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Damaged – Ch. 3

Sitting in his car across the street from the Prescott house, Reese watched Mr. and Mrs. Prescott exit the premises just before eight, both dressed in casual eveningwear. Amy waved good-bye from the porch, then went back inside. Binoculars in hand, he tracked her progress up the stairs and into her room, where she sat down on her bed and opened her laptop.

Lowering the field glasses, his sharp eyes searched the shadows around the house, moving up and down the street before returning to the window. The poor girl looked absolutely miserable, worrying her fingernail between her teeth as the blue glow the computer screen lit her face, making the shadows under her eyes as dark as coal.

All was quiet for about an hour, until movement on the street caught his attention. He glanced over as a lone figure in a black hooded sweatshirt approached the house on the sidewalk. Nothing about the person or their behavior was particularly suspicious or menacing, but the sight of them put Reese’s instincts on edge. He watched the figure walk past the house, then turn and come back, cutting across the lawn and taking the front steps two at a time. On the porch, they began lifting the flower pots lined up on the rail until they found what they were looking for.

A key.

Reese shoved his door open and climbed out of the car, his legs and back stiff from sitting for too long, but he ignored it, reaching back under his jacket and drawing his pistol. As the figure entered the house, Reese strode across the street, his gaze turned upward, to the girl’s room. She appeared not to have heard the intruder.

His cell made a noise, alerting him to an incoming text message, and he glanced at it as he crossed the sidewalk, then stopped dead at the edge of the lawn. It was a text from Mr. Sutton, sent to his brother and his parents.

I’m sorry for everything. Please forgive me. They’re going to take my kids. I can’t live without my children. God forgive me.

Reese started to call Finch, but his phone was already ringing. He pressed the tiny button to activate his earpiece. “You have to do something, Finch,” Reese said, hurrying across the grass and up onto the porch. “Someone just broke into the Prescott house and Amy is home alone.”

“I’ll call the police,” Finch said and the line went silent as Finch put him on hold. Reese slipped into the house, taking a steadying breath as he pushed all thoughts of Mr. Sutton from his mind. He couldn’t do anything about it and he couldn’t afford to be distracted by it. He glanced into the kitchen and living room, but a set of damp, fresh footprints led up the stairs. Finger on the trigger, he crept up the steps, Amy’s terrified voice making his blood run cold.

“Carson, please, don’t do this, don’t hurt our baby.”

“This is your fault,” Carson said, his voice quavering. Reese reached the second floor and moved silently down the hall. Carson stood in the doorway of Amy’s room, his arm shaking as he pointed a gun at the girl, aiming for her belly.

Coming up behind him, Reese forced his arm up into the air, grabbed his wrist, broke it, and pulled the weapon out of his grasp. Carson screamed in pain, but Reese shut him up, grabbing him by the back of the shirt and slamming his head into the wall, hard enough to put a dent in the sheetrock. Amy screamed as he crumpled to the floor.

“Easy, easy,” Reese said, tucking his own gun back into his waistband and tossing the boy’s weapon down the stairs. “It’s okay now. Nobody is going to hurt you. I’m going to call the police to come and get him. You might want to call your parents.”

He headed back downstairs, listening to the silence on the line for a moment before disconnecting and dialing Carter.

“Don’t you ever sleep?” she asked.

“It’s only nine o’clock, Detective,” he said. “I’ve left a care package for you; a teenage boy tried to kill his girlfriend and their unborn child.”

“Did you kill him?”

“No.”

“Did you shoot out his kneecaps, at least?”

The corner of his mouth twitched in a faint smile. “No, but feel free to-” His phone clicked, letting him know he was getting another call. Finch. He quickly gave Carter the address and hung up.

“I’m on my way, Finch,” he said, jogging across the street. “Did you get through to the police?”

“They were too late,” Finch said, a hollowness in his voice making Reese’s steps falter.

“He’s dead?”

There was a momentary hesitation. “Yes.”

Reese closed his eyes and took a slow breath. “Suicide?”

“Yes. Is Miss Prescott safe?”

“Yeah; Carter’s on her way to collect the boyfriend. Do you need me to come in?”

“No, Mr. Reese. You should get some rest. I’ll call when I have another number.”

“That’s it? Finch?” There was no answer. He’d already hung up. Reese climbed into his car and slid the key into the ignition, but didn’t turn it. After a moment, he pulled out his cell and connected to the microphone in Mr. Sutton’s phone. His earpiece filled with a cacophony of voices and noises, too much to sift anything useful out of. He switched to the bug in the living room, but the sound was identical. He must have killed himself in there. He accessed the device in the office, listening hard into the silence for the distant voices.

“Can you handle this?” a man’s gruff voice said suddenly. “We’ve got enough men if you need to go.” It sounded too far away to be in the room, probably outside in the hall.

“What could drive a man to do something like this?” another man asked, his voice younger and choked with emotion. “They were his fucking kids. I mean, he- he-”

“Go home,” the first man said, but Reese wasn’t listening anymore. He silenced his phone and sat staring out through the windshield. The kids. Three children under the age of eight. What the hell were they doing there? Why had he even been allowed to see them? Because he’d never been charged with anything. There hadn’t been enough evidence to arrest him. And now three little kids were dead. That was the fucking justice system for you. It was no wonder he and Finch had to operate outside the law-

Finch. Reese placing his hands on the steering wheel, his grip tightening until his knuckles turned white. Finch got the text. He called Reese. He called the police. Then he would have accessed Mr. Sutton’s cell or the bugs, he would have been listening, he would have heard-

“Jesus,” Reese whispered. Finch heard the man kill his kids. The hollowness in Finch’s voice echoed inside Reese. How could he not have noticed? He dialed Finch, but it just rang and rang before going to voicemail. He hung up, started the car, and pulled away from the curb.

He parked across the street from the library and tried Finch’s phone one more time, with the same result. Crossing against the light, he slipped into the building and took the stairs two at a time, moving swiftly and silently down the hall. Not sure what he expected to find, he stepped into the main room and stopped, watching Finch taking the pictures down from the cracked pane of glass. He plucked a photo of Mr. Sutton and his three children from the board, his shoulders shaking as he took a shuddering breath. He turned and took a step toward the List – the visual record of every lost life he blamed himself for – but drew up short at the sight of Reese.

“Mr. Reese!” He turned away again, but not quick enough. Reese had seen the damp tracks on his face. “What are you doing here?”

“You weren’t answering your phone,” Reese said.

“One might assume that meant I didn’t want to be disturbed.”

“I was…worried about you.”

“Me? Whatever for?”

“You heard it, didn’t you? You listened while he killed them.”

“He cut their throats,” Finch whispered, that same hollow emptiness in his voice. Then he seemed to shake himself. “You should go, Mr. Reese. I’m fine.”

Reese hesitated, then stepped toward him. “I don’t think you are, Harold.”

“I’m not in the mood for your bullshit!” Finch snapped, the sudden, unprovoked outburst confirming Reese’s feeling that Finch was not in any way ‘fine’. Finch turned, pale eyes narrowed. “Why weren’t you there? Why didn’t you stop this? That’s why I hired you – This is all your fault!” He took a lurching step forward and gave Reese a shove, both hands flat against his chest, hard enough to make Reese take a startled step backward. “Why weren’t you there!” Finch shouted again, and Reese jerked back as Finch took a clumsy swing at him, before grabbing the smaller man by the wrist.

Finch stiffened, the anger vanishing as he tried to pull away. “Let go of me,” he said. Reese hesitated, his heart beginning to pound as he stepped closer and pulled Finch up against him, letting go of his wrist to wrap his arms around the rigid shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” Reese said, speaking through the tightness in his throat. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’m sorry I couldn’t save them.” Finch was shaking hard, his breath coming in short, repressed gasps, his clenched fists pressing against Reese’s chest. “I’m sorry,” Reese whispered again, his lips beside Finch’s ear. Finch drew a loud, shuddering breath and seemed to crumble, his hands grabbing hold of Reese’s jacket as he sobbed.

Reese held him, not bothering to fight his own silent tears. There were so many to cry for, so many lost lives he had never mourned. Grief was weakness, emotion was weakness, and the CIA had no room for the weak.

Finch’s sobs were starting to grow quieter, less violent, and Reese realized that the moment was coming to an end. He’d never really thought about Finch as anything other than his employer, his handler, and occasionally his friend, but holding the man in his arms, feeling the strength in his damaged body, sharing this one intimate moment – a moment he acknowledge as unlikely to ever repeat – Reese had to fight the urge to hold on tighter. Crying, comforting, being human were luxuries he’d long been denied.

Taking a bracing breath, Finch tensed, squaring his shoulders in preparation to pull away, and before Reese could stop himself, his hand had slid up to cradle the back of Finch’s neck. Finch froze and Reese hesitated but a moment before letting his hands fall away and stepping back. He glanced away, wiping at the moisture on his face as Finch peeled off his glasses and fished a handkerchief out of his pocket.

“I should go,” Reese said, and when Finch didn’t argue, he turned and walked out. His brain shifted into survival mode, concentrating on escaping hostile territory and ignoring all other thoughts until he was safely in the car. After survival came damage control. The ideal outcome of his thoughtless action would be for both of them to forget it ever happened and to never speak of it again, but he seriously doubted if Finch ever forgot anything. In fact, he was probably analyzing it to death at that very moment.

Reese groaned and leaned forward in his seat, resting his forehead against the steering wheel. What must Finch be thinking? If Reese was lucky, Finch would assume that he was just copping a feel in order to learn about Finch’s injury. After all, there were no innocent questions, so why should there be innocent hugs? If that was the case, Reese wasn’t sure he’d feel all that fortunate. He hated the way Finch closed down, pushed him away, and brushed him off when he caught Reese snooping, or suspected he was digging for information. He much preferred the hesitant camaraderie that had slowly developed between them. That was surely gone now.

With a sigh, he sat up and started the car, checking the mirrors before pulling out into traffic. He was halfway to his hotel when his phone rang. For a moment, he wasn’t sure what to do, which didn’t happen often. His gut impulse was to ignore it, to let it go to voicemail; he didn’t want to talk to Finch. Or more accurately, he was afraid to talk to Finch. That didn’t happen often, either, although more frequently than anyone who knew him might have guessed.

One ring before it went to voicemail, Reese reached up and pressed the button on his earpiece. “Yeah, Finch?”

“Sorry to bother you, Mr. Reese,” Finch said, his tone measured, but businesslike, not so different from any other day. But there was a difference, and Reese cursed himself for causing it. “I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you?”

“I suppose,” Reese said, torn between relief and suspicion. Finch never asked him for favors. Was this a sign that Finch now viewed him as more than an employee, or was it a setup, a trap? Was this how Finch disposed of assets he was no longer comfortable working with? “What can I do for you?”

“I’m selling a piece of property – that brownstone where I first met with Detective Carter after the police lockup robbery. She may be on our side at the moment, but I’d rather not take any chances. There’s a realtor coming first thing in the morning and with as busy as we’ve been, I haven’t had a chance to finish clearing out my personal effects. There’s not much left, just a small cardboard box on the sofa in the living room and I was hoping you wouldn’t mind picking it up for me.”

“Are you sure?” Reese asked, a small frown creasing his brow.

“It’s nothing too personal, Mr. Reese,” Finch said dryly. “Just some books, photos, toiletries, and the like. I’d tell you to feel free to go though my things, but I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it more if you think you’re getting away with something.”

Reese didn’t say anything for a long moment. He was right – Finch thought the embrace was nothing more than manipulation. Reese was surprised by how much that hurt. It hurt more than getting shot. “Do you want me to bring the box back to the library?” he asked finally.

“No, not tonight,” Finch said. “I’m heading out and won’t be here. The next time you see me is soon enough. Oh, and Reese? You’re going to have to break in. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

“I’ll be using my one phone call on you if it is,” Reese joked, but the humor felt forced. He hated this. “Finch, I…” He’d been trained to lie his ass off to get out of any situation, but when it came to telling the truth…

“Good night, Mr. Reese,” Finch said, and Reese wasn’t sure, but there might have been something soft in Finch’s tone. Or Reese was hearing what he wanted to hear. He approached an intersection and glanced up at the street signs, trying to decide the fastest route to…Where? Finch hadn’t given him the address. Before he could pick up his cell and call Finch back, it beeped, alerting him to an incoming text. With a wry smirk, Reese glanced at the address and turned uptown.

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