A Final Session
Marty carefully eased the key into the lock of apartment 3. Turning it gave him an apprehensive fizz in the pit of his stomach and he knew Tom was feeling the same as he saw him slide his hand to the holster on his hip and pop the fastener that held his gun in place. They had no information that told them anyone other than Edward Mellor lived here, but they knew better than to take these things for granted. Silently he put the palm of his hand flat to the peeling paintwork and pushed. The door swung open in one fluid movement. Tom, hand poised on the handle of his gun, stepped tentatively forward, scanned the interior and gave a low whistle.
"Not what I expected, given the outside of this establishment." Tom remarked, his brows rising as he looked around.
They had gotten Edward Mellor's address from a rather distressed Dr Wilson and the keys from a disturbingly unrepentant Edward when they'd searched him prior to tossing him in the back of the patrol car. The address they got led them to a shabby building on Hester. The ground floor was given over to a grocery store with four apartments above and when Marty stepped out of the car and looked up he was met with a façade that was lousy with peeling paint and rotting wood frames. The inside of the store wasn't much better. When they went in to find out how to get upstairs Tom swore he saw stuff that had stopped being sold when he was a kid. He didn't want to think about what dates were on half this stuff. After being directed by the storeowner to a side door they climbed the dimly lit, narrow stairs up to apartment 3.
As he stepped through the door after his partner Marty had to admit it wasn't what he had been expecting either. "Welcome to lifestyles of the poor and psychopathic." He quipped.
It was a studio apartment, nothing out of the ordinary in its layout; bedroom area to the left of the door, living area directly in front with kitchen area to the right and a door leading off it, which Marty assumed, would be the bathroom. What was surprising was the décor. They'd expected the inside to be like every shabby, low rent apartment they'd every busted into, thready carpet, smoke stained walls and mismatched furniture. Edward's apartment though was definitely not like that. The entire interior had been painted white, walls, ceiling, woodwork, floorboards, all white and not a soft, warm white but a stark white which, as a backdrop, displayed every stick of the apartments furniture with startling clarity.
The reason the furniture stood out so much was that all of it, every last piece was black, the bed and bedclothes, chairs, table, computer desk, lamps, blinds, all black. It wasn't only this that struck Marty and Tom though. This guy appeared to have no personal stuff. There were no ornaments, high school trophies, family heirlooms, nothing not even any photographs apart from one Marty could see framed on the nightstand. The only remotely personal things were books, lots of them all rowed in order of height on the black painted shelves that stood next to the computer desk.
"Stella wants to decorate with all this minimalist stuff. I'm just not that sure. Not real homely if you ask me." Tom muttered as he gazed around. He turned when he became aware that Marty was staring at him. "What?"
"You movin' in together?" Marty feigned a shocked look.
"NO! No, it's her place I just … I mean I stay a lot but … Ah hell, I'm not getting' into this with you." Tom shook his head and moved over to the bedroom area.
Marty smiled as he stepped towards the bookshelves, pulling out a pair of latex gloves from his pocket and snapping them on.
"What's he got? Jackie Collins?" Tom asked, eager to change the subject.
"Yeah, right." Marty laughed. "Looks like they're all psychology books. No fiction."
"What? Freud 'n' that?"
"Nah, no Freud. Maybe he didn't agree with the guy." Marty smiled and turned his attention to the desk where a laptop and four box files lay.
"Well, one good thing." Tom called as he peered under the bed and then kneeled up to look at the picture on the nightstand, "It's not gonna take us long to find anything if it's here." He peered at the blurred photo of a smiling woman with shoulder length black hair holding a boy of around four years. The boy had his arm around the woman's neck lovingly but was frowning at the lens. "Think this could be mom?" He straightened holding the frame up to Marty.
"Dunno." Marty replied without even looking up. "Think this could be our evidence?" He asked waving above his head a tape and manila folder he'd fished out of the top box file.
Tom moved quickly over to the desk and opened the next file as Marty leafed through the folder he'd taken from the top one. "Looks like proper records lifted from the practice. It's full of real personal stuff. Mentions the name Estelle. That's the Goldberg's right?" Marty questioned.
"Look." Tom said, pointing to the long side of the file he was rifling. The initials J&A F had been written down the side in neat marker pen. Marty looked at the side of the file he'd taken the folder out of and saw M&E G. Looking across to the third he saw it was marked R&E R. His stomach tightened as he looked to the box file at the bottom of the pile marked J&C D. Grabbing the box file up Marty pulled it open to see Esther Bergen's original forum notes lying neatly in the bottom.
Tom looked up at Marty. "Hey," He started, shifting from side to side. "I know this stuff is evidence but I'm really not comfortable with goin' through that file if it's as personal as these ones."
Marty nodded. "Me neither." He agreed quietly. "I'll bet we got plenty on this fruit loop with the other three files and tapes. We'll pass this to the boss. It can be his call." Suddenly the shrill tone of his cell phone burst through the air making them both jump. Marty fumbled it in his haste to answer.
"Boss?" He answered sharply, the tension in his voice palpable. "Any news? Right. Uh, yeah we got plenty. Three tapes. Yeah, notes too. Will do."
"No call from the hospital yet?" Tom demanded as Marty ended the call.
"Nah'. Boss just wanted to know if we'd got anything here. Seemed happy when I told him we did." Marty tossed the box file back onto the desk top with a heavy sigh.
With Marty and Tom gone to check out Mellor's address Karen and Fisk moved into his office to listen to the tape. They sat in silence as it rolled, Fisk occasionally shifting uncomfortably in his chair and fiddling with the bagged therapy notes file they'd found on the Dunbar's dining table. When the tape finally came to an end they both sat back and looked at each other. After a moment the Boss cleared his throat and spoke quietly, "I don't think anyone else needs to hear this, do you?"
She shook her head. "There's some pretty personal stuff on there, so no."
"Agreed," Fisk nodded. "If Tom and Marty get enough from Mellor's place I'll be able to make this disappear. Ah, to be honest if they don't it's disappearing anyway." He slipped the tape recorder back into the evidence bag and tossed it in his drawer. "I'll give them a call." He finished.
Karen sat back in her chair as the Boss called Marty's cell. She rubbed her hand over her eyes and squeezed them shut. She had a headache coming on and she never got headaches. She wondered idly if Jim had any aspirin in his desk drawer. He was always popping the things; surely he'd have some. She resolved to go and look as soon as the boss was done. He seemed to be finishing up the call with Marty, "just tapes or anything else? Good. Get back over here and we'll go through them." He dropped the receiver down and looked up towards Karen. "Tom and Marty got tapes and notes on all three vics so looks like we can bury the stuff relating to Jim."
Karen nodded and rubbed her hand across the back of her neck. "Good." She shuffled her feet.
"Anything you wanna add, Karen?" Fisk asked.
"No, I'm good boss."
"Ok. Look, you should let me know if you think you need to see anyone about what happened today." He said slowly.
"What d'you mean what happened today!" She snapped sharply
Fisk looked at her hard. "Well, you partner getting attacked was at the front of my mind."
She visibly relaxed and shook her head. "I'm fine, really."
"The service is always there if you want." He finished.
Karen stood up and shifted on her heels impatiently. "I'm gonna head back to the hospital Boss, if that's ok? I can't sit around waiting for them to ring anymore and Christie could probably use the company."
"Sure. Call if anything changes." He said, but Karen was already out of the door.
A half-hour later Karen pushed the door to Jim's room open. The lights were low and the room was quiet except for the rhythmic beep of a heart monitor and gentle breath sounds muffled by a plastic oxygen mask. "Hey" she said quietly as she walked towards the bed in which her partner lay. Christie jumped a little and turned in her chair to face Karen.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to make you jump." She apologized, noticing that Christie Dunbar looked pale and, for all the sleep she'd had, tired. She was dressed in light green scrubs, which washed her complexion out, and her usually slick black hair was all mussed and tangled at the back.
"How's he doing?" Karen asked tentatively as she looked over his face, the right side of which had developed into a puffy mass of purple and red angry bruises that bloomed beneath the stitched cuts on his cheek and lower lip. His right eyelid was swollen and wet looking.
"OK. CT scan was clear and he's stable, he's just not waking up." She looked away from Karen and back to her husband, her brows knitting.
"How about you?" Karen pressed gently.
"I don't know." She shook her head. "I went to bed in my apartment and I woke up here without a clue about what happened in between, so honestly, I really don't know." She finished, her voice wavering a little.
"You want me to call anyone?"
Christie shook her head. "Not yet, not if you can stay for a bit." She replied. "I know Jim would like it if he knew you were here."
"Really?" Karen asked.
"Really." She smiled.
Karen nodded. "Sure. I can stay. I didn't really wanna leave before but …"
"The job." Christie nodded.
"Yeah. Somethin' like that. I had to see this guy, the interview." Karen explained, noticing how Christie frowned a little and then deftly changed the subject when she mentioned Mellor.
"Thanks for staying with him while I was downstairs." Christie tried to smile. "He doesn't like hospitals and I'd hate for him to have woken up and been alone."
"Yeah, I know. He's always a little out of sorts when we have to interview anyone here so I wouldn't have left him. Look, you want me to call his family or have you already done that?"
"His mom and dad? God no!" Christies voice was sharp. "Thanks, but no." she said more gently. "After last time I wouldn't have that man in a hospital room with Jim again."
Karen raised her eyebrows at Christie as she pulled one of the heavy visitors chairs up next to her.
"It's a long story but last time I banned him from the hospital. Jimmy thought it was funny as hell when he found out." She looked at Karen's still questioning expression and tried to explain without getting into the whole horrible story. "Jim's dad's always been a bit of a bully and no one ever stands up to him. Well, I did and Jim thought it was hilarious." She smiled at the memory of how Jim had laughed when she told him what she had done. It was one of the only things he had seen any humor in back then after the shooting. "He called me his knight in shining armour." Christie finished, her hand stroking Jim's, carefully avoiding the IV that was taped to the back of it.
"Makes a change." Karen smiled. "Doesn't he always like to be the knight?"
Christie nodded her chin trembling. "He has a thing about not being able to protect me, you know? He's always going on about it and I always argued, told him I could protect myself and that he was still my man despite … Well he was right wasn't he? He couldn't protect us." She looked over at Karen, her face white. "He was right."
Karen shook her head and reached out to put her hand on Christies forearm, "No you're wrong Christie and he was wrong." Christie looked into Karen's face her forehead wrinkled in a frown. Karen hadn't wanted to mention what she and the Boss had just listened to but she wanted Christie to know what Jim had been prepared to do to protect her. "We have a tape, that man, he had a tape running and I listened to it. Jim protected you Christie, he did. He protected you with his life."
A single tear rolled down Christies face as she blinked and looked away from Karen.
Karen moved forward in her chair. "You want me to get you anything? You need me to pick up some clothes for you?"
"I'll call my sist…" She started to reply but stopped, "Jim?" She stood abruptly and leaned over the bed. "Jimmy, sweetie can you hear me?"
Karen looked over to Jim and saw his left eyelid flutter as he tried to open his eyes.
For the second time that day Karen found herself shifting on the uncomfortable plastic of a hospital chair. As soon as she saw Jim trying to open his eyes she had rushed out of the room and down the corridor to find a doctor. The one she found didn't seem to understand her sense of urgency as he and a nurse calmly made their way to Jim's room. Once they'd gone in Karen hung back in the corridor, allowing the door to swing shut in her face. After what seemed like an eternity the door pulled open and the doctor re-appeared.
"You can go in now if you like." He smiled.
"How is he? Is everything ok?"
"He's fine. He's very groggy and not saying much but he's responsive and we're happy with him at this stage. Don't try to get him to talk too much now. We'd prefer he get some more rest. Tomorrow he should be much more alert."
The doctor moved away down the corridor leaving Karen taking a deep breath as she pushed open the door. The nurse was still in the room, wheeling the now silent heart monitor back against the wall and hooking the oxygen mask up above the bed.
"Jimmy, Karen's here." Christie told him as she leaned over the bed.
Karen placed her hand over Jim's. "Hey partner."
His lips moved a little, "Hey." He whispered back.
"Don't try to talk too much. Doctors orders." She smiled hoping he could hear it in her voice.
"I need to tell you what happened, this guy, …" He whispered
"No need, we got him. We were at your apartment and we got him. Marty spotted a pattern."
"On his own?" Jim tried to smile but stopped when he felt the stitches pull in his lip.
"On his own." Karen nodded.
"I'm gonna let you get some rest ok and I'll be back in the morning if that's alright?" She looked over to Christie who nodded.
"Feel better, ok?" She pressed onto his hand and started to move away when his fingers caught in hers. She looked back at him as he squeezed her hand tight and then let go.
Christie called out just as Karen reached the door. "Karen?"
"Thanks. Thanks for being there for him."
Karen looked back at Christie but unable to hold her gaze quickly turned back to the door and pushed her way out to the bright lights of the corridor.
It was late afternoon by the time she left Belleview and the heat was at its height of oppression. She'd called the squad and the Boss had said he'd meet her at the hospital tomorrow. She was just about to stow her cell phone back in her pocket when something beeped making her jump. The tone of the beep was unfamiliar and it took her a moment to realize it was Jim's pager that she'd fastened to her belt. She snapped it off and looked at it. The screen was blank. What did he say about the extra button? She really couldn't remember so just pressed the first one that hit her fingertip.
"Juniper Valley" Droned the stilted voice of the pager. Juniper Valley? It meant nothing to her, no, hang on! It did ring a bell but what was it? It was on the tip of her brain. Dumbly she stood rooted to the spot on the sidewalk as she desperately tried to drag the elusive information forward.
Eventually Karen's memory did come back to her. It would have come sooner if a beat cop and then a helpful older lady hadn't both stopped to ask her if she was ok.
"Sorry I took so long." She cooed as she stooped down in front of Hank a little while later and clipped his leash onto his collar. "Do you need me to settle the bill now or does he have an account?" She asked the receptionist at the Juniper Valley Animal Hospital.
"It can go on account, don't worry about it. Um if you're taking care of him do you need some feed?"
Karen hadn't thought about this. "Yeah, doesn't he have a special diet or something?"
"I'm afraid so. Hang on and I'll get you a bag of biscuits. We don't usually allow these to go on account though." She gave Karen a questioning look.
"It's fine. I'll get them." She looked down at Hank. "I'm sorry boy, you can't go home just yet so you have to come with me ok?" He tilted his head and fixed her with his glittering eyes. "I got a little bunny though so you have to behave. You gotta promise not to eat him, cause somehow I don't think he's on your approved diet plan." Hank whined. Karen sighed, her cheeks puffing out as she contemplated the dog sitting in front of her. "OK. Probably a bit much to ask." She rubbed her hand through his fur thoughtfully. "We'll go someplace else. We'll go see someone you'll like."
Straightening up Karen hefted the bag of biscuits from the receptionist's arms, wrapped Hanks leash around her wrist and pushed her way out of the double doors.
Andy Bettancourt leaned his elbows back on the top step of the porch and straightened out his long legs, his heels idly scraping the concrete path that ran up to the three front steps of his pale green painted duplex. It was early evening and he should have been getting ready for his usual Saturday night poker game with his buddies. He didn't mind missing though, in fact he'd been thinking of dipping out before his daughter had called to say she was dropping by.
Dropping by. "Hmm" he'd grunted to himself as he replaced the receiver in the cradle. It was a fair way to drop by at short notice. Mind you, he thought, that was Jersey for you, you could get out but it would always keep calling you back. He knew his girl though and she had sounded a little off. He shrugged to himself; maybe he was imagining it, he'd soon see. She'd never been any good at hiding things from him, from her mother yes, much to Carla's annoyance. He smiled at the memory of his wife being indignant that she didn't have a daughter who confided everything in her as she had done with her own mother. He remembered what he had said, "You're not your mother baby and Karen isn't you. And may I say, thank god you're not your mother." She had laughed as his hands found her waist and slid to her hips as he pulled her close to kiss her neck. She'd swatted him away with her apron, telling him to cut it out if he wanted dinner that night. She always did a lot of swatting away; play-acting whenever he tried to get fresh around the house or if anyone was around. When they were alone though she would remember all the little passes he had made over the day and get her own back.
Blinking Andy leaned his head back, stared up at the trees overhead, and wondered idly if he had more than one TV dinner in the freezer. Karen would not be impressed if he didn't. He was just about to get up and go inside to look when he heard the noise of a car slowing to a stop. She was here.
Karen felt a rush of warmth in her stomach as she drew up in front of the house where she grew up and saw him in his usual spot waiting for her. She felt like she was eight years old again, coming back from a disastrous ballet class and seeing him there.
Killing the engine she undid the seat belt and flung back the door.
"Hey Mr. what you doing?"
Andy had jumped up from the steps and was making his way to the car. "Waiting for you Beattancourt. It's been ages. What d'you do, drive like an old lady?"
"I'm police trained, I can drive faster than you know." She laughed.
"Yeah well I want you driving like an old lady. No speeding." He said warmly as he grabbed his daughter in a bear hug.
"You look good dad." She looked up at him and smiled.
"Karen, I saw you three weeks ago. Even an old croc like me can't go downhill that fast." He scanned his daughters face and noticed she looked tired, her eyes were a little red like she'd been crying. He was about to turn her round so they could go inside when something caught his eye. "Um, Karen are you aware you seem to have a bear in the back of your car?"
"What? Oh God I nearly forgot!" She cried sounding mortified as she pulled the back door open, "Dad, this is Hank."
Andy looked at the huge shepherd that jumped down from the back seat of the car whilst his daughter pulled a bag of biscuits out after him. "Is that his food just for tonight?" He laughed.
"No. Actually he doesn't eat that much, and you CANNOT feed him bits of crap like you used to with Harley." She chided.
"Watch your mouth and I did not give him stuff, he stole it." He defended.
"Yeah. Mom might have bought that line but I don't."
As Karen closed the door with a quick push of her rear end Andy took Hanks harness in his hand. "Nah, take the leash Dad. If you take the harness he'll get confused."
"He could join the club then. I take it he isn't yours?"
"He's my partner's. Jim's. You remember I told you about him. Anyway he's in hospital so I'm taking care of his dog. If you take the harness he thinks he's working and you don't know how to command him so he won't understand what you want him to do. That's if he'd even move for you." She mumbled as they made their way up the front path. "He's almost impossible to get to move unless it's Jim giving the order." She gave a little laugh.
Andy's brow creased in a frown as he looked across at his daughter whilst she studiously paid attention to the sack of biscuits, her purse, and her hair, anything to avoid looking him in the eye. "Come on." He said. "Lets get inside and feed this monster and then me and you can have a beer and catch a game."
Karen felt the easy comfort of home wrap around her as she padded into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator to hunt for food. Her eyebrows rose as she saw a homemade apple pie sitting on the middle shelf.
"Ms Kinsella been round again?" She shouted back to the living room, her voice teasing a little.
Suddenly her dad spoke up from right behind her.
"Don't get smart. She just brought a pie."
"I wish you'd let her bring more than pie Dad, and I know mom would want that too."
"Ah, come on, gimme a break." He dismissed the subject.
"No Dad. It's been four years now and I don't want you to be alone."
"Let's talk about your relationships instead." He said wickedly.
"No fair! I'm too busy for a boyfriend."
"Hmm. It's too warm to stay inside. Lets get that beer and sit back out front."
"Mom would have a fit."
"That she would sweetheart, that she would."
A moment later they were back on the porch sitting side by side on the front step with Hank laid out on the neat square of lawn in front.
"He's very quiet." Andy commented, nodding over to Hank.
"They're trained not to bark." She supplied. "Although that could have just been Jim winding one of the other guys up. I'm not always sure." She smiled, hugging her knees to her chest.
"You gonna tell me what's up, or are we gonna dance around it some more?" He asked, pulling from the bottle.
Silence enveloped them for what seemed like an age. Andy was just about to change the subject when she spoke. "My partner got attacked in his apartment by this guy we'd been after. By the time we got there he was a mess and I … I nearly lost it."
Andy frowned, not seeing her problem. She looked up at his confused face. "I'm not supposed to bail out dad! God! I'm trained and I know what goes down in situations like this!"
Andy took a breath and licked his lips. "Did you tell any of the squad how you felt?"
"Yeah, I talked to one of the guys. He was nice about it and I know he has a point about me not having seen everything but …"
"But you're still not gonna cut yourself any slack? This guy, he older than you, been on the job a while."
"'Bout eight or nine years."
"You think you know better than him? Sounds like he's got the experience to know what he's talking about."
"That's not it." She moaned
"Well you gotta help me out here kid cause I'm missing something. Sure I can see how you might be kicking yourself for not being a strong as think you shoulda been but you'll know if there's a next time…"
"I feel like I let him down, dad! How can I look him in the eye now!"
"Karen, surely he's a reasonable man …."
"His last partner ... I don't know what heppened exactly, Jim said he didn't step up as much as he could have, but his last partner dad, let him down and blinded is where it got him!" She snapped. "It's plain to see how he feels about that guy. He can't even stomach to talk about him so how's he gonna feel when he finds out his current partner let him down too?"
"Karen, I think you're over reacting to this. There's gotta be a world of difference between what happened today and what happened when Jim's other partner did whatever he did." He sighed. "You look all in. Come on; let's take this mutt down to the store. We can buy real food and cook a real dinner and then what you need is to have a good nights sleep in an impossibly pink and frilly bedroom." He smiled as Karen leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I never wanted it pink. I wanted pale green." She said.
"I know, but your mother wanted pink, and ballet lessons, that's why you got 'em."
"D'you think I let her down too?" She mumbled.
"Whoa, you are feeling sorry for yourself aren't you?" Andy laughed, refusing to let his daughter wallow any more. "Sure she wanted you to be a doctor and like pink and frills and at least get one certificate in ballet but she was so proud of her girl who fixed trucks with her daddy and joined the boys in blue."
With that he pulled her up and propelled her down the steps, lightly grabbing Hanks leash as they went. "Come on. We gotta get off this street before Laurel spots me. She's like one of them trap door spiders when she sees me out here. I'm not even safe with you."
She smiled up at his face "Laurel? When did she stop being Ms Kinsella?" She laughed.
"Gimme a break!"
She pulled Hanks leash out of his hand and slipped her other hand into his. She'd done the right thing coming here. Home always made her feel calm whenever she had things on her mind. Tomorrow would look better she told herself. "OK." She agreed as they made their way from the house towards the store, Hank pulling eagerly at the leash. "But you know if you went round she might give you food and we wouldn't have to go to the store." She laughed.
Andy Bettancourt looked down at his daughter, raised his eyebrows and plonked a heavy hand on the top of her head, ruffling her hair, causing her to duck out from under his palm. "Brat." He muttered as she continued to laugh all the way down the street.