Chapter 9 - Gamesmanship

"Bobby … you need to go home."

Alex poked her head back into the conference room, carrying her purse and jacket. She'd taken care of a few e-mails before shutting down for the night, and it was now approaching 8:00.

"Soon," he replied while still studying the photos.

"What's that mean … another two hours?"

He looked at her and smiled. "No … it means soon."

"You're going to go cross-eyed," she warned just as her cell phone rang. She flipped it open and answered without even looking. "Eames. Oh … hi." Shit! Why couldn't he have called five minutes later, when she was away from here. "No, uh … not tonight. I'll call you, okay?" Alex tried to sound as vague as possible. "I will … bye."

Bobby's head was bowed as he very deliberately wrote notes in his binder. Shit! Things had finally started to feel a little normal. Why hadn't she just checked her damn phone before answering it?

"I'm heading home for a bubble bath and a glass of wine," she decided to just pretend the call never happened. "Sure you don't want a ride?"

Bobby shook his head. "I'll take the subway. See you in the morning."

He was driving himself too hard – all because he was so worried about her. Alex would have loved to grab him by the hand and drag him out of there to make sure he ate a decent meal and was home early enough to get a good night's sleep. Although if she were truly honest with herself, what she really wanted to do was run her hands through his hair, pull him to her for a long, lingering kiss and tell him not to worry so much.

"Don't stay too late, Bobby."

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How did Eames know it would be two more hours before he headed home? It started raining again, and Bobby pulled his jacket collar tight around his neck as he jogged the final block to the subway station.

He stood on the platform, along with a surprising number of people, waiting for the northbound train. His hands were shoved in his pants pockets while he studied the graffiti on the walls. Some of it was excellent artwork – it's a shame these kids didn't have a better outlet for their talent.

"Detective Goren!"

Startled, Bobby spun around and looked across the tracks at the opposite platform for the southbound trains.

"Such a late night, Bobby. I was getting cold waiting outside."

"You should have come in," his voice was calm, but his emotions weren't. "We could have had a room all ready for you."

She laughed. "You keep that sense of humor, Bobby," Nicole smiled at him. "You're going to need it."

The object of so much fear, anxiety and activity for the past three days stood calmly across from him, separated only by the distance of two subway rail lines. She wore a trench coat tied tightly around her small waist – it dripped rainwater at her feet, but her hair was dry.

Goren felt fear slide through him. Alex had left work alone two hours ago, and Nicole showing up like this was never good. "You're … on the wrong side of the tracks," he needed to keep her talking until he could figure out what to do. "Why don't you come over here … so we can talk."

"As far as you're concerned, I was always on the wrong side of the tracks," she said bitterly. "No, Bobby. Unfortunately there's no time to chat … I really have to go now," she turned to leave.

"Before the game is over?" he called out, stepping closer to the edge of the platform.

"Oh ... it's over." Nicole spoke with an assurance that chilled him. "Your partner didn't want to play – too interested in all the possibilities with you," she waved her hand through the air, exaggerating her words. "She had a soft spot for you, Bobby. Believe it or not, I understand that," her voice softened.

Nicole's use of past-tense wasn't lost on him, and Goren's mind began scrambling through all the evidence and every word of her conversation with him at the library.

"I had to change the rules of engagement," she now sounded annoyed. "Don't look so worried, Bobby. She was happy when I left her. I assured her she would have your undivided attention, and best of all … you'd be giving her flowers."

Ice ran through his veins. Now he knew. "Where is she?"

"You'll find out soon enough. This game's been fun, Bobby, but not very satisfying for me. I'll have to come up with a better one next time." She kissed the tips of her fingers and waved at him before walking away to blend in with the crowd.

Goren took off running, his long legs climbing the stairs two and three at a time. If he could just make it to the platform before the next southbound train left …

He reached the top and bolted through the station to the stairs leading back down to the opposite tracks. Seeing a group of people in front of him, Goren vaulted over the left-hand railing and continued his headlong race downward. His lungs were beginning to burn, reminding him that he wasn't as young as he used to be – and that he should probably ease up on the scotch and cigarettes.

When he reached the next level, Goren pulled his gold shield from his pocket as he clambered over the turnstiles then raced down the final flight of stairs. He burst onto the platform in time to see the back of the train entering the tunnel.

Chest heaving, Goren leaned over and gripped his knees, trying to regain his breath. Sonofabitch!

He'd talk to security and have them put out an alert for the stops down the line, but he thought it likely Nicole tucked her hair back into her hat and their only reward would be a discarded trench coat.

Running back up the way he came, he reached the main level of the station where it crossed the tracks. His cell phone chirped its notice of voice messages. He flipped it open to see he had one message and three missed calls – all from Eames.

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Goren exited the subway station three blocks from his building - the night sky strobed red, white and blue. He ran the distance to his apartment, and saw a knot of activity on the street. Slowing as he approached the cluster of police cars, he spotted Eames in charge – directing activity. As though sensing his presence, she looked directly at him before breaking away from the crowed and walking toward him.

"Bobby …"

"Where is she," he croaked.

Eames searched his eyes before sighing deeply. She turned and he followed her to the bench on the sidewalk across from his building.

"There's no obvious trauma," Alex said gently. "Ten to one she has Nicole's signature needle mark on her."

Goren crouched down in front of Lynn Bishop. She sat there, eyes staring sightlessly at the windows of his third floor apartment. Much the same as he remembered with her delicate features and beautiful red hair, she looked disturbingly peaceful. Bringing his hand up to his mouth, he restlessly rubbed his fingers back and forth on his bottom lip. Alex stood silently above him, letting him know she was near but giving him the space that only she would understand he needed.

He reached to press Lynn's eyelids closed, but Alex caught his hand. "Bobby … CSU isn't finished yet."

Bobby looked up at Alex. Her face blurred and she squeezed his hand, reassuring him that she was warm and alive. He'd been so afraid …

"She diverted me to the wrong partner," he whispered.

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Following the line of mourners, it was finally Bobby's turn. Fighting against a stinging behind his eyes and a lump in his throat he couldn't seem to swallow, he reached to place the beribboned bouquet of three white roses atop the coffin. He'd looked up the meaning of rose colors – finding one that seemed most appropriate. 'White: Silence, Secrecy, Reverence, Humility, Youthfulness, Heavenly.'

Alex placed her hand on his back and Bobby realized that of all the emotions roiling inside, the one he felt strongest was relief that she was safe. He didn't know what kind of man that made him, but he hoped he could live with it.

He looked down at Alex and remembered the last time they'd worn dress blues for a fellow officer's funeral – Bishop had been with them. She'd been young and eager then – before Nicole had a chance to corrupt her desires.

"Next time, Bobby," Alex said quietly.

He nodded and turned away from the coffin. Isn't that what they said every time?

End