THE GAME
Author nickname: Ukeleleboy
Beta reader nickname: Anmodo
Summary: A year and a half ago,  people started an innocent game. Only nine
were able to reach the end… a new game is ready to start.
Disclaimer: WaT characters aren’t mine.
Frank Wilson looked at the time impatiently. He had barely been attentive to the
always enthusiastic professor Robert McKay’s explanations to the third-year
mathematics students.
 
It wasn’t that he didn’t like the subject. In fact, as one of the most brilliant students
in his class, Frank was usually pretty interested in it, but it was Wednesday and on
Wednesdays, every fourteen days, if everything had gone well, he’d gotten his
instructions for entering into a new level in the game.
Once the class was finished, he picked up his books quickly and left the classroom,
without saying a word to his classmates. Nobody found his attitude strange; Frank
Wilson didn’t get merit because of his sociability. Actually, he wasn’t interested in
them. He knew where his world was, where he had the true power of decision,
where he could hold a role that he never thought he would be able to hold.
As he walked toward the mail room, his fingers started to move in an unusual
pattern while his mouth drew into a smile and his eyes sparkled in excitement.
Some people passing him looked at him in confusion, as nothing around them
justified that expression. But Frank, actually, wasn’t there anymore. Anticipating
what he was going to be doing in the following hours, in the following days, Frank
couldn’t wait any longer and his mind started to form a world of fantasy around
him, taking him, dice in hands, sketches on the floor and the luck of the numbers
deciding his next step. He had the feeling that something great was going to
happen, and he felt better qualified than his teammates. What had started as a big
team of people, had been reduced to a small, select group. Until now there hadn't
been any competition, at least in theory, and all of them played in the search of the
same objective but, somehow, the creator of the game had reduced the number of
players from  to .
Everything had started about a year and a half ago, when Frank received an email
from a ‘JD,’ who was looking for volunteers to play a game he had created. He
emailed some pictures of the sketches he had made and a little resume of the game,
enticing a group of  curious people who went to the place indicated by JD, a
house in Jackson Heights, Queens, on a Wednesday at : pm.
They got their first surprise right as they arrived: where they had expected to be
welcomed by JD, they instead met one of the girls who had received the email
as well and, in addition, had found in her mailbox an envelope containing both a
letter arranging to see her fifteen minutes earlier than the others and the key that
opened the door of the house.
There was no trace of the game’s creator. Instead, they found a ” plasma TV and
a DVD player. One of them took the DVD he found lying on the DVD player and
inserted it. As they watched, they saw a detailed explanation, with graphics and
precise instructions, of the rules and the beginning of the game. On a big meeting
table, they found pencils, erasers, notebooks, pens, some packs of cards and twenty
pairs of dice, a pair for every player; setting the stage for a mission in which, from
now on, every player had to work independently toward the resolution of a
common puzzle. They had been surprised by the rudimentary nature of the
equipment, especially the lack of computers, given the method of communication
JD had chosen until that point.
Every fourteen days, they met at the same house and every time the door was
opened by a different player. Every player explained their progress to the group
then took their next move based on decisions made during the two week interval.
Each time there was a new DVD, some new instructions, dice on the table, and the
game continued for another period of fourteen days.
As the time passed, some players got bored of such a long game that took up a lot
of their time to do other things. Other people gave up when they couldn’t do the
mission they were chosen to do, such as one guy that refused to shave his head and
eyebrows, when it was a prerequisite to throw the dice one more time, and he left
his last meeting very angrily through the laughter of the others. For him, that
mission hadn’t made any sense, as it didn’t seem to solve the puzzle raised at the
beginning of the game. If he'd done it, he would have had to give explanations to
his family and friends, and suffer the jokes of his classmates, but he had to do it if
he wanted to continue the game. Those were the rules.
Unlike what happened when he was with his classmates, Frank Wilson fit into the
group without any problem, and he used to lead some of the conversations they
had. Even though it wasn’t anything but a game, he felt caught by the surrounding
mystery, which the creator had given to the whole situation. In addition, he had the
feeling that the game wouldn’t really finish with the resolution of the final puzzle.
After several months playing together, Frank was sure that none of them had been
chosen casually. All of them were in the University, with above average grades.
Their families were in good social standing and none of them felt comfortable with
their classmates. He developed a good friendship with two teammates, Kevin
Miller, an economics student whose future was irrevocably fixed to the family
business, and Harold Green who, when he wasn’t immersed in test tubes, or
reading a horror book, took part avidly in any of the missions, putting into practice
his knowledge of chemistry, wearing the look of crazy man that made his
teammates laugh. Actually, outside of these times, Harold Green was the most
boring person you could find on the campus.
Frank picked up his letters from the mailbox and closed it. As he turned around, he
ran into Kevin Miller, who waited him just behind him, startling him into dropping
a book.
“Damn it!” he exclaimed as he knelt to pick up the fallen book. “What are you doing
here?” he asked, frowning. They never met outside the Jackson Heights house,
unless they were doing something for a mission.
As an answer, Kevin handed him a piece of paper. Frank took it and read it quietly.
He soon realized what it was about and felt a shiver running his spine.
“I found it in my jacket pocket two hours ago,” Kevin explained.
“What?!” Frank looked at him in surprise.
After all this time, they believed none of them had met JD, but he knew them
very well and he even had approached them closely enough, like this time, to put a
note in the pocket of a jacket.
“I think that something important is going to happen, Frank. This isn’t the usual.
He's asking for a meeting at another place, and at eight o’clock, not the usual half
past seven. I wanted to know if you had received a note as well.”
“No, well, I haven’t checked my email yet. I was going to do it now.”
“Have you checked your mailbox thoroughly?” Kevin asked.
“Not really,” Frank said, turning in his tracks. They had only moved about ten feet
away. but as he stopped in front of his mailbox, an exclamation was startled out of
Frank. Written over the door with a roller pen, which definitely hadn't been there
moments earlier, they read, “Join Kevin.”
Both friends looked around, holding their breath, expecting to see an unknown
person… or not. They didn’t know anything about JD, if it was a man or
woman, a student, teacher, or someone outside the University.
Far from feeling scared, they felt that from this moment, they had been called to
work a new mission, that they were the chosen people for something that had been
forming from that first email contact, and they were aware that their lives would
change forever.
From the side of the corridor, JD, as they knew him, smiled in satisfaction. The
expressions on the guys' faces showed just what he expected from his game’s
pawns. Because, to JD, all of them were pawns in a game where he had the
power, the control over all of them: over the ones already taking part voluntarily in
the game and over the ones who would be joining the game in the following days.
Three teams, fifteen players, six of them didn’t even know who was going to start
moving the thread of their lives in the upcoming days, six new players whose
profiles had been defined over the preceding weeks. A new level.
Neither of them were surprised when, on arriving at the indicated place, they
found a nervous Harold Green.
“Hey, have you got the key?” Kevin asked.
“No, what about you?” Harold replied.
Both Kevin and Frank exchanged a confused look. There was always a key. The
confusion lasted only seconds, before Kevin’s cell started to ring.
“Well, we have a message,” he said. “To the right of the garage door there is a
switch. If you press it, you’ll know the reason you're here,” he read.
Harold shook his head. “How the hell does he know that we are here?” he
whispered.
Frank smiled at the reaction of his friend. Harold was the most distrustful of them,
but he was an excellent player and Frank appreciated his ideas, which usually
solved any problem the team reached. “He told us to come here, remember?”
Frank replied.
“But, how did he get my cell number?” Kevin asked, upset, as he pressed the
indicated switch, causing the garage door to open. “I got it a week ago, it’s a new
number”
The three of them looked inside the garage. Harold shook his head again. “Okay,
I’m… I’m leaving guys.”
“What are you talking about?” Frank asked as he pulled him inside the garage.
“Hey, you can’t join the lost people now, Harold. You are one of us. -Well, look,
there are three small cases. How many people are here right now? Three: Kevin,
you and me, so you can’t leave now.”
“I don’t know. I don’t like this. I feel like someone is watching me constantly. This
isn’t a game anymore, we have been doing silly things for a long time…”
“He was looking into our behavior, Harold,” Frank said seriously.
Kevin looked at his friend and frowned. “Yes, I think he was studying us for
something more important.”
“I don’t want to do anything more important. I… I only wanted to solve the puzzle…
you see, I’m so simple,” Harold said, then shrugged. “I only wanted to have fun and
meet great people like you. It’s enough for me.”
“Don’t you feel curious about what's inside those small cases? Harold, we were
twenty people, but right now we are only three. That’s because of something, don’t
you think? We’re close to the end,” Frank told him, taking one of the cases and
putting it on the table, the only furniture in the garage besides a big cabinet in the
back.
There was a note written on a piece of paper on the table, and Kevin picked it up.
“Listen to this, guys,” he said, getting the attention of his friends.
“First, you’ve got three small cases, one for each of you. Open them. You’ll know
which is yours because the combination is your date of birth, six digits, month, day
and year. Second…” Kevin read. “Eh, well… let’s open the cases, right?”
Frank entered his birth date into the case he had picked up. His hands were
trembling and sweating; he had no idea what they were doing but the feeling was
great. The case didn’t open. He tried with another case and this time he was lucky.
His friends did the same.
“Damn it!” Harold said in disgust as he looked inside his case.
Actually, the three cases had the same things inside: two envelopes, marked with a
big ‘’ and ‘,’ and a pen.
Kevin continued reading, “Second, take the envelope marked number one and open
it. You’ll find a piece of paper. I want you to write down the prize you would like in
case of the end of the game. Just a warning, as I want you to be clear: You’re not the
only ones in the game. There are two more teams in the same situation as you, and
doing, probably, the same thing you’re doing at this moment. I won’t tell you who
they are. This is not only about reaching the conclusion of the game. You have to be
the best player. Take the time you need, but remember this, the time you take now
counts in the final result. Third…”
“Well,” Frank sighed.
“Eh… wait a moment,” Harold interrupted them. “Let me understand this. First, this
guy seems to know where I am at any moment, what I’m doing, how I think, and he
has been studying me for I don’t know what reason, and now he wants me to tell
him my greatest wish in the world? For what? Why? Is it that he thinks he’ll get me
what I want? Is that he believes he’s God?”
“For starters, he probably knows what we’ll write on this paper. He wasn’t in our
meetings, but I’m sure he had hidden cameras and microphones,” Frank said,
“And… we’re wasting our time.” He knew exactly what he wanted to be his reward,
and only took some seconds in writing it down. He placed the paper back in the
envelope and closed it.
“What if it’s an illegal thing?” Harold asked suddenly.
“Better for us,” Kevin replied, tired of his friend's doubts, “It’ll add a bigger thrill
emotion to the game. I’ve told you that I’m sure it is something great.”
“Okay, what else do the instructions say, Kevin?” Frank asked, ignoring Harold’s
doubts.
“Third, open the envelope marked number two and read in this order: First, Frank
Wilson will read his aloud. Then, Harold Green will do the same”.
The three of them took their envelopes and opened them. Kevin dropped a key out
of his envelope. There wasn’t anything else inside. “Good,” he murmured.
Frank opened his and took out a paper then started to read. “Maspeth, th street,
red brick building, there is a pet shop at the bottom. This is your place to work.
First floor, door -”.
“Let me guess. This is the key that opens the house,” Kevin said looking at the key.
However, it didn't look like a typical key for opening the main door of a house.
“No,” Harold said, “Look at what my note says: 'Kevin has the key that opens one of
the lockers at the back of the garage. They're numbered, the key matches with
locker number one. Go and open it.'”
The three of them approached what had looked like a cabinet to confirm that it was
a big archive, with different locked compartments numbered from one to fifty. If
they had to open all the compartments, the game would be endless.
Kevin inserted the key into the lock and turned it. The door opened easily, and the
three of them looked inside. Kevin picked up a digital camera and a set of keys, this
time they looked to be the keys of the house. He also found another envelope with
the number ‘’ on the front side. Kevin didn’t wait and ripped it open furiously.
This JD sometimes could frustrate the calmest person in the world with his
way of explaining things. Why couldn’t he just tell them and get it over with? He
read aloud for his friends.
“Well guys, you have the key to the house, whose address you've already gotten.
You’ll find all the necessary stuff there to prepare it. Basically, your task will be to
isolate one of the rooms in the house, so that only you will be able to enter and
nothing happening inside can be heard or seen from the outside. When you’ve got
it, take some pictures as proof. You’ll find a computer and ink-jet printer. When
you've gotten the photos, put them into the envelope you’ll find in the house.
Harold Green will then take the photos here and put them inside this locker,
closing it and leaving the key in his small case, which will always remain here, as
will Kevin's and Frank’s cases. Then, you’ll wait for further instructions.”
The three of them exchanged a look. “That’s all? Well, let’s start,” Kevin said.
Frank looked at the time. “Well, I think we have time. We can take the subway and
go to the house. Tomorrow we’ll have a lot of work to do, I’m afraid.”
“I have a paper…” Harold started.
“Forget the papers, forget everything but this, Harold. You just focus on winning
this game, think about your wish. If we do well, we’ll get it,” Frank said, squaring
his shoulders. Actually, he didn’t want to admit it, but he was scared. This had
started to become a real thing, not just a game, and he didn’t know if he would be
able to do it. But, if he was able to focus just on the prize he could get if he did well
with the work, he’d be sure to do it. Silently, he decided to repeat his wish ten
times every night and whenever he had any doubts about doing something.
“All right,” Kevin said quietly. He was the coolest of them, the one who took charge
when they had to make plans for their next moves and then put them into practice
efficiently. “We should take into consideration that this time we must not only do
the work but we have to do it well and in the least possible time. I vote for starting
right now, if we can once we get to the house.”
“No, I can’t,” Frank said. “I can do anything during the day but I have to sleep at
home or my parents will suspect something. I don’t want to take the risk.”
“They’ll suspect when your grades drop,” Harold said.
“By that time, I hope that it's not important anymore,” Frank said.
“Well, let’s go to see the house. I can stay and start doing whatever it is. What do
you say, Harold?”
“Yes, I’ll stay. My absence won’t be noticed in the dormitory, so there is no
problem,” he said. To isolate a room was, anyway, an application of one of his
favorite subjects. Well, he was better in chemistry, but physics appealed to him too.
He expected to see egg cartons enough to cover the room. It would be fun to leave
one of them inside the room yelling with the others trying to hear him on the other
side of the wall. Why did they need to isolate the room? He wondered. Suddenly, a
sense of foreboding came over him and he felt a shiver. “I hope there isn't a
problem,” he said.
“Of course, there won't be, Harold. I can see that you are better able to do this than
Frank.” Kevin patted his arm, believing his last comment to refer to his absence
from the dorm rather than what Harold was thinking. But Harold didn’t bother to
correct him. They would find out eventually and he didn’t want to leave the group.
They were his friends, the only friends he had, and he didn’t want to lose them
because of something he wasn't sure would happen.
Arriving at the café, Danny sat down at a free table. Leaning his elbows on the
table, he covered his face with his hands. The shower hadn’t had the calming effect
that he’d hoped it would have.
He had hardly been able to sleep, trying to find a solution to a matter that always
seemed to end at the same point. And, when he had finally been able to close his
eyes and drift off, the comfortable feeling quickly turned into a nightmare that
even awake remained fixed in his mind. The nightmare left him feeling completely
exhausted.
“… for your thoughts,” he heard suddenly. He lifted his head to find Mrs. Bennett,
coffee pot in hand, smiling at him.
“Oh… uhm… morning, Mrs. Bennett. I’m sorry, what did you say?” Danny replied,
attempting to gather his focus.
“I was telling you that I’d pay a dollar for your thoughts. I’ve been standing here
beside you for a while and you didn’t even notice it. Did you have a bad night? Too
much work?” she asked, filling his mug.
Mrs. Bennett’s familiarity towards him came from a long time ago. For almost eight
years, Danny used to have breakfast every morning in this nice café in front of the
building where he lived.
“I haven’t been sleeping well. Eh… thanks, Mrs. Bennett,” he said, wrapping his cold
hands around the mug to get a little of warmth.
“I see, you look tired. Maybe you should take some days off and rest,” she said,
voic e full of concern. Danny Taylor reminded her of her son, Sean, stationed in Iraq
since two years ago. Photos of her oldest son, dressed in military clothes, were
posted on the board behind the counter beside orders and bills.
Danny smiled appreciatively, but didn’t say anything.
“Oh well… this must be about a woman. Hey, you can tell me, you know that my lips
are sealed.”
Danny shook his head. “It’s not that simple… but thanks,” he said. He couldn’t, he
couldn’t tell anybody about the nightmare. He didn’t understand the meaning of it,
if it had any, but made him to feel weak, insecure, mentally tired. A work day full of
paper would be welcomed today. Still flashes of that nightmare assaulted his mind
and made him to feel very confused.
Flashback
In the silence of the night, he was able to hear his breathing, the beating of his heart,
he felt every inch of his body, like a goodbye. There had been a bad decision; he didn’t
even think about it, he just did it. Then, years of fighting trying to skip this moment.
Thirty minutes later, everything would be over. At least, it shouldn’t be painful.
He didn’t want to think about anything, he didn’t want to look around him, he just
meekly left as the guardians guided him through the corridor…to that door, the last
door he was going to go through in his life, a life probably shorter than he had
wished, a life probably longer than what he thought it would be for years.
The hard white light hurt his eyes but he resisted to close them; after all, it was the
only thing he could see until the end. Well, it wasn’t the only thing. Lying on that
stretcher, as his hands and legs were restrained, as if he had any chance to run away,
he turned his head to the left… to the glass where, by now, he just could see a beige
curtain. He didn’t want to think about the people behind the glass waiting, he didn’t
want to see their refusal, their fear… he didn’t want to see her, he didn’t want her to
see him like that but… he did want to see her, once again, one last time.
He felt his heart rate increasing, its beating as the curtain began to be removed. Sure,
she was there, her long hair tied back in a ponytail. Her face, full of pain, made him
lose control for a second, but he had to be strong for her, once again. Her dark hair
had become lightly silver, surely because of all the pain he had caused during all
those years. He was guilty. If he hadn’t pulled the trigger that day, if he had paid
attention to Jack’s words… he had just wanted to keep safe the person he loved from
the threat of a man, but he was only able to cause pain, lots of pain. He thought that
she was living alone, or not, maybe she was sharing her life with another man, but
hadn’t told him. He couldn’t do anything; he had been on death row for eight years
waiting for this day to arrive. She didn’t say a word, just stared at him, but he was
able to read in her eyes the message and, what he read just corroborated the
absurdity of his situation. It had been a bad choice, there was another way to solve
the matter but, at that point, there wasn’t room for sorrow.
He didn’t notice when he was left alone. The people in the death room had gone.
Someone said something but he didn’t listen to him, he only watched her. For him,
nobody else was in that place… but only her. Elena.
He closed his eyes one second after seeing the first doses of the lethal combination
that should end his life, making its way to the inside of his body and he begged for a
quick painless end. He heard the last beats of his heart, beep, beep, beep… that the
machine was registering, as he was in a hospital and someone was trying to keep him
alive. Beep, beep, beep… and then a longer sound… beeeeep, before the silence. That’s
it. He was gone.
He opened his eyes. He was still there and he could see the people behind the glass,
still waiting for a confirmation of his death, he wanted to believe. Some tears rolled
down the face of the woman he loved and he wished he could comfort her, but he
couldn’t do it anymore. Beside her, Jack still looked at him with a serious expression.
Vivian, on his right, was crying as her hand was squeezed by a pale Martin trying to
calm her down. And Sam, with Sofie, she had grown up and had become a beautiful
teen, she was turning out to be as beautiful as her mom was, for sure. Sam and Sofie
had a good understanding from their first meeting. All of them looked at him with a
mixture of pain and disbelieving expressions that he couldn’t afford. He had caused
those feelings. At the back of the room, his lawyer just waited as some witnesses
beside Carlos Aguilar’s family showed their satisfaction for the finally served
sentence, a view easiest to see. On the furthest point of the room, there was a woman,
alone. Her face was bleeding and her hair was in a mess. A disturbing blurred image
coming and going that looked at him with disbelief… as well. It was his fault, just
his… she had also died because he hadn’t thought and had acted impulsively. He had
shot Carlos Aguilar and he had yelled at his father, looking for the safety of the
others, in both cases… and he had failed hard. It was his fault… he didn’t deserve to
live… why the lethal cocktail didn’t work yet… or maybe it already had. He looked at
the woman that he couldn’t feel like his mom, but he couldn’t see her anymore… he
only wanted to see her once again. Yet he was reminded of her last image. But there
was nobody there. He was alone in that room… they all had gone away.
‘I’m cold,’ he thought. Still on that stretcher, but free from the restraints, he stretched
his hands out to pick up a blanket from the bottom of the stretcher, a blanket he
hadn’t seen before. And then, he heard it again. ‘Beep’, ‘beep’, ‘beep’, a sound barely
audible. And then, louder, ‘beeeeeeep’… no, it wasn’t like that. It was… it was
different.
Suddenly, the death room where he was, disappeared and he only was able to see
darkness. But the cold persisted, the sound as well. He turned to where the sound
came from and he almost falls… from his bed.
Suddenly, Danny opened his eyes. Trembling, he rose from his bed as his heart
raced. His body feeling cold and sweaty, he was still there… ready to die, already
dead, still seeing those faces fixed in his mind. Rubbed his eyes hard, he tried to
remove those images from his mind and then, he noticed his cell phone still
ringing. Not caring about the ID or what time it was, he pressed the button.
“Hello?... hello?...”
Nobody answered and the call was cut in a few seconds.
‘Shit!’ he thought.
Lying down on the bed, he tried to calm down, but he failed. At six in the morning,
maybe a shower would be good, maybe he could remove the nightmare that was
still very clear in his mind, even though he was already awake.
End of flashback
“I’ll bring you some toast. You can’t go at work with only a coffee for breakfast,”
Mrs. Bennett chided.
“Okay,” he said slightly smiling.
He leaned back in the chair. He had a headache. If he closed his eyes, they were still
there, his coworkers, Elena, Jack… his mom, an image that had been the last one he
saw of her at the time of her death. If he kept his eyes open, the images were still
there, the feelings of guilt, the disbelief… mixing up with the reality of a café, full of
people that every morning came in to have breakfast.
Elena had surprised him with an invitation for a dinner the night before, as they
left the office; a normal thing for any couple that had turned extraordinary for
them.
On their way, Elena was a little nervous, speaking about the case they had been
working on that day. Danny realized she didn’t want to be questioned by him. He
wondered why she had invited him, after weeks of occasional meetings. The night
after the trial against Carlos had been the last time he had been to her home. After
that, things weren’t working out well between them. At first, Danny understood,
Elena was very focused on Sofie and herself, trying to keep calm, trying to keep
strong, especially for the girl in psychological treatment at that point.
Sofie, who hadn’t said a word about the matter for days, had been able to tell her
mom about her fears, her feeling of guilt because of what had happened… a lot of
questions rounding her mind that Elena hadn’t even suspected. The confusion was
absolute in a girl who didn’t understand yet why her dad hadn’t come to see her, a
girl that seemed to have removed from her mind what had happened months ago,
or just refused to accept that her dad was involved in it, at least, not in the way it
had happened. To Sofie, a bad man had taken her and her dad had talked to him in
a car, took her out of there and brought her to a safe place. What had happened
later in that house, in Sofie’s mind -it was like it hadn’t happened. Elena
remembered when the psychologist asked about Sofie’s reaction to the attack and
had frowned when she told him that the girl stayed quiet on the couch, looking at
her parents, without saying a word, without showing any feelings, without crying.
Elena didn’t want her to hate Carlos. It wasn’t Sofie’s fault what happened between
her parents, however hard it was for her mother.
How was she going to tell Danny that there wasn’t any room for their relationship
in her life? She didn’t want to drop their relationship but she wasn’t able to go on
with it, not at that moment, and she couldn’t assure him that things were ever
going to improve. Sofie was her responsibility and she had to be with her, she
couldn’t think about a relationship with anybody at that moment.
“You’re so quiet,” Danny suddenly said.
Elena realized that she had been playing with the food on her plate, as her mind
tried somehow to start that conversation, not saying a word, not looking at him at
all.
“When we were in the car, you couldn’t stop talking and now… what happened?”
he ask in a quiet, guarded tone.
“Danny, I… I don’t know how to tell you this. I…” she started.
“Hey, relax,” he soothed, “it’s me, just me. Listen, I understand what’s happening, I
just want to help you, I want you to trust me,” he said noticing her anxiety.
“Last night, I had a talk with Sofie. She… she doesn’t understand what’s happening
with her father and she’s created a totally different version of what happened
during the kidnapping. She… she caught me off guard.”
“She’s seven, Elena, it’s normal. Kids see things a different way the adults and they
look for their own explanations, usually casting aside, forgetting or burying in
some place of their heart or their mind what they don’t want to remember,” he
said.
She stared at him. For a second, she thought that maybe he was speaking by his
own experience. It was something they hadn’t talked about. There were still a lot of
walls between them.
“You’re right. I’ve been talking to her psychologist and it looks that, even though
he’s working with her, trying to break the block she has, it’s going to be a long
process,” she said.
“I see, I understand. Sofie is lucky to have a mother like you. It’s one of the things I
admire the most about you, you know?”
She smiled. “I know, Danny, and that’s why I’m hoping you’ll understand. I… I know
is unfair, it’s not what I want and I know that it isn’t what you want. I know what
you’re going to think and…”
Danny shook his head. He knew what Elena was talking about. “Are you letting
Carlos to win this fight?”
“No, that’s just what I don’t want you to think, Danny. Carlos… he’s got nothing to
do with this. Well, of course, he had something to do with it, but it’s not that,” Elena
stammered. “Danny, I can’t go on with our relationship. I need a quiet life. I need to
be there for Sofie…”
“I know that. You can be there for Sofie and…”
“I’m not ready for this relationship. It’s too… complicated and I don’t want to lose
our friendship. I don’t want to close the door to a relationship later and we’re able
to enjoy it then,” Elena had taken his hand in hers, she had to make him to
understand.
“What… what do you mean?”
“I want us to be friends. I can’t ask you for more patience, I can’t ask you for more
time, it’s not fair. I can’t promise you that this will be over soon. I have to stay with
my daughter %, Danny. I have to show her that she can trust me, I have to help
her to get over her problems and I know that I’ll be okay, then. If… If I take care of
Sofie, if I take a routine and I stay with her the most time that this work let us and,
sadly, it isn’t too much, Carlos will realize that he can’t do anything against me.”
“But, Elena you’re doing that. You’re a wonderful person and Sofie loves you, you
don’t have to do anything different.”
“I know Danny, but Carlos is going to be watching for any chance he can to use
against me to get her custody, and I want to keep Sofie far from him, at least, until
she understands what’s happening.”
“After what he did, he won’t be able…”
“Jack told me something…”
“Don’t talk to me about Jack.”
“No, not Jack. I made a mistake threatening Carlos’s boss. It was because of my
desperation. Don’t blame him, I know that you had an argument, there is tension
between you both and I want you to end it, Danny. I know that you appreciate him
as much he does you and values your work.”
“What did Jack tell you?” Danny didn’t want to talk about his problems with Jack.
“I didn’t want to worry you, he told me a few days ago, after hearing me talking to
my lawyer, about his meeting with Carlos.”
“What?” Danny asked, voice full of tension.
Elena told Danny that the day of the trial, that last night they spent together, Jack
had met Carlos and he had told him that he would be watching and had threatened
him.
Danny shook his head. “When… when did he tell you? Why didn’t you tell me
anything?”
“He told me two weeks ago. I didn’t want to tell you anything because I know you
and I know you’d go after him but, don’t do it, please. Danny, please, don’t do it. I
want you to stay out of this matter, I don’t want you to do anything you’ll regret.
It’s the why I want it… I want to keep a friendship… it’ll be the easiest for us, don’t
you think?”
“Is it what you want?”
“No, it isn’t, Danny, but I think it’s the best for us. I don’t want to force you to
expect something I don’t know if I’ll be able to give you. I don’t want you to lose the
opportunity of meeting someone who loves you and…” Elena had to stop. It was
too painful to say.
“But you love me? I… I love you so much,” he said.
“You can’t know how much I love you. That’s why I’m doing this. If… if and when
everything is gone, if and when I feel I can restart my life without putting anyone in
danger, if you’re willing to try it, it’ll be good… but I’m not sure, I don’t… I don’t
want to tie you down like that. It’s unfair, for me as well, I don’t want to force you
to do something and then…”
“And then, to get involved with your lawyer,” he finished.
Elena looked at him painfully but she met an emphatic look.
Danny understood that it was the best way to keep the hope for a future, it wasn’t
what he wanted but maybe it was the best way, even though it hurt. What she
wanted to do -it was a sincere proof of love, respect and he appreciated her
sincerity and loved her even more because of it.
“No, it’s… it’s okay, Elena. You’re… you’re amazing. I don’t guess I can find another
woman like you but… we’ll be friends and, like you say, time will tell.”
“Yes,” she said, squeezing his hand as her eyes filled in tears.
Danny picked up a newspaper from a near table and tried to focus as the coffee and
toast tried to raise his weak soul.
“Danny?, Danny Taylor?”
Danny looked up from the newspaper to find a guy looking at him and smiling. He
hadn’t seen him before.
“Excuse me?”
“Jimmy Dolan, Law School, third row, right corner,” the guy said, introducing
himself. “Do you mind if…” he asked pointing the seat.
The question was useless since he had taken his coat off and sat down in front of
Danny. He frowned, it wasn’t company what he wished, and he didn’t know that
guy, even though he seemed to know him.
Mrs. Bennett approached the table to refill Danny’s mug. “Well, I see you’ve found
some company,” she smiled. She couldn’t help but watch Danny, as she took the
orders from other clients, worrying of his look. Some friend would be welcome.
“Old classmates from University,” the guy said, when Danny didn’t say a word.
“Really?” she asked in interest.
“We attended at Law School. What did you specialized in, Danny?”
Danny opened his mouth not knowing what to say exactly, but Mrs. Bennett
answered for him. “Oh, no, Danny isn’t a lawyer, he’s an FBI agent, and he looks for
missing people.”
“Really? Well, I thought you’d working in the Court defending the innocent,” Dolan
laughed hard and Danny felt his blood boiling. “I’m sorry, it’s…. it’s a bad joke, it’s
not even a joke, I’m sorry. Then, FBI agent? That’s good, and… do you work here, in
New York…”
“Sure he works here,” Mrs. Bennett said, who seemed to need a conversation this
morning, just what Danny didn’t, especially when his head looked to be ready to
explode. “And he lives in front of here,” she said pointing the building from the
window beside the table. “And he comes here every morning to have breakfast. By
the way, what are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for an apartment to buy in this zone. Is there any place in your
building, Danny?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” he muttered in bad mood.
“Oh, you don’t look to feel well. You aren’t the Danny Taylor I remember, always
picking up girls and going from party to party,” he said. “He was terrible; he got a
new girl at every party he attended, as the rest of us tried to get the interest of any
girl. But he didn’t need to do anything, just invite them for a drink and it was done,”
he continued talking to Mrs. Bennett. “I guess I envied you, it’s logical you don’t
remember me, I wasn’t on your radar. I remember one day that…” he continued.
“Eh, listen, I’m sorry, it’s true that I don’t remember you, but I don’t have time right
now for a conversation. I’m late for work…” Danny cut him, standing up. He left
some money for Mrs. Bennett as she looked at him in surprise.
“You’re not late,” she whispered.
“I have a lot of work to do, Mrs. Bennett. See you tomorrow,” he said with a smile.
He didn’t want to be rude to her, but he didn’t feel good about the conversation, or
maybe it was just his bad mood this morning. It was clear that it would be a bad
day.
“Sure, take care and don’t work so much. You need a day off,” she said.
“Some day”, he said, “Some day. Bye…”
“Dolan,” the other guy reminded him with a smile.
Danny gestured an apology and left the café.
 -
Arriving at the office, Danny was surprised to see Vivian already over there.
“Hey Viv,” he greeted, “What are you doing here so early?”
“Hi Danny,” she replied, showing him an open file. One of their last cases hadn’t
really been closed. They had found the woman they were looking for but, at the
same time, they weren’t able to arrest all the people involved. Another woman had
gone missing and, apparently, both cases were related. Vivian had taken it as a
personal challenge. “I like to tie up all the loose ends,” she said.
“Yeah sure,” Danny responded, thinking about his personal situation.
“Listen, you look… what happened to you?” she asked in concern, noticing his tired
features and the bags under his eyes. Vivian knew that Danny was having a bad
time after what had happened between Elena and Carlos. Jack had told her about
an argument with Danny and his anxiety about keeping Elena safe, and she was
aware that Danny was still upset about it. However, Danny, as usual, never said a
word about that. But it was difficult to keep that stuff in private once the problem
was in the office.
“Nothing. There was a party in the apartment next to mine and I didn’t sleep well,”
he lied.
“I see,” Vivian replied, distrustful.
“Do you want me to help you?” Danny asked after taking his jacket off and
switching on his computer.
“What?” she asked distractedly. Actually, she wasn’t paying attention to him since
she noticed something in the file she hadn’t read before.
“If you want, I can help to tie up the loose ends,” he offered.
“What loose ends?” Martin asked, coming in the office with Jack. “Morning... hey
Danny, what did you do last night?” he continued.
Danny frowned; he couldn’t remember why his mood was so bad, but it obviously
was since Viv and now Martin had picked up on it.
“Danny is going to help me with this investigation,” Vivian explained, “I was telling
him that I like to tie up all the loose ends and we left something unresolved in this
case.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jack said thoughtful as he picked up one of the documents Vivian had
on her desk.
“Really?” Danny questioned, sounding pissed off. He didn’t want to sound like that,
sure, not there, not in front of his coworkers. Danny regretted his tone as soon as
the question came out of his mouth, but it was too late.
The sharp remark caught Jack by surprise for a second but he quickly regained his
composure.
“I think you… you should take some time off,” Jack said slowly, staring at him. “You
look sick, tired… maybe you’re not thinking clearly enough.”
“I was just trying to say that you can’t end…” Danny started, trying to correct his
attitude and tone as a shiver ran down his spine.
“I know what you mean and I recommend you let it go, Taylor. You were the one
who didn’t want to talk about it the other day and I don’t think you want to bring
this up with your coworkers. And I told you what you can do if you don’t agree
with my way of doing work,” Jack said.
Danny’s face turned pale. No, he wasn’t going to have this conversation there,
where he’d surely come off looking like an idiot. He remembered Elena’s words the
night before, a confrontation between them wouldn’t end the problem and he was
in the worst position. Jack calling him Taylor had hurt him; it showed a detachment
they hadn’t ever had before.
The tension thick around them, Martin and Vivian didn’t dare to take part in the
unexpected and surprising altercation. To Jack and Danny, they had disappeared. It
wasn’t clear what was happening between them, but they would both be better off
with it ending soon. If it linger and festered, it could only end badly.
“I know, I’m considering it,” Danny responded, pretending to sound cold and
flippant. Actually, he hadn’t thought about it, but he knew that Jack didn’t want him
to leave because he would take it personal and, at that point of the argument,
Danny just wanted to hurt Jack. Sure, he wasn’t going to work in a mall, as Jack had
suggested to him during their argument and taking the BAR exam wasn’t his
priority at that moment, but he could take it at the following official announcement
and Jack knew that.
“Right, but in the meantime, remember, I’m the boss here,” Jack said.
“That’s difficult to forget,” Danny remarked with a smirk.
“Why don’t you both close your stupid mouths right now?” Vivian interrupted
them, upset at watching them behaving as children.
“Yes”, Jack agreed, still staring at Danny, “I have too much work to do instead of
wasting my time with stupid matters.”
Danny was going to reply but Jack had turned back heading for his office. Vivian
blocked his sight and stared at him with a warning look that told Danny that she
didn’t want to hear anything else about the matter. Danny shook his head in
disgust.
“Uhm… I’m going for a coffee. Are you coming with me, Danny?” Martin asked, but
it was more an offer that Danny should refuse.
“Sure,” he muttered. He rose and they both stepped out the office to the break
room, with serious expressions.
Getting into the bullpen, Sam noticed them. “Hi, eh... what’s the matter?” she asked.
“Hi Sam,” Martin responded with a look on his face clearing telling her “don’t ask”.
Looking at them in surprise as they left, she turned to Vivian. “What happen to
them? What happen to Danny? He looks pissed off.”
“Nothing important. Danny had a bad night, that’s all.”
“Bad night or…” Sam said, smirking.
“Just a bad night,” Vivian said making out what Sam was insinuating.
“It looks like the Carlos thing is still affecting Danny, I’m afraid. It’s a pity, it’s the
first time I’ve see him genuinely in love with someone,” Sam commented.
“Why do you say that?” Vivian asked.
“Oh, come on Viv, its Danny, you know how he is,” Sam said.
“Well, he was always very private. Being that Elena works here makes it difficult to
keep that privacy in tact but… who knows if there were any other woman in his
past…?”
“Lots of women,” Sam interrupted her.
Vivian laughed. “Oh well, that’s right, let’s go over the gossip. I hope the problem is
over soon and Elena calms down so Danny can move past this.”
“Let’s hope so,” Sam responded.
“So what’s your problem with Jack, Danny?” Martin asked, handing a mug of coffee
to his friend.
“I don’t have any problem,” Danny said sharply.
“Then I must be stupid. You’re going to tell me now that what happened out there,
it was just in my mind? Come on, Danny, I know you’re angry because Jack didn’t
let you shoot Carlos. I was there, remember? Jack is right; you would be in trouble
and…”
“How moving! Jack worrying about my future! Come on, Martin, it was standard
procedure. If it would have happened, then things wouldn’t be so difficult now,”
Danny cut him off.
“For who, Danny? You’re not thinking clearly about this. Knowing that you’re with
Elena, knowing your confrontation with Carlos, the OPR would have pointed their
finger at you, for sure. If you tried to protect Elena like that, then you would have
been wrong. It would have been equally difficult or even more so because it would
have been your fault. And Elena would have to explain to her daughter why her
nice uncle Danny is in prison after killing her father,” Martin explained, trying to
make Danny listen to reason.
The image of all of them looking at him through the glass in the execution room
that had stayed with him through the last night came back to his mind in a flash, as
he listened to Martin’s words. Danny shook his head and looked away. He knew
that Martin was right but he was upset, angry and worried, as well. Elena hadn’t
arrived at work yet and he didn’t know if she was okay. It was like that every day.
They always said goodbye at the hall of the FBI building and sometimes at her
home’s front door. The conversation from the last night had turned out to be yet
another break in their relationship, but he couldn’t stop his feelings towards her so
easily and he couldn’t help but being worried about her safety. Every morning he
sighed in relief watching her entering the bullpen in tact.
“I know that, Martin, but they would be safe and you can’t be sure that things
would have ended like that. In fact, it was a…” he started.
“Sure Danny, it was a standard situation but, look, nobody expected that Carlos
would have gotten off at the trial and he took advantage of the failures we
committed. I wouldn’t take the risk. Anyway, time put things in the right place,
you’ll see that the problem will be over, and you two are going to be able to have a
normal relationship,” Martin said, trying to cheer him up.
Danny sighed but he didn’t say anything.
Worrying about his attitude, Martin tried to find out what was really happening to
his friend. Danny wasn’t like that; he wasn’t one to open up and express his feels so
this matter with Elena wasn’t new. “Are you going to tell me what really happened
to you this morning?”
“I told you, nothing,” Danny replied, not meeting his eyes.
“Okay, but you know that you can count on me,” Martin said in concern.
“Sure, eh… no, really, it’s that…last night I didn’t sleep well… there was a party in
the next apartment and…” Danny explained, softening his tone as he realized he
was being unfair with Martin, still not wanting to tell him about Elena or the
nightmare.
“Right, its okay, Danny,” Martin said, pretty sure that his coworker was lying. “Eh,
what about we go back and help Vivian?” he suggested.
Leaving the break room, Danny and Martin joined their coworkers who already
were checking the files.
“I guess this is going to need much more than our spare time,” Vivian said, looking
at the widespread papers on the conference table.
“Why?” Martin asked, picking up one of the files Sam handed to him.
“Every new clue brings up new questions but not answers… it’s like I’m pulling
from a thread that leads me to something even more important…” Vivian replied.
“Look, one of the men Elsie was seen with, had broken up with a woman called
Kimberly Henderson some months ago. Her body was found some days later after
her disappearance had been reported last month. Rick’s team was working on that
case, but they didn’t find any definitive proof to arrest some of their suspects.”
“Okay, we’ll have to investigate that guy, maybe he wasn’t so careful in this case,”
Sam said, “Who is he?”
“His name is Justin Dailey. But that’s not all about him. Two years ago, Justin Dailey
was interviewed when his cousin’s girlfriend was missing, but they didn’t find
anything against him.”
“What about the girlfriend?” Martin asked.
“She was found days later,” Vivian replied reading the file. “Nobody was arrested
and she didn’t report anything.”
“Uhm… maybe it’s a coincidence but it’s strange that Daily is around three missing
persons. Does this guy have an address in New York?” Martin asked.
She handed the file to him. “Well, let’s pay a visit to Justin,” Martin said.
Sam and Martin took their coats, as Danny picked up the file with the information
of that case, still opened.
“I’ll talk to Rick Carter, I’m sure he’s interested in this,” Vivian said.
“Where do we go?” Elena asked, entering in the bullpen, as she noticed Martin and
Sam leaving. “I’m sorry guys; I’m late. Did I miss something?”
“Nope, your cell would have rung, for sure,” Martin said, “How’s Sofie?”
“Oh great, I just took her to the school and her teacher had to talk to me for a
moment,” she replied.
“She’s a good girl,” Sam said, smiling.
“Yes, she is but she’s seven and she has a lot of little birds in her head. Sometimes…
sometimes I don’t know what to do with her,” Elena said with a smile.
“Wait until she turns twelve,” Vivian responded with a knowing smile.
“I know, that’s what my mom says. I was terrible then… but well, we do all our best,
don’t we?” she said.
To Elena, it was a way to make the matter easy. Her coworkers had been involved
in her personal situation and it wouldn’t happen again, if she could help it.
Elena and Danny stayed alone in the office, as Sam and Martin headed for Dailey’s
home and Vivian was busy calling Rick Carter.
“What happened?” Danny whispered.
“I told you, I had to talk to Sofie’s teacher,” Elena said, not wanting to tell him
anything else, considering their conversation from last night. “What happened to
you? You look very tired.”
“Nothing, just a party in the next apartment. I didn’tleep well,” he said for the third
time as he tried to focus on the file he was reading.
Biting her lip, Elena stared at him. Probably his tired expression had to do with
their last conversation and not with a party. But she couldn’t blame him for not
telling her. She had lied, too, by not volunteering the true explanation of what had
happened that morning. The truth was that Sofie’s teacher had told her that Carlos
had gone to the school trying to get some information about how Sofie was doing
and Elena had to explain to her the legal situation after the trial. She wouldn’t
involve Danny in this more than he already was. Days of silence were coming, halftruths
that would make it difficult to keep their friendship. They both knew too
well what was behind it.
Trying to put this thought out of her mind, she blinked back the tears that formed
in her eyes as turned to her desk looking for work to be a welcome diversion.
So he wouldn’t have to mask his bad mood, Jack shut himself up in his office.
Danny’s attitude had bothered him. Why he didn’t understand something so
simple? Obviously, his relationship with Elena had changed his way of
understanding. He didn’t blame Danny for this; it was why he had stopped him
from shooting Carlos that day. Jack would have also liked to give Carlos Aguilar
what he deserved so he understood Danny’s frustration. But Jack had always
considered Danny a good agent; he knew how important it was for Danny to keep a
balance in his life and his job was essential to get it.
Running a hand over his face, he glanced at the pile of papers waiting for him on
the desk, ready to keep him busy, except if the phone would ring with a new
missing person to postpone the paperwork… once again. Two soft knocks on the
door made him look up.
“Hi, Jack,” Lisa Harris greeted, walking into the office.
“Hi,” he said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s been a long time. You don’t come to my office anymore, and I just wanted to
know how you are doing,” she said.
“Oh, fine…” he started.
She frowned and Jack realized that Lisa didn’t miss anything. She knew him very
well since their professional relationship started from many years ago. “Okay, not
so fine, but it’s nothing that needs any special treatment.”
“Treatment? What do you say about chatting for a while?” she asked.
“You told me once, that for you, everything is professional. If we chat, as you say, I
know that you’ll make mental notes,” he said smiling. “No, seriously, it’s just a little
problem that will be over soon.”
“Right, are you sleeping well? That’s important, you know that? Right?”
“I know, well, yes… everything is okay, on that matter,” he said.
“Seven or eight hours,” she stated.
“Actually, five,” he grumbled.
“That’s not enough.”
“Better than nothing.”
“Jack, you know how a lack of sleep affects your work, your reflexes, and your
capacity to react quickly. Resting is important, especially in this work,” she
explained with concern.
“I know, I know, but this is just momentary. It will be over soon,” he said.
“If not, you know where I am, Jack. Come to my office; if you don’t, I’ll come here
again and leave you those post-it notes you like so much,” she said with a smile.
“Sure,” he said.
After Lisa left, Jack tried to focus on his work, but he wasn’t able to do it. There
were too many personal problems on his team at the same time. It wasn’t only
what happened to Elena’s daughter. He was worried about Danny, who he had
always held in high regard. He was worried about Sam, who had confessed him a
dark secret, a crime committed during her youth involving her and her family,
which he didn’t know, in spite of the relationship they had shared for some
months. Events that made him to understand some things about Sam’s attitude. He
had protected her, he had made it impossible for her to confess the facts that
would have ruined her career because it would have ruined his, and he knew that
Sam wouldn’t do that. But things with Danny were different. Jack knew about his
hot-headed character, he knew that he had the resources to leave the FBI. If Danny
would leave, it would be because he couldn’t stop him in time, because he didn’t
know how to protect him like he did with Sam.
Jack felt alone. He felt devastated when Maria left with the girls, living alone at that
home where he spent short time in the past, but he always went back to knowing
that his girls were there. He had regained his life with Anne but that relationship
was born from the pain of the losing a loved man, a friend, a forced relationship
because of a pregnancy, a baby she wished for, but had caught Jack by surprise. He
regretted the way he had handled the situation. But the truth was, he had failed,
and she left, leaving him alone, watching their future together vanish into the air.
And now Sam… Sam again. Her vulnerability, her fear, the things she told him
about her family, had made him try to protect her, risking his own work if it was
found out that what it was reported wasn’t absolutely true. And he felt the weight
of the loneliness again, not knowing how to get close to the person he loved once.
Sleep… how the hell he was going to sleep in that home where the sound of the
silence was so crushing? Where his own breathing was able to wake him up?
Where the pictures of so many family moments at that home, came to his mind
constantly? Not even the medication Dr. Harris had prescribed and he didn’t want
to use, was able to stop that. Sure it would affect his work, he was aware of it, but
he trusted his experience of years in the FBI, he trusted the fact it wasn’t the first
time it had happened and however, the cases he had worked were solved after all.
Maybe the lack of sleep was the reason for him to feel affected by some cases, a
way that was not logical for an agent with his experience. He recognized that he
had lost control too many times in preceding months, confusing work with
personal problems even though he would always order his team to keep their
personal problems out of the office.
Maybe seeing his own mistakes reflected in Danny Taylor made him to worry more
about him rather than to confront his own situation. It was easier to confront
someone else’s problems than his. ‘Only Jack Malone can break the rules’, Danny
had told him. Jack wanted to tell him that he was right, but the consequences of it,
wasn’t worth it, and sooner or later, something would happen.
 -
Leaving the subway, Harold walked quickly towards the building. Trying to stay
unnoticed, he opened the door and went up the stairs to the apartment where his
friends had been waiting for him.
Inside the house, Kevin and Frank were looking at the result of their work,
checking that everything was like JD had instructed. Frank frowned,
thoughtful as he observed the two . inches diameter steel tubes, fixed to the
floor and ceiling and separated between them about three feet. He had the feeling
that those tubes weren’t originally at that place and it would have something to do
with the game.
“You’re late,” Kevin reproached Harold, taking out the beers from the bag his friend
had handed him.
“I missed the stop. I had to leave the subway at the following station,” Harold
explained them.
Sitting down on the floor, beers in hands and leaning on the wall, they looked at the
result of the work they had been doing through the night and most of the day.
“What are those tubes for?” Frank asked.
“I guess we’ll know sooner or later,” Kevin replied, “It doesn’t look like part of the
room. I’m sure that JD has been doing some work for us.”
“Well, now what?” Harold asked.
“I think that we could take a good photo from here,” Kevin responded, taking the
camera and looking through the viewfinder. The wide-angle lens took in the whole
room with a curved aspect due to the effect of the lens. “Okay… It’s showing how
we have darkened the window and covered the walls.”
“Yes, we’ve done a good work,” Frank said smiling satisfactorily.
“Hey, most of this was done by Harold and me. When you turned up this morning,
the most difficult part was already done,” Kevin reproached him.
“I already told you that I couldn’t stay for the night; I’ve come when I was able to,”
Frank protested.
“Hey guys, I’m exhausted, I just want to find a bed to lie down and close my eyes,”
Harold said. “I suggest taking that photo right now. I’ll take it to the garage before
coming back to the Dormitory where I guess I’ll spend all the morning sleeping.”
“Yes, I’m exhausted too,” Kevin agreed. “Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that time is
valuable. I’d like to know who the others are and what they are doing.”
Kevin took some photos of the room and after making the adjustment in the
computer, Harold printed them. Placing them in the envelope he had found on the
table, they left the apartment. Harold headed towards the subway, taking the line
that would get him to the garage at Jackson Heights. He looked at the time. Usually,
at : pm, he would have been in the lunch room. Feeling a lump in his throat,
Harold felt uncomfortable before the game that he had guessed would turn into
something intriguing and new. He opened the garage door thinking that the game
wouldn’t come through safely. Leaving the envelope in the locker JD had
indicated he kept the key in his small case. After closing the garage, Harold left
trying to stay unnoticed. On his way back to the Dormitory, he couldn’t help but
think about the next move.
During the following hours, Harold had tried to sleep. In spite of being exhausted,
he hadn’t been able to forget the events from the preceding hours. His roommate
had entered for a moment to pick up some books and had found him lying on the
bed, staring at the ceiling.
“Hey, are you okay? I haven’t seen you in the classroom,” he asked.
“I think I’ve got a cold or something,” Harold replied.
“Well… where did you go last night?” his roommate asked again.
“What? Are you my mom or something?” Harold asked, upset.
“Come on, Harold. Don’t be so sensitive. It was just a friendly question,” the other
guy said, smirking.
“Leave me alone; I want to sleep,” Harold grumbled.
Shaking his head, the other guy left the room. However, Harold couldn’t help but
think about what they had been doing, about what they were going to do next and
he didn’t know what to do. The four times his cell phone rang, he felt his body
shivering in anticipation. Sharon, his mom, Peter… Frank.
“Do you know anything yet?”
Harold noticed the excitement in his friend’s voice. Looking at the time, he rubbed
his tired eyes. At . pm he had barely been able to sleep. “No, not yet. What
about Kevin?”
“I’ve phoned him, he doesn’t know anything either. I’m going to leave my cell on
and I’ll try to sleep. Whatever happens, call me. I don’t care about the time,” Frank
warned him.
“Yes, sure. Listen, Frank…” Harold hesitated, not wanting to sound as an idiot, “Do
you know what the tubes are for?”
“No idea, Harold, but I guess we’ll know soon,” Frank replied. “Listen, we shouldn’t
talk about this matter on the cell phone.”
“No, okay, see you.” Harold said.
“Bye.”
Looking at the ID, Harold identified Kevin’s number. His cell had started to ring at
. pm and he hadn’t been able to sleep since Frank’s call. Feeling a lump in his
throat, he hit the button with trembling fingers.
“Kevin?”
“Turn on the TV. Channel ,” he instructed. Then, the call was cut off.
Harold got up and looked for the remote around the untidy room. Fortunately,
Mike, his roommate, hadn’t come back. Finding the remote under a pile of papers,
he switched on the small TV they shared in the room. The image of a newscaster
appeared on the screen.
“… Mrs. Harris has told us that her husband wouldn’t leave without his medicines for
arterial tension. Professor Harris is very well known and appreciated at Queens
College, where he teaches Constitutional Law for thirty years. Next February, , an
event is scheduled to honor him because of the important work he’s done at the
University. Harris had been very excited about the honor and deeply grateful for it.
His relationship with his coworkers and students is excellent. Nothing would indicate
that he’s left voluntarily. The police are investigating a white van that was seen
around at the time the Professor walked towards a near shop, like his wife has
confirmed.”
Harold listened carefully to the news, expecting to see or hear something relevant,
not finding anything especially interesting; except that Professor Harris taught at
the same University where they were studying.
Picking up his cell, he dialed Kevin’s number. “I don’t get it,” he said, just hearing
his friend’s voice.
“I received a message several minutes ago… you know who sent it, asking me to
switch on the TV to Channel . I know the same as you; I think that it’s possible
that any other team have already started the game. Do you understand what I
mean?”
Harold swallowed hard. “Kevin…”
“You can’t give up now, Harold. You know that, don’t you?” Kevin tried to
encourage his friend, but it was difficult to talk without saying anything.
Harold remained quiet for a moment, thoughtful. Kevin was right, if playing with
real people was part of the game, if the game had already started, to give up could
be very dangerous. “I understand,” he whispered.
His roommate was getting into the room just when a pale Harold cut off the call.
“Hey, don’t you feel better? You look sick man, you should go to the doctor,” Mike
suggested.
“Yeah… tomorrow… I’ll go tomorrow. I don’t feel good, I… I think I’m going to
throw up… Ex…. Excuse me,” Harold said, suddenly feeling really sick.
He left the room and ran towards the bathroom. Frowning as Harold slamming the
door, Mike left his books on the desk and took off his coat. Taking out of the pocket
the little gift he had bought for Lindsay, he left it on the desk smiling at the photo of
the sweet woman who he was going to ask for getting married once they
graduated.
Sam had been the first one in turning up to her destination. Guessing she was
already at home, Jack had phoned her some minutes ago. Their missing person,
John Kirkpatrick, lived three blocked from her home. He had been seen leaving
home to walk his dog about : pm and  minutes later, the animal had been
back with evident signs of nervousness and blood on his collar. There was no trace
of his owner. Sam had been looking around on her way to the house but she didn’t
find anything.
At the same time she was driving to Kirkpatrick’s home, Danny and Jack, joined the
police to trace the park where Kirkpatrick used to go with his dog.
Meanwhile, Martin had driven to Mr. Harris’ home and he was trying to get useful
information from Mrs. Harris, to start the search for their other missing person. On
the other hand, Vivian and Elena were walking the distance between Mr. Harris’s
home and the shop trying to find anything suspicious. A white van, the description
matching with another van a witness had seen leaving the park fast where
Kirkpatrick had been missing, linked both cases.
It was : am when Kevin Miller left his room. Tightening his coat, he took his
motorbike and drove to the garage where a key would be waiting for him, a new
locker would be opened, a new challenge.
Worried about the news he had seen on TV, he was forming in his mind what they
would have to do. Those tubes in the middle of a whole soundproof room, started
to have a meaning he didn’t like. But Kevin Miller didn’t want to spend the rest of
his life attending the family business. He had always wanted to do something
different to what his family had done for generations and stand out for it, showing
that a Miller was more than hardware products salesman.
Picking up the key from the table, Kevin headed for the cabinet. Turning the key on
the locker number , he opened it, trying to ignore his trembling hand. Some ropes,
white insulating tape, three balaclavas, two pair of handcuffs and a folder were left
on the table and he closed the door before keeping the key in his small case. Like
JD had written in the phone message, he had received at three in the night.
Staring at those things, he took his cell calling Frank and Harold. At : am, the
three friends reunited at Maspeth’s apartment.
“I told you that I can’t leave at night.” Frank protested.
“Hey man, I’m just following the instructions. You know we’re behind, we wasted
some time clarifying Harold’s doubts the other day, so you better don’t start the
same attitude,” Kevin responded.
Knowing that Kevin was right, Frank remained silent but he couldn’t help to figure
out the explanations he would have to tell at home. If something was wrong… if the
police went at home and his parents knew about him leaving in the night, they’d
suspect him, for sure.
“You’re pathetic, Frank, everybody would say you’re fifteen,” Kevin laughed,
noticing the worried look on his friend.
Noticing the belligerent attitude from his teammates, Harold tried to reason. “Hey
guys, we aren’t here to argue or insult each other. If we’ve got to reach this point, it
is because we respect our way of living. We’re not going to be disrespect each
other, right? Let’s see, Kevin, open that folder right now,” he said firmly.
Kevin stared at him in surprise. He never had seen Harold Green having such a
confident character, it looked that the guy became a different person during the
nights, he thought, remembering what willing he had been acting the night before,
‘decorating’ the room.
Taking out a paper with what they guessed were instructions, two profiles with a
label on each one, Kevin took out as well a sketch that showed the situation they
would have to take photos.
Realizing what the game was about for the first time, none of them moved or said a
word for several minutes, just watching the sketch made them shiver.
“Well,” Kevin muttered after a while, “let’s read.”
Clearing his throat, Kevin picked up the paper with the instructions and started to
read. “Hello guys, I’m sorry for waking you up at this time in the night. My apologies,
Frank, for the problems you could carry at home,” Kevin stopped and looked around,
but he didn’t find anything to make him to suspect there were microphones in the
room. Or JD knew them very well or he knew how to hide the microphones and,
probably, cameras. It should be the first one since that paper had been written
before Frank had spoken his complaints.
Frank was fidgeting about on the cold and hard floor where they were sitting
down. “Come on, go on reading,” he demanded feeling uncomfortable before the
silence of that place.
“I’ve provided you with white insulating tape I want you to use for delimiting a . x
. feet zone leaving the tubes in the middle of it. You can check the correct position
on the sketch,” Kevin read.
Standing up with the isolating tape in his hands, Harold marked the distances.
Then, Frank helped him to put the tape on the floor like the instructions indicated.
“Second; Use the isolating tape to form numbers  and  and fix them on each tube, at
eye level , more or less,” Kevin continued.
Frank did what it was instructed with trembling hands. Once the numbers where
fixed on the tubes, Kevin continued reading.
“Third; Open the files labeled as Pawn number  and Pawn number . You’ll find all
the information to catch your pawns. How you choose to catch them is your decision.
Be careful to keep your faces hidden from them. You should use the balaclavas. When
you bring your pawns here, you’ll tie them up in the tubes using the ropes and
handcuffs I left to you. The sketch shows exactly the way I want you to do it.
Fourth; they are pieces of a game. You won’t talk to them ever, except if I say you
have to do it.
I anxiously await your photos documenting the operation. Good luck. JD.”
Opening the first file, Frank saw the picture of a smiling man in his thirties. “Shit!”
he muttered.
“How… how we are going to do it?” Harold asked, looking at the photograph as
Kevin frowned as he started to read the information about the second man.
Neither of his friends replied, focused in the reading of the information JD had
found out for them. In fact, if he hadn’t met these men before, it was sure he had
been following them for a long time… maybe the same he had done with them.
“Do you have a baseball bat or something like that?” Frank asked.
“I can get one,” Harold replied. “Nobody will miss it.”
“This guy is the owner of a Pet Shop. Everyday, after closing the shop, he goes to a
near bar to drink a beer and chat with some friends, and then, he goes back to his
apartment, where he lives alone. I suggest catching him on his way home,” Frank
said.
“What do you want the baseball bat for?” Harold asked in a whisper.
“Are you idiot or what? We’ll need to knock him out with something and a bat will
do the trick,” Frank said.
“No, I’m not an idiot but doing it that way will attract attention. Maybe if we should
put some chloroformed cloth on his mouth and nose… that will KO a person if they
just smell it a little,” Harold responded.
“I’m not sure… looking at the pictures…. This guy looks to be a strong person.”
Frank said.
“Yes, this one looks the same,” Kevin agreed. “I think the baseball bat is okay. We’ll
catch them off guard, a hard hit and push them into the car… by the way, the car. I
could use the small van my father has in the garage of the store and he barely uses
it. He won’t miss it for a night.”
“Night?” Frank exclaimed.
“Sure, we are not going to do this at noon. I think the one from the pet shop will be
easy to follow. The other one doesn’t have the same timetable everyday, but we’ve
got his home address, so we could wait for him,” Kevin explained.
“Damn it, he could have let us to catch the old man we watched on TV,” Harold said
frowning. “That would have been easier.”
“Yes, it would be easier for us, but if we’ve got these guys it’s because JD thinks we
are capable of pulling it off, right?” Kevin responded, encouraging them and
himself as well.
“All right, then… will we do it tonight?” Frank asked.
“Yeah sure, tonight. Let me get the address of the bar. Let’s meet there at . pm.
Harold, don’t forget the baseball bat and let’s take the balaclavas now. We’ll catch
him, bring him here and then we’ll go for the other one. Let’s see if we can end this
level tonight,” Kevin instructed.
Talking about what was going to happen the following days, they stayed in the
apartment for the rest of the night. Being in charge of the group, Kevin was starting
to enjoy that game. The possibility of reaching the end, competing against the other
guys and winning such a risky game, made him to feel an unusual feeling of
confidence.
Frank had been remembering the reward he had asked for in case they win the
game, but he hadn’t told the group. He had felt a strange feeling because he didn’t
really want to make innocent people suffer, but he felt powerfully engaged by the
opportunity of doing something by himself. He quietly hoped they hadn’t to hurt
them even though the sketches they would have to represent didn’t show anything
good. He wondered why JD had chosen those people, maybe he just had thrown the
dice.
Trying to stop the feeling of running away and forgetting everything, Harold
remained silent. He couldn’t act like a coward now. The preparations had been
funny, it had been great, but when he had realized what they were actually going to
do, the pain they were going to inflict, he didn’t know if he would be able to do it,
especially when they had to face the people they would capture. He remembered
the balaclava and he thought that maybe it should be better to put on their heads,
to not see them. If he just thought of them as pieces of a game, it would be better to
identify them as that and not as people. Maybe the fact they had been forbidden to
talk to them would help. As Frank suggested him, Harold Green thought hard about
the reward he had written, a reward he could only get if they win the game.
At seven in the morning, they left the house to go back to their respective homes.
Harold went back to the Dormitory where he tried, once again, to sleep, a sleep
that came plagued of dark images.
 -
Stifling a yawn, Martin left the file about Steve Harris he had been reading on his
desk. At : am, he was exhausted after spending all the night working, trying to
learn more about the two missing person’s lives. Friends, schedules, enemies,
hobbies, work, secrets, reasons for running away… everything they could find and
related to the facts they already knew, two missing persons which disappearance
looked to be linked by a mysterious white van. The only relevant connection
Martin had been able to find about Steve Harris was that he was very much
appreciated person, as his wife had told them, and all the concerned students and
coworkers they had interviewed that morning.
Earlier, Danny and Vivian had gone to the Firm set in Manhattan, where John
Kirkpatrick, the other missing person, worked as investment consultant. His boss
had given them the clients’ portfolio and Danny had come back to the office as
Vivian had stayed to interview the coworkers and boss of the  year-old man
missing after leaving home for a walk with his dog, a five month old Collie. Looking
at the pile of files still left, Danny sighed and tried to focus on the document he had
in his hands.
“Maybe we should take a break before continuing with this,” Martin suggested,
noticing the gesture of his coworker.
“Yeah, I’m exhausted, I’m not even able to think,” Danny responded. If the night
before he had hardly slept, this one he hadn’t even arrived at home. He was on his
way back home when Jack had phoned him and he had turned around, driving to
the park where Kirkpatrick had gone with his dog.
They both rose and left for the break room.
“We’ve got nothing, except that white van related to both cases and I can’t find any
reason for someone wanting to hurt Steve Harris,” Martin said.
“No, sure, I remember that he was a very popular person,” Danny responded
distractedly.
“Do you know him?” Martin asked in surprise.
“I attended one of his classes during my second year at the University,” Danny
explained him. “He was a great man, he liked people… everybody liked him.”
“It looks that he still gets the feeling. I’m going to the University to get some
information about him,” Martin commented.
“I’d go with you, but Kirkpatrick has got a large list of clients and it’ll take me some
time to check it all out,” Danny said.
Observing his friend, Martin noticed that his coworker looked better than the day
before, in spite of the lack of sleeping. Thinking about the excuse Danny had told
them about a party at the next apartment, Martin had been pretty sure that it
hadn’t been the reason for his weird look then, and now. Seeing the worried look
on Danny’s face as they returned to their desks to find Elena arguing with someone
on the cell phone confirmed that it had probably been more about Elena than a
party. Things were still complicated between them. She raised a hand in a
desperate mood, looking at Danny. He shook his head before sitting down and
picking up one of the files to check it.
Martin approached Sam. “Would you like to get some fresh air?” he asked.
“Oh sure, please. This is incredible, yesterday, we spent the entire day helping
Vivian and now we have two missing persons at the same time.” she sighed.
“Three,” Jack said, approaching them at that moment.
Dropping the file on his desk, Danny leaned back. “Don’t tell me there is a white
van involved,” he said.
“Nope,” Jack replied. “Well, I’m not sure, really. I asked Olczyk to ask Rick’s team to
work that case since we’re working two.”
“Right,” Martin responded. “Sam and I are going to the University to talk with
Professor Harris’ secretary, coworkers, students…”
“Okay, keep me up to date,” Jack said.
Sam and Martin left the office, on their way to the University. Elena had just hung
up and her expression was still agitated. Jack and Danny looked at her, waiting for
her to say something.
“Eh… oh, it’s nothing. It’s… the usual,” she said. She was tired of work, tired of
arguing with her mom, tired of bringing up her problems at work.
“If the circumstances were different, I’d tell you to go back home, but…” Jack tried
to help.
“I know Jack. It’s okay, we’re working two cases, and you know I’m not going to let
my personal problems interfere… it happened before, to my regret.”
“Don’t say that, you’re a great professional, all of us have our bad moments, don’t
worry,” he encouraged her.
“Thanks, Jack,” she smiled appreciatively.
Listening to the conversation, Danny had kept quiet. He feared that anything he
would say may become a confrontation with Jack, again, and he didn’t want that to
happen, especially with Elena around. When Jack finally left, he looked changed
from just observing to worrying.
“What’s the matter?” he asked gently.
“Oh, you know, last night the babysitter took Sofie to my mom’s home and she
wanted to know if she had to wait for Carlos to take the girl to school or if she had
to,” she replied.
“But your mother…” he started.
“My mother forgets everything or she pretends that things are okay, or… I don’t
know. The truth is that Carlos’s attitude towards her is different, he’s lying to her.”
“But, if Carlos talks to your mom, if he keeps coming around or tries something
with Sofie, the restraining order is clear,” he tried, still knowing that a restraining
order couldn’t stop Carlos to do whatever to bother Elena.
“Yes, but the danger is real, Dan…” Elena started, cutting off her own comment. It
had been a mistake, she couldn’t get into that again, she couldn’t add fuel to the
wish of revenge she was noticing in the look of her, now, friend. “Listen, it’s over,
right? It’s over. Tell me, what do we have to look for in those files?”
Danny sighed and tried to calm down. Maybe he was still obsessing over Carlos
Aguilar because of was so tired, but it had been obvious that Elena wasn’t going to
take the bait again. “John Kirkpatrick is an economist working as investment
consultant. Those are the files of his clients, we have to look for… any thing,” he
explained.
She smiled. “You look tired, Danny. You haven’t sleep for two days working on this
and…”
“Like all of us,” – he cut her off.
“Yes, of course, like all of us,” she responded, picking up a file, and taking his reply
as an ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ she was used to. Instead she asked, “Where’s
Viv?”
“She’s interviewing Kirkpatrick’s coworkers,” Danny replied.
Covering a great part of the Campus, Martin and Sam had been interviewing some
of Mr. Harris’s students, not getting any interesting information for the case. There
were small groups talking about what had happened here and there and everybody
who knew Mr. Harris looked genuinely concerned.
Getting into the Administration Building, they noticed the piles of posters
announcing the event in honor of Professor Harris to be held some weeks later.
Sam and Martin approached one of the administrative stuff. “Morning,” Martin said
flashing his ID. “Agents Fitzgerald and Spade from FBI.”
Before he could go on, the woman started to speak. “Oh, my god, you’re here
because of what happened to Professor Harris, aren’t you? I hope you find him
soon; I don’t even want to think about anything terrible happening to him. He’s a
good person, I can’t figure out any people who want to hurt him,” she said.
It wasn’t the first time they heard the same during their previous interviews. “It
looks like he’s a much loved person here,” Sam commented. “Actually, we’d like to
talk to his secretary, Mrs. Sandra Davis.”
“Of course. She should be in his office,” she replied. “If you take the elevator, you’ll
find his office on the second floor.”
Following her directions, Martin and Sam headed for the second floor where they
could read the numbers of Professor’s offices at the entrance which made easier to
find it.
“I’m really impressed with this man. He’s clearly royalty here,” Sam said.
“Yes, Danny says that he’s a very affable and outgoing person,” Martin responded.
“Danny?” she asked.
“He attended Harris’s class at the University,” Martin explained her.
“Gosh, I didn’t know that Danny had attended Queens College, I mean I knew he
had been at the University but not here,” she said knocking on the door.
“Mrs. Davis? We’re agents Spade and Fitzgerald from FBI,” Sam said once they
entered the office, meeting a woman about  years old, with a pale face and red
eyes evidencing the tears she still left to roll down her face.
“I don’t get it; I can’t understand who could be able to hurt him. I’ve been talking to
Mrs. Harris and she doesn’t know what happened to her husband. If he had
suffered an accident, he would have been found already. Right?” she said, looking
at them trying to find out an answer to end her anguish.
“We don’t know what happened yet, Mrs. Davis. We’re investigating and
questioning all the people who can help… Have you noticed anything strange in
Professor Harris lately… something unusual… any thing, an argument with a
student, any problem he was worried about and told you…”
“Oh no, my god, if Professor Harris has an argument it’s just about the
interpretation of a law. Professor Harris is a much loved person here,” she said.
“We know that, all the people we have talked to said that,” Martin said smiling. But
it didn’t help.
“Yes, that’s it. Well… look, I… I don’t know if this could help you but, yesterday
morning, I left the office to take some files to the general archive and when I came
back, there were some students waiting outside.”
“Did you think it was strange?” Sam asked, taking out her notebook.
“I didn’t know them; it wasn’t time for a tutoring session. Professor Harris usually
starts his tutorials right after the classes and he comes up with some students to
answer some questions. Other times, some students come up but they don’t wait
outside. They just knock on the door and enter. But they were outside, like waiting
for something,” Mrs. Davis said.
“Did you ask what they were doing here?” Martin asked.
“Yes, they told me that they had mistaken the office, they were looking for another
one. Then, they left. I didn’t see them anymore,” she replied.
“Could you describe them?” Sam asked.
“Yes, they were two guys, about  years old; one of them was tall with a dark,
curly hair. The other one wore a long straight hair… on his shoulders. He had long
sideburns, like Elvis, I remember well. Oh, and the tall one wore glasses,” she
responded thoughtfully.
“Would you mind coming with us and working with a sketch artist?” Sam
suggested.
“Sure, I’ll do whatever you need to find Professor Harris. Do you think those guys
could be involved in his disappearance?” she asked with a scary face.
“Maybe or maybe they were telling the truth, we’ll check on it,” Martin replied.
“Look agent… I wouldn’t be so sure about John being in serious danger,” one of
John Kirkpatrick’s coworkers said to Vivian.
It had been a while since she had started to interview Kirkpatrick’s boss and some
coworkers and none of them had been able to contribute any clue. But this guy had
entered as she was talking to one of the coworkers and headed for his desk, sitting
down next to Kirkpatrick’s desk, just separated by a short wall.
“Explain yourself,” she invited him.
“Well, look, I’m not going to make a gossip, but since the man is missing…” he
started, “I’ve been listening to some conversations, something like a date,
whispering… I’d say there is another woman in his life, even though I couldn’t put
my finger on it.”
“Do you have any idea about who that woman could be?” Vivian asked.
“I’ve heard the name Sharon,” – he replied. “I’m sorry; I can’t tell you anything
else.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “A part from that, have you noticed if Mr. Kirkpatrick could
have had some problem with any clients?”
“I don’t think so… at least, not recently; but last year, there was an altercation with
one of Kirkpatrick’s client about business. It was a tense matter because he came in
boiling with anger, they had an argument… but that happens here from time to
time. We’re not infallible,” he explained.
“Okay, do you know where I can find that person?” she asked.
“Well, we have an organized file system by dates. I’d have to look for all the clients
working with Kirkpatrick during the last year…”
“I’ll do it, thanks for offering,” she said with a smile. “Did the man come back here?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Your boss told me that the clients take an investment consultant for several years,
except if something wrong happens, like what you’re telling me.”
“Yes, the confidentiality in the client-consultant relationship is very important
here, we don’t work on a commission, there isn’t a fight to get a bigger clients
portfolio.”
“Is there any way to check Kirkpatrick’s clients from last year to this one?” she
asked.
“I see where you want to go,” he said, typing something in the computer. “Look,
this is a list of John’s clients for the last year. Some of them will match with the
documents your coworker took out this morning,” he explained her, as he sent the
file to the print.
“Okay, here you have it,” he said handing her the document. “The clients are listed
by alphabetical order, not by dates,” he said.
Vivian glanced at the list. Then, she took her cell phone and dialed the office.
“Taylor,” she heard in a second.
“Hi Danny, how are you doing with the files?”
“Nothing yet, some things are difficult to understand but I don’t think there is
anything to help in the case.”
“Okay, let it go, I have an idea, um… could you go to Kirkpatrick’s home? I’d like you
ask some questions to his wife.”
“Yeah, sure, I’d like leave the office for a while. What’s the matter?”
“Kirkpatrick’s coworker has told me that maybe there is another woman. Her name
is Sharon, he doesn’t know anything else. Maybe she knows her… maybe it’s a
friend… maybe she’s married.”
“A man finds out his wife is with another man and he decides to go for him,” Danny
said, “Okay I get it.”
“Be careful, that’s a ‘maybe’ and maybe could be nothing, right?” Vivian advised
him, picturing the smirk on Danny’s face.
“Sure,” he said. He hung up the phone and turned to his coworker. “Elena, let the
files go, we have to talk to Mrs. Kirkpatrick.”
Going back to the office, Sam went with Mrs. Davis to the work with the sketch
artist as Martin headed for Jack’s office to tell him the news about the
investigation.
He was speaking on the phone when Martin got into the office.
“You won’t believe it,” he said hanging up the phone. “A new missing report has
been done. What did you get?”
Martin explained to him what Professor Harris’s secretary had told them.
“We’ll compare the sketches with the students’ pictures, to see if anyone matches
with it,” Jack suggested.
“Yes, Ty has got access from our computers to their database. After getting the
sketches, he’ll start to work,” Martin said.
“Okay, take a break while he’s working on it. We’ve been working all night and I
don’t know when we’ll end this case.”
“Right,” Martin responded.
Elena and Danny met Mrs. Kirkpatrick at her home. “Mrs. Kirkpatrick, we have
some new questions for you.”
“Tell me, have you got any new leads?” she demanded anxiously.
“We’re still investigating, Mrs. Kirkpatrick. Do you or your husband know a woman
named Sharon?” Danny asked.
“Yes, sure, she’s my sister. Why?” she asked in surprise.
“Well, at your husband’s office we were told that he had been speaking to someone
named Sharon on the phone and it looked…” Elena started as Danny frowned. She
didn’t realize until it was too late.
“Do you think that this is an affair?” Mrs. Kirkpatrick exclaimed furiously. “Do you
think that my husband ran away with another woman? You don’t know John, this is
completely an absurd. And yes, it’s true that he has been talking to Sharon, she lost
her husband recently and he’s helping her with financial issues,” she said.
“I’m very sorry,” Danny replied. “You should understand we have to investigate
any clue, any thing to help us to find your husband.”
“I understand, agent, but you should understand too that it’s very painful being in
my current situation, to hear these kinds of comments that I know are completely
wrong. The only thing I wish is to have John back at home, I don’t know where he
is, maybe he’s hurt, abandoned or….I don’t know. It’s ridiculous that you come here
to ask if my husband is having an affair,” she said in tears.
“Mrs. Kirkpatrick, I’m glad it’s not the case, but our experience tells us that we
must examine all the possibilities, that included, however painful it is,” Elena
explained to her. She wouldn’t tell her that usually the first calls they did, were
done to hospitals and morgues, a reality that nobody wanted to accept, not even
them.
Checking on some files in the office, Vivian looked as Danny and Elena got into the
bullpen and approached her.
“Hey, what have you got, Viv?” Danny asked.
“Last year, Kirkpatrick had a problem with a client, maybe it’s nothing… maybe
it’s.”
“Who’s the client?” Elena asked.
“That’s the bad news, the coworker that gave me the information, didn’t know the
name. But he knows that he never came back. I’m checking Kirkpatrick’s clients
from the last year and comparing it with the one you brought up this morning,
Danny. Once we have removed the ones still in both profiles, we’ll have to
interview the rest of the clients. I hope it doesn’t take so long,” she explained.
“I understand,” Danny replied, “The woman named Sharon is Kirkpatrick’s sister in
law.”
“Well, then we’ll discount a furious husband which woman ran away with
Kirkpatrick,” Vivian said with a smile.
“She got pretty offended,” Elena commented.
“That’s normal,” Danny said, as he removed a file. “Here we have one that didn’t
repeat experience with Kirkpatrick.”
The three of them spent a long time checking that list and, fortunately, they only
found three clients that, working the last year with Kirkpatrick, didn’t belong to the
profile of the current year.
A short time later, Sam and Martin joined them. “How did you do at the Campus?”
Danny asked.
“Well, the people are pretty affected; Professor Harris is a very loved and
appreciated person by the university community. Students, colleagues and
administration staff only have great words for him,” Martin said with a grimace in
frustration.
“I told you that,” Danny replied, laughing.
“However, we’ve found a clue. His personal secretary noticed two guys. We have
their sketches and Ty is checking the University’s database. Let’s see if any picture
matches with the sketches. What about you?” Sam asked.
“We’ve got a dissatisfied client for the last year. We’ve found three of Kirkpatrick’s
clients for the last year that, right now, don’t work with him. We’ll try to find out
who they are, why they left and if they had any reason to be considered suspects”
Danny informed.
“Are they working to get a commission? If Kirkpatrick would have achieved a good
client’s profile, his disappearance could benefit someone else,” Martin suggested.
“No, they have trusted client-consultant relations and commissions aren’t taken
into consideration,” Danny explained him.
“Maybe he uncovered dirty business from one of his clients,” Sam suggested.
“That’s what we’re investigating, why three of his clients broke their contracts, and
to identify the one who confronted him at the office. It’s not a strong clue but…” he
responded.
Hanging up the phone, Vivian turned to their coworkers. “Well, Michael Andrews
and Philip Smith are still clients of the same firm, they don’t work with Kirkpatrick
though, but it was just a technical matter. This is the other one… Robert Scott. He
works at an editorial firm set in Manhattan. I’m going to interview him.”
“I’ll go with you,” Elena said, picking up her coat.
Listening to his cell phone ringing, Martin placed his mug on the table in the break
room where he had joined Danny and Sam a while ago as they had been waiting for
a match through the database from the University, after Ty, the technician, had
entered the sketches of the guys that Mr. Harris’s secretary had seen outside his
office.
The fatigue of working so many hours was getting to them, especially Danny who
had spent his second night without sleep.
“Fitzgerald… uh… okay, I’m on my way, thanks,” Martin replied. “It’s Ty, he found a
match.”
Finishing their drinks, the three agents quickly left the break room and headed
towards the tech room where he had printed the information about Eric Hill, a
third year Computer Engineering student at Queens College.
“I’m still working on the other description,” Ty said as they entered the room.
Reading the information Ty had handed to him, Martin wondered aloud, “What
interest would a computer student have in a Constitutional Law Professor?”
“Let’s ask him,” Danny suggested.
“Eh guys, here’s the other one,” Ty interrupted him. “Another guy from Queens
College, a Political Sciences student.”
“Same College, different fields of study… maybe they are in the same fraternity,”
Sam commented.
“They both lives at Copland Dormitory, annexed to the Campus,” Ty read the
information he was getting from the computer.
“Okay, thanks Ty,” Martin said. “It’s time to go back to the Campus.”
“Yes,” Danny agreed, looking at the ID of his ringing cell phone. “What’s up, Viv…
well… um… yes, I think so, excuse me for a second.”
Quickly heading for his desk, Danny looked for a file from the ones he had taken
out of Kirkpatrick’s office that morning and Vivian had told him to stop checking.
“Yes, I’ve got it, Viv… his name is Aaron Garcia. I’ve got his address; I’ll talk to him…
okay. Thanks.”
“Well, we’re leaving,” Martin said.
“Okay, I’m going to talk to Jack. Viv and Elena haven’t got anything useful from
Scott, but he told them about another client he met a couple of days ago, pretty
upset with a ruined business. I hadn’t even checked his file yet,” Danny explained.
Heading for Jack’s office, Danny started to feel the tiredness and the lack of sleep. It
was only . pm, but they had been working two cases at the same time for about
twenty hours and it was his second night without sleeping.
Noticing Jack speaking on the phone, he entered the office after softly knock on the
door. Talking to his boss had become somewhat difficult lately, being reduced to a
strictly professional relationship. However, the argument the day before made him
feel nervous.
“Jack,” he asked.
Raising a hand, Jack invited him to enter as he continued speaking to Rick Carter,
as Danny was able to know seconds later. Hanging up the phone, Jack turned to
him. “Sam and Martin just left for the Campus. The database search gave us the
identity of the guys waiting for Professor Harris, two students from Queens
College,” Danny started.
“I’ve been talking to Carter. Do you know that the cases they are working, both
missing persons, have been linked to Queens College?”
“Really? Do you think his case could be connected to Professor Harris’s
disappearance?” Danny asked. “I don’t remember having four different cases at the
same time. It’s strange.”
“Yes, it’s strange, connection or not, I’m pretty sure there is more than one person
involved,” Jack replied.
“Sure. Well, Scott has got an alibi for the time Harris was missing and Vivian and
Elena didn’t notice anything to make them suspect him. However, he told them
about a man named Aaron Garcia, he met some days ago. He was pretty angry at
Kirkpatrick because of a deal gone bad,” Danny explained to him. “I’m going to talk
to him.”
“Okay, I’m going with you,” Jack agreed, standing up and picking up his jacket.
Danny frowned, nervously. The last time he and Jack had shared a drive, the
conversation between them had been anything but comfortable.
Harold Green had been able to sleep for the day but now, at the time to start this
dangerous part of the game, his excitement was growing. He wasn’t sure about the
purpose of the baseball bat yet; unless they were in a dark alley or a place without
any people around, it wouldn’t be easy to hit someone and stay unnoticed.
Moreover, it was the matter about how to move the unconscious man into the car.
No, there has to be another way. Sitting down in front of his desk in his room in the
Dormitory, Harold picked up a couple of Chemistry books. Since the fabric soaked
in chloroform wouldn’t work either, he spent the next two hours looking for
something before finally finding it. Absolutely distracted by the little lab work he
was going to do, he forgot the reason for his search. Looking at the time, he knew
that he would have time enough for preparing everything he needed. A glance at
his time table told him that at . pm one of the labs was empty and he knew
where to find what he needed. He was aware of how disgusted his friends would
be with change the plan from the baseball bat and, instead taking just two syringes.
However, the more the idea was taking form in his mind, the more sure he was that
it was the best approach.
Walking through the corridors of the building, Harold noticed how different
everything looked to him. He almost jumped at a door opening as several students
left the class. Sighing in relief when he finally reached the door of the lab he was
looking for, Harold made sure that there was nobody around. Getting into the lab,
he closed the door and headed for the cabinet where they kept chemistry products.
Leaving the book on the table with trembling hands and taking the exact measure
from each product he found in the labeled bottles kept in a cabinet, Harold filled a
test tube with the different chemical products. The preparation would be ready
after  seconds of centrifugation. This should work out, he hoped, because there
wasn’t any time to test it. Once he introduced the needed amount of the liquid in
two capsules and having taken two new syringes, Harold put everything into his
bag and after cleaning the used material and keeping the products in the cabinet,
left the lab to head back to the dormitory.
His hands were trembling and his heart was racing. It had been his decision; if
something went wrong, it would be his fault. He dropped his bag on the bed and
went into the bathroom; he needed to take a relaxing shower, he needed to stop
thinking. Fortunately, his roommate had gone with his girlfriend and they’d spend
all day out.
“I don’t understand these people,” Danny stated, as they came back to the office.
“Why?” Jack asked, as he was driving the black SUV back to FBI building.
“I don’t understand. First, he trusts his investment to a consultant, this one advises
him the best way. Then he decides to do another thing and he wants that person to
do it because he thinks that a professional will do better than him. If he makes the
right choice, he earns a lot of money and he tells everybody about the intelligent
decision he made; if the deal goes bad, it’s the adviser’s fault, when he had advised
him to make another investment. It’s unfair,” Danny explained in excitement.
Jack burst out laughing. “What’s got you so worried, Danny? Worried about your
investments?”
“What investments?” he asked in a huff.
“Relax, Danny. I’m just talking about your savings,” Jack said.
“I don’t actually have much saved, so there’s not a whole lot to invest” he replied,
knowing that probably it hadn’t been a good idea to start that conversation.
Jack raised an eyebrow.
“I’m… I’m helping my sister in law, Sylvia,” – Danny explained, feeling a little
defensive.
“I understand. How is your brother doing?” Jack asked seriously.
“I…, I don’t know. It’s…it’s complicated, he broke parole and they… we caught him.
He’s aware that he will spend a long time in prison before he is able to get parole
again”, Danny responded. “A part from that, he’s fine. I guess he’s used to living in
prison.”
“Listen, you were only looking out for him. You didn’t catch him, you saved his life.
He got into trouble with drugs by himself.”
“I know,” Danny sighed. It was difficult to articulate, but Danny felt like his feelings
for his family had double meanings. It was a confusing mixture of love and hate
towards his brother, his father… even his mom.
“Well, he’s a father of two, isn’t he? That’s something to fight for,” Jack continued.
“Yeah, I think so,” Danny replied leaning his head on the window.
“Danny, it’s not your responsibility to take care of everything,” Jack said.
“I’m doing it for Nicky and Natalie. Those kids are innocent and, after all, they are
family. It’s hard enough for Nicky to deal with the fact that his father is in prison.
I’m not going to do with them what Rafie did with me,” Danny explained.
“But your nephew and niece have their mom and more family, as well. It’s
different. What I mean is that you don’t have to help them because your brother
screwed up. You don’t have to take his position. He knows the consequences of his
decisions and still, he decided to take the risk.”
“He could have come to me, but he didn’t. He had been feeling bad because I didn’t
want to know anything about him and he understood why I stayed away because
he didn’t feel worthy of my attention. If I hadn’t been so distant with him, this
wouldn’t have happened,” Danny explained, surprised by his own words. It had
been a long time since he’d had the chance to talk to Jack so openly; actually, it had
been a long time since they’d had a discussion that hadn’t ended in an argument.
“Listen, I don’t know enough about your relationship with your brother to advising
you, but I just think that you’re trying to control too many things, and that has to
take a huge toll on you. I know you well enough to know that you are very
committed to the people you care about.”
“What do you mean?” Danny asked.
“I mean Elena and Sofie. Let me explain, please,” Jack said, noticing the disgusted
look that had crept up on Danny. “I don’t know if it’s because of your own
experience or simply because of your character, but you tend to protect them from
something you already lived through, and excuse me for this, but it’s not the same
as what you experienced. History isn’t repeating itself and it’s different too, in this
case. Elena can be worried or even scared sometimes but she has resources to
defend herself and she uses them. If she would have needed help, she would have
asked for it, but it’s clear she doesn’t want to, not at this moment.”
Danny knew what Jack was talking about; it was almost the same thing she had
told him. She wanted to solve the problem by herself. Now, in the car on the way
back to the office, talking to Jack in a way that he hadn’t for a long time, he felt that
he needed to clarify that matter with him, as well.
“I’m… I’m very sorry for the arguments we’ve had about this, Jack… and for my
attitude yesterday, as well.”
“I understand how you felt then and how you feel now. I’m not as involved as you
are and if I’d have been able to do something, I’d have done it, especially after…”
Jack stopped, realizing he was going to say something he didn’t want to.
But it was too late and Danny had understood what he was going to talk about
because Elena had already told him. “Elena told me, she told me that you met
Carlos that night and what he told you.”
“You should understand…I didn’t just stay quiet after that,” Jack responded, smiling
mischievously.
Danny looked at him in surprise.
“Oh, come on Danny, you know me, you all have been blaming me because I take
care of you all so much, so I’ve decided to take safety measures and just not tell,”
Jack continued.
“I don’t get it.”
“Carlos doesn’t know, Elena doesn’t know for sure and you won’t tell but there are
some agents watching Carlos’ moves. If they notice something strange, I’ll know.
You were right about him, he’s dangerous, and he’s nasty and vindictive. The only
reason he hasn’t made a move is because he loves his daughter and he doesn’t
want to lose her permanently.”
“I see.”
“Yes… I’m sorry, Danny. I’m sorry that I was so…insensitive. I don’t want you to
work in a mall, you deserve much more than my trivial answer. I’d only let you to
leave my team to work what you truly wish.”
“I don’t think that I’m able to do it.”
“What happened with the BAR exam?”
“After what happened to Rafie and then Martin, the ambush… I… I wasn’t in the
right frame of mind to study. You know, too many things in my head and then… the
truth is that I almost forgot about it,” Danny replied.
“You shouldn’t drop it. At least, take the time to study and take the exam, you’ll get
your license and then you’ll be able to make your choice, staying with us if you
want, but don’t close yourself to the opportunities, you never know what fate has
for us and taking that exam is a big effort, you already tried it, you can try it again,”
Jack assured him.
“Yeah, well, we’ll see,” Danny responded, not completely convinced.
At that moment, Jack’s cell started to ring. “Malone,” he replied.
“Jack, its Martin, there’s no trace of Hill or Loomis at the Campus, we went to their
rooms. Hill’s roommate said that he left yesterday evening and he hasn’t come
back, but he didn’t think it was strange because it’s something he usually does.
Loomis’ roommate told us that his mom had called in sick and he had left for
Pittsburgh where she lives. We have checked it, his mother not only wasn’t sick but
she hadn’t talk to her son for months. She told us that she didn’t care about him
anymore. It’s not a great mother/son relationship.”
“This makes them look even more like suspects.”
“Yes, the curious thing is that Hill’s roommate doesn’t know Loomis and Loomis’s
roommate doesn’t know Hill. We looked through their personal effects and found
some folders with sketches and notes. At first, we didn’t consider them important
but then we saw similar sketches at Loomis’s place, so we took them out to
determine if they are related to Harris’s disappearance. We took their computers
to investigate their emails and web sites they entered, maybe we find get a
connection.”
As the investigation about Steve Harris’s disappearance started to give some
results, the other case they were working had gone cold.
“Has this happened before?” Danny asked, once Jack cut off the call. “I mean, having
four missing persons at the same time.”
“Yes, long time ago three teams had been working together after seventeen people
went missing at the same time. I remember we spent three days working without
taking a break.”
“Were the cases related among them?”
“Yes, we found out that all of them were related to a religious group…”
“A sect, you mean.”
“Yes, a sect. Well, when we found them, they told us that they wanted to break any
contact with the devil turned into every human in the world but them, of course.”
Jack explained.
“And… what? They thought to live from--”
“From divine inspiration,” Jack replied in his usual skeptical attitude.
Danny burst out laughing. When Jack parked the SUV at the FBI parking lot, Danny
realized that the way back had been more comfortable than he had thought it
would be. When he got out of the car, Jack told him, “Do you have your things
here?”
“Yes, why?”
“Go home, you need a rest.”
“Jack, I don’t need…”
“Don’t argue with me, you didn’t sleep yesterday because there was a party in your
building and last night because you were working. You’ve spent too much time
without a rest. Go home, take a rest and then, come back,” Jack ordered.
Danny was genuinely tired, even though he didn’t want to leave without
concluding the case, but Jack was right, if he didn’t get a rest, he couldn’t think
clear. “All right,” he said.
Heading for his car after saying goodbyes, Danny looked at the time, it was .
pm. He stayed sitting without starting the car and closed his eyes for a moment.
Now he could go back home and the tension of the job was slowly vanishing, the
tiredness was getting its place slowly… slowly… he had to go back home, he had to
go back, he had to take care of so many things… what he was going to do now?
Then, he opened his eyes and faced her staring at him; her eyes were empty,
without brightness, with no life. He tried to say something, he opened his mouth
but no words were said. Around them, everything was darkness even though he
felt another presence he wasn’t able or he didn’t want to identify. But she… she
followed him there where he looked, she was always there, looking at him, and he
knew that she wanted to know… She moved her lips without any sound but he
understood what she said. It was a simple question, ‘why?’. And he didn’t know
how to answer; he had acted by instinct because it had been what he had to do,
because he had to protect her. And then he heard it, he heard the crush of the
metal, breaking around him, he heard solace words not knowing where they came
from, as he went on looking at that woman… his mother.. she did want to know
why… ‘was there another way?’ he wondered. He had only wanted to protect her
and he had failed terribly… he always failed… ‘do you understand, Danny? I told
you to stay away and you didn’t care.’ Danny slightly jumped and turned back. The
noise of the metal breaking had ended, his mother wasn’t there anymore and
suddenly he found himself in that death room he had already been in and in front
of him, just a person, Elena, was looking at him with a tired and sad expression.
And at the back, another person stood up and approached him. ‘It’s not your
responsibility, brother… you don’t have to do this, live your life and let the others
live theirs, take their own responsibilities and take care of their issues, not you’.
He wanted to tell them something but he wasn’t able to and then, his mother again,
stared at him from the back of that room, where his brother had been sitting down
a moment before. And she smiled and nodded and moved her lips but Danny
couldn’t put a sound to her voice, a voice he barely remembered.
He felt the tears rolling down his cheeks. He wanted to hug her, he wanted to hug
the three of them and tell them that he couldn’t do it, he had to take care of them
because it was him that had caused their pain, but there was a thick glass
separating them and he couldn’t go through it, he couldn’t approach them. Unable
to move, he saw in desperation as Elena rose and took Sofie’s hand, who Danny
hadn’t noticed there before, left the place smiling and talking to each other. Sofie
turned back and waved at him -smiling, as they left the place that turned into
darkness.
Then, someone knocked the room’s door and he looked at there. Suddenly, he felt
hands over his shoulders and how he was softly shaken. However, he couldn’t see
anything, everything was dark… he couldn’t open his eyes. Someone put a hand on
his face, a cold hand, close, real, very real. “Danny, wake up!”
Danny opened his eyes and met Vivian looking at him with a worried expression.
He didn’t know what to say, still distracted by the nightmare. “What…?”
“You fell asleep in the car. You should go back home and take a rest, but better, I’ll
drive you,” she explained in concern. “Move yourself to the other seat.”
Danny didn’t protest. He had fallen asleep hardly noticing it and the nightmare had
assaulted him again. “How are you going to get back?” he asked.
“I’ll take the subway,” she replied.
“No… I don’t want to bother you.”
“It’s not a bother; it’s just a safety matter. You fell completely asleep,” she
responded firmly.
“I’m so tired but I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. Eh… the true is that I’m not…”
he started.
“Do you want me to take you to another place?” she asked. She had noticed his face
a second before of waking him up and she was sure he hadn’t had a pleasant sleep.
Skipping the fact that he probably was crying in the dream, he looked to be pretty
anxious. Maybe something that he’d stopped in the past with some drinks of
whiskey. Vivian was aware that he was still fighting against that temptation every
day and she had known the way his coworker used to stop the temptation.
“No, eh… listen, I guess I’ll let the car here and I’ll take the subway. There is a stop
near home and it will be good to walk for a while. So you will be able to go back at
home in your car,” he replied.
“Are you sure?” she asked skeptically.
“Sure, Viv, I’m fine,” he smiled.
“All right,” she agreed.
Both Vivian and Danny got out of the car and said goodbyes. She headed for her
car. It was time to go back home after a difficult day at work. She had finished by
now, even though in the office her coworkers still worked trying to find any clue to
take them to find the missing persons.
Tightening his coat and putting his hands into his pockets, Danny walked for a
while trying to clear his mind, not being able to completely. The image of his
mother in that car turned into a mixture of iron, an image that had stayed with him
for the never ending hours the firemen took to take them out of the car, set firmly
clear in his mind. ‘Live your life’, ‘it’s not your responsibility, brother’. It seemed
like everything that had happened to him lately ended in that room, with those
people piecing together his inner conflicts.
Getting into the subway, he left near the place he usually went when the
temptation of drinking called him stronger than usual. Because there wasn’t a
single day that Danny didn’t wish to end the day at any bar, as he did in the past,
trying to remove bad memories, hate, bitterness and lots of guilt, trying to stop
thinking. The life of a recovering alcoholic wasn’t easy, even though he was sober
for years, and he was aware that he couldn’t lose control. Going back to drinking
would be his ruin and the ruin of a lot of people he didn’t want to hurt. They were
his main strength to win that fight, but sometimes extra help was necessary. Today
was one of those days. When he arrived, someone was talking about how he was
doing. Danny liked to pay attention because the people who explained their
experiences used to be at the beginning of the fight and it reminded him how hard
it had been in the beginning…his beginning.
Frank Wilson had been attending his classes as usual. However, he hadn’t been
able to pay attention during the classes at all. Trying to appear casual, he had met
some classmates in the afternoon; but, afraid of falling apart in front of them, he
finally had opted to go to the quiet library. It hadn’t been a good choice at all; the
silent, peaceful place made it impossible for him not to think about what they were
going to do later in the night. Every time he glanced at the time, less minutes had
pass than he had anticipated and all he had accomplished was scribbling on a sheet
of paper with an opened book in front of him, he hadn’t even had looked at. When
the clock finally showed : p.m., Frank closed his eyes for a moment and thought
about his wish, repeating in his mind several times those words written on the
paper… he had to get it. He’d do whatever he had to do to win that game and get his
award. Picking up his things, Frank left the library and headed for the subway.
Thirty minutes later, he entered at his home.
“Hi, Dad,” he said, leaving the books on a table.
“Hey, Franky? How were classes today?” he asked, lifting his eyes from the
newspaper he was reading.
“Great, but we’re behind with a project. Ronnie says that I can spend the night at
his place to finish it.”
“Where are you going?” his mom asked, entering the living room.
“Hi, mom. It’s… it’s a project we have to finish. We were bogged down with a
demonstration and we couldn’t talk to the teacher until today. Ronnie told me that
I can spend the night at his place, to finish the work.”
“Ronnie… oh, do you mean Ronnie Lewis?”
Frank smiled. “Yes, mom. That Ronnie.”
“That’s right. Take your pajamas and don’t forget your overnight kit. Ronnie is a
good boy, I got a good impression from him when he came here,” his mom said.
“Yes, he’s a good friend,” Frank agreed.
Leaving the living room quickly, Frank went up to his room. Closing the door, he
could feel his heart racing. It looked as though his parents didn’t realize he wasn’t a
boy anymore. He was treated like a twelve year old kid, but the last thing he
needed now was to start an argument with them. Actually, he didn’t care anymore.
He looked around his room that barely had changed for the last seven years, except
the books and papers from school and he grimaced. He would be far from there
soon. Opening the closet, he took his bag out and checked to make sure he had all
the necessary stuff in the bag, adding his pajamas and toothbrush. He didn’t have
much time and he couldn’t afford to be late.
“Well, I’m leaving,” he said.
His mom approached him and kissed his forehead lovingly. “Be careful, son,” she
said with a smile.
For a second, he remained looking at her and he felt a knot in his stomach. Why
was her failure the love she felt for him? She was his mom, she always had taken
care of him, maybe in an exaggerated way, but Frank was her kid, her little
treasure, the only kid she had been able to give birth to. Frank tried to stop that
thought but he couldn’t. Fearing his sad expression would betray him, he hugged
his mom. “Sure, mom, I’m only going to Ronnie’s home.”
Driving his father’s van, Kevin looked for a dark place near where their first pawn
lived. Spotting the car, he waited for a while, mentally checking all the operations,
once again. It was what he had been doing for the entire day, he didn’t want to
leave anything to improvisation but he was still worried about the second pawn. If
they weren’t able to catch him tonight, they would be behind one more day. ‘Okay,
let’s go,’ he encouraged himself, getting out of the car. He opened the back door
and picked up his bag containing a flashlight, the balaclava and the dice they surely
would need. Then, he walked towards the bar where his pawn, according to the
instructions, stopped by every night after closing the pet shop.
Frank arrived first. Getting into the bar, he looked for his friends in the crowd but
he didn’t see them. He didn’t recognize the guy from the picture either, so he left
the bar and then he saw Harold.
“Hi,” he said nervously, his hands in his pockets.
“Hi,” Frank said looking at him up and down. “Where do you have the bat?”
Harold shook his head. “I’ve got something better.”
“What! Are you crazy, man? We agreed to do it a certain way, Harold, you can’t
change things as your please!”
“Trust me, I’ve found a chemical composition that will leave them unconscious
instantly. They won’t know what’s happened to them. I’ve prepared two syringes
with enough dosage to make them sleeping for two or three hours. We only have to
inject them with it and that’s it.”
“Damn it, Harold.”
“No damn it, Frank. How do you think we are going to hit those guys with a
baseball bat and go unnoticed, huh?” Harold asked.
“You’re sure that this will work?”
“Sure, it’ll work,” he stated.
“What will work?” Kevin asked joining them. “Hi guys, I’ve parked the van in a dark
place…out of sight.”
“The genius here has changed the plan,” Frank announced, motioning to Harold.
Kevin frowned, as Harold took out the two syringes. “Doesn’t matter where we
prick them; an arm, a leg, on his back. They won’t have time to react and they’ll
stay sleeping for two hours, time enough to get them to the apartment, right?”
“Are you sure that this will work?”
“I’ve spent all day studying it and it will work,” Harold replied emphatically.
“Okay,” Kevin said as he looked at Frank. “Have you gone in yet?”
“I did,” Frank responded, “He isn’t here yet.”
“Well, let’s go it and wait…get a drink or something. He’ll be here soon. Let’s see if
we can end this first part,” Kevin said going into the bar.
The other two exchanged a fearful look before following him.
Some minutes later, a blonde man about  years old, matching with the picture
JD had left them, arrived at the bar. He stayed there for about  minutes,
drank a beer and chatted with some people. Then he left. At that time, Kevin,
Harold and Frank left the bar and Kevin took some steps ahead towards the place
where the van was parked. Harold and Frank walked slowly and soon the man
went past them. Following him would be simple. Noticing Frank leaning on the van,
Frank gave Harold a nudge. He was trembling as the moment was getting closer,
just hoping to stay strong enough to do it. Putting their balaclavas on their heads,
Harold pulled out the syringe, removing the protection from the top. Pushing it a
little, he let to escape a few drops to let the air escape. Frank remained one step
behind him, as Harold sped up his steps. Pricking the needle in the man’s arm, he
quickly pushed the liquid inside his body. The man didn’t have time to say a word.
Frank and Kevin stepped in front of him to stop him from falling down and then
they quickly maneuvered him into the van. One quick glance around told them that
nobody had seen what had happened. Everything was going as they had planned.
After getting into the van, Kevin started it, and then consciously resisted the
temptation of pressing the accelerator too hard. Finally, they started driving
towards the apartment in Maspeth.
It was a little more difficult getting the man into the building and taking him into
the apartment. Pretending to be friends coming from a party and one of them was
drunk, they entered the building and took the elevator. Fortunately, hey didn’t
encounter anyone on their way before entering the apartment. They left the man
on the floor and Kevin turned on the lights.
“Damn it, Harold, put it there!” Kevin exclaimed, flushed with happiness. “You are
brilliant!”
Harold shook his hand shyly and nervously, still trembling because of what they
had just done. On the other hand, Frank didn’t want to think about anything, he
only wanted to do something; it was the only way he found to stop the fear he was
feeling. Dropping his bag on the floor, he took the handcuffs and the rope. Then, he
put the sketch on the floor to see how they had to tie the man up to the tube. It
wasn’t simple, since the man was unconscious but they dragged him to the tube
number  and put him on his knees. Then he was handcuffed and his feet were tied
up as it was described in the sketch. The unconscious man tended to fall down but
his back and legs stayed perfectly lined with the tube and he stayed up on his
knees. Harold felt a lump in his throat as he looked at the result.
“It looks that JD calculated the measurements exactly,” he commented.
“Yes, it’s just like the sketch,” Kevin responded. “Well guys, its . pm, what do
you think about going to our other target’s home to scope it out? This part is going
so well that I’d like to end it tonight; we’re still behind, you know.”
“All right,” Frank agreed, more because he just wanted to leave than any other
reason.
Exciting about the success of his idea and feeling very important, Harold was ready
to repeat the experience only leaving the question about when the man would
wake.
The documents found in the rooms of Eric Hill and Dennis Loomis were spread out
on the conference table, as Sam and Elena were studying them. Martin was still
waiting for the information from the computers.
Thoughtfully, Elena picked up one of the sketches. It was the only really interesting
thing. “It looks to be picture of something,” she said. Then she read the marginal
notes, but everything looked to be written in a code. “This seems familiar to me,”
she murmured.
“What have you got?” Jack asked, joining them.
“We’ve got nothing, yet,” Sam replied, “except these sketches and notes. We’ve
found some of them in both Loomis and Hill rooms. But we don’t know what they
mean. How did you do?”
“Aaron García could be furious at Kirkpatrick but he has a good alibi,” Jack
commented picking up one of the sheets. Staring at them, he frowned. “It’s a game,”
he concluded.
“Yes!” Elena exclaimed. “Now I remember why those notes sounded me so familiar.
My brother, Miguel, used to take part in those games. It’s similar to role-playing
games on the computer, but without it. There were basic rules and a general
instruction of the game in order to complete a puzzle, anything the leader could
think about. I remember seeing him at home doing scribbles and notes like that.
They met once or twice a month, checking the progress of each one. Then, they
threw the dice to signal the following steps. Sometimes it was a simple instruction,
other times it was sketches like these.”
“So this is like a … role-playing game?” Jack asked, thoughtful.
“Becoming real?” Sam finished in concern.
“Hey guys, I’ve got something,” Martin announced, approaching them from the tech
room. “The day of Professor Harris’s disappearance, there is an exchange of instant
messages among Hill, Loomis and a guy called Joe Rodríguez. Listen, the first
message is sent by Hill: ‘Pawn  at home, wait for him leaving.’ Loomis replies:
‘Pawn  as usual, let’s take him and wait for the other’. Hill, again: ‘No,  is under
control, let’s wait for pawn  leaving to catch him.’ Loomis replies: ‘Ok, I’m on my
way’. Hill messages Rodríguez: ‘We need the van ready at pawn ’s home’.
Rodríguez: ‘time?’. Hill: ‘Right now’. That was the last message.”
“Anything else?” Jack asked.
“No,” Sam replied.
“Hill and Loomis live in a Dormitory on campus, their roommates didn’t know the
other guy. If they have been planning this together, they must have another place
to meet.” Martin suggested.
“Yeah, it makes sense. What about Joe Rodríguez?” Jack asked.
“He’s an Art student at Queens College. In his profile, we found the address of his
parents in Tennessee. I’ve called them and they told me that two months ago Joe
commented about moving from the Residence to a new apartment, with some
friends. The last time they talked to him had been a week ago and everything
seemed normal. They don’t know his current address even though he told them the
apartment was great. He never told about any Loomis or Hill,” Martin explained.
“The last address for Rodríguez is Victoria Dormitory. It’s on Campus” – Elena said,
reading the computer. “Wait a second, I’ve got something. He has a job in a pizzeria
in Queens, Da Carmelo.”
“Well, who wants to have a dinner?” Jack asked.
“Hello, are you the owner?” Sam asked, showing her FBI ID.
“Yes, I’m Tullio Abatte,” he said frowning. “Excuse me but, would you mind
lowering that?” he asked, referring to her badge. “It’s not good publicity.”
“What? Got something to hide?” Martin asked suspiciously.
“No, absolutely not. What do you want?” he asked in bad mood.
“Does Joe Rodríguez work here?” Sam asked smiling.
“I thought you said you were FBI.”
“We are, why?”
“Aren’t you from immigration?”
“No, we just need to talk to him,” Sam explained.
“He’s not here today, but his next shift is tomorrow night. Let me see.”
Heading for his office, Martin and Sam followed the man who checked the white
board on the wall. “Yes, he’s working tomorrow from : to . pm.”
“Was he working last night?” Martin asked.
“No, Joe works hourly, every two days. He wants to buy a car and move to an
apartment. At least, that’s what he told me.”
“Do you have his address?” Sam asked.
“Yes, excuse me a second.” Abatte picked up a big file and opened it. “Let’s see, yes
here it is, Victoria Dormitory at Queens College. He’s a good guy.”
“Okay, thanks so much.”
Sam and Martin left the pizzeria. “If we don’t find the current address or Loomis
and Hill show up, we’ll have to come back tomorrow night,” Sam said, stifling a
yawn. “Oh my God, I’m exhausted, I’m going back home and I’ll try to sleep. We
don’t have anything else to do now.”
“No,” Martin said, “I’ll go back to the office, I left my keys there.”
“All right, I… I’ll take a cab,” she said. “See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Looking at Martin as he approached to the car, Sam thought about how different
everything was for them now! It seemed as thought there had been nothing
between them. It had been her fault, she had to recognize that she never was good
with relationships; she had always feared commitment, a real commitment. Maybe
it was the reason she had felt so comfortable with Jack, he was married then so
there wasn’t any place for commitment. But she had felt guilty for loving him
knowing that he had two little daughters he loved so much. Why is everything so
complicated, she thought? Paying attention to the cars on the street, she finally
hailed a cab to go back home. It had been a long day at work and now that they had
taken a break on the way, she felt the tiredness invading her body.
Thinking about Professor Harris, Martin drove back to the office trying to stay
awake. Hearing his cell phone ring, he could see on the display that Elena was
calling him. “What’s up? " he asked.
“I’ve got nothing at Victoria’s Dormitory. Rodríguez left two weeks ago. He hasn’t
given his new address to the administration yet.”
“He’s not working tonight at the pizzeria, but he’ll be there tomorrow night. We’ll
have to wait,” Martin responded, his voice resigned.
“Okay, take a break, Jack is still here and Vivian will join later. We’re not going to
leave Mr. Harris alone,” Elena reassured him noticing the concern in Martin’s voice.
Since Professor Harris’s case would have to wait, apparently until they found any
of the guys that appeared to have kidnapped him, John Kirkpatrick’s case was
deadlocked, maybe that coworker was right and he had run away with another
woman. It wasn’t the first time it happened. Driving back to the office, Martin
remembered Patrick Kent’s case, a man married to his boss’s daughter and one day
he went missing. It was one of his first cases at the Missing Persons Unit and he
ended up in San Diego, with Danny, when their relationship wasn’t exactly friendly.
During that trip, things between them started to change and right now he
considered Danny as his best friend, a friendship based in respect and mutual
trust.
Once he left the SUV and picked up the keys of home, Martin headed for the street
and took a cab. Sure he needed a rest, even though he didn’t think he would be able
to sleep.
Kevin rubbed his hands nervously as Frank paced on the street. Harold tightened
his coat and got into the van. It was a cold night and they were already waiting for
almost one hour. Kevin didn’t believe they had to wait for another day, Frank
wanted to end it right now and Harold just thought about repeating the experience.
He didn’t know why he felt so excited about what they were doing, but for the first
time in his life, he felt important. In a way, a part of his dream, of the wish he had
written on that piece of paper, was becoming real.
“Hey,” Frank whispered. “I think he’s coming.”
Kevin looked at the distracted man approaching them and confirmed his identity.
“Yes, he is,” he said, looking away.
Getting out of the car, Harold noticed the adrenalin release once again. Remaining
behind the car until the man passed them, he followed him as he had done with
their first pawn. Some steps ahead, he pricked the needle and injected the liquid.
The man fell down with a groan, being held by Frank and Kevin. Again, they got
him into the van and came back to Maspeth apartment.
It had been very easy. Kevin was excited, he couldn’t believe that they had gotten
both targets without any mistakes. Nobody had seen them, so no one would notice
anyone was missing for a couple of days – giving them time to find out what more
JD had in store for them.
Looking at the time constantly, Harold wondered if the other man would be awake.
He was worried about it, he didn’t know if he could keep calm if the man started to
yell or told them something. He looked at Frank who nodded. He was thinking the
same; however, Kevin looked so confident that neither of them dared to say a
word.
This time, they took the balaclavas before going into the room and Kevin warned
them from not telling their names or talking to the other man. “Remember, they
are just pawns in our game,” he instructed.
Once the door of the room was opened, they saw the man fighting against the
restraints. When he noticed them, he stopped and looked at them in surprise. “Who
are you? What do you want from me?” he yelled.
But following the instructions, none of them said a word; they didn’t even look at
him, one for simple scorn, the other two because they didn’t dare. They knew that
if they looked at him, they couldn’t go on with the game.
“What the hell are you doing? What do you want?” the man yelled again. “Why
don’t you tell me anything? Look at me! Answer me!”
Kevin wanted to slap his face to shut him up, but he told himself that it wasn’t
worth it, they were only pawns in the game and pawns don’t speak.
They set the other man’s lifeless body in the same position as the first one and
repeated the operation. Once he checked the first one’s ropes, Kevin picked up the
sketch from the floor and saw that it matched with the sight in front of him.
“Where’s the camera?” he asked.
Frank handed him the camera with trembling hands and glanced at the two men.
He couldn’t believe what they were doing. He closed his eyes and thought about
the reward he was going to get, but it didn’t satisfy him like he thought it would
have.
After taking the picture, Kevin handed the camera to Frank who was grateful to
stay busy with the computer.
Heading for the door, once he had printed the photo, Harold asked. “May I check
one thing?”
“What do you want to look at?”
“How it worked… I want to look if it left a mark,” he replied.
Kevin stared, not understanding him. “No, what the hell do you care if it left a mark
or not?”
“I don’t know; I’m interested in knowing it.”
“Don’t be so curious, let’s go right now.”
Closing the door of the house, they left the building towards the subway.
“Well, I’m going to the garage, I’ll leave the pictures in the locker and I’ll stay there
to sleep,” Frank said.
“How’s that?”
“I told my parents I’d stay out tonight. I don’t want to hear any stupid comments
Kevin, or you’ll have a problem with me. I’m not exactly in a good mood.”
“Hey, come on, relax buddy, everything has gone perfectly, what more do you
want?” Kevin said smiling.
Frank and Harold felt uncomfortable with the situation and uncomfortable with
Kevin who didn’t seem to have any problem with what they were doing with.
Frank left the subway towards the garage as Kevin and Harold went on their way
to the Dormitory. The released adrenalin hadn’t let them to feel the tiredness they
started.
 -
Taking the subway to Jackson Heights, Frank couldn’t help but feel the urgent need
to end the game. Once he went into the garage, left his bag on the table and
approached the locker number , he opened it and left the pictures. After closing it,
he opened his small case to leave the key inside but found a new note and a key.
Picking up the note , he read it and frowned. The night would be longer than he had
thought. With the key in his hand, he headed for the locker number  and opened
it. He took out a cell and a piece of paper with a text written on it. There was an
envelope and new instructions.
“This is for tonight, Frank. If you are here, it is because you’ve caught your pawns.
Congratulations, I’ll have fun later with the pictures you took but by now, we’re going
to give a twist of excitement to the game. You’ve been easier than your teammates,
the police are alerted and that fact brings a certain risk. Well, call to your friends
right now and meet them in the garage. So you’ll share together this moment, these
simple instructions.”
Pulling out his phone cell, Frank called Kevin who had just arrived at his room.
“Hey, you have to come back, this is not finished. I’ll wait for you both in the
garage.”
“Okay.” Kevin hit the end button and dialed Harold number. “Harold?”
“Yes, what’s up?”
“We’re going back to the garage; there are new instructions.”
“Okay,” he said. Harold stepped back. So the game hadn’t finished yet. Two hours
later and the other man would be awoken as well. What would JD want from them
now? A wave of fear invaded him as he headed back quickly to the garage.
“I’m reading,” Frank said just watching his friends. “Here you have a cell phone.
Don’t be afraid, it’s untraceable. I’ve left you a note that one of your pawns should
read. Throw the dice to know who of them will make the call. If the number of the
dice is odd, then your pawn number  will make the call. If it is even, it’s turn for your
pawn number .”
“Don’t tell me they’re going to make a call!” Kevin frowned. “They’re going to alert
to their families or the police.”
“Wait a moment, it says something else. ‘In any case, the call will be completed at
. am exactly. At that time of morning, he’ll just get voicemail, so don’t worry. The
pawn number one will call to  and pawn number two will call to
. The one making the call will read the text I’ve written. That’s all. Don’t
forget to take a photograph as he’s calling. Frank will come back to the garage to put
the photo in the locker.
Tomorrow night, you’ll find a new mission. I want you to stay in the garage at .
pm. Good luck.’”
Looking at the time, Kevin shook his head in disbelief. Having three hours to kill,
they remained in the garage, reading the note over and over as the doubts came to
them. “I don’t know, it’s very risky,” Kevin said.
“That’s exactly what the note says, he wants some excitement, ‘you’ve been easier
than your teammates, the police are alerted and doing this brings a certain risk’”
Frank explained.
“I don’t… I’m not sure about going back there,” Harold said fearfully. He didn’t want
to remember what he’d been forced to see then.
“Don’t watch them, Harold, don’t watch them,” Kevin encouraged him, “If you want,
stay away, you’ll take the computer for printing the photos and I’ll take care of
everything.”
“And, how are we going to keep the other man quiet as the call is being made?”
Frank suddenly asked.
“Do you have a piece of fabric? We’ll keep it in his mouth and it’s done, it’ll take just
a moment. Then we’ll leave.”
“What will happen if someone answers the call, if they try to alert someone?” Frank
asked again.
“They won’t. Do you have the syringes, Harold?” Kevin asked.
“Yes, why?” he said pulling them out of his pocket.
“Great, do you know what would happen if you inject air in the blood vessel? It
would be a lethal injection. He won’t dare to skip a word of the text,” Kevin
explained.
“But… if… if we kill him, we won’t win the game,” Harold said perplexed.
“Don’t be stupid, nobody is going to die, he’s not going to push in, he will just
threaten to do it.” Frank responded.
Covering their heads with the balaclavas, Frank opened the apartment’s door;
Kevin quickly reiterated the instructions: no talking to them, not telling names; act
quickly and leave.
Entering the room, they realized their pawns had woken, because they started to
yell in the unison. “Eh! What the hell do you want from us? Who are you?”
Harold froze at the door, not wanting to enter. He hadn’t looked at them, but Frank
was having similar problems coping with the situation. None of them said a word;
instead, they sat down on the floor in front of them and Kevin took the dice.
“Shit, is this a game? Are you playing with us? Do you know what you’ve done to
us? For a stupid, childish game?”
Kevin stood up, his face red in anger. If there was something he couldn’t bear, it
was being called a childish. He had heard that insult too many times in his life.
Frank tightly grabbed his arm and forced him to sit down. “Don’t do it, if you hit
him now and then he turns out to be the one making the phone call, he won’t be
able to do it. If you want to hit him, do it later, but remember what they are.”
Disappointed with his own stupid attitude, Kevin sat down on the floor. He took
the dice and threw them sharply. “Eight,” he announced grimacing. Harold handed
him the note with the text and the telephone number for the pawn number
without saying a word. He was terrified. Standing up, Kevin approached the man
that seconds ago he wanted to hit on his face.
“Well, do you recognize this number?” he asked, holding the paper in front of him.
The other remained silent.
“Eh, don’t you say anything now?” Kevin asked. He pulled out the syringe and
showed it to him. “It’ll be easy, but very painful.”
He didn’t get an answer.
“Okay, if that’s how you want to play it,” Kevin said. He pulled out a razor from his
pocket and ripped the fabric of the man’s sleeve. He tied up the man’s arm with the
rest of the fabric and looked for a vein to insert the syringe.
“What are you doing?” the man asked fearfully.
“What do you think? Are you going to tell me if you recognize the number or not?”
“All right… all right, it’s my boss’s number,” the other replied, realizing that this
guy was willing to make good on his threat.
“Well, that’s okay. You’ve learned to read, haven’t you? I’m going to dial this
number and you’ll leave this message on the voicemail, this text exactly. If you skip
a word, you know what I’ll do to you, right?”
The other remained silent for a moment. It was his opportunity to alert his boss,
but doing it and keeping the other unnoticed wouldn’t be easy. “All right,” he finally
agreed.
“Let’s do it.” Kevin said. Standing up, Frank took the fabric he had ripped and
approaching the other man, put it in his mouth. Then, Kevin dialed the number and
held the cell close to the man’s ear. He approached to hear if the voicemail started.
“This is Special Agent Jack Malone, from the Missing Persons Unit, FBI, New York.
Leave a message and your phone number and we’ll call back as soon as possible.”
Then, the typical beep sound, indicating to leave a message. It was the voicemail,
everything had been worked out perfect.
As they had agreed, after making the call and taking the photos, Harold printed and
handed them to Frank, who went back to the garage and left them in the next
locker. Not finding anything new to do, he opened his sleeping bag and, feeling
exhausted, got into it. Kevin had gone back with Harold to the Campus where they
had separated to go to their respective rooms. None of them were able to sleep that
night. If every day was going to be like this first night, it would be really difficult to
stay calm, attend classes and talk to their classmates as usual.
Meanwhile, in the room at the apartment in Maspeth, the two men had been
fighting to free their feet that kept them restrained against that tube, keeping their
back straight on it, with their knees resting painfully against the hard floor.
“Could you get a message to your boss?”
“I’m not sure; I hope it sounded odd enough to make him suspect something. I
don’t usually speak to him so formally,” the other said, struggling with his legs.
“We’re not going to get out of here, are we?” the first one asked.
“I sure as hell am not going to stay here,” the other responded, as he furiously
fought against the ropes.
“Me either, but I don’t see how you’re going to free yourself, you’re only going to
hurt yourself. I tried before you regained consciousness.”
“Did you see anything? Did they say anything that caught your attention?”
“I didn’t see anything, just felt the prick on my arm and then I woke up here. I
yelled at them when they came in with you but they didn’t even look at me.”
“How long was I unconscious?”
“I don’t know, two or three hours, maybe. Why are you questioning me like that?”
the man asked suspiciously.
“I guess I’m trying to look for any clue as to when we’ll leave this place,” the other
man responded, impatience lacing his voice. “Do you know why they took you?”
“I don’t have any idea. You?”
“No. Have you noticed anything odd for the last couple of days?”
The man attempted to shrug. “No, my life is very normal. I have a pet shop and I
spend most of my day there. Then I usually stop in a nearby bar to drink a couple
of beers and then I go back home.”
“I see… I’m Danny Taylor, by the way. What’s your name?”
“Jules Michel Osborne.”
His natural curiously getting the best of him, Danny asked, “Where is your name
from? Is it French?”
“Not me, but the name is. My mom taught literature. She loved reading and one of
her favorite authors was Jules Verne… so that’s my name.”
“Got it… what about Michel?”
“It’s Verne second name but also it’s because Michel Strogoff, the zar’s dispatch
rider; do you know the novel?”
“No,” Danny answered quietly.
It was a nonsensical conversation, considering the situation they were in, but it
helped to get their minds off the pain from their legs and back, as they temporarily
gave up on trying to escape.
“My home has lots of books,” then Jules continued, clearly thankful for the
diversion. “My parents instilled in me the love of literature since I was a child. My
mom said that reading gives culture and wisdom, fostering the imagination and
well, there is something useful right there, it helped a lot with the spelling at
school,” Jules explained as he tried to loosen the ropes. “Damn it, these ropes… did
you know that Michel Strogoff was captured by Mongols and they tortured
him…leaving him blind?”
“There’s a pleasant though,” Danny deadpanned.
“Yes, well, being blind, he got to run away from them and take an important letter
to the zar had given him to its destination. My mom used to read me that story
when I was a child until I fell asleep – so I always had a lot of adventures in my
dreams. She loved it and she always told me why she chose that name for me and
she said that it was her favorite book. I liked it too, but when I read ‘Journey to the
Center of the Earth’ I got fascinated. That Jules Verne had a lot of imagination and
he was ahead of his years. Do you know that he wrote a novel about travel to the
Moon that was very similar to the Apollo missions… and he lived in XIX century.”
Danny remained silent and Jules realized that his conversation hadn’t helped him
in the same way it helped him. “Listen Danny… it’s Danny, isn’t it? Why don’t you
tell me something about you?”
“There’s nothing to tell,” Danny responded, sounding resigned.
“I don’t believe that. How did you become a fed?”
This time, Danny tried to shrug. “By accident or strange twist of fate. I wanted to
become a lawyer. But after law school, I failed the BAR exam. After that, I had to
find a job and a friend of mine told me I should apply to the FBI because they’re
always looking for people with law degrees. I submitted an application, got
accepted, attended the course at Quantico and finally made it as an agent,” he
responded, matter-of-factly.
“Do you like your work?”
“I like to help people. Looking for missing people isn’t always pleasant work, it’s
hard when you don’t find them or don’t find them alive, for sure. When you do find
them, though, it’… it’s pretty great,” Danny responded.
“Yes, I can imagine. Do you think they will find us? I live alone, nobody will miss
me, except my little pets, they’ll be without food soon,” Jules rambled, worry
evident in his tone.
“I… I don’t know. Actually, my coworkers are the ones that could find something
strange in the call or in my absence from work. I hope that’s the case, but I don’t
know how they’re going to find us. Usually, there is a relationship between the
missing people and their captors or any fact to cause the disappearance. In this
case, it looks as though it hasn’t happened like that. I don’t know those guys, and I
have no idea why I’m here. Maybe they just chose us randomly. Those dice…. this
looks like it’s all a game to them,” Danny explained.
Wanting to get his mind off Danny’s blunt explanation, Jules asked, “Don’t you have
a family?”
“No, well, I have a brother but we barely see each other. My parents died years ago
so… actually, I don’t have a family,” Danny replied, not wanting to go into further
detail.
“Do you want to talk anymore or should I shut up?” Jules asked, not sure how to
gauge Danny’s mood.
“May you could tell me what that Michel Strogoff did to run away from the
Mongols? Maybe we can take some idea from it, even though I have the feeling we
won’t leave this place unless we are found or these guys get tired of the game and
release us.”
Jack arrived early to the office. In spite of his fatigue, he had barely slept for four
hours still mentally working the two still-hot cases. He felt that he was missing
something and he wasn’t able to sleep. But he had to get some sleep to keep his
mind clear – to be able to see the little things that, most of the times, solved a case.
With a mug of coffee and his newspaper that he surely wouldn’t read, he headed to
his desk and listened to his messages as he glanced at the news.
His coworkers had arrived early as well. Martin and Elena had left for the Centre
where Joe Rodríguez was studying as Sam had gone to Victoria Dormitory.
Vivian was checking all the information they had received about the two cases.
When she checked the emails the guys exchanged, something caught her attention.
“Jack, look at this. These emails talk about two pawns. Listen, ‘‘Pawn  at home,
wait for him leaving.’ Loomis replies: ‘Pawn  as usual, let’s take him and wait for
the other’. Hill, again: ‘No,  is under control, let’s wait for pawn  leaving to catch
him.’ How is it possible we didn’t see this before?”
Taking the paper Vivian was handing him, Jack read carefully the text, frowning.
“Are they waiting to catch the other or they already caught him?”
“I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence but I was checking John Kirkpatrick’s case.
He was linked to Queens College for four years and he was the leader of a
fraternity called Zeta Delta.”
“Both cases could be connected,” Jack concluded. “Until now we have a white van
and all of them, the guys and our two missing persons are related to Queens
College. Moreover, if this is a game, maybe there are more people involved. I have
to talk to Rick; his two missing persons are also connected to Queens College. Great
catch, Viv.”
It was . am when on the th floor of the FBI building, two teams shared the
status of their cases. Four missing persons and three suspects that looked related
to two of them.
“Well,” Rick started, “it looks that everything is happening around Queens College.
If this is a game, maybe there are more people involved, more players, maybe more
missing persons. We must act fast to stop whatever this is.”
Jack picked up the pen and headed to the whiteboard, starting to write at the time
he explained to them.
“We have four missing persons:
First, Steve Harris,  years old, Constitutional Law’s Professor in Queens College.
He disappeared about . pm as he headed for a shop near his home.
Second, John Kirkpatrick,  years old, he’s an economist working as investment
adviser. He attended Queens College and he was the leader of a fraternity called
Zeta Delta. He disappeared about . pm, when he took his dog for a walk.
In both cases, a white van was seen by the witness because it left the area at a high
speed, even though they didn’t see anyone take anybody.”
“Third,” Rick Carter went on with the explanation, “Jake Thomas,  years old, he
works as assistant at the District Attorney’s office. His disappearance was reported
yesterday morning, after the strange call he left at his office. The last news we
know about him is that he called his wife about . pm to tell her that he was
going to dinner with friends and not to wait up for him. After the dinner, at a
restaurant in Manhattan, his friends declared that Thomas took a cab to go home,
in Brooklyn. It was the last time they saw him. We checked the cab company and
we were lucky. The cab driver told us that he left him near his home about .
pm.”
“Fourth, Brian Allen,  years old, he is the owner of a sport shop in Brooklyn. He
was the trainer of the football team at Queens College for two years, but he had to
quit after a leg injury. He closed the shop at . pm. It was the last time he was
seen. He had agreed to meet some friends to watch a game on TV but he never
arrived. They called his home, but he wasn’t there either. The next morning his
disappearance was reported.”
“The four went missing on the same night, in a frame time along . pm, Steve
Harris, and . pm, Jake Thomas. All the leads have gone cold, except Steve
Harris’s case. If the cases are, as we think, related, maybe we’ll find the solution for
all of them there, if we get to find Harris,” Jack concluded.
“There’s something I don’t get,” Vivian said. “These missing persons and the people
we are investigating are linked to Queens College. However, only one of our
missing person suspects could know Professor Harris, since the rest of them left
Queens College years ago. I mean, is it just a coincidence? Who is choosing the
victims? Is there someone pulling the strings for all of this?”
There were a bunch of questions and everything lead to the same people, Eric Hill,
Dennis Loomis and Joe Rodríguez. At that moment, there was no trace of two of
them, they didn’t know about Joe Rodríguez and all their hopes fell on that
pizzeria.
“One thing we can do is check if our missing persons attended or worked at Queens
College at the same time. If that’s the case, maybe it’s an old student who is doing
this,” Martin suggested.
“Then, we’ll have a lot of suspected ex-students,” Sam commented. “We’re going to
need extra help if we have to look for all of them.”
“At least, we are now two teams working toward the same goal,” Elena said. “By
the way, where’s Danny?”
“He called in sick, he’ll take some days off, he needs it,” Jack replied.
“Sure,” Martin said, “He didn’t look good last night. Well, let’s see, Brian Allen is the
one who spent less time in Queens College, from  to .”
“Jake Thomas attended Queens College from  to ,” Laura Mitchell, from
Carter’s team, said.
“And John Kirkpatrick is one year older than Thomas, so surely he coincided at the
same time… let me see… yes, from  to ,” Vivian said.
“Professor Harris has been working there for  years so it’s for sure he was there
at that time,” Elena said.
“Well, anyone want to take a break for a bite to eat before starting?” Martin asked.
Laura laughed. “Gosh, I had heard about your hearty appetite, I see it’s true.”
“What do you mean? You’ll be grateful later, when you’re hungry and you can’t
focus on all this work we have ahead of us,” he said with a smile.
 -
Preparing a tray to take to a table, Joe Rodríguez didn’t realize the two agents
blocking his way.
“Are you Joe Rodríguez?” Jack asked, invading his space.
“Yes… why? What’s the matter?” the other replied fearfully.
“We want you to ask you some questions,” Jack said.
“What do you want? Listen, I’m working, if my boss…”
“Your boss already knows,” Jack cut him off. “What can you tell us about Eric Hill
and Dennis Loomis?”
“Who? I don’t know them,” Joe replied.
“Great. So, why you are exchanging emails and instant messages with people you
don't know?” Sam asked.
Joe looked at the other agent with a mixture of fear and surprise. “Eh… well, I don’t
know them. I just…”
“Do you have a white van?” Jack asked impatiently.
“No…”
“But your boss has one, right? So you can drive it any time.”
“Yes, well, to...to run errands,” Joe stammered.
“Would you mind to telling us what were you doing yesterday about . pm?”
Jack inquired.
“I was at home.”
“Who can corroborate that?” Sam followed up.
“I was alone, watching TV.”
His eyes narrowing, Jack asked, “And… what were you watching?”
“I don’t know, I don’t remember, I was just watching TV,” Joe responded, sounding
more uncomfortable by the minute.
Shaking his head slightly, Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Where do you
live?”
“Eh, two blocks from here.”
“Great," he replied. "Let’s go to your home.”
“What!" Joe exclaimed, his voice laced with panic now. " I… I know my rights. You…
you haven’t got a search warrant.”
Slipping her hand into her pocket, Sam took out an official-looking document.
Smiling, she showed it to him. “I’m sorry, but we actually have that covered.”
Joe shook his head nervously. “All right, listen, I don’t know anything, okay? It was
a game I had been playing for the last year but I left after a while. The other day,
Eric and Dennis came around. They had gone ahead and asked me to take part in a
new level of the game because their teammate had taken off. Actually, they only
wanted to get me involved because they needed the van.”
His forehead creasing into a frown, Jack realized that they'd uncovered a big piece
to the puzzle. “Okay, you’re going to coming with to the FBI offices,” Jack said.
“Let’s go.”
“Are you going to arrest me?”Joe asked in a scared tone.
“It depends on what you tell us,” Jack replied.
Danny and Jules had been talking for great part of the night and day, trying to
forget the increasing pain. Feeling the blood escaping out from his injured knees,
Jules noticed the mixture of fabric and liquid making his knees skid on the floor.
However, he wasn’t able to move and the muscles from his back were tensed
causing him unbearable pain. Danny wasn’t in any better shape and after all the
hours they had spent in that room, their conversation had finally come down to
short questions to just checking in with each other. “Are you asleep?”, “Are you
okay?”, stupid questions since it was impossible to fall asleep and there was no
way they were okay, but at least, an answer meant the other wasn’t unconscious,
as if it was a way to do something for him.
During the night, they had talked about a lot of things. Being a talkative man, Jules
had told Danny about his family, his life and had encouraged Danny to do the same.
Danny was aware that it was a strange situation but listening to Jules’ words and
replying to his questions had been a distraction against the pain. Danny hadn’t
especially been proud to relive his experiences but Jules… Jules made him think
and bring up flash moments from his life, happy moments and other not so happy
that he tried to decorate with a few half-truths , making them seem like better
times than they had actually been. In that way, he brought up times where his mom
used to take him to the beach, just a few times, in Miami, and he could almost see
her smiling face under a big hat. Some of his wild antics from his youth made Jules
to laugh, even though he knew what he'd done had bad consequences, but he
skipped that part. He also told him about his time during college, his work and his
current friends he considered his family.
Jules told him things from his own childhood, his family and his friends. Since he
was a small child, there were animals around him and that fact encouraged him to
open the pet shop after he finished his business studies at college. “It’s very boring
being accountant,” he justified. “I tried for several months but I understood that,
actually, it wasn’t my wish to do that with my life and my sister told me about the
pet shop. I had contacts to help me to get animals and I have a veterinarian friend.
We joined and we have a good business… and I'm pretty great at handling our
accounts!”
“And that friend of yours… do you see him often?” Danny asked. Maybe he was the
person to report Jules’s disappearance.
“Every fifteen days. I saw him the day before yesterday. I know what you’re
thinking, Danny. I don’t think he realizes I'm gone yet. I’ve been thinking, if these
stupid guys know where I work, they can put a note on the door of the shop, like
they forced you to do with that call,” Jules said.
“I don’t understand why they did that. It’s a useless risk if you don’t want to get
caught.”
“Maybe it was part of the game, don’t you think?” Jules asked.
“Maybe.” Danny responded thoughtfully.
“Did you tell me that you attended Queens College?” Danny suddenly asked. He had
remembered something about the cases they had been working.
“Yes, why?”
“We’ve been working a case… I don’t know, it probably has nothing to do with this.
Let it go, Taylor,” he whispered to himself.
“What do you mean?”
Figuring he had nothing to lose, he told Jules his forming theory. “A Constitutional
Law Professor at Queens College is missing. Our suspects were two guys attending
Queens College, but they didn’t attend his classes. I’m not sure but… if this is a
game, maybe that’s the connection.”
“I left the college years ago. I’m not affiliated with Queens College anymore or
these guys. It doesn’t seem like your theory would hold much water.”
“No...no, I guess it doesn't,” Danny replied, weariness evident in his tone, “No… I
can’t think right now, my head hurts, I just want to get the hell out of this place.”
They remained silent for a while. “I’m thirsty,” Jules suddenly said.
“Yes, me too, but I try not to think about it. Don’t think about it, Jules,” Danny
advised.
Noticing the door being opened, he looked fearfully at his three captors entering
the room, again. Danny checked them carefully. Even though their faces were
hidden under the balaclavas, he deduced they were not more than  or  years
old. ‘How the hell had he let himself to be caught so easily!’ He was angry at
himself, he hadn't even noticed what had happened. It was true he was tired and
he had left the AA meeting too late but…he was an FBI agent! He had to have
noticed something. The only thing he could hope for now was that his message
sounded strange enough for Jack to realize that something was wrong.
Using his training as an FBI agent, Danny had noticed that, at least, one of the guys
felt uncomfortable with the situation and the one that had put the cell on his ear
seemed to be the leader.
Following the instructions, Kevin, Frank and Harold met in the garage at eight pm.
None of them had been able to stop thinking about what they were doing and it
was difficult to stay calm. Moreover, they had known the FBI was investigating
other students from the Campus because of the disappearance of that Professor,
which had made them to act more cautiously.
“My head is going to explode,” Harold said, sitting down on the table. “I’ve had an
awful day, I couldn’t pay attention in class and I was asked a stupid question that I
didn’t know how to answer in Organic Chemistry class.”
“Oh, what a problem,” Frank deadpanned, “will it affect to your final qualification?”
“You don’t get it Frank, it isn’t usual for me to get a question like that wrong. He
asked if I had any problems and I didn’t know what to say,” Harold replied in a bad
mood.
“Well guys, let it go, what we’re going to do?” Kevin asked.
“I guess we’ll have to open the small cases to see if there is something inside.”
“And, how does JD open them?” Harold asked.
“He knows the combination, don’t you remember? All of this is his game,” Kevin
replied tiredly, rolling his eyes. Sometimes Harold did ask stupid questions.
Frank’s small case had the key of a new locker. Once they opened it, they took out
two new sketches, fabrics, brass knuckles and pliers. There was an envelope that
Frank opened nervously. He started to read aloud, “Hello guys, I’m noticing you’re
doing excellent work. Go on like this and the chances to win this game will be easy for
you. There has been a little change of plans after the stir your teammates have
caused. I want to give you the chance to finish your part sooner, so instead of one
activity by day, you’ll go for two. This is what you’re going to do tonight…”
The three players sat down on the floor in front of Jules and Danny, who didn’t try
talking or yelling since they knew they were in an isolated location. It was useless
to even try.
Pulling out the note JD had left them, Frank started to read it again to his friends,
not letting Danny or Jules listen.
“First, take the sketches and extend them on the floor, in front of you and in front of
them so they can see them as well, it’ll help to warm up the environment. You can see
the sketches are named as one or two. Throw the dice and you’ll know what you’re
going to do first. If the dice results odd, Kevin will do the scene from the sketch one. If
the dice results even, you’ll take care of the second sketch and this will be done by the
three of you by shifts, so it’ll take some time. You’ll notice that the second sketch has a
new accessory. It’s at the entrance, beside the door, if you didn’t notice when you
entered.”
“Yes, I saw it,” Harold said. “It was a table with ropes on its sides.”
“Yes, look at the sketch. Do you see what is for?” Kevin asked. Harold swallowed
hard. “Do you want me to take it here?”
“No, let’s see what we have to do first.”
Leaving the two sketches on the floor, Kevin handed the dice to Harold who threw
them quickly. It landed on the odd number which meant him pointed to sketch
number one.
Terrified, Danny and Jules observed the two sketches in front of them. Danny
understood immediately what the game was about. Looking at the two sketches, he
wondered what would be destined for him and even though neither of the sketches
was pleasant, one of them looked less painful… in theory. It wouldn’t be easy to
resist that. Noticing Jule's absolutely terrified expression, he felt for him. Jules was
a good person, not deserving of what was about to happen to him. It wasn’t that
Danny thought he deserved it either, but his profession wasn’t free of risks and
maybe he had assumed that something like that could happen to him. But Jules…
he was a happy man, with a happy family, and a happy work life. He never should
have experience a situation like that. Looking at the sketches, Danny tried to
decide, as he was able to do it, which would be the best for him, and that fact took
him to the point of realizing that if he thought selfishly about it, it would be Jules
the one taking the worst part. It was an awful feeling he couldn’t define.
Frank went on reading. “Second, throw the dice again to assign your sketch to a
pawn. Then, you know what you have to do.”
Harold threw the dice again and this time, the result was odd. Kevin stood up and
took the brass knuckles out of the bag. Glancing first at Danny, he stepped towards
a shivering Jules. The first hit was right on his stomach and left Jules without his
breath; then, the beating continued until all the most painful zones of Jules’s body
were hit just avoiding beating him to death. Kevin was aware that the brass
knuckle was a dangerous instrument capable of breaking a skull, and that wasn’t
his intention. Jules’s screaming and Danny’s yelling echoed in the whole room.
Kevin stopped for a moment, maybe it was enough.
“Are you crazy, man? Stop it! We didn’t do anything to you to deserve this. You
aren’t playing a game, we are people, man,” Danny yelled at him. “Is it that you
don’t have anything better to do? Is it that you’re just behaving childishly....having
fun...just putting his life in danger?”
This time, Frank didn’t reach Kevin in time. The hard hit impacted on Danny’s face
and his head pulled back hitting the tube he was tied up to. His eye swelled in
seconds as the opening on his cheekbone started to bleed. Danny's breath started
to become labored, as he tried to stay conscious. His head throbbed from the hit
that came without a warning. He couldn’t dodge the blow. Remembering what the
other sketch insinuated, the fear started to take him and his already weak strength,
after what that guy had done to Jules and the hours they were at that place, was
being drained from his body.
“Hey, Kevin, what’s wrong with you? Let it go, you’ll have time for him later. He
wants to make you to lose control. Think about your future, man.”
This time, a furious Kevin turned to Harold. He held him by his collar dragging him
out of the room.
“What did you call me?” Kevin shut out, ripping Harold’s balaclava.
“Hey, calm down, they didn't hear me. I’m sorry Kevin, but you aren’t following the
rules, we agreed not to care about the pawns' words or action. You hit him so hard
that you have almost broken his eye socket,” Harold said, as Kevin’s clenched fist
stopped barely inches from his face.
Kevin thought about it. Harold was right, but he had called him by his name. On the
other hand, Kevin was a very common name.
“Don’t you dare do that again,” Kevin threatened him with his clenched fist.
“You either,” Harold managed to say, with a confidence he didn’t even know he
had.
Frank watched them to enter again. Harold was trembling but, apparently, he was
in tact. He had failed, he had said a name in that room and that was banned. But
Kevin wasn’t doing the right thing either, hitting that man. Actually, as Harold had
been able to realize outside the room, Kevin was scared and his way of hiding his
fear was lashing out using violence.
“Okay, are you ready to go on?” Frank asked.
“Yes, take the table here,” Kevin demanded, leaving the brass knuckle in the bag.
He took out the pliers, as he stared at Danny. This pawn was still recovering from
the hit, but he could see from his good eye what they were going to do next. He felt
as he was hyperventilating at that moment and he wondered why he hadn’t lost
conscious before. Somehow, that hadn’t happened and the next hour would
encompass a hell of alot pain for him.
He didn’t offer resistance when the handcuffs were removed and his hands were
set on that table and restrained with the ropes the table was provided. After so
long time with his arms tied up on his back, the fact of having them stretched out
forwards, gave him even more pain than was going to happen next.
Frank Wilson took the pliers and swallowed hard. He hadn’t done that before, it
was the first time he had with the pawns of the game. Closing his eyes for a
moment, he thought about his reward and about Kevin waiting beside him. He
hadn’t been able to escape it and now it was too late. Holding one of the pawn’s
fingers he gripped the pliers on the tip of the nail. He acted carefully pressing back
the pliers and feeling like little by little, the nail was shedding from the finger,
leaving a trace of blood around. Trying to ignore the screaming of his pawn, he
repeated himself ‘it’s a pawn, pawns are pieces of the game, they don’t speak’ over
and over, as he focused on his work. He held other finger and repeated the
movement. Again the blood, the screaming and Harold putting his hands on his
ears almost made him to give up. He finished with the third finger and with
trembling hands left the pliers to Kevin.
“Your turn,” Kevin said to Harold.
“No… I can’t… I can’t do that,” Harold mumbled.
“Come one, sure you can, don’t back down now,” Kevin said coldly.
“Come one boy, it isn’t so difficult,” Frank encouraged him. Right now, that man
wasn’t screaming but letting escape soft moans as he tried to recover his normal
breathing. He looked at him for a second and then looked away. He couldn’t go on if
he stayed looking at that crap.
Harold had got no choice but to do what he was asked. He couldn’t back out now.
He took the pliers and repeated the movements he had seen Frank doing moments
before. With trembling hands he took his time to take the next nail but once he
trapped it he couldn’t pull back.
“Come on Harold, you have to do it,” Kevin urged again. Kevin knew he was calling
by his name, but he didn’t care. Harold was the weakest of them and he had to
finish that part of the game. “Don’t look at his face, don’t listen to him, just do it.”
Harold pulled back with conviction and the nail shed leaving a trace of blood
around. Harold tried to not hear the painful screams and he focused on the feeling
of the nail being shed from the finger, even though it didn’t help. He held the next
finger and repeated the movement. Then, other one and finally one more finger.
Four nails were shed from their fingers. When he was taking the fifth finger, in a
frantic attitude, obsessed by what he was doing, Kevin took the pliers from his
hands. “Hey, hey, leave something for me,” he said.
Harold looked at his friend. Fortunately, the balaclava covered his face and Kevin
couldn’t see the tears and his terrified face.
Kevin took his time to work the three fingers left. As if the previous hit hadn’t been
enough for him, he held tightly a finger and gripped the pliers on the tip of the nail.
He pulled back slowly, opening the pliers and don’t caring about gripping the flesh
any time he went on pulling back.
Danny felt waves of pain, he wasn’t able to defend himself, and he wasn’t able to
move back his hands, blood spouting from his fingers. He felt the beating of his
heart in every finger and every time the pain was more and more unbearable. He
noticed as his fingers swelled up as the man took all the time in the world to pull
back his last three nails, time that seemed never ending for Danny. Once they
finished with him, Danny was exhausted, the tears mixed together with the blood
of his cheek, feeling the heat in his trembling hands without any control as the
blood escaped from his hands and spread out on the table. He was released from
the table and his hands were tied up like the former position back to the tube. His
back was tensed again and his painful muscles protested. It was the first time
during that day that he thought seriously that he wouldn’t see the light of the day
anymore.
The second one came moments later.
Leaving the room for a moment, Harold, Kevin and Frank tried to calm down after
going at the edge of their nerves. The scenario they had left inside the room didn’t
help. But they had to take the photos and read the last part of the instructions.
None of them said a word, leaning back and closing their eyes, trying to remove
what they had just done from their minds. At least, outside the room, they didn’t
hear the screaming, there wasn't anything else but quiet and the usual noises from
any building.
Some minutes later, Frank stood up and silently entered the room again, took the
camera and took photos of their pawns and the injuries they had caused. He tried
to ignore the sobs and agonizing groans from them, focusing on his ‘work’. Still
they had to read the last part of the instructions and Frank didn’t think the pawns
could survive one more day after this. He left the room and handed the camera to
Harold, who started to work with the computer.
“What do you think about ending this and going back home? I’m tired”, Kevin
suggested.
“Yes, I want to end this as soon as possible. Listen, thes guys are in a very bad
condition. Do you think we will be able to go on tomorrow?”, Frank asked.
“We don’t know if there is a ‘tomorrow’, maybe this is all what we had to do.
Remember that JD said that we were going to do the things in less time now,”
Kevin replied.
“I don’t know, by the way the letter has been written, I think this is going to go on,
at least one or two days more,” Frank commented.
“Well, let’s see. If we have something else to do, I guess that JD knows the point he
can tense the rope” – Kevin said, standing up.
Opening the door, he stared at both men. They were quiet, trying to control the
pain they felt. He headed for the bag and picked up the fabrics and the insulating
tape. He still remembered what the instructions said, ‘third, your pawns are very
talkative. I’ve left some fabric and insulating tape to close their mouths. Put the
fabric into their mouths and hold it with the tape. I won’t get a headache listening to
their pathetic stories. Oh, I’ve put microphones in the room, I love to hear the sounds,
and your conversations… it’s funny. Don’t take offense, it is my way to enjoy the
game.’
Heading towards Jules, Kevin put the fabric into his mouth. The contact of the
fabric with his throat made him to retch and started to take breath by his nose
quickly looking for breath and trying to pull out the fabric from his throat. Then,
Kevin put the tape on his mouth and it was done. Then, he repeated the same with
Danny, who moved his head frantically, without any success. Kevin held his head
by his hair and put the fabric into his mouth so brutally than Danny thought he was
going to swallow it. He started to retch and tried to stop the feeling of vomit.
Realizing that maybe they could die from the lack of air, Kevin removed the fabric a
bit and put the insulating tape on his mouth. But this guy had given him a bad time
and he wanted to prolong his agony putting his fingers on his nose and blocking
the entry of air in his lungs. It was just a second, he smiled viciously, but Danny
thought he would die by suffocation with that simple gesture.
“See you tomorrow, guys,” Kevin said.
Closing the door behind him, Danny and Jules were left alone, in the darkness of
that room, fighting for air, for taking control of the pain and fear, wondering what
would happened the next day.
Putting the things back in the bag, Kevin headed towards Harold who was already
printing the photos. Frank stood up and went behind them. On their way, none of
them said anything. They got into the garage and Harold, who had the locker’s key,
left the photos. In the locker, he found a new note, ‘See you tomorrow at eight pm’.
 
“I… I only drove the van where they told me to. They forced me to do it and I left as
soon as I could. I don’t know where they are now or what they have done after I
left them,” a scared Joe Rodríguez explained to Vivian and Jack.
Fold her arms across her chest, Viv leaned forward. “Tell us what you know,” she
demanded.
“We met at a garage at Jackson Heights. I couldn’t tell anybody because it was
against the rules of the game. I thought it was an innocent game until I learned
what we had to do and I got suspicious.”
“Do you know the address of the garage?” Jack pressed.
“Yes.”
“Write it here,” Vivian put a paper and a pen in front of him. “What did you have to
do?”
“We were told an address in Maspeth, Queens. We had to go to an apartment on
street. The room was totally insulated from noise and light. It looked funny, we
went and worked on it, but Hill and Loomis started to talk about this highest level
of the game and their thoughts about what they’d have to do and then… then there
were those strange tubes in the middle of the room and I… I started to think that
something really, really bad was supposed to happen there.”
“Something like…” – Jack demanded.
“Something like… like kidnapping people… torture them… when we left the
apartment there was a big envelope at the door with instructions, photos and alot
of information about two people we should take there. I refused to go through with
it after I learned what the game really was about, but they forced me to drive the
van.”
Vivian showed him a Steve Harris’s photo. “Is he one of the men you had to catch?”
Sweating profusely, Rodríguez nodded.
“Well, do you know if your friends took him to that room?”
“Yes, they did, they left him there and then we went for another man.”
“What other man?”
“I don’t know his name; their names weren’t in their profiles, just photos and
useful information about their daily life in order to catch them. The second one
was caught at the park as he walked a dog.”
“Kirkpatrick,” Vivian muttered.
“I don’t know; I...I told you that we didn’t know their names.”
At . am, the door of an apartment located in  St. at Maspeth, Queens was
kicked in by the police. Inside, tied up to the tubes just like Joe Rodríguez had told
them, they found Steve Harris and John Kirkpatrick.
Running towards Professor Harris, Jack put his finger on his neck searching for a
pulse he couldn't find.
Meanwhile, Martin hurried up to release John Kirkpatrick. “Are you okay?” he
asked as he tried to unlock the handcuffs.
“Yes, I think so but my head hurts, I think I’ve got a cut… I was hit with something, I
think… I… I lost consciousness and then I awoke here.”
“Don’t worry about that now; the doctors are right here and will take care of you.
Could you tell me if you saw or heard anything?” Martin asked, gently.
“No, I was walking my dog and felt a sharp pain. When I woke up here, I was alone
with that man. He was unconscious, I tried to wake him up but I guess he was
already dead. I don’t know anything else,” Kirkpatrick replied, voice full of
emotion.
“Did anybody come here after you regained consciousness?”
“No…no...how… how long have I been here?”
“Your wife reported you missing the day before yesterday. Your dog found its way
home with blood on his collar and your wife got scared,” Martin explained to him.
“The day before yesterday… I…I’ve lost all track of time in this place,” Kirkpatrick
said, as he tried to move his numb legs and arms.
“All right, don’t worry, you’ll feel better soon,” Martin soothed him stood up. He left
the doctors to take care of Kirkpatrick and he left with Jack.
“He didn’t see or hear anything, he just felt the hit on his head and woke up here,”
Martin said disappointed.
“Do you want to know what I think it happened here, Martin? We’ll have to wait for
the autopsy to confirm it but I think Mr. Harris accidentally died. Then, the
kidnappers got scared and ran away,” Jack commented.
“It’s possible, but that doesn’t help us to find Loomis or Hill. How are we going to
find the other missing people?” Martin asked.
“Well, from now on, we’ll work the Jake Thomas case and Rick’s team will continue
the Brian Allen case. The theory that both cases are related is up and they are
related to Kirkpatrick and Harris cases, but we are going to work separately even
though we’ll check the information we’ve got,” Jack explained.
A new day had started. Jack had gone to Mrs. Harris’s home at : am to tell her
about her husband’s death. It wasn’t a good time, it never was, but Jack didn’t want
to let her go on with the uncertainty of not knowing about him until the next
morning. From experience, he knew that not knowing was worse than anything
else, so the anguish of the not knowing would end.
“Well, let’s start from the beginning,” Vivian said. “Jake Thomas works at the
District Attorney office; he’s  years old, married with a five year old daughter. He
graduated from Queens College with a law degree, attending the University from
 to . The last time he was seen, it was near his home at . pm, after a
dinner with some friends.”
“Okay, we have the files Rick has given us, we have to check them again and look
for a new clue,” Jack instructed.
“I’ve been investigating the apartment and garage property. They both have
different owners and the properties weren’t being rented. They just ignored that
someone was using them,” Martin informed.
“Aren’t they suspects?” Elena asked.
“Not really,” Martin replied. “Dorothy Brannigan,  years old, she lives in a
nursing home. She left her apartment in Maspeth three years ago. Charles McCrory,
 years old. He’s the owner of several garages at Jackson Heights Rentals, but this
one was empty three weeks ago. He was thinking about selling it so he hadn’t put it
up for rent again,” Martin explained.
“Jack, if all of this is related, I don’t think we’re going to find anything new here.
Rick’s team has been working this case in the same way we have. I think we have to
find Loomis and Hill, they are the key of everything,” Sam commented.
“Let’s go back to the dormitory. We’ve got new information, maybe we missed
something the first time we went there,” Elena suggested.
“Right, you two go there. We’ll go check on this,” Jack agreed.
Two hours later, Vivian suggested a break. They had been checking all the
documents Rick had sent them and they hadn’t found anything but a thorough
investigation with no results. It could happen; it happened in fact, that sometimes
it was impossible to find a missing person.
Joining in the break room, however they didn’t stop thinking about the case. “What
if Thomas’s disappearance isn’t related to this?” Martin asked.
“We’ve checked the cases he was working in the District Attorney’s office, they
interviewed all the possible suspects and they found absolutely nothing,” Vivian
said.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said tiredness.
The three of them remained silent, trying to find any clue, any answer to the still
unanswered questions. They weren’t the only ones doing that. One floor up, Rick
and his team wondered the same, not finding more than one possible solution to
Brian Allen’s case.
Coming back from the dormitory one hour later, Sam and Elena hadn't had any
more luck. In spite of having found Kirkpatrick and Professor Harris the night
before, it was frustrating that they still couldn’t get any closer to finding the others.
That day had been wasted with new interviews and leads all pointing in the same
direction as the day before: Queens College and some dark game.
“Have you seen the news?” Kevin asked frantically, seeing his teammates
approaching.
It was : pm and they had a new task for their particular game.
“I couldn’t watch anything,” Frank replied. “I’ve spent all day sick, my mom thinks
I’ve got the flu or some other dangerous virus,” he grimaced.
“And she still left her baby all along?” Kevin joked, smirking.
“She thought I was sleeping, I told her I felt better and wanted to sleep,” Frank
replied, stopping his first instinct to start an argument with Kevin.
“The cops found two men in a room in an apartment in Maspeth. They were tied up
to two tubes and one of them was dead. They said it looked like a heart attack. The
police arrested one person and they are looking for two more people,” Harold
informed them.
"So...one of the teams is down,” Frank said thoughtfully.
“I just hope they don’t remember our names. Guys, we have to be careful for the
next couple of days, nothing about getting sick at home, nothing about strange
movements. Is that clear?” Kevin commanded.
“Hey, I was sick to my stomach; I couldn’t forget what we did last night,” Frank
protested.
“You better forget it now, because we’ve got new instructions,” Kevin said, showing
the key that would open a new locker.
This time, they took the instructions out of the locker, a part from the usual
sketches and instructions, headphones, a music player, a black fabric and a knife.
Kevin read the instructions quickly. “Good night, guys. You’re becoming my favorite
team, you know? You’re closer to getting your reward; you’re reaching the end of the
game. Don’t give up. I want to compensate you because of the effort you did
yesterday… you lost control there, but that’s normal, isn’t it? Well, today things will
be easy and you’ll finish soon. The sketch number one is for Frank and number two is
for Kevin; tomorrow I’ll let you one last sketch. Harold, get ready because the last act
of this game is for you.”
The three of them exchanged worried looks. There was just one day left and
everything would be over.
“Tonight,” Kevin continued, “I want you to use the sketches at the exact order they
are marked and I’m allowing you to choose your pawn. Throw the dice once more
time and proceed at first with sketch number one and then sketch number two. Read
the details when you’re there. You won’t need more than  minutes to complete your
work. Let’s see you tomorrow at eight p.m. Good luck.”
Frank looked at the sketches and observed the instructions they had been given. “I
think that I understand why he wants us to do sketch number one first.”
“Yes… I… I think that someone’s ears are going to buzz,” Kevin said.
Harold, like usual, didn’t say a word. His teammates were used to his silence. It was
his way to keep control. It wasn’t until they were in the apartment of Maspeth that
Harold opened his mouth. “Will...will...do you think they will be alive?” he
stammered.
It was something that all three of them had been thinking the night before, but
both Frank and Kevin had forgotten it. “We’ll know right now,” Kevin said.
Opening the door, Kevin switched on the light. Their two pawns immediately
reacted to the light. They were alive, but not in very good condition. Today, they
were one step closer to hell.
Putting the sketches on the floor to let all of them to see them, they sat down in
front of their pawns. This time, they hardly got a reaction from them. Taking the
dice, Frank threw them. “Odd,” he pronounced. Standing up, he approached Jules
with the knife forcing himself just to act and not to think about what he was going
to do. Not wanting to look at him, Frank sat down at his back and with trembling
hands removed Jules’s shoes and socks. He felt numb and not knowing why, he
took the knife and covered the length of one foot with the point softly as he noticed
how his pawn started to move frantically his feet. Frank clamped his hand down on
Jules’s ankle and stuck the knife barely a few inches to the sole of the foot at the
heel and ran it down to the fingers. Fortunately, Jules was only able to escape a
muffled sound from his gagged mouth and that made Frank's work easier. Stepping
back as the blood flowed out quickly, Frank feared the man would lose too much
blood and the possibility of bleeding to death, but he had thought that the night
before and it hadn’t happened. He sighed before clamping his hand down on the
other ankle and stuck the knife in the other foot. Again, he heard that muffled
sound but nothing else. Frank didn’t look at him; he couldn’t see the tears and
intense pain Jules was feeling, as Danny stared at him terrified, waiting for his
particular torture.
Danny saw Kevin approaching him with the black fabric before being blindfolded.
Then, he put the headphones on his ears and connected them to the music player.
Then, he selected the music from the CD that JD had left inside the player and
looked at his pawn for a second wondering what these two men had done to make
JD want to cause them so much pain. Maybe he didn’t even know them, maybe he
had chosen them sporadically.
Danny moved frantically, trying to free himself from the headphones guessing
what they were for. He had been absolutely isolated, he wasn’t able to listen, or
see, he was barely able to breath. The only thing he felt was the pain of his body,
his back, his knees, his hands…
Switching the music player to a near socket point, Kevin pushed the play button.
Then, following the instructions, he turned up the volume until the point JD had
instructed them. Feeling the pressure of the noise in his ears, Danny frantically
moved his head at the unbearable pain and trying uselessly to free himself from
the headphones. The feeling of everything moving around him joined with the pain,
making him feel like he was falling down, losing the sense of balance and not
knowing what his position was. Danny didn’t know if he was falling down or if he
was still firmly tied up to that tube… maybe the tube was falling down with him. He
finally stopped thinking, he stopped feeling, the only thing that existed was that
deafening noise. He wasn’t able to yell, his throat was blocked by that fabric and he
was only able to take breath by his nose. It was the only thing he was able to do,
take breath… take breath until he couldn’t do that either. He was going to die; it
was the third time in those two days that Danny was aware of his life ending. There
was no hope for him, no more tears to escape his eyes anymore. He hadn't sounded
strange enough when he'd left the message for Jack. They weren't looking for him.
They wouldn’t be able to find him, they wouldn’t find Jules and they were going to
die there...a miserable, agonizing death.
Needing to take photos of the two men, Kevin gave the camera to Harold, as they
had been doing every day.
“Today has been too easy,” Frank said, sounding relieved.
“Quick and silent,” Kevin commented. “Have you got the photos yet, Harold?”
“Yes, here it is,” Harold replied handing them to Kevin.
“Well, let’s go. Frank, go back at home and stay unnoticed, please. Guys, remember
that tomorrow we have to be careful, go to your classes, enjoy good company and
stay cool. Forget all this...here. We’ll meet again at the garage at . pm.” Kevin
instructed.
As if it was that easy. Frank went back to his home and entered his room without
being noticed by his parents. He undressed and got into the bed, thinking that he
couldn’t sleep but strangely he fell asleep and only got up when his alarm clock
rang the next morning.
Arriving at the Dormitory, Harold entered his room silently. Mike wasn’t there. He
was lucky that his roommate was so in love with Lindsay. He left the room to
shower. He let the warmth of water over his body relax him. Harold couldn’t help
but think about what he had to do the next day. The last part was for him. He
couldn’t fail if they wanted to win the game and JD had told him that they were
close to winning it.
Laying on his bed, Kevin stared at the ceiling and taking the music player, put the
headphones on his ears and picked up a book to read. He thought about his pawn
with that music or whatever it was -pounding in his ears and, curiously, he
wanted to see how it felt. He stretched his arm to the music player and turned up
the volume, but he had to stop way before the level he had turned up the volume at
that house. He removed the headphones and got up, trembling. For the first time,
he had really been aware of what they were doing.
“What happen, Kevin?” his roommate asked, noticing Kevin's scared expression.
“Damn it! Who the hell turned up the volume like that!. You almost let me go deaf!”
Kevin protested.
Rick and Jack met first thing in the morning at Jack’s office. The cases were going
cold and Olczyk had started to get impatient.
“Olczyk has told me that if we don’t find something in the following hours, he’ll
close both cases,” Rick announced.
“I don’t understand, Rick. I think we're close, but I don’t know what we are missing
here,” Jack said. “I’m not going to give up, if I don’t have any new case to work in.”
“I'm not going to give up either, but I don’t have anything else to work right now.
That’s the truth. If those guys don’t appear soon, I don’t know what we’re going to
do,” Rick commented.
At that moment, soft knocks on the door preceded Martin poking his head in. “Jack,
the garage. When we questioned Joe Rodríguez, he told us about two places, do you
remember? We went directly to Maspeth’s apartment but he talked about a garage.
Before going to Maspeth, they had agreed to meet in a garage at Jackson Heights.
We never went there, I bet that the other two guys are hiding in that garage,” he
explained.
“It was a competition!, a game! Nobody should die. The old man kicked the bucket
from fear!”
“What competition? Are there more people involved?” Vivian asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on! How can you not know? If this is a competition, a game, as you say... is it
because there is someone else?” Jack insisted.
Loomis looked down and didn’t say anything else.
“Listen guy, I don’t care if you spend the rest of your live in jail for kidnapping and
murder but if you help us, surely the judge will go easier with you,” Jack tried.
Loomis’s lawyer leaned in to his client and whispered something.
“All right. There are other teams; I don’t know who they are. I just know that they
are doing the same as us.”
“Are they students from Queens College?”
“There were a lot of people at the beginning, I don’t know who was there when this
new game started.”
“Who are those ‘a lot of people at the beginning’? Queens Colleges’s students or
people from other places?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t know all of them, but since we were progressing in the
game… I guess that most of them, maybe all of them, were from Queens College.”
“Write all the names you remember,” Jack said, handing him a paper and a pen. He
rose and talked to Vivian, “I’m going to talk to Rick.”
Leaving the interview room, Jack headed for the next room where Loomis
corroborated Hill’s statement.
“I want the names, Hill. Who, apart from you both, take part in the game?” Rick
pressured.
“What will you give me in return?”
“Depends on what you give us, but if you help us, your sentence will be easier for
you.”
Hill looked at his lawyer and nodded.
“Peter Evans. He’s a classmate, I met him the day we were given the new
instructions.”
“Is he going to school? Do you know where he lives?”
“I don’t know if he’s attending classes, but he lives in an apartment near the
campus”
“Write the address here,” Rick demanded putting a paper in front of him.
Finally, it looked they were moving in the right direction to solve the cases of
multiple missing people.
 -
“Peter Evans, FBI!, Open the door!” Jack demanded as he pulled out his gun. Martin
and Vivian were behind him. They weren’t able to hear anything from the
apartment, so Jack repeated the words once more time. When he didn’t get a reply,
the door was kicked in. The agents got into the apartment quickly and cleared it.
Lying on his bed, they found a drugged Peter Evans who tried to look at them with
erratic eyes and a stupid smile.
“Check the house,” Jack said.
“I’ve got something!” Martin exclaimed in excitement. “Look… look at these
sketches. And here there is an address… in Maspeth… another apartment. Come
on! Let’s go!”
Martin and Vivian left the apartment as the police arrested Evans.
On their way, Vivian phoned Rick and gave him the address of the apartment.
When they arrived there, Rick and Laura were going upstairs to the second floor.
They pulled out their guns and as soon as Vivian and Martin joined them, they
forced the door open and entered in without hesitation.
It was the same scenario, two tubes, two people tied up to them. In both cases, it
looked like they had received a terrible beating. Jake Thomas had cuts on his legs,
as well.
“Calm down, Mr. Thomas,” Laura said softly but firmly. “We’re from FBI and we’ve
been looking for you.”
“We need the paramedics here right now!” Rick demanded. “What the hell
happened here!”
Martin released Brian Allen and helped him to lie down on the floor. After so many
hours on his knees, he was unable to move on his own. “I think I have some broken
bones,” he murmured.
“Relax, a doctor will help you very soon. Don’t worry, you’re safe,” Martin soothed
him.
None of them asked him or Allen about what had happened in that room. There
would be time enough for that later.
Harold noticed the change of attitude in Kevin as soon as he saw him. He didn’t
look as confident as he had the days before. Frank had been sitting down on the
floor, leaning back on the cabinet -his eyes closed. It was  minutes to eight but
they were already in the garage. It was their last day, their last task and this time, it
was Harold's task to accomplish.
Frank tried to put his feelings about what they'd been doing into words...trying to
find a reason for what they had been doing.
“JD is playing with us; he used us from the very beginning, watching us, studying
us, giving us work to know what we were able to do… how far we were willing to
go. I picture him…. I picture him taking notes, listening to our comments…
preparing what he wants us to do with these people, because he’s a coward that
can’t do it himself,” he said angrily, “Are you listening to me now, JD?!”, he yelled.
Kevin approached him and sat down beside him. “Last night, when I came back
home, I put on my headphones to listen to music. I turned up the volume and I had
to stop much sooner than I did on the music player at the apartment. I haven’t been
able to stop thinking about that man, twenty four hours with that deafening noise
in his head. I almost went to Maspeth this morning to remove the headphones
but… I don’t know why I couldn’t do it. Right now, I only want this crap to end and
forget it,” he said.
“Yeah, me too,” Frank agreed, sounding fatigued.
They remained silent for a while and finally looked up at Harold sitting down on
the table beside his small case. He had tears rolling down his cheeks, not caring
about what his teammates could thought. “We’ve become murderers, torturerers
of two people we don’t even know,” he said sobbing. “For what? Why? For getting a
stupid reward that we won’t really even get? For our own stupid ego?” he
exclaimed.
“It may be stupid for you, but not for me,” Frank responded.
“For what!. Don’t you realize what we're doing?” Harold yelled at him.
“Yes, I realize, I’m very aware of it, Harold but it’s done. Just one day left and it’ll be
over. So it would be better if you would just take that damn key from your case and
open the last locker,” Frank countered, clearly in a very bad mood.
Suddenly, the only thing he wanted to do was whatever they had to do to finish the
game and leave that place as soon as possible, forget everything. If they finished it,
he would be far from that city he felt trapped in, where there was nothing for him.
Harold opened his case, took the key and headed for the cabinet. With trembling
hands, he opened the last locker, knowing that this was the last time they’d do it.
There weren’t sketches this time, just instructions and a gun with silencer.
Harold picked up the note and started to read.
Jules wasn’t able to handle the need to quench his thirst. Around him, a pool of
blood, his blood, told him that there wasn't much left in his weak body. He felt a
feeling of drowsiness; his mind was a confusion of images from old memories to
that room he was trapped in. He remembered that conversation with the other
man the first day and the images from his family came back to him easily. He tried
to focus on them, he tried to forget the thirst, the hunger, the fatigue, the pain, the
lack of breath, that fabric in his throat. But the memories of his loving family, all
those experiences just caused him more pain. What had he done to deserve this
torture? Was it that those guys were so sick that they didn’t realize what they were
doing? What world were they living in? He looked at his partner, who had stopped
moving a while ago. Jules didn’t know if he was dead, he couldn’t speak, his eyes
were hidden behind that black fabric and he had those headphones on his ears.
From time to time, he believed he could hear a groan, the only sound that escaped
from that gag but lately there was nothing and he didn’t move at all anymore.
Around his partner there was blood, too, blood from his hands, from his knees.
How much longer would they be there? Would those guys come back? Would they
be left there forever to die? Would the guys come back with more torture? Jules
wasn’t sure he would be able to cope with another assault. He didn’t know if he
could with it again. Death was starting to look like a good option, after all.
Seeing the door opening again, he started to tremble. He wasn’t able to control it,
he felt the panic just noticing the door being opened. Those three guys with their
faces hidden by the balaclavas were there again. This time, they didn’t sit down in
front of them. This time there weren’t any sketches. Would this be the end of their
torture? Jules saw as one of them approached the music player and turn it off. He
saw Danny jumping slightly. He wasn’t unconscious after all.
Kevin removed the headphones carefully. The headphones were full of a bloody
liquid that continued to emerge from Danny’s ears for a moment, since it had been
trapped for all this time inside his ears. Willing himself to finish the game and after
swear himself that he wouldn’t look at Danny's face, knowing that he couldn’t deal
with it, Kevin removed the fabric from Danny’s eyes.
As JD had instructed them, he carried the music player and the headphones out of
the room.
When Kevin came back, Frank approached Jules and removed the tape from his
mouth. He still wondered why JD instructed them to remove the tapes. Listening to
their yelling was one of the worst things Frank remembered from the first day.
Maybe it was because they were barely able to yell anymore. As soon as he
removed the tape, Jules started to cough violently, trying to take breath through a
completely dried and sore throat. “Water,” he managed to say, after a moment. He
knew it sounded pathetic and useless but Jules had lost all sense of dignity and he
only fought for survive. The feeling of throwing up came back then but he hadn’t
eaten or drunk for three days and he only felt the wretching he couldn’t seem to
stop.
“What?” Frank asked looking at Jules. Failure. He realized immediately his mistake
and turned away.
“Water,” Jules pleaded, trying again. His voice was hardly a whisper, hardly
understandable, but he hadn’t enough strength for more.
Kevin looked at Frank and realized that his teammate couldn’t cope with it, so he
approached Danny and removed his tape. He started to cough violently and tried to
vomit, but there wasn’t anything that his body could expel.
After a while, they started to calm down and recover to somewhat normal
breathing, letting escape a scream with every exhalation.
Sitting down on the floor as his teammates did their part, Harold tried to put the
necessary strength together to do his work. Distractedly, he pulled out the gun and
put it in front of him on the floor. Danny closed his eyes, he didn’t want to die, he
couldn’t die now, what would happen to Nicky and Natalie, Rafie, Elena and Sofie.
In the last couple of years, he had finally felt confident enough to have his own
family, having his own sons and daughters and end a curse that seemed to follow
his family, the Alvarez, he had disowned from for a long time. It was odd to think of
himself, in what seemed like the last act of his life, as an Alvarez and not a Taylor.
That name, Taylor, had never actually belonged to anybody, it was just a surname
he'd picked at random. The dice couldn’t result in an even number, it couldn’t be…
it couldn’t be for him, it had to be for...if not for him, then it had to be for… Jules.
For a moment, Danny thought about Jules, probably thinking the same as him. Jules
shouldn't have been there either, Jules had brought up memories of times he had
forgotten. That nightmare where he saw his dying mother, the only image
permanently settled in his mind, had been replaced by her smile on a sunny day in
Miami Beach, with Rafie and him, still little boys, simulating being a happy family, a
family like any other around. Jules couldn’t die, but Danny didn’t want to die either.
He could hardly hear what the others where saying because his ears were so
damaged. He could only hear an uncomfortable and constant buzzing in his ears.
He couldn’t fix his sight properly, it seemed the walls had fallen down on him, he
felt himself falling down at any moment, losing balance.
Throwing the dice for the last time, Jules and Danny weren’t able to look away
from those dancing dice. Kevin, Harold and Frank either. The dice didn’t seem to
stop.
“Odd,” Harold said, finally.
“Don’t do it, please, don’t do it," Danny immediately shouted, struggling against his
aching throat and barely being able to hear his own voice. "We’re people, we aren’t
part of your game, we have families, we haven’t done anything to you to deserve
this,” Danny pleaded with an unrecognizable voice. Every sound he made caused a
sharp pain in his sore throat, his own sound resounded painfully in his ears mixing
with the buzzing, but he had to do it, it was strange to plead at that moment, but it
was the only thing he could do. “Listen, he… his name is Jules, you know? His
mother named him after Jules Verne, the writer. He wrote adventure novels,… have
you heard about it, have you read ‘A Journey to the Center of the Earth’? It’s his
favorite novel.”
Danny started to tell them all what he remembered that Jules had told him for the
hours they spent talking the first night of their captivity in a desperately plea. “He
can't die, you don’t have to do this, leave us alone, we don’t know who you are, we
can’t do anything against you, but no… Don’t kill him! Please! Please!”
As Danny spoke, Harold had held the gun in his hand and had approached Jules,
who was sobbing uncontrollably. “Please, please, listen to him… we haven’t done
anything. Nobody has to die, don’t kill me, please, don’t do it.”
Kevin rubbed his hands nervously and looked at the time. “Eh, let’s end this now,”
he ordered.
“I can’t,” Harold responded with a trembling voice.
“Come on, man, drop the gun. Go away, you don’t even have to release us, just go
away, forget this,” Danny pleaded with a hoarse voice, knowing that it wasn’t a
good idea but at least they would have a remote possibility. He wasn’t able to listen
to what Jules was saying even though he imagined he was begging for his life.
“I can’t do it!,” Harold yelled.
“Sure you can!” Kevin confronted him. He was as scared as Harold but he couldn’t
let things end like that, they had to finish. He grabbed Harold’s arm tightly and
made him to put the gun on Jules’s forehead, who started trembling violently and
crying. “Please… please don’t do it… don’t do it,” he pleaded as he closed his eyes.
Danny pulled out all of his strength left and tried to yell. “Leave him alone, you
won’t gain anything from doing this, you won’t gain anything and this moment will
follow you the rest of your life if you pull that trigger. You don’t want to do this,
man.”
“Shut up right now!” Kevin yelled, slapping him in his face.
It was at that point when Harold reacted. He yelled and yelled as he pulled the
trigger, yelled as he jumped back dropping the gun and covering his face with his
hands. Frank approached him and hugged him tightly as they both cried.
Kevin froze. Focusing on trying to make Danny to stop yelling, he didn’t see Harold.
Now, he understood that, actually, he had never thought that Harold was actually
going to shoot; he never thought that someone could really die. He looked the
lifeless body of that man and then turned to Danny who had stopped yelling and
now sobbed uncontrollably.
“Why are you crying? Do you think that that you knew him?” Kevin yelled a
question that he didn’t know why he asked, fighting to control his own panic.
Danny remained sobbing, not knowing if he would be killed next. He didn’t know
what they were saying, he didn’t know if Jules had said something or not, he didn’t
know if that face just inches from him was telling him something through the
balaclava. Kevin picked up the fabric that he had removed from his mouth and put
it in his mouth again, fixing it with a piece of tape. Then, he followed Frank and
Harold out of the room and closing the door behind him. Danny remained there
alone, terrified, not knowing if should be grateful for still having his life or not…
one more day, without listening to anything, with the only company of Jules, just
that it wasn’t Jules anymore, it was just a lifeless body, not knowing if he would
ever get to leave that place alive.
Getting into the interview room, Rick Carter and Jack Malone sat down in front of
Peter Evans, who after hours in a cell, had overcome the effects of the drugs.
Without the pressure of having to find Jake Thomas and Brian Allen, the search
was focused on his teammates. Jack had the list with the names Loomis had
remembered. At Evans’s home, they hadn’t find anything related to his teammates
and his e-mail hadn’t had any useful messages, but they had found the address of
that apartment in Maspeth, where the people they had been looking for had lived
the worst hours of their lives.
“Well, Evans, I think you're aware of the trouble you are…” Rick started.
“What trouble? I was just resting, and you burst into my apartment and pulled me
out of there. That’s illegal!”
“Sure, it’s just a coincidence that we found the address of a very particular
apartment in Maspeth in your place. Does that mean something to you?” Jack
asked.
The other leant back and smirked. “I don’t know what the hell you're about it.”
“I’ll help you to remember. We know what this game is about, we’ve arrested other
players and one of them gave us your name. We know what you’re doing, you don’t
have any chance to get out of this. You’ll get plate hair in jail, man,” Rick said in a
threatening tone.
Fidgeting about in his chair, Evans suddenly felt nervous as he replied. “It was a
game, all right? I don’t…. I don’t know what it was about. We spent a year and a half
doing silly things, like shaving our head, following a person and taking notes about
what he was doing… Then, one day everything turned different.”
“You aren’t telling us anything new. A group of over-privileged guys accessing a
new level, you started to play with real people and kidnapped Jake Thomas and
Brian Allen. Why them?”
“We didn’t decide that. The creator of the game gave us the instructions and we
followed them. We weren’t going to hurt them, just play a little.”
“Cuts on legs, bruises on their bodies… do you really think that you were just
playing, Evans?” Jack asked in a threatening tone.
Evans lost his composure for a moment.
Jack looked at Rick then. “Listen Rick, I’m bored, I’ve had to work hard during these
days and I need to exercise. Would you like to have a little fun with this guy?”
“Sure,” Rick said standing up.
“Eh, eh! You won’t touch me, I know my rights,” Evans yelled.
“What? We’re just going to have fun, to play, Peter. Do you want to play with us?”
Jack asked, his face two inches from Evans’.
The fear invaded Evans. Noticing the threatening tone and the calm Rick took to
roll up his sleeves, he believed that the men were going seriously to hurt him.
“All right, right. What do you want to know? I’ll tell you whatever you need but
please, don’t hurt me.”
“Sure,” Jack said, taking a step back. “Who else was with you?”
“Three people take part in every team. I don’t know who they are, but I’m pretty
sure that there were nine of us at the end or so.”
“I don’t need numbers Evans, I want names.” Rick pressed, trying to hide his
desperation.
The guy hesitated for a moment, so Jack grabbed him by the collar. “It’s okay…
okay, Mark Berry and Tim Carpenter,” he replied quickly.
“Do you know where to find your friends?”
“Mark lives at Victoria Dormitory. Tim lives with his girlfriend, I think or… at least
that was what he said. We don’t know each other very well, just through the game.”
“Would you mind giving us a few more detail?”
“No, I mean, I can only tell you that we had to meet at nine at a garage in Jackson
Heights to get new instructions. I don’t know what time it is but…”
Rick put a paper and a pen in front of him. “Write the address.”
Looking at the time, Jack realized there were  minutes left. He left the room
quickly with his cell phone on his hand. The police could arrive before them.
“Great, Peter, do you see how easy it was? If you've told us the truth, maybe the
judge will consider your sentence; maybe at the end, you won’t get that plate hair
in prison,” Rick said.
“I haven’t lied; I’ve told you the truth.”
“How good of you," Rick deadpanned. "Don’t move from here,” he said standing up.
He left the guy in the room and got out of there. He needed to refresh his mind. It
had been a crazy few days at work and he was exhausted. He knew that his
colleage's, Jack's, team felt the same way.
“Do you want to come with us?” Jack asked. “The police are on their way, I want to
see what we find at that garage.”
“Sure, I’m going with you, I’ll call one of my agents,” Rick said.
Forty five minutes later, Jack, Martin, Rick and Tony checked the garage at Jackson
Heights. The structure was similar to the other garage where they found Loomis
and Hill. The police had arrested them some minutes before Evans’s teammates,
who had just arrived.
In the garage, they found three small cases on a table. Inside of them, they found an
envelope and some keys to open the lockers of a cabinet at the back of the garage.
They found several photos of Thomas and Allen and the only fingerprints found
there, would match with Evans and his teammates when, later they were analyzed
in the lab.
That night, the case was closed with the arrest of the last players. They had found
three of their four missing persons alive. Sam and Elena had gone to the hospital to
interview Jake Thomas and Brian Allen who, being in better condition, explained
everything that had happened. They hadn’t had anything in common; they didn’t
know each other and didn’t know the men who took them. The only thing relating
them was the College.
They dedicated the next morning to putting all the paperwork in order. With four
related cases and two FBI teams being involved, they would have paperwork for a
very long time. Fortunately, no new case came up so they were able to finish
before sundown.
“Well,” Jack said, closing the last file and removing his glasses. “We’ve finished.”
“No, we haven’t, Jack,” Vivian corrected. “All those guys were playing under the
orders of someone else--still on the outside. He or she is the real responsible party
for what happened to those people.”
“I know Vivian, but it’s not our priority anymore.”
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Martin supported Vivian. “That guy could
start a new game.”
“I’m not comfortable with it either. This kind of thing makes me shudder to think
about the world we live in, the power some people have to influence other people
like that. All those guys are students at the university who get good grades. You'd
think that would be enough to think that they would never be involved in a
situation like that.”
“Yes, and Professor Harris has paid with his life. The poor man died not knowing
what happened,” Elena commented.
“I’ve checked the property of this last apartment and garage, different people
without any connection. There wasn’t renting contract.” Sam informed.
“Well, Olczyk called me and gave us two days off. I don’t know you, but I’m going to
enjoy them.” Jack said. "Lucky for Danny, he got a head start. That's good, though.
He needed the long rest."
“I think we all need to rest and we deserve it,” Vivian agreed.
“What are you going to do?” Elena asked curiously.
Leaving the FBI building going back to their respective homes at an unusual time,
Elena and Sam felt strange. Sam didn’t remember the last time she went home
while the the sun was still up.
“Sleep?” Sam smiled. “The true is that I don’t know, I think I’ll put a few things in
order at home and then… I don’t have any idea. I’m not used to having so much
time for me. Are you going to take your time off with Sofie?”
“Yes, for these last days I’ve barely seen her, poor girl. My mom will appreciate it,
too” Elena responded.
“Well guys, I’m leaving,” Martin said passing them.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know yet, maybe I’ll pass by my cousin’s house. I haven't seen them in a
long time.”
“Good idea,” Sam said. Martin’s words gave her an idea. Right as her coworkers left,
she pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number.
“Hello?” she heard a voice answer.
“Emily? It’s me… Sam… hey, listen, I’ve got a couple of days off and I wondered if…”
“Sure, of course… I’d love to see you. We have so many things to talk about,” she
replied not letting Sam to finish her question.
“Yes, that’s right. Well, I’ll be there tomorrow evening, if it’s okay with you.”
“Okay, I’ll be here.”
Ending the call, Sam sighed. She had to clarify a few things with her sister, they had
to talk about what had marked their lives forever and they had avoided talking
about for a long time.
 
Looking at the ID, Kevin grimaced as he identified who was calling. ‘Damn it, I told
him not to call,’ he thought. He was going to ignore the call, but finally pressed the
button.
“Listen, didn’t you understand what I said?” he spat even before the other one
started to speak.
“Haven’t you heard the latest news? Another team was arrested last night. We are
the only ones left.”
“Frank, shut up!”
“Do you mind if we meet some place? I need to talk about this,” Frank asked
nervously.
Kevin noticed the anxiety in his teammate's voice; he had to recognize that he was
nervous as well; he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about what they had done.
The game had already ended and Wednesdays had turned into normal days again.
There weren’t new challenges, puzzles, funny jokes or innocent sketches anymore.
They didn’t feel important anymore but scared, expectant and confused. The game
had ended, turning in an unexpected way. What had caught them up in it?
“All right,” – he replied after a moment. “Would you mind calling Harold?”
“I’ll call him,” Frank replied in relief.
“Okay, I guess that we can still meet at the garage…”
“What if the police are watching it?” Frank asked.
Kevin remained quiet. It was very possible, but he didn’t know any other place to
go with his teammates. Actually they weren’t really friends and it sounded strange
to him to meet them at places not related to the game… “Well, I know a place; I’ve
gone a few times with people from school. What about meeting there at eight? We
can have dinner and talk.”
“Okay,” Frank agreed.
Scribbling quickly the address Kevin gave him, Frank ended the call and dialed
Harold number. It would be good, meeting at eight was what they had been doing
for the last few days, and that location was usually full of people so they would go
unnoticed.
“What’s up?” The sleepy voice of his friend was heard on the other end of the line.
“Hey, did I wake up you?” Frank asked.
“No, I haven’t been able to sleep, my nerves are killing me. I don’t know how I’m
going to behave like nothing happened,” Harold replied.
“I’m not feeling well either. Listen, I’ve called Kevin, I guess it would be good if we
meet and talk.”
“But, I thought we agreed to stop contact with each other,” Harold said confused.
“I know, but we left that house so quickly… I don’t know how you’re doing but I… I
need to talk to someone before moving on. We agreed to meet at eight, Kevin
knows the place, he has gone other times, we’ll have dinner, talk and then… then
we’ll stop… definitely,” Frank said.
“All right, give me the address,” Harold agreed stretching out his hand to pick up a
pen and a paper. “Okay, I’ll be there, bye.”
Ending the call, he realized that Frank was right, they should talk about what had
happened, about what they had done before moving on. He had tried to do it, he
was trying to get back to his normal life at school as if the game had never
happened, but the last four days had been very hard and before that, they had lived
an experience that wouldn’t be repeated anymore. He wouldn’t be ‘Wise Harold’
anymore, the one who contributed a lot of ideas to the game, he had become the
unnoticed student he always had been before the game started a year and half ago.
He wondered when JD would call them again. Having watched the news, he had
known that the other players had been arrested so they clearly had won the game.
Anticipating the meeting with his teammates had a calm effect on him. Maybe he
would be able to sleep for a while and his headache would go away. Switching on
the alarm clock, Harold lay on the bed. Mike, his roommate, hadn’t said anything
else to him; he was used to it and thought that Harold’s attitude was due to a cold.
‘I guess I’ve got a cold, I’ll take some days off.' Suddenly, those words sounded clear
in his mind… the voice of pawn number two sounded so clear that Harold jumped
up. He couldn’t stay there, what did that mean?. He thought about the man in the
Maspeth’s apartment, alone with only the company of a dead man. Would the man,
pawn number two, already have died too? And was that the reason he remembered
that first night? Unable to stay calm, Harold left the room and went out to take a
shower. Thirty minutes later, picking up his bag, he left the apartment. The night
was cold and it was starting to rain, but it didn’t discourage him. He ran towards
the subway and looked for the line he had to take to join his teammates. He knew
that he would arrive early but he didn’t care. He needed to leave the Campus, he
had to erase those memories from his head, and he had to talk to his friends. They
would understand him.
Walking distractedly through the gardens of the Campus, Frank put his hands into
his pockets to protect them from the cold. He still kept the dice in one pocket, and
his fingers played with them. In the other pocket, he kept the keys to the Maspeth’s
apartment. All that morning, he had thought about going back there, going back
and releasing that poor man abandoned to his fate. He would have left him outside
the apartment and some neighbor would have surely taken care of him. He didn’t
consider the other man...the other pawn; he had almost forgotten that moment
where the pawn's life was taken and actually, the fact that he forgot...it scared him.
What kind of person had he become? But he couldn't think like that. The news
about the other guys...the one who were arrested....made him refocus his attention.
He had to behave normally, go to class, doing what he always did… it wasn’t so
simple, not after what had happened the days before, not after what they had done.
He still was able to smell the blood in that room, the smell of the fear, the pain of
those men. Everything done for a dream. They had won the game, that was for
sure, but JD hadn’t contact them yet. Surely he would wait for things turned
cold...to die down.
It was starting to rain when he decided to go back home. When he arrived, his
parents weren’t at home, which he welcomed. He left a note for them and wrapped
himself in a warmer coat. He was going to arrive to his destination early, but he
preferred to wait at that place for his teammates. Tightening the coat over his
body, Frank left the house and headed quickly towards the subway. He had only to
wait a few minutes before taking his train. He stayed standing the whole time since
the train was full of people. When he emerged from the subway station, the cold
breeze of the New York evening slammed his face hard. He tightened his coat and
put his hands into the pockets. His fingers found something and he fished it out. It
was a piece of folded paper he surely had left there some days earlier. Unfolding it,
he had to lean on a wall to not fall down from the shock as he started to read,
“Congratulations Frank, you won. You’ve got your reward. You wanted to do
something by yourself, living your life far away from your parents. Well, I’ve showed
you that you are able to do it. You’ve done things -keeping it from them, you’ve lived
your life, you’ve made decisions, you’ve gotten over their ridiculous rules and you’ve
lied to them. They don’t have the slightest idea about the son they have but they’ll
know, soon. This is what you wanted, isn’t it? Sooner or later, you’ll be living far away
from them, as you wanted, in a place where you’ll coexist with people like you, or
worse, or better, but you’ll get on very well with. It’s what you’ve showed me. Enjoy it.
I’m sorry to end like this, but I have to take my safety measures. JD.”
How had that note gotten into the pocket of a coat he hadn’t been using weeks ago?
Had JD gone to his home to leave him that note? Had he been in the subway? And,
what kind of joke was that? There was no way he had written that wish on a piece
of paper the first day at the garage. He wanted to leave, to run away from his
parents, to live his life, to show them that he wasn’t a little boy anymore. He
wanted to show them that he was able to make his own decisions and they hadn’t
anything to do with it… Thinking about it, Frank reread the note and felt as the air
was sucked from his lungs. He wanted to go to California, he didn’t understand
what JD was saying… or he didn’t want to. What kind of joke was that?
He managed to reach the Café with great difficulty because he wasn’t able to focus
on the address he was looking for. He knew that it was near the subway and had a
big neon sign, it wouldn’t be difficult to find, but Frank felt really sick after reading
that note.
Suddenly, someone grabbed his arm and looked at him with a worried expression,
a friendly face, Harold Green. Frank couldn’t cope anymore and leaning his head on
Harold’s shoulder, he started to cry desperately. Harold, suddenly surprised and
scared about his friend behavior, managed to take him to a discrete place as some
curious passers-by looked at them but fortunately, New York is a city where the
people didn’t have time for other people's business.
“Eh Frank, calm down, what happened?” he asked.
But Frank didn’t answer, he thought only about what miserable person he was, the
crap he had become. Not being able to say a word, he pulled out the note and
handed it to Harold, who read it fearfully.
“Oh my God, Frank, what’s this? Where did you find it?” he asked, guiding his friend
inside the café. He noticed a free table at the back of the place and sat down there.
“It was… it was in my coat. Harold, this guy has gone into my parents’ home to
leave me this note.”
“He could have done it any moment, at the Campus…”
“No, I haven’t worn this coat for weeks, Harold, it’s impossible.”
“Okay, what about the note? What does it mean?” Harold asked.
“There isn’t a reward, do you realize that?. There isn’t a reward. We’ve been
torturing two people for nothing. What have we become, Harold? How is it possible
we have been torturing and killing a person for… for… what has that guy had done
to us? Now, we’ll be running away from the police for the rest of our lives. We
won’t have a moment's peace. We’ll have to be alert forever. How could I have been
so irrational, so selfish?”
“We… we killed a person Frank and… and we abandoned another one that
probably is already dead or he’ll die during the next hours or days, as the corpse
beside him starts to decompose,” Harold said. “The only thing we can do is… is go
to the police, giving up, at least we’ll save the life of that other man. We… we don’t
even deserve the air we breath. Somehow, we’ve done this...all of this...voluntarily.”
“Hey, hey, what’s up, guys? Are we celebrating a funeral or what?”
It was Kevin Miller that had arrived at that moment. He found his two friends at
the back of the café and he noticed Frank’s terrified expression. “Have you already
ordered something?” he asked clearly upset.
They both shook their heads. “Right, I’m going to order a good dinner for us, I
guess you both need it… and cheer up, you’re catching the eye.”
Kevin approached the counter and ordered dinner. He came back with three beers.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
Frank handed him the note and Kevin read it carefully. “Shit, have you received a
note too?” he asked Harold. His smile had disappeared and he had adopted that
expression that Frank and Harold identified so well when Kevin was in charge.
“No, I haven’t… yet,” Harold responded.
“Well, I think that as we’ve noticed, JD likes to play. He doesn’t have any more
pawns and now he’s playing with us. He wants only to see your reaction, Frank.
You should keep calm, don’t make anything that could have someone suspect and
everything will be okay. You’ll have your reward. By the way, what was it?”
“I don’t care. We are going to the police,” Frank replied.
“No way, I’m not giving up. You won’t do it,” Kevin said firmly.
“Then, let’s go back to the apartment, we’ll release the other man and leave. I don’t
want another death on my conscience,” Frank suggested.
“Maybe he’s already dead. I heard his voice last afternoon,” Harold whispered.
“What?” Kevin exclaimed laughing.
Somehow Frank and Harold felt terribly uncomfortable and suspicious of their
teammate. Obviously he didn’t share their guilty and confused feelings. But neither
of them was capable of confronting him. Kevin had always been the leader.
“Don’t laugh, I was sleeping and I heard his voice, what he said the night he called
his boss, do you remember? I hadn’t remembered it since then and his words
sounded in my ears down to the last detail, as though he was whispering them at
that very moment,” Harold said.
“Gosh, a supernatural experience,” Kevin smirked. “Come on guys, you’re stressed
out, calm down a bit.”
“What about you, Kevin? How do you feel? Anybody would think that you’ve done
this before,” Frank asked suddenly evidently angry at his teammate’s attitude.
“Anyone would say you know JD… maybe you’re him…”
The comment bothered Kevin, whose face turned red. He used to behave like that
to alleviate his own fear, his own doubts. Trying to convince the others, he tried to
quell his own fears. But the truth was that he was scared, scared of what they had
done, scared of what he had been able to do, scared of the possibility of being
caught… a large list of scary things. He wouldn’t give up, the idea of continuing the
familiar business became the best thing for his future; His reward, he had even
forgotten what he had asked for in case they won the game. It was time to stay far
from the police and forget what had happened.
“Guys, I don’t want to go to jail, I want to graduate and work at my parents’
hardware store. It’s… it’s what I want at this moment, apart from forgetting what
we’ve done. I don’t want to put on the table how I’ve reached this point because I…
I don’t know… I don’t understand it. That’s the truth,” he paused. “And no, I don’t
know who the hell JD is and I don’t have anything to do with him.”
“Well, then, let’s forget it,” Frank said, raising his beer. The suddenly sincere
response of his teammate had moved him. At last, the three were on the same side.
“What… what are you saying? What do you mean forget it? It’s not that simple!”
Harold protested.
“Make an effort. Guys, this is the last time we'll meet for a long time. I suggest a
meeting right here next year, the same day, at the same time. Then, we hope we’re
able to talk about other matters,” Kevin said vehemently.
The three of them clinked glasses and drank. They spent the rest of the evening
talking about how to go on with their lives, how to stay away from any possible
investigation, trading ideas of how to cope with the memories of what they'd done.
When they left the Café, close to . pm, the rain had stopped and they had
cleared their minds with a large list of plans.
At that time, Jack was flying to Chicago. He had gotten there in time to book a seat
and buy some little gifts for his daughters, Hannah and Kate. It had been a long
time since he'd seen them, and he expected that Maria, his ex-wife, wouldn’t make
a fuss about coming without calling first. The days off had been welcomed after an
exhausting work and Jack missed his daughters, which he talked to from time to
time on the phone but he barely go to see them.
Meanwhile, in an isolated room of an apartment at  St in Maspeth, Danny waited
with desperation for a friendly face to open that door in front of him. Without
drink or food, he felt drained of energy, the pain from his hands had gone and he
wasn’t able to hear anything but that buzz in his head and the faint rhythm of his
beating heart. He felt a thread of bloody liquid still draining out of his ears and
being glued to his skin. His knees had seemed to cease to exist for him, the same his
hopes of getting out of that place alive. Sometimes he had hallucinated seeing the
door being opened, sometimes he saw a friendly face coming over him and
releasing him from that torture. But it didn’t really happen, the time passed and
Danny gave up, closing his eyes, just waiting to lose consciousness, waiting to die
without pain. He had forgotten Jules, who lay as a ghost beside him, whose terrible
end had saved Danny from an earlier death, from an agony now impossible to bear.
Arriving at her mother’s home at . pm, Elena guessed that Sofie would be doing
her homework and her mom would be glad to see her, especially when she tells her
about her two days off. Elena usually got angry at her mother because she didn’t
look take the matters with Carlos seriously, but her dedication towards Sofie was
so steadfast that Elena was only able to be grateful towards her mom and Sofie
loved her grandma. Actually her problem with Carlos was hers and not anybody
elses, not her mom, not her daughter… not Danny.
“Hola, mamá,” she greeted getting into the kitchen.
[Hola, mamá = hi mom!]
“Elena, qué haces aquí tan temprano? Ha ocurrido algo?” her mom said kissing her
on the cheek.
[Elena, qué haces aquí tan temprano? Ha ocurrido algo? = Elena, I didn’t expect you
so early! What happened?]
“Oh yes, we’ve finished. It has been exhausting and Jack gave us two days off,” she
said with a smile.
“Oh well and, how are you doing? How is work?” she asked apparently interested
in her work.
Elena got surprised by the question, her work wasn’t a matter they usually talked
about. “Oh, well yes and no, but… I don’t want to talk about it.”
“What about your co-worker…. Danny? Sofie has been talking about him so much
and I have the feeling that you two are…”
‘Oh, so that was why her mother was interested in her 'work', Elena thought. “No,
we aren’t. We were dating but… it didn't work out, I… I need to be along right now,
mami,” Elena said, sitting down beside her at the kitchen’s table where her mom
was preparing the dinner.
“I know, cariño, you’re doing well. Sofie needs you, she’s still scared about what
happened and she doesn’t understand yet,” her mother commented without
stopping her work.
[cariño = sweetheart]
Elena smiled. The fact that her mom noticed that Sofie didn’t understand was a
little funny. “What do you mean?”
“Well, she doesn’t know if her father is going to pick up her some day, if now this
Danny is going to be her father. It should be better for the good of the girl that she
knows exactly who her dad and mom are. You have to fix things with Carlos, for the
good of Sofie,” her mother explained.
Elena stared at her not knowing if she should get angry or let it go. What made her
upset the most was the lack of bad intention on her mom and it was just why she
stopped making a scene. She had talked to her so many times; she had explained to
her the situation… it should be her education. “Sure, mom… but it’s still soon, there
are still important issues that Carlos has to solve on his own and he has to
understand our separation’s legal conditions. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t
want to date anybody at this moment, until the situation gets back to normal,
entiendes?”
[entiendes? = do you understand?]
“Claro que sí, hija mía… I don’t understand about these matters. Tu papá and I
were so happy being together, we never had these problems young people have
now.”
[Claro que sí, hija mía = Sure, my girl]
[Tú papá = your dad]
“That’s true, papá was a wonderful person and I miss him every day,” Elena said.
“Where’s Sofie?”
“She’s in the bedroom, finishing her homework. Do you want to stay for dinner?”
her mother asked.
“Sure” – Elena responded with a smile.
 
Aware of needing some time off after such a difficult and intense case, Vivian
realized she needed to pay some much needed attention to her husband, Marcus,
and her adolescent son, Reggie, but something was still nagging at her. As much as
she wanted to focus on them, both Marcus and Reggie could tell she was distracted.
Unfortunately, Vivian wasn’t able to just turn off her mind and forget that there
was someone else out there. In her opinion, the case hadn’t really been closed since
the one pulling the strings, manipulating those guys into doing something that they
never would have done otherwise, was still free. Truthfully, she was actually
thinking about Reggie, about how something like this could happen to him. Since
she couldn't get that horrifying scenario out of her mind, she couldn’t help but take
a cab to Queens College before coming back home.
Deciding to focus on a thought she'd had earlier in the case, Vivian got the
yearbooks from the years the four missing persons were all at Queens College.
After finding them at the library, she finally returned home.
“Viv, honey… how long are you going to stay up reading that?” Marcus asked as he
ambled into the living room, where Vivian had spread out the yearbooks on the
table and was taking careful notes. Beside the names of the students, she had been
writing notes: like if they were members of the same Zeta Delta Fraternity or had
attended Professor Harris's classes.
Looking up at her husband, she smiled tiredly. She was really tired, it was very late
and she'd already come to the conclusion that she couldn’t stop the investigation.
The much needed days off would have to wait. “What time is it?”
“Two thirty. What happened? I thought you already found those people. What are
you still investigating?” he asked as he softly kneaded Vivian’s tired shoulders. The
light massage quickly relieved the tension from her neck and made her to feel
more relaxed.
“Yes, we found those people but we haven’t arrested all the guilty people,” Vivian
said. Then she filled him in about the case and her feelings about some perverse
person still out there. It was just her gut feeling, assuming that he had been
enjoying the view from all perspectives: the players and the victims.
He looked at her and smiled empathically. “Where are your coworkers?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I guess they’re back at home… I know Marcus, I know
what you’re going to tell me but you know how I am. I don’t like to leave things
when I don’t clearly see it’s over,” she insisted.
“I know, I know but look, it’s late and I don’t think you are able to do much more
now. Why don’t you rest, I’ll do my best to make you forget everything and
tomorrow morning -you can go back to the office and continue working on it?”
Marcus suggested.
“You’re right; it would be better if I got a little rest. I’m really exhausted and I’m not
going to be to focus much more at this point. What are you going to do to help me
forget everything?” she asked smirking.
“Bah, nothing… little things, maybe," he smirked back, turning on his feet and
disappearing from her view.
Little Ava jumped into his arms as her mom opened the door. “Marty, you’re finally
here!” Jamie exclaimed. “I’m so happy to see you again.”
Martin smiled as he took little Ava in his arms. “Yes, I know but we’ve got a couple
of days off and I thought that spending a day with all of you would be good. It’s no
trouble, is it? I didn’t have time to call ahead.”
“No way!” she said. “You’re always welcome here. Ron will be back soon; he went
to buy firewood for the barbeque. We’ll have dinner out in the garden… if it’s not
raining.”
“Uncle Marty, come see the new swing daddy put up for me,” Ava exclaimed.
“She’s growing up a lot,” Martin smiled at her as she ran to the garden.
“Yes, time’s passing. How are you doing?” Jamie asked, as they headed to the living
room.
“Well, we’ve had some long days...with a lot of work…” Martin explained to her.
“I see, someone I know?” she asked with a smile.
Martin smiled. Jamie wanted always to know all the details about him. “No, sadly…
I don’t have time enough for relationships right now.”
“That woman…. That woman with you when mom was--”
“Sam.” Martin nodded.
“Yeah, Sam, I had the feeling that there was something between you two.”
“There was, but I guess I forced the situation and then I was shot… things got very
complicated, I screwed up…” he responded surprising how painful it sounded after
such a long time.
“Oh, I’m sorry, but it didn't have to happen, I mean, it’s your life but the fact that
you were shot....it’s not a reason for breaking up,” she said tried to comfort him.
“No, well... I… I didn’t behave very well then and … well, it’s over. It's not worth
talking about now. What about you all?” he replied, desperately wanting to change
the subject in a polite way. His family had no idea about the fight he had everyday
with the painkillers, the way he had hit the bottom and the way he was still fighting
everyday to not take them.
“We're good. Oh Marty, I’m so happy that you're here!”
“Yes, me too, what do you want to do, Ava?” the girl had approached him and
pulled him by the sleeve of his shirt.
“Come to see the swing, uncle Marty,” she asked.
“Sure, let’s go,” he agreed standing up.
Martin spent a good day with his family. The memory of his aunt Bonnie was
present all the time, Jamie was so much like her mom. However, he hadn’t been
able to forget the events they had been working on for the last days.
Since he couldn't get it out of his head, he went directly to the office after saying his
goodbyes rather than back home. Maybe someone was at work, maybe Danny was
back. He pulled out his cell and called his coworker but his cell was off, so he called
to the office.
Vivian was deep into her research when Danny’s phone started to ring.
“Johnson,” she said picking it up.
“Viv?” Martin asked in surprise.
“Yes… eh, Martin, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing, I was calling Danny in case he was around. It’s that… look, I can’t stop
thinking about the case and I don’t know, I don’t like it… I know it’s not a priority
case anymore, but we don’t have a new case and…”
“No, me neither and that’s why I’ve come to the office. Listen, I would welcome
your help. I’m searching the yearbooks from Queens College and I’ve got a large list
of students to get information about,” Vivian responded, grateful for hearing a
‘helpful voice’.
“I’ll be there in a couple of hours, let me pass by home to change clothes,” Martin
agreed.
Martin felt relieved to be able to go on working the case, in spite of his fatigue. The
time he had spent with his family had helped him clear his mind and he felt that he
had to go ahead.
It was .pm when they'd compiled a complete list of names from the first
yearbooks they'd checked. All of the names somehow related to their missing
persons.
“Do you think the person we’re looking for is on this list?” he asked rereading the
names. “We don’t even know if we are looking for a woman or a man.”
“Loomis told us that there was a record and the voice sounded like a man,” Vivian
replied.
“Yes, but it doesn’t mean that the voice matches the person we’re looking for,”
Martin said.
“I don’t know… the truth is that I don’t think it is as good idea as I originally
thought.” Vivian commented. “Listen, it’s late, what do you think about going back
home? We could go to the Campus tomorrow morning and talk to the guys that
Loomis and Hill told us took part in the game.”
“I don’t know if we’re going to get something. If the ones that reached the end
couldn’t identify him, I don’t think the ones who abandoned the game before can
tell us something,” Martin responded. “But, we could try.”
Without the hurry of finding a missing person, not having a case, not having to be
there in fact, Martin and Vivian left the office and returned to their homes, agreeing
to meet at Queens College the next morning.
Picking up his books once the last class of the day was finished, a classmate
approached Kevin and gave him pat on his back. “Hey Miller, do you up for a
game?”
“A game? What kind of game?” he asked in surprise.
“Cards, Roy is sick and we need a player to complete the team. What do you say?
You know how to play cards, don’t you?” the other asked.
Kevin looked at him up and down depreciatively. “Of course, I know how to play
cards, but look for someone else. I’m busy.”
“Okay,” the other responded unperturbed. “Cameron, do you want to join us?”
“Sure, but I warn you that I’m going to give you all a thrashing,” he replied smiling.
“Yeah, sure,” the other said glancing at Kevin. “You stupid,” he muttered as he left
with Cameron.
Kevin left the class with a headache. He had spent all day in class and after four
hours taking notes and listening to the teachers, he had the feeling that his head
was ready to explode. He wasn’t able to go to the Library to study like he had
thought at first time, but he had to stay busy. Looking at his watch, he believed he
could go to the gym before grabbing something to eat. He quickly walked to the
dorm and went up the stairs towards his room.
Turning the last flight of stairs, he saw them. At first, he thought they were in front
of his door and froze. But then, he focused better and he realized they were talking
to someone two or three doors before. Would they have asked about him? He
didn’t dare move. It seems that the FBI hadn’t stopped the investigation, they had
come back to the campus. He remembered that the guy living at that room had
taken part in the game for some months before he quit. If someone had told them
the list of players, he would be included for sure. ‘Well,’ he tried to reason, ‘it isn’t a
crime to take part in a game. They don’t have to know that I went so far’. It would
be a good excuse. He let his breath get back to normal and headed for his room
easily. Neither of the agents noticed him. He got into his room and left the books on
the table. ‘Think, Kevin, think about what you’re going to tell them’. His cell started
to ring. Glancing at the ID and realizing who was calling, he cut off the call. ‘No
Harold, you and I don’t know each other’, he said firmly to himself as deleted his
friend’s name from the contact list. It wasn’t necessary, he had memorized the
number and, in any case, they wouldn’t come to talk anymore.
During that morning, Vivian and Martin had been interviewing seven people from
the list that Loomis had written down. All of them had admitted to taking part in
the game and told them the same story they already knew. However, they had left
the game, it was boring or it hadn't made any sense to them or, simply, that it had
been a waste of time.
They came back to the office discouraged and not knowing what to do next. “Maybe
we should just let it go.” Vivian suggested.
“I think we should stay on it, Viv,” Martin commented, “I think that it’s the only
thing we can do. On the other hand, this isn’t really our work anymore.”
“Oh well, I might as well check the rest of the yearbooks. Why don’t you check the
database with the information about the others we found?” Vivian asked, not sure
if they’d find something.
“All right, but let’s go have lunch before we get started, all right?”
“Of course, I’m starving,” she replied with a smile.
Frank Wilson had decided that completely focusing on his studies would help him
to recover his calm, to forget the events from the last days. After losing himself in
Riemann Manifolds and Differential equations subjects, he decided to take a break
and headed for the lunch room. It wasn’t that the menu was the best of the world,
but it wasn’t a bad option. With the tray in front of him, Frank held his small
earphones from his mp and focused on the meal as he listened to the music. He
wasn’t doing it wrong, he had listened to rumors during the breaks about the FBI
interviewing some guys from his Centre, related to Professor Harris’s death. What
was strange for most of them, because that Professor didn’t even teach in their
Faculty. Some guys from different Centers had been interrogated and Frank had
been thinking about what he was going to tell them. He had figured out the
situation and he wanted to take control of it. It was a game and he had left almost
at the end. He didn’t know anything about kidnapping people, they only did silly
things. It was simple, he had been there, it wasn’t a lie, it was only a half-truth. But
he still had the key from the Maspeth apartment and that was an inconvenience
even though it was easy to solve. He just needed to find a drain to drop it in. As he
thought about how to get rid of the key, his cell started to ring. He looked at the ID
and saw it was Harold. He almost accepted the call but finally, he decided to ignore
the call. No, they couldn’t allow having any failure.
Harold had been doing badly. He was still nervous and he hadn’t been able to focus
on his classes, although he had tried. The images of what it had happened in
Maspeth were still there, following him every place he went and remembering
what he had become. After the first two hours in class, Harold wasn’t able to stay
and came back to his room. It wasn’t that he was better there but at least, he was
away from people, his classmates and he wouldn’t have to explain anything. He lay
on the bed and hid his face on the pillow trying to erase those images, not
succeeding. Thirty minutes later, he got up, took his books and sat down on the
table. Maybe reading, studying… he had to get focused on something… the lab. No,
he couldn’t go now when there were students there. Then he caught the
conversation outside his room. He recognized Lucy Wallace’s voice, a girl that had
been in almost the whole game but preferred to take a paper instead of following a
classmate for a week taking notes about him. Such a stupid thing! But when he
heard the word FBI, Harold started to tremble. Looking at the door he thought
about what he could explain to them but he couldn’t find any words. Somehow he
felt as though he had to get out, he had to end that nightmare, he had to talk to
them. But, incomprehensibly, Harold didn’t move. He listened to the agents saying
goodbye to Lucy Wallace and listened to their steps going away through the
corridor as the next door was closed.
He had to get out; he couldn’t stay at that room where the air was so close. He left
the books and picked up his bag. Forty minutes later, he was sitting down in front
of a big hamburger he didn’t really want to eat but, however, devoured hungrily.
He had phoned Frank and Kevin a couple of times but neither of them answered
his calls. Still with the hamburger in his hands, trying to focus on what he was
doing, he couldn’t erase that moment from his head, that instant he had pulled the
trigger. He still was seeing the terrific and pleading last look of his pawn number
one… his pawn number one, as he was a piece of a chess set… “He was a person!”
he yelled.
He yelled so loud that all the people stopped talking and looked at him in surprise.
Out of control, Harold rose abruptly, dropping the tray on the floor and spreading
the rest of meal around, picked up his bag and, running, left the place. He didn’t
realize how long he was running, running away from that fixed image in his head.
When he finally stopped, exhausted and sick, the images were still there. He
entered an alley and vomited what he had eaten that day and probably the day
before. The tears rolled down his face as his body trembled violently. He couldn’t
go ahead, he wasn’t as strong as his teammates and he wasn’t able to get over it.
Trying to calm down, he sat down trying to assume the new reality of his life,
trying to take a decision, a decision he didn’t know to take. The only thing he
clearly saw was that he had to calm down and to accept what he was, to accept he
had become a murderer and maybe, if he was able to run away, a fugitive for the
rest of his life, really far away from what he had written in that piece of paper. He
wanted to become an research worker and get big results in his work, teaching his
knowledge to the new generations of students, there, at Queens College, having his
own research team, his own classroom, ‘Harold Green’s Laboratory’ and
perpetuate his name forever.
But that would be possible only if he got to calm down and accept the situation,
keeping silent about what had happened during that week. Harold didn’t feel like
he'd be able to do it, but he returned to the dorm telling himself that he had to try
it.
Getting into his room, Harold left the bag on the bed and went to the shower.
Twenty minutes later, after a relaxing and warm shower, he came back and sat
down on his desk. Leaning his elbows on the desk, he picked up a pen and started
to scribble his options. ‘Go to the police’, ‘run away’, ‘adapt to the circumstances’…
adapt to the circumstances. He couldn’t, he didn’t know what to do. Instinctively he
picked up the cell and phoned Frank, but no one answered. He repeated it, this
time phoning Kevin and he got the same. He had to do it alone. He left the pen and
the cell on the desk and went towards the fridge to get a bottle of water. A note on
the fridge caught his attention. ‘Mike,’ he thought, ‘I know that Lindsay is better
company than me,’ Harold smiled, but his smile was frozen at the moment he
started to read the note:
“Dear Harold, you were always my favorite player. You wished to be remembered by
the University Community because of your research work, becoming a prestigious
chemist. Well, you’re a chemist, you used your knowledge brilliantly, your idea to
catch the pawns was excellent and you’ll pass to the history soon, and your name will
be fixed to this University forever, as you wished.”
 
Running through campus, Mike and Lindsay reached the entrance of the dorm
absolutely wet. The heavy rain looked to go on like that for hours. They went up
the stairs to the room that Mike shared with Harold and stayed for a moment
outside, looking at each other as they caught their breath. He separated a wet lock
from her forehead and softly kissed her cold and wet lips. “You’re soaked, we
should get you into the room.”
“What about your roommate?” she asked.
“Don’t care, Harold doesn’t care about what I’m doing. We won’t bother him.”
“I don’t know, maybe… maybe it would be better if I went back to my dorm.”
“Are you crazy? No way, you’re going to stay," he pleaded.
“Okay, I’ll stay,” she agreed, with a slight shrug.
Mike was happy, they had spent all the day together, maybe Harold had left and
they would have the room to themselves. Mike and Lindsay had been dating for
three years, both of them were finishing their degrees and Mike had gotten a good
job in Manhattan. Their next step after getting their degrees was to get married.
Mike was caught up in this thought and barely heard Lindsay talking to him. “Hey,
do you want to remove that stupid smile from your face and open the door?”
“Oh, sure, excuse me!” Mike replied turning the key into the door.
As the police checked the room and Harold Green’s body was taken away, Mike and
Lindsay were attended to by a campus psychologist. Still in shock, they were being
watched by the other dorm residents in the hall.
One of the policemen left the room and walked towards them. “Do you have any
other place to stay for the next few days? We’re going to cord off this room while
we're investigating, but it shouldn't take us too long.”
“Why… why he did it? What the hell has happened?” Lindsay asked in sobs.
“He was very strange lately,” Mike responded. “Well, he had always been pretty
quiet but during the last two weeks his behavior was especially strange. He told me
that he was sick but now… I don’t know what to think.”
“Eh Jerry, look at this!” another policeman called from the room. He had in his
hands some papers with writing on them.
“Excuse me, guys,” Jerry said.
“It looks like a suicide note and, look, on his desk we’ve found these notes. It looks
as though he was trying to make a decision about something,” his coworker
explained.
“Well, put it into a bag and take it to the lab. Take some notebooks to check the
writing, as well. In any case, he cut his wrists. It definitely looks like a suicide,”
Jerry said, as he frowned. “Wait, let me see those notes again.”
Jerry took the papers and read them quickly. “Wait a moment, there are two
names… this is… this looks like a confession, oh my god, they are the guys from
that game, the MPU from the FBI is working on it. Susan, check the identity of these
other guys, try to find out if they're around and arrest them before they find out
what has happened and try to run away. Their names are Kevin Miller and Frank
Wilson. If this is about that game, they'll be close by. Take Lawrence with you and
ask for backup if you need it.”
“Right, sir,” she said quickly joining his coworker.
Arriving at his home, Jack dropped his bag tiredly. Yes, he was tired from the flight
but he felt very happy. The time he had spent in Chicago with his daughters had
been the best gift he could receive for a long time. He met Maria and got surprised
about how relaxed and happy she looked. Hannah had acted distant towards him
at the first, but after spending a whole day together, talking, clarifying things,
watching a movie in the cinema… things that Jack hadn’t remember doing for
years, their relationship had taken a turn for the better. Kate had always been
different, open to talking and showing a mature character for her age, but when
she asked about Anne, he felt a pit in his stomach remembering yet another other
failed relationship. But the girl had looked at him, smiling and leaning her head on
his chest, had embraced him and he had to make an effort to hold back the tears.
Inside his silent house, with that memory still in his mind, the home didn’t look so
silent. A way of communication and understanding had been created between
them, the time had smoothed things over… things would be much better from now
on and Jack congratulated himself for making the decision to go to Chicago.
He hadn’t closed the door yet when his home phone started to ring. “Hello?”
“Jack? It’s Vivian, you have to come to the office, there is a new group of guys,
related to the game.”
“Are there more missing people?”
“We haven’t received any reports, but the police called us, they thought we were
still working on it. Since we have all the documents, they are coming with the two
guys they arrested.”
“How were they found?”
“One of them looks to have committed suicide and in the note he left, they found
the names of his teammates.”
“Any garage or apartment?”
“No, the police told me some details of the note… details of the game, but they were
things we already know.”
“I’m on my way,” Jack said, picking up his car keys and leaving his home.
If there were new players, surely there would be new victims. How was it possible,
that nobody had reported them missing? That was so sad… Would it be the
beginning of a new game? Too much time would have passed, if these new victims
had been caught at the same time the others had been taken, but he remembered
cases of missing person reported a week after their real disappearance. Even
though he really didn't expect to find them alive, they had to do their best to find
them. As always, Jack clung to the slightest ray of hope.
At that time of night, the FBI offices were buzzing with unusual and frantic activity.
Either Jack’s team or Rick’s had reported for work immediately after receiving the
call. Elena had been calling Danny but neither he hadn't answered his cell nor his
home phone. She was starting to get worried about him. When she commented
about it at the office, Sam told her, “Leave him alone, maybe he knew about the
days off and he took them as well. Maybe he's still not feeling well.”
But Elena wasn’t convinced. No, Danny wasn’t like that. She got even more worried
when Martin commented, “I called him as well. Vivian and I have been here
working and he hasn’t come or called.” Martin frowned, it was the first time he
realized just how long they'd gone without hearing from Danny. “Um… I’ll stop by
his home later...after things get under control here.”
“I’ll go with you,” Elena said, appreciating his concern.
Putting together all the documents about the cases they had been working two
days before, they expected to add new information from the interviews to the new
suspects that could help in the search of the man responsible for the whole game.
Rick Carter and Laura Mitchell headed for the interview room where an arrested
Kevin Miller waited. Jack and Vivian did the same in order to interview Frank
Wilson. All of them with the same idea in their head… to find the garage or
apartment that the players referred to or, in the best of the cases, the name of
JD. The night would be long and difficult if the guys didn’t cooperate, but
judging from their expressions, they looked shell-shocked from finding out about
the death of their teammate. So probably...hopefully, they would tell them what
they needed.
A few hours later, Jack, Sam and Elena drove fast towards a Jackson Height’s
Garage in Queens, as Vivian and Martin headed for an apartment on th Street in
Maspeth, where in the first floor, door they would find, as Kevin Miller had told
them, two people.
On their way, Martin couldn’t help but feel nervous, anticipating what they would
find in that apartment. Bringing up the old bad memories of Reyes’s case, years
ago, and knowing how they had found the other missing persons, he could only
picture something terrible...ghastly, even.
Noticing his anxiety and silence, Viv asked, “What's wrong, Martin?”
“I’m not sure…. I don’t know, Vivian, if those men are there as long or even longer
than the others, then I just dread what we’re going to find there,” he replied with
the image of that kid fixed in his mind. It had been a long time ago but he still
remembered it well. That day he had lost control, that day he had lost his
composure and almost his career and Vivian’s, too, when they not only lied to Jack
but reported a very different version of what had happened there.
“You could be right. This is going to be tough, Martin. I know what you’re thinking
about, but it was a long time ago and you won’t find anybody else than these poor
people and we don't even know if these other people are still alive or not.”
“Yes, I know but it’s so… so...awful...unimaginable.”
Vivian nodded solemnly. “Yes, everything about this case is terrible.”
Driving towards that garage, Jack found himself again at the same point he had left
two days ago. He had sent Viv and Martin to that apartment feeling that he
wouldn’t be able to see it. During his two days off, in spite of enjoying the company
of his daughters, he couldn’t help but think about those people they had saved
from an unfair torture, because of the luck of some dice, and he couldn’t help but
relive the time he spent kidnapped and tortured by the woman who had almost
killed him with a nail gun. Sam and Elena were talking but he barely listened to
them, as he remembered one more time that day and felt the pain in his hand. He
removed the hand from the wheel for a moment and clenched his fists as he tried
to focus on the driving.
“Are you okay?” Sam asked, noticing his gesture.
“Yes,” he replied. “I’m fine now.”
Arriving at the address they'd been told, they immediately identified the garage.
Forcing the door, Jack pushed it open and the three of them entered. The image
they found was very similar to the other garages. Definitely, it was the same game.
“The three small cases, the cabinet…,” Elena enumerated.
Opening the lockers, Sam looked inside them. “There’s nothing here, though,” she
said.
Noticing the sickening smell, Martin swallowed hard. No movement nor sound was
heard outside the apartment, but they could picture what they were going to find
inside and he wasn't sure he was ready for it.
At the signal of his boss, one of the SWATs kicked the door down. They entered
quickly and guided by the smell, they headed for the only still closed door.
Checking that it could be opened easily, Vivian pulled out her gun and opened the
door carefully. Martin entered the room first and immediately had to cover his
nose with his hands. The rest of agents got out fabrics to protect them from the
smell as they entered behind him. They could immediately make out the two
people they'd been told about, one of them was clearly dead. The other one didn’t
move and Martin couldn’t help but stared at him unable to process what he was
seeing. Completely frozen by the smell, the scene and the identity of the person in
front of him, he couldn’t move himself further into the room and he felt deeply
ashamed, noticing Vivian had ignored the terrible smell, the pool of blood and mess
around and was doing what he should have done if he could only move his legs.
Vivian couldn’t believe what...who her eyes were seeing. It wasn’t him, it couldn’t
be Danny, but her eyes weren’t lying to her. She approached quickly him, after
checking the vitals of the other man, surprised that Martin seemed planted in
place. She couldn't deal with Martin, though. With her heart in a fist, she put her
finger on Danny's neck and found a pulse, a weak pulse but still a glimmer of hope
for a life to fight for.
Looking at him, she realized that he not only was alive but he was conscious and
she felt the tears well in her eyes. How was it possible? How was it that he had
been there all this time? He shouldn’t be there. She held his head carefully, as she
removed the tape and took the fabric out of his mouth. She could hear a harsh
moan escape his throat as she threw the cloth to the floor. “Take it easy, take it
easy,” she whispered, “We'll get you out of here in a minutes,” she told him as she
caressed his hair not knowing if she was soothing him or herself. Then she
removed the ropes from his feet and pulled out small pocket knife to untie the
handcuffs. But she wasn’t able to do it and hold him at the same time. Not wanting
to let him go, she recalled that Martin was nearby.
“Martin, help me here. Hold him while I remove the handcuffs,” she demanded.
But Martin didn’t move. “Martin!” she shouted out.
Then Martin reacted, what was he thinking about? It was Danny, his friend, who
was needing his help and he had frozen.
Releasing Danny's hands, Vivian suddenly caught sight of his fingers. “Oh my god,”
she muttered. Carefully, they laid him down on the floor as he tried to speak. His
ears were still dripping a bloody liquid and his fingers were swollen and
bloodstained. Noticing that Martin was still in shock as he stared at his friend,
Vivian tried to get his attention. “Martin, take his legs carefully,” she demanded as
she tried to maneuver Danny in a more comfortable position. “Calm down, Danny,
it’s over. We'll get you through this, can you hear me?” she soothed.
Martin didn’t know what was happening to him. For the last week, they had done
this work several times and he knew exactly what he had to do, and he had done it.
He was aware of what they were going to find in that room and he was ready to act
but he wasn’t ready to see Danny in that room. This was his friend, his coworker
and when he realized he could have died in that room without any help, he couldn’t
handle it. Besides the smell, the blood and the torture had presumably been
happened there, he had frozen in a way that hadn’t happened before. He felt
ashamed of being able to help Jake Thomas or John Kirkpatrick but not being able
to help Danny. He knew it was because he was directly involved, affected because
Danny was part of his life, but that didn’t stop him from feeling waves of guilt.
Sitting down beside him, he held his hand trying to offer a little warmth but
Danny's hands were in very bad condition. Carefully, he lifted up his shirt and
could see the bruises on his body, beside the ones on his back and the wound on
his face. He looked at the liquid escaping his ears and remembered the pain he felt
when, being a child, suffered an earache. The memory of that buzz inside his ear
made him shiver.
Vivian didn’t stop to caress and talk to Danny, even though he wouldn’t be able to
hear her, but he looked at her with his almost closed eyes. She noticed his tears
rolling down his face and Viv wiped them from his face. “Calm down, Danny, calm
down, you’re safe, nobody is going to hurt you anymore. Relax, the doctor is right
here.”
He tried to move his arm towards her, his hurt hands trying to reach her even
though he didn’t seem to feel pain. She held down his arm softly as she rubbed it
trying to stretched it. “Take it easy, take it easy, everything is going to be okay,” she
soothed him as he tried to tell her something, but she wasn’t able to understand his
words. “Shh, calm down Danny, don’t speak now, don’t speak now.” However, he
went on trying to speak and she finally understood his mumbles, but not their
meaning. “Jules,” he whispered with a hoarse voice, “Jules.” She finally understood
that Jules was the other man, whose body was being taken out the room in a black
bag. She looked at Martin who squeezed his arm lightly. “Okay, Danny, I
understand, calm down, don’t speak now. We ‘ll have time to talk later”.
Noticing the paramedics approaching them, Viv and Martin moved back but stayed
close enough so Danny would be able to see them. How long he would have been
there alone while they thought he was at home with a cold. They had been working
during those days without a break and they didn’t even think about him until it
was too late. How long he'd been tortured, waiting, in the loneliness of that room
with only the company of a corpse.
After a while, the paramedic in charge stood up and explained, “Well, agents, we’ve
stabilized him and we’re going to take him to St. Andrews Hospital, we can’t do
anything else for him here.”
“Is he...is he going to be okay?” Martin asked.
“When he's examined at the hospital, the doctors will tell you what you need to
know,” the paramedic replied. "Do one of you want to come with us?” he asked.
“Martin, go with them. I’m going to call Jack. We’ll meet at the hospital,” Vivian
ordered.
Approaching them, a doctor mercilessly ended the two hours they had been
waiting for news about Danny. “Are you here for Danny Taylor?” he asked.
“Yes,” Jack replied approaching him. “I’m special agent Jack Malone, I’m his
supervisor. They are his coworkers.”
“How is he, doctor? Is he going to recover?” Sam asked with a trembling voice. She
had joined Jack and Elena when they received the call from Viv. They hadn’t had a
chance to process the fact that Danny had been one of the victims of that game.
“Well, he shows symptoms of dehydration which we’re treating with proteins and
other medication, numerous bruises and a cut on his cheek we’ve sutured. He’s
responding well to the treatment. What’s worrying me right now is the infection in
his hands and ears. We are treating him with strong antibiotics and I hope he’ll
start to get better in the next couple of hours,” the doctor explained to them.
“Could we see him?” Elena asked. Listening to Vivian and Martin as they explained
to them how they had found Danny in that room, she had pictured the most awful
things. She just needed to see him for herself to make sure he was okay.
“No, he’s under a heavy sedative to stop the anxiety and the immense pain caused
by his hurt ears. Also, he needs to stay in a sterile environment to fight all the
infection in his body. But more that anything, he just needs to rest. If he shows
improvement in the next twenty four hours, I’ll give you authorization to visit him,”
the doctor responded.
“Okay, thanks,” Jack said.
Standing there, none of them said a word. They had all been shocked by what had
happened and being in a hospital listening to the explanations of a doctor about
Danny’s condition was strange to say the least. They didn’t know what to do or
where to go. None of them wanted to leave and all of them were thinking the same
thing: How the hell didn’t they realize that there was something wrong?
Understanding their sense of helplessness, the doctor tried to ease their minds.
“Listen, in these cases the healing is fast… if we can successfully remove the
infection. Your friend is in good hands. I suggest you go home, it’s not worth it to
stay here all the night. He’s strong and his system is responding to the dehydration
medication.”
“Thanks so much, doctor,” Jack responded, shaking his hand.
Watching as the doctor left the waiting room, Jack turned to his coworkers. “Well,
you’ve heard the doctor. It’s late, we better go home…”
“No way. I’m going back to the office. I want to have a chat with those guys,” Martin
replied.
“For what, Martin?” Vivian asked. “For starter, you can be sure that from now on
Rick will be in charge of this investigation and none of us are going to get
anywhere near those guys.”
“Vivian is right, Martin. I don’t really know what I’d do if I was in the same room
with those guys again. I know we can’t change what they've done but if I could
make them suffer half of what they made Danny suffer, I, I…” Sam started.
“Revenge isn’t the answer. We’re emotionally involved.” Elena tried to make them
listen to reason. “It's better that others take charge of this and we can focus on our
work. Danny will feel better soon and we can all forget about all of this.”
“How are you able to say that, Elena, especially you?” Martin confronted her. “You
didn’t see him, I don’t think he'll just get over this...or ever forget it. We don’t know
what the ramification will be, we don’t know if he’ll be able to hear again or if he’s
going to save his fingers. And we don’t really know what happened in that
room....everything he thought. But he sure as hell won't be able to forget about it
anytime soon--”
Noticing Elena’s tears in her eyes, Vivian interrupted Martin, squeezing his arm.
“Martin, take it easy, we can’t stop the world because of what happened. Elena is
right, we have to stay on track. I think we’ll be able to help Danny to get over this,
he’s going to need our help and we must all be there for him.”
None of the others noticed the tears in his eyes, tears of fatigue, of rage, of
frustration. Martin pulled away from Vivian's hold, and left the waiting room
where they had been since their Danny had been driven to the emergency room,
after an anguish-filled driving with the paramedics treating him on their way to the
hospital.
“Don’t take it personally, Elena. Martin is overwhelmed from find Danny the way
we did...in that place…” Vivian started, trying to calm down Elena.
“You were there too and you aren’t reacting the same way, Viv. I wanted only to tell
everyone that we shouldn’t obsess over this, we must stay objective and stay away
from the investigation. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Danny, I’m not a
doctor, I wasn’t there and no, I haven’t seen him for a week. I only want him to get
over this and for things to get back to normal. Is that so difficult to understand?”
She asked with broken voice. Danny was the person she loved the most in the
world, apart of Sofie and breaking up with him had been the hardest decision she's
ever made but it didn’t meant she wouldn’t always love him. Danny was the nicest
person she had ever met and she couldn't imagine him not in hers and Sofie's lives.
“No, it’s not, it’s what all of us want but it will take Martin some time to get there.
We’re tired now and overwhelm...still shocked by what has happened. Let’s go
home, tomorrow we’ll have a lot of work to do for sure and we’ll welcome the rest.”
Vivian said.
At that moment, Jack’s cell started to ring. Some people in the waiting room
frowned because cell phones were forbidden, but Jack didn’t notice the reproachful
looks.
“Malone”
“Jack, it’s Carter. How’s Danny?”
Jack informed him about what the doctors had told them some minutes before.
“We must wait until tomorrow morning to find anything new about him,” he
finished.
“Okay, um... Olczyk phoned me. Obviously, since he knew that Taylor was one of
the victims he asked me to take charge of the investigation. I guess you understand.
Any way, we have been working this from the beginning so it’s not new for me.”
“Thanks, Rick,” Jack responded appreciatively.
“Well, eh… there’s a matter I’d like to talk to you about, but we can talk about it
tomorrow morning,” Rick commented.
 
“Have you interrogated the guys yet?” Jack asked anxiously.
It was . am when Jack had arrived at Rick Carter’s office. His tired features and
the state of his clothes indicated that Rick hadn’t left the office for the whole night.
It was something to be grateful for since after finding the victims of this new group,
it wasn’t necessary to stay. But Rick was aware of the meaning this case had for
Jack’s team and he knew that Jack would the same for him, if it had been the case.
Jack had barely slept and he could swear, looking at his coworkers, that they hadn’t
either. He was especially worried about Martin as he seemed even more affected
than the others.
“Yes, it’s the same as the other cases, but they started a day later. Danny was
caught near his home and the other man identified as Jules Michel Osborne,
years old and owner of a pet shop in Queens, after he had left a café he frequented
after work. When we went to the shop, it was closed and there was a note fixed to
the door saying ‘Closed for grieving’. Miller and Wilson had declared that they
hadn't put the note there. The lab is analyzing it, but I doubt we'll find anything.”
“Didn’t this man have a family?” Jack asked frowning.
“He has a sister, Teri Blake, married with two children. She lives in Washington
D.C. and is on her way here,” Rick explained.
“And… what’s the link to Queens College?”
“He attended Queens College from  to  studying Business. He matches with the
profile, as the other victims,” Rick replied.
“I understand,” Jack said thoughtful.
“There is something else Jack and this… this is delicate. It’s about agent Taylor,”
Rick commented, a little hesitation in his tone.
“What’s the matter?” Jack asked.
“In their statements, both Miller or Wilson talked about a call made the day of their
capture. Both of them remember exactly how Danny left a message in his boss’
voicemail and they remember well because it was a risky situation for them, since
it was a number from the FBI,” Rick explained looking in Jack’s eyes.
Jack got pale. He recalled the message Danny had left on his voicemail but he
wasn’t able to remember anything special about it.
“We’ve check the calls and found it, I’d like you to listen to it again with me,” Rick
said.
“Well, I remember... I remember that Danny left a message saying he had caught a
cold,” Jack commented blinking his eyes in confusion.
Taking a voice recorder, Rick put it on the desk and hit the play button. Jack could
hear a message that would permanently be fixed in his mind for the following days,
weeks, months… day and night, a message that pointed to him as guilty party for
having left a man to die, for having left Danny at the mercy of those people, a
message that brought up the warning that days before Dr. Harris had told him, a
warning he hadn’t taken to heart, thinking that, in spite of everything, he was able
to control it. He was clearly wrong and something that he should have noticed at
the blink of an eye, since the first sentence said by the operator, the time the call
had been completed, had been incomprehensibly skipped, beside the rest of the
message. Now it was clear, nobody had to explain to him the terrible mistake he
had made.
He sat down in front of Rick trying to stay calm. During all the years he had spent
in the FBI, he had made some mistakes. Everybody made them from time to time,
but at this time… it was so clear… and hearing Danny’s voice knowing that at the
moment of the call he was already in the hands of those crazy guys. It was a
mistake he'd never make up for.
“I see I don’t have to explain anything to you,” Rick said vehemently. “Jack, I’m
writing a report and I don’t know how to write this. I know that during those days
we were working these cases, you had two missing persons and many hours
without a break…”
“Don’t try to justify it, Rick. It’s… It’s incomprehensible that I had failed like this.
It’s incomprehensible,” Jack responded in a whisper. “Would you mind… leave me
the recording? I need to do something with it. Please.”
“Of course, I’ll make a copy for you,” Rick agreed.
“Thanks. Listen, I really appreciate the time you’re dedicating to this investigation,”
Jack said, standing up.
“Jack, don’t blame yourself about what happened. You know, you clearly know
who's responsible are, right?” Rick tried to encourage his colleague, knowing
exactly what Jack was thinking about.
“Yes, but it doesn’t change the facts,” Jack responded. “Thanks so much, again.”
Observing Jack leaving his office, Rick felt sorry for him. The man appeared ten
years older in that moment. At the time he had listened to that recording, he hadn’t
been able to understand how a man so experienced as Jack Malone hadn’t
understood that message.
That morning, after taking Sofie to the school, Elena headed for the hospital. She
had spent the night thinking about the days Danny had spent in that house,
thinking that, for the whole week, she hadn’t even called him. Work wasn’t an
excuse for her, not after the conversation they had had, not after the look he
showed the next morning. She was aware that the agreement they had made, it
wasn’t what they wanted and that had affected him, for sure. But she hadn’t called
him, worried about her daughter spending too much time with her grandmother as
they were immersed in endless work.
She had to see him. She had spent the night picturing him in that room, as Vivian
and Martin had described and what she pictured was so cruel that she needed to
see him, she needed to know how he was doing, how he actually was, not wanting
to think about how much pain he had suffered in that place.
Turning back to the sound of steps approaching her, she met the doctor that had
informed them the night before and she had asked for. “I’ve been informed that
you want to see agent Taylor, Ms…”
“Agent Delgado, I’m his coworker. Listen, I don’t want to disrupt his recovery, I’m
not asking to go into his room but I need to see him. I’d appreciate it if there is any
way to see him. I haven’t seen him for days and I haven’t been able to sleep
thinking about his condition. I’d feel better if, at least, I could see him,” she almost
pleaded.
The doctor smiled knowingly, “Agent Taylor is under heavy sedation, so you won’t
be able to talk to him and since we must guard against infections, I can’t let you go
into the room, agent Delgado. However, you can see him from outside. Come with
me, please,” the doctor replied.
“Thanks, Doctor…”
“Maxwell.”
“Doctor Maxwell, how did he do through the night?” Elena asked.
“Well, the sedatives are helping him, he’s responding well to antibiotics and his
stats are looking better, considering that he had spent almost of the week without
food or drink. I’m pretty satisfied with how he’s doing. When he feels better, we’ll
take care of his ears and evaluate his condition. I’ve examined him on the surface
and he is going to need surgery for replacing his damage eardrums. Then he’ll
hopefully recovery his hearing, his sense of balance will turn to normal and the
constant buzzing he’s feeling right now will be over,” the doctor explained to her.
“Well, here we are.”
Stopping in front of the glass, Elena felt a knot in her stomach as took in Danny's
pale and thin figure. Having his eyes closed, he looked to be asleep even though his
expression didn’t look relaxed. She felt the tears filling her eyes as she noticed his
hands covered in bandages, his ears covered with gauzes, some IV connected to his
arms and a monitor registering his heart pattern. She put her hands on the glass as
if she could touch him. It wasn’t like what she'd imagined, but she had been pretty
close and, even though she wasn’t able to see the injuries, she was able to feel them
under the bandages and gauzes.
“Thanks,” she muttered her eyes full in tears.
“Don’t worry, agent Delgado. When we stop giving him sedatives and he wakes up,
everything will be different. In fact, I can tell you that his condition is much better
than last night. Sincerely, when I examined his hands and saw the infection he had,
I thought that I couldn’t save his fingers but now, I'm feeling much better about his
prospects,” the doctor explained to her.
Elena thought that the doctor was right, that once Danny was awake, once she
would be able to talk to him, things would be different, but still there were too
many questions with no answers. What would happen if he wasn’t able to recover
his hearing? He couldn’t work in the FBI, he could lose the chance to become a
lawyer as well, he would have to think about different work… a different life.
“How’s Danny? Were you able to talk to him?” Sam asked her as soon as she saw
her entering the bullpen.
Vivian and Martin joined her as well, and sat down together at the conference
table. “I was able to see him through glass. He was asleep… pale… he looked
restless in spite of being under sedatives,” Elena explained. “But the doctor is
hopeful about his recovery and they are only waiting for the ENT specialist
evaluates the damage in his ears. He's pretty sure he will have to have extensive
surgery.”
“Yes, I guess so,” Vivian commented. “I’ve been reading Wilson and Miller
statements and I could match the injuries Danny had with what they did to him.
Osborne, the man we found beside Danny hadn’t had a better time of it. He had
cuts on the bottoms of his feet and he had several bruises from a brass knuckle, a
part from the fatal shot.”
“Not to mention being without food or drink for days,” Sam commented. “I don’t
even want to think about it.”
“No,” Martin responded. He had barely spoken, he had barely slept or eaten
anything that morning, not being able to remove the image of his friend tied up to
that tube, in the condition they found him, not knowing if he was alive or dead. As
they read the reports, as they put together all the information, Martin couldn’t help
but think about one only thing over and over. “Danny matched the profile of the
other victims,” he started. “Thirty four years old, he attended at Queens College, he
told us that he had attended Professor Harris’s classes. I should have realized it
before. It was a clear clue and he wasn’t here.”
“He had phoned Jack telling him had caught a cold, Martin,” Vivian remembered.
Someone cleared his throat behind her and she turned back. Jack looked at them
with an indescribably sad expression. All of them felt pits in their stomachs. It
wasn’t possible, Danny was doing well, he was out of danger. He realized the bad
impression he had caused and quickly explained to them the reason of his state.
“Eh, guys I want to tell you that I’ve just written my resignation letter. I want to…”
he started.
“What! Jack, what are you talking about?” Sam asked alarmed.
“Wait, wait a moment, let me explain. I want you to know that what happened to
Danny is, in some way, my fault,” he finished.
“No way, Jack. You weren’t the one who kidnapped and tortured him like that,”
Vivian said.
“No, but I could've stopped it and… and I didn’t understand. I’m going to talk to
Olczyk. Rick updated with information I had ignored. That’s the explanation for my
resignation and you will understand after you hear it,” he said. “I just want you to
know that… for all these years, you have been my best team but I… I can’t go on.”
“Jack, I don’t…. don’t understand. What has happened, what information are you
talking about?” Martin asked.
“Later,” he only replied..
The four agents stared at him not understanding what had happened, as Jack left
the office, looking worn out.
“What’s the matter?” Elena asked. “You all have read the statements, is there
something to justify this attitude?”
“It doesn’t appear so,” Vivian replied, quickly scanning the reports.
“No, it’s what I’ve told you,” Martin said. “Surely Jack doesn’t understand how he
didn’t realize that Danny matched the exact profile of the other missing persons.”
“Come on, Martin, that’s ridiculous, there are a lot of people who matched with that
profile and Jack doesn't give up so easily.” Sam reasoned.
“Yes, but Danny has gone six days without calling, without coming in, without
responding to our calls and we didn’t give it another though,” Martin insisted,
clearly blaming himself.
“Let it go, Martin. Sam is right, there are a lot of people that shared those years at
Queens College, it could be anyone. In fact, I’ve always thought that they were
chosen at random from the college yearbooks.” Elena commented.
“Danny wasn’t in the yearbooks,” Vivian responded. “Martin and I reviewed them.
If he had been in there, maybe we would have realized that something was wrong
with him and we would have checked on it.”
Leaving his resignation letter beside the copy of the record that Rick Carter had
given him on Alexander Olczyk’s desk, Jack sat down and waited. His boss removed
his glasses and looked at him questioning.
“Come on Jack, what’s the matter? These unexpected surprises aren’t a reason for a
resignation,” he asked.
“Unexpected surprises? Is that how you define what they did to agent Taylor?” Jack
responded.
“I don’t mean that, Jack. I know how you feel, believe me, I know. I meant that it
looked the case, or the cases, whatever you want to call them, were already closed
and it had appeared this group that unfortunately had taken your agent. It’s not
about what they did to agent Taylor.” he said ignoring Jack’s state of nervousness.
Olczyk quickly read the resignation letter and handed back to Jack. “I’m not going
to accept this.”
Hitting the play button of the voice recorder, Jack wanted Olczyk to listen to the
message Danny had left, but Olczyk stopped it. “Jack, I’ve already listened to this,
Rick Carter sent it to me last night. You don’t have to show me anything else, you
have a solid career full of success. You know that sometimes I haven’t agreed with
your methods but the truth is that you have formed an excellent team and the
results you’ve gotten during your investigations speak volumes in your favor. But
we are human and I’m aware of that either your team or Rick have been under
pressure working together in trying to resolve the cases of several missing
persons. You were tired, all of you. I know that just listening to this recording this
morning, you realized the mistake, didn’t you? You didn’t even need hear the voice
of your agent to know it.”
“Yes, but this doesn’t justify the fact that I could stop what happened,” Jack
responded.
“No, but this,” Olczyk said waving the letter, “this doesn't justify it either, Jack. Try
to look for another solution because this is unacceptable.”
Olczyk gave back the voice recorder and the letter. “I suggest to you don’t listen to
that recording anymore, Jack. It’s not worth it.”
Looking at her coworker from outside the room, Vivian, dressed in green sterilized
clothes, waited for the nurse to let her to enter. At least, she could spend some
minutes with him and surely he would be grateful about it. They had been told that
morning that they were going to stop injecting the sedatives so Danny would be
awake that afternoon. She had arrived soon and Martin and Sam agreed to meet
her later. Elena had excused herself, she had to pick up Sofie from school but she
would be there the next early morning. Jack… Vivian didn’t know what had
happened to him. After his resignation letter, he hadn’t explained to them what had
been happening and he refused to go to the hospital with them with a single ‘I
can’t’. Rick Carter had told her that Olczyk had rejected his letter but didn’t want to
explain to her what he'd done, telling her that it was personal. What had
happened? Why had Jack felt so bad... so guilty?
“Are you ready, agent Johnson?” A smiling nurse asked.
“What? Oh… excuse me...” Vivian replied.
“Don’t worry, let me see if everything is right,” the nurse said checking the clothes.
“Well, that’s right, I’ll let you in for five minutes. That will be enough for today.”
“All right, thanks,” Vivian said. She took a deep breath trying to calm down her
nerves and then went into the room.
Danny didn’t see her stepping in. His eyes were closed and he looked to be asleep
but Vivian knew he wasn’t. She took a chair and sitting down beside the bed, she
gently squeezed his arm. He opened his still blurred eyes and turned to her,
frowning as he moved. The room was spinning around him, it happened since he
had open his eyes and was surprised to see a different face a part the nurse or the
doctor, his usual company since he had been awoken. They had used a whiteboard
to explain to him something about the treatment but he wasn’t really interested in
it, even though he felt relieved to read the part about ‘you’ll recover’. It was
something positive, but he actually wished the buzz in his head would end and the
walls would stop falling down on him. If he adds that moving his head he felt as
everything around moved with him, his hopes for recovering were so far away.
“Vivi...,” he whispered. He tried to smile but he only got a strange grimace. The
wound on his cheek hurt him and he remembered the hit he had received, feeling
the painful suture.
“Hey Danny,” she greeted slowly trying to make him easy to read her lips. She took
the little white board and the pen. “They made me dress in these terrible clothes to
be with you so don’t dare laugh on me. How you feel?”
Reading the text, Vivian noticed he was barely able to focus on it. “I don’t know,
everybody is smiling at me and telling me that I’ll recover, so it should be fine,” he
responded with a hoarse voice.
Viv erased the white board and wrote again. “That’s true, you have to be patient.
The guys send you greetings, we miss you. So you have to be a good boy and do
whatever the doctors tell you, all right?”
Danny nodded. She left the white board and put her hand on his forehead. Danny’s
reaction surprised her. His eyes filled in tears as he tried to grab her arm. Then, she
remembered that it was the first thing she did when they found him and she
realized what he was feeling at that moment.
“Hey, take it easy, relax,” she said as she wiped the tears escaping his eyes. “Come
on Danny, it’s okay. I’m not going to leave,” she assured him as she squeezed his
arm again and caressed his forehead.
Danny wasn’t able to hear her words but he knew Vivian well and he knew what
she was telling him. Her gesture had moved him, it wasn’t that she had approached
him, ignoring whatever it was around, offering the warmth, the support and safety
that made him feel safe, knowing that his torture had ended and she would take
him out of that hell. She had reminded him that there were people in his life that
were worth his fight to stay alive, people that cared for him and he owed so much
to, he owed what he had become for those ten years. And Vivian Johnson was the
closest person to what his mom had been so long ago. That gesture, that gesture
was what Vivian was dedicated to her son Reggie after coming back home, tired of
working and he was already sleeping. He didn’t know actually, but he figured out it
was like that and probably, at that moment, after so many hours of loneliness, of
losing faith, of being taken to a hospital and being awoken to a doctor explaining
to him how the things were going to be, writing the words on a white board, at that
moment, that gesture reached the bottom of his heart.
Vivian understood that what Danny needed was simple. It was the kindness of a
friendly face, not pressuring him to speak. So she continued caressing him until the
nurse was back. Danny appreciated the gesture and Vivian could see how he
relaxed and closed his eyes.
“It’s time to rest, Danny,” the nurse wrote on the whiteboard. “Your coworker will
be back another day and surely the next time you’ll be able to chat a little more,”
Then she squeezed his hand softly as he opened his eyes.
“Sure,” he muttered. “I’m sorry Viv, I don’t guess I’m the best company right now.”
Vivian frowned and took the white board. “Don’t say silly things, you have only to
be worried about recovering, remember?”
“Look,” he said pointing to the glass. “I think the guys are outside there,”
“Yes,” she wrote, “Sam and Martin. Elena will be here tomorrow morning. But the
doctor allowed only one person to get in, and that’s me."
“Tell Sam… tell Sam, don’t be worried. I’m fine and the doctors are taking good care
of me. Tell them… tell them that I’ll be back soon to take care of all of you.” Danny
said.
“I’ll tell them right now,” Vivian responded with a smile, Danny's attempt at humor
warming her heart.
“Agent Johnson, it would be better that you leave know. Danny has to rest and I’ve
let stay here more time than we had agreed,” the nurse said firmly but
affectionately.
“All right, thanks,” Vivian replied.
Joining Martin and Sam outside the room, Vivian watched as the nurse checked
Danny’s vitals and made him comfortable reordering the pillows and blankets.
“How did you do?” Sam asked.
“He told me that you don’t have to be worried, he’s fine, the doctors are taking care
of him and he’ll be back soon. Oh, and take care of ourselves,” Vivian responded.
“But, how is he?” Martin asked anxiously.
“I don’t know what to say, I thing it’s too soon and there are a lot of unsaid things.
It’s not simple to have a conversation through a whiteboard. He needs time to
recover. That’s the most important, guys,” Vivian replied.
“Well, what if we leave?” Sam suggested noticing the nurse heading for the door
and Danny closing his eyes.
“Yes, we should go home. Tomorrow it’s time to go back to work as usual,” Martin
commented. “The days off were great, but after what has happened right now, it’s
like they didn’t exist.”
“Yes, I feel the same. I’m worried about Jack, I don’t know why he would have
resigned”, Sam said.
“At least Olczyk didn’t accept his letter,” Vivian replied. “You know the way Jack
takes some things...the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
“Yes, but resigning is not his usual reaction. Usually, he fights,” Sam disagreed.
“Well, whatever happened, he’ll tell us tomorrow,” Vivian replied.
 -
Starting the recorder once again, Jack rubbed his face in desperation. He had lost
count of how long he had been listening to the message, not taking the advice
Alexander Olczyk had told him the day before. He felt that, listening to it over and
over, he would get the punishment he deserved, since nobody else was able to
understand what he was going through. It had been his fault, he had received the
warnings, the advice and he had actually believed that it wouldn’t happen to him…
until he had failed.
Lifting his head at the sound of the knock on his door, he saw his coworkers enter
his office. It was time to give them an explanation. Before he could start, Elena gave
them the last news about Danny.
“I’ve been at the hospital this morning and I was allowed to visit Danny for a
moment. The doctor was preparing him for some general tests, and later the
specialist is going to examine his ears. He will be in surgery sometime in the next
couple of days to repair his damaged eardrums.”
“That’s good. I’ve heard that it’s a relatively standard surgery and that hearing is
recovered fairly fast.” Sam commented.
“I'm thinking Danny will just be glad if the buzz in his head finally ends and the
walls stop falling down on him,” Vivian said. “Well Jack, here we are. Are you going
to explain to us what the matter is?”
Jack didn’t reply but he pushed the play button on the recorder, once again.
“You’ve got a message on Monday, January th, at : am,” the operator said. Then
they listened to Danny’s voice. “This is a message from special agent Taylor to
Supervisor Jack Malone. Jack, I think I’ve got a cold and I’m going to take some time
off. I’ll call you later.”
It wasn’t only about the message; it was about the time… it was about everything.
It wasn’t something Danny would have done. Ever. Anyone would have realized
that something was wrong immediately. All of them remained silent; no one knew
what to say, realizing that the call had been made in that room where they had
found Danny. All of them remembered the comment they had made in the office
and Jack’s reply of ‘he's got a cold’. Nobody had asked again, nobody had made a
call until it was too late and just because Martin wanted to go on working the case,
he had called him once but he hadn’t done anything more than that. None of them
had been worried about their friend. If they hadn't already thought about it before,
now it was staring them all in the face. They'd abandoned him when he'd needed
them the most.
Sam was the first one to break the sharp silence. “Jack… this isn’t your fault. We'd
been under pressure for days, any of us could have phoned Danny just to ask how
he was doing and none of us did it. None of us, Jack.”
“Danny matched with the profile of the rest of the victims, Jack. When I called him
because I couldn’t stop thinking about the case and he didn’t reply, I didn't think
anything more about it,” Martin commented, “I didn’t realize that he matched the
profile and he could have been in danger.”
“And you called me to the office and asked me about him and I didn’t think about it
either. We went on working and none of us realized it,” Vivian continued, also
trying to ease Jack's conscience.
“I didn’t bother about him until Martin mentioned something but that… when was
it? It was the same day we found him,” Elena said.
“I see what you’re all trying to do but there are too many who would have matched
the profile and calling him would have needed an action from you, knowing that he
was only nursing a cold, as I told you… but he… he called me, he asked me for help
and I… I can’t understand how I didn’t realize something so simple,” Jack
responded.
“Jack, don’t blame yourself because of this, please, you’re not going to change what
happened,” Vivian tried to help. “You’ve realized your mistake, if you didn’t realize
then it was because we were exhausted after so much work, it’s normal for this to
happen in situations like that. Jack, I’m not going to argue with you about this
anymore because you already know the truth and I’m sure that either Rick or
Olczyk have told you as well. You don’t have to explain anything to us, you don’t
have to do this.”
Jack usually didn’t take advice into consideration, but this time he did. Working on
paperwork all morning, he had barely thought about it but he knew he had to go,
he owed Danny an explanation, even though he was aware that this probably
wasn't the right time. Since Rick Carter had told him that he needed Danny’s
statement, Jack thought that Danny should know who was responsible for "the
game". A JD had pulled the strings, using all of the "players" for his own sick
purposes, and as of now, he'd gotten away with it. Nobody knew him, he hadn’t left
any trace however, he seemed to know all the players, victims and executioners
extremely well.
Looking at Danny through that glass, he realized that Vivian was right about that,
too. Danny looked better than he had thought he would. But it didn't make Jack
worry any less about how the trauma would affect Danny mentally. Jack was a
good psychologist and he had used his education well in several cases, a thing he
never could do for himself. As he had explained to Sam long time ago, his degree
hanging on his office wasn’t just for decoration.
Opening the door carefully, Jack entered the room. Danny looked at him and
smirked, not needing words to communicate his amusement at seeing Jack.
“What! Don’t laugh at me; I’m doing this for you. I don’t want you to get any
infection because of me,” Jack warned him, as he motioned to the outfit the nurse
had given him to put on over his clothes.
He took a chair and sitting down beside him, met the frowning face of Danny
pointing to the white board on the table and Jack remembered that Danny hadn’t
heard anything he'd just said. So he wrote the meaning of his words. “How do you
feel?” he wrote then.
“Fine,” Danny replied. “The doctor told me that they are going to remove the
bandages and they are going to give me pig skin gloves. I’m kind of anxious to see
them, actually.”
Jack raised an eyebrow.
“It’s to protect my hands, to keep them safe from new wounds. You know, I bit my
fingernails until they disappeared,” he joked.
Jack couldn’t believe that Danny was making a joke about it but giving less
importance to the matter could only be good. He smiled, thinking again, that he
was glad he'd decided to visit.
“I’ve been talking to the doctor. He told me that your hearing are better than they
had thought they'd be,” he wrote.
“Yes, he told me about going into surgery tomorrow or the day after that. They are
going to remove a bit of skin from here…” Danny explained to him, pointing a side
of his head. “They are going to make new eardrums and I’ll be able to hear again.
You won’t have to use the white board anymore.”
Jack remained silent for a moment. He had been thinking about it, of course, and he
knew Danny enough to know that he had more to say. So he took the whiteboard
and started to write.
“I received your call, loud and clear,” he wrote.
Danny looked at him but didn’t say anything.
‘But I couldn’t save him’ he thought instead. A sad flash crossed his face, but it was
just for an instant.
Jack wanted to tell him so many things, the way they arrested those guys and how
all the cases were related, but the white board was an obstacle between them and
he wasn’t sure that Danny would want to know all the detailed in his fragile state.
“You know… I didn’t see them; I don’t know how they caught me. They came out of
nowhere. I don’t know if they were following me or...or if they were just waiting for
me,” Danny suddenly said in an embarrassed tone.
Jack took the white board, he couldn’t write all what he wanted to tell him and that
was frustrating.
“Did it happen the day I told you go back home?” he wrote.
“Yes but… it was late, I was near home. I remember that I felt a prick on my arm
and then… then I awoke in that room. I should have to see them…”
“I sent you back home because you were tired, Danny,” Jack wrote again.
"Exhausted."
“I know, but if I would have seen them, if I would have been able to do something
then, now Jules… Jules would be alive, right?”
“One against three? They would have caught you any way. It’s not your fault, they
knew what they were going to do.”
Danny didn’t reply and looked away.
Knowing that Danny felt responsible for not doing anything, Jack was trying to help
him to not feel like that. Especially and most of all, to not feel responsible for Jules
Osborne’s death. He couldn’t, he didn’t want to figure out what those guys had
done in that room but surely the connection between them had gone deep. He
wished that Danny could talk about it, but it looked liked that wouldn’t be possible.
He didn't have the resources to make him talk, especially knowing that Danny
wasn’t able to listen at this point. He squeezed his arm, catching his attention.
“I know how you feel, but you aren’t responsible for what happened, you aren’t
responsible for what happened to the other man,” Jack spoke, instead of
writing...willing Danny to understand him.
“I know, I know that I’m not responsible, but… I don’t think you can understand
how I feel. But I don’t care, you don’t… you don’t have to understand,” Danny
responded.
“You must to talk about it,” Jack wrote.
“You need my statement, right? Who’s working the case?”, Danny asked, his walls
going up -not wanting to really address what Jack was getting at.
It wasn’t what Jack was asking but he decided not press him. “Rick Carter. Olczyk
wouldn't let us anywhere near it.”
“But… Vivian… she found me,” Danny said frowning.
“Yes, we found you,” Jack didn’t understand the comment at first, but then he
realized. If he told him that they didn’t know that he was there, it was the same as
admitting that Jack had no idea the message he was trying to relay in that fateful
message. Jack didn’t want Danny to believe that...that they'd all abandoned him like
that. If the call hadn’t had the desired effect, it was because of him. It was his fault,
even though other people tried to justify his mistake. Sure, it had been a mistake, a
terrible mistake, but Jack couldn’t help but feel guilty about it. “It was the only
thing they let us to do,” he continued.
“It was great. I won’t forget it...finally seeing Viv come in that room...for the rest of
my life,” Danny responded.
“Do you want to tell me something?” Jack wrote.
Danny shook his head. “No, I don’t have anything to say, Jack. I… I want only to
leave this place as soon as possible, come back to work…”
“Yeah, of course, you’ll be back soon,” he wrote.
Three weeks had passed after that conversation and Danny was anxious to get
back to work. After the surgery, he had felt much better and he had no lingering
damage from what had happened, except those gloves that would be taken off in a
couple of days. It was just a preventive measure; he didn’t actually need them, even
though his hands still looked far from normal. The doctors explained to him that
his nails would take about six month to reach a normal size, so he’d have to get
used to it, but he still felt slightly embarrassed if anyone would stare at his hands.
He was trying to fix the knot of his tie when his cell phone started to ring.
“Hello?”
“It’s Martin, are you ready?”
“Yeah, I’m almost ready. Go to coffee shop across from my building. I’ll meet you
there in a minute.”
“Okay.”
Martin had agreed to take him to work since Danny was still recovering. Even
though he was doing well, he had been warned about driving and not over-exerting
himself. But he needed to do this: return to work, to the routine, to his life… Danny
felt like it was a gift, he felt as though he was alive thanks to the luck of a dice and,
even though he didn’t want to think about it, he hadn’t sleep well since then. Every
night, the sound of the dice on the floor, the image of those sketches, Jules and he
waiting for them stop rolling and deciding their fate had become his inseparable
bedfellow.
Then, all what he heard was his own breath and every beat of his heart was a
stolen beat of Jules Michel Osborne's heart. He had to live with it, at that moment,
Danny couldn’t help but think that he didn’t deserve his fate, he had stolen the life
of another man. Even though he knew it was crazy to feel that way, he couldn’t help
but feel it.
Leaning on the wall, he closed his eyes and tried to get control of himself. His
hands had been trembling as he felt he didn’t deserve the right to live, he couldn’t
forget it, it wouldn’t be right. He would have to live with it and remember it
everyday as a way to honor the person that had given his life to save his.
Entering the café, he knew that he hadn’t recovered yet and his hands were still
slightly trembling but it was late. Noticing Martin sitting down at the back of the
café talking to Mrs. Bennett, he approached them.
“Hi,” he greeted, “I see you already know each other.”
Martin smiled as Mrs. Bennett scanned Danny up and down, which didn’t appear to
bother him. “Are you going back to work? Isn’t it too soon?”
“No, it isn’t, Mrs. Bennett. I’m able to do some things, but for sure? My boss won’t
let me leave the office for a long time so… you don’t have anything to be worried
about.” Danny replied with a smile.
“Coffee?”
“Sure and some toast, please.”
Mrs. Bennett left with a smile and Danny tried to explain. “She’s a little bit…”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed, she realized I was an FBI agent and came directly over to ask
me if I knew you. You’re regular here, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I used to have breakfast here. It’s comfortable and close to home.”
“Are you nervous?” Martin asked, noticing that Danny hadn't met his eyes.
“Yeah… a little bit, but I'll get over it, I hope.”
“Yes, I know how it feels. It happened to me, you know? I didn’t know what I was
going to find, or how I was going to react to the questions,” Martin explained. “But
it wasn’t so hard. That’s normal.”
“I… I know. Eh… how’s the investigation going?”
“I don’t really know. They were interviewing more students from the college but
after confirming there were nine players at the end and getting your statement, the
case is already closed. I don’t know if Rick Carter has been working on something
else, though.”
“Players…”
“Yes… um… well, they explained that the game had started a year and a half ago. All
of them admitted they were surprised how much the creator of the game knew
about them. But none of them knew anything about him. There hasn't been one
lead to get us close to catching him.”
“I heard. Rick told me. He asked me about it, but I don’t know… I don’t have too
many memories from those years except...being at school... other than the general
stuff and the nickname he was using doesn’t sound familiar, nor the initials or the
numbers. So I don't know what the hell is going on.”
“Have you thought about it?” Martin asked.
Danny remained silent for a moment, then sighed. “I’m trying not to think about
anything, Martin.”
“If… if you want to talk, if you need support, anything… you know that you can talk
with any of us, right?”
“Sure.”
“And, will you?”
“I’ll try, but I’ll be fine. I hope Jack provides me with a lot of paper work to keep me
busy so I won’t have time to think about it,” Danny responded with a smile.
“Okay. Let’s go?” Martin suggested. Martin was still worried about Danny. He had
never talked about how he felt or what had happened in that room, not even when
he talked to Rick. Every day, someone stopped by the hospital or home and he
always had avoided the matter all together. But Martin knew him very well and
knew that, even though physical damage had healed, the mental damage would
take its time.
 
Constantly feeling the eyes of his co-workers on him, Danny realized that his
workload was light to say the least. He had been noticing they were making things
easy for him, he had been released from working the most complicate parts of the
two first cases, leaving him the checking phone records or looking through
criminal records of suspects. But other than that, he got no where near the cases.
And they all acted different...almost nervous. Elena had always a smile on her face
for him didn't talk to him about her problems, Sophie or otherwise. That was
unusual as she used to always want him to be her sounding board. Thing hadn't
returned to normal with Martin either, or Jack and Sam for that matter.
Feeling that she would be the only reasonable person in the office, he decided to
talk to her.
“Listen Viv, you wanna take a break....maybe get a coffee?” he asked, while she was
waiting on some information.
“Sure,” she replied.
Leaving the reports she had been reading on her desk, she left the bull pen with
Danny towards the break room. Taking a bottle of water as Vivian prepared the
coffee, Danny leaned on the counter beside her.
“How you feeling being back at work?” she asked.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Viv. The truth is that I’d like talk about it with you,”
he replied smiling.
She stared at him. It couldn’t be anything bad if her coworker was smiling. “Spit it
out,” she asked cautiously.
“Aren’t you all being too cautious towards me? I don’t know, but it looks like
everybody is leaving me out...not giving me any work; you don’t let me participate
and avoid talking about difficult stuff with me. Is...is it just me or is that what’s
happening? Because I don’t remember it being that way before."
She grabbed her mug and sitting down at the table, she motioned for him to do the
same. She thought about the best way to explain this to him. Danny was right, they
had been protecting him and she, knowing him so well, didn’t want him to
misunderstand the matter.
“We were so overwhelmed by what happened, Danny. I don’t really know but I
think that so many days working those cases affected us. I think that we’re being so
protective because all of us feel that we were so close to losing you and we don’t
want it to happen again. It’s not… it’s not exactly about you, do you understand?
It’s… it’s more about us,” she explained, searching his eyes, trying to make sure he
was understanding her.
“Oh… it’s okay,” he replied thoughtfully.
“On the other hand, I don’t think you're in the best condition for doing hard work.
You got badly injured, your ear and I know you still feel sick sometimes...feeling
unbalanced,” she continued.
“The doctor told me it’ll be over in a few weeks. I have to be careful with sudden
moves, and I’m not thinking about getting on a plane or practicing scuba diving, so
I’m not too worried about it.”
“I see but…”
“Viv, I’m bored with checking phone lists. Don’t you think I can help interrogate a
witness? Would you just give me more information about what's going on?” he
protested.
“Sure, but what if the witness hit the table or yelled at you or some of us have to
yell at the witness...your hearing may be damaged,” Vivian responded. “Come on,
Danny take it easy, it’ll be over soon… your dizziness and our over-protectiveness.”
“Are you sure there isn’t anything else?”
“Yes, of course, you mustn’t think about it anymore.”
“All right,” – he replied thoughfully, “Viv,”
“What?”
“I’m… I’m fine, okay? I’m fine.”
“Yes, you are,” she smiled, “and I’m happy for you.” She knew what her coworker
was talking about and she was pretty sure that he was lying. No, they couldn't help
but watch after him...know that someday it all would hit him at once.
Leaving behind the first week at work, things started to get better, not only for
Danny who had gotten a little more work to do but his coworkers, were now,
calmer. But still Jack didn’t let him go into the field, ‘Not until you don’t feel the
dizziness anymore’ and Danny had agreed. Usually, after leaving the office he had
been taking a cab back home or one of his coworkers had taken him home. The
cold night wasn’t very good for his ears and he didn’t want to get sick on top of
everything else. He wasn’t allowed to go any place to drink or have dinner because
of the noise and smoke. It was frustrating, but he had to be patient.
Tonight hadn’t been different. But what his friends didn’t know was that every
time Danny turned the key his front door, everything changed. He didn’t know if it
was the silence or the darkness, he had tried to leave a light on but it hadn’t
worked. He turned the key, opened the door and the first thing bringing up his
mind was… “Jules,” he said aloud, dropping the keys on the table. He took off his
jacket and loosened his tie on his way to the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he took
out a couple of things for dinner, even though he didn't have a hearty appetite. He
was aware that he was losing weight but he didn’t care. As his meal was heating in
the microwave, he sat down at the table and leaned his elbows on it, he closed his
eyes and pressed his fingers on his forehead. He had been reading about the
torture he had suffered on internet and he had been lucky, he hadn’t suffered the
real pain they could have inflicted on him. Fortunately, the consequences of it were
unknown for him. But Danny, in the silence of his home, could heard the music that
had been playing for endless hours until the uncomfortable crack in his head,
replaced it by a constant buzz...which he could still here.
Not waiting for the beep of the microwave, he stopped it and taking out his dinner,
went to the living room. Maybe there was a baseball game on or some movie to
pass the time. But somehow he always returned to the music, the sound, the
yelling, the pain… Jules. And then, Danny gave up; every night without exception,
Danny ended with his head buried on his pillow, crying in desperation, not being
able to explain what was happening to him, not being able to change history
without damaging someone else. He had gotten access to some information about
Jules that Rick Carter had given him, looking for something to link them. Jules was
a normal, happy guy that hadn’t deserved that fate. Jules had given him so many
things, bringing up forgotten and important feelings for him. Jules had suffered the
pain he hadn’t because of the luck of the dice, he had suffered the pain Jules hadn’t
because of the same irrational and stupid game. But Jules… Jules got the worst part
and when Danny had realized what they were going to do, finally, he had been so
cowardice and selfish that he only thought about saving his own life. Sure, anyone
would say it was normal, surely it was but, it was really difficult to live with.
Playing with his meal distractedly, as he gave in to the feelings once more, Danny
heard the door bell ring. Danny frowned, he wasn’t waiting for anybody, maybe it
was a neighbor since it was the doorbell outside the door, not the intercom. He
stood up curious and headed for the door.
“Danny, open the door. It’s me, Elena.” He heard.
Danny opened at a second. “Eh… hi, I’m… I’m sorry… I didn’t expect…”
“I know. Sorry I didn’t call you before but… we have to talk,” she said. “You okay?”
she asked then realizing the strange look in his eyes.
He hadn’t move from the door, and she felt confused. "Is there someone here with
you?” she asked, unsure.
“No,” he blinked and replied smiling. “I’m sorry, come in, it’s just…” he moved out.
“Take it easy, I’m not going to get scared if I see your clothes in the middle of the
room,” she tried a joke. She could feel that he felt uncomfortable with her being
there. “I’m used to it, I have three brothers, you know.”
“No, it’s not that. Eh… I was having dinner, do you want something?”
“No, thanks,” she replied, sitting down beside him on the couch.
“Well, what brings you here?”
“Oh Danny, do you remember the last time we had a conversation… as a couple, I
mean?” she asked.
“Yes… I remember it well,” he started.
“We agreed we would be friends, not strangers. You talk with me less than with
Martin or Sam… even Viv. I feel that Jack is the only one that receives less attention
from you.”
“What? Are...are you serious? Why would I...look I’m sorry…. I’m sorry but I don’t
get it. You don’t talk to me, either,” he said in a slightly rude tone even though he
was only just surprised… and trying to put together his feelings, recovering from
the usual agony of giving up of every night.
“You're right, I’m including myself in the lack of communication, Danny. I’ve been
very worried about you and I don’t want to hurt you. After that conversation, we
haven’t had time enough for anything and after what happened, I…” she took his
hand in hers nervously.
Danny didn’t know what to say, he didn’t know if she was going to ask him to
restart their relationship or not, or if she felt guilty about something, if she felt pity
for him, what it would be the last thing he would have wished. “Um… what exactly
are you trying to tell me?”
“Um, right… yes. It’s important and I’d like to talk about it, okay?” she asked.
“Okay Elena. Tell me, it’s okay, I’ll understand,” he soothed her. “Let me try… you’re
having an affair with your lawyer?” he asked trying to relax the situation since she
was really nervous.
Shaking her head, Elena giggled at his attempt at humor. “No, for starters, my
lawyer is a ‘she’ and not a ‘he’. No, it’s not that, but it’s part of the matter. Look,
Sofie…” Elena stopped.
“Sofie, what about her? Is this about Carlos?” Danny asked in concern.
“Not exactly, but she saw him… at school. She saw him having an argument with
her teacher. She had been following my instructions, I had left her a copy of the
restraining order if she had any problems. He, in spite of it, is a damn clever guy
and he’s trying to find a way to get close to Sofie again. I... I can’t let that happen,
Danny. Sofie is still very traumatized, I had been thinking she was better but that
day I had to phone her psychologist, she was very scared, so confused,” she
explained.
“I’m sorry… I… didn’t know about this.” He replied trying to stay calm and not
showing his anger towards Carlos.
“I’m sorry for bringing up this crap at you, I didn’t want to come and tell you about
my problems, especially after what happened to you but… I’ve been talking to my
lawyer and I think I’ve found a way to solve this,” Elena explained.
“Really? What?”
“I’m going to change jobs. Do you remember when I started to work with you? I
thought that it was just a detail, but Jack told me that it wasn’t a temporary job. I,
actually, had left Vice because I needed more time with Sofie and the Missing
Persons Unit wasn’t going to solve that.”
“Yes, I remember you were looking for a white collar job, but if you want my
opinion, I never saw you working there.”
“Me neither Danny, but there is an opportunity right now, to get Sofie far from New
York.”
“What? Can you do it without Carlos knowing? He could report that you’re
obstructing his right to visiting Sofie or…”
“That’s what's the matter. He’s threatening me because I don’t spend time with
Sofie. Well, I’m going to accept the job I wanted at first time. I’ll be out of here, but
I’ve got a job allowing me to spend more time with my daughter and give her a
more stable education.”
“I get it… so you’re leaving to…”
“Knoxville, in two months.”
“Knoxville?” he muttered, “That’s far… what about your mom?”
“I’m not leaving to the country, Danny, it’s just Tennessee. My brother Antonio is
living there, he has two children about Sofie’s age. I’ve been thinking about it and I
think it’s a good option. I can’t go on living under this continued distress. My
mother is feeling affected as well, she’s noticing Sofie’s trauma and she doesn’t
want to see her like that.”
“So, she agreed” Danny concluded.
“Yes, she understood, absolutely. It will be a relief for her, it’s been such a big
responsibility… she understands now.”
“Well, I can’t tell you anything else, Elena. You have clearly thought about it, and
being things as you’re telling me… it’s… it’s okay, Elena.”
“You understand that our relationship is..."
“Yes,” he interrupted slowly. "I got it, Elena."
“Danny, I know you had put all your hopes in our relationship.”
“Yes… I love you, I’ve never stopped loving you, Elena. I had… I had the faith that
things would work out… that we could be together and be a family.” He couldn’t
help the tears in his eyes.
“You’ll find someone,” she tried to reassure him holding tightly to his hands.
“Danny, I’m sure you’ll find someone, you’re a very loyal and great person and you
know that you’re the person I've love the most for a long time and that’s why it’s so
difficult to do this, but it’s a difficult situation and I can’t be selfish when Sofie is
having such a bad time, you know that, right?”
“Sure… you’ll find someone in… Knoxville, as well… someone who loves you at
least as much as I love you.”
“I don’t know… I don’t want to think about it, you know. Well, that’s why I came to
talk to you.”
“Who, a part from me, knows that you’re leaving?” he asked.
“Jack, I asked him the favor to look for a job”
“Jack, I guess he somehow wants to help,” Danny commented, the disappointment
clear in his tone.
“Listen, don’t start with that again, I asked him for it, it wasn’t his idea,” she
responded.
“Yes…. I know, you’re right,” he corrected as remembering something. “Now that
you have made your decision to leave… do you want to know what happened? Why
we argued?”
“I would be glad to hear it, Danny, if you want to tell me.”
“When Carlos kidnapped Sofie and we were in the house, Jack had stopped me
from shooting Carlos. I… I wanted to do it, he was making you two suffer so much.”
“I know, Danny, I know you wouldn’t have left him to hurt me.”
“There was something else, you know? I… I wanted to kill him, I wanted to end
what had happened during the trial. It was when I had an argument with Jack,
because he hadn’t let me shoot him that day. It was a stupid argument and I know…
I know that he’s right but…”
“Oh Danny, you would have been in trouble and Carlos isn't worth it.”
“Yes, but I couldn’t help it. Then, I started to have nightmares where I had really
killed him. I was on death row on my way to the execution room. You all were
there, behind the glass looking at me in disbelief… you were alone… Carlos, of
course, wasn’t there but me neither because I was going to die. Then, I understood
that my action wouldn’t have improved anything for you and it would have been
worse because I wouldn’t have been able to be there for you.”
“What an awful nightmare.”
“Yes, it was… what I mean is that I’ll always be there for you, no matter what
happens, you will be able to count on me forever,” he said, taking her hand.
Elena felt tears in her eyes. “That’s beautiful Danny, it’s beautiful. I… I want you to
know that, I’ll be there for you, as well, right?”
Wiping the tears from her cheek, Danny only moved his hand to slip on his neck
and pulls her towards him. Leaning their foreheads against each other, just
separated an inch, Danny whispered, “Stay with me… stay with me tonight.”
“I can’t, Danny.”
“Stay, please, just tonight, please, stay with me.”
“Danny, it would be a mistake.”
“No, it isn’t, it’s just a goodbye. Please, it has been so long since we've been
together, we can’t go away like that… we can be friends, Elena but the truth is… the
truth is that I love you. Stay with me.”
She was going to say something but he softly kissed her lips and didn’t let her to
speak. “Stay,” he whispered. She started to relax, but suddenly she pulled away.
“What happened?” he asked in confuse.
“I can’t Danny, I can’t. If I stay tonight… I won’t be able to leave. I can’t do this
Danny, please understand. We can’t do this, we would only get hurt and I don’t
want to hurt you.”
Danny sighed. “Okay, right. Maybe you’re right but you don’t have to leave now,” he
said, seeing her standing up.
“I have to pick up Sofie, it’s late,” she explained. “I’m sorry… I… I didn’t mean for
this to happen.”
“Don’t worry,” he accepted, going with her to the door. “I’m sorry, I’ll see you
tomorrow.”
“Sure, goodnight.”
“Goodnight.”
Danny closed the door and leaned against it with his eyes closed, trying to calm his
nerves. He had gone from everything to nothing in seconds and he still needed
time to understand what had happened between them. His hope to have a family
with Elena had gone… Knoxville… what the hell had she would she do in
Knoxville?
Staying in the office most of the days, Danny got bored with the paperwork but he
had to be patient. He had to be careful with sudden movements if he didn’t want to
have an attack of dizziness, but he wished to get back to normal. He had felt
uncomfortable depending on any of them to come back home or going to the office,
even though Mrs. Bennett had taken Martin as one of her own and, knowing his
tastes, everyday she surprised him with one of her breakfasts. That was okay, it
was better than the time he spent at home, above all during the nights. Danny
hadn’t wanted to talk about the time he spent without sleep, it wasn’t the first time
and the reasons could make a large list. Simply, his nightmares had moved to a
whole new level.
Noticing that some things had started to catch his attention in a different way
scared him because he hadn’t expected it and he hadn’t been able to react in a
logical way. He was starting to get worried about his problems at home moving to
outside because it was difficult to dissassociate his reactions before the others. It
had happened to him as he was having breakfast and Mrs. Bennett was listening to
the radio. An innocent comment about the lottery that week, had made him lose his
appetite as he shivered. At that moment, there was no one to witness it but later,
during his first work in the field it happened again. He had to convince Viv that he
was fine and not to say anything to Jack, but the tension was growing to a possible
exposure to… any thing.
They had to interview a suspect but had wanted it to be casual, non-threatening.
So, when the Secretary told them that Mr. Blake was in an important meeting and
they would have to wait, Vivian and Danny sat down in the waiting room. Fifteen
minutes later, Mr. Blake’s door had been opened and closed about six times and
from the third one, Danny had been startled. The waiting, the closing door as they
waited for their turn, took Danny back to that room, that other door that every
time it opened gave him a new surprise. As the time passed, he was more and more
nervous and he knew that he was losing control. For the sixth time, the door was
opened, Danny suddenly stood up, startling Viv.
“I … I have to get out of here,” he said anxiously as he left the place.
Vivian fell in step behind him. She had noticed him being especially quiet for a
while and slightly nervous but she didn’t expect this reaction.
“What’s happening to you?” she asked in concern, grabbing his arm and making
him to stop.
“Nothing, it’s… he’s late.”
“Danny, that’s not a reason your running away. You’re pale, what happeneed? Are
you sick?” she insisted.
“Yes… I think so. I’m sick. It’ll be over in a moment. You… you should go back. I’ll be
there in a minute,” Danny tried to convince her.
“Are you sure?” she asked, not willing to let him go.
“Sure” he replied.
Leaving the office in concern, Vivian looked around for his coworker after she had
interviewed the man. Thirty-five minutes passed since Danny had left.
Sitting in the car, Danny saw Vivian approaching him with a very concerned face.
He sighed, not knowing what to do next. To her, something had happened,
something unnoticed for her but having a special meaning for Danny, something
related to his torture days.
“Aren’t you going to tell me?” she asked as she got into the car.
Danny didn’t reply.
“Danny, please, it’s okay. It’s not a good idea for you to hold this in. Listen, I’m not
going to tell anybody, all right? But you should tell me what happened in there.”
“I’m… I’m sorry Viv. It’s nothing, I’m fine, okay?”
“It’s something, you had to leave and you didn’t come back. It could happen to you
in other circumstances and put you or your coworkers in danger. What happened?”
“No, I’m not going to be in danger… it doesn’t work like that. I… I don’t know how
to explain it. It’s the little things, it happens if I’m distracted, catches me off guard…
If I’m working on something it doesn’t happen.”
“Then?” It was clear that Vivian wouldn’t leave without an explanation.
“You know? There are things happening everyday, things I had never noticed in a
special way but now… now everything has changed.” Danny started.
Vivian looked at him trying to meet his eyes, but he avoided hers. Vivian noticed
his excitement and how he was trying to stop what it was affecting him so much.
After a moment, he continued.
“It was that door, that door… do you know how many times the door was opened
for the fifteen minutes we spent there? Six times, six times I didn’t know if we were
called, six times I didn’t know what was going to happen then… and I…” he met her
eyes and Vivian could see the confusion, pain and fear in Danny.
She understood what he was feeling, the effect of that door over him, she could
figure out that other door being opened, those guys entering, the uncertainty of
what would happened next… the days he spent alone waiting for someone taking
him out of there. Vivian felt sorry for him, she was sure that experiences like that,
had happened for the last weeks… things had changed. She felt sorry for him,
because he didn’t want to share it with anybody else, he only wanted to forget and
that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
“You can’t do this Danny, you must get help, talk to Dr. Harris, talk to someone. You
can’t act as though nothing is happening,” she said in concern.
“Don’t… don’t tell Jack, please, don’t tell them. It’s no big deal, I’m feeling better
everyday, you know? It’s just happening for very little moments and it’ll be over
soon.”
“Danny…”
“Please, don’t tell. Please, Viv.”
“All right, I won’t but you have to promise me that you will get help.”
“Vivian, I assure you that…”
“Promise me or I’ll tell Jack and he’ll put on your desk again or worse, back at
home.”
“Okay, I promise, but I'm sure it’s nothing. Don’t… don’t worry.” He tried again.
 
Elena’s farewell party was a success. Getting over the initial surprise, when she
explained to her coworkers the reasons for leaving, all of them understood and
supported her. She wanted to invite them to a special place, with good Caribbean
music and a nice environment. Her coworkers had bought a gift for her and Elena
had to stop saying how grateful she was when she felt moved to tears.
“I don’t… I don’t have words to express what I feel, guys. I know I’ve only been here
a short time with you all but I’m taking something really beautiful with me. I
arrived a rookie, I made mistakes and you helped me to understand this work.
Jack,” she paused in emotion, “you've taken care of my family, of the people I love
so much during a very complicated time in my life and that means so much to me.
You’ve been more than my boss, a true friend.”
“I haven’t done anything,” Jack tried to look strong but she had moved him.
“Carlos’s lawyer filed a report because his client was being watched,” Elena
explained. “I wasn’t watching him and my lawyer didn’t know about it either.”
“Gosh, you got me!” he smiled, shaking his head as he remembered making the
arrangements to have a local cop keep an eye on Carlos.
“Yes, I’m glad for it and more…” she smiled back. Then she turned to Viv.
“Vivian, we’ve shared nice moments, you have taught me a lot of things not only as
the professional you are but a friend, your advice, how to talk to my daughter
about what was happening, was so thoughtful… you’ve helped me a lot.”
“Having an adolescent is great training ground, believe me!” Vivian replied,
smiling.
“Sam… let me see, I… I can't remember having a friend as good as you. We started
wrong, I remember, we are… we’re so different but at the same time I guess we’ve
got something really beautiful. You know that I’ll remember you as one of my best
friends I’ve ever had.”
“Wow… that’s so true, I’ll miss our little gossip sessions,” she responded.
“Martin, what can I say. I met you while you were still recovering, being different
from what you actually were and, for a long time… I couldn’t see who you were.
Fortunately, I finally got to know the real Martin and working with you has been a
real pleasure.”
“For me, too Elena. I’ll miss you,” he agreed.
“Danny. You… you’ve been amazing...and full of all sorts of surprises," she started
with a small giggle. "For a long time, you were just my ex-boyfriend's best-friend
and I kept my distance because of that. You tried to be nice to me for a long time;
you were patient because you knew I had the wrong idea about you. And then you
showed me how much you really cared for me. You’ve risked a lot and I know that
you would risk even more if you could. You’ve given me more than I’ve given you,
until the very end. Not everyone is able to do that and at this moment, I can say
that knowing you is the best gift I take with me. You know that I love you and you’ll
be always in my heart.” She finished trying to keep her voice steady and the tears
from forming in her eyes.
Danny bit his lip, Elena’s words had moved him; he didn’t recall anybody telling
him that in the past. “I love you too,” he finally managed to whisper with a small
smile.
“Well guys, this deserve a toast,” Vivian declared raising her beer bottle. The others
took their drinks as well and clinked their glasses. “This is a toast for Elena, for
everything to go well in yours and Sophie's futures.”
The party had been prolonged until almost midnight. None of them wanted to
think about how they would feel the next morning; somehow, they needed this
time to stay together. The tension from the work, what had happened to Danny
had affected them and moreover, it had been a long time since they'd all gone for
drinks or dinner. It wasn’t the usual but all of them felt it was necessary.
Danny and Elena had had time to get used to the fact that they would never be a
couple since two months had passed since that conversation at Danny’s home.
Now, as Danny fished in his pocket for the key to open the door of his home, he was
really aware that this would have been the last time he would be with her. It was
unfair, but the obstacle between them had won over a relationship he expected so
much from. Now it was clear, she would leave in a few hours and both would have
to return to their lives. He had offered to take them to the airport but she preferred
to say goodbyes at the restaurant, with all their coworkers. It would have be too
painful, Danny knew and Elena as well.
Looking for the keys in his pocket, his fingers found something that he didn’t
remember being in his coat. Before pulling it out, he already knew what it was. He
stood perplexed staring at the dice in his hands, thinking about how they would
have gotten into his coat and feeling fear surround him.
There was something else in his pocket. A folded paper Danny didn’t dare to
unfold. Instead, he entered his home and left them on the table in the kitchen, not
knowing what to do. Opening the fridge in the search of something he knew he
wouldn’t find, Danny closed the fridge in frustration and leaned against it, as his
breath became agitated, as all the feelings during those six days came back to his
mind as it was happening at that moment. He was able to hear the voices of those
guys, the noise of the dice on the floor, deciding their fate, Jules’s yelling, his
yelling, the music, the pain, the smell of blood and torture, the sketches on the
floor… the end shot, the conversation with Jules… everything came back with such
an intensity that he felt like it had just happened.
Danny felt sick, he doubled over onto his knees and wrapped his arms around
them. Resting his head on them, he cried desperately for all that had happened
during that week, for him, for Jules and the suffering of both, feeling completely at
the mercy of a dice that someone had left in his pocket for him to end the pain.
That’s it… that’s it… he stood up slowly and took the dice before throwing them on
the table. With blurring eyes, tears still rolling down his face, he stared at them and
waited… he quietly waited for his fate… seven… odd... “odd!” he screamed. He was
number two, it should have been an even number. He turned round against the
fridge and hit his head against it until he felt the pain unbearable, until the yelling
mixed with the sobs and he fell down, absolutely lost in the horror of the
memories.
He didn’t know how long he remained like that, he didn’t even care when, later, he
started to realize what he had done, what he had thought about. Only when he had
cried all he needed, only when he got to calm down and was able to think
rationally, then… he decided to read the note.
Joining the conference table, Rick Carter and his team put together the conclusions
for the complicated case they were working on. Listening to agent Lawrence
Perry’s explanations, Rick noticed agent Taylor getting off the elevator and heading
for his office. Rick frowned, he didn’t know any reason for agent Taylor to come
down here unless he'd found new information about the case he had been involved
in.
“Eh… excuse me guys. Go ahead, I’ll be back soon,” he said.
“Hey, Taylor!” he called when the agent was about to leave.
“Oh, agent Carter, I’ve come… I’d like to talk to you, if you have a moment,” Danny
explained.
Noticing the tension in the young agent, Rick thought that something had definitely
happened.
“Sure, let’s go to my office,” he responded gently pointing his office.
Sitting down in front of him, Danny pulled out the dice and left them on the desk.
Rick looked at him, not understanding.
“Last night, I found them in the pocket of my coat,” Danny said, “I found this note as
well.”
Taking the note Danny was handing to him, Rick recognized the handwriting
immediately. They had found a note with similar typo in Harold Green’s room,
beside his suicide note. Rick read it aloud, thoughtful, trying to find something else
than what it said.
“He’s clearly following you,” he concluded reading the note again. “Do you have any
idea about when he could have access to your coat?”
“I had gone to Elena’s, my coworker's, farewell party,” Danny started. Rick nodded,
he had heard about it. “I left my seat several times, to get a drink or something, it
could have been at that moment. There were so many people.”
“Did you notice anybody watching you or…? No, obviously not.”
“No… well, I didn’t pay attention to the people, we were all together, but… no, I
don’t think so,” Danny responded.
“I know that I’ve asked you before but, do you remember anything from your years
at Queens College that…?” Rick started.
“No, I… I don’t know, I don’t remember anything special, anything that could take
me to this situation.”
“Well look, this is what you’re going to do. I want you to write everything you did
during the years you spent at the University, right? Where you lived, where you
studied, what you did after classes… everything, absolutely everything you can
remember. Do you think you’re able to do that?”
There were a lot of things Danny didn’t want to talk about from those years, things
he hadn’t been very proud of. He sighed. “If that’s the way we’re going to catch that
guy… I’ll do it, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“Great, I’m in the middle of a case and I can’t give priority to this, but I’ll follow up
with the other people that were in the same situation as you. I’ll see if they have
received this note.” Rick explained.
“I hadn’t thought about it, maybe this guy wants to go ahead with the game with
us...the ones who are left?” Danny asked.
“I can’t give you an answer, Danny. I’ll take the dice and the note to the lab, but this
guy has been very careful, there’s no trace of him,” Rick replied. “Write what I’ve
told you and I’ll keep you up to date about any news.”
“Well, eh… thanks,” Danny responded, standing up.
“Thank you, Danny,” Rick shook his hand.
Danny left Rick Carter’s office and went down to the bullpen. They would think he
was late so he had gone directly to talk to Carter. None of them knew what had
happened and he didn’t want to tell them, especially when he noticed the relaxed
environment in the office.
“Hey, where you’ve been?” Martin asked.
“Did you go to take Elena to the Airport?” Sam asked.
“No…, her brother took them,” Danny replied.
His coworkers remained silent, looking at him waiting for further explanation of
his tardiness.
“What!. The alarm clock failed, I’m late, I’m sorry.”
“You have a sleepy face,” Sam commented with a smirk, clearly thinking that he'd
probably spent the night with Elena.
Nothing could be further than what it had actually happened. Sure he hadn’t slept,
but it wasn’t because of the reason Sam had insinuated. He thought about
humoring her, but Jack approached them.
“Guys, we have a case,” he announced as he put a photo on the whiteboard. “Simon
Ross,  years, he works in a nightclub at Manhattan called Mallory’s. His girlfriend
has reported him missing and has declared that he was acting strange lately, like
he was in trouble, but she doesn’t know what it could be about. She has been
calling him for two days and he hadn’t gone to his work. Then she went to his home
and found a mess. No trace of the boyfriend.”
“So, he’s missing for…” Sam started.
“About  hours,” Vivian ended. “We’re probably too late.”
“Yes,” Jack agreed. “Sam, the girlfriend is in the ladie's room. Talk to her and find
out everything you can. Vivian, check his accounts, phone calls, credit cards…
Martin, Danny, go to the house.”
Rick Carter had been checking the files from the last cases, looking for the phone
numbers of Jake Thomas, John Kirkpatrick and Brian Allen. He didn’t feel
comfortable making them remember the memories from those days, but he had to
know if they had received a note or something. He started to dial the first number
but then cut the call. It would be better to visit them. He left his office and called his
coworker Laura Mitchell.
“Come with me, we need to follow up on a case,” he explained to her as they left the
building.
“Don’t be so mysterious…” she started in a sly tone.
“No such luck. We have a work to do…”
Laura laughed. “You wouldn’t like to have to confront Charlie, believe me.”
“Charlie? Do you mean that boyfriend you have at home?”
“Yeah. So what are we doing?”
“Do you remember the case we were working some months ago with Malone’s
team?” he asked.
“Yes… oh, agent Taylor, I’ve seen him before,” she responded.
“Yes, he came to my office this morning. Someone left a dice and a note in the
pocket of his coat, probably last night in a pub,” he explained.
“That case isn’t priority anymore, Rick.”
“I know, let’s say that it’s a… personal favor, right? I want to ask the other victims if
they have received a note.”
“Don’t you think that they would have told us?”
“Not necessarily. If they don’t want to remember, it’s very probable they didn't pay
attention to a note, unless it consists of a threat.”
“I understand. What did agent Taylor’s note say?”
“He was inviting him to play.”
Laura raised an eyebrow. “Wow, so our mysterious guy wants to continue the
game… but,… maybe he only has written to Taylor. Actually, he was the only one
reaching the end of the game. None of the others went so far, fortunately,” she
reasoned.
“Yes… you’re right,” he said frowning. “In any case, let’s go ask the others.”
“No, I haven’t, why are you asking me that?” John Kirkpatrick responded. The fear
in his voice was evident.
“We’re investigating some leads,” Rick lied, “Anything unusual…”
“Listen… I’m…it’s been really difficult to me to move on from that, you know? If… if
you don’t have anything concrete thing for me… if you don’t really want anything
from me… I’d ask you to leave… please,” Kirkpatrick managed to say.
“No, it was only that, just a question. Thanks Mr. Kirkpatrick and excuse me for
this,” Rick replied genuinely concerned.
“A note? You’re kidding, right?”
“No, Mr. Allen. It’s…”
“Didn’t you catch those guys? That’s…. that’s what you told me. Oh my god, is there
a copycat? The others have received a note, right?”
“Mr. Allen, yes, we caught all the guys, and no, there isn’t a copycat. This is just a
follow-up,” Laura explained.
“Well no, I haven’t received a note, but I can tell you that my phone has been
ringing in the night…”
“When?” Rick asked.
“I can’t tell you exactly, it happened for two or three days. Then, they stopped and
later, ten days later or so, it happened again. There’s no words, no message. Just…
the phone ringing. I’m disconnecting the phone during the night, I’m going to a
psychologist once a week but these calls aren’t helping me.”
“Have you reported it?”
“Yes, of course, I’ve reported it to the police, I hadn’t thought it could be related to
what happened to me… it’s… it’s not related, right?”
Laura smiled. “Relax Mr. Allen, it probably has nothing to do with it, but we’ll check
the calls.”
Brian Allen seemed to relax at the moment. The man needed a confirmation, the
confirmation about his nightmare had been finished indeed, about those FBI
agents weren’t there because of something they didn’t want to tell.
Rick handed him a card. “If the calls starts again, call me at any of those numbers,
all right?. It will be simple to find this joker.”
“Thanks,” Allen replied taking the card. “I’ll do that… if they call again, of course.”
“I received a note, yes, but I didn’t pay attention to it,” Jake Thomas responded.
Laura raised an eyebrow. Jake Thomas worked at the District Attorney offices, he
had to know the importance of something like that. She noticed Rick’s ears turn
red, meaning Rick didn't like the answer he'd just heard. She decided to keep a
close eye on that man… you never know…
“Have you kept it?” Rick asked. If he had thrown it away, it would be the worst
possible scenario.
Thomas opened a box and took out the note. Rick identified the scribble
immediately; it was similar to Taylor’s note.
“When did you receive it?” Rick asked, reading the note.
“A couple of days ago. I found it in my mail box… at home. I thought it was a bad
joke. Some people don’t like my work,” he said.
“Why did you keep it if you didn’t think it was related?” Laura asked.
“Because you never know who or when you’re going to be asked for an apparently
innocent note. I’m not stupid, agent Mitchell, but I don’t want to remember that
nightmare anymore,” Thomas replied staring at her.
“Sincerity before nothing else. Anything else you want to tell us?” Rick asked.
“Do you want to talk about who is going to be our next President?” Thomas asked.
“No, there’s nothing else, I’d tell you, if there was.”
“It’s not what you’ve done,” Rick remarked, keeping his nerves barely in tact.
“True, I’ll be careful from now on,” Thomas replied. “Sir, if you don’t have anything
else for me, I’m very busy at the moment.”
“We have a work to do as well. Good morning, Mr. Thomas,” Rick said coldly.
He didn’t even shake the hand Thomas had offered, leaving quickly being followed
by Laura Mitchell who tried to ease the tension with a small laugh. But, just outside
the building, she couldn’t help but burst out laughing. That gesture made Rick get
angrier, but he quickly softened his attitude.
“He’s stupid,” he muttered, walking to the car.
“He is indeed,” Laura agreed. “But you’ll agree with me that his note didn’t say
anything.”
“He should have told us immediately, any way.”
“He doesn’t like to lose.”
“It should be, did you notice what the note said?” he asked, handing it to his
coworker. “I’m sorry to tell you that you haven’t completed the game. Your turn for
throw the dice has expired.”
“So, agent Taylor, supposedly, completed the game.”
“Sure, one more day and he would have died,” Rick said. “Well, let’s go back to the
office. We aren’t doing anything here and we are supposed to be working another
case.”
Martin was driving towards Simon Ross’s home with Danny. That was because he
was seeing him, since his coworker didn’t seem to be there. Martin thought that it
would be because of Elena, he had felt moved too with the words she had said to
Danny, it had clearly been a forced separation.
“So… Elena’s brother took them to the Airport?” he asked, trying to start a
conversation.
Danny didn’t reply, he hadn’t even listened to him. Since he had left Rick Carter’s
office, he had been thinking about his years at the University. Of course, he
remembered many things, but others… other memories had been extinguished by
the alcohol. He remembered the buildings, the time for studying, the library… but
he remembered the parties, the alcohol and the way some things led to others
without any control. If something happened, it had to be there, but it was so
difficult to recall.
“Danny!”
“What!” he replied, completely startled.
“Where are you, man? I’m asking if Elena’s brother took them to the Airport,”
Martin repeated.
Danny looked at him without really understanding. “Yes, Elena thought it would be
better,” he finally replied.
“I see,” Martin responded in a quiet tone.
“I didn’t spend the night with her. We said goodbye at the party, just like you and
the others, it was… it was the best option.”
“Okay, it’s none of my business.”
“No, it isn’t, but I don’t like you guys speculating about something that’s not true.”
“Are you upset? Listen, I’m sorry, I didn’t think we were offending you.”
“No, man, just let it go… I’m not really myself this morning. I’m sorry too.” Danny
apologised.
“Well, we’re here. Let’s see what we find at Mr. Ross’s home,” Martin said, turning
off the engine.
 
Martin and Danny could immediately see that Simon Ross’s girlfriend’s description
about the house was very accurate. As the rest of the house was in perfect order,
his room was a complete mess. Obviously, someone had been looking for
something and they knew that they would find it in that room.
Looking around, Martin didn’t even know where to start to look for any clues.
Danny, who had been getting an update from the police, finally joined him.
“There’s no trace of doors or windows being forced open and the rest of the house
is in order,” he informed as he walked into the room. “It seems they came in to this
room directly.”
“Yes, they were definitely looking for something in here. I guess they got the
information from Ross, they caught him and he told them what they wanted to
know. If they didn’t find whatever they were looking for, maybe there’s still hope
to find him alive,” Martin commented.
“Yep,” Danny agreed, looking around.
Splitting up, both agents started to look for something… anything that might point
them in the right direction. After a while, Martin noticed something on the wall.
Pulling out the bed, he found where a phone line had recently been installed. He
noticed the paint around it slightly different to the original tone of the wall.
Moreover, it was a strange place for it so Martin, pulling out his Swiss Army knife,
removed the tape from the wall.
“Danny, I think we’ve got something,” he said, putting his hand into the hole. His
fingers found something plastic and pulled it out. He looked at the small plastic bag
with blue capsules and showed it to his coworker.
As Martin turn, he suddenly noticed Danny’s expression, looking at the shelves full
of books in front of him. He had frozen and looked…absent, for lack of a better
word. Martin looked at the shelving but he didn’t see anything strange. Standing up
with the bag in his hand, Martin tried again. “Danny, look at this,” he said, opening
the bag and checking its contents.
“Good,” was the replied he received.
“Good?” Martin asked, completely confused.
Then Danny looked at him. “Eh, excuse me, what did you say?”
Danny was pale and clearly affected by something that Martin couldn’t even begin
to guess, but probably something related the trauma that Danny had experience,
but had yet to talk about.
“I said that I think that this is what they were looking for,” he responded, leaving
the bag on the table and kneeling again in front of the hole. “Ross made a hole in
the wall and hid it behind the telephone jack,” he explained, pulling out three more
small bags.
Standing up with the bags, he put them beside the other. “It’s clear they didn’t
find…” Martin stopped in the middle of the sentence when he saw his coworker
leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes. His breathe was agitated and
Martin realized that Danny was trying to get himself under control, even though he
didn’t appear to be having any success.
“Danny, what’s up?” he asked in concern. “Are you feeling dizziness, are you sick?”
he continued as he put his hands on his coworker shoulders, trying to make him to
react. “Danny, are you listening to me?” he almost yelled, seeing that Danny was
clearly losing control.
But he just turned into his feet leaning against the wall, hiding his face in his hands.
Martin heard his friend’s sobs and what seemed like a desperate attempt to stop
whatever was happening to him. He didn’t know what to do; but he gently, but
firmly grabbed his arm and forced him to sit down on the bed. “Danny, sit down,
please,” he ordered softly, positioning in front of him and holding him by his
shoulders, trying to get his attention. “Calm down, it’s okay, I’m here with you.
Take your time.”
The words seemed to have the effect Martin was looking for and Danny started to
calm down, slowly.
“That’s it,” Martin encouraged him. “Calm down, I’m going to phone Jack to tell him
what we’ve found. I’m here with you, okay?”
As Danny just nodded, Martin pulled out the cell phone and still watching his
friend, dialed Jack’s number.
“Malone.”
“Jack, Simon is in some kind of drug trouble, we’ve found four plastic bags with
what looks ecstasy capsules hidden in a hole he probably put in the wall, recently.”
“Okay, we’re going to talk to the girlfriend. Let’s see what she has to say about it.”
“Yes, eh… listen, Jack,” Martin kept his voice down. “There’s a problem with Danny
and I’d like to have a conversation with him. He’s not…he’s not feeling real well at
the moment.”
“What happened?” Jack asked in concern.
“I’m not sure,” Martin responded.
“Okay, send an agent to the office with the capsules so the lab can verify them.”
After hanging up with Martin, Jack explained the situation to Vivian and Sam
before dispatching Sam to go interview the girlfriend.
“Alice, we’ve found four plastic bags containing ecstasy capsules in your
boyfriend’s room,” Sam explained.
“That’s stupid, Simon isn’t a dealer, he doesn’t take drugs, he hates that world,”
Alice responded.
“Maybe he kept them away from you; he could have been tempted at his work
more than once.”
“No. You’re wrong. Simon has been suffering the consequences of using in his own
family. His little brother died last year because of overdose, I’ve seen him
confronting some guys offering drugs. I advised him to stay away, I told him it
wasn’t his fight, but he always said that those people had killed his brother,” Alice
explained.
Sam started to understand the situation Simon may have gotten himself into. “Do
you think that Simon could have stolen the drug so they wouldn’t have been sold to
anyone?” she asked.
“That would be stupid,”
“But he could do it, right?”
“Yes… yes… since his brother died, he’s been going through this bad time…
maybe… maybe yes but… what would be the point of it?” Alice asked looking at the
agent, at the time she realized what the answer was.
The answer was the fact of being in the FBI offices. If they found Simon alive, it
would be a miracle.
Back at his office, Jack sat down and glanced at the phone. Seeing the blinking red
light, he remembered, once again, the message Danny had left, a call asking for help
that he hadn’t been able to understand. What had happened in that room, the
consequences of it… it was his entire fault. Starting with the time of the call, the
first sentence of the message,… he should have suspected that there was
something wrong. Jack remembered the premonitory words Lisa Harris had told
him some days before… “Jack, you know how a lack of sleep affects your work,
your reflexes, and your capacity to react quickly. Resting is important, especially in
this work.”
It had been his fault, if he would have listened to Lisa’s advice, none of it would
have happened. He wasn’t able to handle it; he didn’t know how to tell Danny that
all his pain and suffering had been his fault, that he hadn’t understood his message.
He almost had forgotten it, pretending that Danny was okay, that he would be
okay, but he also knew that sooner or later he would fall down. So lost in his
thoughts, Jack didn’t realized Vivian in front of him, looking at him with a
concerned expression.
“It’s my fault,” he muttered not looking at her.
“What? What’s your fault?” she asked in concern.
He hadn’t looked away from the message light on his phone, so she guessed what
was happening. It had been a long time and she couldn’t believe that Jack was still
struggling with it. When they had listened to that message, all of them had
understood, even Jack, but then it had been too late. They never thought that
Danny could be in danger because the message Jack received was that he had
“caught a cold”.
“Jack, stop torturing yourself. We had been working for too much time; we had
been working two cases that became four. Danny had appeared to have a bad day;
all of us had seen his bad attitude the day before, you sent him home. I woke him
up in his own car. It would have been logical to take the message as true,” she
remembered very well those days.
“No… no Vivian, nobody leaves a message at three in the morning to say he has
caught a cold. Our Danny would never call saying ‘This is a message from special
agent Danny Taylor for Supervisor Jack Malone’. I should have realized then that
something was going wrong and I didn’t even consider it. He could have died in
that room waiting for my help,” Jack trailed off.
Vivian realized that Jack had memorized that message and she didn’t know what to
say.
“Lisa talked to me and I didn’t follow her advice. I was aware that I was losing
control. You told me, I should have stopped then, I should have stopped to rest,”
Jack continued.
“Jack, you can’t change what happened, but just feel good that he’s okay now. He’s
recovered completely. I know you both haven’t talked about it, I know he hasn’t
told us about what he lived through, what he felt and we only have the facts. But
some day, you will have to talk to him about it.”
“Some day… some day he will know the truth, Viv; he will know that the call he
made didn’t work because I wasn’t able to understand his message… loud and
clear, I told him. I couldn’t tell him the truth.”
“Jack, time has passed. Danny is okay, stop torturing yourself like this.”
“Something has happened,” Jack said, “Martin asked me to give them some time
because Danny was having some kind of episode. Martin doesn’t have any idea
about what happened to him, but it happened when they were searching Simon
Ross’s room.”
“Well, at least Danny wasn’t alone,” Vivian responded softly. “Talking is good and
Martin is his friend. That’s good.”
“He actually never talks to me,” Jack said, knowing that it wasn’t true at all.
“Oh, come on Jack, that’s not like that and I can tell you that you don’t talk much
either.”
“I’m the boss, it’s different.”
“We’re friends, Jack, it’s different as well,” she refused to give up.
“When his brother was missing, I offered him my help, I wanted to talk to him but
he told me he was able to cope with it. However, he went to your home and I
wouldn’t know anything about his situation if you hadn’t phoned me.”
“Maybe it was because you would have removed him from the case and that was
the last thing he wanted to happen. I wasn’t able to do anything about it and… I
was closer to the place he really wanted to go. He didn’t want to talk to me Jack, but
his sponsor. He only came to me because he couldn’t find his sponsor, no other
reason.”
“I don’t know why we’re talking about this,” Jack responded, feeling
uncomfortable.
“Don’t think about this anymore, don’t think about what’s not happening and think
seriously about taking a long break when this case is finished,” she smiled.
“Yes, you probably are right, thanks,” he said.
“I am right and you’re welcome,” she replied.
At that moment, two soft knocks on the door let them see Rick Carter entering the
office.
“Agent Carter, what can I do for you?” Jack asked greeting him.
“Um… an old matter I shouldn’t be poking my nose in right now, but…” he started
shrugging his shoulders.
“Have you had news about the guy from the game?” Vivian asked.
“Well, let’s say that we’ve received news from him. Hasn’t agent Taylor told you
yet?” he asked.
Jack and Viv exchanged a worried look.
“Oh, I see. Agent Taylor came to my office this early morning. He found a couple of
dice and a note in the pocket of his coat. He thinks that someone put them there
during the party last night,” he explained.
“Oh my god!” Vivian exclaimed. She couldn’t believe that guy had been so close to
them. “Are you sure?”
“It’s what he believes and yes, he’s pretty sure. He says the place was full of people
and he left his seat several times. Anybody could do it,” Rick explained. “Well, I
asked agent Taylor to write a document about what he usually did for the years he
spent at the Queens College, trying to force him to remember…”
“If he would be able to remember something relevant, he would have told you,”
Jack cut him. “I’m sure he has thought about it,”
“I know, but maybe this way, after several months have passed, he may remember
something new. We haven’t got any new clues, the lab didn’t find prints on the dice
or the note, which is not a surprise, we’ve talked to the other victims and this man
has been close to Allen and Thomas. Allen was receiving calls at night, at different
times, different days. There weren’t messages, or communication…”
“How awful!” Vivian commented.
“Yes, the calls where made from untraceable cell phones; it doesn’t seem to be a
joke.”
“What about Thomas?”
“He has received a note in his mailbox at home. It didn’t say anything relevant
except he was out of the game. He had missed his turn to throw the dice.”
“What… what did Danny’s note say?” Jack asked.
Rick pulled out a copy of the note. “It says, ‘Congratulations, you’re the winner and
you get to enter a new level. Do you want to go on playing? It’s time to throw the
dice. Enjoy the night.’”
“Let me see,” Vivian said, taking the note. “This guy… does he want to go ahead
with the game? Does he think Danny is going to accept?... ‘Enjoy the night’… sure he
was there. We met to say goodbye to Elena. That guy was there…” she finished
thoughtfully, trying to remember any time in the night that someone approached
them but she couldn’t remind anything.
“Or it’s a threat,” Jack commented. “Enjoy the night… because it’s the last one. As
you well say, Vivian, Danny wouldn’t voluntarily accept to go ahead with the game,
except if he was forced to do it.”
“Where’s Danny?” Vivian asked, suddenly thinking that he could be in danger
again.
“He’s with Martin, checking Ross’s room,” Jack reminded her.
“I don’t think he is going to do anything right now, Jack,”, Rick said. “Seeing the way
he acts, this guy doesn’t leave anything to chance, he takes his time to do the things
and he doesn’t act by himself. He hasn’t had time to work on anything.”
“Four months have passed. He’s had plenty of time,” Vivian disagreed.
“Yes, but the investigation isn’t closed and he knows that. He won’t risk it. At least
not now. I think he’s only checking on him, trying to scare him. Your agent has
gone through his recovery very well, I’ve seen him and he’s working as usual,
right?”
“Yes… more or less,” Jack replied.
“That pisses him off, he wants to see Danny having a breakdown and that’s Danny’s
game. He wants Danny to throw the dice, he wants to make him to feel what
happened in that room again. He wants to see him falling down.” Rick explained.
Jack and Vivian looked each other. Martin’s call had new meaning now.
After a while staying in Simon Ross’s room, with Martin beside him, Danny looked
calmer.
“Are you feeling better?” Martin asked.
“Yeah, I’m… I’m sorry, I… I don’t know what happened to me,” Danny replied,
clearly ashamed.
“Don’t worry. Do you want to talk about it?”
Danny shook his head. “Not here.”
“Well, let’s go and let the crime scene team finish their work,” Martin suggested.
Danny stood up and glanced at that shelving. Martin wondered what could have
triggered such a bad reaction from his coworker.
Wrapping his hands around the hot coffee mug, Danny remained thoughtful. He
didn’t hide his hands from the others, his nails had reached a reasonable size, his
fingers weren’t swollen anymore and the bruises had disappeared. Now he only
appeared to be a nervous man, biting his nails.
“So?” Martin tried.
Danny frowned. “I’m fine… I’m feeling better now.”
“What happened?”
“I… I felt dizzy, I guess I’m not completely well and…” it wasn’t a bad excuse, it had
worked before, even though the time had passed and now it was less credible.
“Danny, don’t lie to me, you were looking at that shelves as though there was a
ghost on it.” Martin pressured him, surprised by the change of attitude.
Danny looked around as if he was scoping out a quick exit. Martin didn’t want to
pressure him, but he needed an answer.
“Danny, please.”
“No… I don’t… I don’t want to talk about this with you,” he finally replied.
“But you told me…” Martin started.
“That was before. Martin… I… I don’t want to tell you something you are going to
feel hurt about. I know it’s not fair so… let it go, all right? Please,” Danny asked.
“What are you talking about, Danny? What could hurt me? What has happened?”
Martin asked confused.
Danny remained silent, struggling with the words. How to tell Martin what he had
felt that day when he finally saw a friendly face. How to share with him all that
experience, after feeling what he had felt when he saw him. When he saw his
reaction. The night before, he had come back to that hell reading that note,
throwing the dice working his fate and Danny had relived what had happened to
him and he had reacted the same way… again.
“Danny, I’m not going to get angry at you. You can tell me whatever you want, I’ll
understand,” Martin tried to encourage his friend.
“I… I don’t trust you,” Danny almost whispered. He only looked at him as the last
word left his mouth. There were tears in his eyes. Those words meant a lot, after
what they had gone through together, the years they knew each other… and it hurt.
It hurt Danny to feel it and it hurt Martin to hear it. He stared at him, unable to say
a word, absolutely surprised by those words, not knowing how to take that.
Finally, he was only able to ask, “Why?”
Danny shook his head.
“Danny, tell me what I’ve done to you for you not to trust me. Please, talk to me
because I don’t know and I’m sure there is an explanation,” Martin pleaded.
“It’s not about you, Martin, it’s about me,” he replied.
“Okay, you don’t want to talk to me, you don’t trust me and you don’t give me the
chance to clarify it. Great! You think you can just leave things like that?” Martin
started to feel desperate, even angry. Danny’s attitude was so unfair. He hadn’t
done anything to him, especially since he had gotten back to work.
“I don’t think so,” Danny replied. “I’m… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought up this
crap.”
“Is it that you think I don’t understand!”
“You said that you’d understand, that you wouldn’t get angry…”
“I didn’t expect that you would say that, Danny. How can you say that you can’t
trust me after …everything we’ve been through… It’s… it’s cruel, Danny. It’s not
fair.”
“I told you it wasn’t.”
Martin looked at the clock. He didn’t want to stay there, he needed to take a breath,
he needed to get out of that café. Standing up, he left some coins on the table and
left the place. Getting into the car, he waited for about  minutes more, waiting…
waiting… until he finally saw his coworker leaving the café.
 
Approaching to the car, Danny felt like all the world was against him. He knew it
was his fault, he knew that it was time to talk… at least he had to try to talk about
it.
A shiver ran down his spine as gripped the car door handle and opened it. Martin
barely looked at him as he sat down and put on his belt seat. He was trying to
search for the right words to apologize but nothing left his mouth. The silence was
deafening, so much so you could cut the tension with a knife.
Sighing heavily, Martin finally started the engine.
“There was a Jules Verne collection on that shelf,” Danny managed to mutter.
His hand still on the key, Martin stopped himself from putting the car in gear. He
hoped Danny didn’t notice the racing of his heart, realizing that Danny seemed
ready to open up to him. Martin didn’t know what to say in respond, afraid that
Danny would shut down. He couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t allow himself to
fail again, so he just sat completely still – waiting for Danny to continue.
“Jules told me that his mother liked those books and she loved Jules Verne. That’s
why he was named after him, the writer, and Michel after Michel Strogoff, the Zar’s
dispatch rider, it was her favorite novel,” Danny continued, looking down and
barely meeting Martin’s eyes for a second.
Martin nodded. He knew the story, but he didn’t know yet what was going on or
where Danny was going with all of this.
“The first night, after calling Jack, when those guys had left and we were alone, we
tried to look for an escape and Jules told me a lot of things about himself, about his
parents, the kind of things you don’t usually tell people you don’t know, except if
you think…” he paused trying to control his nerves against the memories. “He had
read almost every Jules Verne novel, the one he was named after included. It
wasn’t his favorite but he felt a special connection to it because of his name. I… I…
hadn’t read those books, you know? I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid and it wasn’t
like my family would ever have those books in our house,” Danny paused feeling
his heart racing at the memories. Then, he looked at Martin for a second before
looking through the window and he continued. “I tried to tell him something about
myself and… I didn’t know what to tell him, but he started to question me and I… I
remembered things I had forgotten, things I had buried a long time ago and maybe
I should have kept them buried, but I knew it meant a lot to Jules that I open up,
too. Do you know what? I had been having a nightmare where I saw my mom, but I
could only see the very last image I remember seeing of her. I wasn’t able to
remember anything else. She told me something but there wasn’t a sound, I wasn’t
able to remember the sound of her voice. I told Jules that and he… he started to ask
other questions and I… I started to remember… I told him things that I had
forgotten. That night, Jules and I connected in a very special way. I… I’m not able to
explain it with words,”
“I understand,” Martin soothed him. He had turned to him, staring at him
attentively, even though Danny barely looked back at him. He didn’t care. He knew
that it was important and Danny was taking a big step in just speaking to him.
Martin wanted to make sure that Danny knew that he would be there to listen.
“During that night and the next morning, before the guys arrived again, we talked a
lot, trying to stop the anxiety, the pain… he told me that story about Michel Strogoff
and laughed at me when I said that I couldn’t understand how he had been able to
run away from his captors in the middle of the desert and being blind, as we
couldn’t get free from those damn tubes. When… when I saw the books at Ross’s
home, I…” Danny wasn’t able to finish his words, feeling the tears in his eyes,
fighting to keep them back.
That was it. Martin thought about what his friend still kept inside, all that he hadn’t
told them about what happened in that room, how he lived through it, because the
facts were there, the statements of the three guys involved. What he didn’t
understand was why he didn’t want to tell him. Where did Danny’s distrust come
from? Is it that he thought he wouldn’t understand?
“Danny, it’s okay…” he felt that it was enough for now but Danny shook his head.
He had to continue his explanation, so Martin would understand.
“When they came with that gun, I… I only thought about an odd number when they
threw the dice,” he managed to say with a trembling voice and tears rolling down
his face, “because that meant that I’d live, but it meant that he’d die, and I didn’t
want that to happen. Every time they put the sketches in front of us, I pleaded to
get the least painful, but, again, it meant that Jules would suffer the worse torture
and I wasn’t able to handle the pain they were causing him. At the end… at the end
I didn’t care about the result of the dice, what they would do to us or who would be
the first one. I… I didn’t know what he would think then, I… I only wanted to
apologize for all the times I thanked God because it hadn’t been my turn for a kind
of torture and… and… I never could do it, because… because I pleaded that I
wouldn’t die…that the bullet wasn’t for me.”
Martin didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t begin to comprehend what Danny still
hid inside him, what he had been thinking and feeling for those days.
“Didn’t you talk to him again after that first night?” he asked.
Danny shook his head. “No, they put gags on us and I only was able to think about
just…breathing….just keep breathing. I guess he was in the same situation. We
weren’t able to talk anymore.”
“Why didn’t you want to tell me this, Danny?” Martin asked. He was so glad that his
friend finally could talk about what had happened, that he gave him the chance to
help him but he didn’t understand why he hadn’t talked before, why he didn’t trust
him. He did want to know because he didn’t want to fail to him.
“One day, Jules had already been killed, I was sure that it was my last day as well, I
had lost all my strength, I wasn’t able to think about anything, the buzz in my ears
was unbearable, my knees were ruined, but I couldn’t feel any pain. I couldn’t feel
my hands and I had lost all faith of getting out of there alive. For those days, I saw
the door opening a few times, I had dreams about it, sometimes the guys arrived
again, sometimes there was a friendly face coming to help me… but the truth is that
the door stayed closed. I was… I was trying a plea for Jules and I was pleading for a
quick end and… then the door was opened and I saw you.” He said.
Martin remembered that moment and his utter surprise at seeing Danny in that
room, when they thought he was at home with a cold.
“My vision was blurred but I could see you entering the room and I thought that I
was safe, that you would release me and get me out of there. But… you didn’t move,
you were frozen, and I almost thought that you didn’t even see me there. I wanted
to yell at you that it was me and you had to take me out of there, I was going to die
if you didn’t… but you didn’t move. An eternity passed and I didn’t understand why
you weren’t doing anything. And then finally, I saw Vivian come in the door. Just
when she approached me, I felt safe.”
“That’s why you don’t trust me,” Martin understood then.
Danny lowered head as the tears rolled down his face without saying a word.
“I’m… I’m very sorry, Danny. When we entered that room, we already knew that
something terrible had happened there. I saw Jules, then I saw you. I…I couldn’t
believe it was you, I couldn’t handle the sight of it, I was terrified. I wanted to help
you, I wanted to do something but… I froze and I really failed you. Thanks to
Vivian, I finally reacted. I’m so sorry, Danny, I couldn’t be there for you when you
needed me the most.” He paused, remembering his own feelings that day. “I’m not
trying to justify my attitude, I just want you to understand, Danny. I wasn’t ready
to see that, to see you like that, when I thought that you were at home sick, laying
on the couch watching TV… but… never there.” Martin explained resting a hand on
his friend’s shoulder. There were tears in his eyes as well. He had never thought
about Danny’s point of view that fateful day and he now understood the pain
Danny had been through.
“Didn’t you know I was there?” Danny asked, frowning. “I… I made a call, I… I
thought that I had gotten through, that you were looking for me.”
“No, we weren’t looking for you, we heard your call checking the statements when
you were in the hospital. Then, we realized you had been trying to tell us that
something was wrong. You did well, Jack had told us that you had phoned in sick,
but we had been working those two cases, barely taking a break and he didn’t
realize the meaning of your message.” Martin explained. “He… he has told you,
hasn’t he?” Martin asked, but quickly realized that Jack hadn’t been honest with
Danny about not understanding the message.
“What about Jules?” Danny asked without replying to Martin’s question.
“There wasn’t any report on him, there was no case. The cases were closed and if it
hadn’t been because we were called, we wouldn’t have been there in time. I… I
called you at home but you didn’t answer and I thought you were in bed, I guess I
would have called you again or passed by, surely, but…” Martin stopped talking,
thinking about his friend in that room, in very bad condition, waiting for help that
would never have come if Harold Green hadn’t committed suicide.
Closing his eyes, Danny sighed and leaned back. Martin couldn’t figure out what his
friend was feeling, what he could feel coming to that realization, the fact that
nobody has missed him, that nobody made a phone call to check on him, or pass by
him home to make sure he was all right. This kind of thing isn’t that unusual,
people walk through the streets not looking at the people around them, talking on
their cell phones, listening to anything recorded in his music players, thinking
about their own matters.
Moreover, this was about Danny, and Martin was aware of the loneliness, the
ignorance, the abandonment that Danny had suffered during his childhood; he
knew because Danny had told him little pieces of it, because of his attitude towards
people, the importance he gave to the little things. Martin was aware that they had
become his family, something that he felt as well, but Danny’s family had failed him
once again. They had abandoned him.
That was what Danny had been thinking about. The truth that he would have died
there and days would have passed or weeks until he was found. Know this, hurt his
soul but he tried to find reasons, something he could use to justify the facts in any
other way. He tried to rationalize that he would have done the same in their shoes.
He was very tired as well, and he was only able to conclude that it had been a
coincidence of events, a sad accident. If he wouldn’t have left the office, those guys
wouldn’t have caught him, it wouldn’t have happened to him. Jack had told him
that he had understood his alerting voicemail and he hadn’t explained to him that
he didn’t understand it. They didn’t know that he was there. Finally, Danny totally
understood the shock and disbelief that Martin felt when he had entered that
room.
“I… I’m so sorry Martin. I’m sorry for holding on to that mistrust; if I would have
known that you didn’t know that I was there… now I understand, I understand
your reaction,” Danny finally said.
“I’ve never would have hurt you, Danny, I understand what you felt at that moment
and what you feel now but the truth… the truth is that it’s not true.”
“I should talk to Jack. He… he didn’t tell me anything about that call. He lied to me
saying that it had worked. I know why he lied. I needed to know that I had done
something, that I, at least, had tried and I had done well.”
“He met us in his office and played the message,” Martin said. “It was clearly a cry
for help from the time of the call, to the way you talked. He couldn’t forgive himself
and I doubt he has yet. He gave his resignation letter to Olczyk, but he didn’t accept
it.”
“Resignation?”
“Yes, we talked to him trying to make him understand that it hadn’t been his fault.
We had closed the cases, we had two days off because we were exhausted, he had
lost his reflexes and didn’t realize the meaning of the call. When he heard it again,
it was completely different. All of us acted different then, we saw things clearly. We
had been working to find four missing people and back at work after a deserved
break, we found out that it wasn’t finished yet and… and then… we found you,”
Martin explained. “You can’t imagine how many times I’ve thought about what
would have happened if that guy wouldn’t have committed suicide, if he wouldn’t
have left enough clues to arrest his friends and get a confession… an address.”
Both friends remained silent thinking about those days, about what had
happened… everything. Danny wasn’t able to wipe those memories from his mind,
those last moments, being saved just because of luck… twice. Two people had died
and they had saved his life in different circumstances, in different moments.
Around him, there was only death, death for him staying alive, death because of the
luck of a dice, death because of an address, death for him didn’t mean end his own
life. It meant someone else’s life ending…like his mother, like Jules. Danny always
survived, even after all he’d been through: father’s beatings, shootings, everything
else. Who would be his next victim?
Martin saw his coworker getting pale. For the time that had passed, he had never
seen him so weak. How was it possible that Jack wouldn’t tell him the truth about
that call! Martin wasn’t able to understand it, after so long time, Danny should have
known what had happened. “Didn’t you read the documents about the case?” he
asked.
Danny shook his head not meeting his eyes.
“Why? Why today? What has happened that you feel like this today, Danny?”
Danny remained silent. He didn’t know if he should tell, but he felt that he would
explode if he didn’t talk to him.
“No,… it’s not today, Martin. Every day, when I go back home, when I close the door
behind me, the same person brings up to me. Everyday, when I come back home,
when I close the door behind me, I say his name, ‘Jules Michel Osborne’. I don’t
know why I do, it’s an automatic reaction. Closing the door and bang! I’m there
again, I feel the fatigue of hours and hours trying to think that everything would be
okay, that everything is over, but… I can’t forget it. It’s like it happens everyday. It
has been like that for a long time but lately I was feeling better, I hadn’t had such
bad nightmares, I had gotten some sleep, even though I was never able to leave
that room.”
“Hey Danny, you don’t have to pretend anymore. You must to look for help, to
pretend won’t help you get over this, you know that very well,” Martin soothed
him.
“Last night,” Danny continued, “during the party, it was the first time I stopped
thinking about it, it was the first time I stopped listening to that noise in my ears
and I thought that I had finally gotten over it but, then… it happened. Martin, last
night I thought about… I was living the true torture, the one destined to me, from
the beginning. I thought it was a mistake when I tried to avoid that last bullet,
when I had breathed in relief for a second when those dice pointed to Jules and not
me; that it would have been better to die that day and not go on with this agony.
Last night, Martin… last night I wanted to throw the dice and I wanted to get an
even number; that was my fate. Evens are my numbers.”
Martin swallowed, if he was understanding Danny’s word then it meant that Danny
had tried to commit suicide last night. “But you didn’t throw the dice,” he softly
said, thinking that Danny had been talking figuratively.
“I threw the dice. I did… I got seven, odd. So I didn’t do anything, no… it wasn’t my
turn. But I would have done it, if I had gotten an even result, you understand? I was
willing to do it, Martin.”
“What happened to make you feel like that if you had been feeling better at the
party?” Martin asked trying to stay calm.
“I found a couple of dice and a note in my coat pocket. I already knew what I had to
do with those dice and… I did. I don’t know how long I was crying before doing it, I
don’t remember what I did after that, I was mad, I was a pawn in a game…following
instructions… until the end… I wasn’t able to control my life, it was like I was in
that room again, just that I didn’t need anything else than me; a signal, any thing
would make me to explode. I was totally exposed to the desires of some stranger
out there. He’s following me, watching me every day and he won’t allow me to have
a single happy day in my life. I didn’t even need to read the note, I had done exactly
what he wanted me to do.”
Martin was terrified. He couldn’t let it happened again, they had to catch this guy,
whoever he was; he had to protect his friend. Logic kicked in, stopping the
emotional intensity of the moment. “What did you do with the note and the dice?”
he asked.
“I gave them to Rick Carter… early this morning. I hadn’t been late, I went to talk to
him directly. I didn’t want to tell anyone…you, Jack, Viv, Sam…I didn’t want to
alarm you if it wasn’t necessary.”
“Danny, you should talk to us… you can’t do this alone.”
“That’s why I told Rick. He promised me that he would investigate it, he was going
to check on something and he asked me to try to remember things from my past.”
“Do you think this guy is someone you know? We were checking the yearbooks to
see if there was a time where you all were there, but we didn’t find anything.”
“I wasn’t in the yearbooks; I never wanted to be in them. Maybe that person didn’t
either. I have to… Rick asked me to write it down, to write whatever I could recall
from those years, trying to remember anything, any event…”
“Have you remembered something?”
Danny shook his head. “Maybe something happened when I was drunk, during
some party, I don’t know, maybe I did something horrible to someone… but I don’t
know… I used to get so drunk that I would remember anything from the night
before, not even the name of who was lying beside me.”
Martin smiled. “It was college. Bad things happen. We do stupid things when we’re
young. Come on Danny! There isn’t anything so cruel that you could have done to
deserve what that person has done to you. That JD had to be truly sick, he’s
someone dangerous, he has spent too much time preparing his game but… we’re
going to catch him.”
“I don’t know how. He’s untraceable, nobody knows him or where he is. We only
have an alias with no meaning.”
“Have you thought about it…the alias?”
“Sure I’ve thought about it. It was the first question Rick asked me. I don’t know
what those letters are, initials? They don’t necessarily have to have a meaning.
What about the numbers? It’s not a birth date… it’s nothing.”
“Maybe… maybe it’s a time, : hours?”
“Yes, but what does it mean?” Danny replied. He suddenly felt very tired and he
didn’t want to talk about it anymore. And, they had a work to do. “Listen, don’t you
think we should get back?”
“Yes, I guess so. Are you feeling better?”
Danny nodded and smiled. “Thanks for listening to me, Martin.”
“No thank you, bro. We’re friends, friends do that,” he said, offering his hand.
“Sure” Danny shook Martin’s hand vigorously. “I’m… I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too.”
Patience wasn’t his strong point and knowing that there was a person inside the
house, probably suffering, quiet was the last thing he could stay, especially now
that he had experienced that kind of hell first hand. Waiting quietly in the dark of
the night, inside of a car… with Jack, almost ranked with torture.
Sighing for the umpteenth time, Danny shift in his seat once again to try to get
more comfortable, if that was possible. They had been waiting for almost an hour
and neither of them had said a word, even though Danny knew that there was a lot
to talk about.
Jack had left the car some time ago to check out something that looked strange
down the street. After absently playing with a piece of paper and then drumming
his fingers on the wheel, Danny’s arms were now crossed since he could seem to
find anything more productive to do with his hands. Jack never had a problem
with the waiting, especially if the award for the time spent was to catch those guys
and find his missing person. Knowing that there was a Vice agent infiltrated in the
gang, gave him certain guarantees about the success of the operation. Ross had
been ready to ruin an important drug operation. In fact, he had already done this
since they couldn’t catch the most important members of the gang or confiscate all
the drugs. But the life of a hostage was the priority.
So, they had to wait, they had to wait for the arrival of ‘Blue Cat’ and his partners,
they had to wait on the call to entering the garage. Looking at the time, Jack had
almost forgotten his coworker beside him, until he sighed and moved trying to find
a more comfortable position. They had to talk… they had to clarify what had
happened and Jack started to feel uncomfortable with the silence. Talking to Danny
now might make the waiting more bearable and, more importantly, this would give
them a chance to speak privately about all the unspoken things between them.
“Rick Carter came to my office this morning,” he said, immediately noticing Danny
tense upon hearing his words.
Danny stayed silent, slighting biting his bottom lip.
“You hadn’t thought to tell me… why?” Jack asked, trying to not appear upset and
accusatory.
“Rick Carter was leading the case; I guess I thought it was better to talk to him
first.”
“That’s true, Danny, but that’s not my point,” Jack insisted.
“I told Martin that I didn’t want to ruin the party. We had been doing so well last
night and I wouldn’t gain anything by telling you… but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t
going to tell you. Carter was quicker than me, that’s all,” Danny responded.
“Rick says that this guy just wants to make you nervous; he’s just pissed off
because you seem okay…that you destroyed because of the….things…that
happened to you. But Rick also says that he doesn’t think this guy will try anything
more with you,” Jack tried. “However, I’m thinking about his possible thirst…for
vengeance…”
“He won’t get close to me, Jack. He doesn’t need to, he never did before, nobody
knows him and look at what he’s gotten away with? I don’t think he’ll take a
chance, knowing that it could lead to him being uncovered.”
“But if he put those dice and the note in your pocket…”
“And we were there and no one noticed it. He’s intelligent, he knows what he’s
doing; if he wants to hurt me, he’ll do it… he’s already done it.”
“What do you mean?” Jack asked, voice full of concern.
“Nothing,” Danny replied, shaking his head – “I don’t want to talk about this again.”
“Danny…”
“I don’t want to talk about it, all right? By the way, you didn’t tell me the truth
about what happened either.”
Instantly, Jack felt the lump in his throat. Danny knew, probably found out during
the conversation with Martin, or with Rick. Of course, sooner or later, he had to
find out. But there wasn’t resentment in his voice, there wasn’t any kind of
emotion, actually, and that made him feel even more uncomfortable since he didn’t
know what Danny was thinking. He didn’t know about what the conversation with
Martin was about that morning or what had happened to prompt it. At this point,
Jack realized that he just had to be honest with Danny and confess.
“It was… it was my fault. I didn’t want you to know that your call…your message to
me had been useless, Danny. You… you did the right thing, and I didn’t take the
pick up on it.”
“Martin told me what was going….why you didn’t pick up on the meaning of the
message. I knew there was a very real chance that you wouldn’t understand it.
How could you even fathom that I would have been…” Danny trailed off, not
wanting to finish.
“We took two days off, thinking that everything was over. Danny, we would never
have stopped, if I would have been more attentive.”
“It still would have been too late, Jack. Jules was already dead,” Danny said.
“But what about you? The things you went through after he died…just being in that
room, not thinking anyone would ever find you.”
“But you did find me, right? Jack, I don’t want you to think this was your fault. That
guy… I’ve been thinking about it. I haven’t read all the documents about the cases, I
haven’t wanted to do it but Rick gave me some information. Jack, twenty people
were moved to follow a game for more than a year, nine ended doing things that
they would never have done. All of them have the same feeling about that JD;
he knew them, he knew how they would react, their problems… why not create the
situation where we would have all been involved? He created four cases for us…
before I even made that call. If it had been Jules, nobody would have responded. I
think this guy took the risk knowing that there was a high probability about you
wouldn’t really listen to my message.”
“Jake Thomas made a call as well and his boss realized it, Danny,” Jack responded,
guilt still shaking him to the core.
“Maybe I was his real target. Only Jules and I stayed unnoticed –no one realizing
we were missing. Any of the others had someone waiting for them, someone that
would report their disappearance. Thomas’s call was irrelevant.”
“No, no way. He wouldn’t have involved so many people or taken so much time for
only one person, Danny. He could have killed you rather than that guy.” Jack
regretted his words immediately, Danny’s expression was indescribable.
“Danny”, he said resting a hand on his shoulder. “This is not about you, I’m aware
of you lived through a horrific experience in that room. I’m sure you and Jules
developed a…an unimaginable before he died. I know what you were thinking
when you were in there, I…I understand.”
“No… you can’t Jack,” he replied in a whispered.
“Danny…”
“He’s going to kill me, he will, when he wants to…whenever he wants to,” he
continued, meeting Jack’s eyes. “He’ll do it, Jack, and nobody will be able to do
anything to stop him.”
“No, Danny. We won’t…I won’t let that happen. We’ll protect you.”
“It has happened… he almost got to me. He could have killed me last night; he just
chose not to. It’s a matter of time and his discretion.”
Not understanding the true meaning of his words, Jack knew that there was only
one way to remedy the situation. They had to catch this guy for Danny to be able to
move on. For all that time, Jack had wanted to believe that his agent had been over
the trauma completely, but he also knew he was lying to himself, any day he would
start to fall a part. That day seem to have arrived and not by accident. Someone, in
the shadows, continued pulling the strings of the game… someone went on playing.
Someone they had to stop, but how?
“We’ll catch him, Danny… we’ll catch him. He won’t be free because of what he did,
because of what he’s doing.”
Danny didn’t reply and Jack knew why. His words only worked as support but both
of them knew that it would be very difficult.
“He feels invincible, Danny… he’ll make a mistake and then we’ll catch him.”
“So… I’ll have to wait, and just continue to be a pawn in … his game.”
“You’re not going to play anything, I can guarantee you that.”
Danny was going to respond but he stopped. The truth was that he was scared, so
scared and Jack wasn’t able to guarantee him anything. This whole conversation
with Jack would even be happening if the roll of the dice the night before had
resulted in an even number instead seven, a dice that someone had left in the
pocket of his coat and nobody, none of them had seen… Jack couldn’t guarantee
anything.
“Jack, listen… why don’t we let it go? I don’t… I don’t want to go on talking about
this.”
“All right,” Jack conceded, looking at the time. “Fifteen more minutes have passed.”
“I hope we haven’t made a mistake…”
“No, those guys will appear… hey… look,” he pointed looking at a car approaching
the zone. “Martin, Viv, are you ready?”
“Yes, Jack, we see it, we’ll wait for the order,” Viv replied.
“Everybody ready,” Jack said, looking at the Vice agents placed strategically.
Someone got out of the car and approached the building. He knocked softly on the
door and it opened. The car was driven silently to the entrance of the garage and
seconds later this one was opened too.
The operation was over in a few minutes, yelling and confusion followed the Vice
agents entering the garage as the others found Simon Ross, scared but alive.
Back at the office after going with Alice, Simon’s girlfriend, to the hospital where he
had been admitted, Sam was surprised to see Danny sitting down in front of his
computer.
“Hey! Still here?” she asked.
“I have to… do you remember the missing guy from that old Queens college
students’ party?”
“Yeah… I think so, why?”
“You asked me if I had attended mine.”
“Yes, I remember,” she smiled. “You told me that you never looked back.”
“I have to do it now. Rick has asked me to write about my years in college and…”
She looked at the screen. He hadn’t typed a single word. “The difficult part is where
to start,” she said sympathetically.
“Everything is difficult,” Danny replied, his voice sounding almost desperate.
“Listen, it’s late, it has been a hard day, do you have to do it now?” she asked. “Why
don’t you leave and do it tomorrow? Let’s go get something to eat? Do you want?”
Danny shrugged his shoulders. “No, thanks, I’m tired. It has been a long day. I guess
that I can do this tomorrow.”
Sam and Danny left the office a few minutes later and said goodbye at the subway.
During his way back at home, Danny continued thinking about the memories he
was supposed to write down. Noticing he was close to his exit, he started to feel
nervous about returning home. Would there be any surprises this time or would he
be alone again with his nightmares? He didn’t want to think about it, he chose not
to focus on anything; he wouldn’t look at his mailbox or listen to his voicemail.
Turning to the street where he lived, the silhouette of someone sitting down on the
stairs at the entrance of his building got his attention. He shivered in anticipation
and stopped for a second as his breathing started to race, but then he managed to
focus better and he recognized him.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” he asked.
“Nothing, I just thought I’d stop by… in case you want company,” Martin replied.
After what they had talked about that morning, if something was clear to Martin
now, it was that he wouldn’t leave let Danny think for a moment that he wouldn’t
be there for him.
Noticing Martin’s overnight bag, Danny asked, “Are you… are you planning to stay
for a while?” he asked confused.
“If you don’t mind,” he replied. “Listen, don’t take it…It’s just, after what happened
last night, you probably shouldn’t…”
Danny nodded understand that Martin was only trying to help. “It’s okay. I got it.
Listen um… um… have you had dinner?”
“I’ve grabbed some Italian food on my way, is it okay with you?”
“Sure… that’s good. Let’s go up,” Danny responded.
Martin felt relieved; it hadn’t been as difficult as he had thought. Danny opened the
door and taking the bag Martin had carried, he headed for the kitchen. As he got
the dinner on the table, Martin glanced at the small apartment. He had been there a
couple of time, but he never noticed organized it was, especially compared with his
own apartment. Some books, Danny’s guitar, some photos he hadn’t seen before…
his nephew and niece, Elena and Sofie…
“What do you want to drink?” Danny joked from the kitchen.
“Water will be good,” he responded, heading for the kitchen.
Sitting down at the table, Martin noticed that Danny seemed pretty nervous. “Do
you feel strange…having me here?” he asked.
“No, I told you it’s okay,” he responded. “It’s… it’s strange, that’s all. I mean, I know
it’s smart for me not be alone, but…but this is all just really strange.”
They didn’t talk much more during the dinner, just about the case and non
important things, but later, things took a different turn.
“Have you talked to Jack?”
“Yeah. We spent more than an hour in the car… time enough for a long
conversation,” Danny replied. “You were right about Jack and the call. And Rick had
told him about the dice and he wanted to know why I hadn’t talked to him before.”
“Did you tell him what happened last night?”
“Not everything. I didn’t tell Rick either. You are the only one that knows the whole
pathetic story,” Danny explained, standing up and taking the plates.
“Listen, take it easy, all right… it won’t happen again, right?” Martin tried to
reassure him, noticing that he was still nervous.
“Is that why you’re going to move here?” Danny asked, hiding his fear, smirking
like he was teasing him.
‘Nice try’ Martin thought. “If it’s necessary, I will. I’m not going to let what
happened last night happen again,” Martin responded seriously.
Danny started at him, ready to say something, but then he turned to take the plates
in the kitchen without saying a word, but Martin wouldn’t let him off that easy.
“What?” Martin asked.
Danny raised an eyebrow so Martin continued. “What were you going to tell me,
Danny?”
Danny sighed and stayed silent for a moment, knowing that Martin deserved an
answer, and a good one. Martin couldn’t understand how relieved he was that he
had decided to stop by his home but at the same time he blamed himself for not
take control of the situation. “It’s not so… bad, but… it’s… it’s happening… it
happens constantly, Martin,” he finally responded, not looking at him.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.
Danny shook his head. “No.”
“Okay. Listen Danny, this won’t be finished until we catch that guy, you know that,
right?” he asked then.
“Yes”, the reply came as a whisper.
“When I was driving here, I’ve thought that maybe you would like to tell me what
you did when you were in college, during the years you were there with the other
people involved in this,” Martin said. It would be difficult for Danny to write down
his memories for Rick Carter, but Martin was convinced that it wouldn’t be so
complicated if Danny just talked to him.
“There are… there are so many things I don’t remember, Martin. I…” he started.
“Don’t care, I’ll ask the questions. I know what we have to look for. I’ll ask you and
you’ll think about it, all right?” he asked.
How he had been so stupid to mistrust him that way! Danny had to recognize that
he was very scared about what was happening to him and he had spent great part
of his way back home thinking about to deal with one more night alone. But Martin
was there and everything was different. Leaning on the wall, he crossed his arms
thoughtfully. Martin was his best friend, but he didn’t want to unload all the
responsibility on him.
“Danny, I want to help you,” Martin encouraged him, when his friend didn’t reply.
“I’m… I’m so scared, Martin,” Danny muttered after a while. There were tears in his
eyes and he didn’t want to cry but he was so exhausted of fighting every day and
after what had happened the night before, what he had almost done to himself. “I
don’t… I don’t want to burden you, I don’t want to…”
“Hey, hey Danny,” Martin stood up quickly and approaching him, put his hands on
his shoulders. “You can’t burden me, Danny. I’m your friend, I only want to help
you, to make this easier for you, something that will help us catch this guy,
something that will help you to move on with your life. It’s up to you to find the
truth, not me, right? I understand you’re scared, I am too, I’ve seen what he does,
I’ve seen what he has done to you… that’s why I’m here, I’m not going to allow him
to hurt you or anyone else anymore.”
“Okay, right,” Danny muttered, wiping the tears. “I better make coffee… the night
will be long.”
Martin smiled.
Awaking from a deep sleep, Martin stretched out his arm and stopped the sound of
his programmed phone cell. He had barely slept four hours, he had a headache and
he felt every inch of his tensed body protesting. Danny had warned him that the
couch wasn’t a very comfortable place to sleep. He got up rubbing his neck
vigorously. Through of half-opened door to the bedroom of the tiny apartment, he
heard the shower coming from the bathroom. Poking into the room, he saw
Danny’s laptop on the bed, still opened. Beside it, the recorder they had used for
great part of the night, as Martin asked questions and Danny answered them:
Hard-partying nights fueled by alcohol and casual sex had been mixed with classes,
studies and odd jobs to work Danny’s way through college.
Danny was like Jeckyl and Hyde. ‘When you’re addicted to alcohol, you usually are
addicted to other things, usually sex, and it was something that was just natural for
me. When I was like that…drunk, I didn’t care who I hurt. It was all about what
made me feel better. When I’d sober up, then I’d feel terrible, but not bad enough
to not do it over and over again.’ Martin hadn’t asked him why he did it since he
already knew the answer. You don’t get away unscathed when you come from
where Danny came from: a broken home, violent father, from seeing your parents
dying in front of you, from being abandoned by your only one brother, from being
absolutely alone under the custody of people that only offered food and room to
sleep in order to get a good money from the State, from the fear of living alone in a
big city, looking for a work with only the help of some social worker that had seen
something in him, going ahead with absolutely nothing.
The noise of the shower stopped and seconds later, the bathroom door opened.
Danny, covered with a towel around his waist, was rubbing his hair with another
towel, as he walked. He threw it on the bed and then he realized Martin there.
“Hey,” he greeted smiling. “I’m… I’m sorry. Did I wake you,” he said pointing the
bathroom.
“No. We have more work to do. More importantly, I want to head down to Mrs.
Bennett’s for some breakfast!” Martin responded.
Danny grinned. “Oh, I understand, that’s why you have stayed here, right?”
Martin shrugged. “You got me. Um… do you mind if…?” he asked, pointing the
bathroom.
“No, of course not, but hurry up, Mrs. Bennett will be happy to see you again and
will want to talk your ear off. I don’t want to be late for work. She has asks about
you all the time,” Danny commented.
“I saw your laptop on the bed. Were you typing something?” Martin asked in
interest, as they sat down at one of the free tables in the café.
“Yes, I… I couldn’t sleep, so…”
“Have you slept at all?” Martin asked in surprise.
“A few minutes…here and there… I almost finished writer, but I don’t know how
much it will help. What do you think?” Danny asked.
Martin was surprised to hear the hesitation in Danny’s voice. But unfortunately he
was right. There was nothing especially relevant in what Danny had remembered.
Mrs. Bennett approached them and to their surprise, she took a chair and sat down
with them. She didn’t have her usual happy face.
“Sean won’t be coming home next month. He has been dispatched to Germany Otan
station,” she explained.
“Oh, gosh, Mrs. Bennett, I’m sorry,” Danny said. “But, well, at last it’s not a
dangerous place…”
“I don’t care, Danny. I just miss him, he’s my baby, you know? Sons are always
babies for a mom. Hasn’t your mom ever told you that?”
Danny smiled sadly. “How long is he going to stay there?”
“He doesn’t know yet, but at last one more year… that’s too much for me. I had
been looking for an apartment for him but now…” she said. “Don’t you like the
breakfast?” she asked then, focusing on Martin.
Listening to what Mrs. Bennett had been telling them, Martin had barely eaten
anything, just playing with his meal. He was starved but he was still sleepy. She
noticed it and looked at them. “It has been a long time since I’ve seen you around”,
she commented.
“Yes, we’ve been busy. Lots of late nights,” Martin explained. “This is excellent, Mrs.
Bennett but I’m still sleepy.”
“I see, and you don’t have a good appetite either, Danny. What were you doing… I
better not ask!. Well, I’m leaving. Oh, by the way, I have something for you, actually
for your friend… I’m coming back in a minute.” She said standing up.
Danny and Martin exchanged a look and Danny laughed at Martin’s expression. “I
know what you’re thinking, Martin.”
“Do you know what I’m thinking Mrs. Bennett has thought about?” Martin asked
frowning.
Danny laughed hard at the comment. “Come on Martin, relax, Mrs. Bennett has too
many worries to think about us.”
“Shut up, she’s coming back,” Martin said, upset.
Mrs. Bennett went back with more coffee. “I remembered him seeing your face.
You had that weird face that day. Have you noticed the new apartment building a
block from here?” she asked Danny.
“Yes…” he started, not knowing where Mrs. Bennett was going with this.
“There are some apartments on sale. Your friend left me his card to call him if I saw
something interesting in the area to buy. You could phone him, you were pretty
weird to him and the guy was very nice. Pity he doesn’t come around anymore.”
“Who?” Danny asked, not understanding.
“You’d had a bad day, one of those days you where don’t want to be noticed, even
by me, but he remembered you from college. We spent some time chatting after
you left, don’t you remember?” she asked.
Martin and Danny exchanged a quick glance. Both had stopped in the first
sentence. “Would you mind giving me that card, Mrs. Bennett?” Danny asked
nervously.
She left the coffee pot on the table and pulled the card from her pocket and handed
it to Danny. “I… I can’t believe it,” he muttered. “I can’t believe it… Jimmy Dolan…
Martin, this guy is named Jimmy Dolan, he attended Queens College with me. He
told me… Oh my God, I remember him now, I remember he used to ask strange,
controversial questions in class, Professor Harris would cut him off from time to
time and we laughed at him…”
“Yes, he didn’t have a pleasant time at college, you teased him constantly. He filled
me in on the way you stole his girlfriend making him to look stupid at one of those
parties…” Mrs. Bennett chastised.
“Eh… Mrs. Bennett, thanks so much, but we can’t stay, there is something that… I
have something to do,” Danny said standing up quickly. Martin paid for the
breakfast and followed his coworker outside the café.
“It’s him, Martin, it has to be him. Jimmy Dolan, look the initials, JD. It’s him, I
hadn’t seen him, I hadn’t remembered him but… now, and I remember him very
well. It makes sense, Professor Harris was pretty rude to him. I ‘stole’ his
girlfriend. I’m sure there are connections with the others.”
“What are you doing?” Martin asked driving. Danny had pulled out his cell phone
and started to dial the number from that card.
“I’ll call him, like Mrs. Bennett told me, I’ll tell him about the apartments and we’ll
agree to a meeting. We’ll catch him then. It will be simple.” Danny responded.
“No, no Danny, just wait. He may suspect something and run away.”
“What is he going to suspect?”
“No, Danny, let it go, please. We aren’t sure he is the person. It will be better to
investigate it; we have to talk to Jack. Don’t do this alone. Danny, I want to catch
him too, but let’s do it the right way. If he is JD, then we’re really close to
ending this.”
 
Taking the two yearbooks, Martin put them on the conference table to check them
carefully, as Danny typed anxiously, searching a database. Neither of them had said
a word, focusing directly on what they were looking for. Returning from taking a
break, Sam and Vivian were surprised to see so much activity.
“Have we got a new case?” Sam asked.
“Yes,” Martin replied not even looking at her.
“Have you found out something new?” Vivian asked approaching him, noticing the
yearbooks.
“Yes, yes, yes… I’ve got it, it’s him, Martin, it’s him,” Danny exclaimed, turning the
screen with the information from the data base search towards Martin. “He was
suspended from being a lawyer two years ago for showing a serious lack of
professionalism during a trial. His closing arguments were damaging to his client
and completely unacceptable, at least according to the NY state Bar committee that
reviewed the case file. How is possible I didn’t remembered it before? He was
always like that, speaking erratically…always having his own agenda.”
“James Dolan, JD… his name matches with the initials of the nickname,” Sam
commented. “Why did you remember him now?”
Danny showed her the card Mrs. Bennett had given to him. “I have his name, his
address, his phone number. Let’s go,” he responded anxiously.
“Where are we going?” Jack asked entering at that exact moment. “What are you
doing?”
“I’ve found him, Jack,” a euphoric Danny explained. “His name is Jimmy Dolan, we
were classmates at Queens College and he attended Professor Harris’s classes. His
initials match with the alias JD.”
“Wait a minute, what do proof do we have, exactly?” Jack asked, taking the card
Danny handed to him.
“He told Mrs. Bennett I had stolen his girlfriend,” Danny stated.
“Who?” Jack smiled and Sam had to stifle a laugh as Viv stopped the searching
through the yearbooks.
Martin realized how ridiculous the statement sounded without further
explanation. “I also think he’s the man, Jack. Professor Harris threw him out of his
class, making him look foolish in front of his classmates because of his absurd
theories. Dolan told Mrs. Bennett that he was teased at parties in college and that
Danny stole his girlfriend. Jack, if his license as a lawyer was taken away, it’s very
possible he’s reliving all that resentment. I know it doesn’t sound like a solid lead,
but I think this man is mentally disturbed and he’s acting against everyone that
somehow was an obstacle during his life.”
“Well Martin, you’re speaking like me. What about the others?” Jack asked.
“We’re going to check that now,” he replied.
“Brian Allen was a football trainer,” Sam read the documents Martin and Danny
had retrieved from the archive. “Maybe he wanted to be on the team and the
trainer didn’t allow him.”
“Jake Thomas…” Vivian started.
“Jake Thomas is an arrogant and stupid person,” Rick Carter interrupted her,
joining them. “What happened? I got your message… have you remembered
something?” he asked Danny.
“Oh yes, I’ve remembered a lot of things,” Danny replied. He filled him in on all
they’d found out.
“Jake Thomas attended Queens College, he’s a lawyer. If he had the attitude he has
now, he definitely could have pissed Dolan off.” Carter said.
“John Kirkpatrick was the leader of a fraternity, Zeta Delta, we have to check if
Dolan tried to join it,” Vivian suggested.
“So, we have a spiteful boyfriend, mocked student, not allowed on the football team
and a fraternity… Thomas probably made more than one joke at Dolan’s expense…
what about Osborne?” Carter asked.
None of them had found a connection to Jules.
“Jules attended Queens…” Danny started. “It was the only thing connection I could
make. He majored in Business.”
Martin had been reading the information about Dolan when he realized something.
“What’s Jules complete name?” he asked.
“Jules Michel Osborne”, Danny responded uneasily.
All of them noticed how Danny’s face turned pale and his voice trembled.
“Albert Osborne lead the committee that ruled against Dolan and lead to him being
fired,” Martin read.
“Albert Osborne died in , leaving a son, Jules Michel and a daughter, Teri,”
Danny read after typing his name in the computer. “He’s… he’s his father.”
“Okay,” Jack said. “If you get too close to the fire, you get burned. I told you he
would make a mistake.”
“Yes, we’re going to interview the others to confirm our theories. Print some pics of
Dolan, Danny”, Carter asked.
“Yeah… I remember him now,” Allen responded, his eyes glued to the photo Carter
showed him. “I remember that he wanted to be on the team… as lots of them did.
He tried but didn’t make it. His physical condition wasn’t the best. I told him if he
want to try a sport, he’d be best suited for long distance running.”
“You remember him well.”
“Yes, he was really persistent, kept wanting to try again. I knew some guys like
him, but he made us to feel uncomfortable. There was something dangerous in his
look, he took it personal when it really wasn’t personal, you know?” Allen
explained. “Is it possible that he had waited all this time to get revenge? It’s… it’s
inconceivable, I can’t believe it.”
“We are just investigating since we found a similar case with another person.”
“It will be difficult to prove… it’s not a reason for doing what happened to us,” Allen
frowned.
“Let us check it out thoroughly before going there,” Carter said. “Thanks so much
for your help, Mr. Allen.”
“You’re welcome. That guy deserves to pay for what he has done.”
What Allen had said was true, but Carter didn’t trust that. At least, it was enough to
bring it to a judge for a search warrant. They would have to make a good argument.
On his way back to Manhattan to interview John Kirkpatrick, special agent Laura
Mitchell went to the court where Jake Thomas was working that morning. Carter
had left her that witness consciously but she didn’t care. Thomas wouldn’t
intimidate her.
“I’m on a break, I don’t have more than five minutes. Why do you want to know
now?” He spat clearly upset after leaving the court room.
Laura pulled out the photo of Dolan and showed to him. “Do you know him?”
Jake took the photo and frowned. “Yes, sure… he’s a lawyer… I’ve seen him around.
Why?”
“Have you ever had any confrontations with him?” she asked directly.
“No… I don’t really know, I think he was suspended a couple of years ago. We met
at college, but we weren’t friends…”
“Please, Mr. Thomas, try to remember, it’s important.”
“Listen, I’m in the middle of a complicated case, I have a guy inside that room
accused of rape and murder and I want him to go to prison, I don’t...” he started.
“This man, Jimmy Dolan, is our main suspect in your kidnapping, Mr. Thomas, and
probably of five more people.” Laura insisted.
“Oh, really?” Thomas asked looking interested in the matter for the first time.
“Jimmy Dolan… yeah he was a strange guy, he used to make absurd accusations, he
liked to ruin professors’ lectures with a lot of conflicting argument and idea. He
was usually way out in left field.”
“Do you remember if you ridiculed him in any way, argued against any of his
theories,…?”
“Maybe,… but I wouldn’t be the only one doing it, for sure.” he responded.
“Do you remember the context of what happened?”
“At class… I guess…. Umh… well, something happened during a party our fraternity
house.”
“Zeta Delta fraternity?”
“Yes, how did you know?” he asked in surprise getting a smirk from Laura. “Well,
he made a big scene at the party because he hadn’t gotten in to the fraternity and
he was pretty angry.”
“Well, you’ve come from not remembering anything to being very clear.”
“Yes, it’s curious, I had forgotten him but remembering one event, I’ve
remembered almost everything about this guy. Do you think what happened to
him during his years at college is related with…? It’s going to be difficult to prove
that,” he grimaced. “But, if you catch him, call me. I’ve got quite a bit to say to him.”
“Has he left any other notes in your mail, any strange calls?”
“He left a note, a stupid one. I tossed it.”
“You did what!” Laura exclaimed evidently upset.
“Yeah, but I can tell you what it said.”
She looked at him questioning.
“He said, ‘I’m bored’. Are you satisfied?”
“I’m bored?”
“Yes, that’s it. I guessed the note had been left by him because it was the same as
the other one. I don’t know what he meant or why he wrote me.”
“Okay, right, thanks, Mr. Thomas. By the way, I warn you that if you receive
another note, call or whatever, please tell us. You have my coworker’s card,” Laura
said sharply.
“Don’t worry, I will,” he responded with a smile that turned Laura’s stomach.
Danny wasn’t able to sit still. He had been in the office all the morning waiting for
news. Jack hadn’t let him to go out to do anything, not even take part in the other
case they were working. Every five minutes, he called Rick Carter’s office but they
didn’t know anything yet.
“Danny, would you mind sitting down? You’re making me nervous,” Martin asked.
“It’s your fault. If you had left me, I would have gone to his home and…”
“I’m not going to argue about this again, Danny. Sit down, let Carter does his work,”
Martin tried to help him.
“Okay, right…. You’re right, but… but I want… I need to do something, I can’t stay
here without doing anything,” he said sitting down and messing his hair in
desperation.
Martin looked at him in concern. His coworker was so anxious to catch Jimmy
Dolan but the truth was that they only had theories. Carter would have a very
difficult time getting a search warrant and after all… what had Dolan been doing, if
he was responsible? He tried to look for a way to make his friend understand.
“Danny, I want you to understand one thing. I… I’ve been thinking that maybe we
won’t be able to prove anything. He has been very careful to not leave any trace of
himself in these cases. Actually, we don’t have anything on him, think about it.
Moreover, he hasn’t really done anything, except observing what the guys were
doing,” Martin tried to explain. “The apartments or the garage weren’t his, there
isn’t a rental contract in his name… he can say that he only planned a game as they
had been doing for more than a year… he didn’t kidnap anybody, he didn’t kill
anybody…”
“But he told them what they had to do!” Danny almost yelled in desperation
realizing that Martin was probably right and not wanting to admit it… he couldn’t
admit it.
“And it was their free will, to play the game or not, Danny! They weren’t children!”,
Martin responded desperately.
“No…” he had to admit that Martin was right, damn it, he was right. Dolan would be
to get out of this if nobody found solid evidence against him. “I don’t want… I can’t
do that to Jules, Martin,” he muttered.
‘And I can’t do this to you,’ Martin thought. But, like it or not, the chances of
arresting Dolan, of being able to charge with something was very slim. He put a
hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Danny, we’re doing our best. Last night… last night
we didn’t have anything and now we have got a good idea of what is going on,” he
soothed him.
“But it’s useless, Martin… it will be useless and he’s going to be there, do you
understand?” Danny almost screamed. “Martin, I can’t… I can’t believe he’s going to
go free from this, no…”
“Hey, don’t give up, Danny. Nobody has said it’s impossible, it’s just more
complicated… that’s all,” Martin encouraged him.
“It’s not that, Martin, it’s… I’m… I’m scared,” he whispered.
“I know, but we won’t let anything happen to you again. He won’t dare to do
anything because he’ll know we’re watching him.” Martin continued, trying to
support him.
“For how long, Martin? Because… look at the time he had been waiting, the years of
planning that went into all of this,” Danny responded.
“No, no… it’s not like that. I’m convinced that the fact he was fired two years ago is
why he has reliving this. I think that everything started then.”
At that moment, Rick Carter entered the office, his serious face told them that news
wasn’t good.
“I’m sorry, Danny. The judge hasn’t approved our request. There isn’t enough
evidence, we can’t prove anything. It’s… it’s frustrating. If it’s any consolation, I can
tell you that I’m pretty sure that Dolan is involved in this and thanks to you we
have located him. He’s dangerous. We don’t know when he will act again or what
the next step is in the game. I need…” Carter stopped noticing the panicked look on
Danny’s face and realizing that Danny didn’t know about the most recent
developments.
“Um… Jake Thomas received a note, a stupid note he threw in the trash. It only said
‘I’m bored’. I think it’s a warning, I think that the invitation to play he sent to you…
he’s there, somehow he wants to play with you and… maybe with Jake Thomas. I’m
not sure about Allen and Kirkpatrick. They haven’t received anything.” Carter knew
that the note and the dice had affected Danny, but he’d had no idea how much.
“Has he received any more calls?” Martin asked.
“No, he recognized Dolan as soon as I showed him the photo. He defined him as
crazy and dangerous person. He had destroyed the place where the fraternity held
their meetings when he found out he wasn’t selected for the frat. Then, he made a
couple of scenes at some of their frat parties. Thomas remembered because he was
member of the frat as well,” Carter explained.
“Why would he want to go on playing with only Danny and Jake Thomas?” Martin
asked.
“He likes to take risks, an Attorney District Assistant and an FBI agent are a good
challenge for him,” Carter suggested.
“And we attended Law School at the same time… maybe it’s just a choice,” Danny
chimed in finally after he’d just been listening to them and had managed to calm
down a bit and take part in the conversation.
“No, I don’t think he leaves anything to the luck”, Carter shook his head. It was
irony when everything had been based on dice.
Danny stared at him not understanding. To him, everything was about the luck of
the dice. Things had happened because of what the dice had resulted. “He was
going to kill us…all of us,” Danny said slowly almost speaking to himself. “At the
end, that was the conclusion of the game… all of us would die…”
“In that case, I have to tell you, my friend, that he failed,” Martin responded in
concern because of the reasoning from his coworker.
“That’s why he is going to continue the game, but it’s more difficult now because he
doesn’t have any players, he’s being forced to do it all by himself and he knows we
are looking for him,” Carter commented.
“And, why he’s sending those notes? Why doesn’t he wait for us to forget him
before acting again?” Danny asked.
“Because he can’t. He believes he controls everything, Danny, and fortunately for
us, he won’t be so cautious,” Carter replied.
“I understand,” Danny muttered, remaining silent and thoughtful.
Martin looked at him, an idea was forming in his mind and judging by Danny’s
gesture, both were thinking about the same. Too many years working together did
that.
“We can try something,” Danny started. “I can contact him, he won’t suspect
anything strange.”
“Danny…” Martin started, after seeing his friend’s state the day before, after what
had happened, after what he had said some minutes ago, he didn’t like the idea.
“No, no,… Martin, I know I can do it,” Danny said firmly. “I’m sure I can. It’s the only
way.”
“What are you talking about?” Carter asked.
“Mrs. Bennett, the owner of the Café where I usually have breakfast. She had a
conversation with Dolan the day he approached me in the café.. He had commented
that he was looking for an apartment in that area and he left her his card. She told
me this morning that there were some new apartments and suggested that I call
him because I had been rude to him that day. He had approached me and…” Danny
tried to explain, suddenly feeling full of energy.
“Well, we could try to set him up… if we could get him to confess, if he tries
something against you…we’ll take him out,” Carter commented, agreeing with the
plan.
Martin looked at them. He still wasn’t sure about it, but he also realize it might be
the only way to truly end this…for Danny’s own sake and sanity.
“What! You’re doing what?” Jack yelled. “No way, Danny, now way, forget it!”
“Jack, it’s the only chance we have to catch him!”
“No, you’re not going to do anything like that. You’re too involved, it’s too risky. I’m
not going to let you do it.” Jack said firmly.
“Jack, you don’t understand, it’s the only way. Nothing bad will happen, I’ll be
wired and as soon as I get a confession, as soon as he tries something, it will be
over.”
“That would be great if you weren’t so involved in the case, Danny. I don’t… I don’t
want you to do something that you regret in the future.”
“I won’t go too far. I won’t carry my gun, if that makes you more comfortable. Jack,
I have to do this, I need to do it, it’s the only way to arrest him, to connect him with
the guys he ordered to do what they did, to make him to confess his intentions
from the beginning.”
“He didn’t do anything. He’s too intelligent. He’ll know he’s being set up, Danny,”
Jack tried.
“He probably will so he’ll tell me about. He’s going to tell me how he did it, why he
did it, he has to do it… he wants to see my face, I’m sure.” Danny insisted.
“I know, but he didn’t pull the trigger.”
“No, he didn’t kill Jules or Professor Harris, but he had it all planned to leave me
there to die in that room, the same as the others if they hadn’t been found. We can
charge him for that, for knowing a crime was happening and doing nothing to stop
it. At the very least, we’ll get enough on him to get a search warrant to find more
solid evidence if he doesn’t tell me himself,” Danny almost pleaded desperately.
“Jack, please, you know I have to do it… I won’t be able to move on if we don’t catch
him. I…”
Danny trailed off, not wanting to say too much. He wasn’t going to explain to Jack
how terrified he was and he would be if they didn’t catch him waiting for any other
day throwing the dice again to get an even number. Danny wasn’t sure about what
he would do then, he had just been ready to act on the roll of the dice: that’s how
easy it had been for Dolan to control him.
But Jack wasn’t willing to let him go so easy. He knew that Danny hadn’t told him
everything and he had to know, he had to know exactly what danger his agent was
going into. “Continue, please… tell me why you’re so sure about doing this, tell my
why you won’t be able to move on if we don’t catch him… tell my why, Danny.” He
supportively asked.
“You… you won’t let me go if I tell you…”
“No, you’re wrong, I won’t let you go if you don’t tell me and you better start
speaking, because we don’t have all the time in the world to catch him.”
“Are…are you going to help me?” Danny asked desperately.
Jack was surprised and moved at the same time. The tone in Danny’s voice
illustrated the depths of Danny’s vulnerability. In spite of all the years that had
passed, the scars from Danny’s childhood were still there. In that one question,
Jack knew that if he didn’t support him that Danny would feel abandoned, just like
he had been a child.
Squeezing his shoulder, Jack smiled encouragingly to try to explain what he
wanted to hear.
“I’m not going to feel crumble just by seeing him, Jack. I’ll be able to talk to him, I’ll
be able to do something, I’ll get a confession from him because I don’t have any
personal relation to him. It’s what he does, the symbols he uses that affect me….but
not him, not Dolan the man. I freeze at a couple of dice, I’m mad at waiting for a
door being opened, his notes, the memories of what happened in that room, but
actually, he never was there,” Danny managed to explain.
“Okay, I understand.”
“It happened the last night when I found the dice in my pocket. You don’t know
Jack, you don’t know how quick I went back there, what I felt… what I thought…
what I did. I hadn’t even read that note, I threw the dice, he knew exactly what I
was going to do and I just did it.”
“What that invitation to play mean to you?” Jack asked with curiosity and concern.
“He wanted to leave me to die in that room but he didn’t get to do it, so… I should
throw the dice again. If it had worked an even number, I would be dead. I knew
that, I threw the dice being aware of the consequences and willing to do it. It’s… it’s
a crazy thing, Jack. But, at the moment I was so terrified, so deeply living in that
damn game that…” Danny confessed, with tears in his eyes.
“It’s okay Danny, it’s okay. I understand you, I understand what you want to tell me
but… what will happen if you meet Dolan and he invites you to play?” Jack asked.
“Will you able to hold on until we reach you? Do you know where you’re going to
be all the time? Danny, he can take you to any place, to a place where we may not
have quick access to you.”
“I won’t let him do that”, Danny responded, angrily wiping away tears before they
could fall.
“”We can’t control that, Danny. You know it, we’ve done it other times. I want to
catch him as well, but I don’t want to lose you, that’s all,” Jack said resting both
hands on his shoulders and meeting Danny’s eyes.
Danny remained silent for a moment. “Jack, I’ll be able to do it, I’ll will… it’s… it’s
the only thing we can do. If it’s goes well, everything will be over. If it’s wrong,
you’ll lose me the same way if we don’t act now because, if that man continues to
be free, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to deal with the pressure. Jack, I don’t
know if I’ve felt so strongly about something as I do about this. I’m so scared and
it’s not only because I want to do it, it’s because what this man knows about me,
what he’s able to do with me by just leaving a some dice in my pocket. That’s why I
have to do it… I have to do it. I have to take control of my life and stop letting it be
in this guy’s hands. ”
“All right,” Jack agreed, “but you’re not going to be only with Rick’s team, I’ll be
there so will. Martin. I guess he knows when things could turn wrong for you… the
same way I know now, right?” He didn’t care if Danny agreed or not, he would be
there and that wasn’t negotiable.
“All right. Thanks, Jack,” Danny slightly smiled.
“Well, we’re going to talk to Rick to prepare for this….very carefully and
thoroughly,” Jack replied, walking to the door.
Danny stood up and left first. Jack made a gesture to Martin and the three of them
went up to where Rick Carter’s team worked.
 
Jimmy Dolan's quaint two-story house, located in Queens and complete with a
garden in the backyard, was the place chosen for the meeting with Danny. Meeting
Dolan on his own turf wasn't the first choice, simply because it gave Dolan an
advantage -the upper hand. But they hadn't wanted him to suspect anything so
Danny had agreed without question.
When Danny arrived at the house, at about  pm as they had agreed, Rick Carter,
his team, Jack and Martin had already been there for about an hour, canvasing the
surrounding areas to detect all possible routes in and out of the house. Everything
was completely covered, with the help of a several patrolmen. They couldn’t risk
letting Dolan escape because he'd caused so much damage. As far as Jack and
Martin were concerned, it was their top priority to protect Danny.
Stopping the car in front of the house, Danny took a few moments to try to get his
nerves under control. Looking around, he didn’t notice anything special, even
though he knew that his coworkers were out there somewhere. Before getting out
the car, he touched the small transmitter on his keychain to activate his earpiece
and microphone. “Hey guys, are you there?”
“Right here, Danny. When you’re ready, we’re ready to start,” Carter replied.
“Okay, let’s go,” Danny sighed, removing the earpiece from his ear. From then on,
he wouldn’t hear anything else but they could still listen to him through the tiny
microphone in his breast pocket.
Getting out of the car, he headed quietly towards the entrance of the house Dolan
had shared with his wife and two children before they had left the city after a
complicated divorce proceeding. According to Dolan's records, the divorce had
been the first step into the abyss. During the next year, he had lost his license to
work as a lawyer. Shortly after that, Jimmy Dolan had concluded that there were
other guilty people to blame for his downfall, for his bad luck, so he had decided to
put his plan for revenge into action. At least that was the theory the team had
developed as to why Jimmy Dolan had gotten to this point.
Danny's brief conversation with Dolan that morning had resulted in the casual
meeting being set up. By all accounts, Jimmy Dolan had suspected anything
threatening about Danny’s intentions.
Flashback
At Rick Carter office, beside Jack and Martin, Danny took a deep breath and dialed
the telephone number from the card Mrs. Bennet had given to him that morning.
After five unbearable rings, right as Danny was about to give up and end the call,
Dolan’s voice answered.
“Hello?”
“Jimmy Dolan?” Danny asked, in as casual and friendly tone as he could muster.
“Yes, who is this?”
“Um.. eh, well, I… I don’t know if you remember me, I’m Danny Taylor…”
“Danny Taylor!, of course I remember you," Dolan responded, also sounding calm
and casual as though he were speaking to an old friend. "We met some months ago
in a café, I think.”
A general feeling of relief overcame the office. Things had started right, just as
they'd hoped.
“Yes, exactly. Well, the owner of the café mentioned that you had left her your card
because you were interested in looking for an apartment in that are--”
“Yes, yes… a very nice woman, but I’m not interested in that area anymore. I’m
sorry.”
“Oh, gosh,” Danny replied, looking at Rick a little nervously. “Well, the fact is that
they're building some apartments close to there and she thought you would be
interested in taking a look. She gave me your card to call you.”
“Ah well, I understand. Please thank her for thinking of me, or maybe I’ll stop by
there sometime and tell her personally.”
“Okay,… um… listen, I… I also wanted to apologize by my attitude that day. I didn’t
feel well. I was really rude. To make it up to you, maybe we could..., well, we could
meet for drink or something, to talk about old times,” Danny suggested.
“Sure, we didn’t get a chance to talk much that day. Why don’t you stop by my
home? Look, I’m finishing up some work on the back of the house. I’m pretty busy,
but if you come by I’ll be glad to visit with you for a while,” Dolan replied.
“Oh, well,… I don’t know, I guess that sounds okay”, Danny responded, trying not to
sound anxious, “I mean, I don’t know when I’ll be leaving the work and… is your
address the same as what's on your card?”
“Yes, that’s it… I’ll be here all the day, you can come over whenever you get off
work…”
“Tell him yes,” Rick whispered.
“Okay, um I’ll try… my shift usually ends around… . pm… I could be at your
home about , if that's okay,” Danny said, reading the note Rick gave him “At five
pm, at his home.”
“That’s perfect, Danny. I’ll be glad to have a chat with you,” Dolan agreed.
“Yeah, me too. See you then. Bye.” Danny replied.
When he hung up the phone, sweat beaded on his forehead and his hands
trembled, making Jack frown. He was not convinced yet that what Danny was
about to do was the best way to get Dolan or the best way for Danny to move on
from the hell he'd been going through.
End of flashback
Danny waited for a while before hearing the footsteps approaching the door.
Jimmy Dolan opened it, dressed in jeans, sweatshirt and a beer in his hand. He
hadn’t lied when he had told him about finishing up the backyard garden.
“Hey, Danny Taylor!” he exclaimed smiling. “Come on, come in, I’m … I’m in the
back, trying to remove weeds and fixing up the garden. I’m going build a barbeque
pit, you know? To invite friends over for backyard barbeques. So… do you want a
beer?”
“No, thanks,” Danny replied following him through the living room and the kitchen
that opened up to the garden.
“Let’s sit down for a while. I welcome a break before continuing,” Dolan
commented, clearly in a very talkative mood.
“Sure,” Danny sat down. “Listen, I’m sorry about that day, I wasn’t very polite to
you then and…”
“Oh, well we weren’t actually great friends in college, right. I was surprised you
remembered me at all, actually. So what do you think about this?” Dolan asked,
motioning to the surrounding garden. “I have still a lot of work to do, I’ve been
busy with other matters and didn’t realize how overgrown it had gotten.”
“Well, it’s… it’s big,” Danny said, not knowing what to say. He felt strange, he barely
knew Dolan and, even though he was sure that he hadn’t invited him to talk about
the old times or to see the barbeque, he had to engage in this small talk in hopes
that Dolan would slip up. “I see you really don’t need a new apartment, you have a
beautiful house.”
“Actually, I was looking for the apartments for another reason. This is good, even
though it is too big for one person. I had been living with my wife and children
here, but since we got divorced, it’s all mine now. I’ve fixed up the top floor. But
then I had a project I started some time ago and I had to finish it before I could do
anything else."
“What kind of project?” Danny asked in as casual a tone as he could manage.
“Later… I’ll show you later. It’s… I don’t know how to explain it. I like the
environment created around it. Have you ever taken part in a team game or sport,
Taylor?”
Listening to the conversation attentively, Jack and Martin exchanged a worried look,
the same as Rick Carter and his team. All of them wanted to catch Dolan, but they
need him to give them something. It wasn’t happening, but that question, about a
game, made them to feel nervous, especially Jack and Martin. It was clear that Dolan
was baiting Danny.
“This guy knows exactly what he’s doing,” Martin commented in concern.
“Agreed. He certainly hasn't invited Danny over to drink a couple of beers. He knows
that Danny is vulnerable and he’s trying to gain the upper hand. Let’s hope Danny
can hold on long enough to give us what we need to catch this bastard, I don’t want
him in there a second more than necessary,” Jack said.
“Sure, who doesn’t?" Danny replied. "Basketball, baseball…”
“You're lucky...back then in college and I'm sure still today. I never had that chance
in college...to be part of something...to be on a team. I wanted to do a lot of things
during my years in college but, for some reason, I also seemed to be on the outside
looking in. I went through a rough time there, you know? They laughed at me, they
humiliated me… no,… I don’t have good memories from those years. But now? I’ve
done something… I’ve created something big, Danny, I’ve done something for all
those guys that are ignored and humiliated every day.”
“What do you mean?” Danny asked, knowing he was going to take him to the point
they needed.
“I’ve created a game that gives them power, a game where they are important
people, where they have the chance to get justice.” Dolan explained.
“Did you create characters?” Danny asked, trying to keep his nerves under control.
“No, actually all the characters exist… look, I’ll show you, I have everything
upstairs. When you see it, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about,” Dolan
said finishing his beer. “Do you want to come with me?”
“Great, Danny, let him speak, let him to tell you what he did. Take it easy, we already
know what there is upstairs.” Jack said encouraging Danny or better… himself, since
Danny wasn’t able to hear them.
“He’ll do great, Jack,” Rick agreed.
“Don’t be so sure” Jack said in a guarded tone.
“We won’t let anything happen to him, all right?” Rick said trying to calm him down.
“I don’t know, it’s… it’s late, Jimmy. Maybe it would be better if I leave, I could come
back another day if you want…” Danny surprisingly replied.
“He can’t do it, we have to get him out of there,” Jack ordered. "That's what he's
telling us."
“No, no… wait a minute. He's trying to keep Dolan off guard by not sounding too
eager. He's okay, Jack.” Rick disagreed.
“No way, I know Danny, he’s not going to do it,” Jack argued. "He wants out of there."
“Jack, wait a minute,” Martin interrupted them, “We don’t have anything yet, if he
doesn’t get it today, we won’t have a chance like this again.”
“Come on Danny, you just got here. I was thinking of inviting you for dinner… if you
want. Come on, you’ll be surprised… you won’t even guess what I’ve created. It’s…
it’s a puzzle, a perfect puzzle, well almost perfect, I made some mistakes, I didn’t
encourage enough of those guys...”
“What guys?” Danny asked.
“My players,” Dolan explained as they went upstairs.
Feeling the knot in his stomach, Danny tried to stay calm, he was aware of the
importance of Dolan staying confident and not feeling threatened. Looking at the
front door, where his coworkers would enter, he started to think for the first time
that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe Jack was right and he wouldn’t be
able to handle the pressure. As he went upstairs, he felt his legs trembling as he
remembered every second of what he had gone through in the Maspeth’s room,
what had happened there, what Rick had told him, the information he had
accessed… Jules. Danny felt the dizziness as he closed his eyes.
“What's wrong?” Dolan asked, obviously noticing Danny's discomfort.
“Nothing, it’s…” Danny started.
“Are you nervous? Danny Taylor? Nervous? There’s nothing to fear,… it’s just a
game.”
“Damn it, if he continues talking like that we won’t have anything,” Martin protested.
“He’s hurting him… Danny knows what he'll find in that room… he won’t be able to
cope with this if Dolan doesn’t confess soon.” Jack muttered.
Jimmy opened the door and entered the room. Danny couldn’t enter, he stood
outside looking into the room but he wasn’t able to enter.
“Hey, don’t just stand there. Come in. I’ll explain the game to you. You’ll see how
interesting it is. I’m sure you'll want to take part in the game as well,” Dolan invited
Danny.
Danny finally entered the room, trying not to focus on anything. It wasn’t difficult,
he only had to stay looking at Dolan.
“So this is the place where you play? Do you meet your teammates here? What is
the game about?” Danny asked in a surprisingly calm, inquisitive tone.
“Well, it looks like you were right,” Jack told Rick. “He doesn’t sound too affected, let’s
see what he can do." Jack felt better after he'd heard the firm, straight-forward
questions Danny had asked. For a while, he thought that entering that room would
cause Danny to panic. Obviously, the room wasn't as threatening as Jack had thought.
“No, actually I don’t attend the meetings; I leave all the information in another
place. This… this is actually the second part of my game. This wasn’t my original
idea, but since it will be like that, maybe it will be interesting. That’s typical from
the random games… you never know how things will happen, but here… here we
have everything, this is the Control Room.”
“Okay, I think I understand. What is the game about?” Danny asked.
“It’s a random game, even though I've selected very specific players. As I told you
before, I chose students from Queens College,… I thought it would be a good idea
doing it with them because it was like a sample of my years there. We played a
game… for a year, more or less. Actually, I had another purpose, but I gave them
some challenges, puzzles to resolve… I really wanted to know how far they'd be
willing to go.”
“So that was the point of the game? To test what...their endurance? Their loyalty?”
“Ah, well, they thought they were playing a concrete game and I… I was playing
another something else. It’s really interesting to observe their reactions, their way
of acting… so similar… yet so different. At the end, I selected nine guys. They
looked to be the best capable for what I wanted them to do. Unfortunately, only
three of them reached the end, an end… well, I’ll show you. I’ve recorded
everything.”
“What?” Danny almost jumped, realizing that it was the proof they needed. At that
point, he couldn't help but show his anxiety. He did want to see anything. He knew
now that Dolan knew exactly what he was doing.
“All of them failed, some of them simply left, some of them were taken… I really
never thought that my pawns were going to win the game… all of them should have
fallen, Danny. Do you know what I’m talking about?” Dolan asked, staring at him
with an evil look in his eyes.
Danny remained silent. He felt his mouth go dry and he wasn’t able to say anything.
Dolan had suddenly and without notice, turned the tables on him.
“Think about it; I offered them the chance to remove obstacles, to get justice. I
made a list of my pawns and none of them should have survived.” Dolan continued.
“You said it was a game,” Danny managed to say.
“Did you think it was a game? What they did to you? Did you think what they did to
Jules was a game?” Dolan asked then. “I created the game, I looked for the
apartments in Maspeth, the garages…”
Danny jumped as Dolan slammed the door of the room. He felt as though the air
was being sucked from his lungs. “How did you feel being at the mercy of those
guys, Danny? At last they won, I won and you all paid for what you made me to feel
during college.”
“You’re… you’re…”
“Crazy?” Dolan finished, “No, Danny, this is simply justice. It’s a good lesson. You
were a callous, empty person back then who didn't give damn what your actions
caused. You screwed my girlfriend without giving me, the man who loved her,
another thought. And she, so willingly and easily, fell under your spell. And then
after you finished with her, you dumped her. It was actions like those that made
me want payback. No one humiliates me like that without consequences, Danny.
No one.”
“You’ve killed people for something that happened so long ago. People change...you
killed people for mistakes they made a lifetime ago...”
“Who cares? It happens everyday and I’ll make the game better and there will be
more people dying sooner or later… depending on the luck of the dice. And there
will be a day that someone will think twice before humiliating someone else. Tell
me something, Danny, did you throw your dice?”
“Well, that’s enough,” Jack said remembering what Danny had told him about the
symbols, the dice, the game. He was sure that Danny wouldn’t be able to hold on too
much more.
“Wait a minute,” Ricky responded, “…. Wait Jack, I want him to say one more thing. If
he says it, there won’t be lawyer around who will be able to defend him.”
Jack and Martin exchanged a concerned look. Both were very worried about Danny,
about his condition. They had promised him that they would protect to him, that they
wouldn’t let Dolan to touch him. Rick was taking too much of a chance, but still, they
decided to wait a little more.
“I didn’t throw the dice, Dolan, I didn’t. I read your note. Are you so naïve to think
that I would continue playing your silly game?” Danny asked and Martin jumped
slightly knowing that Danny was lying. Danny had clearly jump on a chance that
would give Rick the final information he was needing. “Your players, as you call
them, they threw the dice and they decided who would die. I don’t have to throw
the damn dice.”
“No. You haven’t listened to me, Danny. All of you had to die. I’m sorry for
disagreeing but you have to throw the dice. I saw you… the days you were alone in
that room… I saw you… I heard you. You were looking at that door, sometimes
terrified, sometimes hopeful, sometimes you simply gave up. That was your fate, it
was the fate I had prepared for all of you, someone would die first… the other one
would wish to have gotten the bullet as his agony became more and more
prolonged. In your case, the game was going perfect, but that guy, Harold… he
couldn’t resist the pressure. He was my favorite player, but… that also went wrong.
That’s why you have to throw the dice one more time, Danny. We have to end this
game, right?” Dolan pulled out a couple of dice from his pocket and put them in
front of Danny.
Danny stared at him, he knew that Dolan had caught him but he wouldn’t look at
those dice. Trying to control his trembling and sweaty body, he tried again to get
confirmation… he had to ask.
“Come on, Danny, take the dice,” Dolan pressured him once again.
“Come on Rick, that’s enough, you’ve got him,” Jack said desperately.
“Yeah, okay, let’s go,” Rick said leaving his position.
The three of them headed towards the main door, as the others took positions around
the house.
Once an agent opened the door, Jack, Martin and Rick quietly entered the house.
Martin pointed to the stairs and started to go up, slowly; they didn’t want Dolan to
hear them and put Danny in a dangerous situation. They didn’t know his position
towards Danny or if he was armed. They still could hear the conversation and Jack
could feel Danny holding on under the pressure.
“I won’t take those dice, Dolan. I’m not going to play this game,” Danny said,
sounding more confident with each word. “You watched me suffer through it once.
I’m not going to let you do the same thing again.”
“Oh, come on Danny, don’t disappoint me. As I told you, you’re the winner of my
game… let’s go on playing… we have to end what your teammates stopped.”
“Tell me something, Jimmy… How is it that you saw me in that room? I don’t
remember seeing you there. I don’t remember seeing anybody else there, except
those three guys. How did you see me?”
The two doors upstairs were closed. Approaching one of them, Rick checked carefully
to see if it could be opened easily and, after a second, he nodded. They were inside.
Holding their guns, they waited for the right moment to enter.
Dolan laughed. “You’re so naïve, Danny!. Do you see that big screen? I put minicameras
in every room where my pawns were taken. They're probably still there. I
only had to remove the tapes. I have precious videos, Danny, that I’ve watched
thousands of times… I’ve heard your screaming, your handsome face contorted
with pain, the fear, the desperation,… how you felt every time you thought about
little Jules… poor guy, he was the only one that never did anything to me… I
completely understand how you felt moved for him.”
Finally kicking in the door, Martin suddenly entered the room. Dolan barely had
time to react, not realizing what had happened until it was too late. Rick forced
Dolan down, shoving his head on the table while he handcuffed him. He wasn’t
especially delicate as he quickly took him out of the room. There would be time to
pick up all the evidence spread around the room. But he wanted to leave Martin
and Jack to take care of Danny. He knew they had gone too far, he knew that Dolan
had been especially cruel -reopening Danny's still-raw wounds.
“Danny, are you okay?” Martin asked concerned, sitting down beside him.
He didn’t pay attention to them, just staring at the big screen fixed to the wall at
the back of the room, waiting for the images of his torture to appear, not in his
mind anymore, but in front of him, on that big screen.
“Danny, everything is over. We got him,” Martin softly said, putting his hand on
Danny's shoulder -trying to get him to talk.
“You did very well, Danny,” Jack greeted him, “you did great. I… I wanted to pull
you out sooner, but Rick was convinced about your strength and he was right. You
got him. Let's get out of here now. This is not our case. Rick will take care of
everything, all right?”
Martin helped Danny to stand up, but he still hadn’t said a word, like he was in
shock, not making any gestures except trying to pick up some things on the table,
but Jack grabbed his arm, stopping him. “No Danny, forget this, all right? That’s
enough.”
Danny looked at him for the first time and nodded slightly. The three of them left
the room and went downstairs, not before Jack glanced back at that place…
fortunately, he wouldn’t have to see those photographs, those videos and those
sketches.
 
Standing outside of the house and watching the police car take Jimmy Dolan away,
Danny started to feel better. Seeing Rick Carter approaching them, he remembered
that he had the little transmitter in his breast pocket. Removing it, he thought
about the way Dolan had been caught. He couldn’t believe that he had never
suspected anything. Dolan was so blind with power and madness that he believed
that he was able to go ahead with his crazy idea of killing everyone.
“Well guys, we’ve accomplished what looked impossible yesterday,” Carter said
satisfactorily as he took the transmitter from Danny. “Danny, there aren’t words to
thank you for what you’ve done… getting the exact information we needed to
prosecute this bastard.”
“You’re welcome, but actually, nobody wanted to catch him more than me. Believe
me, I would have done anything to get him to talk,” Danny responded.
“I know, and I know that you took great pains to stay calm in there. You did
excellent,” he said. “Well, I better go back to work; we’ve lots of evidence to
process.”
“Right, see you at the office, Rick, thanks for everything,” Jack said.
“Danny, you were great with Dolan. I’m very proud of you,” Martin said as he
drove back to the FBI office.
“I just humored him, Martin. He wanted to take me there, it was clear from the
beginning,” Danny said absently.
“I don’t mean that. I mean, after what you have gone through the last few days…
months, you kept your cool under enormous pressure… you held on until we got
what we needed,” Martin supported him. “Jack thought about putting a stop to it
and getting you out of there, he thought you wouldn’t be able to do it, but just
when we were ready to get out of the van and take you out of there, you surprised
us with the questions you asked Dolan.”
Danny looked at him, but he didn’t say anything.
“What?” Martin asked.
“I… I’m still there,” Danny muttered.
Martin understood what Danny meant right there. Finding a place to pull over, he
drove the car towards it and stopped the engine.
“I tried not to see anything; I tried not to see the sketches or the photos on the
table… I tried no to see the dice in front of me but I… I had gone back to Maspeth’s
room long before I went upstairs,” Danny started almost whispering, looking at his
hands rather than Martin.
“I know, I realized it, he was playing with you, he’s good at doing that,” Martin said
softly.
“He did it very easily,” there was disappointment in Danny’s voice.
“You were vulnerable, Danny. Think about what has happened during the last days,
he knew the effect he had on you… and you still asked all the right questions.”
“Yes… I… I had to do it, Martin,” Danny trailed off. Fatigue was getting to him, now
that the man responsible for his nightmares had been caught. Yet somehow he was
still felt off-kilter and he still felt the bitter feeling being in the game. He realized
that he could just as easily succumbed to Dolan’s whim. Leaning his head on the
window, Danny closed his eyes, rubbing his face nervously, trying to calm down as
he realized how weak he’d felt and still felt. There was no way Dolan could win this
game now.
Martin gently squeezed his shoulder realizing that Danny was still processing
everything. Deciding to leave him alone with his thoughts, Martin started the car
and continued the drive back to the office.
“I’ve taken the liberty of redacting for you so, if you agree, you only have to sign it,”
Rick Carter said, handing him the document that contain his statement.
Danny smiled. “It’s the first time I’m going to sign something without reading it,
but the truth is that I’m not going to read the  pages of something I want to
forget, the sooner the better,” he commented signing the last page of the document.
“That’s what happens when you’re an interested party. I’ve met Jack several times
and I’ve asked him about you. He told me that things are going fairly well for you,”
Rick commented. “But I was concerned, I know I forced the situation…let it go on
too long that day and…”
“I… I wanted to do it, it was a great opportunity. We couldn’t let it…him get away,”
Danny replied seriously.
“Yes, we were lucky.” Rick agreed, somehow feeling relieved about the
understanding with Danny.
“Um… agent Carter, may I ask you a favor?” Danny asked.
“Sure.”
“I… I’d like to see the videos Dolan recorded,” Danny said.
Caught off guard, Rick Carter didn’t know how to respond. He had never expected a
request like that. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, Danny,” he finally replied. “Those
videos won’t tell you anything new.”
“No… there is something I don’t know and…” Danny paused unsure. Maybe Carter
was right but he needed to know. However, he felt like he wasn’t really able to
insist… not at the man that had helped him so much in catching Dolan. “Well, you
know what? It doesn’t matter. I guess you’re right. I’m sorry.” Danny replied,
feeling a bit embarrassed.
“Listen Danny, I’ve just given you the last document in this case. It’s over, kept in
the basement of the FBI building, all right? There are nine people arrested, James
Dolan included and there is no reason to go back to this matter, do you
understand? I advise that you do the same; I know it’s not that simple, I know it has
been very difficult and you’ll go back over it in your head all the time. If you need
professional help to get over it, don’t waste time…just ask for it. But seeing those
videos won’t help you, Danny. That’s the past, it won’t happen ever again, you don’t
need to experience it again, and you can’t change the past, right?” Rick explained to
him in the most supporting tone he was able to. He didn’t know Danny as well as
Jack knew him, but he decided to talk to him as though he were one of his agents,
he didn’t care what Danny was going to think about him at the moment. He just
wanted to help him.
Danny remained silent for a moment and then stood up. “You’re right, it’s… it’s
better to let it go. Well, thank you very much for doing this for me,” he said,
motioning to the document.
“You’re welcome,” Rick responded with a smile as he shook the hand Danny
offered him. “It’s been a pleasure to work with you, even in these circumstances. If
at any time you’re tired of Jack, remember that I could find a place for you on my
team.”
Danny smiled. “Okay, well, I’ll better get back or Jack will be the one firing me.”
Vivian had been waiting for Danny since she knew he had been called about
something related to the case. Since Dolan had been arrested, Danny looked better
but she had been noticed that he’d looked worried about something. He had
overlooked some aspects of the most recent case they’d been working and that was
unusual for him. Knowing that he would need time to assimilate and forget, she
didn’t want to pressure him, but she had thought that maybe now, she could have a
chance to ask. She saw him entering the bullpen and heading for his desk.
“How did you do with Carter?” she asked.
“Oh, okay… he did my part of the report… I only had to sign it,” he responded,
sitting down at his desk.
“And?” she tried.
“Nothing else,” he replied too quick, not looking at her, pretending that he was
interested in the information on the computer.
Viv knew him too well, so she just stood there. He cursed silently noticing Viv
standing beside him. He knew she wouldn’t leave without a better answer. And he
knew what Viv was waiting for.
“I asked him to see the videotapes Dolan had recorded,” Danny finally said
frowning.
“Danny! Why do you want to go on torturing yourself with it? The case is closed,
you have to move on,” she said in surprise. She had expected anything but that.
“Listen, you promised me that you get help, but I guess you didn’t, right?”
Entering the bullpen and heading for them, Martin had just caught a part of the
conversation. “Viv, I’ve got the lab results. The blood in the apartment doesn’t
match with Cindy so we can’t prove she was there,” he informed her as handed her
the document. But Martin hadn’t forgotten the conversation he had listened to. He
had talked to Vivian about Danny’s reaction after they had arrested Dolan and they
had agreed to keep a close eye on him and not let Danny hide anything. So, he
asked, “What’s going on, Danny?”
Vivian had left the document on the desk and now the both of them stared at their
coworker, waiting for a reply.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Danny asked; obviously bother by being under
their microscope. “Nothing happened, okay? It was… it was just a mistake. I just
asked for them, he… he told me about the case being closed and that I have to
forget and move on and that’s all,” he explained them. But they didn’t clearly
understand it.
“What did you ask him?” Martin asked.
“The videotapes Dolan had in his house,” Vivian informed him before Danny could
speak.
“Why?” Martin quietly asked and Danny knew that he wouldn’t able to accept
another answer but the truth. A chill went down his spine as he tried to look for
the right words. He didn’t like the obvious agreement that Viv and Martin had
reached but somehow, he was grateful to them as well.
“I need to know… what happened… the day Jules was killed.” He stated realizing at
the moment that he hadn’t let the guilt go at all. He looked at his concerned friends
and blamed himself for it. He needed to explain. “I need to know what he said, if
what I said caused something… I… I wasn’t able to hear anything, you know? I
know that I told them a lot of things, trying to make them reason, to see us as the
people w were and not pawns in that crazy game but… but I don’t know what Jules
said, I don’t know if he said something to me or not… I only want to know… that’s
all.” Danny managed to finish, his voice breaking, tears in his eyes.
“Listen Danny, there is nothing you could do in your condition, I’m sure you did
your best to avoid what happened,” Martin tried to soothe him still surprised by
the statement.
“It wasn’t enough,” Danny shook his head in disbelief.
“I can’t believe you’re thinking about this, Danny. You’ve seen how Dolan acted
over those guys and you. You can be sure that you weren’t in the best condition to
help Jules at all,” Vivian told him.
“Viv, it was him or me, and it was him and I’m not sure if I was able to defend him
as I had to do it because… you know… I…”Danny couldn’t find the words to explain
to them once more how he felt, the nightmares he still went through every night,
especially about that very moment, nightmares where everything he said was
wrong, where Jules only yelled at him to stop talking because he was aware that he
was going to be killed and he only wanted to end his own suffering.
Vivian and Martin exchange a concerned look. Of course, Danny wasn’t okay, not
the okay he pretended to be. Martin didn’t feel good having that conversation in
the office with so many witnesses.
“Listen, why don’t we take a break and talk about this in a quiet place, just the
three of us, right? What do you say?” he asked.
Danny frowned. He didn’t really want to talk about it but… at the same time… “Will
you watch the video with me?” he asked. Neither Martin nor Vivian expected that
reply, but neither of them could deny something that was obviously so important
to their friend.
“All right”, Martin agreed, “we’ll watch the video.”
Danny nodded.
They had agreed to meet at his home. Vivian had asked Carter for the videotape
and he had begrudgingly agreed to give it to her. Martin had brought pizza in hopes
that they could help Danny get back to some kind of normalcy.
When the investigation had reached a deadlock, Jack had suggested to go back
home. Vivian went up to Carter’s office and after explaining to him the situation,
Carter had agreed to give her the videotape with the only condition of having it
back at his desk early the next early morning. Viv had seen the concern in Carter’s
eyes, the same look she’d seen in the eyes of all the people who cared about Danny.
Both of them were grateful to each other for trying to help him.
“Okay, let’s get this over with. Put the video in,” Martin said impatiently once they
were in Danny’s living room, the pizzas and drinks on the table and they sitting
down on the couch. He felt nervous knowing that it wouldn’t be pleasant but if it
helped Danny get better, he didn’t care about the obvious discomfort he’d feel
while watching the disturbing video. In any case, it had happened a long time ago
and Danny wouldn’t be alone watching those images, which made the situation
very different.
Danny, however, didn’t look nervous. He just looked anxious; it was clearly
something he wished to do since Dolan had told him about the camera in the
Maspeth apartment. Somehow, he would have wished Dolan had pushed the player
button, even though at the moment, he didn’t want to watch it. Now, having Viv
and Martin with him, the two people that had found him in that room, had got him
out of that hell, he felt that he was doing the right thing.
Starting the video player, Danny sat down on the couch, Viv and Martin at his sides.
The black screen suddenly illuminated – showing the familiar yet horrify place.
Feeling a lump on her throat, Viv held Danny’s hand and squeezed it nervously
trying to soothe him, trying to comfort herself.
They watched the images in complete silence. Martin glanced at Danny from time
to time feeling a knot in his stomach as he noticed his friend looking attentively at
the screen, at those hard scenes, hearing the words he hadn’t at the time and giving
it a new dimension, a new meaning. But Martin still wondered if it would be worth
it…watching the horrid scene and if it wouldn’t be better to keep Danny away from
it. But now, it was too late.
Once the video was finished, they were unable to say anything, each one lost in
their own thoughts. Finally, Danny stood up and removed the tape and handed to
Viv.
“I’m sorry,” he said, noticing the pale face of Martin. “I… I’m sorry you had to see
that. I… I’m really sorry.”
“No, no… Danny, it’s okay, I’m fine… it’s just that… why… why did you want to see
this?” Martin asked.
“I told you, I wanted to know what was said in there, what happened… the truth…,
I… I wasn’t sure about my words, if I had helped or… or if Jules was blaming me…
I…I’ve been having nightmares about that exact moment… I needed to know the
truth.” Danny explained looking at him only when he was finished, as he was lost in
some inner fight.
“It’s pretty clear that you did your best and Jules did know that,” Vivian soothed
him.
“For a long time now, I thought that Jules was angry with what I was trying to do
that day, making his agony… tortured last longer, making that guy hesitate when I
couldn’t really do anything…” Danny explained.
“Well, you know now that it wasn’t like that,” she responded.
“Now, I know,” Danny looked down.
“Danny, the only person responsible for Jules’s death is that guy, Harold. He pulled
the trigger and he paid with his life. You didn’t do anything else other than try to
stop it. You never, never have stopped doing what you had to, not even when you
weren’t able to do anything, Danny. You always did the right thing and I didn’t
need to watch this to know that, because I know you and I know the way you are.”
Martin encouraged him.
“Danny, you should move on, let it go,” Vivian put a hand on his shoulder. “If you
can’t, ask for help. I think that’s the third time I’ve told you that.”
“I’m fine Viv, I’m fine. I only wanted to watch this because… I needed to watch it,
the moment I knew about the video, I knew that I had the chance to see the whole
story, to stop questioning myself over and over… you understand?”
“Sure, Danny,” Martin said.
“From now on, I’ll come back home everyday and I know that I won’t close my eyes
again wondering about what happened. And now, I know that I won’t think about
what Jules said or not, about what I could do or not… because now… now I have the
whole picture in my head.”
Danny looked so sure that Martin realized that it had been a good idea, after all.
Vivian put words to his thought.
“I’m glad you let us be here with you for this.”
“I was hoping you’d finally understand why I needed to do this. You were able to
watch it because you had been in that room and you knew what to expect. It would
be very different for Jack or Sam… I didn’t really want them to watch it…to be
exposed to that. I’m really grateful of sharing this with you two… the true is… I
don’t know if I’d have been able to watch it alone,” Danny smiled and his eyes
showed appreciation.
“Great, a pizza and a terror movie is a good way to spend with friends, don’t you
think?” Martin smiled at him.
Vivian laughed at Martin, as Danny smirked. “Of course, of course,” Danny replied
sharing the joke. “By the way, anyone want more pizza?”
He had promised them that he wouldn’t think about that story anymore, he
wouldn’t think about Jimmy Dolan, the College or what he had felt for Jules
Osborne. But, he had only one last thing to do.
He had barely slept. Since Viv and Martin had left his apartment, Danny had felt
that there was something he should do before going on with his life. Danny wanted
to do this before going back to work. Getting out of his car, he could feel the cool,
fresh air wash over him. He adjusted his coat and walked quickly down the path
towards Jules’s grave. Reading the words engraved on the gravestone, he felt
strange being there, before the grave of a person he barely had known. He left the
small bunch of flowers he had bought at the entrance of the cemetery and said a
plea for his soul. It took him only a few minutes, he didn’t need more than that.
After that, he head to the café where Mrs. Bennett had a hot coffee waiting for him.
Thanks to her, to her personality, her genuine interest in people, they had finally
caught Jimmy Dolan and he finally could start to think about moving on.
Two hours later, he arrived at the FBI’s building at Federal Plaza. Danny suddenly
remembered what he had told Jules when he had asked if he liked his work. “I like
to help people. Looking for missing people isn’t always pleasant work, it’s hard when
you don’t find them or don’t find them alive, for sure. When you do find them, though,
it’s… it’s pretty great.”
“It’s a great job, even better if you share it with the people you love the most, your
family, my family,” he said himself, before going through the big entrance of the FBI
building welcoming a new work day.
END