DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Willing to stage a coup.
A Place You Used to Call Home - Part One
Boston was five years and three thousand miles in Jordan Cavanaugh's past. That didn't stop dreams from haunting her, breaking her sleep into jagged shards, nor did it stop her from keeping an almost permanent eye over her shoulder, wondering not if pursuit would come, but when. There were days when she would almost welcome it.
Rolling over, trying to ignore the blaring of her alarm clock, she drew a pillow over her head and cursed mildly. Failing, the irritating bleat of mechanical sound bringing on an early headache, she sat up and slammed her palm down on the off switch. She sat up and hugged her knees to her chest, trying to relax, to coax the ache behind her eyes into subsiding. Closing her eyes, she laid her head on the uneven table of her bent knees. She attempted to push away the wispy filaments of last night's dream, but the edges whispered along her memory, tickling places she'd like to forget. Last night she'd been able to see him with perfect clarity in her dream world.
Some nights she could barely recall his face, the sound of his voice, the way he touched her.
Some nights she wasn't sure if the ghost in her dreams was Pollack. Or Woody. Those were the worst.
Knowing brooding wouldn't do her any good, she grudgingly got up and threw on her running clothes. One nice thing about living in San Francisco was definitely the weather. It was rarely too hot or too cold to run at some point in the day. She could just do her usual route, come home, shower and make it to work.
The bar was loud, crowded and noisier than usual. Tending bar wasn't what Jordan had really intended to do with her life, but it paid the bills. And she couldn't exactly walk into a morgue somewhere and ask for a job. They'd want some credentials, which would lead to the unfortunate revelation of the fact she was a fugitive.
She grinned a thank you at one of her regulars and pocketed the tip he'd left. He must be having problems with his wife again. The tip was a twenty. Jordan shook her head as he left. He'd been trying intermittently for the last three years to get into her pants. He might have vaguely tempted her except he looked a lot like Kramer from Seinfeld – and Jordan had met his wife once. The former M.E. had met her type before in her previous life and occupation – the betrayed wife who'd hacked up her husband and his girlfriend. Not worth it.
She turned, a woman at the end of the bar catching her eye. Tall, thin, blonde and holding out a bill. Jordan scooted that way and took the order. She bit back the grimace when the woman asked for an Apple Martini. She hadn't had a drink since that night. She managed a tight smile and set about mixing the cocktail. As she handed it to the woman, Jordan noticed a man moving through the crowd.
A near-electric pulse of recognition slid through her muscles. She backed into Kevin, another one of the bartenders and, apologizing, claimed she felt sick. She fled, not toward the bathroom, but toward the exit. She heard Kevin calling out to her, calling "Vicky! Vicky!" She didn't look back.
She was halfway down the block, seriously considering compromising her budget and catching a cab, if she could find one, when his voice boomed in the night, not the name to which she'd learned to answer, not "Vicky," but "Jordan." Her feet stopped all on their own, her brain screaming at them to keep running.
She stood still as a statue, her heart pounding furiously in her chest. I'm sorry. Who? She willed her lips to move, willed her throat to disgorge the words, but to no avail.
His hands were on her shoulders, and he was spinning her to face him. "Oh, God! Jordan!" Then he was pulling her to him, holding her tightly and in a giant, engulfing wave, five years swamped her, capsized her. Her body shook with the sobs as Danny McCoy held on to her, stroking her back, telling her it was all okay. Somehow, she believed him, even though she knew none of it was okay.
She didn't notice when he hailed a cab, nor did it really register when he bundled her into it. Deep in her mind was the instinct to run, to fling open the door at the next red light, but that was too deep for her to reach just then. At that moment, she was exhausted in every way she could be, and it was so much easier to let him take her wherever he was taking her. When the cab let them off at the St. Francis, she followed him meekly out of the taxi, taking the proffered hand. He guided her without resistance across the lobby, into a sumptuous elevator and up to a suite.
Only when he began to tug at the t-shirt she wore did the shock begin to abate. She swatted his hands away.
"Easy," he said gently. "I just thought a hot shower might help you."
"I can manage," she replied dully.
He looked at her, his dark eyes filled with care and anxiety. "Do you want anything? Food?"
She shook her head, her stomach suddenly queasy.
"I don't drink anymore."
He nodded. "Yeah. I bet."
So he did know. At least some of it. She swallowed. "I – uh – tea?"
"Sure. You want what's here in the room? If not, there's a Starbucks in the lobby. I can get you-"
She nodded. "Something herbal." Her eyes darted to the door.
He took her shoulders again. "Don't think about it, Jordan."
"What?" Her eyes were wide with fear, not innocence, and Danny McCoy knew the difference.
"Running." His brows knit down for a moment. "I'm not going to call anyone. I'm going to get you some tea. Okay?"
She bit her lip. "Promise?"
He kissed her forehead gently, the way you might to soothe a child's nightmare. "I promise." He watched as she turned and padded toward the bathroom. He heard the water start and listened for the change in the sound the spray made hitting the walls of the surround, knowing when he heard it that she was under the hot water. He left the room, his mind racing.
It took him barely ten minutes, but the water was off by the time he came back. He took a deep breath, holding back a curse, wondering if she'd slipped out on him. Instead he found her in the suite's bedroom. She'd wrapped herself in one of the lush robes the hotel provided and had lain down on the bed. She was fast asleep.
Danny left her there and spent a sleepless night on the suite's couch.
Danny was working on his laptop when she appeared in the doorway to the bedroom. Her face was still slack with sleep and her hair, having been slept on wet, ran in waves and corkscrews that it would take another shower to tame. Wrapped in the thick, white robe, her arms crossed over her chest, she looked young and vulnerable, but the desperation and fear from the night before had abated, at least somewhat.
Danny smiled at her, remaining where he sat, letting her decide how close she wanted to be. "Hey there. Sleep well?"
She blushed. "Uh – Yeah. Sorry."
She waved back toward the bedroom. "I kind of – crashed."
"It happens. You want some lunch?"
"Um – no breakfast?"
He chuckled. "Well, I'm sure room service will send up whatever you want, but it's almost two p.m."
She gasped. "I slept that long? Why did you let me?"
His smile was simple and comforting. "Figured you needed it."
She pushed herself off the doorframe and came to sit next to him. "I did. Thanks."
"So…." He looked over at her. "Lunch?"
She nodded and then shook her head. "I should – Clothes and all… my place."
Her semi-incoherence didn't faze him. "They can send something up from the shops."
"Danny, I… I need to go."
"Jordan, I'm not going to call anyone." He clasped his hands between his knees. "Unless you want me to."
She shook her head quickly.
"Okay. I just – I want to know what's been going on with you." He looked at her again. "I want to know you're okay."
"I'm fine," she assured him, her voice breathy and rushed. "Really." She turned her head to gaze out the window. From where she sat, she couldn't see anything however, so she got up and went to peer out. They were high above the city, the bay stretching out below them. The day looked to be slightly hazy and windy, if the clouds scudding by were any indication.
McCoy watched her for a few minutes. He was glad the fear seemed to have leeched out of her. He hadn't meant to alarm her as much as he had last night. He'd been shocked himself to see her, and his only thought had been to make sure she wasn't some hallucination. After she'd broken down the way she had, his next thought had been to keep her safe. She stood so still that if not for the faint sound of her breathing, he might have thought she'd turned to stone. It struck him that she didn't know. "Jordan?"
She nodded her head in acknowledgement.
"You didn't kill Pollack."
"I know that."
"I mean, the guy who did is in prison."
She turned slowly. "What?"
"I'm sorry. I thought you would have known. It just dawned on me…."
She went pale. "He…?" She swallowed convulsively several times. "They found him?"
Danny nodded slowly.
"How? Who? When?"
He wanted to go to her, to gather her up into his arms again, but the way she crossed her arms, hugging herself now, her fingers scrabbling at the elbows of the robe, told him to keep his distance. "Um… These really great guys at the Boston morgue did some amazing forensic work – found some things most people would have missed." He tried a slight smile, but found his informal tone didn't alleviate the desolation on her face. He rushed on. "The guy – He was working for some federal judge. The shooter's doing a long stretch; the judge has spent the last three years at one of the country club prisons."
"Figures." Her voice was bitter – as acerbic as the knowledge she had to process now.
"Yeah." He stood up and ran a hand through his hair, making his way to the minibar's fridge and getting himself a soda. It brought him closer to her without violating the invisible shield she had put around herself. "Um – This was all about four years ago."
Jordan nodded. "Well… that's… good."
"You know," he said between sips of ginger ale. "You could go back. To Boston."
"No, I couldn't. Even if I wanted to."
"Why not?" He ignored the last part.
"I was charged with murder."
"That D.A. – what's her name?"
"Renee Walcott." The name was flat and toneless from Jordan's lips.
"Yeah. She dropped the charges.
Jordan shrugged. "I jumped bail."
A faint color surged into Danny's cheeks. "That – That got taken care of."
"What?" Her eyes narrowed.
"It was handled, Jordan."
As the import of his words sunk in, she glanced around the room, her eyes darting to and fro, a mouse in the trap hoping for escape before the cat pounced. "You helped them look – look for me."
"At first. Nigel called me, hoped Ed had some contacts that could prove useful."
"Did he?" She sneered, fear and anger warring on her face.
"Well, Ed didn't. Neither did I it turned out." He watched her for a few moments. "Jordan, they only wanted to know you were all right."
"How'd you find me now? After all this time?" Her voice was tremulous.
"Honestly? I wasn't looking." He watched her face sag and her eyes empty of spark. "I mean, actively. I've never stopped keeping an eye out, hoping by some fluke I'd run across you. I just never thought it would really happen." He paused and gave her a lopsided grin. "Girl, when you want to go to ground, you go to ground."
She gave him a harsh chuckle, but agreed. They regarded each other silently for a moment before she turned back to the window, moving to stand so close she could touch her fingertips to the sparkling glass.
Danny could see her reflection, see the longing in her eyes and in the way she worried her bottom lip between her teeth. He watched, not saying a word, as she reached out and pressed her fingertips to the window, giving her an eerie, almost ethereal appearance – Jordan on the inside, her doppelganger on the outside. One was bound to fall and crumble, but which one?
"I can't go back to Boston, Danny."
He cocked his head to study her further, a slow smile settling on his lips. "Then come to Vegas."
"Why?" She might as well have asked her reflection as him.
He shrugged lightly. "For starters, you could grieve without having to look over your shoulder the whole time. Maybe get a little perspective on everything. No one would have to know, Jordan. I swear I wouldn't pick up a phone to Nigel unless you told me it was okay."
She turned and so did her ghostly reflection. "Are you planning on hiding me in some suite?"
"No." His brows knit down. "Why would I do that?"
"Well, you might not call someone back in Boston, but about Sam? Ed? Any number of the other Montecito employees who've met me."
Danny's face grew serious. "I'm the only one, trust me."
"What do you mean?"
"I run the Montecito now. Have ever since Ed died."
Jordan gasped. "When?"
"About the time you were being framed for murder. He was shot."
"Danny, I'm sorry…. I liked Ed."
McCoy gave her a nostalgic smile. "He had his rough edges, but he was a great guy to work for. Anyway, the last few years have really changed things. Trust me. Come to Vegas. Give yourself time to – to heal. See where you want to go from there."
Her protests fading, she made some vague mention of her belongings, her lease, her job…. Danny kept his own counsel, letting the weaker and weaker excuses make up Jordan's mind. Finally she capitulated with a smile that told him she'd known his plan all along and deep down had shared it.
Five hours later they were on one of the Montecito's jets back to Vegas.
For eight months, Jordan shared Danny's penthouse suite. At first, they'd stay up in the open, massive living area with it wide windows giving them panoramic views of the city and talk. Five years had muted her grief, but without anyone with whom to share it, that grief had become perversely necessary to her. Also perversely necessary to her had become her scorn and bitterness toward the Boston Police, especially Woody, whom she thought had abandoned her – again. As hard as she'd worked not to be found, part of her ached that they hadn't managed it, that perhaps she had never mattered to them as much as she'd allowed herself to believe.
Danny's quiet assurances and stacks of copied e-mails, reports and even newspaper clippings helped her to see how wrong she'd been. McCoy took it slowly, giving her the information in increments, trying to get her to grieve for all that had been lost, but not all at once. No one, not even Jordan, could have coped with that. He hoped that once the wounds that had gaped open and festered for five years had scabbed over and left their inevitable scars that she would be able to move on, to make the decision that would be best for her.
She'd been there about eight months when he handed her one of the last news clippings. He studied her intently as she read it. Once. Twice. Three times. Her eyes finally met his and he watched her swallow past the obvious lump in her throat. He feared for a moment that it had been too soon – or too late. "Why?" She choked out at last.
He gave her a small, knowing smile and shook his head. "You don't know?"
She shook her head rapidly.
He took her hand and rubbed her fingers softly. "They all love you. Each of them in their own way. What Pollack started, they finished."
"What if –What if no one had ever found me?"
"I don't think that mattered, Jordan. I think it was something – the only thing at that point – that they could do. I think by doing that, they could keep up the hope that some day you'd make it back."
Her gaze drifted back toward the article. "Decades-old murder solved after new evidence brought to light." Pollack's notes had contained references and hypotheses here and there that Emily Cavanaugh's murder had been connected to the judge he was investigating. He'd been right. With a new place from which to launch an investigation, the morgue staff had done just that, with Woody feeding them whatever they needed, heedless of the possibility of sacrificing his own career. Almost five years earlier, when Jordan was pouring watered-down gin into spotty high ball glasses, letting drunks ogle her and fending off the more than occasional advance of a patron who'd had one too many – about five drinks ago - her friends and one-time lover had been untangling the web which had ensnared her throughout her life. They had been finding answers for a woman they might never see again.
She cried quietly for a long time, Danny's arms holding her tightly. These were not the hysterical tears of that first night in San Francisco; they were soft, laden with grief and the weighty realization that all the things you've ever hoped for were gone – and yet if you did things just right, you could perhaps find them again. As her weeping tapered off and her breathing steadied, she fell asleep in his protective embrace. He managed to free one hand to order the Montecito jet to be ready to fly to Boston the next evening.
The time had come.
END Part One