The Sins Of Silence
The FBI's main office complex at Federal Plaza is a daunting building to negotiate if you know it well. It's even more imposing to the uninitiated, but Amelia Parker knew she had no choice. Her father was missing and the NYPD weren't interested in looking for him. To be perfectly honest if he'd been missing on his own she might not have bothered to look for him, but Mikey, his 14 year old foster son was also missing. Her father worked with troubled kids, troubled boys in particular. Mikey was his latest.
Her mother had been killed in a car wreck when she was only 10. That's when her life changed. She and her mother had always been very close. It was a different story with her father. His own mother had died in childbirth. He'd been raised by his father and with few women in his life; he didn't know how to handle having a daughter. He wasn't an unkind man; he just found it easier to cope if he kept her at arms length. That didn't change with her mother's death, if anything their distance grew. He was lost when his wife died, to cope he poured himself into his work. As a social worker, her father had been fostering and mentoring boys for as long as she could remember. He devoted most of his time and energy into the kids he was working with, Amelia was just along for the ride.
There'd been a long parade of troubled, abused or homeless boys over the years. Most of them she got along with, some not. She never forgot one boy her father took in almost three years after her mother died. He was a year older than Amelia, his name was Danny Alvarez. He'd lost his parents in an accident when he was 11. Danny lived with his older brother Rafi, who had a long history of problems with the law. Danny had gotten into some trouble himself and the judge gave him a choice, an after school program, her father helped with or juvenile detention.
Danny came to stay with Amelia and her father when his brother Rafi went to county lock up for a short "vacation". He may have been a foster kid on paper, but he was much more to Amelia in her heart. She'd thought about him from time to time over the years, but since her father and Mikey disappeared, he'd been in her thoughts daily. She couldn't understand why.
Amelia had filed a report with the NYPD, but the detective she spoke to hardly put his coffee down long enough to write down any details. "A grown man and a runaway?" he rolled his eyes. He made her feel like she was wasting his time. She could see him switch off as soon as she'd said Mikey was a ward of the court. "Face it sweetheart," he smiled leaning back in his chair, his desk piled high with case files and Styrofoam coffee cups, "The kid's done a runner and your old man is probably lying on a beach in Cabo taking well deserved break. It happens all the time. You said his car is gone right?" He didn't wait for her to answer. "Well don't worry your pretty little head too much, he'll be home soon."
Patronizing bastard! She thought to herself as she rode the elevator up to the FBI's Missing Persons Unit. She'd seen them on the news a number of times, but after her reception at the NYPD she didn't think the FBI would consider her father and Mikey's disappearance to be high profile enough for them to investigate. She tried searching on her own but after five days she was running out of options and hope. She gathered the little information she had and ran the gauntlet at the federal building.
She held her papers close to her chest. Her footsteps sounding loud as her heels announced her arrival. Her mother's Cuban heritage showed in Amelia's long dark brown hair and huge brown eyes. Her flawless olive complexion meant that even in the depths of a New York winter she looked as if she'd just stepped off of a beach. She'd dressed in a simple red pencil skirt and light blouse, the New York summer was just beginning.
The moderness of the building surprised her. She'd always pictured federal offices as old and dingy with bad fluorescent lighting and outdated office equipment. What greeted her was the exact opposite. Clean modern lines, light wooden walls and lots of glass and natural light. Every desk was equipped with one or more computers that looked like they'd just come from Microsoft's test lab. There was a bustle of activity as she got off of the elevator. People were hurrying around, more than one of them with a gun or an empty holster at their waist. She walked up to the reception desk. There was a young woman in a business suit sitting behind it.
"Can I help you?" she asked. Amelia noticed her ID badge said intern.
"My father and his foster son are missing." Amelia said quietly.
"Have you reported them missing to the NYPD?" she asked. She sounded bored.
"Well yes, but they won't help me." Amelia was afraid that she wasn't going to get help here either. "The detective said Mikey probably ran away and my dad is taking a vacation. But I'm sure there's more to it!" she shook her head. "My dad doesn't take vacations."
"Well there's a first time for everything." The intern sighed, "Has an agent contacted you?"
"No, I don't think any of them know that they are missing yet." Amelia said. She was startled by laughter behind her. She looked over her shoulder to see a man and a woman getting off of the elevator. She was tall and blonde, her long hair in a pony tail. He was tall and handsome with light brown hair that had a hint of a curl at the ends. He caught her eye and smiled his beautiful blue eyes crinkling at the corners as his grin spread.
Amelia found herself smiling back but there was still fear in her dark brown eyes. "Sorry." She turned back to the intern.
"Fill this out." The intern handed her a form. "Give it back when you're done and someone will be in touch."
"Do you have any idea when?" Amelia asked looking at the rather simple piece of paper.
"No as soon as an agent is available someone will be in touch." the intern sighed, "You can use that table." She dismissed Amelia. Feeling lost, aggravated and ignored she turned and not seeing him she ran straight into the man with the beautiful blue eyes, all of her papers dropping to the floor and scattering.
"Oh I'm sorry." Amelia was startled. She knelt to retrieve her papers scattering them further in her embarrassment.
"No problem here let me help you." He said gently and helped her gather her papers.
"I... oh... thank you." She said softly. She was about to burst into tears. Pull yourself together! She thought to herself. She put her hand over her eyes quickly before drawing a breath and standing up. "Thank you." She said shakily.
"Are you alright?" he asked her with concern.
"Not exactly" She looked up into his eyes and she was struck by how kind they were. "My father and his foster son have been missing for nearly a week and no one seems to give a damn."
"I'm Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald." he said. "Why don't you come with me and I'll see what we can do."
Always wary of people she looked at him, she couldn't explain it, but she knew she could trust him. "Thank you." She nodded and he led her down a corridor with high glass walls.
She looked at him discreetly as they walked. He was dressed in a well tailored suit, Brooks Brothers she guessed. "In here." He smiled as he opened a door and ushered her into a small room with a table and several chairs. "Have a seat" he offered her a chair. He took the one next to her and pulled a little notebook from his inside pocket. Clicking his pen, he smiled at her "Now why don't you tell me all about it?"
Amelia looked at him and felt immediately at ease. She knew he'd listen to her. She drew a breath and began to tell him her story. "Well I'm Amelia Parker. It's my father; his name is Stephen, he and his foster son Mikey, sorry Michael Cortez, they're missing." She watched him write down their names.
"What is your father's full name?" he asked
"Stephen Brian Parker," she said. "I have Michael's details here somewhere¡" she searched through her paper's "I was organized once..." she smiled sheepishly as him.
"Take your time" he smiled easily at her as he watched her reading a sheet before handing it to him.
"Here it is, Michael Anthony Cortez." She said as he took it "My father has been fostering him for nearly a year now. He's a good kid; he's just been dealt a bad hand." She smiled sadly; Mikey was one of the one's she genuinely liked. Agent Fitzgerald nodded his brow wrinkling as he read the report on Mikey and his sad short life.
"Can I keep this?" he held up the report. She nodded "Good thanks, now, when was the last time you saw either of them?" he set the report aside and picked up his pen.
"I stopped by my father's house six days ago. I took over a lasagna¡ neither of them can cook very well so I try to make something for
them every couple of days." She shrugged.
"That's nice." He smiled and made note of the date, "and you've had no further contact since Saturday?" he looked at her with those big blue eyes.
"No, on Monday when Mickey didn't show up for school they called my father's house. When he hadn't returned their call by lunch time the secretary called me. She knows my dad well and she was worried, so I went to check on them." She shook her head. "They weren't there. I waited but¡" she held out her hands. Agent Fitzgerald was nodding and taking notes.
"Does your dad have a car?"
"Yeah, it was gone too. He drives a silver '98 Mazda 626, his plate is..." she looked at her papers "YMT 935." She looked into his big blue eyes, fear in her own, before asking "You don't think he's just driven off do you? It's not like him. And where's Mikey? Why didn't he tell me? Or leave a note?"
"Whoa, one step at a time¡" He said gently "For what it's worth, I don't think he just picked up and left but stranger things have happened. Right now just give me as much information as you can and I'll do my best to figure out what happened."
"So you'll help me then?" she asked quietly. She couldn't believe he was going to help her.
"I'll do my best." He gave her his most reassuring smile. She nodded and he spent the next 20 minutes extracting as much information out of her about her father and Mikey as he could. She was surprised by some of his questions, some were quite personal. He even asked her if there had ever been any inappropriate contact between him and any of the boys, real or imagined. There hadn't been any, ever.
"Ok" he nodded looking at his notes. "Can you write down the names and addresses of friends, family, anyone you think he may have contacted, I know you said you've contacted a lot of people but sometimes they are more willing to talk to strangers about certain things."
"Especially if that stranger has a badge¡" She couldn't help but smile. Martin noticed what a wicked grin she had, just like someone else he knew, he couldn't help but think.
"It helps sometimes." He laughed softly and gave her a pad and pen. "I'll take these for now." He took her stack of papers, it was bank records, medical notes anything she had thought would be helpful she had brought along.
"Mikey's caseworker, her info is in here right?"
"It is" she nodded.
"Ok can I get you a cup of coffee or something?" he asked.
"A coffee would be great, thank you" she smiled "cafe con leche, sorry, my mom was Cuban, that's¡"
"Coffee with milk and sugar..." he grinned nodding. "One of my colleagues calls it the same thing." He left her sitting at the table going out the door behind her. "Hey brother" she heard him say as the door shut behind him. She didn't turn she was focused on the list he wanted her to make.
Martin was standing outside the glass door talking to another agent. He was just slightly taller, with short dark spiky hair and deep brown eyes. He dressed better than most FBI agents, but that was his style. "So this is where you've been hiding." He looked into the room where Amelia sat at the table. "That's the longest pre case interview you've ever done!" He grinned at Martin; it was a gorgeous lopsided smile that was subtlety sexy, mischievous and full of little boy charm all at once.
"I'm not hiding, it's a multiple case and I was just being thorough!" Martin blushed at the good natured teasing and they watched as Amelia reached into her bag and pulled out her PDA. She dropped the pen he'd given her. Standing slowly she bent and picked it up. Her skirt clung to her hips and backside. Amelia had been blessed with her mother's hourglass figure, and the sand was in all of the right places. As she bent her skirt rode up giving them a brief glimpse of her stocking tops before she smoothed her skirt and sat back down. Martin chuckled as the other agent tilted his head with an appreciative smile.
"Sure, and would you like some help?" he grinned cheekily at Martin.
"If you want to run down the background on the kid, I'll get tech to start on the financials." Martin said trying to hide his grin. "I'll get the list from her and we can head out, cool?" the other agent was looking at the papers Martin had handed him and nodded. "Ok, thanks Danny" he said and headed down the corridor.
Danny stood for a moment looking at Amelia sitting at the table going through her PDA. There was something familiar about her, something that tugged at his heart. His brow furrowed and nose wrinkled he shook his head and went to his desk to see what he could learn about Mikey Cortez from the computer. As he walked away Amelia had the strangest feeling and looked behind her. All she saw was the usual hustle and bustle of the agents and support staff going about their jobs. She wrinkled her brow, and shook her head turning back to the list.
She was nearly done when Martin came back with her coffee. "Thank you." she took the cup. "Wow that's perfect." She smiled at him after taking a sip.
"Thank my partner, he made the coffee." He blushed. "How's the list coming?"
"There are a lot of people but I think I've got nearly everyone."
"Ok good, I'm going to go out into the field so Agent Spade," he smiled as the door opened and the blonde woman with the pony tail came in. "Miss Parker this is Special Agent Samantha Spade." He introduced them and they shook hands.
"Please call me Amelia" she smiled
"I'm Sam." She said pleasantly.
"Ok Sam is going to take over here, while I go run some things down." He stood.
"You'd better hurry, Danny's had two cups of coffee on top of his Frosted Flakes" Sam said to him with a knowing smile.
"Terrific!" Martin sighed "I'm driving!" he then smiled at Amelia "Don't worry we'll have some information for you soon." He left the two women together in the little room. Amelia hoped he was right, but she was sure she could trust him.
Sam sat down and together they went through the list, with Sam making notes. When it was all done the only thing left for Amelia to do was go home and wait for a call. Sam walked her to the elevator as Danny was talking to Martin in the bullpen. He stopped in mid-sentence when he saw Amelia again. He had that same strange feeling. She was familiar he thought, if she would only turn around so he could see her face. Martin startled him back to reality.
"Earth to Danny" Martin teased. Danny looked at him and blushed slightly. He wasn't used to Martin having the upper hand when it came to teasing. "Be careful man." Martin grinned. "If she's got you that distracted from behind¡"
"I'm not distracted!" Danny cut him off with his trademark grin. "Are we heading out or what?"
Martin raised an eyebrow at the way Danny swiftly changed the subject. "Sure where do you want to start at DYFS or the school?" he knew with out asking where Danny would want to go first.
"The school" Danny said flatly. Martin nodded, knowing Danny hated going anywhere near the Family Services offices. Danny kept his past a closely guarded secret. Martin knew him well enough to know that he had spent a lot of time there as a child with his own troubled family.
On the drive to the school Martin filled Danny in on the case. "So this Stephen Parker has been fostering and mentoring boys since '80. Michael Cortez is his latest foster son."
"Parker" Danny looked at him "Stephen Brian Parker?" he asked.
"You know him?" Martin was surprised.
"I used to." Danny said quietly and looked out the window. Martin didn't press. He assumed that he had been one of Danny's caseworkers. Danny sat silently watching the streets of Manhattan roll by but he didn't see them he was remembering...
Danny was just 14 when he walked into the old church hall after school. Father Orlando was there with a group of teenaged boys. They were talking about baseball, one of the boys was extolling the virtues of the New York Yankees. Danny, a die hard Mets fan, had to jump in. "Yeah Ok, Mattingly may be knocking them out of the park, but the rest of the team can't bat for crap!"
The boys turned to see who the new arrival was. Father Orlando stood with a smile. "Daniel, nice of you to join us" He smiled Danny couldn't help but blush, Father Orlando knew he hated being called Daniel.
"You didn't give me much choice Father." Danny said quietly.
"Well I'm sure you'll see it's not so bad here right boys?" He looked at the other boys. They were looking Danny over trying to size him up. "Boys?" Father Orlando prodded them.
"Yeah right," said one of them.
"It's all cool" nodded another. Danny kept his thoughts to himself.
"Why don't you let me introduce you to Mr. Parker" Father Orlando said. "We can get the paperwork out of the way and then see how well you do on the basketball court?" Danny nodded and let Father Orlando lead him to a small office.
The office was small and cramped. Behind the desk was a man on the phone. Danny guessed it was Mr. Parker. He and Father Orlando nodded to each other. Danny looked the two men over. Both were in their 40's with dark brown hair, Mr. Parker was in a polo shirt and trousers; Father Orlando was wearing his clerics shirt with his white collar and jeans. Mr. Parker, held up his hand, silently telling them to wait a moment.
"Ok" Mr. Parker said to the person on the phone. "No, I'll tell him" he said grimly as he looked at Danny. Instinctively Danny knew that there was something wrong. His stomach knotted and he squared his shoulders, wondering what his brother Rafi had done now.
Mr. Parker hung up the phone. He looked at Danny and smiled reassuringly. "You must be Danny Alvarez" he held out his hand. Danny shook it still wondering what was wrong. "I'm Steve Parker, why don't we sit down I've got some things we need to discuss."
"Rafi's dead isn't he?" Danny asked. He wasn't one to beat around the bush.
"What? No!" Parker shook his head. "He is in trouble."
"Again" Danny shook his head. He knew that the only thing he could depend on Rafi to do with any regularity was either getting high or getting himself arrested, usually while he was high.
"I'm afraid so." Parker said.
"So I've got to go back to the group home." Danny was trying not to let it show how much he hated that place and at that moment how much he hated Rafi.
"Well no," Parker said. "I have been talking to your latest case worker and if you'd like, you can come stay with me. I foster boys from time to time and my last foster son has just left for the army." Parker smiled proudly.
"Why would you want to take me in?" Danny asked him, he'd learned the hard way to be wary of everyone.
He smiled at Danny long used to having to work at gaining a boy's trust. "Because I want to help you¡"was his honest explanation. Danny could see in the man's eyes he meant what he was saying but there was something else there he couldn't quite make out. It was a sadness that Danny mistook for pity. His pride prickled and he shook his head.
Danny felt Father Orlando's hand on his shoulder. "Danny," he said gently "take this as an opportunity to make some changes." he urged him.
Danny looked down, knowing it was a choice between the group home and a new foster home. Reluctantly he nodded. "Ok" he said softly "I'll go anywhere not to go to that group home again."
Martin broke into Danny's thoughts. "Danny! Hey man, we're here."
Danny looked up at the school startled. If it wasn't for the large sign out front and decoration in the windows, he'd swear they were at prison. He looked over the brick building with the high chain linked fencing that had barbed wire running along the top. Is that to keep people out, or to keep them in? He thought to himself, out loud he said, "So what are we waiting for?" He got out of the car and straightened his suit jacket. "Ya know, I bet you never got sent to the principal's office when you were at school." He tried to tease Martin to take his mind off of his memories.
"You have no idea the kinds of things I got up too in school!" Martin grinned at him, but he could see the emotion lurking in Danny's eyes. Like always, Danny hid his emotions behind a mask of bravado. He flashed Martin his best smile. "Oh I can guess Martin" he teased him, "I can guess!"
Danny flashed his badge at the security guard standing at the main entrance as they walked in. Inside the school Danny was unusually quiet, letting Martin take the lead as they spoke to the guidance counselor. Mikey was an average student, quiet with a small circle of friends, none of whom had seen or heard from him all week. Danny was still pensive on their way to DYFS. Martin saw his eyes darken as they approached the building. "You OK man?" he finally had to ask.
"Yeah," Danny nodded "But I'll be even better once we're outta here so let's get this over with." He squared his shoulders and led the way. Martin smiled sadly seeing him steeling himself to walk into the building. He couldn't help but put his hand on Danny's shoulder. For one brief moment they looked at each other and a silent understanding passed between them. Danny allowed himself a few seconds of vulnerability before the wall went back up and Martin saw hardness in his eyes that only ever came when he was forced to confront his past.
The Division of Youth and Family Services was in one of those dingy, old federal buildings. The look on Danny's face told the whole story as they climbed the stairs. Jared Hayes was the director of the department. He welcomed Martin and Danny into his small office
that was over flowing with files and paperwork.
"Mr. Hayes I'm Special Agent Fitzgerald and this is Special Agent Taylor, we're with the FBI." Martin said automatically and they held up their badges and ID cards.
"Yes hello, please come in and sit down," he indicated the two chairs taking up the only free space in his tiny office. "We were all stunned to hear Stephen is missing. How can we help?"
Danny was more involved in the interview this time, but he still let Martin take the lead. Martin was the primary agent on this case after all. They worked well as team anticipating what the other would ask, knowing what information they might be trying to extract. Martin wasn't prepared for Danny to shut down when the subject of Stephen Parker's late wife came up.
"It was such a tragedy." Jared said sadly. "He was never the same after losing Louisa."
"Do you know how she died?" Martin checked his notes.
"In a car accident" Jared said. "It was a head on collision I believe. She was driving, and he always blamed himself even though the other driver had swerved into their lane." Danny was looking down at his note pad. Martin swore he could see his hands shaking. "He was never the same after that, and poor Amelia, he shut down where she was concerned."
"Excuse me." Danny said quietly and got up. Martin watched stunned as he hurried out. Martin carried on alone, fortunately he was early done.
"Do you think we could see his desk?" Martin asked as he closed his notebook and silently cursed Danny for abandoning him in an interview.
"Of course" Jared said "But you do realize that any of his case files..."
"We've got a warrant on the way." Martin nodded.
"Good" Jared nodded. "I don't mean to be difficult, I want to help you, I do, but our families won't talk to us if they think we will just hand out their files."
"I understand" Martin smiled as he stood.
They met Danny coming out of the men's room. "Sorry" he said quietly, "I must have had some bad Chinese last night. It's catching up with me." Martin nodded, but he knew better.
"We're just going to check out Parker's desk." Martin said. Danny nodded and followed them into the crowded open plan office area. There were people at almost every desk. Some of them were staring at Danny and Martin as Jared led them to Parker's desk.
"This is it." Jared said. It was a grey metallic government issued desk, piled with files. Martin thanked him and he left them alone. Martin sat behind the desk and looked it over. Danny stood looking at the desk. In his minds eye he could see Parker sitting at the desk going through his case files. He drew a breath and rubbed his neck to bring himself back to focus on Martin sitting at the desk and searching the files
"Here it is" he'd found Parker's appointment book. "He had a full week booked." He shook his head. Danny was looking around the office, seeing shadows of his past in the families and kids that were there. Martin was looking at him, waiting for his input.
"Yeah well, this job has a pretty high turn over rate." Danny muttered and started looking through a stack of files. "Here we go, Mikey Cortez¡ he has an older brother." He showed Martin the file.
"This kid's been in and out of foster homes his whole life." Martin said grimly.
"He was lucky to get Mr. P" they heard a quiet voice. Danny turned startled and found himself looking at a young Hispanic boy of about 13. "You guys are looking for him right?"
"Yeah we are." Danny smiled at the boy. "But sometimes people don't want to be found." He said gently, he felt like he was looking into a mirror showing him his past self.
"You need to find him." The boy said "Something happened to him. Mr. P wouldn't just quit."
"We'll do our best." Martin said to the boy.
"Mr. P wouldn't just quit." The boy said again. "He don't give up on you neither." He said quietly and looked down. "¡no matter what you do." He almost whispered.
"What happened between you two?" Danny asked him. "You know people get found by the smallest thing. A detail you might think means nothing¡ what happened?" the boy was reluctant to speak.
Danny leaned closer to him and in quiet Spanish told the boy whatever was said between them would stay between them. The boy nodded. Martin watched Danny talking to the boy, worry, admiration and eagerness warring in his eyes as Danny nodded at the boy again.
"Mr. P. told me to stay away from Luis, my older brother so long as he was dealing for the "O's", but he's my brother¡, he's all I got." The boy looked up at Danny his eyes filled with pain. "He called me. He wanted to hang out. I didn't know he was going to be moving drugs." The boy shook his head. Martin was watching Danny's reactions to the boy's words. Danny's eyes alone showed his true emotions. Martin saw the pain deep with in them, the pain Danny could hide from almost everyone else.
"He said we wuz just going for a ride" the boy went on "Luis got busted when we wuz at a rest stop in Jersey. The cops didn't know I's with him. I hid in the bathroom and called Mr. P. when they wuz gone¡" the boy looked down and shook his head. "Mr. P. drove all the way down to Toms River to pick me up. He never said a word but I know he was disappointed in me¡ Please you've got to find him¡ I gotta make it up to him¡ please¡ find him."
Danny nodded. "We'll do our best." He said quietly. The boy didn't look convinced. "What's your name?" he asked him.
"Antonio Rivera," he said quietly Martin smiled slightly seeing how Danny connected with the boy.
"I promise, we will do our best to find him Antonio." Danny said with quiet earnestness "but, in the meantime¡" he pulled one of his business cards out of his pocket. "If you get into another jam, I want you to call me ok?" the boy took the card. "OK? " Danny asked him again "I'm gonna check up on you, if your stepping outta line I'll come down here and kick your butt myself OK?" he smiled and held out his hand his fingers curled into a loose fist.
"Yeah ok" Antonio smiled and touched knuckles with Danny before walking back over to another caseworker's desk.
"You'd be great at this." Martin said without thinking. Danny gave him a look that said he was crossing the line. "Right the warrant's been delivered." He quickly changed the subject. "We can take Mikey's file and his datebook back to the office. I don't think there's anything else relevant here." Danny didn't wait for him to say anything else. He nodded and headed for the door. Martin picked up the file and datebook and followed.
They rode in uncomfortable silence back to the office. Martin was worried about Danny. He sat silently in the passenger seat toying with his keys. Martin looked at him. He was rubbing an old pressed penny from Coney Island. "Danny, I'm sorry if I was outta line back there¡ but you were really good with that kid."
"Yeah well we've got a lot in common." Danny said quietly and stared out of the window.
While Martin and Danny were at the school and DYFS, Sam, along with Special Agent Vivian Johnson, was searching Stephen Parker's house. Vivian was the senior agent on the team below their boss Jack Malone. A short black woman, approaching 40, Vivian had a no-nonsense style about her work. And with a 13 year old son she was also the unofficial den mother of the group.
Both women were wearing latex gloves as they went through Stephen Parker's home. "This guy is incredibly organized." Viv said looking at his files. "He's got records going back to 1980." Sam was looking at the photos on the walls and mantel piece.
"There's not one photo of his daughter here." Sam said to Vivian "or his wife. I'm guessing these have been his foster sons." She indicated photo's of several young boys. "What did you find?" she asked Vivian.
Vivian was looking at an old file from one of the cabinets. The name on it was ¡®Danny Alvarez'. Vivian smiled at Sam. "Just one of his files, I don't think it's relevant." She quickly tucked the file back into the drawer. Sam nodded and continued to go through the desk; as the agents from tech support came in to take the computer. Vivian kept going through the files. "But this might be."
"What is it?" Sam asked walking over to the desk.
Vivian pulled out a file with newspaper clippings. "They are all about an accident on the Brooklyn Expressway." She flipped through them. "A head on collision between two cars, three people died, a man and woman from one car and the woman driver of the second¡ The woman was Louisa Parker¡ it's his wife." Vivian looked at the clippings as Sam moved around the room. Vivian noticed in one the driver of the other car was named as Javier Alvarez. She quietly looked at Danny's file again. As she suspected, his father's name was Javier.
Vivian knew about Danny's troubled past. She knew about his name change as well, he'd left Danny Alvarez behind and made a fresh start as an FBI agent named Danny Taylor. She knew better than anyone, the one person you can't outrun is yourself, a fact Danny often struggled to deal with. She checked to see if Sam was watching her before pulling out Danny's file again. When Sam's back was turned she surreptitiously put the file on "Danny Alvarez" in her folio as well. She'd look at them alone before talking to Danny privately first.
Sam and Vivian moved on to Mikey's room. It was a typical teenaged boy's bedroom complete with posters of bikini clad women on the walls, and a few of various athletes and musicians. "Not much here" Sam said to Vivian as they went through the bureau and nightstand.
Vivian was smiling, "you need to think like a teenaged boy."
"Uhm Viv I've never been a teenaged boy!" Sam grinned.
"Do you wanna try living with one? I'll loan you Reggie, if you like!" Viv laughed. Sam giggled with her. "I love him to bits but he can be really hard work!" Viv shook her head. Together they searched the room as another agent removed the computer. "Here we go." Viv said as she pulled a small duffel bag out of the closet. She set it on the bed and opened it up. "What is this?" she held up a blood stained shirt with a gloved hand. The two women looked at each other.
"Let's get this back to the lab." Sam said quietly.
Viv nodded. "You go on with that, I'll finish up here." She said to Sam, who nodded and went to deal with the evidence. Vivian made sure that she was gone before going back downstairs to the office. She skimmed the house again and searched for anything that might be connected to Danny.
The only thing she found was an old photo of him and Amelia in a box of photos. They both looked to be about 14; Danny might have been a little older. They were standing close together on the pier at Coney Island. Danny had his arm around her and she was holding a stuffed teddy bear. Obviously a prize won at one of the games behind them. Vivian smiled. "He still has that smile." She said to herself. She gathered her things and headed back to the office.
Amelia sat on the floor of her bedroom. She hadn't been to work all week. She couldn't focus on anything. Since she'd left the FBI's offices, she'd spent the day waiting, wondering and worrying. She pulled her "Happy box" out of her closet. It was a small trunk her mother had given her when she was 5. "You can put all of your happy memories in here Mia." Her mother had told her "So whenever you are sad or feeling bad you can open it up and find something to make you feel better."
Amelia had searched through the old photos, and birthday cards, ribbons and notes until she found the photo she was looking for. It was a picture her father had taken of her and Danny Alvarez. In the picture, they were at Coney Island and Danny had just given Amelia a Teddy Bear he won shooting basket balls. She set the picture aside and reached into the box. She pulled out the Teddy Bear. It was well loved but not shabby. She ran her fingers over its face and straightened the faded ribbon bow tied at its neck. She sat curled up hugging the bear. Danny had been a great friend for the short time he was in her life. There had been such a strong bond between them she'd never forgotten him.
In the 11 months he was with them Danny became part of the family. He loved hanging out with Amelia. They'd clicked from the start and had gotten really close. They shared the same wicked sense of humor and became fast friends. Rafi, his older brother, used to tease Danny about his rich girlfriend, when Parker would take him to visit Rafi at Riker's Island. Not that she'd have minded Danny being her boyfriend. They would spend hours talking and they'd confide in each other. They helped each other cope with the losses they'd both had to face. Amelia was sorry to see him move out when Rafi was released.
Danny still came to visit. Sometimes after school he'd surprise Amelia and be waiting for her at the gates to her school or he'd spend the weekend with her and her father. She and Danny used to walk together down Battery Park and stroll along the river. It was their place. They could talk. Danny would open up a little. He'd talk about his mom and how much he missed her. He never talked about how she died. He'd listen to Amelia talk about her mom.
On the fourth anniversary of her mother's death, Amelia was glad that Danny was there. He was really down; Amelia thought that since it was her mother's anniversary, Danny was remembering his parents. She could never have guessed what he was thinking. She sat miserably with him late at night, the pair of them curled up under a blanket in the family room. They'd turned the TV down low and Mr. Parker was upstairs and out cold having downed the better part of a bottle of rum. Amelia opened up and told Danny how her mother had died.
"It was a car wreck." She'd said to him quietly and told him about the wreck. "They say the other driver swerved into their lane. The front seat passengers of that car were both killed." She looked at him, tears welling in her eyes. "I hate driving down the Brooklyn Expressway now." She whispered.
Danny had put an arm around her, she felt him tensing "She was killed in a head on, on the Brooklyn Expressway three years ago today." He repeated. She nodded. He looked like he was ready to be physically sick. They sat together the rest of the night. Amelia dosed off with her head on his shoulder but when she woke up he was gone. He'd taken his things and left without a word.
Danny stopped coming to the house, he stopped seeing her father. Her father had just brushed it aside when she asked about Danny.
"I told you not to get too attached." He said it over and over along with "It's your own fault you got yourself hurt." Amelia locked herself and her heart away after that. She put Danny into her happy box.
She wondered where he was now and hoped that he was happy. It had been so long since she'd seen him, but she still wondered why he left so abruptly. He never said good bye. That's what stunned her the most. She never heard from him again. She always wondered what had happened to him. She'd tried looking for him but it was as if he'd disappeared. Just like her father and Mikey.
Danny was sitting silently at his desk when Sam came into the office. He was staring at the computer screen. "Come on you piece of crap!" he hit the enter key hard a half dozen times before hitting the side of his flat screen monitor.
"That doesn't help" Sam smiled.
"It does with some things!" he gave a half laugh "I had an old Panasonic TV and the only thing it understood was a good slap upside the picture tube!" He turned his frustration back to his keyboard.
"But not with computers, they're a bit more sensitive, Danny! That's not going to help"
"No but it makes me feel better." Danny grumbled and scowled at the computer again. Sam raised an eyebrow at Martin. He just shrugged and looked worriedly at Danny.
They'd been back for over an hour and he'd hardly said more than two words.
"Ok where are we so far?" Vivian asked coming in and taking off her jacket. "How did you guys do at the school and with DYFS?" she asked Martin. They gathered at a large conference table in the middle of the office. "Danny?" Vivian called "Are you joining us?"
"Yeah... coming" he got up and with another poke at his keyboard he said something impolite in Spanish to his computer and joined the others at the table. He was still subdued. They exchanged worried looks. Danny was usually a bit down after going to DYFS but this was different. Something was really getting to him this time and they could all pick up on it.
They ran through the evidence they had so far. "Stephan Brian Parker and his foster son Michael Anthony Cortez have been missing for at least 6 days." Martin read from his notes. "Parker's daughter Amelia reports the last time she had any contact was Saturday evening when she brought them dinner. She reported nothing unusual about the visit. It's normal for her not to have daily contact with her father. She didn't know that they were missing until she was contacted by Michael's school on Monday. She subsequently reported them to NYPD"
"A waste of time" Danny snorted quietly.
"Amen brother." Martin couldn't help but smile. "She waited until this morning to come to us."
"Why did she wait so long?" Sam asked her saccharin smile not masking the cynicism in her voice.
"She claims she didn't think we'd help her." Martin looked at his notes. "After the reception I got at NYPD, I didn't think anyone else would help." Martin read Amelia's words from her statement.
"Didn't she say she saw us in the news?" Sam took the notes from Martin.
"She didn't think we'd consider the case to have a high enough profile to warrant our involvement." Martin took his notes back. "She
came to us when she didn't know what else to do. She thought she had nothing else to loose."
"Or she's establishing a plausible alibi." Sam tapped her pen on her notepad.
"You're barking up the wrong tree." Danny said firmly. "Mia didn't do anything to her father. Even if they weren't close, he's still all she has left."
"Mia?" Vivian said quietly to Martin with a raised eyebrow. Sam was too interested in running her own theory to pick up on Danny's extremely familiar reference to Amelia.
"And how do you know that?" Sam asked Danny.
"Because if you let Martin finish you'll find out that Parker's wife died." Danny matched Sam's smile with his own equally cynical one.
"Ok kids, play nice!" Vivian stepped in. "What did you find out about the boy?"
Martin flipped through his notes. "Mikey as they call him, seems to be an average student. He keeps his head down at school, no serious problems there. He does have an older brother, Francis 'Frankie' Cortez, who has a pretty long rap sheet, or so we've been told."
"We've been told?" Vivian looked from Martin to Danny.
Before either of them could answer Danny's computer beeped and several pages printed out "Now you decide to work¡" he got up and grumbled at his computer in quiet Spanish. Martin and the others couldn't help but smile. "Here it is." Danny sat back down. "He's been in and out of juvy since he was 11. Petty theft, assault, theft, drugs, gangs¡ the usual crap." He passed the rap sheet to Martin.
"He's currently at Riker's awaiting trial" he said.
"What this time?" Vivian asked.
"Grand theft auto and vehicular homicide" Martin read out. "He stole a car and had a head on with another car, the woman driving it was pronounced at the scene¡" he stopped seeing the pen in Danny's hand shaking again. Danny put his pen down and leaned back in his chair his arms crossed.
Sam had stepped back to her desk and punched the accident report number into her computer. "According to the report a kid fitting Mikey's description was seen running from the scene after arguing with Frankie, another Hispanic male and an unidentified older white male" she read out to them. They all looked at each other, understanding the significance.
"Who called it in?" Vivian asked.
"An unidentified male" Martin was looking at the report Sam had printed out. "from a cell."
"We need that 911 tape." Vivian said.
"I'm on it." Sam picked up the phone.
"Have the lab come back with anything on the blood yet?" Vivian asked
"So far only one donor and its Mikey's type..." Sam said "They should have DNA confirmation in a couple hours. They're pulling the 911 tape now."
"How about the financials?" Vivian looked at Martin.
"Not much. He'd made a withdrawal on Saturday morning about a hundred dollars at an ATM near St Cecelia's. That's in keeping with his normal patterns, there's no activity since then."
"And the car?"
"Are you looking for a '98 silver Mazda?" they all turned to see their boss Jack Malone walking up to the table with some papers in his hand. Martin shot a glance at Danny. He'd stiffened in his seat. Martin didn't like to see it. There was an undercurrent of tension between Danny and Jack. There had been for some time. Something had happened between Jack and Danny while Martin was recovering from being shot on duty. Danny skirted the issue whenever he tried to bring it up and he knew better than to try to talk to Jack about it. He smiled and greeted Jack with the rest of them.
"You're back." Vivian smiled. "We thought you'd be in DC until at least Monday."
"I couldn't take anymore." Jack smiled with his gravely voice. He had been at Quantico on a training course. "When they put these courses together they should try to get someone who's actually been in the field to run them." He shook his head. "Anyway, I was passing tech and the new kid asked me to bring this to the lady in charge."
Vivian took the papers from him with a grin, the others suppressing their own giggles, "He won't make that mistake again." Vivian couldn't help herself. She had to laugh outright when Jack just smiled and shook his head. "They found the car." She read the report.
"NYPD had it impounded on Wednesday. It had been abandoned in the parking lot of Big Daddy's Diner. It's being transferred to the garage and our guys will go over it."
"Someone's going to have to talk to Frankie" Martin said.
"I'll go." Danny was up. "I'll call you if I find anything." He was out of the door before anyone could blink.
"What's up with him?" Jack asked watching Danny hurry out.
Martin shook his head. "He's been rattled since we came back from DYFS."
Jack nodded. "Keep an eye on him."
"You know we will." Vivian said, she was as worried about Danny too. "Why don't I bring you up to speed on what you've missed?" She said to Jack.
"Ok, I need to have a quick work with Van Doren."
"A quick word, there no such thing with you two!" Vivian smiled knowing that a simple chat between Jack and his boss could escalate into world war three in a matter of minutes.
"I'll play nice." Jack smiled. "Meet me in my office in 15?" he looked at his watch.
"Sure thing" Vivian said to him and she watched him walk off knowing she had at least half an hour. "Maybe one of you should go talk to Miss Parker about her mother's death." She looked from Sam to Martin.
"You go." Sam said to Martin. "You know I just can't resist trawling through phone records." She said with another of her trademark saccharin smiles.
"Right!" Martin laughed; "You just don't want to face the cross town traffic!"
"Well that too." Sam picked up the stack of papers and went to her desk.
"Ok, can I talk to you?" Vivian said quietly to Martin. He nodded knowing that it must be important he guessed it was about Danny. He followed her to her desk where she picked up her folio and they walked around to one of the interrogation rooms.
"What's up Viv?" Martin was worried now.
"I hope it's nothing but before you go to see Miss Parker I thought you should know, Danny's parents were killed in the same car wreck that killed her mother." She said to him. Martin had to sit down. He felt like he'd been hit in the gut. Now he understood why Danny was behaving so oddly. The shaking hands whenever the car wreck was mentioned, the strange silences, walking out of an interview, it all made sense now.
"How much do you know about that wreck?" Martin asked Vivian. He'd spoken to Danny a bit about it, but it was in the confines of an AA meeting. He wouldn't betray that confidence for anything.
"A bit, you know he plays his cards close to the vest." She said quietly. "But I found these today. I didn't think they had any real bearing on the case¡ but¡ take a look." she gave him the two folders.
"He was one of Parkers foster sons?" Martin looked at Danny's file. "He never said, and neither did Miss Parker."
"She knows him as Danny Alvarez." Vivian pointed to the file. "He ran away from their house. Check the date, it was four years to the day of the accident." She looked at Martin. "Something happened either that day or that evening for him to run. If you read the reports, it was his happiest and most stable foster home. Why did he run?"
"Do I ask Miss Parker?" Martin looked at Vivian.
"No not until we can prove it's directly related to the case." She shook her head. "There's no point upsetting her if we don't have to.
Besides, she obviously doesn't know that Danny has changed his name or that he works here. It's not for us to tell her."
"You're right." Martin nodded "I'd better get going." He stood up and handed the folders back to Vivian. She watched him go hoping he'd find out something to help the case, but also something, that might help Danny. She shook her head and went to find Jack to tell him everything that had been going on while he was in Washington.
Amelia was just making a fresh pot of coffee when her doorbell rang. Her heart was pounding as she spoke into the intercom. "Hello?"
"Miss Parker? It's Special Agent Fitzgerald. I need to speak to you about your father's case."
"Oh of course come on up" She pressed the buzzer to unlock the front door of her apartment building. She was on the third floor of a five floor walk up. She opened the door as Martin came up the steps. He smiled seeing her. "Come on in." she smiled glad he was alone. She didn't think he'd give her bad news all by himself.
"Thank you." Martin smiled and walked into the neat apartment. "I'm sorry I didn't call first." He said to her.
"My father always says ¡®If you've got questions for someone it's best to catch them by surprise.' He said it doesn't give them time to rehearse their answers."
"He's right." Martin nodded with a knowing grin.
"Won't you sit down?" Amelia indicated to her sofa and chairs "Would you like some coffee? I just made a pot."
"That would be great thanks." He smiled and took a seat on the large overstuffed chair in the living room. She went into the kitchen and came back carrying a tray with the coffee and a plate of sweet little shortbread cookies. "Wow thank you." Martin sat forward. "You didn't need to go to all this trouble."
"It's no trouble." Amelia smiled "Baking has been keeping me sane this week." She confessed "Do you have anything new?"
"A bit, but the details are still a bit sketchy." Martin took the cup she offered. "Thank you¡ wow that's really good¡" he sipped the coffee.
He set the cup down and took out his little notebook. "So far we've found out that Mickey may have been involved in a car accident sometime Saturday night." He said gently. "We think he may have called your father for help."
"Was Mickey driving? He's only 15¡" Amelia had put her cup down. Martin could see her hands shaking in her lap.
"No his older brother Frankie was driving." Martin told her. "We're not sure of all of the details yet like I said. We do believe your father went to help him. We have eyewitness reports of Mikey and his brother arguing with a man fitting your father's description at the scene before they both fled, Mikey presumably on foot."
"Was anyone hurt?" she asked softly she couldn't look at him. "Did they hurt my father or anyone else?" she looked at him and Martin was struck by how big her eyes were and just how much of her emotions showed in them.
"We think Mikey was hurt in the crash. We found a bloody shirt hidden in his closet. We think your father either walked or drove off. We did find his car at Big Daddy's Diner."
"That was where they had their first date." She said softly.
"Who did?" he was surprised by her response.
"My parents, dad was in grad school and didn't have a lot of money." She smiled sadly. "He took her there after the movies for an old fashioned ice cream soda. I think they still make them. I used to go there, sometimes..."
Her words raised an echo in his memory, a conversation with Danny once they were trying to decide where to stop for lunch. ¡®How about Big Daddy's?' he'd asked Danny. "They make really great ice cream sodas... I used to go there sometimes¡' Danny had told him before suggesting another place. Martin looked at Amelia she seemed so sad he hated to press her further. There was something about her that made him want to protect her.
"How badly hurt do you think Mikey is?" she asked quietly.
"That's hard to say, there was quite a bit of blood on his shirt, but he hasn't turned up at any of the hospitals yet." Martin said diplomatically.
"What about the morgues?"
"No" he shook his head.
"What about the people in the other car?" she asked.
"I'm afraid the woman driving it was killed." He said seeing her go pale at the news. "I'm sorry but I have to ask. Your mother was killed in a car accident is that right?"
"Yes, it was on the Brooklyn Expressway, another car lost control and ran into them." She cleared her throat. "My mother was killed along with a man and a woman in the other car. I think there was another person in the backseat." She shook her head "What does this have to do with my father's disappearance, or Mikey's?"
"We need to look at every possibility," He told her, "the more information we have the better our chances of finding them." Amelia nodded. "Could you tell me a bit about the accident and the time afterwards? I know it's difficult but I'm trying to get a picture of your father's state of mind."
"I understand." She nodded and in a quiet voice she told him about losing her mother and the way her father shut down after her death. "He was great with the foster kids, especially my foster brother Danny." She smiled and quickly looked away. She was struggling to keep her composure as it was and speaking about Danny might just make her loose it.
"He must have been special. He's the only one you've referred to as your foster brother." Martin said softly.
"He was." She smiled sadly "I wish I knew where he was now. What has happened to him¡"
"You don't know?" Martin asked.
"No, on the fourth anniversary of my mother's death he ran away." Her voice was no more than a whisper. "He just left in the middle of the night. We'd been talking. Well I was talking about my mom. I told him how she died, sometimes I think I scared him, he didn't leave a note, he never said good bye." She couldn't help the tears this time. "I'm sorry" she wiped her eyes "You'd think by now it wouldn't bother me anymore."
"It's never easy to lose someone you care about." Martin said softly. "I'm sorry to put you through that." He closed his notebook.
"I hope it was helpful." She gave him a weak smile.
"It has been, more than you can imagine." Martin stood. "I won't keep you any longer. I'll be in touch if I have any new information. You have my numbers right?"
"I do" she nodded and walked him to the door. He hadn't taken more than two steps from the closed door when he could hear her crying. She'd leaned against the door and sunk to the floor her head on her knees. Martin stood for a moment torn between going back to her and going back to work. He sighed and hung his head before he headed for his car. He hoped Danny had better luck at Riker's
Danny hated going to Riker's Island. The ferry rides over always filled his head with painful memories. He forced them to the back of his mind. He paced the deck going over Frankie's details in his little notebook. It was a warm day and there were a lot of people on their way to Riker's for visiting hours. What a lousy way to spend a day, he thought to himself before a couple of kids caught his eye, a boy and a girl both about fourteen. She had long dark hair, his was short dark and spiky. The girl was sitting turned half towards him rubbing his back. "It will be OK" he heard her say "You know you're not alone in this"
Danny was instantly transported back to his own trips to Riker's to visit Rafi. He could see himself at fourteen sitting there with Amelia Parker, his foster sister and so much more. Amelia would sometimes go with him when her father would take him to visit Rafi. Those were the few trips he made willingly.
"I hate this place Mia" Danny whispered to her. They were sitting close together on a bench on the ferry deck. Amelia sat half turned towards him gently rubbing his back. Mr. Parker was sitting inside drinking a coffee, as always he had his nose buried in another case file.
"Danny, it will be OK" Amelia said in her soft voice. "Just go in say 'Hi' ask him how he's doing¡" she smiled encouragingly, "It will be over before you know it." He looked at her skeptically, "It will be alright Danny." She'd say it to him a few times and then she'd talk to him about music or food or the beach. She talked about anything, everything and nothing. He didn't care what she talked about he just needed to hear her voice. It always did make him feel better.
"Do you want to go to Big Daddy's, for a float afterwards?" he looked at her.
She could see the pain in his eyes and she wanted to get his mind off of his brother even for a few seconds. "Are you sure your ego is ready to be beaten in another game of pinball?" she teased him with her most wicked smile before she stuck her tongue out at him playfully. It worked, with a wicked grin of his own he tickled her and they were both laughing and smiling when the ferry landed.
"I wonder why Parker never came to the diner with us." Danny asked himself quietly. He didn't have time to think of an answer, the ferry was docking. This time he wasn't smiling.
Danny checked his weapon at the entry point for law enforcement officers. The guard buzzed him inside and Danny walked the long familiar corridor to the visitor's rooms. His nose wrinkling at the smell of the place, institutional disinfectant, stale urine and something he couldn't and didn't want to identify. He walked purposefully to the visitor's room. There were over a dozen picnic tables bolted to the floor a prisoner and their visitors at each except one. A young Hispanic man sat alone. He was wearing the bright orange jumpsuit to denote his status as a prisoner still pending trial. His hands, arms and neck were covered in gang tattoos. A guard stood close behind him. "Frankie Cortez?" Danny asked as he walked up.
"Who wants ta know?" the guy leaned back and looked Danny up and down.
"I'm Special Agent Danny Taylor, FBI" Danny held up his ID. "I got it." He nodded to the guard. The guard nodded and moved a discreet distance away. "I've got some questions about your brother Mikey." Danny said.
"What did toad do?"
"Toad?" Danny said.
"Yeah, boy's always croaking ¡®bout somthin' so¡"
"Well, he's missing." Danny said. "No one has seen or heard from him since the accident."
"The one on Sunday that landed you in here." Danny
"Aw man that was all Mikey's fault! If that little shit had just shut up when I told him, that lady'd be ok." Frankie shrugged.
"That 'Little Shit' is your little brother!" Danny said firmly. "He's hurt and he's missing?"
"How do ya know he's hurt if he's missing?" Frankie snorted.
"Because we found his bloody shirt, now what happened on Sunday?" Danny asked again.
"Man I don't think I should be talking to you without my lawyer!"
"Oh you want to play it that way? OK. We'll get your lawyer. Just be sure you understand you're already facing one murder charge. If anything's happened to Mikey or Mr. Parker, we can make it three." Danny got up and signaled the guard.
"What! Oh no dog! Don't play me like that!" Frankie shook his head. Danny turned his back to walk away. "Ok! Ok! I'll talk to you, without my lawyer." Danny stopped and turned. "Guy's a no good PD anyway." Frankie laughed. "What do you want to know?"
"What happened Sunday?" Danny sat back down and took out his notebook. "¡with Michael."
"I called him to see if he wanted to hang with us." Frankie shrugged. "We were chillin' had a slice, then Turbo asked for a ride home.
"What's Turbo's real name?" Danny asked.
"Darnell Thompson." Frankie said. "Anyways, Mikey was in the back and Turbo, well he's got a mouth¡ and he's usually cranked up¡ that's why we call him Turbo¡ well he starts going off on one about some old beef we had. Little bro jumps in thinking he's helping. He's just getting Turbo more pissed off. I know Turbo is packing so I turned to tell Mikey to shut up¡ next thing I know WHAM!" he slams his palm down on the table. "Good thing we had airbags."
"Yeah" Danny says with quiet cynicism. He was starting to feel a little sick. Suck it up! He thought to himself before asking, "Was Mikey hurt in the crash?"
"He cut his head," Frankie shrugged. "No biggie." He said dismissively. "He was crying like a little girl about that Parker dude at his foster home. He kept saying he needed to call home. I told him he was a chump, that guy Parker was like the rest he was in it for the money."
"You know Mr. Parker?" Danny asked.
"Nope, never met him until that night" Frankie shrugged
"You met Parker?"
"Yeah Mikey called him. Turbo lost it when he showed up. He'd already checked that lady and said she was dead and we should be ghost."
Why? Because you killed her, Or because you were in a stolen car?"
"I thought you was interested in Mikey and that other guy." Frankie said suspiciously.
"I am." Danny said. "What happened when Parker got there?"
"He lost it completely." Frankie looked at Danny. "The guy took one look at the woman and went out of his mind. It was like he knew her. He kept calling her Louisa. He took a swing at Turbo. I got between them and Turbo and me we split. He was yelling at Mikey and calling the cops when we split. That's the last I seen of them." He shrugged.
"Thanks, you've been a big help." Danny closed his notebook knowing he was no closer to finding either Mikey or Parker. As he walked out of the visitor's room he heard a familiar voice in the distance.
"Sylvia! Nicky!" it called.
Danny turned and his stomach lurched. It was Rafi. He was in a dark grey jumpsuit. He was a long term inmate at Riker's. Rafi had been in and out of jail a number of times. Danny stopped keeping track. "Damn I forgot he was here" he sighed quietly. He watched Rafi greet the woman and the young boy warmly. He felt guilty for not coming to see Rafi. Then he was angry with himself for feeling guilty. I helped him get out once and what did he do? He thought to himself. He dutifully checked on Sylvia and Nicky, but Danny was always busy when it came time for them to visit Rafi. Forget it! Don't get involved again! He thought to himself. He drew a breath and walked out never realizing that Rafi had seen him as well.
On the ferry back Danny called Vivian. "Hey Viv, we need to check out a Darnell Thompson¡ a.k.a. Turbo." He relayed the information he'd been able to gather to her.
"Ok Danny," Vivian said to him. "Come on back in. We should have the 911 tape by the time you get here."
"Yeah sure" Danny hung up. He didn't want to go back to the office; he wanted to go have an ice cream soda. "Later." He promised himself and resolutely returned to see what progress they were making back at the office.
Back at the office they are all once again gathered around the conference table. "Agent Spade," a young man walked up to Sam. "The tape you requested and the details on the caller." He handed her a tape and a printout before leaving. Sam put the tape into a small recorder and pressed play.
"911 what's your emergency?" came the operator's voice
"They killed her." A man said desperately "Oh God, they've killed her!"
"Sir, sir listen to me I need you to calm down and tell me exactly what happened and where you are." The operator tried to take control.
"They weren't paying attention to the road and they ran straight into us!" he sounded like a wounded child. "Why did they do that?"
"Sir? Do you know where you are?"
"On the expressway... they killed her, they killed my Louisa¡... Oh you stupid boy!" he was shouting at someone. Martin was watching Danny's face. He looked ready to be physically sick. He hands were shaking. He noticed Martin staring and folded his arms tightly as the tape went on.
"Sir" the operator said "Sir, stay put I'm tracing the call we'll have someone to you as quick as we can."
He wasn't listening. "Louisa! Pleas... not again... oh God, not again..." He was starting to cry.
In the background another male voice could be heard. "The cops is coming Mikey, I'm ghost¡ if you had any brains you'd get outta here too." There was a scuffle and the sounds of two or more people fighting before the phone went dead.
Sam turned off the tape recorder. "What's the time on that?" Vivian asked
"2am Monday morning, just 6 hours before Frankie Cortez was picked up." She read off of the reports.
"So what are we thinking here?" Martin asked. "Mikey goes out with his older brother and gets into trouble. He calls Parker to come pick him up¡ Parker sees what has happened and he remembers losing his wife¡ has a break down?"
"It's certainly starting to look that way." Vivian said. "What about this Darnell Thompson?"
"The system is down." Danny shook his head with an aggravated sigh. "I'll go down and get the records. I need some air."
"Ok" Vivian nodded as Danny got up.
"Where are you going?" Jack asked Danny as he walked up to the conference table.
"I'm going to pick up some records." Danny said evenly.
"Huh OK." Jack said "You're just always leaving when ever I arrive" he looked at Danny
"I wonder if there isn't a reason behind that." Danny said and walked off. Martin and Vivian exchanged worried looks.
Danny hadn't been gone more than 10 minutes when Martin's cell phone rang. "Fitzgerald" he answered it. "What? Oh God, are you sure?" he waved to Vivian "Ok, I'll get her and we'll be down as quick as we can."
Vivian came over to Martin's desk. "What's up?"
"That was Conway down at Bellevue. They have a John Doe in the morgue that fits Parker's description." Martin said quietly.
"Terrific" she said disgustedly. It was not the outcome she wanted. "Have they made a positive id yet?"
"No, they want a family member." Martin said.
"Are you up to it?" Vivian asked.
"There's not much choice." Martin said grimly. "I'll go tell Miss Parker and drive her down there."
"Good luck" Vivian nodded and Martin hurried out. Vivian went to update Jack and check on the computer problems.
Danny came back into the office with Darnell Thompson's file. "Hey Sam where is everyone?"
"Uh Viv's gone to check on the computer problems and Martin is taking Miss Parker to Bellevue." She looked up from her computer screen.
"Who turned up?" Danny asked.
"A John Doe fitting Parker's description, they want the family to identify the body."
"Body" Danny said his stomach threatening to revolt again.
"Uh... yeah..." Sam nodded looking at her monitor again.
Danny didn't say anything he just dropped the file on the table and headed out the door. He needed to get to Bellevue Hospital. He knew he'd beat Martin there. He had to see for himself if it was really Stephen Parker.
Martin parked in front of Amelia's building and drew a long deep breath. He wanted to be sick. He hated this part of the job but knew it had to be done. He took out his cell phone and dialed her number. It rang twice before she picked it up. "Miss Parker, this is Special Agent Fitzgerald. I'm sorry to call you so late." He looked at his watch it was really only 8:30.
"It's alright do you have some new information?" she was surprised to hear from him.
"Yes, but it would be better if we spoke in person. Are you free?" Martin didn't want to sound cryptic but he didn't want to tell her about the John Doe over the phone either.
"Well yes of course, when can you get here? Or would you rather I came to you?" Amelia's heart was pounding. She knew something had come up.
"I'm actually parked out front." He confessed. "If it's alright I'll come up." Martin was already locking his car.
"Yes... wow..." she was stunned"¡that would be fine, I'll open the door."
"Ok, I'll see you in a few minutes." He hung up and took another breath before crossing the street. He rang the door bell and she buzzed him in.
Amelia was waiting with the door to her apartment open. "Hello, I wasn't expecting to see you again so soon. Please come in¡" her smile belying the fear in her heart.
"Thank you." Martin said quietly. She could see he had something to tell her. She closed the door and took a breath.
"Please sit down, would you like some coffee?" She asked automatically.
"No thank you." Martin said "I have some news." He said gently as she sat beside him on the couch. He couldn't help notice her hands tremble in her lap as she nervously played with her fingers. "There's no easy way to say this, we've been notified by Bellevue Hospital that a man fitting your father's description has been brought in to the morgue."
He stopped. Amelia looked at him, her dark eyes huge in her face as she blanched. "The morgue..." she whispered.
"I'm afraid so, but" he blew out his breath, "we need you to identify him." He looked at her, she was shaking her head. "Please Miss Parker, I know this is difficult, but it's the only way¡."
"How..." she was struggling to find her words. "How did he die?" she asked.
"The man was beaten. But we don't know for certain that it is your father." He said gently. "Are you ready to go to the hospital? I will drive you." Amelia was still trying to process what he was telling her, what he was asking her. All she could do was nod and pray that this was all a bad dream and she'd wake up soon.
"Ok come on." Martin stood and offered her his hand. When she put hers in it and stood up he could feel her shaking, again he had an overwhelming urge to protect her. At the same time he wondered what could have been so bad that made Danny run away from her all those years ago. "It will be alright." Martin tried to say reassuringly. Amelia nodded and picking up her handbag she let him lead her out of the apartment and down to his car.
Danny drove like a man possessed, honking his horn and yelling at everyone on the road. He made record time to Bellevue certain he'd violated almost every driving statute on the books. He parked and hurried into the quiet rear doors leading to the morgue and viewing suites. There was a very bored looking young woman at the reception desk. She perked up seeing Danny heading her way.
"I'm Special Agent Taylor FBI." He flashed his badge "Is Conway here, we got a call about a John Doe." He said to her.
"Sure. He's here." She said in a heavy Brooklyn accent, she leaned on the counter and smiled at him.
"Will you tell him I need to see him?" Danny smiled to hide his growing impatience.
"Ok" she shrugged "What should I tell him it's about?"
"The John Doe he contacted the FBI about!" Danny held up his badge again.
"Sure. Hang on." She picked up the phone. "Dr. Conway, yeah there's a guy from the FBI here to see you about Mr. Doe. No he's alone¡ uh hang on¡ he says you're supposed to be bringing someone."
"They're on their way I wanted to see the John Doe first to prepare the family member for viewing.¡± Danny smiled at her.
"Oh, he wants a peak at the guy first... what? His name's Taylor, Ok" she hung up. "He says it's ok and you know the way." She pointed to the double doors.
"I do." Danny said. He turned and went through the swinging doors. For the second time that day the mixture of institutional disinfectant and something he couldn't quite identify assaulted his nose and made him queasy. He walked down the corridor to the viewing suite. Dr Conway, one of the city's top medical examiners was waiting for him in the ante room. Dr Conway was in his late 50's and had a full head of salt and pepper hair. He was in his usual light blue scrubs leaning against the door leading into the actual viewing suite.
"Danny! How are you?" Dr Conway greeted him with a hand shake. "I thought this was a family ID?"
"It is." Danny smiled "But there's a chance I might know him. I was hoping see him first."
"Oh I'm sorry, to hear that." Conway shook his head. "He's ready," he pointed to the door leading into the viewing suite. "Are you?"
Danny ran his hands over his face and licked his lips. "I think so" he nodded. "How did he die?"
"Didn't you get that info?" Conway was surprised.
"No my partner did, he's briefing the family." Danny said softly
"Oh I see," Conway nodded. "It was blunt force trauma" Conway shrugged "most likely a fist and it appears that he was kicked and stomped on as well." All Danny could do, was shake his head. "Come on." Conway opened the door and led Danny into the viewing suite.
The viewing suite was a small room its cinderblock walls an institutional shade of blue grey. On the long table was the draped body. Conway walked to the opposite side of the table. "Ready?" he asked gently. Danny drew a breath and nodded. Conway slowly moved the drape down to reveal the man's bruised and battered face. Danny looked closely. It had been so long since he'd seen Parker. He pulled his phone out and looked at the picture before leaning down for a closer look.
"Does he have any scars or birthmarks?" Danny asked. He remembered that Parker had a scar on his right shoulder from a football injury.
"No neither." Conway said looking at his own notes.
"So no signs of any surgical procedures to his shoulders then¡" Danny asked again to be clear. "Because Parker had his right rotator cuff repaired in college."
"No, so this isn't your guy." Conway said.
"I don't think so." Danny drew his first easy breath that day.
"I'm afraid I'm still going to have to get the family to say conclusively." Conway said sadly.
"Do you really have to put her through that?" Danny asked his chest tightening up again.
"I'm afraid so." Conway said.
"They should be here any time now." Danny looked at his watch. "I'm going to get some water."
Conway nodded and covered John Doe back up. Danny hurried out of the viewing suite and out of the ante room. He heard Martin talking to the woman on the reception desk. He hustled into the Men's room. He stood at the sink and splashed cold water onto his face. He looked at himself in the mirror. "When did you become such a coward?" he asked his reflection. He knew he shouldn't let Amelia go through that alone but he couldn't bring himself to go back in there either. He dried himself off straightened his tie and his jacket and walked back to the reception area like a condemned man on his way to the death chamber.
He had to pass the viewing suite on his way out. He stopped and drew a breath. "Just do it!" he said to himself. His hands were shaking as he reached for the door. Pushing it open slowly he found that they were already inside and Conway had uncovered the man's face. Amelia was hugging herself and shaking her head, tears streaming down her face. He watched her wanting to go in and hug her, to hold her and swear he'd move Heaven and Earth to find her father, to turn back time, to right the wrong and make up for the pain he'd caused her.
He saw her pointing to her right shoulder and Conway nodded to Martin and said something as he slipped the drape to show the man did not have a scar on his shoulder. Danny caught Martin's eye. He could see Martin was not happy. Conway had obviously told him that Danny had already been in to see him. Martin nodded stiffly and then watched, disappointment clouding his eyes as Danny slipped quietly out.
Danny went to the reception area. The young woman behind the desk was having an inane conversation with someone on her cell phone. Her accent was wearing on Danny's already frayed nerves and he went to wait for Martin outside. Martin's anger and disappointment he could bear, it was Amelia's that terrified him.
Danny drew in a deep breath and tried to prepare himself to face Amelia when all he wanted to do was run. He hoped Martin would forgive him for abandoning him, leaving him to deal with a distraught family member on his own. Moreover, he hoped Amelia would forgive him, for something so much more terrible than just abandoning her. "You'll have to man up and face her first" he said to himself.
It was what he'd learned in AA. Stand up and admit your mistakes, face the consequences of your actions. He thought he had, but he'd been lying to himself, to his sponsor, to Martin. He'd confessed in an AA meeting he drank to forget the pain of losing his parents and to cope with all of the problems Rafi's addiction had brought into his life. But those were only parts of the reason. The rest of it revolved around Amelia and what he'd done to her, the damage he'd caused to her family. He had to face up to it. It had been his fault, even if it had been unintentional.
Amelia had her hand over her mouth willing herself to be calm. She felt physically ill, not because she'd had to try and identify a badly beaten man but because she was elated that she couldn't. It hit her hard. She was so desperately happy that it wasn't her father but at the same time she felt so awful that he was still nameless and his family was somewhere waiting for him to come home. The way she'd waited for Danny all of those years ago, she wondered if he'd been lying on a table like this waiting for someone to identify him and bring him home. That was the last straw.
"I'm sorry." She whispered to Martin and she hurried out. Martin hastily thanked Dr. Conway and hurried after her.
She was sitting in the ante, trying to pull herself together. Martin handed her a handkerchief. "Thank you" she whispered. "I just felt so guilty¡! I was ecstatic knowing that man in there wasn't my father¡" she had to take a shaky breath, "but then I thought about his family and what they must be going through right now."
Martin nodded quietly. "I'm so sorry I had to put you through that" he said softly. He got her a glass of water from the cooler in the corner. He sat with her for a few minutes until she was composed.
"Now what happens?" she looked at him.
"Well, I'll drive you home and then I've got a few more leads to run down." Martin said.
"But it's nearly 10:30, isn't your shift over?" she was surprised.
Martin smiled, "No as long as we've got active leads, we'll chase them up no matter what the time."
"I don't know what to say" she said "but thank you... it seems like so little for what you are doing for me¡ for my father. Your job must be so hard"
"It has its moments." Martin smiled. "When you find someone" He cleared his throat "Right are you ready?" Amelia nodded and he held the door open for her. She still hugged herself as she walked. Martin, with his hand lightly on her lower back guided her towards reception. Martin was looking around for Danny. The receptionist noticed.
"That other guy went outside." She pointed to the door.
"Thanks," Martin said. "Just one of my colleagues" Martin answered Amelia's curious look. She nodded and let him lead her outside.
Danny saw them come out. He was standing a few yards from the entrance. Martin saw him, not sure if he were trying to run or force himself to stay. "There you are." Martin said quietly.
Amelia looked up to see who Martin was speaking to. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light outside. Her heart nearly stopped when she recognized him. "Danny¡" she gasped.
"Hi Mia." He said softly. The emotion of finally seeing her almost overwhelmed him. His eyes burned with tears threatening to spill down his cheeks. He swore they could see his heart pounding in his chest. His hands were shaking again.
"It was you that that doctor was talking about¡" she said. "But he said it was Agent Taylor¡" she shook her head confused, and then she saw his name badge.
She stepped closer. "Danny Taylor." She read his badge. She gave a bitter half laugh "That's why I've never been able to find you."
"Mia... let me explain... let me try..." Danny, usually so smooth was struggling to find the right words. He'd rehearsed this moment so
many times but he never expected it to be so difficult.
"Explain?" She looked up at him. "Explain what? How you walked out on me without a word¡" she shook her head, "after everything that I... that you... How could you just leave like that and on that night ...of all the nights?"
"Mia... Please... I've been trying to find a way... I..." he was searching for the right words.
"You went in before we got here" she cut him off. Danny stopped and looked at her. The answer was in his eyes, he could never hide anything from her when he looked at her. "You knew it wasn't papi" Danny nodded. "...and you still put me through that?"
"Mia, I'm so sorry..." Danny started to say.
Amelia was shaking her head. All of the emotions she'd been bottling up for the last week, all of the fear and anger and frustration she'd been able to control exploded with the realization that Danny had known who and where she was for at least the last day and had done nothing. "Did I mean that little to you?"
On the verge of tears, he couldn't answer. He wouldn't look at her. She mistook his silence as an affirmation. "You son of a bitch¡" she said it softly and then a little louder and louder until she was screaming at him. He reached for her and she slapped him hard. He stepped back as she continued swinging at him and crying. Danny didn't try to defend himself; he held his hands in the air. He just gave up. Martin quickly stepped up and grabbed Amelia from behind catching her wrists in his hands. He held her tightly against his chest. Her resistance and spirit broken she sobbed in Martin's arms
"Get out of here! Danny just get out of here... go back to the office!" Martin barked at him. "I'll take care of her... just go!" Danny looked at Mia and felt his heart break. He turned and fled down the sidewalk. He hurried into the night trying to put Mia and Martin and all of his pain filled past behind him as fast as his feet would carry him.
Martin held onto Amelia as he watched Danny disappear into the darkness. He knew it wasn’t the professional thing to do but he gently turned her in his arms and held her. He let her cry herself out against his broad chest. He didn’t know what else to do. Silently he cursed Danny, and then himself for not being able to help him more. He could help Amelia. He knew that’s what Danny would want him to do. So he stood there with her, gently rubbing her back and trying to soothe her with wordless murmuring.
When he felt her calming he looked down at her. “Let me take you home now.” he said softly. Still trembling all she could do was nod. Martin picked up her handbag from where it had fallen after she’d hit Danny with it. He made a quick survey of the ground to be sure nothing was left behind before handing it to her.
He kept an arm around her as he walked her to his car. It was a silent drive back to her apartment. Martin parked and got out of the car. Amelia was surprised that he got out and opened the door for her. “I’ll walk you up.” He smiled and she nodded gratefully. “Come on.” He had his arm around her again; something still made him want to protect her. Right now he couldn’t believe he felt like he needed too protect her from Danny. She dug her keys out of her bag and opened the door.
She looked at him expecting him to just dump her off glad to be rid of her. “Agent Fitzgerald, I know it’s late… but…” she looked down searching for the right words. She didn’t want to be alone. She didn’t want him to go. He knew Danny; she sensed that they knew each other very well. She wanted to talk to him. She needed to talk to him. He seemed to sense it as well.
“Would you like to talk?” he asked her gently. She nodded. “Ok” he smiled “but maybe you should call me Martin?”
She smiled sadly at him and nodded. “Oh, won’t I keep you from your work? You said you had something you were going to look into?”
“No problem, I’ll get another agent to cover, don’t worry.”
“But what about your family… I wouldn’t want to keep you from getting home.”
“Yeah, there’s no problem there” Martin chuckled. “I’m single.” He blushed slightly. “So there’s no one to worry about but myself.”
“I know what that’s like.” Amelia said. She led Martin up the steps and into her apartment. “I know it’s warm outside but do you like hot chocolate?” she asked turning on the lights.
“I love it.” Martin smiled.
“I’ll make us some, it… it’s silly but it usually makes me feel better.”
“There’s nothing silly about that.” Martin smiled. “I’ll call the office while you’re doing that.”
“Ok, just make yourself at home.” She gestured to her living room and she headed for her kitchen.
Martin smiled and took off his suit jacket and loosened his tie. He called Vivian. He knew she’d most likely be home at this time but that she’d answer her cell no matter what time it was. “Johnson” came Vivian’s usual greeting.
“Hey Viv, it’s Martin.”
“Hi Martin, how did it go?”
“Uh well, it’s not Parker.” He wasn’t sure how to tell her about everything that had happened.
“Is she positive?” Vivian asked.
“Yes, Parker had had surgery to his right shoulder; this John Doe had no scars or signs of previous surgeries.”
“Ok,” she sighed knowing that they were back to square one. “So what else happened?”
“What do you mean?” he should have known she’d suspect something.
“I mean you wouldn’t be calling me this late at night to tell me the John Doe wasn’t our guy now what else happened?” Vivian said.
Martin could hear the annoyed mother tone creeping into her voice.
“Yeah, well, Danny ID’d the guy first…”
“He what? How did he even know... never mind! Just tell me what happened!”
“Well he waited outside after he realized it wasn’t Parker… I walked Miss Parker out and he tried to speak to her. It didn’t go well.”
“I bet.” Vivian sounded calmer than Martin had expected her to be. “Where is he now?”
“I’m not sure.” Martin said quietly. He looked to be sure Amelia was still occupied in the kitchen before quickly relaying the events of the last few hours to Vivian. Well most of them, he left out the part where he stood for 15 minutes holding Amelia as she sobbed against his chest. “So, I don’t know where he went if he’s not in the office.” Martin sighed.
“Let’s give him some time to cool down.” Vivian said quietly “If he’s not in tomorrow morning, we’ll call him.” Martin agreed it was the best plan of action knowing Danny as well as he did. “Look Miss Parker is pretty distraught at the moment…”
“Don’t worry. You stay put, and see what else you can get out of her. I’ll get Sam onto Darnell Thompson.” Vivian said knowing what Martin was going to ask.
“Thanks, Viv” Martin said. He hung up as Amelia came in with a tray of hot chocolate and more of her shortbread cookies.
“All set,” Martin smiled at her. “That smells fantastic.” He took the tray from her, seeing her hands were still shaking. He set it on the coffee table and they sat down on the couch. Amelia curled her legs under herself. As she sat there Martin was again struck by an over whelming urge to protect her. He couldn’t begin to imagine what would make Danny run out on her in the middle of the night without a word. She saw his eyes darken with his thoughts.
“Don’t be too mad at him.” She said quietly.
Martin looked at her surprised. “I’m not mad, so much as disappointed” he said softly. “I just don’t know what he’s been thinking these last few days” he shook his head “I thought I knew him.”
“Me too” Amelia said pain filling her eyes. “How long have you known Danny?” she asked him.
“Almost five years.” Martin said softly. Slowly Martin told Amelia about how he’d met Danny and how their friendship developed. He slowly gained her trust, he told her about the ambush and the aftermath. “Danny saved my life …twice…” He said to her, his eyes full of emotion.
“He got you into AA.” She said simply. Martin looked at her stunned. She pointed to his keys on the table then reached down into her purse and pulled a small set of keys out of it. She held up a key fob with the familiar AA symbol on it. “I’ve been sober for 10 years now.” She said softly. “I know how hard it is… that’s partly why I didn’t want you to leave me alone tonight…” She wiped her eyes. “I’m afraid that all of this is going to push me back…”
“You’re stronger than that.” Martin said. “I can tell.” He put his hand lightly over hers, “But you are not alone.” he said gently.
“No but Danny is, and he’s out there somewhere… I’m afraid for him.” She looked at Martin. “I’m afraid something will happen to him and he won’t know that I… that he’ll… he thinks I hate him… He thinks I’m mad at him… I’m not…” she shook her head. “It’s just been so…”
“Overwhelming” Martin finished for her. She nodded. “Then maybe we should leave it for tonight.” She looked at him. She had the feeling he knew more than he had already shared with her.
“You said you were going to look into my dad’s foster kids. Did you look into Danny too?”
Martin smiled; she knew how to ask the tough questions. “A bit.” he nodded. He knew she’d ask anyway so drawing a breath he looked at her. “There is a connection that goes back before your father took Danny on as a foster son.” Martin said softly.
“You know the couple in the car that was involved in the accident that killed your mother?” She nodded suddenly knowing what he was going to say but wishing she didn’t and that he wouldn’t “They were his parents.”
“No.” Amelia shook her head.
“I’m afraid so.” Martin nodded.
“Oh God… Danny… Now I know why he ran out the way he did! I’d finally told him how my mom died! It’s my fault he left… Oh what did I do?” she covered her face and wept bitterly. Martin moved closer to her, gathering her gently in his arms he held her, knowing he now had three people to find.
Danny walked blindly through the streets of the city, his city. He’d always loved it. Tonight everything about it was annoying to him. Happy couples on their way home from dates, singles enjoying a night out. When the hell did New Yorkers get so cheerful? He wondered as he watched yet another happy couple walking along oblivious to the rest of the world. His put his head down as he hurried along trying to outrun his own thoughts, his own emotions. Don’t stop. He thought to himself. You know what will happen if you stop. He walked for hours until exhausted he looked up to find himself in front of St Cecelia’s, the church where Father Orlando had run the youth program with Parker. His feet had taken him where his mind had refused to go, back to the beginning.
In the dim light of the street lamps Danny looked up at the church and hall where he’d spent so many afternoons and Sunday mornings. He walked up the steps surprised to find the church doors unlocked in spite of the iron bars over the windows. The lights inside were dimmed and he stood in the vestibule undecided which way to turn. Should he go into the church or keep walking? Keep running was more like it. He thought grimly to himself. The truth was he was so very tired, physically, emotionally, mentally he was exhausted. He walked into the nave and crossed himself before he sat down in the very last pew.
The church itself had changed very little over the years. He looked down to where he’d always sat with Amelia and her father. He could see them now so clearly.
Amelia sat beside Danny, they were both 14. The service had ended and they were waiting for her father to finish speaking with one of the deacons. Danny was quietly teasing her, trying to undo the band that held her long dark hair back.
“Danny! Stop it!” Amelia giggled and put her hands up to protect her pony tail. Danny took advantage and tickled her ribs with a wicked grin.
“Come on Mia, let your hair down…” he succeeded in getting the band out of her hair and it fell long and loose over her shoulders.
“That’s better.” Danny smiled as she ran her hands through it and smoothed it out. “You’ve got great hair.” He reached out and gently curled a bit around his finger. “It reminds me of my mom’s. She loved to wear it down.”
“Mine too.” Amelia smiled at him. He loved the blush creeping over her cheeks before she looked away. Neither of them noticed her father was walking over to them.
“Amelia, tie up your hair, honestly what would your mother say?” he shook his head. “Ok all set, are you ready Danny?” Danny just nodded as he watched Amelia tie up her pony tail with down cast eyes. Together they followed her father down the aisle. Danny reached out and gave her hand a squeeze as they walked. He could still see her smile.
“I haven’t seen you for some time.” A quiet, gentle voice nearly made him jump out of his skin. He looked around startled. He looked up into the face of Father Orlando. Danny couldn’t believe the priest had recognized him. Father Orlando’s once dark hair was now streaked with grey but his eyes were just as bright. He was in his early sixties but you’d never know it. He was wearing his familiar cleric’s shirt and collar and jeans. “You look like shit!” Danny had to laugh at that. Father Orlando was never one to beat around the bush.
“I feel like it Father.” Danny admitted.
“Well you’ve come to the right place then.” Father Orlando said softly. “Do you want to talk about it?” Danny looked at him wanting to say ‘no’ but all he could do was nod. Father Orlando sat in the pew next to him. “What’s troubling you tonight?”
Danny smiled sadly and looked down. He drew a breath before he almost whispered, “Amelia Parker, her father, her mother… my folks…” he shook his head. “It’s complicated.”
“I have time.” Father Orlando said gently. “So you’ve been in touch with Amelia then?” he looked at Danny. “She was devastated when you ran off.”
“I’m sorry…” was all Danny could say, Father Orlando waited letting him speak at his own pace. “I spoke to her for the first time tonight. It was the first time since…” he shrugged unable to say the words. “I didn’t know…” he stopped himself. You can’t lie to a priest asshole! He thought to himself. “I knew where she was. I knew where Parker was. I’ve been with the FBI for seven years now. I know I shouldn’t have but one of the first things I did was look her up. I even drove by her apartment building a couple of times… I couldn’t get out of the car.”
“So what changed?” Father Orlando asked. “What made you get out of the car this time?”
“Stephen Parker is missing, along with his foster son.” Danny said quietly. “I’m with the Missing Persons unit.”
Father Orlando was stunned. “…and you’re working on his case.”
“Not exactly I was helping out the primary agent run down some leads on the foster son… then I realized it was Parker who was missing… then today a John Doe turned up in the morgue… I had to see for myself if it was him first…they wanted Amelia to try to identify him…” he was talking rapidly his words pouring out of him
“I couldn’t let her go in there alone knowing it was him, but it wasn’t…” he shook his head “and when I realized it wasn’t him I … I got scared. I wanted to be there for her but when the time came… I ran… I waited outside… I saw her when Martin walked her out… she was so upset…” he couldn’t hold back the tears any more, they ran freely down his cheeks “I tried to talk to her… I couldn’t find the right words… and she got angry… you remember her temper?” he smiled his cheeks glistening in the dim light. “She let me have it… it was no more than I deserved… but I deserve so much worse for what I did to her…” he couldn’t go on he leaned forward his head in his hands.
Father Orlando put his hand on Danny’s back he could feel him shaking as he tried to pull himself together. “You were young. She’ll understand in time. I know what an endless capacity for forgiveness and understanding she has. You need to find the strength to speak to her again. She will forgive you and you must forgive yourself.”
Danny sat up and wiped his face. “Even if what I did was unforgivable Father?”
“Nothing is unforgivable. You know He will forgive you if you ask.” He said.
“Father…” Danny looked at him. Father Orlando could see in his eyes something terrible was gnawing at his soul.
“Would it be easier to confess you sins my son?” all Danny could do was nod. “Do you want to go into the confessional?”
“No here’s fine.” Danny said quietly.
Father Orlando took his purple stole from out of his pocket. Danny watched him ready himself. “When ever you are ready…” He said gently.
Danny crossed himself “Bless me Father… for I have sinned…” Danny’s voice wavered. “I… I…” he tried to catch his breath “I killed my parents… and Amelia’s mother...” his voice was a barely audible whisper.
With over forty years of hearing confessions, Father Orlando didn’t flinch, but his heart broke for Danny. “But your parents and her mother died in car accidents.” Father Orlando said gently. “How could you have killed them?”
“My dad was yelling at my mom… I wanted him to stop… I said something to him… I know I shouldn’t have… I just wanted him to stop… to stop yelling at her… to stop hitting her… to stop making us all so miserable…” Danny sniffed and wiped his nosed on his sleeve. “He turned to tell me to shut up… he was yelling at me… calling me a cry-baby bastard… that’s the last thing he said to me… I heard mom scream and then we hit the other car… Amelia’s mom was driving it…” he shook his head. “Don’t you see? It’s my fault... If I’d just kept my mouth shut…”
“It was an accident.” Father Orlando said. “It was not your fault.” He put his hand on Danny’s shoulder. “When did you find out it was Amelia’s mother in the other car?”
“The night I ran away.” Danny was looking down at his hands. They were shaking and he played with his long fingers nervously. “She was upset because it was her mom’s anniversary. I didn’t want to add to it by telling it was the same as my folks… we sat up a long time talking. She opened up and told me how her mom died. She didn’t know the name of the people in the other car… How could I tell her it was us? ...That it was my fault?”
“My son, listen to me. It was not your fault. We are all here for a purpose…”
“Please, Father, spare me the Divine Plan speech.” Danny looked at him. He was a little wild eyed. “I need…. I need to go…” he got up.
“Danny, please wait…”
“No I’m sorry father… I’m sorry.” He said one last time before he hurried out of the church. He barely touched the steps as he fled. Father Orlando sat and prayed, he prayed for Danny and Amelia and for Parker and everyone else involved. He didn’t know what else to do.
Danny wanted to disappear into the night. He hoped the darkness would swallow him. He wandered the back streets he’d haunted as a teenager trying to hide from the world. He’d been sober for so long, he was thinking about a bar he used to go to often. The bartender had been a good friend so long as he was buying drinks. Danny looked at the street sign. He was close. No, call Louie. He thought to himself. He stopped and pulled out his cell. He tried to dial his AA sponsor, his phone died after two rings.
“Great, just great…. Stupid piece of shit…” He jammed the phone back into his pocket. “I’ll just have some coffee.” he said to himself. He wiped his hands over his face knowing he was lying to himself. He walked slowly, the few blocks to the bar felt like a few miles. He stood in front of the bar staring at the grimy door and windows unable to move.
“I’m sorry.” Amelia sat back and wiped her eyes.
“It’s ok.” Martin brushed her hair back behind her ear. It was a gentle familiar gesture that made them both smile.
“You don’t do this sort of thing for all the families of the people you are looking for do you?” Amelia tried to tease Martin. He couldn’t help thinking that she had an amazing smile. It was a lot like Danny’s and like Danny, her eyes betrayed her true feelings.
“Ah, no I don’t” he laughed softly. “In fact you’re the first… ever…”
“Well…” she blushed and looked down. “I don’t want to get you into trouble…”
“Don’t worry, you won’t.” he smiled. His phone rang. “Excuse me.” He picked it up off of the coffee table, “Fitzgerald… Oh hey Louie…” he wrinkled his brow. It was Danny’s AA sponsor. “Yeah he’s had a really bad few days… What?” Martin looked at his watch. It was nearly 05:30. “When did he call… ok did he try again? ... Any ideas where he may have been? … No, OK I’ll get in touch with the office and see if we can put a trace on it I’ll see if I can find him… no it’s ok I have the list… yeah you keep trying and I’ll call you when I find him… Ok thanks Louie… later.” He hung up and looked at Amelia.
“It’s Danny isn’t it?” She asked him quietly.
Martin nodded. “That was Louie his sponsor. Danny tried to call him a couple hours ago but Louie thinks his phone either died or he switched it off.” Martin was dialing Danny’s number. “No… straight to voice mail…” he shook his head, “Hey brother it’s me, call me and let me know you’re OK. I’ll come get you if you need a lift… Danny, please …just call.” The emotion in his voice tugged at Amelia’s heart.
“What can I do?” she asked as Martin stood up.
“Stay here, try to get some rest.” He said before dialing his phone again. “Ted, Martin Fitzgerald, can you run a trace on Taylor’s phone for me… on the Q.T. please… yeah he tried to check in but I lost him can you give me his last location?” Amelia watched Martin as he waited for Ted. “Brooklyn… Trioboro Plaza ... I know where he is… Thanks Ted.”
“You know where he is… let me come with you…” Amelia was on her feet.
“Look it would probably be better if you let me go get him.” Martin tried to dissuade her. She was standing in front of him her hands up on his chest, both stunned at the easy familiarity they had developed so quickly. “Trust me please. I will find him” he put his hands on her shoulders. “Let me talk to him. You get some rest and as soon as I know something I will call you.” She still looked skeptical. “I promise.” He smiled at her.
Despite both of them having been awake for nearly 24 hours Amelia couldn’t help but think he had beautiful blue eyes, “Ok if you think that’s best.” She said reluctantly.
“I do, try and get some rest. I’ll call you as soon as I can ok?” She nodded looking down. He hugged her gently. “It will be OK.” he said softly. He picked up his jacket and slipped it on. “I’ll try to get an update about your father too.” He said as she walked him to the door.
“…and Mikey” She said softly.
“Of course, Mikey too” he nodded “Will you be alright on your own?” he asked. She nodded hugging herself. “Are you still in touch with your sponsor?” she nodded again. “Hey, you’ll get through this… if you can’t get in touch with your sponsor and you need some one… call me… ok any time…”
“Thank you” she said quietly. She had to hug him one more time before she let him go, locking the door behind him. Amelia dragged herself to the bathroom for a hot shower before trying to get some sleep. Her head was filled with thoughts of Danny as she tried to get comfortable. Martin crept into her thoughts too. “Oh God, give me strength…” she whimpered and pulled the pillow over her head.
Martin wove his way through the early morning traffic, cutting down back streets until he came to St Michael’s Cemetery. He knew
most of the bars Danny used to frequent; there was one on 49th Street that had been a favorite. Martin hoped he was there, or in the area. He found the bar and parked. There was no sign of Danny on the street. He looked up and down the block surveying the area before he walked up to the grimy bar. His nose wrinkling, he opened the door and was struck by the smell of stale smoke and booze. He narrowed his eyes trying to see in the dim light inside.
The handful of barflies turned away grumbling into their watered down drinks about the intrusion of daylight into their dark world, they didn’t care what time it was so long as they had a drink in their hand and the world left them alone. Martin scanned the bar for Danny. He wasn’t there. He walked up to the bar. The bartender recognized him as a cop instantly. “Who ya looking for?” he asked before Martin could say a word.
Martin didn’t bother with his ID. “I’m looking for a friend. He’s Latino, early thirties, dark hair, clean shaven, wearing a dark brown suit…”
“Oh him” the bartender shrugged, “he hasn’t come inside yet.” The bartender said.
Martin looked at him quizzically, “What do you mean?”
The bartender said “He should be back around in about five minutes.”
“What?” Martin said his heart doing a summersault.
“He’s been circling the block most of the night, just stopping and staring at the door.” He pointed at the door. “He used to drink in here but I ain’t seen him in a couple a years, he used to be a regular… there he is now.” He nodded.
“Thanks,” Martin said hastily and headed for the door. Danny was standing on the pavement staring at the door as Martin hurried out.
“Danny!” he called. Danny looked at him, he was red eyed and disheveled. Danny was agitated, his tie loose and his suit looking as if he’d slept in it for a week. He looked at Martin, the day’s growth of beard shadowing his face. Martin was to him in a few quick strides. “Danny.” He said again his hand on his shoulder.
“I didn’t…” Danny shook his head. “I called Louie… but my phone died… I didn’t go in… I walked… I didn’t go in”
“That’s great man… really great. I’m proud of you.” Martin said his blue eyes clouding with emotion, “Why don’t we go get some coffee…” his voice wavered, he had to take a breath. “Let me drive you home.” Danny nodded and ran his hands over his face and through his hair. Martin was relieved Danny agreed so easily. He had his phone out looking through his recently dialed numbers. He could see Danny was wound up like a tightly coiled spring; he had to be careful with what he said.
“Who are you calling?” Danny asked him.
“Louie to tell him I found you.” He said and made the call. “Hey Louie it’s me Martin... Yeah I got him… No he didn’t…” Martin smiled proudly at Danny “Yeah he’s tougher than both of us. I’ll take him home… Ok I will.” He nodded and hung up. Martin was tired and not thinking clearly as he scrolled through his phone again. Danny stopped and looked at Martin. “Amelia…” he gestured with his phone. “She’s really worried about you.”
“Yeah right…” Danny said harshly. “You have no idea…” he turned and strode away from Martin.
Martin shoved his phone into his pocket and hurried after him. “Hold on just a minute…” he caught Danny by the arm. “You have no idea… I spent all night with her… she was a mess after that ID and you jumping out at her like that… what the hell were you thinking?”
“Stay out of it Martin” Danny warned and pulling his arm away he tried to walk off.
Martin cut him off. “Stay out of it… you do remember the case don’t you? Her father is missing? Why the hell didn’t you tell me you knew him? That you knew her?” Danny was looking down the muscles in his jaw working, his hands clenched at his side. “I spent most of last night with her trying to calm her down when I could have been out running down leads!”
“Leave it alone Martin.” Danny said savagely before he looked at him. “What do you mean you spent last night with her?” His red rimmed eyes had dark circles under them he looked like a man on the edge. Martin stepped them into a quiet alleyway beside the bar.
“Danny,” Martin relented. “I know about the accident.” he said gently. Danny looked at him, pain, anger, shame and fear all showing in his eyes at once.
“Amelia knows. She’s worried about you… we all are. She didn’t want to be alone. She needed someone to talk too… I thought you’d want me to look after her.”
“She knows?” Danny said shaking his head. He looked on the verge of tears. “…How?”
“I told her…” Martin started to say but Danny cut him off grabbing him by the collar and shoving him hard into the brick wall behind them. Martin was winded. “Danny… What the hell…” he gasped and grabbed Danny’s wrists.
“How could you?” Danny was shaking again. “I was supposed to tell her… I was…”
“Danny…” Martin tried to push him away. He couldn’t breathe.
“How could you tell her I killed our parents?” Danny shook Martin. Martin was as stunned by Danny’s words as he was by hitting the wall again. He couldn’t understand what Danny was talking about.
Martin was struggling to get his breath back “Danny… hang on a minute” he started to say. He stopped in time to see Danny’s fist flying towards him. He turned his head the blow glancing off of the side of his face. His head hit the wall and he saw stars. Stunned again he slumped against the wall.
It stunned Danny too; he looked at his fist before looking at Martin. “I’m sorry…” Danny said backing away from him. “Martin… I’m sorry…” he turned and fled as Martin tried to pull himself together.
Martin leaned against the wall and wiped the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. Danny was no where to be seen. Slowly Martin walked back to his car. He circled the area for 20 minutes before admitting defeat. He drove himself home to shower and change before going into the office. He didn’t know what to do next, so it was time to fall back and regroup.
Danny had run down into the subway. Without his thinking about it, his feet carried him on a familiar journey. He took the W train out to Coney Island. He sat with the other commuters blindly watching the walls of the tunnels fly by the windows. His heart was pounding in his temples. What was wrong with him? He wondered. He’d tormented Amelia. He’d lied to and just punched the best friend he had. If he didn’t straighten up he’d loose his job. Not that Jack would mind that. He’d love to get rid of me. Danny thought bitterly. He gets away with everything, the rest of us get shafted. He didn’t know exactly when his relationship with Jack Malone had turned sour, but at that exact moment, he didn’t care.
Martin wearily climbed the stairs leading to his apartment. He was worried about Amelia, terrified for Danny and he didn’t know how much longer he could go on without sleep. He was sore from his run in with Danny. He couldn’t help but think that his heart was even more bruised than his face, as he peeled his shirt off and surveyed the damage. His jaw and chin were starting to bruise and he had a few other minor bumps and bruises.
He climbed into the shower loving the feel of the hot water running over his body. He started to relax. No not yet. He thought to himself before turning the hot water down and the cold water up. It did the trick. Swearing to himself he quickly finished his shower and dried off. He was making himself some coffee while he dressed. Straightening his tie he poured himself a cup. His phone rang. He looked it was Vivian.
“Morning Viv” He smiled as he stirred his coffee.
“Morning, have you heard from Danny?” She asked him
Martin made a face as he tasted his coffee. “Well yes and no.” he said. He could hear her impatient intake of breath. “I found him, but he took off on me again.”
“Great.” She had that perfect mixed tone of an exasperated and concerned mother. “How was he? Do you have any idea where he’s gone?”
“He was agitated, really wound up as you could imagine.” Martin tried to take another sip of his coffee before pouring it down the sink.
“We spoke briefly; he lost it when I told him I spent last night with Amelia…”
“You WHAT?” Vivian cut him off. “No, don’t tell me now just get your butt in here!”
“Ok but it’s not what you’re thinking…” Martin could feel his cheeks going red.
“It had better not be.” Vivian sighed “I’ll see you when you get here. Sam has more info on Thompson.”
“Ok, good, I’m on my way.” He hung up. He would be in, Just as soon as I stop at Starbucks for a decent cup of coffee. He thought to himself. He picked up his keys and as he went he couldn’t help but worry about Danny and think of Amelia. He hoped they were both alright.
The traffic was heavier as he fought his way downtown. Guiltily he slipped into Starbucks before going into the building. Vivian was waiting for him as he got off of the elevator. “What took you so long?” she asked him as she shepherded him into one of the smaller meeting rooms and closed the door. “Now what happened?” she asked as they sat down. She reached out and gently took his chin in her hand. She looked at him closely. “Did Danny do that?” she couldn’t believe it.
Martin drew a deep breath and nodded. He told her everything that had happened the night before. He did leave out the details of his rather personal and unprofessional physical contact with Amelia. He didn’t feel he’d done anything wrong, but at the same time he didn’t feel comfortable discussing it. Martin was exhausted again when he was finished speaking. “Why would he think I told her he’d killed their parents?” he shook his head.
“I don’t know.” Vivian was equally perplexed. “You don’t know where he went?”
“No.” Martin shook his head again. “It’s like he vanished. He was definitely on foot, maybe the subway…” he thought for a moment.
“There was a station near by. I think the W train runs out that way.” He rubbed his eyes, not confident in his own thoughts at the moment.
“It does,” Vivian nodded. “It runs from Brooklyn out to Coney Island.”
“Coney Island” Martin sat up. “It might not mean anything but he’s got a pressed penny on his keychain from Coney Island… and…” he cocked his head trying to remember. He closed his eyes and he could see Amelia holing up a set of keys as she showed him her AA key fob and on the set of keys… “Yes!” Martin sat up “Amelia has the same kind of penny on her keys. She showed me her AA chip… she’s been sober for 10 years…”
“Well that’s terrific but millions of people could have those penny keychains.” Vivian said “It may mean nothing.”
“I know, but it’s just too much of a coincidence. Why would Danny keep something like that unless it meant something to him?” Martin asked. “Why would Amelia?”
“Well I’ll ask Miss Parker when she gets here.” Vivian said.
“Is she coming in?” Martin asked a little too quickly he realized and Vivian couldn’t help but smile at his subtle blush.
“Yes she is, she called about five minutes before you got here.” Vivian told him. “She’s worried, about both of you.” She raised an eyebrow and Martin’s blush deepened. “Look why don’t you go and find Sam? See where she is with Thompson, and let me talk to Miss Parker.” Reluctantly Martin nodded and they walked out to the bullpen.
Sam was there talking to Jack. Even though their affair had officially ended a few years ago, they still exuded an air of intimacy whenever they got together. “Morning” Martin said quietly. He’d had a short lived relationship with Sam as well. Their affair had started long after her and Jack ended things but it still made him feel strange sometimes, like this morning.
“Morning,” Sam smiled brightly at him. “You look exhausted.”
Jack was more direct. “What the hell happened to you?” he greeted Martin.
“A little trouble getting some information” Vivian said simply. Martin nodded.
“Huh. Ok.” Jack knew there was more too it and short of using a rubber hose and a bare light bulb he would not be getting it from either Martin or Vivian anytime soon. “So where’s Danny?”
“He wasn’t feeling well so I forced him to take the day off. We’ve got it covered.” Vivian nodded.
“You forced him to take a day off? Danny “I don’t do sick days” Taylor… the guy who would come to work on his deathbed?” Jack said skeptically
“I can be very persuasive.” Vivian said calmly.
Jack looked at her for a moment, he knew her well enough not to push the subject for the moment. “Ok” he said, “So where are we?”
With the large white board they used to keep track of a missing person’s case in the form of a timeline from just before their date of disappearance up until they are found Vivian brought Jack up to speed on the case.
“Thompson’s last known address was empty but we found his girlfriend. We’ve got agents sitting on it but we don’t expect him back there before tonight. He’s gone to visit his brother Malique, who is living ‘upstate’ for the next ten to fifteen. I’ve been in touch with Attica and they will notify us when he leaves.”
“Do we have the intel on his brother?” Jack asked.
“Not yet.” Sam said “They were not willing to release all of his records. He apparently turned on some heavy hitters for a lighter sentence, some of the trials are still pending so…” she shrugged.
“Lawyers” Jack said contemptuously. “I’ll go rattle some cages and see what I can shake free.” He got up. “Is that the daughter?” He pointed to where Amelia stood at the reception desk.
“Oh yes.” Martin got up and straightened his tie. “Excuse me.” He walked over to her. Jack and the others watched as they greeted each other. Amelia gently touched Martin’s chin and they watched him make a dismissive gesture before escorting her to one of the small meeting rooms.
Jack grinned at Vivian. “I’m guessing she’s not the one who was giving him trouble.”
“No I don’t think so.” Vivian smiled, trying to hide the fact she wanted to chase after the pair of them. “Well I think we’ve got all of the bases covered.” She said. “Sam did you get anything more back from the lab on the bloody shirt?”
“There’s a report pending, something about sending it to Quantico for confirmation. I’ll chase it down.” Sam said.
“I’ll go make some calls and see what info I can shake free about Malique Thompson.” Jack said and headed for his office.
“I’ll check on Martin.” Vivian said leaving Sam at her desk. She hurried over to the meeting rooms, not surprised to find Martin had chosen one at the quiet end of the corridor. She looked in and saw Amelia and Martin sitting close together. She had her head in her hands, he was rubbing her back. Vivian guessed he had told her about Danny. She gave them a few minutes before she knocked and opened the door.
Martin nodded to Vivian as she walked in. “Amelia, this is Special Agent Vivian Johnson.”
Amelia looks up. “Hello.” She managed a smile. “I can’t thank you enough for all of the work you’ve been doing trying to find my father… Martin was just filling me in…” she was finding it hard to speak. “Have you heard from Danny?”
“No I’m afraid I haven’t.” Vivian said gently. She took the chair opposite Amelia. “Did Martin tell you about everything that happened when he found Danny?”
Amelia nodded. “Why would he think he killed our parents?” she asked. “It doesn’t make sense.
“I don’t know.” Vivian said quietly. “Maybe it’s survivor’s guilt. He was in the car.”
“Oh God, I didn’t know.” Amelia said quietly. She looked down and shook her head. “I didn’t know.” Martin gave her his handkerchief.
“Thank you,” she took it and wiped her eyes. “That’s why he left that night.” She said to Martin. “I’m sure of it… it makes sense now. If he was in the car… maybe he thinks he caused the accident? I don’t know what to think anymore.” She looked at Vivian. “Do you have any idea where he may have gone?”
“I was hoping you might be able to tell us.” Vivian said. “Martin had an idea because of a pressed penny keychain he noticed…”
Amelia looked at Martin. “Both you and Danny have a pressed penny keychain from Coney Island.” Martin said. “He never talks about it, but the other morning after we left your father’s office; I noticed he was playing with it.”
“This one” Amelia pulled her keys out of her handbag. “We had them made one afternoon. Coney Island and the boardwalk down there, that was where we’d go to get away from…” she shrugged “everything.”
Martin looked at the key chain and nodded to Vivian. “The W train runs to Coney Island.” He said to Vivian.
“That’s the train we used to take.” Amelia looked from Martin to Vivian and back. “I think I know where he might be!” Martin and Vivian exchanged looks. “Look. If I can’t help you find my father and Mikey at least let me help you find Danny… please…” she had Martin by the arm “Martin…”
“Ok… ok.” Martin said quietly. “I’ll take you.”
“No,” Vivian said “I’ll take you.” She said firmly. “You go home and get some sleep.” Martin started to protest but Vivian silenced him with a look and a single raised finger. “No, I’ll need you firing on all cylinders tonight to talk to Thompson, no arguments.”
“Yes Viv” Martin said feeling a bit like a schoolboy being sent to bed for being naughty.
“Don’t worry I’ll call you when we find him.” She relented with a smile; she could never really stay mad at either of them. Martin nodded and helped Amelia to her feet. They walked out together parting ways in the parking garage, all three hoping they’d have better luck with Danny this time.
It took Vivian less than half an hour to drive down to Coney Island. “Where do you think he’ll be?” she asked Amelia. She’d spent the entire ride gently rubbing the pressed penny key chain between her fingers.
“Let’s start at West 10th Street, by the Cyclone.” She said quietly. “We used to stop at a little place on the corner… Frank’s I think. We’d get a couple of hot dogs and soda to share and we’d walk down and sit on the boardwalk. There was one bench off all by itself… we’d sit and talk… he’d tell me about Miami.” Her voice trailed away as she looked out of the window.
“Miami?” Vivian asked gently, “Why Miami?”
“My mom was Cuban, so were Danny’s parents. It’s where they came in.” Amelia said with a sad smile. “My mom had always promised to take me there, she never got the chance.”
“I’m sorry.” Vivian said as she parked the car. “Ok let’s see if we can find him.”
Amelia nodded and they got out of the car. She stopped and closed her eyes drawing in a deep breath of sea air. She smiled hearing the sounds of people on the roller coaster and the other rides nearby. She looked up and down the boardwalk. It was the same, but different all at once. “…this way…” She said to Vivian and turned walking away. Vivian followed her. “If he’s following his memories… he should be… there!” she stopped and pointed to a lone bench with a very dejected Danny sitting on it.
Amelia looked at Vivian. “You go and talk to him.” Vivian nodded. “I’ll call Martin and wait here.”
“I don’t think I can.” Amelia said quietly. The truth was she didn’t know if she wouldn’t hit him again. Her heart and her mind were at war with themselves and each other. She wanted to run and hug him hold on to him weeping for joy at finally finding him again, but had she found him? He wasn’t her Danny anymore. He was Special Agent Danny Taylor. She didn’t know this man.
“Do you want me to talk to him first?” Vivian asked her phone in her hand.
“Maybe that would be better… but what if he tries to run?” Amelia asked.
“I’ll shoot him” Vivian said seriously. Amelia looked at her dumbfounded before she realized Vivian was joking and trying to get her to relax. “No I won’t.” Vivian smiled. “Wait here.” She put her phone away and patted Amelia on the shoulder. “It will be ok.” she said reassuringly.
Amelia nodded and hugging herself she watched Vivian walk over to where Danny sat. As she approached him from behind she could see him leaning forward his elbows on his knees his head down as he played his long fingers together. Lost in his own thoughts he didn’t stir as she approached. She slowly sat down beside him. “Don’t you think it’s time you came home?” she whispered.
Startled from his reverie he looked at her. He looked ready to run again. She reached out and put her hand on his arm.
“Danny, it’s time to stop running.” She looked deep into his eyes, his pain so apparent to her.
“How did you find me?” he asked her quietly, all of the smooth cockiness she was used to hearing gone without a trace. He gently but firmly extricated himself from her grasp. She smiled and let him go, knowing he’d bolt if she tried to hold on to him.
“I work for the FBI, remember?” Vivian smiled. “And I did have some help. Martin figured it out.” She said softly. “He noticed your keychains.”
“…my keychains?” Danny was confused.
“Both you and Miss Parker have a pressed penny from Coney Island on your keychain.” She explained. “When he said he thought you’d taken the W train, she had a feeling you were coming here.”
“I’m surprised he bothered to look… you know he spent last night with her…” Danny was getting agitated, “How could he?”
“How could he what? Not walk out on her when she needed someone to talk to… when she was afraid of slipping after being sober for ten years?” Vivian spoke to him clearly calmly and firmly. “You of all people know what that’s like. He stayed with her because he knew you’d have wanted him to look after her… the way you used to… I thought you two were friends.”
“Martin and I are friends.” Danny said flatly. He couldn’t articulate to her just what Martin meant to him. Amelia was a completely different matter. She may have been absent from his life, through no fault of her own, but she was forever in his thoughts and in his heart.
“I know, I meant you and Amelia.” Vivian cocked her head at him. “Don’t you want to talk to her? …to know for yourself that she’s OK?” Vivian looked at her. “Her life is unraveling around her…”
“That’s not my fault…” he shook his head.
“That’s not the impression you gave Martin…” Vivian wasn’t giving him an inch.
“What did Martin tell you…” he was on his feet again.
“Danny, wait a minute.” Vivian got up. She saw Amelia moving closer.
Danny was ranting to himself mainly. “He had no right… no right to tell her… I was supposed to…” he’d started to pace
“Viv’…. You don’t understand. She… won’t… she won’t understand…”
Amelia had come up to them. Danny was too preoccupied with his thoughts to see her. She got right up behind him he stopped short when he turned around and they were face to face again. “So explain it to me.” Amelia said to him. She looked up into his face. He could see the anger and the pain in her eyes, it was mixed with sorrow and if he’d taken the time he’d have seen the love masked by all of the hurt and compounding it. “Explain to me, just who the hell you are… What happened to Danny… to my Danny… my friend… my…” she was shaking “What the hell did you do?” she hit him in the chest with both of her hands. “What did you do with my Danny?”
He’d grabbed her by the wrists, pulling her close to him. “Your Danny died… a long time ago.” He said quietly. Vivian watched the affect his words had on Amelia. It was as if someone had turned out the lights on Broadway. Danny released her wrists and walked away. “I’m going home Viv” was all he said before walking back up the boardwalk. Vivian and Amelia watched him walk away. A lone figure, wearing his sorrow and regret like a cloak, he walked slowly; shoulders hunched his hands buried deep in his pockets his head down.
“Danny…” Amelia whispered brokenly. They both were broken, defeated and alone. Vivian looked from one to the other. She saw their pain, their suffering and at the same time the love that intensified both. If they would just open up instead of suffering in silence. She thought to herself.
“Are you ok?” Vivian asked Amelia. “Come on let me drive you home.”
“No thank you…” Amelia looked at Vivian. She looked shell shocked. “I’d really rather just walk… I need some time… I need…” she shook her head. “I’ll be ok. I’m going to walk for awhile.” She turned and headed up the boardwalk in the opposite direction Danny had gone.
Vivian stood looking up and down the boardwalk. “What the hell just happened?” she asked herself. With a sigh she took out her phone and was about to dial Martin’s number. She decided not to and let him sleep. Danny was going home. Amelia, well she was an adult and capable of making her own decisions. That thought didn’t stop Vivian from worrying about her though.
Danny walked slowly back to the subway. You asshole! He kept thinking to himself. That’s twice in 24 hours… you had the chance to fix things, to tell her how sorry you are… why do you keep hurting her? He walked blindly oblivious to his surroundings until he looked up grateful to be home.
He climbed the stairs to his apartment, each one was an effort. He was certain he had walked the length of Manhattan twice in the last two days. He started to strip before he had his door shut and locked. First a shower and then to bed… he thought to himself. He was so tired he could hardly stand as he turned the water on. If only his mind would stop turning.
He couldn’t get Amelia out of his mind, her words echoing in his ears. Who the hell are you…What have you done with Danny …with my Danny? He remembered the look on her face when he’d grabbed her wrists, how could he have been so cruel when all he really wanted to do was hug her, hold her and tell her it was all a big mistake and everything would be alright. He remembered how she used to look at him. He remembered how she used to light up whenever she saw him. Then he remembered the look on her face on the boardwalk when he’d released her.
He leaned his head against the cold tile wall. Stop! He thought. Stop! Stop! He wanted the thoughts in his head to stop, the images to go away. He hit his head against the hard tiles. Thump, thump, thump. He stopped when he felt a trickle of blood run down his forehead. His hands up on the tiles he clawed at the wall, pounding on it with his fists. He heard the scream but didn’t realize it was coming from him. Totally spent he sank slowly down into the tub. He drew his knees up and let the water beat down on him. There alone he put his hands over his head and allowed his tears to finally give way.
It was Amelia’s turn to wander. She walked for hours. She walked nearly to the end of Manhattan Beach before she gave in and got a cab home. It was just after 3pm. She looked around her apartment and started to clean. It was therapy for her. She cleaned her kitchen and scrubbed the floors before turning on her bedroom. She stripped the bed and put on fresh linen.
“I might as well do the laundry” she said to herself before gathering it together and carrying it down to the laundry room. Her apartment building was fairly secure so she never worried about going down into the laundry room on her own. She put her dirty linen into a machine and was sorting out her next load when she thought she heard something behind her. She looked but she didn’t see anything. Putting it down to frayed nerves she went back to her laundry. Just as she was reaching for the basket he grabbed her and spun her around. Startled she screamed and lashed out at him.
He was a young light skinned black man his baggy clothes hiding a strong and muscular body. He slapped her hard across the face before grabbing her hair and flicking a knife open. He held it to her throat “Shut up, don’t scream and listen good…” he said menacingly. “You’re old man is causing more trouble than he knows…”
Amelia was as angry as she was frightened. “What did you do to my father…” she spat before she could stop herself. He slapped her hard with the back of his hand. She felt the blade brushing by her face, she tasted blood.
“I said shut up bitch!” he dragged the blade of the knife along her chin. “Call off the cops. Tell them Daddy’s called and gone on vacation, we don’t need them snooping around no more… and if you don’ts… well I’ll be back with some of my boys and we’s gonna have us some fun.” Amelia didn’t dare move as he clicked the knife shut and he released her. She thought he was just going to let her go and leave but in a split second he spun back and punched her hard. She went down her hands clutching out for the washing machine. “Just so you know I’m not playin’ wit you.” He kicked her savagely and left her lying on the floor.
She heard him leave but she was afraid to get up. She lay there clutching her ribs and trying to catch her breath. After nearly ten minutes had passed without hearing a sound she clawed her way up and stood holding onto the washing machine. Her laundry forgotten she found her keys and went slowly out of the laundry room to the stairs. Every step was an effort. She cursed every stair as she climbed them. She thought she’d never reach her apartment.
She stopped and wanted to be physically ill when she got to her door to find it had been kicked in. She cautiously pushed the door and listened. There was no sound. She crept in and grabbed her handbag before hurrying out. She rummaged around in her bag to find her phone. She scrolled through her numbers until she found Martin’s cell phone and dialed the number.
It rang four times before she heard him say “Fitzgerald” with a muffled yawn.
“Martin… it’s me, Amelia… I need your help… I’ve just been attacked…” she had to sit down on the steps to catch her breath.
“What… Amelia where are you?” She could hear he was instantly awake. “What’s happened… where’s Danny?”
“I don’t know… he went home from the boardwalk… it all went so wrong… I came home… I was doing laundry” she was struggling to keep calm and the pain in her ribs was making it hard to talk. “He came out of no where… he said I was to call off the investigation… Martin he said he’d be back…”
“Right I’m calling in the team…”
“No! You can’t… please, he said… to call off the police…”
“Amelia listen to me…” he could hear her sobbing. “Mia… listen to me I’m on my way to you right now… do you hear me?”
“Martin… hurry he’d kicked in my apartment door… there’s no where safe…”
“Mia, stay on the phone with me.” She heard him dressing himself as he tried to get her to tell him as much as she could remember. “Mia I’m not far away now.” He was talking as he drove, she could hear him yelling at people to get out of the way. “Can you get down the stairs?”
“I can…” she pulled her self up by the banister and leaning heavily on it she limped back down the stairs. “I’m down in the lobby.”
“Ok good Mia, you’re doing great, I’m just pulling up.” He hung up as he slammed the car into park. Running up to the door his stomach lurched as he saw her pushing the door open. “I’ve got you.” He pulled the door open and caught her easily in his arms. “Come on.” He helped her to his car and sat her gently in the passenger seat as he dialed Vivian’s number.
“Viv, it’s me. We’ve got a problem.” He quickly told her what was happening the entire time Mia was protesting that they were supposed to call off the investigation.
“I’ll be right there along with the forensics unit. How badly is she hurt?”
“He’s knocked her around a few times and kicked her too. I’ll drive her over to Bellevue as soon as the scene is secured.” Martin was looking at Amelia in his car. He gave her his handkerchief before stepping back and asking very quietly about Danny.
“He went home.” Vivian said. “It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I’ll fill you in later.”
“Ok Viv, NYPD are just getting here. I’ll speak to you soon.” He hung up and spoke to the two officers who’d arrived. They nodded and went to take up their posts to await the arrival of Vivian and the crime scene unit. “OK Mia, I’m taking you to the hospital now.” He said gently and helped her with her seatbelt. She was holding his handkerchief to her nose she nodded and winced as he snapped the belt in place.
He drove her to the hospital parking in front of the ER. “Hey can you grab a wheelchair?” he called to a young guy in scrubs smoking a cigarette as he hurried around his car to help Amelia out.
“You can’t park there.” The guy said as he ground out his cigarette. “It’s for police cars.”
“I’m FBI.” Martin flashed his badge impatiently, “Now how about that wheelchair?”
“Oh sorry dude, be right back.” He turned and jogged inside seeing Martin help Amelia out of the car. Her face was bruised and starting to swell, she clutched at her ribs as Martin supported her.
“Easy does it…” he said as he gently held her against him. “Here you go,” he helped her into the wheelchair the orderly brought back and they wheeled her inside. The orderly looked quizzically at Martin’s own bruised chin but kept his mouth shut.
“I hate hospitals.” Amelia said softly.
“I’m not too crazy about them myself.” Martin muttered. The orderly took them to the triage desk in the main ER. As usual, it was crowded with people with varying complaints, illnesses and injuries.
“Right first do you have insurance?” An overworked and underpaid nurse asked Amelia. She nodded and pulled her insurance card out of her wallet. “Ok great” the nurse took it, “so what happened?” Amelia tried to explain. She was still having a hard time catching her breath. “Oh well, we’re going to have to notify the police” the nurse said turning a suspicious eye on Martin.
Amelia bristled at the way the nurse was looking at Martin. The bruise from where Danny hit him was still quite evident. The nurse was sizing Martin up. Amelia was sure she was thinking he’d done this to her and she was covering for him.
“He’s the FBI agent working on my … on the case” Amelia put her hand up to point to Martin.
He showed the nurse his ID, “I’m Special Agent Fitzgerald, NYPD is aware of the incident, but this is part of an ongoing federal investigation.”
“Oh right well… let’s get you taken care of then.” She nodded to Amelia. “Bill!” she called to the orderly who’d brought them the wheelchair. “Take her to T3.” She said to him, “You can wait in chairs” she said to Martin and pointed to the waiting area.
Martin could sense Amelia’s fear at being separated from him, “I’m sorry but Miss Parker is now in protective custody. She goes no where without me.”
“Oh why didn’t you say so? Take them over to PS2 then Bill” she made an amendment on Amelia’s chart and on the computer. “It’s a single room, the cop’s prefer it.” She said to Martin. He thanked her and followed Bill. They waited outside while she put on a hospital gown and then helped her onto the gurney.
“The doc will be right in.” Bill said as he left them.
“Thanks,” Martin said as he stood close by the side of the gurney. Amelia was shifting around trying to find a comfortable position. “Easy,” he turned his attention to her as she settled half on her side. “Are you up to telling me about it again?” he asked gently. “I know… I know you’ve told me once but I was driving and trying to keep you talking to me…” he gave her a shy smile “But now, I need to write it down and take a formal statement. Ok?” she nodded at him. “Just take your time.”
“Do you want to know what happened with Danny?” she asked him. He tried to look into her eyes, the right one was swelling shut from where she’d been punched, but the fear, the pain and turmoil of the last few days was as clear as day in them.
“We can talk about him later.” He said and pulled a rolling stool over to sit beside her. She sighed and nodded and slowly went through it all again. Martin took notes and stopped her from time to time asking her questions. Her lip was starting to swell and she was having trouble speaking without pain. “Ok Mia, that should do for now.” He closed his notebook. She was smiling at him. “What is it?” he asked.
“You’re calling me Mia now. Only Danny and my mom ever called me that…” she gingerly wiped away the fresh tears.
“Oh I’m sorry.” Martin said worried he’d offended her.
“Don’t be.” She reached out and put her hand on his. “I miss it” she said softly. Martin smiled and looked down at her slim graceful fingers and her subtle manicure. They sat quietly until the doctor came in.
“Amelia Parker?” he had her chart. “I’m Dr. Meredith.” He came in with her chart. “Oh” he saw Martin. “Are you Mr. Parker?” Amelia had to smile at that.
“No,” Martin grinned. “I’m Special Agent Fitzgerald.” He held up his badge. “Miss Parker is in protective custody, this attack is part of an open federal investigation.”
“Oh I see,” Dr. Meredith nodded. “Will I need to do a full kit?” he was now talking to Martin instead of Amelia.
“No, there was no sexual contact, just the battery.” Martin said softly. He looked at Amelia, “I’ll be just outside if you need me OK?”
She nodded but she couldn’t help adding, “Don’t go to far Martin.”
“I won’t.” he smiled reassuringly at her and with a nod to the doctor he stepped out of the room and stood outside the door. He took the opportunity to call Vivian. He pulled out his phone and dialed her number.
“Johnson” he heard her familiar greeting.
“Hey Viv, it’s me.” He spoke quietly “How are things there?”
“Well the team is going through the building and her apartment at the moment. They found out he got into the building pretending to be her boyfriend. One of her neighbors let him in as they were going out.”
“Fantastic… have we been able to ID him yet?”
“No, will she be up to working with a sketch artist?” Vivian asked.
“Maybe, she seems pretty tough.” He said, thinking she was also pretty vulnerable. “What about the connect with her father?” he asked.
“We’re still working on that. Maybe she could shed some light on it.”
“I’ll try again; she gave me a pretty detailed statement about what happened. Have we sent a team to her father’s house again?”
“Sam is on her way over there now, but I don’t know what she’ll find now that we didn’t find before.” Vivian sounded tired and frustrated
“I hear you Viv,” Martin said quietly. He took a breath and asked the question that had been pushing its way to the front of his mind ever since Vivian sent him home. “How’s Danny?”
“He’s home. I hope. He was agitated and when he left us, but he said he was going home.” She said simply. “I was going to give him a few hours before I tried to call him.”
“Maybe I should try.” Martin said.
“Take care of Miss Parker first.” Vivian said. “Well need to put her somewhere safe for the moment. Until we know who we are dealing with I wouldn’t let her come home.”
“Yeah you’re right… here comes the doctor, I’ll call you back when I have something new.”
“Ok Martin, be careful.” She hung up and Martin put his phone away as Dr. Meredith came out of Amelia’s room. “Doctor” Martin nodded to him. “How is she?”
“I’d like to send her for some x-rays.” He said quietly. “I think she’s mildly concussed and her ribs are very badly bruised but I don’t believe anything is broken. I’ve ordered her some pain medication, She was adamant about not having anything narcotic.”
“She’s in AA” Martin said simply.
“Aren’t we all?” The doctor nodded. “You can go back in she’s still quite shaken up.”
“Ok thanks,” Martin said and went back into Amelia. She was laying on her side her knees drawn up into a near fetal position. “Mia…” he said softly and sat down on the stool again so he was closer to her level. She looked up at him and tried to smile. “Hey how are you doing?”
“Better now.” She reached out and took his hand. “He wants to take some x-rays but he doesn’t think anything is broken.”
“That’s great news.” He had her hand between his own. “Listen I’ve spoken to Vivian and we don’t want you to go back to your place for a few days. Not until we are further along in the investigation.”
“Am I in danger?” she asked her grip tightening on him.
“We’re just playing it safe. Ok. So while you’re having your x-rays done I’ll make the arrangements.” He smiled at her.
“Where will I go?” she asked.
“We have safe places. An agent will be with you at all times, trust me ok?”
She looked into his big blue eyes and she knew she could trust him. She’d known it the first time they’d met. “Ok, will you be staying with me?” she asked quietly.
“Some of the time yes,” he smiled “but I’m still trying to find your father, too. Don’t worry, you will be safe.”
He sat and held her hand talking to her about anything and everything to keep her mind off of the events of the last few days. Just the way she used to talk to Danny on their trips to visit Rafi at Riker’s Island. He walked with her down to the Imaging Department for her x-rays. While she was having her films done, he phoned Jack and they set up a safe house on a quiet street in midtown.
Amelia’s x-rays came back clear and the doctor released her with orders to rest and follow up with her own doctor in a week to ten days. “These are the strongest non-narcotic painkillers available.” He wrote out a prescription and gave it to her. Bill the orderly brought her clean scrubs. Her own clothes had been taken as evidence. Martin waited outside while she dressed. With his arm around her he walked her out to his car and helped her into it.
“Right, first we need to stop and get you whatever you’ll need to get through a few days, possibly a week.” Martin said “Then I’ll take you to the safe house and make sure you’re settled before I go help Sam with Thompson.” Amelia sat quietly listening as he drove. “Hey,” he smiled at her. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back to check on you!”
“I know.” She said softly. They were pulling up to Amelia’s building. She’d shaken her hair out and pulled it down to shield her face. Martin got out and came around to help her. She couldn’t believe she was afraid to go into her own home. It made her angry and ashamed all at the same time.
Martin seemed to sense how she felt. “It’s OK.” He offered her his arm. She held tightly to it as they climbed the stairs. A cop was waiting by the door to her apartment. Amelia looked at Martin. “He’s just keeping it secure until they can put a new lock on it.” He showed the cop his ID and they both signed a log to say they were entering the apartment. Martin went in ahead of her. They had gone over the apartment and it was a lot messier than the last time he’d been there.
Amelia looked around at the mess in her normally cozy little apartment in disbelief. She was fine until she walked into her bedroom and found her “Happy Box” had been broken into and the contents ransacked. Martin stood in the doorway as she quietly gathered the bits and pieces and packed them away again. “My mom gave me this when I was five.” She indicated to the box. “It was supposed to keep all of my happy memories safe.”
“Is everything there?” his voice was full of concern.
She nodded and held up the teddy bear, “Tonto just needs to go back in and…” she shrugged.
“Tonto” Martin smiled “that’s a funny name for a bear. Did you pick it because he was your sidekick like the Lone Ranger?”
“No,” she looked at him sadly. “Danny picked it. He won it for me one afternoon at Coney Island. Here see…” she found the picture of the two of them and handed it to Martin.
He smiled as he looked at it. “He still has that smile.” He said more to himself than anything.
“Does he?” Amelia asked. “That’s good… I always loved his smile…” she turned away. “I guess I’d better pack.” She said quietly and got a small bag out of her closet. Martin watched as she quickly packed some clothes and went into the bathroom to get her toothbrush.
“Oh God!” she said to him as she came out with a small cosmetic bag that fit neatly into her suitcase. “I just had a look in the mirror!” she shook her head.
“It’s not that bad.” Martin lied. It was and he knew it.
“You’re a lousy liar,” she smiled at him, “but thank you.”
Martin laughed a faint blush creeping over his cheeks. “Well I don’t want to lie to you, that’s why I’m not any good at it.” He handed her the picture. She looked at it again and on a sudden whim she packed both it and the bear before closing her bag. Martin smiled to himself watching her carefully packing the bear.
“All set?” he asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess…” she looked around, the place felt strange, almost alien, she didn’t like it. “Will I ever feel safe here again?”
“In time” Martin nodded, “in time.” He picked up her bag. They signed out with the cop at the door and offering her his arm he walked her down the stairs and out to the car. Amelia thinking about Martin’s words hoped he hadn’t wanted to lie to her this time.
Danny sat in the shower until the water went cold. Blindly he reached up and turned it off. Shivering he groped for his towel and with it wrapped around his waist dragged himself to bed. He lay there staring at the ceiling wishing sleep would carry him away and he’d wake up somewhere else. He wished that he’d wake up as someone else. If only... he thought to himself. His exhaustion was overwhelming and it was slowly stilling his mind. “Amelia… I’m sorry…” he whispered before sleep finally claimed him.
He slept deeply for several hours untroubled by dreams, until he awoke abruptly, his phone was ringing. He picked it up trying to get his eyes to focus. “Taylor.” He answered it sleepily.
“Danny! How are you! Someone said you were sick!” he was greeted by a much too cheerful voice. It took a few seconds for him to recognize it. Sally the intern. He’d made the mistake of asking her how she was doing in law school and offering her some advice one time. She now thought he was her new best friend.
“Uh, yeah…” he rubbed his eyes and looked at his alarm clock. “I was sleeping.”
“Oh I’m sorry… could I bring you some soup or something?”
“No… no thanks, I just need to go back to sleep. I’ll be in tomorrow. I’ll see you then.” He hung up before waiting to hear her reply. He half smiled as he put the phone down. Martin would laugh when he told him. He had warned Danny about being too friendly to the interns. Martin he remembered how awful he had treated him.
He rolled onto his side hugging himself. He couldn’t believe he’d hit his best friend, he couldn’t bear to think about Amelia. He wondered about the case. He looked at the clock again. It was nearly 6pm, he was still exhausted. I should call Viv and check in. He thought. Resolutely he picked up his phone and dialed her number.
“Johnson.” She answered after only two rings.
“Viv… it’s me.” He said hesitantly.
“How are you?” she asked him quietly. He could hear her walking and the background noise dying down. “Where are you?”
“I’m home… I’m ok, I’m tired but…” he shrugged “I’ll live… How’s Martin… and the case?” he asked his voice tinged with guilt.
“Martin’s fine. There have been some developments in the case… maybe you should wait until tomorrow to ask. Get some more sleep…”
He could tell something had happened and she didn’t want to tell him. “No Viv what’s up?” he sat up “Do you need me to come in?”
“Tomorrow Danny, tomorrow, we’ve got it covered.” She said trying to reassure him, it didn’t work.
“Nice to know I’m expendable.” He said sounding like a truculent teenager.
“You’re not.” Vivian said firmly. “You are in no shape to be in here tonight.”
“At least tell me what’s happened… or do I have to call Sam or Martin…” if he’s speaking to me… he added silently.
“Fine…” Vivian sighed knowing once Danny was after some information he’d stop at nothing to get it. It’s what made him such a good agent. “…but not over the phone… can you meet me in…” she stopped and looked at her watch. “…meet me in 45 minutes at Vito’s?” It was a little café they all stopped at from time to time.
“Yeah sure… but why?” he rubbed his face.
“Because there’s a lot going on and I need to check on some things before I update you.” He could hear the annoyed mother tone creeping into her voice.
“Ok Viv I’ll see you at Vito’s.” he sounded so miserable.
It tugged at Vivian’s heart. “Danny, don’t worry. I’ll see you in 45 minutes. I’ve got to check in on some leads Sam and Martin are running down and then I’ll be on my way Ok?”
“Yeah Viv” He tried to sound more positive before he hung up. He went into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. His short dark hair was tousled, his eyes had deep dark circles under them and his beard was growing in quickly. He got back into the shower, wincing when he washed his hair. He remembered pounding his head on the wall. Like that was going to help! He thought as he dried himself off again. He shaved carefully and dressed in a light shirt and a pair of jeans he headed out to meet Vivian.
Martin and Amelia rode in silence. She kept her head down, her long hair shielding her face. She was trying to hide the deepening bruises from him. “Here we are.” He said as he parked the car in front of a brownstone on a quiet residential street. “Just a second” He put his hand on her arm as he took out his phone. He pressed a button and it bleeped.
“Franklin this is Fitzgerald, we’ve arrived.”
“Ok” a male voice answered him. “We’ve just swept the area you’re all clear.”
“Ok” Martin answered. “We’re coming in.” He clicked his phone again and tucked it back into his pocket. “Are you ready?” he asked her. She nodded and he got out of the car. He looked up and down the street carefully surveying the area before he walked around and opened her door. She was stiff and sore as he helped her to stand before taking her bag out of the back seat. He helped her up the stairs. She was startled when the door opened. Another agent was waiting inside.
“Franklin.” Martin nodded as the man stepped aside and he ushered Amelia inside.
Special Agent Franklin closed the door. Amelia heard him snapping several locks as Martin walked her though the entry hall and into the living room. Amelia was surprised to see another young man sitting at a table with a bank of small TV screens. She looked closer and realized that he was looking at footage from cameras positioned around the outside of the house. Martin saw where she was looking “I told you it was a safe house” he smiled, Amelia simply nodded.
“This is Archie from tech.” he nodded to the young man at the table. “And this is Special Agent Franklin.” He introduced the agent who had opened the door. “They’ll be looking after you…” he could see the fear still in her eyes. “Don’t worry, we have people posted up and down the street and there will always be someone in the house with you.” Amelia nodded again stunned she seemed to have lost the power of speech. “Well let’s get you settled…” He picked up her bag and she followed him up the stairs. Looking around she couldn’t help but think it would be a nice home if it had a real family in it.
“Here you go,” he said. He’d gone into a large bedroom. It was simply furnished with a large bed, nightstand, dresser and a lamp. “Make sure you stay away from the windows and keep the curtains shut.” He pointed to the windows; they were covered with blackout curtains. “…and… you have your own bathroom here…” he opened a door and switched on a light. “If you’re hungry or you need anything just let Franklin or whoever relieves him know, ok?” It clicked then that he was leaving her. She didn’t want him to go. She didn’t know these people.
“Will you be back?” she asked him, praying he couldn’t hear the fear in her voice.
“I’ll check on you later.” He smiled. “I’ve got to help Sam chase down some leads.” He stepped up to her and gently brushed her hair back, “You’ll be alright, I promise. You’ve got my number right?” She nodded. “Ok call me if you need me”
“Will you check on Danny too?” she looked up at him. “I know he doesn’t want to see me.” She had to blink back the tears, “…would you just let me know that he’s ok? I just need to know that he’s ok… then what happens to me… that won’t matter anymore.” She folded her arms as tightly as her sore ribs would let her, she wouldn’t look at him.
“Of course it matters!” he said firmly. “And I know it matters to Danny, he’s just…” he was searching for the right words.
“He’s just… like you he’s in a bad place at the moment.”
She looked at him before reaching up and gently touching his bruised chin. “He must be if he hit his friend.” she said softly.
Martin took her hand gently in his and nodded. “I plan to talk to him too,” he said gently giving her hand a squeeze. “Now you get some rest, and I will check on you later ok?” She nodded and reluctantly let his hand slip out of hers as he left her standing there. She stood listening as he went down the stairs and spoke briefly with Franklin. Martin, happy that everything was in place at the house left with a glance up the stairs. Amelia unpacked her bag and holding tight to the teddy bear she lay down on the bed wondering what turn her life would take next.
As Martin got off of the elevator at the office he heard a commotion down the hallway by the interrogation rooms. “This is bogus! I didn’t do nothing!” a skinny young black man was shouting.
“Enough already” Sam said shortly “I told you we have some questions for you now just take a seat!” Another male agent opened the door and unceremoniously ushered him into the interrogation room.
“Hey” Martin walked over to Sam, “Is that Turbo?”
“Yeah” she smirked at him. “He’s living up to his name too. Are you ready for this?” she indicated to the door with a set of folders in her hand.
“As I’ll ever be” he sighed. “Let’s do this.” They opened the door the other agent stepped out as they walked in.
“Darnell Thompson… I’m Special Agent Spade, this is Special Agent Fitzgerald.” Sam said as they took seats opposite him at the table.
“Yeah so …what you want from me?” Thompson shrugged.
“We’ve got some questions about Frankie Cortez…” Sam said as Martin took out his notebook.
“Never heard of him.” Thompson shrugged.
“Really?” Sam looked at him and opened a folder. She pulled a black and white photo out of the folder and showed it to him. “Isn’t that you in the passenger seat?” she pointed to the picture. “And that would be Frankie driving. This was taken early Sunday morning, about 15 minutes before you were involved in a head-on collision on the Brooklyn Expressway.”
“Ok so I knows him. You got dog on ice already what you want from me?” he sat back and crossed his arms.
“We want to know what happened to Michael Cortez and Stephen Parker.” Martin said tapping his pen on his notebook.
“Aw man that was all Frankie too… if he hadn’t brought his whiney assed little bro along we wouldn’t be here.” Thompson shook his head.
“Well we are here so what happened after the wreck?” Sam asked him.
“I split.” Thompson said simply. “I seen what happened to that lady, Mikey’s cryin’ like a little baby on the phone to some dude and I knew the cops was comin’ so I hopped the railing and split.”
“Was that before or after you attacked Stephen Parker?” Martin asked.
“I don’t know no Stephen Parker?” Thompson said adamantly.
Martin looked at Sam and she set a mini cassette player on the table. She pushed the play button and played the 911 tape. Thompson listened with no sign of emotion. “Yeah so?” he shrugged “You ain’t got jack” he said smugly.
Martin smiled and got up. He walked over to the phone on the wall and pressed three buttons. “Hi Louise, it’s Martin in 4, yeah can you do that voice print for me? Sure I’ll hold.” He smiled at Thompson. “We’ll have forensic proof that that was you in the background fighting with Parker in a few minutes… or do you want to save the trouble?”
“You can’t do that!” Thompson sat up.
“Oh yes we can!” Sam said quietly. “Now cut the crap and tell us what happened?”
Thompson looked from Martin to Sam and back. “Louise… perfect match… thanks yeah you can send that to the DA.” He hung up and walked back over. “Right now we can put you at the scene and in direct contact with Parker… you want to rethink your story?”
“I didn’t do nothing to him” Thompson insisted. “I might have intimated that something could happen, but I was just talking trash!” he looked mildly panicked. “Look that guy was going off on one, wailing and crying and talking crazy saying they’d killed his wife… Mikey was trying to convince him it wasn’t her. Pops took a swing at me. I was gonna drop him but
Frankie got between us and when we realized he was calling the cops we took off. Mikey stayed with him.”
“And that’s the last you saw of them?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, Frankie and me split up and I figured I needed to get outta town for a bit so I went up to visit my bro. I got the train outta Penn Station. You can check I had to sign in up there…”
“We will.” Martin looked at Sam, she nodded. “Sit tight.” They got up leaving him in the interrogation room. “Ok,” Martin said once they were outside and the door was shut. “What do you think?” he asked her.
“I think you’re going to Attica.” She grinned.
“Yeah, me too” He pouted. She laughed and walked off down the corridor. As he watched her going, he was distracted by Vivian. She was on the phone and looking concerned. I wonder if that’s Danny. He thought. He would soon find out, she hung up and signaled him to come to her. Sam was already there waiting to fill her and Jack in on what Thompson had told them.
“Right, Thompson’s admitting to trash talking and wanting to take a swing at Parker but nothing more than that.” Sam said as they gathered in the bullpen. “He claims he went to Attica to visit his brother… he took the 6:30 out of Penn Station.”
“We’ll see about that.” Martin nodded. “How are you doing with the info on the brother… Malique?” he asked Jack.
“It’s slow going but I’ve called in a few favors.” Jack said and looked at his notes. “He went down for statutory rape of a 14 year old.”
“And they made a deal on that?” Vivian was appalled, they all were.
“He was also running drugs and was a key point in a major operation, so they made a deal with the devil.” Jack nodded.
“Do we know who they were looking to take down?” Martin asked.
“The operation was headed by Alvaro Montoya.” Jack said “He’d been a major supplier for almost 20 years. There’s a long list of known associates, if this Malique was one of them we’ve got good odds that both his brother and Frankie Cortez are on that list.”
“It could have been one of them who attacked Mia… Miss Parker.” Martin said.
“At this point anything is possible.” Vivian said. “There’s no point trying to get to Attica tonight.” She looked at Martin.
“Why don’t you run through the list and see if any of them match the description she gave you?” Martin nodded.
“Ok, I’m going to go try and get the rest of the information on Malique Thompson.” Jack said.
“I’ll check on the lab results, Quantico should have something for us by now.” Sam said.
“I’ll give Martin a hand.” Vivian stood up as Sam and Jack each went off to tackle their chosen assignments. Vivian made a point of watching them leave before she turned to Martin. “Can you start without me?” she asked him.
“Sure,” he said confused.
“Danny called.” She said “He’s ok, he wants to talk. I told him I’d meet him at Vito’s… damn 5 minutes ago!” she looked at her watch.
“You’d better get going.” Martin said glumly looking at the huge list being printed out. He’d be here most of the night going through them and he’d wanted to check on Mia. I can’t believe I’m calling her that now… he thought to himself.
She seemed to sense he was thinking about Amelia. “I’ll be as quick as I can. Do you want me to tell him about Miss Parker?”
“Tell me what about her?” They were both startled to hear Danny’s voice behind them. They turned to see him standing there with his hands in his pockets. “What about Mia?”
“Danny! I told you I’d meet you at Vito’s!” Vivian said sounding a bit like an exasperated mother.
“I know… I was restless… I’m sorry…” he said “Now what about Mia?”
“Maybe we should take this somewhere more private.” Vivian said.
“What’s happened to her?” Danny said the fear growing in his voice and his eyes.
“She’s going to be fine.” Martin said quietly looking down at his desk.
“What do you mean she’s going to be fine? One of you, tell me… what’s happened to Mia?” Danny demanded.
“Danny,” Martin looked him squarely in the eye “Just take it easy, it’s all under control.”
Danny pulled himself away from Martin’s gaze. He looked at Martins face, his eyes lingering on the bruise, “Oh god Martin… I’m sorry…” he started to say, but Martin held up his hand and stopped him.
“Don’t worry about it brother.” He said softly. “Why don’t we go grab a cup of coffee and we can fill you in on everything.”
“Looks like you’ve got a ton to wade through.” Danny nodded to the growing pile on Martin’s printer.
“Yeah I do.” Martin conceded.
“So why don’t you get started and I’ll take Danny and get him up to speed like we’d planned” Vivian said firmly. They both nodded knowing her tone well enough not to argue with her.
“We’ll talk later.” Martin put his hand on Danny’s shoulder. They looked into each other’s eyes each silently forgiving and thanking the other. Danny nodded and followed Vivian down the hall.
Vivian found them an empty conference room at the quiet end of the office. Danny was glad to see it was also as far away from Jack’s office as they could get and still be in the department. She made them each a coffee and closed the door. She sat looking at him as he absentmindedly stirred his coffee. She was amazed at how quickly he was changing his emotional gears, running from anger to grief to hopeful desperation. You’d see a different side of him in the blink of an eye.
This Danny she hated to see, the quiet, subdued, beaten Danny. It was a side of himself he rarely let people see, preferring to hide behind bravado. She was sure he’d chew broken glass before he’d admit he was hurting emotionally. But she knew she could get this Danny to talk.
“Do you want to start or should I?” she asked him gently.
“How much do you know about my connection to Parker and Mia?” he asked quietly.
“I know you were his foster son for almost a year, and you kept in touch with them after you moved back in with your brother.” She said. Danny nodded. “I also know that the car wreck that killed your parents killed Louisa Parker.” Danny looked at her a wounded, hunted look in his eyes. “You ran away from there on the anniversary of the accident. Amelia blames herself for your running away… why don’t you fill in the rest for me?”
Danny looked down at his coffee his hands were shaking again. “I didn’t know until that night that her mom was in the car we’d run into…” he said quietly. “Mia and Mr. P. they were the best thing to happen to me since my folks died. I finally had someone I could depend on. Someone I could trust… and to find out I did that to them…” he shook his head.
“What did you do Danny?” Vivian asked him.
He looked up at her, his eyes almost black as he looked at her. She swore she could see straight into his soul and see his heart breaking as she watched him. He licked his lips, his mouth was dry, and in barely a whisper he said “I killed them.”
She didn’t speak. She didn’t react. She simply reached out and put her hand over his. That was all it took, that subtle touch, for him to know he could carry on with out fear of retribution, rejection or retaliation. “I tried to get my dad to stop picking on my mom… he turned to yell at me and lost control of the car.” She couldn’t help thinking that he sounded like a lost little boy. “If I’d just kept my mouth shut like Rafi always told me to do when he was yelling at her… they’d all still be here.”
“You don’t know that.” She said gently.
“No, but Rafi was right… I should have kept my mouth shut… and if he could be right about that, what else could he be right about?” Danny shook his head. “I’ve always tried so hard, to stay away from him after that. I knew I was just one wrong step from being like him… like he said I’d turn out… it terrifies me.”
“You won’t turn out like him.” Vivian said firmly, “You haven’t. …have you?”
“No… but look at how I’ve treated Mia… How could I do that to her... to someone I lo…” he bit down on the last word, pressing his lips together. He drew a deep breath. “Please, Viv, tell me what’s gone on with the case? How can I help? I need something to focus on or I’m afraid I’m going to… I need to do something.”
“Well first I’m not sure it’s a good idea for you to get involved, you’re too close emotionally to the victim and his family.” she said.
“Is that you or the Bureau talking?” he asked with a hint of the cynical smirk she’d come to love over the years of working with him.
“A little bit of both.” She smiled at him, she couldn’t help herself. “Right…” she sighed. She slowly filled him in on the developments of the case. He was sitting staring at her, leaning on his elbows, his hands folded and pressed to his mouth to keep himself from interrupting. “She called Martin, after the attack. He took her to Bellevue for treatment and she’s in a safe house now.”
“I need to see her.” Danny said quietly. “I don’t know if she will see me. I need to tell her, I’m sorry… for so many things…”
“Maybe you should give her a day to settle down. Martin’s been looking after her.” She watched his reaction to that bit of information.
“Good,” he nodded “that’s good. She needs someone like him… someone she can count on…”
“I got the impression that’s what she thought of you.” Vivian said.
“She was right.” Danny shook his head. “She doesn’t know me. I don’t think she wants to know me… not anymore.”
“You should give her a chance to tell you that for herself.” Vivian said. She noticed movement outside the door and looked up. It was Martin. She waved him inside.
“Sorry Viv but I’ve narrowed down the suspect pool and I thought we should try to get her to do a photo ID.” He had a stack of wrap sheets in his hand.
“Ok put it together and go see her.” Vivian nodded.
“Me too…” Danny said. “I’d like to come too.” He looked from Vivian to Martin and back. “Please…” against her better judgment Vivian nodded.
“It’s fine with me.” Martin nodded, “But, let me talk to her first. Let me prepare her, I don’t think she could cope with another surprise visit.” He regretted the impact his words had on Danny, but he was going to protect Amelia at all costs, even if he had to hurt Danny’s feelings in the process. Danny nodded, as Vivian watched him desperately holding up the walls he’d built around himself. She knew they were crumbling and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
Danny sat watching Martin put the wrap sheets and photos in order. “So who’s there now?” Danny asked him.
“Franklin and Archie.” Martin said without looking up. “I had planned to relieve him tonight. I think Ted was going to take over for Archie.” Danny nodded. “Ok that’s everything,” Martin put a thick file into a laptop bag. “Did you bring your side arm?”
Danny nodded as he stood up “Portal to portal, it’s S.O.P.”
“Ok good.” Martin nodded. “Are you sure you’re up to this?” he asked out of concern. He saw Danny had taken it the wrong way. “Look I’m just worried about you. I don’t want you to do anything rash that you might regret later.”
“Martin, it’s too late for that.” Danny said and led the way to the elevator.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Martin muttered to himself as he followed.
Martin unlocked the car and put his bag in the back seat. He smiled slightly as Danny got into the passenger seat without a complaint. Danny usually preferred to drive. Danny was stoically silent as Martin drove out of the parking garage. The safe house was a 30 minute drive but with the end of rush hour traffic it could take a lot longer. Danny sighed as they got caught at yet another traffic light. Martin looked at him “What’s been happening with you these last few days?” he asked.
“You seem like you’re in a really bad place. Why didn’t you call me?”
Danny let out a cynical half chuckle “Where’s the house? Yonkers? We might have enough time then.”
“Oh we’ve got time.” Martin grinned. “It’s cross town.”
“Might as well have put it in Yonkers the traffic wouldn’t be so bad… Hey! Look at that jerk!” He pointed to a car trying to pull on to the pavement to get around a stopped car. “Hey, what are you doing?” Danny yelled at the driver through his window.
Martin couldn’t help but laugh as the driver gestured at Danny and kept going. “Some people have no respect for the law.” He teased Danny. Danny sat back shaking his head. “So…” Martin said again. “What happened between you and Mia?”
Danny looked at him surprised not by the question but rather the familiar and almost intimate way Martin said her name.
“What did she tell you?” Danny asked.
Martin couldn’t hide his smile. It was so like Danny to deflect the difficult questions trying to avoid dealing with the emotional issues. “Pretty much everything,” he said, “but I wanted to hear it from you. She was so devastated when you left. She still has Tonto…”
Danny smiled sadly. “Does she?” he asked and looked out of the window lost in his thoughts. He was amazed that he remembered it so clearly. They were at Coney Island. It was one of the few times Mr. Parker had come with them. They were playing games and eating hot dogs. Mia had her hair down… “What?” Danny asked looking at Martin.
“I said she showed me a picture of the two of you at Coney Island. When you won the bear for her, you looked really happy together. It must have been something pretty awful to make you leave like that.” Martin was weaving their way through traffic.
“Yeah it was…” Danny said. Martin didn’t press him. He could tell Danny was steeling himself to see Amelia.
“I’m sure if you talk to her, explain it, she’ll understand…” Martin looked at him again.
“You know her better than I do now.” Danny said a bitter tinge to his voice.
“Not really.” Martin shook his head. “How do you figure?”
Danny looked at him unbelievingly. “You’re calling her Mia… you’ve spent the night with her…”
“We were talking… she was upset… I was hoping to get something useful for the case!”
“So that’s why you stayed?” Martin couldn’t miss the note of jealousy in Danny’s voice.
“No Danny, I stayed because I thought she was someone you cared about and I wasn’t just going to dump her and run when she was hurting and in trouble…” Martin shot at him. “Christ! You’re my friend… my best friend… I thought you’d want me to look after her! Did you know she’s been sober for ten years? She was afraid of slipping… so while you walked your demons away, I sat with her and we talked hers though…”
“She’s in AA?” Danny shook his head. “Parker didn’t drink much.”
“Mia did. She started when she was 16.” Martin said.
“I didn’t know.” Danny said softly. “Why did she start?”
“I think you should ask her that.” Martin said.
“…if she’ll speak to me.” Danny was looking down at his hands. He had his keys in his hand. He lightly fingered the pressed penny.
“Let me talk to her first… get her ready. You’ll just have to take it slowly.” Martin said as he parked the car. He pulled out his phone. “Franklin, it’s Fitzgerald and Taylor.”
“All clear” Franklin replied, “Come on in.”
“Are you ready?” Martin asked Danny.
“As I’ll ever be...” Danny shrugged. They got out of the car and surveyed the street. Happy that they weren’t being observed, Martin took out his laptop and they went up the steps. Franklin opened the door and let them in.
“How’s it been?” Martin asked by way of greeting.
“She hasn’t made a sound since you dropped her off.” Franklin said locking the door behind them. “I went up and checked on her, she looks like she’s asleep… just kinda curled up on the bed”
They had moved into the living room where the surveillance equipment was set up. They greeted Ted and Archie. “Has everything else been quiet?” Martin asked.
“So far not a sound,” Archie nodded, “no unusual movement anywhere on the street.”
“We’ll pick up anything if there is.” Ted said getting set up in Archie’s place.
“Ok great.” Martin nodded. “We’ll take it from here.” He said to Franklin.
“Cool, I’ll see you at 8.” He nodded Martin followed him and Archie to the door locking it behind them. He stopped and looked up the stairs. He strained to hear anything but all was silent. Danny was watching from the living room doorway. Martin motioned for him to wait and he quietly went up the stairs.
The upstairs hall was dark except for the bathroom light. He saw Amelia’s door was shut. He knocked softly. “Come in” he heard her quiet voice.
He opened the door and stepped half inside. “Mia?” he saw her lying on the bed just where he’d left her, still in the hospital scrubs and hugging the bear. “Mia, are you Ok?”
“Martin.” She sat up slowly, “You came back!” she brushed her long hair back over her shoulder. “Where’s the light?” she reached over and turned the bedside light on. He watched her holding on to her ribs as she straightened up.
“I told you I’d be back.” He smiled and came into the room pushing the door nearly shut behind him. “How are you? Have you eaten anything?”
“No… I’m not really hungry.” She sat up straight and rubbed her neck. “Is there anything new?”
“There have been some developments but we need to look more deeply into some things. You really should eat something… I could order some Chinese?”
“You can get food delivered here? I thought it was a safe house?” She was confused.
“It goes to the house next door,” he explained “it’s empty.”
“Oh,” she tried to smile. “Ow!” she put her hand to her lips. “Maybe some soup, something easy.” she conceded. “I think I brought my wallet.” She started to get up but he stopped her.
“Don’t worry, the Bureau is picking up the bill.” he smiled, she could tell he was nervous about something.
“What else wrong Martin?” she looked at him. He couldn’t help but blush slightly.
“There is someone here to see you.” He said gently. “…you don’t have to if you don’t want to… but I think it would be good… for both of you.”
“Where’s Danny?” she asked.
“Downstairs.” Martin said quietly, he should have known she’d figure it out. He walked over to her. “Do you want to talk to him?” Amelia put her head down and thought for a long moment. She felt Martin brush her hair back gently. “Mia, I think you two need to talk. You can’t keep letting this eat away at you. If you’re not ready I’ll send him home.”
She looked up at Martin and into his kind blue eyes. “No, I’ll talk to him now.” she sighed and then she tried to smile at him, through the bruising and swelling he saw a glimmer of the wicked smile that had captured him the first time he saw it. “I’ll do my best not to hit him this time!”
Martin couldn’t hide his own giggle at that. “Ok” he smiled. “I’ll go get him if you’re ready.” She nodded and stood up.
“I’m ready as I’ll ever be.” she said. He put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze, before going back downstairs. She went into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. “Oh god,” she shook her head before gently running a brush through her long hair. She went back out and sat on the bed, willing herself to be calm while she waited.
Danny was standing at the foot of the stairs waiting for Martin. “How is she?” he asked him quietly.
“She’s holding her own.” Martin nodded. “She wants to see you. Are you ready?” Danny looked ready to run again but he nodded “Don’t worry,” Martin tried to reassure him. “She did promise not to hit you again.” He tried to tease Danny. Danny gave him a half smile before steeling himself and slowly walking up the steps.
Danny stood staring at the door. With a deep breath he knocked softly. He waited but didn’t hear anything. The door wasn’t shut completely and it had opened slightly when he knocked. He pushed it wider and looked into the room. He could see Mia sitting on the edge of the bed. She’d shaken her long hair out and it fell around her shoulders like a shawl hiding her face from him. Cautiously, he slipped into the room and pushed the door shut. He looked at her in the soft light from the bedside lamp. His hands were shaking and he was surprised his knees were still holding him up. Relax and breathe stupid! He half laughed at himself. Hesitantly he walked up to her, his thoughts whirling in his head. Should he say something?Would she turn on him again? He was sure his heart would burst out of his chest it was pounding so hard.
Mia sat, her head down, hugging herself, her own heart beating in her throat. She dared not look at him, fearing she’d loose her last scrap of self control. She could see his shoes as he stood in front of her. With a trembling hand he reached out and touched her hair. It was as long and thick and as beautiful as he remembered it. He fingered it lightly where it fell over her shoulder and brushed it back. He softly stroked her bruised cheek with the back of his hand before he traced the line of her jaw. His touch was soft and gentle but the feel of his fingers against her skin sent tiny electric shivers through her. He lifted her chin, gently raising her face to look at him. Ever so slowly she met his gaze. His head tilted to the side he took in her bruised face. Her eyes met his. Neither of them could speak. They couldn’t find the words, not yet.
His emotions were in turmoil, and they all showed in his eyes, anger at the man who’d hurt her, fear that she was waiting to turn on him, regret for leaving her all those years ago, she saw them all and they were mirrored in her own. But this time they both looked long enough, they looked deep enough to see the love that was there as well. He held out his arms, an invitation. She looked at him for a moment before accepting. She stood slowly and he gathered her close to him. She pressed her face into his chest and as she felt his arms wrapping around her she knew, without a doubt, that whatever the rest of the world called him didn’t matter. He was, he is and he always would be her Danny.
He held her feeling her shake, knowing she was struggling not to give way to her tears. He nuzzled her hair and stroked her back swaying her gently as if rocking a baby. He looked down at her, “Mia,” he said softly, “I am so sorry…” he whispered.
“Don’t… please…” she hid her face against him again clinging to him. “Don’t spoil it with words.”
“Mia, please, we need to talk.” he said, focusing on her pain helped him suppress his own. She reluctantly left go of him and went and sat on the bed. She kept her head down, feeling self conscious of the bruising and swelling. She was angry too. This was not how she’d hoped Danny would come back into her life.
She felt him sitting on the bed, “Come here,” he said softly, “…you remember, like when we were kids…” She looked over at him. He was sitting back against the pillows and the headboard. “Come here…” he said again.
His words brought fresh tears to her eyes, “The last time we talked like that… it didn’t end well” she managed to get out before she wiped her tears away.
The bitterness and pain of her words pierced his heart. “I know, and I am so sorry…” he said, his voice tinged with guilt. “I promise you. I’m not going anywhere… not until you tell me to go away. I’m sorry I left you alone like that.”
She could see the affect her words were having on him. He’d always been sensitive she knew. She smiled remembering how he always tried to hide it from the rest of the world behind jokes, teasing and good dose of bravado. “I wasn’t completely alone.” She reached over and picked the bear up off of the nightstand. “I still had Tonto.” She handed him the bear. “But tell me, why did you leave like that? Why didn’t you tell me that your parents… that my mom… Agent Johnson said you were in the car…” she was getting angry again, until she looked at him. She could see the pain in his eyes.
He nodded, “I was” he said looking down at the bear. “I woke up in the hospital… but there is something I need to tell you…” he wiped his eyes with his heel of hand. “I should have told you a long time ago… I was so afraid… I thought you’d hate me, you may still…”
“Danny, what could be so bad?” she shifted to sit closer to him. “I thought we were friends… I thought we were… I don’t know… more than that somehow…” she looked at him the anger rising again. “Didn’t you trust me? There was nothing I wouldn’t have done for you… Christ I’d have walked through fire before I hurt you like that…”
“You have no idea how sorry I am… how much I’ve missed you.” He looked down at the bear. “It’s my fault… it was all, my fault.” She could see his grip tighten on the bear trying to hide the trembling in his hands. “I wanted to come back, to talk to you…”
“Obviously not enough...” She said before she could help herself. She immediately regretted her words. He looked down and away from her, shaking his head. She moved closer to him, she could feel the heat of his body through the thin material of her scrubs. She put her hand lightly over his.
“Danny, I’m sorry, that wasn’t fair… you’re here now, just talk to me… please…”
He looked up at her she’d never seen his eyes so huge or so filled with pain. “Promise me you won’t hate me.”
“I could never hate you Danny,” she said evenly then she smiled, “I can get really mad at you, but I would never hate you.” She drew a breath and flipped her hair over her shoulder. He smiled remembering that gesture. It meant she was getting impatient with him and he remembered just how volatile her temper could be.
“I hope this time is no different…” he drew a breath, “I was in the car… my dad was yelling at my mom… he did that a lot, usually before he’d beat her.” He closed his eyes. “I just wanted him to stop… that’s all …just to stop so I… I told him to leave her alone… and he did for second… because he was mad at me… he was yelling at me and he stopped paying attention… he lost control and crashed because of me…”
She was sitting quietly, looking down at her hands. “Mia…” he said softly, she looked up at him. “Do you understand what I’m saying?” he asked as he looked into her eyes. “Mia … I made him crash… it’s my fault your mom died…” she looked at him the pain and guilt that had haunted him for all of these years so evident in his eyes. Two huge tears ran down his cheeks. “I’m so sorry Mia… I’m so sorry.”
She was angry. Her temper peaked higher than it ever had, but not just at Danny. She was mad at his father for being so horrible to him, she was mad at fate for getting between them, she was mad at herself for never getting him to talk about the death of his parents. Now she was mad at him not because he had caused the wreck, but for believing he had for all of these years.
She tried to draw a deep breath before she spoke. It hurt and just added to her agony. “Danny… it wasn’t your fault!” she reached up and wiped his cheeks, “He was the adult! He was driving! It was not your fault!”
He looked down and shook his head not believing her. “If I’d just kept my mouth shut!”
“Danny” she took his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her. “It was NOT your fault! You were protecting your mom. That was his job! He was supposed to look after you!” She looked deeply into his eyes. “IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!” she said deliberately. “Do you understand?”
“Oh Mia…” he said miserably. She hugged him, he gathered her close and they sat holding tightly to each other gathering strength and silently each letting the other know that they were no longer alone.
Martin had been pacing impatiently downstairs. He’d checked the surveillance set up, made sure all of the other agents were in place and reviewed his notes twice. “Ok I’ll order dinner,” he thought before taking orders from everyone. Knowing Danny as well as he did he placed the order without consulting him or Amelia. He slipped out the back and into the vacant house next door to wait. When the food arrived he packed the things he’d ordered for Danny and Amelia and carried them upstairs.
He was worried. Knowing how volatile things had been between them on their last two encounters he’d expected to hear some shouting or something. He’d even considered asking Danny to leave his side arm downstairs. The silence was more terrifying than the shouting. He stood outside listening for a moment. He relaxed hearing the muffled sound of conversation. “Well at least she didn’t hit him again!” he smiled wryly to himself.
They were still sitting there when Martin tapped on the door. “Come on in.” Danny said as he got up, Mia reluctantly letting him go.
“Hey, I thought you two might be hungry.” He smiled and held up a brown paper bag. “I ordered you some Moo Shu” he smiled at Danny “and there’s some wonton eggdrop” he said to Amelia.
“You remembered!” she smiled at Martin, “you’re a star!” Danny looked at her and then to Martin. She saw the look of suspicion and jealousy flash over Danny’s face and Martin’s subtle blush.
Danny mumbled a quiet thanks to Martin, while Amelia watched him curiously. Danny looked like a schoolboy whose best friend was flirting with a girl he liked. “Why don’t you two eat while it’s still hot?” Martin set the bag down on the dresser. “We can do the ID later” he nodded to Danny. Amelia was now looking from one to the other confused.
“I’ll explain it all to you.” Danny said to her. Martin patted him on his shoulder and left them alone quietly closing the door behind him. Sullenly, Danny unpacked the Chinese food, happy for a momentary distraction. He turned around with a carton in each hand startled to find Amelia had quietly slipped off of the bed and was standing immediately behind him. “Hello” he grinned. She was looking up at him. “What?” he giggled nervously.
“I want you to answer a question.” She stepped closer so that he was backed up against the dresser with no where to run.
“Why do you get that look on your face whenever I mention Martin’s name… or talk to him… or when you hear he stayed with me the other night?”
“What look?” he tried to pretend he didn’t know exactly what she meant.
“The same one you used to get whenever Billy Harrison wanted to walk me home.” She smiled, as best she could with the swelling and bruising to her face.
“Whatever happened to that little prick?” Danny’s brow wrinkled at the memory.
“I don’t know. He was too scared to talk to me after you beat him up!” She laughed, “You’re not going to do that to Martin are you?”
He laughed as well. “You knew about that?” he blushed as she nodded. “Yeah, well Martin isn’t Billy.”
“No he isn’t. He’s a good guy… and Billy was a prick.” She took a carton from him with another smile and they sat on the bed to eat their dinner.
“So you like Martin do you?” he asked, stabbing at his food with a plastic fork. She couldn’t miss the note of jealousy that still tinged his voice.
“I do. I did the moment I met him at your office. He was the first person to really listen to me. I’d been searching for papi for a week on my own. The police weren’t interested in looking for him” She looked Danny squarely in the eye. “…and after …that night, after the… after seeing that man… and then seeing you… Martin stayed, and we talked… all night…” she tried to explain to Danny. “We talked about everything…” he didn’t look entirely convinced. “Oh for God’s sake Danny, Martin is the only reason I didn’t crawl back inside a bottle of Jack after… after…”
“Mia, you don’t have to explain, it’s ok…” Danny said her. “I’m glad he was there for you… I should have been… and I’m sorry.”
“You’re here now. That’s what matters to me,” she said softly, “you’re here now.” Smiling he nodded and offered her a Shitake mushroom, laughing she let him feed it to her, happy he remembered she loved them. Slowly they ate and talked filling in the missing years for each other with laughter and a few tears.
“Now, Martin said something about an ID.” She said as she watched him packing the empty food cartons away. “What does that mean?”
Danny sat down next to her and brushed her hair back. Smiling she closed her eyes and leaned her head into his hand before looking at him. “He’s found some suspects that match the description of the guy who attacked you.” He said gently, “Do you think you’re up to looking at some pictures of them. Maybe you could identify one of them?” She was looking nervous, anxiously toying with her hair. “Hey they’re just pictures. If you can ID the guy then we can pick him up.”
“What about his friends? He said he’d be back with friends and that they’d…” she hugged herself and wouldn’t meet his gaze.
“Mia, we will protect you,” he tried to reassure her. “I will protect you.” He hugged her softly stroking her back.
“Danny,” she said against his chest, “would you stay with me?” She looked up at him. “Please?”
“I’m not going anywhere Mia.” His kissed her forehead before hugging her again. “Do you want to come downstairs?” he asked her.
“Only, if I can make some coffee.” She smiled snuggling closer to him, loving the feel of his arms around her.
“I doubt Martin would complain, he said your coffee was spectacular.” Danny chuckled.
“Yours is pretty good too.” She sighed.
“When did you have my coffee?” he sat back in surprise.
“The other morning at the office, when Martin first took my dad’s case...” She said softly. “He asked me if I wanted coffee, when he brought me a cup he said his partner had made it… that’s you… …right?”
“Yeah, it was. I saw you in the office… only from behind, but in my heart… I knew it was you… that scared me, and excited me and… I can’t believe you’re here…” he was touching her face again, the anger that someone would do that to her clear in his eyes.
“Danny, I need to know something.” She sat up and looked at him, searching his face. “If my father hadn’t gone missing, would you ever have come looking for me?” She couldn’t miss the pain and guilt in his eyes. “I tried to find you so many times… I never thought you’d change your name.” He still didn’t answer her. “Would you have come looking for me?” she pressed him.
Before he could answer Martin knocked again, “Sorry, I was just wondering if you were ready to try that ID now?” He asked from the doorway. He could see that they were in the middle of something.
“Sure” Amelia said looking at Danny before turning to Marin with a smile. “Would you like me to make some coffee?” she asked him.
“That would be fantastic.” Martin smiled. “I’ll meet you downstairs.” He stepped out again.
“Well, let’s get this over with.” Amelia stood up to follow him.
Danny caught her hand. “I did look for you. I found you not long after I joined the FBI.” He said quietly. “I drove by your apartment a few times. I watched you to make sure you were safe …that you were happy.”
“You watched me… why didn’t you come to see me?” she asked him. He hung his head. He didn’t have to say the words she understood. “Oh Danny,” She hugged him and stroked his hair. He slipped his arms around her and swore he’d never let her go again.
Danny forced himself to release her and he stood up. He smiled as she gently reached up and touched his cheek. “Let’s go downstairs” he said softly. She nodded and let him lead her out. She was still sore and moving slowly. He kept a protective arm around her until they were at the bottom of the stairs where Martin was waiting for them.
“Are you ready for this?” Martin asked her, the concern for both of them etched on his face.
“I think so” Mia nodded “I’m certainly ready for coffee, aren‘t you?”
Martin smiled and nodded “This way” he said.
Mia looked around the kitchen as they walked into it. It was three times as big as the one in her apartment, with a breakfast table and central island. She longed to throw open the curtains and let in the natural light. She was sure it had been a happy house once, now it felt sad to be so shut up. Danny saw the look on her face and understood.
“We need to keep the curtains closed. We can’t run the risk of anyone seeing inside.” He said gently.
She nodded and went to look in the cupboards for the coffee. Martin explained the photo ID to her as she made a pot of coffee. “We have 12 photos for you to look at” he said “Just take your time and tell us if you recognize anyone…” he laid out two cards, each with six mug shots on them, for her to see.
The scent of the coffee filled the kitchen as she looked at the pictures. “That’s him” she pointed to one of the photos.
“Are you sure?” Danny asked her as Martin checked the name of the man in the photo.
“Yes, I won’t ever forget that face” she said softly and hugged herself.
“Jerome Thompson.” Martin looked at Danny,
“Thompson… is he related to…” Danny started to say before Martin cut him off.
“He’s Darnell and Malique’s cousin” Martin shook his head Danny could see there’s more to the ID than Martin was letting on. He knew Martin would tell him when they were alone.
“Hey I’ve seen this guy before” Mia said suddenly. She was looking at the other sheet of photos. “He was outside of my father’s house after he and Mikey went missing!”
“Are you sure about that?” Danny asked. Mia nodded as Martin checked the name.
“Calvin Davis” Martin said.
“I’m positive I saw him when I went in.” Mia said “I noticed him because it was like he had been waiting for me… it gave me the creeps the way he looked at me.” she shivered at the memory and hugged herself. “He was in a black Toyota… don’t ask me which one because I’m not sure but it was definitely him. He was still there when I ran next door to see if Mrs. Patterson had heard from papi. She hadn’t, but she did notice him too!” she pointed to the picture.
Martin picked up the photos and excused himself “I’ll go run these down” he said and went out to the living room.
Danny watched Mia as she hugged herself “Do you think they’ve done something to papi…to Mikey?” she put her hands over her face. Danny didn’t hesitate, he stepped up to her and took her in his arms, he hugged her, holding her close. She relaxed against him her head on his chest. She didn’t move when Martin came back and Danny didn’t let her go.
Martin came in from the living room with some printouts. Danny knew from experience, Martin’s expression meant there was a major development in the case and it wasn’t one he was going to like. “You should get some more rest” Danny said to Mia. “Why don’t you go take a hot shower, I’ll be up to see you again in a bit.”
Mia smiled “If you two want to play cops and robbers without me you don’t have to send me to my room!” She teased them. Danny hugged her gently before letting her go. She said good night to Martin and went slowly back upstairs. They watched her walk off, neither of them speaking until they heard her footsteps on the floor above them.
“What did you find?” Danny asked Martin.
“Connections…” Martin sighed “and you’re not going to like it all.” he said quietly.
“Just give it to me straight” Danny said..
“We can now connect Malique, Darnell, Jerome, and Calvin…” Martin looked down and shuffled his papers. “One other name came up” Martin said nervously. “In Malique’s file we found former associates… one Rafael Alvarez.” He watched Danny’s face cloud over as he said it.
“Rafi knew Parker was my case worker and my foster home…” Danny’s brow furrowed “He knew about Mia too, he used to tease me about her when I’d have to visit him at Rikers… what’s his connection to Malique? Have any of these jokers been to see him recently?”
“It looks like Malique and Rafi were both moving drugs for Alvaro Montoya.” Martin said quietly. “I’ve put out a call for the visitors logs from Riker’s. There’s not much more we can do until we get that.” Martin shook his head “Why don’t you go up to Mia and make sure she is ok?” he suggested. “Go on, get some rest, I’ll hold down the fort down here… go on”
Danny knew Martin was right, but part of him wanted to go to Rikers right then and there and drag Rafi out of his cell. Reluctantly he nodded knowing Mia needed him here and now and he was not going to run out on her again. “Are you going to be OK” Danny asked Martin. “I can stay down here and help…”
“Danny… technically you aren’t here…” Martin grinned. “Get some sleep we’ve got it covered. Mia needs you.” Danny nodded and with a quiet good night he went upstairs.
He walked slowly, giving her time to hear his footsteps approaching. He knocked softly on the door. “Come in” he heard her soft voice.
He drew a breath and opened the door. She was sitting on the bed trying to brush her long hair. She had showered and changed into a set of soft cotton pajamas. The turquoise shorts and white t-shirt enhancing her olive skin. She smiled almost shyly as he came in and closed the door behind him.
“How are you” he asked her hoping his nervousness wasn’t reflected in his voice.
“I don’t know” she looked down at the brush in her lap. She was sore and struggling to brush out her long hair. She looked up at him her huge brown eyes filling with tears. “I know I’m scared… everything is upside down…” she had to look away from him “Where’s papi? What’s happened to Mikey? When will things get back to normal…”
“Hey slow down” he walked over to her “I don’t have any answers for you yet, but believe me we will soon…” he reached out and stroked her hair “Mia… I promise you.”
She nodded and drew a breath, “Danny” she looked up at him “Will you stay here tonight?” she asked him, her voice barely a whisper.
“Of course I’m staying” he smiled.
“No Danny” she shook her head “I mean… will you stay here…” she put her hand on the bed beside her. “I want you to stay up here with me…”
“Mia” he stroked her cheek “I’m not going any where.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. She wiped away the tear that escaped and watched him take off his shirt and undo his belt, removing his sidearm. She was startled to see it as he set it on the nightstand.
She looked at him standing there in his tight white t-shirt and jeans and then to his weapon lying beside him. She stood up and put her hands on his chest. “You have a dangerous job don’t you?”
“It has it’s moments” he tried to make light of it, wanting to put her at ease. He toyed with her hair brushing it back over her shoulders.
“I need you to make me another promise…” she looked up into his eyes. “Promise me I won’t lose you again so soon after finding you… I couldn’t bear it” He hugged her knowing no words could give her the solace she needed. He held her gently feeling her relax against him.
“Let me brush you hair for you” he offered. Smiling she nodded and sat on the bed. He sat behind her and gently, lovingly brushed out her hair. “Is that better?” he asked setting the brush down.
“Yes thank you” she smiled and tried to cover a yawn.
“Why don‘t you get some sleep?” he moved to turn down the blankets.
“You’ll wake me before you go won’t you?”
“I promise” he said with a gentle laugh “Now into bed with you young lady”
She nodded and slipped under the covers. She found a comfortable position while he turned off the lights. She listened to him kick off his shoes and empty his pockets. She blushed when she heard him lock the door. Her heart was pounding when she heard him take off his jeans and drape them over the chair. It nearly stopped feeling him lift the covers and his weight on the bed, the heat of his body close against hers. He spooned her, holding her in his arms cradling her body with his. She closed her hands over his, lacing their fingers together.
“Sleep Mia you’re safe” he reassured her “I will be here when you wake up, I promise.”
The strain from the day’s events was taking it’s toll on Amelia. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to be happy, sad or terrified. She had no idea where her father or Mikey were or if she’d ever see them again. She did know that right here, right now, she was going to sleep with Danny’s arms around her and one of the biggest mysteries of her young life had been solved. For the moment she could sleep knowing that he was here and he would still be there in the morning.
Mia woke, her sore ribs intruding into the most delicious of dreams. A dream she’d been having since she was 13 and first laid eyes on Danny Alvarez. She snuggled down nuzzling her face into her pillow wishing it was his chest and she was sure she could feel him holding her. Her eyes popped open when she realized that her “pillow” was breathing and was wearing the most intoxicating cologne. That was when she remembered. It wasn’t her pillow she was sleeping against. It wasn’t a dream anymore. It was Danny’s strong chest she was snuggled against. It was his arms around her, making her feel safe. But he wasn’t Danny Alvarez any more. He was Danny Taylor, Special Agent Danny Taylor with the FBI, her father and foster brother were missing and she was in danger herself.
Danny felt her stir in his arms and her sharp intake of breath as reality descended upon her. “It’s ok Mia” he said sleepily “Your safe. I’m still here” he tightened his arms gently around her, pulling her even closer to him. She had shifted in her sleep, turning to face him as she slept. She started to relax feeling his lips brush her forehead. It was still dark as she closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of Danny’s heart beating and his slow even breathing as sleep reclaimed him. She lay there wrapped in his arms drinking in the feel of him, the scent of him all the while trying to decipher the mix of emotions threatening to overwhelm her.
Danny woke to feel the weight of Mia sleeping peacefully against him. He looked down at her in the semi darkness and smiled. He slowly reached out and picked his cell phone up frowning to see it was nearly 6:30. He and Martin were going to be relieved by Franklin at 8. They were going out to Rikers to question his brother. He put his phone down in disgust at the thought and hugged Mia. She sighed and snuggled closer to him. Nuzzling her hair he couldn’t believe that he was there with her. He couldn’t believe that she had forgiven him.
He could feel the ace bandages wrapped around her bruised ribs as he rubbed her back. He was filled with guilt at the thought of what she’d had to go through alone. He conscience was soothed a bit knowing she’d been able to call Martin after the attack. He knew he wouldn’t get back to sleep now. His mind was reeling with thoughts and question about Malique Thompson, Calvin Davis, Montoya and his brother. He sighed and reached over to turn off the alarm on his phone.
Mia felt him moving and looked up “It’s not time for you to go already is it?” she asked softly.
“Soon” he toyed with her hair as she put her head down on his chest again. “Don’t worry I will be back before you know it” he said reassuringly.
“I know” she said stoically. She couldn’t bear the thought of letting him go just yet.
He smiled in the semi-darkness he remembered that tone. She was hurt and afraid but she would rather die than admit it and make him worry. It was only his concern for her and her fears that kept them both from focusing on the incredibly intimate way their bodies were nestled together. It wasn’t until Mia shifted and her hand brushed across his hips that they realized Danny, like nearly every other man, woke up doing an impressive impersonation of a compass pointing north.
“Sorry” she pulled her hand away hiding her face against his chest as he couldn‘t help but shiver and come out in goose bumps at the unexpected contact.
“It’s ok” he said and hugged her again trying to think of anything other than the electric shiver that ran through his entire body at her casual touch. It wasn’t easy with her pressed so closely to him but he wasn’t willing to give up the sweet torture just yet.
They lay together quietly for a few more minutes each of them wondering what the future had in-store for them. “One day at a time” Mia sighed quietly.
“That’s right Mia” Danny said softly knowing she was talking about more than just an AA mantra. “Did Martin take your cell?” he asked knowing already sure of the answer before she gave it. Martin was nothing if not thorough. “You can’t call your sponsor, so if you need to talk get Franklin to call me or Martin OK” she nodded quietly against his chest. “Ok” he asked her again.
She lifted her head to look at him “Ok” she nodded “but I think I’ll be alright”
He smiled at her, his fingers lightly tracing her jaw and chin “I’d better get up” he said reluctantly. Mia nodded and shifted away so he could sit up. She drew the sheet up as she watched him stretch and then reach for the bedside light.
“Would you like some coffee?” she asked him wanting to do something, anything to stop her mind from spiraling with worry. She hated not being in control, it was one of the main reasons she started drinking, it numbed her feelings and she could stop. Stop worrying about her father, about what had happened to Danny, about why he had left her alone. He was leaving her again she couldn’t help but think to herself.
“That would be great” Danny said as he stood up. Mia already felt a pang as his weight lifted from the bed. She quickly wiped away the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. Danny had seen and felt the twinge in his own heart. “Hey come here.” he sat back down on the bed and gathered her to him “You need to stay busy” he smiled at a memory “Do you still do those logic puzzles?”
She gave a half laugh and smiled as she nodded amazed that he remembered her obsession with puzzles and crosswords as a child.
“Good! I bet Martin has a brand new book of puzzles in his bag, he never goes on an detail like this without one.” Danny smiled “I’ll get him to leave it for you. It’s better than nothing.”
“No that would be wonderful” Mia said “I just need something to focus on.” she said Other than you, me and what might be happening here she thought to herself. She kept her eyes down embarrassed knowing her thoughts would show on her face.
She didn’t realize that Danny was having very similar thoughts. Thoughts he wished time and circumstances would let him explore at the moment but he knew neither were in his favor. He was patient and things were going his way for a change. Now all he had to do was find her missing father and his foster, once the case was solved he and Mia could take their time and figure the rest of it out together.
She let him get up and get dressed. She was standing by the dresser brushing out her hair when he came out of the bathroom. He stopped and smiled seeing her set the brush down. When she looked at him and their eyes met he felt his heart skip a beat and he knew he couldn’t wait any longer. He walked up to her and gently brushed her hair back over her shoulder. He stepped closer to her. She could feel the heat from his body through the thin fabric of her pajamas. Her hands instinctively went up resting lightly on his chest. She could feel his heart pounding. With her face in his hands he looked lovingly down into her eyes. Slowly he started to close the gap between them. With just centimeters to go, with his breath on her lips there was a knock on the door.
“Danny are you awake?” They heard Martin’s voice. “Come on down when you’re ready, I’m going to make some coffee”
“Damn” Danny sighed and rested his forehead on hers before straightening up “I’m up Martin I’ll be right down” he called as Mia tried to hide a quiet giggle.
“Why don‘t you get dressed, I better go down, his coffee is awful” Danny sighed hearing Martin’s acknowledgement and hasty retreat back downstairs.
“Ok we can finish this… later” Mia blushed.
He nodded at her with a blush of his own, “We’ve waited 17 years, I think we can wait a few more hours…”
Mia could smell the coffee as she walked down the stairs. She smiled at the tech sitting by the cameras as she walked towards the kitchen.
“Five more minutes!” she heard Danny saying to Martin “You couldn’t have given me five more minutes?” She caught her breath and blushed knowing what he was talking about, she relaxed a little when she realized Martin didn’t know what Danny had meant.
“Look man I’m sorry ok!” Martin grumbled “I was worried, you don’t normally sleep through your alarm… if I had known you two were awake and talking I would have left you alone…”
“You wanted decent coffee!” Danny teased Martin trying to steer him away from thinking he had interrupted something between him and Mia upstairs.
“Yeah well maybe.” Martin conceded sheepishly “Is it done yet?”
“Yeah” Danny laughed “It is” he got out three cups as Mia walked in “Are you ready for coffe?” Danny grinned at her “Martin was about to start an IV!”
“Good morning!” Mia smiled at Martin “I’d love some but if that’s the case you’d better pour Martin’s first!” she looked at Martin who was still a lovely shade of pink mumbled a quiet thank you as Danny passed him a cup of coffee.
Danny made the three of them some toast and Mia listened as they finalized their plans to visit Rikers and Martin briefed Danny on Sam and Viv’s plans for the day.
“Yeah so Sam and Viv are looking into Mikey’s former foster homes.” Martin said “Hopefully they will find something useful.”
“What do you think they’ll find?” Mia asked “He had a miserable time at nearly every one until papi took him in.”
“We need to look into his past to see if there might be someone he would go to for help.” Danny explained “If there is someone he would trust or a place he felt safe…”
“Father Orlando” Mia said “Whenever Mikey got into trouble in his old group home he’d end up hiding in the tool shed behind the rectory. Father Orlando would leave sandwiches and things by the door for him until he felt safe enough to come out. He said Mikey was in there for two days once.” she shook her head sadly. “That was when he came to live with my father… I went and checked but he wasn’t there… I never caught up with Father Orlando either.”
“We’ll call Viv and let her know, they’ll check on it again.” Danny nodded. “Oh hey Franklin” he greeted the other agent as he entered the kitchen. “Coffee?”
Franklin nodded a greeting to them before asking “Who made it?” with a grin at Martin.
“I did” Danny laughed at his friend’s fresh blush.
“We’d better get going” Martin looked at his watch as Danny poured the last of the coffe into a cup for Franklin. “I’ll grab my bag and meet you at the door” he said to Danny. “Come on I’ll get you up to speed” he said to Franklin knowing Danny wouldn’t want an audience while he said good-bye to Mia.
Danny and Mia watched them walk out. Mia had picked up Martin’s coffee cup and taken it to the sink with her own. She didn’t want to say good-bye to him but time was running out. He walked up behind her and reaching around her, put his cup in the sink. Slipping his arms around her waist he hugged her. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” he promised. Another hug and he started to step away.
“Danny wait!” she spun around as fast as her sore ribs would let her and flung herself into his arms. He caught her and without hesitating he kissed her. Mia registered the pain in her ribs and in her face but it was nothing compared to the feel of Danny’s arms around her and his deep coffee flavored kiss. It ended to soon for both of them.
Breathless and a little dizzy, Mia steadied herself, her hands on his chest. He rested his forehead on hers, his breathing almost as rapid as her own. “I better get going.” he managed to get out.
“Be careful” she whispered. He kissed her forehead once more and took a step back.
“I will, stay away from the windows” he reminded her. “Martin left you a present on the table” he pointed to a magazine and shiny mechanical pencil.
She smiled and nodded “Thank him for me.”
“Teach him how to make coffee” Danny laughed and with another smile forced himself to walk out of the kitchen and then out of the house with Martin.
Mia washed their cups and made a fresh pot of coffee before picking up the puzzle magazine and mechanical pencil. She walked out of the kitchen and found Franklin and Archie in the living room. She didn’t like Franklin. She couldn’t put her finger on it but there was something about him she didn’t trust. Right now she didn’t like the way he looked her over as she stood in the doorway.
“I’ve just made a fresh pot of coffee.” she said quietly.
“Oh great thanks!” Archie grinned from where he sat at the cameras. Franklin didn’t say anything, he just stared at her. She smiled and went back up to the bedroom closing the door behind her.
She put the magazine down and went to straighten the bed. As she did she lifted one of the pillows to her nose and inhaled deeply. Danny’s scent lingered. It was enough to make her feel his presence in the room. As she put the pillow down she saw a matchbook cover sticking out from under the other pillow. She picked it up. The cover said “Vito’s Best Eats in Town”.
There were no matches in it, but inside the cover was a note. “I promise I will be back, love Danny” she smiled it was like him. He had always left her notes hidden in her books and in her school bag when he would leave on a Sunday night to go home with Rafi. She would find them all, over the course of the week. Each one brought a fresh smile to her face and every one was carefully kept safe in her happy box. She put the note down next to Tonto and once the bed was made she got comfortable with the puzzle magazine to wait for Danny to come back.
Danny was quiet on the drive to Rikers, he’d hardly said a word as they drove to his apartment so he could change. Now in the car on the way to the dock he did little more than nod and respond with a quiet “Ok” as Martin discussed the connections between Rafi, Malique Thompson, Alvaro Montoya and Frankie Cortez.
On the ferry Martin got them each a coffee as the boat cruised slowly away from the dock. Danny was sitting on a bench staring at the growing hulk in the distance that was Rikers Island. “So it looks like Malique has given away some of Montoya’s key players.” Martin said “but he refused protective custody” he shook his head “I don’t get it”
“He’s cleaning house for Montoya” Danny said sipping his coffee. “He’s getting rid of anyone Montoya sees as disloyal… Malique gets time shaved off of his sentence and Montoya gets rid of anyone who works for him who may be a threat.” He looked down and swirled the coffee in his hand. “Where do you think Rafi fits into all of this?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know” Martin said “He’s the only link we have at the minute that connects Malique, Parker and Mia… Jack is trying to get more details on Malique’s trial but the US Attorney’s office is holding onto everything. He’s called in some favors but until we get the transcripts we won’t even know who was on the witness list.
Danny nodded his mood getting darker the closer they got to Rikers. “I want to get dinner and a couple ice cream floats from Big Daddy’s to take back to the house tonight.” he said to Martin.
“Mia will like that” Martin smiled remembering Mia talk about the diner. “Here we are” he said as the ferry eased into the dock at Rikers.
Danny drew a breath and nodded “Let’s do this” he said and squaring his shoulders he got up, Martin following him to the gangplank already crowded with people coming to visit someone at the prison.
Martin and Danny went through the entrance for law enforcement officers leaving their weapons in the secure holding area. Danny wrinkled his nose at the institutional scent of the place as they walked to one of the private visitor’s rooms. Small rectangular rooms used for when a lawyer came to visit a client before a trial they resembled an interrogation room outfitted with a simple table and chairs.
Inmates in jumpsuits wandered out of their cells talking to each other and looking for family members in the main visitor’s room. Several of them noticed Martin and Danny they stopped and stood, watching as the agents walked along to a door with a guard in front of it. When the door opened they could see Rafi sitting at the table. The three men were all in the dark grey jump suit worn by long term inmates. They were each heavily tattooed with gang symbols the older of the two watching Danny with quiet menace. Once the door to the interview room was shut they turned to the third younger inmate.
“You know what you need to do right man?” One asked quietly.
“Yeah sure no sweat.” came the reply.
“Don’t let us down little bro…” the other said before the older two walked away leaving the younger one leaning against the wall. Nervously he ran his finger over the seam in the leg of his jumpsuit, he could feel the shank secreted there. He took a breath and tried to calm his nerves. It was him or them he figured. He would do what ever it took to survive and if that meant killing someone then that’s what he would do. He crossed his arms and leaned on the wall trying to look bored as he waited.
Rafi looked up as the door opened and Martin and Danny walked in. He looked at them with a half laugh “I should have known this wasn’t a social visit” he said “How are you little bro?” he asked Danny.
“I’m good Rafi” Danny nodded “You remember Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald” he indicated Martin. Rafi nodded and watched as they sat in the chairs opposite him, each of them taking out a little note pad and a pen.
“I’m good by the way” he said to Danny “Thanks for asking,” he couldn’t hide the hint of sarcasm in his voice. “So what do you two want form me?” he asked quietly feeling just the slightest prick of guilt seeing the pain flash across Danny’s face before the cop mask was firmly fixed in place.
“Stephen Parker is missing” Danny started as they had planned, Martin watching Rafi’s reaction.
“Parker…” Rafi said “Wasn’t he one of your fosters?” he asked Danny “Yeah…” Rafi grinned “He had that cute daughter you were just to scared to make a move on…” he looked at Danny “What does this got to do with me?”
“His foster son is also missing.. Michael Anthony Cortez…” Danny said without looking at his notes. “He was in a car with his older brother Frankie and Darnell Thompson the night he disappeared…” Rafi sat up a little straighter at the sound of the names. “They killed a woman on the expressway…” Danny drew a breath to keep his voice from wavering “Frankie and Thompson took off… Frankie got picked up but Thompson went to visit his brother upstate…” Danny leaned forward “You may remember him” he said with quiet ferocity “Malique Thompson…” he looked hard at Rafi “now Parker and Mikey Cortez are missing and one of Thompson’s cousins attacked Mia… you are the only link… between Frankie, Darnell and Malique… what did you tell them?” he asked “What did you say about Mia?”
“Is she all right?” Rafi asked not knowing what to say. “I’ve seen Frankie here… I hardly knew him back in the day he was just a small time schoolyard hustler” he shook his head. “I recognized the tats when he got here… he asked me who I was… said he’d heard about me from Malique…” Rafi stopped to think. “I didn’t talk to the kid too much… but Malique… he was here for his trial…” he looked at Danny “He was asking about you… he remembered the way I’d razz you about Mia… Parker was testifying at his trial…”
Both Danny and Martin looked at each other at that piece of information. “Didn’t you know that?” Rafi asked them.
“Parker was the girl’s caseworker… he’s the one who filed the charges that got Malique arrested.” he looked from Danny to Martin and back again “You’re the big shot FBI agent how could you not know that?”
Martin watched Danny lean back in his chair and cross his arms tightly. “Malique turned State’s evidence against Alvaro Montoya, the files are sealed” Martin said “We know he was going down for statutory rape but beyond that we’re waiting for the warrants to come through for the paperwork.”
“He’s testifying against Montoya” Rafi couldn’t believe it. “I know he wasn’t the sharpest tool but I didn’t think he had a death wish!”
“We think he’s being selective and only naming people Montoya wants to get rid of…” Danny said “Now what did you say to Malique?”
Rafi drew a breath and wiped his hands over his face. “You better look after Sylvia and the kids!” he said to Danny “If he is working for Montoya still and finds out I talked to you…” Rafi shook his head “He won’t stop with just coming after me.”
“We’ll look after all of you” Martin said picking up his pen “Now what can you tell us?”
While Martin and Danny were at Rikers, Sam and Viv were visiting Mikey’s former foster and group homes and getting more and more depressed by the minute. “Let’s head for St. Cecelia’s” Viv suggested as they got into the car “we can pray for inspiration if nothing else when we get there” she said wryly.
The doors to the church were open as they walked up the stone steps. It was cool inside and illuminated only by the sun shining through the large stained glass windows they stopped and gave their eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light.
“There he is” Vivian pointed towards the alter where Father Orlando was putting up fresh candles. He turned as they walked down the central aisle.
“Hello, and what can I do for you ladies today” he smiled.
“Hello Father, I’m Special Agent Vivian Johnson and this is Special Agent Samantha Spade we’re with the FBI.” Viv said as they held up their ID.
“Have you found Danny?” Father Orlando asked them quietly.
“Danny’s fine” Viv assured him
“Good… good” Father Orlando sighed with relief “…and what about Steve and Mikey?”
“They are still missing… that’s why we’re here we need to talk to you” Viv said calmly.
“Yes of course…” he looked up as a cleaning woman came in to the church and began her work “Shall we go to the rectory?”
Father Orlando lead them out a side door and to the Rectory next door. They entered through the kitchen, seated around the table he poured them coffee, “Now how can I help you?” Father Orlando asked again.
“We’ve been looking into Mikey’s background, places he’d been people he knew… Miss Parker said he used to come here to hide when things got bad at his foster homes.”
“Oh yes, I’d find him in the tool shed out back at least once a week” Father Orlando nodded. “unitl he moved in with Steve that is… I’ve never seen him happier…”
“Have you checked the tool shed recently?” Viv asked.
“A few days ago, nothing seemed out of the ordinary” Father Orlando shook his head.
“Would you mind if I took a look?” Sam asked.
“No of course not…” he gestured towards the door “it’s not locked” Sam nodded and went out to the shed.
“Is there anyone else you can think of that he may trust enough to go to if he were hurt?” Viv asked “Someplace else he may hide?”
“Do you think he’s hurt?” Father Orlando was concerned.
“I’m afraid so Father” Viv said gently “We know he cut his head in the accident, we also found a bloody shirt of his…” she watched his reactions to her words carefully “He hasn’t turned up in any of the hospitals… or morgues” Father Orlando looked into her eyes as she spoke “Where would a scared, bleeding, teenaged boy with no family go?”
“Quintanilla…” he said quietly.
“Who or what is that?” Viv asked as a disappointed Sam returned from the backyard.
“She is an old woman… she takes in “strays” for lack of a better term, she helps the sick, the homeless, the forgotten…” Father Orlando said. “He may have gone to her… she lived near one of his group homes… she used to feed him when the older kids chased him away…”
“How do we find this Quintanilla?” Viv asked
“I’ll take you… she may not speak to you if you go alone.” Father Orlando said quietly. Viv nodded and they left the rectory, Father Orlando directing them from the backseat of the car to a grubby tenement block on a tiny back street.
“Is it just me or are we being watched from all sides” Sam asked as they approached the old flagstone steps. The stone was old and worn but scrubbed clean. Viv stopped to look the other buildings were covered with graffiti and strewn with refuse, not this one. The windows were old but intact and spotless, a wreath of dried flowers hung on the door. It opened before Father Orlando could touch the buzzer.
“Hello Padre” a young Latino woman greeted him. “Quintanilla will see you and your friends, please come in.” She opened
the door wide enough for them to enter.
“Thank you Maria” Father Orlando smiled “Ladies after you” he let Sam and Viv enter first. “The first apartment on the right” Father Orlando said. Sam and Viv entered the dim entry hall, it too was swept clean and the floors scrubbed. The walls looked as if they had been recently painted. They noticed several people looking down over the stairway railings from the upper floors before moving cautiously in the direction Father Orlando pointed.
Again the door opened before they could knock. An old woman stood in the doorway, her silver hair twisted into an elaborate bun on the back of her head “I’ve been expecting you Padre” she smiled at him “come in…” she turned to walk back into the neat apartment. They could hear soft music from somewhere down the hall and the scent of food cooking drifted in from the kitchen. Maria closed the door behind them. She disappeared down the hall to the sound of a baby crying. “You bring strangers padre… you know I don’t like strangers.” she sat down on a large wing chair and made a languid gesture towards a settee. “Won’t you please sit down?”
“Thank you” Vivian said “We are with the FBI” she and Sam held up their Ids “We are looking for Michael Cortez and Stephen Parker”
“I know” Quintanilla nodded “There are bad people looking for them both too… and the young woman” she said.
“How do you know?” Sam asked
“It is easy to learn things if one knows how to listen” Quintanilla smiled.
“Do you know who is looking for them?” Vivian asked.
Quintanilla’s face darkened for a moment before she answered “Alvaro my son.”
“Alvaro Montoya is your son?” Viv asked sharply her trade mark composure cracked slightly.
“Yes… but that is not important… what is important is that they are all in very grave danger… as is one of your own…” she looked at Vivian. “You see him as a son… do you not… Your Agent Danny Taylor… but he was Danny Alvarez first wasn’t he?”
“What do you mean Danny is in danger?” Viv demanded.
“He is coming between Alvaro and something he desires… the woman…” Quintanilla said “His whole life he was a selfish boy. When he saw something he wanted he would take it. He saw the woman, the daughter of this Stephen Parker who has caused him so much trouble… he wants her for… compensation.” she shrugged.
“What’s he going to do to Danny?” Vivian pressed.
“What he does to anything that gets in his way… he will remove the obstacle.” Quintanilla brushed her hand across her as if she were dusting crumbs from the table.
“You better call Jack and get a hold of Danny” she said to Sam. Sam nodded and excused herself stepping away to make the call. “Now where is Parker and Mikey?” Viv asked Quintanilla her patience was starting to run out.
“Closer than you think” She smiled and nodded towards the hallway where Maria stood with a very scared Mikey.
It took nearly forty minutes for Rafi to tell Martin and Danny all that he knew about Malique Thompson, his brother and cousins and their connections to Alvaro Montoya.
“So let me get this straight…” Martin looked at his notes. “Montoya wants Mia as ‘compensation’ because Parker has disrupted his operations by getting Malique arrested and locked up for having sex with a 14 year old girl… what exactly is he planning to do with her?”
Rafi raised an eyebrow and looked Martin over “Is Opie here kidding?” he asked Danny. Martin’s clean cut, all-American, boy-next-door looks belied his true life experiences and knowledge. It was often something he played on to get the information he needed to solve a case.
“No I’m not kidding” Martin said shortly “I have a pretty good idea but I need you to say the words.”
“According to Malique…” Rafi looked Martin in the eye “Montoya is going to make a ‘pet’ out of her… I’d heard he does that… if someone crosses him or owes him… he takes their wife, their girlfriend, their daughter… hell he’d probably take their mother…”
“Where does he take them?” Martin pressed.
“Different places…“ Rafi shrugged “I don’t know really, I never wanted to know. But it’s always for the same thing… the ‘pets’ are made to perform… to entertain clients, sometimes they are given as a reward for a good score… or loyalty, sometimes to one guy sometimes a group… depends on his mood… Parker cost him big time, Mia is really going to pay for it.”
“Like hell she will” Danny muttered.
Rafi looked at him “You still love her don’t you?” Danny didn’t answer “I know you do, and I love Sylvia… when Montoya finds out I’ve been talking to you… and he will if he doesn’t already know… promise me you will protect her…” he leaned forward and reaching across the table he put his hand on Danny’s arm. “Please…” he looked at Danny searching for the right words. “You got every right to hate me and turn your back, but Sylvia, Nicky… Sophia…” he had to stop and take a breath “Danny please don’t let something happen to them because I was an idiot.”
Danny looked down at Rafi’s hand and put his own over it. “I promise Rafi nothing will happen to them or to you.” he said quietly. “You protected me as best you could when I was little… now it’s my turn…”
Martin looked at the two brothers and felt his chest tighten. “Right” he said quietly “Let’s first get Rafi into protective custody and see about moving you out of Rikers… Is there somewhere Sylvia and the kids can go for a few days until we get things figured out?” he looked at Rafi.
“She’s got an aunt in Syracuse who’s always begging her and the kids to come and live with her.” Rafi nodded
“I’ll call Sylvia and see about getting them moved as quickly and quietly as possible.” Danny said “We’ll try and get you transferred up there too.”
“As long as they are safe I don’t care about me…” Rafi shook his head.
“I do” Danny said his voice barely a whisper but Rafi heard it, loud and clear.
Martin stood up, he watched as Rafi and Danny got up too. The pair looked at each other for a few awkward seconds before Rafi reached out and hugged his little brother. Martin could see Danny was emotionally raw when they separated.
“I’m going to call Jack and bring him up to speed.” he said quietly.
“I’ll go call Sylvia” Danny said and cleared his throat hoping to take some of the gruffness out of it. “After we get you into protective holding.” he said to Rafi.
Rafi nodded and followed Martin as he opened the door. There weren’t many inmates in the corridor, most were in the visitors room or out in the yard. Martin noticed the young tattooed inmate still leaning against the wall. The guard moved when the door opened. “Would you take him to secure holding” Martin pointed to Rafi, “Keep him solitary he will be coming with us” he turned to Rafi “We’ll see you in a few”. Martin and Danny started to walk back up the corridor but Rafi didn’t move he was watching the young inmate. He noticed he was toying with the seam on the leg of his jumpsuit and staring at Danny. Rafi recognized the tattoos on his arms and neck.
“Let’s go Alvarez” the guard sighed wondering what the feds wanted with Rafi.
As the guard reached out to take him by the arm the young inmate started to move towards Danny. Rafi saw the shank in his hand. “Danny look out” Rafi shouted and before anyone could blink he was between the sharp shank and his little brother. Martin, Danny and the guard charged forward as Rafi held on to the other inmate. He felt the sharp burn of the blade sinking into his side but he refused to let him go. There were shouts and suddenly alarm bells were going off and guards were running in from all directions. As Martin and Danny pulled Rafi away the guards were wrestling the young inmate to the ground. In the commotion Danny’s phone started ringing but not one of them could hear it.
“Rafi!” Danny held onto his brother , staggering backwards as his weight slumped against him. He and Martin eased Rafi to the floor. Danny could feel the warmth of Rafi’s blood soaking into his shirt. “Hang on Rafi… just hang on I’ve got you” he said it over and over.
Rafi was breathless but he managed a smile “Nothing changes does it, I’m still saving your butt” he tried to tease Danny. It was a reflex, he’d always done it. When they were little he’d take Danny into their room and tease him and tickle him trying to keep him distracted from the sounds of his drunken father beating their mother. It hadn’t really worked back then either but Danny loved the effort even now.
“Yeah well you’re going to have to let me have a turn some time.” he blinked back tears as he held onto his brother for dear life.
“Just take care of my kids… Sylvia…” Rafi was struggling to breathe.
“You’ll take care of them… just hang on Rafi… please” the paramedics had to pry Rafi out of Danny’s arms. Martin pulled Danny back into the interrogation room as they worked on Rafi and prepared to transport him to the hospital.
“Danny are you ok?” Martin had his hands on Danny’s shoulders. Danny ran his hands over his face and looked down at his ruined shirt. He nodded “Ok we need to call Jack and regroup, this is getting out of hand.”
“I need to call Sylvia, she should hear this from me…” Danny said taking his phone from his pocket. “Oh great…” he showed Martin the phone “A missed call from Jack”
Back at the Javitz Center Jack Malone was in his office with a big bottle of Motrin in his hand. He tipped several of the pills into his hand before popping them into his mouth and swallowing them with a quick sip of water. He laughed sarcastically to himself, certain if he had to deal with Victor Fitzgerald on a daily basis he’d be popping Percoset from a Pez dispenser.
He sat down at his desk willing his headache to go away and looked over his notes about Montoya and Malique Thompson. He couldn’t get Victor’s words out of his head.
Victor Fitzgerald was the deputy director of the FBI and he was not accustomed to anyone below him in the Bureau treating him with anything less than deity like reverence, anyone that is except Jack Malone. An hour earlier, Victor had walked into Jack’s office without knocking as was his usual. Jack seated at his desk was going through reports. He didn’t look up or even acknowledge the other man.
“Hello Jack” Victor said with his usual self satisfied tone, certain that one day Jack too would either worship at the alter or leave the Bureau for good.
Jack looked up slowly, just to needle him a bit. “Deputy director Fitzgerald” he said simply. The rest of his greeting “What the hell do you want now?” was written in the forced smile on his face.
“I hear you are asking about the Malique Thompson case” he sat down knowing Jack wasn’t about to invite him to take a seat. “Why?” he smiled.
“Because it’s relevant to an open investigation.” Jack said calmly.
“How so?” Victor smiled.
“There is a connection to the victims… Steven Parker and Michael Cortez, his brother Darnel Thompson was one of the last people to see both of them… after having an altercation with Parker he then went straight up to visit his brother… we need to talk to Malique.”
“There is no connection…” Victor started to say then decided instead of arguing over Jack’s investigative skills, something he knew from experience would not end well he opted to fall back on being an over bearing boss. “Look Jack we’re getting some heat from the US Attorney General you need to leave it alone… that’s not a request…” he held up his hand “This is coming from Washington… Malique Thompson is a key witness in a major operation to take down one of the biggest drug lords since Escobar.” he stood up “Let it go Jack, just let it go”
“And what do I tell Parker’s daughter.” Jack asked “I’m sorry but the US Attorney General thinks some two bit dealer is more important than your father…” Jack shook his head “I’ll give Martin your regards” he dismissed Victor turning his attention back to his reports.
“Yes thank you tell him I’ll be in touch” Victor said and walked out of Jack’s office still unclear if he had won that round. He hadn’t.
“What a piece of work” jack muttered to himself as his phone started to ring. He looked at it before answering “Sam… what going on?” he asked.
“Jack, good news and bad… we’ve got Parker and the kid.” Sam said quickly. “Parker’s been stabbed and but he’s stable and on his way to Bellevue. Mikey is scared and shaken up, other than a lump and a cut on his forehead he’s ok, Viv is taking him and Father Orlando to Bellevue too…”
“Ok that’s the good news, what’s the bad.” Jack said.
“Montoya has a hit out on Danny and has plans to ‘take’ Miss Parker as ‘compensation’ for Parker costing him members of his crew and money.” She quickly explained about Quintanilla and all they had learned.
“Ok great, stick with Parker and the kid, I’ll get hold of Martin and Danny.” He hung up. “Shit” he spat as he hit the button on his speed dial set to Danny’s number. It rang and rang before going to voice mail. “Danny it’s Jack call me we got major problems” he hung up and was just about to dial again when an agent came running over to his office and barged in without knocking. “What the f… when did I develop an open door policy?” Jack barked.
“I’m sorry Agent Malone, it’s just that we got a call from Agent Fitzgerald at Rikers, an inmate tried to stab Agent Taylor…”
“Is he alright?” Jack snapped.
“Yes another inmate… the one they had been questioning… he got in the way and the guy stabbed him instead… he’s on his way to St. Vincent’s. Both Taylor and Fitzgerald are fine, they just couldn’t get through to you.”
Jack was just about to thank him and dial Danny again when another Agent came hurrying over to his door. He skidded to a halt and was about to knock when Jack waved him in. “I’m sorry Agent Malone but there is a problem at safe house 243” he said “Agent Franklin has failed to check in. When we tried to contact the detail in the street we found no agents anywhere in the street… and tech received a garbled transmission before all contact was lost…”
“What? When did this happen?”
“Literally in the last few minutes.” The agent said.
“Right get a team together we are going over…” Jack said. The other two agents scrambled out of the office as his phone started ringing. It was Danny returning his call. “Danny… I’ve heard about Rafi but we’ve got even bigger problems…”
Mia was getting stiff and bored. She set the magazine aside and got up carefully stretching as much as her sore ribs would allow. She thought she’d go down for a coffee and a change of scene for a few minutes even if she didn’t like Agent Franklin. There was something she didn’t trust about him but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She was at the top of the stairs when she heard him answer his phone, something in his tone made her stop and listen.
“It’s done… are you sure?” he said “Taylor’s been taken out… good” he laughed “I never liked that hyperactive rat bastard anyway” Mia’s heart nearly stopped at his words. He paced nervously in the hall below the landing. She crouched down afraid he would see her. “Do you think they are on to us…” she heard him ask. “Malone won’t give up trying to get to get the scoop on Malique you know that! …I don’t care who told him what he won’t stop until he gets what he’s after… we got to move here now if Taylor really is down then we got no time to waste… I’ll call the boys now.” He hung up and dialed another number. “Calvin… get Jerome and get over here. It’s time to shut this place down. Yeah no don‘t worry about that there have never been any other agents out in the street!” He laughed “I set this place up remember” Mia stayed low as he hung up and turned to walk back to the living room where Archie sat at his cameras unsuspecting of what would soon be happening.
Mia sat on the floor her hands over her mouth willing herself to be calm. She was struggling with her emotions, trying to figure out what to do. Danny was… she couldn’t bear to think it. Was he hurt or was it worse, she couldn’t even say the words to herself. She had to get to Martin, he would know. But how would she do that? Martin had taken her cell phone. She looked down the stairs towards the door. She could try to run for it. She really had no other choice. She listened closely and just as she had worked up her nerve to stand and creep down the stairs Franklin came hurrying out to open the door. She moved quickly out of sight, staying still as a mouse listening to a cat ready to pounce.
“You didn’t waste any time getting here” he smiled as he let in a light skinned black man. She felt her stomach lurch as she recognized the man who had attacked her.
“I was just around the corner, Mr. Montoya he told us to keep an eye on his new pet J is on his way” he grinned. “Where is she?”
“Upstairs…” Franklin jerked his thumb at the stairs. “We got one issue… I got a member of the geek squad here… hate to do it he’s not bad for a nerd.” Franklin said taking out a handgun from his suit jacket and quietly screwing a silencer on to it. She knew know she had to get out but she couldn’t go down stairs. Up was her only option. She waited until they stepped beyond the stairs before she bolted to the bedroom, trying to move as quickly and silently as she could.
In the bedroom she looked around trying to think of where to hide, looking for a way to escape. She remembered there was a loft panel in the bathroom. She locked the door behind her and went to the bathroom. No they would surely find her, she needed a diversion. She looked at the window. Cautiously she moved the blackout curtain. There were alarm contacts on the sash but the wires were cut. She unlocked it and heaved the heavy window up. A commotion and shouting downstairs startled her. Archie was fighting for his life and hers. She should go and help him. She took a step and stopped hearing a loud crash. She bolted into the bathroom and closed the door. Climbing onto the bathtub and then the sink she pushed the loft panel up and to the side before reaching up and hauling herself up. Her sore ribs screaming at the effort. Sitting on a rafter she slipped the panel back into place wiping the tears from her eyes and praying that Archie would forgive her cowardice.
She heard the door to the bedroom being kicked in and Franklin shouting “Out the window! The bitch has gone out the window!” She heard the two men as they ran out of the bedroom and down the stairs. She jumped as the house shook as the heavy front door slammed. Mia sat still for a few minutes still not sure if she’d gotten away with her ruse. She wiped her eyes again, they were nearly accustomed to the semi darkness. She surveyed her surroundings. There was a skylight, if she could get under it she might be able to get through it.
Carefully she crawled along the rafter until she was under the light. Luck was with her, the loft space was only five feet high. She opened the skylight and carefully climbed out onto the roof. Staying low she looked around and listened. The row of houses stretched on either side. She didn’t recognize the area but she could see the Empire State building and the rest of the Manhattan skyline in the distance, that was the way she needed to go.
In what felt like an hour, she crawled to the edge of the rooftops and slowly raised her head surveying the street below. It was eerily quiet. There was no sign of anyone. Now how to get down. There was a drainpipe and an oak tree. “Great” she sighed. “I hate heights” She looked down and closed her eyes. It was a thirty foot drop to the pavement below. Stealing her nerves again she thought about a book she’d read about monkeys and apes and their amazing climbing abilities. She wished now for a fraction of their strength and agility, and especially for ribs that didn’t hurt.
Taking a breath she eased herself over the edge and grasping the pipe she worked her way down the side of the building. The metal was jagged in places and cut into her fingers making them bleed. She lost her grip and slipped falling the last six feet. Winded she left bloody handprints on the side of the brick building. “Ow” she gasped as her long hair caught in the strapping holding the pipe in place, she tugged it free sure she had nearly just scalped herself.
She drew a breath her legs were shaking as she stood upright. She didn’t know which way to go she looked up and down the street trying to decide when a big black Toyota turned the corner. She recognized it and the driver. He’d spotted her and gunned the engine. She bolted running blindly into a narrow alley and clawing her way over a chain link fence at the end. She ran out of the alley in to the next block and straight across the street heedless of traffic, two cars narrowly missing her as she sprinted down the road.
She ducked into another alley. It was larger this time. She heard tires squealing sure that the Toyota was right behind
her. She saw a delivery truck parked at the end of the alley. She ran for it. Shaped like an old UPS truck she was relieved to find the side door was open and the driver no where in sight. Quickly she climbed aboard hiding behind several large boxes. She held her ribs trying to catch her breath sure her heartbeat could be heard miles away.
The driver climbed into the front seat and started the engine. Mia braced herself as the truck lurched into gear. She had no idea where he was going or how she was going to get out of the truck but she was at least relieved to be getting away from Franklin, Calvin Davis and Jerome Thompson. Then she remembered Archie. She put her hand to her mouth to stifle a sob. Pull yourself together girl! She told herself severely. Find Martin, tell him what’s happened. Tell him about Archie… and ask about Danny… oh Danny! She hid her face in her bloodied hands and cried as the truck rumbled through the streets.
Franklin, Calvin Davis and Jerome Thompson met on a street corner near the house. “Where the hell did she go?” Franklin demanded.
“I lost her down an alley” Jerome said. “She’s fast for a white chick”
“Well you’d better do a better job of finding her then your useless chum of a hit man did in taking out Taylor!” Both Davis and Thompson looked at him questioningly. “Oh yes Taylor is still very much alive, his brother got in to the way. Now we better find her before Montoya finds US!”
The three men got into the big black Toyota and drove off. Franklin wondering how long it would be before Jack Malone and his team figured out he was working for Montoya. Of course he wasn’t the only one, there were a few who were in very high ranking positions who were in Montoya’s pocket. Knowing who they were was his insurance policy. He smiled to himself at the thought.
“We need to get as many eyes on the street as we can.” Franklin said.
“Already on it” Davis was dialing his phone.
“Tell them not to damage her! Montoya is already angry about the dents you’ve put into the merchandise!” Franklin barked as Davis spread the word to as many of their gang members as he could. Now there were almost a thousand pair of eyes searching for Mia.
Martin let Danny drive having already gotten a lift back to the ferry port on an NYPD marine patrol boat. He tightened his seatbelt and held on for dear life as Danny pushed the car and the boundaries of safe high speed driving to the limit. Martin killed the siren as Danny took the last corner sharply pulling up in front of the safe house. Jack was standing by his car. It was parked by several police cars and a large truck Danny recognized as a forensics unit. He stopped seeing the coroners black van.
Danny turned to walk directly into the house but Jack intercepted him “Danny… Danny… wait…” Jack caught his arm.
“No… Mia…” Danny tried to pull free.
“Danny it’s not her…” Jack turned Danny to face him gripping him firmly by both arms “It’s not her…” he shook Danny to get him to look at him.
Jack’s words were starting to register and he looked at him “Who then… where is she?”
“It’s Archie… he took on I don’t know how many…” Jack said “It’s still unclear but it looks like two possibly three people entered the house… we don’t know if they took her or if she got away… we know Archie tried to stop them… and paid with his life.” Jack said quietly and looked up everyone had fallen silent as a stretcher with a body bag on it was carried out of the house and quietly placed into the coroner van.
“They’re moving fast aren’t they?” Martin asked quietly once the van doors were shut and it had driven away.
“He’s Jewish” Jack said quietly. “We have 24 hours before he has to be buried” Martin nodded.
“Where’s Mia?” Danny asked again. “Jack what do you know so far?”
Jack still had Danny by the arms. He looked at his young agent. He was disheveled with Rafi’s blood still on his shirt, his eyes alone told the story of how lost and vulnerable he really was. “Franklin is involved… he set up this house but never detailed anyone to cover the street… as near as we can figure now that Parker has been found he wanted to tie up loose ends… They came for Miss Parker… Archie bought her some time to escape…”
Danny could do little more then nod when one of the forensics techs came hurrying over. “Agent Malone, we’ve got some bloody hand prints on the side of the last house, it looks like we’ve got hair too, long and dark brown. We’re in luck there are skin tags too it looks like the hairs were ripped out…”
“Thank you” Jack said sharply seeing the effect of his words on Danny. Sensing he’d said something he shouldn’t have the tech hurried back to the truck. “You need to go back to the office.” Jack said to Danny. Danny shook his head. “Danny Montoya has a contract out on you, we need you off the street.”
“I need to find Mia…” Danny shook his head again.
“At least go back and change your shirt, we need to regroup. All of NYPD is looking for her…” Jack said.
“And so are all of Montoya’s little gangbangers.” Danny said.
“Look…” Jack looked Danny in the eye “You need to trust me… I know you’ve got some issues with that… but Danny right now… I’m all you got. Franklin was getting info from someone inside the Bureau.”
“Who” Danny and Martin demanded together.
“I don’t know but when I find out I promise you there won’t be enough of him left for OPR to blink at.” Jack said savagely. He looked at Danny who he still had by the arms. “Danny please…” Danny looked at Jack startled by the softer tone. “Go back to the office we need to regroup… OK?” Jack asked.
Danny looked at him for a long moment and he nodded. He felt Jack squeeze his arms, an encouraging, comforting gesture before he gave Martin the keys to the car and they drove away slowly scanning the streets on their way in hopes of catching a glimpse of Mia but knowing they wouldn’t.
TO BE CONTINUED..........................