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Dream a Little Dream of Me – Ch. 3

“Out of sorts, my ass,” Reese muttered, descending the stairs of the library and exiting the building. He’s seen Finch out of sorts – when he’d been waiting for Finch at Finch’s day-job, when he’d woken him after he fell asleep at his table, when he’d gotten caught snooping around the library and trying to hack Finch’s computer. This was angry, and Reese had no idea what he’d done. It didn’t help matters that Finch was lying about it.

Putting it aside, Reese walked to his car and climbed inside, setting the bag with the twenty thousand dollars in it on the passenger’s seat. He checked traffic and pulled away from the curb, heading across town to the clinic. He’d gone there a couple of times during his months on the street. He even vaguely remembered seeing Miss Hinks once. She was sitting behind the counter when he walked in, the waiting room already crowded, but unlike the busy uptown avenues where a ‘guy in a suit’ blended in with the rest of the herd, here he stuck out like a giraffe in a room full of zebras.

Ignoring the stares, he stepped up to the reception window. Miss Hinks was busy organizing some papers and passed him a clipboard full of forms without looking. “Please fill this out as much as you can,” she said. “The doctor will be with you as soon as he can.”

“I don’t need a doctor,” Reese said, his voice low. “I’m here to help you.”

She glanced up at him, a wariness in her eyes that reminded him of Finch. “And how are you going to help me? Do I know you?”

“No,” Reese said, giving his head a shake, “but I know you’re in some trouble over a debt that isn’t yours.”

The color drained from her face. “Did he send you here to intimidate me? ‘Cause it’s working. You don’t have to take me out into the alley and break my legs. I’ll get the money, I just need more time-”

“Relax,” Reese said, reaching over the counter and placing his hand lightly over hers. She was shaking like a leaf. “Nobody sent me. I heard you were in trouble and I want to help. I have the money to pay off the debt, I just need you to call and set up a meeting with your boyfriend’s bookie.”

“Ex-boyfriend,” she said softly. “We broke up two weeks before the accident. I was tired of his gambling.” A quiet, near-hysterical laugh escaped her and she covered her mouth with her hand, looking surprised and embarrassed. “Sorry, I just…Did you say you were going to pay the debt?”

“That’s right,” Reese said, placing the bag on the counter. “It’s fifteen thousand, right?”

“Almost,” she said, her eyes widening as he pulled five of the stacks out of the bag and tucked them into his coat.

“I brought extra in case they give me trouble,” he explained. “Now, call them. Tell them you have their money.”

Her hands shook as she scrolled through her smartphone, looking for the number. “I hate this darn thing,” she muttered, tentatively tapping the touchscreen. “Present from my brother…There wasn’t anything wrong with my other phone- Here it is.” She raised the phone to her ear, her breath coming in short, nervous gasps as she waited. “Hello, this is Rachel Hinks. I have the money my boyfriend owed you.”

She was about to hyperventilate. Reese reached out and gently took the phone from her. “I’ll be conducting business for Miss Hinks from now on,” he said smoothly.

“Who the fuck are you?” asked a raspy voice with a heavy Brooklyn accent.

“John Rooney, Assets,” Reese answered with a small smirk. “I’m a friend of Miss Hinks. Now, do you want your money, or not?”

There was some talking in the background, something he couldn’t make out. “All right,” the raspy voice said a moment later. “There’s a vacant lot on the corner of West 44th and Ninth Avenue. One hour. Don’t be late.” The line went dead and Reese handed the phone back.

“You don’t have to worry anymore,” he said, grabbing the bag of money off the counter. “I’ll take care of this.”

“Wait,” she said as he headed for the door. He glanced back. “Why are you doing this?”

“It’s…complicated,” he said, and walked out before she could ask any more questions. Complicated didn’t even begin to describe it. He didn’t do it for the money, or for the adrenaline rush. He did it to help people, to redeem himself for his past sins, but it had become something more than that, too. He did it because he wanted Finch to see something other than a monster, a killer, when he looked at him.

He didn’t know for certain that that was what Finch thought of him, but it wasn’t hard to imagine that was what the wary looks and tensed shoulders and constant surveillance meant. He was nothing more than a trained wolf; he would hunt and fight and protect, but Finch would never turn his back, never let down his guard. That had to be why he was so ‘out of sorts’, because he’d taken his eyes off the wolf and now he wondered what sort of damage had been done.

With a sigh, Reese climbed into his car and eased out into traffic. He thought about calling Finch to update him on the situation, but decided it wasn’t really necessary. Of course, that didn’t usually stop him, not lately, anyway. He’d found himself ‘checking in’ for no particular reason, other than to hear Finch’s voice, and perhaps coax an unguarded comment out of him. He’d been both amused and chagrined to realize he’d turned into a teenage girl, calling his crush a dozen times a day, but if Finch noticed, he gave no sign. He probably did notice, but assumed it was just another interrogation tactic, and Reese had no idea how to convince him differently. Everything he did or said was met with suspicion.

He arrived at the meeting place fifteen minutes early, parking a couple of blocks away and walking the rest. The location was not optimal, bordered on the east by an abandoned building riddled with dark, broken windows. Reese eyed the high rooftop, looking for snipers, but these were petty criminals, not the CIA. Still, it made the scar on his abdomen ache.

He was waiting in the lot when the bookie arrived, accompanied by a couple of thugs, both packing. They walked toward each other, sizing each other up like wolves from rival packs. Except Reese didn’t have a pack. He was alone. He pushed the thought aside and focused on the problem at hand.

“John Rooney?” the bookie asked, an older, overweight man with the stub of a cigar in his teeth.

“That’s right,” Reese said. He noticed the two thugs eyeing the bag in his hand.

“You got my money?”

Reese held up the bag, then tossed it to one of the thugs. “Fifteen thousand. I trust that will cover it.”

“Not quite,” the bookie said, much as Reese had expected. “I been waiting for this for six months.”

“How much?”

“Another ten.”

“You can have two,” Reese said, reaching into his coat. The two thugs tensed, the one not holding the cash reaching for his gun. Reese stared him down and finished pulling the two grand out of his pocket. He flipped the stacks of cash to the second thug, who let go of his weapon to catch it. Amateurs. “We’re done here. Do not contact Miss Hinks again.” Reese turned to leave.

“Hey, boss, look what I found.”

Reese glanced back as a third thug approached, a terrified-looking Miss Hinks walking in front of him, his hand tangled in her long hair. Reese took a slow breath, reevaluating the situation in the span of a heartbeat. His expression unchanging, he turned back, one hand quietly unbuttoning his suit jacket.

“Let her go,” he said. “You have your money.”

“Shut up,” the bookie said, shifting his cigar stub from one side of his mouth to the other. “You smug sonsofbitches in your fancy suits, you think you can dictate terms to me? You got six hours to bring me fifty thousand or they’ll be pulling your girl out of the East River. And don’t make us wait too long or we might have to entertain ourselves,” he said, reaching out to trail his knuckles down her cheek.

Definitely amateurs. Professionals would know better than to let themselves be distracted, to take their eyes off the wolf. Reese drew his gun, the first shot ringing out before they even realized that they’d royally fucked up. One of the thugs hit the ground screaming, blood smearing his hands as he grabbed at his knee. Reese fired twice more in quick succession, shoulder and thigh disabling thug number two as he drew his gun.

The third thug, the one holding Miss Hinks, tried to hide behind her as he fumbled for his weapon, but he’d tangled his dominant hand in her hair, another amateur move. Reese pointed his pistol at the bookie’s head.

“Drop it,” he said to the thug, his voice calm and quiet, “or your boss is dead.”

The thug hesitated.

“Just fucking do it!” the bookie hissed, his cigar stub falling from his lips. The thug dropped his pistol on the ground and kicked it away.

“Now let her go.”

The thug disentangled his hand from her hair. As soon as she was free, she hurried over to him.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she whispered, tears streaking her ashen face.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “just keep walking.” Reese followed, backing out of the lot until he felt pavement under his feet. He lowered his gun and turned, grabbing Miss Hinks by the upper arm and escorting her down the street.

“Aren’t they going to come after us?” she asked.

“They’re not that stupid,” Reese said, but he glanced back, just in case. He was right – the bookie was too concerned with grabbing his money and getting his injured employees out of there before the cops showed up. Reese could already hear the wail of sirens in the distance.

They didn’t speak again until they were in his car. Reese glanced over at her, staring out through the windshield with a shell-shocked expression on her face. “Are you all right?” Reese asked, making her jump.

“I- I think so,” she said. “I’ve never- never seen anyone shot before.”

“How did you find me?” She couldn’t have followed him.

“This stupid phone,” she said, pulling it out of her pocket. “It records all my conversations. I don’t know how to change the settings. I played it back and heard where you’d be meeting them.”

“It records all your conversations?”

She nodded.

“And did those guys ever call and threaten you?”

“All the time,” she said, nodding again.

Reese allowed himself a small, smug smile. “I’ve got a friend at the NYPD I’d like you to talk to. Would you be willing to testify that those guys threatened to kill you?”

“I- I think so.”

“Good. Did you drive there?”

She shook her head. “Taxi.”

“Why did you come? You knew these guys were dangerous.”

“I know, I just- I needed to know if you were for real, that this wasn’t a trick or a joke or a dream. Nobody’s ever done anything like this for me before. I needed to see for myself.”

He could understand that. It was still foolish and had almost gotten them both killed, but it was understandable. He drove her back to the clinic and parked across the street.

“Thank you,” she said as she unbuckled her seatbelt and prepared to get out. “If there’s ever anything I can do, anything…”

“Actually, there is something,” Reese said. He reached into his coat and pulled out the extra three thousand he hadn’t given to the bookie. He held it out to her. “I want to donate this to the clinic. Can you do that for me?”

“I- Yes, but- Why? Who are you?”

“I was in a…dark place in my life not too long ago,” Reese said. “When I needed help, I came here, and now that I can, I want to return the favor.”

Her hand was still shaking as she reached out and took the money, tucking it out of sight in her purse. She climbed out of the car and he watched her cross the street, waiting until she was safely inside the clinic before pulling away from the curb, another mission accomplished. Almost. He pulled out his phone and dialed Carter.

“I’ve got a present for you,” he said, smiling to himself as he laid on the charm.

“Oh?” Finch said, sounding startled.

Reese’s smile vanished in an instant and he glanced down at the phone. Damn it. “Sorry, Finch, I thought I’d called Carter.”

“I see,” Finch replied, that frostiness back in his tone. “How did your meeting go?”

“A little more complicated than expected, but Miss Hinks won’t be bothered anymore.”

“Good.”

Reese hesitated. “Harold…”

“I’ll call you when I have another Number, Mr. Reese,” Finch said and the line went dead. Reese let out a frustrated sigh. What the hell was wrong with that man? After a moment, Reese changed lanes and turned the corner, heading for the library. He couldn’t keep working like this, and since quitting wasn’t an option, that only left dragging the truth out of Finch, and Reese had had a lot of practice at getting people to talk.

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2 Comments
  1. T'LIRA permalink

    A wonderful story, I can’t wait for the next chapter.

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