Mr Wonderful

 

Autor: anmodo

 

Spoilers for American Goddess, Clare De Lune, Legacy

 

Candace Reynolds felt like she was living the same night over again. Once again, she found herself in a loud nightclub with her usual circle of girlfriends. They were all looking for the same thing. They wanted to find Mr. Wonderful…the man of their dreams. Candace found three Mr. Wonderfuls in the last month, but none of them bothered to call her back. Every Sunday morning when she met her parents for church, she prayed that she would meet someone so she could stop the endless cycle. She was tired of the whole game. She was tired of drinking way too much, and then waking up next to someone she barely knew.

Of course, all of the good intentions didn’t mean anything to her on this particular Friday night. She was on her fourth Jack and Coke and feeling no pain as she danced with her group of friends. And then she found herself dancing with a potential Mr. Wonderful. He approached her from behind and asked her to dance. She turned to him and nodded because she thought he was cute. They danced for two songs, and then he guided her over to the bar with him to order another drink. They talked and laughed for about two more drinks and then he whispered something in her ear. As she nodded happily and took his hand, she faded away.

Monday morning – Light nightclub

Danny and Samantha drove up to the nightclub called Light at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. Jack told them that a bartender would meet them there. Before they exited the car, Samantha observed, “I notice you didn’t exactly have to ask for directions to find this place. Is it one of your usual hangouts?”

Danny looked at her with a slightly annoyed expression. “Wouldn’t you like to know? I happen to just know this city like the back of my hand. So don’t let your imagination run with this.”

Samantha stepped out of the car and responded, “I’m just making an observation. Believe me…I’ve always envied your active social life.”

“I don’t ever talk about my social life. You just infer everything…so basically, you are wasting your time being envious. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’m the one who has the interesting social life these days.”

Samantha sighed and laughed nervously as she thought of her recent involvement with Martin. She should know better than to get into a verbal battle with Danny. He's won every time. “Right,” she repliedsheepishly as he held the door for her to enter the club.

They walked up to the bar and identified themselves to the bartender. “I’m Special Agent Spade. This is Special Agent Taylor with the FBI. We need to speak with you about a young woman who was here on Friday night.”

“Yeah, my boss told me this morning. He said she disappeared.”

Danny held up a picture of Candace Reynolds. “Does she look familiar to you?”

“Yes. She comes with a group of friends almost every Friday night. I saw her on Friday.”

“Did you notice anything unusual?" Samantha asked.

“Not really. She and her friends drank and danced up a storm. Then later in the evening she hooked up with some guy, and they sat at the bar for a while.”

“Did the guy buy her drinks?” Danny asked.

“Yeah, as I recall, he did. But he paid cash. I remember because he let me keep the change from a hundred.”

“Did they leave together?” Samantha inquired.

“I would assume so, but I honestly didn’t see them leave. He paid for their last round. I got busy at the other end of the bar, and then they were both gone when I came back.”

“You say you assume they left together? Why do you say that?” Danny asked curiously.

“Because that is this girl’s MO,” he said pointing to her picture. “She usually always comes with her friends, and then leaves with some dude.”

“What does this dude look like?” Danny continued.

“Average height and weight with brown hair and eyes. Uh…I think he had mustache or goatee.”

“Would you mind coming to our office to work with a sketch artist and look at the some pictures? We have a few of her friends working with the artist now, but they were all pretty drunk that night,” Samantha said.

“Doesn’t surprise me. Yeah, I’ll come down. No problem. It’s a shame about that girl. But at some point, her luck was bound to run out. All the guys she’s left with…they can’t all be good guys…you know?”

“Yeah…we’ll see…” Danny responded as he turned to leave with Samantha. “Thanks for your help, man.”

Danny and Samantha returned to the office and took seats around the conference table along with Martin and Jack. Vivian was still with Candace’s parents. Danny glanced at the picture of Candace Reynolds on the whiteboard. She was cute, but not what he would call attractive. She looked like a million other girls that he’d seen time and again at clubs like those. Samantha was right when she called him on being familiar with the club. He’d been there a few times with different dates over the years, but he hadn’t been there in a while. When he was much younger and still drinking, he would go to places like those to find girls. He imagined that he could have hooked up with someone like Candace during that time of his life, and then never called her again.

“Danny…Danny…are you still with us?” Jack asked as he interrupted Danny’s trip down memory lane.

“Yeah…sorry…just thinking. She could have hooked up with anyone. It’s a needle in a haystack.”

“I’ve interviewed all six of her girlfriends. They don’t remember anything specific about this guy. They say he looks similar to all the other guys that hit on them at that place. I have them looking through mug shots now,” Martin said.

“It’s funny. I talked to her parents earlier, and they don’t know anything about her social life. They say she hasn’t brought a boyfriend home with her in over two years. And yet, they seem rather close with Candace. She spends every Sunday with them in Scarsdale,” Jack remarked.

“Now that doesn’t surprised me,” replied Samantha. “She’s a 26-year old graduate student who’s trying to find Mr. Right in a bar. That’s not something you want to admit to your parents. She was probably hoping to find the guy she could eventually bring home to her parents.”

Danny gave Samantha a knowing smirk, and she returned a glare to him. “Speaking of boyfriends, do we have anyone to interview there? Maybe she has a stalker who saw her leave with Mr. Right, and got pissed,” remarked Danny.

Jack slid a paper to Danny and replied, “Here’s a list from her mother and friends. Why don’t you start doing background on them and see who we can interview.”

Danny nodded and then heard his phone ring at his desk. “Excuse me,” he rolled his chair to his desk and picked up the phone. “Taylor. Yeah…OK…hang on a second I’ll put you on speaker.” Danny transferred the call to the conference phone on the table. “It’s Viv. She has something for us at the Reynold’s house.”

Jack clicked the conference phone on and asked, “What do you have, Viv?”

“We just got a letter from Candace. Mrs. Reynolds just found it in the mailbox. She hadn’t checked it since Saturday before they reported her missing after church on Sunday. There’s no postage on it, so someone must of dropped it in the mailbox. I called a crime scene team to come check out the mailbox and letter.”

“What does it say?” Jack asked.

“I think you’re going to find this familiar. Listen to this:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’ve decided to take off for a couple of months. I’ve met a great guy, and we want to get away for a while. I can’t wait for you to meet him. I’ll call you soon.

Love, Candace

“Oh no,” Jack said as he shook his head.

“He’s back,” Samantha whispered.

“Who’s back?” Martin asked completely confused.

“A sick son of a bitch who kidnapped and killed four girls. We haven’t heard from him in over three years,” Danny answered in a distracted tone.

“We didn’t even realize he was a serial killer until his third victim. The parents of the two previous victims believed the letters were real until it was too late. He keeps them alive for at least month before he kills them,” Jack explained.

“What stopped him? Why didn’t he continue?” Martin asked as he realized this must have been a tough case for the whole team.

“The fifth got away. He stopped because he didn’t finish the job with her,” Danny answered.

“Are we sure this is the same guy?” asked Samantha. “Maybe it’s a coincidence or a copycat.”

“The letter was never mentioned to the media, and it’s word for word what was sent to the other parents. It can’t be a coincidence. And the MO fits…he picked her up in a bar,” Jack replied.

“What do you want me to tell the parents?” Vivian asked still on the line.

“I’m on my way over, Viv. We’ll talk to them together. They need to be prepared,” Jack answered.

“Okay. See you soon.”

“Martin – get the original case file out. We need to start looking at everything we have on the victims. Maybe a fresh pair of eyes will do us some good. Danny, Samantha – track down Kelly Carmichael…we’ll need to talk to her,” Jack ordered.

Danny looked up from the table. “Jack…Is it really necessary to involve her? She's probably still not over this thing?"

"No she probably isn't. But she is our best lead, Danny," Jack responded.

"Don’t you think Samantha can track down Kelly Carmichael on her own? I really think we need to focus on looking at the previous case files. I’ll work with Martin.”

Samantha and Martin looked at each other with surprise. Danny rarely ever questioned Jack’s orders. He was usually the first out the door.

“I realize that we need to focus on the case files, but first, we need to talk to Ms. Carmichael. And she is familiar with you…and Samantha. I would appreciate it if you would just do as I ask,” Jack replied slightly annoyed.

Danny just nodded and rolled back to his desk.

Martin walked over to Samantha as Jack left for the Reynold’s house. “Who’s Kelly Carmichael?”

“The fifth victim.”

“How did she get away?”

“Danny found her in an abandoned house about two weeks after she was taken. He was following what we thought was a dead lead from a nosy neighbor. We had a description of the car that was used in her abduction. This old woman reported that this car was all of the sudden showing up across the street at this abandoned house. Danny took the call and found Kelly in the basement of the house.”

“You think that’s why he doesn’t want to see her? Maybe it was traumatic?”

“It’s possible. It’s a pretty brutal case. You’ll see when you read the case file.”

“How was Kelly Carmichael abducted?”

“Same as Candace. She was a party girl who went home with the wrong guy…”

“You ready, Sam?” Danny interrupted.

“Yeah…let’s go. We’ll be back soon,” she said to Martin as she and Danny left to find Kelly Carmichael.

“Are you okay?” Samantha asked as they got in the car to go to Kelly Carmichael's house.

“I’m fine,” Danny replied in a short tone.

“I can understand that it would be hard to see her again. I know when you found her, she was in bad shape.”

“It’s not that. It’s…it's nothing. It’s just a waste of time and resources. Kelly Carmichael is no threat. I'm pretty sure you could handle bringing her in on your own.”

“I think Jack just wants her to feel comfortable…to feel safe. And he probably just assumes that she would feel the safest with you…because you found her.”

Danny looked to the road and shook his head pensively. “I don’t think that matters anymore,” he said as he started to drive toward the Carmichael residence.

They drove in relative silence. Samantha felt a little strange because usually Danny was more talkative…usually he talked too much. He was the one who didn’t like uncomfortable silences. But she didn't push it. She just racked her brain trying to refresh her memory of the three year old case.

Danny pulled into the gate of the huge Hamptons estate. The Carmichaels were an old money New York family. Mr. Carmichael was a mogul in Manhattan real estate. Kelly Carmichael’s last known address was with her parents.

After Samantha rang the doorbell, a maid answered the door. “Hi. We’re with the FBI, and we are looking for Kelly Carmichael.”

The maid inspected their badges thoroughly and then she responded, “She doesn’t live here anymore. She moved out about a year ago.”

“Do you have a current address for her?” Danny asked.

“No. I don’t. Mrs. Carmichael doesn’t give Kelly’s address to anyone.”

“Can we speak with Mrs. Carmichael?” Samantha asked.

Please come in,” she answered and then walked down the hall.

Danny and Samantha waited in the opulent foyer. “If she’s moved out of her parent’s house, maybe that means she been able to move on from the whole trauma,” Samantha said as she surveyed their surroundings.

Danny nodded and then replied quietly. “It’s too bad we have to drag her back in to it now.”

A moment later, Mrs. Carmichael entered the foyer. “Beth says you are looking for Kelly. What’s this about?”

Samantha noticed that Mrs. Carmichael’s eyes went directly to Danny, and she had an almost angry tone.

Samantha started. “Mrs. Carmichael, we need to speak with Kelly right away. It’s concerning her case.”

“Kelly is finally getting her life on track. She is finally turning the corner. Why are you bothering her now?” Mrs. Carmichael asked as she continued to glare at Danny.

Samantha waited a beat for Danny to jump in, but he didn’t say anything. So she continued. “We need to speak to her regarding a federal investigation. We can’t give you specific details, but it is imperative that we speak to her.”

Mrs. Carmichael finally looked at Samantha. “Can you assure me that she will be kept safe? Can you assure me that her privacy will not be compromised?”

“Yes, ma’am. We promise she will be safe with us,” Samantha answered still bewildered by Danny’s silence.

“She purchased a loft last year in Greenwich Village. The loft is actually in her father’s name. All of her mail still comes here. Very few people know that she lives there, and we'd like to keep it that way,” Mrs. Carmichael responded as she glanced at Danny again.

“We need the exact address,” Danny finally said quietly.

Just as he spoke, Samantha’s cell phone rang. “Excuse me,” she said as she walked away.

Mrs. Carmichael walked over to a bureau, opened a drawer, and pulled out a pen and paper. She wrote down the address and handed it to Danny. “Do you really think you are helping Kelly by seeing her, Danny?”

“Mrs. Carmichael…”

“She is doing well now. She’s happier than I’ve seen her in a long time.”

“If there was some way we could do this without involving her, believe me, I wouldn’t be here. But it’s possible that another girl has been taken by the same man. Right now, Kelly is our only hope.”

“That doesn’t explain why you have to be the one to talk to her,” she whispered.

Danny sighed and motioned toward Samantha. “I didn’t have much of a choice, but I’ll make sure that Agent Spade talks to her.”

“Fair enough.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Carmichael,” Danny said curtly as he started to walk toward Samantha just as she was closing her phone. “I got the address. Let’s go.”

“Okay,” she replied still a bit confused as he guided her out the door.

Once they settled back into the car and Danny was driving back to town, Samantha asked, “What was up with Mrs. Carmichael? She seemed almost angry with you.”

“I think she is just upset that we have to involve her daughter in this,” Danny replied.

“Yeah, I agree, but she seemed angry with you…specifically. That’s ridiculous. If it weren’t for you, her daughter would be dead.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Rich people are a strange bunch,” he replied with a shrug.

“I think it’s good that she’s finally on her own. I think that shows that she is recovering from everything that happened to her.”

“I hope so,” Danny said quietly almost to himself.

He and Samantha arrived in Greenwich Village and parked in front of a tall building. They walked in and showed their FBI credentials to a security guard in the lobby. He directed them to the elevator that would take them to the top floor. They rode up to the 10th floor, stepped out and knocked on the only door in the hallway. After a minute, the door was opened by a very tall, muscular man wearing a muscle shirt and jeans. “Can I help you?” he asked in a curious tone.

“Does Kelly Carmichael live here?” Danny asked surprised to see the man.

“Yes. She lives here. Who the hell are you?”

“Agents Taylor and Spade with the FBI. We need to speak with Ms. Carmichael,” Danny continued.

“The FBI? Look, she's finally getting over all that. What do you need from her now?”

“That’s something we need to speak with Ms. Carmichael about,” Samantha said. “May we come in?”

“I guess. You've got the guns.”

Danny eyed the man skeptically and asked, “Do you live here, Mr…”

“My name is Bobby…Bobby Willis. I live here occasionally when my latest and greatest hasn’t worked out. But I work here everyday. I’m an artist. Let me see if I can’t round up Kelly girl.”

Danny and Samantha walked into a spacious loft that took up the entire 10th floor. Half of the loft looked like an art gallery. The other half was the living area. Reggie walked toward the living area and called out, “Angel face, you have company. The FBI is here.” And in a tone that he thought Danny and Samantha couldn’t hear, he said, “They don’t look like FBI agents. They are both hot, hot, hot. Kind of like Barbie and her Latin lover Ken.”

Samantha and Danny both chuckled at the dramatic tone of the obviously gay man. After a few moments, Kelly Carmichael hesitantly came out of the bedroom and walked toward them. She crossed her arms self-consciously before she asked in a small voice, “My mother told me you needed to speak with me. What’s this about?”

As she approached them, Danny saw that she hadn’t changed very much. Her streaky, blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her beautiful, blue eyes still had the haunted, frightened look that they had when he found her in that basement.

As Samantha started to talk, she noticed that Kelly completely avoided looking at Danny which was the exact opposite of her mother. “Kelly, we know that you’ve worked really hard to move on, and we don’t want to bother you. But, we believe another young woman has gone missing. We believe that the man who took you is responsible.”

“Her parents got a letter?” she asked as she didn’t take her eyes off Samantha.

“Yes. This morning,” Samantha replied.

Kelly sank into a chair and ran her hand over her face. “I thought…I thought he was gone. I thought I was safe.”

“You are safe. We won’t let anything happen to you,” Danny said as he looked down at her with a concerned stare.

Kelly finally made eye contact with him as tears filled her eyes. “Don’t make promises that you can’t keep, Danny.”

Samantha looked at the two of them with surprise. Danny was clearly uncomfortable, and Kelly had a sad, hurt tone.

“Kelly, we need you to come with us. You will be safe with us. You are our best hope of finding her,” Samantha pleaded.

“What’s her name?” Kelly asked.

“Candace Reynolds,” Samantha answered.

“Where was she when she disappeared?”

“A nightclub called Light,” she answered again.

“Wow…it’s exactly the same. Part of me hoped…I hoped that he died,” Kelly said quietly. And then after thinking for a few minutes, she said, “Let’s go. I’m ready.”

Kelly stood up and put on her jacket. When she grabbed her purse from the table, she called out to Bobby, “Bobby, I’m going with these agents. I’ll call you later, okay?”

“OK, angel face. Take care of yourself,” he replied.

Danny opened the door and they all walked out. When they were in the car, Samantha tried to make small talk with Kelly.

“Bobby seems entertaining. Have you known him long?”

“Since college…we were both Art majors. When I finally decided to move out of my parents place, I felt a little safer knowing that he would be around…at least some of the time.”

“What are you doing now? Do you paint as well?”

Kelly laughed. “No…I was never very good at art. I just thought it was fun. I haven’t been able…um...I don’t really have a job. Sometimes, I help Bobby display his work in galleries, but that’s it. Currently, I am living off my trust fund.”

“Well if you have it, you might as well use it,” Samantha as she smiled and glanced back at Kelly. When she looked at her, she noticed that Kelly’s eyes were staring in Danny’s direction. Samantha couldn’t put her finger on it, but something was strange between them. And she didn’t understand--because if she were Kelly, she would probably feel safest with the person who saved her and that was Danny.

When they returned to the office, they exited the elevator and Samantha guided Kelly into a conference room. Then she spoke to Danny outside the door. “I’m going to grab a copy of the case file. Do you want to talk to her while I…”

“No. I don’t think I should talk to her,” Danny replied. “She’ll be more comfortable with you. I’ll see if Viv is back. I’ll have her bring the file to you.”

“Danny – what the hell is going on? Why are both Kelly and Mrs. Carmichael uncomfortable around you?” Samantha said finally confronting him.

“It’s…it's...I don’t know, Samantha. Maybe it’s because I found her and it brings back bad memories. I don't know.”

Samantha looked him skeptically. He wasn’t telling her something, but she didn’t have time to deal with it. “Fine. I’ll talk to her. Send Viv in if she is here,” she answered completely frustrated.

Danny headed back to his desk to review the case files of the other missing girls. As he walked into the bullpen, he saw Vivian and Martin talking. “Hey. We found Kelly Carmichael. Sam is talking to her in the conference room. Viv, can you take Sam a copy of the case file and help with the interview?”

Vivian gave him a confused expression. “Danny…shouldn’t you be doing the interview? You're the one whogot her to talk three years ago. She trusts you.”

“I don’t…I think she would be more comfortable talking to a woman. It’s been a long time. I don’t think she trusts any of us all that much at this point. She just wants to be left alone.”

“You can’t really blame her. This has to be tough…to know this guy is still out there,” Martin said.

Vivian was still perplexed by Danny’s rationale. He never shied away from these kinds of interviews. He always excelled at them. But she replied, “I’ll take the file and surveillance photos to Samantha and see if she needs my help.”

“Great. Thanks,” Danny replied and then turned his attention to Martin. “What have we got on background?”

“Well, from what I’ve been reading, all these young women had certain commonalities. The obvious is that they all frequented clubs. But, I think it is also interesting that they all come from two parent homes. All the letters started with “Dear Mom and Dad.” The theory at the time seemed to be that this guy sought out his victim in the club. But what if he planned it. What if he stalked them before he took them.”

“Well, we had that theory back then, but there was no way to find out if it was true because the women died.”

“But Kelly Carmichael didn’t die. She’s alive. Starting with Candace, I’ve started making a list of all the places she frequented…her bank, her gym, her grocery store. Then I think we should get Ms. Carmichael to review the lists. If we can find any commonality, then maybe we can isolate where this guy first saw them.”

Danny tried to worked through Martin's theory by questioning it, so he asked, “Let’s say he sees them at a gym…how does he know they go to clubs? How does he know that she is his type?”

“That’s probably all a part of the game for him. He probably thinks he can pick these types of girls out of a lineup.”

Danny nodded starting to agree. “Okay. Let’s keep going with this list. We can get something to Kelly to review after Samantha finishes the interview.”

As they pursued Martin’s theory, Samantha entered the conference room to find Kelly sitting nervously at the table. She sat across from her and asked, “Before we get started, can I get you a drink…water…coffee?”

“No, thank you. Let’s just get this over with,” Kelly replied.

“Okay…first, I want you to take a look at these sketches,” Samantha said as she handed her some papers. “Does he look familiar to you at all?”

Kelly surveyed the sketches and shook her head. “No, but he was wearing a disguise when I met him at the bar. I thought we established that three years ago?”

“We did. I just wanted to see if you recognized him.”

Just as Samantha was going to continue, Vivian walked in and placed a file folder on the table. “Hi, Kelly. You’re looking well.”

“Agent Johnson,” Kelly responded. She only encountered these agents for a few days three years ago, but Kelly never forgot them.

“I have a security photo from outside the nightclub. It’s grainy, but can you tell me if he looks familiar to you?” Vivian asked as she took a seat next to Samantha.

Kelly looked at the photo. She saw the man holding the cab door for Candace as she slid in the seat. Tears filled Kelly’s eyes as her heart went out to the missing girl. She had no idea what she was getting into when she got into that cab. “He doesn’t look familiar. I’m sorry. I don’t think I can help you,” she said tearily.

Samantha started to speak, but then hesitated. She didn’t want to put Kelly through this, but she didn’t have a choice. “Kelly…you have to take us through what happened to you…step by step.”

“No. Not again. I told Danny everything three years ago after he found me. I shouldn’t have to…”

“No, you shouldn’t have to, but this is the only way. There could have been something that you missed three years ago. The tiniest detail that you tell us about this man could help us find Candace,” Vivian responded as sensitively as possible.

Kelly wanted to be open with Vivian and Samantha. She wanted to do anything she could to help find Candace because she knew better than anyone what was happening to her. She knew that Candace was still alone in a cold, dark place. He wouldn’t come back to her until she was so desperate for light, food, and water that she would be almost happy to see him. Kelly prayed that they would find Candace while she was still alone and before he returned.

 

Three years ago

Kelly lay on the cold, cement floor with her eyes closed. She wanted to sleep. She wanted to go to sleep and wake up to find out this was all a nightmare. The Man had just left her a few minutes earlier. He came every day at this time and made her take a shower. She assumed it was morning because he brought her a pop tart, but she wasn’t sure. She had no idea what day it was. She lost track almost from the moment he dragged her into the basement.

As she finally started to drift off, she heard the door open upstairs. “Oh my god. He’s never done this before,” she thought as she opened her eyes. He's always left after he makes her take the scolding, hot shower in the morning, then he comes back later to “play his games” as he calls them. “Maybe this is it,” she thought. All this time he's told her that he’s waiting until she’s ready…until she is pure enough for him. Kelly’s stomach turned to knots. She sat up and recoiled against the wall as the door to the basement opened.

As soon as the form started to descend the stairs, she knew it wasn’t him. This person was slow and careful…almost hesitant. The Man usually skips down the stairs taking two at a time. She also noticed a light of a flashlight. She wasn’t sure what to do. Should she call out for help? Was it a trick to test her loyalty to the Man? She decided not to say anything. The punishment for making noise would be too severe. Because of the light coming through the open doorway, Kelly could see that the person coming down the stairs was a tall man who was not only holding a flashlight but also a gun. That made her more scared because what if the Man had a friend who was going to hurt her. So she backed into the corner to try and hide herself. When she moved, her chain dragged against the floor. She heard the the tall man call out, “Who’s there?” Kelly froze.

The tall man still hadn’t hit the light switch. He probably couldn’t see it. Kelly just prayed that he didn’t aim the flashlight in her direction. She let out a slight whimper when he turned in her direction. And then the tall man said, “Kelly…Kelly Carmichael…are you down here? My name is Danny Taylor. I’m an FBI agent and I’m here to help you.”

Kelly hadn’t heard her own name in a long time. The Man never called her by her name. She was still scared, but she had to take a chance. “I’m here,” she said in a small voice.

And then Danny's flashlight shined in her direction. “Kelly? We’ve been looking for you,” he said gently as he started to walk toward her. “Are you here alone?”

“Yes. He’s gone. He left a little while ago.”

“Is he supposed to come back?” Danny asked as he kneeled down next to her. She backed further away as he got close to her, so he said, “It’s OK. It’s OK, Kelly. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to take you home…home to your parents. They are very worried about you.”

“He comes back later. I’m not sure when…I just know it’s later. How long have I been here?” she asked starting to feel safe with Danny because of his soothing voice.

“Two weeks. I’m going to call for help now. And then we’ll get you out of here.” Danny opened his cell and dialed Jack. “Jack, I found her. She’s in the abandon house on Grant St. She says that he’s coming back this afternoon. If we can get her out…”

Kelly watched Danny talk to the Jack on the other end of the phone. She could only see him through the light of the small flashlight. But the look she saw in his eyes told her that everything was going to be OK.

“OK…OK…I got it. Thanks, Jack,” he said as he finished the call.

“They’re sending an ambulance now. You’re safe now. Can you move? Is anything broken or bleeding?” he asked quietly.

“No, but I can’t move,” she replied as she started to cry.

“Why not?”

Kelly moved her leg to reveal a heavy-duty chain. “It’s just long enough for me to get over to the restroom. He’s never taken it off of me…the whole time I’ve been here.”

Danny reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a small utility knife. “Do you know who he is, Kelly? Do you recognize him at all?”

“No. I have no idea. I met him…I met him in a bar…,” she said in an ashamed tone.

“We know,” Danny stated as he picked the lock on her ankle shackle. “I’ll have you out in a second. I’ve picked harder locks than this.” And sure enough the shackle came open within seconds, and she was finally free. She became so emotional that Danny gently put his arm around her. “It’s over, Kelly. You’re safe,” he said again. He didn’t feel like he could say it enough.

“Thank you,” she said through her tears.

“All in a day’s work. Now let’s get you out of here. Can you walk?” he said as he started to help her to her feet. As she stood, Danny noticed that she only had on a tank top. So he took off his overcoat, and put it around her as she braced herself against him. When she tried to walk, her knees gave out. He caught her and said, “If it’s OK with you, I can carry you upstairs. We don’t want to wait for the ambulance down here.”

Kelly just nodded and he lifted her easily into his arms. She tucked her head into the curve of his shoulder and closed her eyes. In that moment, she finally felt like it was over.

After he carried her upstairs, he brought her outside slowly so she could get adjusted to the light. Then they waited on the porch until Danny saw the ambulance. Jack requested the ambulance to come without sirens. As soon as the ambulance arrived, everything started to blur together for Kelly. The EMTs helped her onto a gurney and thenchecked her vitals. They started saying things like “dehydrated”, “multiple contusions” and “2nd degree burns.” She kept of a hold of Danny’s hand while they looked at her.

And then she noticed several cars drive up one after another. Danny bent down and said, “I’ve got to talk to my boss, but I’ll be right back. Okay?” Kelly just nodded, but then hesitated as he tried to take his hand away. “These people are going to take care of you. I’ll be right back,” he said as she finally let go of him.

And then he walked quickly to a dark sedan to speak with Jack. The EMTs loaded her into the ambulance. Before they closed the doors, Kelly called out, “Danny…where’s Danny?”

One of the EMTs jumped out of the ambulance and called, “Agent Taylor…we are ready to roll.”

Danny jogged over to the ambulance and stepped in. “Kelly…You’re parents are going to meet you at the hospital. They should be there by the time you get there. I have to stay here, but I’ll come as soon as I can. One of my colleagues, Agent Johnson, is going to meet you there to take your statement. She’ll help you through this.”

“No…I can’t…”

“Kelly, listen to me. You’re safe. And now I have to focus on finding the man that did this to you. Do you understand? We want him to come back here, so we can arrest him,” Danny said in a comforting tone as he gently stroked her arm.

And then Kelly understood. The only way she would truly be OK was if they caught him. So she nodded, and Danny smiled at her reassuringly. “See you soon,” he said before he jumped out of the ambulance.

At the hospital, the blur continued for Kelly as she encountered her parents, doctors and nurses. The doctors treated her for an assortment of injuries. Then finally, Vivian came to see her once she got settled in her room.

“Kelly, I’m Special Agent Vivian Johnson.”

“Hey.”

“I know you’ve been through an ordeal, but I need to talk to you about what happened.”

“Did they catch him? Did he come back to the house?”

“Not yet. We are staking out the house now. You told Agent Taylor that you saw him twice a day. Is that correct?” Vivian asked as she turned on a voice recorder.

“Yes.”

“Did he do that from the beginning?”

“No. I think he left me there for a few days before he finally came back. I’m not sure how long I was there, but it felt like days.”

“Let’s start at the beginning OK? You went to Club Nirvana with a male friend, Brian Winters?”

“Yes.”

“What happened when you got there?”

“Um…he and I had drinks and we danced. And then he ran into the old girlfriend, so he wanted to go home with her.”

“Were you upset about that?”

“No, Brian's just a friend. We just wanted to have some fun. I should have left when he left, but…”

“When did you encounter the man who took you?”

“Shortly after Brian left. I was at the bar…and…he approached me.”

“What did he say?”

Kelly started to cry. “He asked me…he asked me…if I wanted to party with him.”

“And you said yes.”

Kelly nodded with tears streaming down her face.

“Did he tell you his name?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“At what point did you leave with him? Did you leave with him willingly? Or do you think he may have drugged you?”

Kelly started to sob uncontrollably. She shook her head. “I can’t…I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK. It’s OK. He did this before, Kelly. You’re not the first.”

Kelly curled into a ball on the bed. Vivian tried to ask more questions, but Kelly stopped talking. Vivian finally left the room, and let Kelly’s mother in.

A couple of hours later, Kelly heard a knock at the door. Her mother called out, “Come in.”

“Mrs. Carmichael? I’m Agent Taylor. I just wanted to see how the patient is doing and see if she is up for a few more questions,” he said as he smiled.

Kelly silently breathed a sigh of relief. Just seeing him again made her feel better, and she wasn’t even sure why.

Mrs. Carmichael stood up and took Danny’s hand. “I can’t thank you enough for finding her. We thought we lost her,” she replied as tears filled her eyes. And then she turned to Kelly. “Is it OK if Agent Taylor asks you a few questions, dear?”

Kelly nodded.

“Would you like me to stay, sweetheart?”

“No. I’m OK, Mom.”

“I’ll be right outside,” her mother said as she left the room.

“You’re looking better,” Danny said as he sat in the chair next to her. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. Did he come back to the house?”

Danny looked down and sighed heavily. “Unfortunately, no. We found a camera in the basement. It was a live connection to where he was staying, so he saw us the whole time. By the time we traced the connection to his location, he was gone.”

Kelly looked down as a few tears escaped her eyes. “So he’s out there.”

“He won’t hurt you again. I promise. We’re going to find him…with your help.”

Kelly looked up at Danny and shook her head. “I can’t…I can’t do it. I just…I want to forget.”

“I know you do, but we need you. I need you...to help us find him. We have a sketch artist coming in a little while, and then we’ll need you to look at some pictures. But right now, I need you to walk me through what happened. Agent Johnson said that you stopped when she asked you about leaving the bar. Is that right?” Danny asked as he turned on the voice recorder.

Kelly didn’t want to talk, but there was something about Danny that compelled her to tell him. “She wanted to know if he forced me to go with him. And god…I wish he had…because the thought of what actually happened…I just…I don’t know how I could have been so stupid.”

“So, you left with him willingly. That’s OK, Kelly. You are not the first person to do that. Did he tell you that he was taking you to his place or going to yours?”

“His place. But you don’t understand. At first, when he asked me to leave with him, I told him no. I didn’t think he was my type, you know.” Kelly started to cry again.

“So then why do you say left with him willingly?”

“He told me…he told me….”

“Told you what, Kelly?”

“He told me that he had some really good coke at his place, and that if I went home with him and…if I had sex with him…then he would give me enough to last me for a while. So I went with him because of the coke…”

Danny looked at her sadly and ran his hand over his face. He wasn’t sure what he could say to make this easier for her. “Why you went doesn’t matter, Kelly. He had no right to do what he did to you whether you slept with him, got high with him…whatever…none of it matters. None of it makes what he did OK. You know that, right?”

Kelly nodded. “But it wouldn't have happened if I wasn’t trying to score. And the only reason I thought it was a good idea was because Brian left earlier, and he was my connection. I couldn’t think of an easier way to get a hold of something, and I wanted to get high.”

Danny nodded. “OK…let’s get back to leaving with him. You got into his car. Did he take you straight to where I found you today?”

“Yes.”

“Did you do any coke with him? Or...did you have sex with him?”

“No. As soon as I walked through the door, he started to flip out. He called me a whore, and he said that he was sent to purify me. He said his reward for purifying me would be to claim me as his wife in the eyes of God. After I heard that, I knew I was in trouble. I…uh…I tried to get out of the house.”

“And he stopped you. Did he have any kind of weapon?”

“No. Not that I know of, but he was strong. As soon as I tried to go for the door, he grabbed me by the neck and pulled me down those stairs. Once he got me down there, he started to hit me. I got pretty disoriented, and I guess that’s when he chained me. Once I was chained, he didn’t say another word to me. He just turned off the light, walked upstairs, and shut the door. I screamed and screamed for the first few hours. I screamed myself hoarse, but no one heard me. And he didn’t come back for days. I thought I was going to die down there.”

“What happened when he returned?”

“I was out of my mind. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink. The first thing he did was give me water, and I actually felt thankful to him for a second. He never really said anything to me other than repeat what he said to me that first night. And he called me awful names and told me that I deserved my fate. I actually believed him.”

Danny continued to ask her questions and reassure her that it wasn’t her fault. After he took her whole statement including a detailed, painful account of the abuse she suffered, he sat with her while she gave details to a sketch artist. By the time it was over, she was so exhausted she could barely keep her eyes open. So he just told her to sleep well, and he would see her the next day.

And he was true to his word. He came to visit her each of the four days she was in the hospital. On the day she was discharged, she saw him come to the door.

“Hey there,” he said as he smiled.

Kelly had come to look forward to and even depend on Danny’s reassuring smiles. “Hey.”

“I hear you get sprung today.”

“Yep. Back to the real world. I can’t really say I am looking forward to it.”

“I wish I could tell you that we got him, but his trail has gone cold. We aren’t giving up, though. I promise. And, from what I hear, your dad has hired a private security detail to look after you…so you will be safe.”

“Yeah…safe…that word has a whole new meaning now.”

“Listen, I…um…I know that all of this is unimaginable, and I can’t imagine how you are dealing with it. You are doing great. But I just…I just want you to know…”

“What is it, Danny?”

“While we were looking for you, we had to find out as much about you as possible. The more we knew, the better chance we had of finding you. So I know about the drugs, the drinking, and the stints in rehab.”

Kelly nodded. “I guess I was the quintessential rich, party girl…always looking for a good time. I learned my lesson, Danny. If this can’t help me get clean…I don’t know what can.”

“If I had a dime for every time I said that when I was drinking, I’d be rich, too. I’ve been going to AA for eight years. And I probably quit twenty times before that because my drinking put me andother peoplein dangerous situations. I’m not comparing myself to you. Nothing that happened to me even compares to what happened to you, but it takes more than a wake-up call to get clean. It takes a lot of help. I don't usually do this. I don't usually tell my story so others will follow me into AA...but I would hate to see you get hurt again.”

Kelly nodded. “I appreciate everything you’ve done. You…um…you saved my life. And I appreciate you sharing this with me. But I am getting help. I’m talking to this trauma counselor, and I know that I have a lot of work to do. I’ve been down the whole 12-step road before, Danny—and it doesn’t work for me.”

“Well…I just…I just didn’t want to leave you without letting you know that there’s help. And I’m sure after what you’ve been through all you want to do is forget. So just do me a favor—if you ever get the urge to forget by using some sort of controlled substance—call me and I’ll do what I can to help you,” he said as he handed her his card with his home and cell numbers on it.

Kelly smiled. “Thank you. Saying that doesn’t seem like enough for all you’ve done…but it’s all I have,” she said as she started to cry.

Danny stood up with her and gave her a warm hug. “It works for me. Take care of yourself, Kelly. And hopefully, we’ll have some good news for you soon.”

 

Back to present

As Kelly answered Vivian and Samantha's questions, all the memories she tried so hard to forget started to flood back. After just a few minutes of questions, Kelly began to cry. She couldn't take reliving it over again. She stood up from the conference table as she cried almost hysterically. "I can't do this. I'm sorry. I just...I can't talk about this again."

"We know this is hard, but you have to think of Candace. She needs you right now," Samantha pleaded as she reached out to touch Kelly's arm. Kelly recoiled in fear when she felt Samantha's hand. She stepped back and sat on the couch as she continued to cry.

"What can we do? What can we do to make this easier?" Vivian asked.

Kelly pulled her knees up to her chest and held herself protectively. "Danny...I need to talk to Danny," was all she could say.

Jack walked into the bullpen and addressed Martin and Danny who were still reviewing background files on Candace and the previous victims. "Anything new?" he asked as he sat down at the head of the table.

"Nothing really pops. We are putting together a list of places that all the women had in common. We're hoping that Ms. Carmichael can look at it and tell us if anything sounds familiar," Martin replied wearily.

"Sam and Viv are still interviewing her," Danny volunteered.

"Sam and Viv are talking to her?" Jack asked curiously.

Danny nodded uncomfortably seeing the same questioning stare from Jack that he saw from Samantha and Vivian earlier.

"I just came back from Candace's parents. Needless to say, telling them that their daughter is in the hands of a serial killer was not reassuring news."

"I don't get this guy. Not that I make a habit of trying to understand psychopaths, but he keeps them for a month. He tortures them, and then kills them. There's no sexual assault. I guess I just don't understand why he takes them in the first place," Martin questioned.

"He's trying to cleanse them of their sins. He gets off on humiliating them. Three out of the four women died on accident, essentially. He was torturing them...trying to teach them a lesson, and it got out of control," Danny answered contemplatively. "I wonder what the hell he's been doing for the last three years. I've kept an eye on his MO for the last three years. No cases have come up anywhere in the U.S. It's like he just decided to reappear."

As Danny finished his statement, Vivian approached them. "Danny...Kelly is very upset. She says she'll only talk to you."

Danny grabbed the file that he and Martin were putting together and rose quickly from the chair. He started walking with Vivian without so much as a glance to Jack or Martin. "What happened? What did you ask her?"

"We just started asking her about what happened three years ago. She answered a few questions, and then she just broke down."

They rounded the corner and entered the conference room. Samantha was sitting next to Kelly on the couch, but then rose when Danny entered. Kelly's head was buried in her arms. "Give me a minute with her..." Danny requested quietly. And then Samantha and Vivian walked out of the room.

He took a chair from the table and sat down in front of her. "Kelly...look at me."

She finally looked up and met Danny's eyes. "I can't do this. I can't help you. Now that I know he's still out there...I don't know if I can take it, Danny."

"This isn't about you, Kelly. This is about Candace Reynolds. I promise I will keep you safe. You don't have to worry about that. All you need to focus on is helping us find Candace."

Kelly looked into his eyes and saw the same strength from three years ago. She wasn't sure what it was about Danny that always made her feel at ease. She started to feel stronger the moment he walked into the room. She leaned back against the couch and wiped a few tears from her eyes. "You were always good at calling me on being self-absorbed. Nothing like tough love, right. Why didn't you want to talk to me today? Why did you send in Vivian?"

"You're mother asked me not to. She said you were doing really well, and I didn't want to mess that up. You are doing OK? Right?" Danny asked with a concerned tone.

"You mean am I clean?"

Danny nodded.

"Eighteen months. How about you?" she asked already knowing the answer.

"As a whistle," he replied with a slight smile. "Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's go over a few things from when you were being held."

Kelly nodded as she ran a hand through her hair and leaned forward to focus on Danny's questions.

Samantha watched through the window as Danny spoke to Kelly. The transformation from the moment he spoke to her was amazing. There was a trust in Kelly's eyes that shone through when she looked at him. Samantha continued to watch as Danny asked tougher questions. She could tell they were tough because Kelly started to cry again. Danny moved from the chair and sat next to her. He put his hand on her back and rubbed small circles and she took hold of his hand. Samantha saw the closeness between them. Kelly leaned into him as if he was her lifeline. And then just as quickly Danny pulled away as if realizing that he shouldn't touch her. Sam struggled to piece together the exact nature of their relationship.

Still watching them, Samantha was startled by a voice from behind. "Sam...Mrs. Carmichael wants to know about her daughter," the agent said as he motioned Mrs. Carmichael toward Samantha.

"Agent Spade? I wanted to check on Kelly. She shouldn't be..." Mrs. Carmichael started, but then stopped when she saw Danny and Kelly in the conference room. "What is he doing in there with her?"

Samantha looked at Mrs.Carmichael curiously. "Uh...I was talking to Kelly, but she got very upset. Danny seems to be the only one who can calm her down."

Mrs. Carmichael shook her head. "She's worked so hard..."

"Worked hard? Worked hard to get past the abduction?" Samantha asked.

"No...I mean...yes...that was part of it. But that's not what I'm not talking about. She's work so hard to get over him...Danny," she replied motioning toward the window.

Samantha sighed as it started to come together. "They were...," she began.

"I don't know what they were...honestly. But I do know that she was and probably still is in love with him. He broke her heart, and then she hit rock bottom. She spent two months in a rehab clinic a year and a half ago. So, you can imagine why I don't think this is healthy for her," she said as she looked through the window. "I thought about reporting him to his boss. She was so vulnerable, and she saw him as this knight in shining armor. But she begged me not, too. She swore it wasn't his fault, but..."

Sam started to feel queasy. She didn't want to believe that Danny would take advantage of someone like Kelly. She knew it didn't seem right. Yet, she couldn't help but see the pattern. Danny was uncomfortable the moment he knew that they would have to involve Kelly. Then he tried to avoid her at every turn. And then Sam just witnessed the moment of intimacy between them before Danny quickly pulled away. She started to feel very sorry for Kelly.

"Mrs. Carmichael...I'm sure that Kelly is fine and, Danny is almost finished. There's a waiting room right down the hall. Why don't you get some coffee, and I'll tell Kelly you're here. I just need to follow up with my boss on something."

Mrs. Carmichael took one last look at her daughter and then turned toward the waiting area. Then Samantha headed straight to Jack's office.

"Jack...I...uh...I have to talk to you about something," Samantha said as she entered his office.

"What's up?" he replied looking up from his desk.

"It's about Danny...and Kelly Carmichael. I think...I think he may have acted inappropriately with her."

"When? Just now while he is interviewing her?"

"No...no...I think there was something between them after we found her and after the case ended. I think they may have had some sort of relationship and..."

"Samantha...they're two consenting adults. I don't see where this is any of our concern."

"I know. I know that Jack, but she was vulnerable. And she saw him as this savior. He should have stayed away from her. He should have known she was off limits. And he definitely shouldn't be talking to her right now."

"She wouldn't talk to anyone else, Sam. You witnessed that yourself. I admire your compassion for this young woman, but I really don't think this is our business."

"Not our business? Jack, he had no right..."

"Hey...sorry to interrupt...I...uh..just finished with Kelly. She is reviewing the list that Martin put together now," Danny said as he walked casually into the office. And then he noticed the palpable tension in the room. "What's up? What's wrong? Did we find Candace?"

"No. That's not it," Samantha replied in an angry tone as she stormed out of the office.

Danny gave Jack a perplexed look. "What's up with her?"

"Why don't you sit down for a second, Danny?"

Danny sat down still looking perplexed.

"Samantha seems to think that something happened between you and Kelly Carmichael. She thinks you took advantage of the feelings Kelly may have developed for you. Obviously, Kelly would feel safe with you...and if you did have some kind of relationship with her..."

"What the hell is this, Jack? How is this any of Sam's business or your's, for that matter?" Danny responded feeling the anger starting to rise.

"If something did happen between the two of you, then you probably should have said something to me. I would have made sure you kept your distance from Kelly. Looking back, that seems to be what you were trying to do by not wanting to pick her up or interview her."

Danny shook his head and stood up. "This...this is ridiculous."

"Danny...look...whatever happened...it's probably best if you just stay away from her," Jack said in an exasperated tone.

"Fine," Danny said as he turned and walked out of office.

Danny was so angry he could barely contain himself. He took a deep breath as he started to walk back to the bullpen. He was hoping to just grab his coat and head outside for a few moments to cool off, but then he saw Samantha sitting at her desk. He couldn't help but say something to her. "What the hell were you thinking...going to Jack about me? Why the hell wouldn't you just come to me?"

Samantha turned around in her chair and stood up to face him. It was times like these she wished she was taller. It was hard not to feel intimidated when she looked up at an obviously livid Danny. "I asked you what was going on between the two of you and you brushed me off. And what the hell were you thinking when you slept with a girl at the most vulnerable time in her life? You could be with whomever you wanted...whenever you wanted. Why would you use Kelly Carmichael like that?" she responded in a restrained but contemptuous voice.

"You don't know what you are talking about, Samantha. You think you can deduce that...because you've made some snap judgement about my personal life and combined that with seeing Kelly and me together?" Danny asked incredulously.

"I just talked to her mother, Danny. She confirmed it. Kelly fell in love with you, and you took advantage of that. We are supposed to protect these people...not hurt them more. We have a certain measure of personal conduct when we deal with victims. You don't just throw that code out the window when you want an easy lay, Danny."

Danny took a step back and silently counted to five. If he didn't, then he literally would've exploded in anger at Samantha. Then he leaned back into her and came within inches of her face. "You're lecturing me on personal conduct in the workplace? That's rich coming from you, Sam. I don't parade my personal life around the office for everyone to see. I didn't break up a family. I'm not screwing my way through half the office. You really want to argue morality and ethics with me, Samantha? Believe me, you don't. You no nothing about me...that's obvious...,"

"Danny...that's enough," Martin said as he came up behind them clearly confused at the heated argument.

Both Samantha and Danny turned around. Tears were forming in Samantha's eyes. She and Danny had never argued like that, and she felt like she was going to be sick.

"Just stay the hell out of my life," Danny said to Samantha as he turned to walk toward the balcony entrance.

Samantha grabbed a tissue from her desk and dabbed at her eyes. Then looked looked at Martin. "How much of that did you hear?"

"I didn't hear any of it. I just saw Danny in attack mode. What happened?"

"It's...it's nothing...I don't want to talk about it now. I'm sorry. Excuse me," Samantha replied as she moved past Martin.

Martin sat down at the conference table after Samantha walked out. He picked up some telephone records that they were cross-referencing between the victims. For a moment, he thought about following Samantha, but he knew that she wouldn’t talk unless she wanted to talk. Martin couldn’t imagine what could make Danny so angry at Samantha. Just as he tried to focus on the telephone records, he heard a small voice come from behind him. “Um…hi…I was looking for Danny or…or Samantha,” Kelly said quietly.

Martin stood up and answered, “Kelly? I'm Martin Fitzgerald. I wasn’t with the team when they originally worked your case. Um…I’m not sure where Danny and Samantha are. Can I help you with something?” Martin knew that Danny was on the balcony, but thought he need more time to cool off.

“I was looking through these lists, and I think I have something in common with Candace and the third victim, Renee Lasko.”

“What is it?” Martin asked as he walked toward her.

“Raynor Computer Services. My roommate was having a problem with her computer. I can’t remember exactly when, but I remember she was really pissed off at the guy who was trying to fix it. I think he came to our apartment to fix it a few times, but he never could. He ended up not charging her and telling her she had to buy a new computer.”

“Did you ever encounter the technician?”

“Honestly? I hardly noticed him. If she hadn't made a big deal about it at the time, then I wouldn’t even have remembered at all. He just wasn’t on my radar, you know?”

Martin nodded. “But he was in your apartment a few times?”

“Yes.”

“What was your roommate like? Would you say she was similar to you?”

“Shelly…God no. She’s a total bookworm. That’s why we got along so well. She’s the reason I never flunked out of college.”

“So she wouldn’t have been his type…” Martin said more to himself than to Kelly. “Listen, this is definitely a good lead. I’m going to run it down. Did you know that your mother is here?”

“No, I didn’t,” Kelly replied with surprise.

“She’s in the waiting area right down the hall on your left. Why don’t wait with her and continue to review the lists. I’ll have someone keep you posted.”

“OK. Thanks,” Kelly replied as she turned to walk away.

Martin opened the balcony door and called out, “Danny…I think we have a good lead.” Danny came in quickly, and they walked back to the bullpen. “Raynor Computer Services. Candace, Kelly and Renee Lasko all used it.”

“Why didn’t that show up on Kelly’s financials three years ago?”

“She didn’t use the service. Her roommate did. And the roommate wasn’t our guy’s type. She wasn’t a party girl. He was in their apartment several times.”

“Let’s go check it out,” Danny said as he grabbed his coat.

“Wait a second. I need to fill Jack in. Why don’t you look up this place, get a location and maybe a little background. I’ll be back in minute.”

Danny sat down at his deskand accessed his computeras Martin went to Jack’s office.When he didn't findJack in his office, Martin walked down the hall. He rounded the corner and passed the break room glancing in to see ifJack was there. He tried to hide his surprise when hefound Jack and a still-shaken Samantha talking by the Coke machine.

“Hey,” he said trying not to sound disappointed at finding Jack comforting Samantha. “Uh…I think we have a solid lead. Kelly recognized a business called Raynor Computer Services. Candace and Renee also used the service shortly before their disappearances. Danny and I are going to run it down.”

Samantha stepped away from Jack and responded in an uncomfortable tone. “Is there…is there anything I can do?”

“Actually, yeah. Kelly is in the waiting area with her mother. I told her that someone would talk to her and keep her posted. It’s about dinnertime. Maybe you can convince them to get away from here for a while. She seemed pretty exhausted when I just talked to her.”

“I’ll go check on her,” Samantha replied as she quickly walked out of the area.

Then Jack said, “While you and Danny are driving there, I’ll get as much background as possible on who serviced their computers. This sounds like a small business.”

“Danny is getting some preliminary background, but we’ll call you before we make a move.”

“Great. Thanks, Martin. I’ll call Viv and let her know we have a lead. I sent her back to the Reynolds’s house,” Jack said as they walked out together.

A half an hour later, Danny and Martin were on their way to Raynor Computer Services. The small company was located in Brooklyn. Danny found out there were only four employees, one of the being Travis Raynor, the company owner and lead technician.

“God, I hope we are close,” Danny said. They had been driving in silence before then. Martin wasn’t sure what to say to him after seeing him so angry.

“It’s a good lead, I think. It would be nice to give the Reynolds's and Kelly Carmichael some good news today.”

Danny nodded.

Martin finally decided to ask the question. “Looks it’s none of my business, but what was happening between you and Sam? Why are you so pissed at her?”

Danny shook his head. “You’re right. It’s none of your business. I’m sorry, but if Sam wants to tell you then she can tell you.”

“Right,” Martin replied quietly.

They didn’t say anything else to each other for the rest of the drive. Danny was anxious with anticipation hoping the lead panned out. He was thankful for the distraction from the argument with Sam earlier. The argument left him angry and feeling more responsible than ever for causing Kelly more pain and hurt.

Samantha walked into the waiting room and observed Kelly sitting alone nervously chewing on her thumbnail. She sat down next to her and smiled. "Did your mother leave?" Samantha asked.

"Yeah. She was driving me crazy, and there's really nothing she can do here for me. I'm not in any danger when I'm in this building, right?"

"Right. You're pretty safe here."

Kelly nodded and returned Samantha's smile. "I...um...I finished reviewing these lists. I can't find anything else that looks familiar. But it all seems like a lifetime ago and I was a different person back then, so I'm afraid I don't remember much."

"Agent Fitzgerald and Danny are checking out the computer guy. It's the best lead we've had in three years. It's probably going to take them a while. If you want to, you could go home. We could assign you police protection until we get this sorted out."

"Already done. My father has a armed bodyguard waiting downstairs to escort me back to my apartment. Right after I got back three years ago, I felt positively smothered by all the protection. But now knowing that he's taken someone else, I feel so scared...you know?"

"I can't imagine. You've been through so much. You're very strong, Kelly. I...um...," Samantha started, but hesitated.

"What?" Kelly asked.

"Nothing. It's none of my business. I just hope that being around Danny isn't making all of this even harder for you," Samantha replied regretting it as soon as the words left her mouth.

"Harder for me? I think it is actually the other way around. I think I'm making this harder for him. Has he told you..."

"No. He hasn't told me anything. I just noticed that you could barely look at him this morning. And then I spoke to your mother..."

"My mother doesn't know anything about the nature of my relationship with Danny. The truth is, she just couldn't face that her perfect little girl had a very big problem. It was much easier for her to blame Danny. As for this morning, I was just surprised to see him after all this time. I thought that I was over him, but seeing him again...it was just harder than I thought it would be."

"I'm concerned that he may have taken advantage of you during a really vulnerable time. That's something that we should never do as agents who swear to protect people."

"Take advantage? Danny could never take advantage of me, Samantha. He just tried to help me."

"You two seemed close when he was interviewing you earlier. I thought I saw something there, and you admit to having feelings for him. I could see where it would be easy to fall for someone that saved you...that was there for you...especially a man like Danny. And if he acted on the feelings that you have for him..."

Kelly interrupted Samantha sharply wanting to set the record straight. "Samantha...yes...I fell in love him. And...yes...I wanted to be with him. But he never lead me on. He never took advantage of me. He didn't seduce me. Danny wouldn't do that...believe me. I was the one who wanted to live happily ever after with him, but he told me that it could never happen. That's what hurt me."

Samantha sat back and rubbed her eyes. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She assumed the worst in Danny, and it would probably cost her his trust and friendship. "I'm sorry. I...um...I guess I just assumed.... I'm sorry. This is really none of my business. When I saw the way Danny was acting earlier...I thought he felt guilty about something. And then I asked him about you and he wouldn't give me a straight answer."

Kelly nodded. "That's because of my problem. After he found me, he came to see me in the hospital. He told me to call him if I ever felt like drowning my sorrows and fear in alcohol or drugs. He encouraged me to get help for my problem. See at the time, I didn't really think I was an addict. I just thought I was someone who liked to have a good time. Cut to six months after I was taken, and I was back to my wild ways. I ended up at this party and I was drunk. I think I became little paranoid because I got really scared. So I found his card and called him from the party at one in the morning. He was there within a half hour. He took me to an AA meeting the very next day. He didn't want to tell you because it would have broken that code of anonymity in AA. Come to think of it...I probably shouldn't be telling you about him either..."

"It's OK. I know Danny goes to AA," Samantha responded as she felt worse and worse about her fight with Danny as Kelly explained the nature of their relationship. "Listen...thank you for telling me this. I'm glad that he was there for you."

"So am I," Kelly said quietly as she stood up. "I think I will head home. I'm really tired. But you'll call me as soon as you hear anything?"

"Yes. Of course," Samantha replied. "Let me walk you downstairs."

Samantha escorted Kelly to her car, and then returned to the office to await news from Martin and Danny.

In the meantime, Martin and Danny waited outside the small office of Raynor Computer Services in Brooklyn. They were waiting for a call from Jack before they went in to question anyone.

"Jack better hurry. This place closes at 8 p.m., and it's ten til now," Danny said impatiently. It had already been a long day, and it would a long night for all of them if this lead didn't pan out.

Just as Danny checked his watch again, Martin's cell phone rang. "Fitgerald," he answered quickly.

"Travis Raynor is looking more and more like our guy. Samantha is sending a picture of him to Danny's phone right now. He left the country three years ago. Two days after we found Kelly Carmichael. His brother ran the company while he was gone. He spent two and a half years in Canada doing consulting work for different companies. We didn't find any missing persons cases with his MO in Canada, so it looks like he just took a break. Then three months ago, he came back to town."

"Does he have a record?" Martin asked as Danny looked at the picture of Travis Raynor that just appeared on his phone.

"As a matter of fact, he served six months for assaulting his girlfriend seven years ago. And an ex-wife has a restraining order against him. Sam's tracking both of them down now. But other than that, he's clean. He's even a youth minister at the church he attends," Jack answered.

"Sounds like a swell guy," Martin replied. "How do you want us to play this?"

"Follow him. According to our records, he's living with his brother right there in Brooklyn. If he goes straight there from work, then we'll question him there."

"Got it," Martin replied. "We'll keep you posted." Martin closed his phone and turned to Danny. "Jack wants us to follow him."

"That's good...because here he comes. He's headed toward the subway. I'll follow him on foot, and call you to let you know where we are headed," Danny said as he watched Travis Raynor walk out of the office. Danny jumped out of the car and jogged across the street to catch up with Raynor. Martin didn't have time to respond to Danny. He just slid over to the driver's seat and waited for Danny's call.

Danny followed Raynor down to the subway platform. He called Martin while standing more than 10 feet behind Raynor waiting for the train. "We're heading towards Queens, I think," Danny said as soon as Martin answered.

"Well then he's definitely not going home. Jack said that he lives with his brother in Brooklyn. And thanks for the notice. I'm glad we discussed what our plan would be before you just hopped out of the car."

Danny laughed as he saw the train approach. "Sorry, man...there was no time. Look...just head toward Queens and I'll call you as soon as we stop. I'm getting on the train now."

Danny stepped on the train just as the doors closed and observed Travis Raynor. He was sitting across the aisle from Danny reading a newspaper. Raynor was younger than Danny thought he would be. There was something non-threatening about him. Danny noticed that he wore a wooden cross around his neck and a "Jesus Saves" patch on the shoulder of his jacket.

After a few stops, Raynor stepped off the train and Danny followed. As Danny walked up the stairs, he dialed Martin. "OK...we are at 118th and Grand. Are you close?"

"Uh...about 15 minutes away. Just stay on him, and don't do anything. I just talked to Jack, and he wasn't crazy about the idea of you following him alone."

"What were we supposed to do? Both follow him? That would have worked," Danny answered sarcastically. "I at least blend a little...you have FBI written all over you."

"Thanks. I didn't ask your opinion. Just keep your distance. I am on my way," Martin replied in an annoyed tone and hung up the phone.

Raynor lead Danny down a fairly busy sidewalk which made it easier for him get lost in the crowd. But then Raynor turned down a sidestreet, so Danny had to keep a further distance. Then Danny watched as Raynor entered a small one-story house. Danny quickly dialed Martin. "Where are you, man? He entered a house on 122nd."

"Stuck in traffic. I'll be there in ten minutes."

"What if she's in there, Martin? I need to go in there now."

"Danny...just wait. If she's not there, and we spook him...we may never find her."

"Just hurry," Danny said before he closed his phone and walked up to the door of the small house. He noticed that the lights weren't on even though Raynor just entered the house. Danny's patience was growing very thin. He silently weighed the value of waiting for backup, and then finally decided that he couldn't wait any longer so he knocked on the door. After knocking three times, the door started to open slightly because it was ajar. He pushed on the door lightly, and it opened easily. He knocked again as he walked in the doorway, and called out, "Mr. Raynor? Mr. Raynor?"

Danny didn't hear anything so he started to walk through the house. There was no furniture in it, and no lights were on. Danny took out a mini-flashlight from his coat pocket and walked from room to room. Then he heard a creaking noise coming from the front of the house so he started to walk back toward the front door. He drew his gun before he rounded the corner. He raised his gun when he heard footsteps coming toward him. He raised his flashlight to light the room and was about to identify himself when he realized it was Martin. They made eye contact as they saw their guns aimed at each other. Martin shot Danny a look that said, "What the hell are you thinking?" But they didn't say anything. They just continued to search the house in silence.

Danny walked to the back of the house to the kitchen. He noticed the back door was also slightly ajar. Before he went outside, he found Martin and motioned for him to follow. They both walked into the backyard and continued searching. Martin found a door to what can only be described as an outdoor cellar. He flashed his light toward Danny to get his attention. When Danny came over, Martin opened the cellar door as Danny raised his gun for cover. Danny started down the stairs of the pitch-black cellar and Martin followed. Just as they got to the bottom of the stairs, they heard a door open inside the cellar. Danny raised his gun and light toward the sound and shouted, "Freeze! FBI!"

Martin shouted “Freeze! FBI!” right after Danny, and then he found a light hanging from the ceiling and turned it on. They both continued to yell, "Put your hands behind yourhead and get down!"

Before they could react, Travis Raynor darted back into the room and locked the door. Danny rushed to thedoor and kicked it open to find Travis Raynor hovering over Candace Reynolds holding a knife. "Get away from her, Raynor! Drop the knife and get the hell away from her now, or I will shoot you," Danny shouted emphatically.

Raynor hesitated as held the knife against Candace's throat and looked into Danny's eyes. And then he dropped the knife, raised his hands and went to his knees. Danny called out to Martin, "You got him?"

"Yeah...I got him," Martin replied not breaking eye contact with Raynor. Danny put his gun away, went over to Raynor and pushed him hardto the ground before cuffing him. Danny whispered into his ear, "It's over you sick bastard. You're going to prison."

Raynor started to laugh. "God is with me. He will protect me. This woman came with me willingly. I did nothing wrong. She was asking to be saved."

"What about the rest of them? Were they asking for it, too?"

"I wouldn't expect you to understand. But they all made a choice. I didn't force them to come with him. I just tried to cleanse them of their sins...that's all."

"Well you'll have lots of opportunities to cleanse people in Sing Sing. It's full of sinners," Danny said as he stood up and looked over at Martin.

After Raynor was secure, Martin walked over to Candace who was only slightly conscience since she had gone without food and water for nearly 72 hours. "Candace...we're with the FBI. We're going to help you."

Danny called the paramedics, and then he called Jack's office. "Spade," she answered Jack's phone.

"Sam? It's...uh...Danny. We got him, and Candace is safe."

"Oh my god...that's great. Is she OK?" Samantha asked in an uncomfortable tone.

"Yeah...she just appears to be dehydrated. The EMTs are on the way. Apparently, this was the first time he came back to her since he first took her."

"I'll...um...I'll fill Jack in. He's on his cell phone now," Samantha said as she yearned to say more to Danny, but knew it wasn't the right time.

"OK. We'll process everything here, and then head back."

"I'll call Viv. I'll have her bring Candace's parents to the hospital and take the statement."

"OK...Bye," he replied and then hung up the phone. He wanted to ask about informing Kelly, but he didn't want to bring it up to Samantha. He assumed that either she or Jack would let her know about Raynor.

Samantha ended up going to the hospital to take Candace's statement since Vivian had to get home to her family. Candace was doing remarkably well considering all she had been through. Samantha's heart went out to Candace as she explained that she was just looking for someone to love. She just wanted to find someone wonderful to bring home to her parents. Her desperation had almost led to her demise. Samantha spent two hours taking her statement before finally making it back to the office to pick up her things before heading home. She also hoped to talk to Danny, but when she walked into the bullpen she only saw Martin.

"Hey," she said quietly.

"Hey. How is Candace doing?"

"Better than expected. They are going to discharge her tomorrow. She gave a very detailed statement," Samantha replied wearily. "Did Danny already leave?"

"About ten minutes ago," Martin answered. "Sam...do you want to talk about what happened earlier...between you and Danny?"

Samantha nodded. "Yes, but not tonight...OK? I'm really tired."

"I understand. I...uh...I waited for you because I thought that..."

"Martin...I...um...I think I need to be by myself tonight. It's been a really long day, and..."

Martin smiled. "I understand. You don't have to explain. I just wanted to offer my shoulder if you needed it."

Samantha returned the smile. "Thanks...I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Where else would I be?" he answered as he grabbed his coat. "Do you want me to wait to walk down with you?"

"No, I want to write a few notes down about Candace's statement while they are fresh in my head. I'll leave in a few minutes."

"OK...Good night."

"Good night," Samantha responded as she sat down at her desk. She put her head in hands and gently rubbed her eyes. Then, while looking for her notepad, she noticed a note propped up on her keyboard in Danny's handwriting. She opened the note and read:

S,

I tried to wait until you returned but I had to be somewhere by 11...so I had to leave. I wanted to talk to you about what happened earlier today. I'm sorry that I lost my temper. I didn't mean any of the things I said. I hope that deep down you know that. I don't think you broke up his family. That marriage was broken way before you. And I would never make any judgments on what you do with your personal life. You know me...that's not my style, and I have no business judging anyone.You're a good person, Sam. And I want you to be happy...with whoever makes you happy.

I can understand why you assumed the worst in me. I've never given you any reason not to. I'm sure I've said and done things in the past that made you think I was insensitive. And to be honest, I do regret the way I handled things with Kelly...but I promise...I never did anything to intentionally hurt her. I can't really say more than that, but hopefully that is enough.

More than anything, I want to turn back the clock and unsay everything I said to you. I should have just walked away, but I lost it. I know I hurt you. So again...I'm sorry. Hopefully, we can get past this.

D

Samantha folded the note as she closed her eyes. Leave it to Danny to get in the final word even though she was the one who needed to apologize, she thought to herself.

The next morning Danny lay awake in bed thinking about the case. Part of him was so relieved to finally give Kelly piece of mind. He was definitely happy that they saved Candace before Raynor could harm her any more. But the other part of him felt sad because seeing Kelly reminded him of the mess he made of her life. He felt like he almost destroyed her.

Danny looked over at the clock. It read 5:28 a.m. His alarm would go off in two minutes. Usually, he would go for a run before work, but not this morning. He thought too much when he ran, and this morning he didn’t want to think. No…it would be safer to just go to the office and finish paperwork, he thought. He got up before the alarmed sounded and turned it off.

Within a half hour, he was showered and half-dressed. He was in his kitchen pouring a cup of coffee when he heard his intercom buzz. He couldn’t imagine who it was at 6 a.m. “Yes,” he answered into the intercom.

”Danny? It’s Sam. I’m…um…sorry to stop by so early, but I didn’t want this to wait until work.”

Danny hesitated for a moment. He wanted to let the argument with Sam rest. He didn’t want to explain anything more about Kelly, but he buzzed her in anyway.

He grabbed his dress shirt, put it on, and then opened the door for Samantha. He watched as she turned the corner to walk down his hall. She wasn’t dressed for work. She was wearing sweats with no makeup and her hair in a ponytail. As she approached him, he gave her an amused smirk. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like hell.”

Samantha watched as Danny’s smirk curved into a little smile. She never thought he would smile at her again after their fight. “Thanks a lot. I…uh…I didn’t sleep very well last night. Finally, I just got up and took the chance that you would be home.”

”Well…it’s 6 a.m. Where else would I be?”

”Right,” Samantha said as she entered his studio apartment. “We’ve known each other almost five years, and I’ve never been up here.”

”You’ve never really had a reason to be here. Have you? I’ve never been to your place, either,” he replied. “You want to sit down? I have coffee.”

”Coffee would be great,” Samantha responded as she sat on the sofa.

Danny poured a cup for her and brought the mugs over to Samantha. He sat down next to her and asked hesitantly, “What’s up?”

”Are we friends, Danny?” she asked with a worried expression.

”What?” he responded not expecting that question.

”Are we friends? Are we more than just co-workers?”

Danny shrugged. “I think so. I mean I spend more time with you than I do with anyone else.”

”I got your note last night. That wasn’t fair,” she said quietly.

”It wasn’t fair? I needed to apologize. I was out of line. I shouldn’t have said those things. I didn’t want you to think that I really felt that way about you.”

”Yeah…but you weren’t really wrong. I did fall in love with Jack and now his family has fallen a part…and Martin and I are…well I don’t really know what I am doing with Martin. But I was wrong. I was completely wrong about you," she said in a tortured tone. “I know now that nothing happened between you and Kelly. She told me that nothing happened. She told me that you just tried to help her get clean.”

”You talked to her about it?” Danny asked with a defensive tone.

”I didn’t mean, too. It just came out. I know it isn’t any of my business.”

”You’re right. It isn’t. What did she tell you?”

”Just that you helped her get to AA, and in the process, she fell for you. But that you told her you couldn’t reciprocate. You did the right thing, Danny…unlike me. I continue to do the wrong thing all the time,” she replied shaking her head.

Danny gave Sam a quizzical look because he wasn’t sure what she meant. “I may have done the right thing in the end, but I let it go to far. She was very needy. I liked feeling needed by her so I ignored the signs. I didn’t really do the right thing until it was too late. She almost died because of me,” he responded pensively.

Two and a half years ago

Danny was on a date with a very attractive woman with auburn hair named Amber. He met her on his morning run in the park. They’d seen each other every morning for the last month. He finally introduced himself one morning after they spent several days eye flirting. On their second date, she asked him up to her apartment and he said no. He knew the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. He knew that she really wasn’t his type. If he heard her tell one more story about her yoga class, he was going to shoot himself. But when he said no, she persisted. She gave him the whole line about this not being serious, and she just wanted to have a good time. He didn’t really believe her, but he gave in--even though he knew eventually this would end with her in tears, and him feeling guilty.

That’s where he found himself one warm summer evening…on Amber’s couch making out with her like crazy. As he focused his attention on kissing her neck, she whispered to him breathlessly, “Let’s go to the bedroom.”

He pulled away and she started to lead him to her bed, but then his cell phone rang. Part of him was relieved at the interruption. “Excuse me for a second. I’m sorry,” he said to her as he answered the phone. “Taylor.”

”Danny?” answered a small, almost incoherent voice.

”Yes. Who is this?”

”Kelly…Kelly Carmichael. I…um…I found your card in my wallet, and I really need your help. I know that he’s not here, but I keep seeing his face…and it’s like I can feel his presence.”

Danny nodded as he turned away from Amber. “Where are you?” he asked after he heard the fear and tears in her voice.

”Um…my friend’s loft in SoHo. It’s on the corner of 47th and Lex on the 8th floor. She is having a party. There’s a bunch of people here and we’ve been doing coke. Maybe I am having a bad reaction or something.”

”I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Don’t go anywhere. OK?”

”OK. I’ll stay here until you get here.”

”See you soon,” Danny said before hanging up the phone and turning back to Amber. “I’m really sorry, but a witness in one of my cases is in trouble. I need to help.”

”At one in the morning? Come on, Danny. I’m sure this witness can wait until the morning,” Amber replied as she started to run her hand down Danny’s bare chest.

He caught her hand and stepped away as he started to button his shirt. “I’m sorry, but it can’t wait. I’ll call you…OK?” he said as he smiled and gave her a quick kiss.

”Fine. Whatever,” she replied in a disappointed tone.

He took a cab to SoHo and found the loft. He used his FBI id to gain access to the secure building, and then went up to the 8th floor. The door was open, and there were probably fifty people at the party. He made his way through a maze of drunk party-goers before he finally found Kelly dancing in a corner with some guy. The guy was all over her trying to pin her against the wall and kiss her. She kept dodging him while continuing to dance. Danny approached the guy from behind and tapped him on his shoulder. “Excuse me,” he shouted over the music. “I need to talk to her.” Danny motioned to Kelly.

”Too bad, dude. She’s already with me,” the extremely drunk guy replied to Danny and then turned his attention back to Kelly.

Danny firmly put his hand on the guy’s shoulder and pulled him away from Kelly. “I don’t think you heard me…dude…I need to talk to her now,” he said as he looked into the guy’s face with his most intimidating stare.

The guy looked up at Danny and realized he didn’t want a fight, so he quickly squirmed away from Kelly. She just looked at Danny appreciatively and smiled. “You came. I’m so glad you came. Dance with me, Danny,” she said as she put her arms around his shoulders.

He could tell that she was extremely drunk and high, so he pulled away from her and took hold of her arms. “Kelly, we need to get you out of here. You called me and told me you were scared. Remember?”

”I’m not scared anymore. They gave me some really good stuff, and now...I’ve never felt better.”

”Well I didn’t drag my ass all the way down here to just leave you here,” he said still shouting over the music.

”I don’t want you to leave me, Danny. Stay…we’ll have fun…I promise. I bet…I bet you're a really good dancer.”

”I’m not staying, Kelly. Either you come with me now, or that’s it. I won’t help you again.”

”You’ve got to be kidding? You want me to waste all this good coke? If I go with you…will you promise we’ll have a good time?”

Danny knew this was futile, but most importantly, he just wanted her to be safe, so he replied, “Yeah…we’ll have a good time.”

Kelly bit her lip and nodded. “OK…let’s go,” she said as she let him lead her out of the party.

Once they got downstairs, he made her call her parents to let them know she was OK. When she got off the phone with them, she said sarcastically, “Happy now?”

“Am I happy? Yeah…I’m thrilled to find you like this. Do you know anyone trustworthy who lives down here? Someone who you could stay the night with?”

”Um...well...everyone I know is up at that party. So...no...I guess not," she answered as she giggled.

"Great," Danny said as he hailed a cab. "Get in."

They both slid into the cab and Danny gave the driver his address. "Is that your place?" she asked with a smile.

"I don't really have a choice...so, yeah...I guess we are going to my place."

When they arrived at his apartment, Kelly said, "This is very quaint, Danny."

"Thanks...I think," he said as he closed and locked the door behind them. "You can take the bed. I'll sleep on the couch. And then tomorrow we'll have a talk before you call your parents to pick you up."

"What happened to the fun you said we would have?" she said as she walked towards him. "You know, Danny...it's no fun sleeping alone." She put her hands on his chest and looked up at him as she smiled seductively.

"I lied...about the fun. It's two in the morning, and time to go to bed. I don't want to play games with you, Kelly."

"I don't want to play games, either. But I also don't want waste this buzz. I bet you remember what it was like, Danny...having sex on a high...there's nothing quite like it," she said as she arched up to kiss him, but he pulled away quickly.

"Actually, what I remember most is not remembering anything about nights like these. Just like you won't remember any of this tomorrow. Go to bed, Kelly. We'll talk in the morning."

She backed away from him and shook her head as she entered the bathroom. Danny just sat on the couch and wondered if there really was anything he could do to help her.

The next morning, he placed a steaming cup of hot coffee on the nightstand next to his bed. She was still sleeping. He gently put his hand on her back to jostle her awake. "Morning...sunshine," he said in an upbeat tone.
When Kelly first opened her eyes and realized she was in a strange bed, she jumped slightly. But then she saw Danny's face and felt confused. "What...what happened?"

"You...uh...you called me last night. You asked me to pick you up. I figured you didn't want to go home like that, so I brought you here."

"My parents...," she said wearily.

"You called them. You said you would call this morning when you were ready to be picked up," he answered. And then he had to ask, "How long has this been going on, Kelly?"

"Do we really have to talk about this now?" she asked as she turned her head and willed the sun to go away.

"I think we do. You were pretty out of it last night...out of control. What were you thinking?"

"I'm tired. I tired of being scared and I'm tired of everyone watching every step I make. I want to go back to the way it was before...before..."

"You really want to go back that? You like waking up and not knowing where you are or how you got there? The problem with trying to forget...and trying to pretend like nothing is wrong is that the problems never go away. They are still right there for you when you sober up. You're a strong person, Kelly. You survived something...unthinkable. You can survive this, too. I know you can," he pleaded.

Kelly looked into Danny's eyes and saw the same strength from the day he saved her. In that moment, she would have done just about anything he would have asked of her. But all he asked was that she go to one AA meeting with him. He asked her to just go to one, and if she didn't ever go back...he would understand. So she went with him. And then she went with him the next day, and the day after. After two weeks, she was going on her own every day except for the two meetings a week when Danny was there. After those meetings, they would go for coffee after.

"So...how's it going?" he asked after he took a sip of coffee.

"OK...I'm doing good. I working through the steps...you know...it's like my full-time job."

"Good...that's good to hear," he replied as he smiled at her.

"I do have one rather large problem...I was hoping you could help me with," Kelly said coyly.

"Name it."

"You have to be my sponsor, Danny. Mary just doesn't get me...you know? We are nothing a like. She's a housewife from Queens. I have zero in common with her."

"You're alike in the only way that matters...you're alcoholics. And it’s not like you have that much in common with me,” he replied.

"I know...but I can't relate to her. I can't talk to her like I can talk to you," Kelly responded in earnest.

"Maybe I can help you find someone else, but I can't be your sponsor."

"Why not? Because you're a guy? It's a silly rule."

"It's not silly. And it's not just because I'm a guy. We have a history...even if it's a brief history. I can't save you this time, Kelly. You have to save yourself. It's not even really about who your sponsor is...at this point, it's all about helping yourself."

Kelly sat back and sighed. "You're tough, Agent Taylor. Here I thought I could wrap you around my finger."

Danny smiled. "Nope...I know every trick in the book."

While Danny did put his foot down at being her sponsor, he still was there for her whenever he could be. During the next six months, they had many coffee dates and late night phone calls. He talked Kelly through several rough patches and even let her spend the night on his couch when she was feeling particularly scared or weak. She even started to join him on his morning run a few times a week. And he either didn't notice or didn't want to notice her lingering glances and touches. When he would give her a hug at the end of an evening, she would have to catch her breath. She enjoyed every conversation with him even when he was telling her how self-absorbed and spoiled she was. He was the first person in a very long time who could really make her laugh, and he always made her feel safe. And because of all of that, she was falling in love with him more and more every day.

One night after she was sober for about six months, she showed up at his apartment after an AA meeting. "Hey," she greeted him as he opened his door.

"Hey...this is a surprise. What's up?" he asked as he watched her walk in the door.

"I was in the neighborhood. I was actually at a meeting around corner. I thought you would be there."

"No...I had to work late tonight. I'll catch one tomorrow."

"You want to do something tonight? Get Chinese or something? I could use some company."

"Sounds great, but I'm beat. I've been working for about 48 hours straight," he said wearily.

"OK…,” she replied sadly.

As tired as he was, he noticed that she seemed particularly down, so he asked, “What up? What’s wrong?”

They both sat down on the couch. Kelly looked at him for a few moments, and then finally said, “I just…I just feel so alone. All of my friends are still partying, you know? And I don’t feel like I can talk to any of them. My parents…I still haven’t really told them about going to AA. I just hate the thought of them knowing that I have this problem.”

“They need to know, Kelly. It will help you if they know.”

“I know,” she said as she looked at him and started to cry. “You know I really don’t know what I would do without you. You’ve been so amazing through all of this. But you can’t be there for me all the time…and I don’t feel like I have anyone else.”

As she started to cry, Danny took her in his arms. “You don’t need anyone else. You just need yourself. That’s what this is all about. You’re doing great, Kelly. You just have to believe in yourself.”

“That’s a lot easier said than done,” she replied as she let herself go limp in his arms. He felt so warm and strong.

Danny pulled away from her and looked in her eyes. “It’s gets easier. I promise. You want to crash on the couch?” he asked realizing it was getting too late for her to go back to the Hamptons.

She hesitated for a moment, but then finally found the nerve to ask, “Can I…can I sleep with you tonight…just tonight?”

Danny shook his head. “No. That’s not a good idea. We’re friends…that’s all.”

“I know that,” she lied. She knew that she wanted much more than friendship from him. “But I just…I’ve been having these nightmares lately, and it’s so hard to sleep. And I just…I know that I would feel safe if I slept next to you.”

The voice in Danny’s head was screaming that this was bad idea, but he was exhausted. All he wanted to do was sleep. He didn’t see the harm of letting her sleep next to him for one night. “OK…just tonight,” he finally gave in.

She slept next to him, and slowly made her way over so that she was nestled in his arms. She almost didn’t want to sleep because she wanted to remember every moment. In the morning, she woke up with her head on his chest and her hand laying on his stomach underneath his t-shirt. She could hear his heart beating and smell his clean, masculine scent. She didn’t want to move for fear of waking him. Finally he started to stir next her. She felt him hold her a little tighter, so she inched her way up to look at him. When he looked at her and realized how close they were, Danny started to put distance between them. But, Kelly held his arm and looked into his eyes. “You can’t tell me this doesn’t feel right, Danny,” she whispered.

“This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have…”

She put a finger to his lips. “Don’t…don’t say it. You want to fight this…because you don’t think it is the right time. But I know how I feel about you. I love you, Danny. We belong together. I know we do,” she said as she leaned in to kiss him.

And because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, he kissed her back lightly…but then pulled away gently and sat up in the bed. “I don’t want to hurt you, Kelly. It’s the last thing I want to do. But I think I’ve let this go to far. You don’t love me. You don’t know anything about me…how could you love me?”

“Don’t say that. We’ve gotten close the last six months. I’ve never been closer to anyone in my life. I know you…I know your heart…and I know I want to be with you.”

Danny stood up and shook his head. “You want to be with the guy who found you in the basement…and who came to get you at that party. That’s not who I am all the time. There’s so much you don’t know about me. The last few months…I was trying to be your friend. I was trying to help you stick to the program. That’s it, Kelly.”

Kelly stood up from the bed as tears started to roll down her face. “You’re wrong. I know that deep down you love me, too. I know you feel the way I feel. I can tell by the way you look at me.”

“I care about you. I do. But I don’t love you. I’m not in love with you, and I’m sorry if I’ve done anything that made you think that. Clearly, last night was a mistake, but I thought…”

“Thought what?” Kelly yelled. “That you would have a little pity party for me…and do your good deed for the day? So I’ve just been a charity case for you?”

“No…we are friends…”

“I have friends…Danny!” she shouted. “I want you. I want to be with you.”

Danny shook his head and looked down because he couldn’t look at her tortured face anymore. Finally, he said, “Look…maybe I should just take you home.”

“Don’t bother. I can get home on my own,” she said as she slipped on her shoes, gathered her purse and coat, and stormed out of his apartment.

Danny watched as she hailed a cab and got in. He sat on his bed and mentally chastised himself for being so stupid. He knew that part of him like the attention she gave him, but he should have been more careful with her feelings.

 

Back to present

“Did you hear from her again?” Samantha asked after he told her the whole story.

Danny nodded as he ran his hand across his face. “She called several times, but I told her that I couldn’t talk to her. I told her that we needed distance. Then she called me one night to tell me that she was sorry and to tell me goodbye. I could tell that she was wasted, so I traced the call from my cell phone, and called an ambulance. And then I called her parents…and told them what happened.”

“So…that’s why her mother assumed it was your fault.”

“Well…it kind of was my fault, Sam. The truth is…I did…I do have feelings for her. I think I probably could love her, but it was just too dangerous at the time. She only had feelings for me because I was there when she needed someone. If I would have acted on those feelings back then…she never would have been able to save herself,” he responded pensively.

“So that’s when she went to rehab?”

“Yeah, she tried to kill herself on a cocktail of coke, sleeping pills and vodka. They sent her to this facility. I wanted to see her, but I knew it wouldn’t do her any good. I got a letter from her about a month later. She apologized for putting me in an awkward position. And she said that she couldn’t use me as her lifeline anymore. She had to learn to stand on her own two feet. I was just happy that it sounded like she was turning the corner, you know?”

“You couldn’t have known. You couldn’t have known that she would fall for you.”

“There was a time in my life where I was really casual with the feelings of the women I was with. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to be better about it, but sometimes I know I’m still guilty of doing it. I didn’t see the signs with Kelly because I didn’t want to see them.”

“Relationships are hard, Danny. We only see what we want to see. I spent six months with Jack, and I rarely ever thought about his family when we were together. I just wanted to be with him. I didn’t care about anything else. And now, this thing with Martin…,” she started, but then stopped.

“What? What about it?”

“I don’t want to burden you with this, Danny. After all, we’re not sure if we are even friends, right?”

“Well, I think after what I just told you…that makes you a pretty good friend to me. You can talk to me about this, Sam. It won’t go any further, I promise,” he said reassuringly.

“Things started with him the night I thought Jack was leaving town. I was sad and lonely, and Martin has always been so nice to me. I knew that he liked me.”

“The whole office basically knows that he likes you…it’s fairly obvious,” Danny said as he smiled.

“Yeah, well, I shouldn’t have acted on it. Because now…Jack’s back and getting a divorce…and…”

“You want to be with Jack?” asked Danny slightly surprised because he thought feelings ended between them when Jack went back to his wife.

“I don’t know. I know that when I was with Jack that I loved him, and those feelings haven’t died.”

“And with Martin?”

“I care about Martin. And he’s been really nice to me, but I don’t think I love him.”

“As a friend…do just want me to just listen or do you want my advice?”

“I’m not sure…you never pull any punches with advice.”

“I’ll be nice…I swear.”

“OK…advice, then.”

“Maybe you need to take some time for yourself…”

“I did that…after Jack…I was by myself. I was even in therapy.”

“But Jack wasn’t available. He was unattainable. You need to really think about what getting involved with him would be like. It would be a real relationship this time. Maybe you aren’t ready for that…maybe that’s why you’re with Martin. And you need to end it with him, by the way. End it now before it goes too far. If you let this go on knowing you don’t love him, and then it ends bad….Sam…his father could have you transferred to Alaska,” he said with a slight smile.

Samantha put her head in her hands as she rubbed her eyes. “We’re both pretty messed up, aren’t we?”

“Speak for yourself. I’m at least improving with age,” Danny responded.

“Thank you for confiding in me and for listening,” she said as she stood up. “I should go. I have to get ready for work.”

Danny stood up with her and pulled her into a warm hug. “You’ll figure everything out, Sam. Just give it time.”

“See you in a little bit. You might want to let everyone know that I will be a little late.”

“I will. See you soon,” he said as she walked out the door.

Danny was glad that they talked. It helped talking about Kelly, but he knew he needed to talk to her before he could really close this chapter in his life.

After Danny and Samantha spoke that morning, they both went to work and had an unusually slow day. He left a little earlier than usual and made his way to Kelly’s loft in Greenwich Village. After he knocked on her door, Bobby Willis, her sometimes roommate, quickly answered. “Well…Well…Well…I thought you people were done with Kelly. I read in the paper that you got the S.O.B.,” he said as he greeted Danny.

“We did. I…uh…I need to speak with Kelly. Is she here?”

Bobby sighed and shook his head. “She needs to be left alone…”

“Who’s at the door,” he heard Kelly’s voice call out.

Bobby turned around and answered. “FBI Ken…he left Barbie at home.”

“Bobby…,” Kelly responded in an agitated tone as she came to the door. She looked at Danny and smiled slightly. “It’s OK, Bobby. Can you give us a minute?”

Bobby noticed that Kelly's eyes lit up as soon as she saw Danny. “I guess I’m not needed here. I’ve got to go to the gallery anyway. Later, angel face,” Bobby said as he walked out the door giving Danny one last look over.

“He's a protective guy," Danny said as he watched Bobby leave. "I...uh...I wanted to call you yesterday…when we found him…but…,”

Before he could finish, Kelly put arms around him in an emotional embrace. He encircled her waist and held her close as he felt her begin to cry on his shoulder. “I can't believe it's over,” she said as she held tight to him. “Thank you.”

Danny pulled away first, but kept hold of her arms. He just looked at her for a few moments. She had this carefree, easy expression that he had never seen on her face before.

“Do you know what I did this morning?” she asked as she smiled through her tears.

“No…what?”

“I went to Central Park all by myself, and I took a two hour walk. I didn’t look over my shoulder once. I didn’t stay in the crowded areas. I felt…I felt…free…for the first time in three years...without the assistance of chemical substances, of course.”

“That’s great. That’s really great,” Danny said quietly as he smiled at her.

“I even called Candace and talked to her. It was good that you found her when you did…you saved her a lot of pain…”

“You found her, Kelly. Your help is what made us find her. We couldn’t of done it without you,” he responded sincerely as he looked at her sweetly and lightly stroked her arms.

Kelly bit her lip as she looked into Danny’s eyes, and had to step away from him as her heart started to race. All the time and therapy since she last saw him didn’t stop her from still loving him. And being this close to him was a bad idea. “I…um…I’m glad I could help,” she said as she looked down and folded her arms. “Um…someone from the DA’s office called today. He said that I would have to give a deposition.”

Danny noticed the wall go up as soon as she backed away from him. She was trying to protect herself, and for a moment, he regretted coming to see her because closure for him might mean opening old wounds for her. “You’ll probably have to testify…but you’ll be fine. He can’t hurt you anymore,” he said as he kept the distance between them. “I probably shouldn’t have come today. But…I just…I just wanted you to know that I never wanted to hurt you. And looking back…I think I let things go too far. That wasn’t fair to you.”

“I'm happy you came today, and it wasn’t your fault, Danny. You never did anything wrong. You just cared about me. I know you think that I just fell in love with you because you saved me, but it was more than that. I think you’re amazing. You always made me feel like I was the only person in the world when we were together. And no one has ever made me feel like that…not ever,” she explained as a few tears escaped her eyes.

"Kelly...you're the amazing one," he said as he leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "This is a new beginning for you. Take care of yourself."

"You, too," she replied as her voice cracked with emotion. "Goodbye, Danny."

He held his hand up in a little wave, and then he turned toward the elevator as she closed the door. Danny wanted to say more. He wanted to tell her that he had feelings for her, too. But he couldn't risk it. He couldn't risk starting something with her only to end up hurting her. So he decided to walk away. He thought she deserved a chance to start fresh...everyone deserved that at least once in their lives.

Before going home, he went to an AA meeting. As usual, he didn't say anything while he was there. He didn't tell them that he felt weaker today because he said goodbye to Kelly. He didn't tell them about guilty feelings...and the lonliness he felt even when he was with someone. He never said anything during his meetings. He just listened and acted like he had everything under control. And then he walked out as soon as the meeting was over.

As he approached his building, he was surpised to see Samantha sitting on the front steps with her coat pulled tight since the evening was getting chillier. "Is this going to become a regular thing?" he asked as he smiled at her. "I can see if there are any vacancies in the building. It's much warmer inside."

"You left work hours ago. I thought for sure I would catch you at home," she replied sheepishly. "I haven't been waiting long. I just...I just..."

"You want to talk?" he asked as he walked up the stairs and unlocked the door.

"Yeah...I'd like that."

They climbed the stairs and entered his apartment. Danny put on some coffee while Samantha tried to warm up as she sat on the sofa. He sat down next to her and asked, "So...what's up?"

Samantha ran a hand through her hair and shook her head. "You first. What did you do after work today?"

Danny gave her an amused expression...because he knew that she already figured out where he went. "I saw Kelly," he responded quietly.

"Yeah?" she asked with smile.

"Yeah...as if you didn't know that already. I've never seen her like that before. She was at peace."

"That's good. It's good that she can finally move on. Did you and she talk about..."

"Talk about what? Us? There is no us with Kelly and me. She is better off starting over. If I was a part of her life now...I would just end up hurting her again."

"Danny..." Samantha started to argue.

"That's enough about me. You didn't come here to talk about me. Did you talk to Martin today?"

Samantha nodded. "I ended it."

"How'd he take it?"

"Typical Martin. Very classy. He said he just wants me to be happy. But I think he was disappointed. I...I feel awful for jumping into things with him."

"He's a big boy. Sam. He knew what he was getting into. And I'm sure he is disappointed, but this doesn't have to be an ending. You just need time to figure things out, right?"

"Right. I'm going to take a little more time for me...even though it is so, solonely," she said as she smiled.

Danny smiled and took her hand. "It doesn't have to be lonely when you have friends."

"So we are friends now?"

"Yeah..."

"Then will you let me give you some advice this time."

Danny looked at her skeptically as he released her hand. "I guess...fire away."

"Don't close the door on Kelly or anyone else because you think you are going to hurt them. I think you are afraid to let people in. I think you shut down in relationships because falling in love and making a committment means that you risk getting your heart broken. It's much easier to be the one who leaves than to be the one who is left. I know that better than anyone. Have you ever been in a relationship where you didn't break it off first?"

Danny looked at Samantha. He didn't want to answer. He was annoyed, but he answered anyway. "I always leave first."

"How's that working for you?" Samantha asked.

"Don't start this...OK? I don't need a counselor. I'm fine, Sam."

"OK...if you don't want to talk about you, then let me tell you something about me. When I started things with Jack, I thought I could handle it. I thought I could get involved with him without falling in love with him. But truthfully, I was already in love him. And even though I knew that I was going to get hurt in the end, part of me hoped that somehow things would work out. I believed in that...because I loved him. But, of course, it didn't work out. And I ended up getting hurt more than I ever thought possible. But Danny...I don't regret a moment of it...not one moment. Loving someone is taking a risk," Samantha said as her eyes welled up with tears.

Danny put his hand on her back to comfort her, but he wasn't sure how to respond. This was one area that he couldn't talk about with anyone. How could he explain to Samantha that everyone he loved in his life has left him? Everytime he trusted someone, he was betrayed. So finally, he just replied, "Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. It means a lot to me."

Samantha watched as Danny shut down right before her eyes. Obviously, she entered territory that he wasn't willing to discuss. She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "We're quite a pair, you know? Can you believe the federal government trusts us to find people?" she joked.

"It's really kind of scary when you think about it," Danny said as he laughed thankful for the levity.

"Maybe we're good at finding other people becausewewant toavoid finding ourselves," Samantha said all of the sudden serious again.

Danny stopped smiling as he thought about her statement for a few moments. And then he replied pensively, "Or maybe...one day...our jobwill actually help us find what is missing within us."