"Finally!" Jake exclaimed Mal entered his room at the hospital.
"Good to see you too," Mal replied, nonplussed. "Somehow, I think I liked you better when you weren't your usual self," he quipped, not really meaning it however. He was very glad to have his youngest son back, even if that meant putting up with his more annoying tendencies as well.
"Very funny. Now, did you bring a laptop?" Jake asked impatiently.
"That must be some friend your helping," Mal commented pointedly, before handing Jake the bag he'd been carrying. As he did so, the strain on his cracked ribs made him wince. Jake eyed him suspiciously.
"What happened to you?"
"Got tossed down a flight of stairs," Mal replied, not intending to go into details. Jake's behaviour had him curious as well now as to what he was up to that was so urgent.
"I knew I couldn't let you run around on your own without supervision," Jake replied, but his focus was on the laptop that he'd pulled from the bag and opened.
"I think you're the one who needs supervision. After all, you're in the one in hospital, not me," Mal returned. "But tell, who's the friend of yours? I bet she's female..."
"It's Leslie, okay?" Jake replied, drumming his fingers on the edge of the laptop while he waited for it to boot up. "She's in trouble."
"What sort of trouble?" Mal asked, now really curious.
"That's the thing, I don't know yet. But she tried to kill me yesterday and..."
"Well, that's no surprise," Mal interjected. "It was bound to happen sooner or later, the way you've been behaving"
"Would you stop that already? I'm not making this up. She had a gun and a bomb."
"A bomb? Leslie Bennett tried to bomb the hospital?"
"That's what it looked like," Jake confessed. "But we both know that she wouldn't do that, so there has to be another explanation. And I think we're going to find it on this," he held up the memory card.
"Where did you get that?"
"That's another weird thing. Hood showed up yesterday, acting all cloak and dagger and dropped this off. Told me to help Leslie."
"He actually told you to get involved?" Mal asked, astonished.
"I'm telling you it was weird." The computer had finally booted up its operating system and Jake inserted the memory card in the appropriate slot on the machine's side.
"Now, let's see what's on this," he muttered, as the device came up. Mal leaned in closer so as to see what was on screen.
On the memory card were a series of pictures, taken with a mobile phone by all appearances.
"That looks like a report from a file of some sort, " Mal pointed out as Jake opened the first file.
"It's a forensics report," Jake confirmed and continued to scan the document. "It's about some test for gunshot residue they ran on Leslie."
"I take it came up positive," Mal said.
"Yeah, it did as a matter of fact. She did try shoot me though so that's no surprise."
At the look of alarm on Mal's face, Jake added. "Leslie's great shot and she was like less than a meter away from me. She could have killed me if she wanted to. I'm telling you, something else is going on here."
"Are you sure?" Mal asked somewhat dubiously.
"Dad, I know Leslie," Jake replied with conviction and skipped to the next file. It was also a forensics report, this time detailing that residues of a plastic explosives had been found on Leslie's clothes and hands.
"Do you have any idea where Leslie is right now?" Mal asked.
Jake shook his head. "No idea, but considering this, probably under arrest somewhere," he added darkly.
"Come to think of it, I haven't seen Leslie in quite a while actually," Mal mentioned. "I would have thought she would have shown up at the house or at least called after your supposed death, but..."
Jake interrupted. "My what?!"
"Oh, Tinny didn't mention that?"
"No, she obviously didn't!" Jake exclaimed, his emotions barely restrained. "Now tell me what happened!"
"The police thought that whoever kidnapped you might come after you if they knew you were still alive. So, they put out the news that you...well, that you were dead while keeping you under guard at the hospital."
"And Leslie didn't know?"
"I'm not sure, she might have known," Mal replied.
"I'll bet you anything that she didn't know," Jake said.
"What makes you so sure?"
"The way she stared at me when she first came into the room," Jake replied.
"Well, you are quite a sight with all those bruises," Mal commented.
"Haha. I'm telling you, she didn't know."
"That still doesn't explain why she would come pay you a visit armed with a gun and a bomb," Mal considered.
"You're right," Jake said and returned his attention the laptop.
"Look at this, these are like some sort of notes," he pointed to the file displayed on screen. "There's a bunch of them."
"Those are cop's notes," Mal remarked, moving closer to get a better look at the screen.
"The handwriting sucks," Jake said while cocking his head sideways to try and make out what the scrawled inscriptions said.
"Looks like interview notes," Mal declared after a few seconds. "Probably an informal witness statement."
"Can you tell who the witness was?"
"Go back to the first of the notes," Mal instructed. Jake did as he was told., Mal scrutinized the screen for a second or two. "Yes, whoever made these notes was interviewing Leslie Bennett," he finally declared. "And from what I'm reading here, she wasn't a witness, but rather a suspect."
"It does fit with what else we know," Jake considered frowning, "Although it still doesn't make any sense."
For several minutes Mal continued to read in silence, while Jake fidgeted nervously. Finally Mal leaned back, a look of concern on his face.
"What is it?" Jake asked.
"It doesn't look good I'm afraid," Mal said. "From what I can gather from these notes, Leslie claims that someone named Sydney Parker forced her into it. He gave her the choice to either kill you herself or he would detonate a bomb that would supposedly kill a bunch of innocent people. And to keep her from to tricking him, he made her wear a bomb which he could detonate by remote in case anything went wrong."
"That's it!" Jake exclaimed. "That explains it! He probably had her wired somehow, so she had to fire the gun to make him believe she actually did kill me and so also so she couldn't easily warn anyone."
"There is only one problem," Mal interrupted. "The guy she claims orchestrated the whole thing, has an alibi."
"It must be fake. He probably paid someone to give him an alibi," Jake insisted.
"I highly doubt it," Mal said. He had just looked at the next few files and one of them was an arrest report. "If I'm reading this right, then Sydney Parker was under arrest at the time Leslie claims he was with her."
"That's indeed a problem," Jake confessed dejectedly. "Who is this Parker character anyway?"
"He is someone the organized crime guys have taken quite the interest in. The warrant for his arrest cites evidence from various surveillance and wiretap operations, so he probably is pretty big in organized crime. What I can't understand is what Leslie would have to do with someone like him?"
"I know him!" Jake suddenly exclaimed, pointing at the screen of the laptop. The file currently displayed showed a surveillance photograph showing several men.
"You know him?"
"Yeah, he didn't exactly introduce himself, but I tend to remember the guys who hit me."
"That must be quite the list. How did you get tangled up with him?" Mal asked, frowning. He knew he shouldn't be surprised, but still he didn't like the idea of Jake being involved with someone who was obviously a big time criminal.
"He was there, in the basement," Jake recalled. Mal looked at him questioningly, not sure what he was talking about. "After running Leslie and me off the road, they took me to the basement of some house in the middle of nowhere..." Jake trailed off. Mal didn't need to hear what had happened there. Based on the injuries Jake had been found with, it couldn't have been pleasant.
"Are you sure it was him?" Mal hated to make Jake dwell any longer on unpleasant memories, but they had to be sure.
"Positive," Jake confirmed. "It's all a bit jumbled up," he admitted, "but I do remember him setting his goons on me. The girl from the parking lot of the hospital must have been one of his girls and when we started to dig into her supposed kidnapping, he must have gotten nervous and had us run off the road. Still, the whole poison thing doesn't quite seem his style..." Jake trailed off in thought.
"Actually, that wasn't anything to do with that at all," Mal informed him, somewhat apologetic. "Someone wanted to get back at me and figured they'd use you to do it," Mal admitted.
"Lovely," commented Jake. "And who says I have a knack for making enemies? But anyway, we need to find out all we can about this Sydney character and how he's connected to Leslie."
"Maybe there isn't a connection," Mal considered. "A man like Sydney Parker must have connections all over town, so it shouldn't have been too hard for him to find out about Leslie's relationship, and I use that word light, with you. After all, you were both investigating the kidnapping of the girl from the parking lot. She was even in the car with you when you were run off the road. Maybe he figured he could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak."
"Well, I know one thing, he isn't going to get away with this," Jake declared. "You didn't happen to bring any decent clothes, did you?"
"Oh no, you are not leaving here until you get the okay from your doctor," Mal said sternly, well aware of the hypocrisy of his words, seeing as he himself had discharged himself against medical advice less than twenty-four hours ago and, if he was honest, he was feeling the strain.
"I can't just sit here and wait!" Jake complained.
"I don't think you realize how lucky you are," Mal replied with an air of finality. "If I even hear that you are caught trying to sneak out, I promise you, you will regret it. And don't even think about trying to get Des involved in this," he added and turned to leave.
"What about Leslie?" Jake called after him. "We have to help her."
"Leave that up to us," Mal promised. "Now, get some rest, you look like crap."