THE LONG ROAD HOME

Jarod was almost to One Police Plaza when he heard the distinct sound of rotor blades above the noise of the Manhattan midday traffic. He skidded to a halt and looked up just in time to see a jet black chopper lifting off from the roof of the police headquarters, hovering for a moment as it turned, and then flying away, rapidly disappearing from sight over the city skyline.

Distressed, Jarod looked back to the square that led into the tall building just in time to see Lyle and Parker coming out into the daylight, accompanied by a couple of sweepers.

No, Jarod thought, feeling sick. Please God, no…

A sleek black car pulled up, as though on cue, and Lyle opened the door for Parker in a gentlemanly manner that was most unlike him. She got in, throwing him an unimpressed look as she did so. Lyle grinned in response and was about to get in as well when he happened to glance up, and spotted Jarod.

For several seconds, the two men stared at each other, and Jarod mentally prepared himself to run. But then, to his disconcertment, Lyle’s grin widened to near impossible proportions. He lifted his hand to his temple in a mock salute before getting into the car as well. Then, it pulled away from the curb and was gone.

Jarod stood frozen, his heart pounding painfully in his chest before panic galvanised him into action and he took off across the road, barely avoiding being hit, and ran into One Police Plaza.


Deakins awoke to a shattering pain in his skull, aggravated by the cold compress that someone was holding to his head. He groaned and tried to pull away, but a firm pair of hands on his shoulders kept him from achieving that objective.

“Just stay still, Jim. You took a bad knock to the head. We’ve called for the paramedics to come and check you over.”

For several long seconds, Deakins continued to lie on the floor, his dazed mind spinning as he struggled to remember what had happened. It came back in a rush, and this time when he tried to sit up, his anger and distress gave him the strength to break free of Harris’ grip.

“You bastard…” he choked out, cringing as fresh pain flared through his skull at the sudden movement. When Harris reached out to try and help him, Deakins shrugged him off angrily. “You goddamn son of a bitch… You sold him out…”

“I’m sorry, Jim,” Harris said again. “I told you, they didn’t give me a choice. Please, try to understand…”

Deakins didn’t even spare him a look as he got awkwardly to his feet, staggered a little and made a quick grab for the wall to steady himself.

“You sold out one of your own people. Don’t you dare try to justify it to me!”

“Where do you think you’re going, Jim?” Harris asked as Deakins took a couple of steps towards the door, stumbled and grabbed for the wall again.

“To get my detective back,” Deakins mumbled. “There’s still time…”

“Jim, they left via the helipad on the roof a couple of minutes ago. It’s too late. He’s gone.”

Deakins stood frozen, his breath coming in ragged gasps as he leaned heavily against the wall, his stricken mind trying to come to grips with what had just happened. Finally, without saying another word to Harris, Deakins staggered from the office.


Mike saw Deakins coming slowly around the corner, on his own, and knew instinctively what had happened. His heart sinking, he started to get to his feet, at the same time scanning the bullpen for Alex. Right at that moment, she appeared to be nowhere in sight, or within earshot.

“Carolyn, where’s Alex?”

She glanced up at him briefly.

“Around the corner in Task Room 3, with King and Jackson. Why?”

“Because I think we’ve got a problem.”

She took in his expression, and then looked around just in time see Deakins stumble and go crashing to the floor.

“Shit!” Mike exploded, and practically cleared his own desk in his rush to get to the captain. “Captain… oh god…”

“I’ll call for a bus,” Carolyn said quickly, but Deakins gave a slight shake of his head.

“Trap…” he mumbled as Mike helped him up into a sitting position, and carefully held his handkerchief to the still-bleeding head wound. “Was a trap… They were… were waiting… for us.”

“Where’s Bobby?” Mike asked, dreading the answer. Deakins looked sick.

“Gone… They… They took him…”

“Oh god, no,” Carolyn whispered.

“What’s going on?”

“Ah, crap,” Mike hissed. A moment later, Alex broke through the throng of detectives who had gathered around their captain, and froze when her gaze came to rest on Deakins. She fell forward, dropping to her knees on the other side of him, anxiety written all over her face as she looked at the injury he’d suffered.

“How did this happen? Who did it?”

No one responded, and after several seconds, a new question occurred to her.

“Where is Bobby?”

“Alex,” Deakins said softly, watching her through half-closed eyes as he struggled to maintain some equilibrium, “it was an ambush. They… They had Harris call me and ask for Bobby. When we walked in, they were already in there. There was nothing we could do.”

Alex stared at him in horror.

“No… Please… No…”

“He’s gone,” Deakins whispered, tears spilling down his cheeks before he could stop them. “Bobby’s gone. The bastards took him. I… I couldn’t stop them. I’m sorry, Alex.”

Alex stayed frozen, torn between wanting to cry, and wanting to scream and rant. She refused to let herself cry again, because tears would do no one any good. And screaming would be of even less benefit.

As she knelt there, she watched the guilt and grief play across Deakins’ features. He was feeling guilty for letting Bobby be taken… and yet she knew without a doubt that it was not his fault. She didn’t say anything right then, though. Right then, it was just a little too much for her to cope with.

“Has anyone called for the paramedics?” she demanded, trying to ground herself by focusing on something tangible.

“I’m okay,” Deakins mumbled.

“Sure, Captain,” Mike retorted. “That’s why you’re on the floor, bleeding from the head. What the hell did they do to you, anyway?”

Before Deakins had a chance to answer, Jarod came around the corner, and the look on his face told them that he already knew what had happened.

“He’s gone, isn’t he?” Jarod asked hoarsely. Without waiting for an answer, he hurried over and knelt down beside Alex, peering intently at Deakins’ injury.

“We need to get you to the hospital. This could be fractured.”

“I’m fine!” Deakins burst out, and then groaned as fresh pain speared through his head.

“No, you’re not,” Carolyn retorted. “I’m calling for a bus.”

“We need to work out what to do about getting Bobby back,” Deakins argued.

“There’s no point rushing to decide anything now,” Jarod said in a quiet, grim voice. “Unless anyone has an idea on how to intercept a chopper, mid-flight?”

“Not likely,” Mike muttered. Jarod nodded.

“And if you did have the means to try that, they’d kill him before giving him up.”

“So what happens now, then?” Alex asked softly, keeping her voice low to minimise the risk of it breaking on her. Jarod looked back at Deakins.

“First, we get your captain to the hospital, and see that he’s treated. Then we sit and work through this situation thoroughly. And that includes getting a full account of what happened.”

“Paramedics are on their way,” Carolyn told them in a sombre voice.

“Did Harris really betray Goren?” someone else asked, and suddenly there were eight or nine hard stares focused on Deakins. He sighed softly, too exhausted and in too much pain to lie.

“Yes. He did. Harris sold him out. Why, I don’t know.”

“That lousy son of a bitch,” another detective muttered.

Deakins looked around at them slowly. All of a sudden, he was finding it hard to keep his eyes open, and he knew it was not going to be long before he lost consciousness again.

“No retribution, not from anyone. I… I need everyone on deck and active… so we can figure out how best to help Goren.”

A reluctant murmur of agreement swept through the group, and Deakins sighed faintly with relief. The last thing he needed was to have his entire squad go renegade, and get themselves suspended. He needed them to be focused, because the coming days were going to be some of the hardest they’d ever had.

Dimly, he was aware of Mike Logan speaking to him, but the words were a jumbled mess and made no sense to him at all. He looked through half-closed eyes at the men and women surrounding him, and his last thoughts before he slipped once more into the painlessness of sleep were a prayer they could affect a quick rescue, and that Bobby would soon be back where he belonged – safe with them.


The Centre

Raines watched with sinister pleasure as Bobby was lifted carefully down from the chopper, strapped tightly to a stretcher, but still unconscious. His mind was already cranking over with thoughts of where he would begin with his many experiments, and he was anxious to get started.

“You do realise you’re going to have to share him?”

Raines looked around to see Mr Parker standing there, watching him with a small, amused smirk. A scowl developed on his own face at the other man’s words.

“What are you talking about? He’s mine…”

And Sydney’s,” Parker reminded him calmly. “Sorry, Raines. The Director received strict instructions from the Triumvirate as soon as you sent word that the… acquisition had been successful. They want Sydney to have equal control.”

“That isn’t fair!” Raines complained. “I have plans. I can’t afford to waste time by letting him…

Parker focused a hard look on Raines, effectively silencing him.

“And maybe the Triumvirate are anxious to ensure that you don’t ruin this one in the same way you ruined Kyle… and Timmy. They’ve accepted that Jarod will never be reacquired.” He paused, watching as medical staff moved in to run a brief check on the unconscious man. “We’re expected to take extra care with this one, Raines. We aren’t to lose him… physically, or otherwise. Understand?”

Raines scowled, but acquiesced.

“Perfectly.”

Parker nodded, satisfied, and headed back into the Tower without another word. Raines watched him go, and then returned his attention to Bobby as Centre staff lifted him up off the concrete to carry him inside. A cruel smile lit up his face as his new test subject was carried past.

“Welcome home, Bobby,” he rasped as the men carried him into the confines of the Centre.


Mt Sinai Hospital

Deakins awoke to the low murmur of voices around him. He lay still and silent, trying to separate those voices from the dull pounding that filled his head. Slowly, painfully slowly, the pounding dimmed sufficiently that he could begin to make out some of the voices. Alex… Mike… Carolyn… Jarod…

And, abruptly, he remembered what happened. The Chief of Detective’s betrayal… the ambush… Bobby’s abduction…

With the memories came a burst of pain in his skull, and he groaned in response. The voices fell abruptly silent, and a moment later, he felt a hand descend onto his shoulder.

“Captain?” That was Carolyn. “How are you feeling?”

He grimaced and tried to open his eyes, but the assault of light on his senses was too much to deal with.

“Shoot me,” he mumbled. “Shoot me now.”

“It’s not as bad as it feels, Captain Deakins,” Jarod told him matter-of-factly. “There’s no fracture. Basically, you just have a very nasty bump.”

Deakins drew in a slow breath, and tried once more to open his eyes. He was marginally more successful, managing to force his eyes open halfway. They were all standing around watching him with concern… except Alex. She stood back from the bedside, her face a mask as she watched him.

Without having to ask, he knew what was wrong, aside from the obvious. He could sense her anger and pain vividly, because he felt it himself. Although, he had one more emotion to deal with than she, and that was a stark feeling of guilt.

He couldn’t bring himself to hold it against her for being angry at him, not when he felt so directly responsible. He had promised to keep Bobby safe and protected from those monsters at the Centre, and he had failed; and never had any of his failures been felt so acutely by so many.

“This wasn’t your fault, Captain,” Mike said quietly, his words causing Deakins to start a little. He hadn’t realised Mike could be quite so perceptive. All the same, though, he couldn’t stem the grief that washed over him.

“No?” he asked hoarsely. “Then whose fault is it? I warned everyone against attempts to lure Bobby away from the squad’s protection, and then I went and fell for one of the Centre’s tricks myself. There’s no excuse.”

“It’s pointless to lay blame,” Carolyn insisted. “On yourself, or anyone else. The point now is that Bobby is gone, and we have to figure out how to get him back. That has to be our priority now, Captain.”

Deakins didn’t respond to her words, but rather looked past her to where Alex stood. He wasn’t after any sort of absolution or forgiveness from her. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking for, but he couldn’t make any pledges until she spoke.

“Why don’t we step outside for a minute, boys?” Carolyn murmured, ushering a puzzled Mike and Jarod out of the cubicle, and leaving Deakins and Alex alone.

“What?” Alex asked softly, once they were gone. “What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you I forgive you? Like you said, you warned everyone else, and then fell for it yourself.”

“I’m not asking your forgiveness, Alex,” he answered softly, struggling to concentrate through the dull ache in his head. “I’m asking if you can still bring yourself to trust me.”

She looked away, and Deakins felt his heart sink. He couldn’t blame her, but it hurt nonetheless, to think that her trust in him had been so severely damaged.

“Mike was right,” she said suddenly, and Deakins looked back at her questioningly.

“About what?”

“It’s not your fault. How were you to know they had their claws hooked into the Chief of Detectives? None of us would have questioned it.” She raised her eyes to him again slowly. “But we have to get him back, Captain. Somehow, we have to get him out of there, fast.”

Deakins nodded, feeling a surge of relief that she still trusted him. He reached out and took her hand gently in his own, and when he spoke it was with fresh confidence in his tired voice.

“We will, Alex. One way or another, we will get him out. And then, we’ll make those bastards rue the day they decided to go after him.”


“So what now?” Mike asked when, an hour later, Deakins had told them everything he could remember of the ambush. Jarod looked grim.

“I have an idea, but it’s going to take some planning. And, it may take some time.”

“No,” Alex said in a strained voice. “No, there’s no time. We have to get him out, now.”

“It’s not as easy as that,” Jarod said.

“But you escaped from there,” Mike pointed out. “You said it yourself.”

“For starters,” Jarod said firmly, “I need to confirm that they have actually taken him to Blue Cove, and not somewhere else. Getting that information may take time in itself. And then, once I’ve got that confirmation, it won’t be just a matter of slipping in and out. They’re going to have him under very close watch. It’s not going to be easy to rescue him.”

“So, what are you saying?” Mike growled. “We just have to sit on our asses and wait? For how long?”

Jarod looked around at each of them with visible regret. He hated having to say it, but there was no point sugar-coating it for them.

“I know some people who will be willing to help, but it may take some time to track them down. You’re going to have to trust me now. I have no intention of abandoning Bobby. I want to get him out as much as you all do, but we have to go about it carefully. They will kill him before they let him go, and above all else we want to avoid that happening.”

“How long do you think it might take you to prepare for a rescue?” Deakins asked quietly. Jarod was silent for nearly a minute before answering.

“Three… maybe four months.”

A strange, choking sob escaped Alex’s throat and, in distress, she fled the cubicle. Throwing Jarod an angry glare, Carolyn hurried after her.

“Three or four months,” Mike said coolly. “That’s the best estimate you can offer?”

“That’s if there are no setbacks,” Jarod answered. “In truth, it could be six months or more before we’re ready to attempt a rescue.” He paused, and then added softly, “I know what sort of damage could be done in that time. Believe me, I know. But I would rather rescue him alive six months down the track and have a chance to reverse any damage done to him by Raines, rather than go in too soon, and find we have to bury him. To me, it isn’t worth the risk. Is it worth it to you?”

Mike looked away, distraught.

“No,” he admitted softly. Jarod nodded.

“Okay. I have to go. I have people to try and contact. I’ll be in touch with you, though, to let you know what’s happening. I promise.”

“And what do we do in the meantime?” Deakins asked.

“Do your best to go about business as normal,” Jarod encouraged them. Deakins smiled a very bitter smile.

“Easier said than done, Jarod.”

“I know,” Jarod murmured. “And I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer you right now. But if you want Bobby back alive, you need to be willing to do this my way.”

Deakins nodded.

“It’s all right, Jarod. We understand. Just be sure that you do keep in touch. And for God’s sake, be careful. They’re going to be keeping an eye out for you, if only to keep you from getting any information about Bobby.”

“I will,” Jarod promised. “I’ll be in touch.”

And then he was gone.


Mike found Alex and Carolyn just around the corner from the waiting room. Alex was sobbing softly into Carolyn’s shoulder, while Carolyn did her best to comfort her.

“He’s gone?” Carolyn asked softly when Mike approached and sat down on the other side of Alex.

“Yeah,” Mike confirmed. “He promised to stay in contact, and keep us up to date.”

“And you believe that?”

Mike paused, taking a moment to consider that. Finally, he nodded.

“Yes. I believe it. I don’t believe he’d just give up and leave Bobby in the hands of those psychopaths. Alex…?”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, drawing back from Carolyn and rubbing fiercely at her eyes. Mike reached out and stroked her hair lightly, soothingly, in a tender gesture.

“Don’t be. You’ve got every right to want to cry. Don’t be ashamed of that.”

“It’s just, when he said it might be three or four months… It was just too much to take. I can’t stomach the thought of Bobby being in that place… with those people… for that long, and having God only knows what done to him.”

“I know,” Mike murmured. “I hate it, too. But we don’t have a choice. Deakins is the only one with any clue where this place is, and Jarod was right about one thing. If we go about this the wrong way, it might just get Bobby killed.”

Alex looked at him miserably.

“Mike, you heard what Bobby said this morning. He’d rather be dead than be back in the Centre’s control. If we don’t get him out of there soon, he might just be dead anyway… by his own hand.”

“You really think he’d go to the extreme of killing himself?” Carolyn wondered. Alex stared bleakly at the floor.

“If he can’t see any other way out? Yes, I really think he’d do it.”

“But he has to know that we’d be searching for a way to get him out,” Mike said, frowning. “He must know that we wouldn’t just quit on him? That you wouldn’t quit on him?”

A bitter laugh escaped Alex’s lips.

“You don’t know Bobby’s abandonment issues, Mike. I give him two months, tops, before they’ll be able to convince him that no one’s coming for him. Maybe another month after that to convince him we’re all doing our best to forget about him, and get on with our lives. After that, who knows?”

“Well,” Mike said with a heavy sigh, “I guess we’re going to have to rely on them to keep him from doing anything like that, aren’t we?”

Alex looked away as fresh tears filled her eyes.

“I don’t know if I can last four months.”

Leaning over, Mike wrapped her up in his arms and hugged her tightly.

“Yes, you can, Alex. For Bobby’s sake, we all can.”


The following evening
Blue Cove, Delaware

For the longest while, Jarod sat on the bench, watching the dark, menacing building that served as the Centre’s base of operations. He was in a dangerous position here, and he knew it. Just about everyone in the Centre knew his face, and if just one of them spotted him, then he was done. He had to see, though. He had to take the chance, and try to find out whether this really was where Bobby had been taken.

His contact was late, but that didn’t concern him. This particular individual didn’t operate according to anyone’s schedule. He just had to be patient, and wait for him to appear.

And appear he did, just after dusk had finally fallen. There was a rustling in the bushes off to his right, and then a figure emerged and crawled onto the bench beside Jarod.

“Angelo,” Jarod murmured in greeting, hugging the other man warmly. It took him a moment to realise Angelo was crying.

“Talk to me,” Jarod encouraged him gently. “Tell me what you can.”

“Bobby…” Angelo whimpered, and pointed towards the building.

“He’s in there?” Jarod asked, and Angelo nodded his shaggy head.

“Sydney… and Mr Raines…”

Jarod wasn’t sure whether to be relieved, or not.

“They’ve given him to Sydney as well as Raines?”

Again, Angelo nodded.

“To Sydney… to look after… to Raines… to experiment.”

Jarod felt his stomach crawl. So Bobby had been placed in Sydney’s control in a superficial attempt to keep him physically and mentally safe, but Raines still had the freedom to conduct his monstrous experiments on him.

“Jarod rescue?” Angelo asked, and Jarod sighed.

“Not yet, Angelo. Soon, though. We’ll rescue him soon. Can you do something for me? Do your best to look after Bobby? And tell Sydney about anything that Mr Raines tries to do to him in secret. Can you do that?”

Angelo nodded and, hugging Jarod one last time, he slipped away back through the bushes. Jarod watched him go before returning his attention to the Centre.

“Hang in there, Bobby,” he whispered. “Whatever you do, don’t give up. We’ll come for you, I promise.”

With a last look at the building that was soon likely to become Bobby’s own personal hell, Jarod rose up and vanished in the darkness.

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