

My name’s Danny, by the way,” he said as he extinguished the flame and gave her the lighter back.

After taking a long, slow drag, Emily exhaled with a smile. “Thank you, ‘Danny, by the way’. You are officially my knight in shining armor.” Looking up at him in appreciation, she witnessed one of the most charming smiles she’d ever seen.

Smirking, he responded. “Boy, you sure have high standards.”

Emily laughed. “After the week I’ve had, I’m luck y I have standards at all. I’m Emily. Emily Phelps.”

Nice to meet you,” he said, extending his hand to shake hers. “Do you live in this building or are you just visiting?”

Letting her hand stay in his a moment longer than necessary, she replied. “I was tricked into attending a party on the fifth floor.”

Oh no. I hear there are a group of former frat boys living up there. You must be hard-up for a party to go to a kegger.”

I had no idea. I came with a friend of a friend. I work at St. Vincents. I thought it would be a quick way to blow off some steam. But instead, it was like a crazy acid flashback to college.”

Danny laughed again. “Poor thing. So what do you do at the hospital?” he asked taking a seat next to her.

First year resident.”

You are a glutton for punishment. No wonder you’re looking for a party.”

Nodding, she rolled her eyes as she held out the pack of cigarettes. “You want?” she asked after taking another drag off hers.

No, thanks,” he responded, hold up his hands. “And for a doctor, shouldn’t you know better?”

Emily sighed as she rolled her eyes again. “So what do you do for fun, then?” she asked as she looked him up and down. Looking at him in the lit entry way, she saw that he was very attractive…way hotter than any of the guys at the party upstairs. He was dressed in a nice suit, but his neck tie was dangling out of his coat pocket.

Danny shrugged. “There are a couple of clubs downtown that I like. The music gets loud, but it’s a good kind of loud. But I don’t go very often. I work a lot.”

What do you do? Are you a cop?” she said as she motioned to his holstered gun that was jutting from his hip.

I’m an FBI agent,” he responded, an air of superiority lacing his tone.

Ahhhh. That makes a little more sense. You didn’t really look like a cop to me,” she said, continuing to study his dark, chiseled features.

I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Please do,” Emily responded, and then proceeded to stare at him for almost a full minute. Liking that he was returning the stare with just as much intensity, she asked “Do you know where we could get a drink around here?”

Danny smirked again. “I’ve had a crappy couple of days so I don’t feel much like going out,” he said.

Funny. I’ve had a crappy day too, and all I feel like doing is going out…getting away. Forgetting…”

I used to be like that, too,” he replied as he looked away from her and stared straight ahead.

Emily looked at him for a few moments as he seemed lost in his thoughts. “Tell me about your crappy day. And then I bet I can top it.”

Bet you can’t,” he replied, still not looking in her eyes.

Try me.”

I screwed up a search. Actually, I didn’t think I screwed up. I really believed I was doing the right thing, but then it blew up in my face and now a really bad guy will probably go free.”

I lost two patients today, one was a six year old girl, and I think my lack of experience may have contributed to not being able to bring her back to life. At least you didn’t kill anyone,” Emily countered.

The bad guy is a pedophile and a murderer. Give it time. I bet I’ll end up being responsible for him killing another boy,” Danny responded, tone sounding lost.

Biting her lip, Emily had an urge to reach out to him, but she didn’t. Instead, she stood up. “ Come on. Let’s go somewhere. Anywhere, and get a drink.”

Not a good idea,” Danny replied, also standing and finally looking her in her eyes.

Well then, we don’t have to go anywhere. What about your place?” she asked, as her eyes shifted to the front door of the building.

His eyes widened a little at her forwardness. “Um…the strongest thing I’ve got is coffee. So, my place probably isn’t the best place for you to unwind.”

Somehow I doubt that,” she responded, her voice suddenly sultry as her lips curved into a small smile. “Coffee is actually sounding better and better.”

She wasn’t even just being forward anymore. Now she was just being blatant.

You want to come upstairs with me.”

Biting her lip, Emily nodded her reply even though it wasn’t really a question.

“We kind of clicked right away," Emily explained. Visualizing their first night together night in her mind, she glanced in the direction of the kitchen. "We'd gotten as far as measuring out the coffee before we started making out," she said.

Clearing her throat, Sam interrupted Emily’s thoughts. “So had you two been fighting recently? What was the note and phone message about?”

Emily smiled. “Like I said, it’s complicated. We never really dated, Danny and me. He works so much and I work crazy hours, that we just kind of fell into a comfortable routine. I came here during breaks from work. Or right when my shift ended. It was nice diversion from my life, but not exactly conducive to building a relationship. So now we’ve been doing this for a couple of months and it comes time to question what it is we are doing. We were kind of in the middle of dealing with all of that.”

“Who didn’t want to deal with it: him or you?” Samantha asked, as she remembered the tone of Emily’s note and the argument that Danny’s neighbor had overheard.

Sighing heavily, Emily responded. “I was starting to get frustrated with the whole situation, and Danny didn’t seem to want to deal with it or move forward. For the most part, I was just frustrated with myself. I mean, I meet who I thought was this nice guy, and instead of taking it slow – I immediately start this affair. Not very smart on my part.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. It happens,” Samantha replied, understanding Emily’s feelings only to well.

“What do you think happened to him? Where is he?” she asked, voice cracking with emotion as she looked at Samantha.

Samantha put a reassuring hand on the young woman's arm. “I don’t know," she admitted, "but I have faith that we’ll find him soon.”

XXX

FBI Building – 3pm, 68 hours missing

Entering the bullpen, Martin paused for a moment when he saw Danny’s picture on the whiteboard. Shaking his head, he started to remove his coat.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Vivian said as she walked up behind him. “Jack wants you to accompany him to Riker’s Island.”

“Riker’s Island? What—“

“He’ll explain it in the car. Did you get any hits from the date book?” Vivian asked as she glanced at the book in his hands.

“I left a couple of messages, but couldn’t get anyone on the phone. I’ve marked them,” he said, handing her the book. Putting his coat back on, he sighed as he nodded a goodbye to Vivian and headed to Jack’s office.

Monday, January 25, 2003

5 p.m. Riker’s Island – 70 Hours Missing

“You know I had no idea that Danny had a brother,” Martin said as he and Jack stepped off the ferry onto Riker’s Island.

“I was the only one that knew. Viv didn’t even know. Danny asked me not to tell anyone. He said that part of his life was over.”

“So what did his brother do?”

“Currently, he’s serving a sentence for robbery and aggravated assault. He served time previously for possession with intent.”

“Do you know how long it’s been since Danny has seen him?” Martin asked after they flashed their badges to the guard.

“I have no idea. He made it pretty clear that his family history was off limits. I guess we’ll find out soon enough,” Jack said, as they were lead into a small interview room.

Minutes later, the door opened and a guard guided Rafael Alvarez into the room and led him to a seat across from where Martin and Jack were already seated. Jack took a moment to size the man up. Rafael was tall like Danny, but probably outweighed him by at least thirty pounds. His arms were painted with prison tattoos, but he had dark eyes that hid a vault of secrets, just like Danny.

“You can take his cuffs off,” Jack said to the guard.

“You sure?”

“I’m sure,” Jack replied, not taking his eyes off Danny’s brother. Rafael returned the stare and registered surprise as the guard removed the cuffs.

“What’s this about?” Rafael asked after the guard left the room. “What the hell do the Feds want with me? I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m up for parole next year. I’m not doing anything to screw it up. I swear.”

“You haven’t done anything wrong. We just…we just have some questions for you. I’m Special Agent Malone and this is Special Agent Fitzgerald,” Jack explained, motioning to Martin.

“Questions? What questions?”

Martin chimed in. “We work with your brother.”

“My brother? Danny? Danny’s a Fed?” he replied, voice full of surprise.

“He’s been a federal agent for six years,” Jack responded.

Rafael smiled widely. “Son of a bitch. It’s just…we were never big fans of law enforcement. So what’s this about? Why are you here?”

“When is the last time you saw or heard from Danny?” Jack asked.

Rafael smirked. “Are you serious? It’s been years, at least ten years. How old is he now?”

“Thirty,” Jack replied.

“Thirty,” he repeated to himself, shaking his head. “The last time I saw him he was a sixteen year old kid, living in some group home in Queens.”

“So you haven’t heard from him recently at all,” Martin asked.

“No way. He told me back then that he couldn’t see me anymore. He was going to live with some foster family so that he could attend a better high school. In order to live with the foster family, he had to cut me off completely.”

Hey, little brother!” Raffi called out as he watched Danny walk out of the group home.

What do you want, Raffi?” Danny asked as he stopped and crossed his arms.

Just wanted to see you, man. It’s been a long time,” he replied in an easygoing tone. “Hey, I’m freezing my ass off out here. You think we could go inside and get some grub?”

Sighing, Danny shook his head. “You aren’t allowed in there. The last time I snuck you in, they said they’d kick me out if I did it again.”

Those bastards. I’m your brother.”

At that, Danny almost laughed. “I think it had something to do with them finding a used needle in one of the bathrooms or it could have been that you shook down my roommate for $20.”

Danny…come on. That wasn’t my—“

Shut up, Raffi. I don’t want to hear it anymore. I can’t keep doing this,” Danny said as he took a wad of bills from his pocket.

What’s that?” Raffi asked his heart beating faster at the thought of the drugs he could score with that money.

It’s all the money I’ve saved from my after-school job. Here,” Danny said, shoving the money into Raffi’s hand. “I know you’ll probably use it to get high, but if you care at all – you’ll use it to get a good meal and maybe buy some clothes so you can find a job.”

Why are you giving me this?”

Because we’re not going to see each other for a while. I’m going to a new foster home next week.”

We can still see each other—“

No. We can’t. This is my last shot, Raffi. If I don’t make it work with these people and stay in a good school, then—“

You may end up like me.”

Danny didn’t disagree.

“That must have been difficult for you,” Jack responded.

“Agent Malone, I was so high at the time – I barely remember it. I hardly ever saw Danny back then, and when I did, I just shook him down for money or food. At first, he always tried to help me, but eventually, he got sick of it. I was a lost cause.”

“Do you know anything about his foster families or people he was acquainted with back then?”

“Why? I want to know what this is about.”

“He’s missing,” Martin replied.

“Missing? He was kidnapped or something?”

“We don’t know what happened. No one has seen or heard from him in almost three days,” Martin explained.

As Raffi took in the statement, he looked from Martin to Jack and then back to Martin again. Shaking his head, he replied, “Christ, I hope nothing bad has happened to him.”

“We hope not, too. That’s why we are here. We’re trying to find out as much about him as possible.”

“I thought you said you worked with him? Don’t you already know all of this stuff?” Rafael asked in a frustrated tone.

“I didn’t know you existed until today,” Martin replied.

A hint of surprise and hurt registered in Raffi’s eyes.

Jack explained. “I knew about you from Danny’s file, but nothing else. I know that he changed his name—“

“Changed his name? His name isn’t Alvarez anymore?”

“No. His name is Danny Taylor.”

“Taylor? Why would he…” but Rafael didn’t finish the question.

“So what can you tell us about his history, his foster families, anything that could give us some insight into his past?” Jacked asked.

After taking a deep breath, Rafael exhaled slowly and then answered. “I don’t know much. But I’ll tell you everything I can remember. Our parents died when I was seventeen. Danny was eleven. Our father, mean son of a bitch that he was, had burned a lot of bridges while he was alive, so we didn’t have much family interested in taking us in. At first, social services let us stay with our grandmother, but she was practically senile. I was caught up with a bad group of people back then, and I got Danny mixed up in it as well. When he was twelve, I started sending him on runs. He was this innocent, wide-eyed looking kid – so no one would expect he’d be trouble. I made the mistake of sending him on a run to this customer that I’d had trouble with before. I was so strung out back then, that I didn’t even think about putting Danny in danger.”

“What happened?” Martin asked, but part of him was certain he didn’t want to hear what Rafael was going to say next.

“This guy found out that Danny was my little brother, so he wanted to send me a message.”

“What did he do?” Jack asked.

“He almost beat Danny to death, shanked him in the gut and threw him out of a car in front of our house. He went to the hospital, but I couldn’t visit him. They would have arrested me on the spot. I took off, and that’s when social services came in and took Danny into custody.”

Martin could barely speak. When he’d first heard that Danny had a brother, he wondered how Danny could have possibly abandoned and disowned his own flesh and blood. But now he understood. Rafael had abandoned Danny long before, when he’d allowed him to be in that type of danger.

Jack had trouble responding as well. He’d known that Danny had come from a tough life, but he’d had no idea to what extent.

“Did he go to a foster home?” Jack finally asked.

“You could say that. He went to several of them. From what I remember, he became an angry little kid after—“

“Who could blame him?” Martin interrupted in a contemptuous tone.

“I don’t disagree. After he went through all that, he started running with the wrong crowd. So he just kind of got tossed around from different group homes and foster homes for the next year or so. But then, thankfully, he got busted for shoplifting. That helped him get back on track.”

“How so?” Jack asked.

“They could have sent him to Juvie. If he’d been sent to Juvie, believe me, he wouldn’t be traveling in your circles today. But instead, they put him in a church after-school program. The priest there was famous for turning troubled kids around. And that’s what he did for Danny. He got him off the street and got him focused on school. When I tried to see Danny, Father Orlando cut me off. He told me if I came near Danny that he would make my life a living hell. So I stayed away.”

“How did you and Danny get to New York?” Jack asked. “Did you come here together?

“Eventually, Danny was placed in another foster home when he was about 14. He’d turned things around pretty quickly. He was studying hard and doing well in school. We saw each other occasionally, but I kept my distance for the most part. And then I got into a lot of trouble. I had some bad people looking for me. So I decided to skip town. Before I left, I wanted to tell Danny goodbye, so I went to his foster home. When I told him I was leaving, he begged me to take him with me.”

“Why? Why would he still trust you after all that had happened?” Martin asked.

“He never told me the truth, but I think something was happening to him in that foster home. When he asked me to take him with me, there was this look in his eyes – like he wouldn’t make it if he had to stay in that place.”

“Who was he living with?” Jack asked.

“Some career foster mother. She had about five kids living with her. She was supposed to be really great, but Danny didn’t like it there. When I finally agreed to take him, he literally broke down and threw his arms around me. We don’t do that in our family. We learned never to cry, so when he broke down like that – I knew that things must have been pretty awful for him.”

“What happened when you got to New York?”

“Danny tried to help me stay clean. He found us this room to rent in the Bronx. He got us both jobs at this Korean grocery store. And somehow he enrolled himself in school. He was determined to make it work. He desperately didn’t want to go back into the system. But I let him down. I started using again and got arrested. When I got put away, Social Services found out Danny was on his own. So they sent him to a group home. I’ll always remember the look in his eyes when they took me away. He was terrified.”

“Do you know anything about the foster families he lived with here?”

“Not really. He never visited me when I was inside the first time. When I got out, I found him in a group home, but that’s when he told me he couldn’t associate with me anymore. I never saw him again.”

“What about you?” Jack asked. “Do you have any enemies? Anyone who might go after Danny to get to you?”

“Danny Alvarez? Maybe. Danny Taylor? No way. I didn’t even know he’d changed his name. How could anyone else? And I’ve been inside so long that I doubt any of my old enemies care anymore.”

“Well, we appreciate your cooperation, Mr. Alvarez,” Jack said as he and Martin rose from their chairs.

Looking up at them with slightly desperate eyes, Raffi replied, “You’ll tell me, right? You’ll tell when you’ve found him? All this time, I just imagined that Danny was having a good life somewhere.”

“He has had a good life,” Jack answered.

“But now I know he’s in trouble. So just please let me know when you find him. I just want to know he is okay,” Rafael pleaded, his eyes filling with tears.

Feeling suddenly sorry for the helpless man, Martin responded in a comforting tone. "We'll let you know," he promised.

XXX

Martin and Jack rode back to Manhattan in silence—both stunned by what Rafael had told them.

“Did you have any idea?” Martin finally asked.

Shaking his head, Jack responded. “I only knew his parents died and that he grew up in the system. I had no idea about the other stuff.”

“No wonder he turned to alcohol. I’d want to try to forget all of that, too.”

Jack nodded in response before changing the subject. “What’s unfortunate is that after learning all of that, we really still don’t have a solid lead. I doubt he is even in touch with anyone from when he was a teenager.”

“You want me to call Social Services? Maybe I can find out who he lived with last, and we can go from there?”

“Yeah. That’s probably a good idea. I don’t know how much they can tell you, but it’s worth a shot. In the meantime, we should probably meet back at office and see if we can piece together what we have so far.”

XXX

8 p.m – FBI Office – 73 Hours Missing

“She seems to really care about him,” Sam said as she relayed her conversation with Emily to Jack, Vivian and Martin as they sat around the conference table. “It sounded to me as though she wanted to get serious and he was pushing her away. Maybe Martin’s right, maybe Danny just skipped town for a while to get away from this so-called ‘needy chic’,” Sam said with an air of disdain for Danny’s possible behavior.

“He wouldn’t leave town without telling us, Sam. Especially over something like that,” Vivian countered.

“And Dr. Phelps account isn’t matching with Danny’s AA sponsor. According to Mr. Weatherly, Danny was the one who had a problem with the casualness of their relationship.”

“Come on, Jack. This is Danny,” Samantha said. “How many serious relationships has he had since you’ve known him? I can’t think of one. And this girl really seemed to genuinely care about him.”

Clearing his throat, Martin looked at Sam in exasperation. “That’s not the impression I got. I thought she looked nervous and agitated.”

“She was panicked and worried, Martin,” Sam corrected. “I spent an hour with her. She doesn’t know where Danny is.”

“Well, either Danny was lying to his sponsor—“Jack started.

“Which I doubt,” Viv interrupted him.

“Or, Dr. Phelps isn’t being as forthcoming as you might think,” he continued, glancing at Samantha. “Where is she now?”

“She had to get to the hospital for her shift,” Samantha answered.

“Okay, you and I are going to talk to her again at the hospital,” Jack said as he rose from the table. “What did you find out from Social Services, Martin?”

“Uh, I was able to track down Danny’s last foster mother, Sharon Taylor,” Martin responded with a knowing glance around the table. “She’s on her way in. But they don’t have any other records on Danny.”

“Vivian, you interview Sharon Taylor. See if she can help us at all. Martin, I want you to double-check all the recent and old cases we’ve had. Maybe we missed something. I’m thinking you should track down Goren Davitz. Danny pissed him off during the Eve Cleary case. I know he’s going on trial for trafficking, but he’s out on bail so maybe…”

“Got it, Jack,” Martin said as he rose from the table.

Before walking out with Samantha, Jack paused and took a deep breath. “Listen, I just want you guys to know that I appreciate your professionalism. It’s tough…it’s tough to stay focused considering how much we all care for Danny, but you guys are doing a hell of a job. I know Danny will appreciate it when we find him.”

Viv smiled slightly. “He’ll turn up soon – safe and sound,” she reassured.

“Yeah,” Jack responded as he and Samantha continued to walk away.

“Did you check her alibi?” Jack asked as he rode down the elevator with Samantha.

“Of course,” she replied. “I spoke to the charge nurse on duty that night, and she confirmed that Emily was either working or sleeping in the on-call room all night.”

“We’ll need to firm that up when we get to the hospital. Unless the nurse was watching her sleep, there’s a lot of ambiguity there.”

Samantha gave Jack a sidelong, annoyed glance as they approached the car. “You really think that this young woman slipped out of the hospital, somehow tracked Danny down in the middle of the night, and did something to him? To Danny? An armed Federal agent?” she asked as she slid into the passenger seat.

“Not necessarily. But I do think she probably knows more than she’s telling us. Maybe she has a jealous ex-boyfriend.”

Rolling her eyes, Samantha stifled a sigh. “I asked her about former boyfriends, Jack. I do know how to conduct a thorough interview.”

“What did she say?”

She said there was no one of interest. She couldn’t think of anyone who would be a threat to Danny. On top of that, she said that no one in her life even knows that she’s been seeing him.”

Frowning, Jack glanced over at Sam as he pulled out of the parking garage. “And you don’t think that's strange? That she hasn’t told anyone about her relationship with him?”

At this, Samantha almost laughed. "I can't believe you, of all people, would find that strange. She’s in the midst of an affair and prefers to keep it quiet. No, Jack. I don’t think that is strange.”

And now it was Jack’s turn to give Samantha an annoyed glare. “Unless we're missing something, I can’t think of any reason why she or Danny would feel it necessary to keep their affair a secret. According to Danny’s sponsor, Danny wanted more than that.”

“Well, according to Emily, he didn’t.”

XXX

FBI Office – 8:30 p.m.

“Thanks for coming down at such a late hour, Mrs. Taylor,” Viv said as she ushered Sharon Taylor into a conference room. Sharon Taylor was Danny’s last foster parent, and the only link they had to Danny’s life before he became an FBI agent.

“No problem. This is about Danny? He’s missing?” Sharon asked, confusion evident in her tone.

“Yes. I’m hoping you can fill in some blanks for us from when he was younger. We got your name and contact information from Social Services. They said that you were his last foster parent before he aged out the system.”

“That’s right. He wasn’t with us long. He moved in when he was sixteen and left when he was eighteen. My late husband and I took in foster children, usually older kids.”

“That’s an admirable thing to do, Mrs. Taylor.”

“Ron and I were only able to have one child together. At first, we thought about adopting, but this made more sense to us in the long run.”

“Have you and Danny kept in touch?”

“Not really. No. When he left our home, he moved on completely,” she answered matter-of-factly.

Frowning, Vivian asked, “Why did he take your name then? I’d assume he’d taken it because—“

Interrupting Vivian before she could finish, Mrs. Taylor answered. “I never really understood why he wanted to do it. He wasn’t particularly close to us. Before he started to apply to colleges, he asked to take our name. At the time, I’d assumed it had something to do with his brother. I think Danny wanted to disappear so his brother couldn’t find him again. Taking our name was the best way to do that.”

Vivian thought for a moment as she reviewed what she’d just written down. “You said ‘not really’ when I’d asked you if you’d kept in touch with Danny. What does that mean?”

“I actually contacted him about three months ago. My son, John, had gotten into trouble with the law. I asked Danny for help.”

“How did you know he was an FBI agent?”

“His social worker, Carol, had kept track of him. He was one of her few success stories. She’d helped him quite a bit, getting into college and such. I figured the least he could do was give John some legal advice since Carol had also said he’d graduated law school.”

“Did Danny help you?”

Shaking her head, Sharon answered. “No. He didn’t.”

Taylor,” Danny answered his desk phone quickly on the first ring.

Danny?” Sharon Taylor asked hesitantly.

That’s me. Who’s this?”

Sharon Taylor,” she answered.

For a few moments, he didn’t respond.

Danny?”

What do you want?”

Carol from Social Services told me where you worked. I’ve kept in touch with her. She was always such a good case worker. I…I…was hoping to talk to you.”

What about?” he asked in a short tone.

About John. He’s in trouble.”

"There's a shock," Danny said shortly, his voice not sounding surprised at all.

Sharon paused a moment before responding. Finally, she continued, her voice indignant. “You know it wasn’t that long ago that you were one step away from trouble as well.”

I was sixteen. What is he now? Thirty-two?”

Look, I know you don’t have any reason to help, but I’m begging you.”

“I find it hard to believe that the Danny I know would be so cold,” Vivian said after Sharon had recounted the telephone call.

“You know a different person than I do. The Danny I knew wasn't terribly warm. And he could get down right mean if you crossed him or if he’d had too much to drink. His insolence used to drive Ron crazy. But he did his chores around the house. He got good grades. So we let a lot of things go.”

“You ignored him,” Viv said as the picture became clearer in her mind.

“We had three other children living in our home, Agent Johnson. I didn’t have time to be Danny’s counselor. Frankly, there was a darkness about him that I didn’t want to see come out. So yes, we gave him a place to live, we collected our checks and then we told him to leave when he turned eighteen.”

“And you wonder why he didn’t want to help you. Where did he go when you kicked him out?” Vivian asked, trying to mask the disgust in her tone.

“Eventually, he moved into a dorm, but I have no idea where he lived until then.”

Vivian’s stomach churned. She couldn’t imagine throwing Danny out like that, no matter how difficult he may have been. “Any other contact with him besides the phone call?”

“No. That was it.”

XXX

St. Vincent’s Hospital

Laying her hand on Jack’s arm to get his attention, Samantha motioned towards the Admission Desk of the Emergency Room. “There she is,” she said as she started walking toward Emily Phelps.

Falling in step behind her, Jack took a moment to size up Dr. Emily Phelps. He could see where she would be someone Danny would fall for. She has a natural beauty with bright green eyes and a pretty smile. When she caught sight of Samantha, her sweet smile turned into a worried frown.

Coming over to them quickly, she ushered them to a waiting area, out of earshot of the nurse’s station. “Samantha. Have you found him? Is he okay?” she asked in a hushed tone.

“We haven’t found him yet, Emily,” Samantha answered in a gentle, concerned tone. “This is our supervisory agent, Jack Malone. We’d like to ask you a few more questions.”

Noticing the instant familiarity between the two women, Jack frowned. Somehow Samantha had bonded with the young woman in very short order. Before Samantha could continue, he interjected, “You know what, um, Sam, I’d like you to track down that on-call nurse. I can finish up the questions with Dr. Phelps.”

Resisting the urge to ask Jack what the hell he was doing, Samantha replied, “Are…are you sure?”

“I’m sure. I just have a few more questions for Dr. Phelps, and then I’ll catch up with you.”

“Fine,” Samantha said as she turned back toward Emily and nodded supportively before walking away.

“I thought I answered all of Samantha’s questions this morning. I don’t think there's anything else I can tell you about Danny,” Emily said as she looked up at Jack.

“Why don’t we take a seat over here ?” he said as he guided her to a waiting room chair. “According to Agent Spade, you wanted to establish a more normal relationship with Danny. Is that accurate?”

“Yes. I mean, I wanted to at least talk to him about, you know, taking things to another level. I wanted to get to know him better, to actually date him instead of doing what we’d been doing.”

“But he didn’t want that?”

“He was happy with the way things were going.”

“He was happy?” Jack asked, not masking the sarcasm in his voice.

“Yes, I mean—“

Cutting her off quickly, he continued. “What about the argument that his neighbor overheard? She said he didn’t sound too happy that night.”

Emily hesitated for a moment, taking in Jack’s now accusatory tone. Shaking her head, she finally responded, “We had fight. I told Samantha that I don’t even remember what it was about.”

“You don’t remember? That’s strange, because according to what we’ve heard, you and Danny didn’t do a whole lot of talking. My wife and I argue all the time – its kind of hard to forget them. I’d think it would be very hard for you to forget your only argument with him.” Jack waited for her to respond, but as she still seemed to be collecting her thoughts, he continued to fire. “What if I told you that I had a witness who directly contradicted what you are saying? Someone that Danny had confided in.”

Without a missing a beat, she answered, “I’d tell you that I would be surprised and skeptical of anyone who said that Danny had confided in them. In my experience, he's not the type to open up about anything really, let alone his relationships.”

Jack nodded. “I’d tend to agree with you, but in this particular case, this person wouldn’t have any reason to mislead us. It’s someone that Danny trusts completely.”

“Well I don’t know what to say to that. That’s not the impression Danny ever gave me.”

“Do you have any realistic reason to want to hide your relationship with Danny?”

“What do you mean?”

Jack sighed in frustration. “Do you have a boyfriend, lover, or anyone else who might have a problem with you hooking up with someone else?”

“Like I told Samantha earlier, there is no one else,” she responded, her voice just as frustrated. “Tell me something, Agent Malone. Are you being as careful to double-check Danny’s romantic history? Chances are, I’m not the first girl he’s had this kind of relationship with.”

“We’re investigating everything and everyone in his life. Where were you on Friday night?”

“Here,” she responded, standing up and crossing her arms.

“You never left? After leaving the note at Danny’s apartment, you never left?”

“No. I didn’t. I have patients, Agent Malone. Are we done?”

“For now, we are. Thanks for your continued cooperation,” Jack said, but she didn’t hear his response. She was halfway down the hall.

XXX

Walking down the corridor, Jack spotted Samantha talking to the on-call nurse. Stopping at her right, Jack didn’t interrupt her.

“Are there security videos posted outside the on-call room?” Samantha asked.

“Not directly outside, but down the hall. If anyone comes or goes, that camera will pick it up. There's also a camera in the stairwell adjacent to the on-call room.”

“Thank you,” Samantha replied. “I’ll—“

Before she could conclude the interview, Jack interrupted, “What can you tell us about Dr. Phelps’s dating habits?”

Samantha threw a glare at Jack as the nurse responded, "Pardon me?"

“Hospitals tend to be great gossip mills. What’s the gossip about Dr. Phelps?” he asked in a casual tone.

“I assure you, nurses don’t have time to gossip.”

“Oh come on. Every six months, a new group of hot-shot residents come through these doors. They think they know everything, and nurses never talk about them? I find that hard to believe.”

“Well, believe it. I don’t know anything—“

Cutting her off, Jack leaned in, giving the nurse an intimidating glare. “We’re investigating the disappearance of a federal agent – one of my agents. He happens to be linked to Dr. Phelps. If you have any knowledge of who Dr. Phelps is acquainted with, I would very grateful to you. Anything you have on her could help us, because currently I’ve got no leads on where my agent is,” Jack responded.

As Jack spoke, Samantha’s attitude ranged from wanting to throttle him to feeling sorry for him. She could hear desperation in his voice. Danny had been gone for three days, and they still didn’t know anything. Jack’s whole demeanor reflected their desperation.

The nurse’s gaze softened after listening to Jack’s plea. “Dr. Phelps keeps to herself most of the time, but when she first started her residency, there was a rumor about her and one of our attendings, Dr. Hancock. But Hancock flirts with every woman under 25. It could be nothing. Other than that rumor, I honestly have no idea about Dr. Phelps personal life.”

“Thank you,” Jack replied. “Where can we find him?”

Looking at the board behind her, the nurse said, “He’s just getting out of surgery. You’ll find him in the surgeon’s locker room. Down the hall and to your left.”

“Thank you,” Sam said as she followed Jack down the hall.

“I’m sorry about that,” Jack said as they walked down the corridor.

“Sorry about what? The nurse gave us a lead – a weak lead, but a lead nonetheless.”

“It’s just…we’ve got nothing, Sam. If he is out there somewhere, then why hasn’t he contacted us? I’m starting to think—“

Stopping abruptly, Samantha took hold of Jack’s arm. “Look at me, Jack.”

Turn towards her, Jack took a breath as their eyes met.

“We’re going to find him. And he’s going to be okay,” Samantha stated in as confident a tone as she could muster.

“How can you be so sure?” Jack asked, sounding almost broken.

“Because I’ve learned from the best. We don’t lose hope, Jack. We never lose hope.”

XXX

FBI Office – 10:00 p.m., 75 hours missing

“Hey. Martin.”

“What do you got?” Martin asked the CSU agent who had just approached him.

“Results, uh, results from the search of Danny’s apartment,” the CSU agent said in a hesitant tone.

“What is it? Did you find blood residue?” Martin asked his voice full of dread.

“No. Not blood.”

Martin shrugged. “Then what?”

“Drugs. Cocaine residue in the bathroom and a couple of doses of ecstasy in the bottom drawer under his bathroom sink.”

Looking down for a moment, Martin took a deep breath – completely unprepared for that. “Um, who, um, who knows about this?”

“I did the analysis on the bathroom myself. I’m bringing it directly to you. No one else knows. Look, I know Danny. He’s a good guy. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and keep this quiet in my unit.”

“Thanks, man,” Martin said, taking the file from him. Taking another deep breath, Martin rubbed his eyes before taking out his phone and dialing Jack’s phone number.

Surgical Waiting Room, St. Vincent’s Hospital - 10:00 p.m., 75 hours missing

Samantha watched Jack end his conversation with Martin by flipping his cell phone closed and sighing deeply.

Leaning toward Jack, she asked, "What is it? What did CSU find?"

“I can’t believe it. It’s just—“

“What?”

“Drugs. Cocaine. I can’t believe it.”

“Neither can I, Jack. I mean, the drugs can’t be his.”

“Normally, I’d agree. If Danny were here right now, I’d defend him until my last breath. But he’s not. He’s gone. We can’t find him. So finding drugs in his apartment makes me wonder,” he replied as he rubbed his eyes. After considering what they’d just learned for a few moments, he took a deep breath and looked at Samantha. “I mean, how much do we really know about him? We know he's an addict, and according to his brother, he went through nine kinds of hell growing up. How do we know what could trigger him? A failed relationship? A bad day at work?”

Watching the frustration completely overtake Jack, Samantha laid her hand on his forearm. “What’s Martin going to do?”

“He’s getting in touch with Danny’s sponsor again. Maybe Mr. Weatherly wasn’t as forthcoming as I thought.”

“Good. Okay. We should talk to Emily again—“before she could finish her statement, a man walked out of the surgical waiting room.

His eyes immediately trained in on Samantha. "Are you folks waiting to talk to me?" he asked.

Dressed in scrubs and a pressed, white doctor’s coat, Dr. Ben Hancock appeared to be the epitome of a hotshot surgeon, right down to a perfect tan in the middle of January. Obviously, he’d spent some time in a warm weather location recently, Jack thought.

“Yes,” Samantha answered. “I’m Special Agent Spade and this is Special Agent Malone,” she answered, flashing her badge. “We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“If you’re doing the asking, I’m sure I’ll have all the answers,” he replied, his eyes still taking her in.

Jack watched as Samantha gave Dr. Hancock a slight smile, but Jack knew this wasn’t her flirtatious smile. It was her “I’ve-heard-this-line-of-bull-a-thousand-times” smile. His first instinct was to jump in and put the prick in his place, but instead he let Samantha take the lead.

“We’re investigating the disappearance of a federal agent, Danny Taylor,” Samantha started.

“Who?” Dr. Hancock asked.

“Special Agent Danny Taylor. You’ve never heard of him?”

Tilting his head back, Dr. Hancock looked as though he were trying to recall the name. Finally shaking his head, he answered, “Doesn’t ring a bell. Was he a patient of mine?”

“No. He’s acquainted with one of the residents here. Dr. Phelps,” Samantha replied.

Nodding his head, Dr. Hancock smiled slightly. “Emily? Oh. Well, I wouldn’t really have an occasion to get to know the ‘acquaintances’ of my residents, Agent Spade. Things move fast around here, and we have more to worry about than our residents’ boyfriends.”

Tilting her head, Samantha asked, “What about your relationship with Dr. Phelps?”

“My relationship?” Dr. Hancock responded, obviously caught off guard by the question.

Frustrated with the doctor’s nonchalant tone, Jack cut to the chase. “Were you or are you banging her?”

At first, Dr. Hancock didn’t respond, clearly surprised by Jack’s abrupt question. But finally he smiled. “Did you hear that at the nurse’s station?”

“That’s not an answer, Dr. Hancock,” Samantha said as she felt a pit form in her stomach. She could tell by the expression on Hancock’s face what his answer would be.

Hancock moved his gaze from Jack back to Samantha. “Like I said before, maybe you should be the one to ask me the questions.”

Not missing a beat, Samantha asked. “What is the nature of your relationship with Dr. Emily Phelps?”

Sighing heavily, the doctor gave them an innocent smile. “We saw each other a couple of times when she first started her residency, but it was nothing more than that.”

“I’m assuming your wife had a problem with it?” Jack asked as he motioned to the doctor’s wedding band.

Taking a deep breath, Dr. Hancock shook his head. “Actually, she never found out. I’m hoping she won’t have to find out.”

“Then why didn’t it last?” Samantha asked.

“Apparently, I’m not high enough on the food chain for Dr. Phelps. I happened to introduce her to an acquaintance of mine, shortly after we started to see each other. Apparently, they connected after that and she told me it was over.”

“Who? Who are you talking about?” Jack asked.

“Look, I really don’t want to get involved in this. I haven’t had any kind of personal relationship with Dr. Phelps in well over six months. I have no idea who Danny Taylor is or where he might be. So if you’ll excuse me—“

Taking hold of the doctor’s arm, Jack stopped him from walking away. “No. We don’t excuse you. I want a name. If you don’t give me that name, then I will haul your ass downtown. And then I’ll call your wife personally and let her know all about your “welcome” policy for new residents.”

Shrugging out of Jack’s grasp, the doctor rubbed his eyes. After taking a moment to compose himself, he finally gave Jack his answer. “Aidan Thompson, but you didn’t hear that from me.”

“Congressman Aidan Thompson?” Samantha asked her voice full of surprise.

“That’s him. He’s single-handedly helped us secure the funding for our new cardiology wing. He and his family have been on the board at the hospital for years. If a scandal gets out, we’d most likely lose all his support. I urge you to be discreet.”

Looking at the doctor with disgust, Jack said, “We’ll see what we can do.”

He and Samantha turned to walk down the hall. Without missing a beat, Jack spoke again, “Find Dr. Phelps. Tell her to come downtown for an interview. If she resists you at all, arrest her on the spot for obstruction of justice.”

“You’re not coming?”

“No. If I see that lying bitch right now, I’m not sure I’d be able to control myself. I’m going to track down Congressman Thompson.”

Sensing the near rage in Jack’s tone, Sam just nodded and proceeded to locate Emily Phelps.

XXX

FBI Office – 10:30 p.m.

“Did you get in touch with Mr. Weatherly?” Vivian asked as she and Martin met in the corridor and proceeded to walk toward the bullpen.

“I called him. He says that Danny’s never told him about using any drugs. He was shocked. As far as Mr. Weatherly knows, Danny’s clean.”

“Then why the hell are there drugs in his apartment?”

“My money’s on Emily Phelps,” Martin replied, his distrust for Emily evident in his tone. “She’s had access to his apartment in the last few months.”

“But that doesn’t make sense either. Would Danny really spend time with someone who was using?”

“Maybe he didn’t know,” Martin suggested as they stopped right before entering the bullpen area.

“This is Danny. He can usually smell a user from a mile away.”

Martin nodded, remembering his first couple of days on the job when Danny had figured out that Maggie Cartwright, their missing person, was using cocaine. “Right,” he responded before nodding his head toward the conference table on the other side of the bullpen. “Who do we have here?”

“Jennifer Redmond, a friend of Danny’s from law school. She’s an ADA and I think she knows something about John Taylor.”

“I thought Danny told Mrs. Taylor that he wouldn’t help.”

“He did, but I checked his cell phone records from three months ago. After he talked to Sharon Taylor, he called Jennifer Redmond.”

“If she’s an old friend—“

“Jennifer Redmond was the ADA on John Taylor’s case.”

“So you think Danny ended up helping him?”

“I think it’s a little too much of a coincidence. I tried calling John Taylor, but he went upstate this morning to work a construction job. He’s due back in an hour. I’m hoping she can fill in the blanks until he arrives,” Vivian said as she motioned to Jennifer Redmond.

“Let’s go,” Martin said as he and Vivian walked toward the conference table.

“Ms. Redmond?” Vivian said. “I’m Special Agent Vivian Johnson. This is Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald. Thank you for coming down on such short notice and at such a late hour.”

“No problem. Is Danny okay? Your call has me very worried now.”

“He’s been missing for three days,” Vivian confirmed as they took seats opposite Jennifer.

“Christ,” she muttered to herself before looking up again. “I haven’t heard from him in a couple of months. Things got so busy at the end of the year with the holidays. When we last talked, I invited him to come to our Christmas party in December. And then a few days later, he e-mailed me to let me know he wouldn’t be able to make it, but that we should get together after the holidays.”

“You and Danny are friends?” Martin asked.

“Yeah. I mean, not best friends or anything. We went to law school together, and we’ve kept in touch. We help each other when we can…professionally.”

“Did you help him with the John Taylor case from a few months ago?” Vivian asked.

“I…I did,” she replied hesitantly. “He called me out of the blue one day. He asked if I could look into the case. As it turned out, it hadn’t been assigned an ADA yet, so I was able to get it assigned to me.”

“Why did Danny want to help him?”

“He wouldn’t say,” she replied pensively.

How’s my favorite ADA?” Danny said as he leaned down and kissed Jennifer’s cheek before taking a seat across from her in the coffee shop.

She’s wondering what the hell is going on? And why she hasn’t heard from you in over three months.”

Things have been busy, Jen. You know how it is,” he replied, smiling at the waitress as she filled his coffee cup.

Do I ever! I invited you to game night at my house two months ago, and you sent one of your patented declining e-mails.”

Arching his eyebrows, he took a sip of his coffee before replying, “Do I look like someone who'd be caught dead at something called 'game night'? Besides, that had ‘set-up’ written all over it.”

Jennifer shrugged. “So? She’s a nice girl, Danny. She works at the ad agency with Mark. She’s smart and funny.”

Oh yeah. I bet she has the best personality,” he deadpanned.

Very funny, Taylor. She’s still avail—“

I’ll pass and I actually have a point to meeting you this morning.”

So it wasn’t just to catch up? What a surprise,” she responded sarcasticly. “What can I do for you?”

Without missing a beat, Danny began to explain, “An electronics store in Queens was burglarized three nights ago. They caught the guy. He’ll be up for his second offense. I was hoping you could use your influence to get him a deal.”

My influence? I’m just a lowly ADA. I’ve got no influence. If it’s a second offense then—“

I’m just asking you to look into it, Jen. Just see if there is something you can do for me.”

Realizing, once again, that it was futile to deny Danny when he looked at her with those dark, puppy-dog eyes, she asked,Who is it?”

His name is John Taylor—“

Taylor?”

I lived with his family when I was a teenager. They were my foster family for a little while.”

Are you two close?”

I haven’t spoken to him since I turned eighteen.”

Then why?”

Danny took a deep breath as he rolled his eyes. “I, um, it’s a long story. And it’s not important to his case. I’m just asking if you can look into it.”

Jennifer smiled as she remembered her last meeting with Danny. “There’s never any sense in pressing Danny if he doesn’t want to tell you something. I was able to get John Taylor a good deal. Two months in county jail and now he’s in a half-way house.”

Looking at his notes, Martin confirmed, “He was busted for B&E?”

“Danny said it was probably for drug money. John was able to get the stolen merchandise back and he agreed to go to NA meetings. The judge accepted the deal, even though it was his second conviction.”

“So John doesn’t have a history of violence?” Vivian asked.

Jennifer shrugged. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far. His ex-wife filed two battery complaints, but she dropped the charges.”

“Do you know if he’s kept his nose clean?” Martin asked.

Jennifer nodded. “I periodically check in with his parole officer just to make sure. I went out on a limb when I helped Danny. John should have done five years of hard time.”

“Since you know Danny fairly well, can you give us a little more history on him? Is there anyone else we should be talking to? Friends? Old girlfriends? Someone that might know about his personal life now?” Vivian asked.

“He’s kind of an enigma, isn’t he?” Jennifer replied with a smile. “He’s always been like that. Very self-reliant. He’s friends with everyone, but he doesn't really have a circle of good friends, you know? You guys work with him, right?”

Vivian and Martin both nodded.

“Then I’m betting you know him about as well as anyone.”

“So he doesn’t keep in touch with people he went to school with?” Martin asked.

Jennifer shook her head. “No. Not as far as I know.”

“But he’s kept in touch with you?” Martin followed up in a suggestive tone.

Rolling her eyes, Jennifer responded. “It’s not what you think. We just travel in the same circles. And I always liked him – even when he was hard to like.”

“What do you mean?” Martin asked.

Taking a deep breath, she admitted, “He used to drink. He’d drink a lot. He was one of those Jekyll and Hyde drunks. I met him when he was sober, and he couldn’t have been more charming and sweet. I agreed to go out on a date with him when he was sober. But by our second date, I knew I couldn’t put up with him.”

“He was that bad of a drunk?” Vivian asked, not able to imagine Danny in that way.

“Worse than bad. Very hurtful. Extremely moody. No matter how attracted I was to him, I was way too ambitious back then to get involved in a self-destructive relationship. So I ended it.”

“How did you stay friends?”

“After he graduated, he got caught drinking and driving – on the morning of the bar exam no less. It really must have woken him up because he got clean after that. Three months later, he contacted me to apologize for his behavior during our brief relationship.”

“Making amends?” Vivian asked.

“Right.” Jennifer replied.

“You didn’t consider getting back together?” Martin asked.

“He didn’t need a girlfriend at that time in his life. And I certainly didn’t need to become wrapped up in his problems at that time of my life either. So we just stayed friends. I’m happily married now with a daughter, so there’s nothing going on with me and Danny,” she reiterated. After hesitating a couple of moments, she added, “After I joined the DA’s office, I tried to convince him to take the Bar exam and join me there. But he really found himself here,” she said, looking about the FBI office. “Whenever I mention practicing law to him, he always laughs it off. I don't think he'd even consider leaving.”

“Lucky for us,” Viv responded in a quiet tone before changing the subject. “Let’s get back to John Taylor. Did he seem like he could be a threat to Danny?”

Shaking her head, Jennifer responded, “I highly doubt it. Danny basically saved his ass from doing hard time. But you never know. I mean, if he started using again…you just never know.”

“Thank you for your time, Ms. Redmond. You’ve been a big help,” Vivian said as they rose from the table.

“It’s no problem. Please call me when you find him,” Jennifer replied in a concerned yet hopeful tone.

“We’ll do that. Thanks,” Martin said as they lead her out of the office.

XXX

FBI Office – 11:30 p.m., 76.5 hours missing

“She looks ticked,” Vivian commented as she and Samantha watched Emily through the two-way mirror.

“We pulled her out of an emergency surgery. She was not happy.”

“How does Jack want you to handle this?”

“He wants me to get her talking and see if she slips up. He’s convinced she knows where he is.”

“Why else would she lie to you to begin with?” Vivian asked as she looked at Emily with disdain. “I’ll let you know if I hear back from Jack and Martin about their meeting with the Congressman.”

Samantha nodded. Pasting on a supportive smile, she opened the door to the interview room.

Congressman Aiden Thompson’s New York Office – 11:30 p.m., 76.5 hours missing

Driving up to the Manhattan office building, Martin spotted Jack at the top of the steps. Exiting the car quickly, Martin could tell that Jack was agitated by the way he was pacing back and forth. Martin had only known Jack for a little over six months and thought he had seen him at his most angry, but Danny’s disappearance clearly had a deep affect on Jack. In less than a day, it looked like Jack had aged ten years.

Approaching the building, Martin called out, “Jack.”

“Tell me you were able to track down this guy,” Jack replied.

“I called my father. He wasn’t very forthcoming at first, but I explained that this was basically our only lead, so he got a hold of the Congressman. He should be here any minute.”

“It’s not even a lead, Martin. Right now, it’s just the word of a very sleazy surgeon--”

Shaking his head, Martin interrupted. “It is a lead. Viv just called me. Danny received two phones from Michael Finley a little over a month ago.”

“Who the hell is Michael Finley?”

“The Congressman’s Chief of Staff,” Martin replied.

Shaking his head, Jack rolled his eyes. “Christ! What did that woman get Danny involved in?”

“I don’t know, but clearly, she’s bad news. Hopefully, Sam will have better luck.”

XXX

FBI Office

As soon as Samantha walked in the door, Emily stood up. “What the hell is going on here, Samantha? This is insane. I’m not a criminal.”

“Sit down, Emily. We need to talk,” Sam responded in a calm tone before taking a seat at the table.

“I don’t know where Danny is. I already told you—“

“We need to go over a few things. I don’t think you know where Danny is, but there are some inconsistencies in your original statement.” Samantha was trying to walk a fine line between acting as though she believed in Emily and wanting more answers.

Sighing in frustration, Emily ran her hands through her hair. “I told you everything I know. I barely know Danny. I don’t know anyone who would want to hurt him,” Emily said, her voice cracking with emotion.

“What about Ben Hancock?” Samantha responded, dropping her first bombshell. She watched as Emily’s eyes widened in surprise.

“What about him?” Emily replied. Sighing again as she closed her eyes, she finally admitted, “It was…it was nothing, Samantha. It was a mistake. You have to know how it is – being the only woman. And everyone is looking at you like you’re not going to cut it. And then this man…this mentor…he helps you. He believes in you. I…it was a mistake. It ended months ago. And I can’t imagine—“

Samantha listened to Emily’s words carefully. She understood only too well, but there was something in Emily’s tone that didn’t ring true. “Why did you lie to me?”

Emily shrugged. “I was ashamed and I honestly can’t see how it has any connection to Danny. Ben didn’t know about Danny.”

“No one knows about Danny, right?”

“Righ—“

“What about Aiden Thompson?” Samantha watched as her words nearly knocked the wind of Emily. “How does the Congressman feel about your affair with Danny?”

Looking down, Emily pinched the bridge of her nose. “He doesn’t know—“

“Stop lying to me. Please stop lying. I just want to find out where he is,” Samantha demanded, and now her voice was betraying her with emotion. She took a deep breath to stop herself from losing it.

Emily silently stared at her hands for a long moment. Finally, in barely a whisper, she answered, “I didn’t mean for Danny to get hurt. When I met him that first night, I thought it would be a one-night stand. I’d been with Aidan for a few months, and he was starting to make me feel like this caged bird. I just wanted to feel free and Danny made me feel like that…that night.”

“How did Danny get hurt?” Samantha asked, her stomach churning with nerves.

“Like I said, I intended never to see him again. I left him in the middle of the night. I couldn’t believe it when he called me.”

Emily Phelps,” she said as she picked up the phone at the nurse’s station.

Dr. Phelps. You’re a hard woman to track down, and I’m really good at tracking people down.”

Emily’s breath caught at the sound of his charming voice. Just hearing him took her back to their night together. “Hi,” was all she could manage to say.

Look, I, um…I just wanted to make sure you were okay, after the other night. I had visions of you, you know, getting kidnapped or run over, leaving my place in the dark of night like that. You should have woken me up.”

Oh, I, I didn’t want to assume…I, um, I just thought that you wouldn’t want--”

That I wouldn’t want to see you again?”

Yeah, I mean, I don’t usually pick men up on their front steps. I guess I was a little embarrassed.”

Well how about we try to get off on the right foot this time. I’ll even spring for dinn—“

No,” she cut him off. “I mean, I can’t. Not…not right now. I’m sorry.”

Oh…okay—“

Emily sensed the hurt in his voice so she started to explain. “It’s just—“

You really don’t have to say anything more. I got it. It was a one-night thing. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. So, I’ll…I’ll just let you go.”

I’m sor-“

Good luck with your residency. Bye.”

“He hung up, and then I couldn’t get him out of my head. I kept thinking. Rationalizing. I wanted to see him again. And I wanted an escape from this dysfunctional thing I had with Aiden.”

“So you called Danny?”

“No. I went there after work one night. He wasn’t home,so I waited on the steps. When he turned the corner and saw me sitting there, he had this confused, adorable smile on his face. After that, we started seeing each other a couple nights a week.”

“He was the one who wanted more out of your relationship, wasn’t he? You lied to me about that, too. Didn’t you?” Samantha asked, ashamed that she had believed this woman.

“It wasn’t like he came out and said it, but yes, it became evident that he wanted more.”

Somewhere between being awake and asleep, Emily felt a warm sensation on the small of her back. The sensation literally made her tingle from her neck to the base of her spine and even lower. Then she felt his lips – feather-light kisses that started between her should-blades and traveled down to where his hand was drawing lazy patterns on her lower back. Involuntarily, she let out a small moan as her breath quickened.

It’s four,” Danny whispered after hearing her guttural response.

Son of bitch,” Emily replied in her pillow as her body almost spasmed at feeling of Danny’s hands moving down her body.

You are more than welcome to stay the night. I’ll even buy you breakfast in the morning,” he said as he looked up at her. Very gently, he helped her roll onto her back so she was facing him with her head propped up on a pillow.

Mmmmm…don’t do that,” she managed to say as she felt his lips make contact with the hollow of her hipbone.

Don’t kiss you?” he mumbled against her skin.

No not that. You can keep doing that. Just don’t invite me to stay the night.”

Suddenly, he stopped kissing her and looked up at her with a surprised expression. “What?”

It’s just…I could definitely get used to this.”

Lying back against the pillow at the end of the bed, he responded, “Why would that be a bad thing?”

Sitting up, Emily covered herself in the sheet as she leaned back against the headboard. “I can’t…I can’t get involved right now.”

Giving her a surprised smile, Danny shook his head. “You can’t get involved? You felt pretty involved to me about an hour ago.”

Emily returned the smile as she closed her eyes. “We have some really nice times together and, so far, it’s been complication free. That’s what I want right now. My work is everything.”

At first, Danny started to respond and Emily wasn’t sure if he was going to argue or agree. She waited a moment and then watched as he rubbed his eyes and sat up on the edge of the bed.

Get dressed. I’ll walk you down,” he said as he rose and walked into the bathroom.

Ten minutes later, they walked down the block to the nearest cross street. Giving a whistle and motioning with his hand, Danny beckoned a cab that had been parked down the street.

Are you pissed at me?” Emily asked as they watched the cab approach.

No,” he responded in a quiet tone.

Rising on her toes, Emily brushed her lips against his and then teased her tongue against his lips to gain entry into his mouth. For a moment, Danny responded to the kiss before pulling away and looking into her eyes.

Are you…are you married?” he asked, but his voice said that he didn’t really want to know.

Emily laughed. “Are you crazy? No. I’m not married.”

Then is there someone else?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.

With his intense frown and gaze, Emily felt like one of his suspects. Emily knew that if she told him the truth that it would be over. So she lied. “There’s no one else. You have to know what it’s like. To be just starting your career…you remember? Don’t you? I have to be the best, Danny. I can’t do that if I let myself get caught up in you.”

“So he just let it go?” Samantha asked after Emily relayed the story.

“For the time-being. Yes, he let it go.”

“So who found out about whom first? Did Danny find out about Aiden or was it the other way around?”

When Emily didn’t answer right away, Samantha leaned forward and looked at her sternly. “Don’t you dare lie to me again. I’ve been patient with you. Lie to me again, and the next person you talk to will be Agent Malone. He won’t be nearly as patient.”

XXX

Congressman Thompson’s Office, Midnight, 77 hours missing

“Maybe you should call your father again. This is getting ridiculous,” Jack said, not even trying to hide his frustration.

“He said they were at some charity benefit uptown. Let’s give it a couple of more minutes.”

Just as Martin finished his sentence a black BMW pulled into the circle drive in front of the building. A short, slight man in his early forties exited the car.

“Agent Fitzgerald,” the man called out.

“Yes. I’m Special Agent Fitzgerald and this is Special Agent Malone.”

“And you’re most certainly not the Congressman,” Jack said, watching the man walk up the stairs.

“No sir. I’m not. My name is Michael Finley. I’m the Congressman’s—“

Jack cut him off. “We know who you are. Where the hell is the Congressman?”

Looking at Martin, Finley spoke. “I just got off the phone with your father. I’ve explained the situation to him. He said that if I was completely honest with you about everything that you would realize that Congressman Thompson is not a player in your agent’s disappearance. The Congressman has never personally met Agent Taylor. I’m the one who confronted him about his relationship with Dr. Phelps.”

“You confronted him? What the hell are you talking about?” Jack demanded to know.

“I’ll cooperate with you completely, but I need some assurances first.”

Leaning into the Finley’s face, Jack spoke with a boiling anger. “We’re not going to assure you of a goddamn thing until you tell us what you know about Danny.”

“Jack,” Martin said, laying a hand on Jack’s arm as he tried to pull Jack away from Finley. “We’ll listen to what you have to say, but we’re not making any deals until we know what’s happened to Danny.”

“We don’t need a deal. We want discretion. That’s all we’ve ever wanted,” Finley said as he looked at Martin with an earnest expression.

“What are you talking about?” Jack asked.

“The Congressman started an affair with Emily about six months ago. He’s no saint. They have,or had, a very twisted relationship, based on what they could do for each other. He enjoyed her company very much, but when she started to see Taylor, he felt her pull away. She wasn’t as willing to be at his beck and call. So then he decided to cut ties with her. Apparently, she didn't want that. She wanted to have her cake and eat it, too. She knew that if the Congressman wasn’t in her corner that she would have a harder time getting the Weitz Surgical Fellowship at St. Vincents. That’s what the whole affair was about to her. She thought she could get the brass ring if she slept with the Congressman.”

“When the Congressman did find out about Danny, was he jealous?” Martin asked.

“He wasn’t jealous. He was more than willing to let Danny have her, but that’s not what she wanted.”

“What did she do?” Jack asked.

“She told the Congressman that Danny had helped her set up surveillance equipment. And that now Danny had a tape that would show the Congressman in a very bad light. She made it sound like Danny orchestrated the whole thing, all in an effort to further her career.”

“He wouldn’t—“ Jack started.

Finley nodded in agreement. “I know that now. But I didn’t at first, so I had to confront him.”

Michael Finley watched from his car as Danny approached his apartment building. Getting out of his car, Finley walked up to Danny before he ascended the stairs.

Danny Taylor?”

Yeah. Michael Finley?”

Yes.”

Nodding in recognition, Danny swallowed before speaking again. “You said on the phone that you had some information about my brother. But I still don’t understand why Congressman Thompson gives a rat’s ass about my brother.”

You don’t understand?” Finley asked, voice sarcastic.

No, I don’t,” Danny responded with a shrug.

You and your girlfriend have backed him into a corner. When he feels trapped, he fights back. Your brother is up for parole in less than a year. If you continue with your threats, we’ll see to it that he never sees the light of day.”

A look that can only be described as ‘completely confused’ crossed Danny’s face. “My girlfriend? Look, I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. I don’t know anything about the Congressman.”

Being in politics for half his life, Michael Finley could spot a liar a mile a way. Danny Taylor wasn’t lying. “You really have no idea what I’m talking about. Do you?”

No. I don’t,” Danny responded before leaning down in Michael’s face. “But if my brother does one more day in prison than he is supposed to, then I’ll do a hell of a lot more than just threaten the Congressman…and you.”

“Very quickly, I explained Dr. Phelps role in all of this. At first, he didn’t believe me, but then he did some checking on his own and realized it was true. So you see, the Congressman has no reason to make your agent disappear. But Emily Phelps, definitely does.”

XXX

FBI Office – 12:30 a.m.

Samantha had left the interview room to take a call from Jack. After informing her of what he’d learned from Finley, Samantha re-entered the room.

“Look, Samantha, it’s really late. I’ve been up for two days. Can I just go home and we can finish this tomorrow?” Emily pleaded.

“I’m sorry, but no. You can’t leave yet.”

“I’m not sure I can tell you anything else. I don’t know where he is.”

“How badly do you want to the Weitz Surgical Fellowship?” she asked.

“Excuse me?” Emily said, caught completely off guard.

“Do you want it badly enough that you would use Danny in a blackmail scheme?”

Emily didn’t respond. She just looked down at her hands.

“What did you do to him, Emily? Hmmm?”

“Nothing. Nothing. I…”

“We’ll find out. We have a CSU team going to your apartment right now. Did he come to see you that night?”

“I, um, I think I need a lawyer.”

“Emily, don’t do this. Tell me what happened to him. Please,” Samantha pleaded, her voice again betraying her with emotion.

“I want to call my lawyer.”

The Bronx – Midnight

After leaving Samantha to interview Emily, Vivian took two agents with her to stake out John Taylor’s halfway house. While she waited in her car across the street, the other two agents positioned themselves adjacent to the building.

After waiting about fifteen minutes, Vivian spotted a young man approaching. Taking a look at John Taylor’s mug shot, Vivian confirmed he was their guy.

“We got him,” Vivian said into her two-way radio. “He’s coming up on the left.”

As she exited her car, she watched the two agents converge on John Taylor. When the agent in front of him pulled out his badge, John looked spooked and turned to run. Vivian quickened her pace to a jog as the agent behind John stopped him from running away.

“Freeze. FBI!” Vivian called out, gun drawn.

Taylor put up a struggle, but the two agents quickly subdued him. “Are you going to cooperate, or do we have to cuff you?” Vivian asked.

“I…I…didn’t do anything. I didn’t…”

“Calm down, Mr. Taylor. I just have some questions for you.”

“You’re FBI?” he asked, voice shaky and fearful.

“That’s right. I’m Special Agent Johnson. I want to question you about the disappearance of a federal—“

“Oh, Christ. Danny. I didn’t mean…I didn’t…” he choked out before starting to sob uncontrollably. He fell limp in the agents’ grasps, so they lowered him down to the bottom step of the building. As soon as he sat down, he buried his face in his hands and continued to cry.

Witnessing John Taylor’s reaction, the knot that had been in Vivian’s stomach since the moment they couldn’t get of hold of Danny that morning tightened and grew. He knew something.

“Mr. Taylor, Mr. Taylor, you need to calm down,” Vivian soothed. “Have you seen Danny in the last three days?”

After taking a deep breath, he responded, “I can’t go back to prison. I can’t. I didn’t mean to do anything. I just needed his help. I just needed--”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.”

“When did you last see him?”

“Oh God. I, uh, I…” he stammered.

“John, look at me!” Viv commanded and she crouched down to look in his eyes. “When is the last time you saw Danny?”

“Friday night! I saw him Friday night!

Hey! Danny-boy!” John called out as he caught sight of Danny approaching the community center where he attended AA meetings. “I was hoping you’d be here tonight.”

Stopping, Danny sighed heavily. “You’re going to meetings here? I thought you were supposed to go that place in The Bronx.”

I do. I mean, I’ve been going there. I just remembered you saying this is where you go, and since I don’t know where you live—“

Frowning, Danny cut him off. “What do you want? Shouldn’t you be checked in to the halfway house by now?” he asked, looking at his watch.

I’m on my way there. I just got finished working a job in Jersey. I, um, I—“

What do want, Johnny?” Danny asked, impatiently.

I need some dough, Danny. I, um, I owe some guys—“

What guys? Jesus Christ, Johnny, are you using? You’ve barely been out a month.”

I’m not using. I swear, I’m not.”

Then what the hell is it?”

I made some bets—“

Shaking his head, Danny grabbed Johnny by his shirt and backed him into the alley. With all the force he could muster, he slammed Johnny into the wall. “You idiot! All you had to do was stay straight. That’s it. I stuck my neck out for you. My friend put her reputation on the line…for your sorry ass. And this is what you do? You idiot!”

Hey…hey. You owed me. Remember? If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be in a position to stick out your neck for anyone. Comprende, amigo?” he replied sarcastically.

Danny gave Johnny one more shove before letting him go. “We’re even. Getting you this deal made us even, Johnny. Now…now you’re on your own.”

After throwing Johnny another disgusted glare, Danny turned to walk away. Before he could get too far, Johnny grabbed his arm. “You have to help me. They’re going to kill me, Danny.”

Shrugging out of his grasp, Danny responded, “That’s too bad. Why don’t you call the cops?”

You son of a bitch! You think you’re so much better now?”

Oh, I know I’m better, Johnny,” Danny responded, voice full of superiority. “You always looked down on me back then…like I was a piece of trash that your parents hadn’t thrown away yet. I don’t owe you anything. Not a goddamn thing.”

Danny tried to walk away, but Johnny grabbed him again. This time, when Danny turned around, Johnny took out a six-inch switchblade knife. “Give me your money?”

Laughing, Danny raised his hands. “What? Are you going to steal my wallet? Think about this, Johnny.”

Give me your money! Whatever you have on you.”

Slowly, Danny started to reach for his wallet, but then very quickly, he lunged toward Johnny. Trying to reach for the knife, Johnny struggled to keep it away. With one quick movement, he sliced Danny’s hand. Upon feeling the pain, Danny winced. Reacting to Danny’s moment of weakness and without thinking, Johnny took the knife and dragged it across the right side of Danny’s stomach. Crying out in pain, Danny staggered back against the wall of the alley.

Jesus!” he exclaimed in shock and agony, clutching his side.

Oh God! Oh God! Danny. I didn’t mean—“ Johnny stammered as he watched the blood stain the fabric of Danny’s white t-shirt. Without hesitating another moment, Johnny took off running down the street.

“You just left him there?” Vivian asked, feeling angry and sick to her stomach all at the same time.

“I didn’t know what to do. I knew once he went to the hospital that I would be done. All weekend, I kept waiting for the cops to come. But they never came. He must be…he must be…”

Swallowing hard, it was all Vivian could to go remain composed. “Take us to that alley,” was all she could say.

XXX

FBI Office – 1:00 a.m.

After Emily called her attorney, she asked Samantha if she could use the restroom. Escorting her to the ladie’s room, Samantha waited outside for a few moments. As she leaned against the wall, the frustration and emotion of the day started to hit her like a ton of bricks. Feeling the need to splash cold water on her face, she opened the door to the ladie’s room. Walking in quietly, her breath caught as she witnessed Emily sniffing something off the base of her index finger.

“The drugs,” Samantha said quietly.

At the sound of Samantha’s voice, Emily dropped the vile into her purse and turned around. Sniffing once, she said, “It’s not what you think—“

“What I think is that Danny’s worst nightmare began the moment he lit your cigarette that night. We found traces of cocaine and ecstasy in his apartment. We actually considered that he could be using—and that’s why we couldn’t find him. But it was you, wasn’t it?”

They’d been seeing each other for almost a month—late night encounters that left them both tired the next day. On this particular night, Emily was feeling more than tired. She’d just finished a forty-eight hour shift after spending the night with Aiden in his Park Avenue apartment. Common sense told her to go home, but she told the cab driver Danny’s address. Her night with Aiden and a stressful shift had left her feeling restless. She knew that spending time with Danny would relax her and help her get re-focused. He had a way of restoring her self-esteem like no oneelse could.

Hey, it’s before eleven,” Danny said, opening the door. “If you’re not careful, this is going to be considered more than just a booty call.”

Just seeing his smile and hearing his warm tone made Emily feel better. “Are there actually times associated with booty calls?” she asked, walking into his apartment.

I’m not sure; but for some reason, I thought anything before midnight was more like a date.”

See that’s the difference between men and women. A date has nothing to do with the time of day. A date means we... you know...had a meal, or went to a movie…”

Right,” Danny replied with a nod. “I guess I forgot what dates are like. For the record, you’re like no woman I’ve ever met.”

Rolling her eyes, Emily got close to him. “For what it’s worth, date or not, I’ve been thinking about this all day.”

Danny leaned down to give her a light kiss. “Thinking about what?” he asked, voice low and sultry.

She didn’t answer. She just deepened the kiss as he backed her toward the couch. They made out on the couch for a short time before Danny pulled away.

Hey. Are you okay?” he asked as he searched her eyes, which had dark circles under both of them.

Why? Do I not look okay?”

Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like you haven’t slept in days,” he responded in a gentle, concerned tone. “Maybe you should get some rest.”

I didn’t come over here to get rest. And believe me, I’ll sleep much better after we’re done. I’m off all day tomorrow. But if I seem a little lethargic to you, we could do something about that. Something that will make this even better for both of us.”

Moving off of her, he sat back on the couch. “What are you talking about?”

Reaching for her purse, she pulled out a small pink case. Opening the case, she showed him the contents.

What are they?” he asked, but he knew only too well after inspecting the two small pills.

Just a little something to make everything burn a little brighter for us.”

Giving her a confused frown, Danny didn’t respond at first.

Seeing his expression, Emily smiled. “Come on, Danny. We’ve been adventurous before,” she said as she reached for his handcuffs that were lying on the coffee table and dangled them in front of him.

Pushing off the sofa, Danny ran a hand through his hair. “You should go.”

What?” she asked, not quite believing what he’d just said.

You need to leave now. I can’t…God, I’m such an idiot,” he said as he raked his hands through his hair. “You’ve been using this whole time, haven’t you? You were high the other night? Weren’t you? I knew it, but I didn’t want to believe it.”

Jesus, Danny. What is this?”

It’s wrong is what it is.”

What? Are you going all federal on me? Christ, Danny. It’s just a couple of pills. I’m not dealing them. I’ll throw them away.”

What else are you using?”

What?”

What else? You’re a doctor, for chrissakes,” he said in a raised voice.

I’m a resident, who is barely hanging on by a thread. I just needed an edge—“

Shaking his head, Danny signed in frustration. “I can’t do this. I can’t be with someone who uses, Emily. I can’t.”

I don’t use, Danny. I…I made a mistake. I’ll stop—“

Will you get help?”

I don’t need—“

If you don’t get some kind of help or talk to someone, then I can’t see you again.”

“But he did see you again,” Samantha said after she listened to Emily tell her the details.

Emily smiled slightly and shrugged. “There are all kinds of drugs, Samantha. We cooled off for a week or so, and then I called him on Christmas Eve. We were both feeling lonely. So we connected again.”

“How soon after that did he find out about your blackmail scheme?” Samantha asked, having heard the whole sordid story from Jack.

Biting her lip, Emily shook her head. “Like I said, I can’t say anything else – not until my lawyer gets here.”

“You know I thought that I understood you because I do know what it’s like to be ambitious and to want more for yourself. But for the life of me, I could never understand the kind of dark place that you are coming from. What you’ve done…what you’re doing now…it’s not about your precious career. It’s about you being a cold, heartless bitch. I’m going to personally make sure you pay.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“For starters? I’m placing you under arrest for the possession of a controlled substance.”

XXX

While Martin drove back to the office, Jack closed his eyes for moment. His first meeting with Danny flashed in his head. Danny was different back then. Although Jack could hardly believe it now, his first impression had been that Danny was kind of quiet.

Looking over Danny’s application, Jack remarked, “You’re a bit young for this team.”

Yes sir. Human Resources said the same thing, but I asked them to forward my application to you anyway.”

Usually, they wouldn’t have bothered, but you went to law school. That’s always a plus in our work.”

Danny didn’t respond. He just waited for the next question.

Jack had asked all the basic questions. Why did Danny want to work missing persons? What did he think made a good agent? What did he think made a good team? Danny had thoughtful, perfunctory answers for all them, as though he’d been practicing the answers like a lawyer practices a closing argument. But now came the tough personal questions.

I see in your personnel file that you changed your name. May I ask why?”

Yes sir. I took my foster family’s name when I was sixteen. I just wanted a fresh start. I had started applying to colleges, and I just wanted to start a new chapter.”

Do you ever regret it?”

No, sir. I don’t.”

Jack nodded as he tried to properly phrase his next question. “I see here that you have a brother in prison.”

At the mention of his brother, he could see Danny tense. For the first time in the entire interview, his calm, cool armor cracked a bit.

Are you and he close?” Jack asked.

No sir. I haven’t spoken to him in almost eight years.”

That must be difficult.”

Shaking his head, Danny responded. “No, sir. He wasn’t much of brother when I was speaking to him.”

One last personal question, and then I’ll let you off the hook.”

Yes sir.”

You were arrested and cited for an open container violation two years ago. Can you give me an explanation on that?”

Biting his lip for moment, Danny took a short breath. “I had a good lawyer who pled it down to an ‘open container’ violation. It was actually a DUI.”

What were the terms of the plea bargain?”

The DUI was expunged after I completed thirty meetings in thirty days and three months of alcohol-counseling.”

You still in AA?”

Yes, sir. Two years, three months, eighteen days.”

Jack nodded. “I appreciate your honesty. You could have just copped to the open container.”

No, sir. I couldn’t have.”

The ringing from Jack’s cell phone jarred him from the memory. Looking at the display, his heart skipped a beat. It was Vivian. She had called him twenty minutes earlier to tell him what John Taylor had told her.

“Yeah,” he answered, sitting up in his seat. He could almost feel Martin’s eyes glance in his direction.

“There’s blood in the alley. A lot of blood, Jack.”

FBI Office, 1:30 a.m., 78.5 hours Missing

As Jack rode up in the elevator, he rubbed his eyes to keep the tears from falling. Stepping off the elevator, he caught sight of Samantha standing outside the conference room where Emily was meeting with her lawyer. He could tell by the look on Sam’s face that she hadn’t been as successful in keeping the tears at bay.

“Hey,” he said quietly.

Turning to him, Samantha bit her lip to keep from crying again. She knew if she allowed herself to really look in Jack’s eyes she wouldn’t be able to stop herself.

“Hey,” she replied, her voice cracking. “Did...did Viv get anything more out of John Taylor?”

Shaking his head, he answered, “No. I sent Martin in with Vivian. He went after him pretty hard, but the guy just dissolved into tears. I don’t think he was lying when he said he left Danny in the alley.”

“Then what happened? We’ve checked hospitals and morgues. His face is all over the news, and NYPD is tearing apart the area around that alley. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Jack shrugged because he wasn’t able to give her any answer. Motioning to the conference room, he asked, “Can we really still keep her here?”

“That’s the most perplexing part. When I interviewed her, Jack, it seemed as though she knew something, but she just clammed up. And no, we can't really hold her. She had less than an ounce of cocaine on her. NYPD says they’ll issue her a citation. That’s the best they can do.”

“Did you tell her about Danny being stabbed?”

“No. I haven’t told her anything.”

“Wonder what else she is hiding and why she wasn’t more honest with us?”

As they continued to watch Emily and her lawyer through the window, Samantha’s mind started to race. Why hadn't Emily been honest with them? What was she hiding? How could she still be connected to Danny’s disappearance? How could she still be connect--?

“He needed medical attention,” Samantha whispered as she worked through the scenarios in her head.

“What?” Jack asked, not actually hearing her.

Turning to him, she grabbed his arm. “Danny needed medical attention. John Taylor said that he cut Danny’s hand and then stabbed him in the stomach – not necessarily fatal wounds. So Danny is wounded, but maybe he thinks he can handle it himself. And he knows if he goes to the hospital that John Taylor will go back to prison for good. He was supposed to go to the nine o’clock meeting, right?”

“Right,” Jack confirmed.

“So he has the run-in with John Taylor. Maybe he’s in a bit of shock, so he takes some time in the alley to collect himself and figure out what he should do. He knows that Emily is supposed to meet him at eleven. So he heads back to his apartment so she can help him with his wounds.”

“But she was at his apartment at eleven. He wasn’t there. There was no blood in his apartment. He never made it back there.”

“Maybe he tracked her down at the hospital.”

“But then what happened? Now you think she is capable of killing him?”

Without hesitation, Samantha nodded.

"I think she's capable of anything."

XXX

Martin and Vivian left a distraught John Taylor in the interview room, finally giving up on him. Martin’s adrenaline had been pumping throughout the interrogation. When he finally left the room, all the anger and frustration flowed out of him as he kicked a chair in the hallway. He thought it would feel good to get it out since he’d wanted to beat the hell out of John Taylor the moment he'd laid eyes on him.

“He could still be alive, Martin,” Vivian said quietly.

Martin let out a dry laugh as he started to respond, but when he couldn’t find the words to contradict Vivian, he collapsed into the chair he hadn’t kicked.

“We can’t give up on him. I know it looks bad, but he could be out there somewhere,” she continued hopefully.

“Or, he likely bled to death and some vagrant robbed him and stashed his body somewhere.”

Vivian winced at the dire, but likely scenario.

“You know what I don’t get?” Martin asked voice still full of agitation. “I don’t get why someone as smart as Danny would get mixed with the likes of this guy? Or even Emily Phelps?”

Vivian considered Martin’s question for a few moments before responding. “Well, I think it’s fairly obvious why he got involved with Emily. As far as John Taylor is concerned, he says that Danny owed him, but he didn’t say for what. On a more basic level, maybe Danny was thinking about his real brother when he tried to help John.”

“He was stupid…stupid to get mixed up in all of this, stupid to let Emily string him along, and stupid to help that loser,” Martin responded as he looked toward the interview room.

As she listened to Martin, Viv let the anger and hurt she’d been repressing rise to the surface. “Shut up, Martin.”

Martin looked up at her, surprised by her angry tone.

“You’ve only know him for what? Six months? You don’t know him. You don’t know the kind of heart he has. How dare you judge him when you clearly don’t know him at all,” Vivian said before turning to walk away.

Rubbing his eyes, Martin instantly felt awful about the things he’d just said. “Viv! Wait!” he said as he rose to his feet.

Viv stopped, but she didn’t turn around.

“I didn’t mean those things. I didn’t. I just…,” he couldn’t finish.

“You just want him back,” Vivian whispered. “We all just want him back.”

XXX

Samantha and Jack continued to wait as Emily conferred with her lawyer. Just as Jack’s patience was about to give way, her lawyer exited the conference room.

“My client wants a deal.”

“No deals,” Jack responded. “We’ve just found out that Agent Taylor was assaulted that night – a conclusion we may have come to much sooner if we hadn’t spent half a day running down Dr. Phelp’s lies. So no deals. She’s going to face obstruction charges if it’s the last thing I do.”

Her lawyer nodded. “She knows he was stabbed. She tended to his wounds. And she also has a very good idea of who is responsible for his disappearance.”

Jack and Samantha glanced at each other before Samantha led the way into the conference room and Jack followed.

“Where is he?” Samantha asked in a raised, aggravated voice.

“She’s not saying a word until she knows she has immunity,” her lawyer cut in.

“Immunity? You lying bitch! Where is he?” Jack demanded as he pounded his fist on the table.

Emily jumped. “I don’t know where he is, I swe—“

“Don’t say a word, Emily. Not until we know that you have immunity,” her lawyer instructed.

Jack took a deep breath to get himself under control. “If what she tells us leads to Danny’s safe return, then she can have immunity.”

Samantha watched as Emily and her attorney exchanged uneasy glances. “We can’t guarantee that,” he lawyer replied. “We can only guarantee that we’ll lead you to the person who likely knows what happened to him.”

Jack took a few moments to consider the situation. He and Samantha exchanged another look. He could see from her eyes that she wanted to him to make any deal he could to find out what happened to their friend.

“Fine. She tells us everything and we won’t file obstruction charges.”

“What about the possession charge? We need to make sure her record stays clean.”

Shaking her head, Samantha sighed heavily.

“I’ll get NYPD to drop the citation,” Jack responded.

“All right,” her lawyer said, taking the seat next to her. “Let’s begin.”

Jack and Samantha sat down across from her. Samantha took out her notepad and a pen to take notes.

“Did you see Danny on Friday night?” Jack began.

Emily nodded. “After I left him the note, I walked downstairs and waited on the front steps. I figured he was running late. Just as I was getting up to go back to work, at around 11:15, I saw him coming toward me.”

“How did he look?”

“Pale. He was walking slowly, clutching his side. As soon as I saw him, I went to him. When I got closer, I saw the blood on his shirt. He’d wrapped his hand in his button-down and was applying pressure to his stomach wound at the same time. The shirt was soaked, but he was keeping it covered with this jacket.”

“What happened next?”

“I asked him what happened. He said he couldn’t tell me. I told him we needed to go to the hospital. He said that he couldn’t go to the hospital. He wanted me to help him up to his apartment, but I told him I needed to clean the wounds and stitch them. I finally convinced him to go when I told him I could get him into a back door. He was adamant about not filing a police report, which he would have been required to do if we’d taken him to the ER.”

“So he went with you.”

“Yes. I hailed a cab. By this time, the heavy bleeding had stopped, for the most part. When we got to the hospital, we went in through the maintenance entrance. I took him to the basement and sneaked him into one of the morgue examination rooms.”

Leaning toward Samantha, Jack said, “Call Martin. We only verified that Emily was at the hospital on the security tapes. We need to review the tapes from the basement to make sure Danny was actually there.”

Nodding, Samantha stood up and left the room.

“Continue,” Jack stated, his voice cold.

“Like I said, I took him to a room in the basement…”

You really aren’t going to tell me how this happened?” Emily asked, helping Danny out of the leather jacket and blood-soaked t-shirt.”

No,” he responded in weak tone.

Can you at least tell me what you were stabbed with?” she said, tracing her finger across his stomach right above the gash.

It was a six-inch blade. I think the cut on the hand is worse.”

Emily took a moment to examine the hand wound, and then gave him some gauze to stop the remaining blood flow. Then she pulled a chair over, so she could examine his stomach more closely. “You’re right. It’s not that deep, but you still need a couple of stitches.”

Standing up, she walked over to the supply cabinet. She sighed gratefully when she found antiseptic and a suture kit. Turning back to Danny, she laid the kit, antiseptic and gauze next to him.

I’ll be right back,” she said before turning for the door.

Grabbing her arm with his good hand, he said, “Where the hell are you going?”

I don’t have anything to give you for the pain. I need to get you something.”

No. It’ll be fine. Let’s just get this done. I don’t want to take a chance that someone will catch us down here.”

Emily nodded as she sat down in front of him. Pulling a tray table over, she set his hand on it and proceeded to clean the cut.

This is an interesting turn of events,” she said, her eyes focused on his hand.

What do you mean?”

I mean, you recently blasted me for keeping secrets; but clearly, you have secrets of your own,” she said as she began to stitch.

Mmmm,” Danny winced as he braced himself by grabbing the end of the examination table with his other hand. Through gritted teeth, he responded, “The difference is that my secrets have nothing to with drugs, screwing around with God knows who and blackmail schemes.”

Looking up at him, Emily took the opportunity to not be as gentle with the next stitch.

Ahhh!” Danny yelped.

Sorry,” she responded quietly.

Yeah. I’m sure you are.”

Carefully, she finished stitching his hand and stomach. After she put bandages over each wound, she went back to the supply cabinet and pulled out a pair of scrubs.

What are those for?” Danny asked as he stood up.

For you. There’s blood on your jeans. We have to go upstairs before you leave.”

No. We don’t. I can make it home fine with my jacket on.”

You need a tetanus shot. You should also have a full blood panel done, but we can do that tomorrow. There’s no telling what was on that “six-inch” blade you were cut with. It’s for your own good.”

I can’t take the chance—“

Put on the scrubs," she insisted. "We’ll use the service elevator. All I need to do is get to the drug lock-up. No one will see you.”

Sighing heavily, Danny took the scrubs from her and changed into them.

Minutes later, they exited the service elevator. Very quickly, she led him into one of the empty recovery rooms.

Lie down on the gurney. If anyone walks in, just pretend to be asleep. They’ll just think you’re a doc taking a nap.”

Maybe I should just head home, I can come back tom—“

It will be too late tomorrow. You have to have the shot tonight.”

Fine. Just hurry,” Danny replied, taking a seat on the bed.

Emily hurried down the hall and went into the nearest drug supply closet. Using her key, she opened one of the cabinets.

What’s going on?”

Emily jumped at the sound of the voice. When she turned around, she sighed in relief when she saw Ben Hancock.

Ben. You scared the hell out of me.”

I bet I did. I asked, what’s going on?”

Nothing. I’m just…I’m just…”

What? I saw you stash your latest lover in one of the recovery rooms. Wonder what Aiden would think of you slumming around?”

Screw you, Ben. He’s just a friend who cut his finger,” Emily said as she continued to look for the tetanus medication.

Ben laughed. “You’re such a good liar. It takes one to know one. I’ve seen you with him before. The only question I have is what can an FBI agent do for you? I mean, he can’t further your career.”

This time Emily laughed. “He does more for me than you ever could.”

You really think so?” he asked as he came up behind her. “Can he do this for you?” he asked, dangling small packet of white powder in front of her face.

Closing her eyes, Emily bit her lip. “I’m not…I’m not doing that stuff anymore. I told you that.”

He dropped the small packet into the breast pocket of her scrubs. “It’s just a matter of time,” he whispered in her ear. “What are you looking for, anyway?”

Tetanus.”

We don’t keep that on the surgical floor. You’ll have to get it downstairs.”

Great. Just my luck,” she replied. “Hey. Do me a favor and forget you ever saw us, okay?”

I’ll forget if you promise me something.”

What?” she asked, her voice full of dread.

Meet me tomorrow at our usual time and place, just like old times.”

Ben…”

Be there. Remember, I have a lot more on you than just sneaking your new boy toy in with a cut on his hand,” he said before slinking away.

Taking a deep breath, Emily left the drug supply room and headed for the stairs.

“It only took me ten minutes to go downstairs and come back up, but when I got back, he was gone.”

“Gone?”

“Yeah. I thought, I thought he just got tired of waiting. I called him later that night to see if he got home, but there was no answer. I figured that was his way of telling me ‘thanks for helping, but it’s really over’.”

“Your message on the machine?” Samantha asked. She’d re-entered the room as Emily was relaying her story.

“Right. I called him a few more times, but there was no answer.”

“That’s an interesting story, Dr. Phelps, but you’re still not telling me where Danny is and who is responsible,” Jack said in an irritated tone.

Biting her lip, Emily ran her hand through her hair. “The next day, I kept my promise to meet Ben. I couldn’t take the chance of blowing him off. He kept talking about Danny. Saying mean things. And then he said that I apparently couldn’t get my fill of dangerous men because I was screwing around with someone who had the type of enemies that stab him in the stomach.”

“So?” Samantha said.

“I only told Ben that Danny had cut his finger. When Danny came to the surgical floor with me, his stomach was already bandaged. That’s why I went by Danny’s apartment on Monday. I prayed he’d be there, but—“

“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” Samantha said.

Emily glanced at her attorney who answered for her. “Mr. Hancock knows things that would get Emily into a lot of trouble. She’d lose her residenc—“

Standing abruptly, Jack kicked back his chair. “Your residency? What kind of monster are you? Did you confront Hancock about your suspicion?”

Emily shook her head as she started to cry. “I didn’t know what to do. I hoped I was wrong. I kept thinking that he’d turn up, or that his disappearance was related to the stabbing. I mean, it could still be related to that. I just…I just—“

“You make me sick,” Jack spat. “You’re staying here until we find out exactly what happened,” he said before turning and walking out of the room.

Samantha followed him out. She tried to process everything they’d just heard, but it was all so overwhelming.

“You checked Hancock’s alibi, right?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, He didn’t leave the hospital until 6 a.m. on Saturday. I don’t see how he could have gotten Danny out of the hospital.”

“Maybe he’s still in the hospital,” Jack responded. “Is Martin reviewing the hospital tapes?”

“In the tech room,” she said as they both started walking.

“What’s Hancock’s motive? What does he have to gain by killing Danny?” Jack asked, voice full of desperation.

“Emily? Or maybe he just couldn’t take that she chose Danny over him? I don’t know, Jack. It doesn’t make sense. Emily picked the Congressman over Hancock long before Danny came along.”

Entering the tech room, Martin and Vivian looked up from the TV monitors.

“We spotted Danny entering through the maintenance entrance. He looked pretty bad,” Martin said.

“Do you have tapes from the surgical floor?” Jack asked.

“Yeah. I’m reviewing those,” Vivian answered.

“Fast-forward it to about a half hour after Danny entered the maintenance entrance,” Jack instructed.

They all focused on the monitor as Vivian fast-forwarded.

“There he is,” Sam said as they spotted Danny and Emily getting of the elevator and entering the closest room.

“Now what?” Viv asked.

“Keep focused on that door,” Jack said.

They all continued to watch the tape advance. They watched Emily walk out very quickly. And then they all gasped when they watched Ben Hancock enter the room about five minutes later.

“Oh my God,” Sam whispered.

“Slow it down,” Jack instructed. “Let’s watch it in real-time.”

Hancock was in the room for eight minutes.

“Oh dear God!” Vivian exclaimed as they watched Hancock wheel a gurney out of the room.

Swallowing hard, Martin had to stop himself from being ill.

Feeling his legs almost give way, Jack’s swayed slightly. Samantha took his arm and guided him into a chair.

Taking a deep breath, Samantha tried to remain composed. “Do you want me and Martin to pick up Hancock?”

Jack didn’t respond.

Sam repeated. “Jack—“

“No. I’m going,” he said, standing abruptly.

Manhattan YMCA, 79 Hours Earlier

Walking out of the gym after the FBI versus NYPD basketball game, Martin glanced at Danny. “You can’t tell me that wasn’t fun, man.”

Danny flashed him a reluctant smile. “I don’t know if fun is the right word. But it’s always nice to feel needed, and you guys definitely needed me.”

Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Martin stopped at the curb to hail a cab. “So what do you say? Are you up for getting a drink? We’re celebrating at McHale’s Pub in about a half hour.”

Danny stopped. For a moment, it looked like he was going to say yes. “I, um, I can’t. I have a…a thing later tonight.”

You sure? I’m betting you won’t have to pay for one drink. Winning shots usually guarantee that.”

Danny laughed as he shook his head. “Nah, man. I gotta get going.”

Next time, then,” Martin said as he started to walk away.

Backing away to head to the subway, Danny called out, “Who says I’m doing this again?”

You loved it, Danny. You’ll never admit it, but you loved it.”

See you Monday. Don’t drink too much,” he replied before turning away and disappearing into the night.

“Viv says Hancock finished surgery and took off about a half hour ago,” Jack said, jarring Martin from his thoughts.

Trying to refocus on the road ahead, Martin replied, “Where can we find him?”

“He has an apartment near the hospital, on 72nd,” Jack replied.

“Did Viv say anything else? Have they found anything at the hospital?”

“Not yet. They’re doing a floor-to-floor search as we speak.”

Martin didn’t respond. He just took a deep breath and continued to drive.

XXX

Two Month Earlier, Thanksgiving Day

Samantha stepped off the elevator onto a dead-silent floor that was usually bustling with activity on any other day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shivering, she realized that they must turn the heat down over the holiday.

As she approached the bullpen, she was startled when she caught sight of Danny sitting at his desk.

What are you doing here?” she asked, stopping next to his desk.

Danny looked up, also completely startled. “Um…Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Sam.”

Sorry. I just…I didn’t expect—“

Danny smiled as he interrupted her. “I’m just catching up on some paper work.”

Paper work? On Thanksgiving?”

Yeah. Why not? Definitely no distractions here today.”

I thought Viv said you were spending the day with the social worker,” Samantha answered with a grin.

Her name is Polly,” Danny replied, shaking his head. “I thought about taking her up on it, but decided against it.”

Nodding, Samantha pulled one of conference table chairs over to Danny’s desk. “But Viv said that’s why you turned her invitation down.”

Throwing her a slightly annoyed glare, he asked, “Since when do you and Viv talk so much?”

Samantha shrugged. “Just came up in casual conversation.”

Danny smirked. “Well then, what brings you here on Thanksgiving, Agent Spade? Isn’t there a turkey dinner with your name on it in the land of the cheese heads?” he asked, voice dripping in sarcasm.

Samantha returned a half-smile, half-smirk. “That’s actually why I’m here. I left my e-boarding pass here yesterday and didn’t feel like waiting in line for three hours once I got to the airport to have them reissue it.”

You’re leaving today?” he asked in a surprised tone.

Tonight, actually. My plane leaves at seven.”

Danny laughed. “It’s the day of Thanksgiving, Sam.”

I know. I know. But tickets were much cheaper traveling today. And as a bonus, I won’t have to deal with my mother’s husband’s family. The leftovers are always better the next day, anyway. Not that my mother is much of a cook.”

Danny laughed again. “That’s quite a strategy.”

Yes. I’ve perfected it. I should write a book: “The Art of Completely Avoiding Your Family At All Costs,” she replied playfully, but then regretted it as soon as the words came out of her mouth. “I’m sorr-“

It’s okay. It’s funny, actually. Let me guess – you booked a Saturday flight back to beat the holiday traffic?” he continued, letting the awkward moment pass.

Samantha giggled. “As I said, I've perfected it.”

Sounds like you have,” he responded in a quiet tone.

Wanting to change the subject, Samantha leaned in closer. “So spill. Why didn’t you go to Polly’s?”

Rolling his eyes, Danny shook his head. “It’s…it’s complicated. Polly and I went out a couple of times last summer, and then we kind of lost touch until she asked for help on the William Hope case. I just think if I went to dinner with her and her family, then she might expect that we’d—“

Get serious?”

Yeah. I’m not really in a position to do that right now. So I didn’t want to confuse her.”

That’s a wise decision.”

Yeah.”

So you really are planning to spend all day here doing paper work?”

Not all day. I have plans tonight.”

Samantha nodded. “I see. Now I’m really glad you let Polly down easily.”

Danny shrugged a little as he looked down at his hands.

Since your plans aren’t until tonight, and my plane doesn’t leave for another five hours, what do you say we go to Hop Lee’s for a little non-traditional Thanksgiving fare?”

Danny smiled. “You sure you have time?”

The moment Sam heard his response, she was glad she’d suggested it. She could tell he didn’t really want to be at the office at all. “Yeah. I’ll even let you escort me to the airport.”

Sounds like a plan,” he said as he stood up from his desk.

From her desk, Samantha couldn’t take her eyes off Danny’s picture on the whiteboard. Jack had told Samantha to stay at the office in case Emily could offer more information. Sam had never felt more restless and useless in her life. She’d wanted to go with Jack to interrogate Hancock, but she understood why he’d needed her to stay. Needing to move around, she rose from her desk and walked back to the interview room.

Sam’s restlessness was tested as she watched Emily through the two-way mirror. After her lawyer stepped out to make some phone calls, Sam watched as Emily laid her head on the table. Not thinking she deserved a moment of peace, Samantha walked into the interview room and ‘accidentally’ slammed the door shut.

Upon hearing the loud thud, Emily sat up straight. “Did you…did you find him?” she asked.

“No,” Samantha answered as she remained standing in front of the door. “I just, um, I want to know something.”

“I’ve told you everything.”

“No. You haven’t.”

“What else do you want to know?”

“What happened the night you had the fight with him, the fight his neighbor heard? Was that the night he found out about the Congressman?”

“That has nothing to do with where he is now.”

“Maybe it doesn’t, but I still can’t understand why he kept giving you more chances, after everything you put him through,” Samantha stated in a confused tone.

“Because he understands me,” Emily responded in a barely a whisper.

You’re a hard man to get a hold of, Agent Taylor,” Emily said after he opened the door.

Danny didn’t respond. He just looked at her with that deep frown of his that made him look like a wounded puppy.

Bad day at work?” she asked, breezing past him into the apartment.

Closing the door, Danny responded with his back to her. “Just a bad day, period.”

Lucky for you, I’m here to make it all better.” She walked toward him and started to lay her hands on his shoulders. But as soon as she made contact, he flinched and turned toward her.

The frown spread to his eyes, and now he looked angry, so angry that Emily’s first instinct was fear.

What…what’s wrong?” she asked hesitantly.

Everything about you…everything about you is wrong.”

Upon hearing his words, Emily almost felt like he knocked the wind out of her. “What are you talking about?”

Crossing his arms, Danny answered. “I got a visit today from Congressman Thompson’s chief of staff.”

Eyes widening in surprise, Emily started to speak, but he cut her off.

Shut up. I’m through with your explanations.”

Reaching out, she tried to touch him as she responded, “You don’t understand—“

Very quickly, he knocked her hand away and then roughly grabbed her upper arms as he looked down at her. “I don’t understand? He threatened my family. He accused me of blackmailing a Congressman. I understand completely.”

She tried to shrug out of his grasp, but he just tightened his hold on her. There was a rage in his eyes that terrified her. “You’re hurting me. Please stop. Please,” she cried.

Suddenly, he let go and turned away. “Get the hell out of here. I don’t ever want to see you again.”

Don’t do this, Danny. You don’t understand—“she tried to respond in a loud voice so that he could really hear her.

I understand perfectly,” he replied, even louder. “I’m not an idiot. Get out!”

No. No,” she cried. “Just let me explain.”

I don’t want to hear this,” Danny yelled. “I don’t care about your…issues, all right! Just get the hell out.”

Falling to her knees, she cried. “Please don’t do this. Please don’t hate me. I didn’t know what else to do. I’ll do anything; just don’t make leave, not like this,” she pleaded.

Sighing heavily, Danny ran his hand over his mouth. “Why? If you’re so determined to stay with Thompson, then why do you keep coming here? What do you want from me?”

Hearing the gentleness return to his tone, Emily was able to compose herself. Looking down at the floor, she responded, “I feel good when I’m with you.”

If you’re not happy with your career and you’re definitely not happy with the Congressman, then why do you keep going back? Why are you making yourself miserable?” he asked, as he sat down on the sofa.

I can’t fail, Danny. I can’t.”

So all of this is about getting some surgical fellowship? That’s sick, Em. You’re losing yourself, you’re using me, and you’re blackmailing him…all for what?”

To be the best.”

Shaking his head, Danny sighed heavily. “I need more explanation than that. I understand ambition. I really do. But this is ridiculous.”

No one expects me to do well. Everyone at the hospital looks at me like I don’t belong there. My parents – all through high school and med school – they kept expecting me to fail. I was never good enough. I never made the right choices. They’ve never believed in me.”

Why not?”

I…I don’t know.”

That’s still no excuse—“

Don’t you think I know that?” she asked as she looked up at him. “I know. But I can’t stop. I can’t…” she said, breaking down in tears.

As she continued to cry, Danny held his hand out to her. Taking it, she let him pull her up on the sofa. He just put his arms around her and held her until she fell asleep.

“I woke up the next morning on his sofa. He told me that we couldn’t be together anymore. But I still tried…. He stood his ground, though. He tried to put distance between us, but he was still willing to talk when I needed to talk. That’s what I told him I needed that night. I told him that I needed to talk.”

Frowning deeply, Samantha shook her head. “Then I really don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell the truth right away? He was your friend. I’m guessing the only true friend you have.”

“If I could take it back, I would. I was just so afraid of losing everything.”

“It’s very possible that Danny has lost his life because of you,” Samantha said, trying to remain composed.

“I know,” Emily replied, tears falling from her eyes.

XXX

Dr. Hancock’s Apartment Building, 2:30 am, 79.5 hours missing

Entering the lobby of the building, Martin flashed his badge at the attendant.

“FBI. We’re here to see Dr. Hancock,” Martin said as he and Jack continued to walk toward the elevator.

“He’s not up there,” the attendant called out.

Stopping abruptly, Jack turned. “Where the hell is he?”

“You just missed him. He went down to the parking level about five minutes ago. Looked like he was taking a trip.”

“Can we get there using these stairs?” Martin asked, opening the door.

The attendant nodded as Jack and Martin started to quickly descend the stairs.

Just as the door opened the door to the parking level, they saw a black jaguar pull out of a parking space near the elevator. Pulling his gun, Martin took off in a full sprint to cut the car off.

Approaching the back of the car, Jack also pulled his gun and watched as Martin caught up to the car, turned and raised his gun.

“FBI! Keep your hands where I can see them!” Martin shouted, standing in the car’s path.

Hancock appeared to put the car in reverse, but then stopped when he caught sight of Jack in his rearview mirror. After putting his car in park, he sighed heavily as he put his hands on the steering wheel.

Jack covered Hancock while Martin opened the door. Very roughly, Martin pulled the doctor out and shoved him against the car. As he searched him, he asked, “Where’s Danny?”

“I don’t—“

“Don’t lie to me, again,” Jack said as he kept his gun trained on the doctor and Martin turned him around so he could face Jack. “We have you on tape – wheeling Danny’s body out of the hospital.”

“And we have a one-way ticket to South America,” Martin said as he showed Jack the envelope that he’d just pulled out of Hancock’s pocket. “Did you get spooked when Emily didn’t come back to the hospital? You knew she’d turn on you, didn’t you?”

“You really believe that whore? She’s lying. Everything she’s telling you is a damn lie.”

“The tape isn’t a lie,” Jack said.

“I don’t know what—“

“Shut up! Shut up!” Jack shouted. “Listen to me. If you don’t tell us where Danny is, then we will make you disappear. Just like you made Danny disappear. Open the trunk, Martin.”

Martin didn’t hesitate. He reached over and pulled the trunk release and then pulled Hancock over to the trunk.

“Where is he?” Jack asked again.

“You guys won’t do this. You won’t—“

“Don’t test me. I’ll put a bullet in your head right now,” Jack said.

“There are security cameras all over the place,” Hancock cried.

“Tapes get erased all the time,” Martin said. “You should have thought about that. But I don’t think you should shoot him in the head, Jack.”

“Exactly!” Hancock cried. “Think about what you’re doing—“

Martin cut him off. “Shoot him in the stomach. Let him bleed to death slowly.”

“No! No!”

“Where is he?” Jack commanded.

“I want a lawyer. I want my lawyer.”

“No lawyers. You’re telling us what you did with him or I shoot you!” Jack insisted.

Hancock looked from Martin back to Jack again. He closed his eyes. “Everything got out of control after I got involved with Emily. My wife left me. And then Emily ended it. I just wanted to teach Emily a lesson…”

Manhattan YMCA, 79 Hours Earlier

Walking out of the gym after the FBI versus NYPD basketball game, Martin glanced at Danny. “You can’t tell me that wasn’t fun, man.”

Danny flashed him a reluctant smile. “I don’t know if fun is the right word. But it’s always nice to feel needed, and you guys definitely needed me.”

Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Martin stopped at the curb to hail a cab. “So what do you say? Are you up for getting a drink? We’re celebrating at McHale’s Pub in about a half hour.”

Danny stopped. For a moment, it looked like he was going to say yes. “I, um, I can’t. I have a…a thing later tonight.”

You sure? I’m betting you won’t have to pay for one drink. Winning shots usually guarantee that.”

Danny laughed as he shook his head. “Nah, man. I gotta get going.”

Next time, then,” Martin said as he started to walk away.

Backing away to head to the subway, Danny called out, “Who says I’m doing this again?”

You loved it, Danny. You’ll never admit it, but you loved it.”

See you Monday. Don’t drink too much,” he replied before turning away and disappearing into the night.

“Viv says Hancock finished surgery and took off about a half hour ago,” Jack said, jarring Martin from his thoughts.

Trying to refocus on the road ahead, Martin replied, “Where can we find him?”

“He has an apartment near the hospital, on 72nd,” Jack replied.

“Did Viv say anything else? Have they found anything at the hospital?”

“Not yet. They’re doing a floor-to-floor search as we speak.”

Martin didn’t respond. He just took a deep breath and continued to drive.

XXX

Two Month Earlier, Thanksgiving Day

Samantha stepped off the elevator onto a dead-silent floor that was usually bustling with activity on any other day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shivering, she realized that they must turn the heat down over the holiday.

As she approached the bullpen, she was startled when she caught sight of Danny sitting at his desk.

What are you doing here?” she asked, stopping next to his desk.

Danny looked up, also completely startled. “Um…Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Sam.”

Sorry. I just…I didn’t expect—“

Danny smiled as he interrupted her. “I’m just catching up on some paper work.”

Paper work? On Thanksgiving?”

Yeah. Why not? Definitely no distractions here today.”

I thought Viv said you were spending the day with the social worker,” Samantha answered with a grin.

Her name is Polly,” Danny replied, shaking his head. “I thought about taking her up on it, but decided against it.”

Nodding, Samantha pulled one of conference table chairs over to Danny’s desk. “But Viv said that’s why you turned her invitation down.”

Throwing her a slightly annoyed glare, he asked, “Since when do you and Viv talk so much?”

Samantha shrugged. “Just came up in casual conversation.”

Danny smirked. “Well then, what brings you here on Thanksgiving, Agent Spade? Isn’t there a turkey dinner with your name on it in the land of the cheese heads?” he asked, voice dripping in sarcasm.

Samantha returned a half-smile, half-smirk. “That’s actually why I’m here. I left my e-boarding pass here yesterday and didn’t feel like waiting in line for three hours once I got to the airport to have them reissue it.”

You’re leaving today?” he asked in a surprised tone.

Tonight, actually. My plane leaves at seven.”

Danny laughed. “It’s the day of Thanksgiving, Sam.”

I know. I know. But tickets were much cheaper traveling today. And as a bonus, I won’t have to deal with my mother’s husband’s family. The leftovers are always better the next day, anyway. Not that my mother is much of a cook.”

Danny laughed again. “That’s quite a strategy.”

Yes. I’ve perfected it. I should write a book: “The Art of Completely Avoiding Your Family At All Costs,” she replied playfully, but then regretted it as soon as the words came out of her mouth. “I’m sorr-“

It’s okay. It’s funny, actually. Let me guess – you booked a Saturday flight back to beat the holiday traffic?” he continued, letting the awkward moment pass.

Samantha giggled. “As I said, I've perfected it.”

Sounds like you have,” he responded in a quiet tone.

Wanting to change the subject, Samantha leaned in closer. “So spill. Why didn’t you go to Polly’s?”

Rolling his eyes, Danny shook his head. “It’s…it’s complicated. Polly and I went out a couple of times last summer, and then we kind of lost touch until she asked for help on the William Hope case. I just think if I went to dinner with her and her family, then she might expect that we’d—“

Get serious?”

Yeah. I’m not really in a position to do that right now. So I didn’t want to confuse her.”

That’s a wise decision.”

Yeah.”

So you really are planning to spend all day here doing paper work?”

Not all day. I have plans tonight.”

Samantha nodded. “I see. Now I’m really glad you let Polly down easily.”

Danny shrugged a little as he looked down at his hands.

Since your plans aren’t until tonight, and my plane doesn’t leave for another five hours, what do you say we go to Hop Lee’s for a little non-traditional Thanksgiving fare?”

Danny smiled. “You sure you have time?”

The moment Sam heard his response, she was glad she’d suggested it. She could tell he didn’t really want to be at the office at all. “Yeah. I’ll even let you escort me to the airport.”

Sounds like a plan,” he said as he stood up from his desk.

From her desk, Samantha couldn’t take her eyes off Danny’s picture on the whiteboard. Jack had told Samantha to stay at the office in case Emily could offer more information. Sam had never felt more restless and useless in her life. She’d wanted to go with Jack to interrogate Hancock, but she understood why he’d needed her to stay. Needing to move around, she rose from her desk and walked back to the interview room.

Sam’s restlessness was tested as she watched Emily through the two-way mirror. After her lawyer stepped out to make some phone calls, Sam watched as Emily laid her head on the table. Not thinking she deserved a moment of peace, Samantha walked into the interview room and ‘accidentally’ slammed the door shut.

Upon hearing the loud thud, Emily sat up straight. “Did you…did you find him?” she asked.

“No,” Samantha answered as she remained standing in front of the door. “I just, um, I want to know something.”

“I’ve told you everything.”

“No. You haven’t.”

“What else do you want to know?”

“What happened the night you had the fight with him, the fight his neighbor heard? Was that the night he found out about the Congressman?”

“That has nothing to do with where he is now.”

“Maybe it doesn’t, but I still can’t understand why he kept giving you more chances, after everything you put him through,” Samantha stated in a confused tone.

“Because he understands me,” Emily responded in a barely a whisper.

You’re a hard man to get a hold of, Agent Taylor,” Emily said after he opened the door.

Danny didn’t respond. He just looked at her with that deep frown of his that made him look like a wounded puppy.

Bad day at work?” she asked, breezing past him into the apartment.

Closing the door, Danny responded with his back to her. “Just a bad day, period.”

Lucky for you, I’m here to make it all better.” She walked toward him and started to lay her hands on his shoulders. But as soon as she made contact, he flinched and turned toward her.

The frown spread to his eyes, and now he looked angry, so angry that Emily’s first instinct was fear.

What…what’s wrong?” she asked hesitantly.

Everything about you…everything about you is wrong.”

Upon hearing his words, Emily almost felt like he knocked the wind out of her. “What are you talking about?”

Crossing his arms, Danny answered. “I got a visit today from Congressman Thompson’s chief of staff.”

Eyes widening in surprise, Emily started to speak, but he cut her off.

Shut up. I’m through with your explanations.”

Reaching out, she tried to touch him as she responded, “You don’t understand—“

Very quickly, he knocked her hand away and then roughly grabbed her upper arms as he looked down at her. “I don’t understand? He threatened my family. He accused me of blackmailing a Congressman. I understand completely.”

She tried to shrug out of his grasp, but he just tightened his hold on her. There was a rage in his eyes that terrified her. “You’re hurting me. Please stop. Please,” she cried.

Suddenly, he let go and turned away. “Get the hell out of here. I don’t ever want to see you again.”

Don’t do this, Danny. You don’t understand—“she tried to respond in a loud voice so that he could really hear her.

I understand perfectly,” he replied, even louder. “I’m not an idiot. Get out!”

No. No,” she cried. “Just let me explain.”

I don’t want to hear this,” Danny yelled. “I don’t care about your…issues, all right! Just get the hell out.”

Falling to her knees, she cried. “Please don’t do this. Please don’t hate me. I didn’t know what else to do. I’ll do anything; just don’t make leave, not like this,” she pleaded.

Sighing heavily, Danny ran his hand over his mouth. “Why? If you’re so determined to stay with Thompson, then why do you keep coming here? What do you want from me?”

Hearing the gentleness return to his tone, Emily was able to compose herself. Looking down at the floor, she responded, “I feel good when I’m with you.”

If you’re not happy with your career and you’re definitely not happy with the Congressman, then why do you keep going back? Why are you making yourself miserable?” he asked, as he sat down on the sofa.

I can’t fail, Danny. I can’t.”

So all of this is about getting some surgical fellowship? That’s sick, Em. You’re losing yourself, you’re using me, and you’re blackmailing him…all for what?”

To be the best.”

Shaking his head, Danny sighed heavily. “I need more explanation than that. I understand ambition. I really do. But this is ridiculous.”

No one expects me to do well. Everyone at the hospital looks at me like I don’t belong there. My parents – all through high school and med school – they kept expecting me to fail. I was never good enough. I never made the right choices. They’ve never believed in me.”

Why not?”

I…I don’t know.”

That’s still no excuse—“

Don’t you think I know that?” she asked as she looked up at him. “I know. But I can’t stop. I can’t…” she said, breaking down in tears.

As she continued to cry, Danny held his hand out to her. Taking it, she let him pull her up on the sofa. He just put his arms around her and held her until she fell asleep.

“I woke up the next morning on his sofa. He told me that we couldn’t be together anymore. But I still tried…. He stood his ground, though. He tried to put distance between us, but he was still willing to talk when I needed to talk. That’s what I told him I needed that night. I told him that I needed to talk.”

Frowning deeply, Samantha shook her head. “Then I really don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell the truth right away? He was your friend. I’m guessing the only true friend you have.”

“If I could take it back, I would. I was just so afraid of losing everything.”

“It’s very possible that Danny has lost his life because of you,” Samantha said, trying to remain composed.

“I know,” Emily replied, tears falling from her eyes.

XXX

Dr. Hancock’s Apartment Building, 2:30 am, 79.5 hours missing

Entering the lobby of the building, Martin flashed his badge at the attendant.

“FBI. We’re here to see Dr. Hancock,” Martin said as he and Jack continued to walk toward the elevator.

“He’s not up there,” the attendant called out.

Stopping abruptly, Jack turned. “Where the hell is he?”

“You just missed him. He went down to the parking level about five minutes ago. Looked like he was taking a trip.”

“Can we get there using these stairs?” Martin asked, opening the door.

The attendant nodded as Jack and Martin started to quickly descend the stairs.

Just as the door opened the door to the parking level, they saw a black jaguar pull out of a parking space near the elevator. Pulling his gun, Martin took off in a full sprint to cut the car off.

Approaching the back of the car, Jack also pulled his gun and watched as Martin caught up to the car, turned and raised his gun.

“FBI! Keep your hands where I can see them!” Martin shouted, standing in the car’s path.

Hancock appeared to put the car in reverse, but then stopped when he caught sight of Jack in his rearview mirror. After putting his car in park, he sighed heavily as he put his hands on the steering wheel.

Jack covered Hancock while Martin opened the door. Very roughly, Martin pulled the doctor out and shoved him against the car. As he searched him, he asked, “Where’s Danny?”

“I don’t—“

“Don’t lie to me, again,” Jack said as he kept his gun trained on the doctor and Martin turned him around so he could face Jack. “We have you on tape – wheeling Danny’s body out of the hospital.”

“And we have a one-way ticket to South America,” Martin said as he showed Jack the envelope that he’d just pulled out of Hancock’s pocket. “Did you get spooked when Emily didn’t come back to the hospital? You knew she’d turn on you, didn’t you?”

“You really believe that whore? She’s lying. Everything she’s telling you is a damn lie.”

“The tape isn’t a lie,” Jack said.

“I don’t know what—“

“Shut up! Shut up!” Jack shouted. “Listen to me. If you don’t tell us where Danny is, then we will make you disappear. Just like you made Danny disappear. Open the trunk, Martin.”

Martin didn’t hesitate. He reached over and pulled the trunk release and then pulled Hancock over to the trunk.

“Where is he?” Jack asked again.

“You guys won’t do this. You won’t—“

“Don’t test me. I’ll put a bullet in your head right now,” Jack said.

“There are security cameras all over the place,” Hancock cried.

“Tapes get erased all the time,” Martin said. “You should have thought about that. But I don’t think you should shoot him in the head, Jack.”

“Exactly!” Hancock cried. “Think about what you’re doing—“

Martin cut him off. “Shoot him in the stomach. Let him bleed to death slowly.”

“No! No!”

“Where is he?” Jack commanded.

“I want a lawyer. I want my lawyer.”

“No lawyers. You’re telling us what you did with him or I shoot you!” Jack insisted.

Hancock looked from Martin back to Jack again. He closed his eyes. “Everything got out of control after I got involved with Emily. My wife left me. And then Emily ended it. I just wanted to teach Emily a lesson…”

St. Vincent’s Hospital – Friday Night

Ben waited until Emily went into the stairwell. Then he went back into the drug lock-up. Scanning one of the cabinets, he grabbed one of the small bottles and an empty syringe. Then he walked down the hall. After preparing the syringe and putting it in his pocket, he opened the door quietly.

Dr. Hancock’s Apartment Building, 2:30 am, 79.5 hours missing

“He’d fallen asleep…out like a light. It was so easy,” Ben said as he leaned against the car. “I knew the thing with Aiden was fleeting. But with Danny…he was changing her. I couldn’t let her find happiness, not after what she did to me.”

“You killed him?” Jack asked.

Ben shook his head. “I didn’t give him a lethal dose. I just gave him enough to knock him out so I could get him out of the hospital. He opened his eyes just as I injected him, but then closed them just as quickly.”

“Then he’s still alive?” Martin asked.

“I don’t know,” Ben answered.

“What do you mean, you don’t know? Where is he?” Jack asked, voice urgent.

“I’ll take you to him,” Ben replied solemnly.

Jack eyed him skeptically, not sure why he was being so cooperative now. “Cuff him,” Jack said to Martin.

XXX

Twenty minutes later, they were on the Interstate going toward the mountains in upstate New York. Vivian and Samantha had caught up and were following behind them. While Martin drove, Jack sat next to Ben in the back seat in an effort to find out more about what had happened to Danny.

“How did you get him out of the hospital?” Jack asked.

“It was fairly easy. I’d taken him down to the morgue that night. I pulled my car around to the back entrance. The morgue attendants always get engrossed in a poker game. No one saw me when I put him in the trunk.”

Martin winced at the thought and glanced at Jack through the rear-view mirror.

“Then what happened?”

“My brother has a cabin upstate. I dragged him into this shed in the back of the house. Then I went into the cabin and found my brother’s gun. I loaded it. I thought it would be easier to kill him when he was unconscious, and then bury him in the woods.”

“You shot him?” Jack asked, voice cracking with emotion.

Ben shook his head. “When I got back to the shed, he was coming to. He was weak, but he was awake. I pointed the gun at him. I wanted to kill him, but then he started to talk to me.”

What? What are doing?” Danny mumbled as he looked up at Ben holding a loaded gun. “Who…who..are you?”

Shut up! Don’t talk!” Ben shouted.

Danny tried to take a deep breath to shake the cobwebs in his head. He clearly had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there.

Where’s…where’s Emily? Is she okay?”

Emily’s great. It's us she's left in the dust.”

Who are you?” Danny asked again.

My name is Ben.”

Why…why are you doing this, Ben? Why do you have a gun pointed at me?” Danny asked, still dizzy and confused.

"I'm going to kill you."

But you don’t even know me. I…I…”Danny responded in a panicked tone.

I want Emily to pay for ruining my life. I lost my wife…my family. Now she’s going to lose you.”

Danny brought his hand up to rake them through his hair, but they were bound in duct tape. Sighly heavily, he said, “This is about Emily? Look man, I ended it with her weeks ago. She’s already lost me.”

Then why were you with her last night?”

Danny felt his injured hand and pulled up his shirt to make sure he hadn’t dreamed being stabbed. “I was stabbed. See,” he motioned to his stomach. “Emily’s the only doctor I know and I couldn’t go to the emergency room. That was it.”

It doesn’t change the way she feels about you. And you’ve seen my face now. I can’t let you live.”

Yes. You can. You haven’t done anything yet.”

I drugged and kidnapped an FBI agent. I’d say that’s pretty serious.”

What day is it? How long have I been out?” Danny asked, trying to get focused.

Saturday morning.”

Then you’re in the clear, Ben. No one will know I’m gone until I don’t show up for work on Monday. Believe me – no one misses me yet. I promise. We could walk out of here right now and no one would be the wiser.”

You would know.”

I’ll forget it ever happened,” Danny responded, voice sounding desperate.

I don’t believe you.”

Look, I’m not some straight-laced FBI guy. I’m not. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve gotten into trouble. I've made crappy decisions. Lots of them. But I had people give me breaks along the way. I know that you regret doing this now. I know you do. You can make it right, man.”

I’m sure you never did anything like this.”

You’re wrong, Ben,” Danny responded earnestly. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before explaining, “When I was seventeen, I was living with this foster family. My foster parents’ son used to give me the hardest time. I hated him. One night, I was really drunk and he said something that made me angry. I don’t even remember what it was, but I just lost it. I beat him up so badly that he went to the hospital. I thought for sure I was done. I thought I was going to jail, but he didn’t tell them it was me. He covered for me. I don’t know why he did it. Maybe he was scared or maybe he realized that he’d provoked it, but he covered for me. Let me do the same thing for you. I’ll forget this ever happened. I promise.”

Ben lowered the gun as Danny told his story. “Do you understand all I would have to lose if anyone found out about this?”

No one’s going to find out,” Danny responded, voice broken.

Ben shook his head. “What about Emily?”

What about her? I told you, it’s over between me and her.”

Ben nodded as he paced around the small shed. “Right. It’s over. Okay. Listen, I…uh…I have to think about this—“

There’s nothing to think about, Ben. Just let me go and this will be over,” Danny said as he tried to loosen the duct tape around his wrists.

No, I just…I need to think about this a little more,” Ben said, as he headed for the door. “I’ll be back.”

No! No! Don’t leave me out here, Ben. Please,” Danny said as he tried to stand up before realizing his ankles were duct taped as well.

Don’t worry. I won’t be long,” Ben said before closing the door and securing it with a pad lock.

Ben! Ben! Don’t do this, man. Please!” he heard Danny shout as he headed toward the main house.

“Did you go back?” Jack asked, not wanting to imagine the terror and fear Danny must have felt.

“I, um, I need some water. Can I have some water, please?” Ben asked.

“Tell me if you went back!”

“I’ll tell you the rest after you give me a drink of water,” Ben insisted.

Jack nodded to Martin and then Martin handed back a bottle of water. Jack opened the bottle and then put it in Ben’s hand, which was still cuffed.

Before Jack could react, Ben quickly opened his clenched fist, put something in his mouth, and then began to wash it down with water.

“What…What the hell? What are doing?” Jack asked as he knocked the bottle out of Ben’s hands.

Ben choked, but managed to swallow what was in his mouth. Turning to Jack, he gave him a sinister smile. “I just ingested a lethal dose of cyanide. I had it with me, in case I was caught before leaving the country. I can’t live knowing that people will know what I’ve done.”

“What have you done? What did you do to him?” Jack demanded to know as he grabbed his lapels.

Martin, who had started to slow down when the commotion started, glanced back at Jack.

“Keep driving, Martin. Just keep driving,” Jack ordered, before turning back to Ben. “You left him there, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t have the guts to shoot him. I couldn’t do it. My brother doesn’t go to the cabin until the summer, so I figured I had plenty of time to go back up there to…”

“…to bury him,” Jack finished.

“I realize now I made a mistake. It should have been Emily.”

“You sick bastard!” Jack said as he shoved Ben back.

“There’s a small chance he’s still alive,” Ben said as he sounded weaker and weaker. “It’s possible, but with the blood loss he suffered…it’s not likely.”

Ben started to close his eyes, but Jack slapped his cheek. “You stay with me. We need you to find this place.”

“Just follow the road off Falls Mills Way. You’ll run right into it at the base of the mountain,” Ben said as he started to lose consciousness.

When Martin saw that Ben was losing consciousness, he opened his phone and dialed 911.

“This is Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald, badge number 1833391. I need two ambulances. I’m on Interstate 87, approaching exit 229. I’m in a dark blue Crown Vic, plate number 387 JKU. Have the ambulances meet us at the exit and follow us to our destination. We have one man who has ingested cyanide and another man at the destination that will need emergency medical attention.”

After the operator verified the instructions, Martin hung up the phone.

“How much farther?” Jack asked.

“According to GPS, about twenty minutes. Should we stop when we see the ambulances so they can take him to the hospital?” Martin asked.

“No. Keep going. He’s dead,” Jack said, rubbing his eyes.

XXX

“Okay. Okay, Jack,” Samantha said into her phone. “I’ll let her know,” she said before closing her phone.

“What? What’s happening?” Viv asked. She’d been following Jack and Martin for the last twenty minutes. She was startled when Martin swerved slightly and slowed down. A few minutes later, Samantha’s phone rang.

“Hancock’s dead. He had a cyanide tablet with him.”

“Oh God…how…how are we going to find him?”

“Jack says he told them exactly where to find Danny. An ambulance is going to catch up with us once we get off the exit.”

“So Danny’s alive?” Viv asked hopefully.

“Hancock locked him in a shed and left him there. It’s been over three days. I don’t know…”

“He’s strong, Sam.”

“But he was wounded and lost so much blood.”

Taking a deep breath, Viv tightened her grip on the steering wheel. “We just have to get there,” she said. “He’ll be okay. We just have to get there.”

FBI Building -- Two and half months earlier, November 2002

Gathering her purse, Viv stood up from her desk and turned off the desk light. They’d had a long few days working on the Andy Deaver case. The night before, they’d found Andy in a cave.

I’m taking off,” Viv said to Danny, who was focused on something at his desk. “You leaving soon?”

Um…yeah. I just want to finish this before I go,” he replied in a distracted tone.

You should get out of here. We’ve had a tough few days.”

Not as tough as Andy Deaver,” Danny muttered.

Before Viv could respond, Jack approached them. “I just talked to Andy’s mother. They released him from the hospital about an hour ago.”

Good. Maybe the healing process can begin for him,” Viv responded quietly. “What about Spaulding? Any news on him?’

At the mention of Spaulding’s name, Danny looked down at his desk. He could almost feel Jack’s glare in his direction.

His lawyers are pushing for a deal, but the U.S. attorney isn’t going to play. She thinks she can put a strong case together with Andy’s testimony…despite everything else.”

Viv threw Jack a disapproving look, silently telling him that his last comment was unnecessary. “Andy will testify and Spaulding will go away for good. That’s all that matters now.”

Right,” Jack responded. “I’m headed home now as well. See you guys on Monday.”

“’Night, Jack,” Viv said. When Jack was out of earshot, she laid a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “It’s over, Danny. Andy is safe. That’s the most important thing.”

He turned to look at her and gave her a small smile. “Yeah. I know.”

She looked at him for a few moments as an idea came to her mind and then spoke again. “I’m meeting Reggie and Marcus at our favorite pizza joint in Brooklyn. You want to join us?”

Danny’s smile widened. “Thanks, Viv, but you haven’t seen your family all week.”

Reggie would love to see you.”

Maybe some other time. I’m really beat. I’m just going to go home…and crash,” Danny replied in a quiet tone.

“I should have insisted,” Viv mumbled to herself.

“What?” Samantha asked.

“I was just thinking about the night that Danny met Emily Phelps. He was down about the Deaver case and I asked him to come to dinner with my family. I should have insisted – then maybe he never would have met her and gotten sucked into all of this.”

Samantha sighed heavily as she responded, “You can’t—“

“Here we go,” Viv interrupted as they pulled up to a small cabin. The caravan of vehicles, which now included two ambulances, came to an abrupt stop.

Before Viv could even turn off the car, she saw Jack and Martin rush out of their car and ran back to the back of the house.

She and Samantha quickly exited their car as well. Viv approached one of the EMTs and explained, “Two of you come with us. The other two can tend to the man in the back seat. He’s the one who ingested the cyanide tablet.

Samantha, Vivan and two EMTs then rushed behind the house. As they approached, they watched Martin break the pad lock with a crowbar and open the door.

Jack and Martin entered the shed.

“He’s over here!” Martin shouted.

The EMTs rushed in behind them. Moments later, Jack came out of the shed, wiping tears from his eyes.

Samantha gasped as Jack approached them.

“He’s alive!” Jack called out.

Jack rode in the ambulance with Danny. He thought they’d never make it to the hospital. The paramedics had started an IV and wrapped Danny in a thermal blanket to increase his body temperature, but he still hadn’t regained consciousness. If the paramedic hadn’t kept checking his pulse, Jack would have thought he was dead.

His skin was paler than Jack had ever seen it, and stood out in sharp contrast against his dark, four-day-old beard. His knuckles were bruised and bloody from where he’d likely tried to get the door open. The paramedic said he would have frozen to death if not for an old space heater in the shed.

When they finally arrived at the hospital, Jack met up with Martin, Samantha and Vivian as they all waited inside the small emergency room of the nearest local hospital. Through the window, they watched as a doctor tended to Danny while nurses put more blankets on him, inserted a chest tube, and refilled his IV. A few minutes later, the doctor finished his examination and walked out into the hall to speak to them.

“We’ve stabilized him. The breathing tube will help him for now. The important thing is that we keep the IV going and help his body temperature rise,” he said to the worried team. “A medivac chopper should be here any minute.”

“Is it a good idea to move him so soon?” Jack asked.

“No choice. We aren’t really equipped to help him here. The chopper will take him to St. Andrew’s.”

“Can I go with him?” Jack asked.

“No. That’s not a good idea. I’ll be traveling with him and a nurse. There’s no room for anyone else. We’ll make sure we keep him stabilized.”

Vivian spoke up, voice full of concern. “What if he wakes up? He’s been locked up in the dark for the last three days. He’ll be—“

“He’s not waking up anytime soon. We put him in a kind of coma for now, until his body temperature rises. If he woke up now, right now, it’s very possible he’d stop breathing from the shock. He’ll be unconscious for the next twenty-four hours,” the doctor replied. “Now I need to go to prepare for our flight.”

“Okay. Thank you,” Jack said. Taking a deep breath, Jack turned to face the others. “Did you fill Van Doren in?” he asked Vivian.

“I did. She said we could give our account of what happened with Dr. Hancock tomorrow. In the meantime, she’s informing his family and an autopsy will be performed in the morning. She also said that they let Emily Phelps go home.”

Jack nodded. “Okay, um, we all need to file reports in the morning. You guys should go home, get some sleep and come back tomorrow to regroup.”

“What about you?” Samantha asked. “Are you going home?”

“I, uh, yeah, I’m going home.”

Samantha nodded as they all slowly walked out of the hospital.

XXX

Martin pulled up to Jack’s building and stopped.

“Good work today,” Jack said as he opened the door. “Van Doren will want a detailed account of what happened when we apprehended Hancock. He might have turned out to be certifiable, but in society’s eye, he’s a respected surgeon.”

“I know,” Martin replied.

“If you’re asked about how we handled him in the parking garage—“

“I’ll tell them that we spotted him, apprehended him and questioned him until he agreed to take us to Danny.”

Jack shook his head. “You don’t have to lie. I’ll take the heat.”

“It’s not a lie. It’s what we had to do to find Danny. That’s it.”

“Yeah. Okay,” Jack said quietly as he got out of the car. Before shutting the door, he leaned in. “Hey, listen, before you come in tomorrow, would you—“

“I got it, Jack. I’ll take care of it,” Martin replied.

“Okay. Thanks.”

XXX

After taking a long, hot shower, Samantha tried in vain to go to sleep. As exhausted as she felt, her thoughts still insisted on replaying the day's events over and over in her mind. Then her thoughts settled on Jack. She’d never seen him as fragile as she had that day. Even though he’d told her not to, she got up, put on some clothes and headed to the hospital.

Twenty minutes later, she arrived on the ICU floor of St. Andrew’s Hospital. She knew she wouldn’t be able to see Danny, but at the very least, she could hang out until the morning. She paused a moment before turning down the hall that led to the waiting room, anticipating who she expected to be there.

Walking into the waiting room, she saw him sitting in one of the chairs with his head tilted back. Quietly, she took a seat next to him and dropped a small bag on the table in front of them.

Feeling a presence next to him, Jack opened his eyes. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Sam responded with a slight smile.

“I told you to get some sleep.”

“You also said you were going to do the same.”

Sighing, Jack shook his head. “He doesn’t have anyone, Sam. If something happened to him and no one was here—“

“I know.”

“Viv said that she would be here after she got Reggie off to school so I could head to the office. I was going to ask you or Martin to come tomorrow afternoon.”

“Well, I’ll come tomorrow afternoon as well. But in the meantime, I figured you hadn’t eaten anything so I brought you some breakfast,” she said handing him the bag.

“Thanks,” he replied.

Opening the bag, he took out two small breakfast sandwiches and two bottles of orange juice. He handed her a sandwich and juice and they both ate in silence. They hadn’t realized how starving they both were.

“I think that was the best meal I’ve had in a very long time,” Jack said as he wiped his mouth with a napkin.

Samantha smiled. “Long days and happy endings will do that for you.”

“Happy endings. It could have easily have gone the other way. He was so near death, Sam. If it had been one more hour—“

“But it wasn’t. He’s safe.”

“Yeah. Safe,” Jack responded, blinking his eyes. “Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten. Now I can barely keep my eyes open.

“Mmmmm. Me, too. I couldn’t fall asleep at home, but now…”

“Come here,” he said as he put his arm around her shoulders.

“Jack…” she protested.

“It’s 5 a.m. No one will notice. Come here,” he said again.

Slowly, she laid her head down against his shoulder as he tilted his head to rest against hers. It was a familiar feeling for both of them. Within minutes, they were fast asleep.

XXX

For the next two days, they took shifts waiting for Danny to wake up. Martin had even called Danny’s friend, Jennifer Redmond, and his sponsor, Jim Weatherly to sit with him as well. Everyone was worried about the length of time Danny had remained in his coma, but the doctor assured them that this was normal. His body was getting a chance to heal. They’d taken his breathing tube out, shortly after his temperature rose to normal. Now they just waited for him to wake.

Two nights after they’d found him, the whole team found themselves assembled in the waiting area on the floor of his hospital room. They hadn’t all planned on being there. Samantha had said she would sit with him for a while, but somehow Jack, Vivian and Martin showed up as well.

It was the first opportunity that Jack had had to talk to all of them since they’d parted at the small upstate New York hospital. The past few days had been busy with completing reports and doing interviews with OPR. Things had finally settled down for all of them.

“You know, after Danny wakes up, and comes back to work, I’m sure he’ll have a hard time when he realizes that we had to dissect his life to find him.”

Vivian nodded. “I’ve been thinking about that as well. He’s always been so private. Now his whole history and life is documented in his case file. He won’t like that.”

“He’ll be okay,” Samantha responded. “I understand how he feels, but we had to do it to find him.”

Martin nodded in agreement.

“The most important thing is that we just try to make things as normal as possible at work. Obviously, he’ll have to deal with some things in his personal life, but work will be what it’s always been for him.”

“He’s been through hell,” Martin responded. “I don’t see how he could just—“

“Once he gets back in his routine, he’ll be fine,” Vivian interrupted. “This is Danny. He’ll bounce back.”

“Yeah, but—“ Martin stopped, his eyes fixed on the nurse who’d just entered the waiting room.

“Agent Malone?” she said, looking at Jack. “He’s waking up.”

Closing her eyes, Vivian said a silent prayer as they all stood up.

“All of you can’t go in at once. It would be too overwhelming,” the nurse said.

Samantha spoke up. “Why don’t you and Viv go in?” she suggested as she looked at Jack. “Martin and I will wait out here.”

Nodding their thanks, Vivian and Jack quickly made their way out of the room.

XXX

As Vivian and Jack entered his room, the nurse was giving Danny small drinks of water while the doctor checked his vital signs.

“Everything looks good,” the doctor said as he made some notes on his chart. “Nurse, keep his IV going and then start introducing broth in a couple of hours.”

“Thanks,” Danny said in a hoarse whisper before the doctor walked out of the room.

When the doctor walked away, Danny came into full view. He still looked pale, and his eyes were barely open. Slowly, Viv and Jack approached him.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Viv said gently as she stood on one side and Jack stood on the other.

“So are you,” he croaked out, not able to really speak yet.

Vivian and Jack both smiled.

“What happened?” Danny managed to say.

“We can fill you in on the details later. And we’ll get your statement, but for now, you just need to rest,” Jack replied quietly.

Vivian continued. “We just wanted you to know that we’re here.”

Danny just nodded as his eyes closed.

“He’ll probably be like this for the next few hours. He’ll be more alert in the morning,” the nurse said.

XXX

“I kept thinking he’d let me go, you know? When I was talking to him in the shed, I thought I had convinced him. I was so sure. But I knew when he walked out that door that he wouldn’t come back. I yelled and yelled. When that didn’t work, I bit through the tape on my wrists. Then I banged on the door for hours. I tried to kick it open. Nothing worked.”

“It was pad-locked with a chain. No one could have gotten through it,” Viv responded. She’d come back the next morning to take Danny’s full statement and hearing his account was tearing her up inside.

“At some point, I gave up on him coming back. And then I just started going through everything in the shed. It was hard, because it was dark, but finally I found this old space heater. Thankfully, there was an electrical outlet in the shed. I kept turning it off and on. At one point, I thought about starting a fire with the heater. But my fear of being cooked alive stopped me. And then, then eventually, the fuse blew on the outlet. Without the heater, I knew I was in trouble. I wasn’t sure what day it was, so I didn’t know if you were guys were looking for me or not.”

“We started looking when you didn’t show up on Monday morning.”

Danny smiled. “That thought kept me sane, knowing that you guys would be out there. But at one point…,” Danny stopped and swallowed hard before he continued, “At one point, I did give up. I just thought it was over, so I closed my eyes and…”

“…and we found you,” Viv said with a smile as she took his hand.

“You did,” he replied, voice cracking with emotion.

XXX

Two Days Later

“So I hear you get sprung today,” Martin said as he stood in the doorway.

Danny smiled. “Hey. Yeah. I’m waiting for some test results about electrons or electrolytes…something like that. Anyway, if that checks out, then yeah…I’m out of here.”

“Good to hear,” Martin said as he sat on the bed, since Danny was sitting up in a chair. “Sorry I haven’t been here sooner—“

“No worries, man. Viv told me you guys caught a case. The people didn’t stop from going missing when you found me.”

“No. No they didn’t.” Martin smiled. He didn’t quite know what to say. He actually had a point for coming, but didn’t know how to put it in words.

Danny smiled again. “Hey, you know between being locked up for three days and being in here another two days, I’ve had a chance to do a lot of thinking.”

“Have you?”

“Yeah. I’ve come to the conclusion that when your co-worker invites you to go drinking after game-winning shots, you should definitely take him up on said offer.”

Martin shook his head as he tried not to smile. “You have no idea how I wish you would have, man. Or, if I’d suggested to grab a burger instead. I just didn’t know…” Martin almost said ‘I didn’t know you were an alcoholic.’ But he didn’t.

“What are you going to do?” Danny shrugged, his smirk firmly in place.

Martin shook his head again, amazed at Danny’s composure. Running a hand over his mouth, he still struggled to find the words.

“What is it, Martin?” Danny asked.

“I, um, I have something to tell you, but I don’t want upset you.”

Frowning, Danny asked, “What? Did I scare away the hot nurse?”

Rolling his eyes, Martin shook his head. “No. I, um, well, when we were looking for you, we had to, you know…”

“Find out everything about me. I know, Martin. I’m familiar with the concept.” And now the smile had faded from Danny’s face.

“Right. I, um, Jack and I went to see your brother.”

Danny took a short breath, as though he were processing the information. “I’m guessing he wasn’t much help.”

“Not really, but we still had to talk to him.”

“Okay…so…you talked to him. And?”

“When he found out you were missing, he asked us to let him know when we found you. He was really worried about you. So I went to see him again the morning after we found you.”

This time, Martin met Rafael in one of the prison corridors. His cuffs were on and there were bars between them. Since this wasn’t a formal interview, the warden was less accommodating.

How is he?” Rafael asked.

He’s alive. He’s in a coma, but the doctors say it’s just temporary. He has wounds that need to heal, but nothing he can’t recover from.”

Agradezca A Dios. Agradezca A Dios,” he said as he bowed his head. “Who the hell did this to him?”

It’s a long story, but basically a jealous boyfriend of someone that Danny had been seeing.”

When that bastard gets sentenced, make sure he comes here and I’ll make sure—“

He’s dead. He killed himself, but that would have been my first choice for him as well.”

Rafael shook his head. “Danny doesn’t deserve this.”

Martin nodded. “No. He doesn’t”

Do you think…do you think I could get out to see him while he’s in the hospital? I’d just like to see him. It might even be easier for both of us if he’s in a coma while I do it.”

Smiling dryly, Martin shook his head. “They’d only consider letting you out if it was a funeral. Doesn’t make much sense, I know.”

I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask.”

Martin watched as the other man bowed his head again and sniffed slightly as he wiped his eyes. “Listen, after Danny feels better, I’ll tell him how you cooperated with us. And I’ll let him know that you’d like to see him, if he feels up to it.”

You’d do that?” Rafael said as he looked up.

Sure.”

“How did he look? I mean, did he…did he look okay? Did he look healthy?” Danny asked after hearing Martin’s account.

Martin nodded. “He seemed fine. He was just worried about you.”

Danny smirked. “Yeah.”

“I just wanted to let you know that he cooperated with us, and that he really wanted to see you.”

Danny nodded a reply, but didn’t say anything else.

“Okay, well, I’ll go. Does Jack know you’re getting out today? Do you have someone to take you home?”

“A friend. You probably met him. Jim…Jim Weatherly?”

“Right. Okay. Well, if you need anything, just call. I’ll be around this weekend. Maybe I’ll stop by? See how you’re doing?”

“I’d like that,” Danny replied.

Martin turned toward the door and started to leave, but ended up running into Emily Phelps.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked, voice strained.

Danny looked up to see them standing in the doorway.

Emily stammered. “I, um, I just wanted to see—“

“You shouldn’t be here,” Martin cut her off.

“It’s okay, Martin.”

Martin turned to face Danny. “You don’t have to—“

“It’s okay. I’ll talk to her. You can go. I’m okay.”

Martin hesitated, but then finally left as Emily entered the room.

 

Danny was exhausted. Completely exhausted. But every time he closed his eyes, he was in the shed again. The sensation was so strong that he actually felt a chill in the air.

Jim had brought him home that afternoon. He’d told Danny that he would be happy to stay, but Danny had insisted that he leave by telling him that all he wanted to do was sleep. But now it was evening, and Danny couldn’t even close his eyes. The doctor had given him something for pain and to help him sleep, but he never liked taking drugs. So he only took the pain pills when his stomach or hands became unbearably painful.

He’d tried eating the soup that Karen, his neighbor, had prepared for him, but it hadn’t tasted good to him.

Nothing tasted the same. Nothing felt the same. He felt like he was coming out of his skin, but he didn’t have the energy to get up and move. He couldn’t go for a walk or a run. He just had to lie there on the couch and keep reliving his nightmare over and over again.

Finally trying to close his eyes once again, he was completely startled by the ring of his telephone.

“Christ!” he exclaimed. Taking a deep breath to compose himself, he picked up the phone. “Hello,” he answered in a weak tone.

“Hey. It’s Sam.”

“Hey,” he replied as he sat up.

“I’m downstairs.”

Eyes widening in surprise, he asked, “You’re here?”

“Buzz me up. It’s freezing down here,” Sam responded in an agitated tone.

Nodding, Danny hit the key on the phone to buzz her in.

A couple of minutes later, he heard a key in the door. Samantha knocked as she entered. “You decent?” she called out.

“Yeah.” Danny smirked as his frown deepened. “Um…you have a key to my apartment?”

Samantha walked in, closed the door and went to the kitchen. After putting a brown bag down on the counter, she turned to him. “It’s your neighbor’s key. I forgot to give it back to her. We used it to get into your apartment.”

“Right,” Danny replied, closing his eyes for a moment as reality continued to set in.

“I hope things weren’t too out-of-place when you got here.”

“It wasn’t bad,” he replied quietly, feeling suddenly uncomfortable at the thought of Samantha going through all his personal things.

Samantha sat down next to him on the couch. “How are you feeling?”

Hesitating for a moment, Danny shook his head. “I’m tired. So tired. But I can’t seem to sleep,” he admitted. “I didn’t expect to see you tonight.”

“I hadn’t planned on coming. Jack said you needed your rest,” she paused, carefully considering her next words, “but then Martin told me he saw Emily Phelps at the hospital. That worried me.”

Frowning again, Danny gave her a wry smile. “And what? Did you think you’d find her here?” he asked, looking around the small apartment.

Samantha bit her lip for a moment before responding. “Not really, but I’m the one who interviewed her. She’s quite manipulative.”

Danny nodded. “That she is.”

“Do you…do you want to talk about it…talk about her?”

“Not really.“

“I understand. It’s personal. I just…I understand.”

Danny smiled as he motioned towards the kitchen counter. “What’d you bring me?”

Samantha returned the smile, not surprised that Danny had changed the subject. “I stopped by that soup place down the street.”

“Oh yeah? The one that always has the line out the door?”

“Yes. I braved the cold so I could bring you their special chicken soup. It’s supposed to have healing powers. You hungry?”

“I didn’t think I was, but now that you mention it…”

Minutes later, they were both eating from the large Styrofoam bowls. Danny could only eat about a quarter of the container before he felt full.

“Is it not agreeing with you?” Samantha asked, her voice full of concern.

“No. It’s good. The doctor says I won’t be able to eat like a normal person for at least another week. Apparently, your stomach shrinks when you don’t eat or drink for over three days.”

“Imagine that?”

Danny smiled as he watched Sam continue to eat her soup. They sat in a comfortable silence for several minutes before Danny finally spoke. “I wasn’t in love with her, Sam.”

Samantha looked up as she put down her soup and wiped the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “No?”

Danny shook his head. “No. I just met her at the wrong time…a time when I needed…something…someone. But I knew it was wrong. And I knew it wouldn’t turn out well. I didn’t imagine that all this would happen, but I knew it wasn’t healthy for either of us.”

What do you want?” Danny asked as he watched Emily enter the room.

I wanted to see…to make sure you’re okay,” she replied in a small voice as she sat on the edge of the bed.

Danny nodded as a frown formed in his brow. “Why didn’t you want to make sure I was okay when the FBI questioned you? Why didn’t you tell them what you knew?”

A look of surprised cross Emily’s face, as though she hadn’t expected that he’d confront her.

What? Did you think I would just let that go, like I let the drugs and the blackmail thing go?”

Emily took a deep breath and then she finally responded. “I convinced myself that whatever happened to you was because of the stabbing. I didn’t want to believe that Ben was capable—“

Why didn’t you tell them about the stabbing? I mean, when it was clear that I was gone, why didn’t you just tell the truth?”

Tears filled Emily’s eyes. “I-I…”

Your career…”

No.”

Yes,” Danny replied. After sighing heavily, he continued, “I take responsibility for getting into a self-destructive thing with you. But when you needed me, I was still there for you. I never wanted to see you get hurt.”

I didn’t want to see you hurt either. I made a mistake, but I did…I do have very real, very strong feelings for you.”

Feelings? A…a mistake? This?” he asked as he looked around the hospital room, “is a mistake? I almost died. Your crazy boyfriend locked me up out in the middle of nowhere. A mistake? You really are the definition of a narcissist. And I’m pretty sure you’re not capable of really feeling anything.”

It’s not like I haven’t paid for it, Danny.”

Danny smirked. “Oh, this will be good. How did you pay for it? Did the Congressman dump you?”

When I told Agent Malone about Ben, he told me that I wouldn’t be charged with anything. But that didn’t stop him from calling the hospital and telling him my role in Ben’s death and what happened to you. They kicked me out of the residency program. I’ve been blackballed. Everything I’ve worked for is over.”

Poor you,” he deadpanned without an ounce of sympathy in his voice.

Emily frowned. “So that’s it? We’re done?”

We were already done. I promised myself a long time that I would stop doing unhealthy things. I slipped up when I met you. I won’t do that again.”

“I’m sure that was hard for you,” Samantha said quietly.

“Hard? That woman sent my life into a tailspin—“

“Some part of you must have cared for her. You gave her so many chances. As messed up as she was, I think she cared about you as well. She even tried to stop using for you. She realized what you could bring to her life, but I just don’t think she knows how to love or to be loved,” Samantha said. As she said it, she realized she was talking about herself as well.

Shaking his head, he responded, “I’m an addict, Sam. She was just a new vice, and I rationalized keeping her in my life even when I knew she was bad for me. That’s it.”

Samantha didn’t respond. She knew he was just protecting himself. It was easier for him to pretend instead of dealing with his feelings, so Samantha let it go.

XXX

Two Weeks Later

“How you feeling?” Jack asked, taking a seat at his desk.

Sitting down, Danny responded. “Good. I’m good.”

“I’m going to keep you on a desk for the next week or—“

“Come on, Jack. I’m fine. My stomach and hand are almost completely healed. There’s no reason—“

“You went through a major trauma. I’d like to see for myself that you are fine before sending you out in the field That’s non-negotiable.”

“Okay,” Danny responded, raising his hands in surrender.

“How are you sleeping these days?”

Danny smiled. “Excuse me?”

“Sam mentioned that you’d had trouble sleeping.”

“That was like the first night I got out of the hospital. I’m doing much better,” he lied. He hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since he’d gotten home.

Jack nodded as he took a moment to look at Danny. He really did look like he was back to normal. Other than slight bags under his eyes, the color had returned to his face and he even appeared to be gaining some of the weight he’d lost. But Jack knew, when it came to Danny, looks could be deceiving. He’d looked perfectly fine the two months prior to going missing. None of them had had any idea that he’d gotten mixed up with John Taylor or Emily Phelps until it was too late.

Jack braced himself for his next question. “In addition to desk duty, I’d also like you to get cleared by Dr. Harris.”

Shaking his head, Danny started to rise from his chair.

“Sit down, Danny.”

“I’m not seeing—“

“I said, sit down,” Jack repeated firmly.

Sighing heavily, Danny sat back down. “I’m not seeing a shrink, Jack. I didn’t get hurt in the line of duty. Nothing that happened to me had anything to do with this place. So you don’t have the right—“

“I have every right to protect my team.”

“Who are you protecting? Me? Or them?” he asked, motioning in the direction of the bullpen. “Because I’d never do anything to jeopardize them.”

“I was thinking more about you. You showed poor judgment in your personal life. Dr. Harris could help you examine that.”

Danny’s eyes narrowed in disbelief. Before he could even think of what to say next, he responded, “I used poor judgment? Go to hell, Jack. You have no right…no right—”

“Oh no? Why didn’t you go to the ER after John Taylor stabbed you? He committed a felony. As a federal officer, you were required to report it.”

Closing his eyes, Danny shook his head. “That’s not--”

“What about Emily Phelps?”

“What about her?”

“Do you make it a habit of sleeping with drug users and blackmailers?” Jack asked, but immediately regretted his insensitive tone.

This time when Danny stood up, Jack didn’t even try telling him they weren’t finished. He knew he’d pissed him off completely.

“Is there anything specific you need me to work on while I’m on desk duty?” Danny asked.

“Not at the moment. No,” Jack said as he watched Danny walk out the door.

XXX

As Danny read through the file, his stomach felt like it was tying itself into knots. With the turn of each page, he felt more and more uncomfortable, as though the walls were closing in on him. He tried to take a deep breath, but his lungs felt constricted. Rubbing his eyes, he tried to refocus on the pages in front of him.

“I was wondering where you disappeared to.”

Startled, Danny looked up like a deer caught in headlights to see Vivian walking into the quiet file room.

“Um…I…” Danny stammered.

“Are you all right? You look pale,” she said as she walked towards him.

Shuffling the pages, Danny tried to close the file before she could see it.

When she reached him, Vivian caught sight of the folder. Looking down, she shook her head. “You shouldn’t be looking at that.”

At first, Danny couldn’t respond, a mixture of embarrassment and apprehension making him temporarily mute. Finally, he found the words. “My name’s on the file. If I can’t look at it, I don’t know who can.”

“It’s too soon, after everything, it’s too soon.”

“Come on, Viv. I think it’s only fair that I know.”

“Nothing we found out changes anything.”

“Oh really? Jack feel the same way about that?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, his opinion of me has clearly changed. Not only am I on a desk until he deems me okay for the field, but he also thinks I need a shrink to work on my ‘issues,’ he responded as he motioned to his case file.

“Danny, that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s more about helping you deal with what you went through. You were trapped in a dark, cold room for three days. You can’t possibly just get over something like that.”

Motioning to his file again, he responded, “I’ve been through worse, as you just found out.”

XXX

One Week Later

The week had been nothing short of miserable. Every time Danny caught someone looking at him, he assumed they were judging him. With his file a public record, it stood to reason that all the agents in Violent Crimes knew the truth about him, and he hated the worried, sorrowful glances of pity that came his way.

The environment within the team was worse because they were trying to pretend nothing had changed, as though they didn’t now know every sad detail of Danny’s life. Feeling so exposed, Danny felt more trapped now that he ever had in his three days of captivity.

His agitation was at its height as he sat waiting in Jack’s office. Trying to take a couple of deep breaths, he tried to remain composed.

“Thanks for staying late,” Jack said as he walked in. “I had a budget meeting with Van Doren. I thought it would never end.”

Looking up, Danny nodded as he watched Jack sit down. “It’s fine,” he responded in a quiet tone.

He’d barely spoken to Jack all week, except to give him whatever case-related information he’d tracked down on desk duty. He was surprised when he’d gotten an e-mail from Jack asking that he meet him in his office at 5 o’clock.

“How’d things go this week?”

Frowning, Danny shrugged. “Fine. Did I miss something? I mean, I’ve been here all week.”

“I know, but you’ve also barely said two words to anyone.”

“Busy week,” Danny replied in a short tone.

Jack nodded. “Well, I said that you’d only be on a desk for the week. I’m still not sure your ready, but—“

Danny interrupted. “Um…actually, I’ve been thinking maybe I shouldn’t go out in the field.”

Completely surprised, Jack responded, “What?”

“Yeah, I, um, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week. And I think maybe I need a change.”

“A change?”

Danny nodded.

“What sort of change?”

Danny took a deep breath. “There’s an opening in Legal Affairs. I talked to their SAC, and she says that she’d be interested in hiring me as long as I take the Bar exam within the next year. I figure having a nine to five job would be the best way for me to have time to study.”

For a moment, Jack felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. “What…what…brought this on? If you need time to study, I’ll give you as much time as you need. Legal Affairs is desk job. It’s…it’s securing warrants and bureaucratic litigation. I can’t imag—“

“I just need something until I can pass the bar, then I’ll probably leave the FBI,” Danny responded in a matter-of-fact tone. He was trying to stay composed, trying not to let Jack see how this was tearing him a part.

“Danny, what’s wrong? We just got you back. We don’t want to lose you again.”

“I’d just be upstairs,” he replied, still trying to keep any hint of emotion out of his voice.

“You need more time—“

“I don’t need time. I need to move on. This is the time to do it.”

“What if I don’t sign the transfer?”

Danny smirked. “You’re seriously going to deny me the opportunity to further my career? Why?”

“Because you are a part of this team.”

“It’s just a job, Jack,” Danny lied. It was everything to him.

“What’s happened to you? What happened to you in that shed?”

Rolling his eyes, Danny laughed. “It’s not about what happened there. Don’t you get it? You don’t see me the same way you used to. None of you do. And I can’t take that.”

“Nothing we found out about you changes how we feel.”

“Right, Jack. That’s why you think I’m this dysfunctional, damaged soul who needs therapy so I don’t demean myself anymore.”

“I don’t think…” he started to respond and then paused as he careful chose his words, “All I said was that I thought you could benefit from talking to someone. You went through hell in that shed. And yes, it’s also apparent that you went through hell in your past. I think…I think it’s fairly remarkable that you’ve managed to turn out as well as you have. You didn’t deserve any of the bad things that happened to you. All I’m saying is that you may need some help processing it. Let me get you some help. Don’t run away, Danny.”

Danny had to take a quick, deep breath to stop himself from losing it. He looked away from Jack, struggling to control his features. He had to do this. He had to get away, start over. Finally gaining the control he needed, he turned to Jack. "I don't want to run away...but I feel like the walls are closing in on me here, Jack. I need a change," he said firmly.

Three Weeks Later

“Did you go see your brother last week?” Dr. Harris asked.

Danny shook his head.

Dr. Harris didn’t respond. She just waited.

“I called him,” Danny finally said. He was sitting on the couch in her office. She was sitting in their adjacent chair.

“So you did talk to him.”

Danny nodded.

“You want to talk about it?”

“We didn’t say much. I just let him know I was okay. That’s it.”

“I’m sure that meant a lot to him,” Dr. Harris responded in a gentle tone.

This was Danny’s third session with Dr. Harris. Jack had told him he would support his transfer if he just went to see Dr. Harris or any doctor of his choosing for a month. So Danny complied, if for no other reason than to prove to Jack that he was fine.

“Any other contact with Emily?” Dr. Harris asked hesitantly. This was an area that he’d had trouble opening up about.

“Nope.”

“How do you feel about that?”

Danny shrugged. “It’s what I wanted.”

“Still…it was the end of a relationship. That often takes time to heal.”

Danny raised his eyebrows as he glanced at Dr. Harris. “It wasn’t a relationship. It was sex,” he responded callously.

“You don’t believe she had feelings for you?”

Danny shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter. I think if she ever cared about me a little, she would have been truthful with Sam and Jack about Ben Hancock.”

“Do you realize that she is responsible for something really awful happening to you and yet, you don’t sound that angry when you speak about her?”

Looking up at her sharply, he responded, “I’m angry.”

“You don’t seem that angry when you talk about Emily. Is it possible that you are minimizing what happened with Emily? Maybe you regret making yourself vulnerable to her?”

“I wasn’t vulnerable. I wasn’t in love with her. The only thing I regret is getting her help that night. That...was stupid.”

“Still, you were more angry when you talked about Jack and how the rest of the team was treating you.”

“Maybe I expect more out of them,” he responded.

“How are things out there?” Dr. Harris asked as she motioned toward the office.

“Better, I guess. Fewer eggshells. But it doesn’t change what they know. What they all know.”

Dr. Harris smiled. “You’re somewhat of a dichotomy, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, before this, our sessions, my impression of you was that you could care less what people thought about you. You walked around this place with so much confidence.”

“I am confident, but that doesn’t mean I want the world knowing every detail of my life.”

“Danny, you were missing. Your team and to a larger extent, this whole office, did everything in its power to find you. I understand this is all overwhelming, but have you thought about the alternative? What would have happened if they hadn’t done their jobs so well?”

XXX

Later that day

“Your first day back in the field and it’s definitely looking liked a dead-end stakeout,” Martin said as he kept his eyes focused on the apartment building across the street.

“Probably part of Jack’s master plan,” Danny mumbled as he continued to read the Sports section of the newspaper.

“What?”

“Nothing,” he replied as he folded the paper and handed it Martin. “I’ll watch now.”

Martin took the paper, but didn’t open it. “So I hear through the grapevine that you put in for a transfer.”

Not taking his eyes off the building, Danny shook his head. “The grapevine? Right. Was it Jack or Viv who told you?”

“Neither. The receptionist in Legal Affairs asked Sam if you were single. Seems she’s laying the groundwork early.”

“Great,” Danny deadpanned. “Just what I need.”

Martin smiled slightly as he started to respond, but then stopped. Not sure how to phrase what he wanted to say, he stammered, “I just...um...well—“

Glancing over quickly at Martin, Danny frowned. “What?”

“Nothing. I just...when I worked in white collar, we didn’t really work as a team. I had a partner, but a lot of the work we did was separate.”

Still frowning, Danny responded. “So?”

“I think the team we have is really good. I’ve really liked being a part of it that last six months, and I would just hate to see it go away so soon.”

Danny first instinct was to say, he couldn’t agree more. He’d loved being a part of the team, too, but instead he responded, “The team will still be there, with or without me.”

“No. It would be different...a lot different,” Martin replied. After taking a short breath, he continued, “I haven’t known you that long, Danny, but I think you would miss it, too. I’m sure what you went through was a life-changing experience. I understand about wanting to make a change. I really do. But when I decided to make the move from Seattle, I was trying to run toward something.”

“That’s what I’m doing, too,” Danny said, but his voice didn’t sound convincing.

“No. It’s not. It seems to me like you are running away—“

Rolling his eyes, Danny started to argue, but Martin brushed his arm. “That’s our guy,” he said as he pointed to the car that had just pulled up to the building.

Without saying a word, Danny exited the car. All he and Martin had to do was glance at each other to confirm the action they would take. Martin moved to head off their suspect, while Danny quickened his pace to cut the suspect off if he decided to run. Like clockwork, they worked together to apprehend and then question their suspect.

XXX

Later that night

Typing away at his desk, Danny was trying to complete his paperwork before leaving for the evening. Samantha and Martin were boxing up files to return to the file room, as Vivian spoke quietly into her desk phone.

Jack approached Danny’s desk with a file in hand. “You have a minute?” he asked.

Looking up, Danny nodded. “Sure.”

As Martin and Sam passed by wheeling the file cart, Sam said, “We’re returning these. Danny’s finishing up the report, and then we're out of here for the weekend.”

“Sounds good,” Jack replied as they wheeled the cart toward the file room. Turning his attention back to Danny, he leaned against the edge of his desk. “Dr. Harris says I should sign your transfer.”

“Does that mean she deems me well enough to make decisions on my own?” he asked, voice slightly sarcastic.

“Actually, she spent the better part of the last hour telling me that I should have signed it three weeks ago. You have to understand what I...what we went through when we thought you were gone. Maybe I tried to dissuade you from leaving for more personal reasons that I cared to admit. It truly won’t be the same without you, even if you are just upstairs,” Jack said as he handed Danny the signed transfer papers.

Taking the papers, Danny traced his finger across Jack’s signed name. Swallowing hard, Danny quelled the emotion that started to rise. Looking up, Danny watched as Samantha and Martin reentered the bullpen and started to gather their coats. Vivian also rose as she hung up her phone and then took her purse out of a drawer. Then, Danny looked up Jack.

Biting his lip, Danny tore up the transfer order as he gave Jack a small smile. “I, um, I’m not ready to leave yet, if that’s okay with you.”

Jack nodded as his lips curved into an almost smile. "Make sure you e-mail me that report before you leave tonight," he responded as he turned away. Walking towards his office, he tossed one, final comment over his shoulder: "Good work today, everyone."

Danny smiled as he turned back to his computer to put the final touches on his report.