Author's note: I'm back, after three lovely weeks of holidays and, as promised, have completed another couple of chapters of reasonable length. Having had something of a brainwave (or an epiphany, if you will) while I was away, hopefully this story will start to move quite quickly now. Hopefully...
“I’ve taken the liberty of arranging dinner in the hotel restaurant,” Mullett told them as they left the airport. “DI Frost will join us. I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet properly, and we can also fill you on the details of our investigation.”
“Sounds fine,” Deakins agreed. “What time?”
“Eight. Thought you might appreciate some time to… freshen up.”
“We would,” Deakins confirmed. Mullett nodded, pleased with his foresight.
“Very well. We’ll get you to your hotel.”
“Officious jerk,” Goren grumbled once Mullett had finally left them at the hotel. Deakins smiled wryly as they followed the bellhop to their rooms.
“I know the type. More politician than cop.”
“You mean he’s an ass-kisser,” Eames said bluntly, drawing an amused glance from the bellhop. Deakins fought back a grin.
“Careful, Alex. He’s not that different to me.”
“Like hell. You’re no ass-kisser. You always stand up for us. I bet he’d never in a million years do for his officers what you did for us five months ago.”
Deakins’ amused smile faded quickly.
“That was a unique situation. You can’t make judgments on what someone would or wouldn’t do if they were faced with the same circumstances.
“Maybe not,” Goren conceded quietly. “But we know what you did do. You saved our lives.”
Deakins’ expression became guarded.
“It was a team effort. Don’t forget that. There were more people involved in finding you than just me.”
“Yeah,” Eames said with a shake of her head. “And Logan is not letting us forget it.”
The captain laughed softly.
“No, he probably wouldn’t. Go on, now. Go and freshen up, and rest for a little while. I’ll meet you down in the bar at a quarter to eight. And if either of you sneaks down there ahead of me for anything stronger than a club soda…”
He trailed off, leaving the threat unspoken. Goren and Eames merely grinned at each other, and disappeared into their room.
Eames paused in the doorway to the bathroom, looking back at her partner questioningly.
Goren sat down on the edge of his bed, looking frustrated and annoyed.
“Deakins still has my notebook.”
“Oh. Well… Don’t worry about it. You can get it back from him later. Remember, he did tell us to rest, Bobby.”
“Who for? You, or him?”
Goren didn’t try to answer that. He waited until she vanished into the bathroom, then got up again and limped across to the kitchenette, and looked into the fridge. Inside there were several bottles of alcohol – beer and a few different mixers, along with two bottles of white wine. There didn’t appear to be anything at all in the way of non-alcoholic drinks, except for a solitary bottle of coke tucked away in the back.
He straightened up, sighing softly. Typical.
“Hey, Bobby, come and take a look at this.”
He turned away from the fridge and made his way slowly into the bathroom. Eames frowned reproachfully at him.
“Damn it, Bobby, are you trying to cripple yourself? I know you hate using the walking stick, but isn’t it better than the alternative? I swear, if you don’t take more care, I’m going to have to tell Deakins…”
He looked almost petulant in the face of her rebuke.
“I don’t think walking a few metres here and there without it is going to cripple me, Alex. And anyway, you can’t talk.”
“What are you talking about?” she growled, immediately going on the defensive.
“Your dad told me about you taking his car out last weekend. And you know damned well that you aren’t supposed to drive again for at least two months.”
Eames had gone red.
“I didn’t think Dad even knew. Damn, busted…”
Goren smirked, pleased with his victory.
“You tell on me, and I’ll tell on you.”
She rolled her eyes. “You can be totally childish, you know that? Okay, truce?”
He accepted her outstretched hand, though he continued to smirk.
“Truce. Now, what was it you wanted to show me?”
She grinned, and pointed across the floor.
“Check out the bath.”
Goren limped over and looked in. A moment later, his face lit up.
The bath was shaped like a large, square spa, though there were no jet functions built into the walls. It was set deep into the floor, so that there was only a small step to negotiate to step into it. Then there were four long, flat steps indicating the varying depths of the bath, easy to manage and perfect for sitting on. Running down the wall was a sturdy handrail, perfectly positioned to hang on to whether a person was standing or sitting. Additionally, each step, as well as the floor both in and immediately around the bath, was inlaid with a non-slip matting, ensuring the safest possible environment for someone in Goren’s position – someone for whom one small slip could be disastrous.
“I bet we have Deakins to thank for this, too,” Goren commented, shaking his head and laughing quietly.
“Who cares?” Eames retorted. “The point is, you can have a bath and not need any help.”
“I know. No showers while we’re here.”
The relief in his voice was palpable. Eames nodded understandingly. She knew what he meant, because she had the same difficulties. As much as they both loved taking showers, and being able to stand under a cascade of hot water, over the last five months it had become something of a trauma because the water pressure on their still-healing limbs caused more pain than they could reasonably bear.
While she had the option of bathing instead, there was no alternative for him. There were no safety features like handrails and non-slip mats in the bathroom in his apartment, and without someone to help him, slippery baths were a hazard that he simply couldn’t risk.
“Go ahead,” she told him when he looked at her pleadingly. “Run a bath for yourself, have a soak.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, unable to quite hide his hopefulness. She smiled warmly at him, and leaned over to kiss him gently on the cheek.
“I’m sure. Just two things, though. If you take any longer than an hour, I’ll get Deakins in here. I want a bath, too. And don’t you dare fall asleep in there, because I’m not coming in to wake you up if you start having nightmares. There’s a lot that I’ll do for you, Bobby, but seeing you naked is not one of them.”
An hour and a half later
Jack Frost arrived at the hotel bar shortly after half past seven, feeling more than a little bit irritable. When Mullett had sprung this little dinner on him earlier that day, he’d been less than impressed. As much as he appreciated a meal on the Department, it annoyed him to lose even a couple of hours of investigation time. Especially when Mullett was likely to be on his back the next day, demanding progress.
Taking a seat at the bar, Jack requested a beer, then took a moment to look around. The bar was quickly filling up with patrons coming in for pre-dinner drinks, but so far he saw no one that fitted the bill of detective. Although that was probably an unfair assessment, Jack conceded reluctantly to himself. He had always tried to avoid judging on appearance, and now was definitely no time to start.
His thought process derailed as the big man on the barstool next to him signalled to the bartender and ordered a coke, shrugging at the odd look that he got.
“Business trip,” the man said apologetically. “No drinking.”
Jack glanced sideways, his attention drawn by a distinct American accent. Not caring to jump straight in and ask if the man was a police officer, he settled for small talk instead. The chap was big enough in size that he didn’t care to cause any aggravation if he happened to be wrong.
“That seems a bit unreasonable.”
The man looked at Jack, sizing him up just briefly, then smiled a little.
“Actually, the truth is I had a kind of accident a few months ago, and I’m still getting over it. The painkillers I’m taking don’t mix too well with alcohol.”
“Ah,” Jack murmured. “Yes, well, they wouldn’t, would they?”
Silence reigned for a while, and then Jack decided to take a punt, and spoke again.
“I was going to ask whether you happened to be a police detective from New York, but that probably seems like a stupid question, doesn’t it?”
Two deep brown eyes looked towards Jack with a penetrating stare.
“You must be Detective Inspector Frost.”
Jack did a double-take. He honestly hadn’t expected a positive answer. A large, strong-looking hand extended towards him.
“Detective Robert Goren.”
Jack shook hands, trying to shrug off his surprise.
“Well… Pleased to meet you. DI Jack Frost.”
Amusement lit up Goren’s eyes.
Jack smiled wryly.
“I prefer it to William.”
“Well, it’s good to meet you, Inspector Frost.”
“Please, just call me Jack… Robert, was it?”
“I’d prefer Bobby, if you don’t mind.”
Jack nodded placidly. “Fine by me. Now, are you sure you won’t have something stronger to drink? I’ve been reliably informed that all costs this evening will be generously covered by Denton CID.”
Goren smiled apologetically, then looked pointedly down. Jack finally noticed the leg brace that Goren wore.
“That would be from the accident you mentioned earlier, then?”
Goren couldn’t help but smile at Jack’s casual reaction.
“Your superintendent was a little more concerned about it than you seem to be.”
Jack returned his attention to his beer.
“Oh, I don’t doubt it. Now, Bobby, if you’re half as smart as we’ve been led to believe you Yankee coppers are, you’ll have worked out by now that Mr Mullett is a pompous windbag, whose opinions generally don’t amount to a hill of beans.”
Goren grinned as he took another mouthful of coke.
“I had noticed that. My captain seemed to get along all right with him, though.”
“Oh, yes? Just as useless, is he, then?”
Goren’s smile faded noticeably.
“Deakins is a good cop… and a good man. He’s politically savvy… but he’s a cop first and foremost. And he supports his officers. He gets along with your superintendent, but he’s not the same as him.”
Jack looked back at Goren curiously.
“You have a lot of respect for your captain, by the sounds of it.”
Goren stared into his drink, his expression unreadable.
“Yes. I do.”
“Well, I’ll try to remember that.”
“There you are.”
Goren looked around, and smiled openly as Eames joined them.
“Alex, this is Detective Inspector Jack Frost. Jack, my partner, Alex Eames.”
They shook hands, Jack’s gaze flickering just briefly to the brace that enclosed her left arm.
“Would that be a result of the same accident Bobby was in?” he inquired lightly. Eames looked questioningly at Goren, who shrugged again.
“Well, it was an accident. Sort of.”
She shook her head. “Some accident.” She paused, eyeing his drink suspiciously. “Is that just coke?”
Goren rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.
“Yes, it’s just coke. You can taste-test it, if you don’t believe me.”
She patted him reassuringly on the arm.
“It’s okay, I do trust you.”
“Do you mind me asking, what was this accident?” Jack asked, dimly aware that he was entering potentially sensitive territory.
Goren and Eames stared at each other for a long moment, almost as though they were communicating without speaking.
“We’ll tell you what happened,” Goren said finally, looking back at him, “but not here. Not now.”
Jack looked from one to the other wonderingly.
“This accident… It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the murders in New York, would it?”
“You could say that,” Eames murmured, watching warily as Goren abruptly swung back around to face the bar and downed the rest of his drink in one long swallow.
“That had better have been coke, Goren.”
All three looked around as they were joined by Deakins. Goren glowered openly at him.
“If the only reason you came along was to baby-sit us…”
He trailed off as Eames laid a hand on his arm, effectively silencing him. To Deakins, she said firmly, “It’s just coke. Try showing a little trust, okay?” Then, to Jack, “Don’t mind him. Constant pain makes him a little bit irritable.”
Jack didn’t try to hide his grin. He didn’t know yet just what was behind their injuries, and he suspected that he’d be disrespecting them in a major way by making assumptions, but he was sure that he was going to like working with them.
“Captain,” Eames went on, “this is Detective Inspector Frost. Inspector Frost, our captain, James Deakins.”
“Please,” Jack said as he shook hands with Deakins, “just call me Jack. Only lawyers and suspects call me Inspector Frost.”
“Ah,” a new voice spoke, “I see we’ve all met now. Wonderful!”
“Lawyers, suspects, and him,” Jack muttered into his beer, his burgeoning good mood suddenly taking a dive. Mullett joined them, smiling pompously.
“Well, if we’re all acquainted, shall we go into the restaurant?”
“Here,” Deakins said to Goren in a low voice as they followed Mullett. Goren looked down in surprise to find his beloved notebook being pushed into his hand.
“Give it an hour,” Deakins told him, “and then do whatever you can to get rid of this clown.”
A cunning smile lit up Goren’s face as he realised Deakins was giving him an open hand. He had a good idea of how to send Mullett packing without openly insulting him, too. He just hoped that Jack would quickly catch on.
An hour later, Goren needed no prompting from Deakins. Unless they got Mullett out of their hair soon, it was entirely possible that one of them would be guilty of committing a homicide before the night was out.
After a pleading glance from Deakins as Mullett took a brief rest from the latest of several long, drivelling monologues, Goren looked pointedly at Eames, who answered with the subtlest of nods.
“So, Jack,” Eames said before Mullett had the chance to start speaking again, “exactly how many victims have turned up so far? We know of three specifically.”
Jack stared at her, caught completely off-guard by both the unexpected question, and the casual way in which it was delivered. Mullett had just been taking a sip of wine, and promptly went into a coughing fit.
“I, uh… excuse me… I thought we’d save all that for tomorrow,” he spluttered.
“Well, we don’t operate like that, sorry,” Goren replied, sounding not the least bit sorry. “We don’t like to waste time when there’s a killer on the loose.”
“Four, so far,” Jack answered as it suddenly dawned on him what they were trying to do. “Four victims, each one apparently tortured before death.”
“And the types of wounds?” Eames asked. Goren reached into his folder, and pulled out three or four pictures of victims from Erik Mathers’ New York killing spree. He passed them across the table to Jack, making certain that Mullett got a good eyeful in the process.
“Really,” Mullett said weakly, sounding more than a little stressed, “is this really the appropriate time to be discussing this?”
“Multiple puncture wounds, just like these,” Jack replied, ignoring Mullett’s pleas. “In two of the four instances, death was the result of blood loss from the wounds that were sustained. In the other two cases, the victims suffered fatal puncture wounds through the heart. We don’t know for certain, but we believe the wounds were made by arrows.”
Goren and Eames exchanged grim looks. It was an all-too-familiar scenario. Despite their discomfort, though, the discussion had the desired effect.
Mullett rose up abruptly, looking more than a little green in the face. Excusing himself, he exited the restaurant fast, pausing only long enough to hand a credit card to Jack, with which to pay the bill.
“Well,” Jack mused once Mullett had gone. “That worked rather well.”
“No one does that better than these two,” Deakins said, sounding for all the world like a proud father. “If you’ll pardon me saying so, though, he doesn’t seem to be much of a commanding officer.”
Jack nodded. “I suspect that Mullett was quite a good police officer in his day, but he’s more politician now than copper. He spends more time keeping the Powers That Be happy than supporting his own officers, unfortunately.”
“Well, now we can talk properly,” Deakins said. “How about we finish up here, and go somewhere that we can talk more freely?”
There was agreement all round, and fifteen minutes later they retreated to Goren and Eames’ room.
“Well, this is quite cosy, isn’t it?” Jack commented as Deakins called Room Service and ordered coffee for all of them.
“We were surprised too,” Eames said. “That is, surprised that our Department was willing to foot the bill for this. They’re so damned stingy…”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Deakins said with a wry smile.
“All right, then,” Jack said as he and Deakins settled into the comfortable armchairs, and Goren and Eames sat together on the couch. “Now, perhaps you can tell me now just how your injuries tie in with this investigation.”
Deakins looked from Eames to Goren in mild surprise, but said nothing. The tale was theirs to tell, and no one else had the right to take that from them.
“The killer we had in New York took a total of seven victims,” Goren explained quietly. “That’s not including the eleven people he killed in Florida eighteen months previous. Five of the New York victims died. Numbers six and seven survived.”
“And you two were injured rescuing those victims?”
Goren and Eames exchanged glances again, and then Goren went on in an even more subdued voice.
“No. We were victims number six and seven.”
Jack stared at them in horror, feeling an icy chill sweep down through his body. Whatever he’d been anticipating, that hadn’t been it.
“Not victims,” Deakins interjected firmly. “Survivors.”
“What happened?” Jack asked.
“The son of a bitch took us out in his brothers’ warehouse,” Eames explained. “He took Bobby down first, and then me. He used an iron bar, and damn near cracked both our heads open. The irony was, up to that point we didn’t have a clue who the killer was until this happened. If Erik Mathers hadn’t done what he did, who knows how many more victims he might have taken?”
Jack nodded in understanding.
“There’s nothing like police officers in trouble to rouse the rest of the troops.”
“Right,” Goren agreed.
“So, you were both kidnapped by this nutcase. What happened then?”
Goren went on quietly, glancing at Eames every so often as though for confirmation of what he was saying.
“We were kept in a small room for two days. We were tied up and blindfolded. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were already outside the boundaries of New York City. After two days, he moved us from that room. He doped the water that he gave us, and knocked us both out. When we woke up, we were outside and we had no idea where we were. All we knew was that it was some sort of mountain region.”
“There was a note pinned to a tree by an arrow,” Eames explained. “It said we had three hours to run, and then Mathers would come after us to hunt us down. We had three days to try and escape him.”
“Good god,” Jack whispered.
Where he sat on the other side to Goren and Eames, Deakins felt a similar sensation of grim horror. Though he knew much of the basics of their ordeal, there were still some things he didn’t know about, things that as yet neither Goren nor Eames had disclosed. The note was one of them, and Deakins knew he couldn’t begin to imagine the fear they must have felt on finding it.
“We walked for around three hours,” Goren continued on. “We thought we had a pretty good start. What we didn’t bet on was the length of time that had passed between when Mathers dumped us outside, and when we actually woke up and found the note. As near as we can figure, we must have been unconscious for nearly three hours…”
“Because about ten minutes after we stopped to take a break, we were suddenly dodging arrows,” Eames finished off when Goren hesitated.
“We didn’t get far,” Goren said. “Now, tell us, does this look at all familiar?”
Even as Jack and Deakins looked on, Goren shifted around on the couch and, unbuttoning his shirt, pulled the material down to reveal several scarred-over puncture wounds.
“Three of our victims have wounds exactly like that,” Jack said tensely. Goren did his shirt up again, while Eames explained.
“That wound was made by a metal ball that was about half the size of a pool ball, and was covered in long metal spikes. Were there traces of sedatives in the blood of those three victims?”
“Yes,” Jack confirmed. “Mild sedatives mixed with a hallucinogen. Are you saying that’s how the drugs were administered?”
“When I pulled the ball out of Bobby’s shoulder, two of the spikes didn’t come out. They were stuck in the bone, and broke away from the metal ball. Those spikes leaked a poisonous, but non-lethal mix of drugs into Bobby’s bloodstream. Twenty-four hours later he had a sky-high temperature, and was starting to hallucinate.”
“Method in the madness,” Jack mused grimly. “That would have been an effective means of slowing down anyone who was getting the better of him.”
“That was his intention,” Goren agreed. “If Alex hadn’t been with me, I doubt I could have shrugged off the effects of the drugs.”
“And it must have hurt like hell,” Jack added, wincing sympathetically as his imagination conjured up a graphic reconstruction of the injury.
“It did,” Goren agreed in a very subdued voice. Neither Jack nor Deakins missed the way Eames reached across and gently grasped Goren’s hand. Both chose to ignore it.
“We managed to give Mathers the slip by hiding inside a small crevasse,” Eames went on softly. “Then we decided to back-track.”
“We figured Mathers must have used some sort of vehicle to get us up the mountain. If we could get back to where we started, we might have been able to find the road he used,” Goren added. Jack nodded.
“It might have worked, too, except we had two things working against us. Firstly, I was hurt, and that slowed us down a lot. Secondly, night came on a lot faster than we thought it would. It got dark long before we got back to where we started from. Then, when we did find something, it wasn’t a road. It was Erik Mathers’ cabin.”
“And you stayed there,” Jack guessed. Their story was swiftly ruining any appetite he still had, but as much as he wanted to tell them to stop, he made himself listen. He knew he had to hear them out if he was going to have any understanding of what was going on in his own territory.
“It was either that, or freeze to death outside,” Eames said. “We didn’t dare light a fire in case it led Mathers to us, and we couldn’t stay out in the open.”
“Mathers had stripped us of pretty much everything except our shirts and pants,” Goren explained. “We had no shoes and socks, no jackets…”
“And no protection from the cold,” Eames finished. “We had to weigh up the risk of Mathers coming back to the cabin against the risk of leaving the only shelter we had. We decided to stay.”
“Unfortunately for us,” Goren went on, “Mathers came back.”
“That’s when I was shot in the leg with an arrow,” Eames said, her hand brushing lightly over the recently healed wound in her right thigh.
“Bloody hell,” Jack muttered, his face a distinct pasty colour.
“I couldn’t walk,” she went on softly, “let alone run. I told Bobby to leave me. I thought he’d have a chance of getting away on his own, but he wasn’t having any of that. He picked me up, and carried me.”
Jack looked questioningly to Deakins, who nodded in silent confirmation, his own thoughts flickering back to their search for the two detectives the next morning.
“We didn’t get far,” Goren said ruefully. “I took a wrong turn, and we came to a dead end…”
“That dead end being a precipice ending in a forty to fifty foot drop to a river below,” Deakins said quietly. Goren grimaced.
“Didn’t feel that high… Until we hit the water, anyway.”
Jack gaped, unable to stop himself.
“No,” Eames corrected him. “We fell, we didn’t jump. At that point, Mathers caught up to us. He fired another arrow at us, and it hit Bobby in the side. He was still carrying me when that happened. He lost balance, and we fell from the precipice.”
“I broke both my legs when we hit the water,” Goren said, “and Alex broke her left arm. Among other things.”
Jack imagined that were he to look at his reflection right then, he would probably appear deathly pale.
“You’re both bloody lucky you weren’t killed. But… did you say you broke both your legs?”
“Yes, but I didn’t know right then that they were both broken. My right leg was so badly broken that I honestly didn’t notice the left was broken as well. In a way it was just as well. If I had known, I might not have gotten back up again”
Jack let his breath out in a rush. If what the Denton victims had suffered was anything remotely like the terrible story he was hearing from Bobby and Alex, then they had to catch the killer fast.
“Well, I guess I can understand the need for the braces, then,” Jack muttered, at a loss for anything else to say. “Just tell me one thing. How in God’s name did you get out of it alive?”
At that, both Goren and Eames looked pointedly to Deakins, who took over the story-telling duties with some reluctance.
“I put together a taskforce when we worked out that Bobby and Alex had been taken by the killer. Thanks to the help we got from an outside source, we got a lead that took us to a town at the base of Gore Mountain, in a mountain range that was north of New York City. From there we headed up the mountain. We got to Mathers’ cabin perhaps twenty or so minutes after Bobby and Alex had gone.”
“You were that close?” Eames asked incredulously. Deakins nodded grimly.
“Yes. We were close enough that we heard your scream when Mathers shot you with that arrow. But we weren’t close enough to get there quickly and stop what happened after that.” He looked across at Jack. “We didn’t get to them until nearly mid-way through the next afternoon, and then we were nearly too late. Mathers got to them before we did.”
He faltered, staring at the floor as the traumatic memories assailed him. Goren and Eames watched him carefully. Like Deakins with their ordeal, they knew the basics of what had gone on with their dramatic rescue, but they had never heard it in detail from Deakins’ own lips.
“When I came into the clearing, Alex was the only one there. She… She was pinned to a tree… impaled by an arrow through her stomach. I thought… I really thought she was dead. I left her with the two CSIs that were with me…”
“CSIs?” Jack queried.
“Forensic Analysts,” Goren explained.
“Ah,” Jack murmured. Deakins went on, seemingly oblivious to the interruption.
“I went looking for Bobby. I found him not too far away. Mathers was standing over him, ready to kill him. I shot Mathers dead myself. There was no room for negotiation.”
“I’ll wager your internal investigations division put you through the wringer for it.”
Deakins smiled, but it was only a pale reflection of the real thing.
“I was suspended on full pay for three weeks while Internal Affairs investigated it. In the end, I was cleared, but my superiors let me know in no uncertain terms that they weren’t happy with the way I handled the situation. Ultimately, I didn’t give a damn. I wasn’t going to pretend I was sorry about killing Erik Mathers. It was him or Bobby, and I wasn’t about to sacrifice one of my two best detectives so some smart ass lawyer could get Mathers off on a technicality. The truth is I’ve never felt as satisfied as I did when I saw my bullets hitting that sick bastard.”
Jack looked over at Goren and Eames, new understanding in his eyes.
“I think I understand now what you were saying earlier, Bobby, and you’re quite right. Mullett isn’t a patch on your captain here.”
“We know,” Goren said softly, watching Deakins with renewed respect. Deakins reddened slightly.
“The point is, Jack, if the man you have here in Denton is anything like Erik Mathers, you might not have the option of taking him alive.”
Jack grimaced at that.
“I see what you’re saying. It could present something of a difficulty, thought. The civil libertarians have something of a foothold around here, and the Press strongly supports them. We’ve had a lot of bad publicity lately for supposed police brutality. I was suspended myself not six months ago for assaulting a suspect.”
“You were obviously cleared, though,” Eames ventured. Jack offered them a smile that was both satisfied and bittersweet.
“Oh, I assaulted the man, I don’t deny that. The bastard was a convicted paedophile, and we’d just caught him red-handed abducting a young boy for a school. He whispered to me what he’d planned to do to the boy, so I punched him in the face. It felt damned good, I might add. And then he made the mistake of asking for a lesser charge in return for dropping the assault charge against me. Mullett wanted me to accept it, though I think he was less concerned about me than the image of the department. Anyway, I told him what he could do with his deal, collected my belongings and walked out. A month later I was back on the job, and just in time for this latest lunatic to come crawling out of the woodwork.”
Eames was smiling openly by then.
“I think we’re going to work well together.”
Jack nodded his agreement.
“So do I, as a matter of fact.”
He stood up, and moved to the door.
“I’ll be around to collect you first thing tomorrow morning, and then we can get to work on this properly. Eight o’clock all right?”
“That’s fine,” Deakins agreed. “We’ll meet you in the lobby.”
“Very good,” Jack said, and let himself out with a brief nod of his head. Once he’d gone, Deakins finished his coffee, then moved towards the door himself.
“Time we all got some rest. I think it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”
“You never said you were suspended for shooting Mathers,” Eames said in a faintly accusing tone. Deakins looked back at them both resignedly.
“You were both still in serious condition in hospital. I wasn’t going to let anyone worry you with that. It worked out all right in the end. I just couldn’t see the point in bothering either of you with it.”
“But you were suspended on account of us!” Goren objected.
“No!” Deakins snapped, startling them both with the vehemence in his voice. “It wasn’t either of your faults. None of what happened was. I don’t regret killing Mathers, not for a second. If I was presented with the same scenario again, knowing what was in store, I’d make exactly the same choices again. I wasn’t going to stand back and let either of you die just to please some faceless bureaucrat who was more worried about the rights of the criminals than those of the victims.”
“Not victims,” Eames said, a small tired smile on her face. “Survivors.”
A genuine smile lit up Deakins’ face.
“Right. Survivors. Goodnight, you two.”
Eames sank back into the sofa after he’d gone, leaning comfortably into her partner’s protective embrace.
“I always used to tell everyone how lucky I am to have you as a partner. But we’re just as lucky to have him as a captain.”
“I know,” Goren murmured. “He risked everything for us. No one else would have done half of what Deakins did. We owe him a hell of a lot.”
“I think that somehow he’ll be happy to settle for a healthy dose of respect and loyalty.”
Goren hugged Eames gently to him, and lightly kissed the top of her head.
“He always had that, from the both of us, and he knows it. It’s one of the reasons he did so much for us.”
Eames sighed a little. She would have been more than content to spend the rest of the night curled up on the sofa beside Goren, but knew they would both pay dearly for it in the morning. Reluctantly, she gently extricated herself from him and got up.
“Deakins is right. We need to get to sleep now, or we’ll never get up tomorrow.”
Goren accepted her extended hand, and got awkwardly to his feet. Eames then collected her pyjamas and headed into the bathroom.
“I’ll change in here. Give a shout if you need help.”
He pulled a face that she didn’t see at her retreating figure. The embarrassing truth was that he did find getting changed to be more than a little difficult, particularly when t came to getting shoes and socks on or off. Because his right leg tended to be hypersensitive to anything that brushed against it, whenever he had a particularly bad day or night even pulling on trousers or pyjama bottoms caused him problems.
Unclipping the calliper and setting it to the side, he slid his trousers off and pulled his pyjama pants on. Sitting carefully on the edge of the bed, Goren pulled off his shirt, but paused before donning his pyjama top.
Eames emerged from the bathroom, and paused to watch him thoughtfully before coming back into the room.
“It still hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?”
He looked up at her briefly, then back down at the scarring on his stomach.
“Sometimes, a little. It’s nothing, really. Compared to my leg, it’s nothing.”
She walked over and sat down carefully next to him on the bed, and reached out to touch her fingers lightly to the scar. She then reached around to touch the other scar on his right side, where the arrow had entered.
“I hadn’t thought it was possible to be any more frightened than I already was… and then you told me I’d have to push that damned arrow clean through your stomach. I was so terrified that something would go wrong… that the shaft would break, and I wouldn’t be able to get it out at all.”
He caught her hand, and squeezed it reassuringly.
“Nothing went wrong. You did really good, Alex. You saved my life. I would have died if you hadn’t found the courage to do what you did.”
She slipped her arms around his waist, hugging him warmly.
“I don’t know that it was courage, as much as being terrified at the thought of being alone up there. We kept each other going, Bobby.”
He returned the hug.
“I know. We both did good.”
Silence fell for a while, before Eames smiled as a new and more pleasant memory came to her.
“You know, I’ve always wondered what Deakins would say if he knew just how we managed to stay warm while we were inside Mathers’ cabin.”
Goren smiled as well at the memory.
“You mean how we cuddled up together on that bed? I know. He’d probably start thinking that separating us isn’t such a bad idea after all. But tell me something…?”
“What was it, exactly, that set you off giggling? When we were lying together, I mean. You never did come clean about that.”
For a long moment, she honestly didn’t know what he was talking about. Then, the memory struck and, almost before she knew it, she was giggling again.
“There you go again,” Goren said, sounding a little disgruntled. “Are you going to tell me what’s so funny? And don’t even think about saying no.”
She grinned up at him.
“I couldn’t help it. It’s just… cuddling up to you is like cuddling up to a giant teddy bear.”
His face went red, but nor could he hide the smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth.
“Never been called that before.”
“A teddy bear?”
“First time for everything.” She drew back from him with some reluctance. A moment later, she was yawning widely. “Definitely time for sleep. C’mon, I’ll tuck you in.”
He shook his head in mock annoyance, but didn’t argue as she helped him into bed, and pulled the blankets carefully up over him.
“Thankyou, Mother,” he retorted. She replied by smacking him across the shoulder.
“Knock it off, Bobby, or tomorrow night I’ll take the Queen Size and you can have the Single.”
He tried to look contrite, and failed miserably. Eames bit back the urge to laugh as she switched off the lights and got into her own bed.
“You know you stink at looking repentant.”
“Only to you.”
“I just know you too well.”
Goren grinned in the darkness.
“We’ve been down this road before.”
Eames grunted and rolled over onto her right side, facing away from him.
“Yes, and we’re not revisiting it now. Goodnight, Bobby.”
Her tone was final. Goren smiled again to himself as he settled down into the soft bed.
Goren awoke to absolute darkness. At first, nothing at all registered in his conscious mind. Then, he heard a faint, muffled sob close by and, for just a split second his memories took his back to those first moments of awareness in that concrete room. His breath seized in his throat and his heart rate shot sky-high before he remembered he was safe in bed in a hotel in Denton, England, and not in that room in Erik Mathers’ cabin. He and Eames were both safe…
There was that muffled sob again, finally snapping him fully awake.
Sitting up, Goren turned on the lamplight and looked across at Eames. She was twisting around in bed, caught up in the throes of some nightmare.
Without hesitating, Goren climbed out of bed and limped over to her side. He sat carefully on the edge of the bed, and reached across to grasp her right shoulder.
“Alex, wake up.”
Eames’ eyes snapped open as his forceful tone cut through her consciousness and brought her sharply back into awareness. She stared up at him for a long moment, her eyes wide with fear and distress and her cheeks wet with tears shed in her sleep.
Then, abruptly, she broke down in a flood of tears. Goren hugged her protectively, his arms folded gently around her slim body. He made no effort to tell her it was okay, or to murmur any sort of reassurance. Instead, he just held her as she cried softly into his shoulder.
Only when her sobs had quietened, and her body ceased to tremble, did Goren finally draw back a little and look down at her.
She nodded slowly.
“I think so. Thanks.”
“So what was it about? Do you want to talk about it?”
She didn’t especially, but they didn’t operate like that. Total honesty and openness with each other had ruled their relationship for the last five months, even if that meant sharing the details of a nightmare at two o’clock in the morning.
“We… We were back in the cabin… Only this time, we didn’t see him coming back. He caught by… by surprise. Then he shot… he shot you with one of those damned arrows. I watched you die! He made me watch you die, and then he was going to shoot me, too… Then you woke me up…”
He hugged her again as she once more dissolved into tears. The nightmare she’d just described was a familiar enough scenario to him. God knew he’d had plenty of similar ones himself, each one as horrific and terrifying as the last. Their individual shrinks had assured them the nightmares would fade with time, but so far no such luck. Virtually every night their sleep was plagued by often frightening, always disturbing dreams that regularly erupted into full-blown nightmares.
Their routine every morning never varied. They would meet and, over two cups of very strong coffee, share the details of whatever dreams or nightmares they’d had through the night. And, at least once a week, one of them would invariably be driven to wake the other in the middle of the night after a particularly horrific nightmare.
Goren shut his eyes, resting his cheek gently against the top of her head. Like tonight. Eames shuddered a little in his arms, and spoke in a small voice.
“Do you think we could… maybe… share the big bed?”
He didn’t speak, but rather slid off her bed and moved back to his own, drawing her with him.
They settled down close together under the blankets, arms wrapped carefully around each other, each one grateful for the familiar and reassuring contact. They fell asleep at much the same time, neither one bothering to take the time or effort to turn off the bed lamp.
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