He stared at the wall beside him, wishing there was nothing expected of him today – wishing there wasn't an office full of co-workers needing him to be on his best, that there wasn't a young girl lost on the cold streets needing him to find her. His wishes fell among the bed sheets, lost and meaningless – he prayed he could make it through another day, prayed that the darkness could be held at bay until he left the office.
He sat up, dangling his legs over the bed as he let routine take over. Within an hour he was showered, dressed and grabbing his keys ready to head out the door, the mask applied and the professional Danny Taylor ready to face his peers.
Danny was known for being early, always in the office either working through a pile of paperwork or chasing up leads for a current case before the others came in. Looking up to the whiteboard he let out a heavy sigh. Ella Simmonds, 18, last seen at an English Lit lecture yesterday afternoon and all they had to go on was a pile of her journals which were pointing to suicide or runaway he concluded.
He read through her writings feeling a strong connection to the girl they were searching for, she wrote of the weight that tugged at her stomach, the darkness that haunted her like a heavy fog and the fight she faced every day to maintain her composure on the outside. Poring through the scratched words he looked for a clue as to where she would go – just one word would suffice his searching, he needed to find her, he needed to save her because he couldn't save himself…
"Morning," Jack's rough voice roused Danny from deep thought. He glanced up at the man he had worked with for years and tightened his lips into a half hearted smile of recognition.
"Hey," he answered, "Any news?" he questioned nodding his head toward the board.
Jack didn't answer, his eyes speaking for him, face held firm in the way that had been learned from years of hard cases and tragedies. It was getting harder for him to think optimistically – to hold onto the hope they would find her alive when realistically he knew chances were slim.
"What have you got there?" he asked Danny.
"Her journals," he said sadly. "I'm thinking if we don't find her soon, she is going to kill herself…" his voice trailed off, and he looked right into Jacks eyes. "I need to find her Jack," he said quietly, almost betraying the pain in his voice. "I've gotta find this one," he repeated.
Jack looked at his agent wondering why he was so attached to this girl but reasoned that Danny connected with all the young ones – he just hoped that this case wouldn't hit him too hard. Jack was worried about Danny, none of the competent agent's actions fuelled the worry but it was a gut feeling Jack wasn't comfortable with dismissing yet. He pushed the thoughts from his mind, "All we can do is our best," he replied before heading for coffee and some time to think over the case in his office.
Samantha, Martin and Vivian were all ready for another day's work by 7.30am, and the office buzzed with energy and earnest. They all noticed Danny hunched over his desk, eyes scanning the pages of what looked like scrapbooks but no one picked up something was wrong – they rarely did. In fact despite the years of working together they didn't know much about him at all – just that he was a damn good officer and that his private life was kept to himself.
Jack emerged from his office and began the briefing – ideas storming around the room but Danny remained quiet until Jack mentioned the journals.
"I haven't found anything hinting to her whereabouts yet," he stated, "but I do know that she is severely depressed and suicidal."
"Right," Jack again took control before his phone interrupted him. "Malone," he answered…
The rest of the office continued going over the facts, Danny offering insight into the emotional and mental state of Ella, Sam reporting that she barely used her phone - only to call her parents and Vivian relaying the conversation she had with the Lecturer the day before.
Nothing stood out except for the fact that this young lady was hurting, a feeling that Danny could identify with.
"Looks like we got lucky with this one," Jack interrupted. "She's been sighted on top of the Bellmond building. Now we need to tread carefully, from what we know she is close to the edge and in this instance, the fall is twenty-nine stories."
The team nodded, all quietly preparing themselves mentally for what they might have to deal with, suicide is never pretty and too often was part of the job.
Danny rode with Martin, the silence between the two co-workers full of apprehension. Martin looked across at Danny noticing for the first time the bags under his eyes, the stubble adorning his face and the white knuckled hold his hands had on each other.
"You ok?" he asked tentatively.
"Fine," Danny answered not looking up from whatever his gaze had fallen upon.
Martin decided not to press the issue; they both had to concentrate on getting this girl home safely.
Once they had arrived at the scene, it was Danny who was up top first - Jack, Martin and Sam not far behind in the elevator. When he reached the top, breath short, he took a minute to compose himself before stepping out onto the roof. When he did, he immediately saw the lone figure, legs over the edge, hands wrapped around her shoulders.
"Ella?" he called out, trying not to startle her. There was no response so he continued, "Ella, I'm Danny Taylor from the F.B.I we've been looking for you; you've had a lot of people worried."
"Yeah!" she replied sarcastically, "I can see that happening…"
"Look at me," he urged. "I want to help you – it doesn't have to be like this."
She looked toward him, but death had clouded her vision, she had no intention of listening to the stranger making promises she knew he couldn't keep. Behind him she saw other offices, standing back so as not to make her feel threatened – she knew their motives, they just didn't want someone's blood on their hands, they didn't care at all about her– she was just another case to them…
Her thoughts were interrupted by Danny who at this stage was gradually edging closer toward her; he reached out his hand willing her to take it, but she glared at it as if it was diseased.
"I read your diaries Ella, I know how you feel…"
"Don't even bother," she began. "You don't have a clue what it's like…"
At that moment he wanted to embrace her, to tell her that he did – tell her how he lay in bed awake at night wondering what the point was….there were so many deep dark secrets he wanted to share with her, to convince her he knew what it was like but he faltered… the words didn't come and he instead relied on his training, telling her that it would be ok, things could get better and that he'd help her. He told her she had so much to live for, that there was a purpose out there for her – he told her but she never listened.
Ella Simmonds, blew Danny a kiss as she stood on the cement ledge. In slow motion she held her arms up like wings and fell backwards as Danny ran forward to grab her... he was too late, she was gone and he had failed her. He slumped against the ledge, clutching his head in his hands trying to block out the thoughts that plagued his mind.
The aftermath was surreal, Danny barely recognised Jack crouching in front of him, hand on his shoulder.
"We can't save them all Danny…" he broke off, startled at the look in Danny's eyes, a look of pain so intense he didn't know how to react. "Why don't you go home, it's been a rough morning?"
"I'm fine Jack," he got up slowly and hesitated. "Meet you at the office."
The rest of the day passed by slowly, a new face on the whiteboard replaced Ella's and the group of F.B.I agents worked as hard as they could to find the man in his mid 30's. Danny had been assigned to telephone records and he did his job well but often found his mind wandering to other places, the misery grabbing a firmer hold of his mind.
As the hours grew later, Danny's mood grew fouler, the anguish from the day added to his own inner turmoil growing out of control. Before leaving, he found himself in the bathroom punching into the brick wall with his fist repeatedly, bruises forming on his clenched knuckles.
"Danny!" Martin had entered the room, shocked to find the scene before him.
"I... was trying to show it who was boss," he joked lamely, attempting to dismiss the fact that he had beaten his fist till it was bloody.
Martin didn't know what to say, but he didn't have a chance to say anything as it turned out. Danny bid him good night before brushing past him, avoiding Martin's look of concern.
Danny walked for ages, along the streets where his face was lost amongst the crowd – just another lost soul looking for a way home. His mind overflowed with the vision of a lone figure standing on top of a multi-storey building, hair whipping around her face in the wind, her eyes darkened with the pain she couldn't escape, her face pale and cold as stone, her heart broken. For a fleeting moment, the girls face faded away and it was his own, his body the one standing on the ledge looking over and praying for the strength to take the last step…
Subconsciously Danny had made his way to the entrance of a trashy bar but he paused reasoning with himself… when he drank he not only abused himself but those around him too - his friends and workmates. All he wanted to do was punish himself. He didn't want to wake up in a pool of his own vomit and go to work the next day in a state that would prevent him from doing his job properly. No… all he wanted was to feel, to know that it was real. He wanted to punish himself for his sins… his unforgivable sins.
Jack sat in his homely office brooding, about the girl and about Danny. There was something not quite right about his agent's reaction… his composure for the rest of the day. There was something deeper at play Jack decided. He sat there, eyes closed, his fingers rubbing temples until he sensed a presence at the door…
"For god's sake," he muttered, "just knock!"
"Sorry, I err… have you seen Danny?" Marin said hurriedly, a look of worry set upon his face.
"No, why do you ask?"
"It might've been nothing…"
"I saw him just before in the bathroom bashing the shit out of his fists, he pushed past me before I could say anything."
"Doesn't sound like nothing…" Jack replied taking the information in with a deep sigh. He had been right – something deeper was definitely at play.
He found his car and drove to the apartment he called home, opened the door and slammed it behind him. Still, he kept up his quiet reserve, hanging up his coat, taking off his shoes and socks and heading for the shower.
He let the steaming water pour over his body as he leant against the shower wall, eyes closed, his frame sinking to the tiled floor. All remnants of his façade dissipated with the running water, as he sat there, clutching his head with hands. The migraine he constantly suffered intensified until he reached breaking point and before he knew it, he was reaching for his razor. Danny extracted the blade from within, and began twirling it within his fingers, mesmerised by the shiny metallic object. In slow motion he bought the cold metal to the flesh on his arm and pressed down as hard as he could, crimson pouring from the quickly forming wounds. He felt a release he hadn't felt in so long, the pain didn't measure up to his emotional anguish but it helped. For hours he sat there, watching himself flow down the drain until he began to feel faint. He let the blood flow as he got out of the shower, made his way to his bed and collapsed upon it.
The migraine hadn't gone when he surfaced from his stupor bought on by blood loss and fatigue.
Danny sat up slowly, his vision blurry, feeling the throbbing of his fist, and the pain from the wounds on his arm. He looked down to find blood covering the sheets, his arm traced with deep gashes and instead of regret he found comfort in the wounds.
8.30 - he swore, suddenly realising that he had no hope of getting to work on time, especially in his present state. He remembered Martin catching him in the bathroom, the memory triggering a grimace as he predicted an uncomfortable day at the office.
Danny found himself staring at his reflection in the mirror – his eyes puffy and bloodshot, dark shadows beneath them betraying the struggle within. He reached out to touch the mirror, but pulled away and instead slammed his fist through it in anger and disgust at what he saw… The reflective glass shattered showering his body hunched over the sink with the fragments, he didn't move.
Normally Jack wouldn't worry about an officer being late but this morning was different. He was concerned, debating whether or not to call Danny, especially after what Martin witnessed the other night. Finally he justified, Danny was late for work, he was his boss and therefore there was no reason he couldn't call his agent checking up on his whereabouts. He picked up his cell with resignation.
"Danny, Jack here."
"Morning Jack, sorry I'm late…. Stuck in traffic," Danny blurted while still staring at his broken reflection in the mirror… glass all around him, sharp enough to cut through flesh….
Jack could tell he wasn't even in his car - a trained ear distinguished the sounds of a tap dripping, the echo… Danny was still at his apartment.
"That's fine," he replied, "Just be sure to see me in my office as soon as you come in," the phone clicked off.
Danny decided he wasn't going in to the office, he wasn't going to see Jack, he wasn't going to face the others today – he didn't have the strength.
He dressed quickly, pulling a lose shirt on, of a dark colour to hide the still weeping wounds – he needed to go to a drug store he reasoned before grabbing his keys and heading out into the cold city.
"Where's Danny today?" Vivian asked Jack.
An hour and a half had passed since Jacks conversation with Danny and Jack was edgy.
"I don't know… I'll give him another call"
He held the phone to his ear, willing Danny to pick it up but no answer came. He looked up at Viv and their eyes met.
"We'll give him another half hour," Vivian nodded in agreement.
"What's up?" Sam interrupted.
"Danny… you didn't seem him after work yesterday did you?" Jack asked.
"No," she shook her head slowly, wondering what was going on... "I was amazed by his reaction or lack of to the Simmonds case," she continued, echoing what everyone had already been thinking.
"I know," Jack sighed deeply.
He knew he wasn't thinking straight, he knew he was acting on impulse but quite frankly he didn't care anymore. He walked into the drugstore as if it were a lolly shop as he casually went through the shelves picking up supplies. He dumped a pile of bandages, ointment and men's razors on the counter and asked for the strongest over the counter painkillers he could get. The lady on the other side of the counter raised her eyebrows at him curious as to why he would need such a supply of first aid products.
"What's all this for?" she inquired while swiping through the man's bankcard.
"Oh, you know this and that," he replied flashing her a look that was easily recognisable as mind your own business.
He waltzed out of the store, goods under his arm, got in his car and drove, following the flow of traffic, letting his thoughts envelop him once more. His cell phone vibrated and rang on the passenger seat beside him but he ignored it, barely recognising it ringing.
Danny Taylor sat in his car, hands shaking on the steering wheel, eyes distractedly darting across the road wondering where he could go.
Martin glanced up at the whiteboard distractedly – he couldn't imagine where or what Danny was up to and he wasn't sure he wanted to - scared of the outcome.
Jack had issued the Missing Person's Unit their new case, Danny Taylor and the office resonated with a height of eagerness and desperation it hadn't reached before.
Sam and Martin had gone to their workmates … the victim's apartment and been shocked to discover the bathroom mirror broken, the glass scattered all over the sink and the floor. What's more, Danny's bed was covered in blood which forensics had already confirmed was Agent Taylor's.
"Hey, I think I've got something," Sam piped up from behind her desk. The team rushed over as she continued.
"His bank records show a purchase at the drugstore on Milgrove Ave., $47 at 12:07pm today."
"Right you and Martin go check it out, hopefully the store keeps a record of their sales, also ask the workers if they noticed anything unusual about Dan... err the Vic." Jack stumbled. By telling himself the current victim was someone he didn't know, that he didn't have a long standing relationship with he could allow his judgement and instinct to remain unclouded… he hoped.
They flashed their badges confidently as they reached the drug store counter neither agent giving away the unease they felt.
"Excuse me, I'm Agent Martin Fitzgerald and this is my partner Agent Samantha Spade would you mind if we asked you some questions about a customer you had in here earlier today?"
"Sure, go ahead," the lady answered.
Sam held up a picture of her co-worker Danny hoping the lady would recognise his face - his dark brown hair and eyes, the grin that graced his face… the way his eyes lit up when he was onto something or someone….
"Have you seen this man?" she asked directly.
"Uh yeah, he came in about lunch time. He was a bit strange if you ask me," the lady answered truthfully.
"How so?" Martin butted in.
"He seemed troubled, had a strange look in his eyes… didn't look like he'd slept in weeks."
Martin thought back to the last time he had seen Danny, his fist bloody and his face contorted in a painful grimace, the image not one that he treasured.
"Would there be any chance you remembered what he bought?" Samantha questioned, her arms crossed and a frown crossing her brow.
"I only remember because it was so strange, he came to the counter with an armful of bandages, ointment… there was something else too" she murmured. "Just a second, I'll check the records."
As the lady behind the counter typed the time 12:07, into her register looking for Danny's purchase, Sam and Martin cast each other a worried look… it did not sound good at all.
"Oh that's right, he got shaving razors and some pain killers."
"Thank you so much for your help," Sam distractedly said before turning away to Martin who was already out the door.
"Malone," Jack answered the phone to hear Martin's voice on the other end.
"Ok, see you back here in a few minutes," he hung up, walked over to the white board and added to the time line:
12:07: Milgrove Drugstore -. Buys bandages, razors, ointment and painkillers. Visibly troubled…
Vivian read the words, urging the panic she felt coursing through her veins to die down so she could focus. Danny was a good friend to Viv, although she didn't know much about the man. He was always there offering a kind word, a smile… a shoulder; she questioned whether she had offered the same support to him.
"Ok so we know that he's injured," Sam announced as she stormed through the office doors, "maybe he's been bashed – mugged?" she suggested.
"Yeah, he wouldn't be fighting back with his fists in that condition," Martin thought aloud.
"What do you mean his fist?" inquired Viv.
"Oh," Martin looked away. "I caught him in the toilet hammering his fist into the wall… it was pretty bloody," he added feeling regret at not having followed him to see if he was ok.
"I don't..." Jack began.
All eyes turned to their superior, Jack who until then hadn't uttered a word, his eyes focused on the faces of his agents, thinking it through, processing the facts. Danny's phone records were barely existent apart from the few calls he made to the office and he had no family except for a brother inside - all they knew was what they saw of him everyday on the job. After his display last night and the trip to the drugstore today, Jack's thoughts were very grim, but why would he buy bandages and shavers if he intended to kill himself? It didn't seem to add up but he knew the sooner they found him, the better.
"I don't think we're talking about foul play," Jack stated. "I think we're after a desperate man encountering a breakdown."
Danny had pulled off the highway and was making his way down a near deserted road. Seeing what appeared to be a dam and picnic area up ahead he slowed his car to a stop, watching as the sun began to sink behind the rise… another day ending.
He stayed within the confines of his vehicle, the smell of leather tainted by the sweetness of his own blood in the air. He looked toward his purchase from earlier that day and with haste tipped the packet upside down, shaking the contents onto the seat next to him. Rolling up his sleeves he looked to his arm and realised the gashes probably needed stitches, he took this realisation in with a grain of salt.
A lone acoustic guitar picked out a haunting melody, cocking his head Danny gazed at the car stereo. He wanted to immerse himself within the music, it described how he felt with so much power, more than words ever could.
It was with a hint of regret that he picked up the razor again – he wondered what his friends at Missing Persons were doing. It hadn't occurred to him they were looking for him, he didn't deem himself as top priority and never had.
After throwing a few painkillers down his throat he returned to his act of punishment – bringing the blade across his flesh, moving from his arms to his torso, his wrists, and chest… any area of bare skin he found fell victim, the bandages forgotten as he let the blood flow. The crimson replaced Danny's tears – tears he couldn't cry. As his vision blurred and he waited to pass out, he held onto the memory of the girl he couldn't save.
Don't even bother," she began. "You don't have a clue what it's like…
Jack let the phone ring out impatiently, all they needed was for Danny to pick up to know that a) he was alive and b) be able to trace the call and find him. It was now nightfall – and the team had no leads, weariness taking its toll on the team. Jack kept replaying the events of the previous day in his mind – he had known something wasn't right - why hadn't he acted on it? He should have said something to his agent, made sure he wasn't alone…
Danny hovered in and out of consciousness, the cold of the evening starting to set into his bones – his body slumped in the driver seat shuddered viciously.
The phone beside him rang and without thinking Danny felt across the seat to find it. He looked at the number dialling but couldn't recognise it – his eyes unable to focus.
"Danny, Danny, you there?" a voice laced with urgency asked through the small speaker.
"Jack?" Danny replied vaguely. "How are you doing mate, sorry bout work today…" he drifted off.
"Danny stay with me – can you tell me where you are?"
"In my car… You know what Jack," Danny began, his mouth uttering whatever came into his head. "You're a great boss, man… I would have fired my ass. Are you firing me?" his words slurred.
"No but I want to see you Danny. Can you tell me where you are?" Jack pressed.
"I'm sticky and cold… I deserve this…"
"Danny what have you done, let us come get you ok?" replied Jack, afraid of the chilling words he had just heard.
No reply came from the other end of the phone. The silence resonated to Jack, striking a fear into his heart that no words could.
Sam traced the call to a back road about an hours drive away.
"Ok, we've got him – Sam, you go with Viv. Martin you're coming with me."
The office emptied as the Missing Person's Team hoped they would be bringing home one of their own... not just his body.
Jack's tense hands gripped the steering wheel.
"Martin, when we get there, you and I will approach Danny first ok? I don't want Sam or Viv finding him if …" Frank's voice trailed off.
"I understand," Martin replied looking out the window, the once comforting lights of the city now chilling him to the bone.
Parents, brother, workmates, long lost lovers… Ella, he had failed them all. He sat in the car, shirt open, blood everywhere and yet his will for self-destruction was still strong. He didn't want to die though, that would be the easy option out – or was it?
He looked at the blade in his hand and was considering finally ending the pain… finally being free when he saw the headlights of two approaching cars. Without the energy or strength he sat with the seat reclined, eyes closed realising he needed help – someone to save him.
Jack and Martin approached Danny's car signalling to Sam and Viv to remain behind.
"Danny?" Martin called. He opened the door handle tentatively stepping back in shock at the sight of his friend, pale, shuddering and bloody. Deep lacerations covered Danny's upper body and he had lost a lot of blood.
"Ambulance to our current location pronto!" Jack yelled into his phone before shoving it in his pocket and crouching beside the driver door.
"Danny, can you hear me?" He shook the fragile man gently urging him to open his eyes."
Martin stood motionless before snapping into action, yelling across to Viv and Sam to brink a blanket.
Danny's eyes opened, slowly adjusting to the dim light and the faces peering down at him.
"I deserve it," he muttered.
Jack spotting the bandages discarded on the passenger side floor, raced around the car, opened the door and sat himself in the seat, using the bandages to stop the blood that continued to seep from Danny's wounds.
"I, I'm sorry Jack," Danny whispered. "I should have been able to contain it… I should have been able to hold it in… I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He repeated over and over.
"No I'm sorry Danny," Jack began unable to finish the sentence because he didn't know how.
Sam and Vivian rushed toward the car with flashlight and blanket, gasping with disbelief as they saw Agent Taylor.
"Danny!" Sam grasped his hand, tears glistening in her eyes. She got up, helping Viv get Danny to sit forward so they could wrap the blanket around his shoulders.
Minutes ticked by slowly as they waited for the ambulance, each set of eyes not leaving Danny, their hearts lurching with the sight before them.