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Damaged – Ch. 7

The search on Ms. Wallace had turned up a few more bits and pieces – she was the youngest of four children, she’d been nominated for an Educator of the Year award in 2009, she had almost twelve thousand dollars in credit card debt, her mother died of cancer three years ago and her father was in a care facility with Alzheimer’s – but nothing important, nothing that cast any light on why this woman’s number came up.

Finch’s stomach rumbled and he reached for his mug of tea, but it was stone cold, and cold tea never did anything to help him ignore his hunger. He glanced at his watch, then picked up his cell, calling up the text he’d sent to Reese to see what time he’d sent it. If traffic was fairly typical for a Thursday morning, Reese wouldn’t reach Ms. Wallace’s apartment for almost an hour. It would take at least that for the search to finish running. After only a moment’s hesitation, Finch heaved himself up out of his chair and headed for the door.

There were several decent diners within walking distance of the library, but Finch didn’t want to risk compromising their headquarters. The less he was seen in the area, the less he stood out, the more secure the building would remain. So he made his way a few blocks uptown and hailed a cab, giving the address for his favorite little diner. He had a craving for eggs Benedict.

He ate quickly, left a generous tip, and was sitting in the back of the cab on his way back to the library when Reese called.

“Yes, Mr. Reese?” he answered.

“I’m in,” Reese said. “I’ll copy her hard drive and set up a camera or two, then see what else I can find. Do you have anything for me?”

“Not yet. Although if you have a minute, I’d like to talk about last night.”

“Oh?” He sounded wary. “I thought we already dealt with that.”

“Not quite,” Finch said, digging into his pocket as the taxi driver pulled over half a dozen blocks from the library. Finch paid the man and climbed out. “I thought you said nothing happened.”

“That’s what I said. Why? Do you remember it differently?”

“I remember you kissing me.”

Silence. Then, “I suppose I might have. I…we were very drunk.”

“Are you sure the camera didn’t have anything to do with it?”

“What camera?”

“The one I put in your hotel room. Don’t pretend you didn’t-”

“You’ve been spying on me? For how long? And why? What gives you the right?”

Finch hesitated. Reese sounded genuinely angry. “Are you really telling me that you didn’t know?”

“No, I didn’t know, or I’d have said something before this. Do you really distrust me that much? Bad enough that you know everything about me, but I can’t even get a little privacy in my own hotel room?”

“I never watched any of it, not until this morning. It was just a precaution.”

“And you think that makes it all right?”

Finch stiffened, scowling down at the sidewalk as he limped along. “Have you finished placing the cameras in Ms. Wallace’s apartment yet?”

“Don’t give me that, Finch – this is nothing like what you did to me-”

“Nor is it like what you did to me,” Finch responded, stopping at the corner to wait for the light to change, his voice low to make it harder for people to overhear. “I would be hard pressed to call that ‘nothing’.”

“I see. So the fact that I kissed you while you were passed out drunk in my bed justifies you invading my privacy?”

“No, but the fact that you lied to me about it does. I trusted you and you lied to me-”

“I was trying to minimize the damage. I can’t lose this job-”

“Jesus, John, I’m not going to fire you. I need you.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Look, I’m sorry about the camera. I’ll disable it as soon as I get the chance. And what happened last night is not a big deal, and certainly not grounds for termination. You’d have to…” He struggled to think up a heinous enough action. “To shoot me and burn down the library before I’d consider firing you. But don’t lie to me, please.”

“Sorry, Finch. I was hung-over and not thinking clearly. You’re right, it wasn’t a big deal. Let’s just forget about it.”

“That would probably be best,” Finch conceded, though it was not the outcome he’d wanted. However, his working relationship with Reese came first, so if this was what the other man wanted, then Finch would have to deal with it. It wasn’t like he’d never done such a thing before. He’d kept his feelings for Nathan a secret for years to preserve their friendship, and just because it had eventually, if ever so briefly, worked out between him and Nathan, he couldn’t expect or even hope for the same resolution with Reese. The two men couldn’t have been more different.

Finch cleared his throat. “How do you plan on force pairing Ms. Wallace’s cell? Schools these days have more security than court houses or airports.”

“Gotta keep the kids safe,” Reese replied with his slightly teasing lilt. “I thought I’d hang around, maybe talk to the neighbors, visit the local businesses, find the good rooftops – the usual stuff – while I wait for her to come home.”

“All right, I’ll call if I find anything important.”

“And could you create a cover identity that would get me into the school, just in case?”

“I’ll get right on it,” Finch said. “Anything else?”

“No, that should do it.”

“All right.” Finch grappled for something else to say; he didn’t want to end the conversation with business lest Reese think he wanted a strictly business relationship. Just because he couldn’t have what he wanted didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends. “Did you get to have a latte this morning?”

“What? Oh. No, I forgot to look.”

“Take a guess.”

“Uh…burgundy?”

“Good guess, although I suspect you subconsciously did notice. Either that or it’s just your lucky day.”

“I could do with a lucky day,” Reese said with a chuckle, “and a latte. Thanks, Harold. Talk to you later.” Reese hung up and Finch looked down at his navy blue tie. It was just a small untruth, and he was pretty sure he had at least one burgundy tie in the library that he could change into before Reese saw him again.

He glanced up the street, frowning at the sight of a man loitering on the sidewalk outside the library. He was mid-thirties, neatly groomed and dressed in a black suit and long black overcoat, slowly pacing and casting impatient glances up and down the road, as though he were waiting for someone. Probably not a mugger, but one could never really tell. Finch kept his phone in his hand, just in case, as he approached.

Finch kept his gaze resolutely ahead as he passed the man, ignoring the ache in his leg as he walked by the alleyway entrance. He just couldn’t risk anyone seeing him enter the ‘abandoned’ building. There was a little cafe a couple of blocks over with a nice outdoor seating area on the wide sidewalk. He could have another cup of tea and rest his leg while he waited for the man to go on about his business.

“Excuse me?” the man said suddenly and Finch stopped, turning back to face him. The man walked toward him, pulling something out of his inside coat pocket – a photograph. “Have you seen this man?”

A cop. No, the clothes were too nice and too generic to be a plainclothes officer or even a detective. More likely FBI or- Finch glanced at the photo, his heart darting up into his throat. It was a black and white surveillance still from Congressman Delancey’s fundraiser and dead center of the picture stood Reese. Even worse, standing beside him was Finch himself.

He didn’t have time to respond, or to run, not that he could have managed the latter. A big, shiny black SUV roared up, breaks squealing as it skidded to a stop against the curb beside him. The man with the picture grabbed him and shoved him toward the vehicle as both side doors opened and more men in suits jumped out. One threw a black cloth bag over his head, knocking his glasses off. He heard them hit the sidewalk.

Heart pounding, he didn’t even try to fight. He hesitated only a moment before tossing his cell under the vehicle as they jostled him into the car. Someone shoved him face down onto the floor of the back seat and he cried out, pain like a sharp spike in his fused vertebrae making pale gray starbursts explode before his closed eyes. No one seemed to care. His arms were pulled behind his back and secured with a pair of handcuffs. Doors slammed and the SUV roared away as hands searched his pockets, taking everything. But they didn’t get his phone.

If he had kept the phone, Reese could have tracked the GPS to find him and rescue him, but that phone was also set up to track Reese, to text him, to call him. Throwing it under the car hadn’t even been a hard decision. If these men wanted Reese, they were going to get no help from Finch. Besides, Finch had a feeling he’d be long dead before Reese even realized he’d been taken.

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