Larousse sifted through the multiple pages of computer printouts, comparing the information, looking for the one transaction that might lead them to Anthony Vandano. But after five long hours, he had discovered nothing. Sequana paced the length of the small room at the FBI office in Las Vegas, looking on as the small researcher continued to pour over the documents.
Larousse shook his head. "Not yet, Mr. Sequana."
"Damn..." He picked up the receiver of a nearby phone and dialed a number, after a few rings, Louie answered, and Sequana said, "How are all of our boys?"
"Fine, Rick. Brill, Fujiyama and Tovo are spending the night in the local lock-up; I figured it'd be easier to keep track of them there."
"What about Asten and Monahan?"
"They're right here, in Quincy's room."
"Any change on that front?"
"I'm afraid not, Rick; the doc's still in pretty bad shape."
"Listen Louie, I'd feel better if you took Asten and Monahan over to the lock-up. I want them all together."
Fox sighed into the phone. "If that's the way you want it, Rick."
"Yeah, let's keep 'em under lock and key. If there's a change in Quincy's condition, well, then we can let them see him."
Sequana hung up the phone and glared at the ferret. "Larousse, if you're gonna find somethin' you need to find it sooner rather than later. You get me?"
Larousse looked up from the papers and frowned at Sequana over the rim of his glasses. "I get it, Agent Sequana...but I can't find what might not be here."
Sequana sighed heavily and ran a hand over his tired eyes; they really needed a break, and he hoped that one would appear soon.
Agent Fox closed the cell door, locking Asten and Monahan behind bars in the local jail.
"Is this really necessary?" Monahan complained. "It's not like the two of us are some kind of flight risk..."
"I'm sorry, Monahan, but this is the way Agent Sequana wants it, so this is the way it has to be."
Asten glared at the younger man. "There's no need to treat us like common criminals, Agent Fox."
Fox cocked an eyebrow at the doctor. "We're not, Asten; we're treating you like federal fugitives."
"Oh good grief," Asten muttered as he sat down on a bunk against the wall.
Fox left the corridor and Monahan said, "Cheer up, Asten, it could be worse."
"I honestly don't see how, lieutenant."
"The bones could have led us to a dead end, that's how. Sequana and his boys have some good, solid leads, so we're not done for quite yet..."
"We're not, but what about Quincy?"
Monahan walked over to Asten, laying a calm hand on the man's shoulder. "He's a lot tougher than you're givin' him credit for being, Asten. I've never known Quincy to walk away from a fight, have you?" Bob shook his head, and Monahan said, "He's gonna be okay, you have to believe that."
Asten shook his head in despair. "His blood counts are so low he's in respiratory distress; his body can't get enough blood to circulate to his vital organs, and they're shutting down one at a time. Eventually his heart and his brain will shut down too."
Monahan sat next to Asten on the bunk. "What're you sayin' Bob?"
"I don't think he's gonna make it," Asten whispered, "My God, Frank, we're gonna lose him."
And Monahan looked on in sad helplessness as Asten's normally calm composure dissolved into despondent tears. The ex-cop put an arm around him, reassuringly squeezing his shoulder.
"Let it go, Bob. Just let it go."
Sequana stared unbelievingly at Stan Donovan. "You've got to be kidding me. We've had every federal resource available trying to pin down an auction house or point of sale for that bat, and you're telling me that a bunch of local cops are gonna pull the answer out of their asses? What have you been smoking, captain?"
Donovan glared impatiently at Sequana. "Agent Sequana you're looking at all the major auction houses and events; I'm suggesting that we take a look at the black market and the smaller, almost unknown auctions."
"And you have a way to accomplish this, captain?"
"Yes, Sequana, I do, because I think a lot smaller than you do..."
Sequana stood at the back of the tiny room in the downtown Las Vegas police station, observing the petty crooks squirming in their seats. Donovan stood at the head of the room, next to the captain of the precinct, Harold Dennings, who spoke to the gathered crowd.
"Each of you owes me somethin'...some of you more than others. We're looking for an old baseball bat. We believe it was auctioned off on the blackmarket in the past three years, and we think the buyer was either Evan McGee or Anthony Vandano." He glared into the gathered crowd. "I want to know when, where, who and how much. And I want to know where the bat is now. Each of you was given a piece of paper and a pen when you walked in here. I want you to write down whatever you know about this bat, the auction and the people involved. It'll be anonymous, so nobody's gonna know who squealed. And let's be clear and upfront: if I don't get nothin' from you, life on the streets of Las Vegas is gonna be unbearable..."
Dennings unfolded the last paper and set it on the pile. "Well Stan, that's it. About half of them confirm that Evan McGee bought the bat in an underground auction three years ago, and that he bought it out from under Anthony Vandano. And miraculously, McGee turns up missing, and the bat's sitting in a display case in Vandano's bedroom at the Sands."
Donovan shook Dennings hand. "I can't thank you enough, Harold, I owe you one." He turned to Sequana. "That ought to be enough to obtain a search warrant, Sequana."
"You locals had better be right about this; one more screw-up and I'll be cleaning toilets back at Quantico..."
Donovan couldn't think of a better duty for Special Agent Rick Sequana, but he kept his mouth shut.
The door to Anthony Vandano's penthouse at the Sands burst open as several FBI agents along with Sequana and Donovan entered.
Sequana handed a paper to Vandano. "Federal search warrant, Vandano."
Vandano smiled. "So the feds is goin' on a scavenger hunt. Whatcha lookin' for, fed?"
"A baseball bat," Sequana said, "a very old baseball bat." He turned to his men. "Get to it, and leave nothing unturned, and I mean nothing."
Vandano laughed. "You takin' a sudden interest in the national pastime, Sequana?"
"In so far as it involves murder, Vandano."
"Murder? That's a good one!"
Louie entered the main room from the back bedroom, holding a baseball bat enclosed in a large evidence bag. "Got it, Rick!"
Vandano laughed again. "So I own a baseball bat. Lots of citizens own bats, who cares? So I collect baseball memorabilia. That ain't a crime. So what?"
"Ah, but this bat is special, Vandano. This bat was used by Babe Ruth to knock a few out of the park in 1918; and then it was used by you about 60 years later to kill Evan McGee." Sequana looked at the missing chunk of the bat's logo and he smiled. "You see this little missing piece of wood? If that matches the chip the coroner pulled from the skeleton of Evan McGee, and you can't produce a receipt for the purchase of this bat that is after the date of McGee's disappearance, you're in a lot of trouble, Vandano." He headed for the door and said, "Read him his rights, Louie..."
Monahan, Brill, Danny, Sam and Asten stood at the large counter in the basement of the downtown police headquarters in Las Vegas, each retrieving his personal effects. Donovan walked in and smiled at Monahan.
"You're looking a little worse for the ride, Frank."
Monahan glared at his captain. "You wouldn't look none better if you'd been on the ride with me, Stan."
"Probably not." He tossed a manilla envelope onto the counter. "I believe you and Sgt. Brill misplaced these items not too long ago."
Monahan opened the envelope and pulled out the shields and revolvers, looking sharply up at Donovan. "You sure this is kosher, Stan?"
Donovan smiled. "Yeah, it's sanctioned with our department. The federal charges have been dropped and other than explaining a bone heist at a Clark County morgue, you fellas are in the clear."
"Thanks Stan," Monahan said. "How's Quincy doin'?"
Donovan looked down. "I'm afraid there's been no change on that front." He glanced up at Asten then. "The attending wants to speak to you, Dr. Asten, something about extraordinary measures and Quincy's will..."
Asten nodded. "Yeah. I was expecting that..." He cleared his throat. "Shall we go, fellas?"
Together, the men left the precinct and headed for the hospital and one final, unpleasant task.
Swallowing hard, Asten signed the document and handed it back to Dr. Silverstein, who took it and observed the despair in the man's eyes.
"If you want, Dr. Asten, a member of our staff can execute this; you don't need to be the one to do it."
Asten shook his head. "No, Dr. Silverstein, thank you, but I do need to be the one to do it. It's the last thing I can do for him."
"I understand. I'll send Dr. Santos down with you as a witness."
Silverstein watched Asten exit the room and shook his head sadly. It was one of the worst duties of hospital administrator, and no matter how many times he watched executors sign the final papers to end extraordinary life support, the agony in their eyes never got easier.
Asten opened the door to Quincy's room and silently walked in, aware of the eyes sharply focused upon him; but unaware of how to meet them. Bob swallowed hard: he hated being the one. Yet Quincy naming him as executor was perfectly logical and had not come as a surprise to him. None of them were ready to let Quincy go, and for a brief moment, the overwhelming rawness of the emotions in the room made Asten want to run for the door. Then he felt his wife's hand gently grip his, and he squeezed it looking for strength.
Finally he glanced up into the devastated faces of Quincy's closest friends.
"I've signed the papers, and Dr. Santos is going to witness the disconnection of the respirator on behalf of the hospital." He fought to keep his voice calm and devoid of emotion, but the velvety quality of his soft timbre told those who knew him that he was suffering tremendously from the burden of his responsibility. "If any of you wants to say good-bye, now's the time."
For a long moment, no one moved; then Melissa stepped forward and gripped Quincy's hand. She bent down and kissed his cheek. "I'll miss you, Quince, but don't worry, I'll take care of all the boys for you, that's a promise."
Tears streaming down her cheeks, Melissa turned away from the bed, and walked to the back of the room, leaning against the wall. Brill stepped up next.
He pat Quincy's hand gently. "Rest well, Quince, you've earned it. I'll miss you more than you know."
Brill quickly turned away and moved to stand next to Melissa.
Danny moved to stand on the side of the bed, and leaned down toward Quincy's ear, whispering. "Ti amo, il mio più caro amico." He brushed a soft hand over his friend's forehead, running his fingers through the salt and pepper strands of hair. "I don't know what I'll do without you, Quince..." Tovo's tears ran down his face, spilling onto Quincy's cheeks, and before a sob could ebb from him, he turned away and went to Melissa, who took him in her arms, gently holding him.
Sam walked up to the bed and took Quincy's hand in between both of his. "Why the hell did it have to turn out this way? Why couldn't you have just walked away when all this started?" When Quincy didn't answer, Sam felt his eyes sting with tears, longing to hear the gentle lilt of his friend's soft baritone once more. But knowing he'd never hear it again, Fujiyama kissed the hand he was holding, and returned it back to the bed, where it lifelessly lay on the blanket. "I love you, Quince, and I'll never forget you..."
The technician turned from the bed, unable to meet anyone's eyes, and he quietly walked to join the others leaning against the back wall.
Monahan swallowed hard and silently moved next to the bed. For a long moment he stared into the still face of his closest friend, and he tried to quell the overwhelming sadness that arose within him. With tears streaming down his face, he wordlessly leaned over and kissed Quincy on the forehead. As he straightened up to take a last look at the man who had become an integral part of all of their lives, a choked off sob of surrender escaped him: Quincy never grasped his own importance in the world, any more than he understood how much he was loved by his friends. And to Frank Monahan, those were the saddest facts of all. His insides shaking, he felt Asten's arms encompass him, and for a brief moment, he leaned into the embrace. Then he broke away, and unashamed of the tears in his eyes, went to join his friends at the back of the room.
Staring down at Quincy, Asten let out an emotional sigh of air, trying to gather the strength to do what had been asked. He glanced over at Santos, who nodded slightly, acknowledging that Asten could proceed at any time. Bob leaned down, and caressed his hand over Quincy's cheek as he pressed his forehead against the side of Quincy's face. Softly he whispered something in his dear friend's ear, and then slowly, deliberately, he reached over and pressed a button on the respirator. The machine immediately ceased to push air into Quincy's lungs, the bellows stopping in mid-motion. Asten gently disconnected the hose and pulled the intubator from his friend's mouth even as the alarm on the life support systems started to sound. Asten set a shaky hand on top of Quincy's pale one, and he waited as the EKG flatlined, Quincy's heart not even trying to beat on its own. Guilt and hollow agony filled him as every indication of life died on the monitors, just as it had the day his father had ceased to exist; and Robert J. Asten knew then that he wouldn't be able to continue in his capacity at the LACC. He wouldn't be able to face the ghosts that would lurk around every corner, waiting for him to be swallowed up by their memories. His career as a doctor was finished. He gripped his friend's hand tighter, and closed his eyes, saying a silent prayer for the eternal rest of Quincy's soul.
But his eyes suddenly shot open in panic. He stared down at the man he loved yet couldn't save, and he felt it again: Quincy's hand moved. Asten leaned down inches from his friend's face, speaking softly.
"Quincy?" He brushed a hand over the coroner's brow. "Quincy...please...come back to me."
Monahan, Brill, Melissa, Sam and Danny all inched closer around the bed, holding a collective breath at the scene playing out before them. Asten checked Quincy's pupils, pulse and respiration, and a slow smile tugged at his lips.
"Come on you stubborn mule, fight for it." His voice grew in volume and intensity, "Come on, damn you! Fight! Pick up the beat, Quincy, let's go! I run a tight ship, damn you, and I'm not tolerating a half-assed attempt from you!"
And a huge cough exploded from Quincy's chest, and Asten sat on the edge of the bed, holding a kleenex to his patient's mouth. "That a boy, Quincy, clear your lungs." The coroner coughed again, and then took a huge gasp of air. "That a boy," Asten said, his voice full of raw emotion.
Slowly, Quincy's eyes fluttered and after a minute or so, the large blue-gray eyes stared in disbelief at the tear-streaked faces of his closest friends. "What's the matter with all of you?" He said weakly, mock annoyance coloring his tone, "You didn't think I'd actually leave any of you in charge of LA County murder investigations, did you? Now get outta here and let me sleep..."
With smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts, his friends began to clear out of the room, but Quincy grabbed Asten's sleeve as the man started to go. "Bob, wait..." Once the room was empty except for the two of them, the coroner spoke again. "Why are you so hard on yourself, buddy?"
"What are you talking about? I'm not--"
"--Bob, I heard what you whispered in my ear." Asten's eyes flicked up sharply to meet Quincy's, and the coroner nodded. "Every word of it. I knew then that I had to live if for no other reason but to make you understand your own value. Your father's death wasn't your fault, any more than mine would have been." Quincy swallowed hard, feeling the exhaustion of his own condition. "Stay with me for awhile?" He asked tiredly.
Asten nodded, squeezing Quincy's hand. "You bet I will."
Quincy drifted toward sleep. "I lost my brother a week ago," he muttered, his eyes closing, "but today I realized I still have one..."
Asten's dark brown eyes misted over with emotion as he whispered, "You did hear me, you damned old mule..."