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Secrets, Lies and Private Eyes

Chapter Text

oOo

It was a quiet morning at the offices of Doyle and Doyle Investigative Services. Too quiet for Malachy Doyle's taste in fact as actual paying customers had been few and far in between lately. His son had a talent for finding work that not pay at all like Jake's most recent adventure chasing would-be armored car robbers or if even if they did, caused more trouble and mayhem in their lives then they were worth. With Jake out of commission for a few days, Mal was intent on making good use of the time by finding at least one regular paying client with a simple, old-fashioned case. Maybe tracking down a cheating spouse or even a lost poodle. Anything that paid had where as little as possible could go wrong. Jake might be a good investigator (not that Mal would repeat that to his face), but he had no sense for the business side of things what with allowing clients to barter for their services, paying them in belt buckles and other assorted trinkets. Otherwise, he'd have to look for another one of those repo jobs. Or not, he thought, cringing as he remembered how the last one of those had landed them in a messy affair revolving around counterfeit currency. It had to be Jake's presence, he reconned, that managed to turn even the most harmless of jobs into harrowing adventures that nearly got them kidnapped, killed, jailed or any combination of the three. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the office door opening. It was his wife Rose who entered.

"You look worried," she observed. "Anything the matter?"

"Just worried about the business. We haven't exactly had an abundance of paying clients lately."

"Then maybe this will cheer you up," Rose suggested and deposited a pile of mail on the table in front of her husband.

"I'm going to make some coffee. You want any?" she asked, walking over to the coffee maker.

"Yes, please," replied Mal slightly absent-minded as he had begun to sort through the pile of letters. There were the usual advertisements, a few bills and one other letter, addressed to the company in large capital letters. Mal turned over the cream-coloured envelope, but there was no return address anywhere.

He reached for the letter opener and then removed the enclosure - a folded piece of ordinary white paper, the type typically used in home printers. He unfolded the letter.  It read as follows:

This is your first and last warning. You will pay for the lives you've ruined.

Mal read the letter through three times, but the threat still did nothing to jog his memory. He had no idea what this could be about. Or if it was even addressed to him in the first place. Jake had a knack for meddling in other people's business and it wouldn't be too surprising if someone were to take offense one of those days. When he saw Rose coming his way with a steaming mug of coffee, he folded the letter again and put it back in its envelope. No sense in worrying Rose when all he had was an anonymous threatening letter which might or might not be meant for him. He slipped the letter beneath the blotter on his desk, intent on dealing with it later. He wasn't exactly worried, but he did intend on asking Jake if there was anything he should know about.


"Thanks Rose," he said as Rose deposited a steaming mug of coffee in front of him.

"Any business coming our way?" she asked casually.

"No, unfortunately not," Mal answered, hoping it wasn't a lie. He didn't like keeping secrets from his wife, but he didn't want to worry her needlessly. It was hardly the first threat he'd received. As a cop or private investigator, one didn't only make friends. Enemies were par for the course, especially when working with someone like Jake.



Leslie wondered whether she should consider the fact that she had spent her weekend off alone alarming or not. It depended, she guessed, on what the alternative was. At least alone, she wasn't likely to end up in trouble. Unlike whenever she spent time in Jake Doyle's company. Leslie had barely finished the thought when, turning a narrow corner of the road in her car slightly too fast, when she spotted a speeding car going over the side off the side of the road and out of view on the next turn. The road was a fairly narrow one, winding along the coastline. Anyone going this fast over the side of the road was bound to plunge straight into the ocean below. Leslie sighed and stepped on the accelerator. Less than a minute later, she had reached the spot where the other car had left the road. She brought her car to a stop on the side of the road and jumped out, running towards the cliff's edge. Down below, an older model white car was slowly sinking, already almost completely submerged with only the tail lights still visible above the water. Not hesitating an instant, Leslie slipped out of her shoes and struggled out of her jacket. The cliff was nearly vertical at the spot, allowing her to jump in after the car.

The water was shockingly cold, despite the relatively warm weather, driving the breath from her lungs in an instant. Leslie made for the surface, emerging only for an instant to take a deep breath, before diving back under. The salty water burned in her eyes as she looked around trying to find where the car had sunk. Visibility was low, but finally, she spotted the white shape about twenty yards away. With quick strokes, she swam to towards it. Bobbing to the surface once again, she gulped in a breath, then ducked back under. As quickly as she could, she dove deeper, towards the rapidly sinking car.  Just how deep was the seabed here, she wondered just before the car appeared to stop sinking. It must have hit bottom she realized as she swam up the the windshield. In the driver's seat was a woman, slumped forward with her head hovering just above the dashboard. The car's interior was already filled with water, the current causing the woman's upper body to sway slightly back and forth. How could the car have filled up so quickly, Leslie wondered, already feeling her body demanding oxygen. She swam 'round the side, finding the driver's side window open. Good for her, bad for the woman inside. Not daring the risk surfacing again for breath, Leslie squeezed in through the side window, loosing valuable seconds fumbling with the woman's seat belt before she was able to grab the woman under the arms and with her burden, start to make her way back to the surface.

It was more difficult than she would have thought. The woman was dead weight in her arms, her lungs were starting to ache and the muscles in her legs burned mercilessly. The surface seemed endlessly far away and she was seriously wondering if she was going to make it as she struggled to regain fresh air. Just when the demand to take a breath become overwhelming, her head broke the surface. For several long moments, she tread water, greedily gulping down precious air. The oxygen cleared her head enough to allow her to realize that she needed to get the woman ashore somehow. She looked around, but saw nothing but a steep cliff. She couldn't possibly climb back up to regain the road, certainly not while carrying an additional two-thirds of her own weight. A wave of panic took hold of her when she realized that she was trapped, with a woman either dead or dying in her arms. It took a few moments for her to realize that there was someone shouting and waving, trying to get her attention from the shoreline above.

It was difficult to understand the words over the sound of wind and water, but she could make out parts of it.

"Hold on...help coming..." She wasn't sure but she thought she could hear sirens in the distance as well.

Leslie shifted, trying to feel for the pulse of the woman she had pulled from the water. It was a difficult undertaking considering that she had to hold on the woman at the same time, but eventually she managed to find a faint beat under her fingers. That sign of hope gave her renewed strength and Leslie begun swimming again, towards the shore. As she got closer, she saw a small outcropping at the foot of the cliff. It was about 50 cm above the waterline, just low enough so that she might be able to reach it. Swimming the distance seemed to take forever, but in reality it couldn't have taken her more than a few seconds. Getting onto the ledge took considerably longer and by the time Leslie had herself and the woman secure on the ledge, she was trembling with exhaustion. Stretching the woman out on the ledge as best as possible, Leslie proceeded to check her over. She still had a pulse, but wasn't breathing. Damn, how long had it been? Leslie immediately started rescue breathing, hoping that it wasn't too late. It only took a few breaths before the woman made a gurgling sound, and begun to cough up water. Leslie helped her turn to the side and held her steady until she was done bringing up salt water. It was only now that Leslie noticed how young the woman she'd pulled from the wreck really was. She could hardly be more than a teenager - sixteen, maybe seventeen years old. Dressed for a party from the looks of her mini-skirt and skimpy top. She'd probably been coming from a party when she'd gone off the road. Alcohol, drugs maybe? A sudden giddy laugh escaped her. Apparently it didn't take Jake Doyle to land her in trouble after all. From the looks of it, Leslie thought as she held the shivering teen, she really didn't need any outside help.

 




Twenty minutes later, the girl and the Leslie were safely on the way to the nearest hospital. The girl had been somewhat alert and coherent enough to answer a few basic questions before they had left the accident scene. Leslie hadn't wanted to go along to the hospital, but she hadn't been able to deny the fact that she was shivering uncontrollably. The paramedics suspected mild hypothermia, and she had scarped her hands and knees pretty good when trying to climb onto the ledge. This was not how she had planned to spend her day off, but not diving in after the car had never been a consideration. And if she was honest, it felt pretty good to have saved a life.





Leslie was still somewhat high with adrenaline as she walked out of the exam room and into the hospital hallway. Her scrapes and abrasions had all been cleaned and dressed and she was now dressed in hospital scrubs as her own clothes, save for her jacket and shoes were still soaking wet. Fortunately, her cell phone had been in her jacket pocket the whole time, hence avoiding a watery end.

The shivering had stopped after she'd gotten into some dry clothes and had had two cups of hot tea from the vending machine. The doctor who had seen to her had pronounced her free to go. Leslie intended to do just that without making a bee-line to visit Jake before she left but first she was determined to see if she couldn't find out how the girl was doing. Having saved her life, she couldn't help but feel somewhat responsible for her. It was silly, she told herself, but there it was. As she approached the information desk in the lobby, there was already a man, gesticulating wildly, as he tried to get information from the young woman sitting behind the counter.
 
Leslie stood at a discrete distance to wait her turn, but couldn’t help overhearing their conversation, as neither of them were attempting to keep their voices down.

"But she is my sister!" the man was saying. "I have a right to see her."

"As I told you before, sir, you need to talk to Dr. Wong for that."

"I did, but the cops won't let me see her."

"Then I suggest you take it up with them," the receptionist replied stiffly, her tone carrying an air of finality as she turned her attention toward Leslie. The man stormed off in the direction of the elevators.

"What can I do for you, ma'am?" the receptionist, Tina, as her name-tag proclaimed, asked Leslie.

"My name is Leslie Bennett. I came in with a young woman about an hour ago. Her name is Jocelyn Parker."

At that the receptionist raised an eyebrow and interrupted Leslie in irritation.

"As I told the 'gentleman' before you'll need to talk to the officer in charge for any information about this particular patient."

Now it Leslie's turn to be taken aback. She pulled her badge from the pocket of her coat and showed it to the woman. "Could you please tell where I can find the officer in charge?"

The receptionist changed her tune at that, and quite meekly replied. "Of course, she's in room 456, forth floor. You should find the officer in charge there."

Leslie thanked the receptionist and made for the elevator wondering what was so special about the young woman. Cases of driving under the influence usually didn't command this kind of secrecy, unless the person in question was someone well-known or well-connected. She didn't recognize the name, Jocelyn Parker, but that didn't mean that she wasn't some big shots' daughter.





Leslie had no trouble finding the right room. The man from the reception desk was arguing loudly with a uniformed police officer in front of room 456. She was maybe twenty meters away when the man turned around, stalking off in her direction.

"Are you a doctor?" the man asked her, desperation in his voice.

Leslie shook her head. "No, I'm..."

"My kid sister, she's been in an accident and no one will tell me anything or let me see her," he blurted out.

"I know," Leslie said softly. She felt sorry for the young man who seemed so desperate for answers. Plus, even if she didn't want to admit it, she

The man stared at her, aghast. "What...?"

"I mean, I was there," she clarified. "I witnessed the accident."

"So it was an accident?"

"I don't know that," Leslie confessed. "All I saw was a car going over a cliff. I stopped and just did what anyone would have done."

"So, you helped Jocelyn?"

Noticing the looks the uniformed police office was giving them, Leslie pulled the man aside. "Why don't we go somewhere more comfortable to talk?"

 

TBC

Chapter Text

They ended up in the hospital cafeteria. The man, whose name she had learned was Sydney Parker, insisted on buying coffee for the both of them and Leslie gratefully accepted, still feeling a slight chill from the time spent in the water.

Once Leslie had told her story of what had happened at the cliff, Sydney sighed.

"Jocelyn isn't a bad girl, you know. She just hangs with the wrong crowd. They keep getting her into trouble."

Although the meaning of Sydney's words was slightly different Leslie felt reminded of her own life and of how her association with Jake Doyle was continually wreaking havoc with her life. It had been three days since she'd last seen him in hospital, after he'd collapsed at the station, giving her a serious fright in the process. She would never admit as much, but part of her missed him and his whirlwind presence.

"So you think she was drunk?"

"Either that or worse," Sydney said with another heavy sigh. "Why else would she drive over the edge of a cliff?"

There was a moment of silence between them.

"Anyway, I can't tell you how grateful I am for what you did today. You saved my sister's life. If you hadn't pulled her from the car..."

"But I did and that's what matters." Leslie insisted.

"Listen, I know I can never make this up to you, but I'd like to invite you for dinner. My father owns a restaurant in town and I'm sure he'd want to meet you as well. If that's okay with you, that is," he added quickly.

"Of course," Leslie replied. "Why don't you give me a call when your sister is better." She gave Sydney her cell phone number before bidding the young man good-bye.




"Well, how does it look?" Jake questioned the physiotherapist who had been examining his shoulder.

"It's too early to tell for certain - we have to wait for the infection to subside completely and the wound to to heal some more - but I think a decent physiotherapy regimen should allow you to regain your full range of motion. It will take time, but you were quite lucky."

"I wouldn't exactly call getting shot lucky," Jake replied grimly. The words came out more harshly than he'd intended, but after three days in hospital and with several more to come, he was starting to feel rather cranky. He had been rather out of it the first two days, between the meds and the fever caused by the bullet wound getting infected. Now that his head was clearer once again he was rapidly starting to get cabin fever.

"I'm sorry," the physiotherapist said, blushing slightly. "I meant of course considering what happened."

"I'm sorry," Jake said, smiling at the flustered woman. "I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. It's just..frustrating, that's all."

"No problem," she replied, obviously relieved at the turn the conversation had taken. "Will you be all right getting back to your room?" she asked.

"Yes, I'll be fine," Jake replied.

"Good, I'll see you again tomorrow."

Jake nodded and left the physiotherapist's office. He walked slowly, taking his time, not least because he really wasn't back to full strength yet. At one point he even paused, leaning on the railing running along the wall. Not really looking, he gazed out of the window near him. It overlooked the hospital's parking lot. Suddenly something caught his attention. Down below, a man and a girl were visibly arguing. Nothing unusual about that, until, that was, the man grabbed the girl by the arm and started dragging her towards the nearest car, despite her obvious resistance. He opened the rear door and roughly shoved the girl inside before shutting the door and getting in himself and driving off. Powerless to intervene in any way, all Jake could do was watch the scene play out, trying to take in as many details as possible. He couldn't see the full license plate at the high angle of sight, he only caught a part of it. He couldn't be entirely sure of the car's make either, aside from the fact that it was a dark blue newer model pick-up truck. However, he had gotten a pretty good look at both the girl and the man. He was certain he'd recognize them if he saw them again.

Once he'd watched the car drive off, Jake run away from the window, adrenaline allowing him to compensate for any physical lack of strength. IN next to no time, he made it to the nurses' station.

"Quick," he shouted. "I need to borrow a cell phone!"

Nurse Cindy merely frowned at him. "Mr Doyle, you should really be in bed."

Jake ignored her. "Please, it's very important. A girl has been kidnapped!"

"Kidnapped? Here?" Cindy queried in disbelieving astonishment.

"Yes, in the parking lot. I saw it from the window. I need to call the police." Jake explained, cursing the fact that his father had taken his own cell phone with him, allegedly to encourage him to focus on his recovery instead of driving everyone he knew crazy.

Cindy still looked at him like he was insane or at the very least delirious with fever, but she reached into her pocket and handed him a mobile phone. She said something else, but whatever it was, it was lost on Jake, as he focused on dialing Leslie's cell phone number which he knew by heart.

Much to his surprise, the call did not go through, indicating that Leslie's phone was most likely switched off. This was highly unusual, but it was Saturday and if Leslie wasn't working a case it was just conceivable that she might have turned her phone off. Still, he had never known her to do that, so he couldn't help the small sliver of worry running through him. Cindy was giving him the evil eye, and he wouldn't put it past her to bodily take the phone from him if he didn't hurry up. He didn't want to dial 911 just yet. The operator's reaction to his story would most likely to be similar to that of nurse Cindy. Things would go better if he talked to someone he knew, so he keyed in Leslie's office phone number.

After two rings, the phone was picked up.

"Sergeant Hood speaking." He sounded like he was chewing on something,

"Sergeant Hood, this is Jake Doyle. Listen, I need your help."

"Aren't you still in hospital?"

"Yes, but something's happened here and I can't reach Leslie on her cell."

"What's going on?" the sergeant didn't exactly sound enthusiastic.

"There's been a kidnapping."

"At the hospital?" Hood interrupted him, his voice incredulous.

"In the parking lot, I saw it from the window."

"So you weren't there?"

"No, but as I said, I saw it happen. Some guy dragged a girl into his car."

"That's it?" Hood questioned. "That’s all you got? I don't have time for your nonsense right now. I just caught a body and I need to get going two minutes ago."

Jake sighed dejectedly. It figured. "At least keep an eye out for any missing persons reports in the area. The girl was about fourteen, Caucasian, around 5'3" three tall, with long brown hair. She was wearing a pink jacket and jeans. The guy was wearing a dark blue hoody and jeans. Short dark hair, tanned skin, heavy build, about 6'1". Can't be sure about his age, maybe 35. He was driving a blue van, looked pretty beat-up. License starts with HFO-5. Just look into it, okay?" Jake was dangerously close to pleading.

"No promises, I gotta go." With that Hood hung up, leaving Jake to stare at the phone in frustration.




Leslie emerged from a long, hot shower, finally feeling warm again. She walked back into her bedroom, wrapped in a large towel, in order to get dressed. As she picked up a pair of sweatpants, she spotted her cell phone. Picking it up, she checked the call log, only to find two missed calls. One from Jake Doyle and the other from Sergeant Hood. For a fraction of a second, she considered calling Jake back, but as she knew that he was still in hospital, she decided that he could wait. Hood on the other hand wouldn't be wasting her time, instead he was probably calling to say that they had caught a case. Suppressing a sigh, she speed-dialed her partner's cell phone number.




"Where have you been?" Those were the first word's out of Sergeant Hood's mouth when Leslie climbed out of a cab on a forest road outside of town.

Leslie blew out a breath. "It's a long story."

"Let me guess, Jake Doyle has something to do with it."

Leslie was taken aback at the question. "Uhm, as a matter of fact, no." She wondered if Jake, having been unable to reach her had called Hood instead. If that was the case, whatever Jake had wanted to tell her was likely connected to a case.

"He didn't call you?" Hood queried curiously. "He called me, wit some story about a kidnapping at the hospital."

"What kidnapping?" Leslie asked.

Hood shrugged. "Beats me. Anyhow, we have a case. Mrs Hudson here," Hood indicated an elderly woman talking to a uniformed office some thirty yards away. "Was walking her dog along this road. She let him off the leash and that's when he ran off into the woods, only to come back with a bone. She called the police who sent two officers out here. They took a look and found more bones, including a skull in a shallow grave some thirty meters from the road. The coroner is examining the remains now, but there isn't much left, except bones. They have clearly been here some time."

They ducked under the crime scene tape and left the forest road for a small clearing in the woods where the coroner and crime scene examiners were already at work.

"What's it look like, Dr. Thorn?" Hood asked the coroner who was crouched over a shallow depression in the soil.

The man in question looked up at the two detectives. "The remains appear to be those of a female child. I can't determine age without a more detailed examination of the remains, but from the size of bones so far, I'd say she was no older than ten years at the time of her death."

"Anything to indicate cause of death?" Leslie asked. Something was niggling at the back of her mind, but she couldn't put her finger on it.

Dr. Thorn shook his head. "Nothing definite so far. I'll need to excavate the rest of these bones to tell you more and even then, depending on the cause of death, there might not be any marks on the bones themselves and as you can see, there isn't any soft tissue left. But considering the circumstances, it's pretty safe to say that there is a high probability that we are dealing with a homicide."

"And how long as she been buried here?" Leslie asked. The nagging feeling she'd experienced earlier had only grown in persistence. There was something familiar about all this. Not a case she had worked, but maybe something she'd read about? Leslie pushed the question momentarily aside as she concentrated on the coroner's reply.

"Given the advanced state of decomposition, in this case the total absence of soft tissue, I'd say the body has been here upwards of five years."

"Can you give us a maximum?" Hood asked.

"If you're thinking this might be a case for the archeologists, I don't think so. I found some fibers, most like from some sort of clothing or a piece of fabric the body was wrapped in - they are clearly synthetic, which also explains why they are so well preserved." Dr. Thorn held up a few tattered patches of light pink material. Sergeant Hood visible deflated at the sight.

"But to answer your original question, it's very difficult to fix an upper time limit with what we have here. I might be able to tell you more after I've had a chance to examine the remains more closely."

"Thank you Dr. Thorn," Leslie said. Her mind however was elsewhere. She turned away from the coroner and looked around. Something about this place or situation has struck a cord with her. She just couldn't tell exactly what was reminding her of something - whatever that something was. There was nothing very remarkable about her immediate environment. They were in small clearing surrounded by mostly fir trees. Leslie gazed up at the trees without really seeing as she wracked her mind for what it was that she sought to remember. It was no use, she thought shaking her head. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw something, some sort of design, carved into the trunk of one of the trees, about two and half meters from the ground. It looked like the letter Z with an additional vertical strike through the middle. The mark wasn't fresh, it looked like it had been there for years, but Leslie wasn't an expert on trees by any stretch of the imagination. Acting on a sudden hunch, Leslie checked the other trees surrounding the clearing. Her intuition was confirmed when she found the same carved symbol on two more trees in the vicinity of the clearing. She had no means of knowing if it was an any way connected to the fact that the young girl had been buried in this clearing, but she pulled aside one of the crime scene technicians working the scene.

"Excuse me," she said to the woman. "Could you please take a photograph of this?" she pointed to the symbol carved into the tree bark.

"Of course," the woman replied and did as asked.

"There are two more." Leslie showed her the trees in questions and the crime scene technician took pictures as these as well. She was photographing the last of the trees when Hood came walking up to them.

"What are you up to?" he asked. "Did you find something?"

"Maybe. Look at this," she pointed out the symbol to Hood. "There are two more like this."

"You think it's related?"

"I don't know. But I think it's odd that it's so far up from the ground. You'd have to be either really tall or use something to stand on to make these markings. I doubt any teenage vandals would go to so much trouble. It's just possible that these were left by whoever buried the body. As a sort of marker, to identify this particular spot."

Hood appeared to consider this. "If you're right about this, that means that either we are dealing with some sicko who wanted to revisit the grave or this wasn't a one time thing."

Leslie nodded. She had been thinking the same thing.

"We need to make sure there are no other bodies buried in this clearing," she concluded.

"Oh joy. Ground penetrating radar. That's going to make the superintendent really happy," Hood commented, referring the time and cost involved in getting a technician out here to scan the ground for buried remains, not to mention that if they did find more bodies, it meant that they had a serial killer on their hands. "Plus, we’re going to be here all day," he added darkly.

TBC

Chapter Text

After snatching back her cell phone, nurse Cindy had banished Jake back to his room. He stayed there for about half an hour, mulling over what he'd seen, but it was no good. The more he thought about it, examined every detail of his recollection, the more convinced he became that the scene he'd witnessed didn’t leave any other conclusion other than the one he'd drawn. Any innocent explanation he could come up with just would not do. So, he grabbed his wallet and slipped out of his room. It took a little time, but eventually, nurse Cindy left her post and he was able to make his way out of the ward and to the elevator undetected.

There had to be payphone somewhere, and the lobby was his best bet. If Hood wasn't going to help him and Leslie didn’t answer her phone, he would find someone else who would. He had some contact in the police department, he might as well put them to good use.




Leslie wasn't surprised when her cell phone rang again and the caller ID showed Jake's name. Sighing, she pressed the button to accept the call.

"What is it now, Jake?"

"Are you at the station?" Jake asked. Leslie was surprised at the unusual lack of innuendo. It wasn't like Jake to come straight to the point like this unless it was really important and even then he usually managed to sneak on some suggestive comment or other.

"No, I'm a at crime scene, doing my job as a matter of fact." One some level Leslie would have liked to just brush him off, but the fact was that not only did she not have anything better to do right now, what with the technicians and their equipment not having arrived yet at the remote scene, but also, if Jake had really witnesses a kidnapping as Hood had indicated, then she needed to take the call.

"Can you please keep an eye out for young teenage girls being reported missing?"

"Is this about that kidnapping? Hood said you'd called him about an abduction earlier today."

"He told you about that?" Jake sounded genuinely surprised. "Anyhow, I swear I saw a girl get kidnapped from the hospital parking lot around 10:30 this morning.  A guy dragged her into his blue van. I got part of the plate, might even be enough for an exact match."

Leslie spotted the crime scene unit's van come towards her on the forest road.

"Listen, Jake. I have to go now, but I'll make some calls, see if there have been any other reports of a kidnapping and check missing persons' reports," Leslie said and hung up. Part of her was angry at herself at letting herself get dragged into something by Jake Doyle for what felt like the hundredth time, but another part of her knew that Jake wouldn't make such a claim without a good reason. If he said he'd seen a girl get kidnapped, it was probably true. At least Jake firmly believed it was true and for part of her, it was enough. At least good enough to make a couple of calls.





Jake had been pleasantly surprised that he'd been able to reach Leslie after all. While she hadn't exactly been welcoming, she had promised to make some calls for him. Jake himself had spoken to another contact at the station who still owed him a favour and had gotten him to run down the partial plate number. It turned out to be his lucky day in at least one way when the search had found only one matching vehicle registered in the area. The registered owner was one Alonzo Sanchez who as it happened had a criminal record consisting of varied offenses related to his alleged occupation as a pimp. Jake's contact had also agreed to inform Leslie of what he'd found out.

After he'd hung up, Jake, now thoroughly exhausted with his shoulder throbbing dully, retreated back to his room. Lunch would soon be served and if he was honest with himself, he was in need of a bit of rest.

He had barely laid his head on the pillow telling himself that he was only going to rest his eyes for a moment, when he had already drifted off into a light doze.

The next thing he knew was the clatter of the lunch tray hitting the bedside table. Jake startled awake at the sound, surprised to find that he'd actually fallen asleep. He lifted the cover from the tray. He was dismayed to notice that it was some thick brown sauce with junks in it with a side of mashed potatoes for lunch. For dessert, was small cup of fruity looking chunks submerged in orange-colored liquid. Jake tentatively sniffed it, finding the smelling oddly chemical with an underlying odor of peach. Still, he was hungry and despite the meager appearance, the food didn’t actually taste that bad. He had barely finished the meat-and-sauce when the fatigue really started to make itself known. Jake smothered a yawn and leaned back against the pillow. Despite his best efforts, he found his eyes drifting shut.




Within five minutes of the new client's arrival, Mal was feeling reminded of the fact that one should be careful what to wish for, just in case it came true. While this morning, he had been eager for any new case to come his way, now he was longingly thinking back to the peace and quiet of his office minus the crazy woman who was now standing in the office of Doyle and Doyle investigative services. The middle aged woman had arrived without an appointment which wasn't a problem given the lack of business, but minutes after she first opened her mouth, it didn't take long for Mal to realize that she was going to be trouble. The conversation had started innocently enough but soon Mal found himself wondering if he'd accidentally been transported into the Twilight Zone. He half expected Rod Serling to turn up next on his doorstep.


The woman had introduced herself as Emily Hirsh in a pleasant enough manner before plunging into her business. Which, as it turned out, was based on a, as she called it, vision, she'd had.

"So, you had a vision? About a murder?" Mal tried not to sound too incredulous while privately wondering if he shouldn't call someone - anyone to get rid of this crazy lady.

"Several murders, in fact," Emily stated, as if having a vision was the most normal thing in the world.

"You're a psychic?" Mal asked, this time not quite managing to come across as understanding. Technically, as Jake put it, the client was always right in their line of work, but this was really pushing the envelope.

Emily grimaced. "It's not really a term I like to use. Sounds a bit shady, if you know what I mean."

Mal nodded emphatically. For a supposed psychic, the woman wasn't very perceptive.

"It's just that sometimes, I just know things. I can't tell you how it works, but it does," Emily said.

"If it is a murder you came to tell me about, I think you'd better go to the police. Homicides are not really our field of expertise, The police is far better equipped to deal with that sort of thing." Mal said in a last ditch attempt to get rid of the woman in a polite manner.

"Oh, I've been to the police. First thing this morning, but they didn't believe me. They never do." Emily shrugged.

Mal wasn't surprised. He knew the type, had dealt with people like Emily Hirsh during his time on the force. 99.9 per cent of the time, they were pure time wasters and the 0.1 per cent that weren't, were usually in some way involved in the crime in question. Emily didn't seem like the murdering type, but then she didn't quite seem sane either. You never knew. Maybe she was a killer after all.

"Besides," Emily went on. "It's about a case you once worked."

That caught Mal's attention. While he still doubted that this would turn out to be worthwhile, he decided to at least listen to what this woman had to say.

"You remember a man called Douglas Richter?" Emily asked.

Mal nodded. Richter had been a piece of work. He had abducted and murdered three young girls about fifteen years ago. Mal had been working the case. Richter had been tried and convicted. As far as Mal knew the man was still in prison and would stay there for some time to come.

"I thought you might," Emily said with visible satisfaction.

"As far as I know, Douglas Richter is in prison, so I'm not..." Mal said in another attempt to forestall any more craziness, but Emily interrupted him.

"I don't know about that, all I know is there is another victim. Another girl."

"And who would that be?"

"I don't know. It doesn't work that way," Emily said with a shrug. "These things that I know, they come to me in flashes. I don't usually get all the information. That’s why I came to you. To hire you to find out."

Mal considered for a moment. At least this Emily Hirsh woman was talking about hiring them and at the present state of affairs, he could hardly afford to turn down business of any kind, so he suppressed a sigh and motioned to the couch.

"Please, take a seat and tell me exactly what you do know."

"Thank you," Emily turned towards the couch.

"Hm, were can I put these?" she indicted the various items of clothing strewn all over the couch, most likely by Jake.

"I'm sorry, just push them to one side." Mal moved to help her, internally cursing his son for leaving the office in such a state. Emily picked up a shirt, but instead of laying it to one side, she seemed to freeze.

"Mrs Hirsh?" Mal asked tentatively why he noticed that she'd not moved in several seconds and simply stood there, Jake's shirt in hand.

There was no reaction from Emily. Mal moved into her field of vision, but it was as if she was looking through him. Mal gently touched her arm. Emily startled visibly, before clutching Mal's arm tightly. Her eyes were now open wide as she stared at him.

"Whose shirt is this?" she demanded with sudden urgency as she held out the article of clothing she'd picked up from the couch.

Mal frowned, not sure where she was going with this, but curious enough to play along. "It's my son's."

"Then he is in grave danger! You need to warn him!" Emily told him, her voice intent.

"Warn him against what?" Mal asked, not able to help the surge of anxiety rising within him. "What did you see just now?"

Emily's face once again took on a distant look.

"A man, he's, it looks like he's sleeping. Then someone is pressing a pillow down on his face, but he doesn't wake up. They are smothering him." She was speaking slowly with an odd dreamy quality to her voice. Then, suddenly, her voice changed back to it's regular tone and her eyes focused back on Mal, "That's all I got." she informed him somberly.

"And you sure the man you saw getting smothered is my son?" Mal asked, for the moment willing to push aside his doubts and disbelief. As much as Jake was an idiot at times, he was still his son and the last thing Mal wanted was to see him hurt in any way.

Emily proceeded to describe a man looking remarkably like Jake and what little she could say about the surroundings, they tallied with a hospital. Mal wasn't prepared accept how Emily claimed she had come by this knowledge nor was he convinced that it was the product of more than an internet search, but it wouldn't hurt to check up on Jake to make sure he hadn't gotten into any trouble while in hospital. He was about to dial Jake's cell phone, until he realized that he had confiscated it from him after Jake had landed back in hospital for the third time after his recent shooting. Now he regretted this decision. Sighing, he looked up the phone number of the telephone switchboard of the hospital and dialed that number.

It that over ten minutes during which he spoke to at least five different people explaining in what he was calling about, until he was connected to the nurses' station on Jake's ward. Once again he explained who he was and asked the nurse if she knew where Jake was at the moment.

Upon hearing Jake's name, the reaction of the nurse wasn't the one Mal had expected, but it didn't surprise him either.

"Does wasting other people's time run in your family?" the woman asked rather rudely. Mal wondered what on Earth Jake had been doing to annoy staff this time.

"Why? What's he done?" Mal simply asked.

"He ran up god only knows how much in call charges on my cell phone calling all sorts of people and telling them this ridiculous story about a girl getting kidnapped. He's been driving everybody crazy with it."

"And where is he now?"

"In his room, I guess. At least he better be there."

"Could you please check to make sure that he's okay," Mal asked in his most persuasive tone.

"It may be news to you, but we do actual work here," came the reply. "And that does not include baby-sitting."

Mal realized that politeness wouldn't help, so he changed tactics.

"Look, if something should happen to him on your watch it won't just be me that you'll have a problem with."

"All right, all right," was the grudging reply. "I'll be back in a moment."

TBC

Chapter Text

Cindy Dobson, R.N., heaved a sigh and levered herself up from her chair. This day was not going her way, at all. She had dealt with obstinate patients before, but none of them had ever as much trouble as Mr Jake Doyle. First, he'd left the hospital twice only to be readmitted a few hours later and now that he was apparently resigned to staying in hospital until pronounced fit by a medical professional, he was still trouble. All that talk about a kidnapping, she was wondering whether he wasn't a case for the psych department. And now, she had his father calling, demanding she check up on him at once. Were these men trying to make her miserable, she wondered as she knocked on the door to Doyle's room. From inside came the sound of something crashing. Cindy opened the door and was confronted with a most unexpected sight. A man she didn't recognize, dressed like a doctor was holding a pillow in his hands, mere inches from the head of Mr Doyle, who appeared to deeply asleep.

Seeing her, the man dropped the pillow back on the bed. He hurried towards her and the door, mumbling something that sounded something like 'excuse me'.

Cindy, however, would have none of it. Arms akimbo, she moved her considerable bulk to block the door.

"Who the hell are you?" she demanded, now sure that this man wasn't a doctor. The man tried to push her aside, but Cindy grabbed him by the arm, holding her ground.

"You..." she began, but froze in silent horror when the man pulled a gun out of the pocket of his white coat. Before Cindy could utter another sound, the man had pulled the trigger.




Mal tapped his foot impatiently and checked his watch again. It had been just over ten minutes since since Cindy the nurse had gone to check on Jake. This shouldn't be taking so long, Mal thought impatiently. What if there was something to Emily Hirsh's so-called vision? For the moment, she was sitting on the office couch, looking astoundingly placid and peaceful considering the bombshell she had dropped on Mal just now.

Another two minutes passed. Mal was growing increasingly anxious, unbidden images of Jake getting smothered by a pillow filling his mind. He tried to push them back without much success. The helpless waiting game wasn't to his liking at all. At the fifteen minute mark, he hing up the phone.

"Excuse me, Mrs Hirsh?"

"Yes?" she looked up from her behind her knitting which had probably come out of her large black purse.

"Would you mind if I called you back once I've straightened this out?" Mal asked, desperate to get her out of hos office and himself to the hospital.

Mrs Hirsh put her knitting back into her purse and got up. "Of course," she replied in, understanding and what looked like pity on her face.




The drive to the hospital seemed interminable to Mal who broke every speed limit trying to get there. He tried telling himself that this was insane and that there was no such thing as psychic visions. But the fear he felt was undeniable. When he finally reached the hospital, he didn't bother to find a parking space, but simply stopped his car at the curb and jumped out. He ignored the voice yelling after him and whoever it belonged to, rushing through the sliding glass doors. Not wanting to waste an instant, he skipped the elevator and took the stairs instead.

He ran past the nurses' station on the floor where Jake's room was. There was no one there and the phone was still off the hook, the way the nurse he'd spoken to had left it. Now he was certain that there was something terribly wrong. He appeared to have been right when a instant later, a piercing shriek reached his ears. When he rounded the corner and entered the corridor that led to Jake's room, he suddenly bumped into someone. Both of them went down in a tangled heap and it took a moment before Mal was able to disentangle himself. Once back on his feet, Mal tried to continue running, but the person - a young woman in nurses' scrubs - was clinging to his arm.

"Help," she gasped, her face pale and her eyes watery.

"What's wrong?" Mal asked, taking in her shocked appearance and also the dark red stains on her scrub top. Mal's anxiety ratcheted up yet another notch.

"Cindy...there....she," the young woman stammered incoherently. She managed however to point in the direction she had come from.

"Go call security! And a doctor!" Mal told her, forcibly extricating himself from her grip.

The door to Jake's room was open. Mal rushed inside towards the bed where Jake was lying, looking like he was asleep. He was nearly at his son's bedside, when his foot caught on something and he nearly tripped. Looking down, he not only saw the pillow that had almost caused him to fall, but also the bloody streaks that were running from the door into the room and around the bed. He kicked the pillow aside and rushed up to the bed.

"Jake!" he shook his son's shoulder. "Jake!" There was no reaction. To his immense relief, he found a pulse, even though, it felt weak and sluggish. Where was that doctor? He couldn't see any wounds or blood on Jake's person, so who had all the blood on the floor come from?  He rounded the bed following the blood smears. That was where he spotted the source of the blood. The body of a short rather stout woman. She too was dressed in nurses' scrubs. The most remarkable aspect however, was the horrific wound to her head. Mal had seen enough gunshot victims in his day to know that a large caliber weapon had to have inflicted that wound. Mal blew out a breath. This was getting worse and worse.




Security had promptly put the hospital on lock-down, no one was allowed to leave until a thorough search had been conducted. The police had been called in, but had yet to arrive. Until they did, security had sequestered Mal and the student nurse who had found the body in a small waiting area, with one of the security guards keeping them company.

The student nurse, whose name Mal had learned was Marion, was still in shock. She sat in her chair, arms wrapped around herself and rocking gently back and forth. Mal would have felt sorry for her, but he had other matters on his mind right now. Such as how Jake was doing. Security had dragged him from Jake's room as soon as they'd arrived. So far no one had had the courtesy of telling him how his son was doing. Mal was putting serious thought into making a get-away to find someone who could give him an update, when a familiar figure entered the waiting area. It was Jake's ex-wife, Nikki. The security guard immediately moved to block her path.

Mal couldn't hear what Nikki said to the security guard, but whatever it was, it had to be working because the guard moved aside. Mal got up, moving toward her.

"Nikki," he said urgently. "Do you know how Jake's doing?"

"Yes, Mal. They think he's going to be okay. He ingested an overdose of barbiturates, but you got to him in time," she reassured him. "He is still unconscious and they are keeping a close eye on him, but you should be able to see him later this afternoon."

"He must have been drugged," Mal thought out loud. "Someone tried to kill him."

"Are you sure?" Nikki asked in some surprise.

"Does it surprise you?" Mal asked, arching an eyebrow.

Nikki shook her head. "No, not really," she confirmed sadly. Then, after pause she said: "I need to go back to work." Nikki turned to leave.

"Thanks for letting me know," Mal called after her softly, feeling like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.




Three hours and a half hours after Hood had called in the request, the technicians with the ground penetrating radar equipment had finally showed up. By that time, Leslie was hungry, cranky and wet once again as it had begun to rain about half an hour earlier. She normally had an umbrella in her car for just such an occurrence, but her car was still parked at the cliff on the other side of town. All the exhilaration of having saved a girl's life that morning had evaporated and Leslie was left with aching knees and palms, not to mention a faint tickling at the back of her throat, foreshadowing nothing good.

The technician was in the process of explaining the ground penetrating radar technology to her and Sergeant Hood in very dry and technical terms, when Leslie's cell phone rang. She stepped away and pulled the phone from her jacket pocket, half expecting to see Jake's name on the display, but to her surprise, it was that of her boss, Inspector Cooper. She pressed the button to accept the call.

"Inspector Cooper, sir?" she answered.

"Sergeant Bennett, what's the latest?"

"The technician has just arrived with the equipment, sir. We don't know anything yet," Leslie reported, privately wondering since when the inspector took such a keen interest. Normally, he was only worried about his budget and, on occasion, clear-up rates. He was probably afraid that they'd blow the budget on what was a clearly a cold case with dim prospects for resulting in the successful prosecution of the culprit. It would be a minor miracle if they managed to identify the girl's remains, let alone lay their hands on whoever had put her here.

"I take it that not both you and Sergeant Hood are needed to supervise?"

"Um, no, I don't think so, sir," Leslie replied, somewhat puzzled.

"Good, there’s just been a shooting at the hospital. Can you get over there, get the ball rolling on this?"

A sudden uneasy feeling took hold of Leslie at her boss's words. Jake, he was in still hospital. With her luck, he was probably involved in this somehow.

"Of course. Anything I should know?" she asked.

"Uniform is already there and will brief you on the spot."

"I'll be on my way then, sir." Leslie replied and hung up. She walked back over to Sergeant Hood who, with a long suffering expression on his face was still listing to the technician ramble on about soil composition and image resolution.

"Sorry to interrupt," Leslie began. "But that was the inspector. I gotta go. Apparently, there's been a shooting down at the hospital."

Hood raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "I'll keep you posted."

Leslie turned to walk to her car, only to remember that it was still parked on the other side of town. Great, she'd have to take a cab. At the rate she was going, she'd probably spend half a week's pay on cab fare before she ever got her car back.




The hospital was still on lock-down when Leslie arrived. She showed her credentials to the security personnel guarding the front door. They were taking no chances and called for a police officer to come downstairs.

Once she was finally admitted into the building, Leslie turned to the officer who'd come to get here. "So, what's the story on this one?"

"We're not entirely sure yet, ma'am." the officer replied uncertainly.

"Well, what do you know?" Leslie was in no mood for games.

"We have one dead, a registered nurse by the name of Cindy Dobson, 43 years of age, a local. According to the coroner, she was shot in the head with a large caliber weapon. Security locked down the hospital as soon as they were alerted to the incident. It is possible that the shooter is still in the hospital, but so far, nothing's turned up."

"Where exactly was this nurse shot?" Leslie asked, trying to get an idea of what she was dealing with here.

"It was the room of a patient, one Jake Doyle. He's..."

"I know who he is," Leslie declared in resignation. "So Jake...Mr Doyle, witnessed the shooting?"

"No, not exactly. At least we don't think so."

"What exactly happened?" Leslie asked impatiently, enunciating every word clearly as if speaking to a child.

"We haven't been able to speak top Mr Doyle yet. He's currently being treated for a drug overdose."

Leslie frowned, this didn't make sense. Jake, idiot that he was, wasn't into drugs, at least as far as she knew. But she was wondering how well exactly she knew Jake.

"We'll probably able to talk to him tomorrow," the officer was saying. Leslie nodded, trying to swallow the lump of worry that had suddenly appeared in her throat.

"Here we are, Sergeant," the officer motioned to small waiting area where Malachy Doyle and a young woman were sitting. "I figured you'd want us to hang on to the people who discovered the body."

Leslie refrained from pointing out the fact that with the hospital on lock-down, nobody was going anywhere anyway.

TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Leslie decided to have a look at the crime scene first and have a word with the coroner, if possible.

Dr. Thorn was already waiting for her when she approached the cordoned off area.

"Sergeant Bennett," he exclaimed. "Didn't think I'd see you again today. I thought you were working the case of the remains out in the woods."

"So was I," Leslie commented darkly. "What can you tell me about this one?"

"Contrary to your body from this morning, this one doesn't present much of a mystery," Thorn said, sounding somewhat disappointed as he led the way into the hospital room.

"Watch your step,"! Thorn warned as he stepped around the blood smears and footprints on the floor. From the looks of it, at least half a dozen people had already walked through the blood, leaving an abundance of bloody prints all around the room and trailing well out into the hallway.

The bed had been removed from the room at some point, leaving a clear line of sight to the body crumpled at the far side of the room. It was that of a heavily built woman with short curly brown-grey hair. However, little of it was still visible in its original coloring. She was lying on her side arms stretched out as if she'd just been tossed there. Her head was surrounded by a large pool of slowly congealing blood. There was a large, deep wound where the right side of her head had once been.

"As you can no doubt deduce, Mrs Dobson died from a point-blank shot to the side of the head. You can see the powder burns left by the shot here," Thorn said, pointing to some dark residue on the pale skin at the edge of the wound.

"Given the damage, the weapon most likely a large caliber hand gun. The bullet entered at the right temple region at a slightly downward angle and exited on the let side of her face."

"Have you retrieved the bullet?" Leslie asked

"Yes, the guys from the scene unit dug it out of the wall in the corridor opposite the door."

"So, she wasn't shot in here?" Leslie tried to picture the scene ion her mind.

"I'd say she was most likely shot somewhere in the vicinity of the doorway." Thorn said. "He position indicated that she was most likely dragged in here after she was shot."

Leslie's eyes narrowed. "The shooter was inside the room?"

"Based on my preliminary analysis, that seems likely." Thorn replied.

Leslie frowned. What had the shooter been doing in the room with Jake? And who did all this tie in with Jake having been poisoned, presuming that was what had happened.

"Okay, thank you, Dr Thorn. If the crime scene guys are done, you can take away the body," Leslie said and left the room. Outside in the hallway, she found one of the crime scene investigators taking pictures of the bloody footprints. She looked up from her camera when she spotted Leslie.

"Sergeant Bennett," she nodded in acknowledgment. Leslie searched her memory for a name to go with the face. Lynch, something like that was the woman's last name, if she recalled correctly.

"Hey, is there anything you can tell me about the blood evidence?" Leslie asked.

The woman straightened with a grimace. "Unfortunately not much. It's one big mess that will take a while to sort out. There are bloody footprints all over the room and the hallway in both directions leading from the room."

"Can you tell if any of the footprints were left by the killer?"

The woman shook her head. "Not so far. But we did find this trail of blood drops." She pointed to a trail of fine blood drops on the ground. Together they walked along the trail past Jake's room and followed it until they reached the door leading to the stairwell.

"There is blood on the handle," Lynch pointed out. "I think the killer might have escaped into the stairwell."

"Has it been searched?" Leslie asked.

"I think they’re doing that now. There is one more thing you might want to see."

Lynch pushed the door open further with her gloved hand and pointed to a heap of bloody sheets and towels in the corner of the stairwell landing."

"We think these were used to try and mop up the blood. It's most likely also what left the drops, especially since there are none past the landing."

"Have these bagged and entered into evidence," Leslie told her. Lynch nodded. "Will do, Sergeant."

Leslie made her way back to the waiting area . She hoped that in talking to them, she would gain some clarity about what had happened and how a woman had come to be shot by someone in Jake's hospital room.




The security service had organized an empty office for her so that Leslie could interview the witnesses in private. Right now, she was sitting opposite Marion Dubrovnik, a student nurse and apparently the person who'd first discovered the body of Cindy Dobson.

"I don't...I don't know where to start," the young woman said nervously. "It was just so awful, seeing her like this." Tears were threatening to spill for what, judging by her reddened eyes, not the first time.

"Just start from the beginning," Leslie said in her most reassuring manner.

Marion nodded and wiped at her eyes with a tissue.

"I was looking for Cindy, but I couldn't find her anywhere. That's when I heard this loud bang...I've never read a gun being fired in real life, but it must have been that..." she trailed off.

"Can you tell me around what time that was?" Leslie asked gently.

"I don't know...maybe around 1.45 p.m., but I'm not sure, I just can't remember," Marion was obviously deeply upset over the whole incident.

"That's fine," Leslie replied. She could later get a more accurate time from Mal, but noted the time given by Marion in her notebook anyway.

"So, you heard a loud bang. What did you do then?" Leslie prompted when Marion didn't continue.

"I didn't know what to make of it," Marion confessed. "I didn't know it had been a gunshot. I thought...well, I don't remember what I thought, but I continued looking for Cindy on the ward. If only I'd realized sooner..maybe I could have done something to help Cindy."

"You did nothing wrong," Leslie reassured her. Who knew, if Marion had reacted quicker, she might have become a victim as well. That thought however, Leslie made sure to keep to herself. "Now, try to remember, what did you do next?"

"I saw...blood on the floor in front of room 605," Marion continued haltingly. "I opened the door. There was more blood on the floor. I asked Mr Doyle if he was all right, but he didn’t answer. I went in...to check on him, that's when...that's when I saw her." Marion began to cry again. "It was horrible," she managed in between sobs.

Leslie allowed the young woman some time to compose herself, before she went on. "Before you went into the room, did you see anyone else?"

Marion thought for a moment, then shook her head. "I don't think so." Then after a moment’s pause, she said: "I did hear a door slamming, just before..."

"That door, was it like the door to one of the patient's rooms, or something heavier?"

"I can't...I can't remember."

"Please, try. Just close your eyes and go back to that moment in your mind."

Marion did as asked and closed her eyes.

"Now, go back to that moment," Leslie instructed. "You were in the hallway walking towards Mr Doyle's room when you heard the sound."

For a long time, Marion was silent, a look of intense concentration on her face. Finally, she said: "It wasn't a room door. I think it was the door that leads into the stairwell. Yes, it must have been that."

With this, Leslie concluded Marion's interview, gave her her card and told her to come to the station for an official statement. Leslie leaned back on her chair for a moment, thinking over what she'd just been told. Everything Marion had said fitted in what she already knew. It had not however answered any of the still obscure points, nor had she learned anything else about the killer that would help her track him down, assuming he wouldn't be found in the hospital during the search.

Why had a man with a gun been in Jake's room? Presumably he had been after the private detective, but why hadn't he shot Jake then. Leslie was grateful that he hadn't, but it still made her wonder. And how was all this connected to Jake being poisoned? If the killer had a gun why bother with drugs? Leslie sighed and got up from her chair. She wasn't going to find the answers sitting here. Time to check in with the officers con ducting the search and then she'd go to interview Mal.




The search was progressing, but had yet to turn up anything probative when Leslie took a seat apposite Mal in the same office where she'd previously interviewed the student nurse Marion. The contrast between the two witnesses was like night and day. Mal narrated how he'd come to the hospital to see his son only to run into the hysterical student nurses in the hallway and had then, in the process of investigating found Cindy Dobson murdered and Jake unconscious and unresponsive in his bed in a clear and concise manner.

Leslie made notes as he spoke and once had finished, she sat for a moment, thinking, before asking: "Do you have any idea why someone would want to hurt Jake?"

"Other than him being his usual charming self?" Mal asked sarcastically, but then shook his head. "I don't know." Leslie got the impression that Mal was holding something back on this point, but decided it was useless to press him further. Instead, she asked, "Then he didn't tell you about the kidnapping?" She had figured that Jake had told everyone who he'd been able to think of about what he had allegedly seen.

Now it was Mal's turn to be taken aback. "What kidnapping?" asked he in astonishment.

"He didn't tell you about that?" Leslie asked rhetorically. "He phoned both me and Sergeant Hood this morning saying he'd witnessed a kidnapping here at the hospital. Said he'd seen some girl getting dragged into a car in the parking lot."

Oddly enough, for a brief moment, Leslie thought she detected something akin to relief on Mal's features, but the expression was immediately replaced by mild curiosity and, if Leslie wasn't completely mistaken, concern.

Mal shook his head, then asked, "you think this is related to what he saw?"

"I have no idea," Leslie confessed, "And anyway, I don't see how anyone could have known that he was a witness in the first place. I mean we haven't even established that there was a kidnapping, let alone started an investigation."

"No one else reported seeing anything?"

"No, not so far. I made some calls earlier today, but no one else had called the police about a similar incident, nor has anyone matching that girl's description been reported missing recently," Leslie said and shrugged. Personally, she didn't know what to make of Jake's story, especially in light of his having been poisoned. It would make sense if whoever had kidnapped the girl was trying to get rid of a witness, but how could they possible know that he'd witnesses something? From how Jake had recounted the incident, he'd witnesses the whole thing from a window  from above so it was unlikely that the kidnapper, if he existed, had spotted him from the parking lot below.

"It might be too early for a missing person's report," Mal considered. "But I'd appreciate it if you could keep an eye out for any new reports."

"So you think there is something to all this?" Leslie questioned.

Mal nodded, maybe a little to emphatically before answering rather non-committally: "He must have seen something."

Leslie concluded the interview with the distinct impression that Mal was holding something back, but unable to figure it out. She was almost certain that he had some idea why someone would try and poison Jake, but for whatever reason, he had decided not to share it with the police. Knowing him, he'd probably try and get to the bottom of the matter himself. She'd be very surprised if she didn't catch one or both of the Doyle men meddling in this case again at some point in the future.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Mal pulled up to their home, surprised to see that the lights were still on. He parked his car and got out. He was searching his pockets for his house key as he walked up to the front door. When trying to insert the key into the lock in the dim light, he fumbled, dropping the keys by accident. Cursing under his breath, he bent down only to find that his keys had landed on an envelope lying on the doormat. Mal picked up it and his heart sped up when he recognized the lettering on the front. It was the same ungainly writing that had been on the threatening letter that had arrived in the post that morning. Hen quickly slipped the letter into the inside pocket of his jacket, just in case Rose had decided to wait up for him. He unlocked the front door and stepped inside. Probably having heard the sound of the keys in the door, Rose came walking up to greet him, a glass of wine in hand.

"You shouldn't have waited up for me," Mal said in lieu of a greeting.

"Nice to see you, too," Rose returned.

"I'm sorry, it's been a long day," Mal apologized to his wife.

"It's okay, I understand. How's Jake?" Rose asked while he slipped out of his jacket.

"Still out like a light, but he's out of danger," Mal was glad to report. "He should be back to his usual self by tomorrow."

"That's good to hear," Rose said. "have you eaten yet?"

"Yeah, I got something from the cafeteria earlier," Mal replied, making his way into the living room where he sank down on the couch, The day has been more trying than he liked to admit. The lull of the morning had long since been forgotten.

He had been so lost in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed Rose leaving the room. He startled slightly when Rose re-entered the living room, carrying a second glass of wine.

"You look like you could use this," she said, handing him the glass. Mal took a large sip. He'd prefer something stronger, but this would have to do for now.

"Tinny in bed?" Mal asked.

"Yes. She wanted to wait up, but I finally convinced her to go to bed about an hour ago."

"I would have come earlier if I could have," Mal said gently. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting."

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Rose told him, taking a seat next to him on the couch. "Do the police have any idea who poisoned Jake?"

"Not that I know of," Mal replied, wondering if he should mention his strange client and her vision of Jake being in danger. "Leslie caught the case. She told me that Jake called her this morning, saying that he'd witnesses a kidnapping at the hospital. Do you know anything about that? he added casually.

Rose shook her head. "No, I haven't heard from Jake since he landed back in hospital. So, he saw someone getting kidnapped?"

Mal shrugged. "At least that's what he told Leslie, so I think he must have been serious. I don't really know what that was all about."

"Well, I'm sure Leslie will get to the bottom of it," Rose replied.

"She isn't going to be the only one," Mal replied darkly, He had no intention of letting the person who poisoned and probably tried to kill his son get away. He was going to find them and bring them justice, even if it meant he'd have to interfere with Leslie's investigation, God knew, she was probably used to it by now.

Mal got up from his seat.

"You heading to bed?" Rose asked, smothering a yawn.

"No, I think I'll stay up a little while longer. I was just going to get some more wine."

Mal walked into the kitchen, glass in hand. He stopped dead when he spotted the vase filled with at least a dozen red roses sitting on the counter. Mal put his glass down to have a closer look at the bouquet, but there was no card attached.

"Rose," Mal asked, returning to the living room. "Whose flowers are those?"

"Uh, actually I don't know. They were just sitting on the doorstep when I came home tonight. Why do you ask?"

"Just curious," Mal replied, frowning. The flowers, though innocuous enough on the surface, were making him uneasy. Too many things were showing up on their doorstep today.

"If you don't mind, I'm going to turn in now," Rose said and got up from the couch.

"It's okay," Mal replied. "I just...I just need some time to unwind."

"No problem. Good night, Mal," she said with a quick peck on Mal's cheek, before leaving him alone in the living room.

Once he was sure that he was alone, he picked up his jacket from where he'd hung it over the back of the couch. Using a tissue, he pulled the envelope from the jacket's inner pocket. Not having a letter opener handy, he returned to the kitchen and used a sharp pointed knife to slit open the envelope. Careful not to leave his own fingerprints on the paper, he pulled out the enclosed piece of paper.

It contained only a single line of type-written text.

Are you catching on yet?



Not exactly a threat, but in light of the other letter, there was a pattern emerging that Mal didn't like one bit. While the letter itself didn't leave any clues as to who the intended recipient was, but considering that Jake was living on his own now and had been for some time, it was most likely that it was addressed to Mal himself. Putting the letter back into his jacket pocket, Mal hung up the jacket, before switching off the light.




Much as Leslie had predicted, the search of the hospital only resulted in numerous complaints from both visitors and hospital employees. No trace of the killer had been found. The last place they had been able to trace him to had been the sixth floor landing, but no further evidence of his presence had been found either in the stairwell nor anywhere else. They couldn't even tell whether he'd descended the stairs or ascended them. In the end, they had had no choice but to lift the lock-down on the hospital, despite the risk that they were letting a killer stroll out of there unhindered.

Earlier that afternoon, she had managed to get a hold of Dr. Gibson, the physician treating Jake after his overdose.

"Mr Doyle was very lucky that his father found him when he did," Dr. Gibson told her. "A blood test revealed dangerously high levels of Barbital, a type of sedative. By the time we got to him, his respiratory function had been seriously compromised."

"But he is going to be okay?" Leslie asked. She hadn't realized until that moment, just how serious Jake's overdose had been and now that she did, the anxiety and worry she felt were undeniable. She wished she could treat this just like any other case, but with Jake involved that was going to be impossible. Not for the first time, Leslie wished she could just turn off her feelings for the private detective, but try as she might she couldn't. No matter the outrageous things he got up to, she couldn't bring herself to truly hate him. She had thought she did for a while after had gotten her fired, but recent events had shown her that even the, albeit temporary, loss of her job hadn't managed to annihilate her feelings for Jake.

"In all likelihood yes," the doctor reassured her.

"Is it possible that the overdose was accidental?" Leslie didn't think that very likely, not when taking into account Jake's profession and personality, but she had to cover all the bases.

Dr. Gibson looked at her in disbelief but answered:

"It's highly unlikely. The overdose was significant, pretty much ruling out an accident. Besides, Barbital isn't even used medicinally anymore."

"Then where would someone get this drug?" Leslie asked. She had never heard of this stuff, so she doubted that any run-of-the-mill drug dealer would sell it at a street corner.

"It is still used in veterinary practice, for putting down animals."

"Do you know how it was administered?" Leslie asked.

"Most likely in was somehow put into his food or drink. It does taste slightly bitter, but no so much it couldn't be masked."

"Who would have access to the food that's served to patients?"

"Any number of people. Kitchen staff, nurses, orderlies," Dr. Gibson said and shrugged.

"How about someone from outside the hospital?" Leslie asked.

Dr. Gibson hesitated. "It's possible. The orderlies who distribute the meal trays usually leave the cart with all the trays outside in the hallway while they bring a patient his tray. It's possible that someone from outside used that opportunity to drug Mr Doyle's food."

Great, just great, Leslie thought. The pool of suspects was rapidly growing to include just about everyone in town. Just what every detective dreamed of in a murder investigation. Maybe ballistics would help narrow the field down, but it was unlikely that the report would be in before afternoon the next day.




It was late when Leslie finally made it to the station. There was no sign of Hood, so either he was still at the scene or had already gone home. The first thing she spotted when she walked up to her desk was a note. She picked it up, reading the text.

It concerned the kidnapping Jake had called her about that morning. Apparently, unlike she had first assumed, he hadn't just called Sergeant Hood and herself, he had also called Constable Markham and gotten him to run the plate number from the alleged abductors car. Registered owner was Alonzo Sanchez. Leslie sighed, pulled out her chair and sat down. She could always take a cab home and go get her car the next day.





Rose was brewing coffee in the kitchen the next day, when Tinny came in. She was still in her pajamas, yawning heavily.

"Morning, Rose," she mumbled in between yawns. She walked over to the fridge, grabbing a carton of orange juice. She rummaged in one of the overhead cabinets before turning to Rose.

"Rose, have you seen..." Tinny began but broke off.

"What's it Tinny?" Rose asked.

"Where did you get those flowers?"

"The roses? I don't know, they were standing on the doorstep when I came home from the grocery store last night. I figured you might know who they were from?"


Tinny shook her head vigorously. "I have no idea," she said, turning away and walking out of the kitchen, leaving the carton of juice sitting on the counter.

"Tinny, what about your juice?" Rose called after her, but got no answer. Shaking her head, she put the carton back into the fridge.

Five minutes later, Des walked into the kitchen.

"Rose, have you seen Tinny?" he asked.

"Yeah, she was just in here," Rose replied. "Why?"

"I can't find her anywhere," Des replied. "You sure she didn't go out?"

"I don't know, she didn't say anything." Rose replied, wondering why Des was being so insistent. But then, this was Des, so who knew what was going on in his head. Rose shook her head in puzzlement, turning her attention back to the dishes in the sink.





After getting up at the crack of dawn after a short night in order to fetch her car and still get to the office as a decent hour, Leslie was not in a good mood when she finally arrived at the station in her own car. She was tired and a headache was already making itself known despite the relatively early hour. As she had predicted the day before the forensics reports were not in it, but the autopsy report of Cindy Dobson was waiting for her on her desk. Leslie sat down and flipped through the pages.

There were no surprises there. Cindy Dobson had been in reasonably good health at the time of her death which was due to a close range bullet to the head. Much of the report reiterated and confirmed what Dr. Thorn had told her at the scene.

This wasn't go to help, Leslie thought and put the report aside for the time being. She checked her watch. It was 8.45 a.m.. By the time she'd get to the hospital, it would be at least 9. Although she in no way felt like dealing with any member of the Doyle family, she would have to take Jake's statement sooner or later and the sooner she got it out o the way, the better she'd feel and then she'd be able to get back to to business of finding a murderer.

TBC

Chapter Text

For a long moment, Jake blinked slowly at the white ceiling with bleary eyes, content to just be. He felt heavy with an odd grogginess and lassitude that turned every thought into a serious effort. Only gradually, his mind seemed to wake, thoughts coming slightly faster now. He realized with some delay that he wasn’t in his apartment. This confused him at first, until the events of the previous few days came back to him. They seemed foggy and distant, almost like a dream and for a moment, he wasn't sure if they'd actually happened of he'd merely dreamed them. The reality of it all came back to him however when he felt a sharp twinge in his shoulder in response to moving his right arm. The pain not only brought him back to reality, but also appeared to clear some of the cobwebs from his mind. Using his good arm, Jake pushed himself up into an upright sitting position. He looked around the now familiar hospital room, feeling like there was something else that he should remember but which for now was eluding him. He was pondering this mystery when the door opened and Dr. Gibson entered.

"Good morning, Mr Doyle. How do you feel?" she asked cheerily.

"Groggy," Jake replied slowly, his mind and senses still somewhat dulled.

"That's to be expected. There is someone from the police here to ask you some questions. Do you feel up to that?"

Jake nodded, as another piece of the puzzle slid into place. The kidnapping, he'd almost forgotten about that. Maybe someone would finally take him seriously, he thought. He was so lost in his thoughts that he never noticed Dr Gibson leave and Leslie enter.

"Hi Jake," a familiar voice tore him from his thoughts.

"Leslie," Jake looked up, a smile spreading over his features. "Let me guess, you've changed your mind?"

Leslie merely frowned at that and Jake got the sense that this wasn't a social call.

"I'm here on police business, so don't even start, Jake. I'm in no mood for your antics," she said wearily, and pulled a pen and notebook from her pocket.

"So, what did you find out?" Jake asked all business now.

"About what?" Leslie seemed confused which in turn only added to Jake's own confusion.

"The kidnapping?" Jake asked.

"That's not why I'm here, Jake," Leslie said, her voice filled with a gentleness like it was rarely directed at him.

"Not that I don't welcome your presence any time, but then why are you here?" Jake asked.

"Someone shot and killed a nurse yesterday on this ward," Leslie explained.

Jake thought back to the previous day. He was surprised to find that aside from the events of the morning, he had no memories of the rest of the day, he frowned mightily, before asking:

"I didn't know. When did that happen?"

"That's not surprising," Leslie replied. "It happened yesterday between 1.15 and 1.45 p.m. while you were unconscious after an overdose of Barbital. Someone tried to kill you, Jake, so you better take this seriously."

Jake had not seen that coming and for a rare moment he was speechless. He recovered quickly however and asked: "Did you get the guy?"

Leslie shook her head. "We're still looking. Now is there anything..." she said but Jake interrupted her. "Can you check that cabinet over there? I need my clothes."

"Jake, you're not..."

"Yes, I am," Jake interrupted her his voice firm. "Look Leslie, I'm not going to sit here on my ass while someone out there wants me dead," he argued.

"Have you ever considered that the police might be fully capable, not to mention better equipped to deal with a case like this?" Leslie asked, but her voice was resigned. Jake only looked at her in his 'you can't be serious' fashion.

"At least do the doctors the favour of actually signing yourself out this time," Leslie said. "And by the way, I'm not going to call an ambulance if you fall flat on your face again."




Leslie had known that trying to persuade Jake to stay in hospital would be fruitless, so she hadn’t even tried beyond a token protest. She had been able to convince him to sign himself out properly, even if it was against medical advice and to fill the prescription for pain killers and anti-biotics Dr. Gibson had written for him.

"Where are we off to now?" Jake asked as they were walking out of the hospital building.

"You are going to show me where exactly the kidnapping happened," Leslie said. She hated to give in to Jake like that, but she had always been powerless against him when it counted. It didn't help that he had a point when he'd argued just now that the attempt on his life was likely connected to what he'd witnessed earlier that day.

Jake seemed surprised at her answer, as if he hadn't expected her to take him seriously. He said nothing however and led the way towards the parking area. He looked around briefly, then headed towards an empty spot.

"Here, the pick-up was parked here," he told her. He looked up at the hospital building behind them, then shook his head. "It's impossible to tell if anyone is watching from one of those windows," he said after a several seconds of close scrutiny.

"Then how could the kidnapper know that you saw him?" Leslie wondered, more to herself than to Jake.

Jake shrugged, but ended up wincing with pain instead.

"Stop that!" Leslie reproached him, the words coming out more harshly than she'd intended.

Jake raised his hands in a defensive gesture. "You were worried about me," he stated with a triumphant grin.

"No," Leslie replied, but her heart wasn't in it.

"You were worried about me," he repeated, grin even wider.

Leslie barely heard him. She had just spotted something - a security camera fixed to a sign post.

"Leslie?" Jake asked, then, in following her line of sight, caught on.

"CCTV footage," he said. "We might have the abduction on video."




The security chief remembered Leslie from the previous day which fortunately didn't seem to have done his opinion of her any harm. "Sergeant Bennett, what can I do for you?" he greeted her cordially.

"I would like to have a look at your security footage of the parking lot from yesterday morning," Leslie said.

The security chief, a big burly man with a pleasant open face, replied: "Of course, if you think it'll help you clear up this nasty business. Do you want to look at it here or should I make you a copy? It's all digital these days," he added in the way of explanation.

"We'll look it at here," Jake replied before Leslie could speak. The security chief looked questioningly at Leslie, who only nodded.

"All right, if you'd follow me please." Leslie and Jake followed the man to the security office on the first floor. In a backroom of the office, a lone security guard was situated in front of a desk full of monitors, each showing four different camera feeds.

"Tucker, can you bring up the video from yesterday morning, cameras 13 and 14," the chief instructed his employee. "Those are the cameras covering the car park," he explained to Leslie and Jake. "What time do you need?"

Once again it was Jake who replied: "Can you start playing from 11:45 a.m.?"

"Sure," the chief nodded. "Tucker, cue it up." Tucker clicked a bunch of keys on a keyboard sitting in front the central monitor. A moment later, a black and white video started playing on screen.

"That's camera 14." The chief explained. "It covers the entrance to the parking lot."

"Can you bring up the other one?" Jake asked quietly.

The angle was far from ideal, but the spot was visible on the video captured by the second camera.
    
"Fast forward a bit," Jake said. Right there was no car in the spot where the van had been when Jake had looked out of the window.

Keys clicked and the video sped up. After a few seconds had elapsed, a dark van pulled into the space, unfortunately, the driver's side door wasn't visible on the video. For a good few minutes, people and cars were coming and going.

Suddenly, Jake spoke: "Slow it down please."

Leslie closely regarded the screen, trying to zero in on what Jake had seen. A moment later, a girl who'd just entered the frame walked around the car towards the passenger door. A few feet from the door, she stopped turning into the direction of the cameras blind spot. For a few moments, she stood there, then a man joined her, grabbing her roughly by the arm as the two stood there, clearly having some sort of argument, judging by their angry gestures. Suddenly, the man seemed to have enough and bodily dragged the obviously resisting girl towards the door. He used one hand to open the passenger door before shoving the girl roughly inside. He then shut the door behind her and walked out of the frame. After a few seconds had elapsed, the door pulled out of the spot, driving off camera.

"We'll need a copy of that," Leslie said, then turned to the chief. "You said there was a camera covering the parking lot entrance. How about the exit?"

"That would have been camera 16. Some vandals broke it the other day and it's not been fixed, I'm afraid," he said apologetically. "Do you think this is connected to the murder of that poor nurse?" he asked, gesturing towards the monitor where they' just witnessed the kidnapping.

Jake opened his mouth to reply, but Leslie beat him to it: "It's one of the possibility we're investigating at the moment." She shot Jake a dark glance that clearly told him to keep his mouth shut.

"Well, if there is anything I can help you guys with, let me know."




"I say we go pay Alonzo Sanchez a visit next," Jake suggested eagerly as soon as they'd left the security office with a copy of the requested footage on a disc.

"How about I drop you off at home and then I get back to work?" Leslie asked sarcastically, already knowing what Jake's answer would be. Jake didn't dignify her question with a reply, and simply ignored her and kept walking in direction of the parking lot.

When they arrived at Leslie car, Jake spoke: "If you want to drop me off at my place, go ahead, but we both know that I won't stop investigating this case."

"All right," Leslie agreed grudgingly. It went against her better judgment, but by sticking with Jake, she'd at least be able to keep an eye on the private detective and keep him from getting into too much trouble. "But I need to drop by the station first."

"Whatever you say," Jake replied with a grin.





"Morning, Dan." The familiar voice made Hood look up from the screen of the monitor of his office computer.

"Mal," he nodded in acknowledgment. "What can I do for you?" he asked figuring that Mal wouldn't just be paying him a social visit.

Mal handed him a folder. Hood opened it. Inside were two  cream-colored mailing envelopes and two letters on the same kind of paper. He was about the examine them more closely, when Mal said. "Careful, there might be fingerprints on them."

Hood raised his eyebrows and dug out a pair of disposable gloves from his jacket pocket. Putting them on, he examined the letters.

"Okay," he said at length after he'd finished. "I guess these are hardly the first anonymous letters you've gotten. Nor the first threats, if that's what they are."

"They aren't," Mal confirmed, "but I'd appreciate it if you could run them past forensics."

"Really?" Hood queried in mock astonishment. It figured. "Listen, Dan, I wouldn't be asking this if it weren't for what happened to Jake yesterday," Mal said.

"Yeah I heard," Hood said. "Bennett is working that case, so you better show these to her."

"I would, if I thought she'd listen," Mal said impatiently.

"I don't blame her," Hood muttered under his breath while making sure Mal heard it.

"Please, Dan, just have forensics have a look at them, okay? I'll owe you one."

"Like that's new," Hood commented, but Mal was already leaving.

The folder and its contents were still sitting on Hood's desk. Great, now what, he thought. Then he had an idea. He grabbed a sticky note, scribbled down a short message, affixed the note to the folder and deposited the whole lot on Bennett's desk. Let her deal with the Doyle's and their crazy shenanigans. It was her case after all. Contrary to what Mal and Jake seemed to think, the police didn't solely exists to help them out in their investigations.

He had a case, as it is happened. As a matter of fact, it was a humdinger of a case. After a tedious and rather wet afternoon spent in the woods, one victim had turned into three. Three bodies belonging to three young girls, all buried in the same clearing. According to the coroner’s preliminary opinion, they had been buried their during a period of several years, with the first victim they had discovered most likely having been there the longest. Right now, however there wasn't much he could do save wade his way through the missing person's database to see if there were any potential matches while he waited for DNA testing to be carried out. If that failed to identify their victims, they' have to rely on dental records and would need something to compare them to, hence his trawling of the huge missing person's register. Without a definite time frame however, it was proving difficult to narrow the list down to a manageable size. It didn't help that he had no details about the physical appearance of the victims.

Help however wasn't long in arriving. It did so in the form of the coroner's preliminary report delivered by the man himself. Hood grabbed the file and eagerly scanned it for any detail that would help narrow his search.

"Anything I should know?" he asked when Dr. Thorn didn't leave immediately, but instead remaining standing in front of his desk.

"I just figured you'd want to cliff's notes version," Thorn suggested.

"Go on."

"All right, victim number one is a Caucasian female, approximate age at the time of death, eight to ten years. She's been buried for at least five or six years, but my estimate would be rather upwards of ten years. Victim number 2, also Caucasian, same age range as the first victim, but buried for only approximately three years. Victim number 3, same age and race as the other two, buried between maybe eight to ten years ago. You're dealing with a serial killer, sergeant."

"Any indication of how they were killed?"

"Broken hyoid bones on two of the three victims indicates that they were strangled. The oldest victim showed no signs of having been strangled, but I did find a rotational fracture to her left forearm. Someone grabbed her arm and twisted it hard. Also, she suffered a skull fracture. Neither of the fractures showed signs of healing, so they must have occurred around the time of her death. and before you ask, I cannot determine with absolute certainty of the wound that led to the skull fracture was the cause of death. The fracture on its own isn't enough to have caused death, but she could have easily developed bleeding on the brain as a result and that, if left untreated, could have resulted in death."

"What about the fabric shreds you found?"

"We work fast, but not that fast," Thorn replied. "I'll let you know once they've been analyzed." he paused, then went on casually: "Any luck on missing person's yet?"

Hood shook his head. "It's incredible how many kids go missing. I hope your finding will help narrow down the list."

"Good luck, sergeant," Thorn bade him good-bye and left.

Hood shook his head, thinking that it had to be a slow day at the coroner's office if the man had the time to come here and chat, but at least it had saved him from having to wade through pages and pages of report to get to the pertinent details. He would read the rest later. Right now, he had three dead girls to identify and a massive list of missing persons to sift through.

Over the course of the next few hours, he managed to find a total of five missing person's cases that were possible matches to the three bodies. The first victim had proven especially challenging as here the date range was the largest. He had gone back fifteen years in his search. He would have to pull all five the case files to get a better idea of the circumstances of each disappearance. But first, he decided, he needed a bite to eat. Strolling out of the office, he nearly bumped into Leslie Bennett walking rapidly along the hallway, looking tired and harassed.

"Bennett, I heard you caught that murder at the hospital," he greeted her.

"Don't remind me," Leslie grumbled. Then brightening a bit, she said: "Anything else turn up at the scene from yesterday?"

"Two more bodies," Hood sighed. "Also little girls, around the same age as the first one."

Leslie's fave grew thoughtful. "How did they die?" she asked.

Hood was slightly surprised at the interest she was taking in a case she wasn't investigating anymore, but answered nonetheless: "Two were strangled, the other might have died from a blow to the head, but the doc couldn't be sure."

Leslie's face took on an intent expression. "There's something that's been bugging me, every since yesterday," she began. "I don't know what exactly, but all this seems very familiar."

"Familiar how?" Hood asked.

"I can't put my finger on it, but I think I've read about a similar case. I just can't remember the details," she shrugged apologetically.

"I hope you're wrong on that," Hood said. "But I'll have a look and see if there have been any similar murders in the area."

"Thanks." Leslie hurried away and was gone before he could reply.

"Wonder what's up with her," he muttered to himself.


TBC

Chapter Text

Not wanting to ask Rose for help as Mal hadn't wanted to explain his reasons for needing the address of Emily Hirsh, he had taken it upon himself to track her down. Rose would probably have gotten the job done faster, but at last he had succeed and under the guise of running errands was now pulling up in front Mrs Hirsh's residence. He parked his car and got out. He did feel somewhat stupid running after a client this way, especially since there was a good chance that said client was either a pathological liar or delusional, but the events of the previous days had given him to think. She had predicted someone attaching Jake and although he had been poisoned instead of smothered, it was hard to deny that in essence her vision or whatever it was had saved his son's life. So Mal shook of the uncomfortable feeling and walked up to the front door. He pressed the bell, waiting for a response from within.

A few moment later, the door was opened by the woman herself. She didn't seem surprised to see him in the least. Maybe she really was psychic, Mal thought, suddenly at something of a loss to explain why he'd come.  He didn't have to explain though as Emily Hirsh simply smiled at him.

"Please come in Mr Doyle," she told him and motioned for him to enter the house.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you on a Sunday like this..." Mal began, but Emily interrupted him.

"I'm in the middle of baking a cake, but we can talk in the kitchen, if you don't mind," she said sweetly.

"Oh, okay," Mal followed her from a cluttered hallway into an equally cluttered kitchen. It was evident that he had interrupted her culinary efforts - a bowl with flower was sitting on the counter, next to it where some butter and a few eggs. Emily turned her attention to her work and carefully separated the eggs. Mal watched  her for a moment, thinking about how he'd best put into words what he wanted to say. There simply seemed not good way to say 'I think you're a fraud, but thanks for saving my son's live yesterday. Instead he said: "I just wanted...I wanted to thank you for yesterday. I don't know how you do what you do, but you were right someone tried to kill my son Jake yesterday."

"That's quite all right," she said, "I don't know how I do either," she said with a smile. "Is your son all right?"

"Yeah, they got to him in time. He's going to be fine" Mal answered. "Now when you came to my office yesterday, you said you had information about the Douglas Richter case, but you ever got around to telling me exactly what it is you wanted me to find out."

Emily paused in what she was doing and turned to Mal: "I want you to find out what happened to a girl by the name of Ellen Hirsh. She's my late husbands daughter from his first marriage. She disappeared twelve years ago."

Mal frowned. "And what does that have to do with Douglas Richter?"

"I believe he murdered Ellen," Emily said calmly.

That didn't make any sense, Mal thought. Richter had been in jail twelve years ago. Maybe his first instinct had been right after all and Emily was nuts and he was just wasting his time talking to her.

"How do you know that?"

"I saw it, just like I saw your son being attacked," Emily explained.

"But wasn't Douglas Richter in prison twelve years ago?"

Emily sighed. "I know, but I've never before been wrong in those things. The police didn't believe me, so I want you to find out what happened to Ellen."

"All right," Mal said, ignoring the uneasy feeling in his stomach, "Can you tell me exactly what you did see?"

"It was a few weeks ago, I was going through my husband's things, you know, trying to decide what to keep, what to give away, that sort of thing, when I found that suitcase with some of Ellen's things - a diary, a few of her clothes, a doll, some photographs. I had no idea they were there, my husbands always refused to even speak about Ellen with me. As soon as I touched her clothes, I had what you'd call a vision. I saw Ellen. She was being held somewhere dark, maybe a cellar?" Emily paused for a moment then continued: "Ellen was crying. There was a man coming into the room, he yelled at her to be quiet, but she wouldn't stop crying. He grabbed her, twisted her arm and then slammed her against the wall."

"So what makes you think that Douglas Richter has anything to do with this?" Mal asked after Emily had concluded her narrative.

"I also saw a flash of the other room when the man was coming down the stairs., There was this...this board on the wall, with a bunch of newspaper clippings pinned to it. I could only make out some of the headlines, but they were all related to the murders Richter committed."

Assuming that he accepted her story, that still didn't mean that Richter was involved in any way.

"What did the man look like?" Mal asked, hoping that would settle the matter.

"I'm not sure, I never saw his face. I only caught a few glimpses of him. He was wearing those peculiar kind of heavy boots...like someone working construction maybe. I also got the impression that he was rather tall."

"Anything else?"

"Well, he was white, with light hair, I think," Emily screwed up her face in concentration, biting her lip as she thought. "That's all I got, I'm sorry."

Mal thought back to the murder trial, Richter had had light brown hair, but to call him tall was a bit of stretch. Still, it probably depended on one's perspective. Emily Hirsh was a petite woman, to her most men probably seemed tall.

"Can you tell me something about the circumstances of Ellen's disappearance?" Mal asked.

Emily's face lit up. "So, you'll take the case?" she asked eagerly.

"I can't make any promises, but I'll make some inquiries," Mal answered after a moment's hesitation. Damn, whether he liked it or not, he owed this woman. Taking her case, even if it was likely a waste of time, was the least he could do.

"I know very little about Ellen or her disappearance, as my husband refused to talk about it. All I know is what his first wife told me. According to her, Ellen vanished one day on her way back from school. She was seen leaving the bus, but never made it home."

"And when was this exactly?" Mal asked.

Emily shrugged. "I don't know the exact date, only that it was in summer 2000. I think it was just before the school summer holidays."

"One last question: can you give me the name and address of Ellen's mother?"

"Sure," Emily replied. "I'll just get a piece of paper to write the details down for you," With that she left him in the kitchen, alone to ponder the mystery that was this case. Always assuming that there was a case. He still hadn't discarded the possibility that Emily was delusional and wasting his time, even if she probably believed that her vision were genuine.

Emily returned to the kitchen, a scarp of paper in her hand. "That's Louisa Hayden's address."

"She went back to her maiden name after the divorce," Emily explained.

Mal bade Emily good-bye, promising that would keep her posted and soon found himself back in his car, driving homeward.




Jake was waiting impatiently in Leslie's car, drumming his fingers on the dashboard when Leslie finally returned after over half an hour's absence. She opened the driver's side door and Jake had just opened his mouth to ask her if she'd learned anything of interest, when her cell phone chirped. Leslie took one look at the message on screen before pocketing the phone once again. Jake had not however missed the smile ghosting across her face as she'd read the text message.

"Who was that?" he asked, genuinely curious and if he was honest with himself, also a bit jealous. It wasn't like Leslie and he were in an exclusive relationship, in fact they weren't even in a relationship at all, but that didn’t stop him from feeling the way he did. Not that he had any justification for jealousy, he thought, thinking back to his recent flirtations with his ex-wife Nikki.

"None of your business," Leslie replied, as she got into the driver's seat and buckled her seat belt. She started the car and pulled out of the parking space.

"So, anything from ballistics?" Jake asked the question he'd originally had on his mind, before Leslie had gotten that text message.

"As a matter of fact, yes. The bullet that killed the nurse matched an open case from about a year ago. The body of a young woman was washed ashore just outside of town. A couple of hikers found her. She'd been killed with the same gun. Her name was Sarah Adams, a known prostitute. The case is still unsolved."

"Where there any leads?" Jake asked.

"Her pimp, one Thomas Skiver, was the main suspect, but as they couldn't link him to the gun, the case eventually went cold," Leslie told him.

"Mhm," was Jake's only reply. He was thinking back to the kidnapping and the man who the car was registered to. He too was known to have been a pimp. Could there possibly be a connection between the kidnapping of the girl and the murder of the prostitute?

"How old was the victim, Sarah Adams?" Jake asked Leslie.

"She'd just turned nineteen. Why do you ask?" Leslie questioned.

"No reason," Jake replied, unwilling to share his theory until he has something more to go on. The girl from the parking lot had definitely been younger than nineteen. Could she be a prostitute as well, possible against her will?

"I compared the guy from the surveillance video to picture we have on file for Alonzo Sanchez," Leslie interrupted his thoughts. "It was definitely he who abducted the girl. If it was an abduction at all."

"What? Did we not see the same video?" Jake wouldn’t have thought that there was still any doubt about what they'd seen on the surveillance video.

"I'm just saying that there might be another explanation," Leslie said firmly.

"The girl definitely seemed to know him, so in any case, she isn't some random girl he happened to pick up. Besides, nothing in his record suggests that he is the type of just grab a girl off the street."

"They don't have to be strangers in order for this to be a kidnapping," Jake argued.

Leslie sighed. "Not they don't, but still we shouldn't jump to conclusions."

Jake decided not to pursue the argument further, instead, he asked: "Did missing persons' have anything new?"

Leslie shook her head. "No girls matching her description were reported missing in the last forty-eight hours."

Jake frowned. All this did not tie up. Even if there was some sort of organized crime or prostitution connection between the dead prostitute from the ocean and the girl kidnapping in the hospital parking lot, it did not explain how anyone could have known that Jake had witnessed the kidnapping. Aside from Leslie herself, sergeant hood and constable Markham, nobody had had any idea that there was a witness. It was vexing to say the least.

"Are you even listening?" Leslie's irate voice broke in on this musings.

"Uhm, you said something about no matching girls having been reported missing in the past forty-eight hours?" Jake tried, knowing that he hadn't been listening.
 
"I also said that..." Leslie began, then glancing into the rear-view mirror, "What the hell is this guy think he's doing!"

"Who?" Jake asked, somewhat confused. He too looked in the review mirror. A black SUV was following very close on their heels, inching closer with every second. It would only be a matter of time, until the SUV bumped into Leslie's car. A moment later, that was exactly what happened. The impact, although minor still shook Jake and Leslie in their seats.

"Idiot!" Leslie exclaimed. Now the SUV was edging out into the other lane behind them, clearly preparing the overtake them.

At least that was what Jake and Leslie thought as first, but the other vehicle simply leveled with, closing in on them from the side now.

"They're trying to force us off the road!" Jake realized.

"You think!?" Leslie yelled, pressing down on the accelerator and increasing their speed. The SUV however wasn't to be deterred and kept matching their speed. There was no way that they would be able to outrun the unwelcome company in Leslie's car. Meanwhile, the SUV had closed the sidewise gap between their two cars and proceeded to systematically try and bump Jake and Leslie off the road.

"Can't this thing go any faster?" Jake asked over the noise of the engine just as the SUV once again tried to force them off the road and into the ditch running beside it.

This time, they succeed and Leslie lost control over the car as they skidded sideways off the road. As they were going rather fast, the car plowed head first into the ditch only to turn over and finally slide, wrong way up, into a cluster of trees.

TBC

Chapter Text

Tinny's anger had propelled her for the first two or three miles of her journey, but the longer she was walked, the more tired both she and her feet got. Maybe she should have asked Rose if she could drive her, but that would have required explanations she didn't want to give, at least not yet. If all went well, this would be the end of the matter and she could just forget about it all, including Steve Travis.

Steve was one year ahead of her at school and for a while now, he had shown an unwelcome interest in her, texting her, asking her out and even notes and small gifts for her inside her own locker. Not that it wasn't flattering on some level, but the guy was simply creepy. He gave her a bad feeling and no matter how often she rejected his advances, he never seemed to get that she simply wasn't interested in him. Last week, she had found a red rose inside her locker, so when a whole bouquet of red roses had turned up at her home, it didn't take a private investigator to make the leap and arrive at Steve as the culprit.

She knew that he worked part time at a movie theater in town, after all he'd often enough asked her to go see a movie there with him. She had texted him after leaving the house, asking to meet. He had replied that he was currently at work, but she was more than welcome to drop by.

That was exactly what she was going to do, only that her intentions were as far from romance as possible. She was going to give him a piece of her mind and once and for all make it clear that she wasn't interested in him. His attentions had school she could have ignored but when he had come to her home to leave the flowers, he had crossed a line with her and she wasn't going to tolerate it any longer. Not least because the flowers were bound to invite questions from her over-protective grandfather and uncle. She didn't exactly trust them to not go and beat up Steve if they learned of what he'd been doing. No, she was going to handle this herself without outside help.

Finally the building housing the cinema came into view. Tinny quickened her steps, until she stood in front of the entrance to the tall building. She took a deep breath, steeling herself for the confrontation to come.  She pushed the door open and stepped into the entrance area of the cinema. A bored looking woman in her early twenties was sitting behind the counter, engaged in the process of painting her fingernails. There were no customers about that Tinny could see and neither was Steve. Strange, she had thought that he would be waiting for her eagerly. Tinny stepped up to the counter. The woman either hadn't noticed her or was ignoring her. Tinny cleared her throat. The woman, whose name a tag on her shirt proclaimed was Stephanie, looked up, an impression of irritation on her face.

"The showing's already started," she mumbled around the gum she was chewing.

"I'm not here for that," Tinny said. "I'm looking for Steve Travis."

Stephanie's face softened. "You and me both," she declared, fanning her hand in an effort to dry the fresh nail polish.

"He didn't show up for his shift?" Tinny asked.

"Oh yes, he did. He went to refill the vending machines, but that was over half an hour ago," Stephanie replied with a careless shrug.

"Could you maybe have a look?" Tinny asked, feeling silly for asking. She wasn't going to run around after Steve, but now that she had come all the way here on foot, she wasn't going to leave until she'd once and for all made it clear to him that his attentions weren't welcome.

"Sorry, can't. Someone needs to keep an eye on the register," Stephanie replied, not sounding the least bit apologetic.

"Would it be okay, if I had a look to see if he's somewhere round."

"Why not? Do me a favour, if you find him, tell him to get his ass back to work or he can start looking for another job."

"Will do," Tinny replied. "Hm, where are the vending machines?"

"Down that hallway?" Stephanie pointed to indicate a hallway extended beyond a glass door. Tinny thanked her and made her way down the hallway. She dialed Steve's phone as she went, but it went straight to voice mail. There was no sign of Steve anywhere in the hallway. The vending machines clearly hadn't been refilled. Tinny continued walking until she came to the end of the hallway where a door with an exit sign above it was slightly ajar. She pushed it open. It led into some sort of back alley behind the cinema. Tinny had just stepped outside when she heard a moan coming from further down the alley. With no idea what to expect, she continued on, passing a pair of overflowing dumpsters on her way. Suddenly, she heard her name being spoken in a low, rough voice.

She whirled around, and spotted Steve. He was curled up on the ground between bags of trash next to second dumpster.

"Steve?" she asked somewhat unnecessarily. Then, a few seconds later, she added "What happened?"

Steve pulled himself up to his feet. "As if you don't know!" he spat angrily. Clearly he had been beaten up. He had split lip, blood wad dripping from his chin and down his forehead for a wound near his right eyebrow, one of his eyes was rapidly swelling shut, Tinny was taken aback, but not lost for words. "I have no idea what you're talking about!"

"Your crazy uncle happened!" Steve said. "What the hell's wrong with you? You text me that you want to meet and then you sic your uncle on me? That's assault, you know. And I will be pressing charges."

Tinny stared at him in disbelief. "That's insane," she said. "My uncle had nothing to do with this." Tinny pretty sure that was the truth anyway. Besides, as far as she knew Jake was still in hospital. Although, she had to admit, he usually didn't stay there very long, no matter what the doctors said. But this wasn't like him, Jake might have scared Steve a little, but he wouldn't have beaten him up that badly. At least she hoped that was true.

"Tell that to the police," Steve countered. "I'm done with you and your crazy family. Go to hell, all of you," He wiped the blood from his chin and stalked past her back into the building, leaving Tinny alone in the alley. Suddenly, her mobile phone rang. The caller ID proclaimed that it was Des. Tinny answered.

"What is it Des?" she said curtly.

"I was just wondering where you were? I asked Rose but she didn't know and I couldn't find you anywhere, so I thought I'd call but if it's a bad time I can always call you again later," Des rambled over the line.

"I'm in town, at the Romantica Cinema," Tinny replied. "Listen, do you know where uncle Jake is?"

"He's in hospital, as far as I know. But I really don't know very far since he never stays there," Des continued somewhat incoherently.

"Well, can you meet me at the cinema?" Tinny asked with some hesitation. She wasn't sure how good an idea it would be to involve Des, but right now she was feeling a little out of her depth.

"I sort of had plans," Des confessed.

"With Chandra?" Tinny asked sharply. She had not forgotten Des' doctor girlfriend from the other day.

There was pause, before Des answered. "Actually yes, but if it's urgent, I can you know reschedule. It's..."

"Forget it," Tinny said angrily, ending the call.




"Ow," Jake groaned, blinking open his eyes and seeing nothing but white. What the hell, he thought, but then he suddenly remembered. Leslie and he had been on their way to see Alonzo Sanchez when a black SUV had forced them off the road. The car must have overturned in the crash.

"Leslie!" he exclaimed as memory hit. There was no reply. He tried turning his head away from the whiteness blocking his view he'd belatedly identify as the airbag which must have deployed on impact, but a sharp pain surged from his neck, causing him to cry out. Damn.

"Leslie?" he tried again. This time he was rewarded with a faint groan coming from the direction of the driver's side. Before he could investigate however, the passenger side doors was wrenched open. Jake turned to see what was going on and found himself staring into the barrel of a gun. The gun was the first thing he noticed, the man holding it only registered a fraction of a second later. He wore dark clothes - black jeans and a leather jacket of the same color. His watery gray eyes had a malicious gleam to it. The fact that he seemed to have no compunction about Jake seeing his face worried the private detective immensely.

"Let me guess, you're a good Samaritan?" he tried nonetheless in an attempt to buy time. Tangled up as he was in his seat belt in the overturned car, he couldn't possibly reach Leslie's gun, but if he stalled long enough, she might get a chance to intervene. That was if she hadn't been too badly hurt in the crash.

"Out!" the man commanded, keeping his gun steadily at Jake's head.

"I'm kind of tied up here," Jake said.

"What's taking so long?" a second man came into view, or rather his darkly clad legs did.

"Out! Now!" the first man commanded. Jake fumbled for the seat belt release and after a few seconds managed to find it. As soon as the seat belt was no longer holding him up, he collapsed downwards into a heap. The impact jarred his injured shoulder and for a moment, pain was all he was aware of. He was still half dazed as the two goons pulled him out of the car and roughly dragged him to his feet.

"What about the driver?" the first goon asked.

"Finish her," the second one ordered laconically. "But hurry up!"

"Wait!" Jake cried as the goon with the gun made to round the back of the car.

"If you kill her, every cop in Newfoundland will be looking for you!"

That made the goon hesitate. Seeing an opening, Jake continued "Listen to me, she's a cop and you really don't want to kill a cop."

"Shit!" the goon holding Jake by the arm cursed suddenly. "Let's go!" he ordered and dragged Jake toward the SUV.

"Come on," he yelled to his comrade when the former hesitated.

Another car had pulled up on the shoulder, clearly having spotted the accident.

"Don't even think about it," the goon manhandling Jake hissed at Jake, as he half led half dragged the private detective towards the SUV where the second goon had opened the trunk. The barrel of the man's gun was painfully poking him in the ribs, forestalling any thoughts of trying to make a break for it.

TBC

Chapter Text

The first thing Leslie became aware was a nearby voice. It was high pitched - decidedly female, but didn't sound familiar. Leslie couldn't make out any of the words at first, and only picked up on a general sense of excitation and panic. Then slowly, the stream of noise coalesced into distinct words.

"I don't know! She's still alive, but I think she might be unconscious," the increasingly agitated voice was saying.

Then there was a pause and Leslie wondered what had happened to make the voice stop all of a sudden.

"Yes, I will. Hold on," the voice was saying now, followed by footfalls that seemed to be coming closer. A sudden loud wrenching and tearing noise startled Leslie, causing her to flinch. However something was wrong, she could feel it. It wasn't the pain in her head and neck, but something else. She opened her eyes, trying to get a better idea, but something was obscuring her vision, something very white.

"Um, ma'am?" the woman's voice was back, this time much closer.

Leslie turned her head, trying to find the source of the voice. The action caused her to cry out as searing hot pain shot through her neck and head.

"Hold still," the woman was saying. "I don't think you should move just yet."

"What's going on?" Leslie managed to ask. She was surprised when her own voice came out slurred.

"You had an accident," the woman told her.

Accident. Leslie pondered what the woman had said. She tried to recall what happened before she'd woken up here, wherever 'here' was. Driving! Yes, she'd been in her car, driving.

"Car accident?" she finally asked, as some of the puzzle pieces slid into place.

"Um, yes," the woman answered. "I called the paramedics, they should be here soon. Just hold on."

Something was niggling at the back of her mind, a sense that there was something very important that she was forgetting.

"Anyone else hurt?" she asked, still trying to get a grasp of the elusive idea that was just beyond reach of her conscious mind.

"No, not as far as I can see," the woman replied.

At least that was relief, Leslie thought. The feeling however only last for a fraction of a second before she remembered. She hadn't been alone in the car. Jake had been with her.

"Jake!" she exclaimed as the memory hit home. When there was was no answer she rephrased. "There was a man in the car with me," she tried, "Is he okay?" It was unlikely that Jake had escaped unscathed, because if he had, then he'd certainly said something by now.

The pause before the woman answered seemed interminable but finally it came again, hesitant: "There is no one in the car with you."

That couldn't be. Leslie thought, she clearly recalled Jake being in the car with her. Maybe there was more missing from her memory than she knew, she considered. Maybe she was just confusing things. Deep down however, she knew that she wasn't just confusing things. Jake had been in the car with her - of that she was convinced.

Despite her earlier experience, Leslie tried again to move her head, this time turning it toward the passenger side. The pain was considerable, but she clenched her teeth and eventually manged to turn her head far enough to see the passenger seat. The car was upside down but that was not what made her blood run cold.

It was what she saw - the airbag had deployed just as it had on the drive's side, and smeared on the white fabric were crimson traces - blood without a doubt. The passenger door was open. In the distance a siren sounded. Probably the paramedics her good Samaritan had summoned, Leslie thought tiredly. The urge to close her eyes was becoming stronger with each passing second. The woman was talking again, but the words were lost on Leslie as her own thoughts were racing. What had happened to Jake? Had he walked away from the wreck and if so why? Had he been trying to get help? Leslie was trying to think straight, but she could feel her thoughts growing slower and increasingly muddled as she fought against the lure of unconsciousness. Several times, she caught herself dropping off only to startled awake once more in confusion.

In the end, she must have lost the fight against unconsciousness eventually, because when she opened her eyes after what had felt like only a fraction of a second, she found herself staring at the steel gray sky overhead. Presently a face appeared in a her field of vision and suddenly a bright light was being shined in her eyes. She squeezed her eyes shut immediately, but it still felt like someone was driving an ice pick through her skull.

"Sorry about that," a voice, male this time apologized. Leslie experimentally opened er eyes a fraction, pleased to find that the bright light was gone. That was when she remembered - Jake. She had to find him, make sure he was all right. Leslie tried to sit up, but found that she could barely move. Panicked, she struggled, unheeding of the pain it caused her.

"Don't try to move just yet. Just lie back and rest," the male voice from earlier advice. Leslie could feel a light reassuring touch on her upper arm.

"We're going to take you to hospital now," the calm voice continued. "Just try to relax."

"No, you don't understand," Leslie protested weakly. "There was a man in the car wit me. I need to know...is he all right?" Jake would have a field day if he could hear her right now all frantic, Leslie thought. Right now she didn't care though what anyone thought. She needed all her strength to concentrate on staying awake.

The face hovering above her frowned. "There was no one with you, ma'am." Still, he moved out of her field of vision, shouting to someone Leslie couldn't see that they should check the car again. Good, at least someone was looking for Jake, Leslie thought. Despite her best intentions, she found her eyes drifting shut.

Again, it felt like only an instant had passed, but when she came to again, the scenery had shifted once again. It was quite disconcerting. She was no longer outside, but inside a moving vehicle, judging by the faint vibrations running through her body and by what little she could see of the ceiling. Ambulance, most likely, she concluded.

She tried to turn her head to get a better idea and see who else was there with her, but once again found that her movements were being severely restricted.

"Jake?" she asked, hoping to get an answer.

She did get an answer, but it wasn't the one she had been hoping for.

"The police will notify your next of kin don't worry," a calm voice replied. "Just lie still and try to relax. We'll be at the hospital in a few minutes."

"No," Leslie protested at the misunderstanding and once again tried to sit up, but only ended up causing herself more pain. "He was in the car with me," she clarified.

"It's all right. We checked and there was no one in the car with you. You were the only one who was hurt," came the reply. The tone had a gentle and calming quality, like one would use when speaking to a frightened child. Clearly the paramedics thought she was confused as a result of a the accident. It was beyond maddening and if she hadn't been having the worst migraine of her life, Leslie would have given the paramedic a piece of her mind. But as things stood,even the mere act of speaking required all the conscious effort she could muster.




The ride in the SUV's trunk, although not his first such journey, had been particularly uncomfortable. The two goons had been none too gentle with him when they'd forced his arms behind his back, tied his wrists together with had felt like plastic zip ties and then thrown him into their vehicle's trunk. Despite his efforts to reposition himself, he was unable to take the strain of his injured shoulder due to the unnatural position of his arms and it had begun throbbing painfully once again. Despite his admittedly rather dire circumstances, there was one thing giving him hope that this might yet end well for him. The two goons hadn't neither searched his pockets nor taken his cell phone from him. It was still in his jacket pocket where he'd put it last. With his injured shoulder, he couldn’t twist himself in such a way that he could read it, but since his phone was still on, it would be possible for Leslie and the police to trace its location.  His abductor's clearly weren't professionals. If he had to guess, he'd say hired muscle. However that left the question who'd hired them. They couldn't be after money,  there was no point in demanding a ransom in his case, so it had to be for another reason that he'd be abducted. The most likely explanation suggesting itself to him was that it had something to do with the case he was working. After all, he might have made some enemies in the past, but not to the point where he was first poisoned and then kidnapped the next day without a very good reason. The two events were likely connected. So far, Jake had assumed that the poisoning was connected to the abduction he'd witnesses, but what if it was something else entirely? He ran his mind back over his last few cases, trying to figure our who'd want revenge on him and who'd be in a position to carry it out in this manner. NO one came to mind. Sure there were people who bore him no particular good will, in fact most of the people he knew would probably fall into that category, but there seemed to be no one likely to have him kidnapped in broad daylight. Whoever it was must have been following him for a while, otherwise, they wouldn't have known where to find him and Leslie. No one, as far as he knew had known that they were on their way to see Alonzo Sanchez at his cabin in the woods, save Leslie and himself.

They had been driving for at least twenty to thirty minutes when the SUV came to a stop. The engine was switched off and Jake could hear the sounds of car doors being opened and then slammed shut again a few seconds later, causing a jarring vibration.

For a while, nothing happened. Jake strained to hear something of what was going on outside, but could make out nothing. They had to have taken him somewhere off the beaten track, as he couldn't even hear any other cars driving by. The wait was so long that he was starting to wonder if they planning to simply abandon him in the middle of nowhere.

His thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of a cell phone, coming from where he was inside the trunk. He could actually feel it's faint vibration in the pocket of his leather jacket. How on earth had it gotten in there, he wondered. He definitely had had it the previous day, not after his father had taken it with him, so that he, as Mal had put it, didn't drive everyone crazy and instead got some actual rest. Well, that had worked out as planned, Jake thought sarcastically to himself as  he vainly tried to twist his arms far enough to reach the phone.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Half an hour had passed since Leslie had arrived at the hospital and her patience was rapidly running out. She had tolerated, mostly because she kept blinking out, the x-rays, but after it had been established that she had suffered no broken bones, Leslie had decided that it was time to turn her attention to more urgent matters such as the question of what had happened to Jake.

"I strongly advise against it," the doctor, probably some poor overworked and underpaid intern, was telling her, no doubt referring to her decision to forgo further treatment.

"I understand," Leslie said through gritted teeth as she struggled to put her jacket - torn and blood stained as it - was back on. Her head and neck still hurt like hell, but as a spinal injury had been ruled out and the concussion she'd suffered had been pronounced mild, she was determined to not waste any more precious time being poked and prodded by doctors. "Just give me the forms I need to sign," she said.

The doctor looked like he was going to protest, but one look from Leslie silenced him and he hurried from the room, presumably to go fetch the forms for her discharge.

She used the opportunity to root around her jacket pocket for her cell phone an was relieved to find it intact. First, she dialed Jake's cell phone number. While she still hoped that there was an innocent explanation of how and why Jake had vanished from the site of the accident, in her heart she knew that Jake wouldn't have willingly abandoned her when she was injured. So it was no great surprise that her call wasn't answered and eventually went to voice mail. Next she called Hood. Likely as not, the police had probably been alerted to the accident, but calling her partner would be the fasted way of getting a search for Jake under way.

"Bennett?" Hood asked.

"Yes, listen, I need your help. I've been a car accident. I think someone ran me off the road and.."

"Are you all right?" Hood interrupted her.

"I'll be fine," Leslie said, hoping it wasn't an outright lie. "I'm at the hospital right now. I need you to trace Jake Doyle's phone."

"What's Doyle got to do with this?"

"He was in then car with me when we were run off the road. I already tried calling him and his phone is still on, but he isn't answering."

"What happened?"

"I don't know," Leslie said with no small amount of exasperation. "All I know is that he was in the car with me, but when I came to after the accident, he was gone."

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line.

"Do you know who ran you off the road?" Hood asked.

"No, but it was a black SUV. I couldn't see the driver, but I got the registration number," Leslie dictated the number to Hood. At that moment, the doctor returned to the room, a bunch of papers in hand. He looked at her sternly when he saw what she was doing.

"There are no cell phones allowed in here," he admonished her sharply.

"I have to go now," Leslie told her partner. "I'll call you back as soon as I can." Leslie ended the call before Hood had a chance to reply. "So, where do you need me to sign?" she asked the doctor.




As soon as she was clear of the hospital building, Leslie pulled out her cell phone again and hit re-dial. It had taken longer than she liked for her discharge to be finalized and she was anxious to hear what Hood had uncovered. Leaning against a wall for support, a she still felt rather dizzy, Leslie listened to what her partner had to say.

"I've gotten on to the officers working the accidents scene and they are looking for Doyle right now, just in case he wandered off. Meanwhile, I had his cell traced and according to the GPS it's currently about fifteen miles from where you were run of the road, off an access roads out in the woods. I'm on my way there now with a couple of guys from uniform."

"Thanks" was all Leslie could manage. She knew that it was highly possible that whoever had taken Jake had simply ditched his phone to avoid being traced, but at least it was a start and gave them a place where they could begin looking.

"Oh and the SUV was reported stolen this morning from a garage in town," Hood added. "I'll call you back when I know something, okay?"

"Yeah," Leslie didn't relish the passive role she had been relegated to, but she wouldn't trust herself to get behind the wheel right now. Not that she could as her car was lying wrecked in a ditch somewhere, Leslie realized belatedly. Maybe she really was concussed. Leslie stifled a mirthless laugh at the thought. She probably better take a cab.

Leaving the support offered by the wall behind, Leslie made her way to the taxi stand near the entrance. She wasn't very steady on her feet, but enough not to fall straight on her face. Still, she was glad when she made into the cab and was able to lean back against the worn upholstery. When the driver asked her where she wanted to go, Leslie was about to give station's address but at the last second, sh chanced her  mind and gave Malachy Doyle's address instead. If Jake really was missing, she wanted to give his family the news.




Jake was sure that the two goons had to have abandoned him to his fate, when the trunk was suddenly opened. The man staring down at Jake was wearing a ski mask and sunglasses, completely obscuring his face. Still, based on his build, Jake didn't think it was one of the two men from earlier. This one seemed slimmer, less muscled than other of the men who'd kidnapped him. However like these two, he also had a gun.

"Get out," he ordered.

Jake attempted to comply, but the task was no easy one with both arms tied behind his back and his injured shoulder was only adding insult to injury. When he was too slow her his captures taste, the man grabbed him roughly by one arm. As luck would have it, it was the arm on his injured side. The harsh tug send Jake reeling with the pain that was tearing through his body. The actions did however give him Jake an opening.  His legs hadn't been tied by his captors, leaving him able to land a solid to the gunman's chin. There hadn't been much force behind the kick due to his awkward position, but the relative desperation of his situation had mobilized strengths he hadn't realized he had. As soon as his boot connected with the man's chin, he let go of Jake, grunting in pain. He did not however lose grip of his gun, but the pain momentarily kept him from aiming properly and the shot he fired went wide, missing Jake by several feet.

Jake scrambled to get out of the trunk, trying to make use of the momentary distraction, but in the end he simply wasn't fast enough. The gunman recovered too quickly. He savagely backhanded Jake with the gun, sending stars across his vision. Before Jake had gotten his bearings back, he was being dragged from the car. The man wasn't very powerful and moving Jake like this had to be hard work for him. Jake ended up face first on the ground. Breathing in the scent of dust and earth, Jake was still slightly dazed from the hit he'd suffered to the face when his captor started rifling through his pockets.

"Hey!" Jake protested, "You-" but the witty repartee was lost when he was struck once again with the butt of the gun.

"Keep your mouth shut!" his captor advised. Jake was only peripherally aware of the pockets of his jacket and jeans being emptied and the contents being tossed into the undergrowth bordering on the dirt road on either side.

"On your feet."

At least the guy was kind enough to pull him up by his good arm thus time, Jake thought wearily as he staggered forward. He was still dazed from having been hit twice in the head in such quick succession, but he was nonetheless keenly aware of the gun poking in his back. The goals was their trek was soon obvious. About fifty meters further down the dirt access road, there was a second vehicle parked. It was also an SUV, charcoal gray and spattered liberally with mud. Someone clearly drove off road a lot, Jake surmised, attempting to take in as many details of possible. There was no license plate on the rear end of the car. Once again it looked like he was destined to ride on the trunk when the man unlocked the trunk and opened it.

"I get it, no need to get violent-" Jake began hoping to forestall another blow, when a felt a sharp prick to his upper arm. Looking to the side, he saw the villain withdrew a syringe and toss it aside.

"Just in case you get any more ideas," the man said in way of an explanation, chuckling to himself.

The drug, whatever it was, was kicking in very fast. Jake felt his knees buckle under him. A pair of arms must have caught him, as he never hit the ground. The rapidly dimming world suddenly tilted around him and before he had chance to process that new development, everything went dark.

TBC

Chapter Text

Mal hadn't expected anything to come of submitting the anonymous letters to Hood for forensic analysis. These days, even the dumbest crooks knew better than to leave fingerprints on threatening letters. He had been all the more surprised when he'd gotten a message from Hood late that afternoon telling him that the fingerprints of one Corinne Dawson had been recovered on both anonymous letters.

Corinne Dawson's address had been in the phone book and Mal hadn't given breaking in a second thought once he'd assured himself that the woman wasn't home. He wasn't sure what he'd expected to find, but whatever it was, the small flat wasn't yielding much of anything. The whole place gave an overcrowded feel, with photographs and knickknacks covering every available surface and then some. Mal paid close attention to the pictures for any clues that Corinne was somehow linked to a past client of his or Jake's, but he spotted not one familiar face. If there was any connection between a past case and this woman, it wasn't obvious.

The easy option would of course be to ask Rose to work her magic on the computer to try and dig up some background info on Miss Dawson, but he hesitated to involve her. He didn't want to worry her. Not when there might be nothing to it all. There was still a chance that the attempt on Jake's life was linked to what he'd witnessed yesterday morning. He didn't really believe that, but he wanted to be sure before bothered Rose about it - or so he rationalized.

He was just about to make a final tour of the apartment to make sure he hadn't overlooked anything when his cell phone chirruped. It was a text message from Rose, asking him to come home as soon as possible.





Somehow, Leslie managed to pay the driver and get out of the cab without passing out and  falling flat on her face. She made it onto the Doyle's doorstep, bracing herself again the wall. She rang the bell. What had seemed like a good idea at the time was suddenly not looking so smart anymore. After all, she didn't know for certain what had happened to Jake. There was a possibility, slim though it was, that Hood would find Jake along with his cell phone.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Rose opened the door.

"Leslie!" she exclaimed, surprise on her face. "What happened?"

"It's a long story," Leslie said tiredly, not sure how much longer she would last on her feet.

"You better come in then," Rose allowed.

Leslie nodded, but the motion turned out to be ill-advised as a new wave of pain and  dizziness swept over her. The ground was rushing toward her just before blackness enveloped her, swallowing her completely.




Rose caste a doubtful glance at the figure lying on the couch. The younger woman looked like she had had one hell of a morning - her hair was in disarray, several streaks matted with blood, no doubt coming from the gash on her temple. The gash was being held closed by a butterfly bandaged, so evidently she had sought medical attention at some point, bur Rose doubted that she'd been declared fit to roam the streets. Not when Rose had been barely able to catch her in time when Leslie had collapsed on their doorstep. With Mal out somewhere, she had had quite a hard time getting Leslie settled on the couch, but in the end she had managed it. Out of breath from the effort, she had typed a quick text message to Mal, asking him to come home asap.

"I really think we should call the paramedics," was the first thing out of Mal's mouth once Rose had explained what had happened.

"Let's give her a few more minutes," Rose argued. She was certain that Leslie had her reasons for coming here, especially when she was in the condition she appeared to be in. She would also bet a tidy sum that that reason had to do with Jake. Jake, who should be at the hospital, but who knowing him at probably found some way to convince Leslie to let him in on the investigation into the murder of the nurse and his own attempted murder. But it was useless to speculate, until they knew more, so Rose kept her theories to herself, not wanting to upset Mal. Although she was hard pressed to imagine that he wasn't thinking along the same lines.

"Leslie," Rose tried, shaking Leslie's shoulder softly. Leslie stirred in response and a few seconds later opened her eyes, blearily looking up at Rose and Mal.

She turned her head, wincing as she did so, then pushed herself up on her elbows.

"You okay?" Mal asked.

"I'll be fine," Leslie replied somewhat unconvincingly, but there was a serious to her tone of voice that forestalled any further questions Mal or Rose might have had on the subject.

"Have you heard from Jake in the last few hours?" Leslie asked. Rose shook her head and looked at her husband. "Jake should be in hospital, but knowing my son, I guess that's not where he is. But no, I haven't heard from him."

"I think...I think he might have been kidnapped," Leslie admitted.

Malachy and Rose stared at her. Malachy was the first to recover his powers of speech. "What happened exactly?" his tone was cold and sharp.

"Jake and I, we were in my car, driving to speak to someone connected to the abduction that Jake witnessed at the hospital. We were just outside of town when someone ran us off the road. I'm not sure what happened next, I must have blacked out, but when I came to, Jake wasn't there."

"He might have wandered off," Rose considered.

"Officers are searching the area now. I've asked sergeant Hood to track Jake's phones via GPS, and he's on his way to the location now. He said he'd call me back as soon as he got there. It..." Leslie was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone. The caller id indicated that it was her partner.

"Yes?" she replied, her heart suddenly beating rather fast.

"We found the phone, but no sign of Doyle. We also found the SUV, it's been torched."

"Are you sure he wasn't..." Leslie trailed off, horrific images rising unbidden in her mind.

"They only just put the fire out, but according to them it doesn't look like anyone was inside when it was torched."

Leslie breathed a silent sigh of relief. "Anything else?" she asked, almost not wanting to know.

"A few drops of blood, some tire tracks. Crime scene guys are going over the area now. Listen Bennett, I think we should let Malachy know about this."

"I'm already there now," Leslie replied. "Can you keep me posted?"
 
"Yes, will do. Take care of yourself, Bennett." With that Hood hung up. Leslie lowered her cell phone, looking into the tense faces of Malachy and his wife. She quickly summarized what Hood had told her, leaving out the part about the torched car. There was no need for Mal and Rose to ponder the possibility however remote that Jake had been burned along with the car.

The heavy silence that had settled over the Doyle's living room after Leslie had finished relaying the news, only interrupted the the sound of Mal pacing about the room, was suddenly broken by the sound of a key being turned in the lock of the front door. A few seconds later, Tinny stepped into the living room. She looked from one to the other of them and a frown settled on her face.

"What's going on here?" she finally asked, her voice trembling slightly. She had clearly sensed that something serious must have happened.

Rose got up from where she'd been sitting and walked over to Tinny. "Jake's missing," she told her gently.




The next morning came all too soon, as far as Leslie was concerned. Rose had driven her back to her place, even though Leslie would have been perfectly content to take a cab. Once inside her place she had staggered into the bed room. She had managed to slip off her shoes, but after that, she collapsed on the bed like a sack of potatoes. She was out like a light before her head hit the pillow, but her night was far from restful. She slept fitfully, her dreams filled with black SUVs, torched cars and burned bodies.

When her alarm clock finally woke her from yet another nightmare as she been far too beat to deactivate the alarm the night before, she felt remarkably unrested. A shower and a few bites of an aging sandwich later, she felt at least somewhat human again although the effects of a bad night combined with the lingering effects if her injuries were still making themselves painfully felt, without even factoring her worry over Jake.

However worry wasn't the only thing she felt, part of her felt guilty as well for allowing Jake to accompany her on what had definitely been a police matter and another part of her was angry at herself for feeling this way. Yet another, less rational, part was angry at Jake for not staying in hospital like he was supposed to. None of that was going to help anyone though, least of all Jake, Leslie thought. She needed to pull together and start thinking with her head instead of with her heart. It was her heart that had gotten her into trouble in the first place. If she didn't have those feelings for Jake which she tried so hard to deny, she would never have let herself be bullied into letting a civilian accompany her.

Leslie sighed, all this was giving her a headache and she had been up for less than an hour. She needed to do something, sitting her was only going to drive her crazy. She didn't remember everything the doctor had said to her at the hospital the previous day. In fact, she recalled only a small fraction of it, but she was pretty sure that he'd mentioned that she wasn't cleared for duty. Not surprisingly, she thought. She had barely recognized herself in the mirror this morning now that the area surrounding the gash the side of her head had had a chance to swell and assume a nice purple coloring. Plus, her neck and head were still protesting every movement despite the ibuprofen tablet she'd taken earlier. She wouldn't be much good for chasing after criminals in her condition. But staying home wasn't an option either, not as far as she was concerned, so she did her best with concealer and make-up, put on some fresh clothes and called for a cab to take her to the station.




When Rose had come down into the kitchen early that morning, she hadn't exactly been surprised to find a note addressed to her on the counter next to the coffee maker. Unfolding the piece of paper she read the words written in the familiar hand.

Dear Rose, it read. Didn't want to wake you, but I've got some errands to run. Might be back late. Don't worry."

Love, Mal.

Rose sighed. It was typical. In an effort not to worry her, her husband was achieving the exact opposite effect. Rose pondered calling Malachy, but decided against it. He clearly wanted his space, so she was going to give it to him. At least for now. But she wasn't going to let him shut her out forever. They would talk, eventually of that she would make sure. In the meantime, she could only hope that he would be careful in whatever he was doing. It was bad enough that Jake was missing, presumably having been kidnapped, she really didn't need anything happening to Malachy as well.

A few minutes later, the coffee was percolating and Rose had just gotten a carton of juice from the fridge, when she noticed the empty vase standing in the sink. It was the same vase that had held the red roses the other day.  She looked around, but the flowers were clearly gone. She frowned in puzzlement, but eventually decided that she had better things to do than ponder the fate of a bouquet of flowers, especially at a time like this. She was further distracted by Tinny walking into the kitchen. She too looked like she hadn't gotten much sleep.

"Morning," Tinny mumbled to her, her head already stuck in the fridge.

"Good morning," Rose replied. "If you're looking for the orange juice I already got it."

Tinny didn't reply, but shut the fridge door again and turned back to Rose. She looked she was going to say something, but seemed to think better of it and walked out of the kitchen.

When Rose made it to the table after the coffee was done, Tinny was sitting there, absently picking at a leftover roll that, along with the dishes from the previous evening were still on the table. Rose smiled at her and poured herself a cup of coffee.

"Don't you want to eat something?" Rose broke the tense silence between them. Tinny only shook her head and continued to pick apart the bread roll. To be honest, Rose thought, she didn't feel like eating either. Still, she got the sense that there was something bothering Tinny, beyond the obvious.

Rose was on her second cup of coffee when Tinny spoke.

"Rose, can I ask you something?" Tinny's voice was hesitant.

"Sure, what is it?" Rose replied.

Tinny hesitated further, still playing with the bread roll. Finally she spoke: "You can't tell anyone about this, not my mother, not Des and especially not Pops."

Rose nodded, her curiosity piqued. Patiently, she waited for Tinny to continue.

"I think...I think someone might be following me," she finally said.

That wasn't at all what Rose had expected. The surprise must have shown on her features because Tinny hurriedly continued: "I mean, I'm not sure, it's just...it's just some weird things have happened."

"What kind of weird things?" Rose questioned.

"Red roses in my locker at school along with these weird notes," Tinny said in a rush. She reached into the pocket of her hoodie and pulled out several pieces of paper. They all contained what appeared to be lines from a poem or perhaps a song. All were signed, with the words 'your secret admirer'.

"How many of these have you gotten?" Rose asked.

"About a dozen over the last three weeks," Tinny shrugged. I didn't know what to make of them at first. I thought it was kind of cute in the beginning."

That would probably explain the bouquet of roses that had shown up on their doorstep and what had happened to them. Tinny had probably gotten rid of them.

"What happened to change your mind?" Rose asked, getting the impression that there was more to the story.

"A few days ago, I started getting text messages too. Stuff like: Loved the top you wore today, you looked so beautiful when you were waiting for the bus. Now I feel like someone is watching me."

Rose had to agree with the sentiment. From the sound of those text messages, it definitely seemed like someone was following Tinny around.

"Do you have any idea who it is?" she asked after some consideration.

"I thought I did," Tinny replied. "There is the guy from my school, he's a year ahead of me and he keeps bumping into me, things like that. But I went to see him yesterday, he works at a movie theater in town, to tell him to stop, but the weirdest thing happened. When I got there, someone had beaten him up, telling hm to stay away from me. He thought it was uncle Jake, but..."

"But we know he couldn't have done it," Rose finished when Tinny trailed off.

"Besides, when I got home, I got another text, from the same guy. Here." Tinny handed Rose her cell phone. On the screen was a text message reading: "Steve won't get between us again."

"Steve?" Rose queried.

"That's the guy from school," Tinny explained. "I was sure it was him with the notes and the flowers, but now I'm not so sure anymore," said Tinny and shrugged. "To be honest, I don't know what to do," she admitted. "I didn't want to tell anyone, because I knew how Jake, Des and Pops would react."

"I won't tell them," Rose promised, mentally adding, not yet anyway. Her husband had enough on his plate at the  moment, and there was nothing they could do right now because, while those things were creepy, without knowing who was behind the unwanted advances, it would be impossible to take action.

"Listen," Rose said after a moment's thought. "I'll look into it and see if I can't find something out."

"Thanks." Tinny looked her watch. "I need to get ready for school now."

"One last thing," Rose called after Tinny's retreating form. "This Steve character, what's his last name?"

"His name is Steve Travis. He works at the Romantica Cinema."

TBC

Chapter Text

Serena shifted on the worn mattress, trying to find the position in which none of the mattress springs were poking into her back. She turned her gaze back to the ceiling, playing the by now familiar game of trying to make out shapes in the peeling paint of the ceiling. There wasn't really much else she could do.

The small room provided few distractions. There was a window at the head of the bed, but it had been long since boarded up and only thin slices of the darkened street outside were visible through the cracks between the boards. The other walls were bare, covered in ancient wall paper with a long-since faded yellow and rose floral pattern, torn and stained in many places. As boring as it was, it still made for a nice difference from her usual day to day life, where she spent half the day in bed, after spending the night working the streets, serving a string of anonymous men. It would probably be a good week before she could go back to that, Alonzo had made sure of that when he'd beaten her up yesterday. It hadn't been so bad at first, but by now the bruises and swelling were clearly visible, marring her face enough to scare of any potential customers. She had seen other girls getting beaten plenty of times, but this was the first time she'd been at the receiving end of Alonzo’s wrath. Sure, he was always rough with his girls, but usually not to the point where they couldn't work. After all, it was his loss of one of them was laid up, so he usually avoided getting too violent unless badly provoked. Still, she had made her bed by going to the hospital to see Megan and besides the girls who didn't have someone out to to protect them were far worse off.

In light of that, a beating and a week off didn't seem so bad. Serena continued musing until she heard a car door slam outside. She sat up and edged to the end of her bed, peering through the slits in the boards. A silver car had pulled up. One of those expensive foreign cars which usually meant wealthy, well paying clients, except that they never came out to this dump.

Out got a man, his face momentarily illuminated by the street lights. Serena had seen him before around the place. He was Alonzo's boss, or something like that. She had heard the two men argue before. It was always about money from the few scraps of conversation she had overheard over time. She sighed, Alonzo was usually especially vicious after he'd received a visit from this guy. Especially if they got into an argument.

Serena watched as the boss buy bang on the door. It was eventually opened, although she couldn't see who had gone to get it. It was probably Alonzo, the girls all knew better than to go get the door without express permission. For while boss guy remained standing there on the sidewalk, probably talking to Alonzo, until he suddenly turned on his heel and walked back to the rear of the car, followed by Alonzo himself. Boss guy popped open the trunk and together with Alonzo, he pulled the limp body of a man out of the trunk, carrying him into the house. Serena had been unable to tell if the man was still alive. She wouldn't put it past boss guy to kill someone. Alonzo was always saying that he was brutal. Her curiosity piqued, Serena got up from the bed and tip-toed over to the door. As silently as she could, she slowly turned the handle and opened the door a fraction of an inch.

"What am I supposed to do with him!" she heard Alonzo say angrily.

"You got me into this mess, you deal with him," Boss guy said.

"You want me to get rid of him?" asked Alonzo, somewhat incredulous.

"If I wanted him dead, I would have taken care of it myself," boss guy said. "Just put him somewhere safe and out of sight for the time being. Better not mess this up, I'll be in touch."
A few moments later, the front door was slammed shut and Serena could heard the sound of a car driving off at a high rate of speed.




Malachy stifled a yawn. He had gotten next to no sleep the previous night. He had tried for an hour or two, but had only tossed back and forth in bed, his mind going in circles. At 2 a.m. he had given up on sleep entirely and gotten up. After pacing the living room for a few hours, turning everything over in his mind, he made a decision, left a note for Rose and got into his car. His first port of call was the police station. It was still early and he wasn't sure if Dan was in yet, but he needed to know if there had been any fresh developments in the case. He was in luck and found Sergeant Hood already behind his desk, nursing a cup of coffee and a big stack of files.

"Dan," Mal said quietly.

Hood looked up, slightly startled. When he set eyes on Mal, his expression took on a peculiar expression, resignation mixed with what looked suspiciously like sympathy.

Hood held up a hand, forestalling any questions from Mal.

"Before you ask, I'm not working your son's case, so officially I don't know anything."

"I'm not looking for the official version," Mal said. "I just want to know where the investigation is at."

Hood signed and closed the file he had been reading.

"All right, but you didn't get this from me."

Mal nodded, impatient for the sergeant to continue. "Now, the good news is that the fire investigators found no sign of human remains in the torched car. Bad news is that there are no strong leads in the case at the moment."

"Dan, I could have gotten that from the papers. Now, what did you find where the car was torched? Any tire tracks, anything?"

"Yes, we found tire tracks, but it's generic model matching several dozens of makes. There was some blood on the ground and it's Jake's."

"How much blood?" Mal asked, forcing his voice to stay steady.

"Just a few drops," Hood replied. "Nothing to indicate a serious injury."

Mal was slightly relieved, but just because the kidnapper's hadn't killed Jake on the spot, didnÄt mean that they weren't going to harm him. Especially given Jake's talent for getting people riled up. They had to have taken him for a reason. Once again, Mal racked his brain trying to come up with some possibilities.

Hood broken on his thoughts: "We do know that the SUV was driven by two white males. A witness saw them driving off away from where Bennett and your son were forced off the road. Unfortunately, the witness didn't get a good look, but she's coming in today to work with a sketch artist.

"Anything else? Mal asked, not even trying to hide his disappointment.

"Oh yes, the crime scene guys found an empty syringe nearby. Might or might not be related. The lab's still working on it," Hood paused, then went on. "I'm sorry Malachy, I don't know what else to tell you. You know how it is. Unless we figure out the motive behind the kidnapping, there isn't much that we can do, especially with as little evidence as there is in this case." Hood's voice was as close to being full of sympathy as Mal had ever heard him.

"I know," Mal agreed sadly. He knew only too well how kidnappings could end. He had seen their victims. "I should get going," he said, suddenly wondering why he had come to the station at all. After all, if there were any ground-breaking development, the detectives investigating the case would have let him know.

He was about to turn and leave, when a thought came to him.

"Corinne Dawson, what is she in the system for?"

Dan frowned and then began rummaging among the files on his desk.

"Here it is! Corinne Dawson's prints are on file from a shoplifting beef five years ago. Apparently she assaulted both the store clerk who confronted her and the constable who responded to the incident. Oh, and she was also involved in several domestic disturbance complaints, all filed by neighbors of the happy couple," Hood told Mal.

"Do you have the boyfriend's name?" Mal asked. He doubted that Corinne was the type to send anonymous threats. From what Hood had told him about her record, it didn't sound like she was likely to stew in silence over some old grudge. But her prints were on the letters, so she clearly had handled them at some point. He just had to find out why and the easiest way of doing that was to find how she was connected to either Jake or him. Maybe the boyfriend was the missing link he was searching for.

"Name's Paul Meyers, but that's all I know."

"Thanks. Listen, if you hear something, anything, let me know?"

"Will do."




The curious looks were not lost on Leslie as she made her way through the corridors of the police station. So far no one had questioned her presence but she was sure that once the inspector heard that she was back at work already, she would surely be sent home. Not that she intended to spend then day at the station sitting behind her desk.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice calling after her.

"Sergeant Bennett?" Leslie turned around and spotted Constable Markham with an envelope in his hand, coming hurriedly toward her.

"Good that I catch you," he said. "You caught the case involving that PI, right? I think this might be for you," he said and handed her the manila envelope.

Leslie thanked him and continued on her way to her desk where she grabbed a letter opener and slit open the envelope. Overturning it, out fell a photograph and a sheet of paper. The photograph caught her attention immediately. It depicted the familiar figure of Jake Doyle, lying crumpled on the ground in a darkish room. There was little of the room visible, except some naked concrete walls and floor made of the of same material. Jake appeared to be unconscious in the picture. Or at least that was what Leslie was hoping.

The lighting was pretty bad, but she could still make out the bruises on his face and the dark reddish brown stains on his light colored shirt. His arms were stretched behind his back, most likely his wrists had been tied together in some way. The same was probably true for his ankles, judging by the positioning of Jake's legs in the picture. Seeing Jake like that, not knowing if he was alive or dead, sent a chill through her. Doing her best to quash the sensation, Leslie turned her attention to the note. It was written in thick red lettering on a lined piece of paper. One of the edges was rough like the sheet had been torn from a notepad of some sort. The red letters formed the words:

BACK OFF OR THE P.I. DIES



So Jake was still alive. At least he had been when the note was written. Who knew what had happened since. Jake had a habit of provoking people. She could only hope that this time, he would keep his cool and not do anything that would make his situation worse. But who was she kidding, Leslie thought as a bitter laugh escaped her. It simply wasn't in Jake's nature to sit quietly and await rescue, no matter how badly he was hurt or what the consequences of failure might be.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



"Did you see how brought in the envelope?" Leslie questioned Constable Markham. Markham was manning the station front desk and seemed more occupied with filling in a bunch of

forms than he was with Leslie's line of questioning.

"Um, what envelope was that again?" he asked, still not lifting his eyes from the piece of paper in front of him.

"Listen to me. A man's life is at stake. So tell me, who gave you the envelope?" Leslie thrust the envelope in front of the constable.

Markham frowned. "It was a guy, brought it just at the start of my shift," Markham shrugged, clearly not impressed by Leslie's anger.

"What did this 'guy' look like? Young, old, black, white? Anything?" Leslie asked, suppressed fear fueling her exasperation.

"I didn't get a really good look," Markham replied. Leslie had had enough. She grabbed the sheet of paper that had Markham so captivated and pulled it away.

"Hey!" the constable protested.

"Concentrate. What DID HE LOOK LIKE? Leslie asked, punctuating each word.

Markham screwed up his face in concentration. "Oh yeah, some homeless looking guy."

"And?" Leslie asked, feeling like tapping her foot in impatience.

"Young I guess. Caucasian, reddish hair, I think. I mostly only noticed the smell. Guy hadn't had a bath in months," Markham said uncertainly. "What's so important about this

guy anyway?"

"Never mind,"Leslie said, not willing to waste another instant talking to Markham. She would just have to pull the surveillance footage from the station entrance, but if Markham

was right, the guy delivering the envelope might just have been a homeless guy paid by someone to do the task. Still, he might be able to give a description presuming she would

ever find him.

With her not officially back on duty yet, it would at least give her something to do that had a chance, however slim of helping her find Jake. The helplessness was the worst as

far as she was concerned. She was stalking back to the office, when she saw the inspector coming down the hallway.

"Sergeant Bennett, a word please?"

Great, Leslie thought, just great. No doubt the inspector was going to tell her to go home and take it easy.

"Of course, sir," Leslie replied out loud and followed the inspector into his office. When she entered she was surprised to find the superintendent sitting in the visitor’s

chair.

"Sir," Leslie acknowledged him, trying to hide her surprise. Sure, she had bent a few rules in the last couple of days, but she hadn't thought it warranted a dressing down from

the super himself.

"Sergeant Bennett, take a seat please," the super gestured to the second chair. The inspector took a seat behind his desk.

"Does the name Sydney Parker ring a bell?" the inspector asked. Leslie was taken aback. She had expected criticism, maybe even a reprimand, not questions about her personal

life.

"Yes," she replied, "He's a young man I met a few days ago."

"No need to be so modest sergeant. From what I hear you saved that young man's sisters life after the young lady by the name of Jocelyn Parker lost control of her her and went

over a cliff two days ago. You dove into the water aftr5e her, pulled her out of the car and performed CPR, keeping her alive until the paramedic arrived."

"Yes, that's true, sir," Leslie admitted, still not knowing where this was going.

"It's a very good thing that you did," the super went on, "Jocelyn Parker is the daughter is Mervin Parker, who as you might now, is a big figure in human trafficking. Now, we

have never been able to pin anything on him, but we have his eyes on him. His son Sydney Parker, the young man whom you've met is said to be his father's right hand. Rumor had

it that the old man's health is declining, and Sydney is starting to take over most of the day or day business. He's a slippery customer like his father, but he isn't as

paranoid as his father. Nor is he as smart. If there was ever a time to get close to the Parker crime family, it is now." The super paused, looking at Leslie. "You are our best

chance of achieving that."

"You want me to go undercover?" Leslie asked.

"Right now, Parker is in your debt. He is very attached to his troubled daughter. You saved her life and from what we know, you have already been invited to meet the old man, am

I right?"

Leslie nodded. "That's true, sir." The brass had to have Sydney Parker's phone tapped and god knew who else's.

"I haven't accepted the invitation yet though," she added.

Leslie had forgotten all about Sydney Parker. She had been too preoccupied with first the attempted murder of Jake and then with his disappearance.

"We think you should accept the invitation," the inspector said, "Parker runs an investment firm  he uses to launder money from various illegal activities including human

trafficking and  prostitution. Basically, the whole lot. Having someone inside that company would be invaluable. With the appropriate back story and references, we think you

could get you inside."

"Now, don't let Sydney's charm fool you, he's a dangerous mam to say nothing of his father. The assignment hence is not without some substantial risks. No one will order you to

do this, but we want you to seriously consider it at least. "

Leslie didn't need to think about it. "I'll accept the assignment," she said. "I know there are risks, but I'm ready for it," she added.

"Good," the superintendent fairly beamed at her with satisfaction. "Inspector Manners from organized crime will brief you on the details of your assignment, as well as your

cover story. You'll be working with his people on this. I'll set up an appointment with him for you this afternoon."




Feeling rather dejected after his visit to Hood at the station, Mal decided that he needed to take his mind off things. The best way to do that he knew of was to bury himself in

work. Healthier than drinking at any rate, plus he might just get paid for his troubles. He first drove to Emily Hirsh's place, but no one appeared top be home. If he was honest

with himself, his motives for wanting to visit her hadn't been entirely selfless. She had had a vision about Jake once that had turned out to save his life, maybe she would be

able to help again?

But the point was moot for now and anyways, Mal thought, if she had gotten anything new on Jake, she would probably have contacted him already.

After coming up empty at Emily's, he decided to look up Ellen's mother. It stood to reason that she would know more about the circumstances of her daughter's disappearance.

Ellen's mother lived in a nice up-scale neighborhood, not exactly the kind of place he usually visited in the course of his investigations. The villa stood back from the roads

in its own grounds,  and both the house and surrounding area seemed in immaculate condition. The lawn was perfectly mowed, the shrubs trimmed and the rose bushes seaming the

gravel drive leading up to the house were in full bloom. He rung the bell and patiently waited for an answer. Everything reeked of money, but there was a certain underlying

artificiality that made the whole scene seem cold and impersonal.

Mal had started to think that no one was going to answer, when the door was opened by a middle aged Latino woman. Based on her dress - a cheap light pink polyester blouse and

long navy blue skirt - and the fact that she was carrying a feather duster, Mal was certain that she wasn't the mistress of the house. Most likely hired help. People living in

this neighborhood didn't do their own cleaning.

"Hello, I'm looking for Louisa Hayden?"

For a seconds, she looked at him in puzzled surprise, then her face cleared.

"Oh, you mean Mrs Steel. She isn't in right now but if it's about a donation, you can find her at The Safe Place. That's the charity she runs," the woman added.

Mal thanked her and walked back to his car. A quick search on his phone revealed the main offices of The Safe Place to be in an office building downtown. From what he could

gather, The Safe Place was a charity dedicated to helping teenage runaways.




It had taken some creative talking to be admitted to see Mrs Steel.

The woman herself however greeted him cordially enough, asking him to take a seat opposite her in her office.

"We're always delighted when someone considers leaving a bequest in favour of The Safe Place. It's a big decision to make and if there are any questions I can answer, pleas let

me know."

Mal cleared his throat. "Actually, I'm here on a slightly different matter. I'm investigating the disappearance of your daughter Ellen."

There was a moment of stunned silence between them and the Mrs Steel's expression seemed to freeze before settling into stunned surprise.

"Are you with the police?" she finally asked, still visibly shocked.

"No, I'm a private investigator. Still I would appreciate anything you can tell me, both about your daughter and about the day she disappeared?"

Mrs Steel laughed bitterly. "A private investigator! What can you possibly hope to discover that the police haven't already?"

"As far as I understand, the police investigation came up empty," Mal remarked quietly.

"You're right there, Mr..."

"Doyle, Malachy Doyle," Mal supplied,.

"All right, Mr Doyle. I'll tell you what I know. I'm sure it won't hurt if you took another look at the case. God knows I have been petitioning the police to reopen the case for

years. I eventually just gave up. I mean, you have to move on eventually. Life goes on whether you want it to or not. I have no illusions, I know that Ellen is long dead." She

hesitated. "But I do want to know what happened to her. Not knowing is the worst, they say and they're right. So ask me whatever you want," Mrs Steel told him.

Mal could tell that her composure was hard won. He couldn't imagine what it was like to lose a child at such a young age, but he could resonate with her pain. What if he never

found out who had taken Jake? What if his son wasn't coming back this time? He ruthlessly shut out the questions and turned his attention back to Mrs Steel.

"First, can you tell me a little bit about your daughter?"

"Ellen was a lovely child. Very outgoing, friendly to everyone. Maybe a little too trusting, I sometimes think now. She wanted to be friends with everyone. And everyone liked

her, too. She had plenty of friends at school. We had this big party planned for her tenth birthday, she wanted to invite all her friends," Mrs Louisa Steel's face which had

taken on a nostalgic look as she talked about her daughter, sobered. "But she never got to have that party. She disappeared less than a week before her birthday. That was on

18th May 2000. I remembered it was a Thursday. She left for school in the morning and that was the last time I ever saw my daughter."

"She did arrive at school that day?" Mal asked to make sure that what Emily had told him was at least factually true.

"Oh yes, she attended all of her classes. But after she got off the bus two blocks from our house, she simply vanished. At least that's what it seemed like. The police never

found any trace of what happened to her after she got off the bus."

"There were no witnesses?" Mal asked, somewhat surprised.

Mrs Steel shook her head. "The bus driver confirms that she got off at the usual spot, but he didn't remember seeing anything suspicious. The police searched the whole

neighborhood, we even went on TV, but no one ever came forward who had seen Ellen after she got off the bus. You known that is something I never understood. There had to be

someone who saw her. A little girl can't just vanish into thin air!"




Jake was cold. He had come to some time ago - how long ago he didn't know for certain, lying shivering with cold on a bare concrete floor. He had managed to work himself into a

sitting position with considerable effort, but while this reduced his contact with the cold floor, it didn't do much to stop the shivering. He couldn't even wrap his arms around

himself for warmth as his wrists ere still tied securely behind his back. His ankles too had been tied while he was unconscious, plus, he had been robbed of his jacket. Shame

really, he had been quite fond of that leather jacket, Jake thought idly. A cursory examination of the room, as well as he'd been able had yielded nothing. It was a low-

ceilinged room with concrete walls and floor. There was a single steel door. It was locked, as he had been able to determine in painstaking effort. The exertion had left him

breathing hard and aching, but at least it had made him feel somewhat warm for a while. Now, he was back to sitting on his ass, on the freezing floor, waiting for developments.

For a while, he had amused himself by cataloging his injuries. The shoulder was a no-brainer. He could feel its throb loud and clear. Glancing down on himself, he hadn't been

surprised to see a bloody stain on his shirt over the site of the wound. He must have torn the stitches at some point. At least the bleeding seemed to have stopped now, as the

stain was already drying and didn't seem to be growing. At least he wouldn't bleed to death, Jake thought grimly. There were more blood stains on the shirt, maybe from a

nosebleed, he couldn't be sure.

It puzzled him somewhat that he was still alive at all. His captors must think that there was some advantage to be gained by keeping him alive and locked up. It couldn't be for

money, no one on their right mind would hold him to ransom. That left two other possibilities that he could think of. One, they were holding him for blackmail but were after

something other than money. The possibilities here were nearly endless, still nothing particular came to mind. If this were simply about eliminating witnesses, then they could

have just shot him after forcing the car off the road. Problem solved. The second reason for keeping him alive was far less appealing if one could use the word at all in his

present situation: they were holding him to make him suffer first and then kill him. While he undoubtedly had made some enemies in his life, he couldn't see anyone vindictive

enough to go such lengths.

When he suddenly heard the sound of a bolt being pulled back, he stiffed slightly, not sure what to expect. A man with a masterful air strode into the room.

"Jake Doyle, private investigator," he said slowly.

"Yes, that's me, Jake replied. "And you are?"

"That's none of your concern," the man replied carelessly.

"Just seems a little unfair," Jake remarked. "You already seems to know a lot about me, but I don't even know your name."

That comment earned Jake a backhand across the face.

"That's all you need to know," the man said, regarding Jake with contempt. He put two fingers in his mouth and gave a shrill whistle. This appeared to have been a signal as a

moment later two burly men stepped into the room. One of them looked somewhat familiar, maybe the man from the hospital parking lot? Jake couldn't be certain, but if this was

Alonzo Sanchez, one of his suspicions about what all this was about was confirmed. He still didn't know why he was still alive though.

"He's all yours," the man told them. "Don't forget to take another picture when you're done," he handed one of them a small pocket camera. "I'll be waiting for your report."

With that the man strode from the room, closing the door behind him.

"I'm Jake, and you are?" Jake said, sounding more upbeat than he felt in view of the unpleasantries he was pretty sure would be inflicted on him in short order.

TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Leslie returned to her desk, deep in thought about the assignment she had just accepted. She wasn't even sure why she had said yes, just that it had felt like th right things to do. She knew that she wouldn't be allowed to investigate Jake's kidnapping not when she wasn't medically cleared for duty. Plus, the brass would probably argue that she was too close to the victim to remain objective and they were probably right. Whether she liked it or not, she had feelings for Jake, even though they tended to vacillate anywhere between affection and irritation. Meanwhile, she had another case to investigate. Cindy Dobson's murder was still open and before she had been handed the envelope by constable Markham, she had been on her way to check on the forensics reports from the Dobson murder scene.

As she had expected, the remaining reports were waiting for her on her desk. The analysis of the blood evidence had yielded nothing she hadn't already known or suspected. Cindy Dobson had most like been shot in the doorway, then her body had been dragged out of sight and into the room. Subsequently, at least five people had stepped into the still wet blood, leaving footprints all over the room and the hallways in both directions over a distance of over a dozen yards. Based in the shoe prints, most of the prints belonged to doctors and nurses, probably the ones who had attended to Cindy and Jake after Mal and the student nurse Marion had discovered them, in the course leaving shoe prints of their own. None of this was going to her her clear up the murder and thus give her a clue as to who had kidnapped Jake. She tossed the file back onto her desk.

She picked up a second forensics report, curious to see what was in there. Apparently Lynch and her colleagues had been extremely thorough They had even examined the pillow found on the ground. Traces of saliva had been found on the pillow as belonging to Jake Doyle. There had also been a tear on the side, probably made by someone's fingernails as they had held the pillow to Jake's face. Now that was revealing, if slightly puzzling. If the killer had had a gun, why had he poisoned Jake and hen tried to smother him? Why not simply shoot him and get the job done, Leslie wondered. Leslie was glad that the killer hadn't shot Jake, but nonetheless it made her wonder.

Whoever had poisoned Jake would have to wait hang around for a while. First to wait for an opening to drug Jake's tray and then, the killer would have to wait for the drug to take effect and render Jake unconscious, before smothering him. It all seemed clumsy and awkward for a killer who was supposedly affiliated with organized criminals. Poison wasn't their style anyway. Maybe, Leslie realized, they were dealing with two assailants. One person who slipped poison into Jake's food, hoping the overdose would kill him and another person, the guy from the surveillance video, who had brought a gun with him.

It was possible that he had planned on shooting Jake all along, but when he had found him unconscious and unable to resist, decided to smother him instead. Smothering did have its advantages, it was less messy and noisy than shooting someone. That would make sense. However, this theory of events opened up more question than it did answer. It would imply that there were two people after Jake. One of them was undoubtedly connected to the kidnapped girl from the parking lot which in turn was probably linked to human trafficking. Leslie paused when she had reached that point in her reasoning. She powered up her work computer, anxiously waiting to for the machine to boot up. As soon as it was ready, she logged on and pulled up Alonzo Sanchez's file.

It wasn't his record she was interested in but the other information that might be on file. There were no affiliates or known associates listed, but Leslie wasn't about to give up yet. She pulled up information about his prior arrests. It was the people connected to and circumstances of the man's arrests that interested her. None of the names were familiar to her, but when she went through the lists of names of people arrested together with, she found a familiar face. She got out the screen cap from the security footage from the hospital, now enhanced by the AV techs. The photo was blurry at best and as the shooter had done his best to keep his face out of sight of the surveillance camera, the best was a half profile. The mugshot on file was over five years old, but Leslie was sure it was the same man. She pulled up the details of the man's file. His name was Zlatko Batic, aged 37, a native of former Yugoslavia who had lived in Canada since his early childhood. There wasn't much in the way of a criminal record, his only arrest resulting in a conviction had been during a raid on a brothel suspecting of employing underage girls. Batic had been found to be in possession of a small amount of cocaine and had been convicted of drug possession. Apparently he had claimed to be merely a customer at the brothel, but in light of recent discoveries, Leslie was fairly certain that this had been a lie and that he was really involved in the business. Alonzo had been one of the pimps arrested at that brothel during then raid.

Interesting, Leslie thought, one day Alonzo kidnapped a girl and a few hours later, the only witness to the event was nearly smothered to death and the woman who had interrupted him had been shot with the same gun that had previously been used in the murder of a prostitute. It was all starting to come together, save for one point: how had anyone connected to the traffickers known Jake had witnesses the kidnapping? That was what Leslie couldn't figure out. Maybe going undercover with the Parker family wasn't such a bad idea after all, they were involved in human trafficking and underage prostitution after all.




Rose had left Des behind to stay at the office while she went to track down Steve Travis. She had tasked Des with finding out who the phone number the texts Tinny had received had been sent from and also left strict instructions that Des wasn't to accept any new clients that happened to wander into the offices of Doyle and Doyle investigative services. Clients had been few and far in between in the last few days, but it was better to be safe than sorry, especially when Des was in charge of the office.

Her first port of call had been the Romatica movie theater, where, she had learned Steve's home address. She had questioned the girl working the matinee shift briefly. The woman who was clearly bored out of her mind at her job had only been to glad to tell the story of what had happened the previous day. Apparently one of her fellow employees getting beaten up made for a welcome change from the normal day to day routine. If she had been surprised by the fact that Steve had gotten beaten up, she hadn't let on. Rather, she seemed to be of the pinion that it was wonder it hadn't happened sooner. Apparently wasn't the first girl who had taken offense to his particular brand of advances. According to the girl, Steve's vocabulary didn't include the word 'no', when spoken by a member of the female species. But aside from making her rather glad that the guy was probably out of Tinny's life for good, Rose had learned little of value. The woman hadn't seen who had beaten up Steve. All she knew was that Steve had come in, his face all messed up, as she had put it, had told her that he was done with 'that crazy bitch' and had left shortly after.

Rose didn't need to guess who he had meant by 'crazy bitch'. Rose had left the cinema with the distinct impression that whoever had beaten up Steve had done Tinny a favour. Still, whoever had beaten him up was probably the guy who was really following Tinny around. Otherwise,how could he have known tat Steve was interested in Tinny? Steve clearly hadn't known his attacker, why else would he have thought that Jake was responsible? So probably not someone who went to school with Tinny. Rose had gotten that far in her deductions when she arrived in front of the tenement building where the Travis' lived.

She was just about to press the bell next to the faded label that read 'Travis', when the door opened and a young man stepped outside. From his face, it was obvious that he'd been the subject of a beating.

"Steve Travis?" Rose asked.

The man whirled around. "Who wants to know?"

"I'm here about what happened to you yesterday," Rose said, not answering his question.

"What's it to you?" Steve fixed her with a hostile glance, before narrowing his eyes at her. "You are one of Tinny's crazy lot, aren't you?" Before Rose could answer in any way, he continued. "I told her that I'm through with her and I meant it. So just leave me alone already! It's her loss anyway."

Rose highly doubted that last statement, but instead, she said: "I just want to know one thing, what did the guy who beat you up look like?"

Steve paused, staring at her. At first, it looked like he was simply going ti urn away and leave her standing on the stoop, but eventually, he answered: "Some old dude with a ponytail. Told me to stay way from Tinny or he'd be back. Well, he can have her, I'm not getting beaten up again over a bitch like her." With that he strode away without a second look at Rose.

While it wasn't exactly a name and address, it did narrow things down quite a bit. It confirmed that Tinny's admirer come stalker wasn't a student, even though Steve probably called everyone over twenty-five old. When Tinny got here in the afternoon, Rose would ask if she knew anyone fitting that description. Hopefully that would clear up the mystery.




"I brought lunch," Rose announced as she opened the door to the office. She entered, a bag with sandwiches in hand, thinking that Des was probably too lost in whatever he was doing on his laptop to have heard her.

"Did you find who that number belongs to?" she asked, back turned to the room as she hung up her jacket. When she once again received no reply, she turned around. "Des?" she asked, but there was no sign of the young man anywhere.

His laptop was still there, a bag of crisps lying beside it. Rose walked over to the desk intent on checking to see if Des had left any note that he was going out. Inside, she nearly stepped into a brownish puddle on the floor. The source was no mystery, in the middle of the spill was a broken coffee mug. An internal alarm bell went off in Roses' head. Des might not have been the most orderly person, but he would have cleaned up the broken mug and spilt liquid before leaving. Rose cast around a glance for any other signs that would indicate what had happened. There was nothing. The office was exactly as she had left it, save for the broken mug and Des' unexplained absence. Rose reached for the phone and dialed Des' mobile number. The phone rang a number of times, but no one picked up. Eventually, the call went to voice mail.

"Des, it's Rose. Call me as soon as possible, okay? Bye."

Rose hung up the phone. She briefly considered calling her husband, but decided against it. Mal was a grown man and while he might not show his concern outwardly, Rose knew he was deeply worried about Jake. His early morning departure indicated that he needed some space and Rose was willing to let him have it, at least for now.

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Rose replied, wondering who it could be. A client maybe, or Des returning? But Des wouldn't knock. She wasn't long left in doubt, when a man and woman entered the office. They were both dressed fairly smartly and Rose could tell that they weren't clients, but likely there on official business.

"I'm Sergeant Davenport, this is Constable Grunewald, we are looking for Malachy Doyle," the man introduced himself and his partner.

"He isn't in right now. I'm his wife, Rose Doyle." Rose explained. "Is there anyone news about his son Jake?"

"We're pursuing a number of leads at the moment," the woman replied evasively and Rose was pretty sure that meant that they had no clue where Jake was or who had taken him hostage.

"Maybe you can help us," the man suggested helpfully. "We are looking for any information that could point us to who might have kidnapped your stepson."

"I assume you know that he was poisoned the day before he was kidnapped?" Rose asked, wondering why the detectives were wasting precious time talking to her when they could be running down leads.

"Yes, we are aware of the fact as well as the alleged kidnapping Mr Doyle claimed he witnessed."

"Alleged?" Rose echoed, incredulous and angry.

"We are still investigating that incident," the woman added, clearly trying to calm matters.

"Then I suggest you go out and do that," Rose replied sharply, turning away from the two investigators.

TBC

Chapter Text

After a few hours of sleep, Serena had decided to venture down into the kitchen to fix herself something to eat. The house was quiet once more, with boss guy long since having left and Alonzo probably being asleep after a hard night's work.

Like the rest of the house the kitchen too was old and dilapidated. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned in ages, dirty dishes were piling up in the sink, the trash bin was overflowing with food wrappers and the sour smell of rotten milk lay in the air. Serena opened the fridge, not surprised to find it nearly empty. She experimentally sniffed at an opened milk carton only to recoil in disgust. It had definitely gone off. She poured the contents of the container down the sink, then went back to scouring the fridge and pantry for any edibles.

In the end, she found two slices of bread and some mayonnaise which she spread over the slices. It was far from ideal, but she was used to irregular meals. She as leaning against the fridge munching on her so-called sandwich and considering if she should wash the dishes, when she heard the scream. It wasn't a long scream, but it sounded pained nonetheless. She had learned early on that it was better to mind one's own business if one wanted to stay unharmed, but she couldn't help but wonder what was going on downstairs. She wondered if it was connected to the guy the boss had brought by the previous night.

Another scream came from the basement, followed by what sounded like someone shouting "stop, just stop already". The pattern continued for a good five or ten minutes, until the sounds finally stopped. They were followed, a few seconds later, by footsteps coming up the stairs. Serena quickly pulled the kitchen door shut. Much to her relief, the footfalls passed by the kitchen door.

When she heard the sound of the front door being shut, she breathed a sigh of relief. She was halfway up the stairs, when she turned around, curiosity getting the better of her. Alonzo wouldn't likely get home for hours, leaving her free to roam about the house. She hesitated at the stairs leading down into the basement, but finally, slipped down the stairs as quietly as she could. There were a number of rooms down in the cellar, most of them filed with boxes upon boxes of stuff. She knew where she had to go though.  There was small back room to one of the regular basement rooms.

She had heard stories about what had gone on down there from some of the other girls who had been with Alonzo for longer than she had. Allegedly, there had been a girl once, whom Alonzo had taken down to be basement and no one had ever seen her again alive. She had no idea if it was true, but she still rather uneasy as she approached the bolted steel door. She pressed her ear against the cold metal, listening for any sounds from within. There was nothing. With trembling fingers, she slid back the bolt, opening the door a fraction of an inch. The light was on inside the room, coming from a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. A man, the same man she'd seen being carried into the house the night before was lying on the floor, curled up in a near fetal position. His breathing was making an odd wheezing noise. It sounded painful and labored to her ears. He seemed unconscious. She took a step into the room, when the man suddenly startled awake, staring at her with wild eyes for a moment, clearing having expected someone else. His expression took on a an air of surprise hand he struggled to sit up. He bit his lip as he tried to do so, the action clearly causing him a lot of pain. He coughed, and Serena was shocked to see the fine bloody mist spraying from his mouth. He nodded to her, his eyes inviting her to come closer. Serena took s step further into the small room and crouched down in front of the man, still keeping about a two meters distance between them.

"I need to get out of here," the man said in a low and strained voice. "Can you help me?" he asked when Serena didn't answer.

She shook her head. She wanted to help the stranger, but she couldn't possibly help him escape. Doing so would earn her far more than a mere beating. "I can't," she said, "I'm sorry."

"Please," the man said, blood staining his lips as he spoke. "I need to get out of here."

"He'll kill me if I let you go," Serena said sadly.

"Is he here right now?" the man asked with obvious effort.

Serena shook her head.

"Then...just...come with me," the man said

Serena gave a small laugh at the ridiculousness of the suggestion.

"I have nowhere to go. Besides, no matter where I go, he'd find me. You don't get away from them, ever."

"I know...I know people who can protect you," the man said with visible effort. His words were interrupted by another cough, sending blood dripping down his chin. "Please?" he asked, looking at her with pleading eyes.




"So you received this envelope when exactly?" Davenport asked, blinking owlishly at Leslie from behind his horn-rimmed spectacles.

"As I said, it was handed into the front desk and given to me when I arrived at the station around 8:30 this morning," Leslie said and proceeded to repeat what Constable Markham had told her about the man who had handed the letter in.

"You have no idea who that man might have been?" Grunewald asked, eying Leslie doubtfully.

"No. At any rate, I think he was most likely paid to deliver the letter by someone else. If we can find him, he might be able to give a description." Leslie argued, bristling slightly at the unspoken accusation in Grunewald's voice.

"Thank you for suggestions, Sergeant Bennett. We'll take it from here," Grunewald said coldly.

Leslie was about to turn away, when Davenport's voice called her back.

"This warning, telling you to back off, what do you think was meant by that?" Leslie tried to hide her surprise. Finally one of the pair was actually thinking like a detective. She just hadn't thought it would be Davenport.

Leslie turned back to face him, addressing the man deliberately. "I can only imagine that it has to do with the murder of the nurse Cindy Dobson, and of course the attempt on Jake Doyle's life. That was the last case I worked on at any rate, so it seems most likely that  the warning is connected to that," Leslie said, aware of the looks Grunewald was giving her.

"You don't think the warning could be of a more personal nature?" Grunewald asked.

Leslie grit her teeth to suppress her anger at the insinuation. They were just doing their jobs, but the way they were doing them, especially Constable Grunewald, was making her furious.

"I don't think how that could be the case," she finally replied. "And the fact that it was handed in here at the station and not delivered to my home, speaks to the theory that it's connected with a case, rather than some personal grudge."

"Fair enough," said Davenport. "If you could let us have what you've accumulated so far on the Dobson murder, I'm sure it would help us determine if there indeed is a connection."

Leslie nodded. "I'll have it on your desk asap." Leslie answered. She wasn't one to keep evidence from her fellow detectives, but just because they'd share the data, didn't mean that she had to back off entirely. She still intended to make another visit to the hospital and request the security footage from earlier in the day, in the hopes of spotting whoever had poisoned Jake's meal. If her theory was correct, then it wouldn't be Zlatko Batic on that video. Trust Jake to have two people angry enough at him to want to kill him the same day.



"I really hope you get to the bottom of this soon," the hospital security chief said after greeting Leslie and showing her into the security office. "We've beefed up security, but to tell you the truth, people are scared."

"We are pursuing a couple of leads at the moment," Leslie replied, not really in the mood to discuss her lack of investigative success. Technically, it wasn't her case anymore, but she doubted that the two detectives the inspector had chosen to replace her, would have more success than she had had. It didn't help that Sergeant Davenport was very close to retirement and not interested in going to any more trouble than strictly necessary and that his partner, Constable Grunewald was young and inexperienced yet too arrogant to realize it. She didn't truly regret having accepted the undercover assignment, she was way too close to the whole mess involving Jake. It was because of her feelings for Jake that he was now being held captive and was probably being mistreated in more ways than she wanted to imagine. No, she decided, she really did need to get away from it all if she wanted to survive with her sanity intact. Whether she liked to admit it or not, there was a very real chance that she would never see Jake Doyle again, no matter who was on the case.

"What is it that I can do for you today?" the security chief's words interrupted her train of thought.

"I'm looking for surveillance footage from the day of the murder," Leslie explained.

The security chief frowned. "We already turned over everything."

"I'm interested in what happened before the murder, say around the time the lunch trays were being distributed on the sixth floor."

"Well, there aren't any cameras in the hallways. Only the entrances and exits are covered by cameras."

Leslie nodded. She knew as much from when she had spoken to the security chief previously. "I'll take that footage then," she replied. It wasn't ideal, but she was hoping that using the timing of when the meal trays had been distributed to narrow in on a possible suspect. Of course, it was possible that her theory about when the poison had been added to Jake's food was wrong, but it was the best lead she had at the moment.

"Then I'll need all the footage from the access points to the sixth floor, for the time between 12 a.m. and 1 pm."

"No problem, I'll have one of my people copy the video for you."



"What are you doing here, Bennett?" Hood greeted Leslie in his usual gruff fashion when he came walking back into the office after having spend yet another morning in the missing persons department sorted through their very extensive collection of files which were yet to be added to the computerized system. He wasn't sure whether to be glad or not that he had identified two more potential matches for the skeletal remains found in the woods the other day.

Leslie looked up from her computer screen. "I do work here," she replied, mild annoyance in her tone.

"I just thought you would be busy getting ready for your big assignment with organized crime," Hood said with a shrug.

"How did you know?" Leslie asked, astounded.

"I am a detective," Hood said somewhat indignantly. He began walking to his desk when he caught a glimpse of the image on Leslie's computer screen.

"Is that Corinne Dawson?" he asked.

Leslie turned around. "You know her?"

"Know of her more like," Hood replied, wondering if Mal had roped Leslie into his case as well. "Forensics got her prints of letter that I had them run as a favour for Doyle."

"Jake had you run a letter for him?" Leslie sounded surprised.

"No, but Malachy has. Apparently he received some anonymous letters and thinks they might be connected to his son being poisoned. Didn't think there was anything to it, but if that's really Corinne Dawson at the hospital..." he pointed to the figure frozen on screen.

"This is footage from the hospital from around the time that I think the Barbital was added to Jake's food."

Hood went to rummage through the files on his desk until he finally found the one had shown Malachy before. He flipped it open and handed it to Leslie.

"That's her," she confirmed after comparing the mugshot in the file to the image on screen.

"You think she tried to kill Doyle?"

"Yes, but I can't exactly prove it, not with what I have here." Leslie gestured at the screen. "All I know for sure is that she was at the hospital at the time.




"Bye Sandra," Tinny said to one of her classmates as they reached the bus stop where Tinny normally got on the bus.

"Bye Tinny, See you tomorrow!" the other girl said. Tinny looked after her until she was out of sight, lost in thought.

There had been no message or flowers left for her today and she hadn't seen Steve Travis anywhere in school. He probably wouldn't show his beaten up face there. That still left her mysterious text message sender, but since yesterday, she had heard nothing from him either. While she was tempted to believe that things were over, her gut feeling told her that it was far from over. Her intuition was confirmed when her cell phone suddenly chirped announcing a text message.

Tinny pulled out her phone, suddenly feeling very uneasy. She looked around furtively. There were a number of people waiting at the bus stop, but none of them seemed to pay any attention to her, yet she couldn't help thinking that she was being watched. Trying to shake off the eerie sensation that she was being followed, Tinny checked her cell phone. The message was from the same number that her other stalker calls had come from. Tinny opened the message with apprehension. The message was short and somewhat different from the previous ones. It read:

Check your email. You won't regret it.

It sounded ominous to her ears, but she still rushed to check her email. The latest message was from someone with the screen name of tripleplayer and it had no subject line. Tinny opened it. It contained a link to a video. Tinny tapped on the link and the video opened in the phone's browser. At first she couldn't see anything, the screen was completely dark. Suddenly, the picture was illuminated by a light from an ugly lamp hanging from the ceiling. In the center of the frame was a chair, with a figure slumped in it. She couldn't make out any details, until suddenly the image zoomed in om the figure in the chair.

Tinny gasped. It was Des in the chair and he was tied to the back of the chair with silver duct tape. He was slumped over, apparently unconscious. Tinny was trying to make out more details, when the video ended abruptly. Stunned, she stared at the screen, trying to process what she had just seen.

Her reverie was only broken when her cell phone chirped again, announcing another text message. With trembling fingers, Tinny fumbled to open the message. It took her three tries and when she finally succeed, she found a message that read:

Des won't be bothering you anymore. I hope you appreciate the trouble I went to for you.

Tinny once again glanced around, but a bus had pulled up at the stop and all she could see were people queuing up to get into the bus. The other side of the street was completely blocked from view. Tinny hesitated for only an instant, before pressing the reply button and typing in a message:

Thanks. Would love to meet you.

A voice at the back of her mind was telling her that this was a very bad idea, as her thumb hovered over the send button. But the the image of Des, slumped over and tied up, pushed itself to the forefront of her mind and she threw caution into the wind and resolutely pressed send. There was no turning back now.

Her legs felt like jell-o as she walked over to a nearby bench and sat down. No sense in taking the bus home now, not when she was waiting for this creep to call back. If she was right and he was watching her, then she probably wouldn't have to wait fro long.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



The trek up the stairs was the most arduous thing Jake had ever undertaken in his entire life. Not only did every inch of his body hurt viciously with every step, what was worse was that he couldn't seem to get enough oxygen. Every breath he took, it felt like his lungs were filled with ground glass. Between that and the blood he could taste in his mouth, Jake didn't need to to be a genius to know what had happened. He had been beaten thoroughly by the two goons and in the process must have broken a few ribs, one of which likely had punctured a lung. He needed to get help soon, or he would be beyond help. The thought spurred him on, to push through exhaustion and pain. The girl from the parking lot was doing her best to help, but there wasn't much she could do.





It wasn't overly light outside. The sky was overcast, but it still seemed impossibly bright to Jake after the relative darkness of the cellar and the dimness of the house with its boarded up windows. The house stood back from the road in its own grounds. Once open a time, it must have been the residence of a wealthy family, but the house had fallen to ruins long since. The grounds weren't in any better shape. Weeds were growing wild everywhere. Discarded furniture and rusting tools were littering the area closest to the old house.

"Car?" Jake asked. He'd been reduced to one word questions in an effort of conserve strength ad oxygen.

Parking lot girl shook her head.

"Alonzo's taken the car with him," she said. "But there is a gas station about two miles up the road."

She pointed in the direction of a gravel road leading uphill from the house. Jake would have sighed in frustration had he but had the breath for it. Two miles, the gas station might as well have been on the moon as far as he was concerned. He knew he wouldn't make it.

He grabbed parking lot girl by the arm, twisting so that he was looking directly into her face.

"You...need to get help," he managed with a supreme effort.

"What about you?" the girl asked.

"'s...too far...for me," Jake was having a hard time keeping upright, darkness closing in on him. He was running out of time and fast. He let go of the girl's arm, allowing himself to sink down to the ground.

"Hurry," he managed, his vision already graying at the edges. The last thing he saw was the scared face of the girl from the parking lot. Then it all faded to black.




Serena was panting hard when she pushed open the door of the small gas station. She couldn't get the image of the man from the basement out of her mind. The pain in his eyes wouldn't leave her alone. The memory was strong enough to overcome any fear she felt of Alonzo and his friends. She had only hesitated for an instant after the man had collapsed, then she had taken off in a run. She had been forced to slow down after a few hundred years, not used to running long distances. She'd walked for a while, then started running again, repeating the cycle several times until she made it to her destination.

"What's the matter, sweetheart?" the woman behind the counter asked as soon as she spotted Serena.

Serena gasped for breath, trying to get the words out, but she was too winded.

"Did someone hurt you?" the woman asked, full of concern, indicating the Serena's face.

"There's this man," Serena gasped in between greedy breaths. "He needs help. Please, I think he's dying." Serene braced her hands on her thighs and bent forward, trying to drink in more air.

"Few miles down the road..."

"You mean the old Stevenson house? I thought that place had been abandoned for ages," she said and looked questioningly at Serena who was still struggling to catch her breath.

"Never mind," the woman decided. "I'll call for an ambulance."




The organized crime task force had prepared an impressive board on the Paler investigation, Leslie thought as soon as she stepped into the briefing room.

"Sergeant Bennett, welcome to the organized crime task force. I'm Inspector Manners, in charge of the Parker investigation," Manners shook her hand. He was all together younger than Leslie had expected. Maybe a few years older than she was, making it all the more impressive that he had already reached the rank of detective inspector.

"Glad to be of help," Leslie said. Manners gestured for her to take a seat at the table in the middle of the room.

Manners walked up to the board. On it a number of photographs along with names and other annotations were arranged in a roughly pyramidal shape. Manners pointed to the picture on top. "Meet Mervin Parker, fifty-six years of age, currently married to wife number three. As far as the public is concerned, he is a respectable business man and entrepreneur. In reality however, his main company, Parker Securities and Investments is merely a front used to hide and launder money he's made engaging in various illegal activities. These activities include human trafficking and prostitution involving underage girls. In recent years, they've also started to encroach on the drug distribution business, mainly in developing, manufacturing and selling novel designer drugs. These synthetic drugs use novel chemical compounds as their base. As these compounds are still new, they aren't illegal yet."

"Legal highs," Leslie said and nodded.

"Exactly, that's the problem. By the time the health authorities outlaw one compound, at least two new derivatives have popped up. Effects of thee compounds range from mildly hallucinogenic to downright lethal. The only way to really combat these drugs is by putting the manufacturers out of business. We are hoping you ca help us get the evidence on Parker's criminal empire that we need in order to successfully bring a case against him. Now Melvin Parker is a very paranoid guy. We've never been able to successfully infiltrate his organization. However, rumor has it that the old man's health is failing. He hasn't appeared in public in quite a while and his son, Sydney Parker is now in charge of the day to day operations. Sydney Parker was born in 1986, making him twenty-six years old.  His only arrest was when he was sixteen, he was involved in a brawl. He was sentenced to a few hours of community service and since then has led an honest life, at least on paper. What the files won't tell you is that he is behind the recent branching out into the drug trade. In the process of which, at lest three members of a rival crime syndicate have been murdered. All three were Russian expats and suspected to have been involved large scale drug manufacturing operations, specifically of legal highs. The way we figure it, it's just the beginning of a larger territorial dispute," Inspector Manners explained.

He indicated a stack of files on the table.

"These are the files on the three murders. All three cases are still open, all with no leads to speak of."

"How does Jocelyn Parker figure into this?" Leslie asked, recalling the young woman Sydney Parker had seemed so attached to.

"She is Mervin's youngest daughter from his second marriage and allegedly his favorite child. She was born in 1994 and has had her share of troubles with the law in her short life so far, but until now only minor stuff like underage drinking, shoplifting, things like that. As far as we known, she has no direct involvement in any of the criminal dealings of the family."

"Sydney Parker said she ran with a bad crowd? Any truth to that?"

"Might be, we don't really know. What we do know is that her accident the other day wasn't due to foul play, but rather she lost control of her car because she was under the influence of a new drug called Sparkle. It's one of the those legal highs. Now, your role will be to get closer to the Parker family. The old man wants to meet you, so that will give you an in."

"So you have his phones wired?" Leslie asked, wondering how else Manners and his team could know all of this.

"The phones we know about yes, but there are probably dozens of burn phones being used and  disposed of regularly, so we haven't been able to get very much of value."

"We have prepared a back story for your undercover assignment," Manners handed her a file and a wallet. Leslie flipped open the file.

"The short version of it is: your name is Leslie Baker, you're an out of work secretary who has recently come to St. John's to look for a new job."

The wallet contained a driver's license and two credit cards in the name of Leslie Baker.

"You'll find all the details regarding your cover identity in the file. It's important that you know it by heart."

"I understand, sir," Leslie replied.

"Once you've studied and memorized the file, we want you to make contact with Sydney and tell him that you'd like to take him up on his dinner invitation. Once we know when and where, we'll take it from there."

"What about my open cases?" Leslie asked.

"I have spoken to your inspector and we've agreed that ay open cases will be handled by other detectives for the time being. We can't rule out that the old man will have you followed, so it would be too great a risk for you to continue with your other duties. For the same reason, you'll be staying at one of our apartments that we use for undercover operations such as this. With Parker, we cannot be too careful. He is highly paranoid which probably explains why he has been able to stay in business for so long. As for your handler, he should be here any minute and should be able to answer any practical or logistics-related questions you may have.




After another lengthy conversation wit her future handler, one Sergeant Kelly which included an impromptu quiz on her new bio, Leslie was as ready as she would ever be. While still in the presence of her handler, she had called Sydney, had asked how Jocelyn was doing and had accepted his invitation to meet his family over dinner. Sydney seemed delighted at her call and they agreed that she should meet them at a restaurant that evening.

"You feeling all set?" Kelly asked her once she'd hung up.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Good. Remember the idea tonight is to gain their trust and get acquainted, not to find out any specific information, so you won't be wearing a wire. Instead, we'll debrief you tomorrow. If anything urgent comes up, you know what to do."

Leslie nodded. They had discussed the procedures at length. She felt pretty sure she could handle it, provided that her headache dripped back down to more bearable levels. An aspirin or two should fix that. The dose she had taken that morning had long since worn off. She always kept a bottle in her desk at the station for emergencies.

"Okay, then. Keep your head clear and your ears and eyes open and you'll be fine," Kelly said and bade her good-bye.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



The clock on her mobile told her that it had been only three minutes, but to Tinny it had seemed like an eternity had passed before she received a reply to her text message.

Yes.



That was all it said. Tinny frowned at the display in confusion. Surely the object of this whole weird series of events couldn't be merely a prank, designed to make a fool out of her? But she discarded the possibility instantly. Whoever was sending her these messages had Des. That alone told her that this was serious. But what was she expected to do now, she wondered. Wait for another message? Send a reply?

She was not long left in doubt when she felt a soft tap on her left shoulder. She whirled around to find herself face to face with a man. He wasn't very tall, wore his blonde hair in a long ponytail and was looking at her with big green eyes, magnified by the lenses of his glasses. He beamed at her, blushing slightly.

"I'm so sorry if I startled you," he said in a soft voice, still staring at her. Tinny was starting to feel creeped out by the way his eyes appeared glued to her face. He seemed to realize her discomfort, because he quickly looked away. "I apologize, again, but you're just so beautiful."

Tinny ignored the flattery and moved to the heart of the matter.

"What did you do to Des?" she asked sharply.

The man seemed disappointed for an instant, but soon perked up again. "You're just so sweet, caring about people the way you do."

This time, Tinny wasn't flattered in the least. "What did you do to Des?" she asked again with insistence.

"Oh, Des is all right. He'll feel a bit groggy when he wakes up, but I suspect he's been through worse." The man chuckled to himself as if he'd just made a joke.

"I want to see him," Tinny demanded, trying to keep her voice from trembling.

"Nothing easier than that," the man replied nonplussed. He pulled out his mobile phone and after a few seconds, turned the screen towards her.

Displayed on the phone's tiny screen appeared to be the feed of a CCTV camera of sorts. It showed the same room as she had seen in the video earlier. Des was still taped to the chair, but he was clearly awake now, looking around the room, struggling to free himself.

There was a time code at the bottom right corner of the video. It showed that the feed had to be live. Tinny felt slight relief at seeing that Des was indeed alive and appeared relatively unhurt.

"What do you want from him?" Tinny asked.

"Him? Oh, I don't want anything from him," the man replied placidly.

"Then why did you kidnap him?" Tinny demanded, her confidence increasing, or maybe it was just her anger replacing fear.

The man frowned mightily at that. "You really don't see it, do you?" he asked gently, with an expression of pity on his face. "Des would only have come between us, just like that despicable thug, Steve Travis."

"Us?" Tinny asked sharply, hardly believing her ears. She was trying to decide whether this guy was just delusional or whether he was actually dangerous.

The man whoever didn't seem insulted. "Tinny Doyle, I have been madly in love with you ever since the first time I saw you. And when you smiled back at me, that time at the coffee shop, I just knew you felt the same."

Tinny was struck speechless. This guy really thought that they could have a relationship, hell that they did have a relationship even if it was from a distance. She couldn't even recall having seen him before. However, it didn't seem like a good idea to mention that to him, even though part of her wanted to just to wipe that dopey smile off his face.

Instead, she said: "It's just...it's all a bit sudden," she fumbled, fervently trying to work out what to say. Running away wasn't an option, as the man had Des and was in all likelihood crazy enough to hurt him.




Des could have kicked himself had he not been securely tied to a chair with liberal amounts of duct tape. He had been so stupid it almost hurt. He should have known that the guy hadn't been a prospective client, but he'd sounded so convincing when he'd told him about being blackmailed by some nightclub dancer over a brief fling.

Des wasn't entirely sure when or how it had happened, but he did recall suddenly having felt a sharp pain at the side of his neck and then it had been lights out. The next thing he'd known, he'd woken up tied to a chair in a very ugly living room. The decor looked like it hadn't been upgraded in decades, the furniture was covered with large white sheets, formerly white, now gray curtains were drawn and dust lay thick in the corners. Near the door stood a tripod on which a small video camera was amounted. A blinking red light indicated that it was currently recording, recording his every move. Even if he did manage to get free of the chair, he wouldn't be able to escape undetected. Chances were someone was watching him from somewhere. Not that it seemed likely that he would be able to free himself. Whoever had tied him up had done a solid job of it, wrapping copious amounts of tape around his chest and the back of the chair, as well as taping both his ankles to the legs of the chair.

He might be able to tip the chair over, but he didn't see how that could possibly provide him with an advantage. He was just trying to gently rock the chair, trying to move it by alternately rocking right and left. It wasn't working terribly well, and he had to be careful not to gain too much momentum which could send him crashing onto the carpet. When the door suddenly and seemingly noiselessly opened and Tinny stepped into the room, Des was so startled hat he promptly overbalanced and crashed, chair and all, to the floor. The ancient and worn carpet send up a cloud of dust straight into his face, causing him to cough and sneeze at the same time.

"Tinny!" he exclaimed, between sneezes. "What are you doing here? What am I doing here, wherever here happens to be? He sneezed again.

"Are you okay, Des?" Tinny asked, advancing into the room and kneeling next to where Des was tipped over in then chair.

"I...I think I am, but I'm not sure," Des fumbled, thrown by the question. "Though I would really appreciate if you could untie me."

When Tinny made no move to do so, he added. "Please."

He had been so focused on Tinny hat he never noticed the man entering the room. He felt a sharp, familiar pain in his neck. He tried turning his head to see what was going on, but his vision was already blurring rapidly.

"Not fair," he slurred, before losing consciousness completely for the second time that day.

 




Rose slammed down the receiver in frustration. She had tried to reach Mal, both on his cell and at the house. When that had failed, she'd tried Des, then Leslie and finally Tinny, but none of them picked up their phones. She had left messages on all their mailboxes, laying the same every time.

HI, it's me, Rose. Listen, they found Jake. He's at St. Victor's Hospital near Mt Pearl. I don't know anything else, but I'm headed down there right now. Call me when you get this.

She grabbed her jacket, and was on her way out the door when she realized that she didn't have car. Cursing, she stepped back into the office and after a quick search of Mal's desk found the keys to Jake's GTO. It would have to do.




Tinny stared at Des, as his eyes drifted shut, drugged once again. She raised her gaze to Philip, as her unwelcome admirer called himself.

"You said you'd let him go!" she accused. "It's the only reason I ever agreed to come with you. Instead you drugged him! Again!" Tinny was well and truly angry right now. She moved to pull put her cell phone, but suddenly Philip grabbed her hand, hard.

"Ow! What the..." Tinny exclaimed.

"I'm sorry, but I can't have you ruin this. Not when I spent so long to make today perfect." He used his other hand to pry the phone from Tinny's hand. He pocketed the phone, still keeping a vice-like grip on Tinny's arm.

"Perfect! You call this perfect!" There was no stopping Tinny now. "You beat up one of my school mates, you kidnap my friend and you drug him. Twice! I don't know what is wrong with your head, but you're deluded to think that I could ever...ow, what was that? What did you do to me?" Tinny glanced over her shoulder and saw a syringe sticking from her upper arm. Philip pulled it back out, smiling sadly at her, as he pulled an arm around her shoulder. Tinny tried to shake him off, but she was suddenly feeling very woozy. Everything was becoming rather hazy. She felt herself being steered toward the door, stumbling along on unsteady legs.

"I'm so sorry, Tinny, I didn't want to do this but you've left me no choice. You were always headstrong and that's part of what I love about you, but right now, you're upsetting our plans for the evening."

Tinny tried to reply, but the words wouldn't form properly. "Stop! let me go," she slurred , the words barely intelligible.

Suddenly, without being aware of having made the journey, they were in Philip's car again. He was buckling first her seat belt, then his own and started the engine. The purr of the car and the noise of the engine seemed incredibly monotone, and Tinny felt herself drift off despite her best efforts to keep her eyes open and to stay vigilant. She kept telling herself that her life as well as that of Des might depend on it, but the pull of the drug was too strong.

She didn't lose consciousness as much as drift in and out, aware of snatches of their journey. They seemed to be driving forever, continuing even as night was falling outside. She didn't notice their arrival at their destination, but all of a sudden she wasn't in the car any more. The stuffy warmth of the car was replaced by cool air which helped clear her head a little allowing her to take in what little she could see of her surroundings.

They were in a parking lot of some sort, gravel was crunching beneath her shoes as she stumbled onward, half dragged, half led by Philip. She caught sight of a neon sign declaring vacancies, identifying the place they had stopped at as a motel. At that realization, Tinny tried to stop, not liking at all how this was shaping up, but in her drugged condition, she was unable to put up anything resembling effective resistance. She tried to call out for help, too, hoping that the place wasn't as deserted as it looked, but all she could produce were slurred sounds with no force behind them. Even if there were people out here, they would probably just think that she was drunk. It was maddening how little her body would obey her, but even her fear was being dulled by the drug cursing through her veins. It seemed impossible to follow any one trail of thought for longer than a few seconds, she kept forgetting what she'd been thinking and had to pick up again from the beginning. It felt like she couldn't even think in a straight line, much less walk in one.

Fear gave her strength when they reached the doorstep of a motel room. Tinny tried pushing Philip's hands away. He clearly hadn't expected her to put up any kind of resistance, and in his surprise, he actually let go of her.

Tinny saw her chance and tried to break into a run, to get away from the man. Without him to support her, she collapsed to her knees, unable to remain upright. Still not deterred and increasingly desperate, she crawled, on her hands and knees, trying her best to get away. But it was no use, she had put less than two yards' distance between them, when strong arms scooped her up, and dragged her back towards the room. She tried to dig in her heels, but Philip easily managed to get her inside even without her help.

"Tinny, Tinny, Tinny," he tut tutted as he gently laid her down on the double bed. He sat down on the edge, turned away from her. He remained in that position for what seemed like forever to Tinny who had no more illusions about how the evening would end. However, instead of turning on her, Philip suddenly sprang to his feet and rushed from the room.


TBC

Chapter Text

 

oOo



Tinny hadn't known what to make of Philip's sudden departure. But she lost no time and looked around the room as well as she could from her position on the bed.

There was no way she would be able to scream loud enough to attract attention, much less leave the room to get help in the condition she was in, but she spotted a phone siting on the nightstand. Rolling over she had the receiver within reach of her arms, and after two attempts, managed to pick it up.

Dialing was harder since the numbers on the keys kept dancing in front of her eyes, but with a supreme effort of concentration, she manged to dial 911.




Rose closely kept to the speed limit to entire drive to Mt Pearl. The last thing she needed was to get in an accident, in Jake's car to boot. Still, she arrived in record time. She hadn't dared to switch off her phone during the drive, just in case Mal got her message and called back. Or Tinny, Des or Leslie for that matter.

Where was everyone? The question had been weighing on her mind, but her chief worry was for Jake. They had refused to give her any information over the phone, but she knew for a fact that Jake would have called himself if he were able.  If he wasn't able to call, then it meant that his injuries were likely serious.

Rose was operating on auto-pilot when she parked the car, got out, locked the car and made her way to the entrance. The woman at the reception desk in the lobby directed her to the second floor. Somehow, she made it to the second floor, although later she wouldn't remember any of her journey. The next thing she was clearly aware of was a woman with a white coat walking toward her.

"Good evening, I'm Dr. Evelyn Trent," the woman introduced herself and extended her hand toward Rose.

"Rose Doyle," Rose shook the woman's hand. She tried to read something, anything on the woman's face, but it was completely inscrutable.

"Are you Jake Doyle's mother?" the woman asked.

"I'm...his stepmother. What can you tell me? Is Jake going to be all right?" the questions spilled from Rose without any conscious input.

"Your stepson suffered rather serious injuries, including a punctured lung, considerable internal bruising, a hairline skull fracture and severe concussion. He's lost a lot of blood. We've given him a transfusion to stabilize him. We’ve also re-inflated the collapsed lung, but it will take a while for it to heal. He is in ICU right now and we have him on a ventilator for now to help with his breathing."

Rose nodded, too stunned to speak immediately. Mal need be to be here, she thought. Why wasn't his answering his phone?

"Is he going to be all right?" she finally managed to ask.

"To be frank, it's too early to tell for certain. He was in deep shock when he was admitted, but we've managed to stabilize him, at least for the moment. The next twenty-four to forty-eight hours will be critical."




It was still relatively early, but Mal needed a drink, badly. He didn't want to go to the Duke. He wasn't in the mood to talk to people. No, he needed somewhere off the beaten rack where no one would know him and where he could get drunk in peace. The meeting with Ellen's mother had shaken him more than he liked to admit. Now that Jake was missing with pretty much nothing to go upon, Louisa's still evident grief over the loss of her daughter had touched a raw nerve and stirred up fears and feelings that Mal was definitely not ready to confront.

He turned off his phone, shutting out any disturbances. He did notice hat he'd missed a call from Rose, but decided against checking the message. She would be angry at him for shutting her out like this, but he could deal with that tomorrow. Right now, he wasn't sure he could face any amount of sympathy even if it was well meant commiseration from Rose.

Wandering aimlessly around the less savory districts of town, he found himself passing by a dingy little establishment. A neon sign announced its name as the Blue Monkey, at least that was what it had once read. Now several of the letters were broken, making reading the sign more of a guessing game than a customer magnet. However, to Mal it was exactly what he'd been looking for. He pushed open the door and descended three steps into the main room of the pub. Despite the early hour, there were already a few serious drinkers set about the business of getting hammered. He would fit right in there, Mal decided. He made his way to the bar, took a seat on  rickety bar stool and placed his first order of the evening, intending to keep drinking until the burning acid of worry didn't hurt quite so much anymore.





A voice filtered through to Des' drugged mind. At first, he was only aware that someone was speaking, but not understanding what they were saying. The tones were non-threatening somehow, even reassuring. He would have been content to listen to the chatter resting just beneath the surface of conscious awareness, but someone or something was touching him, nudging his face non too gently.

He forced open his eyes with effort as his lids seemed unnaturally heavy. It took him a few seconds to make sense of what he was seeing - a pair of pink slippers amidst a sea of mottled green carpet. One of the slippers nudged him again.

"Oh dear," a woman's voice came from above. "Oh, dear," she kept repeating.

Des tried to right himself and found that he was unable to do so. He was tied to a chair which had tipped over onto the side. It was then that the memory of what had happened came back to him in all its splendors.

"Tinny!" he gasped.

The woman's voice paused in her litany.

"Oh, I thought you were dead." she remarked, nonplussed. "Are you one of Philip's fiends?" she asked.

"Uhm, I'm not sure," Des replied, not sure what to say. He had no idea who Philip was, but if his guess was right, it was the man who had kidnapped Tinny and drugged him.

"Is Philip here right now?" he asked, trying to think of a way to get out of this situation. What would Jake do, he wondered. Of course, Jake probably wouldn't have ended up tied to a tipped over chair in the first place, he realized belatedly.

"Can you untie me?" he asked when he didn't get a reply to his first question. "Please?"

"Who are you?" the woman asked. "What are you doing in my living room?"

Des blew out a breath. "That's a long story, but could you please untie me?"

"I will do nothing of the sort!" the woman appeared scandalized at the very suggestion. "I'll call the police, that's what I'll do. If you think you can rob me, young man, you are very much mistaken!" With that the pink slippers stalked out of Des' field of vision.




"Can you tell me your name, miss?" A young uniformed office appeared in Tinny's field of vision. She was currently sitting in the back of an ambulance and a paramedic was taking her blood pressure. After she had managed to telephone for help, police and the paramedics had seemed to have arrive in no time. Lucky for her, Philip hadn't returned in the meantime. In fact, there was still no sign of him.

"It's T...Katrina Doyle, but everyone calls me Tinny." she answered, still slightly muddled. The drug Philip had given her had obviously started to wear off by then, but everything that had happened while she had been under its influence still seemed hazy and rather unreal to her.

"All right, Tinny, " the woman smiled reassuringly. "I'm Constable Theresa Hern. Can you tell me what happened?"

Tinny tried her best to recount the afternoon's and evening's events, but her memory was still somewhat impaired, making it difficult to get the events in their right order. However Constable Hern was patient, letting her explain in a rambling fashion without interrupting her.

"Do you know Philip's last name?" he asked when Tinny finally finished.

Tinny shook her head, causing a wave of dizziness to wash over her. "Ugh," she groaned.

"Take it easy," the paramedic advised her from the side. ""You're blood pressure is still on the low side, so you'll get dizzy easily. But I think it'll wear off over the next few hours."

"Do I have to go to hospital?" Tinny asked in a small voice. The thought of having to deal with even more people and more questions was overwhelming to say the least.

"I strongly advise it, yes. But you probably won't have to stay overnight," the paramedic replied with sympathy. "Still, we need to check you out to make sure you are going to be all right."

"What about Des?" Tinny asked. With returning clarity, she was slowly starting to realize that while she might have had a narrow escape, Des might still be in serious danger.

"We'll do our best to find him," the constable reassured her. "Right now, we need to make sure that you're okay, Tinny. You need to go to the hospital and let them check you out."

Tinny nodded, more careful this time not to cause more dizziness. . She really didn't want to, but it didn't look like she had much of a choice. Better get it over with, she thought in resignation. If she was honest with herself, there wasn't much she could do to help Des right now. The police were far better equipped to find Des and deal with Philip, or whatever his name was.





Rose entered the Blue Monkey late that night, not sure if she was still angry or just plain tired.

After she had still not been able to reach her husband after leaving the hospital, she had broken down and called Sergeant Hood. As luck would have it, he had still been at the office. He hadn't been inclined trace Mal's phone at first, but when Rose had explained the whole situation to him, he had grudgingly agreed to help, as a favor to Mal, as he'd put it. The phone had traced to a seedy bar near the harbor.

She ignored the plainly appraising looks she got from the men sitting in small clusters at various tables and made straight for the bar. There was no mistaking her husband, sitting hunched over at the far end of the bar.

"That's enough, pal," Rose said, laying a hand on her husband's shoulder.

Mal turned around, regarding his wife in bleary surprise.  He put down his shot glass.

Roe turned to pay Mal's tab and when she returned, Mal was leaning against the wall, waiting for her.

"Listen, Rose, I'm really sorry," he began, but she cut him off,

"Outside," she simply said, and tugging Mal by the arm, led the way outside.

Once they were clear of the building, Rose moved to face Mal and took hold of him by the arms.

"They found Jake," she said.

"Oh my god," Mal whispered, paling visibly even in the yellow light of the street lamp. "Is he...?"

"No, he's alive. It's pretty bad and they can't be sure yet that he is going to make it," Rose related to Mal. She wished that she could be of more comfort to Mal, but she had to tell him the truth. At least she hadn't had to tell him that his son was dead.

"Have you seen him? What did he say?" Mal asked, after the initial relief of Jake being alive had faded.

"Yes, they let me see him for a few minutes, but he wasn't conscious. Apparently, it could be a while until he comes 'round."

"How did it happen?"

"According to his doctor, he was badly beaten."

Mal's fists clenched in fury. "I'm going to get the son's of bitches who did this," he muttered.

"Tomorrow, maybe," Rose replied evenly. "Right now, the only place we're going is home. You need to sober up."

Mal looked around. "How did you even get here?" he asked.

"Took the GTO," Rose said. "Which is what we are taking back home. You're in no condition to drive."

She steered Mal toward the GTO, trying to gauge exactly how drunk he was. They had almost reached the car when Rose's phone rang.

 


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Mal had been drunk before, but he hadn't been this drunk in a long time. However, Rose's news had sobered him up considerably. He was still worried as hell about his son, and he would continue to suffer until he knew for sure that Jake was going to be all right, but the crushing weight of worrying whether his son was lying dead in a ditch had been lifted. He still didn't feel sober enough to drive, but as it happened, Rose had brought Jake's GTO. They were almost at the car when Rose's phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID, frowned, but picked up.

She listened for a moment. "Tinny?" she questioned. "Where are you?"

"Yes, his right here with me," she cast a look at Mal, "Yes, he's okay. Can you tell me what happened?"

Rose listened for a long time, before she spoke again. "Stay exactly where you are. We'll be there as soon as we can."

Mal had grown increasingly worried while listening to Rose's half of the conversation. Something was up with his grand-daughter.

"What's going on? Is Tinny all right?" he asked as soon as Rose had hung up.

"Get in the car, I'll fill you in on the way," Rose only said. Mal climbed into the passenger side of the car and soon they were on their way.

"First of all, Tinny is going to be okay," Rose began. Mal got the impression he wasn't going to like what came next. "She made me promise not to tell you, but I will, if you promise not to get all worked up."

"What happened?" Mal hissed, any remaining intoxication having been replaced by anger and renewed fear.

"Tinny came to me the other day. She told me that she had a secret admirer and asked me to look into it."

Mal got the impression that this wasn't all there was to it, but he pushed aside the question to be asked later, when he knew exactly what had happened and that Tinny was okay.

"Why did she ask you? Why didn't she come to me with this?" Mal asked, instead seething.

"Probably because she knew that you would react like this," Rose wasn't impressed by his anger. "I managed to get description of the guy, but before I could tell Tinny, I got the call about Jake. In the meantime, she apparently decided to meet up with the guy."

"It figures," Mal muttered. Was he the only member of the Doyle clan with an ounce of common sense? His children, in particular his sons, certainly hadn't inherited it, and he wasn't so sure about how the next generation either.

"Now, I don't know the whole story yet, but apparently, the guy drugged her and took her to some motel."

"He kidnapped her?" Mal echoed, wondering how much worse his week could become.

"Now, she says nothing happened and she was able to call the police from the motel. They took her to hospital, which is where she is right no, waiting for us to pick her up."

"Did they get the guy whom attacked her?" Mal asked wit barely contained fury.

"I don't know. She didn't say. She was saying something about Des, but I couldn't really make out what that was all about. Then she said that she had to hang up because she was running out of money."




For once in his life, Des was glad to hear the sirens which heralded the arrival of the police. Surely, they would have to believe his story. It should be obvious, to everyone except that pink slippered lady that he wasn't a burglar, but was being held prisoner in this creepy hold house.

After the sirens had fallen silent, it didn't take long until the doorbell rang.

"I'm coming," he could hear a woman call out, probably the pink skippered individual. Her footfalls were soon followed by the sound of the door being opened.

He couldn't hear what was being said, out on the doorstep, but he soon heard footfalls approaching once again.

"Is this the man you claim burgled your house?" a male voice asked.

"Yes that's the rascal," the woman's piercing voice replied with no small amount of satisfaction. "You can just tell that he's dangerous," she said in a loud whisper.

"Did you tie him up, Mrs Burgess?"

"Tie him up?" Mrs Burgess questioned. "No I don't think so. I just found him like this, right in my living room."

Des suddenly found his world being righted.  

"Ugh," he groaned as a dizziness overcame him with the sudden change in position. "I didn't break in," he managed.

"Don't listen to him, he's a liar!" the woman screeched.

"Why don't we go somewhere quiet so that you can tell me exactly what happened?" One of the two police officers asked the elderly woman, who despite her diminutive appearance had an astoundingly shrill voice. He took the woman by the arm and led her from the room. His partner turned to Des.

"Care to tell me what happened, young man?"

"I didn't break in," Des repeated. "This crazy guy kidnapped me and he's got Tinny."

"You better start from the beginning," the officer advised, "What's your name?"

"Des, Des Courtney. Please you have got to find Tinny," he insisted desperately.

"We'll get to that in a moment," the officer said good humouredly. "Now, how did you get to be here, tied to a chair?"

Des sighed in frustration. "I was at the office, this guy came in and he was pretending to be a client."

"What office would that be?"

"Doyle and Doyle Investigative Services," Des replied, frustrated at the lack of progress.

"You're a private investigator?"

"Yes, I am mean sort of. I work for Jake and Mal, who run the place. Anyway, this guy, he pretended to be client but when I turned my back toward him, which I know I shouldn't have done, he must have stuck me with a syringe and drugged me. Then I woke up here, tied to this chair."

"All right, did the man who say drugged you, give his name?

"He said his name was Philip Reeves, but I think that's not his real name."

"You mentioned a girl before, Tinny? Who is she and how does she come into this?"

"Tinny's a a friend, yes, she's a friend. Nothing more. She's Mal's granddaughter, that's why she's off limits," Des rambled before he caught himself. "Her name is Katrina Doyle. She was here with that Philip guy, or whatever his real name is. He must have taken her. You have to find her. Oh my god, Mal is going to kill me." Des was starting to panic, hyperventilating slightly and struggling to move, forgetting that he was tied to the chair.

"Calm down, Des," the officer instructed, laying a calming hand on Des' shoulder.

"We'll see what we can do about finding Tinny and tracking down this Philip guy. In the meantime, I'll get you out of these bindings and then you can come with us to the station to make statement."

"I'm not going to get charged with burglary, am I?" Des asked.

The second officer who had just entered the room, spoke up: "Not based on what Mrs Burgess has told me. Seems the old lady isn't quite on the up and up."

"Does she live her alone?" the constable who had been questioning Des asked his colleague.

"From what I could gather, she has a son looking after her, one Philip Burgess. Not sure of he lives here though." He looked around. "The place doesn't look very lived in," he finally said, then turning to Des, he added:  "Okay let's cut you loose then."




Cursing under her breath, Tinny rummaged inside her pockets for any hidden spare change, but other than some chewing gum and pocket lint, she came up empty. It had taken her three tries to remember Rose's cell phone number, and in the process she had spent all her loose change. She was still a little bit fuzzy from the drug Philip had shot her up with, but the effect had mostly worn off, to the point where the doctors weren't admitting her over night. They had told her what exactly she had been given, apparently some sort of fast acting tranquilizer. The police had found several vials of the drug in the motel room. She had give her statement as best she could and was now waiting for Mal and Rose to pick her up. Mal would likely be furious when he heard what had happened, but she probably had been a little bit careless. She was just trying to figure out how to tell Mal and Rose that, when the two showed up in the hospital lobby.


"Tinny, are you all right?" Mal asked, his tone worried.

"Yes, I'm fine," she replied, and then broke off not sure how to continue.

"What about Des, is he all right and where is he?" Rose asked next, beaten Mal to it.

"Apparently he's down at the police station giving a statement," Tinny replied.

"Maybe you should start at the beginning," Mal advised with a sharp undercurrent to his tone.

Tinny swallowed hard and tried to reign in her chaotic thoughts.

"Can we at least get out of here first," she asked. "This place is giving me the creeps. I promise I'll tell you everything that happened on our way to pick up Des."

"All right," Rose agreed, but Mal hesitated. "The doctors are actually letting you go, aren't they?" Mal asked Tinny.

"Yeah, I'm okay to go," Tinny answered impatiently. She didn't like hospitals and the longer she stayed the more uneasy she grew.




After picking up her temporary car from the impound garage, Leslie still had some time until she had to drive out to her dinner engagement.  She dropped by her place to pick up a few things, including something half-way elegant to wear for the evening, then headed over to the flat the police had provided her with for the undercover assignment.

It was spotlessly clean, but nonetheless, there was a somewhat dingy air about it. The furnishings were sparse and utilitarian, with an ugliness that was usually reserved for the cheaper motel rooms. Among the articles she had picked up from her own place were some painkillers and Leslie washed down another tablet with some tab water. She was sure a hot bath would do her aching neck good, but the scrapes on her hands and knees were still rather fresh and would no doubt sting if they were soaking in water. Plus there was the healing gash on her temple to contend with. She didn't recall exactly what the doctor had said, but she was pretty sure that there had been something about not getting it wet.

Well, that was already done as she had showered and washed her hair that morning, but she remembered how the injury had stung and she wasn't really eager for it to scar. A bath thus ruled out, Leslie laid down on top of ugly flower-patterned comforter on the bed and mentally went over her cover story. She had memorized the it fairly easily, but there was a difference between knowing something by heart and actually having lived it, so it wouldn't hurt to make sure she had her life story down pat.

Soon it was time to get ready and with a sigh Leslie got up from the bed and got changed.




The dinner was taking place at a fancy restaurant called Chez Paul. Not only was the cuisine said to be excellent, but it was also owned, at least in part, by the Parker family. Another way to launder the profits of their illegal activities, according to the inspector from organized crime.

Still, an evening of fine dining, even if it was with a bunch of gangsters would make for a nice change of pace. Leslie hadn't realized how high-end the restaurant was until she pulled up and spotted the valet, read to spring into action. She got out of her car, handed her keys to the valet and made for the entrance. The valets were probably used to a lot fancier cars than the one she had picked up from the impound garage, but she was supposed to be an out of work secretary, so she ha to look the part as well.

Indeed, when she stepped inside, she was immediately conscious of the difference in class and income level between her and the average patron of Chez Paul. Idly, she wondered just how many of these people were aware of  who the money behind the operation was coming from and if they knew, whether they would even care. Before Leslie could ponder the matter further, she heard her name being called softly in a somewhat familiar voice. Looking around, she spotted Sydney Parker waving toward her from the back of the room. He quickly made his way toward her.

Hello Leslie," he greeted her. "It's okay if I call you Leslie?" he added, with a flirtatious smile.

Privately Leslie thought that Sydney, even if he weren't a gangster was far too young to flirt with her, but if he was really romantically interested in her, it would make the assignment go much more smoothly. Hence, she smiled her most brilliant smile at him and answered:  "Of course, if I may call you Sydney?"

"Oh please do. Mr Parker is my father. Makes me feel old," he said and laughed .

"How's your sister Jocelyn doing?" Leslie asked as Parker led the way to a back room.

"She's back home, entirely thanks to you. I'm afraid she won't be joining us though, my father grounded her."

"Oh, I remember those days well," Leslie said lightly.

"Who doesn't?" Sydney laughed. "My father's arranged for a private room back here."

"That's nice," Leslie said

"Wait until you taste the food," Parker promised.

They stepped into a private room, partitioned off from the main room of the restaurant. Leslie recognized Mervin Parker and his wife, June from the pictures she had seen during the briefing with Inspector Manners.

Sydney introduced her to his father and stepmother and they took their seats. Leslie ended up sitting opposite Sydney.

"So, you are the young lady who saved my daughter's life?" Mervin said when they were all seated.

"Yeah, that's me. But anyone else would have done the same," Leslie said, downplaying her actions the other day.

"You don't give yourself enough credit," Sydney interjected.

"I have to agree with my son here," Mervin said emphatically, his wife merely nodded.

There was an uncomfortable silence, which Leslie finally broke by saying: "I was happy to help and I'm very grateful for your invitation tonight."

"That is nothing. After all, hearing Sydney talk about you, I could hardly wait to meet you, Miss...I'm afraid, I don't even know your last name"

"Oh, I'm so sorry, It's Baker, Leslie Baker." Leslie supplied helpfully.

"All right Miss Baker, it's an honor to meet you," Mervin beamed at her with a toothy smile, whereas Sydney's expression soured considerably.

"Thank you, I'm flattered, I really am," In truth, she found the way Mervin was looking at her more than just a little offensive. Especially considering that his wife was sitting right next to him. Mrs Parker, however didn't seem to notice, or else, was used to it. She was considerably younger than Parker himself, maybe Leslie's age, if that. Probably a typical trophy wife, except that she was married to a gangster. Leslie wondered how much she knew. According to Manners, she wasn't involved in any of the business dealings, but that didn't mean that she was oblivious to what her husband did for a living.

Soon after, drinks were ordered. Leslie settled for mineral water, excusing her choice with a remark that she had to drive home afterward.

"I wish my daughter had as much common sense," Mervin commented at that.

"You seem like a sensible young woman," Mervin praised. "May I ask what it is you do for a living?"

"OH, I'm between jobs at the moment," Leslie said with fake embarrassment. "I was working as  secretary for a company in Quebec, but they closed down about a month ago. I've only just moved to town and I'm still looking for a job, to be honest." She gave a small laugh.

"Perfectly understandable," Mervin commented. "I'm sure you'll find something soon."

"I sure hope so," Leslie agreed.

TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



"Good news," the detective who had been taking Des' statement at the station announced. Des raised his head. As the remnants of the drug had worn off during the ride to the station and the subsequent questioning by the detective, his worry and anxiety had increased to a state of near panic. Not only was he worried sick about Tinny and what this crazy Philip guy was going to do to her, but he was also worried about what Mal was going to do to him and Tinny when he found out what had happened. Adding to that the anger at himself for having been stupid enough to let himself be drugged not only once, but twice, by the same guy and his nerves were a mess. Even more so than usual.


"We found your girlfriend, Tinny. She is being checked out at the the hospital but it looks like she is going to be okay."

"Really, Tinny is going to be okay?" Des gasped. The rush of relief was almost dizzying.


"Looks like it," the detective said and smiled. "Philip Burgess has been arrested. He's admitted to everything, so you're free to go. I'll have someone give you a ride home."


"Thanks." Des meant it. Maybe Mal wouldn't kill him after all, if Tinny really was all right. Although Tinny still might.




Tinny and Des eventually managed to tell the story of their eventful day, after they were all back at the Doyle residence. Neither Mal nor Rose had asked any questioned or made any interruptions during the lengthy retelling of events, instead, both had listened silently but with expressions of increasing alarm on their faces. When they finished, there was a moment of tense silence in the living room. It was finally broken by Mal.

"Why didn't you tell me about any of this?" Mal asked addressing Tinny. His voice was calm and controlled, but she had no trouble detecting the undercurrent of anger in it.

"Because I knew how you'd react," Tinny replied with a sigh. "I really thought it was that guy from school who was sending me the flowers and the notes. Plus, I did tell Rose," she added defensively.

"Fair enough," Mal replied after a pause. "But in future, you are going to tell me about anyone giving you trouble."

Tinny opened her mouth to protest, but Mal silenced her with a gesture. "No arguing. You put both yourself and Des in danger. This could very easily have ended much worse, for both of you. I want you to think about that for a while."

Tinny nodded. She knew Mal was right in saying that she had put them both in danger. She shuddered, thinking of how the evening could have ended and of what Philip probably had planned on doing to her.

Mal must have picked up on what she was thinking, because he said: "It's late, I think you and Des better get to bed, you have had quite the day. Plus there's school tomorrow for you Tinny."

"Really?" Tinny said, making her best 'are you serious' face. "It's almost 2 a.m. already!"

"Then you better get to bed to get all the sleep you can," Mal replied in tone that tolerated no argument.

"Yes, Poppy" Tinny replied. The prospect of going to school the next morning was far from appealing, but at least it would give her something to take her mind off what had happened.

"Night everyone!" she said, smothering a sudden yawn.

"I think I should turn in as well," Des said.





Once Des and Tinny had left the living room, Rose turned to her husband.

"How are you holding up?" she asked gently, putting her hands on his shoulders. She didn't want to push Mal, but she also wanted to make it clear to him that he could share his worries with her. She didn't know exactly what he had been doing all day, only bow it had ended, but she could imagine that it had been a rough day for him as well.

"Better now that I know that Des and Tinny are safe and Jake's been found," Mal replied. Rose accepted the answer without comment, even though she knew very well that he was still holding something back from her. Maybe it was just his very understandable worry for Jake, but she got the impression that there was something more.

"I think we should close the office for a few days," she suggested instead. "Just until we all get back on our feet."

Mal shook his head. "I can't just drop everything."

"I wasn't aware we had anything on hand," Rose commented slyly. She was now sure that whatever Mal wasn't telling her had something to do with a case that he was working and that for some reason, he was reluctant to share with her.

"Then let Des and me handle it," she requested. "You should go see Jake tomorrow. Or today as it were."

"I will, I will, first thing in the morning" Mal agreed. He seemed on the verge of saying something else, bur appeared to change his mind.

"I think I should go to bed now," he said instead.

"You're right. It's been a long day," Rose agreed. She might not get her answers today,or the next day, but she would find out eventually. Of that she was certain.




Tinny couldn't sleep. Every time she tried, her mind went back to the previous day. Until now the horrible possibilities of what could have happened hadn't even really sunken in despite of Mal's words. It was as if she'd been numbed earlier, maybe because of the remnants of the drug in her system, or maybe because it had all been too much to take in at first. She had been busy reacting earlier but now that she was safe and that it was all over, it was all started to catch up to her. Tinny glanced at her alarm clock. The glowing digits read 4:47 a.m. She sighed and quietly got up. It was no use trying to sleep, so she might as well stop tossing and turning in vain and get up. When she quietly crept downstairs, she was surprised to find a faint blue light coming from the living room. Des was sitting there on the couch, laptop balanced on his knees, hunched over the screen.

"Hi, Des," Tinny said quietly. Des startled mightily and nearly dropped his precious laptop. He whirled around, turning to face her. "Tinny, what are you doing here?"

"Ssh," Tinny said. "You'll wake up everyone. And if you haven't noticed, I live here."

"I meant what you are doing up?" Des asked, his voice lowered.

Tinny shrugged. She didn’t want to admit that the events of the previous twenty-four hours were haunting her.

"I couldn't sleep," she simply said and sat quietly next to Des on the couch.

"Listen," she began, breaking the uncomfortable silence between them. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry about what?" Des asked, sounding genuinely curious.

"About all of it," Tinny spread her arms in an expansive gesture. "I didn't mean for you to get hurt."

"I wasn't...Of course you didn't..." Des replied, clearly flustered and uncomfortable with the topic.
"Do we really have to talk about this?" he eventually asked, casting a pleading side look at Tinny.

Tinny shrugged. "No, we don't." She got up, slightly disappointed to find herself thus rebuffed. She started walking toward the kitchen.

"Wait, Tinny. Please wait," Des called after her. She turned around.

"I didn't mean it, not like that anyway," Des said, leaving Tinny to guess what exactly he meant. Nothing new there, she thought. Making sense of Des wasn't easy at the best of times, much less when they were both running on no sleep and fading adrenaline.

"I mean, you have nothing to apologize for," Des clarified after a moment.

"If it hadn't been for me, you wouldn't have been drugged and kidnapped." Tinny said rapidly, before she could change her mind.

"That's not true," Des argued. "Look, this Philip guy, he was crazy. You're not responsible for that."

"Then why does it feel that way?" Tinny asked, addressing more herself than Des.




Leslie was nervously pacing the small living room of her temporary lodgings. After a remarkably unrefreshing and short night of sleep, she was at a loss for ideas on what to do next. It was by no means certain that Mervin or his son would indeed offer her a job as her handler and Inspector Manners were hoping. And even if they did, it stood to reason that they would check her out first.

All she could really do at the moment was wait. She couldn't go to the station as she might be followed, nor could she go check up on Jake, for exactly the same reason. She could however go out and buy a newspaper. There was a good chance that the police was keeping the case under wraps, but some details were bound to have made the local paper. She knew it was desperate, but not knowing if Jake was even still alive drove her crazy. As there was no TV or internet in the small cover apartment, the paper was the only source of information safely available to her. Leslie grabbed her keys and went out.





Leslie hadn't dared to open the newspaper, not until she was back in the small flat. Casting aside the bag of groceries she had also acquired at the supermarket, Leslie opened the paper with shaking hands. It didn't take her long to find what she was looking for, the whole incident had made the third page. It was the very headline that made her blood run cold. "Private Investigator fatally wounded under mysterious circumstances." It was like a powerful punch to the stomach. For a moment, she thought she was going to faint as she struggled to draw air into her lungs and silvery spots started appearing on the edges of her rapidly blurring vision. Eventually, her body's survival drive won out over the emotional shock, and Leslie drew in a ragged breath. She sank down on the kitchen chair, numb in body and mind.

Time had no meaning for her as she sat there. It was only when her cell phone rang, that she was jolted from her trance-like state. With shaking fingers, she pulled her mobile from her jacket pocket and without even so much as glancing at the display, answered the cell.

"Yes?" she managed, her voice barely controlled.

"Leslie? It's Mervin Parker."

"Oh, hello, Mr Parker," Leslie managed.

"Is this a bad time?"

"Uh, no, no. It's fine." Leslie replied, struggling to steady her voice.

"Listen, Miss Baker. I just learned that one of our secretaries is ill and won't be back for several weeks. You mentioned that you were looking for a job here in town and, I know, it's only a temporary position, but it would be the least I can do after what you did for my daughter."

Leslie swallowed hard. She needed to get a grip on herself and she needed to do it fast. This was her chance to get closer to the people who'd killed Jake.

"That would be wonderful," Leslie replied. "Uhm, when do you want me to start?"

"If you could come in today, that would be ideal."

"That's fine by me. I'll be there in 45 minutes," Leslie answered and hung up. She pulled in a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves. She had no idea how she could face the man who might have given the orders to the men who'd killed Jake, in less than one hour.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo


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.

oOo


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."


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo


"Here, take a seat, both of you," Dr. Anderson ushered Rose and Mal into his office.

As soon as they were seated, Dr. Anderson addressed Mal: "Your son Jake regained consciousness earlier this morning."

"That's great news," Rose said excitedly, looking over at her husband. Mal didn't really look like he shared her sense of relief at the good news. When he spoke a moment later, she realized why: "What is it you need to tell us? I assume you haven't asked us here just for that."

"While it is a very good sign that Jake has regained consciousness, he does show signs of significant memory loss."

"How significant?" Mal asked, his voice tense.

"It appears that most if not all his personal memories are affected. That means while he can recall general information, such as say, the days of the week, his memory of information related to his personal history and life is impaired. When I spoke to him earlier, he was unable to give his name or birth date, nor was he able to recall what happened before he woke up in hospital.

There was a tense silence in the small room.

"Is he going to get his memory back eventually?" Rose asked finally.

"It's too soon to tell. We have scheduled some tests to find out more about what caused the memory loss in the first place. We should know more then. Until we do, I suggest you give him space to recall as much as possible on his own."

"But we can see him?" Rose asked, frowning.

"Sure. I recommend it, in fact. Interacting with people he knows could well be beneficial in triggering some memories. Just try not to overwhelm him."




Rose had insisted that Mal visit Jake alone, in view of Dr. Anderson's warning not to overwhelm the younger man.

When Mal entered his son's hospital room, he was taken aback by what he saw. He had seen Jake since his transfer to St. John's, but now the then fresh bruises had changed colour, giving an impressive display in all shades of the rainbow. If anything, Jake looked even worse than he had three days ago. However, the amount of monitoring devices and other hospital equipment Mal couldn't identify had decreased since his last visit, giving him some additional reassurance that Jake was indeed on the mend. Physically, at least, that was, Mal reminded himself as he looked down at where Jake was lying in bed, seemingly asleep. Mal remained standing at Jake's beside for what seemed like ages, lost in thought until suddenly, he was startled by his son's voice.

"Either the nurses have suddenly gotten a lot older or you need to take a seat," Jake said. The voice, the tone, everything about that sentence was spoken in such a familiar manner that for a moment, Mal almost forgot about the amnesia.

"Jake?" he asked, somewhat stunned and suddenly uncertain how to react.

"Yes, apparently that's me," Jake quipped, fatigue shining through his voice. There was a tense pause, before Jake continued. "You with the police?"

"What makes you think that?" Mal blurted out.

"Well, from what that doc said, I got the impression that I have been both beaten up and shot recently. I figured that someone would be by to ask questions pretty soon. I just hope the other guy looks worse than I do." Jake smothered a yawn, wincing as he did so.

"Jake, I'm Mal, Malachy Doyle...I'm your father."

"Okay," Jake drew out the word. "No offense, but I really hope there isn't a lot of family resemblance between us."

"Trust me, there isn't," Mal replied with forced levity and took a seat.

"So, if you are here and you're my father, I take it I'm not married?" Jake questioned, but Mal could tell that he was tiring quickly. He thought about what the doctor had said, but decided to answer anyway.

"No, you're not married," Mal said. He decided not to mention Jake's ex-wife for the moment.

"Somehow, I didn't think I was the marrying type," Jake replied. He was visibly starting to have trouble keeping his eyes open.

"Look, you should get some rest," Mal suggested. "There will be plenty of time to talk later."

Jake nodded. "Sounds like a good idea," he mumbled, already half-way to sleep. Mal remained seated for a few moments longer, but it appeared that Jake was sound asleep. Mal got up and quietly walked to the door, turning to look back for an instant before slipping out the door. The whole encounter had felt more than a little surreal and if he was honest, part of him was glad that Jake had gone back to sleep. That however, left him free to navigate another potential minefield of a conversation and he doubted that it would go over as well as the one with Jake had. Rose wouldn't let him off the hook this easy.




Rose hadn't said a word to him ever since he had emerged from Jake's room at the hospital. She didn't need to, Mal could read the displeasure at his recent actions on her face from a mile away. He found he couldn't really blame her, not if he was completely honest with himself. He had kept her in the dark initially to protect her, but then things had spun out of control. His youngest son had been kidnapped, quite possibly tortured and beaten, then left for dead. Tinny and Des had been kidnapped by a man stalking his granddaughter. Whatever his intentions had been, he had done a spectacularly bad job of protecting his family. No wonder Rose was pissed at him. Then to add insult to injury, he had kept working the case brought to him by alleged psychic Emily Hirsh. Yes, he could tell himself that he owed it to her for saving Jake's life and that the life of a girl might be in jeopardy if her visions proved to be true but the truth was that he had needed an escape from what was going on around him.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Rose's voice intruded on his thoughts.

"Rose, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have kept you in the dark about all this."

Rose seemed to consider his words for a moment. "Okay, but you better start at the beginning." She crossed her arms in front of her chest, looking at him in expectation.

Mal recounted the whole story to his wife, starting with the first threatening letter he'd received and finishing with his meeting with Louisa Hayden at the café that morning. When he had concluded his lengthy narrative, he looked at his wife expectantly, privately wondering if he was really ready to face her wrath. However, the tirade he was bracing himself for never came.

After what seemed like an eternity to Mal, Rose unfolded her arms, blew out breath and confessed: "I really don't know what where to even start."

"How about by saying that you forgive me?" Mal tried.

"Don't push your luck, pal" Rose replied sharply but her expression softened almost immediately. "You're an idiot, but I do forgive you. If you promise to let me help from now on."

"Help with what?" Mal asked, feeling rather thick for once.

"The case!" Rose said as if that should have been obvious.

"There's no need, I'm going to call Mrs Steel and tell her that I'm dropping the case."

"That's not the case I'm talking about," Rose said with a frustrated sigh. "I'm talking about Jake! Did you ever follow up on that woman...what's her name? Corinne something or other?"

"Corinne Dawson," Mal said. "And no, I didn't follow up on her yet."

"I don't get it, I really don't. She might have tried to kill your son and you haven't followed up it yet?"

The exasperation in Rose's voice was impossible to miss, but as much as Mal knew that she was right, he couldn't find the words to express it.

When he said nothing, Rose went on. "Look, Jake needs you  He might not remember you or any of us right now, but it doesn't matter. We are his family. And you owe it to him and you to get to the bottom of this."

"What if he never remembers?" Mal asked, his voice barely louder than a whisper.

"Let's just take this one step at a time. We'll get through this, together." Rose pulled Mal into a hug.

Both Mal and Rose were far too caught up in the moment to notice the young man following them out of the building and into the car park.




Sydney watched the truck pull out of the parking lot and rejoin the street traffic. Once it was gone from sight, he pulled out a cell phone dialed a familiar number. A man answered the call after five rings:

"I told you not to call me at work!" the man on the other end hissed in lieu of a greeting.

"We need to meet. Noon, the usual spot. Be there," Sydney said, then hung up without waiting for an answer.




It was a pleasant day, causing many of the workers from the adjacent office buildings to seek out the public park during their lunch break to catch a few rays of sun. Neither of the two men meeting in an out of the way corner of the park had eyes for the weather however.

"What kept you?" Sydney snapped as soon as the other man took a seat on the bench.

"Some of us have jobs," his contact replied. "Now what's so important that it couldn't wait until tonight."

"The private detective, he's alive," Sydney fairly spat.

"But that's...," the other man protested, but Sydney cut him off.

"We can't risk him talking to the cops."

"What's got that to do with me?"

"I need you to find out where exactly they are keeping him and what kind of protection he's been assigned. I'll take care of the rest."

"You can't!" the man cried.

"You picked a fine time to have moral objections!" Sydney mocked. "You know what happens if he talks."

"I know the risk, but you can't just get rid of him. He's got friends in the department."

"You know that for sure?"

"Well, I've seen him around the station, he's always there. Plus, there are all those rumors flying around about him and that sergeant, Bennett. I think they are seeing each other."

"So, what?" Sydney asked, but the brash confidence in his voice was gone.

"You don't know her, she's seriously bad news," the other man pleaded. "You do not want to piss her off."

"I'm not scared of some lousy copper! You worry too much. Get me the info and I'll take care of the rest. Now, scram!"


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Knowing that at home Mal would only end up wallowing in thought, Rose suggested that they get some work done instead. She hoped that it would help take both their minds off recent happenings. They agreed that Mal would play Corinne Dawson another visit while Rose would tackle her boyfriend, Paul Meyers. A quick call to one of her contacts had revealed that Meyers was working at a veterinarian's surgery in town as an orderly. Rose decided to start there, so she had Mal drop her off nearby before he went to Corinne's place of employment. If Meyers' relationship with Corinne Dawson was as tumultuous as the police reports indicated, he might be more than willing to spill his guts to her, Rose thought as she walked into the veterinarian's. To her surprise, she passed an empty waiting area and didn't encounter anyone at the reception desk. She glanced around, but there was no one in sight. Lunch break, maybe? But even so, they wouldn't leave this place completely unattended. Rose was starting to get a bad feeling about all this.

"Hello?" Rose called out as she slowly walked along the hallway leading from the reception area further into the building. "Anyone there?"

She could hear barking coming from somewhere in the building, but otherwise, there was no answer. Most doors leading from the hallway were closed, except the one at the end. It was slightly ajar. Rose knocked just in case, but once again there was no answer. Carefully, she pushed the door open far enough so she could peer inside. Later, Rose would be unable to say what she had expected when she'd looked through the crack, except that this wasn't it.

The room was filled to a large extent with small cages some of which held animals, but they weren't what attracted Rose's attention. Near the center of the room, two bodies were lying motionless on the floor, limbs sprawling as if they had just been tossed there. If it hadn't been for all the blood spattered about, the scene would have looked utterly surreal. Rose didn't waste an instant. She rushed inside, crouching down next to the figure strewn closest to the door. Before Rose had a chance to do anything however, she was startled by a sound behind her. She whirled around, finding herself staring at the business end of a gun.




After dropping off Rose, Mal drove out to the neighborhood in which Corinne Dawson lived. He had just parked his car and gotten out when his cell phone rang. It was Louisa Steel, formerly Louisa Hayden. Deciding that this was as good a chance as any to tell her that he would be dropping her case, Mal answered the call. Rose had been right, he thought, he needed to figure out who had hurt Jake and to do that effectively, he couldn't juggle another case at the same time. Technically, Louisa wasn't even his client, Emily Hirsh was. While he did owe her a favour, this was definitely a time when family came first, he reasoned. However, Mal's intentions were all but forgotten the moment Louisa told him why she was calling.

"To be honest, I wasn't sure if I should call at all, given how our meeting...," she began. It struck Mal that her voice sounded different somehow than it had during their interrupted meeting at the café that morning.

Mal cut her off. "I'm very sorry about what happened this morning," he apologized if somewhat insincerely.

"It doesn't matter now anyway," Louisa brushed off the matter. "I just wanted to let you know that  the police have just been here, they found Ellen."

That was the one thing Mal has not expected to hear. The case was as cold as they came. The chances of Ellen ever turning up, dead or alive, had been extremely slim.

"What I mean to say," Louisa corrected herself, "They found her body out in the woods. Apparently someone walking to their dog the other day stumbled on her body by accident."

"I'm very sorry to hear that," Mal said.

"Don't be. It's actually a relief to finally know for sure."

"Have the police any idea what happened yet?"

"Not that they told me," Louisa said, sounding reproachful. "The detective that came to give me the news didn't really tell me much of anything. Just that they were making inquiries. That's what they said after Ellen disappeared, too."

"I could try and see if I can find out where the investigation is at. I still have a few contacts. Do you remember the detective's name by any chance?" The words had poured from his mouth without any conscious input, or at least at felt that way to Mal. Perhaps his own recent experience made him more sympathetic to what Louisa had been through, losing a child like this, Mal couldn't help but wonder. Either that or he was getting soft in his old age.

"Yes, his name was Hood, Sergeant Hood," Louisa told him.

"I'll see what I can find out," Mal promised. He couldn't help feeling sorry for the woman. He really was getting soft, he decided. He told Louisa that he'd get back to her once he knew more and hung up. He briefly considered giving Emily Hirsh a call, seeing as she was his client on this case, but decided against it. He had more pressing matters to take care of and it wasn't like the psychic was actually paying him for his trouble.




Half an hour later, after chatting up several of Corinne Dawson's neighbors for information, Mal wasn't any closer to finding out why Corinne Dawson had sent him those letters than he had been several days ago. The only thing her neighbors knew about Ms Dawson was that she and her boyfriend liked to argue in a very noisy fashion. Apparently, they had had one of their more nasty fights the previous evening, but so far no one he'd spoken to had admitted to knowing what it had been about. All Mal had learned was that Corinne had stormed out of her apartment, doors banging, shortly afterward and hadn't been seen since. Still, he decided to check for himself and went to ring the doorbell of Ms Dawson's apartment. Granted, he could have just broken in like he had on his previous visit to the apartment, but he really wanted to have a word with the woman.

Mal was waiting for the bell to be answered, when he heard a woman's voice from behind him.

"Don't waste your time ringing her bell. She isn't home and I doubt she'll be back anytime soon."

Mal turned around and found a woman poking her head out of the door of the apartment opposite Corinne's. The woman was rather young, maybe in her late twenties to early thirties and was looking at him with obvious interest.

"Are you a friend of hers?" Mal asked.

The woman snorted. "I used to think so at one time, but that was before she got together with that creep."

"You mean her boyfriend, Paul Meyers?" Mal inquired.

"You certainly are well informed! You her father or something?" she asked.

"No, as a matter of fact, I'm a private investigator."

"Well, you're definitely to late to catch her. She left last night, suitcases and all. Even woke me up in the middle of the night to drop off her stupid cat. As If I haven't got enough trouble with the kids already."

"Did she say where she was going?" Mal asked.

The woman shrugged. "All she said was that she was in big trouble and that she needed to get out of town."




The transcriptions seemed to take forever, especially since Leslie struggled to concentrate. Between the lack of sleep recently and the anticipation of a possible break in the investigation, she was having a hard time focusing. Finally, she was finished with the recordings, which, like everything else she had seen so far, were harmless and bore not the slightest sign of anything criminal going on inside the investment firm. Leslie suppressed a sigh, smothered a yawn and clicked the print icon in the text processing software. The printer whirred to life and spit out the letters she had just transcribed. Leslie gathered the sheets of paper and made her way to Mervin's office.

As Mervin had mentioned, his secretary was out. She knocked on the door the Mervin's office, just in case he hadn't left for his appointment yet or else had already returned, but there was no answer. She opened the door, peered carefully inside.  The office was deserted. Quickly looking around and spotting no one, she slipped inside. The office was spacious, furnished with old-style dark brown wooden furniture with a auburn tinge. Maybe mahogany, Leslie thought. There was a file cabinet on one wall. Leslie tried one of the drawers, but it was locked. She could probably pick it, but decided to leave it alone for the moment. She turned her attention to the desk. There was a computer screen sitting in the center, a screen saver with the company logo slowly rotating on it. Leslie moved the mouse,revealing the desktop background, also bearing the company logo. Leslie played around with the computer for a few minutes, but the she couldn't access any of the folders, they were all password protected. Well, she had one more trick up her sleeve, something that her handler had given her, courtesy of the cyber crime unit. Ducking down under the table, she pulled a flash drive from an inside pocket of her jacket and inserted it into one of the usb ports. In less than a minute, she had the Trojan loaded onto the system. Now, the folks from the cyber crime unit would be able to access Mervin's computer on their own time, clone his hard drive and then work on cracking the encryption.

Leslie deposited the transcribed letters on Mervin's desk and slipped back out of the office. Once she was back at her desk, she pulled out her mobile phone. She scrolled down the contact list, selected the entry titled 'Mom' and typed a message:

Horse in play



Leslie quickly read it over and, once satisfied, pressed the button to send the message before returning to her work, which consisted mostly of trying to appear busy. Her satisfaction however didn't last very long.

About half an hour after her trip to Melvin's office, Sydney Parker strolled into the office. He looked disheveled - his hair was sticking up at all angles, his suit was rumpled and he wasn't wearing a tie. As he approached her desk, ignoring her greeting, she could smell the alcohol on his breath. She was starting to get a bad feeling about where this was headed, but maintained the smile on her face, politely inquiring if there was anything she could do for him.

He ignored her once again and perched on the edge of her desk. Slowly and deliberately, he ran his eyes over her, lingering on her cleavage for several seconds.

"So, I hear you're settling in quite well?" he asked, the leering expression never leaving his face.

"Yes, thank you for asking," Leslie asked, managing to keep her tone even and polite. "It was very kind of your father to offer me this job."

"Oh yes, dear old Dad," Sydney's expression soured noticeably. "Well, he isn't going to be in charge of this place forever, you know. Things might start changing real soon around here."

Leslie didn't like this at all, wondering if he knew or suspected that she wasn't who she said she was. If he did, she was going to be in big trouble, with no way out. Unlike the police, he didn't need any evidence to back up his suspicions.

"I need people I can trust," he said. Suddenly, he grabbed her by the arm, hard enough to hurt.

"Can I trust you?" he asked, his eyes drilling into hers as he leaned in close.

"Yes, of course you can," Leslie forced out the lie, never breaking eye contact with Sydney even though she could barely stand to look at this man and not feel rage welling up inside her at what he had probably had done to Jake.

"Then why don't you show me?"

"I don't know what you mean...," Leslie started, but was interrupted by a knock at the door. Sydney let go of her arm and stood up.

"This isn't over," he hissed before striding purposefully toward the door.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Convinced that he had learned everything he could from Corinne's former friend, Mal thanked her and made his way back to his car. On the way, he mulled over this most recent development. Corinne was on the run, convinced that she was in trouble. This didn't really come as a surprise if it had been her who had tried to kill Jake at the hospital with an overdose of Barbital. But why only now? The attempt on Jake's life had taken place days ago. It was possible that Leslie, in her own investigation, was closing in on Corinne. That was, if Leslie was still on the case. Jake's kidnapping was being handled by two other detectives and he doubted that Leslie had let go of it willingly. But he also knew that the higher ups on the police force generally didn't allow detective investigate when they were as close to the victim as Leslie was to Jake, so she might not have had a choice in the matter. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't heard from Leslie in a while, so it was likely that she had been pulled off the case. Still, she hadn't called or dropped by to express her condolences in the wake of Jake's 'death' either. At the time, he had been too distracted to really notice, but it was highly odd. Jake could be an idiot and Leslie more than once been a victim of his reckless actions, but this wasn't like her at all. The only explanation Mal could conceive of was that Leslie knew that Jake was still alive and had stayed away to maintain the ruse. Mal considered calling Leslie, but thought better of it almost immediately. He would have to lie to her and he didn't have the heart to do that. Jake had put her through enough lately.

Calling Sergeant Hood seemed like a better idea. Not only could he follow up on the investigation into Ellen's murder, but Mal could also slip in a question or two about Leslie. By now Mal had reached his car. He got in and was about to give Hood a call, when his cell phone rang. Dan had to be developing ESP, as it was him who was calling.

Mal answered the call. "Dan, I was wondering if you could do me a favour? It's about Corinne Dawson. I think it was her who tried to poison Jake and now she's on the run."

There was a pause before Hood replied. "No, she isn't. Her body was found less than half an hour ago in a hazardous waste bin at a local vet's."

Now it was Mal who was struck speechless. Before he could reply, Hood went on:

"That's not why I'm calling though. I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, Mal."

"What happened?" Mal managed to ask, his thoughts immediately flying to Rose. Paul Meyers worked at a veterinarian's and Rose had been headed there.

"I don't know the details," Dan continued, "All I know is that there was a shooting at the vet’s where they found the body and that Rose is involved. I heard they were taking her to hospital, but that's all I know."

Mal hung up without comment, not losing an instant before he dialed Rose's number. He was still waiting for her to pick up when he drove off in direction of the hospital.




"It's not as bad as it looks." Those were the first words out of Rose's mouth when Mal finally was allowed to see his wife after what had seemed like an eternity of waiting.

"Not as bad as it looks?!" Mal echoed incredulously. "You were shot!"

Rose winced in pain at the loudness of his voice. She was sitting on the edge of a bed in the hospital's emergency department. The sheer amount of blood on her clothes seemed to belie her earlier statement. "I wasn't shot, I was grazed. There is a difference, you know."

"You could have been killed!" The hour that had elapsed between Hood's phone call and a doctor telling him that Rose was going to be all right had been among the worst in his life.

"Yes, but I wasn't," Rose replied calmly. "That's what matters."

Mal took a deep breath, trying to reign in his nerves. "What the hell happened?"

"I'll tell you everything, as soon as we get out of here," Rose said and got to her feet. For a moment, she swayed slightly, before steadying herself on the wall.

"Are you sure you're good to leave?" Mal asked. The doctor he'd spoken to had already told him that Rose was refusing to stay overnight. He doubted he could convince her otherwise, but he was still going to try.

"Still a bit dizzy," Rose admitted weakly.

"Mrs Doyle?" a voice from somewhere behind Mal asked. He turned around to find a balding middle aged man in a cheap coat peaking around the privacy curtain surrounding the bed. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt," he apologized when he spotted Mal. "I'm Detective Constable Rendell and I was wondering if you felt up to giving a preliminary statement about what happened."

"Okay," Rose agreed, not sounding too enthusiastic to Mal's ears.




Despite her desire to get out of the hospital, Rose couldn't deny that she felt pretty lousy. Her head was pounding, she was dizzy and growing increasingly nauseous. If she hadn't known better, she would have thought that she was having the worst migraine ever. Rehashing the events of the morning for Constable Rendell wasn't making her feel any better and neither was the look of increasing grimness on her husband's face. Rose had decided to keep things simple for the police. There was no need to fill them in on her real reasons for visiting the veterinarian's surgery as far as she was concerned. She was nearing the end of her abbreviated retelling of events, describing how she had been surprised by the gunman.
"That's really all I remember," Rose concluded.

"I understand you have already given a description of the shooter to the officers at the scene, so we won't need to go into that again."

Technically that was true. She had truthfully described the man who had shot at her. What she hadn't shared were her suspicions that the shooter might be one Paul Meyers, Corinne Dawson's on again off again boyfriend. It wasn't like she had anything to back up that particular suspicion, it was merely a hunch on her part - a hunch that she intended to follow up on, as soon as her headache let up enough for her to see straight again.

"That should be all for now," Rendell was saying. "You will need to come down to the station for a formal statement at some point, but that can wait until you're recovered."

"What about the others?" Rose asked referring to the other two victims who had attracted her attention in the first place "Did they survive?"

Rose had come to shortly after the first police officers had arrived at the scene, but between the pain and confusion stemming from her injury and the general chaos at the scene, she had completely forgotten about the two victims.

"I'm afraid not," Rendell told her. "You were very lucky indeed, Mrs Doyle."

Mal who had kept silent so far, cleared his throat and asked: "What about the shooter?"

"Rest assured, we are aggressively searching for him. He won't get far," Rendell replied in a tone that was clearly meant to placate.

Judging by the expression on Mal's face, Rose knew that he'd picked up on it as well. Constable Rendell obviously didn't know about Mal's past on the force or about his connection to another case currently being investigated by his colleagues. When he found out, Rose had no doubt that he would be back, asking very different questions - questions that neither Mal nor she were too eager to answer.

It wasn't so much lack of faith in the police that had made Rose hold back as it was the knowledge that Mal needed to see this one through himself. He might not be able to bring the people who had hurt Jake to justice, the detectives investigating the case were keeping them at arm's length, no doubt aware of Mal's penchant for interfering, but he could still get to the bottom of who had tried to poison Jake and why. Given the recent violent developments, Rose couldn't help but wonder if the attempt to kill Jake and the threatening letters to Mal weren't part of a much bigger picture, one that right now, they were failing to see.




Des was at the office, whiling the time away on his laptop. Rose had told him that she had something to take care off and would be by later. No clients, paying or otherwise, had presented themselves, something Des was secretly glad about that given how his last encounter with a prospective 'client' had ended.

Lunch time had come and gone and there was still no sign of Rose, or Mal for that matter. Des was starting to get hungry and was contemplating whether he should risk going for a quick bite when Mal.

"Oh, there you are! I was..." Des trailed off when he noticed Rose who had come in after her husband. "What happened?! Are you..."

"Not now," Mal interrupted without even so much as a glance at Des while he tried to help Rose to the couch.

"I'm telling you, I'm fine. It's just a headache. I've had worse," Rose protested as she sat down on the couch, clearly having none of her husband's efforts to help her.

Judging by the long-suffering look Mal gave in response, it wasn't the first time Rose had made that particular claim. Without knowing what had happened, Des wasn't really in a position to judge, but if he had to venture a guess, he would have to say that Rose was rather far from being all right. What was visible of her shirt was covered with maroon-colored stains and smears that looked suspiciously like dried blood. This impression was further underscored by the large white bandage cover her left temple and disappearing into her hair which was matted with drying blood on that side.

"Des, I need everything you can dig up about a Paul Meyers," Mal told Des. "Call me when you have something." Mal was half way to the door by the time Des had processed the request.

"Uhm, sure, I-" Once again he was interrupted, this time by Rose.

"What do you think you're doing?" she asked sharply. "You're not going to go after that guy on your own!"

Mal expression clearly said that this was exactly what he had been planning to do.

"At least take Des with you," Rose demanded.

"He's staying here with you," Mal replied in a tone that tolerated no argument. He was out the door before Rose or Des could say another word.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



For a moment, Des and Rose were left staring after Mal. Rose was the first to recover her wits. If Mal wasn't going to let them help, then she had no choice but to call in the reinforcements. Paul Meyers had looked her in the eye and pulled the trigger. There was no doubt in her mind that he was a very dangerous man, capable of killing without compunction. She wasn't about to let Mal go off on a dangerous confrontation, especially when she suspected that he wasn't thinking too clearly.

But first things first, she needed to be absolutely sure that Meyers was the guy who had shot at her.

"Des?" Rose called.

"What?" Des whirled around to face her, clearly having been lost in thought.

"I promise I will explain everything, but right now, I need you to concentrate. Can you do that?"

Des nodded emphatically. "Of course. What do you need me to do?"

"I need to you to find a photograph of Paul Meyers asap."

"Is that like...all?" Des asked, already turning back to his laptop.

"For now, yes," Rose confirmed darkly. She couldn't help but wonder what would happen if Mal confronted Meyers. One dire outcome after the other materialized in front of her mind's eye. If she had been in better shape, she wouldn't have let Mal go off by himself in the first place, but she doubted she would have made it to the car in her present condition.




Without Rose there to distract him, the anger that had been simmering in the back of Mal's mind had reached boiling point. The threatening letters he might have been able to overlook but when it came to his family, Mal wasn't nearly as forgiving. It was sheer luck that the bullet had only grazed the side of Rose's head and that Jake had been found in time after he'd been poisoned at the hospital. As far as he was concerned, Paul Meyers had a lot of answer for, not just to the police, but to him personally. No one tried to kill his wife and son and got away with it.

Thoughts of rage and revenge circled mercilessly in Mal's mind as he drove toward Paul Meyer's home. The address had been procured by Rose's friend at the Canada Revenue Agency and while it hadn't rung a bell with Mal at the time, by the time the small cottage-style house come into view, he had the distinct impression that he had been there before. Mal had parked his car around a bend further down the road, effectively concealing it from view. The cover provided by the trees was not too thick, but he hoped that it was still sufficient to prevent Meyers, or anyone else for that matter, from spotting him.

Although Mal was in a mood to just kick down the door and confront the man, a little bit of caution was in order. After all, Meyers was armed and, as previous events had shown, he was not one to hesitate before using his weapon.

A quick check of the vicinity of Meyer's property had revealed no cars other than Mal's own vehicle and no sign of any movement inside the house either. It didn't look like there was anyone home. Mal wasn't sure whether he should be glad that Meyers was in the wind or not. That way Mal was avoiding a confrontation that might just end badly, but if Meyers was on the run, then he might never pay for what he'd done. At any rate, it wouldn't hurt to have a look inside Meyers' place, if only to satisfy the persistent sense of déjà-vu Mal was experiencing.

The front door was well visible from the road and while the access road didn't appear to get a lot of traffic, Mal decided that the back door would be a better place if he was going to break in. While the front of the property provided a reasonably well maintained facade, the back was the exact opposite. There was no evidence of any attempt to reign weeds and wild plants growing in abundance, an effort to lay tiles for a patio appeared to have been abandoned part way through and the space was now littered with rusting lawn chairs, a mismatched table and moss-covered parcels of unused floor tiles and other building materials. Whatever home improvement efforts had gone on here, they had clearly been abandoned for many years.

Given the state of the property as a whole, Mal was surprised to find the lock of the back door unusually challenging. It took him several minutes before the lock finally gave with a click and he was able to enter.




"Do you mind not looking over my shoulder while I break the law?" Des asked, fidgeting nervously   even while he frantically tapped keys on his laptop.

"Sorry," Rose apologized without really meaning it. Right now, she couldn't have cared less about Des' nervous sensibilities. All she knew was that this was all taking far too long. She sighed and went back to pacing the office. Her head still ached furiously, but staying still seemed like an impossible feat right now. Far worse then the headache were the thoughts coursing through her mind. It felt like they were whirling off in a thousand directions all the once, each more frightening than the last. Adding to that the self-recrimination that she should have done more to stop Mal from going after Meyers on his own, Rose felt like her head was about to explode.

After Des had found a picture of Paul Meyers from a local news article, she had immediately tried to reach Mal on his cell but he hadn't answered. Much as she had feared, Meyers was the man who had shot at her at the vet's that morning. Sergeant Hood hadn't answered either so she had left a message asking him to call her back. Not knowing what else to do, Rose couldn't help the feeling that they were headed straight for disaster and there was nothing she could do to stop it.

"Anything?" Rose asked, circling back to Des.

"Not really," Des shrugged. "It looked like Paul Meyers changed his name at some point, but it's not like that's illegal. He probably had..."

"What did he change his name from?" Rose interrupted Des.

"Give me a sec," Des asked.

The second turned out to be more like a minute, but eventually, Des found what Rose had been looking for.

"Paul Richter?" Des said, as if trying out the name. "That's not too bad."

"Search under that name," Rose told him. "I wonder what he was trying to get away from."

"Family maybe?" Des mused darkly, typing as he spoke. Rose restlessly watched him work. Several times she had to bite her tongue as she had been on the point of telling Des to hurry, something which would only lead to a new interruption and further delay.




"Check out that article there," Rose pointed to link on the screen. For what seemed like an eternity to her but what had in reality only been about five minutes, Des had been browsing through the archives of local newspapers to see if he could pick up any trace of Meyers under his former name.

"Are you sure?" Des questioned. "That article is more than ten years old."

"Exactly" Rose said. Des turned his head and look at her doubtfully, but a glare from Rose silenced any potential protest.

"Okay, okay," he muttered. "Just...just don't look at me like that." Des turned back to the screen.

"I don't think this going to help us," he commented after a few moments. "It's about a suicide, but obviously not his, since he's still around and..."

Rose mentally tuned out Des' babbling and turned the laptop so that she could make out what was on screen. Des was right, the article was on the subject of a suicide, which had taken place some thirteen years ago.

A woman had killed herself. What was somewhat remarkable and newsworthy about it was that she had been the wife of a convicted killer who apparently had achieved quite a bit of notoriety when he had abducted and killed three girls a few years earlier. It seemed that the woman had kept on claiming that her husband was innocent, all the way through his trial and eventual conviction. What really interested Rose about the story was that the article mentioned a teenage son by the name of Paul. Rose did the math in her head. The age fit as did the rest of the story. She had just opened her mouth to tell Des what she thought when the pieces suddenly slid into place.

Of course! Mal had mentioned that the woman claiming to be psychic had hired him because she thought a child killer who was currently in prison was killing once again. Mal hadn't mentioned a name, but it would be too big a coincidence if he hadn't been talking about Paul's father, Douglas Richter. That also gave them the probable motive behind the attempt on Jake's life. Mal had mentioned that he had worked the case in question and that the anonymous letters had mentioned a possible old grudge, so it would make sense that Paul Richter, now Meyers blamed Mal in some way for what had happened all those years ago. The drug used to poison Jake was used in veterinary medicine and Paul worked as an orderly at a vet's. He had either tried to kill Jake himself with a drug stolen from work or had gotten his girlfriend to do it for him. It all lined up perfectly. The only question in Rose's mind why all this was happening only now. Something had to have triggered the whole series of events. There was still a piece missing from the puzzle, but she had enough of it to see that Mal was in serious danger.




The rest of Leslie's day at work passed without incident. Despite Sydney's words, he didn't return and by the time she left the office that night, she was fairly convinced that the whole thing had been a bluff. If Sydney really knew or suspected that she was anything but what she pretended to be, he would have done a lot worse than just grab her arm and make veiled threats. In a sick, twisted way, she had actually enjoyed the encounter. It had finally made her feel something. Something other than the deep, weary numbness that had gripped hold of her when she had learned that Jake was dead. She had tried filling the void with rage, clinging to her wish to bring the men responsible for Jake's death to justice.

It was enough to get her through the days, but she still felt dead inside. When Sydney had threatened her in the office, she had felt the frisson of danger running along her nerves and it had been exhilarating. It had reminded her of what it was like to really feel something. Leslie shook her head at the realization, smiling grimly to herself as she did so.

It was probably all over nothing as she was reasonably sure that her cover was still intact. Still, she paid close attention from the moment she left the office, keeping an eye out for anyone who might be following her. There was no one - not at the supermarket and not at the take-out place where she picked up some Thai food for the evening.

She was nearly back at her cover apartment, passing a bus stop as she walked down the street toward the apartment building. Something about the two men waiting at the stop caught her attention. It was nothing she could put a finger on, but the moment she set eyes on the two men, she was on the alert. Maybe it was paranoia, maybe it was instinct, honed by years spent on the force, she didn't know. However she kept walking, walking past the bus stop. Nothing happened and she didn't look back. Paranoia, she told herself as she looked to the side before crossing the road, she was getting paranoid.

She had barely finished the thought when she heard a faint click from coming from behind. She spun around, recognizing the sound instantly. A fist made contact with the side of her head before she finished turning around to face her attacker. The blow stunned her. She tried to fight back, but there were two of them who had had have at least a hundred and fifty pounds on her combined, and they knew what they were doing. Blows to the head had her ears ringing and her vision blurring, a kick to the stomach took the wind out of her. The blows just kept coming. Everything blurred together into an endless sequence of pain. Leslie was vaguely aware of hitting the ground on her hands and knees when they started kicking her in earnest. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it all stopped.

Leslie couldn't tell how much time passed until she was finally able to get up. Spitting out a mouthful of blood, she reached into her coat pocket to get out her cell phone. It wasn't there anymore. She glanced at the ground around her, but between the darkness and her blurred vision, she couldn't find it. She needed to get to the apartment. Stumbling into the street on unsteady legs, Leslie's only thought was for reaching her apartment. She never saw the car that hit her a moment later.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo

The interior of the cottage was no less depressing than the outside, Mal decided as he looked around the living room. Despite the ever-present dust lining the shelves and other pieces of furniture, the cottage was definitely being lived in, if the recent, half-eaten pizza in a delivery carton on the floor next the couch was any indication. But other than that observation, the room yielded very little information of value, not that Mal knew exactly what he was looking for. When he had driven out here, he had been prepared to confront Paul Meyers, but seeing as that wasn't possible right now, he was somewhat at a loss. Still, he intended to make the best of the opportunity and gather as much intel as he could. You never knew.

Having exhausted his search of the living room, Mal moved on to the kitchen. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, no surprise there. The fridge was well stocked, although heavy on the beer, and didn't indicate that Meyers had planned on leaving town. Mal turned to the trash. Meyers appeared to be a fan of processed foods, especially fast food, Mal thought as he sifted through burger wrappers and take-out containers. Strangely enough, there were several wrappers from fast food kids' meals. Mal raised an eyebrow, not sure what to make of it. So far, there was no sign of any children living in this place, but then maybe they had been for a girlfriend's child or that of a relative. The one girlfriend Mal knew about, Corinne Dawson, didn't appear to have had children, but their relationship had allegedly been intermittent at best, so there might be other women in Meyers' life. Not that anyone with an ounce of sense would bring a romantic interest home to this dump.

Mal turned his attention to the kitchen cabinets. Between pots, pans and an inordinate number of  boxes of macaroni and cheese mix, Mal discovered an opened box of cartridges for a .38 caliber weapon. A handful of cartridges were missing from the box. Even counting the shots Meyers had fired that morning, he wouldn't run out of ammunition any time soon, Mal observed grimly.





"Rose, what are you doing?" Des cried, startled when Rose suddenly got up from the couch. "Mal is going to kill me. And I really am too young to die, so you need to sit back down."

Rose ignored him. Using the wall for support, she had made it to her desk and began rummaging frantically among the scattered items.

"Where are the keys?" she demanded.

"What keys?" Des got up and walked over to Rose who was still searching.

"Jake's keys," she answered without looking up.

"Why would you..." Des began, but realized what Rose was planning half-way through. "Oh, no! You can't drive, not like this!"

With an exclamation of triumph, Rose snatched up the keys she'd found in a drawer. She started to make for the door, but suddenly swayed precariously and if it hadn't been for Des' for once quick reaction, she would have fallen over.

Taking advantage of Rose's seemingly dazed state, Des attempted to stir her back toward the couch, but she was having none of it. Des had just opened his mouth to admonish her, when Rose grabbed him by both arms.

"Des, listen to me. I have to find Malachy before it's too late, but to do that, I need your help."

Taken aback by the honest plea, Des stammered: "Too late for what? What's going on?"

"I'll explain it to you on the way, but we need to leave now if it isn't already too late."

Des nodded, very much against his better judgment. At first he had thought that Rose was just confused as a result of her injury, but he realized now that she was deadly serious. He still had no idea what was going on, but whatever it was, it was bad.




Mal's search of the cottage was drawing to a frustrating close. After searching the rest of the kitchen, then the bedroom and finally the minuscule bathroom, he was starting to realize that he had no idea what to do next. The blinding need to make the man pay had started to subside a little, allowing him to think things through more clearly. He hadn't thought of it before, but it was entirely possible that Meyers, having killed his girlfriend, had no intention of returning to the cottage. He might be on the run, trying to get out of town before the police even started looking for him. And thanks, at least in part, to Mal and Rose, he might just succeed. If they had told the police of their suspicions, the police would probably have an alert out for Meyers' car already.
Mal was still berating himself when the sound of a car pulling up outside startled him. Mal quickly considered. He would love to confront Meyers and punch this SOB's lights out but good. However, considering Meyers was probably armed that wasn't exactly a wise course of action. Mal hurried down the dim hallway. He had barely reached the back door when he heard a key turn in the lock of the front door. Without casting a look back, Mal slipped out the back door.

He was about to retreat into the woods adjoining the property when he spotted Meyers through the living room window. The formerly white curtains were nearly drawn shut, but a small gap allowed Mal to catch a glimpse of what was going on inside the cottage. Unlikely as it seemed, Meyers was busy rearranging the furniture. At least that was what it looked like at first glance. Mal paused to watch, puzzled. A few seconds later, the penny dropped and he realized what Meyers was doing. After he had cleared the coffee table with a swipe of the arm and pulled the table to the side, he began rolling up the rug beneath, revealing a trap door. Meyers opened it, climbed down the opening and disappeared out of sight. Mal continued watching for a moment. When Meyers didn't immediately reemerge, Mal slipped back inside through the patio door. Moving as quietly as he could, he walked into the living room, where the trap door still stood open. A series of stone steps lead down into what had to be a cellar. A faint glimmer of light was visible down below.

Mal dropped down to his knees to get a better look when a powerful blow from behind sent him falling forward, straight down the open trap door.




"Can you at least slow down?" Des asked in a shaking voice as he clung to the edges of his seat, his knuckles white. For someone who could barely walk in a straight line, Rose had managed to drive them all the way across town at an impressive rate of speed and, so far, without wrapping the car around a telephone pole.

"Would you prefer to drive?" Rose asked sharply as she cut another corner at a high rate of speed and steered to car onto a forest access road.

Des considered. "Uhm, I'd rather not," he answered weakly.

"Try Hood again," Rose told him.

Des did as she asked, but once again, only got the sergeant's voice mail.

He had just hung up when the car ground to a screeching halt. Des was jolted forward, dropping Rose's cell phone in the process.

Des bent down to search for the fallen item, while Rose climbed out of the car. He would have called after her telling her to wait for him, if he'd thought it would do any good. Rose seemed hell -bent on getting herself killed and him along with it. He had no idea what she was planning to do now that they had made it to Richter's place. Whatever it was, Des was afraid that it wouldn't end well, for any of them. His dire predictions appear to be confirmed when a gunshot suddenly rang out, following by two more in quick succession. The last shot shattered one of the car's rear side windows.

"Rose!" Des cried, not daring to raise his head to see what was going on for fear that the next bullet  would hit him.

"Rose?" Des repeated when there was no answer. This couldn't be happening, he thought. If Rose had been shot, again, Mal would kill him. Provided whoever was shooting at them wouldn't kill him first. Then, Des heard the door on his side of the car being opened. He hunkered down as far as he could in a futile attempt to hide, but it was no use. A pair of hands grabbed at him, pulling him from the car even as he cried out in protest and fear. Legs kicking and arms flailing, Des tried to extricate himself form the killer's grip.

"Don't kill me, please don't kill me!" Des shrieked, screwing his eyes shut, as he continued to struggle. His left foot made contact with something soft. A pained grunt confirmed that he must have hit his target, however, if anything, the grip only tightened.

"Shut up!" a voice hissed in his ear. It sounded vaguely familiar, so Des chanced to open his eyes. He found himself staring into Rose's bruised face.

"How...what? What's going on?" Des stammered, relief flooding through him.

"Well, someone just shot at us," Rose replied, pulling Des to sit on the ground beside her, in relative safety on the side of the car facing away from Richter's property.

However, any relief that Des might have felt immediately dissipated as the reality of their situation sank in when another shot was fired, impacting Jake's car.




Someone was crying. Someone who sounded oddly like a child, something which struck Mal, even in his half-conscious state, as highly unusual. Memory was spotty and slow in coming back to his aching head. As he was becoming increasingly aware, he soon realized that his head wasn't all that was hurting. In fact, everything seemed to hurt. And come to think of it, whatever he was lying on, was awfully uncomfortable. All this added up to bad news. Mal cracked open one eye first, then when no bright light assaulted his eyes, he opened the other as well.

Wherever he was, it was dark. The air was cool and stale. Moving carefully, Mal shifted into a more comfortable, half-upright position, using the wall behind him to lean against.

"Hello?" he tried, feeling somewhat silly. There was a hitching breath nearby and the crying stopped.

"I'm Mal. Can you tell me your name?"

There was a long silence during which all Mal heard was ragged breathing.

Finally, when Mal had almost given up on receiving an answer, he heard a small voice: "Melanie."

"Melanie," Mal repeated. "Is anyone else here with you?" he asked,trying to get a better idea of the situation. Meyers might be crazy and trigger-happy, but a kidnapper? Mal hadn't seen that coming. This case was getting better and better in the worst way possible.

When there was no answer, Mal added. "It's all right, you can tell me."

His wait for an answer was interrupted by the sound of gunshots from above. Melanie let out a shriek and started crying again. Mal wanted to reassure her, but no words would come him. He wanted to believe that it was the cops that had come to their rescue, but somehow he couldn't really believe that he should have such luck. Aside from Rose, nobody had any idea where he had been going. If he knew his wife, right now, she was more than just a little pissed off at him for leaving her with Des at the office. As much as he regretted his current predicament, he was actually glad that Rose was safely back at the office. She had come far too close to dying today already. It would probably take Rose at least a few hours until she started to wondered where he was and he had no idea how long he had been out anyway. The way he had been behaving lately, it would serve him right if Rose just chalked up his continued absence to another bull headed, solo move.

But if it wasn't Rose and it wasn't the police, what was going on up there? Presuming always that he was in the basement of Meyers' house and not at a different location entirely.




"Miss! Can you hear me?" a voice, calm but with an urging undertone, brought Leslie back to consciousness. One moment, she had been lingering in comforting oblivion, the next, her senses were flooded with a veritable onslaught of sounds and lights. Nothingness was replaced by searing pain all over her body, made only worse by the bright light that suddenly blinded her.

She must have groaned in pain, because the light was removed immediately and a woman's face appeared in her field of view.

"Sorry 'bout that, but it's necessary to make sure you didn't hurt your head. Can you tell me your name?"

"It's Leslie...Baker," Leslie barely remembered to use her alias in time. As she did so, the events of the past few days came back to her in full technicolor. She was sure those goons roughing her up were connected to Sydney Parker. So he did suspect her after all and that was the warning he had decided to send her way. A fine copper she made, Leslie thought. Not only had she underestimated Sydney, she had also let two hired goons get the better of her. She needed to contact her handler, let him know what was going on before Sydney and Mervin got rid all of incriminating evidence tying them to Jake's murder.

"Listen," Leslie addressed the female paramedic. "I'm conscious and coherent and I hereby refuse treatment."

The paramedic sighed. "I'd advise against it given the severity if your injuries. But, it is your right to refuse treatment. Are you sure you don't want a doctor to check you over at the hospital? Just to make sure nothing's broken and you don't have a concussion."

"I'm sure," Leslie replied. "Just give me the form and I'll sign it."

"I understand, but since we are already en route to hospital, is it okay if we check you over? You can leave as soon as we arrive at the hospital."

Leslie thought over the proposition. It probably wouldn't hurt to let them make sure she wasn't about to keel over, so she agreed.

 


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo

 

Despite her desire to keep this affair out of the hands of the police, the moment someone shot at them, Rose knew that she would have no choice but to call them in. And not just Sergeant Hood. They were going to need more help than that. Still, it would probably easier to explain this mess to Sergeant Hood than to some underpaid emergency services operator. The sergeant could then decided who else to inform. Suppressing a sigh, she dialed his number on her mobile.
The call was answered almost immediately by Hood who sounded none too pleased.

"You know, I do have actual work to do," he groused, "but..."

"We need your help," Rose interrupted him.

"Not that I don't sympathize with your husband, given recent events, but what mess did Mal get himself into this time?"

"A big one," Rose confessed and gave Hood a brief summary of the events of the day, including what she and Des had found out.

Hood gave a low whistle once she'd finished, but then he was right back to business. "Are you and Des all right?"

"Yes, but we're pinned down behind the car," Rose related.

"Stay there, I'll have some units sent your way."

"Better tell them to be careful. The police showing up could send Richter over the edge."

"Got it," Hood replied. "Listen, I gotta make some calls, I'll get back in touch later. You just stay where you are and don't try anything." With that the sergeant hung up.

oOo

Mal had been lost in less than pleasant ruminations which had included a mental assessment of his injuries, when he noticed that Melanie had stopped crying. Putting aside the question of whether his aching ribs were cracked or broken, Mal decided to once more try and assess his, or rather their, situation. Whoever had tossed him down, what felt like at least one flight of stairs, had taken the time to tie him up first. It wasn't the first time Mal had found himself tied up, so it didn't take him long to realize that bonds were not only uncomfortably tight, but also expertly tied. Mal very much doubted that he would be able to extricate himself. Not without help, at least and the only person who could help him had no reason whatsoever to trust him. Mal could only guess what Richter has been doing to her or for how long she had been a prisoner in this hole.

"Melanie?" Mal tried.

"Yes?" Mal was surprised to hear the tentative answer.

"Melanie, I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. I will do anything I can to get you back home to your parents, but I'm going to need your help."

"I'm scared," the girl whispered, sniffling.

"I know," Mal said quietly. "I'm scared, too."

Mal secretly wondered how much truth there was to his words. Sure, they were intended to reassure the girl and gain her trust, but he couldn't deny that the situation looked more than a little bleak. There was a very real chance that neither of them would get out of this alive. If Meyers' actions that morning where any indication, he wouldn't hesitate to kill them, especially if he felt cornered in any way. Best case scenario, Meyers would simply take off and leave them here to their fate. There was a reasonable chance that someone would find them before they died of thirst. On the other hand, if Meyers had any sense, he would get rid of the witnesses first and then get the hell out of here.

Mal forced himself to focus his thoughts back on the task at hand. "But you know, as long as there is something you can do about it, it really isn't that scary at all," Mal all but lied. He doubted that there was a happy ending in sight for him or Melanie, but he would be damned if he went quietly.

"There is nothing you can do!" the girl exclaimed, sounding, once again, close to tears.

"Maybe, but if you help untie me, there might be something I can do."

There was a long pause. Then Mal heard the sound someone moving in the darkness.

"Just move toward my voice," he instructed.

It took a while, but soon Mal felt a small hand brush up against his thigh.

"That's it!" Mal twisted his back and arms so that his wrists were facing Melanie's approximate position.

oOo

Hood had not been kidding when he'd said he was going to make some calls, Rose thought wryly as what looked like a small army of police cars made their way along the access road. At least they were keeping the sirens off, but still, it would be a miracle if Richter hadn't already noticed them, too. The only question was, what was Richter going to do about it. From what Rose had seen firsthand of him, he didn't seem the type who would just surrender peacefully. Rather, she was afraid that with all the police officers here, the whole thing would turn into a dangerous stand-off that might just get her husband killed.

Her suspicions were all but confirmed when a new volley of shots rang out from the direction of one of the cottage's windows. Several of the bullets hit Jake's car, who would probably never forgive her for getting his car shot to pieces. No sooner had she thought it,she remembered that Jake didn't even recall his own family, much less his beloved car. Any chastisement however was pushed from her mind, when she her cell phone rang.

"Yes?"

"Rose, it's Sergeant Hood. I'm here with Inspector Mason. He'll be heading this operation. I told him what you told me. He wants to talk to you."

"Okay."

"Mrs Doyle, this is Inspector Mason speaking. Are you two unharmed?"

"So far, yes," Rose confirmed with a side look at Des who seemed to be on the verge of shock. He had his arms wrapped around himself and appeared to be staring vacantly into space. She herself didn't feel all that great herself. Her head ached fiercely, she still felt vaguely nauseous and dizzy, plus she was sure that if she weren't currently sitting on the ground, propped upright against the GTO, she would probably not be able to keep upright for more than a few seconds.

"That's good to hear. I've had one of my people check into this fellow Meyers and it appears you are right, he is the son of convicted murderer Douglas Richter. Our crime scene technicians were able to link one of his weapons to the murders of Corinne Dawson, Dr. Ruben Hodges and Janet Nash as well as to the attack on you earlier today. We will try and persuade Richter to give himself up, but to be honest, I see little chance of that happening given his history. If he doesn't surrender at once, I'll send officers to get you two out of there. So whatever you do, just stay put."

"I understand," Rose answered and ended the call. She closed her eyes, trying to settle her stomach. It wasn't just the concussion that was making her feel queasy, the fear for Mal's life sat in her belly like a lead brick.

oOo

While Melanie was working on trying to remove the bindings from Mal's wrists, Mal was listening closely for any sounds of activity from above. A few minutes ago, he had heard another series of gunshots. There had been no sirens, so he doubted that the police were there. And even if they were, their presence might just make their situation worse. It could send Meyers' over the edge and then there would be no telling what he was going to do. If there was one thing Mal had learned during his years on the force, it was that people who had nothing left to lose were the most dangerous. Right now, all he could hear were rapid footsteps from above. It sounded like someone pacing, probably Meyers trying to figure out what to do with them.

Mal experimentally wriggled his wrists, partly to see if he could free himself and partly to keep blood flowing to his fingers which were already numb. As soon as he had started moving, Melanie shrunk back.

"You're doing good!" he encouraged, "Just a little more."

Above, a phone started to ring. At first, Mal thought Meyers wasn't going to pick up as more than a minute passed in his estimation and the phone kept on ringing. Mal had a pretty good idea who was calling. Between the persistence of the caller and the earlier gunshots, he suspected that the police had somehow gotten wise to what was going on and was now trying to convince Meyers to give himself up. Mal wasn't sure whether the arrival of the police was a good thing for them or not. It certainly increased their chances of getting out of this hole, but whether they would live to see it was another question entirely.

TBC

Chapter Text

oOo

True to their word, the paramedics had given her the papers needed to sign herself out as soon as they had arrived at the hospital. Leslie had managed to scrawl her signature on the dotted line despite a painfully protesting wrist. It wasn't actually broken, that much she could tell, but it was probably badly sprained.

Once that was done, she had limped off to find a pay phone. While her wallet had gone the way of her mobile, she had managed to dig out a few spare coins from the depths of her coat pocket. She could tell people were staring at her as she made her way through the hospital lobby. A grim chuckle escaped her, she could only imagine what she had to look like. She could tell that her left eye was nearly swollen shut, her blouse and coat were splattered with blood, the knees of her slacks were dirty and torn from where she had fallen during the beating. The inevitable bruises on her face and body were probably starting to form right now. None of that mattered right now, all she really cared about was bringing down Sydney, Mervin and their entire criminal organization for everything they were worth. It was the one thing that kept her going, literally as well as figuratively.

Bracing herself on the edge of the pay phone, Leslie inserted a few coins with her good hand and punched in her handler's contact number.


 

"I'm sorry inspector, but I'm not leaving here until I can be sure that my husband is all right," Rose declared firmly, crossing her arms in front of her chest. The action caused her to sway slightly, despite the fact that she was currently sitting in the back of an ambulance. The adrenaline rush from being shot at had faded now that both she and Des were safe and fear was the only thing keeping her going at this point. Still, she refused to go home.

"As I explained before Mrs Doyle, we don't even know if your husband is in there. In fact, the infra-red only picked up one person inside, which we must assume is Richter," Inspector Mason told her with barely hidden impatience.

"Then how do you explain that my husband's car is parked 150 meters down the road? There isn't exactly much to do around here," Rose argued. "He must have gone to see Richter."

"We don't have any proof of that! Until we can establish contact with Richter, my hands are tied. I'm sorry," Mason said with an air of finality. He turned to leave, but Rose called him after him.

"And what if you can't make contact Richter? What happens then?" Rose challenged.

Mason turned back to face her. "If he won't come to us, we'll just have to go in and get him. Now, if you will excuse me, I've got a job to do."

Mason was barely out of ear-shot when another, familiar voice spoke. "Well, he's always been a bit trigger-happy. It's a miracle you've been able to keep him from storming the place so far."

"Sergeant Hood?" Rose turned her head in the direction of the voice. It hadn't been the wisest of moves because a renewed wave of dizziness and pain caused her to squeeze her eyes shut and groan in pain.

She felt a pair of steadying hands on her shoulders holding her upright. Once the dizziness receded to a more bearable level, she cautiously opened her eyes again.

"Better now?" Hood asked with uncharacteristic gentleness.

"Yes," Rose answered, careful to keep her head still.

"Sergeant, is there anything you can do to stall Inspector Mason and his men?"

"Are you sure that's wise?" Hood asked.

Rose was taken aback. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. "What do you mean?"

"If you are right and Mal is in there" Hood began, "he could be injured and in need of help."

Rose knew Hood was right. She just hadn't allowed her mind to go there. She also knew what Hood wasn't saying, that Mal might already be dead.

"Can you check to see if there has been any progress?" Rose asked after a long pause.

"Sure."


 

"You did great!" Mal praised while he wriggled his numb fingers in an effort to get the blood flowing again. Melanie had managed to loosen the tape binding his wrists sufficiently for him to free himself. His ankles were still tied but as soon as he got the feeling in his hands back, he planned on remedying this. Before he could see to that however, there was a wrenching noise and a sudden bright light filled the space. Mal instinctively squeezed his eyes shut as the light seemed to drive a spike of pain into his brain after the time spent in complete darkness. He raised his hand to shield his eyes as he opened them a crack. It was no use though as the light was being aimed directly at his face, making it impossible to get more than a vague glimpse of the person holding it.

"Malachy Doyle. You have no idea how long I have been waiting for this moment."

Mal nodded, more to himself than to anyone else. Ever since he'd learned that Meyers had tried to have Jake killed, he has suspected that Meyers had a personal grudge against either Malachy himself or Jake. It appeared to be the former.

"Things might not quite have gone the way I'd planned, but I trust that right now, you finally know what it's like to lose everyone you care about."

Mal thought quickly. Jake was still officially dead and if what Meyers was saying was true, he had to believe that he'd succeeded in killing Rose. Mal didn't intend to dispel that particular illusion, not when it was keeping Rose safe.

"So, what it is you are planning to do with me?" Mal asked.

"Straight to the point, I like that. You are going to pay for what you did. Slowly, painfully, you are going to pay."

"Are you sure that's what you want?" Mal asked. "This place is surrounded by the cops, isn't it? You can kill me, but you won't get to enjoy your revenge for long. The cops are going to storm this place sooner or later. You're a dead man," Mal said with far more confidence than he felt.

"I guess that makes two of us then," Meyers answered. Mal heard the faint click of a gun's safety being disengaged.

"At least let Melanie go. Your beef is with me. She's got nothing to do with this."

"Now why would I do that?"

"To buy yourself some time. The cops won't wait forever before they storm this place. If you want to get out of this, you need to let her go."

"I'm not stupid, the moment I step in front of a window, they'll take me out, no questions asked. No, you're not getting out of this so easily."

"Then what's the plan?" Mal challenged. "How are you going to stop them from storming the place?"

There was no immediate answer, so Mal pressed on. "I don't think you have a plan. I think..." Mal was interrupted by the ringing of a telephone.

"You better get that," Mal said quietly. His hopes for a peaceful resolution of this whole mess were dwindling. Talking to Meyers he had gotten the distinct impression that Meyers knew his game was nearly over and that he was determined to drag him and Melanie down with him.

"Oh yes, but before I do, there is one more thing..."

There was a strange sound which Mal couldn't quite place at first, then Melanie cried out. Mal turned away from the light and toward the girl. A sort of dart, similar to those used to sedate wild animals, was stuck in her shoulder. Mal reached to pull it out when a felt a sharp sting in his back. The effect was immediate. His knees buckled and he felt himself pitch forward, but was unable to move his arms to brace his fall. His hold on consciousness was fading rapidly. He could feel himself hitting the concrete floor, but the sensation was strangely muted before fading altogether.


 

Night was gradually falling in the forest and Rose was feeling the dropping temperatures despite the rescue blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Although initially resistant, she had finally accepted a mild painkiller from one of the paramedics who had taken care of Des and her. It hadn't done much to alleviate her headache, but at least it hadn't gotten any worse. The same couldn't be said for her nerves. Sergeant Hood's words had made an impression all right. She couldn't get the image of Mal dying, alone and without anyone there to help him out of her head. It seemed like she had been waiting like this was hours, when in reality, less than two hours had passed since she had placed the call to Hood.

Suddenly, Rose became aware of a growing commotion. Shedding the blanket, she got up and made her way toward the mobile command post that Inspector Mason had set up. She was fairly unsteady on her feet, but she didn't need to go far to realize what was going on. One look at the cottage was enough. Flames were visible behind the windows of the cottage. Rose was watching in morbid fascination when one of the windows burst from the heat. The blaze, fueled by the additional oxygen, grew even brighter with smoke billowing from the opening.

Rose broke into a run, adrenaline suppressing pain and exhaustion for the moment. When hands caught her from behind, she instinctively fought back, elbowing and kicking at the mass behind her.

"Rose! Rose! Just stop, Rose! There is nothing you can do!" Rose found herself spun around and staring Hood in the face.

"I can't...just..." Rose gasped. The world was spinning and twisting around her and grey spots were encroaching on the edges of her vision. She could see Hood's mouth moving, but the words seemed nothing more than garbled noise to her. Behind him, she could see the flames consuming the small cottage, bright against the darkening sky.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



This time, Leslie was careful. She took three separate cabs and exited the last one two blocks from the parking garage where her handler had set up an emergency meeting. It was tough walking the distance on a twisted ankle, but Leslie couldn't care less. She was determined and with adrenaline numbing the pain, she managed to make it to the fifth level of the parking structure in time for the meeting. She had just arrived when a dark, unmarked car with tinted side windows, drew up beside her. Leslie limped around the vehicle and climbed in the passenger side.

"Are you all right?" Kelly asked.

"I'll live," Leslie replied.

"Is your cover still intact?"

"I don't think they know anything for sure, but I'm certain they suspect something," Leslie recounted her run-in with Sydney at the office that morning and the attack on her way home.

"I figure something must have spooked them," she added, referring to the goons that had attacked her. "Otherwise, I doubt they'd have let me off the hook this easy."

"Doesn't look like they were going easy on you. You ought to be in hospital," Kelly said.

"It's not all their fault, I got hit by a car, too," Leslie said off-handedly. "But that doesn't matter right now. We need to make sure they don't get rid of any evidence, if it isn't too late already."

"It's being arranged right now. We'll search the investment firm as soon as a judge signs the warrant," Kelly reassured her.

"I take it that won't happen until tomorrow morning?" Leslie asked.

Kelly had just opened his mouth to reply when there was a gigantic crash and the driver's side window shattered into a million pieces. Everything seemed to happen at once: Kelly slumped onto the steering wheel and pain erupted from Leslie's left upper arm. Several more gunshots rang out as Leslie dove for cover, trying to reach for Kelly's service weapon to defend herself. Her hand was slick with blood running down her arm by the time she finally got a hold of it and was able to return fire. In the dark, it was hard to see much of anything, but she must have hit her target anyway as she heard a pained gasp and the gunshots aimed at the car ceased.

Well aware that the shooter might not be alone and now sure that either she or Kelly had been followed to the parking garage, Leslie thought feverishly. She had to get out of here, fast, before any of the shooter's back-up arrived. There was but one way out of here. She had to take the car. There was no way she could escape on foot.

She felt for a pulse on the side of Kelly's neck, but as she had suspected, he had been killed instantly. Reaching over his body, she opened the driver side door. Muttering an apology under her breath, she tried to push his body out of the car. A fellow officer deserved better, but right now, there was nothing she could do for Kelly. All she could do was try and save herself. Kelly was dead weight and trying to shift it from her position on the passenger seat was awkward to say the least but she didn't dare get out of the car. Her injuries protested painfully against the sudden effort, but Leslie hardly felt any pain at all, too numb from the combination of shock and adrenaline.

Finally, she managed to shift Kelly's dead body out of the way and climb into the driver's seat. The key was still in the ignition. She started the engine and drove off as fast as she could.


 


Leslie's panicked flight didn't last long though. She was just pulling up to the exit of the parking structure when a dark SUV drew up outside and blocked her way. Leslie honked the car's horn angrily, but instead of making way, the window of the SUV was rolled down an inch. There was a blinding flash just a fraction of second before a bullet pierced the windscreen of Kelly's car and buried itself in the upholstery of the back seat. Leslie ducked just as more bullets hit the spot where her head had been a moment ago. Keeping her head down, she once again reached for Kelly's weapon which had fallen into the space between the passenger's and driver's seat. She had two bullets left. Time to make it count.

However, before Leslie had a chance to fire even one shot, a familiar voice stopped her dead in her tracks.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

It sounded like...but no, it couldn't be. There was a knock on the side window. Leslie looked up. Sydney Parker stood there, gun aimed at her head and smirking broadly.

"Throw that gun in the back," he ordered.

Leslie complied. Sydney would be able to take her out easily before she had a chance to shoot him. The gun was of no use to her now.

"Now, leave the keys and get out of the car."

Leslie's mind was working overtime, trying to figure out a way out of this, when Sydney's voice broke in on her thoughts.

"Come on, I'm not going to hurt you. Not if you do exactly what I say."

Leslie didn't believe Sydney for a minute, but right now she didn't have much of a choice, so she climbed out of the car. Her heart was beating hard in her chest and she had to force herself to take slow, even breaths to keep from panicking.

Once she was clear of the car, Sydney put two finger in his mouth and gave a whistle. A moment later, the passenger door of the SUV opened and another man climbed out.

"Tie her up," Sydney ordered and nodded toward Leslie. The man pulled a pair of zip ties from his pocket and proceeded to fasten Leslie's wrists together behind her back. Leslie bit her lip to stop herself from crying out in pain as the position put strain on her injured arm. It wouldn't help her situation any and she certainly didn't want to give Sydney the satisfaction as she let him tie her up.

There was still a gun aimed at her head, so fighting back wasn't an option. She couldn't help but wonder why Sydney was bothering with all this. Clearly, he knew who she really was. The only logical option for him would be to get rid of her. In all honesty, she had expected him to put a bullet in her head right then and there. Obviously Sydney had other plans, but whether these would be any more to her liking was doubtful at best.

"Good," Sydney addressed the other man. "As soon as we are out of here, get rid of her car."

"As for us, we are going to go for a little ride," Sydney said to Leslie. He reached back and opened the rear door of the SUV, then used his gun to motion for Leslie to get in.

Leslie complied and with some difficulty managed to climb into the back seat of the SUV. Once she was seated, Sydney buckled her seat belt, essentially trapping her. With her hands tied behind her back, there was no way she would be able to unbuckle herself.

"And just in case you get any ideas," Sydney said, pulling a bandana from his pocket, folding it and tying it over her face so it covered her eyes.

She heard the sound of the car door being slammed shut and shortly afterward, the car was in motion. "Great"Leslie thought. "Just great."She didn't know what exactly Sydney had planned for her, but she doubted she would have to wait long to find out. Her only consolation was that Kelly had already put things into motion for obtaining a warrant and the Parker's criminal enterprise would be going down, even if she wasn't alive to see it.




For a few seconds after waking, Rose enjoyed blissful ignorance. Then, in one horrifying rush, it all came back to her. Mal, Richter, the stand-off, the fire, everything.

With a cry of alarm, Rose opened her eyes. When all she saw was whiteness, she began to struggle into a sitting position, only to feel a hand touch her arm, gently restraining her.

"Rose?" a familiar voice to her left said. "It's all right, you're in hospital."

Rose turned her head in the direction of the voice. There sat Tinny, eyes red as if from crying, smiling weakly at her. Des, who was sitting next to her also attempted a smile, but didn't quite succeed. Both of them looked scared and more than a little tired. The fact that they were here and Mal wasn't only increased Rose's anxiety.

"Mal?" Rose asked, finding her mouth to have suddenly gone very dry.

"He...they..." Tinny began, obviously trying to find the right words. Her hesitation made Rose's heart sink. If Tinny couldn't bring herself to tell her, then it had to be bad.

"Is he dead?" Rose asked, almost afraid to ask.

The change that came over Tinny's and Des' faces gave her answer before they could speak.

"No," Des began.

"He isn't..." Tinny reassured her at the same time.

"Stop it!" Rose held up a hand to stop the jumble of words that was reawakening her headache.

"Tinny, what's going on?" she asked. The fact that Mal wasn't dead was reassuring but it didn't mean that he wasn't seriously hurt.

Tinny visible steadied herself before responding. "He's in ICU at the moment. He inhaled a lot of smoke and the doctors think Richter also drugged him with some sort of animal tranquilizer, I can't remember the name. I'm sorry." Tinny took a deep breath. "Anyway, they think he's probably going to be okay in a few days' time. We can see him tomorrow," she said and glanced at her watch. "Well, later today actually."

"What time is it now?" Rose asked, still somewhat confused if also considerably relieved. Her headache was back, although with much less ferocity than earlier. Probably thanks to painkillers, she realized as she spotted the IV needle stuck in the back of her hand.

"Just gone three in the morning," Des replied, stifling a yawn. "You've been out for a while."

"You two should go home," Rose said. "I'll be okay. You can come back in the morning."

"Only if you listen to the doctors this time and stay here until they clear you," Tinny demanded in an unusually sharp tone of voice.

It took Rose a second to realize that Tinny must have been worried about her. Des too in all likelihood, although she could never quite tell what was behind his awkward nervousness.




The car ride seemed to take forever. Leslie tried to force herself to stay calm, but she couldn't keep her mind from racing no matter how hard she tried. One dire scenario after the after arose in her mind, all in the knowledge that there wasn't a thing she could do about it. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she was startled when the car suddenly stopped and the engine was turned off. In breathless silence, she waited, listening as a car door was opened, then was closed again a few instants later. The sound of gravel crunching beneath someone's shoes was audible next and then, the sound of another door opening, much closer this time. She felt cold night air replace the warm stuffiness of the SUV's interior just before a click indicated the seatbelt being unbuckled. A strong grip fastened itself around her upper arm, painfully squeezing the spot where the bullet had injured her earlier. It would be a minor miracle if the wound didn't start bleeding again, Leslie thought darkly.

"Get out!" Sydney commanded.

"You won't get away with this," Leslie tried as she was roughly pulled from the back of the SUV. "You kill me and there won't be a place in the country where you can hide."

"Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to kill you," Sydney said, much to her surprise. "I have plans for the both of us." Sydney told her as he led her away from the car, over a gravelly surface, perhaps a path of some sort, she couldn't tell for certain.

Sydney continued to led her with a firm grip on injured arm, past a door and into a building, up a flight of stairs and into a room. He pushed her down on a soft surface, possibly a bed. Leslie was starting to get the impression that a quick death wasn't in her future, but rather that things were going to get nasty even before Sydney finished with her. Her fears appeared to be confirmed, when a pair of lips pressed against hers. Leslie tried turning her head to escape the unwanted attentions, but it was no use, it was being held securely in place.

"Stop it!" Leslie cried, or tried to at least for the sound was heavily muffled.

Much to her surprise, Sydney obeyed her command and let go of her head. A second later, she was being pulled into a sitting position and her blindfold was removed. Leslie glanced around. She was sitting on a bed in an otherwise unfurnished room. There was a window in the room, but the shutters were down, effectively barring any glimpse of the outside.

"Oh Leslie," he said shaking his head, "the two of us could be so good together. But I understand that you can't see that yet, and I won't fault you for that. You will see for yourself very soon."

"That's never going to happen!" Leslie spat. "I will not work for your father's criminal empire."

"Who said anything about him? His days are all but over. He's just a figurehead these days while others do all the work. But that's going to change, too. Together, no one will be able to stop us."

"You're wasting your time," Leslie replied, wondering if Sydney truly believed that he could get her to change loyalties. Because if he did, he was insane, no questions asked.

"You will come around, in time," Sydney said, smiling with at her fondly. Before Leslie could protest once more, he spoke again. "First things first, though. Let's make you a little more comfortable."

Sydney went over to the radiator and for the first time Leslie spotted the chain that was secured to it. On the end of the chain was a single handcuff which Sydney picked up and proceeded to lock around her right wrist. That done, he used a pocket knife to cut the plastic tie that still held her wrists together behind her back.

Leslie gingerly moved her shoulders, trying to ease the pain from stiffened muscles and joints. Despite the physical relief however, she refused to take her eyes off Sydney. The chain was long enough to allow limited movement around the room. Leslie was trying to assess her chances in light of the changed situation when Sydney broke in on her thoughts.

"Well, I think I better let you get some rest now. It's late and we have much to do tomorrow," Sydney said and left the room, locking the door behind him.

Leslie allowed herself a few moments to settle down. As much as she might like to deny it, she felt like crap. Between having been beaten up, hit by a car and shot, she wasn't exactly having a great night. Fairly confident that Sydney wasn't going to return for some time, Leslie assessed her injuries. Aside from feeling stiff and bruised all over, her right ankle was twisted and hurt to walk on, effectively preventing her from making a run for it, should the opportunity present itself. Her right wrist was sprained and then there was the gunshot wound to her left upper arm which still hurt quite a bit. The bleeding seemed to have stopped or at least slowed considerably but the left sleeve of her jacket was still nearly soaked through with blood. Carefully, Leslie tried to extricate her left arm from the sleeve of the jacket to get a better look at the wound. The process was tedious and painful, especially since the drying blood had stuck the fabric to the tender skin around the wound. When she was finally able to assess the damage done, a look of concern flashed over her features followed by a grim chuckle as the reality of her situation sunk in. The wound was a through-and-through which had definitely pierced muscle and possibly splintered bone as well, she couldn't tell for sure. It was still bleeding, albeit very sluggishly, leading Leslie to conclude that no major artery had been severed by the bullet. If it had, then she wouldn't be sitting here right now. The wound's edges were reddish and to her untrained eyes looked like they were in the beginning stages of inflammation - definitely not a good sign. Although, she realized, she probably wouldn't live long enough to have to worry about infection setting in. She had no idea what exactly Sydney's plans for her were, but she did know that he could not afford to keep her alive.


Having finished the assessment of her injuries, Leslie stiffly got up from the bed to examine the room more closely. At least that was her intention, but as soon as she was standing upright, she suddenly felt dizzy and had to sit back down to avoid falling flat on her face. Blood loss, most likely, she realized. It was also explain why she was feeling so cold. She hadn't thought much of it earlier, figuring that the room was simply cool and that was why she was feeling chilled. The bed was looking more and more inviting, but she knew if she lied down, she wouldn't be able to get up again so easily. Better to explore the room now when she had still energy left, Leslie decided. Much more slowly this time, she got up again and holding on to the wall, was able to wait for the dizziness to abate with falling and begin her explorations.

There was a second door next the foot of the bed. Leslie hobbled over to it and tried the handle. It was unlocked and led into a small bathroom. At last, one thing she wouldn't need to worry about, Leslie thought to herself.

A look inside the medicine cabinet revealed, much to her surprise, a few basic first aid items, including some bandages and disinfectant spray. There was even an unopened packet of paracetamol. Leslie appropriated the necessary items and began to difficult task to patching herself up.




TBC



Chapter Text

oOo



Leslie hadn't meant to fall asleep but eventually pain, exhaustion and blood loss had won out over her weakening resolve. Even though she had only planned on lying down and closing her eyes for a few moments, she must have dozed off. The next thing she knew, Sydney was standing over her and daylight was shining through the gaps in the shutters of the window. She definitely had been asleep for more than a few minutes, she realized in alarm before turning her attention back to her captor.

"Good to see you're awake, I was afraid I was going to have to wake you up after all," Sydney said. "We have big plans for today," he added cryptically.

Leslie didn't answer. She levered herself up into a sitting position instead, carefully cataloging every ache and pain in her abused body. If anything sleeping seemed to have made the pain worse and what little relief the tablet of paracetamol she had taken the night before had offered had long since faded again. It felt like she had been run over by a car, which in retrospect wasn't too far from the truth. She had been hit by one after all, plus she had been beaten and shot. It was a minor miracle she had slept has well as she had. Still ignoring Sydney, she glanced at the bandage encircling the wound on her upper left arm. Dried blood was visible on it, but the wound had clearly stopped bleeding hours ago. Blood loss wasn't going to kill her, of that she was fairly certain. However the dull throbbing pain didn't reassure her in slightest. Her fears of the previous night that the wound was becoming infected appeared to be confirmed. And also there was still the possibility that bone had been splintered by the bullet as well.


It was then that Sydney broke in on her thoughts. "You better get changed." Leslie look up half alarmed, half curious at what Sydney might have meant by that. She had hardly noticed before, but now her gaze fell upon the shopping bag that he carried with him. The label proclaimed it to be from one of the local department stores.

God help him if he had brought lingerie, Leslie thought, but Sydney was already pulling out the contents of the bag and much to her relief, it contained nothing of the kind. Instead, he produced a pair of sand-coloured slacks, a matching jacket as well as a light blue blouse.

When Leslie didn't react, Sydney went on. "Come on now, you wouldn't want to frighten poor Jake."

At that Leslie could only stare at him. What on earth did Jake have to do with whatever Sydney had planned for her? Jake was dead. It was because of him that she was doing this and as bitter the irony was, Leslie had to recognized that Jake had managed to land her in more trouble dead than he had ever done when he was alive.

Sydney suddenly laughed. "You don't know, do you?"

"Know what?" Leslie demanded sharply.

Sydney continued to laugh as if the situation was the most hilarious thing ever. "And they make me out to be the villain in this!"

Leslie had to hold on to every shred of self control she had not to get up and force an answer out of Sydney. Not that she would have been able to in her present condition.

"Jake Doyle is alive," Sydney spat. "Your copper friends only put out the story that he'd been killed. Guess they neglected to fill you in?"

The shock at this revelation was immediately joined by the faint sting of betrayal at having been kept in the dark, even though she rationally understood the need for secrecy in such a situation.


Leslie would have loved to deny the truth of Sydney's words, but her reaction had made it obvious that Jake's survival was news to her, always presuming that Sydney could be trusted. However she could see no reason for him to lie to her about Jake's survival, given how much he probably wanted him dead. Plus, telling her that Jake had survived meant that Sydney and his goons had failed, something he probably wasn't too keen on admitting. That brought up a fresh, unwelcome train of thought. If Sydney knew that Jake's death had been a ruse then Jake was in great danger. Sydney was sure to try again to have him killed if only to prevent him from giving evidence in court.


"I take your silence as a yes," Sydney went on. "But don't worry, you'll have your chance to get back at them. You are going to kill Jake."


Leslie had been on the verge of an angry retort, but for the second time in as many minutes, she was speechless. Finally, her brain managed to catch up with the rapid development of events and she managed to speak: "You're insane!" she exclaimed. "I'm not going to harm Jake, no matter what you do to me, so just forget about it."


"Oh, I'm not going to hurt you, Leslie," Sydney said with a gentleness that sent shivers down her spine. "You simply won't have any choice whatsoever. You see, if you don't kill Jake, a lot of innocent people are going to die. However if you chose to comply like the good little public servant that you are, he'll be the only victim," Sydney paused for a moment. "Now, get dressed, we wouldn't want to be late." There was new a hardness in his voice that Leslie had never noticed before. It was as if he had made up his mind. As to what, she had no idea. Swiftly, Sydney bent down and unlocked the handcuff around her right wrist and without another word, he left the room, locking the room behind him.


Leslie sat on the bed, her mind reeling from the revelations of the past ten minutes. Any joy she might have felt at the news that Jake was alive was suppressed by the dilemma she was facing. There was no doubt in her mind that she and Jake were going to die that day if Sydney had his way, no matter what she decided to do. He probably only wanted her to be the one to do it just to torture her. But that didn't make a lot of sense, not based on his behavior so far. If he wanted to torture her, he had had plenty of opportunity since the previous night. And yet, Sydney had left her alone most of the time. Urgent business elsewhere, maybe?


Leslie didn't understand Sydney's motives at all. On one hand, Sydney had her pegged fairly well. He knew that threatening to kill innocent people was the only way to get her to even consider having any part in a murder. Yet on the other hand, his creepy advances showed that he had no insight into her psyche whatsoever, especially if he thought that she would ever change loyalties. That was another thing. Only the previous day had he talked about her joining him in his criminal doings and today he was happily talking about her dying. It all confused her to no end. If only she could figure him out, then maybe, there would be a way out of this. But right now, he just seemed to be all over the map to her and she had no idea what she could do or say that would persuade him to change his plans, provided that there was anything in her power that could accomplish that.


oOo


In the end, Leslie had decided to change into the clothes provided by Sydney. Now that her right hand was no longer attached to a chain fastened to the radiator, she actually was able to do so. While she was changing, she mulled over her options. She doubted that being free of the chain would give her any advantage. Sydney was bound to compensate for her increased freedom by some other means. If he chose to aim a gun at her, she would only have two options, either comply or allow him to kill her. For now, complying seemed to be the smarter option. Assuming that Jake was in hospital, then there might be a chance for her to escape or warn someone when they got there. Sydney would not be able to completely isolate her there, nor would he be able to openly threaten her in public. Part of her wondered how credible his threat of killing innocent people really was and if it was serious, how he was going to go about it. But all pondering wouldn't be of any use, she would just have to stay sharp and wait for things to develop.


oOo


Indeed, Leslie did not have to wait long for developments. She had barely changed into the new clothes the size of which Sydney had guessed with rather unsettling accuracy, safe for the jacket which was a size too large, when the man himself returned. Much as Leslie had predicted, he was armed. But it wasn't a gun he was carrying. It was much, much worse than that. He was carrying a vest strapped with what looked like enough plastic explosive to blow up a small building, the entire thing wired to explode. Suddenly, Leslie had a very good idea of how Sydney was going to realize his threat. If he had somehow been able to plant a bomb somewhere in a well frequented place, then he might very well be able to kill any number of people at the push of a button if she didn't go through with killing Jake.

"Here, put that on underneath the jacket," Sydney ordered. When Leslie made no move to comply, he added. "Don't worry, I'm not going to blow you up. At least not if you stick to the plan and follow my orders down to the letter. The vest is merely insurance on my part, to make sure that there are no loose ends, even if you do decided to try and trick me." Sydney stepped in close, running the barrel of his gun along the outline of her face. "But you wouldn't do that, would you now? Not with the lives of all those people at stake. You see, I had an associate of mine plant a bomb in a well frequented location - and no I'm not going to tell you where, just in case - which I will detonate if you don't kill Jake Doyle."

"You're insane!" the words escape Leslie without thought. There was nothing else that came to mind when confronted with such a crazy scheme.

"Maybe, but you have to admit it's pretty clever," Sydney said arrogantly. "And to make sure you don't get any ideas, I got this," he pulled a small microphone and earpiece from his pocket. "That way I will know if you try to warn anyone. You do and I will detonate both bombs."

TBC

 

Chapter Text

oOo


Despite the truckload of drugs they were obviously giving him, Jake had had a restless night. He hadn't been in too much pain. That much was being taken care of by the meds, but the dreams that had haunted his sleep had been unsettling to say the least. They hadn't been nightmares per say, although some bits certainly qualified, but the fact that they were filled with people and places he had no memory of was disquieting enough. His father had featured in them as well, leading him to wonder whether the other people from his dreams were in fact people from his life as well.


He hadn't been in the frame of mind to ask many questions when his father had visited him the previous day, but now his mind was filled with questions. Only he wasn't sure whether he was going to like the answers. For that matter, he didn't even know what to expect of himself. He had no idea what kind of guy he was, after all.


He remained preoccupied throughout a check of his vitals administered by a pretty young nurse and the arrival of a tray of mushy something masquerading as breakfast. The mushy something turned out to be something related to applesauce, at least that was what his brain came up with. How weird was it that he could recall what applesauce tasted like but had no idea what he even looked like? Listlessly, he ate a couple of spoonfuls, before abandoning the undertaking when there was a knock at the door.


The young nurse from earlier peeked her head in the door. "Mr Doyle, someone from the police is here to see you," she announced before opening the door fully and allowed a woman to enter.

The moment Jake laid eyes on her, a strange sense of unease took hold of him. She seemed familiar, and at the same time, her presence appeared to unsettle him, for a reason he couldn't fathom. True, the woman, though good-looking, looked like she had been through the wars. She sported a sizable cut over one of her eyebrows held together by a dirty looking butterfly bandage and bruises were evident both on her face and neck. Flecks of what looked like dried blood were stuck in her blond hair. As she walked through the doorway with a noticeable limp, she looked more like a recently battered wife than a police officer.


oOo


Having been forced to put on the vest strapped with explosives underneath her jacket and wearing the concealed microphone that would allow Sydney to keep tabs on everything she said, Leslie had found herself forced to follow through with the plan so far. Sydney had made it very clear to her that it would take only a call from his cell phone to detonate a bomb he had one of his minions deposit in an undisclosed public place. Also, should he suspect that she was trying to get rid of the vest or alert anyone on any way, he would detonate the explosives she was wearing, taking out her and everyone around her in a sizable radius. He had walked her up to the floor where Jake was still being guarded, leaving little chance for her to escape or warn anyone. Then, he watched unobtrusively from the other end of the hallway while Leslie approached the officer guarding Jake.


Leslie's vague hopes that she would be denied entranced were shattered when the uniformed officer took one brief look at her and let her pass with a mere nod of the head, obviously recognizing her from the police station. Besides, Leslie's relationship with Jake was the subject of so much gossip at the station, it was no wonder that no one thought twice about it when she showed up at the hospital to see him.


During the brief wait for a nurse to come and check to see if Jake was up to answering questions, Leslie glanced around desperately for anything that might help her get out of her current predicament, but every option she considered was a dead end and would undoubtedly end with Sydney blowing up both her and who knew how many other people.


After what seemed like an eternity a nurse showed up and after sticking her head into Jake's room for a second, she appeared satisfied and ushered Leslie inside before closing the door behind her, leaving her alone to face Jake. Leslie's heart was pounding in her chest like a jackhammer. Her mind, just a moment ago home to a whirlwind of frantic thoughts suddenly went completely blank. She could hardly breathe, much less move. All she knew was that she couldn't go through with it.


"You must be with the police," Jake suddenly said, jolting her from her frozen state.


"Jake?" Leslie mutter, her voice almost toneless.


"Do we...know each other?" Jake asked tentatively. "I don't know whether they told you, but I highly doubt I can tell you anything about what happened. Thing is I don't remember anything. Not just about what happened, but about everything...," Jake trailed off. If she hadn't known him better, she would have thought he was nervous.

Suddenly, Leslie's earpiece came to life with Sydney's voice, startling her:

"There's a gun taped to the back of your vest. Take it and kill him now!"


oOo


Jake was growing increasingly nervous. He didn't think he was the type to panic at nothing, but something was wrong here. The police woman, if she really was with the police, there was something not right about her. It wasn't just her beat-up appearance, but also the way she had reacted when he'd explained about the memory loss. And then, the way she'd suddenly jerked back bodily, the panicked look of a trapped animal on her face, that seemed very odd to him as well.
"Is everything all right?" he asked, not really sure what to do. He wished he knew something of what had landed him here. If the police was interested in what had happened, it was possible that he had been involved, in whichever way, in something criminal. Not necessarily as a perpetrator, maybe he had been merely a victim, but that didn't mean that there couldn't be someone after him even now for revenge.
Suddenly, the woman who clearly wasn't a police officer, shrugged out of her suit jacket, revealing a vest strapped with explosives.


"Woah!" Jake exclaimed, for an idle moment wondering if it was possible that he was some sort of terrorist without knowing it.


The woman paid no attention to him however. Reaching behind her back, she produced a gun furnished with a silencer from somewhere. Jake slowly raised his hands, ignoring the painful pull the motion caused on his numerous injuries.


Even though he knew he couldn't possibly win this one, he dove off the bed and onto the floor even as the woman came walking toward him, gun in hand. The impact from the fall along with the tearing of pulled IVs, wires and leads, was far more painful than he could have imagined and for a moment, Jake was sure he was going to black out. Over the ringing in his ears and the shrill wailing of a medical alarm, he could hear three pops, doubtless the sound of the gun being fired. He half-expected to feel the impact of bullets follow, but no new pain added to his already considerably agony.


oOo


Time was running out. Leslie had no idea if Jake had realized what she was planning on doing, but for now he was as safe as he was going to be on the floor. Between the wailing of an alarm triggered by some sort of monitoring device and the muted sound of gunfire, someone was bound to come barging into the room any second. Once they did, Leslie's deception would be discovered and Sydney would probably not hesitate to detonate both bombs. Leslie had just ripped out her earpiece when the door flew open. Not knowing what else to do, Leslie leveled the gun on the nurse who had entered, motioning for her to step aside and keep silent. The nurse, her eyes wide with terror, complied without making a sound. Leslie raced past her to the door and locked it to prevent anyone else from entering this potentially lethal danger zone.


Leslie motioned for the nurse to join Jake who was starting to try and get up from his position on the floor in front of the bed. She just hoped that for once in his life he would stay put while she struggled to get out of the bomb vest. There was a knock on the door. The sound was repeated almost immediately and then someone tried the handle.


"Police, open up!" a voice demanded from outside. Leslie was forced to ignore them as she struggled to open the window only the realize that it was the sort that wasn't designed to open. Out of time and options, she fired another shot at window. The glass shattered with a crash and she tossed the ball of explosives and fabric out the window. She wasted no time watching it fall, but dove down to the floor herself, throwing herself in front of Jake and the nurse. Her last thought before everything went black was that she was sorry, so very sorry. She hadn't managed to bring herself to fatally shoot Jake and now dozens of innocent people were going to die because of it.

TBC

 

Chapter Text

oOo



"Are you sure visiting hours start this early?" Tinny questioned as she followed Des along the street in the direction of the hospital. In the absence of a car, they had been forced to take the bus and then walk the remaining distance. Having spent most of the night at the hospital, the time at the house had been short, but no less awkward. Neither of them had been able to sleep and by the time that dawn had finally crept around, the tense silence between them had gotten to be too much and Tinny had only too gladly taken up Des' suggestion that they go check up on Rose and, if possible, Mal as well.


Des didn't answer and Tinny had the impression that he purposefully sped up his steps, forcing her to hurry in order to be able to keep up with him. Tinny glanced at her watch. It was just after 8 a.m. She was sure that visiting hours didn't start that early, although she really had no idea when they did start.


Des turned the corner onto the premises of the hospital, disappearing from sight. Tinny broke into a slight run, trying to catch up with him.


"Des!" she called. "Just wait a second!" Ever since he had returned from the cottage the previous night to break to news of what had happened to her, Des had been unusually quiet and withdrawn, giving Tinny the distinct impression that he was uncomfortable in her presence. Now too, he either hadn't heard her or had chosen to ignore her for he neither stopped nor slowed down but continued toward the entrance of the hospital at a brisk pace. It was almost as if he was trying his best to avoid her.


"Des!" Tinny finally caught up with Des and managed to snag him by the sleeve of his jean jacket. Just as she did so, however something else caught her attention: the sound of glass shattering, coming from somewhere above. Tinny looked up at the nearby hospital building just in time to see a dark object being tossed out a broken window several floors up.


"Look..." she began, but before she got half-way through uttering the word, her voice was swallowed up by a deafening bang as the falling object exploded in a ginormous ball of fire. However, neither Des nor Tinny were in any position to appreciate the spectacle as the shockwave of the explosion was more than enough to propel both of them off their feet and throw them backward, away from the center of the blast.


oOo


After having been airborne for what had seemed like a very frightening length of time, the impact with the unyielding concrete came hard and fast for Tinny. For several seconds, she just lay there, unable to even breathe. When she finally managed to draw in a shaking breath, the acrid smell of smoke brought the reality of what had happened back to her in an instant. Ignoring her scraped palms and knees, Tinny clambered unsteadily to her feet. She had barely taken a few stumbling steps in no particular direction when she was stopped and found herself face to face with a woman she'd never seen before. The woman seemed to be talking to her as Tinny could see her mouth moving but all Tinny could hear was a persistent buzzing noise. Suddenly, the woman's mouth stopped moving and she looked at Tinny questioningly. Tinny realized that she had to be waiting for an answer to some unheard question.


"I...I can't hear you," Tinny stammered after a moment, her mind still trying to catch up with what had just happened. "My friend, my friend Des, he was here with me...is...is he okay?" she asked as she suddenly realized that Des wasn't with her anymore. Tinny was growing increasingly panicked.

She twisted in the woman's grasp, trying to see if she could catch a glimpse of Des anywhere. Much to her relief, she could see Des a few meters to her left, already being aided by man dressed in scrubs and a lab coat. That reassured her enough to allow her to focus back on the woman who was still trying to lead her away from the scene of the explosion. Still feeling confused as well as rather shaken, Tinny decided it would be best to comply, at least for now.


oOo


For once in his life, Hood was glad to hear of a bomb threat coming in. Usually these occasions which called for massive manpower, were gigantic wastes of time and in 99.9% of all cases there was no actual bomb to be found. Though he would never had admitted as much, after all, a police officer wasn't supposed to be happy that life and property were at stake, he would do pretty much anything to get out of under the mountain of paperwork that the incident of the previous day had generated. He especially didn't relish explaining his connection, however tangible, to the case. The whole affair was one big mess, the only silver lining being that Paul Richter's charred body had been found in the ruins of his cottage. Good riddance to him, that was for sure. A formal identification of the body by the coroner was still pending and likely would be for days, but for the moment, Hood had to take what he could get.

As he wasn't running point on the case, he wasn't in the loop regarding the latest developments. However, from what he had been able to gather the night before, both the kidnapped girl and Mal were expected to make it. Richter probably hadn't meant for this to happen, but inadvertently might have saved them from death by smoke inhalation by drugging them with an animal tranquilizer before setting the blaze. That, so one of the paramedics on the scene, had slowed their breathing enough so that the amount of smoke they had been exposed to wasn't fatal. Still, the whole thing had been a very near miss and getting his mind off this case certainly wouldn't hurt. Spending a few hours wasting his time talking to an endless string of people who hadn't seen a thing might just be what he needed to clear his head.


oOo


Any positive thoughts Hood might have had were quickly chased from his mind however when he arrived at the hospital, joining a considerable number of other police officers at the mobile command center that had been set up outside a large cordoned off area in the hospital parking lot. It was immediately obvious that this was more than just an idle threat called in by a prankster. There clearly had been an explosion. A sizable section of the outside wall of the building had been singed several floors up, windows in a large radius had been shattered, glass and shreds of burned material were strewn all over the asphalt beneath the damaged section of wall and cars parked in the vicinity bore the unmistakable signs of the shockwave. If Hood didn't know any better, he would have thought that a bomb had exploded in mid-air. But that seemed preposterous. Shaking his head, he turned his attention to the briefing, held by one Inspector Beech whom he hadn't met before yet and who was from a province-wide terrorism task force.


"Okay everyone!" Inspector Beech called. "Now that the majority of you are here, I think we better get started. At around 8:05 this morning, an explosion occurred in the immediate vicinity of this building," he gestured to the blackened wall behind them. "According to several witnesses, it occurred in midair. The bomb squad technicians have detected explosive residue on fragments on the ground so we are dealing with a bomb. We..."


The inspector was interrupted by a young man who tapped him on the shoulder and whispered something to him. Beech nodded, then addressed the assembled law enforcement officers.


"I have just been informed that the bomb squad's scent dogs have detected probable explosives aboard a car parked in the visitor parking area. The bomb squad will assess the situation and secure any explosives if present, but in the meantime, we have to evacuate the hospital. There is no telling if there are any more explosives on the premises. The hospital security personnel will coordinate the evacuation with our assistance while the bomb squad will continue with their grid search of the premises. Meanwhile, it's of paramount importance that we identify any further witnesses and secure all relevant surveillance footage. If there is indeed a terrorist background to this, we need to hit the ground running."


Hood quietly snorted to himself in a mixture of contempt and amusement. This Inspector Beech was unbelievable. If there was terrorist background? What about if they were just dealing with a garden variety lunatic without any greater aspirations? As if that wouldn't call for swift action! But he knew that type of investigator only too well - young, overeager and over-educated - they liked to toss around big words and usually preferred to coordinate things rather than to get their hands dirty so that they could look pristine at the inevitable press conference.


oOo


Hood ended up being one of the many officers assigned to interview potential witnesses. Well, it probably beat helping with the evacuation, but he still wondered whether he should have been more careful with what he wished for. Right now his desk seemed like a much more pleasant place to be. As he walked over to one of the hastily erected tents where the people who had been in the vicinity of the explosion had been assembled, he wondered how Leslie was getting on with her undercover gig. Whatever she was doing right now, it probably beat this grunt work by miles, he thought.


At the entrance to the tent, he was promptly stopped by hospital security. Once he'd identified himself, the man's stern features softened minutely.


"It's good to see you, sergeant. I have been trying my best to keep everyone calm, but I'm afraid I haven't had much luck." Hood grimaced. If there was one thing he wasn't good at, it was dealing with panicked witnesses whose statements were usually not of much use anyway, much like most witness statements really. The only thing worse than trying to sift through various inconsistent and often mutually exclusive accounts of a single event, was dealing with the recently bereaved.

Unfortunately, his chosen career frequently called for both. Mentally steeling himself for what was to come, he nodded toward the security guard and stepped into the tent. There were about a dozen people there, three or four of which appeared to be medics. The rest, some of which were in the process of being patched up, were probably the people who had been nearby when it had happened. Much to his relief, most of them appeared fairly composed at first glance and tears were only flowing sparingly and mostly on the part of a little girl who appeared to resist her mother's attempts at soothing her. Deciding to avoid them for now, Hood looked around for someone to interview and, much to his surprise, spotted two familiar faces among the group. There was Tinny, Mal's grand-daughter and also Des, who seemed to never stray very far from the Doyle clan. Apparently, it wasn't just Mal and his late son Jake who had a knack for ending up in the midst of trouble. Other members of the extended family seemed to be magnets for chaos as well.


Although he wasn't really in the mood for their particular brand of craziness, Hood pulled out his notepad and walked over to where Des was sitting, a medic bandaging his left forearm.


"Excuse me?" Hood said when neither Des nor the medic appeared to noticed his presence.


Des startled. "Sergeant Hood!" he exclaimed. "Uhm, what brings you here?" Hood raised an eyebrow, thinking that the answer was well and truly obvious, but taking in Des' chalky white complexion, he decided to let this one slide.


"I was wondering if you could tell me what happened?" "I think so. It's all a bit..." Des gave a vague wave with his right hand that Hood thought might signify confusion, then went on. "I didn't really see anything, not at first at least. I think Tinny did though. I only felt it. Although I did see the sky burning, but it wasn't really. I only saw it for a second anyway..." Des trailed off and Hood took the opportunity to interrupt his disjointed ramblings.


"Maybe you better start at the beginning," he suggested, privately thinking that he should have picked another witness to start with. It would take ages for Des to get to the point, if he ever did. Hood thought Des' was difficult enough to follow normally, but apparently that was nothing compared to when he was rattled. ´




"Oh yes," Des said in response to Hood's question, nodding emphatically and nearly falling off his chair in the process. "I can definitely do that."


oOo


Rose wasn't overly fond of promises in general, finding that all too often, she came to regret them sooner rather than later. Her promise to Tinny the other night that she would stay in hospital until she was cleared by a member of the medical profession was no exception. When she had questioned the nurse who had checked in on her first thing in the morning about being released, she had been told that she would have to wait for a doctor to see her and that wouldn't be happening for several hours yet. That left Rose to poke at her breakfast, not really enjoying the institutional cuisine very much. Her worry for her husband didn't help either, but that too, she had been told, she would have to take up with one of the physicians.

At the moment, there wasn't great deal she could do, except be a good patient, eat her breakfast and hope that her headache would, now that whatever painkillers that had allowed her to get a somewhat decent night's sleep had worn off, remain at acceptable levels. Instead however, she found that it was rapidly escalating again, pounding inside her skull with dull persistence. She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that at first she hadn't noticed the increasing noise filtering in from the hallway. Only when the hurried footfalls built into a veritable commotion, her curiosity was sufficiently aroused to put aside her sandwich. She had just put on her clothes from the previous day when the door was opened by an orderly, a security officer following closely on his heels.


"Excuse me, ma'am, the hospital is being evacuated. We need you to..." the orderly began.


"Evacuated? What's going on?" Rose interrupted, not having expected that.

"It's just a precaution, ma'am," the security officer replied politely, but evasively. Rose didn't believe her for a minute, but her head ached too badly for her to be in any mood to argue the subject any further.


TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo

Jake only realized that he must have blacked out at some point when, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, but what in reality must have been several minutes at the very least, his surroundings changed radically. At the time however, he barely noticed, because something else shifted, too. The nagging emptiness inside his mind that had been there ever since he'd regained consciousness was gone. The change puzzled him for a moment until he realized what was going on. He remembered everything, even the bits about his time in the basement that he would have been only too happy to forget.

Right then and there, despite the pain he was in, despite everything that was still wrong, he felt giddy with joy and relief. The sensation only lasted a second, but in that second, everything was all right in the world. However, as his memories slid more and more into place, he also started to realize their significance.

He now distinctly remembered Leslie Bennett standing in his hospital room, wearing a vest strapped with explosives and aiming a gun at him. That didn't make any sense whatsoever. He briefly considered that he might have hallucinated the entire incident but somehow he didn't think so. There had to be another explanation and he was going to find it.


It was at that point that he started paying more attention to the world around him. Gone was the hospital room and the woman who had looked exactly like Leslie Bennett. In their place were a series of floating lights. When a face suddenly appeared in between the floating lights, Jake realized that he was looking at the ceiling. Maybe he had hit his head a little hard after all, he wondered.


"Mr Doyle," the face was saying, "Good to see you're with us again."


"What's going on?" Jake asked, surprised to find his voice slightly slurred.


"You're being transferred to another hospital," the face announced dispassionately. Before Jake could say another word, the face was joined by a hand and a blinding light appeared in his field of vision.


"Ow!" he protested and tried to swat away the light. However, his movements were sluggish and he missed. Before long the penlight had vanished again. The latent headache it had awoken however seemed to be there to stay. Jake wasn't one to be deterred by that though.


"I need to talk to the police," he tried again.


"Don't worry, Mr Doyle," a different voice reassured him. "It's all being taken care of. The woman who attacked you has been taken into custody, from what I've heard."


"What!? That can't be right!" Jake protested. He tried to sit up, but found himself restrained from doing so.


"Please, calm down," the face-voice from earlier was back, "You're safe now."


The unexpected change in the ceiling which was still pretty much the only thing he could see, from a series of lights in an off-white ceiling to an overcast, leaden sky, temporarily distracted Jake, but it wasn't long before he renewed his quest to get this mess straightened out, even if he didn't really understand all of it yet.


"Please, I really need to talk to the police," he tried again.


This time, he was ignored entirely, and only caught one of the voices saying something about a concussion. Great, they thought he was delirious! They were never going to take him seriously. Well, he thought, if the police wasn't going to come to him, he would have to go to them. While he didn't really feel like he was in the shape to go anywhere, he was sure that he could manage something.
He was about to put his plan into motion when his view changed once again and he realized that he was now inside an ambulance, effectively making it much harder if not impossible for him to go anywhere, at least in his present condition.


Sooner or later, the police would be 'round to see him, if only to get his statement of what had happened. He hated that there was nothing he could do to get all this sorted out sooner, but as even the small effort he had exerted since he'd regained consciousness had tired him out, he didn't have much choice but to lie back and wait, literally.


oOo


As Hood had predicted, questioning Des had been no easy task. Time after time, he had found himself trying to steer the young man back on track after he'd lost himself on some random tangent. If all the witnesses were like this, he thought, he would have gone insane long before he'd made sergeant. The upshot of Des' testimony, as lengthy the process of obtaining it had been, was simple enough. He had seen an object which he couldn't describe any more accurately other to say that it had been irregular in shape and dark in colour had been in the air one instant and exploded the next. The whole thing didn't seem to make a lot of sense, but after Tinny essentially confirmed his story, adding that someone had thrown the object, whatever it really had been, from a window in the fourthfloor, Hood was starting to believe that that was really what had happened, for reasons that remained to be determined. Another piece of information he had gathered, that bore no relation to the ongoing case, was that Mal was expected to recover, even though he had been hurt rather badly apparently.

At least that was what he had gotten out of Tinny, who had been rather mono-syllabic in her answers and also visibly shaken up. The stories of two further witnesses revealed nothing new, as all they hadn't really seen anything. The first clue they had had that anything was going on, was when the explosion had occurred. Nobody, so far, had been able to give any indication of a suspect, but if Tinny was right and the bomb had been tossed from a window then he was looking in the wrong place for the perpetrator.


After concluding his round of interviews, he walked back over to the security officer, who by then had been joined by one of his coworkers.


"Any news?" he asked casually.


"Seems like you guys made an arrest already," the newcomer related excitedly. "Just heard it on my way over. It's crazy, right? To think a copper would try and blow up the hospital. They must have been insane or something."


Hood frowned. That made even less sense than anything else about this case. He had no illusions about the fact that there were indeed shady elements on the force but he doubted that anyone would go as far as to try and bomb the hospital. The two security guards had already continued their animated conversation so Hood slipped out of the tent, resigned to reporting back to the mobile command center. Even if there had been an arrest in the matter, if it came that early on, the process of digging into the suspect's life was only just beginning and there would be plenty more work to be done.


oOo


Hood had barely come within sight of the mobile command center when an officer hurriedly came toward him. "Sergeant Daniel Hood?" the young constable questioned.


"Yes, that's me," Hood replied, slightly puzzled


"Inspector Beech would like have a word with you, sir." It took Hood a second to process the name. Beech was the inspector heading the terrorism task force. He wondered what on earth he might want with him.


"Okay," Hood said anyway and nodded. "Where can I find him?"


"If you'd come with me please. He asked me to take you to him at Radcliffe Infirmary immediately."
Hood raised an eyebrow. "What's at Radcliffe Infirmary?"


The constable hesitated. "I don't know sir, all I'm told was to find you and take you there."
This was getting stranger and stranger as far as Hood was concerned and he was starting to get a bad feeling about it all. Still, it didn't look like he had much choice in the matter.

"Lead the way," he told the constable.


oOo


Once Tinny and Des had been interviewed by Sergeant Hood and patched up by the medics in a makeshift tent near the hospital, they were handed the card of a trauma counselor and sent on their way. Not sure what to do next and privately still reeling from the events of the morning, Tinny simply followed Des out of the tent and off the hospital premises, without really thinking. However, when Des stopped dead on a sidewalk nearby, leaning against a lamppost with a sigh, she realized he was just as clueless as she was.

Not willing to admit as much however, Tinny asked instead: "Do you think they're okay?"


It was a pointless question, but she didn't like the tense silence that had spread between them once again and she was in no mood to tackle the real issues at hand, both practical and interpersonal.


Des simply shrugged, not that she really had had any realistic expectations of an answer.


For a while Tinny remained silent, studying the asphalt at her feet. She felt tired, sore and confused. All she really wanted was to crawl back into bed and start this day over again. Seeing as that wasn't an option - damn the laws of physics - eventually, she looked back up at Des, who was staring at the stream of cars on the road, looking as though he wasn't really seeing any of them. He looked as worn out as she felt. Since they couldn't stand there forever, Tinny made a decision.


"Come on," she said. When Des didn't react, she gently tugged at his sleeve.


Des startled, as if he had been dozing.


"What?!"


"We need to go home," Tinny said with far more confidence than she felt.


"Why?" Des asked, his voice sounding very far away.


"Why?" Tinny echoed, speechless for a moment. "Because we can't stand here forever. That's why."


It was the best reason she could come up with in that moment. She wasn't even sure it was what she wanted. She knew they couldn't stay there on the sidewalk, but leaving somehow felt like they were abandoning the rest of their family.


"We need to get going," she repeated nonetheless with emphasis.


Des made a careless motion with his head that might have been a nod, and slowly, they began walking toward the nearest bus stop in silence.


oOo


The world Leslie woke up to was a strangely quiet one, compared to the circumstance under which she had last seen it, and for a few moments she just enjoyed the quiet. She wasn't yet fully conscious, but aware enough to sense that she was warm and relatively pain free. The peace didn't last long because as her awareness of her surroundings increased so did the memory of what had happened return. The memory of what she had done. It was like an ice cold shower that instantly rendered her fully awake. She glanced around the dimly lit hospital room she found herself in. Much to her surprise, all she could see was darkness outside. Night had fallen. She had to have been out for the better part of a day. She wondered what exactly had happened during those missing hours.


A thick bandage had replaced her makeshift efforts on her left upper arm and her right wrist had also been wrapped. As she sat up, her ribs reminded her painfully that she hadn't escaped the blast unscathed after all, although the pain she felt was no doubt being alleviated by whatever painkillers she had been given.


At that moment, the door opened and a nurse entered.


"Oh, you're awake Miss Bennett. How do you feel?" she asked. Her tone appeared silted and something in her manner came across as hesitant.


"Not too bad, considering," Leslie replied. "Listen, is there any way I can get to a phone?" she asked.


She needed to find out what had happened. Not just to Jake, but to the second bomb.


If Sydney had detonated it and people had been hurt or killed than she wasn't sure she would ever be able to forgive herself.


The nurse hesitated and avoided Leslie's gaze when she answered: "I don't think that's going to be possible right now. There is someone from the police waiting to speak to you."


Leslie nodded. That was to be expected. Her colleagues were bound to have questions. Not only about the incident at the hospital, but also about the murder of Sergeant Kelly and her subsequent disappearance. Although she was innocent where that was concerned, she wasn't so sure what internal affairs would think about her actions at the hospital. It was possible that she would lose her job or at least be assigned a desk position over this. But right now, that mattered little to her. She loved her job dearly, but she could earn a living doing something else. Living with innocent deaths on her conscience however would be far more difficult.


The nurse had either taken her silence as a sign of agreement or else didn't care one way or the other, because the next time Leslie looked up, a man had entered the room. By the way he carried himself, she could tell he was there on official business.


TBC


 

Chapter Text

oOo


"So, this Sydney Parker character forced you to do all this?" Inspector Beech asked when Leslie had finished recounting what had happened, starting with her meeting with Kelly. Beech didn't sound like he believed her.


"Yes," Leslie confirmed, trying to keep her voice as neutral as possible. "He told me that if I didn't shoot Jake Doyle, he would detonate another bomb. And he forced me to put on a bomb vest as well, probably to eliminate any witnesses afterward."

A shudder ran down Leslie's back at the thought of how she could have ended up. How she nearly did end up. Ruthlessly, she suppressed any horror she might have felt at her own situation and forced herself to focus on the issue at hand. People were most likely dead because of her and that was what was important right now.


"And if I understand you right, you claim you pretended to go along with this -- scheme of his."


"Sir!" Leslie protested. "I had no choice in the matter." The words sounded hollow to her own ears, like a feeble excuse. She should have gotten over her own pathetic feelings and done what was needed to save lives.


"Be that as it may," Beech went on, "the two of you went to the hospital, right? What kind of car did you take?"


"A black SUV," Leslie replied. "I think it must have been the same car Sydney Parker used the night before."


Beech wrote something down on his notepad, then looked critically at her. "I don't suppose you managed to get a glimpse at the registration number?"


"No. As I explained, I was blindfolded most of the time and when we arrived at the hospital, he made sure I didn't turn around," Leslie explained. Her frustration was growing as was the pain from her injuries, but she knew that the interrogation might continue for some time yet until Beech was satisfied that she was truly innocent.


Beech flipped back to an earlier page in his notes, before he continued. "Then you claim that Sydney kept you in sight the entire time, giving you no opportunity to tell anyone that you were under duress?"


"Yes, that is what I said. And, with all due respect, sir, the security footage will confirm all this."


"Yes," Beech replied at length. "The security footage. Interesting that you should bring that up. There is no security footage of the entire half hour before and after the explosion. It was somehow erased, most likely during the chaos of the evacuation."


"I couldn't possibly have anything to do with that!" Leslie protested.


"No, that's true, you couldn't because at that time you were too busy trying to kill Mr Doyle and holding both him and nurse Mitchell hostage. So, I know it wasn't you who erased the footage."


"It must have been Sydney Parker or one of his henchmen, then," Leslie suggested.


"I'm afraid that won't do, as it definitely can't have been Sydney Parker because at the time, he was in the custody of the organized crime group, following their search of the officers of the Parker's investment firm."


"When...where was he arrested?" Leslie stammered, her mind boggling at the bombshell Beech had just dropped.


"He was arrested at the firm around 6 a.m. this morning, where he was busy shredding documents when the officers arrived with a search warrant. You see, sergeant Bennett, your story just isn't possible," Beech concluded. "Also, Sydney Parker's alibi for the time when you claim he kidnapped you at the parking garage checks out. He was with one of his drug distributors, discussing expansion plans. The man in question confirms that they were together for several hours."


"A drug distributor whom he is certainly paying. He could have been lying," Leslie argued. She was grasping at straws at this point. She couldn't believe this was really happening. No one in their right mind could believe that she would do this on her own, not the mention that she knew that Sydney had been right there with her!


"Yes, but Mr Parker was caught speeding on his way home from this 'business meeting'. That was well after the time you said he accosted you at the parking garage and it occurred at the other side of town. His alibi is solid, you see."


Leslie shook her head. None of this made any sense. It couldn't be happening. The thought kept replaying over and over in her mind.


"We know you didn't do this alone, sergeant Bennett," Beech broke in on her thoughts. "You can only help yourself by giving up your co-conspirators."


"There are no co-conspirators!" Leslie protested.


"All right," he answered with the air of indulging a child.

"Then where did you procure the explosives? So far we have been unable to trace them, suggesting they were smuggled into the country illegally. You'd have to have the right contacts to be able to buy something like that on the black market. Maybe that PI, Doyle..."


"He has nothing to do with it. All I can tell you is that Sydney Parker gave them to me," Leslie insisted, knowing it was a waste of breath, but still unable to believe fully what was happening.


"Well, we both know that didn't happen," Beech replied before going on a softer tone of voice. "I realize how difficult this must be for you, sergeant, you got involved in something and now you're in over your head. But you must know that these people aren't going to help you now that you've been caught. They are going to let you take the fall for this alone. Help yourself and give us their names."


Leslie shook her head once again, feeling close to tears.


"There is no one...," she murmured softly, almost to herself, knowing that Beech would never believe her. Somehow Sydney must have forged his alibi. She didn't know how, but it was the only explanation.


"I think that's enough for now," Beech declared suddenly, quite to Leslie's surprise. "We'll know more tomorrow. You may think you have covered your tracks, but we are going to find out who your accomplices are. There is just one more thing..." he pulled a pair of handcuffs from the back pocket of his trousers and cuffed her left wrists to the metal frame of the bed.


"Just to make sure," he added, at Leslie's incredulous glare. With that he left, leaving Leslie alone to wonder if she had finally gone insane.


oOo


Sergeant Hood's curiosity had grown by leaps and bounds all during the ride to Radcliffe Infirmary. Once there, the constable who had driven him there, showed him into a small office that looked like it was normally used by one of the doctors. There, Inspector Beech from the terror task force was already waiting for him.


"Sergeant Hood," he greeted him and shook his hand. "Do take a seat," he offered him chair. "First of all, I apologize for bringing you out here on such short notice, but a very serious matter has developed that we could use your input on."


"What's that?" Hood asked, his dislike for the man growing with every second spent in his presence.


"It's about your partner, Sergeant Leslie Bennett. How well do you know her?"


The question came completely out of the blue as far as Hood was concerned.


"We're partners," he replied, somewhat evasively, not willing to give any more information until he knew what Beech was driving at.


"I understand that you feel an obligation of loyalty toward her, that's perfectly natural in our line of work," Beech said, nodding to himself. "But you should know that some very serious suspicions have arisen against your partner."


Hood was tempted to ask what sort of suspicions, but he refused to give Beech the satisfaction and remained silent.


Finally Beech went on, "Frankly, we believe that she was directly involved in the in the explosion at the hospital this morning and may have intended to detonate further charges. In addition, there is clear and uncompromising evidence that she tried to kill at least one person with a firearm."


Hood couldn't believe his ears. Bennett was supposed to be away on an undercover assignment with organized crime. What in the world could have gone so wrong that she had gotten mixed up the bombing of a hospital? It all has to be some sort of misunderstanding.


"What does she have to say to all this, if I may ask?" he finally managed.


"I cannot divulge the details of her statement as it concerns an ongoing investigation of our task force, but I can tell you that so far, she refuses to co-operate with our investigation in any way. And we were hoping that that's where you might be able to help us. Talk to her to try and persuade her to co-operate."


Oh yes, it would be like that SOB to try and turn partners against each other. Still, Hood was curious to learn what Leslie herself to had say about the allegations.


"I don't know if it would do any good," Hood said, putting on a pensive air. "But I would be willing to have a word with her."


"All right, that's settled then," Beech gave him a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.


oOo


It took a while until Hood was allowed to see Leslie. What Beech hadn't mentioned was that Leslie herself had been injured fairly seriously and that the doctors treating her wanted her to rest instead of answering any more questions. Beech however managed to bully them into submission and finally nodded for Hood to go and see Leslie.


Hood knocked briefly on the door, but when there was no reply, he entered anyway.


"Bennett?" he asked softly. The room was only dimly illuminated and the figure had her head turned away from him. With increasing anger he noticed that Leslie had been cuffed to the bedrail, something that was definitely not necessary, whatever she might be accused of.


At the sound of his voice, Leslie turned her head. Hood was at first stunned, then angered by her battered appearance. Her eyes were slightly reddened and he wondered if she had been crying. If she had, he couldn't really blame her.


"What brings you here?" she finally asked, her voice sounding resigned and almost completely toneless.


"As your partner, I have been asked to talk to you," Hood said carefully.


"They told you?" she simply asked.


He nodded, then asked. "Is there anything I can do?"


"Yes, there is a as a matter of fact, you can tell me how many people died because of me."


Hood stared at her.


"The bombs, how many people did they kill?" Leslie rephrased.


"Uhm, no one, as far as I know," Hood finally managed, wondering not for the first time in what bizarre world he had landed.


Leslie smiled faintly. "That's good, that's really good to hear. Thank you," she said, sounding greatly relieved. "You should go now," she added calmly. "I don't want to drag you into this any further."


Hood was on the verge of protesting, but the expression on Leslie's face and the finality of her tone made him think better of it.


"Take care, Bennett," he only said instead and left.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo


The trip home had seemed endless to Tinny. By the time she and Des finally stepped inside the house, all she wanted was to curl up in bed and forget the last week had ever happened. Des had barely spoken a word during the entire journey, but then she hadn't been exactly in the mood for conversation either. She still had the feeling that there was something bothering him, but right now, she was far too tired and sore to try and figure out what it was. Whatever it was, it could wait until she had had a shower, a bite to eat and a few hours of sleep, not necessarily in that order.

Des had immediately made a beeline for the couch as soon as they had entered. Tinny was about to go to her room when she noticed that the lights on the answering machine were blinking, indicating that there were new messages. Thinking that it might be important news about uncle Jake or her grandfather, she pressed to button to play back the messages.


The first message was from Rose.


Since neither of you are answering your phones, I just wanted to let you know that I'm with Mal in Radcliffe right now. I'm sure you've heard what happened in town on the news and they've had to evacuate the hospital. Mal's doing much better, but they'll likely be keeping him for another day or two. I should be home tonight. Bye.


The next three messages all were from Jake, much to Tinny's surprise.


The first one was simply:

Skipper, you there? Answer your phone already, will you? It's important.


The second one was delivered in a more irate tone.


Anyone? Why's no one answering their phones anymore? If anyone gets this message, call me. Again, it's important. Oh and by the way, I'm not dead.


Tinny shook her head and played the third and final message from her uncle.


This is Jake, again. Will anyone please, please call me back?


That was the last message saved on the machine. Tinny was pondering what to do when she was somewhat surprised to hear Des' voice behind her.


"What do you think that means?" he asked.


"That Jake wants someone to call him back," Tinny said, not sure what Des was driving at.


"You know what I mean," Des said with mild irritation.


"No, I don't Des and frankly I'm too tired to try and figure it out," Tinny snapped.


Des shook his head in apparent confusion. "What are we talking about?"


Tinny shrugged, not in the mood for mind games.


"Do you want to call him or shall I?" she asked finally.


"I don't want to call him at all," Des confessed, sounding very tired all of a sudden. "I don't want to have to tell him about Mal and Rose and...everything."


"You forgot his car," Tinny pointed out.


"Oh great, now he'll really kill me," Des said, but he sounded rather more resigned than his usual panicky self. "And I got his precious GTO shot to pieces." Des rubbed hand over his face and repeated, "No, I really don't want to call him."


"Coward!" Tinny commented, but there was no energy behind her comment. She too was too worn to argue and if she was honest, she didn't feel much like phoning Jake either. Not because she feared that he would be angry, but because she simply couldn't muster the energy. It seemed like the day's events had sucked the life right out of her.


Still, Jake obviously had something important to say, so she picked up the phone and promptly stopped dead in her tracks. She had no idea what number to call him on. His cell phone number would be no good, not after everything that had happened. After several seconds, it finally occurred to her to simply call back the number from which he had called and left the messages on the machine. Then she wondered why she hadn't thought of that earlier. It just hadn't been her kind of day, she decided as she waited for the call to go through.


oOo


Jake was not having a stellar day either. Physically he still felt suspiciously like crap, which considering what he now remembered again of the previous week, was no wonder. Still it was annoying, especially since it prevented him from getting to the bottom of what had happened that morning himself. Try as he might and replay the scene in his mind, he still couldn't make sense of it in the least. It just didn't fit with everything he knew about Leslie Bennett. He had no doubt that given sufficient provocation she might slap him, but she would never try and kill him. Besides, if she had wanted to kill him, she would have. With a gun at such close range, it would have been impossible for a crack shot like her to miss. And that didn't even take into account the bomb.

Based on the fragments of information that he had been able to gather so far, there had been an explosion at the hospital in St. John's and there had also been talk of a car bomb, which hadn't exploded, having been found aboard a parked car nearby.

He was still a little shy on the details as try as he might he couldn't get anyone on the phone. He had tried his father at least ten times the same as Rose. When that had failed, he'd tried Des and finally Tinny. Sergeant Hood hadn't answered his phone either, and he had tried both his cell phoneand the phoneat the station. It almost seemed like everyone he knew had suddenly dropped off the face of the earth. Finally, he gave up on his attempts, largely because his head and body were really letting him know that he was not in his usual good shape right now.


Although he was now lying back in bed, trying to get some rest, his mind had its own ideas and wouldn't allow him to doze off. The nonsensical events of the morning were nagging at him with remarkable persistence.


The knock at the door interrupting his thoughts was a welcome interruption. Dinnerhad already been served, alarming early as far as he was concerned, so he figured it was probably some doctor or nurse who was coming to check up on him once again. A fairly steady stream of them had descended upon him since his arrival at the hospital. He paid little mind to them or what they had to say, far too preoccupied with the matter at hand. Had he not been sure that any attempt to do a thing such as walking without support would end up with him right back on the ground, he would have given serious thought to the idea of leaving the hospital and picking up the investigation, but for once in his life he had to concede that this was not an option. Even sitting up on the beside with the aid of a physiotherapist and walking or rather shuffling a few steps across the room with the support of said therapist had taken a lot out of him. He would never make it on his own in his present condition.


The knock however didn't herald the arrival of a member of the medical profession, but that of Sergeant Hood, looking harassed and worried. Jake couldn't help but wonder what was happening. He had never seen him look this pissed off, so he definitely wasn't going to ask.

"Sergeant, what brings you here?" Jake asked, trying to sound more light-hearted than he felt.

Hood's sombre expression only added fuel to his concerns that something was seriously wrong. For the first time since his memory had come back to him that morning, it occurred to him that there might be a more sinister reason for everyone seemingly ignoring his phone calls.

"What I'm about to tell you, doesn't leave this room, Doyle. Is that clear?" Hood asked seriously, no bothering with social niceties.


"Sure," Jake agreed, feeling none too cheerful about it. "What's going on?"


"Let's just say that a mutual friend of ours needs help."


Jake raised an eyebrow.


"Go on," he said when Hood didn't continue. Jake had a pretty good idea who that mutual friend was, but he was puzzled about Hood's cloak and dagger attitude to the whole thing.


Normally, the sergeant had no problems breaking protocol by giving him access to police investigations as well as their files and reports.


Hood pulled an SD memory card from his jacket pocket and tossed it on the sheets. "It's all on here."


He turned to leave. "Don't let her down, Doyle."


"Wait just a minute," Jake called after him, but Hood had already closed the door behind him again.
Great, just great. Jake eyed the SD memory card. What the hell was he supposed to do with that, here of all places? And what was with all this spook-like attitude? Well, the quickest way to find out would be to have a look at whatever was on the memory card, but he had no access to a laptop here and apparently no one in his family could be bothered to answer his calls, leaving him effectively just as far as before Hood's visit, albeit even more puzzled.


oOo


When Tinny finally hung up the phone, she wasn't sure whether to be relieved or concerned. She probably should be both. Relieved because Jake was clearly on the mend seeing that he had his memory back, but concerned because, true to form, he already seemed to be in the midst of trouble once again. Tinny hadn't quite managed to follow his explanation of what had supposedly happened that morning, but it didn't sound good in the least.


In fact, it sounded positively crazy and part of here was wondering if Jake wasn't suffering from some sort of after effect of his head injury. It was possible after all, she supposed. He had taken the news about what had happened to the last few days with Rose and Mal pretty well, although Tinny had tried and, much to her surprise, succeeded in eliciting the promise that he would stay in hospital for now and not do anything stupid. However whether Jake would feel obligated to stick to that, was another matter entirely. And for that matter, their definitions of what constituted 'something stupid' might differ widely as well. Tinny knew she wasn't exactly a model of sound judgment, but compared to her uncle's, her choices in life so far had been pretty benign.
"What did he say?" Des asked. He had been loitering around while she had spoken the Jake, but Tinny hasn't been sure whether he had listened to her side of the conversation or not.


"That he needs a laptop asap," Tinny related, not really sure where to start. "I didn't quite get why, but it seemed to be important. He said he needed it to help of friend...yes that's it." Tinny had to think for a moment to recall Jake's exact words.


"Did you tell him about the GTO?" Des asked. Clearly he hadn't been listening.


Tinny shook her head. "Quit worrying about the car already," she admonished.


"You know how he is!" Des protested, but there was no energy behind his words. Des slunk and plunked back down on the couch. For a moment, Tinny contemplated leaving him alone to stew in whatever thoughts were running rampant inside his skull, but then decided against it. The sooner they had this out, the better. She was no in mood for a confrontation, but she doubted that would change any time soon, so she might as well get it over with now. She never had been one for walking around on egg shells.


She walked over to the couch and sat down next to Des.


"Wanna talk about it?" she asked, trying her best to sound casual, while she felt anything but.


Des didn't react. Tinny decided to take that as a good sign, so she forged ahead.


"You should, really," she said. Des shot her an incredulous glance and Tinny hastily added, "No, I don't mean that in a psychobabble nonsense way. I mean I'm starting to get really pissed off at you acting like something's wrong. Seriously, start talking already!"


"I don't know where to start," Des confessed after a long period of silence.


"Is it about the whole kidnapping thing?" Tinny ventured. She had been thinking about that too, despite the troubles of the last of days.


"That's part of it, I think." Des said. There was another long pause. "I just don't know if I can do this anymore," he finally added.


"What do you mean?" Tinny asked, genuinely unsure what Des meant.


"This whole investigating thing that Jake and Mal do. I just can't do it anymore."


"Care to tell me why?" Tinny asked.


"It just keeps going wrong. Like today."


"That was just bad luck, Des," Tinny pointed out. "We were just at the wrong time in the wrong place. It could have happened to anyone."


"But it didn't," Des insisted.


"Stop feeling sorry for yourself!" Tinny told him. "Yes, last week was rotten and today especially, but have you ever noticed that Jake and Mal have even worse luck? If they can handle it, so can you."


"You think so?" Des asked.


"Absolutely," Tinny replied. "Look, I'm the last person who should be giving advice on...on well anything really, since I have no idea what I want to do either, but if you really don't want to be an investigator, I'm sure there are other options. Just don't rush anything just because we've had a lousy week."


"Yeah, as weeks go, this definitely wasn't one of the better ones," Des agreed, his mood having seemingly lightened up slightly.


"Well, I'm off to grab a shower," Tinny said, getting up from the couch.


oOo


By the time Tinny returned, feeling a lot more better for having had a hot shower, Des was still sitting on the couch, puttering away at his laptop. Tinny walked into the kitchen, intent on getting a something to eat as she was feeling fairly ravenous, not having had anything since a hurried breakfast that morning. She had just opened the fridge when she heard a key turn in the lock of the front door. Closing the door of the fridge again, Tinny went to greet whom she assumed was Rose coming home and was surprised to find her accompanied by her grandfather.


"Yeah, he insisted," Rose only said in way of explanation when she noticed the curious look Tinny gave them. Rose herself had an exhausted and slightly harassed look about her as she ushered Mal into the living room.


Tinny returned to her food finding mission. While making herself a sandwich she half-listened the others talking in the living room. She might not always be too happy about her chaotic family, but right now, just listening to them banter helped soothe some of the rawness of the memories of the last few days.


Sandwich in hand, she eventually joined them, finding Mal lying on the couch, no doubt on Rose' insistence He looked like he was dozing. Rose and Des were sitting at the table, talking quietly. Tinny pulled up a chair and sat down as well.
Rose turned to her.

"Des tells me you've had quite the day and that you're both lucky to be alive. And Jake has his memory back? How'd that happen so suddenly?"


"I have no idea," Tinny said and shrugged, then took another bit of her sandwich. "He sort of explained on the phone, but it didn't make any sense, to be honest," she explained after a pause. "He did say that he really needed a laptop. Said a friend was in trouble. Didn't say who though."


"Well, he is going to have to wait until tomorrow," Rose decided. "Mal isn't going anywhere tonight and neither are the rest of us. What we all need is a good night's sleep."


TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo


"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."

TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo


When Mal arrived back at the office, Des and Rose were already busy digging up the details on Sydney Parker's life as Mal had called them after leaving Jake to give them head start. While he didn't appreciate how close Leslie had apparently come to not only killing Jake, but also to seriously injuring Tinny and Des with her actions, Mal was convinced that she wouldn't have done so if she had had any other choice.

Still, Sydney Parker's alibi appeared to be iron-clad. Then why was Leslie lying about who had forced her into all this? One possibility that had occurred to him but that had had taken care not to mention in front of Jake was that the person who was really behind it all was still somehow having a hold over Leslie, thus forcing her to lie. But what could be used to blackmail someone like Leslie into something like this?

Of course, everybody had secrets, but in order for such blackmail to be successful, it had be a very big, very damaging secret. Or maybe it wasn't blackmail, maybe he was holding someone close to her hostage and was forcing her hand that way? Mal wondered if Leslie had any family. He couldn't recall her ever mentioning anyone. He made a mental note to ask Rose to check into Leslie's family history and see if she had any relations in the area that might have been targets.


"Hey Mal," Rose greeted him.


Mal took off his jacket and hung it up, then took a seat, still feeling somewhat short of breath after his encounter with the fire at the cottage.


"How's Jake doing?"


"Oh, he's his old self again, more or less. Have you found out anything yet?" he asked.


"Sydney Parker is indeed currently in jail pending further investigation on a laundry list of charges stemming from his part in organized drug distribution and prostitution. According to one of my sources, he is even suspected of having ordered to murder of a cop from the organized crime group, one Sergeant Burton Kelly."


"Do we know anything more about that?" Mal asked.


"I've been digging into that," Des replied. "Sergeant Burton Kelly was found dead in the early hours of yesterday morning at a parking garage downtown. He was shot to death. They..."


"Do you know which parking garage?" Mal interrupted, having an idea.


"The one near the bus terminal," Des replied, slightly bewildered.


"In my day, that used to be a popular spot to meet up with informants. Or undercover for that matter," Mal said slowly. "Does it say when he was killed?"


"Between 1 and 2 a.m. Do you think his own informant killed him?" Des asked.


Mal ignored him and pulled out his cell phone instead. He dialed Hood's number.


"Dan? It's Mal. Listen, I got a question for you."


"Mal, good to hear from you. They let you go already?"


"Yeah, you know me. Hard head and all. I need to know if Leslie Bennett has been an any undercover assignment lately?"


"You know I can't tell you that," Hood protested on the other end of the line.


"That's never stopped you before," Mal pointed out.


"Do you think you can help her?"


"To be honest, I don't know yet. But we're working on it," Mal said. "It would really help if we knew what Leslie has been up to these last few days. Might help us figure out how she got into this mess in the first place."


"Okay, but you didn't hear this from me. She was undercover for about a week, something to do with the organized crime group. That's all I know."


"Thanks, that really helps," Mal said and hung up. Des and Rose were looking at him with curiosity, clearly having listened to his end of the conversation.


"Leslie was on an undercover assignment run by the organized crime group," Mal relayed the information he had received. "Unfortunately, that doesn't get us any further."


"How so?" Rose asked.


"It only supports Leslie's version of events, which as we know, cannot be true," Mal reasoned. Rose nodded, understanding. "There has to be a reason why she would lie about something like this."


"I have been thinking about that," Mal said, "the only reason I could think of why she would lie to the police is that whoever is really behind this still has something to threaten to her with. We should check into her family, see if she has any relations in the area and if so, if any of them might have been used as leverage."


"I'll get onto that," Rose promised. "Des, you keep digging into Sydney Parker. The more we know about him, the better."
Des opened his mouth as if to protest, but seemed to think better of it and turned his attention back to his laptop.


"I'll have another look at those image files," Mal announced. "Maybe Jake and I missed something the first time 'round." The guy's handwriting had been pretty bad after all and the other pictures had also been taken in a hurry from the looks of it. It was a minor miracle that Hood had managed to get his hands on this material at all, but then Mal had always known that he was craftier than most people would give him credit for.


oOo


Leslie felt like slamming her head against the wall. Not that she could have, since she was still handcuffed to the rail of a hospital bed, but right now she wasn't sure who the crazy one was, she or everyone else around her. After a nearly sleepless night, she was talking to the lawyer assigned to represent her. Initially, she had been looking forward to the conversation, thinking that someone was finally going to listen to her, but her tentative hopes were being shattered rapidly.


"Really, the best advice I can give you is to co-operate fully with the investigation," the woman dressed in a dark grey pinstriped suit was saying.


Leslie took a deep breath, trying to reign in her temper. "I already told all I know to Inspector Beech yesterday. There is nothing else to say."


"Surely, you're aware that the facts disprove your version of what happened?" her lawyer pointed out.


Leslie didn't know what else to tell her, so she said: "Yes, I know and that's what I don't understand. It's the truth. There must be some mistake somewhere." It sounded unconvincing to her own ears and if a suspect tried to sell her a story like this, she wouldn't have believed it for a second. But she couldn't deny what she had seen with her own eyes and what she had heard with her own ears. The man who had kidnapped her had been Sydney Parker, of that she was absolutely certain.


"I have reviewed the files in question and there is no mistake. Look, Sergeant Bennett. I'm here to help you, but I can't do so, if you won't help yourself. Frankly, the evidence against you is very damaging and people take pretty a dim view of terrorists these days. It's only fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured. That's about the only thing that will work in your favour at this point. However, your refusal to co-operate definitely won't impress a judge. It's extremely unlikely that you will be granted bail."


"So, what can you do for me?" Leslie asked pointedly with barely suppressed irritation.


"Well, I'll continue to follow the progress of the investigation but since the facts of crimes themselves aren't in dispute given your admissions to Inspector Beech yesterday, I'll mainly keep an eye out for any elements that might be useful in your defense."
"Such as?" Leslie doubted that she would like the answer.


"The possibility of post traumatic stress for example. I read in your statement that you witnessed the murder of your handler, Sergeant Kelly. I doubt it will do much good, since the bombing was clearly planned in advance, but I could still conceivably argue that the shock of witnessing his murder is what drove you over the edge to the point where you were willing to do what you did."


Leslie didn't have the energy to argue the that was exactly the point, she hadn't been willing to do it, she had been forced into it, so she remained silent.


Her lawyer seemed to take that as a gesture of agreement.
"It's early days yet, but if you agree, I think it might be a good idea for you to be evaluated by a psychiatrist at some point down the line."


"You think I'm crazy?" Leslie asked. Privately, she had been wondering about that ever since she had been told that Sydney Parker had an iron-clad alibi.


"No, no, I didn't say that. I do think you are an intelligent woman who has gotten in way over her head and has been manipulated by someone into doing something she would normally never even consider doing."


Leslie didn't have the heart to ask the woman if that meant that she didn't believe her either. She didn't need to. It was obvious that while her lawyer might see her as a victim of some sort of brainwashing or manipulation, she didn't believe for a moment that Leslie might be telling the truth. Not that Leslie could really blame her.


"Do you have any other questions so far, Sergeant Bennett?"


Leslie shook her head. She knew what was going to happen next. A judge would decide whether she would be released on bail pending the outcome of the investigation or whether she was to stay in custody until then. With not even her own lawyer confident of her being released on bail, Leslie felt nothing but dread about the upcoming heating.


"Your bail hearing will be at two this afternoon. I spoke to your doctor and he's okay with you being released to appear at the hearing, but he did make it pretty clear that no matter the outcome, your injuries will need to continue being taken care of and you'll also need some physiotherapy for your arm. With your permission, I'll get you something to wear to the hearing from your place."


Part of Leslie couldn't have cared less how she looked at the hearing. What use was it going to be, if nobody believed her anyway? But the larger part of her refused to give in completely to desperation. What she had been through had been real, Sydney had been there and she was going to find a way to prove it, she told herself firmly.


"Yes, that would be a good idea," she replied. She doubted that a favorable impression would compensate for the weight of the evidence against her and her lack of a believable explanation, but it couldn't hurt either.


oOo


He was going to go stir-crazy, he could feel it. Being stuck here on hospital with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling all the while knowing that Leslie needed his help was driving Jake crazy.


The knowledge that Mal and the others were doing what they could helped, but it didn't soothe the feeling of powerlessness that he was rapidly growing to hate. He had called twice for a status update, but last he heard, nothing probative had turned up. Mal's theory that someone was threatening a member of Leslie's family seemed to be moot, at least Rose hadn't been able to find any indications of it yet and their attempts to retrace Leslie's steps leading up to her pulling a gun on Jake at the hospital weren't coming along very well. Des was now trying to get his hands on security footage from the garage in the hopes of getting a glimpse of whomever Leslie had met after the murder of her handler. If they could find that out, there was a chance that they could fill in the missing hours when Leslie claimed she had been held prisoner by Sydney Parker at an unknown location. Des had promised to ring him back as soon as they knew anything, but an hour had passed since then with no news whatsoever.


Jake could stand it no longer. If he stayed in bed, he would go insane. He didn't dare call the office again, as his father had already threatened to leave him out of the loop completely if he didn't let them do their jobs in peace. He might as well get up to something a little more useful, he decided. Granted, not as useful as helping to prove Leslie innocent, but certainly important in the long run as well. The sooner he got back on his feet, the sooner he could get out of this place. His mind made up, he gingerly sat up, mindful of his healing ribs. When he managed to reach a sitting position without too much difficulty or pain for that matter, he decided to have a go at standing up, without help for once. It would be much less annoying if he could move around on his own and it would give him something with which to occupy himself. It probably wouldn't take his mind off Leslie Bennett, but maybe if he managed to wear himself out sufficiently, he would actually be able to get some rest.


TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo

Leslie looked at herself in the mirror over the washbasin. She had looked better, that was for sure. The cut over her eyebrow and the assorted bruises didn't help matters. However, thanks to her lawyer who had not only brought her something to wear other than hospital scrubs, but had also provided her with a hairbrush and toothbrush, she was approaching a half-way presentable appearance. She took a deep breath and with a last look at herself in the mirror, she stepped out of the small bathroom. She was limping noticeably as it still hurt to put weight on her injured ankle, but it would have to do.

"I'm ready," she told the female police officer who had been waiting for her outside and who would accompany her on the transport to the court house for the hearing.

Privately, Leslie felt anything but ready as she followed the middle aged woman and her colleague who joined them in the hallway, to the police car that was already waiting for them outside. Part of her still felt like she was trapped in a nightmare that she just couldn't seem to wake up from. The reality of her situation had yet to fully sink in, she reflected, as she stepped out of the building. When however, suddenly a small group of people, seemingly coming out of nowhere appeared, shouting questions and brandishing cameras just the police officers present did their best of usher her to the waiting vehicle as quickly as possible, her already dying hopes that this would all turn out to be a bad dream diminished only further. She felt an odd sense of relief when the rear door of the car was shut behind her and the car started moving instantly, cutting her off from the mob of journalists trying to catch of glimpse of her.

oOo

The mood at the Doyle office was sinking steadily. The hours were passing and they were exhausting lead after lead with no result. No matter how they looked at it, there was no way around Sydney Parker's alibi and Mal's theory that Leslie was being coerced by someone was looking less and less promising. Feeling tired and not to mention hungry, Rose got up from her desk, stretched lightly to loosen stiffed muscles and walked over to her husband.

"I'm going to get us a bite to eat," she announced.

"What time is it?" Mal asked, not looking up from the screen that had seemingly captivated his attention.

"Just gone half past one," Rose told him. "We could all use some lunch."

Mal nodded. The door opened and Des entered.

"Did you get the footage?" Rose asked.

"Yeah, I did, I told the attendant that I was writing a crime blog and he just..." Des began to recount triumphantly and slightly out of breath.

"Not now, Des," Mal interrupted.

"The bad news is, there are no cameras outside the parking garage. All I could get is the footage from the on covering the exit and there isn't really anything to see there."

"Let's still have a look at it," Rose decided. Des handed her a disc.

Des had been right. There wasn't much to see. The camera angle was such that the cars were being filmed as they exited the structure. There was hardly any traffic during the time in question which was probably why Leslie's handler had chosen this particular time and place for a meeting.

"There, pause it," Mal said, pointing to the image on screen. "That's Leslie."

Rose squinted at the screen. The footage wasn't up to the standards of the digital age by a long shot, but with a little bit of illuminating, the blonde woman behind the wheel of the black car looked like Leslie Bennett.

"I wonder if anyone was following her," Rose said, tapping a key to start to video again. They watched the video for another fifteen minutes, but no other car left the structure during the entire time period. With another lead turned dead end, they agreed to take a break for lunch and then resume their efforts.

oOo

The police car felt over-heated to Leslie, her injuries ached dully and she felt sore all over, yet she didn't doubt that it was a picnic compared to the place she would soon find herself in. In the very likely case that she would be remanded, her next stop would be jail. Cops and soon to be ex-cops weren't popular among inmates, no matter what they happened to be accused of, and although the system took certain measures to protect people like her when they did end up in jail, friendly faces would be few and far in between. Even if the investigation ended up bringing the truth to light and exonerating her, something which she was rapidly coming to doubt very much, she was still looking at several weeks in jail at the very least. Contemplating that grim prospect, Leslie was startled by the repeated honking the car's horn, followed by the driver braking abruptly. Before she had a chance to process what was going on however, there was a mighty crash and she was thrown forward by the force of an impact from behind.

Leslie was still trying to catch her breath, which had been knocked out of her by her slamming against the seat belt when it had stopped her forward momentum. It was then that chaos really broke loose.

An instant later, a bullet shattered the rear side window, showering Leslie with fragments of glass. Leslie fumbled for the seat belt release, trying to undo the buckle, an effort hampered by her hands being cuffed in front of her. Unable to tell who was shooting from which direction, she dove for cover in the space between the seats when she finally freed herself from the seat belt.

oOo

It took considerable effort, but Jake managed not only to get to his feet without falling over, but, using the wall for support, he made it across his room and out the door into the hallway. There he paused for several minutes, leaning against the wall, trying catch his breath. Normally, he wasn't winded nearly as easily, but between hardly moving at all for a week and his healing injuries, he was far from being in top shape. He was pleased to note that the guard in front of his hospital room had disappeared, however he was somewhat disappointed and if he was honest a little irritated that he hadn't been kept the loop about the progress of the investigation, even thought in that case, he was the victim. The two CID officers had who had paid him a visit to take his statement regarding his kidnapping had had plenty of questions for him, but had been more than tight lipped when it had come to answering his. Not that this was much of an issue as far as he was concerned right now. He couldn't afford to worry about his own comparatively small problems when Leslie was in such grave trouble and he was powerless to help her.

oOo

Leslie felt utterly useless as she cowered on the floor between the seats while the gunfire continued outside. Rationally, she knew that this was the safest place to be right now. She was handcuffed, injured and unarmed, leaving her with no means to defend herself, plus sitting stationary in the car, she presented an easy target for anyone intent on getting to her. She had no doubts that this was no coincidence. Whoever had ambushed the car, it was because of her and whatever she had unwittingly gotten involved in.

She had no idea why anyone would go to all this trouble to either kill or free her, seeing she technically still was one of the good guys, at least until declared guilty by a court of a law. Whatever the attackers' motives were however, they had her and the rest of the cops in her escort pinned down. Even if she had wanted to use the general chaos and take advantage of the distraction of the police, she wouldn't have stood a chance against what sounded like an impressive amount of fire power.

Suddenly one of the rear car doors was wrenched open. Leslie looked up from where she had been seeking cover and found herself staring straight into the face of a man wearing a black ski mask. However, it wasn't his masked face that captured her attention, it was the semi-automatic pistol that he was carrying and pointing straight at her. He reached out and roughly grabbed her by the arm, pulling her up and out of the car. Leslie let out a scream, half protest and half exclamation of pain, as the man's vice like grip had fastened itself on the very spot where the bullet had pierced her left arm during the shooting at the parking garage. The man was unimpressed and pulled Leslie clear of the car.

Turning his head over his shoulder, he shouted a bunch of words in a foreign language Leslie couldn't identify to another masked man clad all in black and holding a rifle. Leslie kicked her captor between the legs with all she had, a move that was as risky as it was desperate. He grunted in pain and doubled over, letting go of Leslie's arm and dropping his weapon. Leslie snatched up the weapon. She was about to take aim when a bullet from the man with the rifle narrowly missed her head. Her shot hit its target dead center. The man she'd kicked seemed to have realized the change in situation and lunged at her, tackling her to the ground. Leslie tried to defend herself by firing another shot, but it went wide as she fell. Despite her training, Leslie was no match for her attacker as they struggled over control of the gun. Suddenly, and Leslie nearly missed it, there was a popping sound.

For a moment, her attacker seemed to freeze in the midst of their struggle. Then, like a marionette whose strings had been cut, he collapsed, lifeless, on top of her. Leslie was so stunned that for several seconds, she just lay there on the ground. Then the reality of her situation penetrated once again and she began shoving at the dead weight and tried to roll out from underneath it. Finally, she managed to get up on her hands and knees. Still breathing hard, she looked around for the gun, unsure what had happened to it in the struggle when a voice took her breath away completely

"I'm sorry, but I wouldn't do that if I were you." It was Sydney Parker's voice. Impossibly, but she would it have sworn it was him. She looked up and found herself face to face with the man himself, smirking triumphantly and just a little bit fondly at her.

"I'm also sorry about this," he went on. Leslie felt the sharp prick of a needle pierce her left arm. She looked down and spotted a syringe that Sydney had obviously just stuck her with and now dropped to ground.

Sirens were now audible in the distance, growing closer with each second. Leslie opened her mouth to speak, but the drug was already starting to take effect and a second later she couldn't even remember what she had wanted to say in the first place. Then, her knees buckled under her, but instead of hitting the pavement, Sydney caught her in his arms. The last thing she was aware of was Sydney Parker scooping her up.

oOo

"For a big time criminal, Sydney Parker has really done a good job keeping his nose clean," Rose said in between bites of her take-out lunch. Although they had initial tried to talk of other matters, the conversation had soon drifted back to Leslie and the events of the previous day.

"Yeah, on paper, he's the perfect citizen," Des agreed heartily.

"Not so perfect as that," Mal argued, "if they sent Leslie in undercover with their organization, the organized crime group must have been on his tail for a while. Sydney didn't stay that far under the radar after all, especially if they were able to arrest him before executing the search warrant for his father's investment firm."

"Do you think his father knew what Sydney had been up to?" Des asked.

"Definitely," replied Rose. "I wouldn't be surprised if Mervin Parker was the one running the whole thing in the background and pulling the strings. He has been investigated for all sorts of allegations in the last thirty years, but no one could ever make anything stick." Rose had been looking at Mervin Parker in the course of her research, but the man seemed to be made of Teflon. Nothing had ever been proven against him, despite the wildest rumours and suspicions flying around town for decades.

"While we are on the subject, did you find anything of interest about the rest of the Parker family?" Mal asked, addressing Rose.

"Not much. Mervin is currently married to his third wife. Neither she nor his daughter Jocelyn are thought to be involved in the family business. Although Jocelyn is apparently a bit of a wild child, she has a record, a few minor drug offenses, shoplifting, that sort of thing. Less than two weeks ago, she drove her car over a cliff outside town under the influence and nearly died as a result."

"Ironic, considering her father and older brother are major players in the drug trade," Mal commented dryly. "Any other family members?" Mal asked.

"I'm still checking up on Mervin's ex-wives, but I'm not holding my breath. Unless Sydney Parker has an evil twin somewhere out there, I think we're wasting our time," Rose said.

Mal looked like he was about to reply when the phone rang and he went to pick it up.

"You weren't serious about Sydney Parker having an evil twin, were you?" Des asked Rose.

"Well, it would explain how the man can be in two places at once. In fact, it's pretty much the only thing I can think of that would explain how Leslie could be telling the truth after all," Rose said.

"Wouldn't the cops know about a twin?" Des asked.

Rose shrugged. "Normally, I'd say yes, but I guess everything's possible. I better see if I can't dig up Sydney's birth certificate. That will tell us for sure." The rest of her lunch forgotten, Rose hurried back to her computer.

TBC

Chapter Text

oOo



Before Rose however had the chance to press a single key, the office phone rang. Mal picked up, listened for a moment, then slammed down the receiver.


"What's happened?" Rose asked, with a sense of foreboding.


"They can't find Jake anywhere at the hospital," Mal replied.


"He disappeared?" Rose asked, incredulous as to how something like this could happen, again.


"I don't think so," Des suddenly said. "You both need to see this. Now."


Mal and Rose joined Des at his laptop.


In the video playing on screen, a newscaster was reporting from what looked like a downtown street corner which had been cordoned off with crime scene tape.


"Around 1:45 this afternoon, downtown St. John's was transformed into a war zone when a police car transporting Sergeant Leslie Bennett, chief suspect in a bombing which has already rattled the population, was ambushed in en route to the courthouse. The police have yet to release a statement, but the unprecedented level of violence only underlines how narrowly this town has escaped a major disaster..."


Des muted the video and turned to Rose and Mal.


"If Jake somehow saw this on the news..." Des trailed off.


Rose checked her watch. "This happened less than 20 minutes ago. You better stay on this. There isn't much we can do until we know more," Rose told Des. "Mal..." she began, trailing off when she noticed the expression of Mal's face.


"Are you okay?" she asked, growing slightly concerned.


"I don't like this," Mal commented, not answering her question. Instead, he grabbed his coat and hurried out the door without another word.


Cursing him under her breath, Rose was torn between staying at the office and continuing her research into Sydney Parker's history and following her husband, who once again shutting her out. Deciding that Mal knew her feelings on the subject, she made up her mind to stay and, with a sigh, returned to her desk.


oOo


Although a rhythmic motion was lulling her back to deep sleep, Leslie had the nagging feeling that there was something that required her waking attention. Several times, she came close to waking, only to be pulled back under by what seemed to be irresistible fatigue and a strange, monotonous humming sound, accompanied by a slight vibratory motion.


When she finally did regain her senses, it didn't take her long to realize that both the sound and the motion she had experienced in her semi-conscious state earlier where present because she was inside a moving vehicle. Sitting up on the backseat where she had been lying in drugged sleep earlier, Leslie look around, still in the process of gathering her bearings and trying to figure out just exactly how she had gotten to wherever she was right now.


"Finally, you're awake," a familiar voice commented from the front of the vehicle, startling Leslie.

Suddenly reminded of the ambush on the way to court, she looked around in alarm, but it was just her and Sydney Parker in the SUV.


"I was afraid that I've given you a bit too much of the sedative, but I couldn't risk you waking up and causing trouble," Sydney went on.


"Why did you do this?" Leslie asked. Her head felt like it was about to explode. She had many questions, more than she could count almost, but this seemed as good a question to start with as any.


"Isn't it obvious? I love you, Leslie Bennett. I would never allow you to go to jail. No, we belong together. Now more than ever."


Leslie could hardly believe her ears. Sydney had to be even more insane than she was herself if he could delude himself to the point of believing that they could have a future together. But as crazy as the whole scheme was, there was actually a twisted kind of logic to it. Although Leslie still didn't know how, he had managed to successfully alienate and isolate Leslie from everyone she knew, leaving her, at least in theory, nowhere else to turn to. The fact that Leslie would rather be on her own than to ever collude with the likes of Sydney Parker was a flaw in the plan, but she doubted that Sydney Parker perceived her wishes as much of an obstacle.


oOo


The clothes he'd borrowed didn't fit very well - the trousers were too long and the sleeves of the shirt were too short - but they definitely beat the hospital gown Jake had been force to wear previously. Careful not to been seen, Jake snuck around a corner and into the elevator where he pressed the button to go down to the lobby. Nervously, he tapped his foot, waiting for the elevator doors to slowly close. It seemed to be taking forever. Finally, the doors slid closed and the elevator set itself into motion. If Jake had felt powerless before, seeing the news broadcast of the ambush had renewed his determination to solve this case and help Leslie. He still had no idea how her was going to do so, but he knew that he couldn't stay on the sidelines if he wanted to keep his sanity intact. His first stop, not really be choice, but out of necessity because he needed both up to date information and a car, was going to be the office. Mal would probably kill him for leaving the hospital, but if he could prove Leslie innocent, Jake didn't really care.


oOo


Having paid the cab fare using money found in the trouser pocket of the clothes he'd borrowed, Jake faced the difficult task of tackling the stairs leading up the their office. Determination provided ample motivation, but no amount of willpower was enough to compensate for the loss of strength and the pain brought on by his injuries. By the time he made it up the stairs, he was trembling from the effort and breathing hard. He took a moment to steady himself and calm his breathing before entering the office, not wanting to look as exhausted as he felt.


Stepping inside, he noticed that while Rose and Des appeared be to hard at work, his father was nowhere to be seen.


"Jake!" Des exclaimed. "You can't be here! Mal's..."


Jake gave him a sharp look, effectively silencing him. Des, looking somewhat crestfallen, returned his attention to his laptop. Rose, however, aimed a none too pleased expression at him next and Jake knew he was in trouble. Rose wouldn't be intimidated as easily as Des and even if she were, he wouldn't dare to try.


"Where's Dad?" Jake asked quickly before Rose had the chance to launch into possible recriminations.


"Looking for you, I assume," Rose replied acerbically.


"How'd he know..."


"The hospital called." Rose told him.


"Oh great," Jake said and sighed, feeling slightly guilty all of a sudden. He ruthlessly quashed the feeling however, reminding himself that bigger things were at stake right now. He sat down on the nearest chair, feeling the effort of the journey start to catch up to him rapidly. "We need to find a way to help Leslie," he said.


"Actually," said Rise, "I might have found something that could help. Sydney Parker has a twin."


"A twin?" echoed Jake. "How...why...How come the police don't know this?" he asked


"Probably because Calvin was given up for adoption right after birth. I was able to get the name of his adoptive parents, a couple by the name of McAllister, but other than that, nothing. On paper, he's a ghost."


"Can you get me the address of the McAllisters'?" Jake asked.


Rose nodded.


"Good," Jake said, "It's time someone had a talk with him. Where's my car?"


"That's rather complicated," Rose replied at length.


Jake's eyes narrowed in suspicion.


"What happened?" he asked.


"Nothing, much. Except some bullet holes," Rose confessed.


Jake was about to ask how on earth that could have happened, but then decided that finding out could wait. Right now, they finally had a lead that might just help them solve this case and prove Leslie's innocence. He wasn't about to let the lack of a car stop him, so if he couldn't take the GTO, he would just have to improvise. It wasn't like he didn't have any other options. Besides, it would probably better if he didn't drive just yet, not that he would ever admit as much, but he could feel the strain even in his ability to concentrate. Right now, he felt pretty foggy and no one would be helped if he managed to wrap his car around a tree just because he wasn't feeling well.


oOo


Mal pulled up near the police station intent on seeing what information he could get from Hood and whoever else might be willing toss him a bone or two. He had already reached for the handle of the car door when he thought better of it and decided to call Hood first. The man had risked his career and his pension for Leslie by photographing those files and getting the pictures to Jake and him. With Leslie under arrest, Hood was no doubt under scrutiny as well and maybe he wouldn't be too happy if Mal came barging into the office for all his colleagues to see. Mal grabbed his cell phone and started dialing.


oOo


"You got some nerve, you know that," Hood commented as he climbed into the passenger seat of Mal's truck.


"You didn't have to come," Mal pointed out quietly.


"Anything's better than filling out paper work. Well almost anything,"


"Desk duty," Mal asked, sympathy in his voice.


"You know how it is," Hood answered, before turning to the issue at hand. "I take it you've heard?"


Mal nodded. "What exactly happened, do you know?"


"Just what's been on the news plus the rumours that are flying around like crazy. They're not letting me anywhere near this one. From what I hear, it was a real ambush."


"What about Bennett?"


"Vanished. Every officer in the province is looking for her. They'll find her, sooner or later."


"That's what I'm afraid of," Mal said. "Until we can figure out what really happened that night and who is behind all this, it's probably best if she stays out of sight."


"You don't happen to know something...?" Hood began.


"I don't know anything, really," Mal confessed. "I do know that Jake is convinced that Leslie is innocent and despite everything, he is a good judge of character."


Mal's cell phone chirped. He glanced at the display. "Speaking of the devil," he commented, before answering.


oOo


"Where are we going?" Leslie asked, settling for the practical question first while giving herself time to assess the situation. From what she could see of the landscape flying by outside the car window, they were on the highway, but she had yet to see any signs that would allow her to get a better idea of where exactly they were headed.


"To see a friend. He'll help us." Sydney replied. It figured, she hadn't really expected him to give her any real information that she could use to her advantage anyway. It was a minor miracle that he hadn't tied her up, but he clearly wasn't deluded to the point where he thought he could fully trust her.


"Help us do what exactly?" Leslie asked, her tone challenging. "What's the plan here? she demanded.


Sydney remained silent.


"Oh, come on. You got me into this. Thanks to you, everyone thinks I'm some kind of terrorist. They're probably looking for us all over the country by now. There is nowhere for either of us to go."


"It's you they are looking for, not me," Sydney pointed out.


Leslie frowned; that didn't make any sense. Sydney was on the run just as much as she was.


"So, you're telling me you didn't escape from jail?" she asked incredulously.


Sydney laughed as if she had just told the funniest joke he'd ever heard. "I see." he finally managed. "I thought you'd have noticed the difference by now," he said. "Sydney is my twin brother. I'm Calvin McAllister."


Suddenly, it all made sense. How Sydney could appear to be in two places at once and also why his behaviour toward her had seemed strangely erratic. The police had to be in the dark about Calvin's existence, that was why nobody had believed her.


TBC

Chapter Text

oOo


The McAllisters lived in a modest home in Foxtrap. They were retired couple who appeared to live a quiet, uneventful life, but nonetheless who didn't seem surprised when Jake and Mal explained, albeit in rather general terms, the reason for their visit.


"How exactly can we help you?" Mrs McAllister asked after the four of them had stepped in the couples' living room.


"We are looking for your son Calvin," Mal explained. "It's possible that he can help us with a case we're working on."


"Do you think our son's in some sort of trouble?" Mr McAllister asked.


"We don't actually know, but it's possible," Jake said carefully. "Is there any reason why you think he might be in trouble?" He didn't miss the look that passed between the couple. It was clear that Mal and he were onto something here.

"What do you mean?" Mr McAllister asked warily, clearly not quite trusting them. Jake couldn't really blame him, but considering the stakes, he found he wasn't too concerned about making new friends. Still, things would go a lot easier and definitely more quickly, if the McAllisters told them what they knew about their son.

"Well, you didn't exactly seem surprised to see us," Jake told them.

Another look passed between husband and wife.


"It's true, we have been worried about him lately," Mrs McAllister finally confessed. For a moment, it seemed like she was going to continue, but she appeared to change her mind and broke off, grasping her husband's hand tightly.

"Listen, we really need to get in touch with your son. Do you know where we might be able to find him?" Mal asked, getting straight to the point.

The couple didn't answer.

"I get it, I really do. You don't want to get your son into trouble. You clearly are worried about him and about what's gotten involved in, and there we are, asking you all sorts of questions. You have no reason to trust us and every reason to want to protect your son, and to be honest, I probably would do exactly the same thing in your position."

"He's not our son," Mr McAllister interrupted, his voice rough.

"George!" his wife protested.

"It's true. We always treated him like our own, we really thought of him as our son, but ever since Calvin found out that we weren't his biological parents, he's been...different."

"When did he find out?" Jake asked.

"About nine months ago. We really did plan to tell him earlier, but somehow, the time was never right and then...I guess, we eventually forgot about it," Mrs McAllister said.

"He dropped by to pick up some of his old things, when he accidentally found the documents from the adoption in a desk in the attic. We tried to explain things to him, about why he never told him, but he was very angry. For a moment there, I thought he was going to hit George! But he just stormed out and we haven't seen or spoken to him since. Except this morning, we got a letter from him." Mrs McAllister's voice was shaking by the end of the sentence. Her husband, pulled an arm around her comfortingly.


"What was in the letter, if I may ask?" Mal questioned.


Mr McAllister cleared his throat before answering: "It was a good-bye letter. He...he wrote to tell us that we wouldn't be seeing him again, that he was going to make a fresh start somewhere abroad."


"Did he mention where?"


They both shook their heads. "Please tell us the truth, is Calvin in trouble?" Mrs McAllister repeated her husband's earlier question.


"Yes, I'm afraid so," Mal answered. "We believe he may have gotten involved with some rather dangerous people."


Mr McAllister hesitated before asking. "You mean his biological family, don't you? I take it you know who they are?"


"Yes, we know," Jake confirmed.


"So, you can understand why we are worried," Mrs McAllister explained tearfully. "We didn't dare get in touch with the police because we feared they would arrest Calvin and we didn't want to get him into trouble. Not when we don't know if he really did anything wrong."


"Does Calvin have a girlfriend?" Jake asked on a sudden hunch.


The parents shook their heads. "Not as far as we know," George McAllister replied. "There was a girl he used to see, but she broke up with him almost two years ago. I highly doubt they are still in touch. It did end pretty badly."


"He did mention that he had met someone though?" his wife reminded him. When her husband regarded her in confusion, she added, "in the letter, don't you remember, he mentioned that he had found someone to share his new life with."


"Did he mention her name by any chance?" Jake asked, his heart now beating faster in his chest. He couldn't explain it, but his instinct told him that he was on to something here.


Mrs McAllister shook her head. "No, I don't think he ever did mention a name."


oOo


"What was that all about?" Mal asked once Jake and he were back on their way to town to check out Calvin's place.


"What do you mean?" Jake replied, just a touch defensively.


"You know what I mean," Mal insisted. "All your asking about Calvin's girlfriend?"


"Just a theory, "Jake replied, clearly unwilling to elaborate further.


"You're jealous, that's what," Mal told him. "You think, Calvin's interested in Leslie and you're jealous."


"I'm not jealous," Jake began. "Besides, it doesn't matter how I feel, what does matter is finding this Calvin guy before he does something really stupid."


"I think it's already way too late for that," Mal pointed out.


"You think he was behind the ambush?" Jake asked, not sounding convinced.


"I think it's a definite possibility. Who else would want to break out Leslie?"


"Yeah, he may have wanted to, but how would he do it?" Jake asked. "You heard his parents, he's a software engineer without so much as a parking ticket on his record."


"A software engineer who happens to look like the son of a local crime boss," Mal argued. "I think he's not nearly as harmless as his parents like to think he is."


oOo


"The computer business must be good," Jake commented as they walked up the gravel drive to Calvin McAllister's rented home on the outskirts of town.


"Maybe he just works hard. Unlike someone we both know," Mal said.


"Let's just hope he didn't invests his hard earned cash in a alarm system," Jake said, ignoring the barb aimed at him. He studied the front door and glanced around. Some shoulder-high hedges shielded them adequately from the prying eyes of any curious neighbours, but the door would still present a formidable obstacle, unless they were able to pick the lock.


"Better go 'round back," he said. "If we're lucky, he's got a patio door."


Mal nodded and they went around the side of the house. As Jake had predicted, there was a patio out back with a much more accessible glass door leading to the house. Breaking in that way was no problem, and soon they were inside the living room of the two storey building.


"This place hardly looks like anyone's living here," Mal commented. Indeed, furniture was sparse and there were no personal touches whatsoever. No pictures, nothing.


After a cursory glance around the nearly barren living room, Jake and Mal examined the kitchen and found it similarly uninteresting. Along with a small storeroom which was entirely empty, that was it for the ground floor and the two private detectives continued their search upstairs.


There were two bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms. One of them was nearly empty save for a bed and, strangely enough, a long chain affixed to the radiator. The second bedroom was more interesting however. It was the only room in the entire house that actually appeared lived in. Opposite the window stood a desk heaped with a miscellany of items including a laptop, a bunch of newspapers and several maps.


"You have a look through those papers," Jake said, "I'll see if I can get anything off the computer." Mal nodded and Jake powered up the laptop.


It quickly booted up, but much as Jake had expected, it was protected by a password.


"Now what are you going to do?" Mal asked, looking up from the pile of newspapers he was looking through.


Jake didn't reply. The possibilities were endless here and with what little he knew about this guy, guessing the password would near impossible.


Still, he decided to give it a shot and typed in 'Leslie'. He was more than surprised when the password was accepted and he was granted access to the system.


"Well, well, well," he muttered in amazement. He would have thought a software guy would have chosen a more secure password, but then, where would he be if the bad guys were always smart?


"That was quick," Mal commented, looking over Jake's shoulder.


"Anything on those newspapers?" Jake asked while he opened a folder titled 'pictures'.


"Yes, they go back a couple of months, and it looks like he cut out articles, but without the intact papers, it'll be hard to tell what exactly he cut out."


"I think I have an idea," Jake said. "Look at these."


"That's Leslie. Oh and there is you in a few of them, too."


"Yeah, looks like there is a bunch of them going back at least two or three weeks. He must have been following Leslie for a while," Jake said. "And there are many older photographs too. He was stalking his biological family!" Jake realized as he scrolled through the pictures.


"I wonder how he crossed paths with Leslie?" Mal said.


Jake shrugged. "Probably by accident somehow. We have to find something to tells us where he's planning on taking Leslie."


"Maybe he's planning on leaving the country?" Mal suggested. "He did tell his parents that he wanted to start a new life abroad. Plus, he's got to know that sooner or later, the police will get onto him as well.


"I don't know far, he's covered his tracks pretty well. But, you're right, if he's traveling with Leslie, he can't just drive across the border or hop on a plane. He needs to stay under the radar because every cop in the country probably knows what Leslie looks like by now."


oOo


Once she had gotten over her surprise, Leslie was determined to figure out how to use this new knowledge to benefit herself and if possible get out of this mess alive. Sydney Parker had been a hardened criminal and while Calvin McAllister was probably insane, he wasn't, at least as far as Leslie knew, not a career criminal.


"So, why are you doing all of this?" Leslie asked, hoping to gain further insight which she might use to her advantage.


"My father, my real father, he forced my mother to give me up for adoption just after I was born. He denied me the life I should have had and he had to pay for that. And I made sure that he will pay," the fervor behind Calvin's words left no doubt in Leslie's mind that he was being driven by a blind thirst for revenge and was unlikely listen to reason. What didn't make sense though was how she figured into the whole thing. If it was just revenge he wanted, why bother with her at all?


"But I don't want you to worry about them," he added, his voice much gentler. "I made sure they'll spend the rest of their lives in prison, where they belong."


The irony nearly made Leslie laugh and she had to bite her lip not to do so. That was exactly where she would end up, if she couldn't convince the police that she had been forced into it all by Sydney Parker's identical, crazy twin. Calvin apparently however didn't perceive the slightest bit of irony as he gazed at Leslie with what she could only describe as fondness. Feeling thoroughly creeped out, Leslie tried to distract him with another question.


"So, where are we going?" she asked.


Calvin didn't answer.


"Do you trust me or don't you?" she asked flat out, putting Calvin on the spot.


"I would love to trust you, but I'm not sure I can, not yet anyway," Calvin replied.


He wasn't completely crazy, Leslie realized, somewhat disappointed. It would probably easier if he were.


"You did try to trick me at the hospital the other day when I asked you to kill that despicable, interfering P.I. Doyle. But don't worry, I'm not holding it against you. I shouldn't have pushed you when you weren't ready. It was my fault, really. We'll both learn to trust each other in time, you'll see."


That didn't sound good in the least. It sounded very much like Calvin had plans for their future together and given the option of spending the future with Calvin and spending it in jail, Leslie was pretty sure she would prefer living as a guest of the province.
There was one positive aspect to this situation however: now that she was with Calvin, she might just be able to prove that she had been telling the truth all along. She figured that eventually they would get caught by the police who no doubt were turning the province upside down looking for her. Of course, there was danger inherent in that. Calvin had probably at least one gun stashed in the car or on his person. If he resisted an attempt by the police to stop them, things could turn ugly fast and that was the last thing Leslie wanted. She was responsible, more or less directly, for more than enough misery and death without needing to add to it any further.


But still, things were looking up for the first time in a considerable while. All she had to do was stay on Calvin's good side while finding a way to sabotage his plans, whatever they were. Piece of cake, hopefully.


TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo


It was dark by the time Mal and Jake returned to the office. Rose had spent the afternoon following up on the developing news coverage of the ambush, as well as made further attempts to dig up background information on Calvin McAllister.

Neither avenue of investigation had proved very rewarding. The news coverage was repetitive. Leslie's picture was all over it and the public was being warned not to approach her if they spotted her since that she was likely to be armed and dangerous. No details were offered regarding any potential accomplices, leading Rose to believe that the police hadn't made the connection between Leslie and Calvin. If there was a connection, that was. The more she found out about Calvin, the less it looked like he had the resources to pull off the ambush.

At least on paper, his life was perfectly ordinary and, from an investigative point of view, rather uninteresting. Calvin had no criminal record and no debts, although she had learned that he had lost his job about six months ago. His former employer had refused to comment on the matter, citing pending litigation. Since Rose had not found any trace of a criminal investigation against Calvin, it was probably a civil matter. The possibilities there were nearly endless and she was still trying to find out more about the circumstances under which Calvin had been fired from the software company in question when Jake and Mal returned.


Both of them looked worn out and tired, an unwelcoming reminder that neither man should already be back at work. But she didn't even try and waste her breath telling them that, as she knew that Jake would stop at nothing trying to prove Leslie innocent and that Mal wouldn't be far behind. So, instead, she just shook her head softly and asked "Found anything?"


Mal opened his mouth to reply, but Jake beat him to it. "We need to find a guy by the name of Dixon." he told her. "He's supposed to meet with Calvin and Leslie at 10 p.m. tonight. We got to be there."


"Any idea where this meeting is supposed to happen?" Rose asked.


"Unfortunately, no," Mal said, fatigue carrying in his voice. "Before you ask, we don't know anything else about this Dixon fellow either," he said and sighed.


"Yeah, but he's probably the one who's going to get them out of the country, so he must have some sort of connections," Jake put in.


"We don't know that for sure," Mal argued. It sounded like it wasn't the first time that he had that particular argument with Jake.


"Okay, then leave it be. I don't need your help on this," Jake returned hotly.


"Guys, stop it!" Rose interjected before Mal could answer. "It's been a long day, not just for the two of you. Jake, you look like you can barely stand upright, so you're not going anywhere on your own."


"I told you..." Mal began, but Rose interrupted him.


"And you don't look much better either, pal." she told her husband. "So we do this together or not at all. Clear?"


Jake and Mal both nodded somewhat sheepishly.


"Good. Now what exactly did you two find out?" Rose asked.


oOo


For a long time, Leslie just sat quietly in the back seat, watching the landscape fly past outside. They had since left the highway and were driving on smaller roads. Occasionally, she saw the odd building, but they never seemed to pass through any towns or villages, almost like Calvin was purposefully avoiding populated areas.

Well, it was probably the smart thing to do, Leslie thought, with her being wanted and all. So she was all the more surprised when they passed a sign announcing the small town of Willow Creek. Calvin slowed down the car as to obey the speed limit. They drove through the small town without incident until they turned off the main road and into a smaller side road. Following it for a while, it seemed like they had left the village behind them already when a cluster of buildings appeared ahead. Calvin slowed down even further and stopped the car just behind a bend, in a spot where they were effectively shielded from view of oncoming cars until they passed the bend.


"There we are," Calvin announced. He climbed out of the car and went around to open the rear door for Leslie.


"Come on," he told her when she hesitated. "Marcus is expecting us."


Leslie climbed out of the car, mindful of her injured ankle. Even if she had wanted to run, she wouldn't be able to get very far. Plus, without Calvin, she would be just as far as before. She needed him to back up her story, so for the moment, she would be better off sticking with him than trying to make a run for it. Limping along, she followed Calvin as he walked around to bend and toward the main building which sat back from the road slightly. The whole place appeared to have been a farm at some point, but had long since fallen into disrepair. Calvin knocked on the heavy wooden door, but there was no answer.


"That's odd, Marcus knows we're coming," he commented as he was dialing with his cell phone.


Seconds later, Leslie heard a faint ringing sound, coming from a barn to their left.


"It's coming from there," she pointed out and indicated the barn.


Now looking truly concerned, Calvin pocketed his phone again and together they headed for the barn. The large door was ajar. Calvin pushed it open and they peered inside.


Near the center lay the bloodied corpses of two men, killed by what looked like close range blasts from a shot gun. Leslie stepped inside to get a closer look at the gory scene while Calvin appeared to hesitate, staying near the entrance.


The bodies were fresh, as far as Leslie could tell. They couldn't have been there long as there were hardly any insects and no smell of decomposition in the air. The blasts from the shotgun had obliterated the faces of the men, but what was more interesting to Leslie were the other visible injuries. She was no pathologist, but it looked like several fingers on the dead guys' hands had been broken and there were burn marks visible on their arms. All in all it looked like the men had been tortured before being killed. The realization was a chilling one, if Leslie's instinct were correct, as it meant that getting killed in a shootout with the police or spending the rest of her life with Calvin in some place without an extradition treaty with Canada, was not her biggest worry after all.


Leslie went back to where Calvin was still standing in the entrance to the barn. "Did anyone know we were coming here?" she asked.


"Why?" Calvin asked, bewildered, then answered. "Yes, I supposed the man who helped me get in contact with Marcus might have known I was going to meet him here today. Plus, I have no idea who Marcus might have told. Do you really think he got killed because of us?" Calvin asked, suddenly not seeming at all confident.


"It's possible," Leslie said honestly. "Someone tortured these men before killing them. Whoever it was clearly wanted something from them."


"Marcus was supposed to get us new identities," Calvin told her. "So we could have a fresh start abroad once all this has blown over."


"I think we better get out of here," Leslie said. "Eventually, someone is going to discover the bodies and it's probably best if we're not still around by then."


Calvin nodded and led the way back to the car. Without speaking another word, they climbed inside. This time, Leslie took a seat up front in the passenger seat. She knew it was riskier that way, as she could be more easily spotted, but Calvin said nothing and she was willing to run that risk. This had to end one way or another and being caught by the police wasn't the worst thing that could happen to them, not by a long shot. Especially if whoever had tortured and killed the men in the barn was after them as well. While Leslie didn't have any evidence to back up her suspicions, her instinct and Calvin's sudden change in demeanor told her all she needed to know. What hadn't seemed like such a bad situation only an hour or so ago, suddenly appeared considerably bleaker. They now had both the good and bad guys on their tails.


oOo


The village of Willow Creek was far behind them when Calvin finally spoke.


"You could have run away earlier, why didn't you?" he asked, breaking the heavy silence between them.


Leslie was surprised at the question. It showed more lucidity than she would have given Calvin credit for.

"I couldn't. I twisted my ankle a few days ago. Probably sprained it. I still can't walk properly on it," Leslie replied. There were other reasons as well why she hadn't tried to run, but she didn't feel like it was a good idea to share them with Calvin at this point.


"But you would have run away if you could have? If you weren't hurt?" Calvin asked pointedly, studying her so intently that Leslie was starting to worry that he wasn't watching the road and they might drift into oncoming traffic.


Leslie bit her lip. She had hoped he wouldn't ask that question.


"No, I wouldn't have run away," she finally said. It was even the truth, although probably for a different reason than the one Calvin was hoping for.


Calvin though didn't look as though he believed her. It all made Leslie wonder how delusional he really was. "You don't love me, do you? You really do love that P.I. Jake Doyle," he accused her suddenly, his voice filled with fury.


Leslie opened her mouth to deny it, to say that she certainly wasn't in love with Jake Doyle, if only to save her own life, but the words wouldn't form.


"I'm..I'm not.." she finally managed to stammer, but Calvin didn't even seem to have heard her.


"Don't try and deny it! You would rather have saved his worthless life than that of innocent people when I gave you the choice."


Leslie swallowed hard. She didn't know where all this was coming from all of a sudden. It was mere hours ago that Calvin had been understanding and apologetic even about the events at the hospital. But as she was rapidly coming to realize, Calvin McAllister was highly volatile and impossible to predict. He might not be a hardened criminal like his brother Sydney, but he was equally as dangerous if not more so. And the worst thing was that he was right. The fact that she had chosen Jake's life over that of innocent bystanders was not something she would be getting over anytime soon. It was true that no one had been killed after all, but that didn't change the fact that she had been willing to let people die to save Jake's life. She wasn't sure what that said about her, but she knew that she was not going to like it.


Calvin brought the car to an abrupt stop on the shoulder of the road.


"I should never have wasted my time with you," he declared and in a lighting speed movement produced a gun which he aimed straight at Leslie's head. "I can see that now."


"You're making a mistake," Leslie said, her voice shaking despite her best efforts. "As I told you earlier, I wouldn't have run away even if I could have. You can trust me...and I'll prove it you."


Calvin regarded her skeptically. "How?"


"I'll...I'll kill Jake Doyle for you. That's what you really want, right? That would prove to you that you can trust me." Leslie's voice was shaking and her heart was hammering in her chest as she pronounced the words.


A smile slowly spread over Calvin's features and he lowered the gun half way. "I like it," he said appreciatively. "But no tricks this time or I promise you, you will regret it."


"It's a deal," Leslie confirmed. Privately, she wondered what the hell she had just gotten herself into. Granted she had bought herself a little more time, but at what price? She had managed to trick Calvin once, but even though he was crazy, he wasn't stupid and she doubted he would be fooled so easily a second time around. She just would have to come up with a plan before Calvin made her follow through on her promise.


oOo


The evening was advancing rapidly and Rose, Mal and Jake were no closer to finding out where Calvin's mystery meeting was to take place or who he was going to meet there for that matter. In order to keep their search somewhat manageable, they had decided to focus on St. John's, although it was possible that Calvin and Leslie were long gone and the meeting were to take place somewhere else entirely. Nor could they really be sure that this Dixon fellow was going to be helping Calvin and Leslie leave the country, although they all agreed that it was the only real chance for Calvin, and by extension Leslie, to start the new life he had mentioned in the letter to his parents. Leaving the country by air seemed overly risky due to the high levels of security at airports, going over land either by car or by train appeared impractical as well, mostly due to the limited number of foreign destinations available, so the route Calvin most was most likely to take was by sea. With the right connections, they figured, he would be easily able to get someone to smuggled him abroad on a cargo ship. Hence, they concentrated their search on companies and individuals in the shipping business.


Rose was combing through business directories, while Mal was calling up every contact he could think of who might be able to give him some insight into the local smuggling trade and whether they knew anyone by the name of Dixon who ran in those circles. Jake who had been driving Mal and Rose crazy with his nervous pacing had finally left the office two hours earlier to drive down to the harbour to try and find out the old fashioned way what cargo vessels were scheduled to depart that night.


Mal had only shaken his head, but had wished Jake luck anyway, but privately doubted that Jake would get far in his undertaking. Obtaining that kind of information usually called for a warrant and thus was left best to the police. However Jake was driving him, and Rose nuts at the office, so he kept his reservations to himself and just hoped that Jake wouldn't do something that he'd later regret. Meanwhile, Mal was running out of people to contact. So far, no one knew of anyone in the smuggling trade called Dixon.


"Any luck?" he asked his wife.


Rose shook her head. "Not so far and I'm running out of places to look. There is no shipping company by that name here in town, but Dixon might not be a company it might be an employee of a shipping company and in that case we are looking for a needle in a haystack. If we're right about this, we don't have much time left."


Mal looked at his watch. "Yes, it's gone 9.15 already. I wonder how Jake's getting on."



TBC

 

Chapter Text

oOo


Jake was beyond frustrated. His evening was rapidly going from bad to worse while the clock advanced relentlessly. The docks were fairly deserted at this time of night, but he had managed to run afoul of security personnel twice already and had narrowly escaped being bitten by a guard dog. Even for him, that qualified as a pretty bad night. And he didn't have much to show for his troubles either.

The few cargo ships whose departures he had been able to confirm all seemed unlikely places for Calvin to stow away on due to their unsuitable destinations. Nowhere had he come across any mention of the name Dixon, so in truth, he was nowhere. He didn't even know if Calvin was going to meet Dixon in St. John's. The ambush had taken place almost eight hours ago, which gave Calvin a good head start if he had indeed left town with Leslie.


Jake checked his watch. It was 9.27 p.m. - only thirteen minutes until Calvin and Leslie were to meet the mysterious Dixon. Jake was cold and very much exhausted, but he refused to give up, not while there was any hope left that he would find the missing clue in time. Pushing himself off the wall he had been leaning on for support, Jake resolved to keep going for as long as it took when his cell phone chirped, announcing a text message.


Jake frowned when he couldn't identify the number the message has been sent from. However when he read the short text, cold and exhaustion were instantly muted with the renewed rush of adrenaline at this unexpected development.


The text message read:


Meet me tonight at 9:45 p.m. at Hayworth shipping company behind warehouse 4. Come alone.
Leslie


Jake wasn't stupid, he knew that keeping the appointment meant walking into a certain trap. But it was also his only chance to catch Calvin once and for all. Only by handing him over to the police as living proof could he be sure that Leslie would be exonerated.


oOo


"You're insane!" Mal yelled into the phone. Rose, who hadn't been sure who was on the other end of the line until then was now fairly certain that it was Jake. Only he managed to provoke that kind of reaction on Mal's part that quickly.

"It's a trap and you know it," Mal went on, then listened for a few moments before speaking again.

"You can't know that for sure. What if Calvin isn't even there? What are you going to do then? You're going to get yourself killed that's what. You..." Mal broke off, pulling the phone away from his ear.

"Jake's hung up on me," he told Rose, sounding incredulous and angry at the same time.


"Come on," he said, grabbing his coat and tossing Rose hers. Rose caught the garment, somewhat surprised. "What's going on?" she asked as she followed her husband out the door.


"Jake's about to get himself killed," Mal replied cryptically.


oOo


The message purporting to be from Leslie had arrived so late that Jake barely made it to the meeting point on time. Any ideas he might have had to check the area out in advance were effectively worthless as there simply wasn't time. It was 9.40 p.m. when he pulled up to the property of the Hayworth shipping company. Ignoring the no parking sign next to where he'd stopped the car, he got out and approached the front gate. There was no security guard in sight, but the place was still locked up tight. Jake quickly considered his options. Normally, he would have scaled the fence enclosing the area fairly easily, but in his present condition, there was no way he could do so. At least not without help. Granted it had been him who had hung up on his father, but Mal hadn't been willing to help him out anyway.

Well, there was another option, he realized as he looked around. He got back in the car and brought it up all the way to the barbed wire fence. Grabbing a blanket from the car's boot, he climbed first into the car's roof and from there tossed the blanket onto the barbed wire of the fence, before, with considerable effort, climbing over the fence and dropping down on the other side. Cursing the precious minutes the maneuver had cost him, Jake broke into a run. He had yet to find the warehouse in question.


oOo


Mal drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the van while they were waiting for a traffic light to turn green. He'd driven considerably faster than the speed limit dictated the entire way so far, but it wasn't going to be enough. They only had two minutes left until a quarter to ten.


"Give me your phone," Rose who had remained silent the entire time, suddenly said


"What for?" Mal asked, the words coming across sharper than he'd intended. Rose let it slide, knowing that it had been a long day for all of them and that he was worried about Jake, even if he wouldn't admit it.


"I'm going to call the police," she said.


"What are you going to tell them?" Mal asked, keeping his eyes on the traffic light ahead as he tossed Rose the mobile phone.


"I'm going to report a suspicion person near warehouse 4 of the Hayworth shipping company," Rose replied. "We'll probably get there first anyway, but just in case we need back-up later on," she added.


oOo


This time, Calvin was taking no chances, much to Leslie's chagrin and increasing desperation. They had returned to St. John's around 9 p.m. without incident. At this point, Leslie had been hoping that they would be stopped by the police, but Calvin obeyed the speed limit and nobody bothered them, leading her to believe that the police probably didn't have a description of Calvin's car. If they had, she doubted that they could have driven unhindered for half a day.

It was possible that they had just been lucky, but Calvin didn't seem the type to rely on luck alone. Still, he was probably improvising at this point and Leslie kept hoping that he would make a mistake and give her an opportunity to escape. She now cursed herself for not having tried to do so earlier at the farm when Calvin had been rattled by the death of the two men. It was possible that she would go to prison if she ran, but she would much rather take her chance at trial than spend the rest of her life with Calvin. Although, she considered morbidly that might not be such as long time after all as she had no intention of actually killing Jake. Failing this test of trust, she wasn't sure what Calvin would do to her. On some level, she suspected, he knew she wouldn't follow through with it and that was why he didn't trust her.


After their return to town, they made for the harbour district and soon stopped in front of a large iron gate. Calvin got out of the car, taking the key with him and locking Leslie inside. Leslie took the opportunity to rummage through the glove box, but found nothing that looked like it might be of the slightest use to her. She had just snapped the lid of the glove box shut when Calvin returned. Without a word, he got back into the driver's seat. The gate swung open a moment later, Leslie managed to catch the name, Hayworth Shipping in the side mirror as they drove onto the darkened property.


Calvin appeared to know where he was going as he expertly navigated the maze of warehouses and shipping containers that seemed to randomly litter the open spaces. After a minute or two, he stopped the car behind a shipping container. He climbed out of the car, walked around back and opened the boot. Without wasting an instant, Leslie jumped out of the car and, as fast as she could manage with her injured ankle, began running in the opposite direction.


oOo


Despite the fact that he was now technically out of time, Jake slowed down as he came within sight of warehouse 4. His body was letting him know that running really was not something he should be doing, judging by how much it hurt to breathe and by how his legs felt suspiciously like they were about to collapse under him at any moment.


While he didn't exactly have a plan yet, he didn't intend to walk straight into a certain trap. The maze of shipping containers provided ample cover as he approached the meeting place. Spots were starting to dance in front of his eyes as he was breathing in great gasping breaths of air. He braced himself against the edge of a shipping container, resting just for a moment when he saw a shadow appear seemingly out of nowhere and barrel straight into him. The impact was surprisingly solid, knocking Jake to the ground and leaving him pinned down by the weight of whatever had run into him.


The impact jarred his tender ribs and for a moment, all Jake was aware of was pain. Just about when he was sure that he was going to pass out, the pain receded slightly and his mind started to clear again. He tried to shove away the obstacle and get back on his feet, but it stubbornly clung to him.


"Jake!" The familiar voice reached his ears and Jake stopped struggling out of sheer surprise.


"Leslie?" he asked, not able to really believe his ears. It was dark, but he could just about make out Leslie's face.


There was no time for them to enjoy the reunion however as a gunshot suddenly sounded not far off.


"We've got to get out of here," Leslie urged, keeping her voice low.


"Agreed," Jake whispered just a second gunshot, closer this time, pierced the nightly silence.


Jake grabbed Leslie's hand and the two of them, more stumbling then running, made for the front gate.


TBC


 

Chapter Text

oOo


So far, they had been lucky.

Zigzagging across the shipping yard, Leslie and Jake had managed to avoid any flying bullets, aided in part by darkness. But their progress was slowing, as neither of them was in the shape to be running around dodging bullets. Leslie was hobbling rather than running, as her ankle could barely support any weight by now and Jake, even though he was trying hard to match Leslie's pace, was having a hard time keeping up. Hiding in the shadow of yet another shipping container, Jake signaled Leslie with a gesture to go on without him, to winded to even speak as he bent forward to try and catch his breath. Leslie however would have none of it and grabbed Jake by the arm, trying to support him as best she could while being injured herself. They made it another few yards, just in time as a bullet bounced off the side of the container they had been hiding behind.


Suddenly, they both became aware of the sound of a car's engine coming closer and a second later, they were blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Leslie realized what was going on first and half-dragged half-threw both of them to the ground just outside the path of the oncoming SUV.


Leslie and Jake were still trying to disentangle themselves from the heap they had collapse in when looking up, Jake spotted the car reversing its engines. Whoever it was, they appeared serious about running them down. Just how many people were after them, he wondered, as he scrambled to his feet. Leslie was already back on her feet, pulling him up the rest of the way. It appeared impossible that they should be able to escape the car this time. Shipping containers were blocking their way to the side and it would only be a matter of moments until the car smashed them into the side of one of those containers.

However, several unexpected things suddenly appeared to happen all at once. There were three gunshots and the sounds of glass splintering close by. The car, though still coming toward Jake and Leslie, lost most of its speed and after a second or two, came to a complete stop. Jake, who at this point was only peripherally aware of what was going on, save for the fact that he couldn't seem to catch his breath, thought that finally, things were starting to look up. He had barely finished the thought when the world tilted and twisted around him before everything went dark.


oOo


It was a miracle Jake had managed to hold on this long, Leslie thought when Jake suddenly swayed and his knees buckled under him. She managed to catch him just in time to prevent him from hitting his head on the ground, but she had to bite her lip to keep from crying out as both her wrist and her recent bullet wound protested most vigorously against the sudden weight in her arms. Right now however and unconscious Jake was likely to be the least o her problems. Still, she couldn't just leave him lying there on the ground, so she started dragging him as best as could, which wasn't very well at all.


"Police, put your hands in the air right now!" a voice called before Leslie had managed to drag Jake two yards.


Lowering Jake as gently as possible to the ground, Leslie raised her hands. A bright light landed on her face, effectively blinding her.


"He's unconscious," she called out, while fighting the urge to lower her hands to shield herself from the glare. "He needs medical assistance. Please."


oOo


Jake came to feeling pleasantly warm and breathing much easier. Even the pain had dimmed to much more bearable levels. He would have been content to just enjoy lying there for a while had it not been for a nagging feeling of worry for Leslie. Feeling incredibly tired, it took considerable determination on his part to even force open his eyes.

His vision was hazy at first, but eventually cleared enough to reveal the inside of an ambulance. The vehicle was clearly stationary and he could see a swatch of night sky through the open back door. At that point, the paramedic sitting next to him noticed that he was awake. She quickly checked him over, something Jake only barely tolerate on a good day but which made him acutely uneasy when what he really wanted was find out if Leslie was okay. However, the middle aged woman appeared to have been warned about his usual disdain for following medical advice and refused to answer any questions until she had given him the once over. Jake protested, or at least tried to, but found he didn't have much energy between the after effects of the day's events and the painkillers that were no doubt responsible for him feeling better all of a sudden.


In the midst of his token protests, Mal appeared.


"You're stupid, you know that," Mal told him.


"Nice to see you, too," Jake replied, stifling a yawn. Those painkillers were really packing a punch.


"What's happening? Is Leslie okay?" he asked, eager to learn what had happened before he passed out.


"They are going to take her to hospital to have her ankle looked at, but otherwise, she's okay. She has been arrested though."


Jake nodded, trying hard to keep his eyes from drifting shut. "Calvin?" he asked.


"No sign of him so far, but the police are still searching," Mal related. "But enough of that. Get some rest now."


"But..." Jake began.


"No," Mal said firmly. "You're going to go to the hospital and get checked out. You've done enough damage for one day. See you tomorrow." With that Mal left.


Jake allowed his eyes to drift shut and was about to let himself be carried off into oblivion when he was startled by a shrill scream, followed by two very loud bangs. His eyes flew open and looking around, he tried to find the source of the noise, when, before he was able to gather his bearings, someone roughly wrapped an arm around his throat from somewhere behind him to the left.


"What the...!" he exclaimed, but the increasing pressure on his throat effectively prevented him from both speaking and turning his head. However he had all the information he needed a moment later when he felt the hot metal of a gun being pressed against the side of his head.


oOo


Leslie would never have thought to have been glad to be arrested. If someone had told her that she would feel this way a week ago, she would have pronounced them insane. However, now she was glad for the relative safety of the backseat of the police car. If the police hadn't arrived when they did, either she nor Jake would be alive right now. She wouldn't have been able to protect Jake in his unconscious state nor could she have saved herself as her ankle seemed to have finally given out for good just moments after the police had shown up.

It still hurt like hell now that she was sitting and not putting any weight on it, but it was of comparatively little concern to her. Her thoughts were dominated by her worry for Jake, who, last she had seen, had been loaded onto a gurney by the hastily summoned paramedics and by concern for her future. Calvin was still at large, so her story might still seem rather incredible to a judge. She wasn't so much worried about spending the night in jail as that much was bound to happen, but when a new hearing was set, she needed Calvin, or his body for that matter, or back up her story.


Leslie was mulling over the possibilities, her mind still racing while exhaustion was starting to catch up with her body, when she became aware of the sound of gunfire nearby. Looking up, she saw the two officer who had stayed behind to keep an eye on her rushing toward the ambulance that was still parked about twenty yards away.


As she couldn't see what was happening due to angle at which the ambulance stood Leslie strained to listen for any sounds that would tell her what was going on.


Soon, she picked up on the shrill, almost manic tones of Calvin's voice. She didn't catch every word, but he was yelling for someone to throw away their weapons or else. Leslie didn't quite catch the or else part, but whatever it was, it didn't sound good in the least. The reply was spoken in a calmer tone of voice, making it harder for her to understand, so she could only make out bits and pieces of it. Her curiosity finally won over and Leslie cautiously opened the car door a fraction, thankful that in deference to her injuries, her hands had been cuffed in front of her and not behind her back. She didn't want to be accused to trying to make a break for it, but her instinct told her that something bad was about to happen out there.


"His blood will be on your hands!" Calvin was screaming. Leslie's sense of foreboding intensified ten-fold.


"Okay, okay," another voice replied in a tone that was probably meant to be reassuring, but sounded more insecure than anything else.

"Just put down the gun and we can talk about it," one of the officers was saying.


Leslie, now sure that disaster was about to unfold, opened the car door further and awkwardly climbed out, hindered by her injured ankle and overall soreness. She tried to put at least a little weight on her foot but it was no use. She was well and truly stuck.


oOo


Rose had been talking to her husband nearby when the two gunshots had alerted them to the unfolding drama. By the time they had arrived at the ambulance, the two officers present had already been in position, guns trained at Calvin McAllister who to their horror was holding Jake hostage, a gun pressed against Jake's head. The motionless body of the paramedic Mal had spoken to earlier was lying slumped on the floor of the ambulance, dead or merely unconscious, it was impossible to tell.
Apparently, Calvin had managed to outflank the officers looking for him and sneak up on the ambulance when no one was looking. The shots they'd heard were most likely what had taken out the paramedics.


The two officers who had stayed behind with Leslie and the police car were trying to talk down Calvin, but so far, without much success. Calvin appeared downright manic and the officers seemed inexperienced at best. The whole thing was a recipe for disaster.


Calvin calmed a little when the officers agreed to throw aside their guns, but he still refused to give up, despite the obvious hopelessness of his situation.


While Mal stood transfixed, watching the scene unfold in horrified fascination, Rose thought feverishly for anything she could do to ensure a positive outcome. The conversation between Calvin and the two police officers was going nowhere fast. There were other officers on the scene but they were busy searching the shipping yard for Calvin. Besides, Rose wasn't sure that more police wouldn't push Calvin over the edge completely.


oOo


No one appeared to take any notice of her as Leslie stood leaning against the police car, watching the hostage situation unfold. Calvin was growing increasingly frantic, probably realizing that he was cornered and Leslie feared that his behaviour would only become more unpredictable and dangerous than it was already.


The situation briefly relaxed when the officers tossed aside their guns, a move they really shouldn't have made in Leslie's opinion. Much as she had predicted, the move only calmed Calvin temporarily. It did however give Leslie an unexpected opening. One of the officer's guns had landed in her direction. If only she could get at it, she might be able to end this, before any more lives were lost. The time she had spent with Calvin had made her seriously doubt that there was any reasoning with the crazed man. Completely unable to walk on her injured leg by then, Leslie had to crawl on her hands and knees, which, while doing no favours for her recently sprained wrist, had the added advantage that it kept her well out of sight, especially under the added cover of relative darkness. Still, her heart was beating unnaturally fast by the time she finally reached the gun. Looking up she assessed the situation once more. No one was paying any attention to her.


Both officers as well as Rose and Mal were facing with their backs towards her. The only people who might be able to spot her were Calvin and Jake and she hoped that Calvin was too distracted to notice her. In fact that was what she was counting on. Crawling several more meters, Leslie positioned herself as best she could to take a shot at Calvin while remaining undetected until the last moment.


She was a good shot and she knew it but this was going to be a difficult one. Not only was she in an awkward position without a good grip on the gun due to the cuffs encircling the wrists, but Jake was also shielding the majority of Calvin's body with his. She would have to wait for that fraction of a second opening that permitted a clear shot that would take out Calvin without hitting Jake in the process.


"Stay back! You come any closer and I swear I'll blow his brains out," Calvin screamed, jabbing his gun at Jake's head frantically when one of the officers tried to approach the ambulance.


"Okay, okay, just take it easy. I'm not moving. See, I'm not moving," the young woman said, hands raised in a defensive gesture. Overall, she seemed to be the bolder of the two officers with her older partner seemingly being more cautious.


It was the woman that Leslie would have to watch out for especially. She might just provoke Calvin sufficiently for him to use his gun. For the moment however, the entire situation seemed to have turned into a stalemate. Calvin refused any of the cops' efforts to engage in anything resembling negotiation. Leslie knew that as soon as back-up arrived, the situation was bound to escalate and there was no telling what Calvin would do then. She had to do something while she had the element of surprise on her side.


An opening presented itself a few moments later when the paramedic who until now had been lying motionless on the floor of the ambulance began to moan and move around feebly. For a split second, Calvin was distracted and as a result loosened his grip on Jake slightly. That was all Leslie needed. It was now or never. There was no margin for error, but it was her only chance to end this once and for all. Leslie squeezed the trigger.


TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo


The shot came as sudden as it was deafening. One moment, Jake was struggling to breathe against the arm around his throat which was compressing his airway, the next, there was explosion of sound seemingly right next to his head. The sharp pain in his ears barely had a chance to register when he was abruptly jerked backward at the same time. In his weakened state, he lost what little balance he still had and tumbled to the floor of the ambulance along with Calvin, the latter's arm still firmly wrapped around Jake's throat.


oOo


For a moment, the whole scene seemed to freeze around Leslie, almost like it was a video recording and someone had suddenly hit the pause button. It could only have lasted for a fraction of a second, but to Leslie, it seemed like an eternity passed before life resumed its course.


Jake and Calvin both dropped, landing behind the gurney and out of her line of sight. Everyone else whirled around, all eyes on her now. Although she could normally secure a gun in her sleep, Leslie's hands were shaking so hard all of a sudden that she barely managed to engage the gun's safety before dropping it to the ground. Sapped of what little strength she had left, Leslie fell to her knees as the tremors took over her entire body. She was dimly aware of people shouting but everything just blended together into a rush of meaningless noise.


Her eyes remained glued to the ambulance as she watched and waited for any signs of life. Nothing moved. She watched helplessly as Mal and the two officers rushed toward the vehicle when she was startled by hand on her shoulder. Turning her head, she found herself staring at Rose. Leslie opened her mouth to speak, but no words would form. It was as if her mind had gone blank the moment she'd fired that shot. She didn't resist when Rose slipped out of her coat and gently draped the garment around her shoulders before wrapping an arm around her and helping her to her feet. Hobbling on one leg with Rose supporting the majority of her weight, Leslie followed the other woman's lead, her body seemingly moving of its own accord.


oOo


Jake couldn't breathe, couldn't move. His heart was hammering violently away in his chest. Pain, searing at first, started to fade into the background of his awareness while dark spots began encroaching on his rapidly dimming vision. He was on the verge of passing out when, suddenly, the weight pressing down on his throat was lifted.


Jake sucked in greedy breaths of air, ignoring the reawakening pain as he gave into his body's demands for oxygen. He was only peripherally aware of being pulled from the floor and steered back onto the gurney. Hands were moving over his body, searching swiftly for hidden injuries. Jake wanted to tell them that he was all right, but he didn't have the energy. Even just keeping his eyes open was becoming too strenuous a task and he allowed them to drift shut.


That was when a hard slap landed on his face. Jake's eyes immediately flew open. His father was leaning over him, his mouth moving without producing any sound. Jake stared at him in puzzlement. Mal's mouth stopped moving abruptly and he looked intently at Jake, a seldom-seen look of concern on his features.


Realizing that his father was probably expecting him to reply, Jake raised his arm to indicate his ears, in the hopes of making Mal understand what the problem was. The movement ended up being weak and uncoordinated and Jake missed his ear by several centimeters, touching his left temple instead. His fingers encountered a slick wetness and when he brought back his hand to look at it, his fingers were coated in blood.


oOo


When they reached the police car, Rose opened the rear door and manoeuvred Leslie to sit down on the seat. Even now, Leslie was shaking like a leaf. Shock, no doubt, Rose thought.


"Will you be all right for a second?" she asked, feeling silly even as she spoke the words. One look at Leslie's pale face and trembling body told her that the other woman definitely wasn't all right. But there was nothing she could do about that right now, so, after giving Leslie a reassuring pat on the knee that went unacknowledged, Rose turned back toward the ambulance.


Relief swept through her when she saw Jake moving, albeit heavily supported by Mal. Her relief turned to horror however when she caught sight of the left side of Jake's head. It was covered in blood, the red liquid running down the side of Jake's neck and rapidly staining his jacket. For a terrible moment, she wondered if it was possible that Leslie had missed and hit Jake by mistake or if Calvin had managed to pull the trigger after all, but she immediately quashed those thoughts. Worrying wasn't going to help anyone, least of all Leslie and Jake.


So, she turned around instead, crouching in front of Leslie who was still exactly where Rose had left her, staring vacantly into space. Taking care not to startle Leslie, she took the other woman's icy hands into her own.


"Leslie?" she asked softly. At first, it didn't look like Leslie was even aware of her presence, after a minute or so, her eyes came to rest on Rose's face.


"Jake?" Leslie asked shakily, her voice so soft that Rose nearly missed it.


"He's been injured, but he's still alive," Rose told her, finding herself unable to conceal the truth from Leslie.


Leslie nodded slowly. Her pale face was rigid like a mask and betrayed no emotion of any kind.


"Ma'am?" a voice spoke from behind her. Rose straightened herself and turned to face the newcomer. His uniform identified him as a police officer, but he wasn't one of the pair who had been involved in the earlier stand-off.


"I'm sorry, ma'am, but you need to step back," he told Rose.


"She needs medical attention," Rose said, indicating Leslie.


The officer hesitated before replying, seemingly considering her request.


"Okay," he finally said to her before turning and shouting for a medic.


As a second ambulance had since arrived, it wasn't long before a paramedic appeared to check Leslie out. Once assured that Leslie was getting the help she needed, Rose went to look for Mal.


She didn't have to search long. Mal was leaning against his van, looking even more exhausted than Rose felt. As she approached, she could see that both his hands and the front of his shirt were covered in blood - Jake's blood, no doubt. Rose quickened her stride, wanting, needing to be with her husband.


"How is he?" Rose asked quietly.


"They think it's just a deep graze, but they won't know for sure until they get him to x-ray. At the moment, they are more worried about shock due to blood loss though," Mal's voice was toneless.


Rose nodded. Head wounds were known to bleed profusely and in Jake's weakened state, that could become dangerous very quickly. For several minutes, they stood in tense silence.


Rose watched as the once chaotic scene surrounding them was slowly returning to some semblance of order. Additional police officers had arrived and were in the process of securing the crime scene. In the distance, Rose spotted Leslie as she was being helped onto a gurney by a pair of paramedics. The police officer hovering nearby was the only reminder that Leslie was technically still a fugitive.


"You should go," she told Mal.


Mal opened his mouth, probably to voice a protest, but Rose cut him off. "I'll stay here and sort things out with the cops. Jake needs you now, so go."


oOo


Time lost all meaning for Leslie. Looking back on the events later, the best she could describe her experience of the hours following the shooting was by likening it to a sort of waking dream where everything was muted, as if she were under water. One moment, Rose was there telling her about Jake, then suddenly, she was replaced by a younger woman whom some still-working part of Leslie's brain recognized as a paramedic. She asked Leslie a series of questions, most of which didn't seem to make any sense at the time, took her pulse and blood pressure and examined the various injuries Leslie had sustained recently. She finished by shining a bright light into Leslie's eyes - checking for a head injury no doubt, Leslie's befuddled mind supplied before pronouncing that Leslie was to be taken to hospital for further treatment. Leslie couldn't bring herself to care one way or the other.


The ride to the hospital passed in a haze. At some point, the cuffs had been removed from her wrists, but she was dimly aware of a police officer hovering nearby even as she was being examined again at the hospital. One test appeared to blend into the next with doctors and other medical personnel coming and going seemingly at random. Some of them asked her questions which Leslie did her best to answer despite the blankness that had settled over her mind.


At some point, she must have either fallen asleep or else lost consciousness because the next thing she knew, she was awake, lying in a hospital bed and daylight was streaming in through the window. Although much of the preceding night remained a blurred memory, she immediately knew where she was. Shock, pain, exhaustion and whatever else had clouded her mind the previous night had all lifted and she felt reasonably clear-headed once more. With clarity, all the unanswered questions, the worries and anxieties however returned to her mind as well.


A quick inventory revealed that she was still a prisoner: her uninjured wrist was cuffed securely to the bed rail. It didn't really come as a surprise, but it served as an unwelcome reminder of the trouble she was in. Compared to her situation twenty-four hours ago however, she couldn't deny that things had improved. While she felt tired and not just a little sore, she doubted her injuries were severe enough to actually endanger her life. The doctors had probably explained the details to her the previous night, but even if they had, Leslie couldn't remember. She was just about to do a more thorough inventory of her various aches and injuries when the door of the room was opened a crack and a familiar bald head poked in.


Seeing that she was awake, Hood entered the room, quickly closing the door behind him.


"It sure is a nice mess you got yourself into there, Bennett," Hood commented as he walked over to the bed.


"Tell me something I don't know," Leslie answered wearily, wondering if this was a social call or if Hood was there on official business.


"All right," Hood said and nodded, pulling up a chair beside the bed. "You didn't hear this from me, but word is that all criminal charges against you are going to be dropped."


Hood gave her a moment to process the news, before continuing. "Still, internal affairs is all over this already and it looks like they are just getting warmed up."
Leslie nodded. She hadn't expected anything else. The internal investigation into her conduct could drag on for weeks if not months. Right now however, there were more pressing questions on her mind.


"Did I get him?" she asked, finding that her mouth had suddenly gone very dry.


To her colleague's credit, he immediately knew what she meant. "Yes, you nailed the crazy S.O.B. all right and not a moment too soon, from what I heard."
"What about-" she began, part of her afraid of what the answer might be.


"I ran into Malachy on the way here, seems like Jake is going to pull through, thanks to you. If you hadn't shot Calvin when you did, that bullet would have gone straight through Doyle's head. As it stands, it just grazed him. The two paramedics who got shot also..."


Leslie never heard the rest of the sentence. She felt like the ground had suddenly been pulled out from underneath her. She had shot Jake. The words didn't seem to make any sense and yet they plunged her into instant despair. After all she had been through, everything she had done, she had still not been able to keep Jake from coming to more harm. Tears sprang to her eyes, as much as a result of her failure to protect Jake as they were a release of pent-up emotions and fears.


She had completely forgotten that Hood was even there, until she felt someone shake her shoulder gently.


"Bennett, what's wrong? Do you need a doctor?"


Leslie looked up, seeing Hood watch her with what looked like concern. Embarrassed that she was crying in front of her colleague, she started wiping at her eyes with her free hand, an action rendered awkward by the fact that her arm was in a cast up to her elbow.


"I'm sorry," she said, still sniffling, "it's just, I never meant to shoot Jake..." she confessed.


Hood raised a hand, forestalling any further explanation on her part.


"You don't know?" he asked, eyebrows raised. "It wasn't your bullet that grazed Doyle. It was Calvin McAllister's. He must have fired his weapon just after you did. Your shot knocked him off balance, so his bullet ended up in the wall of the ambulance instead," he said, then paused for a few moments. "Listen, Bennett, you saved a lot of lives doing what you did, don't ever forget that."


Hood got back to his feet. "I need to get going. The guys from internal affairs could get here any second and I'm technically not supposed to be here."


Leslie nodded. "I understand. Thanks for coming anyway," she said gratefully.


TBC



 

Chapter Text

oOo


As Hood had predicted, two detectives from internal affairs showed up less than ten minutes after his departure. After informing Leslie that the arrest warrant against her had been rescinded in light of new evidence, they proceeded to take her statement. Leslie recounted to them to the entire chain of events, beginning with her rescue of Jocelyn Parker. To her, it felt like months had passed since that day when, in reality, less than two weeks had elapsed.


Almost two hours passed before she finished. She left nothing out, although she did her best to downplay the role her feelings for Jake had played in the choices she had made. The truth was, she didn't feel ready to examine that aspect of her actions right now. She had chosen her heart over her head at nearly every turn, no matter the stakes involved. She had endangered not only her own life, but those of countless strangers, in doing so. No matter what the eventual conclusion of the internal investigation would be, she doubted she would be able to forgive herself any time soon. The fact that it had all turned out relatively well was no extenuation. She had done the unforgivable by putting her personal feelings over her professional responsibilities.


Hence she was all the more surprised when no probing questions about her relationship with Jake Doyle followed. Instead, the two detectives seemed satisfied with her account, at least for the moment, and left. When Leslie had asked about her official status, they had been non-committal, saying that for now she was on paid sick-leave. Anything else would depend on the progress of their investigation. It wasn't a very satisfying answer, but Leslie hadn't expected it to be.


oOo


After the visit from the internal affairs detectives, Leslie must have dozed off, because the next thing time she opened her eyes, it was dusk outside. She wasn't wearing a watch, so it was hard to tell how much time had passed, but it had to have been at least a few hours. She wasn't sure that she had been wearing a watch before, but decided to check the nightstand anyway. She turned her head, only to discover a huge bouquet of flowers neatly arranged in a vase sitting on the nightstand. That hadn't been there before, she was sure of it. Curious to learn who had sent the flowers, she opened the attached card.


Thanks for everything.


That was all it said. There was no name indicating who the sender might be.


A knock on the door distracted her from the mystery.


"Come in," she answered.


A petite woman with dark-rimmed glasses entered the room. There was something familiar about the young woman, but Leslie couldn't place her.


"Good to see you awake, Ms Bennett. How do you feel?"


Leslie thought over the question. "Sore, but okay...I guess." She had been so wrapped up in her other problems that she had hardly given any thought to her injuries until now.


"Well, I'm not sure I can confirm that assessment," the doctor answered in mild amusement. "I might even go as far as to say that you got yourself banged up pretty good. More specifically, you got partial fracture of the right wrist, two cracked as well as one broken rib, a bullet wound to the left arm that tore muscle, assorted lacerations, abrasions and bruises and several torn ligaments in your left ankle."

The woman let that information sink in for a moment, then continued:


"There isn't much we can do about the fractures, except try and make sure that the bone knits evenly. To that end, we have put your wrist in a cast, which will have to stay on for maybe four weeks. We've also cleaned and restitched that bullet wound since most of the original stitches had been torn. There are signs of infection, so we have you on antibiotics which will hopefully clear up the infection. Your ankle is a bit more problematic. Due to the extent of the damage, you'll need surgery to repair the damage to your ligaments. There was considerable swelling by the time you were admitted. We are treating that with medication right now. Our orthopedic surgeon will see you later and discuss the details of the surgery with you."


Leslie nodded, a little stunned at hearing the full list of her injuries. "How long will I have to stay here?"


It wasn't like she had anywhere in particular she needed to be. Given what she had just learned, it would be weeks until she had recovered sufficiently to return to work and that wasn't even taking into account the internal investigation which might very well put an end to her career. The prospect of being stuck at home alone with nothing to do wasn't appealing, but it sure beat being stuck in hospital.


"It depends on how soon you can have surgery, which in turn depends on how fast we can bring down the swelling. After surgery, assuming a normal recovery without complications, you should be out of here inside a week. However, you will need to follow a physical therapy regimen on an outpatient basis after your discharge. Also, if you have any family or friends who can stay with you for a while, that would be good. You will have difficulties getting around for a while, so you'll need someone to help you."


Great, Leslie thought. Just great. She had hoped that at least her personal life would go back to normal once she was released from hospital, even if her career still hung in the balance, but apparently it was not to be.


Out loud however, she made a vague statement of agreement, deciding she would cross that bridge when she came to it.


oOo


After the doctor had left, Leslie tried get some rest, but her mind refused to cooperate. Finally, she gave up and pressed the call button to summon a nurse. A few minutes later, a nurse appeared. She was young and appeared decidedly apprehensive as she entered the room.


"Is something wrong, Ms Bennett?" she asked nervously, her gaze flitting around the room and finally settling on a spot above Leslie's head.


"I was wondering if I could get access to a phone?" Leslie asked, puzzled by the nurse's demeanor.


"Uhm...I don't know...I'll need to go check that with my supervisor," the young woman stammered before turning on her heel and making a hasty retreat.


Leslie stared after her, wondering what had the nurse so rattled, when it occurred to her for the first time that her picture had probably been all over the news ever since the bombing and especially after Calvin had kidnapped her following the ambush. That girl probably thought Leslie was a terrorist. No wonder she had been scared.


Still, less than five minutes later, an older nurse appeared with a phone. Unlike her younger colleague, she was professional and efficient. It was from her that Leslie learned that the mysterious flowers had been delivered by a woman whose description sounded a lot like Rose. Leslie thanked the nurse for the information and she left again.


oOo


Rose welcomed the chance to stretch her legs when she went to the vending machine down the hallway to get coffee for Mal and a granola bar for herself.
Neither of them had gotten any sleep the previous night. By the time she had told the police what they had found out about Sydney's twin brother Calvin and his recent activities, dawn had arrived. She had had her phone turned off while at the police station and by the time she was done, Mal had left her several voice messages updating her on Jake's condition.


Much to her relief, the latest update had indicated that while still unconscious, Jake was out of immediate danger. After she had checked in with Tinny and Des, Rose had taken a cab to the hospital to join her husband.


She had tried to convince Mal to go home, even if it was just for a few hours, while she stayed with Jake, but, predictably, Mal had refused. So, they had both stayed, awaiting developments. They had spoken little since her arrival, but as far as Rose was concerned, it was a big step up from the last time Jake had been lying unconscious in hospital. Then, Mal had shut her out completely, spending his days doing god knows what. Now, she had even been able to convince Mal to take the occasional break from sitting at his son's bedside. He had come back from one of those breaks with news about Leslie, having apparently run into Sergeant Hood who was on his way to see Leslie. Both had been happy to hear that the arrest warrant against Leslie was going to be dropped. Still, they had been in the business long enough to know that the criminal charges were only part of the trouble Leslie was in. Her recent actions were bound to provide plenty of fodder for an internal affairs investigation. Rose couldn't help but feel sorry for Leslie. For whatever else Leslie had been forced to do while she had been Calvin McAllister's captive, she had saved Jake's life. As far as Rose and Mal were concerned, that was all that mattered and as soon as they could, they were going to tell Leslie as much.


Rose had gone to visit Leslie earlier that day, but Leslie had been fast asleep, so Rose had simply left the flowers she had bought at the gift shop, intending to return at some later time.


The vending machine beeped to indicate that her coffee was ready, jolting Rose from her thoughts. Holding the cup in one hand, Rose tore open the wrapper of her granola bar with her teeth as she made her way back to Jake's room.


As she rounded the last corner toward Jake's room, she was surprised to see Mal standing outside.


"Is everything all right? Did something happen?" Rose asked anxiously as soon as she reached her husband's side.


"Leslie's in there," he answered, indicating the closed door. "I figured it'd be best if I gave her some space."


"How is she?"


"Well, you've seen her," Mal said.


Rose nodded. She had seen Leslie all right and she looked like hell with all those scrapes and bruises all over her face.


"A nurse brought her down in a wheelchair, so she must be pretty banged up," Mal added thoughtfully.


oOo


Leslie was grateful that Mal hadn't asked her any questions when the nurse had wheeled her into Jake's room. Instead, he had simply thanked her and then politely excused himself, leaving her alone with Jake.


Despite what Hood had told her earlier, she could feel her stomach clench with anxiety the moment she set eyes on Jake's unconscious form. Part of her hated herself for feeling that way, after all the trouble her feelings for Jake had gotten her into lately. It would be so much easier if she could just bring herself to stop caring so damned much about Jake. By all rights, she should hate him. Ever since Jake had come into her life, her emotional life had turned into a roller coaster ride. And it wasn't just her feelings, he had wreaked havoc with her professional life as well. So why did she still feel about him the way she did? Leslie had mulled over that question at length and was no closer to finding an answer. She had tried to move on from Jake, but it hadn't worked. Her heart wouldn't let her, even though her head was telling her that she would just get her heart broken over and over again if she gave into those feelings. But who was she kidding? Even though their relationship was technically a purely a professional one, it hadn't stopped her world from collapsing when she had thought that Jake was dead. Neither had it stopped her from choosing Jake's life over that of dozens or more innocent bystanders. The rest she could have forgiven herself for, but not this. No, this had to stop right there, she decided. From now on, she was going to keep their relationship professional. And she definitely wasn't going to sit at Jake's bedside waiting for him to wake up. Her mind made up, she tried to maneuver her wheelchair toward the door, but with one arm in a cast and limited mobility in the other, the task proved to be impossible.
She was considering getting up and trying make her way to the door on foot, using the wheelchair for support when a groan from the direction of the bed caught her attention. Her resolve was instantly replaced by concern.


"Jake?" she asked softly.


Jake's eyes remained closed, but a pained frown had settled on his face.


Leslie grasped Jake's hand without thinking.


"Jake, can you hear me?"


Jake groaned again, moving his head slightly in what might have been a nod. The action seemed to cause him considerable pain. The frown deepened, accompanied by a moan.


"Just lie still," Leslie told him, hating to see Jake in pain. "Squeeze my hand if you can hear me," she instructed.


Seconds passed, then Leslie felt Jake's hand finally tense around hers.


"Yes, that's it, Jake!" Leslie exclaimed, overjoyed that Jake could not only hear her, but was clearly lucid enough to understand. She didn't know the full details of his injuries, but she was well aware of the dangers posed by head injuries. The sooner Jake was checked out properly by a doctor, the better, so Leslie leaned forward and reached for the call button, still holding on to Jake's hand like her life depended on it.


TBC



 

Chapter Text

~Five Days Later~

Despite the triumph of their last minute rescue, Jake's mood had been on a steady decline in the five days that had elapsed since. It hadn't helped that he had spent those days in hospital, a place that he was growing to hate with a passion, but what weighed far more heavily on his mind was the realization that it would take him weeks to recover from the sum of the injuries he'd sustained over the last ten days.

The nausea he'd felt initially has passed, but he was still experiencing severe headaches, dizziness and his vision kept blurring. The neurologist treating him had assured him that these symptoms would likely fade in time, but he had also told Jake to be patient, as it could take anywhere for a couple of weeks to a few months.

Mal had already made it clear that he wouldn't have him back at work until he was fully recovered, which meant Jake was looking at weeks or even months of boredom and inactivity, something which he barely tolerated at the best of times. The physical limitations already had him irritated and short tempered as had the investigation of the police in which he was a central witness. Being cooped up for weeks was unimaginable. He hadn't seen or heard from Leslie since the night at the harbour, although he couldn't shake the impression that she had been there at some point during the day and a half that it had taken him to fully regain consciousness. When he had asked Mal about it though, his father had only shrugged and told him that he should take it up with Leslie.

On the face of it, not a bad result considering how much worse it could have been, still Jake couldn't help but feel that, on the whole, he had emerged as one of the losers.

Yes, he was alive and would likely make a complete recovery given sufficient time, but worse than the prospect of a lengthy period of restricted activity was the realization that his relationship with Leslie might be beyond repair altogether. He could definitely bury any hopes he might have had for rekindling of their romantic relationship, Jake thought pessimistically. It was true that Leslie had saved his life by taking out Calvin, but she would have done the same for any civilian, no matter how much he would like to believe otherwise.

The fact that he hadn't seen Leslie since the night at the docks was telling him plenty about how she felt about him. He hadn't expected Leslie to suddenly throw herself at him, but he had risked everything to prove her innocence. That should at least count for something, he thought. Still, he didn't regret what he had done, and would do so again in a heartbeat, but the disappointment stung nonetheless. Part of him could understand Leslie's reaction, especially now that Mal and Rose had filled him in on everything that had happened.

Jake was lost in thought until he was interrupted by Rose's entrance.

"Hey Jake," she greeted him. "Everything ready?"

Jake nodded and got up from where he'd been sitting on the bed.

"Mal couldn't make it, he's working a new case," Rose explained as she grabbed the gym bag containing Jake's things.

Jake opened his mouth to ask about the case, but Rose seemed to have read his mind when she said, "No, you can't come work on the case. You're going home to rest, not to drive all over town chasing down leads.

Driving, there was another sore point. He wouldn't be allowed to drive for at least another four weeks, on account of his head injury. Not driving meant that he would need someone to take him to his physiotherapy appointments and collect him afterward. He hated depending on others like this.

Rose continued to make pleasant conversation which mostly consisted of her talking and Jake making the occasional agreeing noise. They were walking to the elevator when Rose turned to him.

"You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?" Rose asked.

"Uhm, what? No...yes. I mean yes, of course," Jake replied.

"Then you'll be happy to know that you just agreed to trade in the GTO for a hybrid," Rose told him, smirking. She grew serious again almost immediately though. "What's bothering you?"

"Nothing," Jake replied, unable to even fully explain to himself why he was in such a foul mood when he had so much to be grateful for.

"That doesn't sound like nothing," Rose remarked, but appeared to drop the subject when the elevator doors opened. They stepped inside. However, instead of pushing the button that would take them down to the lobby, she pushed the []button for the floor above them.

"Where are we going?" Jake asked, curiosity temporarily displacing the gloom that seemed to surround him.

"You'll see," Rose said. That was all she would tell Jake. He didn't have to wait long to find out though. Waiting for them at the nurse's station of the next floor was Leslie. She was sitting in a wheelchair, her lower left leg and ankle were encased in a bulky brace and her right wrist was in a cast. A pair of crutches was leaning behind her against the counter.

"Hi Rose" she greeted the other woman with a bright smile. "Jake" she said, nodding in his direction, but her smile seemed a little bit more forced now.

"Thank you so much for letting me stay with you for a few days. I hate to impose on you and Mal like that, not after everything you've been through...," Leslie said.

"If it hadn't been for you, things would have turned out very differently. Believe me, it's the least we can do. Now, I think it's high time we get out of here," Rose said, "Jake, can you grab the crutches?"

Jake nodded, feeling somewhat steamrolled by this new development. Being under the same roof as Leslie could be potentially problematic and the prospect did little to improve his mood. Retreating to his place wasn't an option either. The doctors had made it clear that he wasn't to stay on his own for a while after his release from the hospital and since Mal and Rose were well aware of this, there was no chance they would change their minds about him staying at the family home, no matter how much he didn't want to be stuck with a pissed off Leslie.

oOo

An hour and a half later, Rose had dropped off Jake and Leslie at the house. Leslie who had considerable trouble getting around on crutches due to her injured wrist and arm had settled herself on the couch with some help from Rose. Making sure that both Jake and Leslie would be all right for the next few hours, Rose had then headed for the office to help Mal and Des with their new case. With Tinny away at school, Jake and Leslie were alone in the house.

At first, Jake was of a mind to slink off upstairs, but figuring that he couldn't avoid Leslie forever, especially since she was going to stay with them for the next week or two, he decided to face the issue head-on.

He walked into the living room, intent to clear the air between them, but was surprised to find Leslie fast asleep on the couch. Watching her, he reflected that she looked exhausted. No wonder, considering what she had been through the last few weeks. And that was only the things he knew about which was probably not even the half of it considering he had spent the better part of a week in hospital either unconscious or otherwise incapacitated and another couple of days imprisoned in a basement. Not his finest hour, he had to admit. Mal and Rose had been able to fill in most of the gaps, but there were still plenty of questions only Leslie could answer. Well, it looked answers would have to wait. Jake was about to walk away, intent on getting some rest himself when he was surprised by Leslie's voice.

"Do you have a moment?" she asked, yawning.

"Sure," Jake replied, feeling only the smallest bit of hesitation but doing his best to quash it immediately.

Leslie shifted into a sitting position on the couch, making room for Jake to sit down next to her.

"Don't let it go to your head, but I wanted to thank you for believing that I was telling the truth all along," Leslie said. "If you hadn't found out about Calvin,..." she trailed off.

"So, does that mean you don't hate me?" Jake asked with forced playfulness to hide the flutter of hope he felt at her statement. Damn it, he thought, he had it bad. His earlier anger at Leslie had evaporated as soon as a he learned that Leslie had spend the last five days in hospital, recovering from surgery she had undergone to repair torn ligaments in her ankle and hadn't been purposefully avoiding him after all. Still, there was undeniable tension between them, even more so than usual.

"You did save my life, after all," he added more seriously when Leslie didn't answer.

"I think I never really did hate you," Leslie confessed after a long pause, ignoring his last statement. "I might have wanted to and perhaps there were times when I really should have hated you, but no, I don't think I ever really did. Even...even when Calvin made me choose between you and innocent bystanders and I...I chose you. I knew it was wrong and I should have acted for the greater good, but I just couldn't. I couldn't go through with killing you, no matter the consequences."

"Calvin made you choose?" Jake had had no idea. He did remember that morning at the hospital, but the memory was hazy, dream-like and vague, like everything that had happened during the first one or two days after he had first woken after his escape from the basement.

Leslie nodded.

"Yes, he ordered me to kill you at the hospital, or he would detonate a bomb that would kill dozens of innocent people. I pretended to go along with him, but when I saw you and you didn't even recognize me, I...I couldn't do it. If the bomb's detonator hadn't been faulty, who knows how many people would have been killed, all because I let my feelings get in the way!" Leslie reproached herself.

"Sounds to me like you're not happy with the choice you made?" Jake asked, trying to keep his voice light, but failing miserably.

"It turned out all right in the end, but only because I got lucky. And even so, I nearly got Des and Tinny killed when I threw that bomb vest out of the window! So you see, it would be so much more easier if I did hate you."

"Well, I for one am glad that you don't hate me," Jake said, meaning it. "Look, Leslie, it doesn't matter if you made the right call or not. What matters is that we're all still here."

"I never should have let things between us get this far," Leslie argued.

"It's not your fault. It's Calvin's fault for putting you into an impossible position. You did the best you could and everything turned out all right."

"Yeah, as far as the criminal charges go maybe, but I might still lose my job," Leslie replied gloomily.

"They're still investigating you?" Jake asked.

"Yes, I'm officially suspended pending investigation," Leslie told him.

"Look on the bright side, if they do fire you, you can always come work for us," he said, only half-joking. "But seriously, you can't keep beating yourself up over this. It's going to eat you alive if you do."

"Maybe you're right," she said and sighed. "But if I do forgive myself, I can't go on pretending that I hate you."

"Would that be such a hardship?" Jake asked.

"It wouldn't, except, sooner or later, you're going to do something that'll make me wish I could, that I really did hate you. You keep acting like you're invincible. But you're not. You're human just like the rest of us, Jake. One of those days, you're going to get yourself killed and then what?"

"Leslie, I can't promise, I'll stop taking risks, it's part of what I do. You take risks too in your line of work," he pointed out. "It's part of what we do. Now, we can either spend the rest of our lives, however long that is, denying how we feel about each other, or we can give this another shot. It's up to you."

Leslie took a deep breath, clearly coming to some sort of resolution. "You just never give up, Jake, do you?" However her voice was lighter now.

"Does that mean yes?" Jake asked.

"I don't know Jake," Leslie confessed tiredly. "I have a lot of stuff to figure out, not just about how I feel, but also about what I'm going to do next."

"You don't have to do it alone, Leslie. Let me be there for you," Jake implored.

"Jake, I don't know..what if...what if I can't forgive myself? What if I do and things don't work out between us? What then?"

"Then we'll at least have given it an honest shot," Jake countered.

"I need time," Leslie said after a long pause.

"Whatever you need," Jake promised. "Just tell me you'll think about it?"

"Let's just take it slow, okay?" Leslie said.

A smile spread over Jake's face.

"You got it," he replied. He leaned in closer to Leslie, but a sharp pain in his ribcage caused him to wince and abandon the movement.

"Don't start something you are not up to finishing!" Leslie chided playfully and started to laugh, only to cry out in pain.

"Are you okay?" Jake asked, concerned.

Leslie nodded, still trying to get her breath back. "Just my ribs," she finally managed. "I'm okay."

"Guess we have no choice but to take it slow," Jake remarked.

"You won't get any argument from me there," Leslie agreed heartily.

The End