Deakins arose the next morning to find Lewis and all of his detectives in the kitchen, sipping freshly-brewed coffee and talking quietly. His stomach clenched uncomfortably as he viewed the scene before him. Nearly all of his detectives. Bobby was not among them.

“Relax, Captain,” Mike told him quietly as he observed the change in Deakins’ expression. “Bobby’s out back with Jarod. I think they’ve been out there half the damn night.”

Deakins walked over to the window and looked out into the backyard. Sure enough, Bobby and Jarod were sitting on the porch, apparently deep in conversation.

“Is he all right?” he asked, meaning Bobby. Alex joined him at the window, and he could hear the pain in her voice as she spoke.

“We don’t know. He came in a while ago to get some coffee, and we tried talking to him, but we couldn’t get a word out of him. He just shut down on us. It seems like he won’t talk to anyone but Jarod now.” She paused, drawing in a long, steadying breath that, in reality, did precious little to calm her nerves. “He isn’t coping, Captain.”

“I know,” Deakins agreed softly, not taking his eyes off the two men outside. “And the only thing that is going to change that for him is if we can put an end to this threat against him.”

“How are we supposed to do that?” Carolyn wondered in confusion. “We don’t even know where to start.”

“I can think of a way,” Mike muttered, only to yelp when Carolyn reached over and whacked him with a rolled up newspaper.

“I told you, idiot, blowing up the Centre is not an option.”

“Well, maybe he will have to disappear for a while,” he said with a resigned shrug. Alex rounded on him fast and angrily.

“Disappear, Mike? Is that the best you can come up with? Because, unless you had a sudden onset of deafness yesterday, Bobby said he can’t do that.”

Mike, however, didn’t back down that time. He stood his ground, focusing his most intent stare on the diminutive detective.

“I don’t like it anymore than you do, Alex, but unless you’ve got a better idea, then he just might not have a choice. His safety is important to all of us, and if going into hiding for the time being is the only way to keep him safe, then so be it. That’s the way it will have to be.”

“Try telling that to Bobby,” Carolyn muttered.

“If it comes to that,” Deakins said wearily as he finally turned away from the window, “then it will be up to all of us to convince him that that is what needs to happen.”

“It’d kill him,” Alex said softly, her voice tinged with desperation. “To have to hide himself away would kill him. If not physically, then emotionally. We can’t force him into that.”

“Our priority is to keep him safe, Alex,” Deakins reminded her. “I don’t like the idea of sending him away to hide either, but if it becomes the only option…”

He trailed off as the rear door suddenly opened, and Bobby and Jarod came back in. Both men looked grim, but Bobby in particular was looking more shaken than ever.

“Bobby?” Alex asked anxiously. “Are you okay?”

He looked at her for a long moment, before returning his gaze to the captain.

“I’m starting to… to remember.”

Deakins motioned through to the family room.

“Let’s all go and sit down.”

They filed through to the family room. Rather than have Bobby sit in the big armchair, though, where he’d be at the centre of everyone’s attention, Deakins instead urged him to sit on the sofa, with Alex beside him for support.

“All right, Bobby,” Deakins said quietly. “Take your time. Talk to us.”

Bobby didn’t answer immediately, to no one’s surprise. He sat in silence for nearly a minute before finally speaking, searching his mind for the best place to begin.

“I… I was scared of Raines, right from the start. He pretended to be friendly, but an idiot could have seen through the act he put on. At first, it was just simulations, like the ones Sydney had me do. Then one day… I think it might have been after I’d been there for around a year… Raines took me to a new area. He called it SL27.”

“Sub-level 27,” Jarod elaborated softly. “A veritable torture chamber.”

“He ran simulations with me, but there were other experiments, too. And none of what he did to me down there was ever recorded. Not officially.”

“What sort of experiments?” Alex asked, starting to feel distinctly queasy. Bobby’s gaze was fixed on the carpet. He refused to look any of them in the eye. Not even Jarod.

“Medical experiments. Psychological experiments. He tested drugs on me… New types of anaesthetics… Hallucinogens… among other things. He was using me to test the human capacity for pain…”

“God almighty,” Mike whispered. Still, Bobby refused to look up.

“Before Mrs Parker got me out, Raines was getting ready for something. I don’t know what it was supposed to be, because I was rescued before he could initiate it. But it was going to be big. He was really excited about it… I remember that much. And seeing him that excited scared the hell out of me.”

“In the couple of months before Catherine Parker rescued Bobby,” Jarod explained quietly, “Raines had Bobby taken right out of Sydney’s control, and moved down into SL27 permanently. She would never have been able to get to him then, except that Raines put him through a simulation that left him so badly hurt that he had to be transferred to the hospital wing. It was on his last night there, before Raines would have taken him back to SL27, that Catherine Parker made her move. She smuggled Bobby out of the Centre that night.”

Deakins looked over at Bobby, puzzled.

“I don’t remember seeing any sign of injuries on you.”

Bobby wrung his hands together, almost overcome with anxiety.

“The damage done to me wasn’t anything that was visible… on my upper body.”

He didn’t need to say anything more than that. The implication was all too clear, and Deakins sighed softly.

“Oh god… I’m sorry, Bobby. But now I understand her urgency when she came to me asking for help to get you out.”

“We can’t let them get their claws on him again,” Alex said, her voice strained with tension. “No matter what it takes, we can’t ever let that happen again.”

“We don’t intend to let it happen again, Alex,” Deakins reassured her. “But Bobby, you have to accept that in order to protect you, we may have to resort to methods that you won’t particularly like.”

Bobby tried not to look resentful. He understood immediately what Deakins was hinting at.

“You mean protective custody.”

“If necessary, that is one possible option,” Deakins confirmed. “But also, letting Jarod place you somewhere safe, like he’s already offered to do.”

For several long seconds, Bobby said nothing. Then, finally, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Whatever you think you have to do. I… I just don’t ever want to go back to that place. I… I’d rather be dead than go back there.”

Beside him, Alex tightened her grip on Bobby’s arm just fractionally. She understood the underlying meaning of Bobby’s words, perhaps better than anyone else in the room.

“It won’t come to that, Bobby. We’ll keep you safe. Trust us to do that for you.”

He looked down at her, a deep sadness in his eyes.

“But if there was no escaping it… I… I might…”

“No!” she burst out in distress. “You don’t mean that! Bobby, you look me in the eye, and tell me you wouldn’t ever do that to yourself!”

He didn’t speak to answer her. He didn’t need to. The look in his eyes gave enough of an answer.

“Bobby, please,” Alex begged him. “Promise me that you’ll keep fighting. Promise me that whatever happens, you won’t give up!”

“I never really forgot,” Bobby said abruptly, changing the subject with such speed that it left them all confused. He went on softly, the pain evident in his voice. “Even though I consciously blocked it all out, in truth I never really forgot.”

“How do you mean, Bobby? Carolyn asked, acutely aware of Alex’s state of high agitation and keeping her voice low and calm in an effort to project some sanity into the situation. Bobby looked from Carolyn to Alex, a haunted look in his eyes, and though he was speaking to all, his attention was exclusively on Alex.

“All my actions… my reservation, and my reluctance to let anyone get close to me… it’s all related back to what happened in those five years. I convinced myself that it was because of my mother… and my father… but that was just the cover story.”

“Bobby, what are you trying to say?” Alex asked him. He sighed a little.

“Did you ever wonder why I was always so careful not to let you see me without a shirt?”

“Goren…” Deakins said, his voice taking on a warning tone. He wasn’t quite sure where Bobby was headed, and he had a suspicion that he did not want to know. Bobby, however, ignored him.

“Didn’t you ever wonder why I refused all the times you asked me to go swimming… or anywhere that might possibly have involved taking my shirt off in front of you?”

Alex shrugged a little.

“I guess I always assumed you were just being professional…”

“That’s one of the excuses I used. I always found some excuse, but the real reason was because I was afraid to let you see… because letting you see might have forced me to confront the truth. It was too easy to lie to myself, but I couldn’t have lied to you. I’ve never been able to lie to you. If you’d seen, you would have wanted to know, and I… I would have had to tell you… and I couldn’t cope with that.”

“Bobby, see what?” Alex asked desperately.

Standing up unsteadily, Bobby first pulled off his sweater, and then his t shirt, revealing the heavily scarred flesh of his upper body.

“Dear God in Heaven,” Carolyn whispered, her eyes welling up with tears at the horrific sight.

Alex said nothing, but rather stood up slowly to get a closer look at the multitude of scars that peppered Bobby’s chest, back and sides. After a moment, she reached out with trembling fingertips to lightly brush over some of the marks, even as tears began to spill from her own eyes.

“Bobby… I don’t know what to say,” she whispered, looking up at him in grief. He returned her gaze with an anxious one of his own.

“Please say you’ll forgive me?”

“Forgive you? Alex echoed, startled. “For what?”

“For… for hiding myself from you.”

Suddenly not caring that Deakins was watching, Alex slipped her arms around Bobby and hugged him fiercely. With a shudder of relief, Bobby returned the hug.

“They’re not going to get you, Bobby,” she told him. “I promise you that. They’ll have to go through me first.”

After some discussion, both calm and not so calm, it was agreed that they would all head to One Police Plaza together. Bobby would remain within its protective confines all that day, and then they would escort him and Jarod out of New York City, seeing them safely on their way to the safe house that Jarod had previously offered to him for sanctuary.

Bobby was not at all happy with the situation, but he seemed to have finally resigned himself to the fact that going into hiding was his best chance of escaping the Centre’s clutches. His mood plummeted rapidly, though, and on arrival at One Police Plaza he grabbed a large pile of paperwork and files from his desk and shut himself away in one of the task rooms.

A number of times, one of his colleagues tried to draw him out, with one excuse or another, only to have Bobby either snarl at them, or ignore them completely. In the end, everyone gave up trying.

“He’s really not dealing with this at all, is he?” Mike mused quietly when, as it neared the lunch hour, Bobby still hadn’t emerged from the task room even for a simple cup of coffee. Alex scowled.

“What do you think, Logan? Tonight he’ll be spirited away for God knows where, for God knows how long. Away from family, friends, work… everything that means something to him. How do you think you’d feel?”

“Pretty lousy,” Mike conceded. “I wish there was another way. But I really can’t see it, Alex.”

She sighed softly and slumped back in her seat, finally giving up on any pretence of doing work.

“I know. I just hate this. I hate knowing that Bobby will have to hide away from everyone, like some sort of fugitive. And don’t say it’s for his own protection,” she growled, even before Mike had a chance to open his mouth. “I know it is. But it doesn’t make it any easier.”

Mike watched as Alex got up and headed for the break room, shoulders slumped much in the same way Bobby’s had been since the moment he’d resigned himself to the fact that he would have to go into hiding to escape the Centre.

“I never said it would,” he murmured sadly to himself before heading back to his own desk.

The cup of coffee descended into his line of sight, startling him out of his reverie. He looked up to find his partner standing there, watching him with a strange mixture of emotions on her face.

“Before you bite my head off,” she told him with an edge to her voice, “I thought you could do with some coffee. I know you haven’t had anything to eat or drink since we left Deakins’ place.”

Bobby regarded her for a long moment before sighing and accepting the coffee.


“Can I join you?” she asked in a softer tone. “Or would you rather continue to isolate yourself?”

“Just practising for the future,” he said bitterly. Alex hesitated, and then sat down beside him.

“It’s not going to be forever, Bobby. As soon as we resolve this, you’ll be able to come home again.”

He looked at her, then, and it was a struggle for her not to wince at the scathing look in his eyes.

“Am I the only one here with a grasp on reality? This isn’t going to be resolved quickly, Alex. Not in days, or weeks… or even months. They’ve been chasing Jarod for ten years, and he’s still on the run from them! Do you really think they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say ‘oh well’, when they can’t find me? It’s not going to happen like that, and the sooner everyone realises it, the better.”

Alex sat stiffly, torn between wanting to hug him and wanting to hit him. She finally settled for a subtle in-between, and reached out to cover his large hands with her smaller ones.

“We know, Bobby. We do. But we also have to keep some hope.”

He looked away from her, but he didn’t pull his hands away.

“I stopped hoping a long time ago.”

Tears filled Alex’s eyes, not for the first time that day, and she leaned forward to take his face gently in her hands, and draw him back to her.

“You listen to me, Bobby Goren. I am not going to just give up, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let you do that. We are going to find a solution to this, and it’s not going to take forever. Not ten years… not even one. Do you hear me?”

A single tear trickled down Bobby’s cheek, and he lifted a hand to close over hers, holding it to his cheek.

“I’ll miss you most.”

Shaking her head, Alex slid closer and put her arms around him in a fierce, protective hug.

“It’ll be okay, Bobby,” she whispered, drawing his head in against her shoulder.

“It’s ironic,” Bobby said, his voice trembling audibly as he struggled against the sobs that were trying so hard to escape.

“What is?” Alex asked, not releasing her grip on him.

“My… my mom. Her delusions about ‘them’ being after me… She wasn’t so delusional after all, was she? Turns out she was right. ‘They’ really were after me. ‘They’ still are… and now I have to run away and hide because of ‘them’.”

Alex shut her eyes, and tightened her grip on him. She didn’t care who happened to look in on them, didn’t care if they were seen holding each other in this way. This would be perhaps their last chance to share a moment of closeness for God only knew how long, and she wasn’t going to allow it to pass them by.

She was aware of the way he trembled almost violently in her embrace, and of the way his arms slowly found their way around her slender form. Before long, they were clinging ferociously to each other with a fervour born of sheer anguish.

No words were spoken by either of them for some minutes. It was only when they broke apart finally that they realised their shared embrace hadn’t gone unnoticed. A polite, slightly embarrassed cough alerted them to the presence of their captain in the doorway.

“Goren, I need you to come with me,” Deakins told him quietly. “I just took a call from the Chief of Detectives. He’s got some questions for you about your current investigation.”

“Now?” Alex asked. “Can’t it wait?”

“Until when, Alex?” Deakins asked tiredly. “Tomorrow?”

Alex felt Bobby flinch, but he got stoically to his feet.

“Let me get my folder.”

They watched him go, and then Deakins looked back at Alex.

“We weren’t…” Alex started to say, but he cut her off with a shake of his head.

“It’s all right, Alex. You don’t have to explain anything. I understand.”

“I’m going to miss him,” she said softly, fresh tears welling in her eyes. “I don’t want him to leave.”

“Neither do I,” Deakins murmured. “I just wish there was another way. But it’s the only way we can guarantee to keep him safe.”

“Why?” Alex choked out. “Why can’t they just leave him alone? How can they think for a second that they have the right to do this to another person?”

“I wish I had an answer to that,” he said softly. “I really do.”

Bobby came back, folder in hand and a weary resignation on his face.

“I’m ready, Captain.”

Deakins nodded.

“Okay. Alex, King and Jackson just arrived back from interviewing a couple of witnesses from the Bailey shooting. Get whatever they have from them, and we’ll go over it together when Bobby and I get back.”

Alex answered with a single nod and, sparing Bobby a reassuring smile, stepped past them both and headed away to where King and Jackson were waiting.

“Let’s go,” Deakins murmured, ushering Bobby towards the elevators.

The Centre

Angelo sat at the keyboard of the computer, tapping away furiously and unrelenting, just as he had been doing for the last several hours. He showed no signs of fatigue or boredom, and his expression was one of absolute concentration, bordering on manic eagerness. The Centre staff who passed by paid him no heed. He was there at the behest of Mr Raines, and no one questioned Mr Raines.

And so it was that Angelo had the freedom to do as he would, and no one queried whether what he was doing was, in fact, for the Centre… or against it. No one paused long enough to notice the heavily encrypted files that Angelo easily hacked into, and no one noticed when he compiled vital information on a powerful public New York figure from highly secretive Centre records, and emailed it all to Sydney.

No one noticed when Angelo cleared the computer screen of that sensitive information, and replaced it with the image a child long gone from the Centre, a boy with whom Angelo had a strong affinity.

He reached out to touch the image on the computer screen, whimpering softly.

“Bobby run,” he whispered, after looking around furtively to ensure no one was paying attention. “Coming… Coming for you… Run away…”

New York

Jarod was on his way back to One Police Plaza after meeting with an old friend whom he had helped some years back, not long after he’d first escaped from the Centre. That friend had access to men and weapons, and was more than willing to help him protect Bobby from the Centre. He smiled to himself with satisfaction. They now had themselves an armed escort for when they left New York that evening.

Of course, he knew Bobby was unhappy with the decision but, like his friend’s colleagues, he could see no other way. Once he was sure of Bobby’s immediate safety, then he could go to work on the problem of how to turn the Centre off looking for Bobby. So far, he could only think of one method, and he hadn’t bothered even attempting to raise it. There was no way that Bobby would agree to faking his own death, and Jarod knew it.

Faking his death would mean creating a whole new life for himself, and the detective clearly was not prepared to do that. And so, the ball was in Jarod’s court to work out something else. He just hoped he would be able to figure it out soon.

He was just a few city blocks from One Police Plaza when his cell phone rang. Slowing to a halt and checking the number, he answered it warily.



“Sydney?” Jarod asked, surprised by the unexpected contact. “How did you…?”

Angelo pinpointed your cell phone number to let me call you. Jarod, where are you right now? How far away are you from where Bobby is?

Jarod felt a chill race down his spine.

“Not far. Why…?”

Listen to me, there’s no time. I received an email from Angelo. He hacked into Centre records and sent me a file. There is someone in One Police Plaza who is directly connected to the Centre.

A cold lump settled in Jarod’s gut and he began to walk, quickly, in the direction of One Police Plaza.


It’s the Chief of Detectives. Apparently, the Centre assisted to get him into that position and now…”

“Now, they’re calling in the favour,” Jarod finished when Sydney trailed off.

Raines, Lyle and Miss Parker left this morning with a full compliment of operatives,” Sydney went on quickly. “They didn’t tell me where they were going, but they seemed confident that they would be successful. You have to get back there to warn Bobby. You have to get him out of there, now!

Jarod didn’t wait to hear anymore. He ended that call and quickly called Bobby’s cell phone, intending to tell him to get out of the building immediately, only to discover his call was being blocked. Sucking in a sharp breath, he tried Alex’s cell, then Mike Logan’s, and finally Captain Deakins’. He couldn’t get through to any of them. Finally, as a last resort, he called One Police Plaza directly, and asked to speak to either Captain James Deakins or Detective Robert Goren. When he was told that neither was available to take phone calls, Jarod knew deep in his gut that he was already too late.

Snapping shut his cell phone, he took off at a run, hoping and praying that he would get back to One Police Plaza in time to help his friend.

“Did the Chief tell you what he wanted to ask me?” Bobby asked, rummaging through his portfolio for the relevant case notes as they rode up to the fourteenth floor together. Deakins shook his head.

“He wasn’t specific, except to say he wanted to talk to you about your handling of a witness.”

The elevator slid to a halt, and Deakins stepped out, but Bobby didn’t move. The doors started sliding shut again, and Deakins had to put his arm out to hold them open.

“Bobby? What’s wrong?”

“Captain… if there were concerns about how I’d handled a witness, it’s protocol for it to go through you… not directly from the Chief of D’s.”

Deakins nodded.

“I know. I raised that point with him, but one of the witnesses you spoke to a few days ago… Catherine Tompkins?”

Bobby nodded wordlessly.

“Apparently she’s the goddaughter of Senator Brian Miller, who’s a personal friend of the Chief. Chief Harris assured me that he’s not planning on ripping into you. But he feels obliged to speak to you personally just to get Miller off his back. We’ll just go in, you answer his questions, and we’ll be out of there in ten.”

Still Bobby looked uneasy, but he conceded with a nod and followed Deakins into the outer office. Chief Harris’ secretary looked up, and smiled warmly at the two of them.

“Hello, Captain Deakins. Detective Goren. Chief Harris asked me to send you straight through.”

Deakins nodded, returning her smile, before leading the way into Chief Harris’ private office.

The first thing Deakins became aware of as he strode purposefully into the office was Chief Harris, sitting behind his desk and looking positively ill. The second thing he became aware of, a split second later, were the three figures positioned behind Harris. Two were armed with their weapons in plain sight and the other… The other was a slightly shrunken-looking individual clinging to an oxygen tank.

Deakins ripped his gun from its holster, at the same time placing himself squarely between Bobby and the three Centre operatives.

“Bobby, go,” Deakins shouted. “Run, get out of here!”

Before Bobby had a chance to react, though, more operatives appeared in the doorway behind them, guns at the ready. All of a sudden, the two of them were surrounded, with nowhere to go.

“You should have come to us, Detective,” Lyle said in amusement as he moved forward. Bobby barely heard him. His gaze was fixed on Raines who, in turn, was watching him with a cruel smirk.

“Hello again, Bobby,” Raines rasped, and Bobby flinched visibly at the memories that voice provoked. Deakins looked at Harris, who still hadn’t said a word.

“What have you done?” he asked hoarsely, still not lowering his gun.

“I’m sorry, Jim,” Harris answered softly. “I really am. They didn’t give me a choice.”

“Put down the guns, gentlemen,” Parker told them as she walked slowly around the side of the desk. “Cooperate, and no one has to get hurt.”

“You are not taking him,” Deakins growled.

“Frankly, I don’t see that you have a choice,” Lyle said calmly. “As you can see, we outnumber you.”

“Do you really think you’d get away with taking him right here?” Deakins demanded, grasping for time to think of a plan of action. “The building is wall to wall cops, from ground to roof. You’d never get out of here alive.”

“We have options,” Parker said calmly. “Put down the guns. I’d hate to have to shoot either of you.”

Still neither Bobby nor Deakins moved, still holding their guns at the ready, prepared for a fight.

“For God’s sake, both of you,” Harris burst out, a hint of panic in his voice. “Is it worth risking your lives?”

“Chief Harris,” Bobby said in a strained voice, “if I go with them, my life is over. I might as well be dead.”

“No need to be so melodramatic, Bobby,” Lyle said conversationally. “You haven’t even given us a chance to fill you in on what we have in the works.”

Bobby’s jaw tightened visibly, as did his grip on his gun.

“My name is Robert Goren. I am a detective with the NYPD. I am a free person, and you have no right to take me anywhere against my will!”

“All right,” Parker snapped. “Enough of the warm fuzzy sentimentality.”

She nodded, and one of the sweepers standing behind the two men stepped in and slammed the butt of his gun into the back of Deakins’ head. The captain went down with a heavy thud, his gun flying from his grasp. Bobby swung around in near panic, trying to back away from the operatives, and from Lyle, Parker and Raines. There was nowhere for him to go, though, and he quickly found himself backed up to the wall, surrounded by operatives.

Walking over, Parker crouched down and pressed the barrel of her gun to Deakins’ temple.

“Hey!” Harris burst out, standing up quickly. “You said no one would be hurt!”

“We lied,” Parker replied flatly. She looked back at Bobby. “This is your last chance. I won’t say it again. Put down the gun, and give yourself up, and I won’t have to put a bullet in his head.”

Bobby stood frozen, his gaze fixed on his captain. Deakins was not moving, and blood was already flowing down his neck and seeping into the carpet from the head wound he’d suffered. There was no way of knowing from just a look whether the injury was superficial, or more serious.

“You have a choice to make, Bobby,” Raines rasped. “Give up, and we let him live. Fight, and he dies. Either way, you are coming with us. It’s entirely up to you whether he dies.”

Slowly, overcome with distress, Bobby lowered his gun, and put up no protest when Lyle took his from his hands. If the threat had been aimed at him alone – fight or surrender, live or die – then he wouldn’t have hesitated to fight. But he would not – could not – take an action that would result in someone else’s death, especially when that someone was his captain.

He was aware of someone coming up beside him, and winced at a sharp prick of pain in his neck, but he never took his eyes off Deakins, and the last thing he saw before his world faded to black was the image of his captain lying face down in a growing pool of his own blood.

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