by Liz

All Without A Trace characters belong to Hank Steinberg and the folks with Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Bros.
Television and CBS Productions. I'm borrowing them for a while; no infringement is intended, and no profit is being made.
Thanks to TAE for her beta work and support. Follows Unseen, three weeks later.


Jack entered his apartment and dropped off his electronics and weaponry. He continued to his bedroom and changed his clothes to a t-shirt and sweatpants. Limping on his cast back to the kitchen, he poured himself a glass of water and then sat down in the living room. It was only four in the afternoon and yet he was exhausted and soon fell into a deep sleep.

6:00 p. m.

He woke up feeling too warm in the apartment. Slowly, he stood and walked to the window. Opening it four inches; he smiled as the cold air came in. He looked at his watch and went to the kitchen to start dinner.

10:12 p. m.

Anne slipped the key into the hole and walked in. She had smelled the remnants of dinner as she came up the stairs. The apartment was dark, only the desk light and an under counter light in the kitchen was on. She saw him, hunched over his desk, writing. Quietly, she hung up her coat and then walked to him. "Hi," she said, putting her hands on his shoulders. He leaned back into her touch, his hands covering the letter. "Hi, your dinner's in the fridge; five minutes in the microwave."

"Thanks, but I ate earlier. I'm sorry, I should have called." Jack was silent, staring straight ahead at the photos lining the rear edge of his desk. "I...I had a panic attack at work and went to a session." Jack turned in his chair, the concern on his face apparent. "I'm fine. I just need to go to sleep," she said, trying to calm him. "Okay, honey, whatever you need," Jack replied, trying hard not to badger her with questions. "Goodnight," she said, kissing the top of his head. "Night," he whispered to her back as she walked away. He looked back at the letter he was writing. Taking a sip of his drink, he resumed his task.

Wednesday 1:00 a. m.

Finally, he set down his pen and cracked his neck. Putting the letter in a worn folder, he finished his drink and then slowly got to his feet and walked to the kitchen to put the glass in the sink. Jack turned off all of the lights and walked in the darkness to his bedroom. He stopped when he saw the guestroom door shut and his bedroom door open. Sighing, he walked into his bedroom, turned on the light, and closed the door. Glenn had warned him to take it slow. In their sessions, they talked about what Anne was going through. Jack put no pressure on her, but it was taking a toll on him. He was going through his own problems. Not being able to talk to her about the miscarriage was very difficult. Jack walked into the bathroom and took a Melitonin. He found that, most times, it kept his dreams in check. Slowly, he took off his sweatpants and t-shirt. He walked back into the bedroom, and opened the window a crack before getting into bed and turning out the light.

Softly, she crept into his cool bedroom. He was on his right side and he was dreaming. The bedding was on the floor. She pulled up the sheets and blanket to his waist and got into bed behind him. He settled a bit when he felt the sheets so she took a chance and put a hand on his shoulder. He calmed totally at her touch. Anne moved closer to him, sliding her left arm under his. Soon, she too, was asleep.

6:45 a. m.

Jack rolled over, stretching gently. He got out of bed and started his morning ritual. Thirty minutes later, he was dressed and walked out to the hallway, where he stopped. The guest room door was open, the bed was made, and the apartment was silent. He walked to the living room and it was empty, as was the kitchen. Standing in the kitchen, he saw a note leaning against the coffee maker. He opened it and started to read.

Dearest Jack,

I'm sorry. I need to get away for a while. I'm not in New York. I'm taking a leave of absence from the Bureau. It's just too much right now. I hope you understand. I love you.


The tears started and at first, he couldn't stop them. When he could, he picked up the phone and placed a call. "Johnson."

"Hey, it's me. Uhm, I'm not comin' in today."

"Are you all right?"

"No, yeah; hell Viv, I don't know. Anne's gone."

"What do you mean gone?"

"She left me; I dunno, I just...I just found out. I can't come to work. Can you tell them? I just can't."

"I'm so sorry. I've got it, Jack. I'll handle it. Don't worry."

"Thanks, Viv."

"You're most welcome."



Jack hung up the phone and went back to his bedroom. He tugged off his tie, tossing it on his bed, and then went to the kitchen to make coffee. While it brewed, he reread her note. The tears started again as he leaned against the kitchen counter. He tried to keep control, but it wasn't easy. The coffee maker gurgled and he poured himself a fresh cup. Slowly, he walked to the living room and sat in the leather chair. He sipped his coffee and tried to figure out what he had done to drive her away.

8:55 a. m.

Jack stood suddenly and gathered his keys, Metrocard, IPOD, wallet, and sunglasses, before heading out of the apartment. Setting his IPOD to ' Just Yo-Yo', he walked to 6th Avenue to start his subway journey north, ignoring the bitterly cold wind as it lapped at the lapels of his jacket. Forty five minutes later, he was outside of St. Germaine's. Jack turned off his IPOD and waited a few moments. He walked in, crossing himself with the holy water, and then walked halfway into the church before he sat down, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. As the morning wore on, the organist rehearsed, different parishioners came in to pray, and a maintenance man swept in silence. "Jack?" a familiar voice called.

He didn't move.

The tall priest went into the pew in front of him and sat down, turning to face him. "Jack?" he asked again.

Jack looked up at him briefly; his eyes were wet with tears. "What's happened?"

Jack shook his head slowly, moving his arms to encircle his body. Father Walker waited patiently. "She left."


Jack could only nod.

"Come on, then."

Slowly, Jack got to his feet and followed Father Walker to the confessional. When they were both seated, he began. "Father, forgive me, it's been three weeks since my last confession."

"Go ahead, my son."

"I don't know what to say. I've done what everyone has asked. I've cut back my hours. I've listened to Anne and haven't asked or demanded anything of her. But she left and I don't know why. She told me she wouldn't leave, but she did. I must have done something. I just don't know what," he finished in a whisper. Sean listened to the pain in Jack's voice and sighed. He had thought that Anne was going to be his grounding rod, but it seemed he was hers, instead. "What did she say, exactly?"

"She didn't; she wrote a note."

"What did she write, exactly?"

"She said 'I'm sorry. I need to get away for a while. I'm not in New York. I'm taking a leave from the Bureau. It's just too much right now. I hope you understand. I love you.'"

"Okay, but Jack, she's not saying you did anything."

"Why else would she leave?"

"She's had a huge physical and psychological trauma. You know that. She's just trying to deal with it."

"She had a panic attack at the office yesterday."

"Well, I'm sure that's part of it."

The cubicle opposite was quiet.


"Yeah, I'm here, sorry, just thinking."

"Do you have anything else to confess?"


"Jack, you beat yourself up more than the Lord could ever do. I want you to take care, and continue to consider St. Germaine's as a haven. I have to go teach a class. I have lunch at 11:30 if you're still here."

"Thank you, Father."

"You're welcome, my son."

Father Walker left the confessional and five minutes later, Jack did the same.

11:20 a. m.

Samuel White, a seminarian, walked into the Parish Hall, finding Father Walker looking out the window at the clear cold day. "Father, there's a man in the back of the church. He seems cold and upset."

"Black suit, no tie, dark hair?" Father Walker asked, not turning to face the younger man. "Yes."

"That's Jack."

"Is he a parishioner?"

"Sometimes; he comes here to work things out. He's all right, Samuel. I'll take care of him. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Father."

Sean collected himself and walked back through the sacristy into the transept and then back to the nave. He spotted Jack after a few moments, sitting in the last pew, in a shadowed corner. He appeared to be shivering, leaning over, his elbows on his knees, his hands folded. "Come on, Jack. Let's warm you up."

Jack looked up at him and paused before slowly getting to his feet. "You do realize it's only nineteen degrees outside?" Sean remarked softly. Jack followed him silently; listening to the various sounds of the church and his cast foot on the stone floor. They walked into Sean's office. A modest couch with a green crocheted throw lined one wall and a book case lined the other. The desk was battered but neat. There was a hotplate and a small microwave in the corner. Sean put the kettle of water on the burner and pulled two mugs from a cupboard. "I hope you don't mind teabags. They're faster than properly steeping it," Sean commented as he set bags in the mugs. Standing opposite Sean in a corner of the room, Jack dug his hands into his trouser pockets, aware of the cold then for the first time. Three minutes later, the tea kettle whistled and Sean poured the boiling water over the bags. Walking up to Jack, he handed him his mug. Sean sat at his desk and sipped his lemon tea while Jack stood with his hands around the mug, feeling the heat through his cold fingers. Finally, he sat on the couch and took a sip of the hot liquid. He closed his eyes as the taste set off a childhood memory; his grandmother Malone used to love chamomile tea. "Jack, are you hungry? I'm going to the cafeteria before the boys come in."

"No, thank you."

"Well then, you're more than welcome to stay here and warm up. I'll check on you after I have my soup," Sean said, standing. Jack simply nodded as he thought again that he was alone. The last thing he wanted to do was to go home to his empty apartment. Sean left him sitting on the couch; his head resting in his left hand while he sipped his tea with his right.

12:05 p. m.

Sean walked into his office to pick up his Bible and join the noon mass. Jack was stretched out on the couch; his cast resting on the far arm. Reaching over him, Sean lifted the throw and covered his sleeping friend. He picked up his Bible and quietly left the room.

1:30 p. m.

Walking in from the sacristy, Sean sat at his desk and started to write his Sunday sermon on Matthew 18:21-35; the unmerciful servant. From time to time, Jack would say something in his sleep, but it was garbled and soft. Finally, at five, he woke up. Pushing the throw away, he sat up and rubbed his hands over his face, blinking several times. "Feeling any better?"

Jack looked over to the source of the noise and smiled slightly. "Yeah, a little; what time is it?"

"Five-fifteen, you're welcome to stay, but after the six o'clock mass I have to head down to the men's shelter on Christopher Street."

"No, I've taken up too much of your time. I'll get going," Jack said, slowly getting to his feet. "Do you have enough money to catch a cab?" Sean asked, standing behind his desk. Opening his wallet, Jack saw a twenty and two tens. "Yeah, I'm good. Thanks again, Sean."

"Take care, Jack," he said, extending his hand. Jack took it in his and looked him in the face. Sean saw Jack's eyes were clearer now and there seemed to be a calm that wasn't present when he had arrived at the church that morning. "Bye."


Walking through the sacristy and then through the rest of the church, Jack stepped outside into the winter afternoon. Ten minutes later, he was in a cab on his way downtown.

6:00 p. m.

Jack walked into his apartment, dropping his electronics on the small hallway table. He locked the door and walked straight to his bedroom. Hanging up his suit, he put his shirt in the laundry bag. His sweatpants were hanging on the back of the bathroom door. He slipped them on and then padded back into the bedroom to pull a fresh t-shirt from the dresser drawer and dragged it on. Walking back to the kitchen, he saw that he had voice messages. Instead of listening to them, he poured himself a scotch and soda. He sat at the breakfast bar, took a huge sip of his drink, and then pressed <play>. "Jack, it's Glenn. Where are you? You're missing your session. Please call me." <Wednesday 9:02am> the machine said.

"Jack, it's me. Just checking in to see how you are. I'll try your cell." <Wednesday 12:00pm> the machine said.

Jack smiled at Viv's message and took another sip of his drink. "Hi, uhm, it's me. Are you there? I tried the office but they said you were taking the day off. Your cell went to voice mail. Jack, I'm truly sorry. I just can't go forward until I come to terms with the past. I know I hurt you, Jack, but right now, I've got to concentrate on me. I hope you understand. I love you. Please don't ever doubt that. Take care." <Wednesday 4:00pm> the machine said.

Blinking back tears, Jack took another sip of his drink as the machine continued. "Hey, man. It's me. Look, a lot of people are worried about you. You're not answering any of your various communication devices, plus you took the day off. Seriously, Jack, call me."

"Wednesday 5:30pm> the machine said.

Jack looked at the machine and realized that was the last message. He turned his gaze to the photo of himself and Tyler on the fridge, when they had graduated from Columbia. He sipped his drink and coasted, and then the phone rang. "Malone."

"Jack, it's Steve Siegel. How are you?"

"Uhm, fine."

"Did you cut back your hours?"


"Getting more sleep?"


"Alright, anything else you need to tell me?"

"Not really, Steve. The cold weather wreaks havoc on my left knee and now my wrist and ankle. I just take a couple of aspirin and continue."

"Sometimes that's the only thing to do. Remember, you've had pneumonia twice so keep covered up from the cold." Jack looked at his bare feet and his ersatz pjs in the cool apartment. "Gotcha."

"Night, Jack."

"Night, Steve."

Jack dialed another number from memory. "Hello?"

"It's me. I left my cell at home. Sorry."

"Jack, it's okay. I guess it's the mother in me; wanting to take care of you. How do you feel?"

"I'm better."

"You sound tired."

"I guess I am. I don't know. I had a nap for the better part of the afternoon."

"Have you eaten anything today?"

"No, no appetite."


"Viv, I will eat. I promise you."

"All right, goodnight, Jack."

"Night, Viv."

Refreshing his drink, he dialed a number from his call sheet. "Glenn Bradley."

"It's Jack."

"Jack, what's going on? What happened to you this morning?" Pausing before continuing, Jack swallowed a mouthful of his drink. "Anne left me; she took a leave of absence from the Bureau."

"Ah, Jesus. Okay, I understand. How are you feeling now?"

"I guess I'm numb, right now. I'm cold and tired."

"Have you been writing your letters?"

"Yes, but she trumped me with a letter of her own."

"I'm sorry, Jack. Can you come in tomorrow?"

"Yeah, how's eight?"

"Sounds fine."

"Bye, Glenn."

"Bye, Jack. Take it easy."

"I will."

Jack pressed the bar on his phone twice to get a dial tone before hitting a speed dial number. "Simpson."

"It's me."

"Hey, Malone, where the hell have you been? Viv called me when she couldn't get a hold of you," Tyler said, pausing for a moment. "I'm sorry about Annie."

"Yeah, me too."

"So where'd you go today?"

"I went up to St. Germaine's to see Sean."

"Good, okay. How are you feeling, now?" Jack stood, carrying his drink and the phone to the sofa. Tucking the phone under his ear, he reached down to his cast and set it on the telephone book, which was in the middle of the coffee table. "Jack, you still there?"

"Yeah, sorry, my ankle began to throb. I had to elevate it." He paused again.

"I feel empty, Tyler."

"What did Annie say to you?"

"She wrote that she was taking a leave and that she had to work some things out."

"Ouch, sorry, I just assumed that she - well, at least she said leave instead of quit. That means she's coming back."

"Yeah, intellectually, I understand that. But, it still hurts. We can't even talk, anymore. It all seems to come back to the miscarriage. Her doctor told me not to speak to her about it. I don't know, Tyler, I just don't know."

"One day at a time, buddy. You knew that in the hospital."

"I guess, but she promised me she wouldn't leave."

"Jack, it's almost seven. Why don't you make something to eat and go to bed early?"


"Call me a couple of times tomorrow. Let me know how you are."


"Night, Jack."

"Night, Tyler."

He hung up the phone and set it on the sofa next to him, resting his head on the back cushion of the sofa. The drink rested half-full on his chest and he fell asleep.

9:00 p. m.

Jack woke up when the phone rang beside him. "Malone."


"Hi," Jack replied, taking a sip of his drink as he listened intently to the voice on the phone. "Oh, Jack, I'm sorry. I didn't want to leave you. I need you so much. It felt so right when I got into bed with you this morning."

"You came into bed with me?"

"Yes, for a few hours."

"But you left..."

"I...I know. I went back to work too soon; that's part of what triggered my panic attack. I'm at a hospital of sorts. And no, I don't know how long I'll be."

"One day at a time," Jack murmured.

"Yes, I guess so."

He listened to her breathe for several minutes on the phone, unwilling to say anything. "I have to go, Jack. Take care."

"I will, and you too. I love you, Anne."

"I love you too, Jack."



He hit the bar and hung up the phone. Up, now, he gently put his cast foot on the floor and stood. His stomach rumbled softly as he walked to the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he took out Anne's dinner and put it in the microwave. Setting the timer, he hit <start> and then walked to the kitchen to pick up his glass. He walked back and refreshed his drink, while he waited for his dinner. Picking up his IPOD, he plugged it directly into his stereo. When everything was turned on, he pressed the center circle. Soon the dark full sounds of Yo-Yo Ma filled the apartment as he walked to the window and looked out on the cold night. Sipping his drink, he just tried not to think about Anne so much. Instead, he listened to the music. The microwave beeped and he walked slowly to the kitchen to remove his dinner. Carrying his cocktail and his plate, he headed to the dining room table. It was still set up from the night before. The lemon glazed chicken with couscous and asparagus still tasted good as he ate slowly. The music washed over him as he continued with his dinner. Soon, he was through, and walked back to the kitchen to put his dirty dishes into the sink. Finishing his drink, he turned the lights off and headed for bed. He turned on the bedside table light and saw the photograph that Hanna had taken of him and Anne the previous fall. As he pulled off his t-shirt and sweats, his eyes kept drifting back to the photograph and soon he felt silent tears streaming down his face. He got under the sheet and blanket, curling up on his left side, the tears sliding onto the pillow, until he fell into an exhausted sleep.

Thursday 2:00 a. m.

Jack awoke from a dream that had been haunting him for months. He knew he couldn't get back to sleep, so he showered, shaved, got dressed, and headed out for the office, choosing to take a cab. Walking slowly across the lobby, he waved at Larry and proceeded up to the twelfth floor. After hanging up his topcoat on the rack in the corner of the office, he went into the kitchenette and fixed himself a cup of coffee. He walked back to his office and pulled a jump drive from his desk drawer. Plugging into his computer, his office was filled with Norah Jones. Sam had made him a CD of some of her favourite rainy day music and he loaded it onto the portable device. Soon, he was unaware of the music, instead, putting his attention to the stack of papers in his inbox. Four hours later, he was all but falling asleep. Rubbing his eyes, he stopped the music program and took off his suit jacket. Loosening his tie, he stretched out on the couch in his office. It felt as if he fell asleep immediately, but with his sleep came his dreams. He woke up a quick ten minutes later, his face covered in sweat, the collar of his shirt soaked. Growling at his fatigue and the dream, he sat up and then stood. Slipping on his suit jacket, he tightened his tie and headed upstairs to see Glenn. "Agent Malone, you're early," Glenn's secretary commented as he entered the office. "Yes, I know, just running ahead of schedule today. Would you mind if I just sat here?"

"No, of course not. Dr. Bradley should be here in twenty minutes or so," she said, watching him sit on the sofa before carefully putting his cast onto the low table in front of him. He picked up a magazine and then fought sleep until he couldn't do it anymore. The magazine slipped through his fingers to the floor as his muscles relaxed.

Glenn walked into his office and saw his secretary with her finger up to her lips indicating silence. Following her gaze, Glenn saw Jack asleep on the reception couch. "How long has he been here?"

"About twenty minutes,"

"Let me get organized and I'll come and get him."


Glenn walked into his office. He turned on the water fountain and paused to listen as the water fell down the slate. He pulled Jack's file and set it on his desk. Lastly, he took his NY Giants mug and walked to the reception area for a fresh cup of Peet's. After adding milk and sugar, he reached for Jack's shoulder. "Let's go, Jack.

Jack opened his eyes and wiped his face. He got to his feet slowly and followed Glenn into his office. "I don't mean this as an insult, but you look awful. Aside from sleeping on my couch, did you get any sleep?"

"No, not really," Jack said, standing at the other end of the room. "Why not?"

Jack paused, not responding.


"I...I keep remembering something someone said to me."

"I don't understand."

Jack took an uneven breath as he remembered that afternoon almost a year ago. He and Max were sitting on the floor of the garage. Max leaned over to him, fighting the pain from the bullet wound. "Promise me, you'll take care of Anne," Max said. "Take care of her yourself," Jack answered. Max collapsed against Jack and he knew his friend was dead. Glenn knew all of this already, having read Jack's statement. "Jack, I don't understand."

Jack turned, his face red from emotion, his hands in fists. "I didn't take care of her," he said softly. Glenn looked at Jack, trying to figure out what to say to calm him. This was the cause of the problem; he had broken a promise. "Jack, I hardly think you could have protected her from her miscarriage."

"What about Alan Davis? I let him take her," Jack said, his voice rising. "Funny, I seem to remember that you had a rotten cold and ended up with a bunch of loose teeth." Jack sat heavily in the nearest chair and closed his eyes. "I can't do this," he whispered.

Glenn sat forward in his chair.

"Can't do what, Jack?"

"This, I need her in my life."

"It's been three weeks since you left the hospital. Have you been writing your letters to her?"


"Good, I think it's time she sees them. I'll call Dr. Chesny and see if she concurs."

"What will that do?" Jack asked, almost asleep. "Hopefully she'll see she's not the only one in pain," Glenn said, looking at his watch. It was just eight o'clock. Glenn wrote his notes on Jack's session and read his emails. Jack slept silently.

8:45 a. m.

"Jack? Time to wake up and catch bad guys." Jack opened his eyes and got to his feet. "I'll get back to you about your letters," Glenn added. "Thanks."

"Take it easy, Jack. You're no help to her if you're a mess." Jack nodded and left Glenn's office, his cast making a noise on the floor, heading for the elevator. The doors opened and Sam walked right into him. "Sorry, Jack."

"My fault, Sam."

"Jack, PD just called. They have a hit on one of your cold cases," Sam said, following him into the elevator. Jack didn't respond, instead he stood staring intently at the floor numbers. "Jack? Are you okay? Should you go home?" Suddenly, Jack perked up, pressing the button for the twelfth floor. "What? No, I mean, I'm sorry, Sam. I didn't sleep much and I need more coffee."

"Grab your coat, I'll drive."


"Just, get your coat, Jack. I'll explain on the way over," Sam said, walking into the bullpen to get her coat. He did as he was told and then waited for her at the elevator. She arrived a few minutes later and they got in, heading for the garage. Sam unlocked the doors electronically and got into the car. Jack followed suit, putting on his seat belt. "Okay, Jack. These are the highlights," Sam said, handing him a printout as she started the engine. He took the paper and started to read it. The facts of the case, six years old, came back to him quickly. Alex Wood was Kate's age. When he was three, he disappeared from a neighbourhood park. Recently, PD had followed a lead about a suspected child molester and a missing boy. They arrested one Henry Irwin, and found the boy unharmed. As the apartment was processed, they found several DNA hits. Running them through CODIS, one sample kicked back a hit to Jack's case. "Where are we going?" Jack asked finally. "You've been asked to go to PD and interview Irwin about Alex Wood's DNA." Jack looked again at the photo of the missing child and the computer generated estimation of what he would look like now. "Can we go to the apartment first?" he asked, softly. She turned to look at him, but he wouldn't meet her gaze. "Sure, Jack," She said, turning at the next light to head to the lower east side. His left hand was on the armrest and his right one massaged his forehead. "You okay?" She asked, looking at him while stopped at a red light. "What? Uhm, yeah, I'm fine."

She covered his left hand with her right and squeezed it for a moment before returning it to the steering wheel. A few minutes later, they arrived at a neat red brick building. Sam parked and got out of the car, waiting for Jack to do the same. It was still difficult to stand up with his cast. Flashing their badges at the uniformed officer, they walked into the building and then climbed the stairs to the second floor. Again, they flashed their badges and proceeded into the apartment. Jack stood in the center of the first room and slowly absorbed what he saw. "When did they arrest Irwin?"


"Fast lab work."

"Yeah; kids."

The first room; a combination living room/ dining room/ kitchen looked as though several kids lived there. Toys were on the table, couch and floor. A set of building blocks were stacked against the wall next to a first generation Nintendo and a stuffed rabbit. The refrigerator had letter magnets and calendars with gold stars. Jack went into the bedroom. There was a queen sized bed and in the corner a cot with toys underneath it. Pulling out his handkerchief, Jack opened a cabinet and found a television with a VCR. Looking again round the room, he saw the camera hidden in the valance of the venetian blinds. Sam walked into the bedroom and found Jack leaning against the wall, his eyes shut tightly. "What's wrong, Jack?"

"Sick bastard filmed whatever went on in here," he said softly. "Let's go, Jack," Sam suggested, tugging at his elbow. He followed her quietly, taking his time on the stairs, until they got outside into the cold air. He sat on the top step, trying to collect his thoughts. She sat next to him, their shoulders touching and waited. Five minutes later, she began to get cold. "Jack, come on. Let's go to the 7th Precinct and see this guy."

"He's not in the Tombs?"

"He was, but they brought him up when they found Alex's DNA."


Sam got to her feet and extended her hand to him. He took it, but since he out-weighed her by fifty pounds, he didn't really pull her to get to his feet. They reached the car, got in, and drove in silence to the precinct house. Clipping their badges on their coats, they walked in to see the desk sergeant. "Second floor, ask for Detective Devlin. Sorry there's no elevator, Agent Malone."

"Me, too," Jack replied as they started up the stairs. Sam walked into the squad room and Jack limped in a few steps behind her. "May I help you?" a young man asked.

"Agents Spade and Malone. We're with the FBI. We're here to see Detective Devlin."

"Sure, one minute," he said, picking up his phone receiver to use the intercom. "Jerry, the FBI are here. Right, okay. Go back into the hallway, second door on the left, room 219"

"Thanks," Sam said as she led the way again. They stood outside the door and Sam turned to face Jack. "Are you ready?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Let's go," he said, his voice gruff from fatigue. She knocked and they walked in. A large black man in shirtsleeves and a shoulder holster was leaning against the wall. Sitting at the table in the center of the room, was a pudgy pale-faced man with stringy blonde hair. His left hand was handcuffed to his chair, which was bolted to the floor. "Jerry Devlin," the detective said, extending his hand. "Agents Spade and Malone, FBI.

"Pleased to meet you. Henry's been a little nervous about you guys comin' here, haven't you, Henry?"

"May I ask him a couple of questions?" Jack asked, the tension in his voice evident. "Yeah, but go easy. We had to send him to the hospital yesterday. He gets panic attacks," Devlin said softly. Slowly, Jack removed his coat and set it on an empty chair in the corner. He took his badge and transferred it to his suit jacket. Finally, he reached deep into his topcoat pocket for the computer generated fact sheet. "Mr. Irwin, I'm Jack Malone from the FBI. This is my colleague, Agent Spade. We wanted to talk to you about Alex Wood."

"Who?" Irwin asked, his voice squeaky and high-pitched. Deliberately, Jack unfolded the sheet showing the photo of Alex and what the computer figured he looked like now. "This is Alex Wood. At some point, he was in your apartment."

"Mr. Irwin, we have his DNA. Why don't you tell us what we want to know?" Sam asked. Irwin fidgeted in his chair. Jack reached up and loosened his tie, before undoing the top button on his shirt.

"Detective, what did the boy you found in Mr. Irwin's apartment look like?" Jack asked, his voice soft and enticing. "Brice Larson, age four, blonde, blue eyes."

"Just like Alex. Did Brice remember seeing him?"

"Brice is blind, Agent Malone."

Jack reached his right hand under the table to his chair and tried to channel his anger through his hand. "But Alex wasn't blind. Alex was perfect. He was a happy youngster. Do you remember, Henry? Do you remember what a good boy he was?" Jack asked, looking at the pedophile in the chair opposite him. A slow smile came across Henry's face. He closed his eyes at the memory. "You do remember him, don't you? He was a good boy; did whatever you wanted. So, Henry, where's Alex now?" Jack coaxed. Everyone watched the transformation as Henry remembered Alex. His body relaxed and he appeared to calm at the memory. "Travis."

"Beg your pardon?" Sam asked.

"I called him, Travis. Told people he was my nephew. He was a good boy."

"Tell me what happened, Henry," Jack asked, now feeling the sweat stream down his back as the dread started to seep in. "At the end, he wasn't a good boy."

"What do you mean?" Jack asked, his voice getting harder and menacing. "He just didn't want to," Henry squeaked. Jack was out of his chair like a shot, looming over Henry, as he couldn't move from his chair. "Enough! Where is he?"

"Basement, he's in my basement," Henry squeaked again. "Jesus, Malone. You made him piss himself," Devlin complained. Jack glared at him before grabbing his coat and leaving the room. Sam picked up the printout and followed him side by side as they left the precinct house and hurried to the car. "Damnit! We were there!" Jack said, as Sam started the engine. Sam looked at him but didn't say anything. She knew he was upset about Anne, but she also knew how much pedophiles upset him. Ten minutes later, they arrived outside the apartment building. Grabbing the large Maglite from the glove compartment, Jack entered the building. They found the super's apartment and knocked. "FBI, open the door," Jack said loudly. The door opened and a man with snow white hair peered out. "Yes?"

I'm Agent Jack Malone of the FBI, and this is my colleague, Agent Spade. We need access to the basement."

"Do you have a warrant?"

"No, what I have is you on suspicion of child endangerment," Sam said. "Oh, all right. Let me get my keys," the man said, reaching for a large key ring hanging from a hook on the wall. He walked out of the apartment and Jack and Sam followed closely on his heels. They walked down a narrow, creaking staircase until they were in the basement. The super opened a door and he reached for a string to turn on the lights. "Odd, shouldn't be burned out."

Jack turned on his flashlight and quickly started to search the room. Sam turned on her mini Maglite and did the same. "Jack, I think I found something."

He walked up to her and saw a Mounds bar wrapper in front of a door. Reaching for the handle, he tried it, but it was locked. "Open it," Jack ordered.

"I can't. Henry has the key. Said he needed to store some things," the super said. Noting that the door opened in, Jack turned and lowered his shoulder. After three attempts, the door gave way. There, in the corner, was a child. He put his arms up to protect himself. "Alex, we're with the FBI. You're safe, now," Sam said, flashing her light onto him. The child opened his mouth to scream but no sound came out. "Sam, wait, take this," Jack said, handing her his larger flashlight. Jack walked up to the boy and got down on one knee. Finally, he took the boy's hand and gently put it on his face. The boy placed his other hand on Jack's face, feeling his five o'clock shadow, hair, and suit collar. Slowly, the arms went around Jack's neck as Jack slowly stood. The boy weighed nothing. They walked out of the room and the boy buried his face into Jack's neck. Carefully, they got up the stairs and into the car. "NYU, Sam."

"You got it."

Jack noticed for the first time what the boy was wearing; Garanimals, three sizes too small. Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to the ER. Sam opened the door and helped Jack get to his feet. The boy hadn't uttered a sound. His long dirty hair masked his face, which he still hid. "Can you help me?" Jack asked a resident. "Sure, what's wrong with her?" the resident, who, according to the nameplate on his lab coat was called McGregor. "First of all, it's a boy. Secondly, he's been held captive for six years. The man who kidnapped him is in custody, but we have to be careful with the evidence."

"I understand," Dr. MacGregor said, reaching for the boy. The boy struggled and wouldn't let go.

"Stop!' Jack said forcefully. "We'll all go. I think he has some sensory deprivation issues. We found him in a pitch dark basement room where he had been for several days, judging by his appearance."

"Okay, let me get Gary. He's our peds guy. Just go into the first enclosure." Jack nodded, getting a better grip on the boy. His right hand was firmly on his back and his left arm supported the boy's bottom. Thin legs tried to wrap around Jack's waist. Jack paced back and forth, humming softly as he rubbed circles on the boy's back. Soon the arms that had a death grip were dangling at his sides as he fell asleep. "Hi, I'm Gary Jenkins. What do we have here?"

"I'm Jack Malone with the FBI. This young man, I believe is Alex Wood, age nine, who was kidnapped when he was three."

"Wow, I take it you have the kidnapper?"

"Yes, but in order for us to build a case, we need to protect the evidence."

"I understand. Is CSU on their way?"

"Yes," Sam said, as she entered the room. "This is Special Agent Spade."

"Okay, I'll take him, Agent Malone," Gary said softly, gently taking the sleeping boy from Jack and laying him on the gurney. Jack and Sam stood to the side as different nurses came in to assist. Twenty minutes later, a young woman entered with a tackle box. "I'm Margaret Hilson, CSU. Detective Devlin sent me to collect evidence."

"This is Alex Wood. His clothes are in that evidence bag. Behind you, Agents Malone and Spade are from the FBI."

"Ms. Hilson," Jack started.

"Please call me, Meg."

"Meg, we need DNA and fingerprints to confirm Alex's identity. I can't call his parents without being sure."

"Don't worry. I'll be thorough."


"Jack, why don't you guys wait outside? I'll come and find you," Meg suggested. Sam tugged at Jack's sleeve and practically dragged him from the enclosure. They found two chairs and sat down. Jack tried, but a groan escaped anyway. "Jack?"

"I'm fine. My ankle hurts."

"Gee, I can't think why. Do you want some aspirin?"

"Yes, please, Sam."

'Okay, tough guy, hang on, I'll be right back." Jack nodded, closing his eyes and leaning back so his head touched the wall. Minutes later, he felt two small hands searching his face. "Hello, Alex," Jack said, softly, opening his eyes. "He's slippery," Gary said, walking up to them. "Can you come with us, Jack? You seem to have a bond with him." Standing, Jack scooped up Alex, feeling the boy's ribs easily through the hospital gown. This time, Alex explored Jack's hair, pulling it occasionally. "Ow," Jack said, smiling.

"The head of Peds psychology is coming down for a consult. Child Protective Services is sending someone, as well," Gary said as Jack placed Alex back on the bed. Alex held on to Jack's right index finger, so Jack stood to the right of the bed. He looked at Alex, noticing that someone had cleaned him up. Alex's eyes were reddened. "So far, conjunctivitis in both eyes, so wash your hands really well. Trauma to the vocal cords."

"From screaming."

"Probably, I don't have x-rays back, but cursory exam shows more that the normal childhood scars on his hands and legs."

"Can he hear?"

"Yes, but he seems to be terrified of loud noises. Jill dropped a tray of instruments, that's when he came out to find you."

"So where do we go from here?" Jack asked. "As soon as Dr. Barrett examines him, I want to give him a mild sedative and then start some IVs. He's really small for nine. At the same time, we'll start treatment to his eyes. I took a blood panel, but it's not back yet. So...if you wouldn't mind hanging around until Dr. Barrett is done?"

"Not a problem."

"Jack, here's your aspirin," Sam said, walking in with a paper cup and three aspirin. He swallowed them dry and chased them with water. "Thanks, Sam."

"You're welcome."

"Here's a chair, Jack. If you don't mind me saying, you look dead on your feet. Skiing accident?" Gary asked, pointing to the cast. "No," Jack replied quietly, trying not to think about it. Sam stood behind him and gently began to knead his shoulders, knowing that they got tight quickly. "I'll be right back, I just need to update Alex's chart." Ten minutes later, a woman with wiry bright red hair walked into the room. "Hello, I'm Dr. Barrett. Are you the parents?"

"No, Jack Malone and Samantha Spade, FBI. We're working on the positive ID before bringing in the parents. He was kidnapped six years ago," Jack answered. "I see. All right. I'd like to examine Alex alone." Jack started to stand and Alex rolled to his knees, his arms in the air, waiting to be picked up. "You need to talk to this nice lady, okay? Do you want me to stay?" Alex nodded vigorously.

"Okay, now get back into bed or you'll get a cold." Alex settled under the covers as Jack sat in the chair. "Alex, my name is Dr. Barrett."

"My name is Travis," the boy whispered. "I'm sorry, I'll correct that. What is the name of the man who raised you?"

"Uncle Henry."

"Very good. Now, Travis, why were you in the basement?"

"I said no."

"How many days were you in the basement? "I don't know. It was dark."

"Do you go to school?"

"No, Uncle Henry teaches me at home."

Jack shifted in his chair and Sam put a calming hand on his shoulder. "Did Uncle Henry hurt you?"




"Did he ever touch your privates?"

Tears started down Alex's face and he pulled the sheet over his head. Jack snuck his left pinkie to the side of the small hand. It grabbed his finger and in one move, Alex launched himself to hold onto Jack. His tears turned to silent sobs. Dr. Barrett wrote some notes and left them alone. Five minutes later, Gary returned to see Alex asleep in Jack's arms. "I just got off the phone with Meg. This is Alex Wood."

"He thinks his name is Travis." Sam said, softly. "Well, I'm admitting Travis. He'll be up in Peds; if you want to come see him tomorrow," Gary said, carefully taking the sleeping boy from Jack's arms. "Thanks, Dr. Jenkins."

"You're welcome, Jack. Do you have kids?"

"Yeah, two daughters," Jack said, getting to his feet. "Thought so, you're a natural dad."

Jack nodded as he and Sam left the room. They walked toward the main entrance. "I parked in the garage," Sam explained, turning on her phone. Jack did the same. Both of their phones chirped that they had messages. Jack entered his code and learned he had five messages. Tyler called twice, Viv called once, and there were two hang-ups. He checked the missed calls log and noted that they were two restricted calls. "Jack?"


"I asked if you were hungry?"

"Yeah, Sam, I am. Let's do drive-thru McDonald's."

"Sounds good."

They got into the car and Jack called the office. "Johnson."

"It's me."

"Where are you?"

"Sam and I just left NYU. We're heading to Mickey D's and then down to the office."

"Okay. Can I do anything for you?"

"Yeah, could you track down Alex Woods's parents? We have a positive ID on the boy. They used to live in Darien."

"Wow, Jack, that's great. You found him."

"Yeah, look I have to call Tyler. We'll be at the office in a half an hour or so."

"See you then."



He hit speed dial and listened to the rings. "Leave a message."

"Wow, real personal. It's me, at uhm, one fifteen, returning your call. Tag." He closed his phone and slipped it into his suit coat pocket. He shivered slightly and then settled back in his seat. Sam stole a glance at him, watching as he fell asleep. She didn't know the details about Anne taking her leave of absence, but she could easily see what it was doing to him. Soon they were at 10th and 34th St. She pulled in behind a taxi and ordered for them both. When they got to the last window, she touched his arm. "Sorry," he mumbled, sitting up straighter. "Don't be. Here, I just didn't want you to wear your Coke!"

He took the cardboard tray and set it on the floor between his feet. He waited for a moment and then reached into the glove compartment for some waterless disinfecting hand cleaner. The bag of burgers, chicken sandwich, and fries sat between them. She pulled out of the parking lot and headed down Ninth Avenue. Spying a parking place, she pulled in and set the car in park. Silently they ate their lunch. "How's your ankle?"

"It hurts," he admitted.

"How much longer do you have to be in a cast?"

"Just under two weeks, unless Steve says different."

"I'm sure you can't wait."

"You're right," he said, smiling.

"I've missed that."

He cocked his head in question.

"Your smile."

"I've missed this."

Now it was her turn to be confused.

"It's just; I've missed sharing a few moments with you, no strings attached." She nodded and they continued with their meals.

2:00 p. m.

Jack limped off the elevator and Sam followed. He went to his office and cracked his neck before hanging up his coat. His coffee had a skin on it, so he headed to the kitchenette to wash out his mug and brew a new cup. A few moments later, he slowly walked into the bullpen. Carefully, he sat down at the big table, picked up his cast ankle and set it on another chair. Sighing, he took a sip of coffee. "Ready?" Viv asked, sitting down across from him. "Not really." He smiled.

Viv smiled in return and continued.

"Janice and Darren Wood died in a home invasion three years ago." Jack closed his eyes and thought for a moment. "Uhm, there was a sister, Alice, Agnes...?" Jack suggested. "Agnes Wood, age twelve, lives with her aunt and uncle in New York City."

"Let's go," Jack said, pulling his cast off the chair. "Relax, Jack, I've asked them to come down.

"Oh, okay. Call Margaret Hilson at CSU, see if she can email you Alex's photos that she took at the hospital."

"Got it," she said, before standing to walk to her desk. Jack sipped his coffee and listened to the bustle of the office. "Where're Danny and Martin?"

"They're following up on a missing maintenance engineer at the Met."

"Museum or opera?"


Jack sat for a few more minutes, but his ankle still hurt. He stood and limped with his coffee to his office. Sitting down at his desk, he carefully put his cast on the credenza behind him. Sipping his coffee, he finally felt the pounding in his ankle begin to dissipate.

3:15 p. m.

"Jack? The aunt and uncle are here," Sam said, waking him. "Okay."

He pulled himself together, and got to his feet. Sam reached over and straightened his tie. "How do I look?"


"Then I guess we're ready."

Sam led the way to the interrogation room. "Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Damon, I'm Special Agent Spade and this is Special Agent Malone," Sam said, sitting opposite the couple. "I remember you" Mr. Damon asked, looking at Jack before turning his attention to Sam. "You said this had something to do with Alex?"

"He's alive. He's at NYU Medical Center," Jack said. Mrs. Damon looked at her husband in disbelief as tears began to stream down her face. "I can't do this, Rick. I can't. Agnes is hard enough."

"Excuse me?" Sam asked, feeling Jack's anger building. "We have three children of our own. When my sister and her husband died, we legally adopted Agnes. She developed muscular dystrophy a year later," Rick answered, reaching his arm across his wife's shaking shoulders. "I'm sorry," Sam said.

"Look, we're not made of money. Medicare is barely paying for her medical costs and then there are the caregivers."

"Where was Agnes during the home invasion?" Jack asked out of the blue. "She was at a friend's house."

"You're right," Jack said, getting to his feet. "Your plate's full. We'll put Alex in Child Protective Services. I'm sorry." He left the room and headed back to his office. Picking up the phone, he dialed Glenn. "Bradley."

"It's Jack. Did you speak to Anne's doctor?"

"Yes, bring your letters in and I'll messenger them up to her. Hey Jack, what's up? You okay?"

"We recovered a child who had been kidnapped six years ago. It was a cold case of mine."


"No, not really: his parents are dead, his sister has muscular dystrophy. His aunt and uncle are overwhelmed."

"He got to you, didn't he?"

"Oh, yeah."

"I can see where this is going, Jack. I don't know if Anne can become instant Mom."

"Would you speak to her doctor?"

"Yes, I will. Don't forget the letters. Jack, one more question. What time did you really come to work this morning?"

"I came in around three."

"It's almost four in the afternoon, now. You need to go home."

"Yeah, I know."

"What's the problem?"

"Nothing, really. I'm just tired."

"You don't want to go home to an empty apartment." Jack sat back in his chair, turning it to the wall, and sighed. "No, I don't."

"But you know you need to go home?"

"Yes, Glenn, I do."

"Bye, Jack. Take care."


There was a knock on his glass door. He motioned for Sam to come in. "Hi."

"Hi, can I give you a lift home?"

"No thanks, Sam. I'm going to take a cab."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, thanks, though."

"See you tomorrow."

"Oh, Sam?"


"Would you call Child Protective Services and make sure they're on board with Alex?"



"You're welcome."

Sam left him alone as he began to shut down his computer. He looked at his desk for a moment and then slipped on his top coat. Walking out of the office, he took the elevator and shortly found himself on the street. Miraculously, he caught a cab almost immediately and was home, in his apartment, less than fifteen minutes later. He limped to the bathroom and washed his hands and face thoroughly. He emptied his pockets before taking off his suit and putting it in the dry cleaning bag. Hanging up his tie, he stuffed his shirt alongside his suit. Jack stood still for a moment and decided to take a shower. Shucking off the rest of his clothes, he headed back to the bathroom and reached for the faucet. The water was hot and when he stepped into the shower, he felt the heavy weight of the day start to recede. After a guilty twenty minutes of using water, he felt he could leave the shower. Pulling on a fresh pair of shorts and his sweats, he took a clean t-shirt from the drawer and put it on. As he padded to the living room, his cell phone rang. "Malone."

"So, you don't like my message?"

"Hi, Tyler."

"How was your day?"

"Rough and exhausting. To be honest, Tyler, I just walked in. I started at around three this morning. I'm going to head horizontal."

"Okay, don't be a stranger."




Jack set the phone in the charger and went to the sofa. He lowered himself carefully and stretched out on his right side.

6:15 p. m.

The door opened to Jack's apartment and Viv let herself in. She shut the door quietly and turned on the light by the door. Folding her coat over the back of one of the leather chairs, she headed into the kitchen to look for an open bottle of wine. Turning on the under counter light, she saw none. Viv took a cabernet from the rack and opened it, waking Jack up from the noise of the cork.


"Hi, Jack. Want something to drink?"

"Scotch, please, one rock."

"Sure," Viv said, making his.

She brought in the two glasses and handed him his drink. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."



"What are you doing here?"

"I thought either you might want to talk to someone or you just might want some company."


"May I turn on the stereo?"

"Sure, the IPOD is hooked up as the source." Viv looked at the possible playlists and chose 'Jazz at Building 7'. Jean-Pierre Rampal's flute came brightly over the speakers.

"This is great," she remarked, sitting back in her chair.

"Yeah, a friend of mine burned me a copy. It's from one of the building opening parties."

"Are you hungry?"

"No, not really, my schedule is off, right now."


They sat, listening to the music and drinking their cocktails. "Spill it."

Jack looked at her and smiled. She always knew how to cut to the chase with him. "Glenn assigned me to write letters to Anne to express my feelings after everything that's happened. Her doctors won't let me talk to her about the miscarriage. It really hurts that I can't talk to her. See that file folder? It's filled with the letters. I'm supposed to write at least one a day. Her doctor approved Glenn sending the letters to her tomorrow."

"That's great."

"Yeah," he replied in a whisper.

"What's wrong?" Viv asked, as she got up and sat next to Jack on the sofa. "I'm scared."

"Scared of what?"

"Scared of losing Anne; scared to go to sleep. I...I have dreams, or, to be precise, I have one dream over and over," he said, putting his glass on the coffee table. "Do you want to tell me?"

Jack looked into his scotch glass and then stood abruptly and walked to the window. He started to speak and then paused. Viv watched him, his face slightly illuminated by the street light below.

"Max Cassidy's last words on this earth were 'Please look after Anne.' Didn't do a very good job, did I? She got kidnapped and then, because of me, she had a miscarriage." Viv got to her feet and walked up next to him, slipping a hand onto his shoulder.

He turned to face her as she put both of her hands on his broad shoulders and pulled him into an embrace. He let himself be held, resting his chin on her shoulder, feeling her body against his. Slowly, his body posture changed and Viv felt his hands grab handfuls of her sweater as he started to cry. This was the side of Jack Malone that she had seen only once before. She was familiar with his temper as well as his moody quiet moments. But this raw emotion was startling in its intensity. Jack lost himself in his anguish and his fatigue just made it worse. The tears increased to almost sobs, as his body shook with sorrow. Then, as quickly as they started, they stopped. He released her sweater and stepped out of her embrace. Silently, he turned around and walked towards his bedroom. Viv walked to the kitchen and dabbed her own eyes with a paper towel.

She picked up her glass from the living room and took stock of the refrigerator. Smiling, she removed several ingredients and began to cook, listening to the music, and sipping her wine. Ten minutes later, she heard him walk into the living room. Jack picked up his glass and took a sip before walking towards the kitchen.

"Just take a seat, Jack. I'm making Evening Eggs," Viv said, turning to look at him. His face was flushed and his hair was wet. He sat at the breakfast bar, his large hands around his glass. Sipping his drink, he watched her cook. She turned around, leaning against the counter, while the mushrooms steamed.

"Need a refresher?"


She picked up the bottle of Famous Grouse and walked over to him. Pouring two inches, she then stopped, getting no response from him. Viv took the ice tray from the freezer and put two ice cubes in the glass. Returning the tray to the freezer, she checked on the mushrooms and took a sip of wine. He cocked his head and walked to the IPOD. Stopping the playlist, he changed it to Just Yo-Yo and pressed <play>.

Jack sighed as the soft low tones filled the room. Heading back to his stool, he sat down heavily and took a mouthful of scotch. Viv plated up the dinner and put his in front of him and her plate next to it. She filled her glass and then sat next to him.

"Jack, you have to eat something."

He looked at her and smiled weakly before he picked up the fork and took a taste.

"Evening Eggs, hunh?"

"That's what my grandmother called them," Viv replied, taking a forkful herself.

"They're good. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"No, I mean, thanks for coming over here and cheering me up."

"You're welcome, again," she said, smiling. They ate without any conversation, choosing instead to listen to the music and sip their drinks. When they finished, she put the dishes in the sink while Jack walked back to the sofa. He sat down and put his cast leg on the coffee table. Viv walked back in and looked at her watch and then at Jack.

"Jack, I need to head home. Are you okay?" She asked, putting a hand on his shoulder. Jack started to sit up.

"No, don't move. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Viv, I'm fine," he replied, covering her hand with his.

"Okay, well I need to get home. Reggie and I have to run some French verbs before bed."

"As you do."

Viv smiled as she put on her coat and picked up her bag.

"Thanks again, Viv."

"You're welcome, Jack."

Jack listened to the door open, close, and then lock before closing his eyes. He was exhausted. Slowly, he stood and turned out the lights before walking to his bedroom. Moments later, he was in bed and almost asleep.

Friday 6:00 a. m.

Jack rolled over and almost purred. He felt no pain, no fatigue and it was six am. He got out of bed, showered, shaved, and got dressed. Padding to the kitchen, he sighed, eying the full sink of dishes. He took off his suit jacket and slipped his tie into his shirt, choosing to do the dishes by hand rather than running the dishwasher. Twenty minutes later, the sink was empty. Picking up his jacket, he put it back on as he walked into the living room. Carefully, he put the file into a Gristedes bag. He walked into the office one hour later. Sitting at his desk, he looked at the new cases in his inbox and lost himself in them.


"Hi," he replied, seeing Viv in the doorway. "You look better."

"Thanks to you. What are you doing here so early?"

"Interview. And you?"

"I need to drop my letters off to Glenn."


"As a matter of fact, I guess I should get going. See you around nine."


Jack stood slowly and picked up his coffee mug. He headed to the kitchenette and dumped the old coffee into the sink. Pressing a selection of buttons, he was rewarded with strong Kona coffee and a dab of milk. Trudging to the elevator, he went upstairs to see Glenn.

"Agent Malone. How are you today?"

"Much the same."

"You look better."

"Thank you."

Jack sat on the sofa and waited for Glenn. Moments later, he walked in. Jack stood and followed him into his office. Standing in a corner, Jack waited, taking occasional sips of his coffee. Glenn took off his coat and got settled in behind his desk before focusing on Jack. Finally, he looked at his patient.

"What, you slept an hour?"

"I slept almost nine," Jack replied, hurt in his voice. "I'm sorry, you still look tired."

Jack handed Glenn the Gristedes' bag. Glenn looked into it and nodded, setting it gently on his desk.

"You okay, aside from the fatigue?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Well then, go to work; restricted duty." Jack waved his hand and left in silence. He took the elevator back down to twelve and walked into the bullpen to see what was going on on the two cases.

"Jack, we just received a call from C.P.S. They went to the hospital to start the paperwork, this morning. Alex wasn't there," Sam said. He closed his eyes for a moment and then focused.

"Head over to the hospital and canvas it. Take Elena with you."

"What about you?"

"I'm hoping to hear from Anne. I can't leave right now." Sam looked at him and nodded slightly before organizing herself to go out on the interview. Jack looked at the whiteboard, losing himself in the facts of Alex's case. When the pounding in his ankle became distracting, Jack went back to his office. He sat at his desk and put his cast on the credenza, feeling immediate relief. He picked up the report from Martin and Danny and started to read.

9:30 a. m.

Elena and Sam walked onto the Peds floor at N.Y.U. Heading for the nurses' desk, they produced their IDs again.

"Special Agents Delgado and Spade. We're here about Travis Wood." Elena stated. "Yes, I'm the one who called when CPS couldn't locate him," a nurse whose name tag said Jenkins, replied.

"Ms. Jenkins, we need to know everything," Sam replied. "Let's go to his room and start there," the nurse said, leading the way. When they walked into the room, Sam noted there was an empty bed with an IV bottle hanging. The other bed was occupied; the boy deeply involved in his Gameboy.

"Jamal, these people are with the FBI. What can you tell them about Travis?" The boy didn't acknowledge the question.

"Jamal, I'm Special Agent Spade. I brought in Travis. What happened?" The boy stopped and focused entirely on Sam.

"You're the woman with Jack in a cast," the boy said.

"Yes, I'm Sam. I work with Jack and his foot is in a cast. What do you know about him?"

"I know that Travis had to find him. He said that Jack in a cast was the only one who could help him."

"Where's Travis?" Elena asked.

"He was so desperate; I told him where to find my clothes. They're big on him, but that's okay."

"When did he leave, Jamal?" Sam asked.

"Around seven, I guess."

"Did you give him any money or a Metro card?" Sam inquired. "No, but I gave him my subway map."

"Thanks, Jamal. You've been a big help," Sam said. "He seemed like a nice kid; I hope you find him. "

"Me too," Elena replied.

10:30 a. m.

Sam and Elena walked back into the FBI headquarters, having hit every dead end at the hospital.

"Excuse me, Agent Spade?"

Sam looked up and saw Clarence, the head of lobby security for the eight to four shift, calling to her.

"Hey, Clarence, what's up?"

"I have a young man looking for Agent Malone. His phone goes straight to voicemail. The young man also mentioned you." Sam looked beyond Clarence to see Alex almost buried in a down parka.

"Travis?" she called.

Alex looked up and smiled at her. He hurried towards her.

"You had us worried."

"Agent Sam, I need to see Jack," Alex said in a voice barely above a whisper.

"Well, let's go. This is Agent Elena, Travis."

"Hello, Travis."

"Hi, Agent Elena, you're very pretty."

"Thank you."

"Here's his badge, Agent Spade."

"Thanks, Clarence."

Sam and Elena escorted Travis to the twelfth floor. He walked out of the elevator, following the agents as they headed towards the windows. As he passed the offices, he looked in, and saw Jack sitting at his desk, facing the credenza. He opened the door and quickly walked in. Alex went up to Jack, but he didn't seem to notice him. The boy reached over and tugged at the hair above Jack's left ear.

"Ow!" he shouted.

Sitting up, he saw Alex cringing in the farthest corner of his office. Slowly Jack reached out his hand, palm up. A few moments later, Alex put his hand in Jack's. Sam and Elena walked quickly back down the hallway when they realized that Alex wasn't behind them

"I'm sorry, you surprised me and it hurt."

"I'm sorry, too."

Jack smiled and looked at Alex. He pulled him into a soft hug.

"Why did you leave the hospital?"

"I was scared."

Jack looked at the thin boy encased in a dark blue down parka three sizes too large.

"Okay, so how did you get here?"

"I walked."

"How did you know how to find me?"

"You told the doctor your name and that you worked for the FBI. I asked security where the FBI was and they told me."

"Are you hungry?"

"Yes, I'm very hungry."

"I don't think you need that coat in here. Let's go order you something to eat," Jack said, standing slowly and helping him off with his coat. He walked out into the hallway with Alex at his side and bumped into Sam and Elena on their way to the bullpen.

"Great, you found each other," Sam remarked.

"Yes, we're on our way to meet the rest of the team."

"Okay, I'm going to revisit C.P.S."

"Thanks, Sam," Jack said as they continued to walk to the bullpen.

"Hey, this is my friend Alex. He's going to be around for a while."

"Hi, Alex, I'm Danny."

"I'm Martin,"

"I'm Vivian."

"Hello. Are you all with the FBI?"

"Yes," Viv answered.

Alex fidgeted with the edge of his t-shirt.

"Where's Uncle Henry?'

"He's with the police," Jack answered.

"Is Uncle Henry in trouble?"

"Do you think he should be?" Danny asked. "Yes."

"Well then, he is," Danny confirmed.


"Alex, what would you like to eat for breakfast?" Jack asked.

"I don't know."

"Do you like pancakes? My son loves pancakes," Viv offered.

"I don't know. Uncle Henry just made food."

"What kind of food did Uncle Henry make?" Danny asked.

"Hotdogs, Pop-Tarts, cookies..."

"Have you had eggs before?" Jack asked.

"I don't know," Travis said, getting nervous with the attention.

"No problem, we'll go with Cheerios," Jack said, smiling.

"I'll fly if you buy," Danny offered, slipping on his coat.

"Thanks," Jack said, reaching into his pocket to hand Danny a twenty dollar bill.

"You want anything, Jack?"

"I'll have Cheerios, too."

"Of course."

"Let's go back to my office, okay?"

"Okay, Jack."

"I'll call C.P.S. and tell them where he is," Sam said, looking up from her computer.


"Oh, and Jack, Clarence said he tried to call you but couldn't get through."

"Right, thanks, Sam. I'll switch the ringer back on." Jack and Alex walked side by side back to Jack's office.

Alex sat quietly on the sofa. Reaching into his desk drawer, Jack pulled out a thick stack of white paper and a bag of markers. He walked to the sofa, and placed the stash on the table in front of him. The boy looked up at him with a confused look.

"These are for you to draw with. I have some work to do. I thought, while we wait for Danny, you could draw me a picture."


Jack smiled at the boy and then limped back to his desk to begin his update on Alex's case. Quickly, he lost track of everything except his computer and his report until there was a knock on the door. Danny stood with two bowls and a grin. Motioning him in, Jack stood slowly, realizing that his ankle was beginning to hurt again.

"Voila, a breakfast fit for kings and princes," Danny said with flourish.

"Thanks, Danny," Jack rumbled.

Danny left the room but stole a glance at Jack as he carefully collected Alex's drawings and set them aside. Jack tucked his tie into his shirt and sat down on the sofa to eat his cereal. Alex watched him for a moment and then followed suit.

"It's good, right?" Jack asked.

Alex nodded and took another spoonful.



"Why do you call me, Alex?"

Jack looked at him and set his bowl on the table. He swallowed and thought for a moment.

"When you were three years old, you were playing in the park near your house with your best friend, Charlie Flanagan. His babysitter was watching you both. Charlie fell and broke his arm. In the confusion, you were kidnapped. I was the FBI agent assigned to your case. Until yesterday, no one knew what happened to you. Your real name is Alexander Douglas Wood."

"Is Uncle Henry my uncle?"

"No, he isn't related to you. You have a sister, aunt, uncle, and cousins."

"He told me my mom and dad are dead."

"They passed away three years ago."

Alex brought up his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He turned his head away from Jack. Reaching out, Jack laid his hand on Alex's back, feeling the boy breathe under his touch. There was a knock on the door and Sam stuck her head in.

"Jack, C.P.S. is here."

"Thanks, I'll be there in a minute."

Sam nodded and left them alone.

Jack looked at Alex and realized that he had fallen asleep. Standing up, he moved Alex so he was lying on the sofa and covered him with his topcoat. Taking one of the markers, he wrote a note on a fresh piece of paper.


I am in the bullpen with Sam in a meeting.


He picked up the two bowls and his coffee and headed to the kitchenette. Quickly rinsing the bowls, he made a fresh cup of coffee and walked to the bullpen to find Sam.

Jack opened the door of the interrogation room and stepped inside.

"This is Special Agent Jack Malone. Jack this is Morris Cabella and Susan Ipswitch," Sam said. Jack sat at the table and took a sip of his coffee. "How is Travis?" Susan asked, referring to her file.

"Alex is asleep. He just had a bowl of cereal," Jack said, carefully. Susan narrowed her eyes and made a note on the file.

"I see, when are you taking him back to the hospital?"

"He ran away from the hospital," Sam pointed out. "Yes, but the boy needs treatment," Morris explained. Jack studied his coffee without response.

"Agent Malone, for our report, when are you taking him back to the hospital? We can't place him until he's healthy," Susan asked.

"I don't give a rat's ass about your report. There's a nine year old boy who has spent the last six years of his life with a sexual predator. What good will your reports do, now?"

"The system..." Morris began.

"The system sucks," Jack interrupted, getting to his feet and leaving the room.

"Hello," Glenn said, looking at the boy drawing at the low table. "Hi."

"Do you know where Jack Malone is?"

"He's in the bullpen with Sam," Alex replied, not looking up. "I'm Glenn Bradley."

"I'm....I'm Alexander Douglas Wood; Alex."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Alex. What are you drawing?"

"Something for Jack."

"May I see it?" Glenn asked, sitting next to him on the sofa. Alex shrugged as he continued to draw. There were four drawings; each one had a small boy and a man dressed in black. One drawing had the man dressed in black with a red S on his chest. Glenn smiled at that.

"Are you an FBI agent, too?"

"Yes, but I'm a doctor. I help the agents."

"Do you help, Jack?"

"I help everyone."


"Alex, I need to go find Jack. Nice meeting you."

"Uhm, okay, Glenn."

Glenn stood and left the boy to his drawings.

Glenn walked into the hallway and headed for the elevator. As he turned the last corner, he found Jack sitting in one of the chairs against the wall.

"Hey," Glenn greeted.


"Just saw your boy," he said, sitting next to his friend. "Is he okay?" Jack asked, sitting up straighter.

"Relax, he's fine. What's going on with you?"

"Nothing. I just walked out of a meeting with C.P.S. that's all."


"Bureaucratic BS. They wanted details for their report. They won't place him without a clean bill of health."

"What's wrong with that?"

"He ran away from the hospital; he ran to me." 'Why was he in the hospital anyway? He looks okay; skinny, but okay."

"I don't know. The doctor said he was small for his age and he has conjunctivitis."

"So he has pinkeye, big deal. Marty got it two or three times a year when he was Alex's age. You go back to the ER and get a prescription for eye drops. Then go to the store and pick up Pedialyte. That should get him balanced." Jack sighed and ran his hand over his face.


"No, Alex and I had cereal at eleven."

"It's almost one and I'm starved." Glenn said, standing. "Thanks, Glenn."

"You're welcome, Jack."

Waiting a few minutes, Jack got to his feet and walked to the bullpen, passing the now empty interrogation room.

"You okay?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry for my behaviour."

"We all have our trigger cases."

"Yeah, that we do. What decision did they come up with?" He asked, sitting at the conference table.

"First of all, they won't do anything until he has a clean bill of health."

"Yeah, I got that."

"Secondly, they want a psych evaluation."

"Of course."

"Lastly, they admitted that he'll probably remain in the system until he's eighteen." Jack stared at the table, trying to think of a solution. Finally, he stood and walked away.

Minutes later, he found himself outside Anne's office.

"Agent Malone, can I help you?"

"Hi, Patty. Is Bill Daniels around?"

"He should be. His office is the fourth on your left at the end of the hall."


Jack limped down the carpeted hallway until he came to the right office. Knocking on the glass door he waited until Bill waved him in.

"Jack Malone! How goes it in the big leagues?" Jack shook the older man's hand and sat on the brown leather chair.

"Same old, same old. How's it up here?"

"Well, you guys keep us busy. Seriously though, what can I do for you?" Jack recounted Alex's history through the last thirty six hours.

"I'm sorry, Jack. You lost me. What do you want from me?"

"I want to know what papers I need to fill out to be his temporary guardian until this all straightens out."

"Oh, sure, okay I get it. That's pretty easy. Why didn't you go to Anne?"

"Uhm, she's on a medical leave of absence."

"I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't know. I've been out of the office myself, lately. Picked up the flu from the kids. Okay, obviously I can't do this for you. Have your lawyer draw up the forms and you should be good to go."

"Thanks, Bill," Jack said, getting to his feet.

"You're welcome, Jack."

He headed out into the hallway when his phone rang.


"Someone is looking for you," Sam said.

"Put him on."


"Hey, Alex. I just finished a meeting. I'll be right down."


"See you in a few minutes."


Jack closed his phone and limped faster to the elevator. Moments later, he was back on the twelfth floor. He looked into his office, but it was empty. He continued on to the bullpen and found Alex drawing at the conference table. Sam was at her desk, but the other agents were absent.



"Can I see what you're drawing?" Jack asked, sitting next to him. The boy shrugged and continued to draw.

"That's great. Is that you?"

Alex nodded.

"Who's that?" Jack asked, pointing to the larger figure. "You."

"Where are we?"


Sam wiped a tear that started down her cheek, not meaning to eavesdrop.

"Jack?" Alex asked.


"My eyes itch."

Jack looked at him intently.

"Okay, mister, we need to get this taken care of, pronto. Sam, where's the rest of the team?"

"Danny and Martin are heading to the Bronx. They might have found the janitor. Viv and Elena are on a call to Staten Island; missing grandfather."

"Can you handle things? I want to take Alex back to N.Y.U. to get drops for his eyes."

"I don't want to go to the hospital."

"But you're not going to stay at the hospital. I'll be with you. Okay?"

"Okay, Jack."

"I need to talk to Sam for a few minutes. Would you take your drawings to my office and maybe go wash your hands?" Alex gathered his pens and papers and walked towards Jack's office.

Jack turned to look at Sam.

"I'm going to seek temporary guardianship of Alex."


"I have to, Sam. He has no one to protect him."

"You have always been a knight," Sam said, touching his cheek.

"Thanks, I've missed that," He replied, covering her hand with his. He took her hand and held it tightly.

"I'll call in but I'm probably gone for the day."

"Don't forget to get him some clothes. The Gap is on Fifth and 19th, I think."

"Right, thanks."

"You're welcome."

Jack limped back to his office and walked in. "Ready?"

Alex nodded as Jack handed him his coat. Putting on his own topcoat, Jack held the door open for Alex. They walked to the elevator and waited. "Jack?"


"Why do you have a cast?"

"I was in an accident," Jack said, guiding him to the elevator.

"What kind of accident?"

They walked across the lobby.

"It happened at work."

Jack hailed a taxi and they got into the back seat. "Did it hurt?"

"Yeah, Alex, it hurt a lot. It still hurts sometimes." Fifteen minutes later, they walked into the ER and checked in with the nurse.

"He left the hospital this morning, AMA. We're here to get drops for his eyes. Is Dr. Jenkins on duty?"

"Yes, Alex Ford you said? There's a Travis Ford."

"My name is Alex. I was called Travis by my Uncle Henry," Alex said solemnly. Jack put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.

"All right. Have a seat and I'll page Dr. Jenkins."

"Thanks," Jack said, leading Alex to a chair. While they waited, he looked at the boy.



"Do you want to stay with me for a while until we can figure this all out?"


"Ah, the escape artist returns. You had us worried," Dr. Jenkins said, walking up to them.

"I think Alex's eyes are getting worse."

"Okay, let's get you into a curtained area." Jack took Alex's hand and they followed Dr. Jenkins.

"Conjunctivitis is annoying but it's not serious. I'll give Alex drops and then you need to continue every four hours."

"A friend of mine recommended Pedialyte to help balance Alex's electrolytes."

"Yeah, that's good stuff. He looks better already. Alex, what have you eaten today?" Alex looked at Jack.

"You know. You remember the name."

"Jack and I had Cheerios."

"Good for you. I love Cheerios. Okay, Alex, just tilt your head back. Perfect. Okay, we're done. Jack, here's the prescription. You can fill it out here or when you get home."

"Thanks, Dr. Jenkins. Okay Alex, off to the drugstore and then the GAP."

"What's the GAP?"

"It's a clothing store. You can't wear what you have on for the rest of your life."

"Oh, okay."

5:00 p. m.

Jack unlocked the outside door to his apartment building and ushered Alex in.

"I live on the third floor. Can you carry this bag? I need one hand on the railing."

"Okay, Jack."

They headed up the stairs and finally reached the apartment. Jack unlocked the door and walked in, setting his bags on the floor, and turning on lights as he went further. He turned around and saw Alex standing in the doorway.

"Are you all right? Come on in."

Alex took a step in and looked around him his gaze locked on the photos of Hanna and Kate on the wall. Jack moved the bags out of the way and walked up to him. "May I close the door?"

Alex looked behind and took another step deeper into the apartment.

"Would you like to see your room?"

Slowly, Alex nodded his head. Jack offered his hand and led Alex to the guest room. He turned on the light and took the shopping bag from the boy, setting it on one of the twin beds.

"Give me your coat and you can start putting your clothes into that dresser. There's a pair of scissors in the night stand."

Alex took off his coat and handed it to Jack, who went back out into the hallway. He hung up Alex's coat and then his own, carefully remembering to take the eyedrops from his pocket. He took his gun and put it on the shelf with his badge. Tugging at his tie, he unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt before picking up the other two shopping bags and heading back to the guest room. Alex was sitting on the bed, the bag untouched.

"Is there something wrong?"

"I don't get it."

"Oh, I'm sorry. First, take all of your new clothes out of the bags," Jack instructed gently, walking to the nightstand to retrieve the small set of scissors. When he turned around, he saw the mound of clothes, including a pair of Merrell hiking shoes.

"Now find the paper tag on your p.j.s. Yes, that's right, and cut it off. Make sure you find all the plastic bits. Great, now fold the p.j.s and put them in the top drawer. Got the idea?"

"Yes, I got it."

"Okay, I'm going to change out of my suit and start to make dinner. When you're done, come into the kitchen." Alex nodded as he carefully searched a shirt for its tag.

Jack smiled and went into his bedroom. He took off his suit and hung it in the closet. His tie went on the tie rack, his shirt in the dry-cleaning bag. Pulling on a t-shirt and sweats, he limped to the kitchen and picked up the small bag of groceries. The grape Pedialyte went into the fridge and the Cheerios stayed on the counter. Putting a pot of water on the stove to boil, Jack poured himself a scotch, cutting it with seltzer. He put the spaghetti sauce in a dish and set it in the microwave. Pulling out the forks, spoons and napkins, he set the dining room table, when he heard a noise behind him.

"Would you like some juice?"

"Yes, please."

"Have a seat," Jack said, pointing to the stools at the breakfast bar. Alex climbed onto the stool and watched Jack's every move. "Are you hungry?" he asked, handing the boy a glass of Pedialyte.

"A little."

"You need your eye drops," Jack said, removing the top from the small bottle. Alex tilted his head back as Jack administered the medicine. Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Alex took another sip of his juice. Jack glanced at the water, seeing only a few bubbles on the bottom of the pan. He sipped his drink and yawned.

"You should take a nap, Jack."

"Yeah, maybe I will," Jack replied, wincing when he moved his cast foot in a different way.

"Jack, are you okay?"

"Yeah, kiddo, I'm fine."

"It just hurts sometimes, right?"


Jack took a bag of Italian cut green beans from the freezer and put them in another bowl with a little bit of water. Covering it, he set it aside, looking at the water again; more bubbles but not enough for pasta.

"Alex, what do you like to do?"

"I like playing Gameboy and watching TV."

"What programs do you like on TV?"

"I like animal programs."

"Me too, I like the Discovery Channel. I have cable. Just hit the FAV button and only my favorite channels will show." Alex nodded.

Jack looked at the water for the pasta and saw that it had almost reached a full boil. He put in the pasta and set the timer for five minutes. Walking out of the kitchen, he turned on the television and changed the audio source to the TV before handing the controller to Alex.

"Here you go. We have fifteen minutes until dinner."


Jack smiled and took a sip of his drink. Alex settled on Animal Planet, laughing at the antics of the show's host.

Jack continued to cook until everything was settled. "Okay, Alex, television off, please. Dinner is ready." Alex turned off the TV and sat at the table with his drink. His eyes lit up when he saw the plate full of food.

"Dig in," Jack suggested as he started to eat. Alex paused for a moment and then started to eat as well. Once, he looked up at Jack and smiled.

The dinner went quickly in silence. Alex was tired, yawning occasionally.

"Why don't you take a shower? There are clean towels ready for you and shampoo and so on."

"Okay, Jack," Alex said, leaving his empty plate at the table. Jack sighed and took the dirty dishes to the sink. He washed and dried them. Pulling a bowl from the cabinet, he took the Cheerios box and set it within Alex's reach. Then he refreshed his drink before picking up the phone and dialing a familiar number.


"Hi, Hanna, it's Dad."

"Hi, Dad. How are you?"

"I'm fine, thanks. How are things with you?"

"We had a snow day on Wednesday; no school. My teachers are nice but there's a lot of homework."

"Are you playing any sports?"

"No, Dad. Soccer ended and I don't have time with school. Look, Kate's here and wants to talk to you."

"Okay, honey, put her on."

"Hi, Daddy."

"Hi, honey, how are you?"

"I miss you, Daddy. I'm going to be in a dance recital next Friday. Are you coming out for it?"

"No, Kate, I'm sorry. I didn't know and now I can't reschedule. I hope to be out in three weeks."

"Oh, that's okay, Daddy. I'll tell Mom to send you photos, okay?"

"Please, sweetheart that would be great. Is Mom around?"

"No, she's out with Paul."

"Are you alone?"

"No, Daddy, Alison is here. She's in high school."

"Okay, okay great. Well, Kate, I love you and your sister. Take care and I'll see you soon."

"Bye, Daddy. I love you too."

Jack hung up the phone. He listened and the shower was still running so he placed another call.

"St. Germaine's."

"Father Walker, please, Jack Malone calling."

"Certainly, one moment."


"Sean, I was wondering if you were free for lunch," Jack started before launching into Alex's history.

"Jack, I am free for lunch with you and your young friend. I'll try to have one of the boys available for Alex to talk to."

"Well, I'm not sure that he'll ask anything, but maybe a tour, that might be good."

"Sure, Jack, it won't be a problem."

"Thanks, Sean. I'll see you tomorrow."

"You're welcome, Jack."

Jack hung up the phone and heard the door of the bathroom open. Picking up the eye drops, he stood and followed Alex down the hall.

"I think you should go to bed, but I wanted to show you something." Alex put his dirty clothes on a chair and turned to face Jack.

"There's a lock on the door. I understand if you want to use it. I don't have a key. Let me get the spare blankets, in case you get cold." Jack opened the other dresser drawer and pulled out several red wool blankets. He set them on the edge of the bed.

"Eye drop time." Alex leaned his head back and Jack gave him his drops.

"Do you need anything else?" Jack asked as the boy got into bed. "Do you have a nightlight?"

Jack thought for a minute. He walked to the closet and opened the door. Tugging on the string from the light socket, the light turned on. Keeping the door open, he turned off the room lights. He shut the door to one quarter.

"How's that? You can always open it a little more or less and there's some light coming in from the street."

"Thank you, Jack."

"Good night, Alex."

"Good night."

Jack left the room and closed the door, hearing the unmistakable snick of the lock closing. He smiled slightly and headed back to the kitchen to refresh his drink. Once done, he sat on the sofa and turned the TV on to the History Channel, losing himself in a documentary of the B17 bomber.

11:00 p. m.

Jack was alerted by a noise from the guest room. He limped as quickly as he could and stood outside the door.

"Alex, are you okay?"

"Yeah," a soft voice surrounded by sniffles replied.

"I always give my girls hot chocolate when they have bad dreams. Would you like some hot chocolate?"


"Okay, come to the kitchen when you're ready." Jack was met with silence. He limped back to the kitchen to heat up some Parmelat. He pulled a container of Dean & DeLuca's cocoa from the cabinet and followed the directions. Soon after, he heard a noise behind him. He turned slowly, seeing the tears still fresh on the young boy's face.

"Want a hug?"

Alex nodded, holding his arms out. Jack leaned over and picked him up easily.

"Want to talk about it?"

Alex shook his head and continued to hold on to Jack.

"Okay, we'll just wait for the milk to heat."

A few minutes later, the milk started to simmer and Jack set the boy down. He poured the milk onto the cocoa and stirred it. He carried the mug to the sofa in the living room and Alex followed. Jack set it on the coffee table.

"Here's your cocoa. It's hot, so be careful."

Alex nodded, picking the mug up in two hands. Jack sipped his drink and changed the channel to the Animal Planet. The Crocodile Hunter was on and Alex was enraptured. Thirty minutes later, Alex had finished his cocoa and was asleep. Jack picked him up easily and took him to his room. Tucking him in carefully, Jack looked around the room, making sure the closet was open and the light was on. Satisfied, he left Alex to sleep and walked back to the kitchen. Topping off his drink, Jack sat on the sofa and returned his attention to Animal Planet.

Saturday 1:00 a. m.

Jack woke up and noticed that Animal Planet was now playing an Infomercial on the benefits of the Thighmaster. He finished his drink and turned off the television. Shutting off the rest of the lights in the apartment, he went to his bedroom, leaving the door slightly ajar. He changed into pajama bottoms and a t-shirt and got into bed. Turning off the light, he rolled over on his side and fell asleep.

6:30 a. m.

Jack woke up from his nightmare, sitting upright in bed, wheezing as he fought for breath. Pulling his hands from his face, he opened his eyes and saw Alex standing at the foot of the bed. "You have bad dreams, too?"

"Yeah, I have bad dreams sometimes. Why don't you get your breakfast while I take a shower? I left everything out for you."

"Good, I'm hungry," Alex said, turning around and leaving the room. Jack smiled and got out of bed. He stripped off his clothes and stepped into the hot shower, feeling the tensions from his nightmare fade. Deciding not to shave, he cut short his shower after lathering and rinsing twice. He stepped out, toweled off, and put on a clean pair of shorts, jeans, and a dark grey shirt, untucked. Putting on sock and tennis shoe, he made his bed before walking into the guest room to make Alex's, as well. He pulled out a pillow case and put the dirty clothes he found stacked on the chair in it. Walking out into the living room, he smiled when he saw Alex sitting on the sofa, eating his cereal and watching cartoons. Jack walked into the kitchen and made a decision not to grind beans for his coffee, instead opting for some of Anne's French Roast that she had ground at Porto Rico, the coffee store in the West Village. While the water processed through the coffee-maker, he put a piece of bread in the toaster. Five minutes later, he joined Alex on the sofa, putting the mug and plate on the table.

"Eye drop time, Alex." Alex put his bowl on the table and leaned back for Jack to apply the medication.

"There you go. I have some errands to run today and I was wondering if you wanted to go with me."


They finished their breakfasts and Alex helped to dry the dishes. Grabbing his coat, phone, wallet, and Metro Card, Jack waited for Alex to put on his coat. Unlocking the door, he ushered Alex into the hallway before walking out, himself. He closed the door and locked it while Alex slowly started down the stairs. Twenty minutes later, they walked into Sal's on the lower east side, off of Mulberry Street.

"Jack, long time no see," a white haired man said, walking up to him.

"Yeah, Sal. I'm looking a little scruffy, I think."

"So what would you like today; regular haircut?"

"And a shave, I think."

"Of course. Who is this young man? I think he needs a haircut too."

"Sal, this is my friend, Alex. He's staying with me for a while."

"Hello, Alex," Sal said, offering his hand.

"Hi," Alex replied, shaking it shyly.

"Alex, would you mind going first? Your haircut is going to take some time."

"What is it going to look like?"

"Just like Jack's but more spiked, if that's okay with you."

"Sounds cool, Alex."

"Cool, okay."

Jack helped Alex off with his coat and hung his up, as well. He stood within eyesight of Alex as Sal got him settled in the chair.

"When was your last haircut, Alex?"

"Last summer, I think."

"Looks like you have your work cut out for you, Sal."

"I think so. Did your mother cut your hair?"

"No, my Uncle Henry."

"So, you're never been to a barber before."


"Okay, here's what we're going to do. Your hair is clean, so I'm just going to spray it with water, so it's easier to cut."

"Now, I'm going to cut the real bulk of hair before we fine tune it. Just try to keep your head still while I'm cutting." Alex looked nervously at Jack, who smiled, trying to reassure him. Twenty minutes later, Alex was done. His haircut was perfect and he was very happy to get out of the chair.

"Your turn."

Jack smiled as Sal swept the hair from around the chair. He sat down and looked at Alex. The boy looked more fragile than before without the benefit of greasy hair covering his face. "Haircut first, Jack," Sal asked as he put the cape over his chest, fastening it in the back.


Sal wet Jack's hair and started to cut. Twenty minutes later, he was done. Sal adjusted the chair and Jack shifted to get comfortable. Closing his eyes, he relaxed when he felt the hot towel on his face. He almost smiled at the feeling of the shaving brush as it passed over his stubble. Hearing Sal strop the blade, he also heard a noise from Alex.

"It's all right, Alex. This is how you get a shave in a barber shop. It doesn't hurt at all."

"Well, most of the time, eh Jack?"

Alex looked at the barber suspiciously and watched Jack get his shave. Sal was very methodical and fluid in his movements. When he was done, he adjusted the chair so Jack could get up easily, and removed the cape.

"Great, thanks, Sal. What do I owe you?"

"Forty for you, thirty for Alex, and ten for the shave." Jack pulled out his wallet and handed him five twenties.

"Keep the change, Sal. See you in a couple of weeks."

"Sure, you bet, Jack. Nice meeting you, Alex."

"Bye, Sal."

"Bye, Alex."

They walked out onto the street and Jack checked his watch. It was almost ten thirty.

"I need to get to a bank, and then we can head uptown."

Alex nodded as they walked together towards the Eighth St. Station. A Chase bank was on the corner, so they went in to use the ATM. Alex watched as Jack removed money from his savings account. Finished, they headed into the subway for their trip to St. Germaine's. As it was a Saturday, the subway was running on the local track and it took more than a half an hour to reach their destination. After climbing the several staircases to the street, Jack paused to catch his breath. He pointed to a park bench and they walked together and sat down. It was cold, but not freezing.

"Alex, I know your Uncle Henry home-schooled you, but it's important that you continue with your education. I'm not trained to teach you. But I want to introduce you to some people who are."


Jack stood and started the short walk to the church. Alex walked closely at his side. As he started up the stairs, Jack noticed that Alex wasn't next to him. He turned and saw the boy still on the sidewalk staring up at the building. Carefully, Jack limped down and offered a hand. Alex took it, and they walked up the stairs together. Opening the door, Jack escorted Alex in. They stood in the back of the church and observed. The organist was rehearsing something quietly, not using the entire force of the organ. There was a smell of incense in the air and at that moment, the pale winter sun came out and filtered through the ornate stained glass windows on the south side. Looking to his left, Jack saw the holy water and quickly dipped his hand and crossed himself. Reaching out a hand for Alex, they walked down the north aisle. They entered the sacristy and then found themselves outside Sean's office. Jack knocked on the door and they walked in. Father Sean looked up and saw a familiar face. He stood and his cassock fell into place. The silver cross made a small thump noise against his chest. Walking from behind his desk, he embraced Jack. Alex moved to the side.

"Sean, this is Alex Wood," Jack said, moving to take off his coat.

"Hello, Alex," Sean said, reaching out his hand. Slowly, Alex extended his arm and felt the smooth hand of the priest.

"Please, sit down," Sean invited.

Jack reached over and helped Alex with his coat before they sat in the two chairs in front of Sean's desk. Sitting down himself, Sean looked at the two people facing him.

"Jack tells me that you were home-schooled." Alex nodded.

"Can you read?"

"Yes," Alex replied softly.

"How about math? Do you know your multiplication tables and your fractions?"

"I don't know."

There was a light knock on the door.

"Come in," Sean replied.

A young, serious looking boy walked in and stood just behind Alex. He was dressed in grey pants and a blue sweater with the insignia of St. Germaine's over his left breast.

"Hello, Terry. This is Jack Malone and his friend, Alex Wood."

"Hello, Mr. Malone. Hi, Alex."

"Hello, Terry," Jack said.

"Hi," Alex said softly.

"Terry, why don't you take Alex on a tour of the church?"

"Okay. Come on, Alex."

Alex looked at Jack.

"It's all right. I'll be here with Father Walker."

Alex stood up and followed Terry out of the room.

"He seems a little behind. Certainly, his interaction with others was controlled in his home," Sean commented.

"Yeah, I just hope he can grow into a normal kid." They were interrupted by the door flying open and Alex running into the room in tears.

"Hey, buddy, what's wrong, what happened?" Jack asked, holding the child tightly. Terry ran into the room and stood stock still.

"Terry, what happened?" Sean asked sternly, standing behind his desk.

"He wanted to see the confessionals. Alex went into number four, pulled the door shut and a few seconds later tried to open the door. Then he started to yell and pound on the door. It took a little time to jiggle the door handle."

"Number four has a bad door latch," Sean explained to Jack.

"Alex is scared of the dark," Jack answered, pulling the boy into a deeper hug.

"I'm sorry, Alex," Terry said, softly.

"You're okay, Alex. Why don't we all go on a tour of the church and discover the mysteries together?" Jack suggested.

"That's a good idea. Terry, you'll walk with Jack and I'll follow behind with Alex," Sean said. Alex pulled away from Jack and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Sean walked around his desk and held his hand out to Alex. Jack nodded and got to his feet. He followed Terry out of the office and into the hallway.

"Can you show me the organ, Terry?"

"Yes, Mr. Malone, follow me," Terry replied, seriously.

Forty minutes later the group arrived at the cafeteria.

"Soup and sandwiches. There's salad but I find it pretty boring," Terry announced.

"Sounds great to me," Jack said, now standing next to Alex, encouraging him to move forward into the line.

"Why don't you start, Jack?" Sean recommended seeing Alex's reluctance.

"Sure," Jack said, picking up the tray and then entering the line. They chose their sandwiches and soup. Alex found Jack's Jell-O very funny, and laughed whenever it moved. Aside from that, lunch was quiet, although Jack tried to engage the group in small talk. Finally, it was the end of the meal. They walked back to Sean's office to collect their coats.

"Thanks, Sean. I'll be in touch."

"Any word from Anne?"

"No, not yet."

"Good to meet you, Alex. I hope you come to school here," Terry said honestly.

"Uhm, thank you," Alex said, moving closer to Jack. "Bye," Jack said, holding his hand out to Sean.

"Not good enough," Sean said, stepping in to embrace him. "He's a good boy. Stick with it," Sean whispered into his ear. Jack nodded and then straightened. He slid his hand onto Alex's shoulder and they left the office.

As they left St. Germaine's, Jack turned his phone on. It chirped as he squinted at the screen; three missed calls, two voice messages. They continued to walk toward the subway as he entered his password.

"Hi, Jack. It's me. I just read the first letter-" Anne's voice cut off as Jack closed his phone. He couldn't listen to her message while he was walking down the street with Alex. Jack felt Alex's hand in his and looked down at him, smiling, as they carefully negotiated the stairs into the subway.

Thirty minutes later, they were walking up to street level. Jack looked at his watch. It was only quarter past two, but he was tired.

"Come on, I have an idea," he said to Alex, laying a guiding hand on his shoulder.

They walked into K-Mart and followed the signs to the electronics department. Behind the glass of a cabinet, a row of Gameboys rested safely on a shelf. Alex stood, transfixed, while Jack scanned the area for a sales person. After a few moments, he caught the eye of a young man with multiple piercings.

"Can I help you?" the young man, whose nametag read Dante, asked.

"Yes. Alex, which Gameboy do you want?" Alex looked at him and then back to the Gameboys.

"The blue one is the latest model," Dante commented. Slowly, Alex raised his hand and pointed to a red unit on the right.

"Good choice. That's the Advance," Dante said, pulling a set of keys from his pocket. Alex stepped back as Dante opened the cabinet door to remove the packaged Gameboy. He handed the box to Jack, who again extended his hand to guide Alex to move towards the cash register.

"Wait, what game cartridge do you want?"

"Wind Waker," Alex said with some authority.

"We have that in stock I think. I'll bring it to the cashier."

Jack touched his shoulder and the boy flinched, heading to the door. Following him, Jack limped up to the first available clerk. He pulled out his wallet and handed the girl his credit card. Alex fidgeted, moving further and further away from Jack. Finally, the clerk handed him the receipt and he gathered up the bag. When he turned, Alex wasn't in his sight. Then he located the boy standing outside next to a mailbox. Walking out of the store, he handed the bag to him.

"You okay?"

Alex nodded. Jack started walking towards the apartment and Alex fell into step slightly behind him. It was a silent passage. When they walked into the apartment twenty minutes later, Alex stood in the living room by the window, staring at Jack.

"Alex, I'm going to make some phone calls from my bedroom. Do you need help getting your Gameboy up and running?"

"I need batteries."

"Bottom right desk drawer," Jack said over his shoulder as he hung up his coat. He turned to see Alex pulling out a package of Duracells and then sitting on the sofa, concentrating on opening the box. Jack sighed and looked at the answering machine. There were three messages. He pressed <play> and picked up a pen to make notes. "Jack, it's Glenn. Call my cell."

<Saturday 11:30am> the machine said.

"Malone, it's Tyler. Just checking in." <Saturday 11:45am> the machine said.

"Hi, I'll try your cell."

<Saturday 12:00pm> the machine said.

He went into the kitchen and poured himself a scotch to give him courage for his phone calls. At the same time, he poured a glass of Pedialyte for Alex. He set his glass next to the phone and carried Alex's glass to him, setting it on the coffee table. Alex was so absorbed in the handheld game that he didn't acknowledge him. Jack picked up his glass and walked to his bedroom, shutting the door behind him. Sitting on the bed, he took off his tennis shoe and sat back against the pillows. A headache had started to build over his right eye. He took a sip of his drink and then started to retrieve the messages from his cell phone. "Hi, Jack. It's me. I just read the first letter. I'm so sorry; I had no idea that you were so upset. I love you and-" <Press seven to delete or nine to save. Next message.> "Agent Malone, this is Susan Ipswitch of CPS. I understand that Alex Wood is staying with you. This is highly unusual. Please call me at 212-555-6324 to discuss the situation." <Press seven to delete or nine to save. Next message.> "Agent Malone, this is Dan Wesson. I'm the child psychologist assigned by CPS to evaluate Alex Wood. Please call me to set up an appointment for him. I'm at 917-555-4232." <Press seven to delete or nine to save.> Jack took another sip of his drink and looked at the pad in front of him with the notes of his phone calls. He picked up the land line and dialed Glenn. "Glenn Bradley."

"It's Jack."

"Jack, great, hey, thanks for calling back. Have you heard from Anne?"

"Yeah, a brief message on my cell phone."

"Oh, I see."

"She said she'd call tonight."

"Good. How are you bachelors doing?"

"Okay, I guess. I took him to get a haircut and then we went up and had lunch with Sean."

"How did that go?"

"I think he liked the church. It was pretty evident from his behaviour that he had never been to a church before."

"That makes sense."

"I took him to K-Mart and bought him a Gameboy. Ever since, he's been acting very weird. He's barely said two words and when he looks at me he looks scared."

"I would guess that his kidnapper used gifts like that and expected something in return."

"Damn. Why didn't I see that?"

"Where is he now?"

"In the living room with the Gameboy."

"You need to talk to him."

"Yeah, you're right. I'll talk to you later."

"Bye, Jack."


Jack put the phone back in the cradle and took another sip of his drink. Slowly he stood and walked out into the living room. Alex was standing at the window. His Gameboy and drink were on the coffee table. "Hi."

Alex turned around quickly.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to say that I bought you the Gameboy because you said you liked to play it. You said it made you happy. That's all I want from you; for you to be happy."

"Okay," Alex replied in a soft voice.

"I'm really tired and I've got a killer headache. I'm going to take a nap," Jack said turning to go back to his bedroom. He reached his bedroom and shut the door. Opening the window wider he lay back on the bed and closed his eyes.

"Jack, wake up, please?"

Jack woke up and looked at the clock; seven twenty. "Hey, Alex, what's up?"

"I'm sorry, Jack, but there's no more milk. I'm hungry. I was gonna have Cheerios but there's no milk."

"Sorry, champ. Let me pull myself together and we'll walk down to M & Ds, okay?"

"Okay," Alex said, leaving him alone for a moment. Jack sighed and slowly sat up. His headache was gone but he was still tired. Slipping on his tennis shoe, he stood and then walked into the hallway. Jack felt the pocket of his trousers and felt nothing. He looked for his wallet and took out thirty dollars in case Alex found something else he had to have. Picking up his house keys, he gestured to Alex and they were out the door. It was cold out and he regretted not putting on a coat. Luckily, Alex was in his brand new heavyweight sweat shirt and seemed comfortable. They walked down Sullivan Street and turned east towards Thompson. The deli was crowded; it always seemed that way due to its design. Jack led Alex to the refrigerated unit that had dairy in it. Just as he reached for the container of milk, it exploded. A split second later, Alex was shoved into Jack, who felt an excruciating pain in his left hip and then nothing.

Jack woke up in a dark room. A machine to his left beeped passively. As he remembered, the speed of his breathing increased. Suddenly, the door to the nurse's station opened and a figure entered. A hand rested softly on his chest. "Jack, take it easy. You're okay. I'm Peter, the night nurse. Just relax."

"Where am I?"

"You're at St. Vincent's."

"Where's Alex?"

"I don't know. But I'll find out. It's four in the morning, Jack. Just relax for a moment. I'll be right back." Jack watched the door open and then close. He tried to sit up and realized that he was restrained. He started hyperventilating again and the machines kept up. Ten minutes later, the door opened again and two people walked in. "Jack, I'm Susan McBride. I'm your doctor. I need to examine you. Just relax."

Half an hour later, the door opened again. Jack couldn't make out the figure, silhouetted by the bright hallway light, but as it approached, he smiled against the pain as he recognized the shampoo. "Hi, Sam."

"Hi, yourself," she said after kissing him on his forehead. "How's Alex?"

Sam turned her face away from him.

"Sam, what's wrong? What's happened?"

"Jack, why are you in the hospital?" she countered. "I walked in on a holdup at the deli with Alex."

"No. You left the office on Thursday after our meeting with Alex's aunt and uncle. You insisted on taking a cab home, which was then hit by a New York Times delivery truck. It slammed the taxi into a light post. FDNY spent almost three hours getting you out." He closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. "Okay, then what day is it?"


"So I've been here, what, a day?"

"No Jack, eleven days. You've were in a coma for nine days. Yesterday, you came close to waking. Your doctor said you've just been sleeping since then." Jack took a breath and leveled his gaze on Sam. "Where's Alex?"

"He's dead, Jack. The blood work came back. He had Reye's Syndrome. He was too sick for the doctors to save him," Sam said, as tears started down her cheeks. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to come to terms with this apparent reality. Jack's blood pressure started to rise again. Sam reached for the call button as Susan reentered the room swiftly, syringe in hand. Quickly she injected him and he relaxed. "What happened?"

"He didn't remember the truth. I had to tell him."

"Do you want to stay here?" Susan asked. "Please," Sam said, sitting in the chair by the bed. "I can't tell you how long he'll sleep. Physically, he's ready to go home. It's up to him."

"I understand, thanks, Susan."

"You're welcome, Sam."

Suddenly, Sam and Jack were alone. His pale face seemed to show more stress than usual. She brushed his hair back off of his forehead, smiling at the thought that he needed a haircut.

Sunday 1:00 p. m.

Jack woke up slowly, trying to take in his surroundings. The room was bright with sunlight streaming in through the window. He heard the soft beep of a monitor and saw that he was alone. Minutes later, the door opened and Sam walked in with a cup of coffee. "Hi," she offered.

"Hi," he said, not looking at her eyes; not trusting his emotions yet. "You're allowed to go home."

Jack was silent, trying to make sense of what Sam had told him when he had awakened before. "Hey, are you okay?"

"Hmm? Yeah, I'm sorry, just trying to figure this all out," he said, shifting to get comfortable. "How long have you been here?"

"We split it up. Viv comes over when she can during the day and then the boys and I are on call at night."

"You should go home. I'm okay."

"Jack, are you sure? I'm more than happy with-"

"Sam, please, I'll be fine. You look exhausted. Please." Sam looked at him closely and finally relented. "I do need to do laundry."

Sam leaned over and kissed Jack on the cheek. "I'll check in on you tomorrow."

"Thanks again, Sam."



The door closed and Jack sighed. He turned on the television to see what time it was. Muting the volume, he shifted slightly and fell asleep.

5:30 p. m.

Jack woke up and pressed the call button. A different nurse entered the room. "Yes, Jack?"

"I feel like going home."

"You'll need to speak to your doctor about your discharge. I'll go see who's on call."

"Thank you."

Slowly Jack got to his feet. He walked to the closet and opened it. There weren't any clothes. It was then that he looked at his feet and realized his plaster cast was missing. Now, a lighter fiberglass cast was on his left ankle. "Jack?"

He turned to face a new doctor.

"I'm Dave Smitz, I work with Susan. I understand from Sally that you would like to check out now?"

"Yes, please, Dr. Smitz. I need to go home."

"Let me just double check the chart," he answered while reading the paper in front of him "Yes, that's all right, Jack. You're going to be in pain for a while, so she suggests just Aleve; not a prescription pain killer. Susan also recommends seeing a psychologist."

"Is that it?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Then I'll need some clothes," Jack said, with a small smile.

Thirty minutes later in a set of scrubs and booties, as his shoe was lost at the scene, carrying his bag of personal belongings, Jack walked out to catch a cab. "Sullivan and Bleeker. Do me a favor, don't set a speed record."

"You got it, buddy," the driver responded as he slowly drove down Seventh Avenue. Fifteen minutes later, they arrived on the corner. Jack paid the driver and walked back to his apartment. Slowly, he walked up the stairs, finally putting the key in the door. He shut it behind him, hearing the lock engage. He took off his coat, set his personal items on the leather chair, and headed straight for the bedroom. Not stopping to remove his booties, he crawled onto the bed and fell asleep.

Monday 8:15 a. m.

Jack woke up to hunger pangs and a headache. He got up and went into the bathroom. Shaking out three Aleve tablets, he swallowed them with water. His stomach growled again as he reached into the shower to turn on the water. He stripped his clothes off and when it was hot enough, he stepped in. Ten minutes later, he dried off and put on fresh clothes. Walking into the kitchen, he opened the cabinet and took out a can of Progresso soup. Opening it, he poured it into a glass bowl, covered it with Saran wrap, and placed it in the microwave. Setting the timer, he pressed <start>. He poured a scotch and added two ice cubes. Taking a sip, he noticed the message light blinking on the machine. Sighing, he pressed a button. "Dad, it's Hanna. You missed your call last night. Call us!" <Saturday 12:00pm> the machine said.

"Jack, it's Maria. Please call the kids." <Saturday 7pm> the machine said.

"Jack, it's me. Vivian called. Please call us when you get out of the hospital." <Sunday 8am> the machine said.

"Malone, call me when you get this."

<Sunday 6 pm> the machine said.

Jack paused the machine and took a sip of his drink before writing down the list of who had called so far. He wrote Tyler's name and the day he called and then hit the button again. "Jack, I was just at the hospital and found that you checked yourself out. Call me." <Sunday 6:30pm> the machine said.

He added Sam's name to the list.

"Jack, please call me."

<Sunday 6:45pm> the machine said.

He underlined Viv's name on the list. The next four phone calls were hang-ups. Erasing the messages, he took a sip of his drink. The front door buzzer sounded. He stood and walked carefully to the panel by the door. "Yeah?"

"Jack, it's Glenn. Can I come up?"

"Yeah, okay, third floor." Jack replied, pressing first the talk, then the listen, and then the door button. Unlocking the door and leaving it slightly ajar, Jack picked up his drink and sat on the sofa. He was tired and rattled. Minutes later, he heard Glenn entering the apartment. The microwave beeped loudly. "Hey, I'm sorry, am I disturbing something?"

"No, I'm just heating some soup," Jack replied, getting up to walk to the kitchen. Glenn surveyed his patient.

"You look wiped out. I brought you some information on the accident and on Alex. I doubt you have the energy to go through it right now, but I'll leave it here," Glenn said, setting a manila envelope on the coffee table. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

Jack shifted slightly, taking a spoonful of soup and looked up at Glenn. "Do you know anything about Anne?"

Glenn took a breath and then sighed.

"When I was informed of the accident, I called her doctor. She decided not to tell her until we knew more about you."

"Sam said my physical injuries were minor."

"Yes, but the concussion was serious, especially in light of the past two months." Jack set his unfinished soup down and walked to the window.

"Have you called her doctor since I left?"

"Yes, when Sam called me last night, I called her. I haven't heard anything back yet, but I told her about your letters. If they're ready, I can take them now." Jack turned to look at Glenn and then limped to his desk. He grasped the large overfilled folder and handed it to him.

"Great, look I'll have my secretary make copies before I send up the originals, tomorrow." Nodding, Jack went back to the window. Moving to the door, Glenn noticed Jack's list of phone calls.

"You should call Tyler. He's been calling Vivian daily." Jack simply nodded again, looking out at the street below. A light snow had started to fall in a stiff wind, causing it to almost fall sideways.

"Do you want to talk?" Glenn asked, taking a step towards him. Jack sighed and turned around, leaning against the wall.

"Talk? No, I don't want to talk. I want to sleep; sleep and forget the nightmare of the last ten days." Glenn paused, trying to judge Jack's body language.

"I'll call you tomorrow."

Jack looked at the floor.

Glenn walked to the door and then turned to look at his patient. "I'm worried about you."

"I'm fine."

"I wish I were that sure," Glenn said softly before walking into the hallway. Jack walked to the door and closed it, turning the lock. He retrieved his drink and refreshed it before finishing his cold soup. He had lied to Glenn about wanting to sleep. That was the last thing he wanted to do since the nightmares had returned. He picked up the phone and dialed. "Simpson," a gravelly voice answered.


"Morning, Jack. I'm sorry I'm not there with you. I'm in Seattle on a case. How're you doing?"

"I feel like my life just got turned upside down; the reality that I thought was, just isn't. I don't know what to think or feel right now. Physically, I'm beat up from a car accident, but my brain says it's from a bullet. Mentally, I guess my brain took a vacation and created an entire week. God, I wish you were here right now."

"I know you do, man. I can't leave this case. It's bad here, Jack, and I may be the only one who can catch this guy. Have you called the girls?"

"No, not yet. They'll be in school soon. I'll try tonight."

"What about Annie?

"I don't know anything except that her doctor didn't tell her I was in a car accident."

"Where is she?"

"I assume still at the facility."

"Jack, I'm sorry to cut this short, but I have to get some more sleep. Maybe you should call Sean?"

"Sorry for waking you. Thanks for listening."

"You're welcome. Take care. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Right, you, too."



Jack hung up the phone and sighed. He took a sip of his drink and paused, not sure what to do. Downing the drink, he turned on the TV and lost himself in a documentary.

Monday 8:00 p. m.

He woke up, his head aching, his lungs bursting, after remembering what he was told wasn't a memory. Jack still had no recollection of the car accident. He got to his feet and went into the bathroom to take more Aleve. Walking back to the living room, he noticed the number on the answering machine, 2. Frowning, he noticed that the ring volume on the phone was at zero. As he headed into the kitchen to refill his drink, he noticed an envelope leaning against the coffee maker. The handwriting was Anne's. He poured his drink and then, after taking a large sip, he opened the note.

Dear Jack,
I came by to see you tonight, but you were sleeping soundly and I didn't have the heart to wake you. A messenger dropped off your letters. I could only manage to read three so far.They are very powerful. Dr. Chesny would like you and I to see her together in a joint session. Please call me, when you read this. I need to see you, but I understand if you're not ready.
With lots of love,

Jack sipped his drink and looked at the clock on the microwave. He felt unsettled and so decided not to call Anne. Instead, he adjusted the volume and listened to the answering machine. "Hi, Jack. I just got off the phone with Vivian. Please, call the girls when you can. I'm glad you're all right." <Monday seven-twenty> the machine said, softly. "Hey, man. Where are you? Your cell goes straight to voicemail. Please call me." <Monday seven-thirty five> the machine said. Jack picked up the phone and dialed.


"What, your caller ID not working? What kind of a Fed are you?"

"The kind that isn't a geek, alright? How are you? Get some sleep?"

"A little. Anne stopped by and left a note. Her shrink wants us to meet together."

"That sounds okay, right?"

"Geez, Tyler, I don't know. A week ago, I would have jumped at the idea. I just...I just am having a really hard time with this."

"Did you see Glenn?"

"Yeah, but not in a session. He dropped off the reports on my car accident and Alex's death and took the letters that I was writing to Anne as part of my therapy."

"Have you read the reports?"

"No, I was thinking about doing that tonight."

"You wanna do it while I'm on the phone?" Jack hesitated, looking around his apartment.

"Hey, Malone, you okay?"

"Yeah, uhm, no I don't think I can look at them right now. No, I don't think so."

"Okay, okay, no problem. It's all good."

"Uhm, how's Seattle? Did you get your man?"

"No, and it's looking doubtful; six dead girls, three murder scenes. It's a mess," Tyler sighed. "I wish you were here, Jack."

"What do you think I could do to help you?"

"I know you could solve this."

"Do you want to email what you have to me?"

"Are you up to it?"

"Tyler, you asked me to get involved, so I'm involved. Send your damn notes."

"Jack, man, I don't know..."

"Fine, call Glenn; whatever you want to do, Tyler."

"I'm sorry; I just know you've got other stuff on your plate."

"Okay, later."

"Jack, I'm sorry. I'll send it to you right away." Jack hung up the phone, picked up his drink, and headed to his computer. He turned it on, taking a sip of his drink while the start up procedure began. Sitting at his desk, the silence of the room was deafening. He got up again and turned on the stereo, dialing his IPOD to Jimmy Barnes. As the music filled the room, his stomach growled loudly. Heading for the kitchen, he opened the fridge. It was virtually empty; a container of Parmelat, two bottles of white wine, and some Smart Butter. Closing the door, he opened the freezer; two half full ice trays, a bag of peas, two Lean Cuisine meals, and a refreezable ice pack. He sighed and reached for the first Lean Cuisine, followed the directions, and put it into the microwave. Setting the timer, he walked back to his drink and looked at the computer. He had more than 250 emails. Opening his email program, his computer made a tone as new mail was delivered. It was from Tyler. Clicking on it, he read the body of the email before opening the attachment.

Jack, here it is. Glenn says pace yourself. I need you to read through it and then call me. I'm staying at Hotel Max Room 322. My cell is dead and charging. call me at 206.728.6299

Thanks again, buddy.

He sipped his drink and started to print out the attachment. Watching the large document start to print, he heard the microwave ping. He carried the glass to the kitchen and fixed a refresher before getting a bowl from the cabinet. Emptying the chicken dish, he grabbed a fork and started to eat. The IPOD was silent, cueing up the next song; "Blind Can't Lead the Blind". He sipped his scotch and quickly finished his dinner. The printer was still chugging away. Setting his bowl in the sink, he picked up his glass and headed back to his desk. He put on his glasses and took the first few pages from the printer tray.

The first page was a quick outline of the first crime. Two women, ages 20 and 19, were found molested and brutally murdered in Woodland Park. The bodies weren't found together; one was by Green Lake and the second one was clear on the other side of the park. The coroner's report placed the murders at roughly the same time. Two weeks ago, Victoria Harris was found by a jogger at approximately six a.m. Her body was naked with ligature marks on her wrists and ankles. She had been raped repeatedly and stabbed twice in the chest. Ugly as this was, Jack didn't understand why Tyler thought he could solve these cases, until he turned to the next page; a photograph of the body. In between the two stab wounds was a symbol painted on the victim's chest.

Immediately, Jack felt his heart rate rise. He walked to the dining room table, setting the gate-leg to open it fully. Then, he returned to the printer, pulled the printed sheets, and started to lay out the rest of the case. He took his drink and the four pages he had looked at already and stood staring at the information. Taking a sip of his drink, he sat down and picked up the coroner's report for the second victim.

Hailey Monroe was found face down in Green Lake. Her hands were encased by zip loc bags filled with bleach to kill the DNA. She, too, had been raped. Her killer had cut her hair short. There was heavy bruising around her neck where he had strangled her. The coroner's note remarked that in addition to the bruises from the killers' hands, he had crushed her larynx. There was no symbol imprinted on this victim.

Four days after the first victims were found, two girls were found in Golden Gardens Park in the Ballard section of Seattle. Again they died at approximately the same time, but were found in different areas of the park. Susan Bradford, 22, was found spread eagle; her hands and feet tied to posts set in the ground. She had been raped savagely. There were bruises around her mouth and hips, yet it was the method in which she was killed which disturbed Jack the most. Her skull had been cracked open; the offending rock resting near the body. On her chest, the same symbol, painted in an unknown medium.

Nadia Gremsman, 21, was found hanging in a tree, her feet just off the ground. She had been sexually assaulted Her arms and legs were peppered with small cuts. The coroner estimated that it would have taken her hours to die if the killer hadn't stabbed her in the heart.

Four days ago, two more women were found; this time in Lower Kinnear Park. The first victim, Sally Owens, 20, was found face down in fresh mud. She had asphyxiated. In addition, she had been sodomized and raped. There were bruises on her knees, hips and elbows. Between her shoulder blades, written in ink, was the symbol.

The last victim, Angelica Carr, 18, was found carefully laid in a bed of flowers. Jack noted to himself that she looked like a painting by Titian. She appeared asleep except for the ugly slash across her throat. The notes in the file indicated that the blood pool was hidden by her hair and the plants. There was evidence of sexual activity but it wasn't as violent as the previous murders.

Jack put the paper down and picked up his glass only to see that it was empty. The apartment was silent as he walked to the kitchen to pour himself a fresh scotch and water. He headed back to his desk and opened a file cabinet. He pulled out a file labeled 'old' and sat back in his chair. Soon he found the paper he was looking for; a photograph of a woman's chest with the same symbol. He traced the shape of the cross, the heart and the anchor with his finger. The date on the photo was 1990, but the city was Washington. He took out his pad and started to make notes.

An hour later, he picked up the phone and called Tyler.

"Hotel Max, how can I direct your call?"

"Mr. Simpson, room 322."

"One moment."

Jack sipped his drink, listening to a local radio station over the phone while they tried to connect to Tyler's room.


"Hi," Jack said softly.


Jack sighed looking at his notes.

"Is it the same?"

"No, an homage, I think."

"What do you mean?"

"First of all you have two killers; the Camargue Cross on only three of the girls supports this. Judging by the time the girls were killed, I think the killers are working together. I don't think they're killing as a team, just that they know each other."

"A competition, maybe?"

"Or perhaps, more apropos, a series of conquests."

There was silence on the phone.

"Jack, go back to your homage theory."

"Who would know about that case from 1990?"

"I don't know."

"I bet it's on the internet."

"I'll call Quantico in the morning and get somebody on it."

"Call them now, Tyler."

"It's two a.m. on the east coast. Higgins won't be in for another six hours."


"You okay?"

"I don't know. I'm going to hang up now. I need to look through this again."

"Thanks, Jack."

"You're welcome."

Jack hung up the phone, took a sip of his drink and started to sift through the files again.

Tuesday 4:00 a. m.

"I've remembered," Jack said, breathlessly into the phone.

"What? Jack, okay, okay, what did you remember?"

"Kenneth Everett Young; he was Canadian that's why you won't find stuff on him. He was deported."

"Great, Jack, great. I'll send this to the Washington office now and to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."

"Night, Tyler."

"Goodnight, Jack."

He hung up the phone and took another sip of his drink. Opening his internet messenger service, he saw that Tyler was online as well. That would make communication easier. He looked again at the files, listened to the silence and paced. The pacing led him to the files that Glenn dropped off. He started first with Alex's death certificate. It stated simply that he died of Reye's Syndrome. Jack tapped his finger on the file and then switched to the file of his taxi accident. As he read, he still had no active memory of it. The truck hit them on the right side. The cab was shoved into a light post. The cab driver died shortly after the impact. Glancing briefly at the photographs of the taxi, and of himself in the back seat, he could see why it took so long to extract him. Jack put down the document. He took another sip of his cocktail before walking back to his bedroom.

8:00 a. m.

He didn't hear the door open to his apartment. He didn't awaken when she joined him in bed, spooning her front to his back.

12:00 p.m.

Jack woke up, hearing a noise that was unfamiliar. He struggled out of bed; his head pounding, his left leg aching. Walking slowly towards the noise, he recognized it quickly. Someone was watching CNN and the 'noise' was the intro. He stood in the doorway to the hall and saw Anne sitting on the sofa. He paused for a moment and then made a decision. "Hi."

"Oh, hi," she said and standing and turning off the TV. He leaned against the wall, taking the weight off of his left leg. Hearing her walk towards him, he opened his eyes.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"No, please, no, it's not your fault. Vivian told me not to come. The doctors tell me it was a combination of many things."

"Still, I'm sorry," he choked, the tears streaming down his face.

The computer beeped and they walked over to look at the screen.

Call me, now!

Jack smiled and then looked at Anne.

"I think the ringers are off on all of the phones," He said, wiping his face. He picked up the portable as she walked to adjust the volume on the kitchen phone.

"Hotel Max."

"Simpson, room 322."


"You yelled?"

"Yeah, sorry. We're all on bloody tethers and you have all of your communications off. Look, I need more, if you have anything."

Jack took a breath, and started to pace in front of the window. Anne watched, never having seen the analytical side of him.

"College educated; fraternity; possibly pre-law or pre-med. One is right-handed, the other is left-handed. They behave as if they're twins; but they're not."

"Thanks, man. Kenneth Young has a college-aged son. I'll be talking to you."

"Talk soon. They're going out tonight."

"How do you know?"

"I'm not sure why I know. I just know. Look at the parks that they haven't hit. Also look at the places where they picked up these girls."

"We don't know..."

"Tyler, I don't think the girls were co-eds."

"Alright, thanks Jack."

"Sure, Tyler."



Jack hung up the phone and took another sip of his drink.

"What time is it?"

"Almost 12:30."

"I need some Aleve and I need to go back to sleep."

"Oh, okay."

"Please, stay."

"I will," she said, walking with him back to the bedroom. He went into bathroom and she chose to straighten up the sheets. When he came out, the bed was ready for him. Silently, he got into bed and rolled onto his right side. Soon he was asleep.

The phone rang loudly, disrupting both of them. "Malone."


"Maria, I'm sorry for not calling."

"I...I spoke to Viv. I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't understand. Is tonight a good night to talk to the girls? I'll have them call you."

"Yeah, Maria, that would be great; after seven New York time."

"Sure, Jack. I'll take care of it."



He put the phone back in the cradle and fell back asleep.

3:00 p. m.

Jack woke up from the depths of a nightmare. His shirt was soaked. Getting out of bed, he headed to the living room. Before he got there he knew that he was alone. He stopped, standing in the hallway. Moments later, he heard the sound of a key in the door. Anne walked in carrying four plastic bags full of groceries. She looked up at him.


"Hi, I thought you left."

"I did. I went to get food; your fridge is virtually barren. M & D's has a lousy selection so I went to the Associated on La Guardia."

Jack closed his eyes to what she was saying. "Jack, are you all right? Talk to me," she said, taking a step towards him.

"No, no, I can't talk," he said abruptly, turning to limp back into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

Anne stood for a moment, biting her lip before returning to the kitchen to put the groceries away. A few minutes later, Jack walked out of his bedroom, dressed for outside.

"Jack, please, you need to talk to someone," she said, walking into the living room.

"What I need is to get some air," he said, taking his topcoat on his way to the door. His anger was palpable as he walked slowly down the stairs.

While in the bedroom, he had taken off the cast on his left foot and loosely tied his tennis shoe. Anger driving him, he walked towards the river. As he had left the apartment, he did pick up his keys, wallet, and phone. He didn't want to talk to anyone, but he still felt a responsibility to the job. Twenty minutes later he crossed the West Side Highway and started to walk downtown. The river had chunks of ice in it and the sidewalk was only partially shoveled. Still, he was happy to be out of the house, away from questions and memories. He continued to walk along the Hudson, following the boardwalk as it curved around Stuyvesant High School. Ten minutes later, he was standing at North Cove Marina, looking at the empty slips. His phone rang, muffled by the fabric of his coat.


"Jack, it's Glenn. Where are you?"

"Uhm, at the marina."

"I want to see you."

"No, Glenn. I won't come into the office."

"All right, all right. Uhm, you said you were at the marina. Which marina?"

"The one by the Winter Garden."

"Okay, that's great. Do you see P.J. Clarke's?"


"It shouldn't be too crowded at this time. Go in and get yourself a cup of coffee. I'll be there in ten minutes if I can get a cab."

Jack stood, his back to the wind, feeling cold, suddenly. "Jack?"

"Yeah, okay."

"I'll see you soon, Jack."



Jack closed his phone and slipped it back into his coat pocket. He turned and walked against the breeze to the bar-restaurant. Opening the door to The Financial Center, he headed towards the restaurant.

"Yes, sir. One for lunch?" the hostess asked.

"Can I just sit at the bar and have some coffee?"

"Sure. Yeah, it is cold outside, isn't it?" Jack smiled and walked to the bar. He took off his coat and laid it on a stool before taking a seat.

"What can I get you?"

"Black coffee, please."

"Sure, do you need any sugar with that?"

"No, thanks."

The mug of coffee came and Jack took a cautious sip, feeling the hot liquid sluice down his throat. Putting his hands around the ceramic, he felt the heat try to permeate them. Soon he was lost in thought.

"Hi, Jack, thanks for meeting me. Arnie, is anyone in the back?"

"No, Glenn, it's all yours," the bartender said. Glenn picked up Jack's mug and the mug that Arnie had just poured for him, and led the way to the private dining room.

Picking up his coat, Jack followed slowly, his left ankle twinging without the support of the cast. Glenn set the mugs down and quickly unbuttoned his coat and took it off, stuffing his scarf into one of the sleeves. Jack sat down, pulling his mug towards him and then lifting it up to take a sip. As Glenn sat down, he looked at Jack, taking note of the fatigue and pain on his face.

"Why don't you tell me what you remember happened after you left the office that Friday?"

Jack looked at him, and then tugged at the collar of his oxford shirt. Slowly, he began to tell the tale in graphic detail up to the point that they entered M & D's market. Then, Jack stopped.

"What happened next, Jack?"

"The robbers shot us," Jack said, softly. His eyelashes were wet but the tears didn't fall.

"May I tell you what really happened that day?"

"Give me a minute, would you?"

"Sure, do you want some more coffee?" Glenn asked standing with both mugs.

"No, thanks."

Glenn walked back to the bar and set the mugs down. "Two more coffees?"

"One coffee, and one Dewar's with a couple of rocks."

"Coming right up, Glenn."

Glenn waited a short and time and then picked up the drinks and headed back to Jack. When he rounded the last turn of the corridor, the private dining room was empty. He looked carefully and saw that Jack's black topcoat was folded on a black chair, making it nearly impossible to see. Walking to the table, he waited for Jack to return. A few minutes later, Jack walked into the private dining room from the men's restroom. He paused for a moment and then sat down. Glenn pushed the scotch towards him.

"On Friday, you got into a cab around four in the afternoon. Traffic was crazy because of the snow and the streets were icy. As your taxi turned onto Broadway, a New York Times delivery truck plowed into you. He was going too fast and hit some ice. The truck pushed the cab into a street light. You were wearing your seat belt. Your driver was not. FDNY got to the scene in less than ten minutes. You were awake, according to reports, but in a lot of pain. Your head hit the window and shattered it. The momentum dislocated your left shoulder. The armrest bruised your left hip and your plaster cast got wedged under what was left of the front seat."

"The back window had blown out, which is how one EMT technician was able to slip a hard collar on you. They removed the driver through the windshield. He was dead, having bled out internally after impact with the steering column. The FDNY used the Hurst tool to take the roof off Then the EMT guys stabilized you and they devised a plan to remove what was left of the front seat to get your foot out. The doctor said you were lucky to still have it in a cast or the impact might have crushed your foot. The EMTs strapped you onto a Stokes litter and got you out to the gurney and then St. Vincent's. All in all it took over three hours in twenty degree weather to get you out."

Jack had been studying his drink and finally took a sip. "I don't remember any of it," he said, his voice flat and empty.

"You were tired both emotionally and physically. When you had the accident, your brain started to conserve fuel. Between that and the concussion, you slipped into a coma, but it was simply that your body needed to heal."

"So while my body is healing my sub-conscious invents an alternative universe?"

"Yeah, basically. It's fairly common, although, yours was more elaborate than others."

Jack looked at his wrist and realized that his watch was still in the jewelry case on his dresser.

"What time is it, Glenn?"

"Almost five, why?"

"I think I need to eat something."

"When was the last time you ate?" Glenn asked, standing. "Last night."

"Let me get you a menu."

Jack wiped his face and nodded before taking another sip of his drink.

"Here you go."


He looked over the menu and quickly decided. "I'll have a bowl of chili."

"Good choice. I'll be right back."

Glenn walked back to Arnie and placed Jack's food order as well as another scotch. He headed back to the private dining room and wasn't surprised to see Jack pacing, favouring his left leg.

"Where's your cast?"

"I got angry and took it off."

"Was that wise?"

"Probably not."

Glenn sat down and waited for Jack to settle back in his chair. Jack took a sip of his drink before returning his attention to Glenn.

"When you found Alex, he had been in the basement for three days without food or water. His kidnapper admitted that the week before Alex had had the flu, and Irwin gave him aspirin. We don't know what causes Reye's Syndrome but we do know that aspirin aggravates it. Alex died some time early Saturday morning. He wasn't in any pain."

Jack lowered his head into his hands. Glenn reached over and rubbed Jack's shoulder in support. They sat that way for several minutes as Jack tried to process. Finally, Jack sat up and wiped his eyes on his sleeve and finished his drink. At that moment a waitress walked up to him with a steaming bowl of chili, a glass of ice water, and a large glass of scotch.

"Thanks, Jill," Glenn said softly.

"Sure, Glenn."

Jack slowly picked up the spoon and mixed up the chili, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. He took a spoonful and swallowed.

"It's good."

"Yeah, it is. Have you set up an appointment with Steve Siegel to get your fitness reinstated?"

"No, not yet."

"Did you help Tyler?" Glenn said, sitting back in his chair.

"I think so," Jack said, setting his spoon down. He remembered his cell phone was buried in his heavy coat pocket. On a hunch he retrieved it; three missed calls.

"Excuse me, I have some messages."

"Sure," Glenn said, picking up his mug and heading for the bar.

"Looking for something stronger now?" Arnie asked.

"Yeah, I'm off the clock. I'll have a pint of Guinness, please."

"You bet."

Jack listened to his messages. The first was from Anne.

"Jack, it's me. I'm going home. I don't know where you are. I'm worried. Please call me."

<Press seven to delete or nine to save. Next message.>

"Malone, call my cell ASAP."

<Press seven to delete or nine to save. Next message.>

"Jack, it's Vivian. Just checking in on you. Give me a call."

<Press seven to delete or nine to save. End of new messages.>

Jack dialed Tyler's cell phone.


"It's me."

"You okay? Annie said you walked out in a snit."

"Yeah, well, I needed to get some fresh air. I just had a session with Glenn. We're at a P.J. Clarke's. Do you remember it?"

"Yeah, by the Winter Garden, right?"

"That's the place. I'm going to continue to slurp my chili if you don't mind."

"No, go right ahead. I just wanted to tell you that we have a lead on the killers, here. We've got them staked out. Hopefully, we'll get lucky."

"Sounds like a plan."

"I'll try to swing back through New York on my way to Washington."

"Okay, I'm just taking it one day at a time. I don't know when I'll be back in the office."

"No problem. I'll call you when my plans firm up."


"Take it easy, Jack. Call me whenever you need to."

"I will, Tyler. Bye."


Jack hung up the phone and then opened it again to look at the time. It was five-thirty. He had to be home by seven to talk to Maria and the girls. Glenn walked up to the table, carefully carrying his pint of Guinness.

"Meal in a glass," Jack commented.


Quietly they sat together while Jack finished his chili. He pushed the bowl away and took a large mouthful of scotch.

"Can I ask you something?"


"Do you recommend Anne and I seeing Dr. Chesny together?" Glenn looked at him for a moment.

"Yes, but only if I'm there and not until you and I have at a couple of more sessions. You've had a helluva month and you're not near one hundred percent." Jack reached into his pocket for his wallet.

"I have this, Jack."


"Finish your drink and I'll help you get a cab." Jack nodded and finished his drink. He stood slowly and slipped on his coat, double checking his cell phone. They walked out of the restaurant and turned north, walking through the building.

"We should be able to get a cab, here."

"Okay," Jack said, putting his weight on his right leg. "Yo, taxi!" Glenn shouted.

A cab that had dropped someone off at the movie theatre pulled around. Slowly Jack got into the back seat.

"Do you need a lift?"

"No, I live on Staten Island. I'll catch the ferry, thanks. Talk to you tomorrow."

"Thanks, Glenn."

"No problem."

Glenn shut the door and the taxi drove Jack north to his apartment. He paid the man and got out carefully. Ten minutes later, he was in his apartment, putting electronics in chargers, and everything else on the tray. Limping to the bedroom, he reattached his Fiberglas cast with its Velcro enclosures to his left ankle. It did give him some relief. He walked slowly to the kitchen and poured himself a scotch. Checking the answering machine, he noted with some relief that there weren't any messages. He turned to his computer and saw several emails from Tyler. Sitting down, he started to read through them. Losing himself in the depth of the case, he lost track of time until the phone rang. Walking to the kitchen, he picked up the phone.


"Jack, finally, is this a good time for you?"

"Yeah, Maria. I'm sorry. It's been a tough month."

"It sure has. Okay, let me get the girls. Hanna, your Dad is on the phone."

"Dad, how are you? Mom said you were in a car accident."

"Hi, sweetheart. Yeah, I was in a taxi crash, but I'm better now. How are you?"

"I'm good, Dad. School is hard though, and I miss you."

"I miss you too. Is your sister there?"

"Yeah, Kate, Dad wants to talk to you."

"Hi, Daddy."

"Hi, sweetheart. How are you?"

"I'm fine, Daddy. My dance recital is on Friday. Are you coming ?"

"I'm not sure that my doctor will let me fly, Kate. Okay?"


"Can you put your Mom back on the phone?"

"Mom, Dad wants to talk to you. Bye, Daddy."

"Bye, Kate."

"Hi, Jack."

"Hi, look in a nutshell, I was in a pretty bad car accident. Just before that, when I was in the explosion, Anne lost our baby. I was trying to get my head around that and what she was dealing with, and I found a boy that had been kidnapped six years ago. I dunno, I guess I transferred everything to this boy. When I was in the accident, my mind continued while my body was in a coma. Glenn and I just had a session about an hour ago and he explained this to me. I'm still processing."

"Jesus, Jack, please tell me at the end of this that you're going to be all right."

"Yeah, Maria, I think I'll be okay, it's just a long road."

"I'm still here."

"I know and I appreciate it. I'm sorry, but I have to cut this short. It's been a rough day."

"Okay, we'll talk to you on Friday."

"Thanks for this, Maria. I'll talk to you Friday. Bye."


Jack put the phone back into the cradle and took a breath. He pulled the phone out again and dialed a familiar number.


"Hi, Marcus, it's Jack. Is Vivian available?"

"Sure, Jack. Let me get her."

"Hi, how are you?"

"Better, thanks. I had a session with Glenn this afternoon. Anne and I still can't talk but I think I'm better. I just got off the phone with Maria and the girls; thanks for playing interference on that. Right now, I'm waiting for Tyler."


"He's working two serials in collusion; like the buddy system. Six dead women, same places but different areas. One kills ritualistically, the other not. It goes on. Anyway, he sent me the case file and I was able to link it to a murder in 1990. It's not the same man, but this new guy read the file. They have the two of them under surveillance."

"Where is he?"




"Explains why he was calling me throughout the night looking for you."

"Oh, Jeez, I'm sorry, Viv."

"It's okay. You sound exhausted. Go to sleep, I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Thanks, night."


Jack set the phone into the charger and headed for bed.

Wednesday 7:00 a. m.

Jack was deeply asleep when the door of his apartment opened and a figure came in. Taking off her coat, she continued to the bedroom and opened the door. He was lying on his right side, mouth slightly open; quietly snoring. Suddenly, his breathing quickened and he rolled onto his back, pushing off the sheets. She sat in the chair by the window, shivering slightly at the cold winter wind, and watched him fight his nightmare. He rolled onto his left side and awoke quickly; groaning at the pain from his healing bruises. Wiping his face with his hands, his back facing her, he paused.

"Hi," he offered.

"Hi, I wanted to see for myself how you were."

He stood slowly and walked into the bathroom, not shutting the door. He opened the Aleve bottle and shook out three tablets, swallowing them with water. Turning back to Viv, he walked back into the bedroom.

"Want some coffee?" he asked, slipping on an old blue silk bathrobe. Heading to the kitchen, he heard her soft footfalls on the floor behind him.

"No, thanks. I'll get some at the office. How are you?" she asked, sitting at the breakfast bar. Jack poured pre-ground coffee into the filter; filled the reservoir with cold water, and pressed <on>. He turned back to face her, resting his weight on his right leg.

"Physically, intermittent headaches, bruises, et al."

"How's your ankle?"

"Yeah, about that. Anne said something yesterday that set me off. I took off my cast. I was done. I wanted out of the apartment, out of any constraints, away from any questions."


"I walked to the World Financial Center."

"Yesterday? It was arctic."

"Yeah, but my anger kept me warm. Anyway, I guess Anne called Glenn, who called me. We had a session at P.J. Clarke's, no less."

"Did it help?"

The coffee maker mumbled and Jack turned to pour himself a fresh cup.

"Yeah, I think so. I don't know. I'm just angry that my position in the miscarriage has been ignored."


"I wanted that baby, too. No one's ever asked me that."

"I'm sorry. Of course you would have feelings. I'm sorry that I wasn't more supportive."

"What? God, Viv, you're the only one who understands me totally; you and Tyler. You were, and are, great," Jack said, setting his coffee cup down on the breakfast bar and looking at her intently across the countertop...

"You're sure?"


"Okay then, I need to get to the office. Take care, Jack."

"Thanks for coming by, Viv. And thanks for keeping the office together," Jack said, walking around the breakfast bar to gather her in his arms. She hugged him back and kept her feelings in check.

"Take all the time you need; the job will be there when you're ready to come back."

"Thanks for holding down the fort."

She smiled at him before she picked up her coat, slipped it on and left the apartment. Jack locked the front door and refilled his coffee before going to his computer to slog through the emails.

1:10 p. m.

The phone rang and Jack waited until the machine answered it.

"Jack, it's Ritchie. I'm just checking up on you." Jack lunged for the phone.

"Hey, I'm here."

"Hey, Jack."

"Hey, Ritchie."

"I called the office and your machine is full. I left a message on your cell. You free for a beer?"

Jack waited a moment.

"Uhm, yeah, Ritchie, I'd like that."

"Cool, so Peculiar Pub in twenty minutes."

"Sounds good. See you then."



Jack hung up the phone. He walked into the bedroom and changed into a pair of chinos and a t-shirt. Gathering his wallet and keys, he slipped on his coat and headed out the door. It wasn't a long distance, but the cold weather and snow covered sidewalks made him take his time. He walked in and saw Ritchie sitting in a corner. Limping to him, they embraced each other.

"I thought you'd be out of the cast by now."

"What do you mean?"

"When I saw you at the site, I didn't think it was that bad." They were interrupted by a young man with a Mohawk hairstyle and multiple tattoos.

"Hey guys, what can I get you?" the waiter asked.

"Two Dewar's with a splash, no ice."

"What do you mean?"

Ritchie looked at Jack, seeing his confusion. "Jack, my team pulled you from that building in Queens."

Jack was blindsided; he looked away to try and gather himself. "What else has happened? You look worse then you did when we pulled you from the basement." Thankfully, their drinks came and Jack took a huge hit before recounting the story of his hospital stay. When he ended, he felt a headache start and pressed the meat of his left hand into his forehead.

"Why aren't you back at work?"

Jack looked at Ritchie and tried to hold on to any composure he had. He couldn't speak, just stared at one of his best friends.


Slowly, Jack told the story of Anne's miscarriage, his car accident, and Alex. Tears fell down his cheeks when he finished.

"Please, help me, Ritchie. I can't talk to her. I'm just so angry. No one wants to hear my feelings except my shrink. I just don't know what to do."

Ritchie took a long sip before answering.

"When Ricky died, I thought my world had ended and I blamed myself. I was angry at my wife, Ricky's sister, as well as his teachers and myself. It's intolerable to lose a child." Jack leaned forward, trying to massage away his headache.

"What do I do now? How can I go forward?"

"See your therapist, see your friends, and talk about it. It's hard and painful, but you will get through it."

"What about Anne?"

"Jack, I don't know. I only met her once or twice when she was married to Max. I can't advise you on that. But what I will tell you is that you are an amazing judge of people. Your heart will tell you what to do."

"Thanks, Ritchie."

"You're welcome. Are you okay?"

"No, not really. After the concussion, I get killer headaches, sometimes. I need to go home."

"Okay, just hang on. Waiter, the bill please." Jack started to squirm in his seat, trying to evade the pain.

"Almost, Jack. Just wait another minute." He nodded and sat back in his chair. A few minutes later, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Standing slowly, he followed his friend out of the restaurant and they headed towards his apartment.

Fifteen minutes later, he was unlocking the door and walking in. Dropping his wallet and keys in the ceramic tray, he walked back to his bedroom. Ritchie locked the door behind him and took off his coat, draping it over a chair. He hadn't been to Jack's bachelor pad, so he looked around. He saw the photos of the kids and of Tyler. Ritchie hadn't seen him since Jack was at Columbia, but he really hadn't changed. He looked at the documents on the dining room table. Jack entered the room.

"What's this?"

"One of Tyler's cases. He asked me to consult."

"Pretty upsetting."


"Are you okay, or would you like me to stay a while?" Jack looked at the floor and thought for a moment. "No problem, I'll just call Meg."

Ritchie pulled out his cell phone and hit an autodial number. "Hello?"

"Hello, babe, it's me."

"Hi, what's up?"

"I'm at Jack's apartment in Manhattan. He needs me. I'll be home as soon as I can, but I'll miss dinner with you."

"Oh, okay. Take care and give my best to Jack."

"I will."

"Bye, love."

"Bye, love."

"Meg sends her best."

Jack nodded and walked to the window and stared out into space.

Thursday 4:30 a. m.

Ritchie woke up when he heard the key in the lock. Jack had very purposely set the chain on the door, muttering something about unexpected guests. The light from the hallway silhouetted someone in the doorway. The person shut the door and fumbled for the light switch.

"Morning, Tyler. Long time, no see," Ritchie commented through a yawn. Tyler stopped for a moment, running a hand through his long blonde hair.

"Hi, Ritchie. How is he?" he asked as he dropped his bag on the floor.

"Angry, hurt, lost, anxious; I could go on."

"I get the picture."

Tyler set his computer bag on the breakfast bar, dropped his duffle and briefcase on the floor, turned on the kitchen light, and poured himself a stiff scotch.

"How long are you in town?"

Walking into the living room, he sat down heavily on the closest chair.

"I've been working for over a week in Seattle with very little sleep. It was a big case and with Jack's help, we caught the guys. But I'm tired, so I asked my boss for a couple of days off."

Ritchie looked at this watch and slowly got to his feet.

"Well, I don't have today off. So if you're gonna stay with him, I'm gonna go home, shower, and go to work."

"Thanks, Ritchie."

"He needs to talk about his feelings, Tyler. It'll take some time but he will get through it." Tyler took a sip of his drink and nodded. Picking up his coat from the chair, Ritchie slipped it on.

"Bye, Tyler."

"Bye, Ritchie. Take care going home."

"Thanks, I will."

Tyler drifted for a moment and then got up to lock the door. He settled back in the chair and soon fell asleep.

6:30 a. m.

When the key hit the lock, Tyler woke up immediately and reached for his gun, which was nestled in its holster in the computer bag. The door opened and Jack shuffled in. He dropped his keys in the dish and shut the door behind him, careful to lock and set the chain. He turned around and noticed Tyler for the first time. Tyler got to his feet and walked up to his friend, pulling him into an embrace. Jack felt cold and damp in his lightweight coat.

"I know you need to talk," Tyler began, stepping back, "but you're freezing and I'm exhausted. Go and take a hot shower. We'll talk later. Okay?" Jack looked at him; his eyes trying to read Tyler's face.

"Jack, I'm gonna take a couple of days off and stay here, if that's okay." Jack visibly relaxed and turned to walk to his bedroom. Tyler followed. The bed was a mess; pillows on the floor, sheets pulled out, etc. As Jack disappeared into the bathroom, Tyler sighed and changed the sheets. When he was finished, he turned the bedside table light on and walked to the door, switching the overhead light off before heading to the living room. Jack entered his bedroom, slipped on a pair of clean shorts, got into bed and turned out the light.

12:00 p. m.

The door buzzer rang, distracting Tyler from his work on his computer. He went to the door and pressed the <speak> button.

"Yes?" he said before pressing <listen>.

"NYPD, Mr. Malone, we need to ask you a few questions."

"Come on up," Tyler said, pressing the <door> button.

A few minutes later the doorbell rang. Tyler looked through the peep hole and saw the gold badges. Removing the chain, he unlocked the door, opening it to see two tired men with badges on their jacket pockets.

"Mr. Malone, I'm Detective Jessen, this is Detective Diehl. We need to ask you a couple of questions."

"I'm FBI Special Agent Tyler Simpson; Jack's asleep. Come in, let me go wake him."

"Thanks," Diehl said as Tyler shut the door behind them. He walked by them and headed to the master bedroom. Tyler turned on the overhead light and continued to the bed. Reaching over, he gently touched Jack's shoulder.

"Jack, Jack, wake up. The police are here." Jack opened his eyes and blinked several times before shoving the sheets aside. He groaned as he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. When he stood, Tyler saw the new bruises on his ribs and his jaw.

"Jesus, Jack, what happened?"

"I got jumped," Jack said in a tired voice before he slipped on his bathrobe.

Tyler sighed and followed his friend out into the living room. Det. Jessen was looking over the layout from Tyler's case while Det. Diehl was staring out the window.

"How can I help you?" Jack asked, trying to stand casually, leaning against the wall.

"Mr. Malone, I'm Det. Jessen, this is Detective Diehl. We need to know your whereabouts this morning around 5:30."

"I was out down by the Staten Island Ferry Terminal."

"Yes, we have a CCTV tape that shows a man matching your description fighting off two assailants. Was that you?"


"What happened?" Det. Diehl asked.

"I was sitting on a bench and they approached me. The taller one asked me for my wallet, which I had left here at home. My watch was on my dresser."

"Your gun and shield?"

"My shield is on the dresser, and my gun is hanging in the closet."

"Go on."

"The tall one pulled me to my feet and hit me once in the face. He had a helluva punch and I went down. Then he kicked me once in my right ribs," Jack said before walking to the window to start to pace.

"Jack, what's wrong? What happened?" Tyler asked, recognizing the look. Jack stopped pacing and turned to face Tyler. He reached up and touched his neck. "They took your St. Jude and your cross?"

"They tried to," Jack replied so softly, the others strained to hear him.

"Mr. Malone, the two men are at St. Vincent's in serious condition. The smaller man has not yet regained consciousness," Diehl said.

"He's the one, wasn't he, Jack; the one who tried to steal your cross?" Tyler asked.

Jack nodded and then smiled slightly.

"The active word there would be, tried..."

"You got them back? Where are they?" Jessen asked. "On the dresser," he answered, holding his right ribs.

"Do you need to see a doctor, Mr. Malone?" Diehl asked.

"No, I'll get some aspirin and I'll be fine."

"Why didn't you call the police?" Jessen asked. "I called 911."

"But you didn't hang around." Diehl pressed.


"You'll need to come down and fill out a report." Jessen commented.

"I will."

"Here's my business card, Agent Malone. Just call before you come down to make sure we're in the office."


"Mr. Simpson, thank you, we can find our own way out." Tyler followed them anyway, locking the door and setting the chain behind them. He turned to look at Jack.

"Why don't you get your aspirin while I heat up some soup for lunch?"

"Yeah, okay," Jack said and then waited a moment before walking to his bedroom. He shrugged off the bathrobe and put on a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Heading into the bathroom, he shook out three Aleve and swallowed them with water. He slowly walked back into the living room. Tyler was in the midst of opening a large can of Progresso Rich and Hearty Steak & Home style Noodles soup.

"Have a seat," Tyler said over his shoulder. Jack sat on one of the breakfast bar stools and subconsciously put his left hand on his bruised ribs. Tyler poured himself a glass of Merlot and then turned to look at his friend.

"Wine or scotch?"

"Scotch, please."

Tyler poured Jack a glass of Famous Grouse, handed it to him, and then continued with the soup. He took out a saucepan and emptied the can's contents into it. He heard the click of the starter for the gas burner as he turned it on and adjusted the flame. Then he began to stir.

"What's going on, Jack?" Tyler asked, not turning from the stove. "What do you mean?"

"I mean nobody goes out in the middle of the night and sits in a park. What were you thinking?"

"I don't know."

"Look, I know you're angry. I know you're in pain. But getting yourself killed to escape the guilt is not the answer." Jack was silent, holding his glass with two hands. He took a large swallow and simply sat there, his eyes lowered; staring at the floor. "I'm not trying to make you more miserable, Malone. I just want you to think about what you're doing." Tyler continued to stir the soup, which was just about to boil. "Can you get a couple of bowls and some napkins, please?"

Jack slipped off the stool and walked into the kitchen. He gathered the two bowls, spoons, and napkins and set them on the counter near the stove.


Tyler turned off the gas and poured the soup evenly into the bowls. He handed Jack one and picked up the other bowl and headed for the living room. Jack followed with the spoons and napkins. They sat side by side and slurped their soups. When Jack finished, he sighed and stood slowly.

"Back to bed?"

"Yeah, I think so. Thanks for lunch."

"You're welcome."

Jack walked slowly back to his bedroom, took off his bathrobe, and got into bed, falling asleep almost immediately.

"Jack, wake up. Some emergency at work. Suit up."

"What? What time is it? Okay, I need to shower and shave."

"No time. This is from the Deputy Director. He wants both of us, now, at the office." Jack stood, rubbing his eyes.

"When did he call?"

"A few minutes ago from the heliport at LaGuardia."



Jack look at the clock radio, noting that it was one-thirty. He headed to his closet and pulled out his uniform of a black suit, white shirt, and black tie. Tyler left him alone and went back to the living room. Under five minutes later, Jack walked out of his bedroom; his eyes were clear but the stubble on his face belied his fatigue.

"I.D., wallet, gun, cell phone, house keys?" Tyler listed.

"Uhm, yes," Jack said, reaching for the missing items before putting on his top coat.

"Let's go."

Tyler followed Jack and they were able to catch a taxi to FBI Headquarters. As they entered the elevator from the lobby, Jack heard someone call his name.


He turned and saw Glenn trotting to the elevator.

"What's going on?"

"Glenn, you remember Tyler Simpson?"

"Of course, I'm sorry, Tyler, how are you?" Glenn asked as the doors closed.

"Tired, Glenn, very tired."

"There's a lot of that going on," Glenn noted, looking at Jack's drawn face and new bruise.

"The Deputy Director summoned us to the office," Jack stated quietly. "That doesn't sound good."

"No," Jack affirmed, watching the light switch from floor to floor. Finally, they reached twelve and the doors opened. Jack and Tyler stepped out, not turning to speak to Glenn. With their game faces on, they proceeded towards Jack's office.

"Here, take my coat. I'll get the coffee." Tyler said, tugging at his sleeves

"Thanks," Jack replied, taking his friend's coat and walking into his office. He hung up the coats and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt before loosening his tie. It was going to be a long day. Just as he was about to sit down, he heard the knock of something metallic on his glass door. The door opened and Victor Fitzgerald walked in, followed by Tyler.

"Thanks for coming in, Jack," he said, extending his hand. Jack shook it and motioned to Tyler standing with two mugs of coffee.

"You remember Tyler Simpson?"

Tyler set the mugs down and shook the older man's hand. "Good to see you again and congratulations on the job in Seattle."

"Thank you, sir."

Jack stared at the other man. His normal cool demeanor was ruffled; his normal neatness was mussed.

"When did you know he was missing?" Jack asked softly.

"My wife called me at ten this morning. She found a note when she came back from spin class," the Deputy Director replied, not hiding the bitterness in his voice.

"I'll be right back," Jack said, leaving the two men in the office. He walked back to the bullpen and noted that Viv was off the phone and typing at her computer.

"Viv?" Jack called quietly.

She turned and saw him standing at the edge of the bullpen. She got to her feet and walked up to him, noting the bruise on his cheek, the deep circles under his eyes, and his unshaven face.

"Are you okay?"

"I need you," he said, simply.

"Of course," she said, following him as he turned to walk back to his office. The blinds were shut as Jack opened the door for her. Tyler was seated at the table opposite Jack's desk, but the Deputy Director stood with his back facing the door.

"All right, we can start now. Deputy Director, you remember Vivian Johnson?" Jack said, taking several pens and pads from his desk.

"Yes, of course," he said, not turning around. Jack went to the table and handed out the pens and pads before sitting down to Tyler's left. Viv sat opposite Tyler.

"Deputy Director?" Jack began.

The three agents watched their boss and waited. After several minutes, Jack couldn't wait any more. "Deputy Director, where is the note?"

Sighing, the man turned. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket, placed it on the table, and then sat down, facing Jack, who read it quickly and then passed it to Tyler. Jack looked at the man in front of him.

"It's almost two-thirty. You need to bring us up to speed, sir," Jack stated.

"Call me Victor, please. Today I am a father, not your superior." He said, pausing for a moment.

"I don't know where to start. Sunday, I left my wife." Jack raised his eyebrows and started writing. "Normally, I would leave my house at seven. My driver would get me to the office in thirty minutes. My wife goes to the gym every other day. She leaves out through the back door and drives her car to her spin class. I don't know when the note was left."

"Who at the lab has this?" Tyler asked, pointing at the copy that Viv was examining. "I...I really don't know."

"Jack, Martin had the day off yesterday. We really don't know when he went missing." Viv noted.

Jack looked at her for a moment and that glance spoke volumes Tyler got up quickly and sat at Jack's desk. Picking up the handset, he dialed a number.

"Barrett? This is Tyler Simpson. Who has the Fitzgerald note? What do you mean? All right, all right, never mind. He's up here in New York at Jack Malone's desk. So what do you know? Yeah, yeah, right, got it. Okay, thanks, Barrett."

"What's happened?" Victor asked.

"Your cell phone doesn't get good service in the core of this building; only by the windows on the perimeter. You need to call your wife; she's been trying to reach you. Barrett explained that is was just like the other four letters," Tyler said, sitting down at the table.

"Victor, time is critical. Who's the lead on the other four letters?" Jack asked.

"Damon Hendricks."

"Viv, can I use your desk and computer?" Tyler asked, standing. "Of course."

Tyler gathered up his pad and pen and walked out of the room.

"Victor, tell us," Jack asked, gently.

"Four other senior intelligence officers have had relatives kidnapped."

"What are they looking for? Money?" Viv asked

"No, security information, timetables, passwords, that sort of thing."

"What happened to the other victims?"

"They weren't recovered. Jack, I can't lose him. He's all I have."

"I know, Victor, I know. The entire team will be working on it." Jack said. "Viv, find Sam and Elena and get them over to Martin's apartment. A key to his place should be in my left hand top desk drawer. Then I want to run a trap and trace on Victor's house phone. It's obvious that the kidnappers are unaware of his current marital situation. Victor, call your wife and give her my office number. Since the kidnappers may try to reach you on your cell, I need you to work with the tech department so they can route all of your calls and tape them," he directed.

"Got it," Viv said, getting right to work.

Victor stood slowly and then stared at Jack as if seeing him for the first time.

"Did I miss something?" he asked.

Jack got to his feet and looked across the table at the other man.

"I was mugged this morning."

"Details," Victor demanded.

"I've been having some trouble sleeping, so I went for a walk. Two men held me up."

"And that bruise on your cheek is all the damage you got?"

"My ribs are sore, too."

"How are the perpetrators?"

"They're both in St. Vincent's."

"When does the cast come off?"


Victor stared for another moment before shifting his weight.

"Why me? Why not Van Doran or Olczyk?" Jack asked.

"Olczyk is in Washington for his monthly meeting with DHS; he left yesterday. Van Doran's mother had a stroke on Monday. She's in San Diego. But, honestly, Jack, you're the man I wanted on this. You will finish the job and get him back. I believe that."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."

Victor looked at him to see if he was being sarcastic but saw none. "I'd better call my wife."

"Come find me in the bullpen when you're done and I'll set you up with tech."

Victor nodded as he rounded Jack's desk and sat down. Jack picked up his cold coffee and headed to the kitchen to make another cup. Taking a cautious sip, he walked slowly to the bullpen and saw the entire team talking to Viv. "Jack, what do you want me to do?" Danny asked. "I need you to go to Washington and interview Mrs. Fitzgerald. You'll need to tread very lightly. There's something going on between those two and I want to make sure that it isn't part of this whole mess."

"I'm on it," Danny said; grabbing his coat and his briefcase, he left the office.

4:30 p. m.

"Jack, I have something," Tyler called from Viv's desk. "Oh?"

"Yeah, I just got off the phone with Hendricks. What Barrett meant to say was that the wording on the letters was identical. But that was it. The paper on the Fitzgerald letter is different. There's something else. In each of the other cases, a phone call was made within three hours for the ransom. According to the agents at the Fitzgerald residence, no calls have been made there, and Victor hasn't received anything here."

"Let's go talk to him, again."

Jack stood and picked up his coffee mug before leading the way to his office. He tapped on the glass and walked in with Tyler in tow.

"Any news?" Victor asked.

"No, and that's what has me worried. I need you to talk to us about the other woman," Jack answered, setting his mug down.

Victor sighed and sat at Jack's desk while Tyler and Jack remained standing. "Her name is Angela Hartman. I met her at a bar after work."

Tyler stalked quickly out of the office.

"The wording on your note is the same as the others; in fact, identical. But the paper is wrong, the font is wrong. So, Victor, is this the result of pillow talk?"

Victor sat in Jack's chair and stared at a point on the wall and ignored the question. Jack slumped into the chair in front of his desk. They sat in silence until the phone rang.

"Hello? Yeah, he's here," Victor snarled, holding the phone to Jack.

"You sent someone to question my wife?" he yelled as he stood. Jack stood as well.

"Yes, and I'll question anyone else that I think may help me find your son, Victor," he replied, snatching the receiver from the other man's hand. "Danny?"

"Jack, you were right. It's a real mess down here. Mrs. Fitzgerald kicked him out on Sunday and has filed for divorce. He was seeing one Angela Hartman of Bethesda. They'd been involved for almost five years. He even got her an apartment in Northwest."

"All right, Danny. Good work. I'll need you to stay down there. Hang tight, I'll call you in a few minutes."

"Okay, Jack. Bye."

"Bye," Jack said, reaching over to hang up the phone. "Where is Angela Hartman, Victor?"

"I don't know."

"Victor, we're going to subpoena your cell phone records and your email anyway." He looked at Jack and paused, heaving a great sigh, he spoke. "Her cell phone is the best way to reach her. It's 301-555-7679."

"Thank you," Jack said, writing it on a scrap of paper before walking out to the bullpen.

"Jack," Viv called.


"I have the phone records from the house and his cell phone for the last two months."

"Check for this number, 301-555-7679, on his cell phone."

"Uhm, let me see. Here it is. At least four times a day. That the mistress?"

"Seems so. Tyler, what do you have?"

"Angela Hartman, age thirty two, currently employed as a concierge at Hotel Palomar near Dupont Circle, living about two blocks away. Called the hotel and as of Monday she is on a leave of absence."

"What type of leave of absence?" Jack asked. "They won't tell me over the phone."

"Okay, give the info to Viv," Jack said before turning his eyes to her, "Can you call Danny? He's at Victor's house. Tell him to get over there and find out where she is. I'm beginning to think that Martin's disappearance has nothing to do with the FBI."


"Tyler, do you have copies of the letters?"

"Sure, Jack, here you go."

"And can I also have a copy of your notes on Angela Hartman?"

"Yeah, I printed one for you," Tyler said, handing it to him. Jack sat at the table and spread the papers out in front of him. Carefully, he read the documents and made notes in the margins. He looked up at the timeline and then walked to the whiteboard. Picking up the pen, he started adding to it.


He turned and saw Sam and Elena taking off their coats. "Hey, what did you find out?"

"He was taken while he was out on his morning run. His wallet, badge, id, gun all intact." Sam said.

"There were two messages on his machine; one from his mother and one from his father." Elena added.

"Anything else?"

"The light just inside his apartment was on," Elena said

"How late did he work on Tuesday?"

"I don't know. I left at five and he was still here."

"I left at six and he was still here," Sam commented.

"Okay, thanks. Right now, we think this has to do with Victor Fitzgerald's mistress. She's taken a leave of absence from her job in D.C. Danny is on his way to talk to her boss."

"What can we do?" Elena asked.

"Check into Angela Hartman, the mistress, her financials. We know that Victor was paying for her apartment, but what else? Sam, can you check into her family?"

"Sure, Jack."

"What are you thinking, Malone?" Tyler asked, walking up to him.

"I've got a theory. We need to wait for Danny and the mistress."

7:00 p. m.

Jack sat on a corner of the table in the bullpen, resting his ankle. He sipped his coffee and stared at the whiteboard.

"Jack, Danny's on the phone," Victor said, startling him.


He headed back to his office with his coffee, sat down at his desk, and noticed the blinds were open, now. Picking up the receiver, he pressed a button.

"Danny, tell me you've got something."

"Jack, I've got good news and bad news. The local agents got a search warrant and went to her apartment. There were a bunch of men's clothes and photographs of the happy couple."

"What's the bad news?"

"She wasn't there. I just came from speaking to her supervisor. Angie went to work on Monday and was a wreck. She fell apart in tears and then left, asking for a week off."

"Did the supervisor say where she went?"

"Apparently, she has a history of depression. She sees a therapist; a Dr. Nolan. I'm about to give him a call."

"Keep on it, Danny. She's the key."

"You got it, Jack. Bye."


He hung up the phone and sat back in his chair, thinking. Several minutes later, he heard a faint knock on the glass door of his office. Looking up, he saw Sam. She smiled and walked in. "I've got some information on Angie Hartman's family."


"She has one brother and two sisters. Her parents are deceased. One sister lives in Kansas, the other in New Mexico."

"And the brother?"

"Lives in Pennsylvania."

"Okay, thanks, Sam."

"You're welcome. You look beat. Can I order you some food? Even you can't survive on just coffee."

"Nah, I'm fine, thanks. Where's Victor?"

"I think he's on the balcony."

"Right, thanks," Jack said, getting to his feet. He followed her out to the bullpen and motioned for Tyler to follow him. They walked outside into the cold night air. Victor didn't acknowledge them.

"Victor, does Angie have a history of mental illness?" Jack asked.

"What?" he asked, turning to look at the junior agents.

"She had a meltdown on Monday at her office and left. Danny's trying to locate her therapist. According to her supervisor, she suffered from bouts of depression."

"Oh, God, it's all my fault."

"What do you mean?" Tyler asked.

"I broke up with her. She didn't take it well."

"Has she ever been hospitalized?" Jack asked.

"No, I...I... don't know."

"We'll find both of them, Victor. Until then, let's get you inside before you get pneumonia." Jack suggested. The three men walked back into the warmth of the building. Victor continued to Jack's office while the other two remained behind. Viv, Elena, and Sam walked to the table and sat down.

"Danny just called. Angie had a small breakdown at her office on Monday. She also goes to a therapist for depression. He's trying to find him now. It seems unlikely that she kidnapped Martin. Sam, where in Pennsylvania is the brother?"

"Oil City, in the northwestern part of the state."

"Okay, let's look into him. Find out what he does, where he's been. Check with DHS and see if we can access the toll plaza films leading to and from New York."

"I'm on it."

"Martin's six feet, one-eighty or so, right? A man could mug him, but most likely not a woman."

"Not unless she's Xena, the warrior princess," cracked Tyler.

Jack smiled slightly and then walked back to his office. He looked through the glass and saw Victor on the phone, tears streaming down his face. Jack waited for a moment and then walked back to the bullpen.

8:00 p. m.

"Jack, I have information on her financials. She has an Amex card that's being paid for by Victor Fitzgerald. I'm getting the latest charges sent through." Elena said.


"Jeffrey Hartman, age thirty nine. He's an auto mechanic. Drives a 2001 Ford F-150. And lastly, he is a member of the NRA. ATF is sending me his registration information." Sam stated, reading from her pad.

"Okay, you two, you're going to head out to Oil City. Let me get Victor to authorize a plane. Check in with local PD and the Pittsburgh field office before you visit Mr. Hartman."

"Okay, Jack." Sam said, starting to pack up her desk. Jack walked to his office, knocked on the door, and walked in.

"Any news?"

"We're tracking down some leads. I need to get two agents to Oil City, Pennsylvania. Can you authorize a plane to Erie?"


"All right, I'll send in Agent Delgado and Agent Spade. They'll give you the details."

"Thanks, Jack."

Jack smiled and headed back to the bullpen. He was getting tired but knew he had to keep going.

"Elena, Sam? Please go see Director Fitzgerald and get your authorization." They nodded, picked up their coats and bags and headed out.

"Jack, I'm ordering from Hop Lee. Do you want your usual?" Viv asked.

"Yeah, Viv, thanks. That would be great. Get something for Victor, as well, would you?"

"Of course. Tyler, Chinese food?"

"Lemon chicken with brown rice would be great, Viv. Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Jack, I have something. There's a charge for Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore," Tyler announced, looking through Elena's fax.

Jack reached for his cell phone and called Danny.


"Danny, it's Jack. When you find Dr. Nolan, ask if Angie is at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore. There was a charge on her credit card."

"Okay, I'm having trouble finding him. I'll head over there and see what I can find out."


"You're welcome. Bye."


9:00 p. m.

The office was quiet save for the soft tapping on computer keyboards. The smell of Chinese food had all but disappeared. Sam and Elena had called to check in; they were en route to Western Pennsylvania. Jack studied his notes and rubbed the stubble of his beard. Tyler and Viv were going through the DHS license plate photos looking for Jeffrey Hartman's pickup truck.

"Jack, we have something," Tyler said.

Jack stood and walked over to Tyler looked over his shoulder at the image on the computer.

"What is that? The truck?"

"Seems to be."

"Okay, advance slowly."

The computer image transferred to the rear of the truck.

"What does that say?" Jack asked, squinting.

"Keep something," Tyler said.

The three agents stared at the screen for several moments.

"Keep tailgating if you've never seen a Glock fired from a vehicle before," Viv affirmed.

"Nice. What date was that image from?" Jack asked.

"Tuesday night."

"Okay, maybe now we have a date of disappearance," Jack said, walking to the whiteboard and adding the information. He sighed and stood back, looking at the timeline. Suddenly, his phone rang.


"Jack, it's Danny. Okay, I found Dr. Nolan. Angie Hartman committed herself for a week of observation at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore."

"Hang on, Danny. Viv, can you get Angie Hartman's mobile phone list for Monday? Look for calls to Pennsylvania to her brother."

"Right," Viv said, searching on her computer. "Sorry, Danny. I'm back. Elena and Sam are on their way to Angie's brother's house in northwest Pennsylvania."

"Got it, Jack. She called him three times that day." Jack stared at the timeline.

"We're missing something. Show me the image of the truck going into the city," Jack instructed. He walked quickly to Tyler and looked at the screen. There, in the grainy photo, was a shiny trailer hitch. "Viv, dig deeper into Hartman's life. Look for another residence or another vehicle. Anything."

"Jack, do you still need me to stay in Washington?" Danny asked.

"No, can you get an Amtrak Express train up here? I need you to stick close to Victor."

"Sure, Jack. I can pick one up here at BWI. I'll see you in a couple of hours."

"Thanks, Danny."


"Bye," Jack said, closing his phone and slipping it into his jacket pocket.

"Jack, we have another hit on the truck; this time returning to Pennsylvania," Tyler announced.

"What day?"

"Wednesday at one in the morning."

"Okay, how long does it take to get from the toll plaza to Oil City?"

"Calculating for that time of night, around two hours."

"And from the toll plaza to Martin's apartment?"

"Where does he live?"

"Upper west side."

"Around an hour and a half."

"I've got something, Jack," Viv said, excitedly. Jack and Tyler walk to her desk and stared at the computer screen.

"He owns a trailer. It's a Zinger."

"Yeah, I'm sure it's swell," Jack said, looking at the image on the monitor.

"No, that's the brand. It's a 2006 27' trailer named Zinger. Hartman also owns a two acre lot in the Catskills," she clarified. Jack looked at his watch.

It was almost 9:30. He picked up the nearest phone and dialed.

"Sam, it's Jack at nine-thirty. Call me as soon as you can."

"What are you thinking?" Viv asked.

"I need to know that Hartman is sitting at home in Oil City and not waiting for us in the Catskills. I don't want this to turn into Ruby Ridge. I also don't want to take this guy at night when he has the advantage."

"We should tell Victor," Tyler said, getting to his feet. "No, not yet. I want to wait until Danny gets here. Victor's gonna want to go in guns blazing and has the clout to do it. I want Danny to keep him on a short leash."

"Okay, so what do you want to do in the mean time?" Viv asked.

"Let's get everything on where we think this land is in the Catskills and let's put out an APB on the trailer. We need to call the local PD and set up a raid at daylight."

"What makes you think that Martin's not in Pennsylvania?"

"I think that this whole thing is about retribution. Victor dumped his sister, leading her to commit herself. She's the only family he has. So Hartman kidnaps Martin. But I don't think he wants to take care of him, just take him out of the picture."

Jack walked to the timeline and made the necessary adjustments.

"So you want to drive up at midnight and get organized? I think sunrise is around seven. We can sleep in the car," Tyler recommended.

"Sounds good."

10:30 p. m.

Jack sat at the table, all of his notes spread out in front of him including the ATF record of Hartman's gun ownership. His phone rang, startling him out of his thoughts.


"Jack, it's me. Sorry to be late in getting back to you. We must have been in a bad cell area," Sam said.

"That's okay. I need to know for sure that Hartman is in Pennsylvania. We're also looking for a trailer. We think we know where Martin is and we're going to hit it tomorrow morning, but this guy could be heavily armed and I don't want this to become a blood bath."

"I understand. Do you remember Steve Parson? He's the supervisor in the Pittsburgh field office. He's meeting us up there."

"Great, that's great. Steve was at Quantico with Tyler and me. He's very good."

"I'm putting you on speakerphone because Elena's driving and she spoke to the Oil City PD."

"Hi, Jack," Elena said, her voice sounding hollow.

"Hi, what did the locals tell you about Hartman?"

"Pretty quiet, they don't see him much except at the auto shop. He isn't very sociable."

"So they've never had any trouble?"

"Uhm, a couple of warnings about weapons in his car. He has a sportsman's firearms permit. But it's illegal to have a loaded weapon in your vehicle."

"That's what I was afraid of. Okay, keep in touch. We're leaving here around midnight."

"We should be in Oil City in about forty- five minutes." Sam said. "Remember, Sam, we've got nothing on this guy. Until we find Martin, all we have is a theory."

"Right. Take care."

"You too."

Jack closed his phone and slipped it back into his jacket pocket. He sighed and rubbed his eyes.

"We may have to delay our departure," he said out loud.

"Why?" Tyler asked.

"Elena and Sam will be near Oil City in forty five minutes. Steve Parson's going to meet them."

"Good, I was a little concerned with all that we keep learning about Hartman."

"Yeah, so we wait for news from them and we wait for Danny."

"Why do we wait for Danny?" a new voice asked. Jack turned around to see a rumpled Victor standing at the edge of the bullpen.

"Come over here, Victor," Jack said, motioning to the whiteboard. They stood shoulder to shoulder.

"We're close to knowing where Martin is. We believe he's in the Catskills. There's an APB out for Hartman's trailer."

"So why aren't we heading up to the Catskills right now?"

"We don't know exactly where he is," Tyler said softly.

"Danny found Angie. She checked herself in to Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore. It's a hospital for patients with psychiatric disorders."

Victor looked away for a moment, collecting himself. He turned back to look at the two men.

"Jack, he could be hurt. Please, Jack, let's go and get him, now," he whispered.

"No, Victor. We must wait for news from Pennsylvania. Danny should be here around midnight. Then we'll start the drive. By then we should be set with local PD and have the necessary backup." Victor looked at his watch and sighed.

"I've got it, Jack. Hartman's land is in a village called Fleischmann's. It's in Delaware County," Viv said.

"Great, call the local PD. Explain the situation. See if they can drive by and tell us if the trailer is on the property. That will at least give us something to work with. Tyler, can you bring up the image on Google Earth?"


Friday 12:01 a. m.

"Jack, I picked up two sets of FLIR binoculars and a vest for Tyler," Viv said, walking back into the bullpen.

"Great, Danny's in the men's room. When he's done, we're on the road. We'll take just two cars. Make sure Danny puts his vest in your trunk,"

"What are FLIR binoculars?" Victor asked. "Thermal imaging binoculars will let us see into the trailer," Jack said before getting interrupted by his phone.


"Jack, it's Stevie."

"Long time, man. What's the news?"

"It's done here. Hartman was alone in the trailer. He went down fighting. Your agents found receipts for a gas station in Margaretsville in New York in his truck. Does that help?"

"Maybe, hang on. Tyler where's Margaretsville?"

"Uhm, Delaware County, New York."

"Bingo. Great, Stevie. Everyone safe there?"

"No, Jack. We lost one cop and one agent. This guy was ready for bear. Watch yourself. The place was booby-trapped."

"My agents?"

"Are fine. What are you feeding your staff in New York? These gals had brass ones."

"Don't let Samantha hear you say that! Look, I have to get going. Give your contact info to Sam. I'd love to connect with you. Oh, and Tyler says hey."

"Damn, the whole gang. I'll talk to you soon, Jack. Bye."


Jack closed his phone and sighed. Danny walked into the bullpen and stopped to listen.

"Well?" Tyler asked.

"He's dead; took an agent and a cop with him. I need to make a call and then we leave." Jack picked up the phone and paused for a moment. "Ritchie Jenkins, please, Jack Malone, FBI calling. Yeah, I'll hold,"


"Ritchie, it's Jack. How soon can you get your team to the Catskills? I have an agent being held in a 27 ft. trailer. I have good reason to believe it's wired."

"We're almost off-shift. Who's paying for the OT?"

"The Deputy Director will square it with your supervisor." Victor nodded.

"Okay, Jack. Email me the directions."

"On their way as we speak. We go in at seven. We're meeting at the east entrance to Fleischmann's from Route 28."

"See you soon. Bye."


The agents gathered their belongings and headed to the garage. Jack drove Tyler, while Viv drove Victor and Danny. A specially outfitted van with four support agents and their SWAT-style gear followed.

2:13 a. m.

Jack slowed as he saw the parked patrol car on the side of the road. He flashed his lights and parked behind it. Viv parked behind his car. Careful to make sure his badge was visible, Jack got out of the car.

"Evening, I'm Sheriff Watson," the uniformed officer said, extending his hand.

"Jack Malone, FBI. This is Agent Simpson, Agent Johnson, Agent Taylor, and the captive's father, Victor Fitzgerald."

"We'll get your boy out," he said, looking at Victor's tired face.

"I did what you asked and we drove by. The trailer is on that piece of land. No lights on."

"I don't understand, why isn't there a house on the land?" Viv asked.

"Ma'am what these guys do is drive up for a long weekend of hunting. There's usually just a water and electric hook-up."

"Tyler, do you have that Google image?"

"Yeah, Jack. Here it is," Tyler said, spreading it on the hood of the cruiser.

"Where is the trailer on this drawing?" Jack asked. "About here," the sheriff said.

"Okay, we wait for Ritchie."


"I brought up the bomb squad from New York. Hartman's residence in Pennsylvania was wired. A cop and an agent lost their lives. I'm not taking any chances."

"You're in charge, Agent Malone," the sheriff said, wiping his forehead of sweat.

"Please, call me Jack. We have four agents with us to help control the scene. They have advanced medical training. I was concerned if we had trouble we'd need an ambulance, so we brought our van," Jack said, gesturing to the black van at the end of the line of vehicles.

"That's good thinking."

Jack's phone rang.


"Hi, it's Ritchie, is that you up ahead on the right?"

"Yeah, let's have a briefing before we head up."

"Be right there."

Jack closed his phone.

"That's Ritchie and his team."

The van parked and four men got out, walking up to the group of men.

"Sgt. Ritchie Jenkins, NYPD bomb squad, this is Sheriff Watson."

"Pleased to meet you. Hi, Tyler, Viv," Ritchie said, stopping his gaze at the older man in the wrinkled suit.

"I'm Victor Fitzgerald. It's my son..."

"Oh, right, we'll do everything we can to make sure he's okay."

"Ritchie, this is where the trailer is," Jack said, pointing to a spot on the Google map. "Okay, how do you want to play it?"

"We fit two agents with FLIR binoculars to scope the tree line and the trailer. Once we've established that Martin is alone, and then it's your show."

Jack motioned for the other four agents to join them.

"Do you want to wait for sunrise, Jack?" Sheriff Watson asked.

"No, Hartman's dead and we have no evidence of an accomplice. We go now. Jerry, you and Kevin take the FLIRS and do a recon of the tree line and the trailer. Alex and Tim, keep close. Let's suit up here." Jack walked back to his car and popped the trunk. He handed two pairs of FLIRS to Jerry and one pair to Ritchie who handed them to one of his team. Tyler removed his jacket and put on his vest as Jack did the same. Looking around, he saw in the light from the headlights the four agents prepping while the Sheriff just stared. The team returned to their respective vehicles and followed the Sheriff to the site.

"Com check?" a voice asked.

"Loud and clear," came various replies. Jerry and Kevin headed up the rise and then crouched.

"Left perimeter, three deer."

"Right perimeter, four deer and a rabbit."

"The trailer?" Jack prompted.

"One person, sitting, left side. We're going to look at the far side."

"Roger that, but keep clear, then take up support positions so you have our six."

"Roger that."

Tyler looked over at Jack. His face was set; completely focused.

"Trailer clear. We are in position. Come ahead." Jack, Tyler, Ritchie and his team ran up to the trailer. Viv and Danny waited with Victor. Alex and Tim waited nearby with their EMT gear.

"Okay, Ritchie, check out the trailer then we'll go in."

"Roger, Jack."

Ritchie and his men took out their flashlights and began a methodical check of the perimeter as well as the under carriage of the trailer.

"All clear, Jack."

"Okay, here we go," Jack replied.

Ritchie reached up to open the door when Jack heard a distinct click. Jack lunged at his friend just as the shotgun went off.

"Status?" Danny asked in alarm.

"Found a booby trap. We're okay," Tyler replied.

"You okay, Ritchie?" Jack asked.

"Yeah, thanks. Okay guys, by the book," he instructed, getting to his feet.

The bomb squad entered the trailer and quickly searched for any armament.


Jack walked in and immediately turned left, walking to the bedroom. Martin was taped to a chair. Jack knelt next to him and noted he was wearing earplugs. Gently, Jack removed them.

"Martin, it's Jack. You're safe. Let me get the blindfold and gag off."

Martin lifted his head and turned it in the direction of Jack's voice. Tyler cut the tape from his chest and legs. Cautiously, Martin opened his eyes. He smiled and then started to cry. Jack pulled him into a hug and held him tight.

"We need the stretcher, now, boys," Tyler said softly into his mic. "Can you stand?"

"No, and I...I'm cold."

Jack pulled off his windbreaker and helped Martin into it. The cotton lining started to warm him instantly.

"Okay Martin, just lean over my back. That's right," Jack instructed as he stood with Tyler's help. He walked with Martin over his left shoulder to the doorway and Alex and Tim's waiting hands.

"Hang on, Jack. Take it easy, we'll help you," Alex said. Jack carefully walked down the stairs and felt other hands helping. Gently he lowered Martin to the stretcher. Immediately they went to work, adding a blanket to cover Martin. Ritchie's men helped to carry the stretcher down the hill. There was much commotion when Martin reached the FBI bus and his father ran to meet him. Jack walked with Tyler to his car. He pulled off his vest, his back to Tyler.

"Jack, you have blood on your shirt. You must have caught some buckshot. Let's get you checked out."

"I'm fine."

"Now, Jack."

He sighed, and followed Tyler reluctantly to the bus. "Jack caught some buckshot," Tyler said to Alex.

"Okay, Jack, let's take a look," he said, guiding Jack to sit on the bumper. In the pale morning light, Alex saw the blood on Jack's white shirt. He unbuttoned his shirt to the waist and pulled out the shirt tails. Pulling back the fabric, he saw the small wounds on Jack's lower neck and shoulder.

"Okay, Jack, it looks pretty superficial; no stitches, but I need to clean you up. Are you on any medication?"

"No, I take Aleve for my ankle and my headaches."

"Do you want a shot for the pain?"

"Uh, no, I'm fine."

Alex gently swabbed the five wounds and then irrigated them with a sterile saline solution. Jack hissed against the pain, which subsided quickly. He felt small bandages being applied and finally his shirt back on his shoulders.

"You're going to be sore, but you'll be fine, Jack."

"Thanks, Alex," he said, buttoning his shirt.

Tyler and Jack walked back to the car. He reached into the open trunk and pulled out his suit jacket. Finding his keys, he tossed them to Danny.

"You're drivin'."

"Sure, Jack."

"I gave Victor my car so he has wheels."

"Makes sense, Viv."

Double checking he had everything back in his trunk, Jack shut it and settled into the backseat as Tyler did the same. Viv sat shotgun as they headed back to the city.

12:00 p. m.

Danny parked Jack's Crown Victoria in his spot and chuckled again as he looked at his rear view mirror. Both Jack and Tyler were strapped in their seats and sleeping soundly. "Fellas, we're here," He announced.

They both woke up immediately. Jack emitted a grunt as he got out of the backseat and headed for the elevator. Danny pulled Tyler's vest and the FLIR binoculars from the trunk and closed it. "Here are your keys, Jack."

"Thanks, Danny."

They all got into the elevator and went up to the twelfth floor. Jack limped to his office while the other agents went to the bullpen to write their reports. He sat at his desk, first checking his phone for messages, remembering that Ritchie had told him the memory was full. Sighing, he picked up a pen and started to listen to the various voice mails. Most of them were out of date, but there were a few valuable ones. He checked his emails, too, and then decided to bite the bullet. He left his office and went to the elevator pressing the ^ button. When he walked onto the floor, he noticed a certain quiet.

Standing in front of her office, he noted the secretary was gone; her desk cleared. No name remained on the glass as he walked into the office. The shelves were empty, the desk was void, and the drawers were pulled open, showing their emptiness. He felt an unnatural cold as he stood looking out the window. Clenching his fists, he bit back the urge to strike out. Instead, he headed back to the elevator bank. A car came and he stepped in, pushing a button, working now on auto pilot. The door opened and he walked down the short hall, entering the first office.

"Agent Malone? Do you have an appointment?"

"No, I need to see Glenn," Jack said, pacing now in the small outer office. "Dr. Bradley, Agent Malone is here to see you." A few moments later, Glenn walked out, wiping his mouth with a napkin. "Come in, Jack. No calls, no interruptions, please."

"Yes, doctor."

Jack walked in and stood by the window. The city sparkled in the light falling snow. Glenn watched him, noting his wrinkled suit, the slight stale odor as they passed, and the small bandages that peeked out from his collar. He sat at his desk and opened the personnel files on his computer. Pulling a pad to within reach, he took notes. He waited, somewhat patiently, for Jack to begin.

"She's gone," Jack said, in a voice barely above a whisper.

"She requested and was granted a transfer."

"You knew?" Jack asked, turning to face him, the pain in his voice clear. "No, I just checked now."

Jack nodded absently and turned back to the window. "I guess what I was feeling didn't matter."

"No, I think you were honest with your feelings and she wasn't. She was overwhelmed and left the situation rather that face it head on."


Glenn stood and went to the window to face him. "Jack, you're coping; you're working through all of this. I heard you were your old fighting self today with Director Fitzgerald. You're going to be okay."

"I miss her."

"You should. You loved her. But now, you need to move on. Jack, you need to look out for yourself for a while."

The intercom buzzed and Glenn walked to his phone. He pushed a button and picked up the receiver. Hanging up the phone he turned to look at Jack and smiled.

"Let's go, Malone. Man, I've been looking for you for over twenty minutes," Tyler said, as he walked into the room.

"Take him home, Tyler, and get him to bed. Just relax this weekend, Jack. Maybe see a movie or hang out with friends."

"Yeah, maybe. Thanks, Glenn," Jack said, as he crossed the room and followed Tyler out of the office. They walked to the elevator bank in silence. Jack dug his hands into the pockets of his trousers and fiddled with some spare change.

Finally, the elevator car came and they got in. The elevator pinged at each floor and soon they were at twelve. As they neared Jack's office he turned to face Tyler.

"Uhm, give me a couple of minutes."


Jack walked into his office and sat behind his desk. Swiveling the chair, he looked at the photos of Kate and Hanna. He reached over and picket up the handset, then dialed a number from memory.

"Hi, it's me. Uhm, I just wanted to say, in case we miss each other, I love you and the kids. It's around one o'clock." He hung up the phone. Turning back to his computer, he rechecked his emails and saw nothing pressing. Jack looked at the small screen on his phone, noting the zero with a small smile.

"Ready?" Tyler asked as he opened the door and stuck his head in.

"Yeah," he said, getting to his feet slowly. Tyler came into the office and handed Jack his topcoat before donning his own. The trip home was quiet after Jack tossed Tyler the keys to his Crown Vic. He was able to find parking close to Jack's apartment. They walked up the stairs to his apartment and Jack unlocked the door. Tyler waited in the doorway until Jack had voided himself of his topcoat, keys, cell phone, gun and badge. He stepped further into the apartment, closed the door, locked it, and threw the chain.

"Heading horizontal?" Tyler asked the retreating figure.


"Me too, see you after our naps," Tyler said as he hung up his coat. Jack walked into his bedroom and shut the door. Sitting on the bed, he removed his sock and shoe as well as his cast. Numbly, he took off his suit and put it in the dry-cleaning bag. He carefully hung his tie on the tie rack in his closet, unbuttoned his shirt and put it in the bag with his suit. Dressed only in his shorts he put on an FDNY shirt and crawled into his unmade bed.

6:22 p. m.

Jack woke up feeling refreshed. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and rubbed his face with his hands, feeling the rough beard with a smile. Looking over to the clock radio, he saw the photo of himself and Anne. He leaned over, picked it up and carried it to his dresser. Opening his sock drawer, he put the frame in upside down. He closed it and headed for the shower. He pulled his shirt over his head and stepped out of his shorts. He reached in and turned on the water, setting the temperature on high. Removing his cast, he set his watch on the counter, pulled the shower curtain aside and got in. Jack grunted as the hot water hit various sore parts of his body. Finally, as his tense muscles started to relax, his emotions did as well and he started to cry. Tears fell down his face as he leaned against the shower wall. Jack cried until he didn't have any more tears. Strangely, he felt better. He picked up the soap and started to wash his body. He let his mind stay clear as he poured the shampoo into his hand. He felt the length of his hair, knowing that it was curling over his shirt collar. Rinsing his hair, he wiped the soap from his forehead and felt his beard again. He was going to shave, today, but thought that Sunday would be fine. Turning off the water, he stepped out onto the bathmat and reached for a towel. Drying off, he picked up his shorts and carried them into the closet and put them in the laundry bin. He opened a drawer and put on a fresh pair of shorts, sweatpants and a t-shirt and walked out into the hallway. Jack stopped and returned to the bathroom with a sigh, picking up his cast, and putting it back on. Heading back into the hallway, he heard some music playing softly and smelled something cooking.

"You're up! How did you sleep?" Tyler asked, turning from the pot he was stirring.

"Not bad, thanks. And you?" he replied, sitting on the stool at the breakfast bar.

"Like a rock. I hope you're hungry. I think I made too much spaghetti."

Jack smiled but didn't answer.

"Glass of wine?"


Tyler poured Jack a glass of red wine and set it in front of him. He took a sip and looked around him. A large stack of mail rested precariously on the narrow countertop. The answering machine blinked and in red the number nine could be seen. He sighed and picked up a pen, sliding a pad closer, before hitting the <play> button.

<Thursday four pm.> the machine said.

"Agent Malone, this is Detective Jessen. I thought you were coming down to fill out a report on your mugging today. Please call when you get this message. I'm at 212-555-3540."

<Friday nine am> the machine said.

"Agent Malone, this Detective Diehl. If you do not come down and file a report, then these guys'll go free. That is, if they get out of the hospital. Call me on my cell 646-555-3542."

"They sound pissed," Tyler commented.

"Yeah, they do."

<Friday ten am> the machine said.

"Mr. Malone, it's Dr. Siegel's office. We're trying to schedule your appointment for Monday to have your cast removed and your foot re-x-rayed. Please call us at 212-555-7520."

<Friday eleven thirty am> the machine said.

"Jack, it's Ritchie. Guess we're even, for now at least. Seriously, thanks, man." Jack took a sip of wine and continued to listen while Tyler set the table.

<Friday eleven thirty five am> the machine said.

"Jack, it's Glenn. I just wanted to try to set up a couple of appointments with you for next week. Call me when you can. You have all my numbers."

< Friday twelve pm> the machine said.

"Jack, it's Victor. I just wanted to give you an update personally. Martin will be fine. He's dehydrated and slightly hypothermic, but that's all. They're keeping him overnight for observation. Thank you again, Jack to you and to your team, for getting him back for me. I'll call you when I get to the city, tomorrow. Bye."

"That's nice of him."


<Friday twelve ten pm> the machine said.

"Malone, it's Diehl. I don't know what kind of game you're trying to play here but it's not funny. The brass are coming down hard on us to get you in here. They're worried about your bosses thinking we were slacking. You have my number. Call me."

<Friday twelve thirty pm>

"Malone, it's Jessen. The shit is hitting the fan here. Call me."

"They really are partners, aren't they? How many more, your food's getting cold," Tyler commented.

"Uhm, one more."

<Friday twelve thirty two pm>

"Jack, it's me. I'm sorry I missed your call today. Tonight is Kate's dance recital so we'll miss our call, but we'll call you tomorrow. Take care." Jack cleared the machine and picked up his glass before heading to the dining room table to join Tyler, who was twirling his spaghetti on his fork. He looked up briefly as Jack sat down and then returned his concentration to his dinner.

"Big day, today," Tyler commented softly. Jack fiddled with his fork, taking an occasional forkful of spaghetti. He sipped his wine and remained silent.

"What's wrong?"

Jack continued to move his food around his plate and then finally set his fork down. He looked up at Tyler and took a small breath.

"Anne got a transfer," he said quietly. "When?"

"I'm not really sure."

"She's gone?"

"Yeah, her office is cleared out, name off the door, whole deal." Tyler looked at his friend and took a chance.

"Look, you may not want to hear this right now, but her leaving New York might be the best thing for you. You can get on with your life. You can talk about what happened without worrying that you're going to hurt her."

"I loved her."

"I know, I know you did, but she wasn't able to handle the miscarriage, your accident: any of it. This was the only way for her to survive." Jack took a sip from his glass and realized that he needed more.

"Need more wine?" he asked.

"Yes, please."

Jack went into the kitchen and brought the bottle back to the table. He poured liberally into the glasses and set the bottle on the table He went back and picked up the portable phone and pad before returning to the table.

"I think I better call those fellas back."

"Good idea. Are you done with dinner?"

"Yeah, stick it in the fridge and maybe I'll have an appetite later."

"Okay," Tyler said, picking up the plates and moving them to the kitchen. Jack turned on the phone and then dialed.


"Detective Diehl, Jack Malone. Sorry for not getting back to you. We had an emergency at work involving the son of a senior agent."

"Yeah, I know Director Fitzgerald called my captain this afternoon. He squared it to give you a couple of days. We'll see you on Monday."

"Thanks, Detective."

"You're welcome, Agent Malone. Have a nice weekend."

"I will, bye."


Jack hung up the phone and took a sip of wine.

"Victor called the captain of the precinct. I don't have to report until Monday."

"Good for you."


Tyler's cell phone rang.


"Hi, it's Lou."

"Lou, you promised me this weekend."

"I know I did, Tyler, I'm sorry. We've just received a report on a series of homicides in Fredericksville." Tyler sighed into the handset before responding.

"I can take the eight o'clock Acela. If you have Mutt and Jeff meet me at the BWI station."

"Thanks, Tyler."

"You're welcome, Lou."


"Bye." Tyler said, closing his phone.

"Something up?"

"Yeah, someone put two and two together; looks like we might have a serial in Fredericksville."

"Well, at least you can have a good night's sleep."

"Yeah, look, I've got some work to do."

"Sure, I'm gonna go return some more calls in my bedroom," Jack said, topping off his glass of wine. "Okay."

Jack picked up his notepad, and his phone list from the kitchen then headed to his bedroom. He closed the door and walked to his bedside table and set down the glass. Sitting down on the bed, he turned on the light and picked up the phone to dial.

"Steve Siegel."

"Hi, it's Jack Malone."

"I'm glad I gave you my cell phone number."

"Yeah, my schedule is a bit off. What time do you want me to come in on Monday?"

"I have rounds at the hospital in the morning. Hang on, let me really look at my schedule. Okay, eleven would be good."

"Okay, do you think you can do a fitness for duty exam as well?"

"Yes, I'll just block the time now."

"Great, thanks."

"You're welcome, Jack. I'll see you on Monday. Bye."

"Bye," Jack said, depressing the button and dialing again. "Glenn Bradley."

"It's Jack."

"How're you doing?"

"Coping, I guess."

"I'll accept that for now. Eight a.m. Monday and Wednesday good for you?"

"That should be okay," Jack said, writing the info on his pad.

"Great, take it easy. Have a quiet weekend and I'll see you Monday."

"Thanks, Glenn."

"You're welcome, Jack. Bye."

"Bye," Jack said, hanging up the phone. Jack took a sip of his wine and then carried his papers and the glass back into the living room. Tyler was working on his laptop.

"Can you print something for me?"

"Sure, are you emailing me or is it on a memory stick?"

"Uhm, email."

"Okay," Jack said, setting the pad and phone list back on the breakfast bar. He walked to his laptop and turned it on, hearing the soft beep as it went through its start-up. He reached the green button on the front of the printer and turned it on. Sitting down, he sipped his wine and waited. A few minutes later, he was staring at a photo of the girls from Christmas.

"Okay, let me just get to my email account. And...I'm in."


"Got it, how many copies?"

"One is fine. It's the Amtrak ticket backup in case the ticket kiosk is screwed up."


"You get your stuff settled?"

"Yeah. What time is your train?"

"I'm on the eight a.m. Acela so I'll be out the door around seven tomorrow." Jack took another sip and looked at his screen. He had set up his screensaver to be a series of photos of Hanna and Kate. He looked at his watch and was surprised to see it was almost nine o'clock. He wasn't tired, exactly, he was restless. Standing up, he walked to the window. In the quiet apartment he stood drinking his wine. The only noise was the tapping of Tyler's fingertips on his laptop. Lost in thought, he sipped his wine and watched the occasional person walk down the sidewalk and get illuminated by the streetlight.

9:30 p. m.

"Jack, I'm going to bed. Will I see you in the morning?" Jack turned and saw that Tyler had packed up his computer and set it and his briefcase near the front door. He set his glass on the window sill.

"Yeah, I'll see you then."

"Don't stay up all night."

"No, I won't."



Tyler looked at his friend and saw that he was still troubled. He walked up to him and embraced him tightly. Neither man spoke. Finally, Jack took a step back, wiping his eyes with his forearm. He cleared his throat.

"Go to bed, you rebel," Jack said, gruffly.

"You too, hippie"

"Soon, I'll be there soon enough."



Tyler walked down the hallway to the guest room and shut the door behind him. Jack picked up his wine glass and noticed it was empty. He looked at the dining room table, but the bottle was no longer there. He went into the kitchen and noticed the bottle in the recycle bin. Pausing for a moment, he reached up and pulled down a rocks glass. He opened the bottle of Famous Grouse and poured generously before adding some tap water. Walking back to his desk, he sat down at his computer and looked at his emails; nothing important in his personal account. Logging in through the secure VPN he scrolled through his office email. He sent an email to Viv explaining about his appointments for next week and then logged out. Taking a sip, he watched the computer go into screen saver mode and the faces of his girls came up again. He watched them for several minutes, feeling the tears course down his face. Abruptly, he got up and walked to the front door. His wallet was in the tray. Picking it up, he returned to his computer and started to type. Soon he was smiling, sipping his drink, and finally feeling slightly tired. He logged out and turned off his computer and his printer. Grabbing his drink, he went to the sofa and sat down. Reaching for the remote, he turned on the TV and started to channel surf.

Saturday 2:12 a. m.

Tyler woke up with a dry throat. He padded down the hallway, and wasn't entirely surprised to see Jack not in bed. He was surprised that Jack was still awake.

"Can't sleep, huh?"

"I sleep for ten minutes, then wake up." Tyler noted the minimal remains of liquid in the scotch bottle. He took a glass and filled it with a small amount of Famous Grouse and then a lot of water.

"Let me drink some of this and then we are both going horizontal, okay?"

"Sure, Tyler."

Five minutes later, Tyler turned off the TV and the lights in the kitchen and living room as Jack headed to his bedroom. Tyler heard the door shut and sighed as he returned to the guestroom.

6:30 a. m.

Tyler woke up and started to strip the bed of the dirty sheets. He walked to the bathroom and took a shower, returning with only a towel around his waist.

"Coffee and toast?" Jack called from the kitchen.

"Perfect, thanks."

Jack had been up since six. He had taken a shower and carefully shaved his beard, debating about leaving a moustache and goatee, finally deciding against it. He was dressed simply in a pair of jeans and a white oxford shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He leaned against the counter, sipping his coffee. Two pieces of bread were poised to be toasted. Tyler walked down the hallway carrying his duffle. Dropping it by his other bag, he greedily took the mug of coffee from Jack as he started to smell the bread toasting.

"Butter or jam?"

"Just butter today, please," Tyler said as he sat at the breakfast bar. Looking at Jack he noticed a certain energy that hadn't been there recently.

"Got plans today?"

"Not really, just going to play it by ear." The toast popped up and Jack quickly plated it and handed it to Tyler with a knife and the butter.

"None for you?"

"Not hungry," Jack replied, taking another sip of his coffee. They remained quiet; the only sound was the occasional one from the street.

"Well, I better be going. I'll give you a call when I can," Tyler said, standing. "Great."

Tyler opened the closet and took out his top coat. He slipped it on, checked for all of his bits and parts and then walked up to Jack. He hugged him tightly.

"You take care of yourself, Malone. No heroics this weekend."

"No heroics, got it."

Tyler stepped back, slung his duffle over his shoulder, picked up his computer and briefcase before walking by Jack, who held the door open.

"Safe trip."

"Thanks, man."

Jack watched as Tyler negotiated the narrow stairs until he was out of view. He shut the door and walked back to his bedroom. Pulling a small black bag from his closet, he started to pack. Ten minutes later he was more or less done. He walked back to the front door and slipped his badge onto his belt next to his cell phone. He checked that his gun was safely hung in the closet before he unplugged his cell phone charger and slipped into his bag. Walking into the kitchen, he made sure the coffee maker had turned itself off. Finally, he put his wallet in his jacket and reached for his topcoat. As he was almost out the door, he remembered his IPOD. He grabbed it, the charger, and the head phones, and then left the apartment.

8:10 a. m.

Jack made it through security and headed for the Admiral's Club to wait for his flight. He had almost two hours until his flight, which was rough. Coffee, bagels, and juice were all that were offered. He was okay, excited to fly to Chicago to see the girls. He was able to link to the FBI server to look at email; nothing new. He surfed the net until, finally, he boarded his plane. Finding his seat, he put his bag and topcoat in the overhead and then settled into his window seat. He turned off his cell phone. Clipping his seat belt in view of the flight attendants, he fell asleep.

12:15 p. m. Chicago

He woke up on the second bounce. Rubbing his face, he cracked his neck and got ready to stand up. The plane came to a stop, and the two pings came over the sound system. Jack stood, waited for a few moments, and then retrieved his coat and bag. He left the plane and headed toward the train that would get him to downtown Chicago. From there he could change to a bus or train.

1:45 p. m.

He walked into the condominium building. The doorman looked at him curiously.

"Maria Malone, please."

"She's not here."

"That's all right. I'll wait," Jack said, showing his badge.

"Uhm, yes of course, sir."

"Relax, she's not in any trouble. You haven't met me yet. I'm her ex-husband. I had some free time so I'm surprising her and the girls."

"Sure, okay, not a problem."

Jack sat in the first leather chair and waited, soon falling asleep.

2:15 p. m.

'Daddy!!" the girls shrieked as they saw him sprawled in the chair. Jack woke up seconds before Kate launched himself onto him.

"Hello, sweetheart. Hello, Hanna. How are you>"

"We're hungry, Daddy," Kate announced.

"What are you doing here, Dad?" Hanna asked.

"I needed to see you. I'm sorry that I could have planned it better. Sorry to mess up your weekend, Maria. I just needed to see the girls." Maria looked at their daughters and smiled.

"Jack, have you had lunch?"

"No, no lunch, or breakfast for that matter." Maria smiled as the girls pulled their father to his feet. He picked up his bag as the girls led him to the elevator.

"Daddy, are you staying for the weekend?" Kate asked.

"Honey, I'm in Chicago until tomorrow afternoon, but I didn't plan it with your mother, so we have to see."

Jack was shown every new toy, device, program, and school activity in the last month since he had been there.

"Okay lunch is ready," Maria said loudly.

Hanna led the way in with Kate and Jack in tow. The bowls were filled with tomato soup and each plate had a hot grilled cheese sandwich. It was perfect. They ate everything in relative silence. "Okay nap time," Maria said forcefully. Kate reached up to her father's hand and pulled him to the girls' bedroom. He walked in and then sat on the floor between the two beds. Kate handed him a book and he began to read. Hanna settled on her bed with her Gameboy.

3:30 p. m.

Maria finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen. She walked to the girls' room and heard nothing. She walked into the room and found the girls asleep, both curled up on their respective beds, facing their father. Jack was asleep on the floor, his head against Kate's bed. Maria smiled and left the room. She walked back to the kitchen and picked up the phone and dialed. The answering machine picked up after several rings.

<Hi, this is Paul, leave your number, I will call you back eventually.>

"Hi, Paul, it's Maria. I'm going to have to cancel tonight. Jack came in today and we need to spend time together, the four of us, as a family. I hope you understand. I'll call you Monday." She hung up the phone and went to the guest room to make the bed.


  Please post a comment on this story.


Search for another story

Failed to execute CGI : Win32 Error Code = 2