The conversation with bartender Zach had turned out to be more productive then they had hoped for. They’d learned that Bobby and Mike had spent nearly three hours in the bar, downing nearly a dozen shots of whiskey between them before Bobby had finally encouraged Mike to leave. And by encouraged, they had been amused to hear that Bobby had almost had to carry his colleague out the door. Zach claimed not to have noticed the cell phone until after they’d left, and that he had been too busy to even think about going after them.

With much reluctance, Zach went on to tell them about one of his regulars who had come over to the bar after Bobby and Mike had left, asking if Zach knew who they were. Zach had told the man that Mike was an old customer from way back when, and that his companion was just a co-worker.

He got kind of weird,” Zach had explained, frowning as he recalled the conversation. “He said, you really don’t pay much attention to folks, do you, Zachie? I hate being called Zachie. Anyways, I said, nah. As long as they pay their bill, I’m good. Then he says to me, if anyone comes asking about those two, you make sure to tell ’em you never saw ’em. Got it? I just went along with it, you know. Ben isn’t the kinda guy you argue with. Anyways, then Ben signals to his buddies… about six or seven of ’em all up, I think there was… and they all left together. And that was it.”

Who was this Ben?” Carolyn had asked, acutely aware of the way that both Alex and the captain had tensed.

Just one of my regulars.”

His name, smart guy. What’s his name? And where can we find him?”

At that, Zach had suddenly looked seriously frightened.

Are you out of your fucking mind, lady? You think I’m gonna tell you where to find the likes of Benny Matera?”

At the sound of that name, Carolyn had felt her stomach drop. Benjamin Matera was widely known as one of the top enforcers for the powerful Masucci family. He was violent and cruel, the worst kind of sadist.

Never mind, Zachie,” she’d said, patting the bartender patronisingly on the cheek. “I’m sure we can find him on our own.”

“Benny Matera,” Deakins muttered as they returned to the SUV. “God almighty, what have they gotten themselves into?”

“Well,” Alex said in a strained voice, “that settles it. They were definitely made.” She looked around. “So let’s look at it logically. Bobby and Mike come out of the bar…”

“Drunk as skunks,” Carolyn added ruefully. Alex nodded.

“They probably made it to the corner, and were going to call a cab…”

“Except Mike left his phone at work, and Bobby left his behind in the bar,” Carolyn said.

“Right,” Alex mused. “Benny Matera and his boys made them in the bar, and followed them out.” She shook her head. “We have to find Matera, or one of his lackies.”

“That’s easier said than done,” Deakins pointed out as they got back into the SUV. “Matera is very good at staying under the radar. He won’t be easily found if he doesn’t want to be.”

“Then we nail one of his buddies,” Carolyn said firmly. “I know a place not too far from here where we could find one of two of them.”

Deakins nodded his agreement.

“All right. Let’s go.”

The SUV pulled away from the curb, and none of the occupants noticed the pair of eyes that watched them piercingly from the dark shadows of the alley.

After hours of sitting on his ass, Mike had finally had enough. Agitated and angry, he pulled himself to his feet and began to limp around the perimeter of their prison, searching once more for some means of getting free. Bobby watched him wordlessly for nearly five minutes before speaking tiredly.

“Sit down, Mike. You’re making me nauseous.”

Mike walked over and sat down carefully on the edge of the cot. Almost absent-mindedly, he picked up the bottle of water and held to Bobby to drink.

“I don’t need any water,” Bobby protested. “I’m fine. We ought to be trying to conserve it.”

Mike wouldn’t back down.

“Just have a sip. Humour me, okay? I’d rather you have a lot of little sips regularly, than get dehydrated and end up even sicker than you already are.”

“I’m already dehydrated, Mike,” Bobby pointed out, though he accepted the bottle and took a couple of small sips to appease his friend. “So are you. I haven’t seen you have a drink for hours.”

“I’m okay. I had a mouthful of water earlier, when you were asleep.”

Bobby’s gaze narrowed with fresh suspicion.

“Let me see your water bottle.”

Mike regarded him bemusedly.


“Just hand it over, Logan. Now.”

“What, you’re pulling seniority on me? Over a water bottle? Damn, Bobby…”

“Just give it to me,” Bobby growled. Mike sighed, and reached down for his water bottle. He simply didn’t have it in him anymore to argue.

Bobby stared at Mike’s water bottle in dismay as he finally realised what Mike had done. It was less than a quarter full now, after Mike had taken another couple of mouthfuls. His own bottle now held barely a third of its capacity, so between the two of them they had not even half a bottle of water.

“Mike, you idiot,” Bobby said softly, but there was no anger in his voice. He knew what Mike had been trying to do, and he appreciated it more than he could properly voice.

“You need it more than I do,” Mike said simply. “I’m not the one with blood poisoning.”

“I don’t want to argue about this, Mike.”

“So don’t argue,” Mike told him, smirking a little. Bobby sighed and slumped back onto the bed.

“I’m sick of lying here.”

“Yeah, you and me both, pal,” Mike said wearily. “I tell you, when we get out of here, I’m gonna find that flat-nosed bastard and beat the shit out of him for this.”

“Get a grip, Mike,” Bobby muttered. “Do you want to go back to Staten Island?”

“No, but I hate scumbags getting the jump on me, too.”

“How about we just focus on getting out of this dump? You can throw your career away on a revenge junket later.”

Mike grinned down at him.

“You’re no fun. C’mon, Bobby, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t like to nail that son of a bitch.”

“Yes, I would,” Bobby agreed, “but legally. We could put him in jail for life for this… Assault of police officers, abduction, false imprisonment, attempted murder…”

“Murder,” Mike added dryly, and chuckled when Bobby punched him lightly on the arm.

“Positive thoughts, remember?” Bobby chided him lightly.

“Yeah, I’ll be sure to remember that when this place starts imploding around us.”

“If you’re going to be morbid, then shut up.”

Mike laughed again.

“Okay, okay. Positive thoughts. So, in that vein, Carolyn and Alex should be out searching for us right now. They’ll probably be here any minute, right?”

“Yeah,” Bobby agreed, though he sounded less than convinced. “Any minute.”

“Hey, you were the one lecturing me on staying positive,” Mike retorted.

“I know. I’m already regretting it.”

Chuckling softly, Mike eased himself back onto his feet and resumed pacing.

“Mike…” Bobby started to protest, but Mike shook his head.

“Don’t tell me to sit down. I’ve gotta keep moving.”

“Why? It’s not going to anything for you physically.”

“Maybe not,” Mike conceded, “but it’ll keep me sane.”

“You mean you were before this?”

Mike looked over at Bobby incredulously.

“I’ll put that comment down to the fever you must have.”

“Sorry,” Bobby apologised wryly. He paused, and then pushed himself awkwardly up into a sitting position. “I have to admit, I did wonder, though. I mean, why else would a smart, talented cop throw away his career for the sake of one punch?”

“You mean that councilman?” Mike mused. “Yeah, well… Maybe it wasn’t exactly worth ten years on lousy Staten Island, but it felt pretty damn good at the time. My only real regret was losing Lennie Briscoe as a partner.”

“You were partnered with Briscoe?” Bobby asked, and Mike nodded.

“Yeah. We were good friends. He taught me a hell of a lot.”

Bobby smiled. “From the looks of it, you know a lot that he didn’t teach you, too.”

“Like snapping a pool cue in half and threatening a suspect with it?” Mike retorted, and Bobby laughed.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“You met Briscoe, then?” Mike wondered.

“About four and a half years ago,” Bobby told him. “Eames and I were working a case… suspected drug tampering. We didn’t know how wide-spread it might be, or whether it was some nutcase targeting specific people, but the brass wanted to keep it quiet, and just sweep it all under the carpet. We met with Briscoe and his partner, Ed Green, and they sent an anonymous tip to the Media.”

Mike smirked. “Yep, Lennie would’ve jumped at a chance like that.”

“We counted on it,” Bobby said.

“So, you caught the guy who was doing the tampering?”

“Yeah, except it was a woman, and she originally killed her own husband, and then started planting tampered drugs in shops, so that when the story hit the press, she’d be able to sue over it. She wanted the money to start a baby clothes store.”

Mike blinked, stunned.

“You’re kidding me. All that… just for baby clothes? Jeez, some people really will do anything.”

“She was even willing to let her own mother take the rap for the murders, while she thought she was home clear. It wasn’t until we clued in the chain management and they threatened to cancel her contract that she thought she’d better do something about it. That was how we got her. We filmed her placing an envelope with proof that she was the killer in the mail.”

“Is it just me,” Mike wondered, “or does New York seem to have a higher quota of crazies, compared to the rest of the country?”

Bobby smiled wryly.

“Well, considering our current situation, I’d be inclined to agree with you. Mike, how’s your hand?”

Abruptly, Mike turned away and limped over to the far side of the cage, keeping his injured hand conspicuously out of sight.

“It’s fine.”


“I said, it’s fine!” Mike looked back at Bobby, his humour gone in the blink of an eye. “What does it matter, anyway? We’re not going to be found. Not in time. They’ll probably find our bodies in six months’ time, when they finally get around to clearing the site. So what the fuck does it matter?”

Grimacing, Bobby swung himself around and, with some effort, pushed himself to his feet.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Mike burst out, hurrying over as fast as his injured leg would allow, and was just in time to catch Bobby as his legs buckled beneath him. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You trying to send yourself into shock again? Idiot…”

Bobby shot Mike a flat look.

“What does it matter? We’re probably going to die in here. So what the fuck does it matter?”

Mike deflated visibly, Bobby’s point firmly made.

“Okay,” he said softly. He held up his hand to reveal his fingers were starting to show signs of discolouration. “I still can’t move my fingers, and they’re hurting like hell. My whole hand feels like it’s on fire.”

Leaning over, Bobby picked up the water bottle and started to unscrew the cap.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to clean that wound.”

Mike yanked his hand away, frowning deeply.

“We’re not wasting water like that.”

Bobby looked over at Mike, suddenly feeling painfully tired.

“Dehydrate, not dehydrate, what does it really matter? We both know the reality here, no matter how much we try to kid ourselves. So what does it matter? We’re going to run out of water sooner or later. Does it really matter if it’s sooner, rather than later?”

Mike’s shoulders slumped and, wordlessly, he held his injured hand out to Bobby. The other detective carefully unwrapped the makeshift bandage and poured a small dribble of water over the festering wound. Mike hissed in pain, and looked away as Bobby carefully cleaned the open wound and then tore away a clean strip from his top and rewrapped Mike’s hand.

“Thanks,” Mike mumbled.

“Now go lie down,” Bobby ordered him. “Before you really do collapse.”

“Yes, Dad,” Mike retorted, and ducked out of the way just in time to avoid being thumped again.

“You really think we’re gonna die?” Mike asked as he settled down once more on his cot.

“I know we are,” Bobby said matter-of-factly. When Mike shot him an incredulous look, Bobby just smiled. “We’re all gonna die some time, Mike. We just don’t know when. Personally, I don’t plan on dying here. I have plans.”

“Oh? Like what?”

“Like actually making it to retiring age.”

Mike snorted with laughter. “You? Retire? Pull the other one, Bobby. You’ll be in the job until you die. Admit it.”

Bobby smiled faintly. “My life doesn’t revolve exclusively around my job, Mike. I do have other interests.”

“Uh huh. I know. You’ve subjected me to enough lectures on the many topics of your interest. But I just can’t imagine seeing you giving up the job.”

“Well, I guess you don’t know quite as much about me as you thought.”

“Buddy, I never presumed to know anything about you. You are way to complex for a simpleton like me to peg.”

Bobby looked over at Mike, one eyebrow raised.

“Simpleton? You’re selling yourself short, Mike. You’re a smart guy.”

“Yeah, well, next to you I’m a simpleton.”

“No, you’re not. Quit calling yourself that.”

Mike regarded Bobby curiously. The other detective sounded genuinely angry at his self-deprecation. Bobby went on quietly.

“Why do you think Deakins burned so many favours to get you into Major Case?” He continued to speak without giving Mike the opportunity to comment. “Because he knows you’re a damned fine cop, and he saw how much of an asset you’d be to the squad. He knows you’re smart. I know it. Barek and Eames know it. So don’t lie there and label yourself a simpleton when that’s the last thing that you are.”

Mike fell silent, contemplating Bobby’s words.

“Thanks,” he said softly, finally. Bobby nodded, satisfied that Mike had accepted his words finally.

“Can I ask you something?” Mike wondered, and it was with some effort that Bobby resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“What is it, Mike?”

“How come you never call your partner by her first name? I mean, I get it on the job. But even when we’re off the clock, you call her Eames. What’s with that?”

Bobby gave a lopsided shrug.

“Habit, I guess. I called her that to start with, mainly because it was what I was used to. Army background, and all… But it was also because I wanted everyone to know that I respected her. She’s got seniority in our partnership… She always has had. She’d been with Major Case for two years before I joined. But when we started working together, even those who knew she had seniority deferred to me ahead of her. They just figured that I called the shots because I was the guy. And all the other detectives in the squad called each other by their last names, but Eames was just Alex to them. I called her Eames because I wanted everyone else to know that I saw her on equal ground with the rest of the squad detectives… and I wanted her to know that, too. I suppose I could call her Alex now, but habits are hard to break.”

“Don’t I know it,” Mike said with a chuckle. “Hey, it’s cool, Bobby. I was just curious. I totally understand.”

Bobby sighed a little and shifted over onto his side.

“I really do believe that they’ll find us, Mike.”

“In time?”

“Yes. In time. I know Eames. She’s so much smarter than most people give her credit for. If anyone can figure out what happened to us, it’s her.”

“Yeah,” Mike conceded, “well, I know that Carolyn is one smart cookie, too. So I guess between the two of them we stand a pretty good chance of getting out of this mess alive. Just promise me one thing?”

“What’s that?”

“If I ever, ever mention going to Bronx again, for any reason at all, lock me up in a holding cell until I’ve come to my senses.”

Bobby laughed softly.

“You can count on it.”

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