Once again, Sharon and Andy found themselves waiting around in a familiar place. It seemed to be a busy morning for the good doctor. Orderlies were hauling gurneys with stacks of body bags down the hall and into the freezer. It seemed that this oppressive heat wave was continuing to wreck havoc upon unsuspecting innocents. They weren't here for that, they were never here for that. As they waited for Morales to prepare the body Andy helped Sharon on with her gown, tying the string behind her neck. He wanted to say something, he wanted to pass the time by talking about something important, but the morgue was no place to discuss a wedding or the possibility of canceling one. Although perhaps it was the most fitting place to have this conversation, he thought, if she did want to postpone or god-forbid cancel it he might just die from a broken heart.
Sensing his anxiousness Sharon turned around and gave his arm a pat, seemingly in thanks for helping her with the gown but the gesture was loaded with more subtle affection. She gave him a weak smile, "Thank you Andy"
"Sure," he assumed she was talking about the gown.
"I mean, for giving me some time to think. I know it's killing you inside not to be able to discuss this," her eyes glanced up at him giving him a knowing look as she continued, "This isn't the time or place mind you, but I just want you to know that I do want to marry you. It's not cold feet, it's not for a lack of love, it's just a timing issue."
He tried to pull back the surprised look he know he had on his face, he wanted to talk to her about all this, but never dreamed of bringing it up or that she'd be the one to do it. His brain was slower than his heart in picking up the meaning of her words, she didn't want to cancel it.
"So when do you want to do it then? I thought that Thanksgiving was best because of Emily's schedule?" He said looking at the floor shuffling his feet at nonexistent specks.
"I don't know Andy, I don't have it all figured out. I never intended to blurt it out the other night, not until I had a chance to sit down and think about what it would mean for the both of us. I just know that it doesn't feel right, I'm not sure why?" Moisture began welling up in the corners of her eyes as she thought about it, she really didn't want to wait any longer to call this man her husband, but something was holding her back.
"Ok, well when you know you let me know," he reached for her, "I don't think I need to tell you that it's all I can do to keep myself from calling you my wife. If I have to wait a few more weeks then so be it, I'm in this for a lifetime." He wrapped his arms around her and gave her a brief, but firm embrace. In any other place Sharon would have melted into him at that moment, it was exactly what she needed - to hear, to feel.
"I know we technically don't need it yet, but maybe we should make that appointment to pick up our marriage license," she whispered into his ear wanting to give him that final piece of reassurance that she was as committed as he was to this marriage.
"You tell me when, and I'll be there — the old man with a goofy grin on his face because the girl of his dreams said yes," he whispered back before pulling apart from one another.
They stood there starring at one another, a commitment made. The clearing of a throat jarred them both out of their reverie and back to the terrible present, the reason they were even here and not in bed catching up on much needed sleep.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Morales inquired his usual dose of sarcasm replaced with a tinge of teenage gossip.
"Uh, no," Sharon said running her hands down the gown switching herself deftly back over to Commander mode, "Are you ready for us?"
"I am, and can I just say deja vu hit hard with this case," he held the door open as he ushered the pair into the autopsy room, "I mean it was a weird one when I first got a case like it a few years ago but this - it's like coming back from the dead."
Andy rolled his eyes, the doctor was in rarified form this morning — clearly someone needed to take away his new nespresso machine.
Sharon moved over to the body noting the plastic couch cover placed next to it, "He was wrapped in the cover," Sharon stated more as a fact than a question. She already heard the report from Julio, it was as if Wade Weller had come back from the dead and killed again.
"Yes, and the throat slashed just the same as before. The body was obviously moved post-mortem and dumped in the park," Morales replied moving to the other side of the body, "He certainly wanted us to know who our victim was. Despite the couch cover the heat has expedited the decomposition process, identification would have been a bit more challenging." Morales pulled the wallet out and handed to Andy who was standing to his left.
Using his gloved hands Andy opened the wallet, the credit cards were there but the cash was missing. He pulled out the driver's license and turned it around to face Sharon, "It's Goldman."
Sharon let out a sigh, she despised the man but never wanted something like this to happen to him. She had feelings leading up to the discovery of Goldman's body about their past coming back to haunt them, but now she knew for sure. Someone wanted to taunt them, wanted to make them relieve these professionally challenging moments from their past. She turned towards Andy, he recognized the look on her face, the furrowed brow and the eyes gazing off into the distance, she was trying to work out the puzzle.
"What are you thinking," he prompted.
"I'm thinking that someone is going through an awful lot of trouble to have us relive the past. First David and Anne then Lauren and Bill Croelick, now this connection back to Weller, someone clearly wants to remove perceived threats," she turned back to Goldman, "or loose-ends."
"You think that someone wanted Provenza and I off the case," Andy said beginning to follow her line of thinking.
"Yes, one by one he is going after investigators that could help bring him down," her mind was racing several miles a minute as she processed all the information through this new lens.
"Buzz said he saw someone light the propane tank before it exploded," Andy added into the conversation knowing that the team was dwindling in size.
"Fritz sent Brenda to DC," she said softly knowing that they both knew where this conversation was going to end.
"Stroh," Andy said for her, "It has to be him. Who else would know all of this?" He gestured to the table with their latest victim. Wade Weller's MO with Stroh's victims it was the final piece. He wanted them to know it was him, that he was lurking in their own backyard all these weeks and they didn't have a clue.
Andy turned towards Goldman's body and stared at the man, "But why him? How was he connected to Stroh? I mean sure they were both lawyers, but different kinds of cases they wouldn't really be in the same circles, right?"
"Goldman added Stroh as one of the plaintiffs against Brenda," Sharon replied, "I was never sure whether Stroh reached out to him as away of dealing with Brenda or if Goldman did that on his own, but either way he was linked to all of this."
A chill ran down Andy's spine as her words jogged his memory of those last few months with the Chief. Sharon was right, Goldman was at the center of all of this - David, Anne, Croelick and Stroh. "But what about Lauren, are we going to assume that was just a convenient ex for him to get his hands on to get Provenza off the case?"
"That would be my guess, but the Lieutenant's type isn't that far off from Stroh's so perhaps it suited him in more ways than one," Sharon turned to the Doctor remembering where they were, "Apologies Dr. Morales."
"It's fine, I find it all so interesting since I helped you guys with that case and all," he said waving his hands around proudly at the memory of the hunt for the right shoes.
"Doctor, did you do a rape kit on Lauren?" Sharon asked.
"No, her body was too badly charred, and any DNA would have been destroyed, sorry," he said returning to his notes.
She nodded, it was the answer she expected to hear but it didn't make it any less disappointing. They had Stroh's DNA on file and at this point she'd feel a lot better knowing whether her gut was right or not. She moved towards the exit, "If you find anything else please let me know," she said before turning around to leave.
"I will, and Sharon," he paused and looked toward Flynn, "stay safe." She gave a nod and walked out with Andy nipping at her heels.
"So Stroh is back," he stated to the empty hall.
"Well we both know he's been back, but yes it would appear he is in LA and active," she tore the gown away from her and tossed it into the bin.
Andy couldn't help but start to pace at the gravity of the situation. It was one thing when they thought Stroh was out of the country in Crete or wherever, and then a bit more concerning when it seemed like he was back east killing off his past, but now it seemed that he was trying to make himself a ghost. He was back in Los Angeles and he wanted to get rid of anyone that ever knew him, anyone that could identify him as Phillip Stroh. He wasn't just after Rusty, or perhaps Sharon, this time he was coming after everyone. He pulled himself to the bin and heaved the small breakfast he managed to eat in the car on the way over to the morgue.
The sound of him retching caused Sharon to turn around, she had never known Andy to get sick from a case and that gave her concern. She rushed to his side, "Andy are you alright? Is it your heart?" She was panicking trying to remember all the symptoms of a heart attack, vomiting was one or wasn't it.
He sunk down onto the floor and Sharon went with him, crouching beside him, "Andy talk to me. Do I need to call an ambulance?" She thought about getting Dr. Morales to come out and help her, but Andy put his hand on her arm and shook his head.
"My heart is fine Sharon," he said knowing that she was going to give her self an anxiety attack if he didn't squelch her fears as quickly as possible, "Breathe."
She took a deep breath and look him in the eyes, checking to see if he was telling the truth or not, "Aren't I supposed to be the one telling you to do that?" They both chuckled, it was a fleeting laughter that disappeared down the hall.
Andy squeezed her hand, "Stroh. It just all caught up to me, the realization of what's been happening and what's likely to keep happening if we don't catch him soon."
She slumped down onto the floor next to him, crossing her ankles, "I know," her voice was soft her mouth not wanting to make the words come out. Something about saying them aloud made it all true.
The flood of fear began to well up inside him again when he turned to Sharon, "Rusty! We need to get protection for Rusty!"
In any other moment his fatherly outburst for Rusty's care would have brought a smile and happy tears to her eyes, but once again the truth of his words hit hard, "He's an adult Andy. We can ask him, even recommend, but we can't demand that he agree to a protective detail." Her voice was resigned, she knew how he felt about it they'd discussed it at length when she shared the news that Stroh might be back in the country.
Without warning Andy jumped up off the floor causing Sharon to put her hand out to keep from falling where she had been leaning up against him. His fear was being replaced by anger, "Oh he's going to take the protective detail, if I have anything to say about it!"
"Andy he's not a minor we can't order him —" she started to say, but Andy cut her off, "well he doesn't have to know, you're Commander just assign him an undercover detail like you did after Stroh escaped, he doesn't need to know."
"What?!" He growled, "Your his mother!"
"Yes I am, but I'm not going to go behind his back. I'll talk," she caught his stare and amended her statement, "we'll talk to him and do our best to persuade him to take the detail. But," she put her hand up to stop his protest, "But if he says no then we need to respect his wishes."
"I don't like it," he growled again and stormed towards the elevators.
She watched him walk away, she didn't like it any more than he did, but she had learned her lesson. She, they, could only do so much to protect their kids and after that they needed to live their lives.
He punched the up button several times, taking deep breaths to calm his growing rage. None of this was supposed to be happening. He was supposed to be excited, happy that in a few weeks he'd be wed but that was on hold. Rusty wasn't supposed to fear for his life again, not when he was finally beginning to live. He felt a hand touch his shoulder and give it a squeeze and he felt the fight drain out of him, he turned around and stared at her, "I'm sorry," he grumbled, "I'm an ass."
"Yes, but you're my ass," she replied with a low smile and gave his shoulder a squeeze before guiding them both into the open elevator. "If it makes you feel any better I just sent Rusty a text asking him to come to PAB when he's done with his classes."
"Thank you," he replied as he pushed the elevator buttons and watched the doors closed. He rubbed his neck, it was going to be another long day.
"Okay, what do we have on Goldman's last known whereabouts?" Sharon asked as the sliding doors to RACR opened and she found her team assembled and working away.
Wes Nolan, kicked things off with the biggest piece of news they uncovered, "The black Prius that picked him up belonged to a Mr. Kurt Cole he was working part time at nights as an uber driver to help pay his way through his MBA program at USC. He went missing in January 15, 2015 not long after Stroh escaped. The car was abandoned east of San Diego near the Salton Sea. Local PD printed it, but there was nothing of importance. The car stayed in impound for another year until it went up for police auction, sold to an overseas buyer."
The detectives shared a concerned look, it definitely sounded like Stroh, but it wasn't enough. Sharon turned away from the screen and back to her team, "What else? Do we know what Goldman was doing in the bay area?"
Amy clicked a few keys on her keyboard to share the information on her screen, "According to Folsom he was up there visiting his client, a Mr. Hugh Jenkins in prison for killing his wife but claims to have been set-up by Long Beach PD. The case seems unrelated to either the LAPD or Stroh."
"Yes, but," Provenza interjected, "Rumor was that our firebug friend moved up to the bay area so perhaps he paid him a visit while in town. You know being friends an all."
Sharon gave Provenza a Darth glare, he and Andy were allowed to be privy to that particular case, but not speak to any of the evidence, "Well, since it seems that the fire is unrelated to Mr. Croelick I think we should focus our resources on where the evidence is actually taking us," she turned away from Provenza satisfied that she had admonished him enough, "Anything on his phone records?"
The room went quiet knowing that the Commander was about to be disappointed. Tao spoke up on behalf of the group, "Unfortunately ma'am, the judge wouldn't sign off on the warrant for his phone records. He ruled that because of Goldman's position there could be sensitive material that could jeopardize attorney-client privilege we would have to go through a special master in order to view any phone calls, text messages, or voicemails."
She let out a soft groan, she wasn't unfamiliar with the notion and normally didn't object to following procedure but in this moment she felt a sympathy for Brenda a decade earlier — they simply didn't have the time. With another sigh she responded, "Call Hobbs have her begin the paperwork. What else?"
Sanchez raised his hand, it was sweet that the man usually did instead of interrupting the group, "The plastic couch cover isn't a match to Weller's stash, our killer clearly knew of the method of crime but didn't have all the specific details."
"I don't think specifics was his point, it was close enough to get our attention," Andy retorted.
The other man gave a shrug, "Well we all know Weller is dead—"
"Thanks to a brilliant detective, with a superb shot," Provenza boasted a heap of self-praise among the group.
"—as I was saying," Julio shook his head, "The park isn't well lit at night, so it isn't a surprise that there were no witnesses to the body dump, but we're checking the traffic cameras at nearby intersections to see if we can find the car."
Mike anticipated the Commander's next question, "Without Buzz it's a bit more slow going, but we are working through all the footage."
Sharon nodded as she placed her hands on her hips in a familiar stance, standing in front of the monitors staring at a mountain of conjecture and little to go on, "Have we looked into Buzz's report of seeing someone before the explosion?"
"We did check the footage from the crime scene however Buzz didn't get a clear picture," Tao pulled up the clip and queued it up for everyone, "As you can see he had the camera sideways, most likely waving his free hand at the man then—" the picture was immediately overexposed by the light of the explosion and then went to black as the camera fell hard along with Buzz. "I've tried to zoom in, but it's useless. We'll have to check nearby cameras, but there aren't any ATMs or gas stations in the immediate vicinity. By the time we could pick up our guy it could be anyone — it wouldn't hold up in court."
Nothing, they had nothing. She contemplated her options, there weren't many. They didn't know where Stroh was, or even this was him for sure. They had more bodies than they knew what to do with, but they too gave up few of their secrets.
"Check the footage anyway. Provenza and Andy I want you to focus on the park with Julio. Mike you and Amy see what you can do with the warehouse. Wes and Paige, go to Goldman's house see if we can find anything that might be helpful or point us in some direction," she looked at the clock it was time to brief the Chiefs again.
Rusty parked and walked towards the restaurant. Gus mentioned that he needed to swing by for a meeting with his boss an hour ago. His class got out early and he decided to surprise him by picking him up and taking him out to dinner. He told his mom that they'd swing by on the way to dinner. He was hoping she wanted to talk to him about an opening at the DAs office, for a part-time research assistant. He mentioned it to her in passing a few nights ago, hoping she could put in a good word with Andrea about it. He smiled, knowing his mom she was just going to tell him to march across the street and talk to Hobbs about it directly, she was right of course, but for all his directness he had trouble being direct to help himself. As he neared the windows near the bar he was nearly knocked off his feet with a strong gust of wind. Leaves and dust speckled the air, flying into his eyes. They immediately began to burn as he felt the particles scratch and irritate the delicate tissue. As he brought a hand up to his face to wipe the tears that were beginning to form as his body try to push out the foreign invader he saw Gus lean into his boss. The move seemed innocent, like he was whispering something, until he saw a hand come up behind his neck and pull him closer. Rusty blinked his eyes rapidly unsure if he was really seeing what he thought he was witnessing. The blond man pulled back and they shared a laugh before Gus took a step back, as he turned his face dropped from a laughing smile to shock and horror, seeing Rusty through the window. Rusty continued to wipe his eyes, his jaw was clenched as he balled his hands into a fist. He quickly turned around storming back to his car. Gus grabbed his messenger bag and ran out of the restaurant after Rusty.
"Rusty! Wait up, that wasn't what you thought it was," he shouted.
Before Gus could catch up to Rusty, he saw a man grab him and pull him into the side street. He picked up his pace, running full speed towards his boyfriend down the alley.