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Surveillance – Ch. 13

With a sigh, Finch sank into the chair at his workstation, pulled his keyboard close, and logged into his e-mail account. Waiting for him was the ballistics report from Detective Fusco, sent just that morning. Finch had to admit, the dirty cop did prove useful once in a while. Taking a sip of his green tea, Finch opened the e-mail and the attached file, a small frown creasing his brow as the information filled his computer screen.

The gun was a match to seven unsolved murders committed over the last three years, all of them clean, professional-looking hits, no connection between the victims, no evidence left at the scene of the crimes. Finch’s heart began to pound in his chest as he scanned the list of victims. The police were wrong – they had a connection. They had all been picked by the Machine, back when Finch was helpless to stop the crimes.

Turning to his board of numbers, pictures, and string, Finch picked out their faces, knowing each photo, each newspaper clipping by name, by sight, and he felt a rush of elation. He hadn’t been able to save them, but like Dana Miller, he had finally found them justice.

He reached for his phone to call Reese and tell him the good news, when something sparked inside his brain, something half-forgotten from those dark, hopeless years. The police had suspected they were the work of the same perpetrator, and Finch had flagged each one with a piece of blue string tied around the pushpin that held it to the wall. So why were there only seven victims on the list, but more than a dozen pieces of blue string? Why use a different gun half of the time? He could see using a different weapon for each crime, or losing the original and getting a replacement, but there was no chronological order to the use of this gun as opposed to the other. It was almost as if it was someone else completely-

Finch drew a sharp breath and grabbed his cell, dialing Reese and pacing before the wall of the dead as he listened to it ring. Finally, the call connected. “He had a partner,” Finch said before Reese even had a chance to speak. “Ballistics came back on the gun-”

“Hold on there, Mr. Friend-of-a-friend,” came a familiar voice that most certainly wasn’t Reese.

“Detective?” Finch frowned. He was certain he hadn’t dialed the wrong number. “How did you get this phone?”

“I swiped it before it could be collected as evidence. You’re welcome,” Fusco said.

“Evidence?” Finch repeated, suddenly out of breath and cold. “Detective, what happened?”

“Looks like our friend’s luck finally ran out,” Fusco said. “EMS got here just before we did and took him away, but…it didn’t look good. He took one in the chest and one in the head. The shooter got away, but it looks like our friend might have wounded him. I gotta go or Carter’s going to come looking for me. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

The line went dead and Finch slowly brought the phone away from his ear, just staring at it. This couldn’t be happening. This could not be happening. Reese couldn’t be- He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t be. Like an automaton, his body numb and cold, Finch walked to his workstation and sank into his chair. For a second, he stared at his computer, not sure what to do, and then he leaned forward, fingers dancing over the keys with determination and purpose.

Reese could not be dead, which meant he was being taken to the hospital. Finch pulled up a map of the city, locating the hospital nearest to the hotel. He was halfway down the stairs and heading for the exit before he realized that he’d visited that hospital before. It was where Dr. Tillman worked.

Pulling out his phone, he established a connection with her cell, eavesdropping as he hailed a taxi. He could hear the muted sounds of conversation and the noise of traffic, which meant she wasn’t at work. He climbed into a taxi, gave the driver the address, and dialed her number.

“Hello?” She sounded guarded, like she thought she knew who it was.

“Dr. Tillman, I need you to listen carefully. My partner has been shot and is being taken to your hospital. You know the man I’m talking about, so I’d appreciate it if we could save the interrogative questions for later. Where are you?”

She hesitated. “About six blocks from the hospital. What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Finch said. “I was told he was shot in the chest and in the- in the head.” He cleared his throat, trying to hide the catch, the stutter in his voice. “I’m on my way there, but I know hospital policy; they won’t tell me anything. Can you keep your cell with you and call me as soon as you know something?” If she kept the phone with her, she wouldn’t even have to call, but he kept that to himself. Some people took offense to being spied on.

“I’ll do what I can,” she said. “He’s a good man.”

“Thank you, Dr. Tillman,” Finch said and hung up. He put his earpiece in and connected back to her phone as the cab pulled up in front of the hospital. After paying the driver, he went into the emergency room waiting area and took a seat, pretending to look through a fishing magazine while he waited for Dr. Tillman to arrive. He heard her enter the hospital, leaving the street noise behind and doubling the ambient conversation. He heard her ask someone about recent gunshot victims and he sat forward in his chair, holding his breath as she was directed to trauma room three. He heard a heavy door open, machines beeping, metal clanking, raised, anxious voices-

“Oh, my god,” Dr. Tillman whispered, then louder, “Do you need a hand in here?”

“Thanks, Megan, I think we got this one,” said a male voice.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Home invasion, I think,” said a different voice, female. “Guy took one to the chest and one to the head. He flatlined in the bus, but we got him back.”

“Collapsed lung, lost about three units of blood, and as soon as he’s stable, he’s headed up to surgery to remove all the shrapnel floating around inside him,” said the male voice. “I swear, whoever came up with those bullets that disintegrate on impact ought to be shot with them.”

“Then again,” said the female, “that’s probably why he wasn’t DOA; the bullet to the head clipped the right side of the skull and broke up.”

“Still caused enough trauma to turn him into a turnip,” said the unidentified man. “He’ll never wake up.”

“And I suppose you’re a neurologist now, Steve?” Dr. Tillman said, followed by the sound of her shoving through the heavy doors. Finch tossed the magazine down and went outside, trying to keep his breathing calm and steady as he waited for her call. He heard her go somewhere quieter, a door closing and blocking out nearly all the background noise. She took a loud, shaking breath and sobbed. Finch leaned back against the cold brick facade of the hospital and stared at the rushing traffic, listening to her cry.

It was two days before Finch could get in to see Reese. During that time, he hacked the hospital records and rearranged Dr. Tillman’s schedule so she could keep an eye on Reese, downloaded all hospital footage featuring Reese and studied every frame, arranged a meeting with Fusco to get Reese’s phone back, and examined all the surveillance from the hotel. He had images of the woman, Mr. Allen’s mysterious partner, taped all over the big, cracked window in the library, but he’d managed to find nothing on her. Without a name, she was a ghost.

What he’d not been able to do much of since the shooting was sleep or eat. He was still wearing the shirt from the day before when Dr. Tillman called, his tie tossed carelessly on the table.

“You said to call when the cops showed up,” she said. “They just left – Detectives Carter and Fusco. I’m supposed to call them if he- when he wakes up.”

“I’d like to see him now if that’s possible,” Finch said, ignoring her attempt at optimism. Reese had suffered a major blow to the head. The shattered bullet had spread out the impact, cracking his skull in seven places, causing bleeding and swelling in his brain. The neurosurgeon had drilled holes in his skull to relieve the pressure inside. He had less than a twenty percent chance of ever waking up, and his odds of having a full recovery were one in a million.

“He’s in room 382,” Dr. Tillman said. “How will I know it’s you?”

“You’ll know,” Finch replied. “We’ve met before.” He hung up and called his driver before heading to change his clothes. He felt almost robotic as he put on a crisp shirt and knotted his tie, empty eyes staring back at him from the mirror. The logical part of his mind understood that this was a coping mechanism, that the emotional part of him, which rarely made an appearance anyway, had checked out on an extended vacation and was sitting somewhere quiet, waiting, holding its breath.

He could not accept that a monumental change had been wrought upon his life. Yes, it was irrational. He knew the facts. He knew the odds. And yet, some small part of him still hoped desperately that when he saw Reese, when he took his hand, Reese would wake and they would go back to work and everything would be just fine.

The drive to the hospital was long and silent. As Finch made his way up to the third floor and limped through the endless maze of corridors, all he could think about was Reese. Reese would be all right, he had to be. Because Finch had no contingency plan for this. He’d put all his money on Reese. The house couldn’t win again.

Stopping outside room 382, Finch took a bracing breath before opening the door and slipping inside. The steady beep of a heart monitor and the rhythmic fwoosh of the respirator were the only sounds in the quiet room. Finch stood beside the door, staring at the large hospital bed and its occupant. Reese’s hair had been shaved off, his scalp pale with dark bruises and neat, tiny stitches piecing the skin back together. A thin tube ran out of the hole in his skull. The right side of his face was black and blue. He had tubes down his throat and up his nose, and IVs in both arms.

Finch jumped, shuffling sideways as the door opened and Dr. Tillman peeked in, looking surprised to see him. “You? Mr…Finch, wasn’t it?” She stepped into the room and shut the door. “Harold Finch, with the neck pain? I suppose that was just a ruse to get close me, then?”

“Yes, though I assure you, the injury and chronic pain is very real.” He gestured toward Reese. “How is he?”

“The same,” Dr. Tillman replied with a sigh. “We’re using medication to keep him in a coma until the swelling in his brain goes down. Then we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Finch nodded and cleared his throat. “Well, thank you, Doctor,” he said. “I should probably be going.”

She placed a hand on his arm as he turned to go. “You don’t have to,” she said. “You didn’t come all this way just to hear what I’ve been telling you over the phone. If anyone bothers you, just say you’re a member of St. Alice’s church. They sometimes come in and sit with patients who don’t have family in the area.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Finch said as she left. He regarded Reese for another moment before taking a deep breath and walking over to the side of the bed. Up close, Finch found it hard to look at him, so still and damaged. This wasn’t Reese. Reese was stronger than this; Reese was indestructible; Reese got shot, changed his shirt, and went back to saving the world.

Finch drew a chair over to the bedside and sat, staring at Reese’s hand for a long time before reaching over and taking it. His skin was warm, but there was no life in those once strong fingers. “I’m here, John,” Finch whispered. “If you can hear me, you have to come back, you have to wake up. I need you. I can’t do this job without you-” His voice cracked and he fell silent. Even if Reese never recovered fully, they could find someone else to do the running and the shooting. Reese still had the knowledge, the experience, he looked at things in a way Finch couldn’t.

“I need you,” Finch said again after a moment. “Not just for the job. John, I need you. I can’t…I can’t lose you, not now, not like this. John, please; come back to me.”

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