Roger Murtaugh always knew that he was one of the lucky ones. Twenty-seven years of marriage and he loved his wife more every day. Sure they had had their share of ups and downs, what couple didn't? … but their temperaments were well suited for one enough - both of them by nature, calm and even-keeled people. And even when the arguments did crop up, no matter how angry they got, they never lost sight of their love for each other. The fact that they rarely fought or even disagreed made it that much harder for Roger to look at Trish's tear streaked face.
They had argued much of the night, voices kept low so as not to disturb Carrie and Nick, but a heated argument none the less. Now a defeated Trish sat in the corner chair of their master bedroom, watching silently, arms folded across her chest as Roger stood by the bed, packing an overnight bag. Trish had wanted Roger and Martin to go to the police department with the information that they had, while Roger had tried to explain to her that there was simply nothing that LAPD could or would do at this point … and round and round the circle they went until they finally ended up where they were now.
Roger shoved an extra pair of shoes in the bag and looked back up at his wife, sighing deeply at the distraught expression still stretched tightly across her face. He tried to give her a smile. "Honey, we don't even know if he'll be there," he said in an effort to reassure her. Trish didn't reply, only drawing her arms closer around her chest as if suddenly cold. His own smile faltering, Roger went over to her, kneeled down in front of the chair and reached out, prying her hands loose so that he could grasp them. "You have to believe me that this is the best way." His tone sounded close to pleading but Trish did nothing more than look away. He squeezed her hands tightly and after another minute asked in a quiet voice, "Honey, do you remember when Rianne was kidnapped?"
Trish's head turned around to face her husband, her big brown eyes focused on him. "Of course I do," she whispered, a deep shudder coursing through her at the memory.
Roger gave a small nod of his head. "If I had gone to the department then, Rianne wouldn't be alive today. I firmly believe that. The only thing that saved her was me and Martin going in on our own… You have to understand that sometimes the department can't help." He stared deeply into her eyes as he continued. "I'm not like Martin. He relishes going outside the system, he thrives on it … but if I thought we could do this by going through the proper channels, I would …" He squeezed her hands again. "You know that, honey."
Although there was a part of Trish that knew her husband was probably right, try as she might she was having a difficult time bringing herself to accept it. All she could see was that once again her stubborn husband and his bone headed partner were going to go off on their own and she couldn't help but feel that soon enough they would tempt fate one time too many. The whole South African fiasco had nearly been the final straw for her, and although she had never voiced her thoughts, Trish had been hopeful that after sitting through what seemed like an endless line of funerals and memorial services, after watching his best friend almost die, that maybe Roger would finally be ready to quit. Instead it seemed to energize him, the circumstances making him determined to help in rebuilding the unit, to work at getting Martin back on the force, to catch as many bad guys as possible. Somehow she had managed to keep smiling - had come to grips with the fact that Roger wasn't going to be leaving the department any time soon … but it was hard being married to a cop, watching them go out the door every morning, knowing that there was a much higher risk of them never coming back again. Through all their years together, Trish had never shown Roger just how much she actually worried; she knew it would only add to the burden and she didn't want his concentration to be on anything other than the job. The closer, however, that Roger crept towards retirement, the harder it was for her to contain those feelings.
Suddenly both of their heads jerked around towards the hallway as the sound of Martin's voice drifted through the quiet household. "Hey, Rog… Trish …?"
Giving a thin smile, Trish brought her hands up to her face, brushing the tears away as best she could. "Finish up here," she murmured, "I'll go down." Roger nodded as he watched his wife head out the bedroom.
Standing in the hall, Trish took a moment to try and compose herself and then headed down to find Martin standing at the bottom of the stairs by the front door. He gave a big smile but his happy expression crumbled a bit at the sight of her. It was immediately obvious that she had been crying a lot; Riggs, of course, had a good idea of why but decided it would probably be best not to say anything - at least for the moment. He managed to keep his grin in place as Trish smiled back and then swept past him into the kitchen. Without a word, Riggs followed her, watching quietly as she pulled a couple of large thermoses from a cabinet. "Roger will be down in just a minute, he's finishing packing." Martin nodded, suddenly uncomfortable. He felt like a horrible shit, that this was his fault somehow but he didn't have a clue how to rectify the situation. Grabbing the coffee pot, Trish filled the two thermoses and then handed one to Martin. "I made extra coffee to start you two off on the trip."
"Thanks." He stared down at the thermos for a long moment, fingers tapping rapidly along the side of it in a fit of nervous energy before finally looking back up as Trish started to busy herself with the nearby dirty dishes. After another minute, he took a deep breath. "Trish, I wa-" He stopped in mid-sentence as she suddenly turned to him, one hand raised in a shushing gesture.
"Don't say anything, Martin," she said in an even voice, her expression calm, but there was no questioning the pain in her eyes. "I've already heard it all." Lips pressing together into a tight line, she turned back to the sink, attacking the dishes with a fierceness that belied her smooth exterior.
Martin frowned. As was his nature, he had been eager for them to track down Evanston, to take the fight to him rather than sitting around on their asses waiting for the man's next move, but had he really given enough thought to how it would affect Trish? Probably not, and he felt terrible about it. In all the time that he had known the Murtaugh's he had never told them just how much they had done for him - he didn't think he could even put it into words. All he knew was that being around them, being able to interact - if even a little - with a happy, well-adjusted family was the lifeline that somehow kept him from going over the brink into total self-destruction. This fact had made him fiercely protective of all of them and he would gladly take a bullet if it meant preserving the family and sparing Trish and the kids from having to go through the grief that always weighed him down. Putting the thermos down on the kitchen table, he quickly walked over to Trish and reached over to squeeze her shoulder. "I promise that I'll make sure Roger doesn't get hurt."
Trish didn't move for a moment, then slowly turned to pin Riggs with a hard stare. "How can you say that, Martin?" Her voice was still calm but the fear in her eyes had now spread to her entire face. She gave a shake of her head. "I know you are one of the best at what you do, but you can't control all of the circumstances. How do you think you can promise me that?"
Unable to come up with anything to say, Riggs just stared back at Trish, feeling even worse with every passing second. She was right, of course … Despite the information they had, Riggs couldn't be sure of what they were getting into or how it would all go down … how could he promise such a thing? Shoulders sagging downward, he suddenly realized what empty words they seemed to be. Despite his willingness to throw himself in front of Roger if need be, he wouldn't necessarily be at the man's side all the time … He couldn't guarantee that Roger wouldn't get hurt or even worse … Shit … at the end of the day, he hadn't even been able to protect Vicky and Rika. Riggs nodded slowly. "You're right, Trish. I can't promise that. But we're not going in completely blind, there are things I can predict … prepare for … and," he added with emphasis, "I can promise that I will do everything within my considerable abilities to keep Roger safe."
Trish smiled weakly. "And you too?"
Riggs smiled back. "And me too."
"That," sighed Trish as she gave the detective a hug, "I guess I can live with."
Planting a kiss on the top of her head, Riggs grabbed his coffee from the table and opened the side door. "Tell Rog I'll meet him in the truck," he said quietly as he left, wanting to make sure Trish and Roger could say their goodbyes in private.
The ride to Las Vegas had been unusually quiet for the two detectives, each of them deep in their own private thoughts and weighed down by the situation that they had found themselves ensnared in. Roger didn't even argue when Riggs suddenly turned off the highway to take his special "shortcut". A shortcut which, of course, took them onto a ridiculously narrow, poorly maintained road that twisted through the hills like a roller coaster. This was something that would normally drive the older detective crazy but he found himself grateful for the diversion. Instead of worrying about his family and what would happen if he lost his job or even worse, was thrown into jail, he passed the rest of the trip fervently praying for a safe landing in Vegas.
While Martin checked them into the fleabag motel he had picked out, Roger went ahead and took his bags up to their room. Ignoring the drug deal going down in the hallway, he opened the door and went in, depositing his luggage onto one of the single beds. He grimaced as a thick cloud of dust billowed up into the air, but he was too tired at the moment to care. At least his immediate prayers for the journey had been answered and for that he was grateful. Yawning, he went into the small bathroom to use the toilet. After he was finished, he tried to turn on the water only to have the hot water handle break off into his hand. Grumbling under his breath, Roger wiped his hands on his pants as he couldn't find a towel, his head suddenly jerking up at the sound of the door opening. He peered around the corner to see Riggs enter the room and throw his bags down on the other bed. "Hey, Riggs," he called out.
"What?" Riggs plopped down on the small bed, glancing up at his partner just in time for one of his hands to quickly come up and snag the object that Roger threw at him.
Looking down, he spread his fingers out to find the broken faucet handle resting in his palm as Roger muttered, "Nice shithole ya picked out."
"What? It's not too bad … kinda reminds me of my place."
Riggs just rolled his eyes as he tossed the handle aside and laid his Beretta on the wobbly nightstand that was nestled between the two beds. Yawning, he stretched out on top of the faded bedcovers, tucking an arm under his head. "Well, we sure couldn't go check in at Caesar's Palace now could we? All those cameras and security…" He kicked at one of the bags resting on the foot of the bed with a booted toe. "I sure as hell wouldn't want to get caught with my arsenal here. Shit we don't have badges or IDs anymore to back us up." He chuckled. "Not that that ever stopped us anyway."
"No kidding." Roger stepped back towards the beds but then suddenly jumped to one side, obviously startled, his gaze falling downward. "Whoa! Shit!"
"What?" Riggs jerked back up from where he had been resting, one hand swooping over to grab his nearby weapon.
"Man, I saw something scurry under the table! I swear to god, I think it was a rat."
Sighing, Riggs just kicked off his boots and laid back down on top of the bed. "I don't worry about those kinds of rodents," he muttered with a wave of his Beretta. "It's the human rats you have to watch out for."
Roger looked unconvinced but he did nothing else other than give a shake of his head. "I guess I'm too beat to worry about it anyhow."
"It's been a long couple of days. We should try and get some rest and head out first thing tomorrow."
Roger nodded in agreement, but his expression looked distracted. He jerked a thumb over one shoulder. "Uhm… look, I'm gonna step out to make a phone call, let Trish know we're here."
As was his deeply ingrained habit, Riggs slipped the gun under his pillow for fast access while sleeping then looked up at his partner, a slight frown clouding his face. "She's pretty upset, huh?"
Roger's shoulders hitched upward. "This was my decision too. She thinks we should have gone to Captain Murphy. It's hard for her to understand why we didn't. She's worried." He sighed. "Anyway, I'll be back in a bit."
"Okay." Riggs watched Roger leave then rolled over, frown still firmly held in place. He punched the pillow a couple of times, trying in vain to arrange the lumps in a way that was comfortable, gave up and sat back up with a groan. There was no way he was going to be able to sleep - all he could see was the panicked look in Trish's eyes from earlier in the day. The promise he made was still echoing in his head as he reached over to open his faded brown leather knapsack. Pulling out some papers, he spread them over the bed, studying the layout of Evanston's house and the surrounding area in an effort to ensure he hadn't missed anything, trying to come up with at least a semblance of a plan if the man they were hunting turned up to be there. And that was the way Roger found him later on when he finally made his way back to their room.
"I don't know Riggs … looks like maybe this is a dead end."
Riggs gave a hard shake of his head. "No, I got a feeling, Rog."
"You and your feelings," his partner groused back. Riggs just grinned as he popped another potato chip into his mouth. Reaching over, Roger stuck his hand into the snack bag. "This can't be good for my cholesterol level. Didn't you bring anything healthy to eat?"
"We're on a stake out, Cochise. Cops don't eat healthy on a stake out." He shook the bag at Roger, eyebrows wiggling. "Enjoy it … Come on, have some more. I know Trish doesn't let you eat them at the house."
Unable to resist, Roger grabbed another handful of the greasy snack food then turned his focus back on their target. "This sure doesn't look like a house belonging to an international arms dealer. Are you sure your information is right?"
"Trust me, it's right. After he went underground, Evanston has made sure to lay very low." Riggs gestured out in front of them with one hand. "He's good at blending in with everyone else."
"No shit. He could be one of my neighbors." Evanston's house was situated in a quiet upper middle-class enclave, the simple but pristine large two story home nestled in the middle of a wide neighborhood avenue lined on both sides with olive trees.
"Yeah," Riggs murmured softly in agreement. "Just one of the many reasons I prefer not have to have neighbors." He handed the bag of chips to Roger and then reaching over, grabbed the binoculars next to him, casing the area for the umpteenth time. So far they had spent a day and a half waiting and watching, set up behind some dumpsters on a nearby lot with a home in the beginning stages of construction. Leaving Martin's pick up behind at the motel, they had rented a work van which fit in just fine on the building site and as a bonus, offered a lot more comfort than the truck. All the same, Roger's ass had gone to sleep about twenty-four hours ago and he was ready for something - anything to happen. As if reading his mind, Riggs suddenly set the binoculars aside, exclaiming loudly, "That's it, I'm going in."
"What?!" Roger gave a shake of his head as he finished the last of the potato chips and crumbled up the bag, tossing it into a nearby empty paper sack. "No way, no how, Riggs. You are not going into that house."
"Why not? Nobody's there, I've got a layout of the place. Besides, we're running out of time. Tomorrow is Monday which means the construction crew is probably gonna be back working here." Riggs frowned as he peered out the van window. "We'd have to move and there's no place else around good for a stake-out. We need to get in that house to check it out." He gave a hard stare in Roger's direction. "We're running out of time," he repeated.
"We're in the middle of a neighborhood, Riggs. What are you going to do? Just walk up in broad daylight and bust down the front door? We'll have the local units here in a heartbeat."
Frowning in frustration, Riggs turned his glare back out the van, blue eyes focused intently on the house. He finally sighed. "Okay," he muttered, "but the minute it's dark, I'm going in."
"Fine." Roger hid his smile behind one hand. Anytime he managed to talk Riggs out of one of his impulsive moves, no matter how small, he considered it a victory. Of course he kept such thoughts to himself, knowing full well Riggs would probably be loath to admit to any calming influences Roger may have had on him. In the end, Roger just always let Riggs think it was all his idea - it was easier that way.
Still hungry, Roger got up, trying unsuccessfully to stretch out the painful kinks that had knotted up in his back… Too damn old for this … He went to the back of the van and began searching through the grocery sacks … soda cans, Twinkie's, chips … What in the hell had he been thinking in having Riggs get the food? Continuing through the junk, his head gave a sudden startled jerk as he saw some apples at the bottom. Damn, maybe he and Trish really were having a good influence on the man. Roger grabbed an apple and was about to take a bite when he hesitated - one eye staring balefully at the fruit. Martin was right; he had to eat enough of this shit at home. Tossing the apple back into the bag, Roger grabbed the bag of chips and tore it open with relish. Riggs looked over as his partner slid back into the front seat, one eyebrow cocking high as he took in the snack food. "I don't want to hear a word, Riggs."
Silent, Riggs held his hands up, palms facing outward in a gesture of surrender, but he chuckled under his breath as he leaned back in the seat, dirty boots propped up on the dashboard. His laughter suddenly stopped, feet slamming back down to the floorboard. "Someone just pulled in the driveway," he hissed urgently. "Get the binoculars."
Tossing the chips over to Martin, Roger grabbed the binoculars and leaned forward, waiting silently for the person to get out of the car. After another minute, a figure slid out but all Roger could see was the back of his head. "Come on," he muttered, "turn around you son-of-a-bitch." As if on cue, the man looked over one shoulder, surveying the neighborhood before turning back to Evanston's house. Roger let out the breath he had been holding. "It's Dunn."
"Well, well… our long lost patrolman has crawled out of hiding and look at where he shows up." Grinning, Riggs patted the gun that was tucked into the beltline of his jeans.
"So I was right," muttered Roger. "This has to do with Evanston's case."
"Of course you were right and now it's time to finish this." Riggs leaned over to tap Roger on the arm. "Let's go, Rog."
"What's the plan?"
"I say we start with a pleasant conversation, give Dunn a chance to come clean … and if he doesn't, I start putting holes in 'im starting from the feet up."
"Alright, alright." Martin gave an eye roll. "All I can say, is one way or another, he's gonna do some 'splaining, Lucy." Suddenly he straightened up. "Shit, he's already on the move."
"Follow him, Riggs!" Roger exclaimed in an urgent voice.
"Don't worry, I'm on it!" Starting up the van, Riggs waited until Dunn's vehicle was almost out of sight before pulling out and they set out after him.