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Every Step of the Way

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every step you take podcover

MP3 - M4B

Finch watched the little dot on his screen track Reese as he drove to the rental property leased in Kate Leeman's name. Reese had said there was enough lye there to dispose of a body in what? Three hours? Finch had said he didn't want to know how Reese knew that kind of statistic, but he wasn't an idiot and Reese's pointed silence had been information enough.

Would Reese kill Mr. Benton? Finch had been listening to the other man's conversation with Dr. Tillman, knew what he'd led the woman to believe. What's more, Finch knew John was capable of the act, had done it more than once to people far less deserving than Andrew Benton. But he was a different man now. He didn't kill for the government and Finch certainly didn't want the man killing for him. There were other ways to take care of the situation, he knew. At least, he thought.

It was with morbid curiosity that he typed the few characters needed to tap into Reese's phone, to bring the microphone online. Did he dare talk to John? Ask him what his plan was? Did he really want to know? Harold waited, letting the silence stretch as the background sound of tires on pavement lulled him into a daze.

The sound quality changed as the dot approached the rental property and turned off paved roads onto little dirt drive ways, then stopped. Doors slammed and there was scuffling as John brought Benton into the house.

“You shouldn't be listening, Finch,” John said, startling Harold. He must have taken his phone out of his pocket and noticed...something. Or maybe he just knew Harold well enough to know it was likely he'd be listening. He stayed silent, hoping that John was guessing.

John sighed and then he was calling in, forcing Harold to acknowledge him.

“Yes, Mr. Reese?” answered Finch, feigning surprised curiosity.

“Turn off the microphone, Harold,” he said, not bothering with niceties. “You don't need to hear this.”

“What are you going to do?”

Another sigh and Harold pictured John rubbing absently at his forehead, the strain showing in his eyes for a brief moment before he tucked it back into the little box in his mind. There were steps and then a door opened and shut as John went outside, the small balcony overlooking the ocean, Harold thought.

“I don't know,” admitted John and he sounded tired. “I haven't decided yet. But whatever happens here, you don't need to hear it,” he insisted.

“I know what you've done, Mr. Reese. More importantly, I do know what you're capable of.”

Silence but for the sound of the ocean. Harold wondered if John had forgotten he was on the line.

“There are two kinds of knowledge, Harold,” said John, softly, near to a whisper, though the use of Finch's first name for the second time was near enough a shout. “There's knowing that something happened because you've read it in a report or a book or saw a news bulletin. You can see a plane hit the side of a tower on the television and know it's not a movie, that it's really happening but,” he paused, searching for the right way to continue his metaphor. “But you know that it was all inevitable. That there was nothing you could do with the current state of affairs.”

Harold bowed his head, remembering the feeling of watching that plane hit that tower and knowing exactly what John was saying, feeling what John was describing. It had been a visceral sort of knowledge, even living and working here in New York City.

“And there's watching something happen, listening to something happen and knowing that, with a single word you could stop it.” Harold lifted his head again, hearing what John was saying. All Harold had to do was tell John to stop and he knew the other man would find another way.

They both kept their silence for a moment that stretched into several. John was making sure Harold knew what he meant, understood all the subtleties of that single statement. Harold opened his mouth to assure John of what? That it was okay? That he was okay with whatever John chose to do? There was no way he could say that that didn't sound trite to his ears. It was John, after all, who would be doing the act. So he shut his mouth, blew the breath he'd been holding to say something out slowly and knew it carried over the open line.

“You already know what the first feels like,” said John. “You don't have to know the second. Hang up the phone, Harold,” he said again.

Harold considered his words carefully, aware that this was as turning point in their strange relationship and not wanting to say the wrong thing.

“I'm with you, John,” he finally said. “Every step of the way.”

John blew out his own breath and Harold couldn't tell if it was in resignation, relief or frustration. He wasn't sure which he hoped it was.

There was movement again as John returned to the house. He heard John ready his gun and then a small thump and Harold assumed he'd set his gun on the table. Wood creaked as John sat and then silence again. They waited in a strangely companionable silence as the sun rose and a new day began. Harold say Dr. Tillman's dot return to the hospital and her duties and then head home and stay there.

He watched the feeds from half a dozen cameras around the city and the locations of a few of his own assets, people around the city he was willing to call on and pay large sums of money to if he or John ever needed help. They all moved or slept and continued on with their lives like this was just another day. For them, at least, it was.

Groaning brought his attention back to John and he listened in silence as Benton begged for his life and John spoke to him in calm tones. John had called him, Harold realized. Had said those things about a single word and then left the line open.

“Help me do the right thing,” he said and Harold knew John was not talking to Benton.

Harold took a deep, deliberate breath and let it out in a slow, but pointed exhalation, telling John that he was still here, had heard what he'd said. He told John in silence what would have sounded blood thirsty with words.

There was a beat filled only with Benton's broken sobs then two gun shots, close together. A thump as the body hit the floor. John sighed. An image of John closing his eyes as he quietly put the gun down formed in Harold's mind. John would bend his head in a silent prayer, though Harold didn't think he formed the words even in his head anymore. They were beyond salvation.

Another moment passed then John stood and began moving around the house. Harold pulled up the GPS coordinates and focused on that single building so he could watch how John moved around the little house.

John grunted as he lifted the body and pulled it into the little garage. Harold wondered vaguely if Dr. Tillman had prepared some sort of tub with the proper lining or if John had done that himself the last time he was there. Either way, John returned to the kitchen and moved between there and the pantry. Harold heard him opening containers, adding water and then returning to the garage. He thought he heard mixing and wondered if John was using just lye or if there was aluminium in the pantry as well? Either way, it would be effective.

Three hours, he'd said.

Harold glanced at the clock. The evidence would be gone in three hours. It took a few trips to get all the lye into the garage and there was a strange sort of sizzling the last few trips and Harold wondered morosely what it smelled like. Burning flesh? Chemicals? He'd never smelled chemically burning flesh, so couldn't say for sure if that smelled different than plain burning flesh.

He took in a shaky breath at the thought and John paused, waiting. After a moment when Harold said nothing, but the connection wasn't severed, John continued. He was back in the dining room, cleaning around the little table where there'd been blood spatter. It hadn't been a very loud shot and there hadn't been a second crack as the bullet hit the wood, so Harold imagined the blood was from where Benton had fallen and bled out.

John worked for a little over three hours, scrubbing down every corner of the house in immaculate detail. When he returned to the body, it was no longer sizzling. Harold heard him open another container and...add it. Harold assumed it was something to deactivate the lye, something to bring the pH closer to neutral.

John walked the house one final time, checking his handy work before returning to the van. More banging around as he loaded whatever he'd put the evidence in, into the van. Was he bringing it back to the city?

Ten minutes later and John was back on the road and his little dot was definitely bound for the city. Harold settled down to wait. It would take John another couple of hours to return to the city. He wondered what was going through John's mind right now. He didn't think the other man regretted what he'd done, but Harold couldn't be sure.

The dot moved steadily closer back to him and Harold counted down the minutes.

John finally pulled into an abandoned warehouse next to the river in Queens and Harold heard the van door slam shut. There was a wet sound as John moved around the vehicle and Harold realized he was dousing it with gasoline. He walked slowly out of the warehouse, the sound following him until there was nothing. A small splash as the can was dumped in the Hudson. Harold half expected another splash from the gun, but decided John must have melted that with the body back in Montauk.

There was a whoosh as the gas lit and then John was walking away, his stride easy and now Harold could see him because he was in the city and there were cameras. Harold could see the way his face was set, no regret, no emotion of any kind. He wanted John to come back here, to the library, to him but wasn't sure how to ask.

John walked ten blocks, his hands in his pockets, his head bowed slightly, but not in submission. He'd chosen a good area as there were few people around. It took fifteen minutes before the fire department even got the call. By then, John was half a mile away and breaking into a car.

Harold watched him sit down in the driver's seat, heard him let out a breath in a huff that wasn't a sigh, but did sound tired. He leaned down to start the engine but held himself still for a moment after the engine had turned over, waiting. Waiting for what Harold would say.

“I'm with you, John,” Harold said again, finally breaking the silence. His voice was steady and didn't crack. Harold had the resolution dialled up, so was able to catch the small, barely there smile that tugged at the corner of John's mouth. “Every step of the way.”

John put the car in gear and headed back into Manhattan. “I know, Harold.”

Harold's own smile was hard to contain as he watched the little dot head for the library. For him.

They were in this together now. Harold might not be good with guns or know how long it took to dispose of a body, but John wasn't alone in it anymore. Harold would stand by his side. Would be there in his ear to guide, to console or just as another person. Every step of the way.