"Thanks for the ride home, Sam."
"No problem. Come on, let's get you inside."
"I think I can take it from here."
"Yeah, well, Jack said I was to see that you got home safely. I'm following orders. I'm going to make sure you get inside safely. Now, let's go."
Smiling Martin exited the car and headed inside Sam right beside him.
As Martin unlocked his apartment and stepped inside he turned to Sam. "Safe and sound. See. You've done your job."
"Yep, I missed lunch, too. You got anything to eat?"
"Probably. Check the 'fridge. You know your way around."
The words were out before he even thought them through. Their eyes met briefly emotions glimmering then the moment passed both breaking contact at the same time. Sam headed for the kitchen and before long she managed a couple of sandwiches for both of them.
Sitting down at the table Martin slid a piece of paper towards Sam. "Do me a favor will you? Get rid of that, okay?"
She opened the slip of paper. It was a prescription for some painkillers for his ribs. Sam looked at Martin but he was chewing his sandwich and staring into nothing. She slipped the prescription into her pocket. They ate in silence each lost in their own thoughts. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence and both appreciated the fact that they had repaired their friendship to such a strong level that even in emotional moments they could take comfort from each other's silence rather than feeling strained. Sam noticed Martin's attention was frequently drawn to a box full of papers sitting on the floor next to his desk.
After finishing the sandwiches, Martin rose automatically and gathered the plates and headed into the kitchen. While he was rinsing them and stacking them in the sink for washing later, Sam wandered into the main room and stood staring down at the box that had been capturing Martin's attention. Knowing that Martin would deny her nothing in his apartment she crouched down next to the box and lifted a few sheets. Tears sprang to her eyes as she realized that it contained sympathy cards, letters and emails.
She figured he was saving them so he could respond to them. Looking down she realized there were dozens and dozens of cards and innumerable sheets of paper, probably emails from colleagues and people far away who had only just heard and wanted to respond. She couldn't imagine how it had felt to open and read each one. She knew it was going to be very hard for him to respond to them.
Suddenly Sam felt suffocated and wanted to flee and in the next instant she was ashamed. Martin was her friend. He was more than a colleague and former lover, he was her friend. She had promised to be there until she knew he was all right and suddenly she was struck with the knowledge that that really meant she was always going to be there for Martin because at any given time he could not be all right. That's the way life worked. That was the nature of friendship. She realized that friendship went far beyond an occasional dinner and remembering a birthday.
Fortunately, in that moment the storybook 'saved by the bell' event occurred literally as the doorbell to Martin's apartment rang. Startled she almost dropped the sheets of paper that she had been holding. She heard Martin's footsteps behind her as he came from the kitchen to answer the door. He glanced at her holding the pages from the box and smiled sadly but without censor that she might have been snooping as he answered the door.
Sam absently began to turn the handful of papers over and line them up so they all faced the same direction. She always found that organizing objects was soothing when her emotions were anything but. One of the pages caught her eye and before she could stop herself she read the short note written in block letters in black ink. Stunned she stepped back a bit and looked up sharply as she heard Martin's puzzled voice responding to the delivery person.
"Someone sent me flowers?"
"That's right, pal, says so on the order. Deliver immediately to one Martin Fitzgerald. It's all paid for and everything even included a tip for the delivery."
"Thanks." Martin said absently as he took the tissue wrapped arrangement and stepped back into his apartment and closed the door.
"Guess I shoulda left out the part about the tip already being covered." The delivery person grumbled to himself as he headed down the hall. "Coulda got me another couple of bucks."
Back inside the apartment Sam watched Martin as he walked to the coffee table and set the arrangement down. "Martin?"
"Hang on, Sam, might as well see who this is from." Martin pulled the envelope off the side of the tissue paper and opened the card. Sam watched as the remaining color in his face drained away and she stepped forward to offer him a supporting hand.
"I told Jack it was stupid to think...it makes no sense...but..."
"Martin, you're scaring me. Sit down. What is it?"
She took the card from his unresisting fingers and helped him sit down on the couch. Taking the card from his hands she sat next to him on the couch. Flashing another concerned look Martin's way she looked down at the card in her hand and read:Guess you won't be running for a few days. Shouldn't worry about the bullet, since you have no heart, it wouldn't have hit anything important anyway. This was just my way of letting you know, I'm still coming.
For a moment Sam just stared at the card refusing to accept the implications. Slowly she looked from the card to the note in her hand and finally let her eyes rest on Martin. He was sitting next to her, staring at nothing while he absently rubbed his chest where the bullet had impacted with his Kevlar vest. He turned and met her eyes, his own unreadable. Wordlessly Sam held out the paper she had found in the box in his apartment. Curious he took it and read the words. Sam watched and waited. She realized he hadn't seen the note before as his eyes widened and realization struck him.
"Sam, there's another note...I have it...it's in my briefcase. I found it this morning taped to my door. I was going to see Meredith when I got in the office to tell her I think someone has been following me when I run. Then, leaving for work this morning there was a note - very much like this one - taped to my door. I put it in an evidence bag and...it's in my car. Jack called. I went to the docks. Someone drove my car to the office. My briefcase with the letter is still there...wait a...where did you find this?"
"It was in the box with all the cards and notes for...your parents."
"Couple of days ago something was on my door but I was running late and didn't look..."
"I'm calling Jack."
Sam pulled out her phone and hit her speed dial calling up Jack's number.
"Jack, it's Sam. You're right, Martin is in danger."
"I know. I was just about to call you. Vivian and Elena are on their way to pick you up. I'm changing your detail. We're getting Martin to a safe house. I'll explain when I meet you there. Don't answer the door for anyone but Viv and Elena."
"Got it. We'll be ready to move. Bye."
Martin had been watching her intently and pounced the second she disconnected the call.
"Move where? Where are we going?"
"I don't know. All Jack said was that Viv and Elena are on their way. We're to wait for them and then we all go to a safe house."
"What did you mean when you said to Jack that he was right? I talked to him before we left. We agreed I wasn't a target."
"Yeah, well, prior to that we arranged that you were not to be left alone and or unguarded. I was to bring you home and leave you with strict instructions not to leave and Jack was detailing some agents to guard you."
"It would have been nice to have been included in this plan."
"And if you were included, would you have gone along with it?"
Martin's lack of response was all the answer Sam needed. She raised her eyebrows knowingly at him and he grinned slightly as he realized they were right not to tell him at least until solid proof had been established. He didn't know whether he should be relieved that such proof had been established or what he should feel at that moment. So, instead of dealing with that issue he switched gears.
"So, where are we going?"
"Some safe house that Jack has arranged; I suggest you pack a bag. Once we get you there, we're not likely to let you go."
Two hours later the MPU team gathered in a one of the FBI's locations to keep and protect special witnesses. While Martin didn't qualify as a special witness, Van Doren had authorized the use and the release of Malone and his team to protect Martin and use their skills at piecing together puzzles to find out who was targeting Martin and why.
"After you left I had Vivian dig a little deeper into Schuford's past. He seemed pretty clean on the first pass but something had to have set him off. Also, a lot of the hostages had mentioned that he kept saying "This isn't supposed to happen like this. He said it would be easy," over and over again while he was inside the warehouse. I wanted to know who "he" was and what was supposed to be easy." Jack paused and glanced at Vivian who picked up the narration.
"I had some deep background information on its way in when we got the call this morning. I decided to review it when we got back to the office. Turns out Schuford had a record that had been sealed. He and two codefendants were involved in an armed robbery of a convenience store that ended with the store owner getting killed. Because Schuford was only 15 at the time and he wasn't involved with the gun and cooperated in giving up the guy who did have the gun, he was tried as a minor and sentenced to time in a juvenile detention center. He's kept clean ever since without so much as a parking ticket."
"All right, so he has a history with the law when he was a minor, how does that equate to Martin being in danger?" Danny spoke up as confused as Martin and Sam were at this point.
"Here's where it gets interesting," Elena took up the thread from Vivian. "I contacted the court where he was sentenced on the juvenile offense and managed to fast track a subpoena to see inside the file; his codefendant turns out to be a man who has a long history with the criminal justice system and the Department of Corrections. His name is Antwon Poulos. He was the one who actually fired the gun, killing the store owner. He was 17 at the time and was given a youthful adjudication sentence for manslaughter. He served his sentence and was released on parole. Since then he's been in and out of the prison system mostly with assaults and weapons charges."
"Okay. So far none of these names ring a bell to me. Why were you so concerned when you didn't know about the notes until Sam and I turned them over to you?" Martin couldn't help some of the frustration creeping into his voice. He was tired, frustrated and hated the idea that he was moved out of his own apartment into some house where he could be monitored 24/7. It was his job to protect people, not sit back and let others protect him.
"It begins to come together when we get to Noah Shook." Jack watched as Martin's attention sharply focused on him. He hated to reopen barely healed, cancel that, completely unhealed wounds, but he needed to lay out what he knew to Martin. It was only fair.
"Right after you left I called upstairs to find out if there had been any further news out of Virginia. I hoped there had been a development and there had. Virginia PD found Noah Shook. They had a Be On Look Out for his car ever since reopening your parent's case. About mid-morning today the BOLO turned up his car. He had been staying at a motel just outside of Richmond. Hotel clerk said he had checked in a couple days prior waving around a wad of cash and paying for a week in advance; clerk hadn't seen him since.
Upon entering his room they found him. He'd been dead for a couple of days. The AC was on and turned down keeping the temperature of the room fairly cold, it was about 50 degrees in there. Still the decomp was pretty gross but there weren't too many guests at the hotel and the clerk hadn't bothered the guy since he had paid in advance and this isn't the kind of motel with room service or even daily housekeeping.
Shook had been killed by someone who used a wire and strangled him. The wire left impressions similar to what happened to you. I figure the person who killed him probably tried to kill you. Forensics is all over the room but so far there are no fingerprints, no hairs, no nothing."
Jack paused and watched as Martin digested the news
"So, Noah Shook was killed in the same manner that I was attacked. It's a thin link but a link. This happens within a few days at the most of the Virginia State Police and the FBI reopening my parents' accident and labeling it as a homicide.
Today we find out that our missing person, who's killed while threatening to blow up himself, at least 20 hostages, and a section of a warehouse, has a prior juvenile history linked to an Antwon Poulos who has a lengthy criminal history.
While we're at that location I'm shot with a sniper's bullet and then once home, flowers arrive with a strange note that I now know links back to two prior notes I received, one two days ago and one just this morning which, by the way, I was to Meredith when I got called to go to the warehouse instead.
We're still missing something, Jack. Obviously there's a threat against me. Also fairly obvious my parents were murdered. Where's the connection. Shook's cause of death and my attack appear connected but where's the real proof?"
Jack had held his last card letting Martin sift through the details and slowly become accustomed to the knowledge that his parents' murder and his attacks were related. Now he was going to show his last card and see if Martin could finish the puzzle because while Jack had the information he lacked was an understanding of how it fit together.
"We found out something else about Noah Shook. Apparently his squeaky clean record isn't as squeaky clean as first thought. He too had a brush in his past with the criminal justice system.
Remember I said there were two codefendants in the case involving Brian Schuford, one was Antwon Poulos? The other was Noah Shook. Shook, like Schuford, cooperated in fingering Poulos for the manslaughter; also, like Schuford he was 15 and thus tried as a minor. His record was sealed, and he's kept himself clean with the law ever since.
Once I had the connection between Shook, Schuford, and Poulos, I decided to look into Poulos more closely since his two codefendants were now dead. Poulos was released from Shawangunk prison six months ago. He'd been serving another felony weapons charge. Poulos' has an alias which he used during two of his three prior state bids, James Poulos and he served sentences at Collins, Fishkill and most recently Shawangunk Correctional Facility. He got parole but absconded and ---"
"Wait a minute. Did you say Collins Correctional Facility?"
Jack stopped talking at Martin's sharp interruption. All his team members focused on Martin's face that was now very alert and intense as he awaited Jack's response.
"That's right. He was released from Collins Correctional Facility six months ago on merit, presumptive release from the Department of Corrections. He has postrelease supervision but dropped out of sight almost immediately. Why? What does that mean to you?"
"James Poulos, Antwon Poulos, did he also have an alias of Antwon James?"
Jack nodded silently. He didn't know what picture was about to be created, but he knew he had been right. Somehow, if given the pieces, Martin would be able to create the picture.
"Oh, God. I know who killed my parents. I know why he did it. He did it because of me."
Five pair of eyes were focused on Martin as he slowly stood up and walked around the room collecting his thoughts. After a minute of silence Martin turned back to the team and began to talk:
"I did an internship almost fifteen years ago at Collins Correctional Facility. I taught the prisoners accounting -- remember, Danny, we talked about prison art?"
Danny nodded silently leaning forward not wanting to miss any detail from Martin's story.
"Yeah...I taught accounting there and while I was there a few of the inmates started to confide in me to a degree. Seems there was quite an illegal operation going on inside the prison. All prisons have illegal dealings going on some were just shadier than others. This one was pretty bad. Some of the correction officers had a pretty complex operation going on that included -- not only the usual contraband of drugs, alcohol and even visits from area prostitutes -- but they also managed to work some deals that certain prisoners would get transferred to maximum security facilities instead of others and those that should go up to maximum because they were problematic at the medium security got transferred to low."
"How did they manage that?" Jack was astounded at that revelation but more so that he hadn't ever heard about it.
"As I said, it was a complex operation involving multiple levels within booking, reception, medical, you name it. people were in on it. It would have been a huge scandal and one that DOCS didn't want publicized so, while they were able to shut it down, they did it quietly. The state's political figures didn't want a big scandal either so most cooperated to keep the juicier bits under sealed records.
I got wind of what was happening regarding the prisoner transfers because one of the inmates in my accounting group was selected to go to a maximum facility instead of another inmate, Antwon James. James had served his previous term for manslaughter, the one that involved Shook and Schuford but was back in for a felony weapons charge. He was at Collins instead of a maximum security prison due to his latest state bid. However, he caused so many problems at Collins that DOCS initiated the orders to move him to Shawangunk which is maximum.
Of course James didn't want to go to Shawangunk and since he was also one of the ring leaders in Collins and basically the right hand man to the leader of the organization, it was arranged for someone else to take the fall. That someone was David Mears. Mears was in for a short indeterminate term, one to three years, and had been at Collins for about four months already. He heard that he had been selected as the replacement for James and was worried. Mostly he was worried because not only would he be finishing out James' sentence at Shawangunk which is a particularly nasty place, but because James had made it clear that if he breathed a word about this to anyone, his mother would be harmed.
Mears was in my class, knew I taught at a couple of institutions and asked if I knew anything about Shawangunk. I told him I had never been there but knew it was maximum security and had a tough reputation. When I asked him why he wanted to know about it he just mumbled something about he guessed he'd find out when he got there. That was it that was all he said. However, I knew a bit about his sentence and was surprised he'd be going there so I did an inmate lookup into his history and, after looking at it, realized there was no way he'd be going there. Couple of weeks later he was gone. I asked a couple of the inmates in class if he had been paroled they said that he had been transferred off and that was it."
"But you didn't buy it, did you?" Vivian spoke up softly.
Martin shook his head. "No, I didn't. I did some checking on the DOCS site and according to the site David Mears was still at Collins So I dug deeper and checked into all the transfers out of Collins and into Shawangunk and the only transfer I found was Antwon James. I downloaded James' his mug shot, memorized it and one day watched the gym call backs in the company that David Mears used to live in and, according to DOCS was still assigned to, and there was Antwon James only now everyone called him David Mears."
"And you started an investigation?" Elena asked.
"Didn't have to; I wasn't the only one tipped off on what was going on. Internal Affairs had been slowly putting together a case on the drugs, prostitutes and other contraband at Collins I was questioned because of my close contact with the inmates, the investigators wanted to know what I heard or saw. I mentioned to one of them that I didn't see anything unusual being passed in the classes but that I was aware of something strange going on. I gave them the info I had and that was it; about two months later the whole scheme unraveled.
However, it was too late for David Mears; he had been killed by a riot up at Shawangunk. No one ever proved the riot was anything other than an unrelated event but most suspected it was staged to ensure his silence, although it didn't do them any good since the game was already up back at Collins.
Turns out the illegal activities went all the way to the head officer at Collins, Thomas Sayers. Pillar of the community was what people thought so it was going to be a big blow."
"How come there's no mention of his involvement? That would have turned NYS DOCS on its head and would have been a huge scandal. Why haven't I heard of it?" Jack was puzzled. He had heard of drug rings, prostitutes and various contraband in lots of prisons but illegal prisoner transfers and falsification of records, nothing.
"Sayers killed himself and his wife to spare them the humiliation. She had been his administrative assistant at the prison and the one that did all the paperwork on the transfers. The two of them were partners in all the illegal activity. Right before the indictments were going to be handed down against them both, they were killed tragically in a train versus car accident. Publicly it was announced as a horribly tragedy, dark night and poor conditions with an icy road. The press was told that his car had slid through the safety barrier and gotten stuck on the tracks as the train came barreling through.
Everyone bought it, the husband and wife were publicly mourned and the mayor and the local police department let it rest there. The governor and DOCS didn't want the public outcry and intense scrutiny that would come by revealing what they knew about the prisoner transfers. Drugs, contraband, prostitutes none of that was a big deal since everyone knows these things happen in prisons on a daily basis, but the illegal transferring of prisoners, falsifying of records even the death of an inmate because of such a transfer whether his death was accidental or not no, the officials in DOCS wanted it covered up quickly and quietly to avoid lawsuits not to mention the public relations nightmare of trying to convince the public that the State of New York was able to keep violent felons incarcerated and the public safe.
They decided with the ring crushed and, since the ones who masterminded it were dead, there was no point in airing all the dirty laundry publicly. They could discipline the rest of the participants for the contraband part of the scheme and slowly trace back the illegal transfers that had occurred prior and make amends there. I was thanked for helping tip them off to that part of the scheme they didn't even know about and basically that was the end of my involvement."
"So, who's after you then?" Danny spoke up quietly amazed at what he had just heard and further impressed at the things Martin knew and never spoke about.
"Thomas and Julia Sayers had a son, Allen. He idolized his father. The outpouring of grief and sympathy for Allen was amazing. Everyone knew that Allen and his father were very close had great love and respect for each other."
Danny winced a bit at the almost bitter tone in Martin's voice.
"Allen was certain the death of his parents was no accident that someone had murdered them. He vowed to never stop looking for their killer. He even contacted me a couple of times over the years to question me about what I knew of the inmates in the jail. I never told him anything. Allen was kept out of the loop of his parents' illegal activities. No one wanted to hurt him either since he was the pride and joy of his parents. They had doted upon him and were proud of him no matter what he did. Most just wanted and hoped that he would move past his grief and continue on in his life.
My bet is that Allen wouldn't let it go. He was - is smart, resourceful and tenacious. If I'm right, he's figured out what his father and mother were up to and he's figured out that I'm the one that tipped IAB off to the activity.
James is the key; he was Thomas Sayerss' right hand man at Collins. He ultimately did get transferred to Shawangunk and served his sentence there. The pieces fit. Allen's parents were killed by a train. My parents were killed by an 18-wheeler. Shook was murdered by someone strangling him; I was attacked and almost strangled. You want to know how David Mears was killed in that prison riot -- he was shot by a sniper - one bullet in the heart. Guards ended up firing on the prisoners to stop the riot. They were supposed to be using rubber bullets; someone in the tower had live ammo. Like I said, it was put down as a tragic accident."
Martin sat down spent after having told such a lengthy history. The rest of the team sat quietly absorbing what they heard.
"So Allen Sawyers realized his parents weren't the icons of the community everyone thought they were, and he's probably concluded that they committed suicide together. So now he's after you?" Sam spoke quietly trying to piece together the motivation.
"And he's trying to make you suffer and he's -"Danny stopped as his brain wrapped itself around Martin's earlier revelation that someone had followed him to an NA meeting and sent pictures to his father. Now, he understood who had sent Victor the pictures and why. He felt his anger rise inside and when his eyes met Martin's he saw the same anger, hurt and realization reflected there. They nodded silently not wishing to divulge that information to all present.
"All right. We know the who and we know the why. We need to find Sawyers and James fast. Danny, I want you and Martin to stay here. You both need the rest and there's a detail outside as well. The rest of us are going back to the office and get a BOLO out on Sawyers and James." Jack rose along with Sam, Elena and Vivian. Each in turn gave Martin a quick hug with Jack waiting until they were done before stopping by Martin and resting his hand briefly on his shoulder in reassurance.
"We'll find him."
"I know. When you do, I'm in. No arguments Jack, I help you bring him in."
Jack just nodded and as he turned to leave he caught Danny's eye. Danny winked back at him assuring Jack he had Martin under control. Jack waited another moment and then followed the three women out of the house.
"So, Home Sweet Home. I'm taking the room with the bathroom."
"Fine with me glamour boy. I'm just happy with a hot shower." Martin grabbed his bag and headed upstairs hoping the hot water would take the remaining chill out of his body. He wasn't sure what chilled him more, the morning's plunge into the icy water or the knowledge that he was the cause of the death of his parents.
Missing Person's Office:
"Cell phone records on Sayers show him making phone calls from a variety of places in the city. They don't narrow down our search. Also, his credit card has no activity in the last three months and he took a sizeable withdrawal from his bank account at the same time his credit card went off line."
"Hmm -- how about $20,000." Vivian looked at Jack as he whistled appraisingly at the figure.
"That will keep him in hotel rooms and rental cars for awhile."
"And impossible to trace, I'm going to check with Sam and make sure all the law enforcement agencies have his picture."
"Great. How's Elena doing on James' information?"
"You can ask her yourself, she's headed this way." Vivian stepped back from Jack's office door to allow Elena to enter.
"Jack, NYPD just contacted me. They found Antwon James. He's dead, one bullet to the head. His body was left in a car outside of Martin's apartment building."
"He's playing with us. He knows we're on to him and he's playing with us. Elena, contact Danny on the secure line. Make sure he knows about James and that he doesn't let Martin out of his sight."
"All right." Elena turned and left the office leaving Vivian staring at Jack who shook his head in frustration.
"He's like a ghost, Viv. He comes and goes at will, but he makes damn sure his messages get through."
"Yeah, and he wants us to know it's him."
Jack just nodded and went back to looking at the files on his desk. He had several files open, one was Martin's service file, one was the homicide investigation into his parents' deaths and others scattered around were the various reports and updates on Noah Shook, Antwon James, Brian Schuford, Thomas and Julia Sayers and Allen Sayers. What disturbed Jack deeply was that all but two of the files were about people who were dead. The remaining two files contained information on the individual responsible for most of the deaths and the other file was the killer's final target. Jack was damn certain Allen Sayers wasn't going to be responsible Martin's death. He just wasn't sure how.
Danny returned downstairs after a steaming hot shower and a change of clothes. Dressed in a pair of jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirt he felt comfortable and warm after his icy morning swim. The comforting weight of his service pistol at his waist was a constant reminder that despite the casualness of his attire, he was on the job.
Entering the main room he saw Martin sitting in a recliner chair holding a mug of coffee in one hand and a pack of ice over his chest with the other. Smelling the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee he retreated to the kitchen, poured himself a mug and then returned to the main room and grabbed a seat on the couch.
"Does the ice help any?"
"A little. I took a couple aspirin back at my apartment. They're helping as well."
Danny just nodded allowing silence to settle over them again.
"The doctor prescribed something a bit stronger."
Danny only nodded watching Martin carefully. Martin's eyes focused in on his and he grinned wryly.
"I gave the prescription to Sam to get rid of it."
Danny gave a small grin and nodded back at Martin. Both men remained silent again each quietly assessing their thoughts.
"I'm not embarrassed that he found out I'm in therapy, not the way I thought I would be."
Danny looked over at Martin who was staring unseeingly as he spoke. "I think I gave up a long time ago trying to please my father. Amazing how someone that frustrates you and hurts you can make you doubt yourself. With my father it wasn't so much that things had to be done his way, it was more that he let you know you were inept or incapable if you did things in a way that was different from what he approved of. I don't know. I don't know what I'm saying."
Danny paused for a minute as he gathered his thoughts. He'd let go of his misperceptions of Martin's charmed upbringing years ago and come to realized that families that broke apart of families that stayed together each carried their own painful burdens and he shouldn't judge another's burdens against his own.
"I think I understand though. To this day all I can think about is that Poppy shouldn't have had to die the way he did. I stopped blaming myself for it at some point, not even sure when that was, but all the guilt I carried for so long has colored the way I remember him. If he were to walk through the door right now, I'm not sure I could even be angry for the pain he caused Rafie and ultimately me."
"Yeah, it's strange. I grew up with a father who was home, not all the time, his work took him away for many days at a time, but he always came home. I have no reason to believe he was every unfaithful to my mother, he provided a nice living, paid for my education, never hit me yet, for all that I've been pretty angry for a number of years because I'm a product of who he made me.
I once told Sam that my parents saw the world in a particular way, if I was interested in something that was outside of that vision, my father made sure I knew that it was frivolous, or stupid, or somehow made me less in his eyes because that's what interested me. I got so good at hiding what I liked or disliked from him. It got so that when we talked we were great as long as he had something to say because I became very good at expressing interest in whatever he was interested in. In those times we were fine, but it was so shallow."
"I thought things were beginning to get a little better after you got shot. Your father was really on a tear that day."
"Yeah, I know, and for a short time it almost seemed like some of the barriers were going to come down, but you know what," Danny tilted his head slightly as encouragement to Martin to keep going and, after a short pause, Martin continued, "I began to pull back. I got so angry at him for waiting 35 years plus before he decides to have a fatherly relationship with me. I got so angry that if he had just been a little bit more like an interested father instead of a tyrant that perhaps I wouldn't have so many barriers inside of me. For a while it was just too easy and too much fun to blame him."
"You said 'for a while' what changed?"
"NA changed, you and Sam stepping in and pummeling me over the head and not taking no for an answer. My sponsor changed things by showing me how I could open up. That night at NA when I shared my story changed. All those pieces came together and I realized that I could continue to be angry with him and thus remain hollow inside, or I could decide that the past was the past and that it no longer matters what my father thought or did or anything and I could be me and go forward. Maybe that means that I am slow to trust and share, maybe that's how it's always going to be, well, so what.
I also decided that I would try to make the best relationship with my father possible that I was comfortable with. He was never going to be the doting father, that's not who he was and, if I was honest with myself, I didn't want or need that anymore that time was long gone. But we could be civil and even genuinely interested in what the other was doing and we had begun to reach that point. Of course, that's when the photos got sent to him of me attending NA and everything fell apart."
"Do you think it was Sayers who took the pictures?"
"It could have been him, more than likely it was just someone he gave some bucks to to follow me and snap the photos. He knew enough to know that sending those to my father would burn any bridges we had built and then he could start his little game."
"You said Allen Sayers and his father were real close?" Danny broached this subject gently. Despite Martin's statements that he had accepted that he and his father were never going to be close he knew that it had to be a sensitive topic. He knew it was within himself.
"Yeah. Interesting how this whole game of Allen's has been unfolding. He's deliberately acting out his little play almost in parallels...each action is mirrored by another action earlier." Martin stopped and looked at Danny who was nodding at him it.
"You're right, they aren't mirror images exactly but they do reflect some past action even if in a distorted way."
"Exactly. His parents killed themselves to avoid humiliation. He kills my parents. Similar reflections but distorted."
"And his parents were dishonest while yours weren't. Martin, that's why the photos, he was close to his parents while you weren't. He was embarrassed to discover their dishonesty so he decided..."
"To display mine. Even though my parents and I weren't close, he wanted...no, I think he needed to display my faults to them in order to satisfy his own humiliation. The difference is I'm not ashamed, not anymore. It's a part of me and I draw strength from it."
Both men stopped talking as Danny's cell phone started ringing. Martin watched as Danny checked the ID and then greeted Elena. Martin listened intently as Danny locked eyes with him and responded in short clipped words before disconnecting the call.
"Let me guess...they found Antwon James."
"That's right. He's eliminated all his partners. You know what I don't get, Martin?"
Martin looked over at Danny as he spoke. "Sayers is pretty smart and seems to have this all worked out, so he would have to know that once he sent the flowers, whether we knew it was him or not, you'd be put into protective custody."
"I know that's what I've been thinking about as well. He had to have known that after this morning we'd be able to put the pieces together and figure out it was him."
"He really wasn't hiding it. After all, each of the people he used to perpetrate this plan had ties back to his father and mother and you. You were the only person who tipped off the corrections authorities to the illegal prisoner transfer that ultimately led to his parents' death. Everything he did was a signal, even how he killed his so-called partners."
"Yeah, which means he would have had a plan for this as well. We're not going to be able to find him. He's managed to move about at will, follow me, set us up to be witnesses and even participants in the murder of one of his helpers, Brian Schuford, while he takes a shot at me. Everything is planned."
Danny leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, his forehead wrinkled slightly with concentration. "He's planned for everything, even you going into protective custody. We don't need to find him; we only have to go to where he's going to be, but where is that?"
"I think I know where he's planning for it to be."
"Where?" Danny couldn't keep the note of shock out of his voice.
"Washington, D.C. The Bureau has a special meeting planned in two days in honor of my father's memory. They're going to be honoring him posthumously for his years of service. I'm expected to be there to accept on his behalf and to speak briefly. That's where Allen Sayers is going to finish what he started. We don't need to look for him now. He's not here anymore. He'll meet us in Washington."
Danny stared at Martin and turned over his partner's words in his head, sifting and sorting through them. After more than five minutes of rearranging the pieces, Danny gave up Martin was right. They needed to go to DC.
"No, no way."
"Jack - "
"Martin, no. This guy has been calling all the shots thus far, and he's successfully made every move he's wanted to. There's no way we're just going to hand you to him."
"But that's the part of the plan that works in our favor, Jack. This time we know exactly where he's going to be. This time we can be ready."
Jack rubbed at his eyes while he collected his thoughts. His team was spread out at the safe house having come there after Danny's call telling them that he and Martin had figured out Sayers' next move. Opening his eyes he looked first to Vivian, the calmest and steadiest member of his team. She stared straight back into his eyes. He'd seen that expression of resignation and resolve in her eyes before. He knew without having to ask her for her opinion that she agreed with Martin and Danny on what needed to be done even though she didn't like the plan.
Sighing he looked again at Martin who met his gaze unflinchingly.
"All right, Martin, so we go to DC and attend the meeting in honor of your father. Do you actually think I'm going to put you up on the podium to speak? You'd be a perfect target for him, and don't even try to tell me that you'll be okay with a vest on. Oh, yes, you'll be wearing a vest, but Sayers will expect that. He knew last time you were wearing a vest and took the chest shot simply because he wanted to. He'll take the head shot this time for certain, and we don't have anything to protect you against that."
"I'm not saying there isn't risk, Jack, and yes, he'll be prepared for the vest, and he's good enough to take the kill shot, what I'm saying is that we'll own the territory because this time we know he'll be there. Also, the attendees at this meeting are already prearranged by the Director, so it will be easy to know who is who and where they are.
I'll have Danny with me at all times, and you can keep me in a room to the side, I don't even have to sit out in the main hall." This was something Martin was secretly only too happy to concede. While he wanted his father's work to be honored, he had no wish to be spotlighted as the grieving lone survivor after the murder of his parents. He would be only too happy to sit quietly in another room and watch the proceedings via closed circuit television.
"I know you're right, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. All right. We leave first thing in the morning, we drive down as a team without notifying anyone and I'll book us at the hotel quietly."
"I have a better idea." Martin spoke quietly. "We should stay at my parents' house. That way we don't announce our presence by using any credit card or risk being seen anywhere. Also, it's got security cameras, gates and it's an easy drive from there to headquarters. There's plenty of room and...no one is there."
Jack nodded and watched Sam as she gently squeezed Martin's arm in comfort.
"All right. Everyone except Danny, Martin and I go home tonight, clear your calendars quietly for the next couple of days. I'll let Van Doren know what's going on and tomorrow we leave for DC. We can set up at Martin's parents' place and head to the FBI headquarters the day after. Van Doren will coordinate so that we have all the protection we need while there and route all information on Sayers that comes in to the Fitzgerald house."
The Fitzgerald Residence:
Martin finished putting the rest of the plates and silverware in the dishwasher. The rest of the team were scattered around the expansive residence. Jack had made himself a pseudo office in the den area that also housed an extensive collection of books on everything from history to biographies to poems and various works of literature. Danny and Sam were talking quietly in the living room while Elena sat near them on her phone talking to Sophie. Vivian sat in the kitchen area nursing a cup of tea and quietly watching Martin move about the kitchen tidying up from the evening's dinner.
The team had left New York around 11:00 that morning and made the relatively quick trip to DC. Not wanting to alert too many people to their arrival, they drove directly to Martin's parents' home stopping only long enough to pick up some things for breakfast the next day and pick up something quick for dinner that evening. Fortunately the grocery store they stopped at had precooked chickens and a variety of side dishes to choose from so a simple dinner of chicken, fresh salad, hot Italian bread was selected.
Upon arriving at the house, Martin keyed in the access code to the gate at the entrance, and they drove through locking the gate behind them. Entering the house they all noted the slightly musty smell of stale air. Martin had been down there several days earlier sorting through some personal papers along with his uncle and cousins but no one had been there since. Vivian and Elena opened a couple of window to allow some fresh air in but not long enough to chill the house. Late February in DC was certainly warmer than NYC but the furnace still activated periodically to heat the interior.
The team spread out and selected rooms for sleeping. Martin told everyone to take whatever room they wanted and tried to encourage Jack to sleep in the master bedroom. Jack couldn't bring himself to do it and in the end he and Danny made themselves comfortable in the den with its pullout bed and additional couch for sleeping while Elena and Sam shared a guest room that had twin beds. Vivian chose another guest room and Martin took his old room.
If Martin seemed uncomfortable at letting his teammates see so intimately into his personal life he didn't show it. Instead he remained quiet preferring to show them where they could find towels, glasses for water, thermostats, encourage them to browse a book or turn on a TV or radio and then would withdraw to his father's office to look through some papers on his father's estate.
His colleagues for their part - once they got past the luxuriant setting they were in - puttered around the house peeking at a picture on the wall or skimming through some pages in a book. They had spent the better part of the car ride down discussing their plan for the next day and all seemed to sense in the other a need to take a break from the stress of the next 24 hours and try to relax in unfamiliar surroundings.
Vivian just sat quietly watching Martin wipe down the sink, clean up the counter, start the dishwasher, set up coffee for the morning. While he kept himself occupied with busywork she thought through her conversation earlier that day with Danny and Sam..."You know, Viv, I can see why Martin is a bit proper all the time, or at least usually," Danny amended as Vivian cocked an eyebrow at him. "You know what I mean, He keeps himself closed off. Well, no wonder, I mean look at this place."
Danny looked around the formal living room he and Vivian were standing in.
"I know what you mean, there's a lot of nice stuff in here."
"Yeah, there is, and Martin doesn't show any interest in any of it. He doesn't even want any of it, and who can blame him. The stuff is nice, but the house is cold. And don't say turn up the thermostat, Viv, you know what I'm talking about."
"Yeah, his parents liked nice things, but you're right. It's cold."
"He once told me that his parents saw things in a very specific way."
Vivian and Danny turned as Sam spoke up as she walked into the room.
"I never asked him to elaborate on that but...I think being here, seeing where he grew up I understand. He isn't comfortable here, and I don't think it's because he thinks we'll judge him. I don't think he was ever comfortable here."
"And that's a shame. Home should be comfortable, safe and happy."
Danny looked at Sam who quickly looked away. Neither of them had had safe and happy homes. Jack hadn't either. Vivian and Elena did everything in their power to make sure their children had safe, loving homes filled with as much love and joy as possible.
None of them thought Martin felt sorry for himself or thought he was the only one with a less than ideal childhood, however, none of them had the rest of the team seeing all the details of his growing up.
"I'm going to talk to him. Martin is so good at covering his feelings that he's not going to say anything about it to any of us. So I'm going to talk to him. And don't think I don't see the relieved expressions on both of your faces either." Vivian scowled at Danny and Sam as they both guiltily turned and looked at each other, then she smiled and just shook her head in resignation. "Why I always have to be the grown up I'll never know."
Vivian stopped her reflections on the earlier conversation and decided it was time to speak up as she watched Martin begin to clean the counter for the third time. "Martin, sit down before you wear a hole in the countertop." She watched as he turned and grinned at her slowly. He knew she had been patiently waiting for him to run out of idle work. He didn't know why it was but Vivian was the one of all of them, even Sam, that he could share his hardest and most painful thoughts.
"You know, Viv, it's strange being here with all of you. I thought...I could have kicked myself yesterday for mentioning that we stay here out of view from everyone. I mean, the words were out of my mouth before I knew it and then...there was Jack agreeing."
Vivian smiled as Martin stopped speaking. He looked at her, caught her smiling at him knowingly and chuckled softly.
"The whole car ride down here I kept thinking, what a mistake, everyone is going to be so uncomfortable. Yet, there's Sam and Danny fighting over the remote and the sports channel, Elena's settled in talking to Sophie, Jack's found some books to read and..."
"And you and I are here talking."
They sat in companionable silence for a few moments until Vivian spoke up again.
"Have you decided what you're going to do with the house and everything in here?"
Martin smiled a small smile before he spoke, "Uncle Roger and my cousins were down here with me the weekend prior. We went through and selected some things - well they did. I told them to put a little note on anything they wanted in particular. It's going to take some time before the estate is settled, especially now that...well, you know, now that it's a murder investigation."
Vivian gently squeezed Martin's forearm in comfort.
"To be honest, Viv, there isn't anything here that I want. Actually, this house feels the warmest and most comfortable with all of you here then it ever did when I lived here. You know, I look at Jack, whose mom killed herself and Danny with his parents dying when he was so young and living in foster home after foster home, Sam doesn't share much but it's not that big of a secret that she's not close to her mom and she never talks about her dad.
Sometimes I feel ashamed that...here I had two parents who never hurt me physically, sure they traveled a lot and left me behind but what a great place they left me at and such wonderful people. Aunt Bonnie was more like a mother to me than my own mom, and I was so fortunate to have her in my life and my cousins...we're close and easy with each other. I didn't have to worry about where I would live next week or next month. I didn't have to worry if the people taking care of me did it because they wanted to or were assigned to do it and got paid.
I had a roof...more than a roof. I had lots of clothes, good school, no debt from that education and what a gift that was and is...sometimes I'm ashamed but the truth is I didn't have a happy childhood. I know my parents loved me but it was cold. This house was cold. Everything always had a proper place. Friends could come over for dinner as long as it was known ahead of time, and I mean days ahead of time. Do you know how often friends wanted to come over to my house for dinner?"
Vivian shook her head silently.
"Never. No one ever wanted to come over here. I was welcome at their house but no one ever wanted to come over here. I don't think I realized how stifling it was until I left. Each time I got sent to my aunt and uncle's to stay I looked forward to it so much. It got to the point where I didn't want to come home.
I'm not making a lot of sense."
"No, Martin, I think I do understand. I love it when Reggie has friends over whether it's for dinner or just to study. Some people are good at making a house a home, making it comfy and welcoming. Some people aren't."
"I know. And I feel bad for thinking that my mom failed somehow. She didn't, you know, she was who she was. She was smart and ambitious in her own way. She was tough in a fight if the fight was something she believed in. I guess she just didn't know how to show she cared. She decorated this house, made sure everything was in its rightful place, but it was always cold."
"And you feel that somehow you're dishonoring your mother because you think these thoughts?"
Martin nodded afraid his voice would give away the depth of his emotions.
"Martin, I'll tell you this much, as a mother I wonder every day if I'm doing right by Reggie. I work long hours; I'm exhausted when I come home. I manage to find the energy to spend some time with him whether it's on homework or just listening to him talk about his day, but I never make it to sports practice, I rarely see any of his home games much less away. He gets teased by his friends that his girlfriends won't have to pass the "dad" test, they'll have to pass the "mom" test and not just any "mom" test but the "mom as FBI agent who carries a gun test".
I lay awake some nights wondering if what I do is right and as much as I love him and can't imagine my life without him, I wonder if I did the right thing by being a mother when I wasn't willing to make that first and foremost in my life.
I guess what I'm trying to say is don't be too hard on your mother because she wasn't what you needed or perhaps wanted and don't be too hard on yourself because you wish that there could have been more warmth when you were younger. We're all just human. We all do the best we can do at any given moment in time.
Be thankful that your mom knew enough - because I don't think it's an accident that your Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Roger were the people chosen to care for you when your parents were away - she knew enough to put warm, down to earth, emotionally giving people in your life and allow you the time you needed to form strong bonds with them. Be thankful also that your mom gave you an example of a strong, driven, intelligent woman but also balanced that with a strong, intelligent, nurturing woman."
Martin smiled at Vivian. Trust her to always find the heart of the matter and give him a gentle lesson at the same time as she comforted him.
"And let yourself feel the pain and the loss. It's okay to grieve. I know you've tried very hard to keep the emotions in check. It's part of the job, hide your emotions, be strong for those we're trying to help. But there's going to come a time when you need to grieve. Let yourself do it."
With that Vivian squeezed his arm again and then got up, rinsed her tea mug and, glancing mischievously at Martin, left it in the sink.
Morning: FBI Headquarters, Washington DC:
Martin sat nervously fiddling with his tie and shirt collar in a small room off of the main conference hall. He and the rest of the team had arrived at the FBI headquarters early that morning and were quickly and quietly escorted in through a special entrance keeping them away from the main corridors, inquiring eyes and potentially loose lips.
The team had drunk coffee and eaten bagels on the ride over that morning. All looked tired but their bodies and minds were alive, sharp and aware of everything and everyone around them.
Jack had been assured by the Director of the FBI himself that every agent who would be present was accounted for and that there would be no way anyone would get inside that building. On the remote chance that someone did bypass every security protocol, picture ID mechanism and security camera, they would never get past the agents who had worked closely with Victor Fitzgerald and who had vowed that they would give their own lives before allowing Victor's one and only son's life to be taken by the very deviant who had killed the father.
No, the director assured Jack, every measure had been taken and everyone was aware of the stakes. Martin was safest in the concrete fortress of the FBI Headquarters. Despite the assurances Jack couldn't shake the chill that swept through him without warning every so often, nothing was absolute, nothing. Well, he mused darkly, death was absolute.
"Jack, relax. Obsessing over it isn't going to change it."
"Yeah, well, just because reality is as reality is doesn't mean I have to like it."
Sam just shook her head and turned to pacing around the conference hall stopping periodically as she saw a familiar face. Across the room Elena and Vivian could be seen mingling amongst the agents and invited guests.
Jack looked at his watch again and, seeing that it was less than 15 minutes before the start of the gathering he cracked the door behind him and poked his head inside. Danny and Martin looked up from where they sat as they waited for the meeting to begin.
"Danny, got a moment?"
"Sure, Jack." Danny got up, rested his hand lightly on Martin's shoulder and gave him a little shove of brotherly affection as he exited the room. Martin watched him go momentarily relieved to be by himself.
Jack closed the door after Danny joined him outside in the main conference room.
"The director sent word that everyone has checked out so far and the only agents allowed weapons in this room are our team and a team handpicked by him. No one else in the room is carrying. Elena went and got some special FBI pins for the agents who have weapons so we can all identify each other, here's yours."
Danny looked at the pin that Jack placed in his hand. It was the typical FBI souvenir pin usually handed out on tours to kids or special groups, the only difference he could see was that a small black ribbon was attached to it, because the pin was gold and the ribbon black, the contrast stood out well against the various suits and jackets worn by the armed agents. Danny scanned the room and easily identified the 6 additional agents to his team who were armed.
"Do you have one for Martin?"
"Of course, here, you can explain it to him when you go back in. How's he doing?"
"You know Martin. Calm, cool and clammy," Danny grinned briefly at Jack and then his tone took on a more serious note, "So far there's been nothing. Martin's cell phone is on, it works fine and yet, there's been no message or anything from this guy. Martin said he'd called a couple times and left taunting messages but for the last couple of days it's been nothing, zilch, pure silence."
"Yeah, I think I liked it better when the creep was sending messages, except for the part that those messages usually came on the heels of an attack or the death of someone."
Danny nodded silently in agreement, for the next several minutes the two men stood side by side quietly scanning the room and trying to anticipate Sayers' next move. When Jack saw the director and his entourage enter the room he turned to Danny.
"Why don't you head back in, give Martin his pin and wait with him until it's time."
"You got it."
Danny turned, opened the door a crack and slipped inside closing it behind him. Jack went back to scanning the crowd and watching the director's slow progress to the podium as he greeted agents and guests alike. Hardly ten seconds had passed by when the door behind Jack was opened quickly. Turning around Jack took in the wide eyes and intense look Danny gave him. Quickly Jack turned from the conference room and entered the small side room looking for Martin. The room was empty.
"What the hell? Where is he!"
"I don't know, Jack, I came in and the room was empty. I went to the hall door and asked the agent on the other side where Martin was. He indicated that Martin had gone to the men's room right across from him. We looked inside. All we found was this."
Danny placed Martin's cell phone in Jack's palm. It was open and the text message was frighteningly clear.
"Come to men's room or I'll detonate the bomb in the main conference room. Sayers"
Jack ran across the room, out into the hall and entered the men's room where Martin was last seen. The room was empty.
"I watched Agent Fitzgerald walk into the men's room. No one else has gone in or out of that room the whole time I've been on guard. Those were express orders from the director."
"And he never came back out?" Danny couldn't help the sharp tone to his voice. How the hell had Martin disappeared out of the FBI Headquarters?
"Danny, look at this."
Jack pointed to a hole in the wall in the stall next to the exterior wall. The grate that had previously covered it was lying on the floor. Next to it was Martin's badge.
Jack squatted down and poked his head in the opening.
"It's an emergency slide. Actually it's used to vent air from construction jobs but in a pinch, it can be used to slide down to escape. He had Martin go out this way. I bet he had a work truck down there and presto, he's away."
"We've been having work done." The agent who had been guarding the corridor door spoke up. "Actually, maintenance is always doing something. So nobody thinks anything of it. Everyone on the facility crew here has clearance and any contractors have to have background screens before they're allowed onsite."
"Yeah, but once that's done, nobody would think anything of a truck coming in and working would they?" Danny couldn't believe it; how could they have been so stupid?
FBI Headquarters: Director's Office:
"Bomb dogs went through the room and found nothing. We've check all the main hazard areas, boilers, maintenance shafts everything. We've got dogs detailed to all the floors but nothing came through any entrance that wasn't checked. The roof and all ventilation shafts are secure. There's no bomb here. It was a ruse to get Fitzgerald to leave."
"Yeah, and it worked." Jack turned away from the Director of the FBI.
"This Sayers knew that Martin would put the safety of everyone in the room - the building for that matter before his own. That's why he sent the text message. He knew Martin would come to him." Vivian sighed.
"All right, isn't this the second time Sayers has used a fake bomb as a ruse to get Martin where he wanted him?" Danny spoke up quickly. His mind had been turning over his conversation with Martin about how Sayers had a plan for every move they made to ensure he got Martin right where he wanted him. Without waiting for anyone's answer he continued.
"Listen, Brian Schuford went into that warehouse claiming he had a bomb that he was going to blow up, only there wasn't any bomb."
"Exactly, it was to make certain Martin got down to the warehouse because Sayers knew we were assigned his Missing Persons case." Elena spoke up taking the thread from Danny.
"Right and when he had Martin down at the warehouse he shot him in the chest. I did some checking up on David Mears, the prisoner that was falsely transferred for Antwon James, Martin said he was killed at Shawangunk in a riot. When the guards opened fire they were supposed to have rubber bullets, only problem is that whoever shot Mears was firing live ammo, one shot straight to his heart. He died instantly." Sam had been shocked when she learned that piece of information.
"Right, and, Jack, didn't you say that Noah Shook was strangled in the motel he was hiding out in, just like how Martin was attacked in his apartment." The words poured from Danny's mouth as fast as his mind formed them. They were onto something he knew it.
"It's almost as if everything is a mirror image of something else." Vivian stopped for a moment and thought, "No, more like a distortion of the real image."
"Exactly, Viv," Danny spoke up again. "Look, Sayers' parents committed suicide so he kills Martin's parents. Then he attacks Martin in his apartment to shake him up or warn him or toy with him, whatever and then he kills Shook in the same manner as he attacked Martin. We've got twos of everything."
"Yeah, two bombs, two shots to the chest, two strangling, two sets of dead parents, so what's his plan with Martin and where?"
"Oh, my God," Everyone turned to look at Sam. "I know how he's going to kill Martin, and I know where."
"It ends right here, Fitzgerald. I win." Sayers grinned maniacally as he waved the gun in Martin's face.
"How do you figure that you've won?" Martin stared Sayers in the eyes. With his hands zip tied behind him he had little thought of grabbing the gun but he knew the longer he kept Sayers talking the more chance he had to find a way out.
He reminded himself that this was his choice to be here right now. He could have gone back and warned the guard but he wasn't sure how far off the track Sayers really was. If Martin had gone back to warn the others, would that have caused Sayers to set off the bomb? Martin wasn't sure there even was a bomb but he wasn't taking any chances either. This man had already killed his parents and three other people to get to him; he wasn't going to give him any more opportunities to harm anyone else.
He'd been surprised and even found himself admiring the ingenuity Sayers displayed in devising that escape. When he got to the men's room there was an out of order sign on the stall closest to the exterior wall. Figuring that was where he was supposed to look Martin had pushed open the stall door, seen the grate resting on the floor and peered inside. When he saw the vinyl coated flexible tunnel that would allow him to slide down to the ground he knew what was going to happen next. The little note pinned inside wasn't necessary but it drove the point home.
"DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT CALLING FOR HELP. I'M MONITORING
THE ROOM NOISE. CLIMB IN, BRING THE NOTE, ENJOY THE RIDE"
Angry but determined no one else would be harmed, Martin complied. The ride had been quick, uncomfortable, and more than slightly terrifying and when he reached the bottom he was unceremoniously dumped into a construction dumpster filled with cardboard boxes. After catching his breath for a moment, he tried to disentangle himself from the vinyl tubing and the boxes when above the noise he heard a low voice give an order and felt the pressure of a gun muzzle at his spine. Stopping completely he waited while the objects entangling him were moved away and then he felt a sharp pain as the gun handle connected sharply with his skull sending him into oblivion.
He didn't remember anything until Sayers stopped the truck and roughly shook him to consciousness demanding the access code. After demanding the code he had warned Martin that if the code was wrong and it did anything other than open the gate and disarm the alarms he would shoot him in the stomach so he would slowly and painfully die and, while Martin was suffering, Sayers would lay in wait and kill as many of his would be rescuers that came to his assistance. Reluctantly Martin complied, gave the code and quickly and quietly Sayers drove up the drive and dragged Martin inside the home of his late parents.
"The great Fitzgerald name will go out with a sputter. It'll look like your parents killed themselves in humiliation over your drug addiction. They'll be labeled as cowards, cowards who raised an addict."
"You mean they'll be labeled as cowards because your parents were labeled as cowards?" Martin spoke the words evenly and in a low tone.
"Shut up! Shut up! My parents were great people, good people! They loved me! Your parents didn't love you!"
"You're right; your parents did love you. They were probably good parents to you. However, I don't know how great they were."
"How dare you! They were great! If you hadn't killed them...it's your fault! And what's your great claim - huh? You're a druggie, an addict, made daddy proud didn't you!"
Sayers practically spit the words in Martin's face. Martin stood his ground even though his head throbbed, and he felt like the floor was pitching beneath him. He kept his eyes focused on Sayers as the other man paced back and forth waving the gun around, his eyes darting from Martin to the floor, from the floor to the gun in his hand and back at Martin again.
Martin barely had time to brace himself as he saw Sayers' intent. Even though he had a brief moment to prepare himself it didn't soften the blow as the gun impacted with his jaw. He'd been able to roll a bit with it, but it still knocked him hard against the wall. He staggered a bit unable to use his hands to brace himself. Leaning momentarily against the wall he struggled to clear his head and stop the roaring that had begun in his ears earlier and know was thundering throughout his skull.
Martin tasted the blood in his mouth and his eyes glimpsed a faint smear of it on the wall that he was leaning against. Gathering his strength he steadied himself and stood up again and turned to face Sayers.
"The difference between us, Sayers, is that I gave up trying to impress my father a long time ago. Your parents have been dead a long time and you're still trying to impress them. You're trying to impress a mother and father who are responsible for the death of at least one person, abused their positions, lied, cheated, allowed money to be their guiding force and enabled corruption rather than disabling it as they had sworn to do and then chose the cowardly path after they were discovered and killed themselves.
Do you really think they were thinking of you when they drove their car in front of that train? Do you think they were thinking of how much they loved you, how much you meant to them? Huh? Or were they thinking about escaping the mess they had created.
That's it, isn't it? I'm right. They left you to face the mess they created. They didn't love you. They ran out on you. They made this hell and then, when it was falling down around them, they ran out and left you to face it. You've lived with the mess they created, the shame, and what did that make you? You're a murderer. You call them great, loving parents well, I guess you're honoring them by the example they set. You've become a murderer just like they were!" Despite the blurring of his vision and the continued hammering in his head Martin found himself yelling at Sayers.
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! I'm ending this now. There's letters here, right here." Sayers patted his jacket pocket. "After I kill you, I'm going to leave them right beside your body. It'll look like you killed yourself from the shame. You left the ceremony for your father, too ashamed to stand up there and accept the award for his work because you knew how unworthy you are, and you knew that it was because of you that he was dead. So, you left, came here and started tearing the place apart," to illustrate his words Sayers swept his arm across the desk causing everything on it to crash and fall to the floor.
"Then, you found these," Triumphantly Sayers pulled out the folded, wrinkled sheets of paper. "These are written on your daddy's letterhead, letters to you telling you how ashamed he was, how he couldn't forgive you for disgracing the family, his only child, his only son. Your actions had caused him and your mother too much pain, they weren't able to live with what you've done and they were going to end it. So you found these notes, realized they killed themselves and so you took a gun to your head and pulled the trigger like this."
Sayers stepped up to Martin and just as he was about to raise the gun to Martin's head and pull the trigger he felt the pressure of a gun barrel to his back and Jack's voice whispered in his ear.
For a moment it looked as if Sayers was going to go through with his intent as he kept his gun trained on Martin, then his gaze flicked to the side and he dropped his arm slightly. Danny materialized at his side and wrenched the gun from him and rapidly cuffed him. Glancing briefly at Martin Danny led Sayers from the room.
Jack stepped forward and steadied Martin by grabbing him by the arm.
"You're a mess, here, sit down. I'll find something to undo these ties." Guiding Martin to a nearby chair he pulled open one of the desk draws, finding a pair of scissors inside he snipped the tie wraps. Martin immediately began flexing his hands and alternately rubbing his wrists to ease the ache and restore proper circulation. Jack disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a handful of ice cubes wrapped in a towel. Handing that to Martin to put on his bloody and battered jaw, Jack pulled out his cell phone to summon an EMS squad.
Sam appeared and grabbed the ice filled towel from Martin and held it to the back of his head instead. She could see a small trail of blood down the back of his neck and gently placed the ice where she could feel the swelling.
"How did you guys find me?" Martin was grateful that Sam was steadying him on one side as Jack sat across from him on the little table and steadied him from the front. Martin wasn't sure he wouldn't tip over completely if they weren't there to help him.
"After we figured out the bomb threat was nothing more than a ruse to get you out of the building, Danny realized that there had been duplicates of just about everything that Sayers had done."
"Including shooting Antwon James in the head and leaving him outside your apartment building." Sam kept the ice on Martin's head as he turned slightly to look at her. "We realized that that was the only action that hadn't been duplicated. You hadn't been shot in the head and your parents' home would be the alternative to your apartment. He telegraphed his plan to us when he killed James."
"You were right, we didn't have to figure out what Sayers was up to, we just had to wait for him to tell us."
"Only one problem with your theory," Martin said quietly as he felt himself succumbing to the beckoning darkness.
"Brian Schuford was shot in the head by the SWAT sharpshooter."
Jack and Sam looked at each other in shock. They had counted the bomb at the warehouse with Schuford but not the method of his death. Neither wanted to dwell on the what ifs. They had been right, that was what mattered. Jack looked at Martin who was swaying a bit and watched as his eyes rolled back in his head. Catching his agent he eased him back to the couch for the paramedics to take care of. As he heard the sirens announcing the arrival of the medical personnel he shook his head and looked down at his unconscious agent.
Two days later:
Martin stood silently by the plaques his parents had chosen for their memorials. He didn't know how long he stood there. He wasn't aware of time passing or the headache that was reemerging as the morning's aspirin was wearing off. After a while he became aware of a tremendous fatigue and he moved to a stone bench that was nearby and sat down.
He didn't register the approach of the other person until he was standing right next to him. Even then Martin didn't move. Jack looked down at Martin for a minute before sitting down beside him. For the next couple of minutes the two men sat quietly until Martin broke the silence.
"I'm not sure if I'm angry or sad, if I'm to feel guilty for their deaths or what." Martin stopped and started to shake his head but then remembered how that would feel and caught himself.
"I have decided on a couple of things. My father was who he was. Maybe things were as they were supposed to be in the end with us not talking...I don't know. I do know that I like who I am right now. It's taken me a long time to stop resenting his interference and I had reached a point in the last couple of years where I no longer tried to impress him. We tried to be close after I got injured but the truth is...I didn't want to anymore.
Maybe too much water can run under the bridge so that you reach a point where you just don't want to try anymore. I know that I didn't want to try anymore. When he came up to the city to visit, I'd go and visit but, if I'm honest with myself, I really didn't try that hard because I just wasn't willing to let down my own walls that protect me and give him another chance to hurt me.
Maybe that's the cowardly way of doing it...I don't know, I do know that it helped me to start enjoying being me. I regret our last argument not because I did anything wrong, I didn't. It may sound sanctimonious, Jack, but he misjudged me my whole life and he's the one who made the mistake that day we met for lunch in New York. Our last conversation was a fight and I know in my head and in my heart that I'm not to blame for that."
"You're right, Martin. That argument wasn't your fault and you may never know if your father could have gotten over finding out about your addiction or not..." Jack gave a small smile as Martin turned and looked at him for the first time since he'd arrived. "Yeah, I knew before all that garbage came spilling out of Sayers mouth. I am an FBI agent after all."
That earned Jack a small smirk from Martin. Jack figured that was the best he was probably going to get for now but it was a step in the right direction.
"I'll tell you this, Martin, and then I'll leave you alone. Your father was wrong. You are not an embarrassment, you piss me off from time to time, but I'm proud you're on the team, and I trust you with my life. Your father was wrong."
With that Jack stood up, rested his hand briefly on Martin's shoulder and squeezed once before he slowly walked away.
Martin sat there for a long while thinking over the past couple of weeks and even over the last couple of years in his life. Eventually he stood up, wiped the tears from his eyes, and walked to stand by the memorials that signified his parents' final resting place. He rested his hand momentarily on each of the plaques engraved with his parents' names and turned and walked away.
For the first time in almost a month he felt free. As he stepped outside, he turned his face to the fading light in the sky, took a deep breath and smelled the coming of spring.