Blackness. It was the first thought that came to Jason’s mind as he slowly regained consciousness and, as his muddled thoughts tried to regain some sort of order, he wondered if he was blindfolded. It took him a good minute or two to realise that there was no blindfold covering his eyes, and that he could actually see in the dim light.

His head throbbed where Alan had struck him, but he doubted he was in as much pain as Bobby was likely to suffer when he woke up.

Jason sucked in his breath sharply as he finally remembered clearly what had happened. Alex had gone to talk to Bobby, and he had started to clean up the broken glass, as he’d offered to do. He had been concentrating on carefully picking up the sharp slivers of glass when he’d sensed someone coming up behind him. He’d just started to turn around when a strong pair of hands grabbed him, hauled him up and threw him into the wall. He’d crashed against one of the many shelf units, crying out in pain, and before he had a chance to recover, Alan had been on him, belting him across the head hard enough to stun him, and handcuffing his wrists.

Jason remembered lying dazedly on the floor, watching helplessly as Alex came out of the bedroom, gun drawn. He couldn’t even get a sound out to warn her, though, and had had no choice but to watch helplessly as Alan came up behind her and cracked her hard enough across the back of the head to knock her out. Then, Alan had come back to him and forced him up, keeping him in check with a jagged piece of broken glass pressed up under his chin.

He moaned softly. There had been nothing he could do. One wrong move at that point, and he would have been dead before he hit the floor. As much as he was aware that it was his father’s intention to kill them both, a strong sense of self-preservation had stopped Jason from doing anything that would have conceivably resulted in near instant death.

And so here he was… wherever here actually was. Lifting his head – it felt strangely heavy on his shoulders, and he wondered vaguely whether Alan had perhaps doped him up with something – he looked around.

The first thing he focused on was the man sitting tied to a chair across from him. It was Bobby, and he looked pretty damned awful.

His plaster casts were gone, hacked away from his broken arm and leg in such a way that cruel lacerations had been left in the flesh. It also looked very much to Jason like his left leg had been re-broken. Jason supposed dimly that Bobby had perhaps woken up en-route to their current location, and that Alan had done that to him in one of his rages.

Bobby’s shirt was also gone, and his upper body was a mess of cuts and bruises. Alan had really gone to town on him, Jason thought miserably. The detective’s head was slumped forward, his chin against his chest. He was still unconscious, and probably would be for a long while, taking into account the head wound he’d received.

Abruptly, Jason became aware of someone else in the room. Looking around slowly, his fears and suspicions were confirmed at the sight of his father sitting nearby, watching him with intense interest.

“You’ve grown up.”

Jason blinked, thrown by the odd comment.

“Yeah, I have,” he said finally, grateful that his voice at least came out reasonably steady. He paused, then added viciously, “Thanks to Bobby, I at least had the chance to grow up.”

Alan chuckled softly, and the sound left Jason feeling mildly disturbed.

“I wouldn’t have killed you, Jason. I wouldn’t have even killed your mother. If that son of a bitch right there… Detective Goren hadn’t interfered, your mother would still be alive.”

“Somehow I find that hard to believe,” Jason said bitterly. Alan shrugged.

“I don’t give a fuck if you believe me or not. I know what the truth is. That’s all that matters to me. And the truth is, if he hadn’t butted in, I wouldn’t have had to kill her. I would have punished her for sticking her nose in where it wasn’t wanted, and I would have made sure she never did it again, but I wouldn’t have killed her. So blame him for her death, because he’s the one that made me kill her.”

“You’re out of your mind,” Jason said softly. Again, Alan shrugged.

“So they said at my trial. But before you pass judgement on me, you ought to know something about your buddy there. Genetics aren’t exactly on his side where sanity is concerned.”

“What are you talking about?” Jason burst out, frightened and angry at Alan’s ranting.

“His mother’s schizo,” Alan said with a sneer. He stood up and walked over to the unconscious detective, looking down at him with a cruel smile. “I learnt a lot at Stanhope, Jason. Especially about this sorry son of a bitch. His mother’s a schizo who’s permanently locked up at Carmel Ridge. That’s a psyche hospital just outside the city limits.”

“What’s your point?” He wanted to add you fucked up piece of shit, but thought better of it, considering he’d just noticed the awfully big knife in his father’s hand.

“Don’t you know anything, boy? Schizophrenia’s hereditary. Bright boy here is a prime candidate to have a psychotic episode.”

Jason glared at him.

“Schizophrenia takes hold when you’re young, usually in your early twenties. People over the age of forty rarely develop it.”

“Well,” Alan said with a sneer as he grabbed a fistful of Bobby’s hair and lifted his head, then traced the tip of the blade across his right cheek, leaving a thin laceration, “better safe than sorry, right?”

“So, what? You’re using that as justification to kill him?”

Alan looked back at Jason, grinning viciously.

“I don’t need a reason, Jason. Just like I don’t need a reason to kill you. I’m just going to do it anyway.”

“Can’t you just leave him?” Jason pleaded, deciding to try a different tact. “Please, just leave him alone. You’ve already hurt him badly… If you want to kill me, then just do it, but leave Bobby alone! Please…”

“You’d really give yourself up willingly to save him?” Alan asked curiously. Jason blinked back tears, but more came.

“He did once for me,” Jason said softly, remembering with acute pain the way that Bobby had shielded him with his body so long ago. Alan nodded thoughtfully.

“You’re right, he did. Sorry, sport. No can do. I didn’t go to all this trouble just to let him go now. Besides, I’ve killed a cop. That’s good for a hot needle in the arm. Now, dying doesn’t bother me, but if I am going to die for this, it’s damn well going to be worth it.”

Alan turned and walked slowly back to his chair and sat down again, his eyes glinting in the darkness.

“No, he has to die. You both do. I’m just waiting for Bobby to wake up, and then all I’ll have to do is decide which of you gets to die first, and which of you is the unlucky bastard that gets to watch the other die before him.”

Alex emerged from the eleventh floor bathroom still feeling as sick to her stomach as when she’d run in there. She didn’t give a damn that she’d literally gotten sick in front of her male colleagues. Indeed, they were lucky that she’d had to run for the bathroom. Otherwise, she might just have decked one of them.

The reason for the sudden upheaval of her stomach was a callous comment from Ray Gatlin. After waiting for Deakins to disappear into the sanctuary of his office, Gatlin had turned to her and, with a smug grin on his ugly face, had said ‘Don’t worry about it, Alex. When your partner turns up dead, I’ll comfort you.”

The comment had been tasteless and unnecessary, but it was Gatlin saying ‘when your partner turns up dead’, not ‘if’, that had tipped her right over the edge. Already sick to her stomach with guilt over letting Bobby be abducted by Scott, Alex had had to bolt for the bathroom, making it just in time.

Now, she came back into the bullpen with a moderately more settled stomach, and itching to take her anger and frustration out on someone. Preferably, someone called Ray Gatlin.

Upon coming back into the squad room, she was mildly surprised, and somewhat disappointed, to find Gatlin was nowhere in sight.

“Where is he?” she demanded.

“He had to go get some ice for his face,” David McCall said, sounding none too sympathetic. When she looked at him blankly, Chris McKenzie spoke with more than a hint of amusement.

“McCall decked him. Punched the jerk right in the face. Listen, Eames… About Goren…”

“I know,” she said flatly. “None of you can stand him, and you won’t be sorry if he’s killed. Thanks. I got the message.”

“No, you didn’t,” McCall snapped. “Let us finish, will you?”

She looked around at them, puzzled.

“What, then?”

“We’ve all seen Goren operate over the last couple of months,” McCall told her. “Sure, he’s a little on the weird side… but he’s good at what he does. That’s pretty damned obvious. Look, what I’m trying to say is this. None of us want to lose him. He… He fits in here. If you need help now, just tell us. We all want him back safe.”

Alex couldn’t hope to mask her relief at the open offer of support, but it did nothing to ease her anxiety at knowing her partner was missing, and she had no idea where to start searching.

“Hey,” someone said suddenly. “Isn’t that Briscoe and Green, from Homicide?”

Alex looked and, sure enough, she recognised Lennie Briscoe and Ed Green from Homicide had just entered the Major Case Squad room. McCall walked over to greet them.

“Hey, what brings you guys over to this part of town?”

“Hey, Dave,” Briscoe greeted him. “We need to see Captain Deakins. Where can we find him?”

“His office is over there,” McCall answered.

“And what about Robert Goren’s partner?” Green asked. Alex stepped forward.

“That’s me.”

“You’re Alex Eames?” Briscoe asked, and Alex nodded. “Well, you’ll be wanting to hear this, too.”

Alex felt her entire body tense, but Green spoke before she could gather her thoughts to ask the dread question.

“He’s not dead, Eames. We got a tip-off from a snitch of ours. We might know where he is.”

Alex sucked in her breath sharply, and had to fight to keep a lid on her surging hope.

“Captain’s this way,” she said abruptly, and stalked off to Deakins’ office. Briscoe and Green watched her go, then Briscoe looked questioningly at McCall.

She’s Goren’s partner?”

“Nah, man,” McCall said with a wide grin. “Goren’s her partner.”

Briscoe and Green exchanged grins, and hurried to catch up with Alex.

Deakins looked up in mild frustration at the sound of someone knocking on his door. He was going almost out of his mind with worry, and the last thing he needed was to be interrupted unnecessarily.

“Come in,” he called out, trying to keep his voice even and only partly succeeding. The door swung open, and Alex walked in, followed by two cops that Deakins knew by reputation.

“Detectives Briscoe and Green, right?” Deakins asked, and the two men nodded in confirmation. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

Both detectives took the liberty of ignoring the sharp inflection in Deakins’ voice. He was worried sick with one of his detectives missing and in serious danger. Neither one was going to take it personally if he was a little snappish with them.

“Sir, we were just contacted by one of our informants. We may have a positive location on your missing detective.”

Deakins rose up slowly out of his chair, looking at the two detectives with intense interest.

“You know where Goren is?”

“We hope so,” Green said. “Our captain is seeing Jack McCoy now about a warrant. He sent us here to let you know. We’re heading straight to the location from here.”

“Where?” Deakins asked tensely as he stood up and grabbed his jacket. Briscoe and Green exchanged glances. They had come out of courtesy, not to extend an open invitation to Major Case to join the operation. Deakins caught the looks on their faces, and easily interpreted them.

“Detective Eames and I are coming with you, gentlemen. Goren is my detective, and he’s Eames’ partner. We are not staying behind and waiting to hear from you.”

“Okay,” Briscoe conceded reluctantly. “Fine. But just the two of you, no one else.”

Deakins nodded.

“Thankyou. Now, let’s move. You can fill us in on the way there.”

“There’s an empty apartment block in the Bronx,” Green explained as Briscoe guided the car through the heavy New York traffic. “Our snitch spotted a guy matching Alan Scott’s description coming and going from there a lot yesterday. Then today… not that long ago, he told us he saw a black minivan pull up, and that same guy got out and dragged what looked to him like two bodies out of the back and into the building. He tried to get a closer look, but all he could tell us aside from that was that our suspect seems to have set himself up in the basement.”

“We’ve got the building plans,” Briscoe said to them over his shoulder. “SWAT should be there already. We’ll get Goren out of there, I promise.”

“Goren isn’t the only hostage in there,” Deakins pointed out. “Alan Scott has his son in there, as well.”

Briscoe nodded.

“We know, Captain. Don’t worry, we’ll do everything we can to make sure they get out of there in one piece.”

As promised, a SWAT team was waiting when they arrived.

“We flew a chopper over the building, and did a thermal scan,” the lieutenant in charge, Lieutenant Harry Reed, explained. “There are three people in there. One of them appears to be pretty badly hurt, but still alive.”

“That has to be Goren,” Deakins said as he looked at the print-out that the lieutenant handed to him. “He was already badly injured after being hit by a car yesterday.”

“Well, his thermal readings are pretty weak, whoever it is. I’d say that if it is your detective, then he’s been hurt worse since yesterday. We don’t have a whole lot of time, Captain Deakins. We have to move in pretty soon.”

Deakins looked around them. There was only a couple of SWAT officers there, waiting, compared to how many actually constituted the number of a fully complimented SWAT team.

“Your people are already in place?” he asked as he pulled on the vest that was offered to him. A quick glance told him that Alex was doing the same. Like him, she was not going to be left behind to wait.

“Yes, sir. Two of my people entered the building as soon as we got here. They don’t have a visual yet on the suspect or the hostages, but they’ve reported that they could definitely hear voices from in the basement, and that one of the voices was definitely a hostile.”

“Okay,” Deakins murmured, feeling confident that they had the right place. Reed regarded him with concern.

“Captain, please don’t take this the wrong way, but are you sure that you and Detective Eames want to come along? ”

Deakins smiled grimly, understand the lieutenant’s uncertainty at him and Alex joining them.

“Lieutenant, I accept that this is your operation now, and I know you would probably prefer that I stay out here, and don’t interfere in any way, but I can’t do that. Now, I will hang back, and let you people take the lead, but don’t ask me to stay out here. I can’t do that. Not when the life of one of my detectives is on the line.”

Reed nodded in reluctant concession.

“I understand, but please, do as I ask. For your own sakes, and the sake of that son of a bitch’s two hostages, do exactly as I tell you.”

Deakins nodded, even as he withdrew his gun from its holster, and gave it a quick check.

“We will, Lieutenant. Now, let’s move.”

“Why the fuck isn’t he waking up?”

Jason looked up tiredly at Alan’s furious outburst. His father was becoming steadily ever more enraged by Bobby’s failure to regain consciousness, and Jason had begun to fear that he would eventually lose patience and simply go ahead and kill Bobby.

He grimaced a little. Some choice there was. Whichever way it went, he and Bobby were dead. Whichever way it went, his psychotic father had won.

In the end, he’d given up on any attempts to reason with the crazy man. No matter what he said, no matter how he said it, his words were constantly twisted by his lunatic father. So, in the end, he had simply fallen silent and waited. Now, he looked across to Bobby with growing fear. What he dared not voice in front of Alan was his fear that the second blow to the head was behind Bobby’s failure to wake up.

Jason was no medical expert, but he knew enough to understand that the second blow to the head that Bobby had received had the potential to set off a deadly chain reaction that could result in a very painful death. His gaze went briefly to Alan, and to the long-bladed knife that rested on his lap. Not that it seemed to matter all that much, he conceded reluctantly to himself. One or another, it seemed they were both going to die. The question now, was how?

Ever more furious, Alan suddenly launched himself to his feet and strode over to where Bobby sat slumped on the chair that he was tied to. Grabbing his hair, Alan yanked his head up, and screamed at the unconscious man.

“Wake up! Damn you, wake up!”

“You hit him too hard,” Jason said dully. “After yesterday, you hit him too hard. He’s not going to wake up.”

Alan glared around at him.

“Shut the fuck up, you worthless little bastard.”

Jason didn’t flinch in the face of his father’s anger. After all, what did it matter if his father became enraged and killed him outright? It was going to happen anyway, so did it really matter if Alan was provoked into carrying it out sooner than he planned?

“Why should I? You’re just going to kill us anyway.”

Alan released his grip on Bobby’s hair, letting his head fall back to his chest, and turned back to face his son.

“That’s right, you little fuck. And guess what? You just helped me decide who gets to die first.”

Lifting the knife, Alan Scott advanced on his son.

Lieutenant,” a voice spoke over the radio that the SWAT lieutenant carried with him. “We have to move. He’s going to kill the kid.

“Move in,” Reed ordered, breaking into a run as he crossed the floor, heading towards the stairwell. “Now!”

Alan was just lifting the knife with the intention of slashing it across Jason’s throat when he heard it. His head came up slowly as the sound of footfalls somewhere above them caught his attention.

“No…” he muttered. “No fucking way… How the fuck did they find us?”

Jason looked around, confused. He didn’t know what his father was hearing. He could hear nothing himself, and it seemed to be just another lunatic rant. But then, moments later, he heard what his father was hearing, and it was a sound that sent his hopes sky-rocketing. Someone was definitely coming. He could hear them on the stairs, coming down at a run. He could only hope that they were cops.

Even as Jason watched, Alan darted over and dropped into a crouch behind Bobby, effectively using the detective’s body as a shield. A moment later, SWAT team members burst into the basement room, weapons at the ready.

“Give it up, Scott,” Reed demanded, trying to move around to a position that would give him a clean shot at the killer. “You give yourself up right now, and you might just come out of this alive.”

“He’s got a knife,” Jason said hoarsely.

“Shut up, you fuck,” Alan snarled to Jason. Then, to Reed, “What the hell makes you think I want to walk out of this alive?”

Reed glanced across the room, to where Jim Deakins and Alex Eames had followed the SWAT team in. Alan had positioned himself in such a way that none of them had him in clear sight, and there was no way to take him out without shooting through Bobby Goren to do it. Loathed though he was to shoot a fellow cop, if there was no other way to take Alan Scott down, then that was what he would do.

They were trapped in a stand-off of the worst sort – he knew damn well that Alan was not going to willingly give up either of his hostages, and he didn’t seem to care if he died, as long as he had the chance to take at least one of them out first. Reed guessed that he wanted both Bobby Goren and his son dead, or he would have killed the detective by now. But one wrong move, and the lunatic hiding behind the cover of Bobby Goren’s bulky form would probably decide to just cut his losses and Bobby would be the one to pay the ultimate price.

Reed tightened his grip on his gun. His bullets were armour-piercing quality, and would easily cut straight through Bobby’s body to take out Scott. The danger, and it was a big one, was that a shot like that to his upper body would probably kill him, not to mention the risk that it wouldn’t kill Scott outright, giving the killer enough time to use his knife to finish the job with his hostage.

Whichever way it went, Bobby Goren’s chances of surviving this situation were slim, at best. Reed locked his jaw, and focused his aim. It was time to end it. All he could hope was that his actions would not result in an innocent man’s death.

On the other side of the room, Alex saw the confliction on Reed’s face, and realised with horror just what he was steeling himself to do. Though the tactical, logical side of her brain agreed that shooting Scott through Bobby was the only option, the emotional side screamed in protest that Bobby’s already battered body couldn’t possibly take the shock, and that to do it would probably kill him.

She moved around carefully, ignoring the look she got from her captain, and was soon at Reed’s side. She knew she didn’t have her partner’s manipulative skills to wheedle a suspect into giving up, but she had to try something before she saw her partner shot right in front of her.

Before she even had the chance to think of something to say to try and defuse the situation, though, her gaze fell on Bobby and realisation hit. He was awake…

His head had come up just a little, and he was looking straight at her through half-closed eyes. Blood covered the better part of his face from a fresh head wound, and it looked as though he’d had his face mashed into something somewhere along the line. It seemed to her that he barely had the strength to lift his head up at all, and yet he managed somehow to do just that.

He was definitely awake, and at least partially alert… She wondered whether he was aware of what was going on, if he knew that Alan Scott was crouching right behind him with a knife at the ready. She wondered if he knew just how near he was to dying.

Her eyes locked with his, and in that moment, she knew he was aware of everything. A moment later, she saw something else in his eyes, something that she didn’t like the look of in the least. It was a look of very clear intent that she saw in his gaze, and though she couldn’t be absolutely certain, she felt she had a pretty good idea of what he was planning to do.

Even as she watched, he tilted his head up just a fraction, and offered her a fleeting smile, and then she understood.

Panic clutched at her chest, freezing the very breath in her throat. If he did what he’d just indicated, sure it would give them the opportunity they needed to arrest Alan Scott without anyone else being injured or killed, but assuming that Alan had the blade of his knife resting against Bobby’s back, such an action would quite conceivably get him killed.

She looked frantically from Bobby to Reed, and realised with helpless dismay that it was going to be one or the other, shot or stabbed. Talk about being caught behind a rock and a hard place, she thought dismally.

In the end, Bobby took his fate into his own hands. Even as his fellow officers watched, the detective suddenly gathered what strength he still had, and rocked back as hard as he could on his chair, sending it crashing over and landing squarely on top of Alan. A cry of pain filled the air, though whether it was from Bobby or Alan, none of them were totally sure. SWAT members rushed in, some of them lifting Bobby up off the floor, chair and all, while the others quickly subdued Alan, handcuffing his wrists tightly behind his back before he could do anymore harm.

“Please get him loose,” Alex pleaded, her attention exclusively on her partner.

The ropes that held him to the chair were quickly cut through and, without them to hold him in place, Bobby crumpled to the floor, his strength completely gone.

“Mary Mother of God,” someone muttered. The blade of the knife that Alan had been holding was buried in Bobby’s back, all the way to the hilt. Alex found herself reaching for it automatically, to pull it out, only to have Reed grab her wrist to stop her.

“Don’t touch it,” he warned her. “Wait for the paramedics, Detective. They’re on their way.” He looked around, and motioned with his hand for. “Someone untie the kid, make sure he’s okay. And get that other piece of shit out of here, before I change my mind about shooting him.”

“I’m all right,” Jason said breathlessly as one of the SWAT cops untied him. “I’m not hurt. It’s just a few nicks and bruises.”

Once free of the ropes, Jason pulled away from the officer who was trying to check him over, and scrambled across the floor to where Bobby lay.

“Is he going to be okay?”

Alex didn’t answer, and didn’t hear whether anyone answered. Her attention was focused purely on Bobby, on the wounds he’d suffered and on her own grief and guilt that it had managed to get this far. She tried desperately to keep her eyes off the knife that was buried in his back, looking instead to his half-open eyes and trying to keep his attention on her.

“Bobby?” she asked softly, reaching out to gently brush her trembling fingertips over his cheek, noting the bleeding laceration across his cheek with a heated, but short-lived anger. She noticed that he was shivering, and it occurred to her that it was damned cold in the basement, and he’d been stripped of both his shirt and sweater.

“He’s cold,” she said, hating how strained her voice sounded. “Can’t we get something to cover him with?”

Someone, she didn’t see who, pulled off their coat and draped it carefully over the wounded detective. She looked back to him and saw a gratitude in his eyes that he couldn’t vocally express.

“It’s okay,” she whispered, oblivious to the multiple officers gathered around, watching in stricken silence. “I’ve got your back, Bobby. Just hang in there a little longer, and you’ll be okay. You hear me? You hang in there!”

But even as she spoke, he gave a last shudder, and his eyes closed.

Her heart skipped with panic, but she felt some tiny spark of relief at the realisation that he was still breathing, at least. Of greater concern, though, was the thin line of blood that trickled from the corner of his mouth.

A moment later, the paramedics finally arrived, and Alex found herself shoved rather unceremoniously out of the way as the medics began treating their patient.

“We can’t get this knife out here,” one of them stated grimly to no one in particular. “We have to get him to the hospital, now.” He looked around and quickly found the gaze of Lieutenant Reed. “Can we have some help from a couple of your guys? We need to get him onto a stretcher without jostling that knife too much.”

“Binkman!” Reed ordered. “Crandall, both of you get over here and help.”

The two officers hurried over and between them and the paramedics, they lifted Bobby’s body onto a stretcher to carry him with great care out of the basement and to a waiting ambulance.

“He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?” Jason asked shakily.

“We hope so,” Deakins said grimly as he helped Alex to her feet. The adrenalin was fading now, and it was all Alex could do not to simply collapse then and there. Jason looked watched as the stretcher bearing the detective was carried carefully back up the stairs.

“He has to be,” Jason said finally, barely aware of it when someone draped a blanket around his shoulders and ushered him gently towards the stairs.

“What if he’s not?” Alex asked softly as Deakins guided her along. “Captain, what if he’s not okay?”

“He will be,” Deakins said decisively. “Think positively, Alex. He will be all right.”

But as they ascended the steps, even Deakins couldn’t help but wonder at the truth of his own words.


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