A WINDOW by Juho69

 

This is set a few months after the end of the final series of Without A Trace.

A sequel chapter is being written and should, hopefully, be ready by the end of the year.

 

Disclaimer : I don't own Without A Trace nor its characters etc.

 

 

The young man in his early thirties walked dazedly out on to the balcony of the high office block where he worked. Despairingly, he tried to comprehend the events of the last few weeks and days; but, for the umpteenth time, his mind could just not fathom them.

She had gone; and she was never coming back. His wife.

He could barely bring himself to think the word, let alone say it. It hurt so much.

Pain….emotional pain so great that he only felt numbness. It would come out later.

This was how it had been, all those other times in his life. His parents….his brother.…his own problems. However, this was different. All the things that had happened to him before, to his family and himself, terrible though they were, had been tragic accidents. They had not been deliberate; nobody was really to blame.

But, this was. She had betrayed him. And that was far, far worse.

He looked out towards the city he loved and which was his home. Below him, a million tiny lights shone in the darkness, reflective of its citizens going about their lives and businesses – but, it all floated over him. All he was able to do was gaze beyond them, to the horizon, towards the future which now had no meaning.

So deeply immersed was he that he only barely realised that someone had stepped out on to the balcony beside him.

"Hey."

Danny Taylor looked into Martin Fitzgerald's blue eyes.

"You okay?"

Danny shook his head and gestured helplessly.

Martin said nothing; but, he put his hand on Danny's shoulder and pressed it comfortingly.

That simple gesture broke Danny's control. He covered his face and began to cry heartbrokenly. Martin was not quite sure what to do at first, his male Fitzgerald reticence inhibiting him for a few moments; then, he pulled Danny's head down on to his shoulder, held him close and ruffled his hair gently.

Martin and Danny sat on the floor of the balcony. Danny had stopped crying but had then found he had nothing to wipe his face with and had tried to use his sleeves. Conscious of having done it somewhere once before, Martin had proffered him his handkerchief. He had his hand on the back of Danny's neck and rubbed it gently. Martin's upbringing still caused him to feel awkward when confronted by a man crying; but, he would never have left his best friend. With that helpless expression and runny nose, Danny looked like a lost little boy. Which, in a way, he was, Martin reflected. All those whom Danny had loved and then lost, in differing ways….It made Martin's own problems with his father appear miniscule in comparison.

Gradually, Danny became calmer. He was quiet for a few minutes. Then, in a voice full of bewilderment, distress and pain, he asked,

"WHY?"

"I don't know, pal." Martin shook his head. "I don't know."

"Martin – what did I do wrong?"

"Nothing," Martin answered, quite truthfully.

Danny shook his head, uncomprehending. "I would have done anything for her," he said, anguishedly. "And Sofie."

"Some women are just like that," Martin replied. "I mean, look what Samantha did to me. She used me, screwed me and then dumped me."

Despite his grief, Danny could detect the bitterness in Martin's voice. "Man, she really cut you up, didn't she?"

Martin looked at Danny, then away. He bit his lip hard.

Neither young man spoke for some time; then Danny asked, despairingly,

"Are all women like that?"

"No. No, they're not," Martin answered, trying to be reassuring, to himself as much as to Danny. "Vivian isn't."

Danny nodded. "Marcus is a lucky guy."

"Neither are my sisters. Nor – surprisingly – is my mom." Despite himself, Martin smiled a little. "Dad would never have married her if she had been." He looked directly at Danny. "What you've got to remember is – there are women – and there are ladies. And you need to find yourself a lady."

"Oh." Slowly understanding, Danny nodded. He turned away from Martin. His face was working again. "I was so happy - "

"I know, I know," Martin murmured. He rubbed Danny's back gently, wishing despairingly he could do more. Then, suddenly, he remembered something, from a long, long time ago.

"When I was a boy, and things didn't go right, you know what my Aunt Bonnie used to say to me?"

"What?"

" 'When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.' "

Danny raised his face and looked at Martin wonderingly.

"He'll open a window for you one day. You'll see."

Martin put his arm right around Danny and drew him close. Blue eyes met brown; and they both managed to smile.

 

Chapter 2

FOURTEEN YEARS LATER

The man in his late forties with greying hair walked towards and leant against the white wooden fence which ran along the back garden of his house.

He gazed with contentment at the fields beyond, and smiled a little as he always did when he recalled his good fortune at being able to live near such a place – and silently thanked God.

Today was his daughter's tenth birthday party and some of the family, his sister, brother-in-law and their four children, would soon be arriving – so he wanted to savour a few minutes' peace.

He remembered a conversation he had had with one of his co-workers, many years ago.

"Let me guess. Two point two, white picket fence, golden retriever…?" He had laughed.

"Yeah, maybe. Something like that…"

It was true, though. That was what he had always, and only ever, wanted. To be head of his own family, have a wife, children and a large, respectable home, befitting his status. He had very traditional ideas about the roles of a husband and wife in a marriage. He had never expected his wife to work: she would stay at home to look after him, their children and run the household. He had had too many negative experiences of women to believe otherwise.

Thus was his mindset when he first saw his future wife.

Martin Fitzgerald smiled as he thought of how they had first met and their subsequent courtship. It was something to tell their children when they were older.

"Daddy – how did you meet Mommy?"

"Well – I saw her on television."

He had been flicking around the stations one evening, not watching anything in particular, when he had caught sight of a documentary on former child beauty pageant queens. He had been struck by the beauty and self-assurance of the girl with honey-blonde hair and brown eyes who was the second featured on the documentary. Through a friend of his who worked for the station, he had arranged to meet her; thus their courtship had begun and, two years later – twelve years ago now – they had married.

A business arrangement; that was what some people had called their marriage. In retrospect, he had to admit, in some ways, it had been – at least initially. "I can give you what you want; you can give me what I want." He was fifteen years older, too; he had been thirty-six, she only twenty-one when they had married. Yet, Brooke had wanted a rich husband and a way out of the small town where she had lived, he had wanted a traditional wife who would look after him and run the household, so it had suited them both. Their daughter Bonnie Marie Elisabeth Fitzgerald, named after Martin's aunt, had been born after two years, and they were each content.

So it might have gone on for years, had it not been for what they still referred to as "The Night That Changed Everything."

Neither of them would ever forget it. For several months, their marriage had been floundering; they had had growing disagreements and seemed to be drifting apart. One night, Martin had returned home from work to find the housework not done and Brooke missing. She had returned later that evening; when Martin demanded to know where she had been, she had retorted that she was fed up being married to a man who was so relentlessly traditional. They had had a blazing, furious row – in the middle of which they both realised they had actually, finally, fallen deeply in love with each other. Martin rarely discussed his emotions – that was not his way – but, he would never have believed that a husband and wife could have needed each other so profoundly and passionately as they had that night.

Nine months later, their son Eric Daniel Victor Fitzgerald had been born, and Martin still felt tremendous pride when he remembered the day of the arrival of his Fitzgerald son and heir. Thus had begun a bright, new era in their marriage: one of complete trust, renewed love and happiness, one in which their blessings had multiplied, and which continued to this day.

He was still deep in thought when he became aware of the soft rustle of footsteps coming behind him.

"Penny for them," said a voice.

Martin turned. When he saw it was his wife, he smiled warmly and his blue eyes shone.

"Sorry, sweetheart, I was miles away."

"What were you thinking about?"

Martin laughed shortly. " 'The Night That Changed Everything.' "

Brooke rolled her eyes and she smiled. "Who could ever forget that? I had bruises to prove it for about a week afterwards."

Martin smiled again. Protectively, he slipped his arm around his wife's waist and drew her close. She rested her head on his shoulder and they stood there a few moments, enjoying being warm and close.

"When I look at all this, and think of you and the children, I thank God with all my heart. I can't believe sometimes how lucky I am. Especially when I think of Danny."

Brooke shook her head. "I can't believe it, still, what you told me his first wife did to him. What a bitch! And after all he did for her."

"I never liked her. Too much of a feminist. She just wasn't Danny's type. He's like me in that respect – very traditional when it comes to family. She broke his heart." Martin's blue eyes clouded at the memory. "He's the kindest person in the whole world. He just didn't deserve all that happened to him. First with his family – and then with that."

Brooke nodded her agreement. "One can be too kind, though – I've learnt that," she replied.

Martin put his arm around his wife again and hugged her close. "My little girl is very wise."

"That's what comes of being married to a man fifteen years older than myself."

Martin smiled at her. "No-one knows me better than you do."

"Except Danny," Brooke reminded him.

"Yes," agreed Martin. He was thoughtful; then added, simply,

"He's the brother I always wanted." He thought again for a few moments; then, he looked up at Brooke.

"You know what he told Francie? He said to her, we were the first real family he'd had. All his life, he'd had to take care of others. Now, for the first time, someone was taking care of him."

"I'm so pleased he married Francie."

"Yes – once he got the first marriage annulled and started going to church again, it just all seemed to happen, didn't it? I know Father Walker was very good to him. And, he couldn't have a better wife than my little sister. Francie's quiet but she's strong underneath and she's very understanding of Danny. And she knows how to deal with him when he's in one of his wild moods! What is it she says? 'Sometimes I think I've got five children, not four!' "

Brooke laughed. "Speaking of which – they should be here any time soon. I'd better go back in to Mom and Dad and check on the tea." They kissed. "See you later."

"See you later, sweetheart."

At half past three, a dark green people-carrier motored slowly up the driveway and pulled up outside the house.

Children tumbled out: two boys and one girl. The father, who had been driving, leaned into the back and reappeared with an eighteen-month-old baby in his arms. The mother went to help the little girl down the step, then she returned to the passenger side of the front of the car to take out some bags.

Pleased to see them, Martin left the fence to greet the family: his brother-in-law and sister Danny and Francesca Taylor and their four young children.

"Hey, brother," greeted Danny. They touched knuckles, a gesture of affection they had used for years.

"Hey, buddy," Martin returned. He kissed Francesca. "How's my little sister?"

"Absolutely fine, thank-you, big brother!"

"Still only four?" asked Martin, regarding the children and feigning surprise. "Sure you haven't had another one since we saw you last week?"

"Ha, ha! I don't think so," said Danny. "Mind you, I say the more the merrier. I've told Francie we're not stopping till we've got six."

"You'll be having the last two, then!" exclaimed Francesca, Danny's wife and Martin's younger sister. Smiling, she took baby Eduardo from Danny.

"Hello, boys!" Martin addressed the greeting to Danny's elder boys, Enrique and Felipe, aged eight and seven.

"Hello, Uncle Martin!"

"You'll find Eric in there," said Martin, indicating towards the house. At that very moment Brooke, followed by Bonnie in a pretty green party dress and seven-year-old Eric, emerged, smiling a welcome to her extended family.

"How's my godson, then?" Danny asked Eric.

"Fine, thank-you, Uncle Danny!"

"Finished reading the Harry Potter books yet?"

Eric smiled. "Nearly!"

"You're starting to look like him, you know!" Danny ruffled Eric's brown hair and tapped his glasses. Eric laughed.

Danny turned to the boy's sister. "How's my Bonnie girl, then?" He hugged her.

"Very well, thank-you!" replied his niece.

"And Happy Birthday! You're into double figures now, aren't you?"

"Hello, Lily!" Bonnie exclaimed, seeing her five-year-old cousin. She took her hand. "Would you like to come and see my presents?"

Martin had been watching Danny. "You're so good with them all. I always said you'd be a wonderful father."

"Thanks. But I just love kids."

"You've been Bonnie's hero since she was five. Remember the snake in the wood?"

Danny nodded. "I do! You're not tempted to have any more?"

"No. Two's enough. Too expensive!"

"Spoken like a true Fitzgerald! They've obviously been enough to turn your hair grey!" Danny observed cheekily.

Martin glared in mock anger and glanced over his brother-in-law's hair. It had receded slightly but it was as jet-black as it was when they had first met over twenty years ago. "The chances of you going grey are about as great as the District of Columbia going Republican."

"Oh, but I am," Danny contradicted seriously. "Look." He indicated a single white hair in his sideburn.

Martin laughed.

The mothers and children made their way into the house, chattering and excitedly exchanging news. Martin and Danny were alone.

"What were you doing over by the fence when we came?" Danny asked.

"Oh – just standing and thinking," Martin replied. He indicated towards the fence with his head as if to say, "Care to join me?" and they walked back towards it. They gazed out at the fields beyond.

"I can't believe Bonnie's ten. Where did all the years go?" mused Martin.

Danny nodded. "We'll have been married ten years in October."

"Doesn't seem long since you and I first met."

"It was twenty years ago last year."

"We were just boys then."

Danny grinned. "I still am!"

Martin laughed.

Danny continued, "We were so young, weren't we? I mean – when I look back, I know I would never deal with some cases now the way I did then."

"It's called experience."

"Some cases still stick out now, even after all those years." He looked at Martin. "Nelson Rodriguez?"

"Sydney Harrison."

"Colleen McGrath."

"Graham Spaulding."

"Urrgghh! Natasha Tzetcovich."

"Brian Owen."

"Eric Miller."

Eric Miller had been a twelve-year-old schoolboy who had been so severely bullied by the other children at his school that he had tried to hang himself. Luckily, Danny and Jack had saved him just in time – but, the case had upset Danny greatly, as he had shown to Martin at his apartment afterwards. However, managing to save people's lives was what had made their job worthwhile, or at least making things better.

"I always knew you'd end up Deputy Director, brother." Martin smiled smugly. "You're like your Dad. You've both got what it takes. Both slightly – reserved. Me –

I'm too emotional."

"But you're really good at what you do, pal. Working with the families, like Viv used to. I couldn't do your job."

"And who would have guessed I'd end up marrying your sister? If you'd told me that all those years ago, I'd just never've believed it. Life certainly doesn't turn out the way you think it's going to."

Martin shook his head. "Mind you – who'd've ever have thought Reggie and Hannah?" Reggie, Vivian's son, and Hannah, Jack's elder daughter, had married three years ago, and were now expecting their first child together. "Vivian and Jack's grandchild – now, that should be an interesting combination."

"Yeah – if it has its grandfather's stubbornness and its grandmother's sarcasm, I think we'll have a future Special Agent with the greatest aptitude for interrogation that the Bureau has ever known." Danny grinned.

"Does Vivian still hear from Samantha?" Martin asked quietly.

"At Christmas, I think she said. I don't know where Samantha's living now, though. I didn't ask." They looked at each other. Each knew about whom the other must be thinking; then, Martin looked away.

"Some things are best left in the past."

"And some people."

"Both of them."

They were quiet for a minute.

Then, to change the subject, Martin continued,

"Anyway – I know Jack's really looking forward to being a grandpa. He's one of those men who's a wonderful father – and father-figure – if not such a good husband. We couldn't have asked for a better boss. Remember Washington? Jack knew we needed to all get away together, after all that had happened to everyone. I'll never forget that evening, when we all sat there singing. Especially 'Hallelujah'.When I first started working for the FBI, Dad said Jack was a free-swinger and warned me to be careful, but I told him he was wrong about Jack and that he was a great agent."

"Yes," Danny agreed soberly. Then he added teasingly,

"So much so, that you named your dog after him." Martin laughed. "Now, only the Fitzgerald blue-eyed boy would get away with naming his dog after his boss! That reminds me - " Danny looked across to the garden, to where Eric, Enrique and Felipe were running around with Jack, the Fitzgeralds' golden retriever. He called out,

"Hey – Henry!"

A boy with jet-black hair, brown eyes and sticking-out ears broke away from the group and ran towards them. When he reached the two men, he smiled charmingly and bowed with a flourish.

"Enrique Martin Alvarez Taylor at your service, sir. How may I be of help?"

"Did you remember to put the painting for Uncle Jack in the trunk?" Danny asked his eldest son. Enrique nodded. "Good – please will you go and get it out now, before we forget?"

Enrique grinned. "Certainly, sir. Will I get a tip?"

Danny tossed him the keys. "Sure, I'll give you a tip." He leaned towards his son. "Don't be so cheeky next time, Prince Charming." He slapped his son's backside. "Now, be off with you." Grinning exactly like his father, Enrique ran off towards the car.

"Cheeky bugger," observed Danny, shaking his head.

"Can't think where he gets it from."

"Oh, no."

"What's the painting?"

"A watercolour of Jack, for Jack," explained Danny, grinning. "Henry's been hard at work at it for several weeks. He plans to give it to Jack for his birthday – but he thought you'd all like to see it. It's really good; he's quite talented."

"Does he do commissions? Perhaps he can make us a copy."

Danny rolled his eyes. "Don't give him ideas! Is Jack coming today?"

"No, unfortunately; but, he dropped by on Bonnie's actual birthday, to give her her card and present. He's always had a soft spot for her."

"Your Dad's coming, isn't he?"

"Yes. He wouldn't miss it for the world."

"He's all right, your old man," said Danny.

"Huh! He loves you!" replied Martin, slightly resentfully. "It's hardly fair! I spent years trying to get into his good books, then you breezed in and he was extolling your virtues within days!"

Danny laughed. "It's my Latino charm."

"Mind you – I feel I know Dad now better than I ever have in my life," said Martin, more quietly. "A pity it took Mom's dying for it to happen."

Both of them were quiet, remembering and reflecting. Martin would never forget Danny's friendship then, especially not how Danny had held his hand tightly between them in the pew throughout the funeral service.

"It's never too late," Danny observed.

"No. I know that now. Things are so much better between us," Martin stated, a comment which Danny knew, having been party to much of what had gone on, spoke volumes. "And he's such a doting grandfather, too. Eric's the absolute apple of his eye. He took him to the Metropolitan Museum the other Saturday. When I saw them together when I went to meet them, I couldn't believe my eyes. There was my father with my son, walking around, telling him all about the different paintings and things, answering his questions and really enjoying himself with Eric. He hardly seemed to spend more than a minute with the girls and me when we were kids."

"God always gives us a second chance," Danny said sincerely. "Father Walker first told me that. God will give us as many chances as we need. I know."

Martin paused a minute, allowing what Danny had said to sink in. He looked thoughtful, as if trying to recall something.

" I was thinking - "

"What?"

"Do you remember that night at work – years ago – when we sat on the balcony? Do you remember whatI said to you?"

" 'When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.' ?"

"Well – did He?"

Danny Taylor gazed over towards the house, wherein were his family – the family he once thought he would never have. His wife; his four children; his sister-in-law, niece and nephew – and his brother-in-law, standing there beside him. Danny remembered the first time he had met Martin, how he had disliked him – and how he had changed his opinion when Martin had come to his aid when he had fainted at work. Now, Martin Fitzgerald was his brother-in-law and, without doubt, his best friend in the whole world.

"Yes. He did. A big, big window."

Danny and Martin looked at each other fondly. Brown eyes met blue; and their faces broke into huge, warm smiles.

Just then, two little girls, one tall, slim, with long, honey-blonde wavy hair, delicate cheekbones and blue eyes, the other younger, shorter, with long dark brown hair and green eyes, ran up the grass towards them.

"Daddy!" called Bonnie Fitzgerald.

"Daddy!" called Liliana Taylor.

"Mommy says, Grandpa's here and tea's ready!"

"Hurry up or the boys'll eat it all!"

Martin looked at Danny. "I think we'd better do what we're told?"

"I think we'd better!"

Their hands on each other's shoulders affectionately, the two brothers-in-law followed their daughters back towards the house, ready for the birthday party with their family.