Author’s note: In the interests of not dragging this story out longer than it should be (and because my fingers are itching to start on a follow-on story idea that I’ve been toying with), I think that there will be only one more chapter to come after this – a possibly rather protracted epilogue, which I will take a little bit of time to work over. I’m not sure if I’m a hundred percent happy with this chapter, but I’m posting it anyway. If I make any significant changes, I will post a replacement chapter.
Mack Taylor looked up from his desk at the sound of a light knock on his office door. He was surprised, to say the least, to find James Deakins standing there. He stood up quickly.
“Relax, Mack,” Deakins told him. “I just thought I’d let you know the latest. They’re going to be all right, both of them.”
Mack dropped back into his chair, visibly relieved.
“That’s great news, sir. Thankyou for coming down to let us know. We hadn’t heard anything since getting back here. Did you just come from St Clare’s?”
“Yes. I’ll be heading home as soon as I’ve reported to my superiors.”
“Good,” Mack said firmly. “You need to get some proper rest.”
A wry smile touched Deakins’ lips.
“You’d be surprised how comfortable a hospital chair can be, when you’re exhausted enough.”
Mack laughed softly.
“So they really will be all right?”
“They’ve got a long road ahead of them,” Deakins answered wearily. “It’ll be a few weeks before they can replace the pins in Goren’s right leg with a cast, and another five or six weeks after that before he can begin rehab. Then he’s looking at two or three months of rehab after that. Similar situation with Eames’ left arm. It wasn’t broken, it was shattered. Goren’s leg was broken in seven places. Eames’ arm was broken in five places. They were so damned lucky, though, Mack. When I think about how close we came to losing them both…”
“Don’t think like that,” Mack said. “You do, and you’ll never sleep again. Just be glad we found them in time.”
“Where’s Lieutenant Caine?”
Mack bit back the urge to smile at Deakins’ obvious change of subject.
“He went to St Clare’s. I think he was hoping for a chance to see Goren and Eames before he and his team head back to Miami.”
“When will that be?”
“After they get things wrapped up here? I think Horatio said they’d be heading back later this afternoon.”
Deakins was silent for a long moment.
“I probably won’t see him before he goes, Mack. Could you do me a favour, and thank him for me? We wouldn’t have found Bobby and Alex if it hadn’t been for them.”
Mack nodded, smiling a little to himself at Deakins’ use of the detectives’ first names. Definitely his paternal side coming through.
“I’ll tell him.”
Deakins stepped back towards the door, then paused.
Mack’s smile broadened a little.
“You’re welcome, sir.”
He looked back at his daughter sadly. She had woken up once since that first moment of semi-awareness, and he wanted to be sure that when she woke up again, it would be to a friendly face and not the medical staff. So, he had no option but to stay right where he was.
“Excuse me… Mr Eames?”
Gavin looked around to find a tallish, red-headed man standing there. A cop, Gavin thought. Question was, from where?
“Yes,” he answered simply. The man introduced himself.
“My name is Horatio Caine.”
“You’re part of that crew from Miami, aren’t you?” Gavin asked, and Horatio nodded in confirmation.
“Yes, sir, I am.”
“Caine…” Gavin murmured. “Lieutenant Caine? Jim Deakins mentioned you. He said if it hadn’t been for you, my little girl would have died. He said you saved her life.”
Horatio smiled just a little.
“It was a team effort. I was just wondering… How is she doing?”
Gavin ushered Horatio into the room.
“She’s going to be okay. She’s got a pretty long road ahead of her, but she will be all right.”
“That arm is going to take a lot of rehab,” Horatio said, eyeing Alex’s left arm with a sympathetic wince.
“Yes,” Gavin agreed, “but her doctor said she should get back full strength and mobility. It could have been a lot worse, Lieutenant Caine. She could have lost the arm entirely.” He paused, then added softly, “She could have been dead.”
Horatio walked around to the side of the bed, and gazed down at Alex’s bruised face. When he had seen her last, her face had been almost the colour of ivory, and she had been deathly cold to the touch. Now, despite her injuries and the ugly bruising on her face, he could at least see colour and warmth returned to her features. He could see renewed life, a stark contrast to those first moments, now more than twenty-four hours ago, when they had thought her to be dead.
“I’m glad she’ll recover,” Horatio said softly.
Gavin smiled, warmed by the genuine relief in the other man’s voice. A moment later, he found himself struggling to stifle a jaw-popping yawn.
“How long have you been here?’ Horatio asked, though he suspected he already knew.
“Since they brought her down from Recovery,” Gavin admitted wearily.
“Why don’t you go and get something to eat and drink?” Horatio suggested.
“I don’t want to leave her on her own,” Gavin said. “I don’t want her waking up alone.”
“Fair enough,” Horatio murmured. “Well, how about this? You go and get something for yourself… Maybe get some fresh air… And I’ll stay here with Alex until you get back.”
Gavin smiled appreciatively at Horatio.
“That’s kind of you to offer, Lieutenant, but it isn’t necessary. My two brothers will be here within the hour, and I’ll have a chance to get some fresh air then. If you really want to, though, there’s someone else just across the way who would probably be grateful for the company.”
Horatio looked around, and his gaze went to the room across the hallway, beyond the nurses’ station.
“He doesn’t have any family?” Horatio asked. Gavin shook his head.
“Just a mother who’s too ill to be here for him. And, apparently he has an older brother who doesn’t give a damn. Since Jim Deakins left early this morning, he’s been on his own. I don’t know if he’s even awake at the moment, but I think he’d appreciate not being alone.”
Horatio nodded, his mind quickly made up.
He started towards the door, only to stop when he felt Gavin’s hand on his shoulder. Turning back, he found himself looking into the gratitude-filled expression of Alex Eames’ father.
“Thankyou, Lieutenant Caine. Thankyou for my daughter’s life.”
Horatio smiled, feeling a little embarrassed now.
None of it was helping. He’d even tried Lamaze, out of desperation to ease the sheer agony of his injuries. In the end, all that had done was to give him a nasty case of vertigo on top of the pain. After the dizziness had finally settled, he’d made a mental note to apologise profusely to Alex for his stubborn insistence that she attend all her Lamaze classes without fail.
Now, he was on the verge of giving in and summoning the medical staff. As little as he liked the idea of sedation, the hard truth was that he just didn’t know how much longer he was going to be able to cope with the pain. Since Deakins had left earlier that morning, he’d literally had nothing to distract him and, for one of the few times in his solitary life, Bobby Goren found himself craving company.
Though he would never confess to it, he felt jealous knowing that Alex had her father to be with her, as well as the rest of her family, both immediate and extended. Where he… Well, he had no one.
When Deakins had left earlier, Bobby had pretended to be asleep to avoid any awkwardness. In truth, a part of him had wanted to beg Deakins to stay, but his pride would not allow it. Now, for the first time in a long, long while, Bobby found himself wishing for the support of a larger family.
As far as he was aware, his only living relations were his mother and his brother. His maternal grandparents had died when he was only four years old, and he had never met his paternal grandparents. They had both died long before he had been born.
He didn’t remember any aunts or uncles. As far as he knew, his mother and his father were both only children and even if that were not the case, any such siblings had stayed right away.
Bobby looked around slowly, expecting the voice to belong to a nurse, or perhaps a doctor. Instead, he found himself looking at a man that he was sure he didn’t know, and yet seemed very familiar.
“I wasn’t sure whether you’d be awake,” the man said, stepping into the room.
“I wish I wasn’t,” Bobby said miserably. “But it’s kind of hard to sleep when you feel like your body’s on fire.”
“Do you want me to get the doctor?”
“No,” Bobby answered softly. “They can’t give me anymore painkillers, and I don’t really want to be sedated.”
He fell silent for a moment, staring at the newcomer and trying desperately to place a name to the familiar face.
“I’m sorry,” he said finally. “You look familiar, but I don’t…”
“It’s okay. We haven’t officially met. My name’s Horatio Caine. I’m with the Miami Dade CSU.”
“Miami…” Bobby murmured. “Deakins mentioned Miami.”
Horatio walked around to the side of the bed.
“I probably look familiar to you because I helped Captain Deakins to pull you up from the cliff.”
Realisation and recognition dawned slowly in Bobby’s eyes.
“I think I remember. It’s not really clear…”
“Don’t try to force yourself into remembering,” Horatio told him. “There’s no need. You’ve got enough to cope with at the moment as it is.”
“How did the Miami police get involved in this?” Bobby asked, partly out of curiosity and partly out of need for distraction. Horatio answered with only a moment’s hesitation.
“The head of your CSU, Mack Taylor, contacted me. The first five victims you had matched the signature of a killer that escaped us a couple of years ago. Mack thought we might be able to help.”
“You could have just sent the case files,” Bobby mumbled. “You didn’t have to come to New York.”
“Your captain said much the same thing. I believed we could help. It’s as simple as that.”
For a moment the two men locked stares, and Horatio suddenly had the distinct sensation that Bobby Goren was looking straight through him, right into his soul. Then, Bobby turned his head away, closing his eyes tightly against the pain.
“I doubt it’s that simple,” he muttered. “Aw, crap…”
“What can I do?” Horatio asked as he watched Bobby go rigid on the bed. Bobby didn’t answer, focusing every ounce of his concentration into trying to relax his body, and beat the pain. Tears built up and forced their way out from behind his tightly-shut eyes, and he cried out in distress before he could stop himself.
A hand suddenly slipped into his remaining good hand, and grasped it tightly. The sudden, unexpected contact brought him back from the edge of the abyss into which he had started to slide. His own hand locked in a vice-like grip onto Horatio’s hand and slowly, slowly the rigid, excruciating tension throughout his body began to ease.
Minutes passed, and eventually Bobby was able to open his eyes and focus again on the concerned face that hovered above his own. It was then that he became aware that Horatio was speaking to him
“…hear me? Detective Goren? Try and relax. Just breathe… That’s it…”
Bobby shuddered, and finally managed to release his grip on Horatio’s hand.
“Sorry…” he whispered, seeing Horatio flex his hand. Horatio smiled faintly.
“Don’t be.” The Miami lieutenant reached across and took a damp cloth from a basin on the bedside cupboard, and took the liberty of wiping it gently over Bobby’s hot, sweat-lathered face. “Any better?”
“How often does that happen?” Horatio asked. Bobby shook his head.
“Don’t know. Can’t keep track. But when it hits… it hits hard.” He was silent for a long moment before speaking again softly. “I suppose you have to get going.”
Horatio glanced towards the door, and across the hall to Alex’s room. It seemed Gavin Eames had been right. Pulling the chair up close to the bed, Horatio sat down.
“No, as a matter of fact, I don’t.”
The relief on Bobby’s face was palpable.
Silence reigned for a while. Bobby lay still and quiet and Horatio was starting to wonder whether he had managed to fall asleep despite the pain, when his soft voice spoke again.
“How did you work out it was Erik Mathers?”
Horatio contemplated what to say for a minute before answering.
“Luck had a lot to do with it. We had a name from our escaped killer, and it matched up against a property in the Adirondacks. It was the only lead we had, so Captain Deakins mobilised everyone and we headed up there. It wasn’t until we spoke to the local sheriff that we found out about Mathers.”
“This property… Was it the one in the mountains?”
“No. It was a house on the outskirts of a small town at the base of Gore Mountain. Mathers never took you and your partner there. What we did find, though, was his vehicle that he transported the two of you in. The sheriff told us about the cabin Mathers had up the mountain, and we found someone who was able to take us up there. Tell me something… if you can…?”
“You and Detective Eames found yourselves back at Mathers’ cabin at some point. What happened?”
Bobby was silent for a long moment before answering.
“We decided to backtrack. We figured that… that Mathers must have used a car or a van to get us to the cabin…”
“Close,” Horatio said quietly. “He took you up the mountain in his van, then took you the rest of the distance using a quad bike and a flatbed trailer. We found the bike and trailer by pure accident. Logan slipped down an incline and found the path that Mathers had used.”
Bobby contemplated that with a short, bitter laugh.
“We might have found that path… if I hadn’t already been hurt.”
“So… you’d already been injured when you got back to the cabin?”
“My shoulder,” Bobby said softly. He glanced at Horatio, then looked away to the ceiling. “Some sort of spiked ball hit me in the shoulder. We managed to give Mathers the slip, and we decided to backtrack. We found the cabin, and decided to stay there. If we’d kept going… stayed outside… we would have both frozen. I don’t know how long we were there for before Mathers came back. Alex went out the window… It was too small for me to get through. She smashed a window to get Mathers’ attention so I could get out, too. I… He was on the porch with that damned crossbow. I don’t know if he could really see Alex or not… I tackled him… That’s when Alex was shot in the leg. I managed to stun Mathers, and then I went to find Alex. I was so stupid… I should have tried to finish Mathers off then, but all I could think about was that Alex was hurt. But I could have ended it then…”
“Think about that, Detective Goren,” Horatio interrupted gently. “You’d been held for approximately two days before he released you and Detective Eames. I assume he gave you water at some point…?”
“Twice,” Bobby confirmed, frowning a little. “The second lot was doped with something that knocked us both out.”
“So he gave you an absolute minimum amount of water. You’d had nothing to eat for three days, and you admit you were already injured. You couldn’t have beaten him. You knew that you weren’t strong enough, so you did the only thing you could do.”
Bobby looked up at Horatio, a bitter look on his face.
“Nearly got us both killed, you mean.”
“You saved her life, and you saved your own,” Horatio told him firmly. “There was nothing stupid in what you did, Detective Goren. Don’t doubt that, not for a second.”
Bobby was silent for a long minute as he considered Horatio’s words.
Horatio hesitated in responding. The detective had spoken so softly, that he wasn’t sure that he’d heard him correctly.
“What was that?”
Bobby looked across at Horatio, and once again Horatio had that unsettling sensation that he was being looked through, rather than at.
“My name. It’s Bobby. You can call me Bobby.”
Horatio smiled a little.
“How… How bad was it when you found us? How bad did we look?”
At that Horatio did hesitate. He could understand the morbid curiosity that fuelled a person’s desire to know something like that, but he doubted the wisdom in telling the detective.
“They keep telling me she’s alive,” he said softly. “That she’ll be okay. But how can I know for sure? After Mathers left us, I crawled over to Alex. I thought she was… was dead. But she wasn’t… and I left her… She wasn’t dead, and I left her…”
Understanding dawned in Horatio’s eyes as he realised what Bobby needed to hear.
“Listen to me, Bobby. Are you listening? You might think you made a bad mistake, but leaving her like that probably saved her life. When Erik Mathers left the two of you in that clearing, it was because he heard us coming up the hill. He tried to stall us by shooting at us with his crossbow. He hit Mike Logan in the arm.”
“Is he okay?” Bobby asked softly, a little taken aback by the news. Horatio nodded.
“He’s fine. It wasn’t a serious injury. Now, I’m guessing that when Mathers got back to the clearing, he found you gone and went after you straight away. If you’d stayed where you were, Mathers might have discovered Alex wasn’t dead at all, and he might have endeavoured to finish what he started. As for thinking she was dead, don’t beat yourself up over that. Your captain thought exactly the same thing when he got to her. He believed she was already dead, too. But then, if he hadn’t, he might not have gone looking for you straight away, and if he hadn’t done that, we would have lost you.”
“That’s a lot of maybes, Lieutenant Caine,” Bobby mumbled, but at the same time Horatio thought he detected a hint of relief in the detective’s eyes. He smiled a little, seeing Bobby was almost asleep.
“Just call me Horatio, Bobby.”
Bobby didn’t reply. His breath escaped him in a faint sigh as he slipped finally into the painless relief of sleep. Horatio stood watching him for a few minutes, marvelling at how incredibly fortunate they had all been. Yes, they had two critically injured cops, but they were alive. And that, Horatio thought, was no small miracle. They had a long road ahead of them, with rehabilitation and intensive trauma counselling, but Horatio had the sudden sure feeling that they were both going to be fine.
The detectives were safe, and a killer was dead. Horatio sat down slowly, a relieved and satisfied smile on his lips. Everything was going to be just fine.
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