- 'John'? You're on a first-name basis?
- What do you call him?
- Bane of my existence.
- Lionel's like a fungus, impossible to get rid of.
- 2x01 The Contingency
Oyster Bay (1x01 Pilot)
John sat at the back of the courtroom to follow the trial of Lawrence Pope, of which Diane Hansen, the number he was following, was the prosecutor. From his vantage point, he had a good view of the courtroom. Diane Hansen was interrogating Homicide Detective Lionel Fusco. She was standing with confidence, precise and pertinent in her interrogations. She obviously had experience and seemed very competent in her job. Watching her, John wondered if she could have attracted some jealousy from some of her peers, or possibly the anger of the criminals she put away.
John turned his attention to Pope. The man had quite a rap sheet. He was a career criminal and didn't seem particularly afraid to be on trial. John intently looked at him to try and get a feeling whether Pope could be a menace to Hansen, but he was hard to read. He didn't display any sign of guilt or anxiety. But he didn't seem to have the coldness of a killer preparing a vengeance either. Detective Fusco's testimony was pretty straight. He was the cop who first responded to the 911 call and who interrogated Pope after his arrest. It was all in his original report that Finch had given John a copy of. Nothing out of the ordinary, until, at the end of his testimony, Fusco made a comment that cast doubt about Pope's guilt, and clearly threw Diane Hansen off balance.
Absentmindedly passing a hand on his newly clean shaven chin, John wondered what was Finch's interest in this case. What was his connection with Diane Hansen? He had spent the whole night trying to find info on his new boss, and hadn't been able to dig up anything.
At the next session recess, John watched from a distance as Hansen took Fusco apart and grilled him about going off-script. Wearing a cheap suit, plump, looking inoffensive enough, the detective was a walking cliché of the lazy paper pusher cop. Looking sideways to see if anyone was watching them, Fusco didn't seem to appreciate the scold. He looked like he'd rather be anywhere but here and once she was finished, walked away quickly and grumbling. John wondered if he was purposely trying to sabotage the case, and if, despite his good-natured appearance, Detective Fusco could be a threat to the assistant DA.
As his investigation progressed, John quickly took Pope off of his suspect list, but added Wheeler, Hansen's too persistent colleague instead, as well as a group of dirty cops led by Narcotics detectives Stills and Azarello. And after their failed attempt at kidnapping Pope's brother Michael, they moved to the top of John's list and he decided to tail them.
From their precinct, he followed them to a gas station where they were meeting with none other than Detective Fusco. The homicide detective seemed just as grumpy as he was with Hansen, only acknowledging Stills but ignoring the rest of his crew. Fusco was clearly an outsider in the group. John observed them as Stills handed what looked like an envelope of cash to Fusco, who slid it in his pocket before promptly parting ways with his partners in crime. Hacking through their phones and email accounts, John got a better picture of their modus operandi. Even if there was nothing directly incriminating in their communications, it was easy to fill in the blanks. Stills and his crew were stealing drugs and money from the very criminals they were investigating, and then, Stills would call Fusco for his help to get rid of the witnesses and arrange for a petty criminal to take the fall for the crimes. Lawrence Pope was their designated "fall guy" on their last bust. The dots were finally connecting, but unfortunately not fast enough. Pope was murdered in his cell before John and Harold had a chance to intervene.
John had mixed feelings about that new job the mysterious Mr. Finch had offered him. He didn't know anything about his new employer. From what he told John, his mission was noble, but John hadn't managed to dig up anything on him, and that rattled him a little. He liked to know who he was working for. He needed the reassurance that what he was doing was right, now more than ever. Finch's Machine, or wherever he got his intel, sounded a little sketchy, but at least it seemed Finch agreed that any intel needed verification and investigation, so they'd know to separate the good guys from the bad guys, and act accordingly. And it wasn't like John had much else to do. Maybe, if this job with Finch allowed him to save a life or two, that would make up for a few of those he had taken. And if he didn't like the job, or Mr. Finch, he could always leave. Finch wasn't much of a threat, and John was very good at disappearing. In the meantime, John had to admit it felt good to be back to work, observing, tailing, putting the pieces together. It kept him busy and put his spy training in good use. And maybe he could as least stop those scumbags like Stills and Fusco from killing and hurting any more people.
After Pope's murder, things seemed to accelerate. As Detective Stills requested a meeting with Diane Hansen, John geared up and followed her to the rendezvous, ready to intervene in case anything went sideways. Rifle at the ready, John watched from a safe distance as Diane Hansen talked to Detectives Stills and Azzarello. But the meeting didn't go as John had imagined. They had had it all wrong. It appeared that Diane Hansen was in on the framing and murder of Lawrence Pope, and was now planning to eliminate her colleague, Wheeler. Hansen was not a victim, but a perpetuator. John felt his frustration about the job growing. Why on Earth couldn't the information be more accurate?
Suddenly, John felt a hand grabbing him by the shoulder. He didn't need to turn around to know he had been made by the one person missing at the meeting: Detective Fusco. The good-natured cop was slicker than he looked. Knowing he didn't have tactical advantage, John surrendered immediately. Fusco took his gun and brought him to his criminal companions, forcing him to kneel in front of Stills.
John's last thoughts before the barrel of Stills' rifle hit him at the temple were that at least they didn't check any of his pockets, and his phone was still recording the incriminating exchange between Hansen and Stills.
When he regained consciousness, John's head was throbbing like hell. The irregular movement and the stale smell told him that he was inside a moving vehicle. The car seemed to be going at a steady pace, and the situation was probably safe enough for now. John cracked an eye open. He was in the back of a Police car and Fusco, the Detective who had managed to sneak up on him, was behind the wheel. They had left the city and were driving on a back road in an isolated area along the coast. There was little doubt that the Detective was taking him to his final destination. Apparently, in the hierarchy of their little corrupt ring, Fusco was at the bottom, doing the dirty work and taking out the trash.
John assessed the situation. His hands were handcuffed. He couldn't easily get rid of the handcuffs, but the good Detective had the sense to cuff his hands at the front. In consequence, even though his movements were restricted, John wasn't totally incapacitated. He grinned, that didn't bode well for his opponent. John gazed around, looking for anything that he could use. He checked the content of his pockets, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, along his phone, his tear gas grenade was still there. That was a dumb mistake, one that would be fatal to the careless Detective.
Viewing the whole situation under a new light, John realized that Lionel was indeed trying to throw the judge's case under the bus by going off-track in his testimony. But he was doing so in order to avoid an innocent man to go to prison. Stills, Azarello, even Hansen, they seemed comfortable with their criminal activities, including killing if they had to. Lionel Fusco, on the other hand, clearly wasn't happy. He seemed more like someone who was trapped in a situation he had lost control over, but couldn't see a way out.
Maybe Lionel Fusco wasn't entirely bad after all. And certainly not to be underestimated, even if just now, he was going to pay for his distraction…
"Nice spot," John said.
"It's Oyster Bay," Detective Fusco smirked. "Glad you like it. You're gonna be here a long, long time."
"I'm curious was there a point where you knew you'd become a bad guy?"
For the second time in two days, Lionel drove all the way to Oyster Bay. He wasn't sure which time was the worst: yesterday, where he got gassed, flipped upside down in his car and shot short range in the vest four times, or today, where he was going to bury Stills to save his own ass.
In any other circumstance, he would have been relieved not to have to work with Stills and his gang anymore. He hated it, but he didn't have the balls to stand up to them. And it would have been too late anyway. He was in way too deep. Opposing Stills and Azarello would probably have meant the end of him, so by simple instinct of survival, and, admittedly, out of weakness, Lionel went along, and covered crime after crime for them. He even pulled the trigger himself a few times.
And now, Stills was in the trunk of his car, shot dead by some weird tall and dark stranger who, for some twisted reason, decided to let Lionel live. Lionel didn't deserve any mercy. His hands were just as dirty as Stills'. Yet, Stills was dead, Hansen and Azarello had been arrested, and somehow, Lionel was in the clear.
But this only made Stills' death more painful. Despite all his wrong doings, Jimmy had always been a good friend to Lionel. He was there for him when he was at his lowest, when Lionel's wife asked for divorce and asked for Lee's full custody. He was there to take Lionel home when he was too drunk to drive. He had offered him a shoulder to cry, a place to stay.
Daylight was already fading when Lionel arrived in the woods. He parked his car and took Stills' dead body out of the trunk. Stills was a big guy and dragging him deep into the wood was arduous work. By the time Lionel arrived to a spot hidden enough from any paths, he was sweating profusely.
With a heavy heart, he picked up the shovel he had taken with him and started digging a hole. It wasn't his first time burying a dead body in those woods. But, as the guilt for all his past crimes suddenly crashed on him, Lionel swore to himself it would be the last one. Exhausted and distraught, Lionel kept digging as night settled in. It was pitch dark by the time he had dug a hole big enough.
He climbed up and looked a Jimmy's cold body. Who was going to tell his wife, and his daughters? How will he ever be able to face them? Tears rolling down his cheeks, Lionel grabbed his friend and dragged him into the hole. For his own sake, he hoped no one would ever find the body.
As he slowly walked to his car, dragging the shovel behind him, Lionel felt the urgent need to see his son, to hold in his arms the one good thing he had managed to do in his entire life. Lee had just turned 9. He was a wonderful kid, and deserved better than an absentee father, who would barely make it to birthdays and Christmases. But if he wanted to be more present in his son's life, Lionel had to clean up his act first.
It was past 3 a.m. when he arrived at his Brooklyn apartment. Usually, he would have knocked back a bottle of Bourbon. But not tonight. Instead, Lionel collected every single bottle of alcohol in his apartment, every single can of beer, and emptied them all in the sink. Then he threw away all the empty bottles and cans and took the trash out. Feeling somehow a little perked up by his new resolution, Lionel took a quick shower.
You work for me, now, that hot shot had said. Who was he? What did he want? And what did he want from Lionel?
Lionel wondered if he had just jumped out of a frying pan into a fire just as bad. But the events of past couple of days had drained him of all his energy. All those questions would wait for now. His entire body was sore, his brain was fuzzy and he could barely stand on his feet. He finally crashed on his bed and fell asleep immediately.
To be continued...