I Regret to Inform you...
Rating – T
Disclaimer – I don't own CSI New York or Danny Messer. I do own a character based on Carmine Giovinazzo, but that's all.
Synopsis – And Danny thought giving bad news to mothers ended bad. I had this idea for a while, but was finally able to tweak it to my liking after the episode Suicide Girls. No spoilers. General, no slash.
The guy was big. Tall big. Broad shouldered and barrel chested big, with square features buried behind thick stubble that might as well be a beard. The man ran thick fingers through his thick brown hair with a little gray on the side. In that plaid jacket, button blue shirt, jeans, and work boots he could have been mistaken for a lumberjack any where else. Here in New York he was either in construction or worked the docks. Maybe it was being just a tad stereotypical, but New York was all Danny knew, so he let it taint menial observations without self-reproach.
Danny flipped open the vic's file: Angie Williams, daughter of Kevin Williams, a construction worker. Danny would have smiled at his intuition but that would have been bad timing. He was already shouldering the door and had to quickly flip the folder closed before Kevin caught a glimpse of the colored photos of his broken and bloody daughter.
Danny's heart hadn't been into the amusement anyways. He hated this part of a case. A rather redundant thing as every cop and CSI hated it. But in a way, it was a good thing. It kept that cop or CSI sober, melancholy, and therefore sympathetic to the families and friends of the vic. It was the living who suffered the dead. They didn't need the bull of some jaded cop being heaped onto an already toppling mound of agony.
Mr. Williams looked up when Danny entered. The big man's hands were clenched together, tight, turning the knuckles bone white but the rest of the skin red from constant fidgeting. The man's steel blue eyes were neutral, waiting for words that would determine which direction all emotions would take. They were also penetrating, which was always the moment of truth for a cop or CSI. Not that Danny had ever known anyone to run just from being looked at. The gazes simply either prolonged hesitation or dropped the bad news like a bomb prematurely. Danny was experienced enough as a bearer of the bad news to time things just right so the recipient could absorb it all without going into shock.
Danny closed the door behind him, then set the file on the table and himself in the chair across from Mr. Williams. Williams' gaze flickered between the file and Danny, finally settling on Messer.
Danny cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Mr. Williams. I regret that I have to inform you that your daughter – Angie – was found dead this morning, about a block from where she lived."
Williams' eyes dropped to the table and his hands began trembling, squeezing, trying to crush each other. Other than that, the man barely twitched a facial muscle.
"I know this is a bad time, Mr. Williams," Dannny continued, because hesitating too long spawned feelings of being patronized, "but if it's okay I'd like to ask you a few questions. We have reason to believe that Angie's attacker was someone she may have known. We know she had a boyfriend, a guy named Jeff..."
" Her ex," Williams muttered.
"Yeah, Jeff. We've been trying to locate him but haven't had much luck and we were wondering if you might know anything..."
Williams' head swayed back and forth. " No. Don't know where he is."
Danny nodded. " All right then. That's all right. I'm very sorry for your loss, Mr. Williams, and don't wish to keep you. If you know anything that might help..."
"You have kids, detective?" Williams asked. It was the usual question for parents of a vic either searching for deeper understanding or an outlet to vent on. Being unable to provide that deeper understanding could be a heart breaker at times. Becoming an outlet for grief, which meant taking verbal abuse with aplomb, wasn't always as bad as it sounded. A few accusations and some swear words tossed in for good measure, followed by remorse somewhere down the line. Danny didn't mind it and usually forgot it had even happened five minutes later.
"No," Danny said. He mentally braced himself for what might come next.
Danny's eyebrows arched upward. That was a new one.
Williams unclenched his hands in order to raise one to his face. The thick, dark stubble scraped the man's calloused palms, loud as sandpaper on rough wood, as he rubbed his mouth. After less than a minute of this the man lifted his hand nonchalantly.
"Even if you did, they wouldn't be teenagers anyways. Am I right? Not unless you were a kid yourself when you had 'em. Even then..." Williams rested his fingers against his chin, tapping his lips with one finger. "I was eighteen when Angie was born. Just a kid myself."
Shock, delayed reaction. Danny had forgotten about that in-betweener. Sometimes it ended in a breakdown of sobbing, sometimes the verbal abuse, or sometimes didn't end at all. Danny studied Williams' eyes, still devoid in terms of emotion. The man seemed more pensive than upset, which also wasn't unusual. Rare, perhaps, but not unusual. It still pushed Danny to do a little more deeper scrutinizing. Reactions had a lot of stories to tell. Danny wasn't sure what Williams' reaction was trying to say and that was making him edgy.
"Good kid, Angie," Williams continued. Then he chuckled, softly. "Right pain in the ass when she turned fifteen. I mean talk about independent. There was no telling her what to do. She was so scarce around the house you'd think she was a ghost." He shook his head. "She never listened, never... You tell her one thing, and she'd go and do the opposite." Williams' body convulsed in another soft chuckle while his eyes shimmered iridescent in a flood of moisture. "She never damn well listened, ever."
Williams' eyes moved just a fraction for his gaze to settle on the folder. He pointed a shaky red finger at it. " That her case file?"
Danny inclined his head in the affirmative.
Williams gestured weakly at it. "Any pictures?"
Danny pulled the file closer to himself. "You should probably head home, Mr Williams..."
"Can I see that?" Williams was so focused on the folder Danny might as well not have been in the room.
"Sorry, Mr. Williams. On going investigation. Besides, you don't wanna see what's in here."
Williams' growing agitation sent his eyes wandering the room, searching for a distraction that would give him something to cling to as he fought for emotional control.
"Why can't I see them? It's my daughter in there. Why can't I...?"
Danny pushed back away from the table and stood, lifting the folder. "I'm sorry, Mr. Williams."
Danny turned to go.
Everything moved lightning fast before winding down to slow motion. A hand grabbed a wad of Danny's shirt at the shoulder. He was yanked and whipped around eye to eye with a red-faced and seething Williams. Williams' thick fingers latched around Danny's throat, and with a roar that shook Danny to the bone, Williams lifted him bodily off the floor to slam him into the room's observation window, over and over, again and again until the window cracked and shattered. Danny's body punched through the glass that rained down around him in glittering crystal shards. His body continued descending until his back slammed into the window frame.
Pain ripped through Danny's back both hot and cold, with no real time to register it when he was lifted again to be thrown like a sack onto the floor. The breath rushed from his lungs and stayed out when Williams straddled his chest, slamming his full weight on Danny's ribcage. A thick, solid fist slammed into the side of his head, over and over as Williams bellowed words drowned out by the roaring in Danny's ears. There were other sounds, other voices that were echoes muffled behind curse words and blood scraping veins. The thick fingers returned to his throat and squeezed, but Danny was already suffocating. White stars erupted in his vision, growing dimmer as shadows crept across his sight. The shadows became perpetual night congealing until only a pinpoint of light remained that winked out like a snuffed candle.
"Get him off!" Mac shouted.
Flack burst into the room first, rushing up to Williams and wrapping his arm around the bigger man's throat. Flack might as well have been a fly the way Williams swatted him away with an elbow to the gut before returning his hand to Danny's neck. Mac had been close behind, and when Flack was out of the way, he angled his weapon to deliver a shot to Williams' shoulder; a through and through leveled just right to completely miss Danny. Williams released his choke hold to grab his arm as he lurched to the side off of Danny's chest.
"Get him out of here!" Mac snarled, holstering his gun. Two uniforms began dragging Williams away. Mac's attention was on Danny as he knelt beside the detective, checking his pulse and his breathing. The pulse was there, but not Danny's breath. Mac ran through the usual procedure for mouth to mouth: tilting the head back, clearing the airway, then administering two breaths.
Mac breathed for Danny six more times. On the seventh, just before the eighth, Danny gasped in a ragged lungful with his back arched and hands curled trying to claw the floor.
"Paramedics are on their way up, Mac!" Mac heard Flack, and smiled in tremulous relief.
"That's it, Danny, just keep breathing," he urged. Danny sucked in air like it was water and he was dying of thirst, then let it out in a coughing fit that caused him unnecessary pain from that had his eyes clench shut. Mac felt something warm soak into the knee of his dress pants. He looked down to a small puddle of blood spreading out from under Danny's back. With on hand on Danny's shoulder, Mac carefully eased the younger man onto his side, just enough for a quick glance underneath.
Mac could actually feel his own blood pooling at his feet. A shard of glass the length of Mac's small finger was embedded in Danny's back two inches away from his spine. Rivulets of blood veered course to drip from one sharpened corner and off the edge.
"Damn it!" Mac hissed. He was already pulling out an unused handkerchief normally reserved for handling evidence when gloves weren't available. He wrapped it carefully around the glass and pressed enough to create pressure and stem the blood flow.
A hand on his shoulder caused his head to whip around and up at the young African American paramedic.
"We can take it from here, sir," the man said, already reaching out to take over for Mac. Taylor let him and rose to stand back as the paramedics swarmed around the young detective. Blood stained Mac's hands, which didn't really bother him. He'd been doing what he needed to do, helping Danny in the meager ways that he could. What bothered him was the blood on the window frame painting thick lines down the wall and the crimson-smeared glass everywhere else.
Danny had needed surgery to remove some of the glass. That's what the doctor had told Mac the first time he dropped by. Messer wouldn't be up until tomorrow, so Mac waited until then. He returned in the early hours before dawn when the sky looked overcast and ominous in dark blue and gray. The others would drop by later, probably around lunch. Mac couldn't wait that long. Something had happened that shouldn't have and he wanted answers, understanding, before the IAB swarmed in. Danny was going to need an ally when that happened, someone who could speak for him.
Mac entered the recovery ward to see the man in question awake and partially upright against the raised head of the bed, hooked up to an I.V. of meds and another of blood. Bruises seemed to float against Danny's colorless face: both eyes bordered in black and blue and splotchy islands of discolored skin on his nose, cheek bone, mouth, and jaw. He was staring at the door, eyes half-lidded, and blinked drowsily at Mac.
Mac moved toward the bed, tilting his head in a nod of greeting. "Danny? You doing all right? Need anything?"
Danny shook his head. He took a deep breath, or tried to, stopping halfway with a wince. There were three broken ribs Danny had to put up with, not to mention the numerous lacerations on his back from the glass. Thankfully the spine hadn't sustained any nerve damage, even with the proximity.
"Okay, Danny, are you up for some questions? The sooner we get this done the better, but we can wait."
Danny, pulling off a remarkable resemblance to a wrung out and frayed dishcloth, nodded.
"Yeah," he croaked.
Mac worked his wording out before speaking, going for what sounded the most gentle and considerate. "Do you know what happened, Danny? Why Mr. Williams attacked you?"
Danny's throat tightened when he swallowed and he winced. "He wanted to see the file... with the pictures... crime scene photos. He wanted... to see them. Didn't let him. Warned him he wouldn't like it. I was leaving..."
"So he attacked you?"
Danny nodded. "While I was leaving." He rolled his blue eyes to look directly at Mac. "Why'd he do that? I didn't say anything. I didn't... he wasn't angry. Nothing told me he'd do that. Nothing about him was dangerous."
Mac placed his hand on Danny's arm. The heart monitor made Danny's agitation obvious, but it wasn't agitation Mac was worried about. Danny was looking guilty, probably over analyzing, thinking back and reliving the moment over and over trying to pinpoint where it all went to hell. Which meant recalling, over and over, what Williams had done to him. Now was not the time for that, not while Danny was healing. And if all Danny did was deny Williams a peek at graphic pictures of a dead girl, then there was nothing to look back on. Danny had played by the rules. Williams had simply cracked. Like hell Mac was going to let this eat Danny up. The kid had been through enough.
"You didn't do anything wrong. Some people... don't know how to handle bad news."
Danny snorted and chuckled, his smile snapping into a grimace. "That wasn't bad-handling of bad news. That guy was whacked. Something's wrong with him, mentally."
Mac tried to remain neutral about most things but had to agree with Danny on that one. When the parents of victims snapped, they either sobbed themselves toward dehydration or became incredibly unpleasant to be around. They normally didn't go for irrationally homicidal.
Mac patted Danny's arm. "You're probably right. It'll be looked into."
Danny coughed. "Makes me wonder... think he could have killed his daughter? Fit of rage, didn't realize he was doing it... maybe didn't remember... or did. Maybe that's why he wanted to see the pictures. Remorse, or he's a sick son of a bitch. I think... remorse. He was upset... trying not to be. Tried not to reveal anything.. the guy's sick Mac. Either way, he's real sick."
Two nurses wheeled in a gurney through the door, steering it to a bed at the other end of the recovery room. One quick glimpse of the face and Danny's heart-rate climbed rapidly, the man himself pushing himself up straighter, going so rigid Mac tightened his grip on Danny's arm to keep the younger man from bolting.
"Easy Danny," he breathed.
Danny's breathing accelerated with his heart. "What the hell is he doing in here!"
"Mr. Williams just got out of surgery..." the nurse began.
"Get him out of here!" He grabbed Mac's sleeve, holding on like it was a lifeline. "Get him the hell out of here!"
Mac placed his other hand on Danny's shoulder at the collar bone, gently pushing him back. He could feel the young man shaking, bad. "Danny, you need to calm down. Breathe, just breathe, concentrate on that. It'll be all right, we'll have him or you moved." He looked up at the nurses, staring hard, speaking without words.
The nurse who had replied gaped then nodded nervously. "I'll get the doctor," she said, and hurried off, pausing long enough to draw the curtain as though out of sight, out of mind actually worked.
Mac patted Danny's shoulder. "You'll be all right, Danny. You won't have to stay in here with him." He would make sure of that. He would make sure Williams was secured to the bed and Danny was floors away – hospitals away if necessary.
Danny's hold on Mac's sleeve let up and his breathing and heart rate descended. The shaking, however, persisted.
"Crap..." Danny gasped, slumping into the pillow with his head tilted back as he breathed deep. "Damn it, sorry Mac. I'm so sorry. I don't usually freak like that."
Mac squeezed Danny's shoulder. "It's all right. You have every right to it." Honestly, after seeing what Williams had done to Danny, what he was capable of, Mac was a little nervous about being in the same room with that man himself. But he wasn't leaving until Danny was somewhere else, somewhere safe.
The Williams doctor eventually came, bringing Danny's own doctor along. Since Danny was awake, the doctor felt it safe to have him transferred to a private room under the circumstances. Mac stayed by the bed as it was transferred and until Danny drifted to sleep. Before leaving, he made sure two uniforms were standing guard outside of Recovery.
Danny's heart was beating itself black and blue on his ribs. He stared through the window at the distraught mother blinking back tears while she nibbled her nails out of some nervous habit. A uniformed cop stood like an invisible sentinel in the corner to be neither seen nor heard, just present, just in case. Danny tapped the folder in his hand. He looked at it, then up and over at Mac talking with Flack.
Mac glanced his way, gave him a nod, promising it would be okay this time. Danny nodded back. No matter how hard his heart pounded or how much his palms sweat, he was going to do this and keep on doing this. It was his job. He knew how to do it, knew it needed to be done.
Danny entered the room and his back immediately ached. He sat, swallowing until his throat moistened. "Mrs. Callaway, I, um, regret to inform you..."
He hated this more than any other cop or CSI.