A month later
Jason Scott hated flying. He’d never really been especially fond of flying at any time in his life that he could recall, but certain unpleasant experiences over the past several years had served to cement that dislike, and ferment it into a good, healthy loathing.
When he’d decided to make this trip, though, he’d reluctantly conceded to flying. After all, his father had told him with a barely suppressed grin, wasn’t a four hour flight better than a three week road trip? That had been the selling point – Jason hated the idea of a road trip even more than he hated flying.
And so here he was, ensconced as comfortably as he could hope to be in his first class seat on the Red Eye flight from Los Angeles to New York. Admittedly, it wasn’t as bad as he’d anticipated. The flight had been relatively smooth so far, with no turbulence or any other disturbances. So far, Jason had been able to sit back, rest and think about what lay ahead.
He was nervous, he didn’t deny that. He defied anyone to say otherwise, when they were meeting up with old friends that they hadn’t laid eyes on for nearly five years. It wasn’t that he wasn’t looking forward to the reunion. He was, very much so. It was just that the last time he had seen some of the friends he was now on his way to meet, they had parted on less than civil terms.
A grimace found its way onto his face. That was a pretty monumental understatement, really. The last time he had been together with his best friend, Tommy, they had ended up having a truly explosive argument that had almost come to blows. Jason could not even remember now what the argument had been about. All he knew was that when he had left Angel Grove with his parents for the last time, of all his friends, Tommy was the only one who had not come to the airport to see them off.
That had hurt, he didn’t deny it. It hadn’t been all that surprising, though. Tommy had always been stubborn and pig-headed… Not unlike himself. His father had often commented that the two boys were twins in every way except looks, and there had been times that Jason would have agreed. Towards the end, though, it had seemed that there had been nothing but animosity between them, and Jason didn’t know why. All he knew was that, in the end, they’d not been able to spend more than ten minutes together without erupting into a fight. And, almost always the fights had been about something insignificant that neither had been able to remember later on.
So here he was, on his way to meet up with old friends, including the one friend with whom he’d seemed to be unable to do anything but fight and argue. His father had advised him not to expect too much, but also to be willing to give Tommy a chance. To put what was in the past behind them and start over afresh, if that was what was needed. Jason wanted to, desperately. But his meeting up with Tommy again was not the only thing weighing on his mind.
There was one other person he was hoping to meet up with again, and this particular person had no idea that he was coming. A man from his past… his own personal saviour. This man had literally saved his life, and Jason couldn’t possibly go to New York without making a genuine effort to get in touch with him. And in truth, it was that potential meeting that really had his stomach twisting into knots.
Jason sighed softly, inadvertently attracting the attention of the stewardess who happened to going past. She paused, then crouched down beside him.
“I’m guessing you must have a fair bit on your mind, not to be able to sleep like everyone else.”
Jason glanced around the cabin. Sure enough, everyone else in the first class compartment was sound asleep, and probably had been for a while. He tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“I’m going to New York to meet some old friends,” he explained. “I guess I’m just a little nervous.”
The stewardess, Anna, smiled sympathetically.
“Haven’t seen some of them for a while, huh?”
Jason hesitated in answering that.
“No,” he said finally. “One especially… I haven’t seen him for a long time… Since I was eight years old, actually.”
“He must be a special friend, then,” Anna said. Jason sighed again.
“Yeah. He saved my life.”
Anna smiled again and patted him gently on the shoulder as she stood up again.
“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see you again, honey. Now, try and get some sleep. We still have a couple of hours before we touch down in New York.”
Jason watched her go, then settled back in his seat.
It was true, he was far more nervous at the prospect of meeting with the man who had saved his life so long ago, than he was at meeting up with Tommy and the others again.
Detective Robert Goren… That was his name, the name of the police officer who had saved his life, putting his own life at risk in the process. Jason knew he was a detective now, because his father had made a few discreet inquiries. And not only a detective, but apparently he had just been promoted to Detective First Grade, joining a section of the NYPD known as the Major Case Squad. Jason didn’t know exactly what that was, but it sounded pretty important to him.
He was pleased for the detective. His parents, over the years, had made occasional inquiries about Robert Goren’s wellbeing with old friends from New York, and not all the reports they’d had back had been good. Apparently, there had been quite a few people who hadn’t liked the fact that a lowly beat cop had nailed a top detective as a wife and child beater, and a serial killer. Jason knew it had taken Detective Goren a long time to get to where he was now, and he felt glad that it had finally happened.
The truth, though, was that he just didn’t know how Detective Goren would react to seeing him again. Would he be pleased…? Or would he not want the reminder?
Jason knew the detective had been very badly hurt in that final showdown with his father. Though he’d never admitted it to his adoptive father, that last confrontation in which his mother had been killed was one of the few things from his childhood that he still remembered. How could he possibly forget her screams of pain and terror as his father stabbed her brutally, and then slashed her throat? How could he forget the pain of being cut and stabbed himself? And how could he ever, ever forget the giant of a man who had shielded him from further injury with his own body?
Oh, he remembered, all right. He remembered it all with painful clarity.
He remembered that big body curled around his smaller one, protecting him from his father’s rage, taking the full force of the brutal knife attack that had been meant for him. He remembered looking up into the face of his protector and saviour after it was over, and feeling the not so childish clutch of fear as the officer’s eyes closed, and his body went limp on the floor as he lost consciousness. He remembered the second policeman trying desperately to wake his friend up. He’d still be been trying when the ambulance arrived, along with other police officers.
Then there had been the trip in the ambulance to the hospital. Jason remembered watching in silent fear as the two paramedics worked frantically on the wounded officer, desperate to keep him alive until they got to the hospital. The last Jason had seen of that officer had been as they were both taken out of the ambulance at the hospital, and wheeled in different directions. The last image Jason had of the officer who saved his life was that of a critically injured man being wheeled away on a hospital gurney, covered in copious amounts of his own blood.
It was a vivid image that Jason had carried with him ever since.
And now, he was on his way back to the city where it had all begun. The choice of city had not been his. If he’d had his way, it would have been as far away from New York as possible. But the reason for that decision had been to accommodate two of their friends – Kimberly Hart, who was just finishing off a season of training and competition in New York with the US Pan Global Gymnastics team as one of the team coaches, and Trini Kwan, who had just been appointed to a position with the United Nations office in New York. What it came down to was that it was easier for the rest of them to get to New York than it was for Trini and Kim to leave to go elsewhere.
So Jason had agreed without argument when Billy called to let him know the decision. He wouldn’t have been able to argue anyway. The truth was, none of his friends knew the truth of his past, and digging his heels in and refusing to go to New York would have meant explaining why he didn’t want to go, and he wasn’t prepared to do that. His past was his business, and he didn’t care to relive it for anyone.
Not that he thought that they wouldn’t understand, but he suspected they might be a little upset that he’d never confided in them. But in the end, it was his business, and his choice. He decided he could cope with a week in New York, and then he could get out of the city, and never set foot within its boundaries again.
In the meantime, the one true saving grace of the trip was the prospect, however unnerving, of meeting Robert Goren again. As nervous as he was at the thought, he was also genuinely looking forward to it. He desperately wanted a new image to replace in his mind that horrible one of the officer, battered and bloody, being rushed away into the hospital.
Jason sighed again, and his eyes slowly flickered closed as sleep finally began to overtake him. It was going to be fine, he reassured himself. It was all going to be fine, and there was nothing to worry about. Nothing at all…
Tommy Oliver sat down with a thud on the bed in his hotel room, and automatically reached for the TV remote, flicking mindlessly through the various channels for a good minute or two before finally settling on a channel which showed car racing. It was an old race, a NASCAR race from a couple of months ago, but it was better than most of the other crap on television, and he had nothing better to do right then anyway.
Plumping up the pillows behind him, Tommy rested back against the headboard, and stretched his long legs out in front of him, and tried to focus on what was happening on the television screen, rather than on the jumble of thoughts in his head.
He’d arrived in New York a full day ahead of the planned reunion. It meant paying for an extra night’s accommodation, but that was the least of his concerns. After his success on the car racing circuit, he could afford a little bit more than he might have been able to five years earlier.
No, he’d come early because he wanted time to sort out his thoughts before meeting with all his old friends. More specifically, he wanted time to sort himself out before he met up with Jason again.
Realising dimly that using the car race on the television to distract himself was a contradiction to the very reason he had arrived early in the first place, Tommy finally switched the TV off again, and lay down flat on the bed, staring up at the ceiling as he tried to think things through.
He frowned a little to himself. Though he would never have said so aloud, thinking had never been his strong suit. He didn’t see that as a negative thing, though. He saw himself as a doer, not a thinker. He was just the type of guy who liked to take action, not sit around talking about it. That was for others to do. It was one of the main reasons he was seriously looking at leaving behind his career as a racing driver, and joining the army. He liked having set instructions, a specific idea of what he had to do, and not having to waste precious time debating the morals of whatever decision had been made. That was something Trini and Jason had always been inclined to do, and it had always annoyed him no end.
He grimaced again at the thought of his old best friend. As much as he was looking forward to seeing his other friends again, he just didn’t know how much he was really looking forward to seeing Jason again. Their last meeting had been less than friendly. In fact, if he remembered rightly, they had come damned close to trying to punch each other out. An outright, physical fight had only been prevented because he’d had the guts to walk away. At least, he was pretty sure that was how it had played out.
He just didn’t really remember, and neither was he sure that he wanted to.
There had been a time when he and Jason had been as close as twins, even to the point where they had been able to finish each other’s sentences. But that had all changed when Jason had returned home from the United Nations Peace Conference in Switzerland.
Jason had been gone for months, and Tommy had missed his presence bitterly. He’d been ecstatic when he’d received an email from his friend, saying that he felt he’d done all he could, and that he was coming home for good. Then, Jason had actually arrived home, and Tommy soon had the first inklings that not all was rosy with their relationship.
Upon arriving home, Jason had seemed surly and irritable, brushing off Tommy completely. Jason’s father had tried to tell Tommy to give Jason time to readjust to being home, but Tommy had strongly sensed even then that the changed dynamics in their relationship were irreversible. That was something else. He may not have been much of a thinker, but various events had left him almost hypersensitive to the way others were feeling. And there was no disguising what he interpreted as Jason’s feelings of resentment towards him.
Still, Tommy had tried to rekindle their friendship, and for a while it seemed that things were back to normal. But as time went on, Tommy came to sense resentment from Jason, and a growing hostility. Why, he didn’t know. All he knew was what he felt was a steadily increasing anger from Jason towards him.
Tommy believed he’d tried hard to set things right with his friend, but it seemed to him that Jason hadn’t wanted to try at all. Every time they got together, Jason would initiate yet another argument. At least, he was pretty sure Jason had initiated them. He was fairly sure none of it had been his own fault. He’d wanted to give his friend every chance and he had done just that, hadn’t he? But Jason had been the one to reject it all.
Sure, Jason had gone through a bit, but Tommy felt he had more reason to complain than Jason did, and yet he’d never complained once.
In the end, Tommy simply hadn’t known what to do, and had finally given up altogether. And so, eventually, the inevitable had happened, and the two friends – former friends, it seemed – had finally gone their separate ways. And Tommy had heard nothing of Jason in the five years since, though he expected Jason had to have heard of his success in the car racing industry.
Now, they were being thrown back together again by their well-meaning mutual friends, in the guise of a reunion.
The prospect of meeting with Jason again had almost been enough to encourage Tommy to refuse to show. It had only been Trini’s pleading with him that he had finally consented to going. If Jason wasn’t civil, though, he would cheerfully pack his bags and go home, though. He’d made that blatantly clear to Trini over the phone. He wasn’t going to take any crap from the golden boy, not for anyone or anything.
Tommy sighed softly and rolled over onto his side, adjusting the pillows beneath his head.
He wished things had turned out differently, he really did. Jason had once been the best friend that he had always dreamed of having before his family moved to Angel Grove. But as his father said, sometimes things fell apart and there was no real explanation for why. All you could do was pull yourself together as best as you could, and just try to get on with your life.
That was what he was doing, getting on with his life, and no one was going to stop him from doing that. No one.
Stanhope Institute and Correctional Facility
Two weeks prior
“Look at you, Mr ‘I’ve got the Parole Board eating out of my hand’!”
Alan Scott looked around, a tight smile on his lips as one of the orderlies paused in the doorway of his room.
“Hi, Danny,” he greeted him. Danny Ellis took another step inside the room, and looked around with mild amusement at the now bare walls of Alan’s room.
“So you’re finally leaving us, and going back out into the world. You think they’re ready for you, man?”
For just a split second, the amiable smile twisted into a sneer. Then the Moment was passed, and Alan shrugged a little.
“I don’t know. I guess the question is, am I ready for it?”
“Ah, you’ll be fine. You’ve got all your meds sorted out, and your doctor and parole officer will help you settle back in. You know all the rules and what you can and can’t do. It’ll be fine. So, you need any help packing?”
Alan shook his head.
“No, thankyou. I’m fine.”
Danny nodded, and started back out of the room.
“Okay, then. Well, I’m finishing my shift now, and I guess when I’m back on duty you’ll be gone. It’s been good working with you, Alan. And don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I don’t see you again.”
Alan smiled and nodded.
“No offence taken. Thankyou for everything, Danny.”
He watched as the orderly disappeared out the door, then carefully shut the door after him. Once shut inside the privacy of his room, Alan pulled three scrapbooks from the shelf where the few books he owned also sat. The books he didn’t give a damn about. They could burn them for all he cared, but he wasn’t wasting space in his bags trying to fit them in. The scrapbooks, however, were vital.
Inside one was all manner of inane, apparently pointless things – drawings, mindless pieces of writing and pictures of all manner of sweet things that he’d cut out from magazines and newspapers. The kind of things that made his psychiatrist happy, and made him sick to his stomach. This was the scrapbook that he took with him to his therapy sessions.
The other two looked identical to the first, but their contents were vastly different. Their contents would hopefully help him achieve the two deeds that had been on his mind from the Moment he had been pronounced guilty at his trial some twelve or thirteen years ago. The two deeds that had been gnawing away at his mind and soul for thirteen long years.
He paused, staring at the two scrapbooks, his hatred fuelled purely by the thoughts of what lay inside. After a Moment, with a brief glance at the door, Alan sat down and began flipping slowly through the first scrapbook.
There was not much in this particular one, mainly because the subject had long ago moved to another state entirely, and Alan was strongly reliant on old friends obtaining the articles and photos that occupied it. But still, there was enough.
His breath escaped him in an angry hiss as he found a more recent photo towards the back. There was his son, grown into a fine, strong young man, raised by his scum brother and sister in-law, in place of himself. The anger, the rage filled Alan quickly, and he had to make a conscious effort to force it back down. He was to see his psychiatrist one last time before being released from custody, and if there was so much as a hint of rage in him, he’d be locked up again faster than he could blink.
Besides, his son was no longer the immediate object of his rage and hatred, and it was pointless focusing on him in that way right at the Moment. No, better that he should turn his focus to his other target, the one that he actually had a chance to eliminate.
Alan opened up the second scrapbook, and his blue eyes darkened with hatred as he looked at the photo of the police officer who, in his opinion, had almost single-handedly been responsible for his incarceration. Robert Goren… The name was forever burned into his subconscious mind, and Alan doubted he would ever be able to put the man out of his mind until he’d taken a suitable revenge.
A suitable revenge… A hint of a smile curled the corners of his lips as he imagined everything he wanted to do to the cop who had effectively stolen his life. Robert Goren was going to truly know the meaning of pain, by the time he was done. Alan’s only debate was how to go about extracting his long-desired revenge.
He still remembered with absolute clarity years ago, arriving home with his son to find those two cops already on the doorstep, shielding his bitch wife, as though she deserved protection. That had been the catalyst to tip him over the edge, though. He’d only planned to beat her, to make sure she never spoke of what she’d found. Getting home to find that she’d already blabbed tipped him into a more violent rage than he’d ever experienced.
When they’d refused to get out of his way, when that asshole detective actually had the balls to try and give him an order, he’d simply given in to the red haze descending on his vision, pulled his gun and shot the jerk. Then that young cop, Goren, had tried to stop him, and he’d shot him as well.
That should have been the end of it. He’d hauled his wife and son inside and left the two cops bleeding on the porch. He’d dispatched his bitch wife and was just about to start on his screaming brat when Goren had come out of nowhere and tackled him. He hadn’t seen the cop come in, which only spoke for how much of a rage he was in. Because with a bullet wound like the one Goren had, he sure as hell couldn’t have snuck up on anyone who was paying attention.
Really, it hadn’t been much of a fight at all. He’d gotten the upper hand pretty quickly, and stabbed the cop a couple of times before pushing him away. Then he’d been about to finish the job with his son when he was pushed out of the way by Goren once more. Instead of trying to fight him this time, though, the guy had used his body to shield Jason. Alan had seen red, literally, and launched a frenzied attack on Goren. To the cop’s credit, he held out until his partner staggered in, and shot his attacker.
Alan had taken a bullet in the leg, and the sheer pain had immediately rendered him helpless. His only pleasure at that point, after being cuffed by that piece of scum from SVU, had been lying there watching as the asshole tried to help his little buddy.
He’d known better to hope that the young cop would die, but what he hadn’t expected was that Goren would rouse himself from his sick bed in hospital and come to court to testify against him. And, in the end, it was that testimony from the weakened and wheelchair-bound officer that had tipped the jury over the line to rule against him. Not the case put forward by the prosecution, and not even the trembling testimony delivered by his eight year old son via video-link to the courtroom. No, Alan sincerely believed it was the rock-solid testimony of the cop that had sent him to prison in the end. And he would have his revenge for that, one way or another.
Alan closed the scrapbook, and slipped all three into his bag. The first he would continue to display to his shrink as a sign of how well he was doing, and how placid he was. The other two would serve as a refresher for his hatred and anger, until he was able to carry out his revenge against the two people that he held responsible for taking his life away from him.
The cop, and the brat.
A satisfied smile tugged at his lips as he resumed packing his meagre possessions in preparation for leaving the institute. Wasn’t the cop going to be surprised when they finally came face-to-face. Thanks to old, loyal friends, he’d been successful in getting his lawyer to appeal his sentence and, with the testimony of his shrink, who was one hundred percent positive that Alan was rehabilitated, and quite stable with his medication, a judge had ruled that he had the right to apply for parole. He had done so promptly and again, thanks to those friends in power, no one of significance had been made away of his possible release. In particular, the bastard cop that had caused him so much trouble in the first place.
The cop was a detective now, according to one of his friends who had visited recently. He’d just made Detective First Grade, and was leaving Narcotics after five years to take up a new position with the Major Case Squad. That had pissed Alan off even more, though he’d kept his anger carefully hidden behind a façade of perpetual contentment and amiability. He himself had applied three times to get into the high profile Major Case Squad when his life had still been something worth bragging about, and each time he had been soundly knocked back. To hear that Goren had gotten in on his first try only increased his determination to cut the cop down to size – literally, if need be.
The man was definitely going to hurt, Alan would see to that. He would take him apart, if need be. And then, when he had dealt with Goren, then he would go after his bastard son. He didn’t give a damn whether he went back to prison for the rest of his life, as long as he had fair opportunity to carry out those two tasks. He was going to find the cop, and the brat, and kill them both, and nothing was going to stop him.
A small, grim smile flickered across his lips and, with fresh determination in his heart, he hurried to finish packing, looking forward the Moment when he set foot outside the gates of the institute, and his new life’s purpose could finally begin.
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