Mercy Street 2: Until Darkness Comes

post-Deliver Us From Evil, season 4. Caroline gets a call in the night.

"She's dead."

Caroline stiffened, the portable phone cold against her cheek. The voice on the other end of the line was flat and hoarse. It could only be Sonny - no one else called her at three am without bothering to announce himself - but he sounded strange. Detached. Not like Sonny at all.

She sat up. Bob shifted under the blankets next to her. She could hear Sonny breathing over the line but he didn't speak again, didn't explain. She hated this surreal intimacy they shared. Why did it have to be her, why did he still call her when something horrible happened? They'd been divorced for four years. And yet he always called.

And she always listened. Sometimes it felt as if they were closer now than when they'd been married.

"Sonny?" Caroline glanced at Bob and slipped out of their bed. The wood floor was cold and smooth against her bare feet. She padded out of the bedroom and retreated to the kitchen where the light over the sink cast a dim yellow glow.

A horn echoed in her ear, tinny and hollow. He was on the boat, then. "Yeah."

She didn't want to ask, didn't want to know. Caroline leaned back against the counter, the solid weight digging into her spine, anchoring her to the comfortable reality of her tidy kitchen. "Sonny, who's dead?"

There weren't many women in Sonny Crockett's life anymore. Sonny's mother had died when Billy was one. Besides Caroline herself that left Gina Calabrese and his new wife, the singer. Oh God.

He didn't respond right away. "Caitie. Caitie's dead."

Her breath lodged in her throat. "How?" She couldn't think of anything else. He'd seemed happy, for the first time in years. She'd seen the wedding pictures in People magazine. They'd made a handsome couple.

He shifted, a rustle of clothes. Something thumped on deck. "At the concert. As she was coming off stage." It didn't answer her question, but at least he was talking. "She... Caroline. It was because of me. Because of who I am."

The words spilled out of him in that precise manner he used only when very angry or very drunk. There was no emotion at all in his tone. What was she supposed to say? She couldn't contradict him without sounding patronizing. He was probably right.

"Sonny, what happened?"

Footsteps in the hall and Bob drifted into the doorway, rumpled and sleep-dazed. He took one look at her face and straightened, the question in his eyes. She held up a hand and shook her head. "Sonny?"

Sonny coughed. "Yeah. I... at the concert. I was there, backstage. It was a good show. The crowd was wild." Comeon, Sonny, spit it out. Her cheeks went hot with shame at her impatience.

"Then what happened?"

"You remember Frank Hackman?"

Of course she did. Hackman had murdered one of Sonny's first partners. Sonny didn't wait for her answer. "About a year ago Hackman... he conned me into getting him released from death row." He might as well have been reading a police report, like all of this had happened to some other man. "Few days ago Hackman's girl was killed in a raid. He was the one who killed her. It was an accident, but he thought I did it. Thought I did it on purpose."

Bob joined her at the counter. Solid, dependable Bob, who never drove more than five miles over the speed limit and got excited at the thought of spreadsheets. He didn't pretend to understand her relationship with her ex-husband, but he never nagged her about it either. Somehow his presence didn't fit the conversation. The contrast between the man on the phone and the man at her side made her dizzy.

"Hackman killed Caitlin?"

"Yeah." She heard Sonny swallow. "Took her out with a sniper rifle. Shot her in the back."

In her mind's eye, Caroline saw Sonny watch his new wife crumple to the stage. Saw the bright lights, heard Caitlin's fans screaming for an encore while Sonny screamed her name. "God, Sonny."

"I'm sorry," he whispered, "I shouldn't have called."

"Don't say that." Her anger surprised her. "You're the father of my son. And you know I care about you. So don't say that."

"I'm sorry," he repeated, but she didn't think he was talking to her anymore.

"Where are you? Is someone there with you?"

"Rico was here. Earlier." He sounded uncertain. Like he wasn't sure when Rico had left.

"You told him you wanted to be alone?" It was a guess, but she knew Sonny too well.

Her ex-husband let out a harsh bark of laughter. "He came by... came by to tell me... ah Jesus, Caroline, I can't-"

She remembered another night, another out of the blue call, his voice nearly this lost as he asked her if what they'd shared had been real. He was always so close to that line, walking the razor's edge between what was real and the game he played in the name of the job. In the end she hadn't left because he was a cop. Caroline had left because of the edge. She'd loved him too much to want to be there when he lost his footing for the last time. She didn't want it to be because of her or Billy.

Bob slipped an arm around her shoulders. Not interrupting, just being there. "What is it, Sonny?" Her eyes burned, her cheeks were wet. She felt as if the phone line was the only thing keeping Sonny from drifting away completely.

Sonny laughed again. It was a terrible sound. She found herself hoping Rico had been smart enough to relieve Sonny of his gun before he left.

"She'd known for weeks, but she didn't tell me. She'd said we needed to talk but she didn't say why." Sonny's voice rose a notch, strangled. "She was afraid to tell me. I don't know why, but she was afraid to tell me."

Hang up. Just hang up the phone.
But her grip on the receiver wouldn't budge. What the hell was she supposed to do? If she said the wrong thing... "Sonny. Sonny, just tell me. Whatever it is, you can tell me." She pulled away from Bob, needing the distance to keep calm.

The silence on the other end of the line stopped her breath. Her chest ached with it. When Sonny finally spoke he was detached again.

"I'm going to find him."

"Hackman?" So they hadn't caught the bastard. Or they'd caught him and hadn't been able to hold him.

"Yes. Caroline, I'm... I'm okay. Don't worry, alright?" And there was some of the old Sonny back, but it was forced.

"You know I'll worry." Because when Sonny said he was going to find Frank Hackman, what he'd really meant was he was going to kill him. She remembered the assassin who had hid in her house, waiting to take out Sonny. Remembered Sonny's face after the shooting had stopped, how his hands had shaken as he checked her and Billy for injuries. The hate in his eyes when he stared down at the assassin's corpse sprawled out over her front lawn.

"I know." Sonny sounded calmer, almost normal, but she wasn't sure that was a good thing. "I love you. You and Billy mean everything to me. You know that, don't you?"

Her hand was covering her eyes. She turned away from Bob. "Yes."

She heard him moving, standing up maybe. Getting ready to hang up. Panic gripped her, panic that he was saying goodbye. "Sonny, let Rico help you find Hackman. And... call me. Anytime."

"I will." Somehow she didn't think he was agreeing to her first request. The click of the line disconnecting was a relief, but only for a moment.

Bob's hand was on her shoulder. Caroline hugged the phone to her chest and looked up at her husband. "What is it?" he asked, and she winced at the wariness there.

"Sonny's wife was killed." Something in Bob's face closed off when she answered. He never said anything, but Bob didn't particularly like his predecessor. Thought he was irresponsible, probably. Bob hated irresponsible people. He opened his mouth to ask the inevitable questions and she just couldn't deal with that right then. "Later, okay honey? I... God. I need to call Sonny's partner." Bob just nodded and stepped back, fiddling with the kettle, making her tea.

Ricardo Tubbs's home number was scrawled in Sonny's hand in her battered address book. He picked up on the second ring and didn't sound the least bit sleepy. She hoped she wasn't interrupting anything.

"Rico, it's Caroline. Sonny's ex-wife." Tubbs said something affirmative so she barreled on. "I just got off the phone with Sonny. Just heard about Caitlin."

"Sonny called you?" There was a hesitation in Tubbs's voice that set her back on edge. "That's good, Caroline. It's good that he talked to you. He tell you how it went down?"

"Yeah. He... doesn't sound great. He kept saying something about Caitlin being afraid to talk to him, but he couldn't tell me what he meant." Should she tell him about Hackman?

"Oh." Sonny's partner sighed. "I'm not sure it's my place to say anything, if Sonny didn't..."

Caroline cut him off, furious, crying again. "Dammit, cut the crap. I know you want to protect him, you're his friend. But I've known him for seventeen years and I've never heard him sound like that. He called me and he wanted to tell me and he couldn't. Why the hell aren't you there with him?"

There was a long, uncomfortable silence. The kettle shrieked behind her and Bob shut off the burner. The whistle wound down to a sigh. "He didn't want me there, Caroline. I offered."

"And you listened to him?"

"Yeah, I did. Maybe it wasn't the right call, I dunno. But he wanted space and I respect that." There was weariness there, and old hurt, and Caroline remembered that Tubbs's son and lover had been murdered not so long ago. She didn't apologize but she took a deep breath and didn't speak until she knew she'd be calm.

"Please, Rico. Tell me." Bob handed her a mug. The heat was painful against her skin.

"I got the medical examiner's report this afternoon. I almost didn't tell him." Cops tended to be closer to their partners than their spouses. It was something she'd had to live with, when she was married to one. She'd never thought about how hard it would be on the other side. Rico's voice went soft. "Caitlin was seven weeks pregnant."

Caroline's legs wouldn't hold her anymore. She sank down to sit on the cold tile floor, the wood of the cabinets smooth and hard at her back. Somehow she held onto the mug.

Sonny loved children. Despite his erratic attempts at parenting he was a natural with Billy. The last time she'd seen him, when he'd come unannounced to take Billy for a spin in his flashy car, he'd admitted that he'd taken time off because he was having a hard time coping with the fact that he'd had to kill a kid in the line of duty.

Tubbs was talking again, saying her name. "I'll stop by the marina in the morning and check on him. He'll... he'll get through this."

"I'm coming down," she said before she realized she'd made up her mind. She felt Bob's eyes on her but couldn't look up to reassure him.

"That might not be a good idea right now."

"Because he's going after Hackman?"

Tubbs inhaled sharply. "What did he tell you?"

"It wasn't what he told me." Caroline set the mug down on the floor and wiped her eyes with the back of her free hand. They were the two people closest to Sonny Crockett. And neither one of them knew what the hell to do with him. "Promise me you'll watch over him."

Ricardo Tubbs was the best partner her ex-husband had ever had. For that matter, he was the only partner who had lasted more than a couple of years without getting himself arrested or killed. Caroline knew it was nearly an insult, what she was demanding. But she couldn't bring herself to care. "Promise me you won't let him do anything stupid, anything he'll regret."

Tubbs didn't call her on it, too much the gentleman. "Those might be two different things, Caroline."

Yeah, she knew Sonny too. He wouldn't regret killing the man who murdered his wife. Even if part of him, the part that had kept him a clean cop for fifteen years when so many around him fell, knew it was wrong. He'd been a good cop, a good man - and for what? One failed marriage, a kid he saw a couple of times a year. And when he'd finally found a woman who might have been able to live with the late nights and the weeks when he didn't show his face, when he was so far under he couldn't risk making contact of any kind... a man he'd helped free because his ethics required it had destroyed it all.

"It's not fair." Caroline wanted to throw her mug, smash it against the wall. It was what Sonny would have done. But the noise would have woken Billy, would have frightened Bob. She was the calm one, the one who took care of them all. It wasn't fair.

"No. No, it's not." Tubbs didn't tell her that life wasn't fair, and for that she was grateful. "I'm won't lie to you, Caroline. Sonny's in a bad place. And he's not gonna let this thing with Hackman go until it's settled, one way or another."

"I know. I know. Just..." Caroline's nose was running like she was a nine year old kid. "I wish I could do something."

She half expected him to try to comfort her again but maybe he was too tired for that. He loved Sonny, probably as much as she did. Maybe more. As far as she knew, Tubbs didn't have many people in his life either. He was quiet and raw when he finally spoke again. "Me too. God. Me too."

There wasn't anything more to be said. Tubbs would do what he could. She'd known that before she'd called, but somehow she'd needed the reassurance. Miami felt a world away.

The kitchen filled with the warm glow of dawn and she heard the alarm next to her bed telling her it was time to start her day. Time to rouse Billy from bed and get him breakfast. Time to bundle him into the station wagon and drop him at school. Time for all of the normal morning things.

Bob took the mug from her hand, then the phone receiver. Set both aside and sat down next to her on the floor. Didn't ask any questions, didn't try and say anything comforting. Didn't try and understand. Just sat on the kitchen floor, pulled her into his arms and held her until her ragged sobs dried up and she fell asleep in his lap.

If she dreamed of Sonny, drifting out to sea on his boat with his gun heavy in his hand, she didn't remember when she woke.

nowhere in the corridors of pale green and grey
nowhere in the suburbs
in the cold light of day

there in the midst of it so alive and alone
words support like bone

dreaming of mercy street

-Peter Gabriel