THE LONG ROAD HOME
Warning: This chapter is rated M, for implied torture. No actual descriptions, but then again, the imagination needs so little prompting...
“You idiot, you nearly got us both shot,” Parker snapped as she and Lyle stepped into the elevator. Lyle only smirked, unconcerned.
“Wouldn’t have thought a few guns would bother you, Parker,” he retorted. “But we got what we wanted. We’ve got him.”
Parker raised an eyebrow critically.
“Oh? And what makes you so sure?”
“We know he’s here. We have the building under surveillance. We just wait for him to leave, and then we take him.”
Parker couldn’t help it. She began to laugh, hard.
“Oh, you really are a moron, Lyle. Haven’t you learnt anything at all from the ten years we’ve wasted chasing after Jarod? This guy is smarter than Jarod ever was. It’s why we weren’t simply ordered to put a bullet in him. Do you really think he’d be foolish enough to just walk out of here and into our hands?”
Lyle spared her an exasperated look.
“Do you have a better idea? Sis?”
Her laughter faded rapidly, to be replaced with a ferocious glare that Lyle had the good sense to cringe away from.
“Don’t call me that, ever, you slimy little psychopath. And yes. I have a better idea.”
Lyle watched, mystified, as she punched the button for the fourteenth floor.
“Where are we going?”
“To see someone who owes the Centre a very big favour.”
“Okay,” Alex said tersely as she climbed out of the back of the coroner’s van at the mortuary, “I just want to go on record as saying that out of all the things I’ve done as your partner, this beats everything.”
Bobby didn’t look especially amused as he emerged from the van behind her.
“Can I remind you that this wasn’t my idea?”
“I know,” Alex snapped. “And since I can’t have a go at the captain, you get to be the whipping boy instead.”
The instant the words were out of her mouth, Alex realised her mistake, and she wheeled around just in time to catch a glimpse of raw pain in Bobby’s eyes.
“Oh god, Bobby, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
He silenced her with a single finger pressed to her lips.
“I know you didn’t. Don’t apologise. It’s okay.”
“Hey, you guys have a comfortable ride?”
Alex turned around just as Mike and Carolyn came around the corner.
“Wipe that grin off your face, Logan,” she warned him. “Or next time you’ll be the one riding in the meat wagon.”
“You had to go together,” Carolyn reminded her. “It would have looked strange for you to have left, but not Bobby.”
“And on the plus side,” Mike added as he peered past them into the back of the van, “you didn’t have any company for the trip.”
“Mike, you’re walking on really thin ice,” Bobby warned him as he took in the dangerous look that had descended onto his partner’s face.
“Oh, and did I mention that you weren’t followed?” Mike added quickly, stepping carefully back, away from Alex. “Which, if I remember, was the whole point of this.”
“Well, at least something’s gone to plan, then. So, what now?”
Mike rattled a set of keys.
“The SUV is around the corner. Next stop, Captain Deakins’ home.”
“I need to see Lewis,” Bobby said once they were on the move again. Carolyn looked back at him, puzzled.
“Can’t you just call him? Going o see him could be risky.”
Bobby sighed in audible frustration.
“I have to warn him about what’s going on. I need to tell him to be careful, and I can’t just do it over the phone. He won’t believe me unless I tell him face to face. He’ll just think I’m kidding. I… I don’t want him in danger because of me.”
“Then let me and Carolyn go see him,” Mike said decisively. “We’ll warn him. You can’t go see him, Bobby. I’d bet a week’s wages that they’d be ready for that.”
“Mike’s right,” Carolyn agreed. “It isn’t worth the risk. Let us go instead.”
Bobby slumped back in the seat. He was clearly unhappy about it, but at the same time he could see the logic and the sense in their words.
“Okay,” he conceded softly. “Okay.”
Lewis’ Auto Shop,
Later that day
Mike and Carolyn arrived at Lewis’ shop to find the place eerily quiet. They stood just inside the garage door, looking around before Carolyn spoke.
“I’m not a mechanic, but shouldn’t there be… I don’t know… car sounds?”
“Theoretically,” Mike mused. Drawing his gun and holding it at the ready, Mike ventured further in. “Hello? Police!”
Glancing uneasily at Carolyn, Mike headed slowly towards the rear of the shop, where the office was located. He was almost there when a loud crash from inside the office galvanised both detectives into moving. Striding forward, Mike led the way into the office to find a scruffy-haired man crouching behind the desk, trying unsuccessfully to hide.
“You’ve gotta be Lewis,” Mike said dryly, relaxing his grip on his gun slightly, but not ready to put it away.
The scruffy-looking head rose up slightly, revealing a pair of spectacled eyes.
“You… You guys are cops?”
“I’m Detective Barek,” Carolyn answered, showing her badge to him. “This is Detective Logan. We work with Detectives Eames and Goren.”
“Really?” Lewis asked timidly. “You… You’re not just saying that?”
“No, we’re not just saying that,” Mike said, resisting an urge to roll his eyes. “Now, why don’t you come outta there, so we can have an actual conversation?”
Lewis backed out from behind the desk, flushing red with embarrassment.
“S… Sorry. I… It’s just, after those other guys, I’m kinda freaked out, you know?”
Mike and Carolyn exchanged glances.
“Other guys?” Carolyn echoed. “What others, Lewis?”
Lewis ran his fingers agitatedly through his hair.
“These guys in suits. They were here not half an hour ago. I thought they were cops, but they weren’t.”
“What did these guys in suits want?” Mike asked.
“It… It was weird,” Lewis answered. “They were asking all these questions about Bobby. Like, when did I see him last, when did I expect to see him again, stuff like that.”
Mike looked over at Carolyn, sharing a grim look with her before speaking again.
“How many guys?”
“Ah, two, to start with,” Lewis said.
“A man and a woman?” Carolyn wondered, but Lewis shook his head.
“No, two men. Real CIA type guys. Suits, glasses, the works. I would’ve thought they were CIA, except for the other guy. Now he was creepy.”
“Describe him,” Mike urged him.
“Um… Well… He was bald and kinda shrunk… and he was dragging this oxygen tank around with him. Real Uncle Fester type job, you know?”
“Uncle Fester,” Mike muttered. “Right. And what did Uncle Fester have to say?”
“He, um… he said that the next time Bobby called me, that I was to convince Bobby to come by and see me, and that I was to call him straight away…” Lewis gave a short, strangled laugh. “Like I’d do that to Bobby.”
“These guys didn’t hurt you, did they?” Carolyn asked, thinking quietly that Bobby would be furious if Lewis had been hurt by those goons.
“No, they didn’t lay a finger on me,” Lewis assured her. “But… the guy with the oxygen tank? He, um… he might’ve suggested that I could get hurt if I didn’t… you know… didn’t do what they wanted.”
“Okay,” Mike said, barely withholding a sigh. “Grab your things, kid. We’re taking you someplace safe.”
To Lewis’ credit, he didn’t argue, but rather immediately began to grab items from the desk and the filing cabinet.
“Hey,” he said, glancing back over his shoulder at the two waiting detectives, “do these guys have anything to do with what happened to Bobby when he was a kid?”
That drew a response.
“What do you mean, what happened to him as a kid?” Carolyn asked, trying to keep her voice even. Lewis hesitated, looking from one to the other uncertainly as he tried to decide what to say.
“Listen, I don’t want it to get back to Bobby that I said any of this. I promised him a long time ago that I’d never tell anyone about it.”
“It won’t go past us, we promise,” Mike told him. Lewis shoved a couple more items into his bag, and then moved towards the door.
“Can we, you know, get moving? I’ll tell you what I know, but can we just get moving? Before those guys come back?”
“All right, Lewis,” Mike said wearily once they were on the road again. “Start talking.”
“Okay,” Lewis said nervously. “Bobby and I… We’ve been friends forever, practically. We were friends when Bobby’s mom got sick. It was… um… about two weeks after his mom got taken off to the hospital that Bobby suddenly just wasn’t there anymore. One day he was there, and the next he wasn’t. And when I asked his dad where he was, he said he’d gone to stay with relatives. I asked when he’d be back, and his dad just said it’d be sometime soon. Like hell it was. It was five goddamn years before Bobby came home, and when he did, he was different.”
“Different in what way?” Carolyn asked.
“Before, Bobby was kinda nervous… you know, with his mom getting sick, and all, but he was still fun to be with. When he came back, I can’t remember him ever smiling, and he was sad… so sad. He never spoke, unless someone spoke to him first… It was like he’d lost his sense of identity… like he didn’t know who he was anymore. He was never the same again. I mean, over the years he got better, but he was just never the same again. It’s hard to explain. Before, Bobby was happy to be smart. After… It was almost like he was terrified that anyone would think of him as smart. He went out of his way to make people think he wasn’t smart at all. He’d fail tests on purpose at school… stuff like that.”
“Do you have any idea where Bobby was during those five years?” asked Carolyn. Lewis shook his head.
“No, I don’t know. I never had a clue. But one thing I know for sure, he wasn’t with any relatives. That was just some bullshit story spun by his old man. Bobby never talked about those five years to me, but there were times when he slept over at my place, and I’d wake up and hear him talking in his sleep. Sometimes he’d be really clear with what he was saying… Other times he’d be crying in his sleep. A few times, he actually woke up screaming. But he always told me he couldn’t remember what the nightmares were about. I didn’t believe him, but I wasn’t game to push it, either.”
“Do you remember what sort of things he’d say?” Mike asked. Lewis was silent for a long moment before answering.
“It was all kinda vague, but there were a few names. Um… Sydney… There was someone called Jarod that he called out for a lot… and there was another name that he screamed out a few times… oh… oh fuck…”
“What is it?” Carolyn asked. Lewis dug into his jacket, and pulled out a business card.
“The guy with the oxygen tank… Uncle Fester… He gave me this card and told me I was to call him as soon as I was in contact with Bobby.” He handed the card over to Carolyn as he spoke. “The name that Bobby screamed out during his worst nightmares was always the same. It was Raines.”
Carolyn glanced at Mike, and then looked down at the business card, and her breath caught in her throat. There was nothing on the card except a name and a cell phone number, and the name on the card was Raines.
Deakins arrived at his home at the same time as Mike, Carolyn and Lewis. He climbed out of his car, watching with scepticism as Carolyn ushered Lewis out of the SUV.
“What’s this about?” he asked, not sure whether to be annoyed or amused.
“Lewis here has had a visit from Centre operatives,” Mike explained. “One of them was an Addams family reject by the name of Raines.”
Any amusement Deakins had been feeling was gone in an instant.
“All right. Let’s not do this out here. Let’s get inside.”
They found Bobby and Alex in the family room, talking quietly over coffee. Their surprise at seeing Lewis was palpable, and Lewis smiled sheepishly at them as he followed Deakins, Mike and Carolyn through into the room.
“Lewis?” Bobby asked in surprise and confusion. He looked over at Mike. “I thought you were just going to warn him?”
Mike shrugged, unapologetic.
“They beat us to him. We figured we’d be better off getting him somewhere safe, before they decide to use him… proactively.”
Bobby looked back at Lewis, concern and regret replacing his puzzlement.
“Yeah, I’m fine, pal,” Lewis assured him. “I’m more worried about you. Are you okay?”
To Lewis’ mild surprise, Bobby didn’t answer. Instead, he looked away, to the floor.
“Have you heard from Jarod?” Carolyn asked quietly of the captain. He nodded.
“I spoke to him just before I left One Police Plaza. He should be arriving here soon. I don’t know whether he’s had any luck. He wasn’t exactly forthcoming over the phone.”
“Jarod?” Lewis echoed in surprise. He looked first at Bobby, and then to Mike. “The same Jarod that…”
He trailed off too late, and Bobby looked up at him slowly, his expression laced with suspicion.
“The same Jarod that what? What, Lewis?”
Lewis sighed, and his shoulders slumped in defeat.
“I’m sorry, pal. I told them about when we were kids, and about the nightmares you had. I thought it might’ve been important. If I was wrong, then I’m sorry.”
Bobby pressed one hand over his eyes, trying to fight off a sudden headache.
“No. You weren’t wrong.”
Deakins watched Bobby for a moment in concern before returning his attention to Lewis.
“Operatives were at your shop? Asking about Bobby?”
Lewis nodded, still keeping one eye on his friend as he answered.
“Yeah. There were a couple of guys in suits that could’ve doubled for cardboard cut-outs, they had so much personality, and there was this other creepy son of a bitch called Raines.”
Bobby froze visibly, shock and borderline panic in his eyes.
“Raines? Raines is here?”
“Be calm, Bobby,” Deakins told him firmly. “Lewis, are you sure that’s who it was?”
“Well… He gave me a card with his name and number on it. Told me to call him as soon as Bobby called me.”
“Describe him,” Deakins said. Lewis frowned as he formed a mental picture of Raines in his mind.
“Um, bald, shrunk and dragging an oxygen tank.”
“That’s Raines,” a new voice confirmed grimly, and they looked around to see Jarod standing in the archway. He came all the way in, his gaze sweeping across the entire group, but focusing primarily on Bobby. “I was warned today that Raines was coming. The situation just got that much more dangerous. It was bad enough with Parker and Lyle here, but Raines is an added complication we didn’t need.”
“What do you suggest we do?” Mike asked, not quite able to keep the scepticism out of his voice. He was still suspicious of Jarod, and of his apparently timely arrival. If Jarod noticed his biting tone, though, it didn’t show.
“I want you to come with me, Bobby. There’s a place I know of where you’d be safe.”
Bobby regarded him with a flat stare.
“You want me to run away. Go into hiding.”
“Not permanently,” Jarod insisted. “Just until…”
“Until what?” Alex cut in sharply. “Until the Centre forgets about him again? Like they’ve forgotten about you?”
Jarod winced as the truth of her words hit home.
“I go into hiding now,” Bobby said softly, “and I’ll be hiding for the rest of my life. I can’t do that, Jarod. I already told you, I won’t live like that. I can’t.”
“This is going to get dangerous, Bobby,” Jarod told him softly, pleadingly. “Everyone around you is going to be at risk. They’ll use whoever they can to bring you to them. I… I don’t know if I can protect you.”
Bobby sighed softly, almost resignedly.
“It’s a chance I just have to take.”
“Where are we going?”
The exasperated question came from Miss Parker, and Jarod supposed he couldn’t blame her. They had been following Angelo around inside the maze of ventilator shafts for what felt like hours now, and they didn’t seem to be going anywhere at all.
“Angelo, where are we going?” Jarod asked, but all he got in reply was an insistent ‘ssh’ from the younger boy. Rolling his eyes and offering Miss Parker an apologetic shrug, Jarod continued on behind Angelo, hoping that wherever the boy was leading them, they would get there soon. Preferably, before Sydney realised he was not where he was supposed to be.
He was so caught up in his worries that he didn’t realise that Angelo had come to a sudden halt, and he toppled into the child with a grunt. Miss Parker ran into him, and they ended up in a confused jumble of arms and legs.
Miss Parker began to giggle, and then so did Jarod as they tried to untangle themselves. It took a minute before they realised they could hear an all-too-familiar voice frighteningly close by.
“Dr Raines,” Jarod whispered, all humour gone from his voice. He edged forward, towards the grate that Angelo had led them to, and peered out. Sure enough, there was Raines, supervising the placement of equipment that Jarod did not recognise.
“What’s he doing?” Miss Parker wondered as she crawled up beside Jarod.
“I don’t know,” Jarod whispered back.
They continued to watch as ominous looking machines were placed around the room with strategic precision, all directed by Raines. Most disturbing of all, though, was the chair that was in the middle of the room. A chair with restraints attached to it.
“All right,” Raines announced suddenly. “We’re ready. Bring him.”
The two Centre guards turned and marched out of the room, leaving Raines alone. As Jarod and Miss Parker watched, Raines turned to a small table near the chair, and uncovered a tray that had what looked like surgical instruments on it.
“What’s he doing?” Miss Parker asked again, more than a hint of fear in her voice. This time, Jarod didn’t answer immediately. He continued to watch with a growing feeling of dread.
“We shouldn’t be here,” he whispered finally. “We should go. We should go now.”
But he couldn’t move. Some grim fascination held him to the spot, and he continued to watch the scene before them unfold with an ever growing sense of horror.
The door opened again, and the men returned, this time guiding a child between them.
“Oh my god,” Miss Parker whispered in dismay. “Bobby…?”
Jarod said nothing, but watched in trepidation as his friend was brought over to Raines.
“Hello, Bobby,” Raines spoke to him in what Jarod supposed was an attempt at being friendly. Instead, it just sounded threatening. Raines went on in that same pseudo-friendly voice that sounded so menacing.
“Are you ready?”
“I don’t want to do this,” Bobby whimpered, tears trickling down his cheeks. “Can I please go back to my room?”
“I told you, you won’t feel a thing,” Raines insisted. “Now get into the chair.”
Still, Bobby hesitated.
“If it’s not gonna hurt, why are there straps there to hold me down?”
“It’s just a precaution,” Raines insisted. “Get into the chair, Bobby.”
For a long moment it seemed the boy was going to comply. Then, abruptly, Bobby shook his head.
“No. I don’t want to do this.”
“Bobby…” Raines growled, and made a grab for him. Bobby shrieked in terror, spun around and bolted for the door. He ducked past the two men who had brought him in and was almost there when a new figure suddenly stepped out of the shadows and grabbed him, lifting him clean off his feet and carrying him back over to Raines.
“Daddy…?” Miss Parker whispered in confused dismay. Jarod said nothing. He continued to watch in horrified silence as Mr Parker carried the struggling child over and sat him firmly in the chair, holding him there while the Centre guards strapped him down.
“Just relax, Bobby,” Raines murmured as he picked up a large syringe and filled it with a cloudy liquid. “Just a little prick, and then you won’t feel anything.”
Bobby cringed away, sobbing, as Raines lifted his shirt up and swabbed the pale flesh before injecting the contents of the syringe into the boy’s stomach.
“Just a couple of minutes,” Raines explained to Mr Parker as he put the syringe aside. “Then the anaesthetic should have taken effect.”
Mr Parker nodded.
“Let me know how it works.”
With a last glance at the sobbing child, Mr Parker turned and strode from the room. Raines waited until he’d gone before turning back to his tray and picking up a scalpel. Bobby’s eyes went wide with terror, but before he had a chance to scream, or make any other sound, one of the guards jammed a gag into his mouth, effectively silencing him.
“Oh god,” Miss Parker whispered. “Please tell me he’s not going to…”
“Just relax,” Raines said again as he bent forward, scalpel outstretched. “I promise you won’t feel a thing.”
Miss Parker barely stifled a gasp, and threw her hands over her face, but Jarod continued to watch, his mouth dry with horror and sympathy for his young friend. He watched as Raines tortured the child, and he listened as Bobby’s muffled screams of pain penetrated every fibre of his being.
It was a memory that would never be far from the surface of his mind…
Jarod awoke with a violent start, lathered in sweat. He sat frozen for a couple of minutes while his mind struggled to come back to the present. For a long moment, he was still the young boy, hiding behind the grate of the ventilation duct, watching with sick horror as Raines tortured an innocent child.
He couldn’t remember if he had told Sydney about what he’d seen. Perhaps he had, because he was sure he recalled overhearing Sydney demanding that Bobby be sent to the hospital wing for proper care. Or, had that been for something else entirely? He didn’t know.
Sighing softly, Jarod sat up and stretched a little before looking around.
He remembered where he was, now. He was in the home of Captain James Deakins, Bobby’s commanding officer, along with three of Bobby’s fellow detectives and his best friend, Lewis. Looking around him, Jarod made out the figures of the men asleep around him. There was Lewis… and Mike Logan… and Bobby…
Jarod did a double-take. Bobby was gone.
For several seconds, panic threatened to overtake him. But then, he heard movement coming from the direction of the kitchen. After a moment, his sharp ears picked up a dull thud, followed by a voice cursing softly. Finally deciding, Jarod got to his feet and, careful to avoid the men who were still asleep on the floor, headed for the kitchen.
“You know, it’s probably a lot easier with the light on.”
Bobby looked up at Jarod from where he sat, one foot hooked up over his other knee so he could rub his toes.
“I prefer the dark,” he answered simply. Jarod paused, and then walked all the way into the kitchen without turning the light on.
“Easier to hide?” he suggested quietly, and Bobby responded with a single nod.
“Something like that. Why aren’t you asleep?”
“Nightmares,” Jarod answered plainly. “I have a lot of them.”
Bobby sighed softly and looked back to his jarred toes.
“You and me both.”
“That’s the reason you’re up?”
Bobby didn’t answer, though, his focus entirely on ministering to his foot. Jarod watched him for a long moment before trying again.
“My nightmares are usually about what happened to me in the Centre. But this one tonight… it was about you.”
Bobby paused just briefly in his ministrations before returning his attention to rubbing his foot, not saying a word.
“Do you remember Angelo?” Jarod asked.
“He was another child that Raines experimented on. Raines did a lot of a damage to him. He led me and… and someone else to a room one day, where Raines was setting up an experiment. We watched him… experiment… on you.”
Bobby drew in a slow, calming breath.
“It was just a nightmare.”
Jarod was silent for nearly a minute before reaching across and catching hold of Bobby’s shirt. Before Bobby could protest, Jarod lifted it up to reveal not one, but three long, thin, horizontal scars across his stomach.
More pale than usual in the dim light, Bobby jerked away, out of Jarod’s reach, and quickly tucked his shirt back into his jeans.
“Those are nothing. Just… Just an appendix scar…”
“Firstly, it’s the wrong place for an appendix scar,” Jarod said softly. “Secondly… three of them? Who are you trying to fool, Bobby? Me, or yourself?”
A visible shudder passed through Bobby’s shoulders.
“Please,” he whispered, his voice cracking almost painfully. “Please, stop.”
“The memories aren’t going to stay buried forever,” Jarod told him. “Sooner or later, they’re going to find a way to the surface.”
“I… I don’t want to remember,” Bobby whispered, and there was a note of desperation in his voice that Jarod understood all too well. “I’m afraid to remember what he did to me. I blocked it out for a reason, Jarod.”
“I know,” Jarod murmured. “I’m sorry for this. I really am. I wish I could say it doesn’t matter… But it does matter. You and I both know it does.”
Jarod had a hard time not jumping as Bobby thumped his fist down on the table.
“Why?” Bobby choked out, and Jarod thought he caught a glimpse of tears in the other man’s eyes. “Why does it matter? Why do you think it’s so essential to keeping me safe from Raines?”
“Because,” Jarod said carefully, “if we know what he’s planning, then we have a better chance to avoid it. When you go into a dangerous situation with your partner, doesn’t it help to have all the information you can get? Going into a situation cold, with no grounding, is just asking for trouble. You know that as much as I do. It’s the same concept here, Bobby. I know you don’t want to remember, but you have to. For your own sake, you have to.”
“It’s too much,” Bobby whispered. “Too much in too short a time. I… I don’t think I can deal with this. I’m not sure I even want to try.”
“Don’t say that,” Jarod begged him. “Bobby, it’s always worth trying. Life is a gift… You can’t just quit on it. It’s always worth fighting for. And you have a life that is really worth that effort.”
“It… hurts,” Bobby stammered, even as he struggled to reign in the sobs that threatened.
“I know,” Jarod sympathised. “I understand that. And it’s not going to stop hurting anytime soon. I wish I could say it would, but we both know better than that. All I can say is that what you have here and now should make it worth the fight. Your family… your friends. Everything you have is worth fighting to keep. Don’t give up on me, Bobby. Don’t give up on yourself.”
Bobby shook his head miserably.
“It’s not that easy, Jarod.”
“I know it’s not. But that’s why I’m here. To help get you through it. And the same with everyone else in this house. You’re not alone, Bobby. Just remember that.”
Tears spilled down Bobby’s cheeks as Jarod’s words slowly sank into his conscious mind.
“I’m trying to.”
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