At 6 pm on Friday evening, Vivienne Johnson began to pack up her things to
go home. She glanced surreptitiously across at Martin, still seated at his
desk. Usually he would be sitting up straight there was nothing sloppy
about Martin Fitzgerald but tonight he was slumped over his keyboard,
every line of his posture screaming exhaustion.
Martin had been back at work for a week and already Viv was worried about
She remembered the moment he had walked into the office on Monday morning.
He seemed uncharacteristically hesitant, his expression a mixture of diffidence
and apprehension. His suit jacket hung baggy on a too-lean frame and his
face was noticeably thinner, accentuating the sharp angel of his jaw. The
cane he carried with an obvious degree of embarrassment attested to the fact
that he was far from fully recovered from the bullet wounds that had kept
him from the office for six weeks.
Viv was careful not to allow her concern to show, greeting him warmly and
with genuine pleasure. She had seen the relief and gratitude shining in his
eyes and understood just how difficult this moment had been for him. It had
been hard enough for her on her own return a week before and she was glad
that she was able to be there for him.
Martins violent brush with death had profoundly affected every member
of the team. Viv observed her co-workers carefully over the next few days,
hoping that they would be able to get past their own emotions and make
Martins return to work as easy as possible.
Initially Jack had been obvious in his relief to have his agent back, although
Viv detected a certain discomfort in subsequent conversations with Fitzgerald.
Coming so close to losing one of his agents must have affected him badly.
It was characteristic of Jack that he would find it difficult to act as if
nothing had happened.
Samantha seemed genuinely happy to have Martin back, and if there was a degree
of awkwardness between the two, it was natural between two people who had
quite recently ended a relationship. Viv had the feeling, though, that Sam
was confused right now. It was obvious that she still cared about Martin;
to come so close to losing him would almost certainly have led her to re-examine
Then there was Danny. If Viv was concerned about Martin, she was in some
ways even more worried about Danny. She had only been back in work herself
for a week, but Taylors behaviour during that time had startled her.
He was far more volatile and edgy than usual, giving the impression that
he was living on his nerves and that was a recipe for disaster in a team
like theirs. It was also evident that he and Jack were at odds. Jack was
certainly coming down hard on the young agent. This was understandable,
considering that Dannys judgement was off kilter. However, Jack
didnt seem to be picking up on the root cause of the problem: Dannys
state of mind after the shooting.
Viv had expected Danny to be pleased that Martin was back at work. On the
contrary, however, he seemed uncomfortable, deliberately going out of his
way to avoid the other agent. Martin hadnt commented to her,
at least - but once or twice she had seen him looking at Danny with a slightly
hurt and confused expression when the other mans back was turned. Of
course, Martin was unaware of something Viv had observed. While Danny seemed
unable to talk to Martin, he had been watching him like a hawk whenever his
back was turned. Danny clearly had strong feelings about Fitzgeralds
return, but was intent on keeping them to himself.
Danny had not discussed the shooting with Viv and she had chosen not to ask.
She knew it must have been a traumatic experience for him and felt that he
needed time to deal with it in his own way. She wondered now if that was
a good decision; she knew he had attended some obligatory counselling sessions,
but in her opinion, they did not appear to have helped a great deal.
Viv continued to watch Martin as he rested his head in his hands for a moment
in an unconscious gesture of weariness. She knew he was deemed fit enough
to return to work to desk work, at least; it would be several more
weeks before they would even consider him for a return to the field. And
there was no doubt that he had done his fair share of the work over the past
five days, responding to every cautiously worded expression of concern with
the assurance that he was fine. What concerned Viv was how much it had cost
him to keep up what she was convinced was a charade.
She stood up and walked over to his desk.
He looked up and smiled, but she could see the fatigue in the angular planes
of his face.
Planning on going home tonight?
Soon as Ive returned this file to Records.
Want me to take it for you?
Im good, thanks.
She pretended not to notice the slight intake of breath and the shadow of
pain that crossed his face as he levered himself out of his chair. He picked
up the report in one hand and, after a moments hesitation, the cane
in the other.
She watched his slow progress across the room, torn between frustration at
his stubborn determination not to ask for help and concern that he was obviously
still in pain. A full weeks work had evidently taken its toll.
Sam had already gone home and that left Viv and Danny alone in the office.
She glanced across at him, watching his eyes trail Martin until the other
agent was out of sight, and then walked over to his desk.
Not doing as well as he pretends he is, she remarked, watching
closely for Dannys reaction.
Danny stood up, shuffling papers into an untidy pile on his desk. She saw
his jaw tighten, but he avoided her eyes.
Guess the first few days back at work are bound to be tough.
Might help him to know that his friends are here for him.
Whats that supposed to mean? he demanded, eyes still fixed
on the desk.
This wasnt going to be easy. You know what Im talking about.
Youve hardly spoken a word to him since he got back. How do you think
thats making him feel?
He stabbed at his computers off button and turned away from her, making
a show of grabbing his suit jacket from the back of the chair and shrugging
Ive been busy
Viv moved closer, getting in his face, arms folded in front of her. She
wasnt letting him off that easily.
Bullshit, she said firmly. Youre avoiding him. Want
to tell me why?
Dannys head whipped around, eyes flashing fire. Then he slumped back
into his chair and ran a hand through his hair. When he looked up at her,
his mobile face reflected an anguish that had been just below the surface
Its been a while since Ive seen him. Things have
he shrugged. I kind of thought when he got back,
hed look well, you know? I mean, six weeks
but he looks like
hell, and that cane
You worried he cant do his job?
Danny looked startled. Thats not what Im saying. Its
seeing him, it brought it all back. Every time I look at him,
I see him lying on the ground, bleeding his life away
his blood all
over my hands
It wasnt your fault, Danny.
I cant stop thinking about it, going over and over it in my mind.
It all happened so fast. I keep thinking I could have done something; maybe
if I hadnt told him to back the car up - that must have been when he
was shot, you know, when he sat up to see where he was going
So, that was it. She had suspected that much of Dannys attitude stemmed
from self-imposed guilt.
Danny, theres nothing you could have done, she said firmly.
Martin was driving; he was the one in control of the car.
I know, but I still keep thinking...
Dont go there. You cant blame yourself for anything that
happened. Do you think for one moment Martins blaming you?
He hesitated. I guess not.
Of course he isnt. Would you be blaming him if it was you who
Of course not. Its just
Why, Viv? Why did it have to be
The anguish in his voice tore at her heart and she wished she had an easy
answer for him. She shook her head. Theres no reason, Danny.
It was pure chance that he was driving that day. Its something youll
both have to put behind you.
Thats just it. Im not sure I can.
She reached out to grasp his arm. Yes, you can. Just talk to him. Try
to put yourself in Martins shoes. Hes still in pain, hes
feeling insecure with this new agent coming on board, and Ill bet
hes hurt that youre avoiding him. She paused, holding his
eyes. He doesnt need your guilt right now, Danny. He needs a
Danny stared at her for long moments, eyes full of pain as he reflected on
her words, then his expression smoothed out and she glanced around to see
Martin walk back into the office.
Viv squeezed Dannys arm then walked back to her own desk, slipped on
her coat, and walked out, smiling a good night at Martin as she went.
She paused and looked back as she reached the door.
Martin had switched off his computer and was methodically clearing his desk,
putting papers into the correct folders and returning pens to their holder.
She had to smile at that; even bone weary, he couldn't leave his desk untidy.
Finally, he picked up his jacket from the back of the chair and in doing
so, knocked the cane from its position leaning against the side of the desk.
It hit the floor with a clatter. Martin slowly shrugged into his jacket,
and then paused, clearly trying to gather the strength to bend down and pick
up the cane.
Before he could move, Danny was there, scooping up the cane and holding it
out to him. He said something to Martin that she couldnt make out and
there was a long pause as the two men locked eyes. In Dannys expressive
face, Viv could read much of what was going on in his mind; the almost
debilitating guilt, a degree of fear, a clear concern for Martin. Martin
must have seen it too for after long moments his own diffident expression
softened and he smiled, reaching out a hand to take the cane.
Viv smiled, satisfied. She had the feeling that both young men had a long
way to go before they could put the past behind them, but this was a start.
At least it was a start.