The last three days had been some of the hardest of Leslie's life. Strange as it had seemed at first, the undercover op was the one thing holding her together. In the midst of feeling utterly lost and helpless, this was the one thing she could do to help Jake's family now - get the evidence to bring his killers to justice. Considering that she had only been on the job three days, things were going well. There was no sign that her cover had been compromised. Mervin continued to leer at her and make innuendo-laden comments, but hadn't gone any further than that. Right now, she was working as a secretary for one of the company's vice presidents, but Mervin had hinted that he was considering making her his personal secretary, a position that would give her the access she needed to get the firm's client list and accounting data. Inspector Manners was hoping that if they could show that the firm was merely a front, then a judge would issue a search warrant for the company's premises, business papers and computers. They hoped that this would give them enough for an indictment, if only for white collar stuff. Any means of putting the Parkers out of business was good for Manners, but it wasn't for Leslie. She wanted them for Jake's murder and whatever else they were good for and she was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. If it meant making nice with the creepy Mervin Parker, then so be it.
In fact, it were the evenings that were more difficult than her undercover work. With no facade to uphold in front of anyone, she struggled not to let the wave of emotions she'd been suppressing tear down carefully constructed walls. She was afraid that if it did, she would be drowned and never surface again. Jake's death had triggered way more than just grief over the loss, but giving in to regret, self-recrimination and second-guessing wasn't going to help anyone. There would be plenty of time for the emotional fallout, once Jake's killers were behind bars, Leslie told herself as she was brushing her teeth in an effort to get ready for her fourth day at the Parkers' investment company. After spitting and rinsing her mouth, her eyes rested for a moment on her reflection in the mirror. The woman looking back at her had visible shadows under her tired eyes, and her whole face seemed to have a gray-ish tinge to it. No wonder, she had barely slept in three days, Leslie thought and gave a grim chuckle. Nothing that couldn't be fixed with a touch or several of make-up though. She wouldn't want people in the office asking awkward questions about why she was starting to resemble something a cat would have more sense than to drag in.
Despite her best efforts, something of her ever-deepening exhausting must be starting to shine though, because when Mervin dropped by her office, ostensibly to see the vice-president that she was working for, he immediately asked her if she was all right. Leslie lied that she was merely feeling a little bit under the weather, but was otherwise fine.
"Sorry to hear that," Mervin replied. "Do you feel up to transcribing these dictations for me? But if you'd rather take the day..." Mervin handed her his Dictaphone.
"No, no, Mr Parker. I'll get right on it," Leslie promised.
"Good. Once you're finished, just leave them on my desk. Cynthia, my secretary is out of the office today and I have an appointment in town later on."
"I will." Leslie said. Mervin bade her good-bye and with one last lingering look at her cleavage departed.
Leslie had to stop herself from smiling. Now she had a legitimate reason to access Mervin Parker's office. There was no telling if she would be able to uncover any useful intel there, but it was a step forward. A step toward catching Jake's killer.
Times hadn't been much easier for the Doyle family. Jake's condition had stabilized to the point where the doctors had decided to have him transferred to the hospital in St. John's the day before. However, he still showed no sign of regaining consciousness and remained in intensive care under heavy police protection. Police had given the media a story about Jake having died of his injuries. It had taken some convincing by Rose to get Mal to go along with this, but he had finally relented and also agreed to close the office for the time-being to keep up appearances. Other than Jake's immediate family and a few select police officers directly involved in the case, no one knew that he had survived the attack. The police had insisted that as few people as possible should know and for that reason, neither Leslie nor Nikki had been informed. Nikki had dropped by to express her condolences, an encounter which had been as awkward as it had been surreal, but Leslie hadn't so much as called which to Rose's mind was highly odd.
There were far more grave matters weighing on her mind though. Mal seemed to have completely shut her out. He barely said a word to anyone and any questions she asked were met with monosyllabic answers. Not that she had much opportunity to ask questions, Mal left the house early in the mornings and returned in the evenings, without so much as a word to indicate where he'd been. Rose could only assume that he spent the time at the hospital. When she had asked him about it the previous evening however, he'd only shrugged. Rose had let him get away with it, if only for the moment. But in that instant, she made up her mind to do everything she could to get to the bottom of Mal's strange behavior. If the man wasn't going to tell her voluntarily then...well, she didn't work for a pair of private investigators for nothing. She was going to find out.
After yet another tension-filled breakfast at the Doyle residence the next morning, Rose watched Mal once again putting on his coat and grabbing the keys to his truck, like he had done every morning the past three days. Mumbling something that might have been a good-bye, Mal slipped out the door. Rose waited until he had started the car, before she put on her jacket and followed her husband out of the house.
Under ordinary circumstances, Rose would have had considerable difficulties following her husband unnoticed, but given his level of distraction these days, she was surprised that he even managed to navigate through traffic without incident.
She nearly gave herself away however a few minutes later when, in crossing the road without so much as a glance left and right, Malachy was nearly hit by an oncoming car. Rose stifled a cry. The car's driver honked as Mal fairly stumbled onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Rose slipped behind a pillar to hide in case Malachy turned around, but he never did and instead entered a small café. She lost him from sight for an instant, but spotted him again when he sat down at a table near the large glass window facing the street. What shocked her wasn't that Mal was spending time at a café at a time like this, but that he'd joined a woman already sitting at the table. Rose watched them for about five minutes as they appeared to talk quietly over coffee. She was contemplating what to do with her new-found knowledge when her cell phone rang. The caller-id indicated that it was Dr. Anderson, the physician in charge of Jake's care, calling.
With a sinking feeling, Rose answered the call.
"Mrs Doyle? This is Dr. Anderson."
"Yes," Rose replied breathlessly. "Has something happened to Jake?"
"There has been a development," Dr. Anderson said cautiously, then added. "I tried to reach your husband just now, but I only got his mailbox. I left a message, but it is important that I talk to you, in person."
"I'll be there as soon as I can. And I'll bring my husband," Rose said and hung up. She pocketed her cell phone and rushed across the street.
"I have some other leads to run down, but to be honest..." Mal was just saying to Louisa Hayden when he was interrupted in the middle of his sentence.
"Malachy, we need to leave, right now," Rose, who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, said.
"I..." he started, but she wasn't about to let him get a word in. "It's about Jake," Rose added gravely.
Louisa Hayden and her missing daughter were instantly forgotten.
"Listen, I can explain," Mal begun, looking over at Rose who was driving them in the direction of the hospital.
"You know, I don't care what you were doing or who you were meeting with," Rose replied, eyes fixed on the road.
Mal nodded. He understood her anger and why she wouldn't let him explain. It had been stupid trying to hide his work on the Hayden case from her, but he hadn't been sure she would understand that he needed the distraction right now. If not, he wasn't sure he could keep his sanity intact. It was all he had to keep him from drowning his worries in a bottle of whiskey. They would talk, eventually.
"What exactly did Dr. Anderson say?" he changed the subject.
Rose's eyes left the road for long enough to give him a disapproving look, but eventually replied: "He didn't say, only that he needed to talk to you in person."
He woke feeling like he had been run over by a garbage truck. Several times. His body hurt all over, worst of all, his head which was a mass of throbbing pain. Opening his eyes, he found the world around himself fuzzy, mostly white and filled with a strange beeping sound that sent waves of pain through his head. He groaned, noticing that the sound seemed unfamiliar.
"What the hell?" he murmured, listening to the sound of his own voice which was rough and terribly unfamiliar. That realization led him onto a fresh train of unpleasant thought. Not only had her no idea where he was or how he had ended up there, but he also had no idea who he was. There was simply a big great blank where his name and other details about his life should be. There was nothing at all. He didn't know his name, his age, what he looked like - nothing. That realization had almost made him forget about the pain he was in, but the deep breath he took to steady his nerves brought the agony back to the forefront of his mind. For long seconds, or maybe minutes he really couldn't say, the pain was all he was aware of. When his senses returned, there was a woman's voice off to his side. He shifted his eyes, and they settled on a blurry blob.
"...can you hear me?" the blob was saying.
"Uhm, yes," he managed. "I'm in hospital, right?" he ventured a guess.
"Yes, you are. Are you in any pain?" she asked.
"Yes," he admitted. "What happened?"
"Let me fetch Dr. Anderson for you, he'll be able to fill you in."