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Damaged – Ch. 2

Of course, Mr. Sutton had to live on the other side of Queens, and as if the drive wasn’t long enough already, Reese was forced to listen to the droning voice of Miss Prescott’s English teacher, muffled just enough inside the girl’s pocket that he couldn’t make out what was being said. Not that he was particularly interested in literature, but maybe it would have given him and Finch something to talk about.

Reese sighed. Nothing that Fusco had dug up had given him any better insight into the man. He had dozens of aliases, some that he’d been using for decades, so the paranoia went back much farther than the creation of his Machine, but what started it? And who had he been before Harold Wren appeared at MIT?

He was torn, conflicted. Did Finch’s secrets really effect him or their job? He could argue that he wouldn’t know until he learned them, but what it really came down to was whether or not he trusted the man. Did he trust Finch not to keep important information from him? Did he trust him not to lie? How could he when he knew nothing about him? Nothing, except that Finch had risked his own life to save Reese’s. As hard as it was trust, it was harder to ignore that.

Reese arrived the Sutton home to find half a dozen reporters, news vans, and photographers camped out in front of the house, large No Trespassing signs littering the trampled lawn. Making sure he had Stills’ badge tucked inside his coat, he climbed out of his car and walked toward the house, ignoring the sudden stirring of life from the media vultures. He climbed the front steps and pounded on the door.

“I told you, I’m not giving interviews!” a man’s voice shouted from behind the wood.

“Mr. Sutton, this is the police,” Reese said. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”

“My lawyer told me not to say anything without him here,” Mr. Sutton said, speaking normally, standing just on the other side of the door.

“I understand,” Reese said, “but this is a matter unrelated to that. I could tell you now, but I think I would be overheard.”

A moment later, the door opened, a haggard, middle-aged man standing in the doorway, dark circles under his eyes as he peeked out, then drew back and motioned for Reese to enter. Reese could hear the camera clicking away behind him. He hoped they got a lot of good shots of the back of his head.

Mr. Sutton shut the door and locked it, then turned to Reese, eyeing him nervously. “Would you mind showing me some I.D.? I had a photographer pretending to be my mailman yesterday.”

“Not at all,” Reese said, flashing the badge at him. “Is there anyone else in the house, Mr. Sutton?”

“No. Could you tell me why you’re here, please?”

“Dispatch received a 911 call from this residence, an open line, no one talking, just some background noise – probably an accident, but we like to make sure.”

“Do they always send detectives to check out wrong numbers?” Mr. Sutton asked, a slight frown creasing his brow.

“I was in the area,” Reese replied, glancing around. “I could call a uniform, if you’d prefer – hell, I could call the entire SWAT team, if you’d like – but I’m afraid I can’t leave until I’ve looked around and made sure no one here needs help.”

Mr. Sutton sighed. “All right, fine, go look. You won’t find anything.”

“It’ll only take a few minutes,” Reese assured him. Reese made his way through the house, looking into every room and closet, placing bugs in the office and living room, downloading the contents of his home computer, and force pairing his cell phone. As he came back down the stairs, Mr. Sutton was standing in the living room, peering out through the blinds at the reporters gathered at the edge of his property.

“Everything seems to be in order,” Reese said. “Thank you for your cooperation and I apologize for disturbing you.”

“Believe me, this was hardly a disturbance,” Mr. Sutton said, a hard edge to his tone. “Isn’t there anything you could do about them?” He nodded out the window.

“Freedom of press, I’m afraid,” Reese said. He hesitated at the front door. With Mark in town looking for him, it probably wasn’t a good idea to have his face plastered across every tabloid rag in the city. “Do you have a back yard?”

“Yes.”

“I should probably check it out before I go. Just to be thorough.”

“Yeah, all right. Through the kitchen; the sliding door.”

“Thanks,” Reese said again. Slipping outside, he glanced around the wide, fenced back yard, the grass deep and ragged, a handful of kids’ toys scattered across the patio. He crossed the grass to the back gate, picked the padlock, and eased the gate open. The alley looked deserted, but as he stepped out and pulled the gate shut, the rapid clicking of a camera made him tense.

“Mr. Sutton, Mr. Sutton, over here!”

Reese turned and the man drew back, looking startled, but he didn’t stop snapping photos.

“Who are you?” he asked, raising the camera in front of his face again. Reese grabbed the camera and jerked it out of the man’s hands, a hard punch to the left jaw sending him to the ground. Reese slammed the camera to the pitted alley surface, then stomped on it for good measure before bending down and picking through the pieces for the memory card. He circled around the block, the media vultures not even noticing him as he climbed into his car, their attention still focused on the house.

As he pulled away, he dialed Finch. “Just leaving the Sutton place,” he reported. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was planning to kill the photographers camped outside his home.”

“I’ll add them to the list. Any news on Miss Prescott?”

“Nothing yet. Did you find anything?”

“No. I went back through her social network and it’s deliberately vague and innocuous. I’d say she knows at least one of her parents checks up on her.”

“They haven’t been checking close enough or she wouldn’t be sixteen and pregnant.”

“Have you ever raised a teenager, Mr. Reese?” Finch asked, a slight edge to his tone that made Reese arch an eyebrow.

“No. Have you?”

“No, but I used to know someone who did. It’s not as easy as it looks. How far out are you?”

“About an hour, if the traffic isn’t too bad. I should be there before school gets out.”

“Good. Should I have Fusco on stand-by, just in case?”

“I’ll be there,” Reese said, “but I’d tap Carter for this one. Fusco’s got his hands full.”

“Right. And if you get a minute, could you come by the library? I have some information on Mr. Sutton that you should have.”

“Oh, you mean I might actually get to see you?” Reese said, smiling even though Finch couldn’t see him. “It’s been what? Four days?”

“I could leave the file on the table if being in my presence would be too distracting for you,” Finch said dryly.

“No, no, I want to see you,” Reese said, his grin widening at the resulting silence.

“You do?”

“Yes, I need to see what color tie you’re wearing.”

“Whatever for?” Finch asked, his voice muffled, and Reese could just picture him looking down at his tie as he spoke.

“You’ll think it’s stupid,” Reese said, glancing in his rear view mirror before changing lanes.

“Possibly,” Finch said, and Reese could hear the faint ticking of his fingers against his keyboard, “but if I do, I’ll keep my opinion to myself.”

Reese chuckled. “If I can guess what color tie you’re wearing, I’ll treat myself to a latte, otherwise it’s just black coffee.”

“I see…” Finch said, and Reese couldn’t be certain, but there was a definite possibility that Finch might be smiling. “Have you been playing this game long?”

“Just since we wrapped up Joey Durban’s case.”

“And how often do you win?”

“I’ve won once,” Reese said. “You have a lot of ties.”

“I could tell you what color it is,” Finch said.

“I’d rather see for myself.”

“I won’t lie to you, Mr. Reese.”

“I know,” Reese said. “I’ll see you in an hour.”

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