Main Character: Martin
Summary:I'm not going to tell you anything about the story itself, but I will tell you a bit of what prompted me to write this. I've been working through some issues of my own and, since I have now decided on a course of action, I wanted to express them creatively hence the following story.
It is in no way autobiographical and there are no names of anyone in my life presented here.
Author's Notes:My dear friend Silvia has assisted me greatly in editing and proofing this piece. She knew how important it was not to try to alter the story as it was born from my own internal struggles but she offered huge amounts of encouragement as well as guided me to truly express what I wanted to express at times rather than just skim the surface of the emotions.
Silvia, your encouragement was and is invaluable. I'm writing because you have given me the encouragement to write. Thank you.
Disclaimers:I don't own WAT or any of the characters or any of the companies to do with above. I am not consulted by the show or any of the people involved in the show - even though at times I wish that I were.
This is a completely fictional piece of work. All of the place names are real, none of the people bear any resemblance to anyone I know of in real life. I don't know of any of the scenarios presented here as having ever occurred but I tried to make it sound realistic.
Any and all errors are completely mine. I try to proof and spell check and even punctuate properly but I have no claim to perfection. If the errors are too distracting, let me know (gently, I do bruise) and, if you don't like the story, don't read.
Feedback: If you want to, write and let me know what you think. I'll probably read what you write so be kind, but constructive words for improvement are appreciated (usually after a few sips of wine and with an emergency pound of chocolate nearby).
So, without any more rambling...Hope you enjoy
He opened the door to his apartment and set his bags just inside on the floor. Turning, he closed the door, locked it, flicked on the light and hung his keys up. After the mechanics of arriving home were complete, he leaned back against the door, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Opening his eyes he took in the sight of the apartment he had left a week ago. The air smelled a little stale. Despite the crisp late winter air outside he'd let a little in to freshen the place up. Otherwise, the only indication that his apartment had been empty for a week was the stack of mail, correction; stacks of mail Sam had collected and brought in for him each day. Looking at the stacks that covered his table he grimaced, definitely not tonight.
Thirty minutes later, showered, changed, bags unpacked he grabbed a glass of juice from the fridge, at least that hadn't gone bad yet and sat down on his couch. Exhaustion etched every line of his face. He stretched his legs out in front of him and closed his eyes as he tried to grasp all that had happened in the past week, or more to the point, what hadn't happened and now would never happen.
The evening shadows moved across the room slowly as time wore on. The figure on the couch didn't move, lost in his silent reflection of conversations had, those not had, conversations imagined and planned but now would never be. This silent, internal soliloquy was interrupted by the shrilling jangle of the phone. Deciding that he wasn't up for another sympathetic message, another, "I'm so sorry, If there's anything I can do," he opted to let the machine pick it up.
After five rings the answering machine clicked on, "Hi, you've reached Martin. Sorry I'm not available. Leave a message, and I'll call you as soon as I'm able. Have a good day." The requisite tone sounded and then there was silence for about three seconds then the voice began: "Martin...Martin...Marty, Marty, Marty Martin. I know you're there. I know you're home. If home is where the heart is, then where do you go? Where there's no heart, there's no home. I'm coming for you. I'm coming soon."
Click. The answering machine dutifully recorded the message unaware if it was from friend or foe and not caring in the least. Martin didn't move. He continued his frozen position on the couch. It wasn't that he didn't hear the message. It wasn't that the message particularly frightened him. It was more that he was beyond caring...
"Martin, welcome back. We've missed you."
"Thanks, Viv. I appreciate that. I didn't get a chance to thank you and Marcus for making the trip that meant a lot to me."
"We wanted to be there, wanted you to know we were thinking of you."
Nodding again he made his way to his desk. Wading through the stacks of emails, phone calls and additional well wishers and sympathy expressions he failed to note the arrival of Jack, Sam and Danny. Seeing him thoroughly engrossed in catching up on his back log they in turn let him be until Jack appeared folder in hand and called the team to order.
"Lynn Benway, age 32, mother of two, left her house yesterday evening to go to her part-time job as a medical records transcriptionist. She hasn't been seen or heard from since.
Viv, Elena, I need you to go and interview the family. Danny and I are going to go to the hospital to interview her co-workers. Sam, Martin, I need you to get going on the phone, financial records and her address book, start calling her friends and get them in here for interviews."
With that, Jack, Danny, Vivian and Elena headed out, leaving Sam and Martin in the office to begin the search through the records.
7:00 p.m. MPU Office
After nine hours Lynn Benway had been found. Nothing spectacular, no great mystery; just the victim of a random mugging gone awry. The streets and parking lots around St. Vincent's Hospital were known for frequent attacks and this time it had been Lynn Benway. Unfortunately for her, her family and co-workers this story ended in tragedy. She was found in a dumpster, her throat slit, her watch, wedding ring, and $27.00 dollars and credit card were stolen.
The quick closure of the case was no comfort to the family who had lost a mother and wife. For the team, all that remained was the business of closing up the case and heading home.
"Martin, wait a minute." Danny jogged a few steps to catch up to Martin who was just entering the elevator.
"I...just wanted to say that it's good to have you back."
"Thanks, Danny. It's good to be back...I always think that sounds so dumb when people say that, but the truth is, after awhile, you just want to find normal again."
"Yeah, whatever that is. Anyway, I...I'm glad you're back."
"Hey, hold the elevator, please." Sam rushed up, gave Danny a quick smile good night and stepped in as Martin held the door.
"See you tomorrow."
The doors closed and the elevator started down. Both Sam and Martin stood in silence as the elevator clicked off the flights until it reached the garage. Once there, Martin walked Sam to her car before turning toward his.
"Sam, thanks for getting the mail and collecting all of it. I appreciate that."
"Yeah, I wish I could have done more. I...you'll call me if you need anything?"
"Yeah...I'm not using if that's what you're worried about."
"I didn't think you were, but yeah, I'd be a fool if I didn't think the stress might be a factor."
"You're not a fool, Sam. I'm sorry. I'm just really tired. I just want to get home and get some sleep."
Sighing Sam sat in the driver's seat of her car and watched as Martin walked away.
8:00 p.m. Martin's Apartment (outside)
Martin was juggling a bag of groceries, dry cleaning, his briefcase, the mail and the keys to his apartment when his cell phone rang.
"Damn," Martin uttered as his keys, mail and briefcase hit the floor while he tried to slip his cell phone from his coat pocket.
"Hello," Martin spoke through his gritted teeth as they were being employed to grip the hangers of his dry cleaning having run out of hands and shoulders to carry all the items.
"Martin, it's Jack."
"Hey, hang on a second, let me get inside and put stuff down."
Back at the MPU office Malone sat behind his desk and continued jotting notes in a folder while listening to the muffled sounds coming through the speaker phone of Martin unlocking his apartment and opening the door. The sound of rustling paper bespoke the settling of whatever the 'stuff' was that Martin needed to put down.
"Sorry 'bout that, caught me just as I was getting home and trying to carry too much at one time."
"Yeah, I know the feeling. Listen, we have a meeting with Van Doren in the morning about..."
Jack stopped speaking as he heard the sound of Martin's startled exclamation coming through the phone. He jumped slightly at the clattering of Martin's cell phone hitting what was likely the floor and then the distinctive sounds of struggling, crashing and fighting collided together and reached his ears via the speakerphone.
"Martin! Martin! What's going on!"
His shouts were met with nothing but the continued crashing, and he was certain he could hear strangled sounds of someone trying to breathe. Jack's mind imagined the worst as it created a scenario of someone strangling Martin.
Keeping his office line open he grabbed his cell, dialed 911, identified himself and got confirmation of all available units being sent to Martin's address to respond to a federal agent in need, assault in progress.
Torn between wanting to run out of the office and head immediately to Martin's and not wanting to leave the tangible link to his agent, he stayed where he was frustrated at only hearing the sounds of someone being strangled and not being able to do anything more.
After what seemed like an hour but in reality was less than three minutes he heard a different sound in the background. Another voice sounded across the telephone speaker. Jack wasn't able to make out the words, but he heard shouting, more crashing and then footsteps thudding close by and then fading away. All was silent except for the struggled gasps for air of someone Jack was certain, was Martin.
"Martin! Martin! Is there anyone there? Somebody talk to me!"
"Hello...hold on...let me find a light...Oh my God, Mr. Fitzgerald, are you all right? What happened, who was that?"
"Pick up the phone!" Jack was beyond angry now and cursed that he had called Martin on his office phone and not his cell, but he was loath to cut the connection.
"Hello, who is this?"
"This is Jack Malone, I'm Martin's boss. Who is this?"
"I - I'm one of the maintenance guys here. I was fixing some of the hall lights, and I heard a commotion, and I came down to check it out and -"
"I've got police and rescue on their way there right now. How is Martin; is he hurt? Can you give him the phone?"
"Here, Mr. Fitzgerald, it's your boss."
Jack winced as he heard Martin's damaged throat constrict around his name.
"Martin, I've got police and rescue on their way. I'm on my way. I'll be right there."
When nothing but the rasping for air met his ears, Jack grabbed his coat, keys and cell and ran from the office.
8:30 p.m. Martin's apartment
Jack parked haphazardly behind all the other emergency personnel that were arrayed outside Martin's building. He flashed his ID and ran up the stairs. On the drive over he had called Vivian since she lived the closest, and he wasn't surprised to see her entering Martin's apartment just in front of him.
Inside he stopped short. There was a bag of some groceries just inside the room, milk and orange juice mixing on the floor while, ridiculously, a dozen eggs sat neatly in their container, lid flipped opened, not one smashed. Continuing to take in the scene Jack saw dry cleaning bags in a crumpled pile, apartment keys dropped on a side table at the entrance, Martin's briefcase half under the sofa peeking out from the back. On the floor was the shattered remnants of a lamp and the glass in a couple of photographs were smashed on the wall where bodies had evidently hit hard in the struggle Jack had heard.
Continuing through the apartment Jack stopped at the table just before the kitchen and saw the piles of mail neatly sorted. Several large piles of what could only be sympathy cards lay unopened and Jack shook his head sadly at the losses recently inflicted upon Martin and now this. He stopped his musing as he heard Vivian's soft voice speak Martin's name with deep concern. He resumed his pace and entered the kitchen in time to see the paramedics beginning to close up their cases.
Martin sat in a chair with an ice pack on the side of his face that didn't fully cover the bruising that was rapidly developing from his left eye down to his lip. He had butterfly stitches on a cut over the same eye, there was blood on the collar and front of his once white shirt that was also torn but what shook Jack fully was the swelling and redness at Martin's throat. He walked straight to his agent, squatted down next to him and peered intently at his throat. After staring for several seconds he raised his eyes and met Martin's square on. Someone had taken a wire and tried to throttle him. Judging from the bruising, blood and depth of the impression, they had come awful close.
"We'd like to take him in for further treatment, but he's refusing to come." One of the paramedics was speaking to Vivian, perhaps hoping she would be able to persuade the obviously injured and shocky man to rethink his original refusal.
"No, I'm fine. Thank you." The words were little more than breathy whispers as the area around Martin's throat was damaged but Jack and Vivian heard the stubborn will behind them.
"We'll take it from here. Thank you very much for your assistance. I'll make sure he sees his doctor in the morning." Vivian's tone brooked no resistance. She was not only a federal agent but a mother as well and she fully intended to make certain Martin saw his physician. She locked her eyes with his and waited until his acquiesced. Satisfied she grabbed a chair and sat down.
11:00 p.m. Martin's apartment
Sighing with relief, Martin closed and locked his apartment door finally alone. He crunched through the broken glass of the lamp and headed for the bathroom. A hot shower to clean off the day's grime and steam some tension out of aching muscles was in order.
On the other side of the door Jack nodded at the agents assigned to the detail of guarding Martin for the rest of the night and walked down the hall. He flipped open his cell phone and sent a quick message. He arranged for the message to be delivered at 5:30 a.m. He knew Paula Van Doren was an early riser and the delivery should reach her before the first news account did, at least he hoped so. He wanted to brief her about this event before anyone else did, and he wanted her briefed before their meeting with Martin.
As he reached the front entrance he noted how calm and neat everything appeared and out front of the building he realized that none of the chaos remained of his arrival a couple of hours ago except for the crooked parking of his car with his hazards still flashing.
Jack had sent Vivian home about an hour after her arrival. She left only after extracting another promise from Martin that he would, indeed, see his doctor. Jack stayed through the giving of the police reports and watched as the forensic team fingerprinted the entrance way of the apartment. Martin hadn't seen much of his attacker as he had been hit from behind and the attacker had been behind him while attempting to strangle him. He was able to give a general build based on his impressions, and he was fairly certain the man had been masked.
The maintenance man, Martin's rescuer, confirmed that the man had been dressed head to toe in black, a ski mask covered his face allowing only his eyes to peak through, fingerprints were lifted but no one believed anything out of the ordinary would be found.
Jack had arranged for agents to guard Martin's door all night and, after he assured the Captain who had responded to the scene that Martin would come to the station the next day and give a formal statement and reminding Martin of his 8:00 o'clock appointment with Van Doren and himself, he left. Twisting Martin's arm into taking the rest of tomorrow off would come in the morning when Sam, Danny and Elena were there along with Viv to ensure that there was enough support to keep Martin out of the office.
Climbing into his car he headed for his own home and a few hours of sleep. The rest of the team would be upset that they hadn't been notified immediately but that would wait until the morning. He needed some sleep.
Martin needed sleep also but found it difficult. After he showered, he fixed a cup of tea and put some honey in it that seemed to go down his throat all right. He swept up the ruined lamp and took the pictures off the wall and gingerly extracted the glass from the frames. Setting them to the side to be finished later he glanced again at the stacks of cards and decided he was just too tired. Putting the empty mug in the dishwasher he crawled into bed, flipped off the light and closed his eyes to sleep.
Sleep did come but it was not the quiet, deep, restful sleep he needed. Instead his mind churned with disturbing flashes of a dark road, bright lights of an 18-wheeler and the screech of brakes, crashing and ripping of metal, horrible screams and through it all he heard a disturbing and disembodied voice call to him "Marty, Marty."
Lunging from the tangled bed covers Martin's hand went to his throat as he gasped for air. He was certain he was being choked again. His hand hit the light and he took in his room. He was alone, no one was there. Gasping for air and trying to shake off the disquieting dreams he looked at the clock, 2:00 a.m.
Knowing that sleep was not going to come he got up from bed, grabbed a glass of water and headed to the living room. Grabbing a handful of mail from the table on his way he sat down and began opening the cards.
He looked at the first one and gulped as he realized just how hard this was going to be.
"In Sympathy" the cover was simple enough. Opening the first card he saw that it was blank, good, he hated the platitudes that were inside canned cards. Instead there was a handwritten note."Martin, I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your mother and father. I worked with your father for many years and my wife and I had the pleasure of knowing your parents both in a business and social setting as we all shared similar interests. I know how proud your father was of your accomplishments in the FBI and of you as a man, and Carol and I are so sorry that you have lost them both in such a tragic accident. We feel an even deeper remorse knowing that they were driving on that road that night heading to a weekend getaway based on our recommendation of the place.
I wish I had more words to say how badly we feel for you and for the loss in our lives as well. I know it is trite, but Carol and I truly want you to know that if there is anything you ever need or if you ever want to hear some stories of your dad and mom, we hope you will contact us. We'd love to share our memories of your parents with you.
Our best wishes and sincere sympathy,
Charles and Carol Goodwin"
Martin blinked back the tears that filled his eyes as he finished the first card. This was going to be just as hard as he had imagined perhaps harder. Setting that card aside he reached for another; opened it and began to read.
7:00 a.m. MPU
Martin set his briefcase on his desk and rubbed his hand carefully over his face. The bruising on the left side was readily noticeable to all. He set down his second 20 oz cup of coffee and flicked on his computer. He stared at it as it booted up and lost himself in thought. In all he had read about two dozen cards; some were canned sympathy cards, Hallmark at their supposed best most, however, were handwritten notes. The cards came from people that his father and mother worked and or associated with. They all spoke of a happy couple who loved each other, worked together, were passionate in their focus whether it was work, the arts, charities, golf and whatever. They all said the same thing, his father was proud of him. Martin shook his head bitterly. His father wasn't proud of him, he was disappointed in him. That was what he had seen in his father's eyes, heard in his tone and more to the point, heard come from his father's mouth the last time they had spoken.
"Martin, you've disappointed me. I'm ashamed" And with that, his father had turned and walked away never looking back. A few days later Martin had received the call. His parents were dead; killed in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler on a Virginia road. Apparently they had been headed to a weekend away at a ritzy bed-n-breakfast in horse country. His mother was passionate about antiquing and his father enjoyed the history that Virginia was famous for, and they had planned this getaway.
The next week had been a blur as Martin went through the mechanics of arranging a funeral, calling hours, meeting with the police and the medical examiner. The bodies had been horribly damaged. All the safety features, and tank-like build of a Mercedes had done nothing to lesson the impact of a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler. The bodies were identified through dental records, jewelry, and internal examination. Martin's father had had his appendix out and had several crowns that were readily identifiable. His mother had had a hysterectomy a few years earlier so the absence of those organs, her jewelry and dental records were enough to provide conclusive results. Still, DNA sampling was done and rushed through the lab; this was after all the Deputy Director of the FBI and his wife. All results were absolute: Victor and Jean Fitzgerald were dead.
No alcohol or medications or any suspicious substances were found in their blood and tox screens. There were no witnesses to the accident except for the driver of the truck. He survived, as most drivers of these rigs did in such an accident. Yes, the truck had jackknifed on the road, but other than that and some bruising from his seatbelt restraint, and the emotional damage of having been in the accident and somewhat of a causative factor in the death of two people, the driver was uninjured.
He had been returning from a normal delivery with an empty rig. He was driving the allowable speed on the state road, he had not been drinking, no drug use, his logs were up to date, he wasn't over his allowable hours on the road. For all intents and purposes, his record was clean and safe. He stated he had come over the little rise in the road and was met with the glare of oncoming headlights. He had nowhere to go and did the only thing he could do; he hit the brakes. Skid marks confirmed his story; the computer printout from the truck's operating system verified his speed. He was issued no ticket at the scene and was not charged with any vehicular infraction. He had come to the calling hours quietly, spoke briefly and sadly to Martin, the men had shaken hands and he had left. Noah Shook was shaken by his part in all this sorrow, but he was not to blame and Martin did not blame him.
Jack, Elena, Danny, Sam, Vivian and Marcus had all come to the calling hours. None were surprised at the number of people that lined up to pay their respects. The Fitzgeralds were well known in many circles in Washington and across the country. Martin was well thought of as well. Some of his colleagues from Seattle had flown across the country to be there, more for the son than for the parents. This had moved Martin and his New York team deeply.
The funeral was a very private affair; family only. That was how Victor had wanted it and Martin was grateful. He really hated to be on display and didn't want to go through the pomp and circumstance of a formal and large service. He should have known better, for all his father's love of the spotlight and attention to propriety, he was a deeply private person and, Victor had had specific requirements for the calling hours, a certain funeral home, cremation with the urns tastefully surrounded by photos and flowers, interment spots already reserved with plaques preselected, only needing the dates filled in, he also had been specific in that the actual service be only family. Martin was only too grateful to comply. He didn't want or have anyone special to be there with him. It was him, his Uncle Roger and two cousins and second cousin. Martin thought that would be the way he wanted it. Instead, he found it lonely and cold. He didn't shed a single tear. In fact, he didn't remember the service at all. There was no eulogy, his father hadn't wanted one. Martin hadn't any words to share. He was caught up in his own tangle of emotions of sorrow, anger, loss, and confusion.
"Hey, are you all right?"
Martin jumped at the softly spoken words at his side. So lost in his own reflections he hadn't noticed Sam's arrival. He turned towards her and saw the deep concern in her eyes. She gently reached up and brushed her fingers feather light to his bruised cheek. He flinched slightly but she kept her fingers light on his cheek.
"Vivian called me last night. I...she assured me that you were all right and that it was best to leave you alone, but I...I knew you'd be in early so..." Sam stopped and dipped her head slightly away from Martin. She was uncomfortable being open but over the past year almost two since their break up, his shooting, their recovering and strengthening of their friendship she had become a bit more confident in her ability to reach out to her friends. "I came in early to see for myself." She finished and squarely looked Martin in the eyes, taking in the dark circles, those not made by bruises, the redness of his eyes from lack of sleep and, she suspected, something more, sorrow.
"I'm a little sore." Martin's voice was a little better than it had been the night before but it was raspy.
Sam flicked her eyes to his neck and noticed that she couldn't see any indication of the attack but that was because instead of his normal crisp shirt and tie, he wore a high necked sweater under his jacket, a little casual for Martin who always turned out in a sharp suit, but certainly appropriate enough for the day at work which Vivian had made clear that all of them were to ensure was short. She figured Martin had tried the usual shirt and tie but had found it too constricting. She noticed a little gaping of the neck of the sweater at his throat and figured he had marred it a bit pulling it away from his skin. She didn't blame him one bit.
"Yeah, well, not surprising; I'm not going to ask you to go through it all right now because you know Danny and Elena are going to want to hear everything, and I don't want you to strain your voice." Sam didn't want him to have to go through it any more times than truly necessary but realized Martin would be uncomfortable with that sentiment so she chickened out a little and gave his physical discomfort as the reason. If he noticed her dissembling any, he didn't give any indication.
Nodding his thanks he turned as he heard rapid footsteps coming into the bullpen. Danny and Elena arrived together and were making a beeline straight for him with Vivian right behind. It was obvious that Vivian had notified everyone of the previous evening's attack and everyone wanted to see for themselves that Martin was really all right.
"Hey, pal, what's going on at your digs, not the safe place I've always imagined?" Danny's attempt at a little levity fell flat but no one cared. Martin managed a slight grin at the usual energy displayed by his partner.
Martin was about to answer when Jack knocked on the end of his desk.
"Martin, I briefed Van Doren on last night. She's pushed our 8:00 o'clock to now. Let's go."
Grateful for the release from the concern he alternately craved to embrace and cringed from; Martin stood up and followed Jack to the elevator. The remaining four agents watched them go and then three of them turned to Vivian.
"All right, Vivie," Danny said, "Give it to us again."
Nodding, Vivian set her purse and gun in her desk drawer and began to speak as the other three grabbed seats at the table in the center of the room.
Jack carefully evaluated Martin as they rode in the elevator up to Van Doren's office. He noted without criticism the dark high necked sweater and secretly approved. For once Fitzgerald was letting his usual stoicism down a bit and Jack thought that slight give on Martin's part would allow him and the rest of the team to heal the sorrow over time.
Stepping off the elevator as the doors opened the two men strode down the hallway to Paula Van Doren's office. The death of Victor Fitzgerald may be a private matter for Martin, however, the death of the Deputy Director of the FBI was a very public matter for the Bureau, and Van Doren needed to meet with Martin and discuss the latest findings of the investigation.
Jack already knew the findings; Van Doren had briefed him the afternoon before. He figured that although Martin was well-connected he wasn't aware of these latest findings. Jack did not look forward to this meeting. Martin had been through enough this last week plus and after last nights attack, he looked thorough exhausted.
"Jack, Martin, please sit down."
Paula Van Doren was a woman who had risen high in a man's field and although she had deep concern for those who worked under her, she liked to keep the personal side out of the office without exception but sometimes exceptions happened. Martin was a subordinate; his father had been a superior. Now, with the father - easier for her to think of him as the deputy director, was dead, it was up to her to tell the son that it hadn't been the accident that it initially had been ruled as.
"First of all, how are you? Jack told me what happened. Are you all right?" Van Doren knew how to ask all the right questions and was a bit surprised to realize that she actually was concerned with the answer.
"I'm fine, thank you. A little sore, that's all. Jack said you have an update on the investigation. I thought it was closed."
"Well, not exactly; there have been some unpleasant developments."
Jack felt Martin tense slightly beside him and knew the next words were not going to be pleasant.
"The Virginia Crime Lab, along with the FBI Trace Evidence lab managed to examine the body of the car in great detail. It took quite a bit of time with...all the damage." She stopped for a moment as she remembered seeing the pictures of the crumpled metal, the images of the Mercedes prior to the accident and then after were shocking. A head-on collision was never pretty. At least Victor and Jean's deaths had been instantaneous.
"Once the lab was able to thoroughly examine the exterior of the car they noticed paint transfer on the side, specifically on the passenger side of the vehicle. The transfers were new. An officer checked with the garage that serviced the car as your father had had it in only a week prior for an oil change and detailing. There was no evidence of any damage to the exterior of the car. Also, the transfers were not oxidized, nor were they contaminated by any road debris or filled with any debris that would have suggested they were there prior to the accident."
"I don't understand," Van Doren had to lean forward a bit to hear Martin's words as his injured throat didn't allow him to speak very loud. "The driver of the truck said he didn't see another car. There wasn't any evidence to say that another car had been on the road."
"Not until now. The paint transfer is dark; the conditions that night were dark. It was a state road but in an area without any lights, there was no moon. If another car was there and it was dark and had been running without headlights, the truck driver wouldn't have seen it."
The office was silent as Van Doren and Jack sat quietly letting Martin absorb this information.
"You're saying that it's possible they were murdered?"
"I'm saying that the case has been reopened and labeled as a homicide, yes. The Virginia State Police are looking for the driver to question him further and forensic teams are combing the accident site and the roadway again to see if there is something they missed. Although, it's been many days now..." She let the sentence hang as she watched Martin nod his head almost automatically. After a few moments she nodded to Jack. They had decided that this next part would be best taken coming from him.
"Martin, this is going to hit the news today and due to the nature and the profile of your parents, it's going to be big news. Stuff like this - well, you know how it brings out the crazies of the world."
Martin turned slightly and looked at Jack and then back at Van Doren.
"So, what are you saying? You want to pull me off the job, stick me someplace? What?"
"Nothing like that, Martin; we do, however, want you to run any emails, phone calls, letters, packages, anything that looks slightly out of the ordinary by Meredith." Jack mentioned the name of the woman who headed up the New York office threat assessment team. This group monitored threats to agents and to public officials and high profile New Yorkers.
"I appreciate that and I know it's an order," Martin countered quickly as he saw Van Doren about to speak, "but, I'd like to keep this as quiet as possible at least in the office. I really don't want any more of an appearance of special treatment..." Martin let the sentence trail off. The truth was that he wasn't exactly sure what he wanted other than some return to normalcy. He grimaced inwardly remembering those were exactly the words he had spoken to Danny about 12 hours previous.
"That's why Meredith will be handling this personally. She won't farm it out to her team, and she will report directly to Jack, who will report anything of concern to me. Anything she says to Jack, she'll say to you, fair?"
Martin nodded. He just wanted to get out of this office and back - he couldn't say back to work as he knew Jack and the others were going to gang up on him and force him to the doctor and then home for another day off. He'd had enough of days off. Time off just meant time to think, and he didn't want to do that either.
"Okay. With that settled, go back to work. Martin, all information on the investigation in Virginia comes to me, and I'll brief you as I hear anything, understand?"
Again, Martin nodded then he stood up and headed out of her office, Jack paused for a moment to exchange a glance with his senior before following.
Once downstairs Martin was met by Danny who was holding out his coat to him, Vivian, Elena and Sam were lined up behind him and all four had a look of, "Don't even think about arguing with us." Martin didn't argue. He took the coat Danny offered him and followed his friend out of the office, to his car and behaved himself on the way to the police station to give a formal statement and after that, to the doctor's office.
Back at the office the three women and Jack exchanged sad looks and Jack took them into his office to brief them on what had transpired in Van Doren's. All felt badly for their colleague and friend but knew that besides being there for when things went south there was little they could do. Vivian had made it clear when she spoke to the assistant at Martin's doctor's office that he was not expected back at work today and that the stubborn man would take the order better from a medical professional than any of them. She had been assured the doctor would make it clear.
On the drive to the doctor's office Danny glanced at his friend a couple of times, but Martin stayed quiet and stared straight ahead. Every few minutes Martin's hand would stray to his throat and gently massage the area a bit. Danny winced in sympathy.
Danny thumbed through a couple of magazines while waiting for Martin's doctor to finish with him. When Martin reappeared, he held a piece of paper with instructions for rest, aspirin and loose fitting collars for a couple of days. As they headed out to the car Martin looked at Danny and said, "I told you it was no big deal."
"Yeah, well, better safe than sorry. Come on, I'll take you home. You can take your car home tomorrow. I'll pick you up in the morning and take you in."
Danny ignored the scowl Martin sent his way and just grinned as he kept his eyes on the traffic in front of him. A little while later he pulled up in front of Martin's building and double parked with his flashers on. Martin unclipped his seat belt and then sat there. His mouth opened and he took a breath to speak and stopped. Danny watched and waited. He didn't know what had happened in Van Doren's office that morning but he knew it had to be bad judging from Martin's pallor when he had reappeared and the hard set to Jack's jaw. He sat quietly hoping Martin would open up a little.
"The last words my father said to me were, "Martin, you've disappointed me. I don't even know you."
Danny was floored. "What?"
For once, the usual talkative agent, always ready with a glib reply was speechless.
"When he came to New York right before...before he died, we went to lunch before he had to catch a plane back to DC. He had an envelope waiting at the table. In it were pictures. Somehow he had surveillance photos of me at an NA meeting.
"How did he..." Danny was shocked. He knew Victor was powerful and strict and had always taken a very hard stance on everything Martin did but he never imagined this. "Was he having you followed?"
Martin made a noise almost that started as a growl, but it ended up as more of a squeak on account of his stressed vocal chords. "I asked him that very question. He almost shouted across the table before he remembered we were in a public place. He wanted to know how I could accuse him of following him and then told me not to change the subject. I responded by asking how did he expect me to take it when he was throwing 8x10 photos of me obviously taken in secret." Martin kept talking and his mind flicked back to the last conversation he had had with his father. He remembered it as if it were moments ago...Martin walked into the restaurant right at 1:00 p.m. He scanned the room and saw his father, ram rod straight in his chair sipping from a glass of ice water. He headed over to the table, nodding at the hostess as she started to assist him; she smiled and returned to what she was doing. Martin was not necessarily looking forward to lunch with his father, nor was he dreading it as in the past. Since Martin's shooting they had managed to find a little bit of common ground and, when they managed to find time to get together, it wasn't as stilted and uncomfortable as in the past, but they had a long way to go.
"Hi, dad." Martin greeted his father as he shrugged out of his coat and slipped easily into the chair across from him.
"Martin." Martin sat back and studied his father's face at the cold biting tone that met his greeting. He hadn't expected this. He thought they were past these moments and as he hadn't been involved in the death of any foreign national, or tried questioning any senator or any other political figure in anything remotely resembling an investigation he couldn't imagine what would have his father take that tone with him.
"Is there something wrong?"
In response his father slid a large manila envelope across the table to him. Martin stared at it confused and then looked up at his father. Just then the waiter approached, Martin started to speak only to be interrupted by Victor.
"Give us a few minutes. We won't be staying for lunch." With that Victor gave the waiter a $20.00 bill adding, "For the inconvenience. We'll be gone shortly." The man nodded simultaneously confused and happy at receiving a $20.00 tip for bringing the man a glass of water.
"Dad, I don't know..."
"Just open it."
Confused and wary, Martin undid the clasps and looked inside. Looking up at his father once again he upended the envelope, several 8x10 black and white photographs slid out onto the table. Martin picked them up and started looking through them. He felt a chill start at the base of his spine, speed quickly up his neck and nearly stand his hair on end as it reached his scalp. Despite the chill that occurred, his hands were sweaty and he felt a flush on his skin. Instantly he recognized the photos as having been taken a few days earlier at an NA meeting. Incidentally, it was the same meeting where he had finally rallied his courage and shared his story.
He had been nervous as anyone would be to share his story but more so because he hadn't gotten hooked on meds due to a tough lifestyle or a rough childhood. He had been shot, gotten off the meds the first time without incident only to be reinjured and that's when they had gotten him. He wasn't sure his story would be of any help to anyone around him and was certain they would all be thinking "Who is this schmuck up there kidding with his supposed hard luck story. I can't relate to him. How is this supposed to help me?"
Ashamed at his pathetic excuse for using pain meds he had almost stopped talking at one point until he saw someone in the audience leaning forward as if hanging on to his every word. In that moment he remembered something the stock broker has said, the one he and Danny had encountered when searching for Danny's brother Rafie a few weeks before Dornvald ambushed them on a dark street and set the wheels in motion to change Martin's life. "Drugs, the great social equalizer." He realized that this wasn't so much about him right now as it was about showing others how to not be afraid and that anybody can be affected.
Before he knew it he was done. People were saying thank you and he sat down. Later as the meeting ended and people were milling around sipping coffee his sponsor had appeared at his elbow and congratulated him.
"See, I told you, Martin. You'd know when the time was right to talk about your story."
Martin remembered being surprised to see him there. "How did you know tonight would be the night?"
"I didn't; neither did you. It just happens. One moment you're sitting there, the next moment you raise your arm and then off you go and you step out. I needed a meeting tonight and came here. Sometimes it's fate. Sometimes it's luck. I'm glad I was here."
"Me too. Thanks."
"No trouble. Give me a call in a day or so. We'll get together."
Martin remembered feeling just a little lighter as he headed home from that meeting that night. Now, as he held the pictures in his hands he felt a heavy weight hit him as he looked up and met his father's hard stare straight on.
"How long have you been having me followed?"
"Martin, don't be foolish. I haven't been having you followed but somebody has been following you. These photos were delivered by an anonymous courier two days ago. My God! Who else knows? Do you know what this could mean if this were to leak out. Do you know what it would do to your mother, to me? It's obvious you've already tossed aside your own gifts and chances in politics but you have a huge future in the Bureau but not if this gets out. How long have you been a drug addict? How could you do this to me, to your mother? I...I don't even know you...I'm ashamed of you. You've disappointed me."
"Disappointed...what make you think this is about you?"
"I don't want to talk about this here."
"Well then why did you bring it up? Why did you invite me here and then throw this at me if you didn't want to talk about it?"
"I want you to fix this. I want you to stop going to these meetings. Whatever problem you have can be fixed quietly without this...this...going to meetings and whatever it is you do there. Don't embarrass me anymore. Let's just hope whoever has these photos doesn't go anywhere with them but, if they do show up somewhere, you can always say you were doing surveillance or background research for a case anything but...Fix it."
With that Victor pushed his chair back from the table. Standing up he fixed Martin once more with his stare. "You've disappointed me. I'm ashamed. I don't even know you." Grabbing his coat from the back of his chair Victor walked out without a backward glance at his son and left the restaurant. Martin sat at the table for another few minutes in stunned silence, staring at the pictures on the table. He looked at the photo that had him centered in the frame receiving his six month tag.
He had been strangely proud and confused at that moment although the photo didn't reflect those emotions. He remembered being proud because there had been a time right before Sam confronted him that he just didn't know what was going on in his life or where he was going and then he was proud because he seemed to be back on track. He was also a bit confused that night mostly because of how proud he felt at that moment. Strange that a little keepsake could mean that much to him but the truth was 'drugs were the great social equalizer' and he kind of liked that part of his life that sent him out just as Martin to share, support, be supported and to not judge or be judged.
Martin wasn't certain how long he had sat there but the soft clearing of a throat caused him to look up. The hostess was hovering just to the side and he shook himself mentally thinking they would probably like to seat this table with someone who would actually order. He collected the photos and slid them into the envelope and then, carrying his coat, he headed out into the New York City afternoon...
Danny sat quietly the whole time Martin was reciting the encounter. Martin didn't usually share such private moments or thoughts with anyone, at least Danny never knew him to do so but this time Martin just continued on spilling every word and allowing the hurt, anger, pain and frustration to color his voice. Danny listened and when Martin was done he continued to sit quietly. He didn't have any magic words and figured Martin didn't want to hear any platitudes. He was about to speak when Martin moved opening the car door and sliding out quickly.
"Martin." Danny leaned across the seat as Martin dipped his head back into the car.
"Someone murdered them."
Shocked Danny could only sit and stare. Whatever he had been going to say fled his mind.
"That's what the meeting was about in Van Doren's office this morning. New evidence has come to light; the Virginia State Police and the FBI are officially labeling it a homicide."
Martin turned and headed into his apartment building. Stunned, Danny could only watch him go.
The next few days passed relatively unremarkably for the team. Everyone tried to be sensitive regarding the new investigation opened into the deaths of Victor and Jean Fitzgerald. Martin brought a few messages to Meredith's attention but none of them raised any flags of concern. They were nothing more than the usual ramblings of people that had nothing better to do than watch the news for any hint of a scandal or some seamy story and then send a message out to see if a reaction would occur.
Jack kept Martin in the office for the rest of the week to allow his throat to heal as well as the bruises to his body. Martin for his part dealt with the dreaded paperwork as if it was the greatest challenge in his career. He rolled up his sleeves and cleared file after file that needed to be reviewed for any new development and reviewed a few other investigations that were getting close to trial to ensure that the Bureau's documentation was all in order. None of the cases were ones he or any of the MPU team had worked on but sometimes the oversight by a fresh set of eyes was just what was needed to make sure there were no embarrassing moments in court.
Martin hadn't mentioned to Meredith the eerie phone message he received his first day home because he had forgotten about it. He'd been busy with the paperwork, reeling from the shock of learning his parents had been murdered and with nothing having occurred since being attacked in his apartment three days ago, he had pushed it from his mind. Since he was feeling fine no sign of any injury remained except for a bruise and a cut, he didn't give it another thought.
After a weekend spent with his Uncle Roger down in DC sorting through some personal effects at his parents' house, Martin was ready to return to work bright and early Monday morning. Deciding it had been long enough without any morning exercise he left his apartment at 6:00 a.m. planning on a three mile run. Normally he preferred a longer run, but it had been a couple of weeks without regular exercise and it was still pretty chilly in late February. He lived in a decent neighborhood but even decent neighborhoods had their problem areas. If he wasn't running with one of his neighbors, he carried his Bureau-issued gun at his waist.
Martin hated the first half mile of his run. His body needed to adjust to the rhythm - the muscles in his legs, back, his lungs all needed to coordinate. After that though, running became pure pleasure and it was a perfect time to settle into the motion of the exercise and allow his mind to travel freely. Today he let his mind settle on his parents. His mother, smart, active, strong-willed in her own way taught him to appreciate that strength in other women. However, her closed off emotional barriers which he had formerly seen as strength and a quality to be appreciated he now realized were a part of his mother that he had never liked. He appreciated strong, intelligent, self-sufficient women, Sam, Vivian and Elena were prefect examples of that, but at the same time each of them showed vulnerability that he found appealing. It didn't detract from their effectiveness as agents or in their friendship with him. He was slowly beginning to realize that friends are those that see you at your worst, but like you just the same.
Vivian had probably the most reason to be put off by Martin in that his mistake so many years ago could have cost her her career. If not for the OPR finally settling on the word of two agents over that of a scared little girl likely traumatized by her kidnapping and physical injuries, Martin would have been criminally charged and Vivian would have been ousted from the Bureau, disgraced. Over the years he and Vivian's relationship had had some rough moments, but she never backed down in her genuine concern both as a colleague and a friend to him. It was Vivian he turned to when work became overwhelming and he felt lost. Her solid presence was enough to keep him on course. He knew that she felt that from him as well and he watched out for those times when she seemed unusually subdued or troubled by a case. At those times he would offer a gentle word or two and then a silent but solid presence so she would know someone was there if needed.
Sam, now there was someone who knew all about him and yet still called him friend. It had taken him almost two years to break down some of her barriers. He had liked her immediately and she had been kind and willing to teach right from the start. He realized that was Sam's way. She immediately worked with Elena as well and never once played games with Elena or Martin when she was teaching or sharing her experience. What Martin liked best about Sam though were her unguarded moments, when she inadvertently dropped a comment about herself or showed how a case troubled her, too rare, too few were those moments of vulnerability. Again, he wasn't looking for a weepy woman who couldn't handle life, but he did want to be needed and Sam, for all her doggedness to help others when they were in need just wasn't able to trust those around her that she called friends with those weaknesses or needs within herself.
Elena was someone he just liked to work with. They had no history like Vivian, Sam and he. He hadn't done something that caused her to choose protecting him over her own career, they hadn't been involved romantically and Elena hadn't called him on the mat over his drug problem. Elena was tough, capable and highly experienced in the darker side of NYC from her vice experience. They worked well together because each respected the other's experience. She never judged him by his name, seemed not to care. She listened and asked his opinions and readily shared hers. They worked well together and, although he secretly laughed at Danny's inept attempt at subtlety Martin thought they were a good couple. He knew Danny was pretty serious in his feelings towards Elena but office romances or office relationships were still tricky business. He and Sam had worked hard and their friendship was strong. Whatever happened with Danny and Elena, Martin hoped friendship would always remain.
With those thoughts flowing through his brain, sifting and sorting them as they chose Martin failed to register the sound of footsteps keeping pace with his own. So lost in his own thoughts Martin hadn't paid close attention to his route. Realizing he was further away than the three-mile loop he had intended, he stopped near a street light to check his watch. The sky was lightening as sunrise approached but he still needed the aid of the overhead light to see the time. He'd have to hurry or he'd really be late. Checking the street names Martin thought about the quickest way back so he could minimize his late arrival at the office, making up his mind he struck off again.
A few blocks later he stopped quickly at another intersection as he realized he could take a short cut and shave a few blocks from his run, this time his ears registered the unmistakable sounds of footsteps behind him as he stopped but then he didn't hear anymore. He turned and scanned the area behind him but didn't see anyone. Shaking his head he resumed his run home via his newly discovered short-cut and returned to his apartment. 6:45 a.m. Damn. He wanted -- no make that needed to leave by 7:00 a.m. to get to the office at 8:00. Well, good thing he could shower and shave together.
Dashing into his apartment he hit the button on the preset coffeemaker on his way past the kitchen and stripped off his running attire and hit the shower. Eighteen minutes later he dashed the opposite way through his apartment impeccably attired carrying a banana, bagel with peanut butter and a mug of coffee in hand. He opened his apartment door and stepped out. As he was closing the door behind him his eye caught the white paper stuck to his door. Not wanting to take the time to read whatever flyer had been pinned to his door he pulled it from the door and flicked it inside his apartment. He'd read it when he got home. Pulling the door closed behind him he locked the deadbolt and then hurried down the stairs, into the parking garage, got into his car and drove to the office.
The paper that he flicked into his apartment before closing his door didn't neatly land on the table inside the door; Martin's rushed motions and the breeze from the rapid closing of the door combined to cause the paper to slide completely across the surface of the table and off the other side where it landed on top of the stack of sympathy cards and emails that Martin had read and printed off and neatly placed in cardboard box on the floor between his bookcase and desk. He intended to write little response notes over the next several weeks thanking people for their thoughts, gifts, well wishes and sorrow. So, the pile was increased by one lone sheet of paper that slipped off the table, turned over in the air and settled, face down on the pile. The message it contained would be seen by no one until they grabbed that innocent looking piece of paper and turned it over to see the message written by hand in block letters using a black pen:
HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR MORNING RUN I KNOW I DID
"Martin, come in to my office, please." Martin looked up at the sound of Jack's voice behind him. Jack met his gaze and nodded his head towards his office. With a slight sigh Martin got up and followed him.
"Have a seat." Jack motioned to one of the chairs in front of his desk and, instead of sitting behind his desk subtly keeping a barrier not only physically but emotionally between him and others; he took the second chair and angled himself towards Martin.
"Does the name Noah Shook mean anything to you?"
"Other than being the name of the man driving the 18-wheeler, no. Why?"
"Just that he seems to have dropped off the radar completely. The Virginia State Police called his number to have him come back in and give another interview, and he's nowhere to be found. He hasn't been back at work, his friends and family haven't seen him. He hasn't been to any of his normal recreational places - there's nothing. He's gone."
"I saw his picture at the police station and, of course, I met him at the viewing but other than that I haven't ever seen him or spoken to him before." Martin was positive about his comments until he remembered a case not too long ago when he had been asked for specifically by the missing girl's brother because she had worked with him and his team members in Seattle. The problem was, in the end after the girl tragically killed herself, Martin could never place her face in his memory. Since then he'd been making a concerted effort to take notice of the people that were regularly in his life, even if just for brief moments each time.
"Maybe if I take a look at his background information it will ring a bell but right now I have no recollection of him."
"All right. An agent who's conducting the official investigation will come and review Shook's information with you and interview you. Van Doren filled me in on this earlier so I wanted to give you a head's up."
"Thanks, I appreciate it." Martin wanted to ask if there were any other developments but just couldn't bring himself to say the words. It seemed so strange to be working as an FBI agent and a participant in an investigation at the same time. Well, if this morning's run was any indication of how good it was to sort through some of his thoughts, he'd be getting up earlier tomorrow to run longer. He could start a list of all the various thoughts that needed sorting.
"Not on this, but we did catch a case. Call the group together; I'll be out in a moment to brief everyone."
"Sure." Martin stood up, grateful to push aside his own problems and get to work on someone else's.
Two days later Martin was once again getting ready to head into the office. He'd enjoyed three morning runs in a row and felt like his form was returning quickly. He relished the morning runs because of the quiet and peace that was afforded him. However, this morning he had had a distinctly uneasy feeling during his run. As is normal for most who are involved in any type of high stress, high danger occupation, Martin's instincts were honed a little sharper and this morning he was certain he was being followed. Once during his run he had stopped abruptly and listened. Sure enough there was the sound of footsteps behind him and then suddenly silence.
Not wanting to tip his follower that he was aware, Martin nonchalantly performed a couple of leg stretches while he scanned his surroundings. He saw no one but the hairs on the back of his neck prickled sharply, and he knew with a certainty that he was the mouse in someone's game of cat and mouse. Deciding there was safety in numbers; Martin altered his run and opted for a longer but slightly more crowded route home. Within under a minute he was out on a main boulevard that was beginning to fill in with other joggers and commuters. Twenty minutes later he was back at his apartment never having sighted his follower but certain in a sixth sense way that he had been marked and followed all the way home.
Martin figured he'd mention this to Meredith even though he felt silly about the whole thing. He didn't have any proof besides hearing some footsteps and his sixth sense. For all he knew, it could have been another runner like himself who feared for their safety and stopped when he had. Still, he'd told Jack he would cooperate and so he decided that when he got to the office, he'd give Meredith a call.
This time as he left his apartment he wasn't in a huge hurry despite altering his run that morning. He hadn't been sleeping a lot since his parent's death and had risen earlier to run so he actually had some time to spare. He and Danny had a 9:30 meeting set up at their latest missing person's place of employment. He would be able to get into the office before 8:00, call Meredith and meet up with Danny to head to the warehouse on the docks in plenty of time. The fact that he had the time this morning caused him to pay attention to the folded white sheet of paper taped to his front door. Instead of tossing it inside or shoving it in his pocket he stood there, unfolded it and read the words. Instantly the hairs on his neck stood straight up and he felt a chill run up his spine and through his scalp as he read the words printed in block letters using black ink:
RUN TO THE PARK RUN TO A BUSY STREET
RUN DOWN AN ALLEYRUN WHEREVER YOU
WANT YOU WILL NOT OUTRUN ME
Shocked Martin stood still for a moment and then training kicked in. Reaching inside his briefcase he pulled out one of the evidence bags he kept inside, slipped the sheet of paper inside, sealed it up, and put it inside his briefcase. Yes, he definitely would be turning this in to Meredith. With a quick look up and down the hall Martin headed down to his car.
He no sooner settled in his car and locked the door behind him when his cell phone rang. Sticking the key in the ignition and turning the car on with one hand he pulled out his phone with the other and flicked it open. Call ID said it was Jack.
"I need you to head to the docks right now. The rest of the team is heading there. We're meeting up with the local PD and a SWAT team. Seems our missing person isn't missing anymore. He's in the warehouse you and Danny were headed to later this morning. He says he's got a bomb and is going to blow up the building. Since we've been profiling him for the last two days looking for him, PD wants us involved."
"Got it. You need lights and sirens?."
"Absolutely. Everyone is rolling Code 3."
Martin pulled the dome light out, rolled down his window and activated it. He waited until he was out of the garage before hitting his siren and sped down the road to the warehouse; his briefcase on the seat next to him forgotten, along with the sheet of paper in the evidence bag that lay inside the case.
Arriving at the scene Martin spotted his team assembling while Vivian pulled in right behind him. He popped his trunk and grabbed his gear trading his overcoat and suit jacket for his bullet proof vest, windbreaker and a baseball cap; all visibly displaying the initials FBI. With Vivian hurrying alongside him in her matching gear he reached Jack who began splitting the teams up.
"Martin, you, Elena and Danny go with Lieutenant Tibbs and his officers. You're going to come around the side by the river. Sam, Vivian, you're with Hotaling's men covering the other side."
The team broke up while Jack remained with Rick Torriani, the leader of the SWAT team. As always they would try to negotiate first. They were unsure how many people remained inside the warehouse or even if Brian Schuford, their missing person now potential bomber, even had a bomb.
That question was answered within under a minute as one of the sharpshooters for Torriani's SWAT team radioed back that he had a clear view of the subject and that he did, in fact, have a remote control in his hand. A few seconds later another member of the team, whose specialty was fiber optics, reported in saying that he had snaked a periscope camera through a window and managed to get a view of the area around Schuford. There was what looked to be a bomb on the floor at his feet. The SWAT member also reported there were at least twenty people inside the room. They were assembled in one group and seated on the floor near a truck that was labeled flammable, dangerous, contents under pressure.
"Great. We have a building with the potential to blow sky high, close to two dozen hostages, a guy with a bomb and no idea what his problem is. This should be simple to negotiate. Do we have a phone line in there? Any idea what's going on in this guy's head?"
"That's why we brought you guys in here. Heard you were looking for him since he'd been called in missing so we hoped you would have some insight into his mindset." Rick Torriani loved the thrill of the moment, but he was experienced and mature enough in his work to know that thrills were better enjoyed through rock climbing or parachuting. There was no thrill in having twenty hostages and over two dozen law enforcement personnel in harm's way. He sized Jack up quickly and knew that he was right to have called in Malone once he'd been briefed the Feds had been looking for this guy. Malone, like him, understood life and death situations. He would help if he could, but he would not get in the way if Torriani chose to end this quickly.
"My team and I have been looking into this guy's background for the last two days. He's unmarried but has a steady girlfriend. She's the person who called him in as missing. They've been living together for the last five years and she said that he'd been fine; not acting worried, no strange visitors, nothing and then suddenly he didn't come home from work one night. We've been trailing his bank accounts, phone records, nothing. We were here two days ago when we got called in and this morning two members of my team were due back to conduct some follow up interviews with people he worked with when you guys called us. So far, there's nothing to tell us he'd do anything like this."
"Great. Well, like I said, he's not communicating with us. Apparently he came in like normal, carrying a box but nobody thought anything of it. Then he started screaming that he was going to blow everybody up, and he set the box on the ground and started screaming that he was going to push the button on the remote if the SWAT, PD and the FBI didn't come down here. So, here we are."
"Great, we're here. He knows we're here, but he's not talking. Does he know the FBI is here now, too?" When Torriani shook his head indicating no, Jack held his hand out for the megaphone.
"Brian Shuford, this is Jack Malone from the FBI. My team and I have been looking for you for the past couple of days. You're girlfriend, Marianne, has been worried about you. She's asked us to look for you. She's scared. Now that we've found you, why don't you let us get you back to Marianne. She's really very worried and frightened for you."
Jack stopped talking and waited, listening and hoping Brian would reach out to them. After about thirty seconds of silence, one of Torriani's snipers called in with an update.
"Boss, this guy is really out of it. He's weaving around the room, looks like he's screaming and yelling, I can't tell what he's saying but he just keeps waving the remote device around. If I have a shot, do I have the green light?"
Torriani looked at Jack. Jack thought for a few moments and looked at his counterpart.
"It's your call. We haven't uncovered anything in our research on this guy that points to this kind of behavior. If he's not reaching out to us, I don't see how we can put his welfare above that of everyone else left on this pier."
Torriani nodded his agreement and keyed his mike.
"This is leader to sniper 1 and 2, you are go. Repeat. You are a go. If you have the shot, take the shot. Repeat, the light is green."
Less than twenty seconds later the crack of a sniper's rifle split through the air.
"Martin!" Danny shouted in horror as he saw Martin get thrown backward and disappear over the edge of the pier from the force of the impact.
"Shots fired! Shots fired! Agent down! Agent down!" Danny shouted into his radio as he raced without regard for his own safety to where Martin had disappeared. Reaching the edge he looked and saw the white foaming disturbance of the water and knew Martin had disappeared into the dark and near freezing water. Quickly he shed his jacket, vest and kicked off his shoes. He saw one of Tibbs' men racing his way as he heard Jack's voice shouting in his ear piece. Elena was beside him and he tossed her his gun before leaping off the edge feet first.
His plan was to jump directly in the center of the disturbed water hoping it would take him on Martin's path. He knew that, if Martin was conscious when he hit, he would struggle to surface with the weight of his vest and shoes. Danny didn't want to think about if Martin wasn't conscious. In less than a second he hit the icy water and the shock ripped straight through his body and rational thought fled. He almost gasped at the searing pain in his body as if millions of icy daggers were digging through his flesh. He managed to curl over himself so that he was now descending hands first and almost cried out in relief when his hands almost immediately touched fabric. Praying that a miracle had been granted he grabbed on full force and dragged whatever it was towards him. He realized almost immediately that it was Martin and that he was conscious and was trying to surface. Wrapping Martin tight to his chest he kicked strongly and between his strong efforts and Martin's weaker ones they surfaced.
Danny kept Martin clutched tight to his chest and eased onto his back in the water. He was shaking with the cold and could feel Martin's body shaking as well. He heard shouts and turned around to see that they were about twenty feet away from the edge of the dock and several workers had run to their aid. Danny kicked with his feet and used one arm to push through the water and was slowly making progress. Someone threw a rope that landed just ahead of his hand, kicking harder he reached it, grabbed hold and managed to loop it around his wrist. Still kicking to keep them afloat he felt the tension increase on the rope until it pulled on his arm and they were pulled to safety.
Several hands reached out and grabbed Martin from him. Martin tried to help but was too disoriented from the fall, the cold and the force of the impact. He was shaking badly and trying to breathe normally again since all the air had been knocked out of him when the bullet slammed into his vest. Danny watched gratefully as Martin was hauled onto the pier and then allowed himself to be pulled up as well.
Looking up Danny saw Jack racing towards him. Their rescuers were crowding around them trying to ask them what happened and all Danny could do was shake with cold and reach out to Martin who was curled on his side coughing and shaking.
"Federal Agents, step back, please, please. Somebody get some blankets. I've got the rescue team on its way here."
Somehow Sam had appeared, Danny didn't remember seeing her running with Jack but there she was and she had managed to notify the ambulance crew that was dispatched with the SWAT team in case something went wrong and Danny heard the siren signaling the fast approach of the paramedics.
"Martin, Martin. Where were you hit?" Jack was kneeling next to his agent. While he was peppering Martin with questions trying to keep him awake as hypothermia was a real concern due to the temperature of the water and the ambient air, he was quickly removing Martin's windbreaker and undoing the Velcro straps of the life saving vest.
Martin's only response was to continue to cough and gasp for air. Once Jack pulled off Martin's vest the answer was clear. One bullet was embedded in the vest right over the spot of Martin's heart, not wanting to dwell on that at this moment Jack continued to pull off Martin's shirt, glancing quickly at Danny he saw that Sam was helping him do the same. At that moment the paramedics arrived and quickly took over.
Three hours later, the team regrouped in the conference room at the MPU office. Martin and Danny had been taken to the hospital and checked over. Martin had had x-rays to verify that no ribs had been broken but several were severely bruised. His lungs were clear although the doctor did warn him that he might develop a chest cold and, if he showed signs, he should head to his own doctor immediately.
Danny had been checked over as well but, since he was cold and not hurt, once he warmed up he was given a clean bill of health. Elena drove them both back to the office where they settled in at the conference table in the spare clothes they kept in their cars for travel and for workouts after work. Still shaking even though their body temperature was normal, both men opted for their sweatpants and thick sweatshirts.
Vivian set steaming mugs of coffee in both men's hands and rested her own comfortingly on each of their shoulders for a moment.
Martin wrapped both hands around the mug and took a sip relishing as the liquid heat slid down his throat. He could trace the travel of the coffee as he felt the trail of heat on his insides. He shuddered in the enjoyment of the sensation which sent Sam, just entering the room, to disappear momentarily only to return with two thick blankets. She wrapped one around Martin, lightly cuffing him on his head when he began to protest and handed the other to Danny.
"What, not going to wrap me up?" Danny tried to look hurt but managed to pout instead.
"Nope, you have too much pride. Martin has more commonsense."
Danny groaned while Martin grinned and gripped the blanket gratefully. Just then Jack entered the room. He eyed his agents critically, noticing their incredibly casual attire. Good, that will make sending them home easier.
"Well, that's another case successfully closed." Jack's dry humor caused them all to chuckle a bit. Granted, to some the humor would be ghoulish, since they closed their missing person file with the missing person ending up on the medical examiner's table with a bullet through his forehead but, when someone worked in the law enforcement or medical field or any field that put you in touch with the best and the worst life can offer, humor takes many forms and is necessary to keep those who labor in the field sane.
"So, Martin, I checked with the hospital, bruised ribs. That earns you the rest of today off and a week of light duty until you see your own doctor and he clears you for full duty. Danny, you get the rest of today off because you're an idiot."
"What?! I -"
"You broke cover with someone shooting, You jumped into near freezing water -"
"And saved my partner's life! That makes me more a hero I believe."
"Exactly what I said...hero/idiot...idiot/hero. It's really all the same thing. You didn't think. You acted. You didn't think of yourself, the danger you were putting yourself in. You just acted. Your actions could have gotten yourself injured or killed; thankfully, your actions saved a life. Good job."
Martin reached over and closed Danny's mouth that was hanging open speechless for once. Swatting away Martin's hand Danny began to chuckle.
Jack began again in a more serious tone.
"However, before you go -- because you're both leaving now you can do your reports at home separately and turn them in tomorrow -- Martin, I need to see you in my office."
Shrugging out of the blanket Martin stood, grabbed his coffee mug and followed Jack out.
"Me, what make you think I'm a target?" Martin was sitting in the chair across from Jack's desk while Jack was in his usual spot behind the desk.
"A bullet center-mass tells me you're a target." Jack waited as he watched Martin stare at him. Jack was almost certain he could hear the wheels cranking in Martin's head.
"So, somebody is out there with a high-powered rifle, and takes a shot at law enforcement on the dock and you suspect that I'm the target? That doesn't make a lot of sense. First of all Danny was barely fifteen feet from me wearing nearly identical clothing. Between the caps and sunglasses we both had on it would be nearly impossible to tell between him and me, not to mention that there were over two dozen police officers on that dock and hundreds of other people. It's entirely possible that whoever fired that shot was looking to shoot at somebody this morning anyway and decided it would make the game more exciting to shoot at law enforcement and who would be the bigger fish? The NYPD? SWAT? Or the FBI? As soon as we hit the scene it was all over, we're the biggest name on the dock so go after someone with FBI on his head, back and chest."
"It's a good argument, Martin. And, normally I would agree with you, but just a week and half ago you were attacked in your apartment and nearly strangled and now you're shot in the chest. The fact that you had your bullet proof vest on and a partner who was ready to die saving you is the only reason you're sitting here arguing with me."
"Okay. How does someone trying to mug me in my apartment nearly two weeks ago become a sniper? If someone wanted me dead, they'd have done a better job two weeks ago or today. I mean, come on, Jack, if you're a sniper and you're hunting someone to kill them, you don't take a chest shot when you can be absolutely certain they're wearing a vest. You take the kill shot. That's what the SWAT snipers did this morning."
Jack was silent as he mulled over Martin's words. He realized Martin was right. If someone really wanted to kill someone, they wouldn't do it in such a risky manner with so many variables. Besides, who would have known Martin was even at the docks that morning. No, if someone wanted Martin dead, they'd follow him on the outside and attack him when he wasn't wearing a vest and was isolated.
"Yeah, you're right. I just needed to hear the arguments argued back at me. Look, go home. Try to get some sleep. Put some ice on your ribs, watch a movie, whatever. Tomorrow you can hang out in the office. No running around for a few days. Ah, your ride is here."
Jack nodded to the door as Sam opened it and stood there.
"I can drive myself."
"Yeah, yeah, we know. Come on. Remember, I said you were the one with commonsense. Don't make a liar out of me."
Jack watched them go. Martin made good arguments - sound arguments but Jack hadn't gotten where he had gotten in the FBI without learning to trust his instincts. He didn't have proof and the random events could be just that, random events, but he didn't think so. Grabbing the phone he dialed Van Doren's office.