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Damaged – Ch. 16

“Is that Snow?” Reese asked, his voice taking on a flat, chilling quality.

“That’s right, John,” Snow said before Finch could respond, stepping closer and motioning for Finch to put the phone down on the table. “I’m here with your little friend.”

“I’m on my way,” Reese said quietly.

“John, no-” Finch said

“Harold, we talked about this-”

“I found the ex-husband,” Finch said, his heart racing as Snow continued to move toward him. “He’s armed and he killed a school janitor for his ID badge. He’s waiting for her at the school, maybe for all three of them, and God knows how many other victims there could be – kids, John-” He broke off, his voice faltering as Snow pressed the barrel of his pistol to Finch’s chest.

“You’ve got thirty minutes, John, and then I start putting holes in him,” Snow said.

“Forget about me – you save that family,” Finch said, staring defiantly at Snow, even though he was shaking like a leaf inside. There was something cold, something dead in Snow’s eyes as he stared back. This was a killer; this was what Reese had refused to become.

“All right, Mark,” Reese said, his voice heavy with defeat. “You win.”

“John, no!” Finch yelled.

“Harold, shut up,” Reese said. He sounded so tired.

“Tell me where you are,” Snow said.

“No,” Reese replied. “We’re doing this my way. You’re going to take my friend to the Eighth Precinct station house and wait for me. When I’m finished with what I have to do, I’ll meet you there.”

“Like I’m supposed to trust you?” Snow asked.

“You don’t have a choice. If you hurt Harold – and I mean put so much as a bruise on him – I’ll make Bogota seem like a church picnic. Do you hear me?”

“I hear you, I just can’t believe this four-eyed old cripple means that much to you.”

“You have no idea what he means to me.”

“Why the Eighth?”

“I saw you’ve been spending some time there,” Reese said. “I thought you’d be more likely to agree to a familiar location, and less likely to shoot me in the back in a room full of cops.”

“All right, you’ve got one hour-”

“No. I’ll get there when I get there. This is your only chance, Mark. You know me. I don’t fuck around.”

“Last time I checked, you didn’t fuck insurance underwriters, either. Especially male ones. Tell me, does he know who you are, what you’ve done, why he’s being held at gunpoint?”

“Why don’t you ask him,” Reese said and Finch drew a sharp breath as the line went dead. Snow picked up the phone and tried to call the number back, but it went straight to voicemail. Reese would have disabled the cell immediately to prevent the GPS from being traced. It was part of their protocols, but that didn’t stop Finch from feeling isolated and alone.

Snow slipped the cell into his pocket. “Where is he?”

“I’m not telling you,” Finch said evenly, turning back to the table. His heart was pounding as he reached out and keyed in the code to trigger the emergency lockout, and he swallowed hard as he heard Snow cock his pistol, but he hit enter without hesitation. The monitors flickered and went dark.

“You think that’s going to stop us?” Snow asked.

“I think you should worry about honoring your deal with John,” Finch said. “I know what happened in Bogota.”

“Oh, yeah? Exactly what sort of fairy story did he tell you? Do you think he’s some kind of hero? Is that what he told you?”

“You can save your breath, Agent Snow,” Finch said. “I know who John is, I know what he’s done, and I know what you, what the Agency made him do. I’ve read his file – and yours, by the way – the originals, not the redacted versions. I know about the missions that never went into the records – Damascus and Montreal and Berlin. I know more about him than you do.”

“And you still think he’s going to come save you?”

Finch sighed. “Unfortunately, yes, I do. Now, I was about to make some tea before you arrived. Would you like a cup?”

“I only drink coffee,” Snow said.

“Do you mind if I make myself some?”

“No, go ahead, although you might find it hard to enjoy it with these on.” He pulled out a pair of handcuffs and Finch felt his chest constrict.

“Is that really necessary?”

“Probably not, but John didn’t say I couldn’t, and since you won’t tell me where he is…” He stepped over and grabbed Finch by the arm, tucking his gun back under his jacket before slapping the cuffs on Finch. The bite of the cold metal made it hard to breathe, but Finch squared his shoulders and set his jaw, refusing to let his fear show. “Let’s go,” Snow said.

Finch was aching and gasping for breath by the time Snow had finished rushing him down the stairs and out of the building, probably revenge for the injuries Reese had given him. Once outside, Finch slumped against the scaffolding, trying to take the weight off his damaged hip, the scarred muscles threatening to knot up. Snow made a call, saying nothing but their address, and it wasn’t more than a few minutes before a shiny, black SUV pulled up at the curb, driven by Snow’s unfortunate partner, Agent Evans.

“Where’s Reese?” Evans asked.

“Not here,” Snow answered. He grabbed Finch by the arm and hustled him over the vehicle, forcing him into the backseat. Thankfully, Snow didn’t feel the need to shove him down onto the floorboards again. “Eighth Precinct station,” Snow said as he climbed into the passenger’s seat. Finch waited for the agent to inform his partner about the scheduled rendezvous, to arrange surveillance and backup, but Snow said nothing, the drive both silent and tense. He caught Evans glancing at him in the rear-view mirror a few times, but he had obviously learned not to question his ‘partner’.

Finch found it hard to imagine Reese – curious, playful, flirtatious, stubborn, insufferable, wonderful Reese – working alongside Snow, taking orders from him. It was like picturing a wild horse broken under bit and spur. Some creatures were not meant to be tamed.

They arrived at the Eighth, Evans pulling over into a No Parking zone and starting to get out, but Snow pulled a couple of bills from his pocket and dropped them onto the console between the front seats.

“Get yourself some coffee,” he said. “I’ll call when I have something.”

Evans didn’t respond, except to shut his door again and watch Finch in the mirror until Snow hauled him out of the vehicle. The SUV pulled away and Finch tried to swallow down his pounding heart as Snow guided him into the building, his gaze darting around, looking for Detective Carter or Fusco. They were the reason Reese chose the Eighth, Finch was certain, although for what purpose, he didn’t know, and he didn’t want one or both of them to recognize him and complicate whatever the hell Reese thought he was doing.

Finch saw Fusco first, but the formerly dirty detective did an admirable job of hiding his surprise and feigning disinterest. He pulled out his cell, but Finch didn’t want to be caught staring and quickly turned his attention elsewhere. Carter wasn’t at her desk, and he couldn’t see her anywhere else in the room. He supposed she could be out on a case. He wasn’t sure if that would be unfortunate or not; he was not looking forward to being at the center of a daring rescue, and even less enthusiastic about dragging other people into it.

He glanced back at Fusco, who was talking fast and quiet into his phone, leaving Reese a message, most likely. For all the good it would do. But…Fusco could have just as easily gotten up and gone to get coffee instead. He obeyed out of fear, not loyalty. That was what blackmail bought – obedience, nothing more. And yet, there he sat, trying to help. Perhaps he was a better man than they had given him credit for.

Fusco caught and held his eyes for a moment, then turned deliberately. Finch followed his gaze, his shoulders tensing as Carter came stalking out of a long corridor and made directly for them. Was she who Fusco had called? Why? And what had he said? Against Finch’s advice, Reese had kept the two ‘assets’ in the dark about each other. As far as Fusco knew, Carter was still trying to catch them. Was she supposed to be a distraction of some sort? God, he hoped Fusco didn’t decide to try playing hero; he’d get everyone killed.

Carter’s stride faltered as she caught sight of him, a momentary flash of surprise and confusion in her eyes. He prayed that Snow wouldn’t notice.

“Good morning, Detective Carter,” Snow drawled as she approached.

“Nice to see you again,” she replied, her tone suggesting anything but a warm fuzzy feeling at being in his presence. She gave Finch a cursory look. “Getting so desperate that any guy in a suit will do?”

“He’s a person of interest,” Snow said.

“Whatever,” Carter said. “You want me to stick him in a holding cell for you?”

Finch would have been astounded if Snow had fallen for that ruse, so he wasn’t disappointed when he didn’t.

“No, thank you, Detective. I prefer to keep this one nearby. I’ll need the use of an interrogation room.”

“I think they’re all being used right-”

“That wasn’t a request, Detective.”

“All right, I’ll see what I can do,” Carter said with a forced smile. Finch watched her walk away, a tightness in his gut. As much of a pain in the ass as Carter had been – and continued to be, occasionally – he did not want to see her hurt for his sake. He didn’t want anyone to suffer because of him, not again.

“Will you quit fidgeting,” Snow said suddenly, grabbing him by the arm. Finch hadn’t even realized he’d been shifting his weight, trying to relieve the pain building in his hip.

“Perhaps if I could trouble you for a chair,” Finch replied. “Bum leg, you know.”

“Yeah, how’d that happen, anyway?” Snow asked, ignoring his request. “Official records say car accident, but then…’official records’ also say you sell insurance.”

“I was mauled by a flamingo at the Central Park Zoo,” Finch said, his tone acerbic.

“Central Park Zoo doesn’t have flamingos.”

“Must have been a penguin, then. I have such trouble telling the two apart.” Snow’s grip on his arm tightened. “Careful there. You wouldn’t want to leave a bruise. Think of Bogota.”

“Bruises take hours to form and John better be in my custody long before then, or bruises will be the least of your worries. I still say I can break you.” He leaned closer, his voice low as he spoke in Finch’s ear. “What do you think, Harold? Do you want to go back in the tub? All that cold water in your face. Does it make you tremble just to think about it?”

“I showered this morning, thank you,” Finch said, but his voice did quaver, just a little. He cleared his throat and took a bracing breath before adding, “Custody? Is that CIA code for shot in the back?”

“I’m not going to shoot him in the back,” Snow said. “I have a few questions for our mutual friend, like what the hell it is that the two of you do.”

Finch’s mouth went dry. Snow – the CIA – could never find out about the Machine. There was no telling what they would do with the information. “John will never tell you.”

“Oh, I think he will,” Snow said, leaning closer still, his lips brushing against the shell of Finch’s ear as he whispered, “I know his weakness.” Finch couldn’t suppress a shudder. After a moment, Snow drew back. “And once I’ve broken him, and I’m sure there is no more useful information to be gained from him, then I’ll shoot him in the head, not the back.”

Over my dead body, Finch vowed silently. Halfway down the hall, Carter emerged from one of the small interrogation rooms and started toward them, just as her cell rang. She answered it, taking a couple more strides before stopping dead.

“He did what?” she asked, loud enough that every head in the bullpen turned in her direction. She didn’t seem to notice, staring instead at Finch, her dark eyes blazing with anger. She hung up the phone and stalked over to them. Finch held his breath. “You want to explain why your guy just shot up an elementary school and killed a janitor?” she asked, speaking to Snow. Finch let out a relieved sigh, drawing Carter’s attention. “You got something against janitors?”

“Only when they’re homicidal ex-husbands in disguise,” Finch said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Carter asked. “Do you know something about this?”

“Not now, Detective,” Snow said. Finch stumbled as the agent gave him a shove toward the hall. “We’ll be taking that interrogation room now.”

“You’re not going to go after him?” Carter asked.

“No need,” Snow said. He pushed Finch into a small room, the overhead light a migraine-inducing florescent, the cinderblock walls painted a drab green, and the table and chairs bare, scratched metal. Trying not to show how much pain he was in, Finch used his foot to pull out one of the hard chairs, only to have Snow shove it back against the table before Finch could sit down.

“Isn’t that a little petty, Agent Snow?” Finch asked, taking small, limping steps backward until he could lean against the wall. Anything to take the weight off his damaged leg.

“It’s the little things that wear a man down,” Snow replied. Finch regarded him for a moment, then deliberately turned his attention elsewhere. His gaze wandered over the scratched mirror on the wall and up to the camera mounted near the ceiling in the corner. Of the two, it bothered him more to think about who might be behind the mirror, watching them. He knew who was watching through the camera, or rather, what was watching.

Would the Machine recognize this as a threat to him? Would it try to contact Reese again? And when it couldn’t reach his cell phone, then what would it do? He’d built the thing from the ground up, every wire, every circuit, every line of code, and to not know what his creation would do in a certain situation was a little unnerving. There were no protocols for this, so realistically, it shouldn’t do anything, just log the event and continue watching, but it shouldn’t have texted Reese, either, so God only knew what Frankenstein’s monster was capable of.

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