THE LONG ROAD HOME
A/N: It’s official, I’m an idiot. I just now discovered that a nice big chunk is missing from the previous chapter. So I’ve reposted it, with the missing segments included. So anyone who is starved for a little B/A personal time, you might want to revisit the previous chapter before reading this one.
Frank Goren sat in increasingly nervous silence in Interrogation One, in the Major Case Squad rooms of One Police Plaza. He’d come with what he had thought was a simple enough request, to see his younger brother Bobby. To his astonishment, though, he’d been escorted up to the eleventh floor and straight into an interrogation room, where he had been locked in and left alone.
He didn’t understand why, but it left him feeling more than a little scared.
Suddenly overcome with nervous agitation, Frank rose up and walked around to the large mirror, and tried to peer through to the other side to determine if anyone was watching him.
“Hey!” he yelled, thumping his fist on the glass. “Is someone there? Let me outta here!”
If someone was watching, they didn’t respond. Frustrated, angry and frightened, Frank turned away and sat back down, sinking once more into a silent funk.
“Think he’s really Bobby’s brother?” Carolyn wondered as she and Mike observed the angry man in the interrogation room. Mike shrugged.
“I don’t know. I suppose he looks a little like Bobby, but I kind of expected him to be... I don’t know... bigger. If he is Bobby’s older brother, he looks a little on the shrunk side.”
“He looks like he’s spent a lot of time on the streets,” Carolyn mused. “If he’s been homeless for a while, then that would account for his lack of bulk. But we won’t know for sure until Alex comes back.”
Mike sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.
“Ash better look after her, because if those bastards are watching Bobby’s place, then they’re going to pounce on Alex turning up there.”
“Ash will probably shoot anyone who even looks at them the wrong way,” Carolyn retorted. “There’s no way he’d take any chances. Look, here they come now.”
Mike looked around as Alex walked into the observation room, with David Ash right behind her. Alex clutched a very small photo album in her hands.
“Any problems?” Mike wondered, and Ash grimaced.
“You were right. Someone is definitely watching his apartment. They didn’t try to approach us, though, and we weren’t followed back here.”
“You didn’t see who, though?”
“No, we don’t know who, or how many.”
Carolyn motioned to the album.
“Did you find a picture?”
“Yes, I found one,” Alex confirmed grimly. “It is his brother, although he’s looking a little worse for wear as opposed to how he looks in the photos I found.”
She pulled out a photo, and showed it to her colleagues. Sure enough, the man in the photo standing side by side with a somewhat younger and more energised-looking Bobby Goren was the same man who currently sat in their interrogation room.
“So, we let him go, then?” Ash queried, but Mike shook his head.
“Mike, it’s his brother...” Carolyn objected, but he shook his head.
“No, we don’t let him go yet. Think about it! Don’t you think it’s a little coincidental that his brother suddenly shows up now, after being out of the picture for how long? Alex, do you know when the last time Bobby saw his brother was?”
“Not once in the time I’ve known him,” Alex answered. “Up until the Garrett case, I wasn’t even sure he really had a brother. I’d always thought the mystery brother that he always talked about to suspects was just a fabrication to con them into opening up to him.”
“So he hasn’t seen his brother in at least six years,” Mike concluded. “And now big brother turns up out of the blue, just a few days after we bring Bobby home, after rescuing him from that hell hole? Something’s wrong with this picture, people.”
“Mike’s right,” Alex said softly. “Something’s wrong.”
“You think the Centre might have recruited him to lure Bobby out into the open, where they could grab him again?” Ash asked in concern.
“We have to look at that as a possibility,” Mike answered. “And I, for one, am not going to take any chances. We leave him there until the captain gets back, and then figure out what to do with him.”
Captain Deakins arrived back at One Police Plaza after seeing Bobby, John and Helen safely home again. While Bobby had not exactly been upbeat when they left Carmel Ridge, nor had he been particularly depressed or miserable, either. Rather, there had been an odd calm that seemed to be centred on him. It was a sense of calm that had been missing for a long time from his being.
Witnessing that sense of calm in him now gave Deakins as much of a feeling of hope as he'd experienced since they had finally rescued Bobby from the hell that was the Centre. It gave Deakins hope that, once Bobby's remaining physical injuries had healed up, there might be a good chance of him finally returning to work.
He and Jackson arrived back at One Police Plaza to a tension-charged atmosphere. They'd barely exited the elevator when Mike reappeared, his features lined with worry.
“Captain, I'm glad you're back. We might have a problem...”
Deakins regarded him quizzically, and with more than just a spark of fear as he took in the other man's concerned expression.
“What's wrong, Mike?”
“We're not exactly sure,” Mike admitted. “We, uh... We have Bobby's brother locked in Interrogation One.”
Deakins blinked in astonishment, wondering momentarily whether he was hearing things.
“Did you just say, his brother? Are you positive?”
“Yeah,” Mike confirmed. “Alex went to Bobby's apartment, and found a photo of the guy for comparison. It's definitely him.”
For the second time in less than a minute, Deakins did a double-take.
“Alex went to Bobby's apartment? We agreed no one would go back there until it was properly secured!”
“She didn't go alone,” Mike assured him. “Ash went with her. They said someone was watching the place, but they weren't followed when they left.”
Deakins sighed softly, and rubbed a hand over his face as he headed through into his office, with Mike right behind him.
“Damn it. They have people here in the city. They'll know where Bobby is soon enough, if they don't already. And assuming that Bobby wasn't hallucinating the other night in the hospital, then they already have at least one person tailing him. What are they waiting for?”
“For us to let our guard down?” Mike suggested. “They know we'll come out guns blazing if they try anything. They probably figure that if they're patient, and wait it out, sooner or later they'll get an opportunity to grab him again.”
“That's not going to happen,” Deakins said heatedly.
“I'm not arguing with you, there,” Mike agreed. “Like you said, we'll shed blood before we let them take him again. But right now, we've got another problem, and it's sitting in Interrogation One.”
“His brother,” Deakins muttered. “He just showed up here?”
“Yeah. Downstairs says he was going on about wanting to 'catch up' with Bobby. Wouldn't say anything else. Do you know how long it's been since Bobby had any contact with the guy? Alex said he hasn't seen or talked to him once in the time that she's known him, and that's... how long?”
“About six years,” Deakins answered. “The last time Bobby saw his brother was nearly ten years ago, Mike. Bobby was a Narc, and Frank came to him looking for a few free samples. Bobby turned him down flat, and Frank answered him back with a butcher knife and eight or nine stab wounds. Luckily the guy was half out of it from a mix of cheap booze and drugs, and none of the stab wounds went deeper than half an inch, or Bobby wouldn't be here now. Bobby refused to press charges, Frank walked, and there's been no sign of him since.”
“Bobby told you all that?” Mike asked, stunned, and Deakins shook his head with a wry smile.
“Hardly. No, I got the story from his former captain over at Narcotics. He thought he'd give me some forewarning about Frank when Bobby came over to Major Case. Just in case the son of a bitch turned up, trying to make trouble for Bobby.”
“Any idea why he might have decided to show up now?” Mike wondered. The captain eyed him critically.
“Yes, and you've got the exact same idea. Otherwise, you wouldn't have locked him into one of our interrogation rooms. How long has he been in there for now?”
“Ah... Maybe forty minutes or so. He's pretty pissed off.”
“All right,” Deakins said quietly as he hung up his coat, slipped on his jacket and buttoned it up. “Let's go and have a chat with Frank.”
Frank Goren looked up sourly as the door finally opened, and two men walked in. One he didn't recognise, while the other was the one who had locked him inside the interrogation room. As he watched, the younger of the two men took up position in a corner of the room, leaning back against the wall and folding his arms across his chest. The silver-haired man whom he didn't recognise sat down at the table, immediately opposite him, and fixed him with a piercing stare.
“So you're Frank Goren.”
Frank shifted slightly in the chair. The man's tone left him feeling uncomfortable and nervous, even more than he already was.
Deakins leaned in a little, his expression hardening even more.
“What are you doing here, Frank?”
The abruptness of the question caught Frank completely off-guard, and for a couple of seconds he did a remarkably good impression of a guppy before finally finding his voice.
“Damn, you're not wasting any time, are you?” Frank grumbled, trying too late to sound nonchalant in his response. “Don't I even get to find out who you are?”
“Captain James Deakins,” was the icy reply. “I'm your brother's commanding officer.”
Frank glanced to Mike, and then back to Deakins. He saw the truth in their eyes long before either of them actually said it.
“You're not going to let me see him, are you?”
“That depends, Frank,” Deakins answered. “What I want to know is why do you want to see him?”
Silence met the question, and the two men stared at each other intently. Finally, Frank spoke incredulously.
“Why? You want to know why? Him being my brother isn't enough of a reason?”
“Right here, right now? No, it isn't enough.”
In a gesture that was reminiscent of Bobby, Frank slammed a fist down on the table, frustrated and angry.
“I don't fucking believe this. What the fuck is going on here? I came looking to see Bobby... I haven't seen him for nearly ten fucking years... But instead I get locked up in this fucking room, and everyone's playing fucking mind games! Is Bobby here, or isn't he?”
“He's not here today,” Deakins told him flatly. “And don't act so hard done by. The last time you saw your brother, you didn't exactly have a happy reunion. Or don't you remember stabbing him after he refused to supply you with drugs?”
Frank blanched visibly at that.
“Don't,” Deakins snapped. “Don't sit there and make denials. This is only the second time in ten years that you've attempted to make contact with your brother. The last time you were looking to make a gain out of him. Look me in the eye, and tell me that you're not here to make a gain out of him again. Tell me!”
But suddenly, Frank couldn't maintain eye contact with the captain. Deakins sighed softly and shut his eyes for a moment in an attempt to regain his equilibrium.
“Someone paid you to draw Bobby out, didn't they?” Mike asked, struggling to keep his voice low and even. Frank stared darkly at the top of the table.
“Yeah,” he mumbled finally. “They... They might've.”
“All right,” Deakins said finally, in a markedly softer voice. “Who paid you?”
When Frank didn't answer, Deakins spoke again in a fierce tone.
“Who paid you to get to your brother?”
“I don't know who they are, okay?” Frank burst out. “I was at a shelter, and this guy approached me. He said I could earn big money quickly, and all I had to do was get Bobby out into the open.”
“And you agreed,” Deakins said in quiet disgust. Frank nodded, shameless in his admission.
“Hell, yeah. He gave me five hundred on the spot, and told me there was another fifteen hundred in it for me when I completed my end of the bargain. No way was I turning down that sort of money for a brother that I haven't seen more than twice in twenty fucking years.”
Mike walked forward slowly, barely able to keep from throttling Frank on the spot.
“You sorry son of a bitch. You didn't even ask what they wanted with him? You might have been helping to set him up to be killed! Don't you give a damn about that?”
“Like I said,” Frank answered, “I've seen him twice in twenty years. Why would I give a fuck? Anyway, the guy never said anything about killing Bobby. He just said that he needed Bobby to finish off some work that he’d started. He said Bobby had skipped out on an important project and that they didn’t want to hurt him. They just needed him back to finish the project.” Frank chuckled darkly. “I thought it was pretty funny, actually. Bobby was always so fucking high and mighty. He was the one who kept his life together. He was the one who always finished what he started. He was the one who didn’t turn out like Dad. And here I’ve got someone telling me that he skipped out like the loser he’s always accused me of being!”
Deakins and Mike exchanged disgusted looks, each one of the same mind. Here was a mutt who was willing to sell out his brother for a measly two thousand dollars, and they couldn't charge him with a single offence.
“Describe the man who approached you,” Deakins ordered Frank. Scowling, Frank answered in a sullen mumble.
“He was tall... kind of average looking. He had a broken leg, and he looked like he’d been beat up pretty badly in the last few days.”
“Beaten up?” Deakins queried, his interest piqued, and Frank nodded.
“Yeah. Lots of cuts and bruises, and stuff like that. Oh... and he was missing a thumb on one hand.”
“Lyle,” Deakins growled. “That son of a bitch...”
Frank looked up at Deakins, sneering slightly.
“So who’s the bigwig you think I was selling my little brother out to?”
Mike leaned down, staring hard at Frank.
“You really don’t know who he is?”
“Are you gonna believe me if I say no?” Frank shot back.
Mike stepped back from the table, turning his attention to Deakins.
“So what are we going to do? We can’t hold this asshole on anything, but if we let him go, it could put Bobby at risk.”
“At risk of what?” Frank asked, eyeing them both sceptically. Mike shot him a threatening look.
“You’ve admitted that you’re willing to sell out your brother for a couple of thousand dollars. Why the hell should we tell you anything?”
Frank frowned, then.
“Hey! It’s not like I want him to get hurt! These people, they just want him to finish the project that he started for them. What the fuck is so bad about that?”
“He has no friggin’ idea,” Mike muttered, turning away in anger. Deakins’ expression was hard.
“No, he doesn’t. But he’s going to.”
“What the hell is this all about?” Frank demanded to know as Mike pushed a television and DVD player into the interrogation room, and Deakins followed with a handful of discs in his hand.
“This, Frank,” Mike said as he plugged both television and DVD player in, “is a reality check. A really big friggin’ reality check. You’re about to find out just who and what you were so willing to sell your brother out to.”
Scowling, Frank sat back with a thud.
“You’re full of crap. I want out of here! I’ll fucking sue all of you if you don’t let me go.”
“You’ll stay there, and shut the hell up,” Deakins snapped as he slid a disc into the player. “You’re going to look at what’s on these discs, and you’re going to understand just what sort of nightmare your brother escaped from, and what sort of nightmare you want to sell him back in to.”
Frank winced in the face of Deakins’ anger, and said nothing more, only watching the television screen in reluctant anticipation. Satisfied that Frank was finally paying attention, Deakins hit play, stepped back out of the way of the screen, and waited.
Bobby lay on the floor, curled up in as tight a ball as he could manage. He was cold, naked, and his body was covered in cuts and bruises from the latest beating he’d suffered at the hands of Raines’ men. He was in pain, and couldn’t so much as flex his fingers without inducing sickening waves of pain. Right then, all he wanted was to be left alone, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen.
His suspicions were confirmed when a shadow fell across him, and someone crouched down beside him.
“Hey, Bobby. How’re you feeling, buddy?”
“That’s him,” Frank said tensely. “That’s the guy who gave me the money.”
Neither Deakins nor Mike said anything, but continued to watch in silence. Visibly unsettled, Frank turned his attention back to the television screen.
“Leave me alone,” Bobby managed to mumble, but Lyle only laughed.
“Sorry, pal. Can’t do that. So, are you ready to cooperate?”
“Fuck you,” Bobby whispered. A moment later, he sobbed in pain as Lyle placed his knee squarely on Bobby’s bruised hip and applied his full body weight.
“You must really like pain, my friend. How about now?”
“Fuck... you... and fuck Raines, too,” Bobby sobbed. Then the pressure was gone, and Lyle stood up.
“Okay, Bobby. Have it your way.”
And then Bobby was screaming as Lyle planted the heel of his foot on Bobby’s swollen right shoulder and ground it in hard...
“That’s gotta be fake,” Frank rasped as Deakins stopped and ejected the disc, and immediately inserted a new one. “You... You faked that... somehow.”
Deakins said nothing, but pressed play again. There was a moment of static on the screen, and then they found themselves watching the horrific scene where Raines had implanted the tracking device inside Bobby’s body. They watched as Bobby was strapped down and secured, and then Raines first injected something into his back and then cut him open with a scalpel.
“Oh, shit...” Frank moaned, cringing and looking away. “Turn it off. Please, turn it off...”
Deakins hesitated for a few seconds before complying and stopping the disc. He then looked back at Frank, taking in the man’s ashen features with grim satisfaction.
“That, Mr Goren, is evidence of the torture that was perpetrated on your brother over a period of nine months, before we rescued him. And that’s what you’d be sending him back to if you succeeded in turning him over to Lyle. Now tell me, are you still so willing to sell your brother out?”
Frank didn’t respond. He stared at the now blank television screen in heavy silence, lost within his own thoughts. Deakins and Mike waited patiently, giving the man the chance to think the situation through thoroughly. When Frank finally came back to the present, he looked up at them with horrified realisation in his eyes.
“Oh god... When we were kids... Dad sent Bobby away... He told me it was a special program, but I always wondered... Bobby was gone for five years! When he came home, he was different... He was scared, of everything, but he never talked to me about what had happened to him. Oh god... What you just showed me, that’s what happened to him when he was a kid, too, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” Deakins confirmed quietly. “It was. And you were going to sell him back into it.”
“I didn’t know,” Frank whispered. “I... I swear, I didn’t know...”
“And now you do know. The question is, what do you plan on doing?”
Frank didn’t speak immediately, but instead reached into his coat and pulled out a clip that held five one hundred dollar bills. He set it on the table, and pushed it away from him with a violent shudder.
“Fuck them,” he said hoarsely. “I can’t do that to Bobby. I won’t. Not to my little brother. Fuck them.” He looked up at Deakins, tears visible in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I really am. I had no idea.”
“I won’t say it’s all right,” Deakins said quietly, “but if you really are sincere, then that’s a start.”
“I said I didn’t give a fuck about Bobby. That... that isn’t true. I really didn’t think that guy wanted to hurt him. I would never have agreed, or taken his money, if I’d known.”
“Do you still want to see your brother?” Deakins asked quietly, ignoring the incredulous look that Mike fired in his direction. Frank swallowed hard, and rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes.
“Yeah,” he said finally, softly. “I do.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea, taking him to see Bobby?” Alex asked anxiously when Deakins and Mike emerged from the interrogation room and joined her in the observation room. They’d left Frank there for the moment, and this time he didn’t object.
“You think he’s trying to play us,” Deakins said, and it was no question. Alex paused, staring at Frank through the glass. He sat with his face in his hands – the very persona of an utterly dejected man.
“Honestly? Yes, I do.”
“I don’t,” Deakins said plainly. “Look at him, Alex. He had no idea what Lyle wanted with Bobby.”
“So we take him to Bobby, and then what?” Alex pressed. “You think Bobby’s going to be thrilled to see him? You said it yourself! The last time they saw each other, Frank stabbed him! And you want to take him to my parents house?”
“No,” Deakins assured her. “We aren’t going to take him there. I want to call John and Helen, and arrange a place to meet. Somewhere public, but also some place where we can provide Bobby with adequate protection. Any thoughts, people?”
“You don’t want to know what my thoughts are,” Alex retorted. Deakins smiled faintly. He’d half expected a retort like that from her, and wasn’t phased at all.
“Alex,” he told her quietly, “this is probably the best way of showing Frank the damage that the Centre really did. Seeing the sim discs is bad, but it’s impersonal. If we take him to meet with Bobby, face to face, then I think that will have a much bigger impact on him. After that, if he disappears again then so be it. But I think this is the way to go to ensure that he gives up any ideas of betraying Bobby.”
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” Alex muttered. “Even if he’s genuine, what good is it going to do Bobby?”
“We might all be surprised, Alex,” Deakins answered.
“Hey, how about the public library?” Mike suddenly suggested. “We could lock that place down totally, if we needed to.”
Deakins nodded slowly, liking the idea more with every moment that passed.
“The library is a good idea, Mike. Bobby would feel comfortable there, and safe. Okay, I’m going to call John and Helen, and see whether Bobby’s up to a trip into the city. If he’s feeling up to it, we’ll do it this afternoon.”
“Captain,” Alex protested, “he’s just come back from visiting his mom! And you want to go straight ahead and throw him together with his reprobate brother?”
Deakins sighed. He could understand her reluctance, but her protests were starting to go beyond what he considered reasonable, even given her obvious concern for Bobby’s wellbeing.
“What is it that’s really bothering you, Alex? If you’re worried that this is putting Bobby at risk, then I promise you that he’ll be completely protected.”
“It’s not that,” Alex admitted grudgingly. “At least, it’s not only that. I trust you, Captain, and I know that we can’t keep him insulated forever.”
She nodded towards where Frank Goren sat in the interrogation room.
“I don’t trust him.”
Deakins laid a hand reassuringly on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry about him, Alex. We’re not going to take any chances. I guarantee it.”
Two hours later, Frank Goren was led down to One Police Plaza’s garage, and into the back of a surveillance van. He was clean, and outfitted from head to toe in standard NYPD cap, sweats and running shoes. He appeared less than thrilled with his new attire, but he dared not complain, either about the clothing or the full body cavity search to which he had been subjected.
He had started to protest once he realised what was coming, but Bobby’s captain had been firm. It was either endure the embarrassing and uncomfortable procedure, or forget about seeing Bobby, ever. He would have protested that, except it was all too easy to see that the cops’ concerns were exclusively for Bobby’s wellbeing. They cared about him, and they wanted to keep him safe, and in the end that was primarily what had kept Frank in a cooperative frame of mind.
To his own surprise, though, Frank had discovered that he wanted to see his brother badly enough to go along with the extreme measures, and that in itself was an astonishing thing to him. He hadn’t thought that he cared about Bobby enough to have anything to do with him when there was no cash incentive, but apparently he was wrong. Now, as he sat watching the cityscape pass by, he found himself reflecting on the years of his childhood, from which Bobby had been absent.
The first few months without his too-smart little brother had been good. Frank wouldn’t deny that. He might have been a no-good gambling addict and sometimes-drunk, but he was more or less honest – at least with himself. He’d enjoyed the freedom of being an only child again, and the sole focus of his parents. He’d been thrilled at not having to compete for recognition with a little brother whose intelligence far outstripped his own.
Somewhere along the line, though, his little brother’s absence steadily became more pronounced. He remembered finally gathering the courage to ask his father when Bobby was coming home, and the response he’d gotten was burned forever into his mind.
“You don’t have a brother, Frank.”
“But… What about Bobby?”
The slap across the face had been as unexpected as it was unwarranted, and Frank remembered falling over backwards onto the floor and staring up at his father in shock. Goren Senior had stood over him threateningly, genuine anger in his face, along with… guilt…?
“Don’t ever say that name again, Frank. You don’t have a brother anymore. Forget that you ever had a brother. Do you hear me? Just forget about him!”
And so Frank had tried to do just that. Then, when Bobby reappeared more than four and a half years later, it had taken a hell of a lot to convince Frank that he was the real deal.
“Thinking deep thoughts?”
Frank looked around at the detective whom he had heard called Alex. Her harsh tone didn’t surprise him. It was easy to tell that this little spitfire was his brother’s partner, particularly from the way she was so protective of him.
“I was remembering some stuff,” he admitted. He paused, and then asked softly. “My father handed Bobby over to those people as a kid, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did,” Deakins confirmed, watching Frank critically.
“Actually, he did worse than that,” Mike said. “He sold your brother to them.”
Frank didn’t argue. Instead, he laughed softly, bitterly.
“You know, that doesn’t surprise me? The old son of a bitch was always after an easy buck. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he’d sell one of his kids.”
“Bobby said you took a week to let him back into your bedroom when he finally came home,” Alex said coolly, and Frank had the good grace to look embarrassed.
“He’s right. I wouldn’t let him in. But despite what he might remember, it wasn’t Mom bribing me that made me let him back in.”
“Really,” Alex said, her voice laden with scepticism.
“Look,” Frank said softly, “you’ve gotta understand, I was totally freaked out when Bobby came home. It had been five years, and I guess I’d convinced myself that he was dead. It took about a week for me to realise that it wasn’t some sort of trick, and that it really was Bobby.” Frank was silent for a moment while he contemplated his next question. “It… It really happened to him again?”
“You saw the discs,” Mike snapped. “You still think we faked them? Because there are a whole lot more we can show you.”
“No, I believe they’re for real,” Frank assured him. “I just… Man, it’s hard to picture Bobby locked up somewhere.”
“Try imagining how hard it was for him,” Alex said in a soft, bitter voice. “Try imagining going through hell for nine months, never seeing daylight, being held at someone else’s whim, your life no longer your own. Try to imagine being physically, mentally and emotionally tormented for nine months, and being tortured within an inch of your life if you don’t fully cooperate. Try imagining that.”
Frank shut his eyes, sickened by grief and guilt.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, stricken. “God, Bobby, I am so sorry…”
John Eames was there in the lobby when they arrived. He greeted them amiably enough, but there was an underlying tension that none of them could possibly miss.
“John…” Deakins started to say, but John cut him off.
“I’m going to be brutally honest with you, Jim. I’m not happy about this. I don’t believe he was up to coming out again. The only reason we’re here now is because it was Bobby’s decision.”
“We don’t intend on keeping him out for long,” Deakins assured him. “But I think this could be important for Bobby, and I didn’t want to take Frank to your house. The library seemed like good, neutral territory, but it’s also a place we can keep secured.”
John nodded, mildly agitated.
“Fair enough. I’m not disputing you, and like I said, it was Bobby’s decision.”
“Where is he?” Deakins asked, and John smiled in wry amusement.
“Crime fiction?” Frank mused as he approached the desk where Bobby sat, leafing slowly through a book. “Let me guess. Sherlock Holmes, right? He always was your favourite.”
Bobby looked up slowly, and Frank winced visibly at his brother’s pale, gaunt countenance, as well as the very visible bruising. For a few seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity, the two brothers stared at each other. Finally, Bobby indicated the vacant seat across from him, and Frank sat down.
“I like Sherlock Holmes,” Bobby said quietly. “He’s smart, but he’s not perfect. He… He has his flaws, like anyone.”
“Just like you, huh?” Frank asked in an equally subdued tone. Bobby closed the book and sat back, eyeing Frank wearily.
“What do you want, Frank? If you’re after money, then forget it. I don’t have anything to give you. I don’t even have enough to support myself at the moment.”
“I don’t want money, Bobby.”
“Then what do you want?”
Frank paused, watching his brother thoughtfully before finally throwing himself in head-first.
“Bobby, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve met Lyle.”
Even as Frank watched, what little colour there was in Bobby’s face literally bled away. An instant later, he began looking around, genuine fear in his eyes, as though searching for an escape route.
“Settle down, Bobby,” Frank told him gently. “He’s not waiting in the wings, or anything like that, and your friends are right around that corner.” He paused, and then added ruefully. “I’m not going to try and take you to him, either. I think your captain would probably shoot me if I tried.”
Slowly, Bobby’s gaze returned to Frank, and when he spoke his voice had a fresh edge to it, that Frank could only describe as borderline panic.
“What do you want?”
“I need to talk to you. Just this once, and if you want to tell me to get lost after that, then I’ll accept that. Will you hear me out?”
It seemed to Frank that Bobby was going to say no, but finally, reluctantly, Bobby conceded.
“Okay,” Frank murmured, relieved. “It was yesterday that he came to me. He never gave me a name. Told me it wasn’t any of my concern. Oh, and you might like to know he looked like he’d been in a train wreck. Broken leg, neck in a brace, the works.”
A tiny smile flickered across Bobby’s lips as he rubbed unconsciously at his chest, but he said nothing. Frank went on, acutely aware of Bobby’s reaction.
“He told me that he wanted me to help him get you out into the open, and there’d be a nice little pay packet in it for me if I was willing to help him out.”
“And you agreed,” Bobby said flatly.
“Yeah,” Frank admitted. “I did. Believe me, I’m sorry about that. If I’d had any idea what that son of a bitch had done to you, I would have put a fucking knife through his heart instead.”
Confusion flickered briefly across Bobby’s face.
“About the Centre? Yeah, I do now. Your captain clued me in. And… now I know what Dad did to you when we were kids. Jesus, Bobby, I am so sorry. I never knew… I never wanted to know.”
Bobby looked away, suddenly feeling incredibly tired.
“Wasn’t your fault.”
“No… but I didn’t help any, especially after you came home. And now… Damn, I was actually going to sell you out to those fucks! Bobby, I wouldn’t blame you if you punched me out right here and now.”
Slowly, Bobby raised his gaze to meet Frank’s.
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“I guess you don’t, not for sure,” Frank conceded. “But you’re a smart guy, Bobby. Always were. Look me in the eye, and you decide if I’m on the level.”
For nearly a minute, the two brothers stared at each other, neither one so much as blinking. Finally, Bobby released Frank from the mental hold he had on him, and dropped his gaze back to the desk.
“Thankyou,” he whispered. Frank hesitated, and then pulled his chair around so that he was sitting next to his little brother.
“For what, Bobby?”
“For believing it.”
Frank rested a hand on Bobby’s left shoulder, quietly conscious of the way Bobby flinched under his touch.
“Can you forgive me? I nearly turned you back over to those fucks, after all.”
A small smile crossed Bobby’s face.
“Like you said, Captain Deakins would have shot you first. And so would Alex and Mike. And probably most of the Major Case Squad.”
Frank gave a low chuckle.
“Yeah… You’re probably right about that. And since I have no desire to be a human sprinkler, I think I’ll pass.”
“Did… Did Lyle pay you?”
“Yeah, five hundred as a down payment. I gave it to your captain. I don’t want money like that. Not for what they wanted me to do.”
“But… you would have… if my colleagues hadn’t intercepted you.”
It was Frank’s turn to wince, then, as the harsh truth bit deep.
“Yeah,” he confessed, feeling his face heat up as he spoke. “I would have kept the money. I would have turned you over to them. I’m really, really sorry, Bobby.”
“I believe you, Frank,” Bobby told him quietly. “And… I do trust you.”
The surprise on Frank’s face was palpable. It was clear that the last thing he’d expected from Bobby was such an open admission of trust, especially when he knew damned well that he’d done nothing to deserve it.
“You’re surprised by that?” Bobby asked.
“Well, yeah… I mean, I haven’t exactly given you a reason to trust me, have I?”
“Maybe not,” Bobby agreed. “But on the other hand… I’ve always known when you were lying, and I know that this time, you’re not.”
Frank’s eyebrows went up, almost comically.
“You know? Care to share the insight?”
Bobby answered quietly, sincerely.
“Because you’ve never been able to look me straight in the eye when you lie. You’re looking me in the eye now. I know you’re not lying, because you’re looking me in the eye.”
“Well,” Frank mumbled, suddenly and inexplicably embarrassed. “How do you know that I haven’t just gotten better at lying?”
At that, Bobby smiled.
“Seen Mom recently, Frank?”
The simple question threw Frank into a fluster that almost had Bobby laughing openly.
“Uh… Sure… I mean… I was gonna go see her a couple of weeks ago… but I got caught up. You… You know how it is. But I will. I… I’ll go see her on the weekend. I will…”
Bobby grinned in open amusement. Frank’s gaze were suddenly going everywhere but towards his brother, and he didn’t even seem to be aware of it. Leaning forward a little, Bobby spoke in a gentle but commanding tone.
“I rest my case.”
Frank’s head snapped up, and the two men stared at each other for a moment before Frank finally chuckled and relaxed.
“Touché. Point taken.” He paused, looking Bobby over while at the same time marvelling at the new feeling of brotherly concern that he was experiencing. “Are you okay now? Can you… you know… talk about it?”
And suddenly it was Bobby’s turn to be fixated with the desk.
“I… I’m not okay. Not yet… but I’m getting there. I can talk about it, but it’s not easy. There’s so much…”
His voice faltered, and he fell silent. Frank stared at his younger brother before finally, without saying a word, he leaned in and, gently taking hold of Bobby’s left wrist, lifted up his brother’s shirt to reveal the grim evidence of nine months of horrendous abuse. When he looked back up, he wasn’t surprised to see tears in Bobby’s eyes.
“C’mere, baby brother,” Frank whispered, and pulled Bobby to him in as fierce an embrace as he dared to give. “I might not have been there for you when you needed me, but I hope you’ll let me make it up to you now. I love you, Bobby. I know it hasn’t seemed like it, but I really do. Let me help to take care of you now?”
Bobby’s didn’t speak; nor did he need to. Instead, he tightened his hold on his brother, shuddering as a wave of emotion washed over him.
“We’re gonna figure out a way to get those bastards off your back, forever,” Frank murmured as he hugged Bobby to him. “They’re not gonna know what hit them. Nobody messes with my little brother. Nobody.”
Deakins, Alex, John and Helen were waiting in increasingly nervous silence, just around the corner. John kept glancing at his watch, while Alex was becoming more agitated with every passing moment. The captain was not particularly at ease, either, though he seemed to be doing a better job of hiding it.
Nearly half an hour had passed before Alex finally broke the silence.
“It’s been too long. I’m going around there.”
“Alex…” Deakins said in a low, warning tone, but she brushed him off with a rough shake of her head.
“No! I said this was a bad idea, and I still think that! How do we know that two-faced son of a bitch hasn’t done anything to Bobby? How do we know his whole ‘I’m so sorry’ routine wasn’t just an act?”
Deakins couldn’t answer that and, fortunately, he didn’t need to try. At that moment, movement drew their attention, and they looked around as Bobby and Frank emerged from around the corner of the tall shelving units.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked anxiously, hurrying over to Bobby. He answered her with a small smile, and drew her in close with his good arm.
“I’m okay,” he confirmed, and then turned his gaze to Deakins. “Frank and I were talking about ways to… to get Lyle and the rest of them to leave me alone… for good. We… We think we have an idea.”
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