|At What Cost?
Author: Sonia PM
Everything has a price - but how much?Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Drama - Words: 5,125 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 02-24-02 - id: 621304
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
DISCLAIMER: Water Rats and its characters belong to Southern Star and Ch 9.
I have written this story for the amusement of my friends and to unwind after work.
No copyright infringement is intended. Some of the quotes are from "Red Ice" and "Cat and Pigeon".
AUTHOR NOTES: This takes up where Reveille left off. Reveille can be found at http://geocities.com/bacall_au/harbourside_au.html. Lyrics (in order of appearance) are from "Wide Awake" by the Norwegian group Briskeby, "Better Man" by Robbie Williams, "Lover of Mine" by Alannah Myles, "Better Man" by Robbie Williams, "Distant Thunder" by Richard Clapton, "One Way or Another" by Blondie, "Ashes to Ashes" by Faith No More
Dedication: For Missy who dared me to get inside Jack and Alex's minds after they kissed. Also for Cam, whose totally brilliant "Faded Scars" gave my muse the necessary prompts to get cracking and finish this.
Thought, was an interesting process Alex decided.
Useful in conducting a murder investigation but a total pain in the arse when trying to work out why you kissed Jack Christey in the middle of a hospital ward while recovering from concussion.
Alex toyed with the snowdome paperweight on her desk. Jeff would be starting the operational briefing soon.
She was thankful it wasn't another hit out with the Department of Immigration at the Fish Markets. Getting slapped with another fish wasn't high on her list of priorities, particularly after Sykes and Quinn had left one of those stupid singing fish plaques on her desk as a joke.
Shit, they just about wore the bloody thing after she got hold of them. Explaining the broken window in the Nemesis to Jeff was a little harder though - Quinn shouldn't have ducked and just let the fish hit him in the head.
It wouldn't have hurt – much. Besides, Alex was sure Donna would look after him and tend any bruises.
"Come on Alex, get it together - the briefing is about to start," Helen stuck her head through the door of the detective's office, cup of coffee in hand.
"Jeff in a shitty mood is he?" Alex joined Helen in the corridor and walked to the meal room.
Taking a seat near Jack at the back of the meal room, Alex frowned as Jack got up to refill his coffee cup and then sat down near the boat crew.
What was up with him? Alex knew she had used deodorant this morning plus a little perfume. Didn't Jack like Chanel for Christ sake?
She was pretty sure Jack was still emailing and phoning Julia Goodwin, so what did their kiss in the hospital ward mean to him?
The kiss had rocked Alex's world – she knew they were both feeling something that was pretty real, so why was Jack being such an arsehole now?
I'm only human, what a lousy excuse
but we're playing a game now, I'm meant to lose
consider me dangerous, consider us a crime
when I fall asleep now, I can't close my eyes
Amid the shuffling and scraping of chairs on the lino floor and mercy dashes for yet another glass of red cordial, Jeff began droning on about their targets – Jack Randall and Doug Evans. According to the intelligence Helen and Crime Agencies were able to put together, these guys were middle level drug runners who had been linked with a series of assaults and murders in south and inner western Sydney.
"No chance of getting telephone intercepts Jeff?" Alex queried.
"Not enough time to get it all set up Al, as it looks like these guys will be getting out of Sydney on the cruiser Loretta tomorrow afternoon. Helen, have you and the guys over at Crime Agencies come up with anything else?"
"Thanks Jeff, it seems the Loretta will be making contact with a smaller boat just outside the Heads where they will pick up Randall and Evans and drop off a fairly substantial amount of ecstasy.
"Hey Helen, are the Feds involved?
"Not this time Jack, they seem happy enough for us to run it."
Helen could hear Sykes and Emma muttering something about the state cops doing all the work and the Feds coming in at the last minute to snatch the glory. She chose to ignore it.
Looking across the room, Alex tried to capture Jack's gaze but he wouldn't look at her. He seemed to want to look at a spot on the wall just past her shoulder.
Helen turned to the white board and began outlining how the Nemesis and Harpy would attempt to intercept the Loretta.
The operation went as planned, the crims were nabbed and shunted down the long and winding path of the courts system. The weeks rolled on for the staff of Sydney Water Police - except for the subtle difference between Jack and Alex. Everyone at the station noticed it, yet few were game enough to comment on it. Not even the boat crew who often went where no one else would.
It was weird. During working hours everything was fine yet when the detectives joined the rest of the station for drinks at the Cutter – Jack was absent. Alex knew he didn't have anything else going on in his social life, so what the hell was he doing trying to avoid her?.
Privately, Helen was tempted to front Jack about avoidance behaviour and being a total arsehole but she had her hands full trying to sort out her own life and whether she even wanted to be a cop any more. She was still hurting a little from Jack's refusal to act as a sperm donor so she could have a child. Besides, she had bigger fish to fry and that was linked into the other change around the station - Hawker's car crash.
The resulting injuries and time off work for Hawker left Jack in charge of the station and Hawker trying to learn how to use a walking stick. Helen spent much of her time giving Jack plenty of grief about his ability or lack thereof to be the Sydney Water Police commander. She didn't pull any punches, including trying to force him to abandon his Armani suits for the "junior navy" pants of a chief inspector.
Tempting as it was to appeal Jack's temporary promotion on the grounds of being the better candidate, Helen was soon embroiled in making sure the entire station did not disappear into the middle of its' own Police Integrity Commission inquiry.
Jack thought water front heavies Tony Akoustanis and Clive Tyler deciding to go head to head to seek total control of their various empires gave him the chance to mark his territory at the top. How hard could it be? Push through the paperwork and still get up the nose of the crims – hmph, it was all in a day's work really.
Besides, if this all worked and Hawker didn't come back to work, his application for the commander's job would look pretty good. From detective sergeant to detective chief inspector wasn't half-bad Jack reasoned, and it would give Sophie a reason to be proud of her other dad as well as the one in Coffs Harbour.
Ordering an "in your face" policing blitz on Akoustanis and Tyler was the easy part. Helen feared for the reprisal complaints from Tony and Clive's goons against her junior officers. Every crim knew the easiest way to screw up a cop's life wasn't to shoot them but to file a complaint against them.
One way or another I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another I'm gonna win ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another I'm gonna see ya
For Detective Acting Chief Inspector John Edward Christey, the day had just turned to shit. He was having a simple chat with Mick on the roof of the station when Mick started talking about a friend who had covered up for another officer who allegedly shot an informant in self defence. The informant had known too much and threatened to blow the corrupt cop's operation out of the water.
Corruption. Mick had fallen off the edge of an envelope that on many occasions, Jack found himself clinging to by his fingernails. As much as Jack knew Mick had totally stuffed his career – part of him understood the passion driving his colleague. It was fueled by the desire to protect someone you loved who couldn't protect themselves. For Mick, it was protecting his nephew and sister. All Jack wanted to do was to bring some sanity into the life of a little boy who would spend the rest of his life without a mother who called her son the love of her life.
Talk had moved to Alex and Sykes being shot while on surveillance. Both were making a full recovery.
Mick raised the possibility of the corrupt cop working for Akoustanis and Agi Fatsias wanting to know if Alex or Sykes could identify the shooter. Jack and Mick knew the man they had to get was Detective Agi Fatsias of the Organised Crime Branch.
There was only one thing he could do to restore some sort of balance to a world that seemed out of kilter since that awful night at White Bay Power Station. Jack had to go after Agi, no matter what the cost. Jack owed Mick big time after that incident with Charlie Driscoll in the power station. If it wasn't for Reilly, Jack could have found himself on a murder charge and spending the rest of his days under special protection at Her Majesty's Hilton trying to avoid becoming the plaything of a bloke named Bubba.
Helen and Jeff had cornered Jack about the appropriateness of what he was doing, demanding he call Internal Affairs to report Agi. He stormed out claiming he had better things to do, no matter what the cost. Even his job didn't seem that important any more.
With the same impact as a cat among the pigeons, Jack had gone to Agi and let him know the score. On the other side of town, Mick and George had promised a medal for providing them with a key piece of evidence linking Tony Akoustanis and Agi back to all of the shootings that had been going on lately – including Alex and Sykes' ending up at the intensive care ward.
Jack had known Jeff and Helen had made a phone call to IA and in the course of things he knew he had precious little time left to officially act as a sworn officer of NSW Police.
"Agi's the Judas here, not me – I'm going to make sure he hangs." Jack whirled from the observation area and into the interview room to confront Akoustanis.
In a suburban street, a young boy who wanted to be a cop when he grew up received a medal for helping police on a case and then lost his innocence a moment later. Gunshots began echoing around the boy as Detectives Reilly and Newhouse drew their Glocks and started firing. Mick checked on Alex's welfare as Agi bolted for his car and sped off with George in pursuit. The roar of V6 engines being gunned to full capacity and sirens slowly faded from a suburban street.
Jack had gone to hunt down Agi and a phone call from Donna telling him of the incident in the street was the best lead he had. Telling George to hang back and not intercept his quarry, Jack tailed Agi to Tony Akoustanis' waterfront office.
Confronting Agi over planting the gun used to shoot Alex and Sykes, Jack wasn't sure who had become the hunter and hunted. The same single-minded pursuit of a cause, which drew him to White Bay power station almost a lifetime ago, had brought him here. The time for the bullshit to stop was now.
"You see Jack, people like me don't believe in treating cancer, we cut the shit out," Agi
"People like you are cancer."
"Ooh - so what do we do now? This is the part where you shoot me right? Well come on," For someone possibly facing death, Agi was almost cavalier. Jack drew his gun
"This your noble cause Jack?"
"Put the gun down Agi." With all this noble cause shit he was spouting, Jack was beginning to wonder how well Agi did know him. Then again, the first rule of taking someone out was to know your enemy.
Agi placed his revolver on the desk; picking up an ashtray and hurling it at the older man who fell to the ground, stunned. Bolting through the doorway, Agi ran into George on the docks. In the ensuing melee, Jack had hoped to rescue Newhouse but it ended up in a standoff, Agi with his gun trained on George and Jack with his Glock aimed squarely at Agi's head. Jack knew the obvious solutions to resolving this would mean bloodshed and death. He threw his gun down, earning a sneer from Agi.
Detective's Christey and Newhouse were herded onto a boat named the Medusa, with both men putting their future in the hands of fate and their colleagues. The Medusa cut through Sydney Harbour with Agi's purpose still no clearer to either George or Jack. Mick's calls over the radio for him and Agi to square off and take him down went unheeded.
"You've got nowhere to go Agi," Jack yelled, as he leaned against the rear of the boat.
"Nowhere, nowhere to go? Sure as hell not going to gaol, Jack!"
Agi's gaze did not waver as he stared at an obviously frightened George. All his police training left him. As much as he wanted to move and tackle his enemy, his legs would not budge. He and Jack were ordered to the lower deck of the boat.
"Bet you thought joining the water police was going to be a lot of fun and games huh? Let the games begin. Seems the last one on, first one off."
Jack felt the bullet pierce his flesh as a wisp of smoke rose from Agi's Glock. Then he felt himself flying through the air as he fell from the back of the boat and was left to the mercies of Sydney Harbour. The boat powered away from Jack's body and he felt the brine of the Harbour begin to flood into his wound.
Fueled by rage and disgust at his own lack of response to an incident that might have killed a colleague, George and Agi struggled on the Medusa and a second gunshot echoed across Sydney Harbour.
In his state of shock, images rushed through Jack's mind – some in slow motion and others speeded up. The blood loss from his gunshot wound wasn't worrying him. If he died – so fucking what?
Who the hell would miss him?
Rachel was dead, Julia had found some hot shot FBI agent and Sophie had her life and career ahead of her. Jack hoped she wouldn't suffer too much as a result of her old man's rep in the cops.
One of his favourite memories would be Sophie dancing with his dad around the living room of the home where Jack grew up. It was the first time he had felt complete for some time. Did you take memories into the next life? Jack hoped so.
Then there was Alex.
Jack thought about their kiss at Gavin and Eva's wedding. Alex was all feminine sweetness with her tangled blonde curls just made for a man to run his fingers through and a dress that did even more for her than the shell tops and skirts she cavorted about the office in. While in many ways they had been building towards their kiss for some time – in many others it was unexpected.
Memories of another perfect early Sydney morning a couple of weeks later came rushing back. Jack always hated morning shifts until he came to the water police. He put it down to sunrise over the Harbour changing his mind. That and coming back from leave to see Alex in a form fitting skirt and killer heels walking up from the car park. Man, she was a good sort.
"Hey there he is - the weary traveller. How was your trip?" Alex sounded particularly coherent for that hour of the day. Jack wondered if she'd had coffee yet.
"A bit dusty, Yak miss me?" Jack started to grin.
"What do you want to do about this Jack?"
"Gee that's a bit quick isn't it. I mean I hardly know yak." Jack decided flirt a little. Alex just looked so damn delicious.
"Sykes' wedding you idiot." Alex thought two could play the flirt just as easily as one.
"Ohhhhhhhh . . . that wedding."
You know - where you were supposed to kiss the bride, " Alex's voice trailed off
"But you kissed me." Jack recalled his voice taking on an after midnight tone that promised perhaps a little too much for 7am.
"I did not – you kissed me."
"There was a definite lunge from your side I remember." Jack's grin became a smile.
"There was no lunge from my side – I distinctly remember . . .Is this your form . . ."
Alex stopped her train of thought to allow Helen past. It didn't take her long to pick up where she left off.
" . . .you kiss a girl and then just take off for a couple of weeks. Hey, hey . . ."
At the time, he told Alex they would discuss it all later. Given he was about to die, he thought might as well admit the truth to at least himself.
He had fallen for Alex St Clare and fallen hard. Christey you were a total pussy, he admonished.
Aside from Sophie, Alex was the only decent thing to walk into your life and you let her turn around and walk straight out again by agreeing with her the goddamn kiss didn't happen.
Go easy on my conscience
'Cause it's not my fault
I know I've been taught
To take the blame
Rest assured my angels
Will catch my tears
Walk me out of here
I'm in pain
On the wharf Alex watched the Nemesis begin to dock. She leant against an old fuel drum not really looking as the contractors brought up the blue plastic covered stretcher containing Agi's body.
George stood beside her, his head bowed and focusing on the wooden planks at his feet. He didn't know where to look, what to say or how to say it. Sometimes it was better to say nothing. The newest detective to Sydney Water Police was wondering if he should have done more on the Medusa to stop Agi. George cursed himself for acting like a coward instead of a cop. If he had moved faster and not baulked when Agi pointed the gun at him, he and Jack could have overpowered Agi and everyone would have been spared this . . .this nightmare.
Mick was trying to make sense of it all, telling Hawker that Jack did it for him. Alex really couldn't have cared whom fucking well did what for whom at that point. All she wanted, needed, to know was that Jack was alive.
The Nemesis ploughed back through the Harbour, resuming the search for leader, friend and colleague. Polair began making sweeping arcs over the Sydney landmark, searching for the proverbial needle in an aquatic haystack. To Alex, Emma and Matt were searching for someone more than that – they were searching for someone she was beginning to love.
Why does it feel like I'm losing you
Will it ever become what I've always wanted it to?
In his last moments of consciousness Jack could feel a strong wind buffeting his face and hear a whirring noise. Strong arms lifting him – was this death and him being lifted into the next life?
He waited for the final, crackling, ugly sound of a blue plastic body bag to start enveloping him. It didn't happen.
"Quinn for fucks sake, give me a hand here . . .Fuck you Jack Christey, I've spent half my bloody day searching for your sorry hide and I'll be arsed if you're going to die now," Woodsie cursed
"Besides Alex would deck me."
"What the fuck," Jack thought, making a mental note to ask Woodsie what the hell she meant by that remark if he got out of this. Also, Emma should watch her tone in front of a senior officer, he grimaced.
He could feel other hands removing his shirt and start poking at his wounded body. Paramedics he assumed, lapsing into unconsciousness.
As my soul heals the shame
I will grow through this pain
Lord I'm doing all I can
To be a better man
Once you've found that lover
You're homeward bound
Love is all around
Love is all around
The waiting continued.
At least if they knew something, anything Alex thought it would be better than staring into this vacuum where so much would remain unresolved. Anything had to be better than this waiting and watching people walk around like they were extras from some zombie flick. She and Jack had to sort this, this chemistry that was between them.
Life was just too bloody short, Alex thought. At least he would know how she felt – she wanted something between them so badly but not at the cost of what was already there. It was too much an all or nothing gamble. She hoped Jack would be able to see that too.
Helen placed an arm around Alex's shoulders and squeezed. Alex bit down on her lip thinking pain, no matter how brief would help take this other, sharper hurt away.
She bit down harder as the call came over the radio they had found Jack. No word on his condition – just that the paramedics were working on him. That could mean anything, Alex thought.
Biting down again and squeezing her eyes shut to stem the tears, Alex could feel the metallic tang of blood trickle into her mouth. She realised Quinn had begun guiding the Nemesis back to its mooring. Alex was so caught up in watching the Nemesis and those on board; she didn't even hear the ambulance arrive in the car park.
Craning her neck, Alex strained to see any sign of a body bag, which held what was left of Jack Christey. Briefly she wondered how do you say goodbye to someone you worked hard with, played even harder with and shared some of the best and worst Sydney's marine community could bring on itself?
Helen kept hold of Alex's shoulders for one good reason – to stop her and Alex from crumbling should Woodsie and Quinn bring another body bag off the Nemesis. They had to keep each other going – especially now. Helen thought back to another time at the end of the same wharf where Jack had talked Helen through her involvement in a police shooting and subsequent positive drug test. Jack had saved her then. Now, Helen hoped they had been able to save him.
You hear a lot of talk about –
Dignity – and finding sanity
These words have such a hollow sound
But be free – be free with me
These are the days we have been waiting for so long
But now is the time to set things right
Right here at home.
It was late when Alex crept into the hospital ward and gazed at the sleeping form of her partner a couple of days later. Until now, only Sophie and his dad had been officially allowed in to see Jack.
There was just enough light in the room to soften Jack's craggy features. He had done and seen far too much in his career, Alex thought. It was one of the few times she had seen Jack looking even remotely peaceful.
"Don't you ever do this to me again John Edward Christey," Alex whispered harshly.
"We need to talk. I know we have some unfinished business that was left at this point "
Alex leant down and placed a kiss on Jack's lips. She was lost in thought for a moment before turning on her heel and leaving the ward.
As the click-click of her high heels faded down the corridor, Jack shifted in the bed and started to smile. Yeah, they'd talk all right. In time, if he had his way – he hoped they would do more than talk.
Give it all to you
Then I'll be closer
Smiling with the mouth of the ocean
And I'll wave to you with the arms of the mountain
I'll see you
Now he remembered how he felt for his first day at school. Jack's first day back at work left him feeling nauseous about the thought of seeing Alex again, particularly with the whole station looking on.
Why, after so many weeks, did the first time they see each other have to be in such a public forum? This was going to be bad enough, what was he supposed to say to Alex?
"In spite of the fact I'm nearly 20 years older than you and have no right to feel this way, I decided while I was dying in the middle of Sydney Harbour that I'm crazy about you."
Hell, that one would go down an absolute treat, Jack thought. At best Alex would kiss him senseless and at worst he'd be bloody lucky if Alex didn't pull her Glock and finish what Agi started. If he wanted to place a bet with his bookie father on the outcome, Jack would have said the second choice was a short priced favourite.
For once fate was on his side. Hawker had sent him out with Woodsie and Quinn to run an operation just off Lady Jane Beach. There was only one advantage to arresting people there – no one would be searched for concealed weapons. Nudist beaches were good for something, Jack smirked.
Hell, he didn't even mind being in uniform for it. While he despised the general duties uniform with a passion the tactical gear and boots were almost as comfortable as his favourite suit.
It was late by the time the Nemesis was returned to the almost deserted police station. Many of the office dwellers had been swallowed by suburbia and it was too early for the lycra clad anorexics that made up the nightclub set. There was a kind of peace settling over the large country town that downed one too many short black coffees.
Alex could see the Nemesis docking from the office window. She had to front Jack and get this whole thing sorted somehow. They had been through too much to leave things unresolved.
"Hey Jack, welcome back."
"Thanks Al, Sophie thought the bright pink teddy bear you sent over was kind of cute."
"I couldn't help myself. What else could I send – given you were on enough antibiotics to keep you off the booze for life?"
Jack threw back his head and laughed. It would be good to get down to the Cutter and suck down some serious beer. This mineral water stuff was beginning to shit him to tears.
Alex closed her eyes and leaned against the pylon. The wooden cylinder gave her support and strength to get the words to come out right.
"Jack what are we going to do about this?" Alex opened her eyes and gazed in Jack's direction, taking in his blue overalls. Even though he might hate the GDs uniform, she mused – Jack still looked a bit of all right in tactical gear.
"Us – you kissed me at Sykes' wedding, we decided nothing happened and then when I was in hospital you laid a kiss on me that just about set the smoke detectors off and then you retreat back into your shell like some kind of whacko hermit crab. What gives?" Alex wasn't going to budge an inch.
"Floating around out there and almost dying has left me wondering how much I can really give to someone. You deserve . . .fuck . . .you deserve a hell of a lot more. In spite of everything I've been through in the past, I'm wondering whether I still believe in love and intimate relationships. What are you expecting from me?
"Honesty and communication."
Whatever Jack was expecting Alex to say it certainly wasn't that. He let her words sink in, weighing up their full impact.
"I think I can provide that."
"Jack, as much as I want to take this further between us and see where this chemistry goes, I am so scared of ruining something that is already pretty special in its own right."
Casting his eyes over her, Jack considered his answer. There was only one reply to give. Taking Alex in his arms, he kissed her with his head coming to rest in the crook of her neck. Alex could feel his hand skate over her hip to rest somewhere on her backside. Neither wanted to let go but Jack realised they had to.
Both knew if they weren't standing in the middle of the main wharf out of the front of Sydney Water Police headquarters, it was a moment that could have ignited and gone anywhere.
No words were needed. There was a sense of homecoming and finding an equal mate.
For now, that was all either of them wanted. The future could take care of itself.