He hadn’t gone very far, much to Alex’s relief. Not that she’d expected him to flee outside, but nor did she care to be searching for him all over the house. Her first guess was right, though. He’d gone to ground in his room, and she found him lying on the bed, huddled up in as tight a ball as he could manage.

She stood in the doorway, observing him in silence for nearly a minute before finally walking over and sitting beside him.


He didn’t move, and gave no indication that he’d heard her. She lay a hand lightly on his arm, and he stiffened under her touch. A faint whimper escaped his lips, and he started to pull away from her. Alex didn’t hesitate, leaning down and speaking to him in a low murmur.

“Knock it off, Bobby.”

Bobby froze, caught off-guard by the unexpected rebuke. Alex went on quietly and quickly, keeping her voice gentle so as to reassure him that she was on his side.

“You know it’s me, and you know I’d never hurt you, so don’t you pull away from me.” She smiled softly with relief as she felt the muscles in his arm relaxing just slightly under her touch. “Now, I also know you can hear me just fine, so you listen to me. I’m not letting you pull back from me this time. Do you hear me, Bobby? I’m not going to let you. Talk to me, Bobby. Don’t turn away.”

He lay still for a while, but she was patient. Finally, her patience was rewarded when Bobby spoke in a strained whisper.

“It’s too much… Alex, I can’t deal with it.”

“No, you can’t,” Alex conceded. “Not alone. But you’re not alone, Bobby. You have my mom and dad… Captain Deakins… Mike and Carolyn… George… And you have me. Now, will you turn over and look at me?”

He did so, more out of an instinctive urge to respond to her request than his own desire. The look on his face was heart-breaking, and Alex knew he had finally hit rock-bottom. Fighting back her own tears, she lay down beside him and slipped her arms around him.

“Talk to me,” she whispered, reaching up to gently stroke his cheek. “Don’t shut me out, Bobby.”

He said nothing to start with, and she did nothing to try and rush him. They had as much time as he needed – she’d ensured that before following him upstairs. As she watched, tears filled his eyes and overflowed, dampening the pillow beneath their heads. When he did eventually begin to talk, it was in so soft a voice that she had to strain to hear him.

“It… It was Raines. He set Kyle onto me when I was a boy. I wouldn’t do anything he asked, so he let Kyle a… assault me… He wanted to guarantee I was too terrified to disobey him. When… When I was taken out of that room, I couldn’t even walk on my own. I had to be carried by one of the guards. I’d been sick… and I was bleeding… badly… from behind. But Raines didn’t w… want me to go to the hospital wing. He… He’d had me taken down to… to SL27 by then. He didn’t want anyone stopping him. But the guard that was supposed to take me back... He was a good man. I remember that much. I think he was loyal to Mrs Parker. He… He took me up to the hospital wing instead, and he told Sydney and Mrs Parker what Raines had done to me.”

Bobby’s breath caught in his throat as a new memory came to him. “I remember Mrs Parker coming to see me in the hospital wing. She was trying so hard not to cry when she saw me… I… I remember she sat on the edge of the bed, and held my hand, and told me that everything was going to be okay… She asked me to trust her, and she said I wouldn’t be in the Centre for much longer. She… She sat with me all that night. She didn’t care that Raines was angry. I… I don’t think he frightened her so much as the establishment as a whole. A few days after that, she came to me again… And that was when she got me out. She… She saved my life, Alex.”

“I know,” Alex murmured, hugging him to her and struggling to hold back her own tears. “I know she did.”

“Raines must have told Lyle about what he did to me with Kyle,” Bobby went on shakily. “Because I… I know it was never recorded. Even the Director at the time… Mr Parker… Even he wouldn’t have let Raines get away with that. But he must have told Lyle, and Lyle decided to do the same thing… to try and frighten me into cooperating.” He shuddered in her arms. “It worked. After Brigitte did that to me, I stopped fighting Raines. I figured that anything he wanted me to do couldn’t be as bad as that… so I started cooperating. And… and whenever I tried to stop, Lyle would remind me of it… or Brigitte would show up… and I’d cooperate again. I hated myself for it so much, but I couldn’t handle being raped again. I just couldn’t…”

Alex hugged him fiercely, and kissed him tenderly on the top of his head.

“I know, baby. I understand, and so does everyone else. Everyone has their breaking point, Bobby. Even you, and you endured a hell of a lot more than most people are capable of coping with. Just the fact that they had to resort to those tactics to make you cooperate says you really gave them some hell, and I am so proud of you for fighting that hard.”

“I… I called Nicole damaged goods,” Bobby whispered. “But… that’s what I am. Damaged…”

“But not irreparable,” Alex told him. “Let me help you, Bobby, please.”

He looked at her searchingly, and she responded by leaning in close and pressing her lips gently to his. Though he didn’t actively respond, when she withdrew a little she smiled to see that his eyes had fluttered closed. When he opened them again, he blushed red at the realisation that she was watching him so intently. But, she realised triumphantly, he didn’t try to pull away from her, either.

“I don’t know how,” he admitted softly. “I… I want to let you, but I don’t know how.”

She kissed him again, and this time he did respond, sending a not so small thrill through her. Smiling with relief and a tempered sense of joy, Alex drew his head to her shoulder, and cradled him to her.

“You already are, Bobby.”

They were all still there, waiting, when Alex finally came back downstairs, a satisfied smile on her face.

“I assume you got through to him,” George said as she walked in and sat down. She nodded in confirmation.

“I think I did.”

“How is he?” Deakins wondered, not even attempting to mask the worry in his voice.

“Better than you might expect,” Alex replied. “Even though his memories of being assaulted are pretty horrific, they also triggered his memory of the woman who rescued him.”

“Catherine Parker,” Deakins murmured, and Alex nodded again.

“Yes, her. He told me that after he was assaulted... and by the way, Raines had another kid do it to him.”

“Son of a bitch,” John muttered, and a murmur of agreement swept across the group. Alex continued speaking quietly.

“He said the guard was supposed to take him back to his room in SL27, but he took him up to the hospital wing instead, and told Mrs Parker what had happened. So, I guess that guard saved Bobby’s life just as much as Mrs Parker did.”

“Jarod did try to tell us that not everyone in that place was evil,” Deakins mused.

“Bobby told me a couple of times about instances when Miss Parker stepped in to help him,” George told them. “He mentioned a guard that seemed to be loyal to Miss Parker, who treated him kindly.”

“They couldn’t be the same person,” Alex said with a frown. “There was a thirty year gap, remember.”

“Maybe not the same man,” George agreed. “But a father and son, perhaps? From what Jarod told me, the place seemed to be very much a family affair.”

Deakins nodded in agreement.

“I can see the son of a man who was loyal to Catherine Parker showing that same loyalty to her daughter. You may be right about that, George. But whether it’s true or not, I’m just grateful that there was at least one or two people who were actively trying to protect him.”

“I’m just glad that he has a few positive memories,” Helen said. “It might not be much in the overall picture, but it’s still something.”

“He’s still hurting so much,” Alex said sadly, “but... I don’t know. It just seemed that something turned in him today. He really opened up to me before. He told me things willingly, and it wasn’t just like he was blurting it in the middle of a memory, or because he felt it was what he was supposed to... or what he thought we expected him to do. He was actually talking about what happened because he wanted to. It... It was like he suddenly accepted that he can only conquer his fears by facing them, and that he needs to be able to accept our help to do that.”

“These memories,” George said thoughtfully. “For Bobby personally, they are the worste that he’s got. If he can confront them and come out on top, then he really will be on the road to recovery, finally.”

Getting up, Deakins wondered over to the window and looked out. Across the road and a couple of houses away, sat a car with two people inside. Deakins recognised the car, and knew that the occupants were members of his own squad. David Ash had wasted no time in organising a guard roster for the Eames home.

“We just have to hope that the Centre will decide to cut its losses and leave Bobby alone.”

“Well, there’s been no sign of Centre activity here, and it’s been a few days now,” George remarked. “That’s something.”

John hesitated, and then spoke awkwardly.

“Ah... That might not be entirely accurate.”

All eyes turned to look at him, and he shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny.

“Dad?” Alex asked tensely. “Are you saying you’ve seen people from the Centre?”

“No, not me. It was Bobby. Look, his memory of being assaulted by that Brigitte woman... They weren’t triggered by a nightmare. I left Bobby in the room to get something for him to eat, and when I came back he was standing at the window. We talked for a few minutes, but when he started to come back to the bed, he froze up. He thought he saw someone outside, on the street, and it gave him one hell of a scare.”

Thought he saw someone?” George queried, and John had the grace to look mildly embarrassed.

“Truth is, Doc, I looked but I never saw anyone. And it might have been dark, but the street lights were all on and there was no cover down there on the street. There was nowhere anyone could have gone quickly enough that I wouldn’t have seen them. And to be honest, even Bobby seemed like he didn’t really believe that he’d seen anything... or anyone.”

“You think he was just seeing things, John?” Deakins asked.

“I really don’t know. Part of me hopes that wasn’t the case,” John answered. “For the sake of his mental stability, I hope it wasn’t. But at the same time, it scares me to think that maybe those bastards are already here in New York, and on his tail.”

A grim silence met that statement and, of course, John was right. Either Bobby was starting to see things, and possibly starting to lose his grip on reality, or the Centre was already gathering its forces to strike out and take their pretender back.

Either possibility was bleak, and left them cloaked in a heavy silence.

“If Bobby said he saw someone,” Alex said finally, fiercely, “then I believe him. We should be prepared for the Centre to try and grab him again.”

“We will be prepared for that,” Deakins assured her. “But we can’t discount the possibility that it might just be Bobby’s mind playing tricks on him. Let’s face it, Alex. He’s been pushed the very limits of what any person would be capable of enduring. It’s not unreasonable to think that...”

“That what?” Alex snapped. “That he’s finally going crazy, like his mom? Is that what you were going to say?”

Deakins sighed heavily in defeat, and George spoke up quickly.

“Not crazy, Alex. Not by a long stretch of the imagination. But he’s in a horrible position. You ought to know that the mind is capable of producing very realistic hallucinations when it’s placed under enough stress. I think we’re going to find that that is what’s happened here.”

Alex frowned, still not liking or accepting the suggestion that Bobby was not mentally stable.

“So, what do we do?” she asked softly, struggling to keep her temper in check.

“I think,” George said quietly, “that we need to maintain a careful watch from now on – both for any sign of Centre activity, and for signs from Bobby of deteriorating mental health. We have to accept that either one is a very real possibility.”

“Well, I think it sucks,” Alex growled.

“We have to cover all the bases, Alex, “Deakins told her firmly. “You know we do, and it’s for Bobby’s own sake. I will not take any chances this time. I won’t risk losing him again, not in any way.”

“I said I don’t like it,” Alex grumbled. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t go along with it. Just... For God’s sake, we have to be careful what we say around him. He’s sensitive enough as it is at the moment.”

“Fair enough,” George conceded. “And right now, is he...?”

“Sleeping,” Alex answered soberly.

“John,” Helen spoke up again. “Just who was it that Bobby thought he’d seen on the street?”

John looked grim as he replied in a soft voice, his gaze flickering up to the ceiling, and the general vicinity of Bobby’s room.

“He thought he saw Brigitte.”

Bobby awoke the next morning feeling remarkably calm, and it took him just a moment to realise a surprising fact. It seemed he’d managed to sleep through the night without being disturbed by nightmares. He lay still and quiet in bed, staring up at the ceiling and reflecting on why that might be, given the distress he’d experienced the previous day with the memories that had forced their way to the surface of his mind. It didn’t take much effort for him to remember.

He remembered waking up at some point to find Alex curled up in the bed beside him, her arms wrapped around him. He’d watched her, still half-asleep and musing that her physical presence left him feeling calm and peaceful. More to the point, he felt safe.

He’d fallen asleep again with ease, comfortable and secure in her embrace.

Now, Bobby lay awake, marvelling in how a night spent wrapped up in the safety and love offered by Alex left him feeling like he could face the day, and anything that day might bring.

He rose and washed as best as he was able – his immobilised right arm prevented him from showering properly on his own, but that was one thing he was not going to ask John or Helen for help with. Then, dressing as quickly as his healing body would allow him to, Bobby hurried downstairs.

Helen Eames looked up as Bobby came into the kitchen, and favoured him with a warm smile.

“Good morning, sweetheart. How did you sleep?”

“I slept well,” Bobby answered honestly. “I... I didn’t have any nightmares.”

John regarded him curiously.

“None at all? That’s good to hear. Now, come and sit down. Pancakes suit you for breakfast?”

Bobby nodded, pleased to realise that he did actually have an appetite.

“Yes. Thankyou.”

“If you don’t mind me saying so,” John commented quietly, “you seem a lot happier this morning than the last couple of mornings.”

“I feel better,” Bobby admitted. “I don’t really know why...”

John couldn’t hide his grin.

“It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the fact that you spent the night cuddled up to my daughter, would it?”

Bobby promptly went red, and the white, and began to stammer an apology, but John just laughed and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Relax, Bobby. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I may have had a different attitude twelve months ago, mind you, but any fool can see that you and Alex are the best medicine each of you has right now. And if it blooms into something more permanent, then all the better. I won’t stand in the way and, for the record, neither will Jimmy Deakins.”

Bobby stared intently at the tabletop, still blushing violently red.

“All right, John,” Helen said firmly, deciding it was time to step in. “You’ve embarrassed him enough. Why don’t you go out to the garage and tinker around for a while? Let Bobby eat his breakfast in peace. Then, later on, we can sit down and decide what we’re going to do today.”

Bobby’s head came up, then, and he looked quickly from Helen to John.

“You don’t have to do that. I... I don’t need to do anything. You... You’ve already done more than enough, really...”

“Nonsense,” Helen retorted. “You’ve been back in New York for less than three days, and so far your only outing has been to the hospital. There must be somewhere that you’d like to go, or something you’d like to do.”

At that, Bobby faltered. Yes, there was somewhere that he wanted to go, but he felt intensely guilty for even considering asking John and Helen to take him.

“What are you thinking, Bobby?” John asked softly. “Be honest, son.”

Still Bobby didn’t speak, but the look he exchanged with John spoke in volumes. John nodded slowly, understanding with absolute clarity what Bobby could not bring himself to ask.

“Finish cooking those pancakes for Bobby, Helen. I’m going to call Jimmy and let him know that we’ll be taking Bobby to Carmel Ridge in an hour or so, to see his mother.”

Deakins sat back slowly after hanging up the phone, chewing lightly on his lower lip as he digested what he’d just been told. He wasn’t particularly surprised – he had expected Bobby to want to see his mother almost as soon as they arrived back in New York. Just quietly, he was surprised it had taken this long for Bobby to ask... But then, as he mused on it, he guessed that Bobby probably hadn’t actually asked. More than likely, John had guessed with little help from Bobby.

His problem now was that he had sent Alex out to a crime scene half an hour ago with Mike and Carolyn. It hadn’t really been necessary to send all three, but he decided it was a far better option than having Alex hanging around the bullpen, with nothing to do. Regardless, they weren’t here, which meant that Deakins had to arrange for someone else to go with Bobby, John and Helen to Carmel Ridge.

Rising up, Deakins walked over to the door of his office, and looked out to see who was there.


Jackson immediately left what he was doing and hurried over.

“Yes, sir?”

“What have you got on your plate at the moment?”

“Right now? Just paperwork, Captain. Why?”

“Okay,” Deakins said decisively. “Grab your keys, and come with me.”

“Where are we going?” Jackson wondered as he grabbed both keys and jacket, and hurried after Deakins.

“We’re going to act as escort for Alex’s parents. They’re going to drive Bobby to Carmel Ridge, so that he can visit his mother.”

The trip to Carmel Ridge Centre was uneventful, and almost deathly quiet. All attempts on John and Helen’s part to hold a conversation fell flat, as Bobby spent the entire time staring out the window at the passing scenery.

Upon arrival at the Centre, John and Helen made to go in with him, but a look from Bobby brought them both up short.

“Please,” he said softly. “I need to go in by myself. I... I appreciate you both being here. I really do... But I need to go in to see her alone.”

John reached up to rest a hand gently on Bobby’s uninjured shoulder.

“We understand that, Bobby, but you need to understand that someone needs to be with you, for your own safety.”

Bobby flinched visibly at his words, but before he could say anything, Jimmy Deakins appeared at his side.

“I’ll go in with him, John.”

Bobby looked around at Deakins, startled.

“C... Captain? You... followed us?”

“Yes, Jackson and I tailed you all the way here.”

Bobby’s gaze went past the captain to a sedan parked close by, and the man sitting inside, in the driver’s seat. They locked eyes momentarily, and Jackson raised a hand briefly in silent greeting to Bobby. When he looked back at Deakins, the captain offered him a reassuring smile.

“I said we weren’t taking any chances, Bobby. Not this time. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to put up with having a shadow for the time being.”

“It’s okay,” Bobby murmured in concession. “I... I don’t mind.”

A big difference to his attitude before his abduction by the Centre, Deakins mused grimly. Then, he had protested vehemently at being ‘babysat’. Now, he complied meekly, without argument. Deakins was amused to realise that he almost missed Bobby’s belligerent attitude.

“C’mon,” he said with a wry smile. “Let’s go and see Frances.”

“You thought I’d be angry.”

Deakins glanced sideways at Bobby, and then smiled faintly as he realised what he meant.

“You mean, about following you here? Well, honestly speaking, I didn’t know how you’d react. But I hoped that you’d at least understand the reason, even if you don’t agree with it.”

“Well, I’m okay with it,” Bobby murmured. He slowed to a halt just inside the main doors, struggling to find the right words. “I… I’m grateful, Captain. For… this… For everything.”

He was stumbling, searching painfully for the right words. Deakins clasped his shoulder gently, reassuringly.

“You’re welcome, Bobby.”

No falseties, no platitudes. Just a simple statement. Relief and gratitude filled Bobby’s face, and he turned then and led the way to the reception counter.

The woman at the counter was vaguely familiar to Bobby, but he couldn’t quite place her face, or recall her name. She, on the other hand, seemed to have no difficulties in recognising Bobby. On sighting him, her eyes went wide, and she snatched up the phone.

“Dr Shimo? Could you come to Reception, please? It’s him, Frances Goren’s son. Yes, Doctor, I’m positive… Yes, I will. Thankyou.”

Bobby and the captain exchanged worried glances, and Deakins stepped up to the desk to speak for them both.

“We’re here to see Frances Goren. Jimmy Deakins and Bobby Goren.”

The woman nodded, and motioned to a row of chairs along the wall.

“Would you please have a seat, gentlemen? Dr Shimo wants to speak with you.”

Bobby frowned, then, with a hint of panic in his eyes.

“Why? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

A guarded look settled on the woman’s face, and she motioned once more to the chairs.

“Please sit down. Dr Shimo won’t be long.”

Bobby was going to argue further but Deakins took him firmly by the arm and guided him over to sit in the reception chairs.

“Let’s just wait, and see what the doctor has to say. All right?”

“But… What if…”

“Don’t,” Deakins told him in a low, authoritative tone. “Don’t sit here guessing what it might be about. Let’s just wait for Dr Shimo.”

It was too late, though, to keep Bobby from spiralling into an agitated state of near-panic. By the time Dr Shimo appeared, nearly five minutes later, Bobby was back on his feet and pacing the floor like a caged tiger.

“Well,” Shimo said in a distinctly unfriendly tone as he approached the two men. “It really is you, Bobby. When Kelly told me, I didn’t know whether to believe her. It’s been so damned long since you last bothered to show your face here.”

Bobby stiffened visible, and then rounded on the doctor with a speed and agility that belied his visible injuries.

“What’s happened? Where’s my mother? What’s happened to her?”

Shimo held up his hands defensively.

“She’s fine. Honestly, Bobby, she is. She’s doing well at the moment, which is quite a remarkable feat, considering.”

“Then why the delay in being able to see her?” Deakins asked with a frown, not at all liking the hostility that the doctor was displaying towards Bobby. Shimo indicated towards the corridor.

“Would you both come with me, please?”

Bobby and Deakins exchanged glances, and then Bobby nodded in reluctant concession. Shimo nodded in grudging gratitude at their acquiescence.


“Doctor, what is this about?” Deakins asked, acutely aware of Bobby’s rapidly increasing agitation. He couldn’t blame him, either. Dr Shimo’s bizarre attitude had him feeling increasingly agitated as well.

Shimo regarded Bobby critically. He was not going to pull any punches. Not now.

“Where have you been, Bobby? And don’t try telling me that it’s none of my business, because anything that affects your mother’s wellbeing is my business.”

Bobby looked away uncomfortably. That was logic that he couldn’t argue with.

“It’s complicated,” he mumbled, starting to wish he hadn’t come.

Shimo frowned darkly, unimpressed either by Bobby’s evasiveness or the captain’s silence.

“Complicated. I see. Well, let me give you a clue as to what your mother’s state of mind has generally been like while you’ve been gone.”

Distress filled Bobby’s face, and Deakins guessed that he probably didn’t need a description to know how bad she had been.

“Please,” Bobby whispered, still unable to look directly at the doctor. “Don’t…”

“Don’t what?” Shimo snapped. “Don’t tell you about how she slipped back into one of her favourite delusions? The one where everyone is plotting to steal you away from her? Don’t tell you how your one solitary phone call in nearly twelve months drove her right over the edge? Oh, and that was very considerate of you, by the way, to arrange for your colleagues to come and visit her, considering most of them didn’t have the first clue about how to deal with her. Just another nail in the proverbial coffin. And all this time, I thought you were better than Frank. Obviously I was wrong.”

“That’s enough!” Deakins exploded, breaking his paralysis and finally launching himself to his feet to defend Bobby against the doctor’s unwarranted verbal assault. “You don’t know the first thing about what’s been going on, so do not stand there in judgement over him!”

“All right, then,” Shimo said coolly. “Enlighten me.”

The captain paused, looking back at Bobby grimly. The last thing he’d expected on arrival at Carmel Ridge was to be confronted in this way, and it wasn’t doing Bobby the slightest bit of good. Where he’d seemed quietly confident upon arrival at Carmel Ridge, now his body language told a complete different story. His shoulders were hunched, his head down and his entire countenance screamed withdrawn. Anger swept through Deakins like heat at the sight, and he wanted nothing more than to tell the doctor everything and make him understand just how wrong he was, but ultimately it was not his place to decide what to tell Dr Shimo. That was Bobby’s choice to make, and his alone.

“Well?” Shimo demanded impatiently.

Slowly, Bobby raised his eyes from where they’d been fixed on the floor, and locked stares with the doctor. Shimo flinched visibly at the distress in Bobby’s expression, much to Deakins’ quiet satisfaction, and was forced to momentarily divert his gaze.

“Do you think I chose to stay away from my mother?” Bobby demanded in a guttural voice. “Do you think I purposely did it to torment her? Do you think any of it was my choice? Because believe me, Dr Shimo, it wasn’t. I didn’t choose to stay away from her anymore than I chose to be locked up by the group of privately-funded psychopaths who abducted me and experimented on me for nine months!”

Shimo couldn’t help the incredulous look that filtered onto his face, and he raised an eyebrow in bemusement.

“Abducted? That’s your story now? Bobby, have you considered that maybe, just maybe, you’ve suffered a minor psychotic break?”

“No, he hasn’t,” Deakins said sharply. “What he’s telling you is true. He isn’t delusional. He was abducted. I was there when it happened, and the people who took him nearly killed me to get to him.” He paused, taking in Shimo’s sceptical look, and then spoke quietly, “If you want proof, Dr Shimo, I can give you proof.”

Bobby looked at Deakins sharply, wondering if he had a sim disc in his possession and, if so, which one.

“What proof?” Shimo asked, frowning. Deakins reached into a deep pocket that was sewn into the inner lining of his jacket and produced not a disc, but a video tape. He nodded towards the television and video player.

“May I?”

“Be my guest,” Shimo murmured, his curiosity getting the better of him. Deakins switched on the television and put the tape in. There were a few seconds of static, and then the static cleared to reveal a slightly grainy reproduction of security tape footage. Visible on the tape were Bobby, the captain, the Chief of Detectives, Lyle, Raines, Miss Parker and half a dozen Centre sweepers. The grim images unfolded, and Shimo watched in growing dismay as Deakins was hit from behind and knocked out cold. Then, Lyle approached Bobby, removed his gun and, finally, Raines stepped in and injected something into his neck.

Shimo groaned softly as he watched the image of Bobby collapsing to the floor, unconscious, to be rolled onto a stretcher, strapped down tightly and carried out of the office, leaving only the Chief of Detectives, his distraught assistant and an unconscious Jimmy Deakins behind them.

“Now do you believe it?” Deakins asked softly as he stopped the tape and ejected it. Shimo swung around in his chair, and his gaze quickly focused on Bobby.

“Let me get this straight. Basically, your mother’s delusion that monsters had stolen you away…”

“Wasn’t a delusion at all,” Bobby whispered, tears filling his eyes and spilling down his cheeks before he could stop them. Shimo looked to Deakins for confirmation, and the captain answered in a soft, sad voice as he observed Bobby’s hunched form.

“It’s all true. The only reason Bobby is here now is because of a rescue that was planned and executed in absolute secret. The last two months have been spent helping Bobby to recover; physically, mentally and emotionally. We only just arrived back in New York three days ago, and the only reason Bobby hasn’t come here sooner is because he had to go almost straight into the hospital for treatment. So don’t judge him, Dr Shimo. Not until you know the truth.”

“I’m sorry,” Shimo said finally, in a noticeably subdued tone. “But I did find it difficult to believe… At least, until seeing that video. Can I ask, who was responsible?”

“An agency that calls itself the Centre,” Deakins answered, and as he spoke it was impossible to miss the flash of recognition in Shimo’s eyes. Immediately, Deakins felt his hackles rise, and he spoke in a forcibly calm voice. “You recognise the name.”

It was no question, and Shimo made no attempt at denial.

“Yes,” he agreed, “I do. That name has come up more than just occasionally when I’ve spoken to Frances. It seems to be the focal point of one of her worst delusions.” He looked at Bobby. “The one where she believes you to have been taken by the unknown men… Except, it’s not a delusion after all, is it?”

“No,” Deakins confirmed. “It’s not.”

Sighing, Shimo slumped back in his seat.

“Damn. Bobby, I am truly sorry. I really am. Do you think you could possibly bring yourself to tell me anything about it?”

To Deakins’ great surprise, Bobby spoke up immediately, without further prompting.

“I… I was sold to the Centre by my father when I was seven, just after Mom had her first break. I didn’t see home again until I was twelve, when some people took a big risk to rescue me. In the five or so years I was in that place, I was put through simulations. I was used to determine the outcomes of various scenarios. I… I…”

“Bobby was a child genius who was manipulated and used in the worst possible ways,” Deakins said softly when Bobby faltered. “He was experimented on, and treated inhumanely. He was rescued from that nightmare, but they came after him again eleven months ago. We tried to keep him safe, but it wasn’t enough, and they took him back. We weren’t able to get him out again until nine months later. You can’t begin to imagine the physical, emotional and psychological damage that was done in that time, Dr Shimo.”

“No, I imagine I can’t,” Shimo agreed. He paused, thinking back over the last eleven months, before speaking again. “So, that phone call you made to your mother…?”

“They let me make that call,” Bobby admitted. “In… In exchange for my cooperation.”

“Just the once?”

“It would have been more,” Deakins admitted, his tone laced heavily with guilt. “But I made a terrible mistake. I had a divert placed on Frances’ phone so that the next time Bobby was allowed to call her, he’d go through to my phone instead.”

“Let me guess,” Shimo said grimly as he eyed Bobby’s hunched and silent form, and the slight tremor that swept through his body. “They found out.”

“And Bobby was the one to suffer for it,” Deakins confirmed.

“All right,” Shimo said. “What we need to do, then, is decide how to tackle this with Frances.”

Bobby looked back up at him slowly.

“You mean, tell her the truth, or lie to her.”

“Exactly, “ Shimo agreed. “And, in my opinion, if she does think to ask what happened to you, I believe we need to tell her the truth.”

From the looks on Bobby and Deakins’ faces, Shimo guessed that was not what they had expected to hear from him.

“You… think we should tell her the truth?” Bobby stammered. Shimo raised an eyebrow at him.

“You don’t think so? Seriously, Bobby, I do think she should hear the truth. Don’t you think she has the right to know that something we’ve continually insisted were her own imaginings are, in fact, real?”

Bobby looked to Deakins wonderingly. He couldn’t foresee where that particular path might lead, but he suddenly felt it was one that he was at least willing to tread.

“Okay,” he whispered. Shimo smiled, and stood up.

“All right, then. Let’s go and see Frances.”

At Bobby’s request, both Captain Deakins and Dr Shimo hung back, and let him go in on his own. He paused just inside the doorway, looking into a softly lit room, and at the elderly woman who occupied it. She didn’t look up from the book she was reading, and he supposed she thought he was just another member of the Carmel Ridge nursing staff.

“If you’ve brought my medication, you’re too early,” she said suddenly, still not looking up. “Go away. I’m busy.”

Bobby drew in a steadying breath. All of a sudden, he was horribly nervous, and the insane idea that she wouldn’t even recognise him crept through his tired mind.


Frances Goren’s head came up abruptly, and a familiar pair of brown eyes fixed on him. Silence reigned for nearly a minute before she spoke in a cool voice.

“So you finally bothered to come visit your poor mother for the first time in… how many months? I suppose I should be honoured, shouldn’t I?”

Bobby stepped all the way into the room, carefully closing the door behind him. Frances’ gaze flickered to the immobiliser that kept his right arm still, and a frown creased her features.

“What did you do to yourself now?”

“My… My shoulder was dislocated.” About twenty or more times, he added silently, miserably. “The ligaments and muscles were all torn. It… A lot of damage was done.”

“How?” Frances demanded to know. “Have you been in fights? Damn it, Bobby…”

He could almost see her slipping back to when he had been just a gangly teenager, and the unfortunate victim of more than one local bully.

“No, Mom,” he told her gently. “I wasn’t in a fight. I… I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you.”

“Are you? Are you really sorry? Not a sign of you for… how long? Not even a phone call! I thought I raised you better than that, Bobby.”

His gaze dropped.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“I should hope so. Now, come and sit down. Let me get a good look at you.”

Bobby walked over, and sat down carefully on the bed, opposite her. She eyed him critically before speaking.

“Where have you been for so long, Bobby? I want an honest answer.”

Bobby drew in a shuddering breath. He knew Dr Shimo had advocated telling her the truth, but how to put it, so that it didn’t tip her over the edge?

“Mom… Something happened to me. Something bad. Do… Do you remember back to when I was seven? When… When you came home from the hospital that first time, I was gone. Dad… He might have told you that he’d sent me to stay with relatives… or friends.”

Frances’ gaze pierced him to the bone.

“I remember,” she admitted tonelessly. “I remember you were kidnapped. People stole you away from me. I know everyone tells me that it’s just another delusion, but…”

“It wasn’t a delusion, Mom. It really happened.”

Frances froze, staring at him intently.

“Say that again, Bobby?”

“I was taken away, Mom. But… I wasn’t kidnapped. Not then. I… I was sold. Dad sold me… in return for money to take care of him, Frank… and you.”

She said nothing, staring at him with an inscrutable look on his face. Bobby drew in another deep breath, and went on softly.

“It happened again, Mom,” he whispered, and this time Frances visibly flinched.

“They came back for you,” she hissed. “I tried to tell everyone, but they didn’t believe me. You didn’t believe me.”

Bobby raised his eyes slowly to meet her gaze, and tears spilled down his cheeks before he could stop them.

“I know. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, Mom. But, I didn’t want to remember, not any of it. But they came for me again nearly a year ago. They… They took me…”

It suddenly all became too much and he broke down sobbing. It was a couple of minutes before he realised there was a pair of slender arms around him, cradling him close, and a warm, loving voice murmured reassurances into his ear.

“It’s all right, my baby boy,” Frances whispered. “It’s all right now. You’re safe. I won’t let them have you again. I’ll never let them have you again.”

Outside Frances’ room, Captain Deakins and Dr Shimo waited in uneasy silence, expecting trouble. The quiet from inside the room was unnerving, to say the least, and it was all either man could do not to just run in there. Finally, minutes later, Deakins spoke up tensely.

“It’s too quiet. I want to know what’s going on.”

Shimo didn’t argue. He wanted to know as much as the captain. Venturing forward, Shimo pushed the door open a fraction, and then a little more. A moment later, he looked back at Deakins with a grin.

“Come and look.”

He stepped back, allowing Deakins to move up and peer into the room. He was met with a touching sight. Bobby and Frances sat next to each other on the bed, their backs to the door, and Frances was cradling her son in her arms as he cried into her shoulder. He watched for just a moment longer before stepping back and pulling the door gently closed once more.

“Thank God for that.”

Dr Shimo nodded in visible relief.

“Yes,” he murmured. “Thank God, indeed.”

Mike, Carolyn and Alex returned to the Squad room an hour and a half after being sent out to a crime scene. While Alex promptly returned to her desk to call her parents, Mike and Carolyn headed into the break room to get some much-needed coffee.

“It’s amazing,” Carolyn said tiredly as Mike poured out coffee for them both.

“What is?”

“How quickly you can get used to not seeing sights like that.”

Mike nodded in wordless agreement as he handed Carolyn her mug, and then began pouring out a third mug for Alex.

“Not that that was the worst scene I’ve ever attended,” Carolyn added quickly, a touch defensively. Mike reached out and allowed his fingertips to brush her cheek lovingly, effectively silencing her.

“It’s okay, Carolyn. I get what you’re saying. It’s our first crime scene after coming home. I’m betting Alex probably feels the same way. Don’t worry about it.”

Carolyn sighed and leaned into his willing embrace, taking comfort from having his arms folded protectively around her.

“I hope Bobby can come back to work, but a part of me can’t help thinking that…”

She hesitated, suddenly unsure of what she was saying, but Mike continued the line of thought for her.

“You’re thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if he didn’t come back.”

“I know, it’s an awful thing to think,” Carolyn said unhappily. “Especially after everything we’ve all been through. But there’s so much ugliness in this job, and we see the worst of humanity every day. Hasn’t Bobby seen enough of that?”

“I know,” Mike murmured, pressing a gentle kiss to the top of her head. “But ultimately, it’s his choice, whether he can deal with the job again, or not. The important thing is making sure he knows we support him, no matter what he decides.”

Alex wandered in at that moment, looking vaguely unsettled.

“What’s wrong?” Carolyn asked, feeling her gut tighten instinctively.

“Nothing, I guess,” Alex answered. “But, I called Mom and Dad, and there was no answer. King just told me that Deakins got a call from them not long after we left. They said they were taking Bobby to Carmel Ridge to see him mom. Deakins took Jackson, and they went with them.”

“Carmel Ridge, huh?” Mike mused. “Can’t imagine that’ll be an easy visit for him. Still, he’s got your folks, and he’s got the captain. He should be okay.”

“I know,” Alex conceded. “I just hope that she isn’t abusive to him. I really hope it’s a good visit.”

Mike handed her the coffee he’d poured for her, and she accepted it gratefully.


“He’ll be okay,” Mike reassured her. “He’s tougher than any of us really have given him credit for.”

“I know he is, Mike,” Alex answered with a knowing smile.

They were just heading back out into the bullpen when Ash strode over to them.

“Listen, you might want to know that there’s someone down at Reception, asking after Bobby. We told Security to hold him there until we get back to them, and let them know what we want them to do.”

“Did whoever it is identity themselves?” Mike asked, his voice suddenly tense. Ash nodded grimly.

“Yes, but whether he really is who he says he is, we don’t know.”

“Well?” Alex demanded. “Who is it?”

“The guy says his name is Frank Goren. He says he’s Bobby’s older brother.”

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