Mercy Street 4: Darkness Take My Sight
post-Mirror Image. Everything Tubbs had tried to tell Caroline was true.
She hadn't planned to go back to Miami. Ever, if she could help it. But Bob's mother broke her hip and couldn't afford in-home care; and Caroline couldn't juggle the constant high-keyed crisis of the ER any more without seeing Sonny on every stretcher, so she offered to go. Eloise was the least demanding patient she'd had in years. Spent most of her time knitting and gossiping with her neighbors anyway. Caroline didn't mind – she was grateful for the break.
She'd just started to miss Billy when the bodies started piling up. Another war had started, the headlines screamed. Crime families jockeying for territory. Blood would run in the streets, the anchor of the evening news insisted with barely concealed glee.
Caroline hadn't seen any blood. Then, she spent most of her time at Eloise's bungalow, not the flashy clubs on the other side of town where the elite of the underworld partied. Thoughts of Tubbs and Gina and crossfire weren't worth dwelling on – she couldn't do it any longer. She had enough worrying to do over her own family.
She was at the market when she saw him. One of those open-air markets with stalls of fresh vegetables, tables piled high with the catch of the day. Mountains of mussels in the shell, big slabs of whole red snapper and tuna. She had rounded a corner, paused at a table of homemade preserves, when his voice froze her in place.
"If I had known you were going for groceries I would have sent Cliff." Sonny. It was Sonny, she'd know that edge anywhere, the one that said you were wasting his time, but he'd put up with it awhile longer.
"Hmm. I asked for you. You think the old man would like some caviar tonight?" A light voice answered, laced with the slightest simper.
"Whatever, darling. Pick something and let's head back."
"Open spaces make you jumpy?"
"Stupid questions don't become you, Celeste. What do you think your husband will do to me if you don't come back in one piece?"
Caroline, jar in her hand, was oblivious to the annoyed bleating of the vendor as she followed the sounds around the line of vegetable stalls to the fish mongers. Twenty feet away, a young thing in spotless white was wrinkling her nose at the arrayed seafood. Her companion turned toward Caroline, tan face blank with boredom, his gaze sweeping the market as if out of habit.
The glass jar slipped from her hand and shattered at her feet with a bang. The man who looked like her ex-husband hadn't flinched, but there was a gun in his hand where there hadn't been before, the barrel aimed at the pavement, concealed against his leg. The woman laughed, high pitched and forced.
"Jeezus, Sonny. Put that thing away."
Pickled yellow peppers spattered Caroline's ankles, juice running down her shins. Sonny holstered his weapon with a smirk. He dismissed Caroline with a quick once-over and turned back to the fish.
Nothing. Nothing there at all. She was just another shopper, a housewife verging on middle age, someone to be promptly forgotten.
Her legs weren't gonna hold her much longer. Vendors flapped around her, trying to hand her paper towels, one demanding that she pay for the jar she'd broken. Sonny's attention flickered back to the scene, annoyance carving lines at his mouth. He strode over to the conflagration and the crowd parted before him, going silent. Hens before the fox.
"Here. That should cover the damages. Now, can I shop in peace?" He tossed a bill at the woman whose jar Caroline had purloined and without a single glance in her direction returned to his lovely companion.
Caroline took one of the wads of paper towels and wiped at her legs. Her eyes felt too big for her head. Sonny was moving off, a brown paper bag dangling from the woman's hand as she joined him. Without thinking, without realizing what she was doing, Caroline followed.
He was alive. He was... it was all true. Everything Tubbs had tried to tell her was true. Her breath was tight in her chest. He... looked nothing like Sonny Crockett. Burnett, Tubbs had said. He'd adopted his cover name. Become his cover.
Despite the heat he was wearing black – black silk suit, cut to fit him like a second skin. Exquisitely tailored. Nothing the Sonny she knew would have worn. She could see the familiar leather of the holster when he pulled his jacket back. At least... at least something was the same. Precisely pressed shirt, charcoal grey with dark buttons and crisp collar. And a tie – she hadn't seen Sonny in a tie since their first divorce hearing, the one that had fallen through before they'd made it into the courthouse. And before that... it had been his mother's funeral. She could count on one hand the times he'd worn a tie.
For one crazy moment she had to hold herself back from calling his name. She could call Tubbs, tell him where Sonny was. But Tubbs already knew where Sonny was. What he was. What he'd become.
Caroline stumbled. When she looked up again it was into the barrel of a gun.
"You forming a fan club or something, lady?"
She couldn't move, her attention riveted by the black metal hardware inches away from her nose.
"Comeon, Sonny. We're gonna be late."
The gun lowered an inch, two, and Caroline felt her chest seize. Sonny was staring at her. And though there was nothing, nothing familiar at all in his face, she couldn't help but recall another time, another place, where she'd been in just this position. So long ago.
"Oh God," she gasped. Her face was wet. "I'm sorry, I-"
Irritation crinkled the corners of his eyes and twisted the thin line of his mouth. He shoved the gun back under his jacket. The fabric slipped back into place with a soft whisper of silk over leather. "What is it with this place? Seems like all the wackos crawl outta the woodwork every time I leave the car."
"Sonny, I don't think-" The note of pity in the other woman's voice straightened Caroline's spine.
Sonny's hand made a choppy gesture, like he was holding back the urge to hit one of them. "What do you want?"
What did she want? God.
"Nothing. Nothing. I... you reminded me of someone I used to know." She hated herself for the words even as they escaped her. Stupid. What a stupid thing to say.
Sonny let out a snort. A sound of restrained contempt, sharp as like a slap. Caroline forced herself not to flinch.
"Here." The woman, Celeste, stepped forward, shouldering Sonny out of her way. She held out a crisp folded handkerchief, an oddly old fashioned accessory. Celeste rolled her eyes. "Don't mind him, he can be a big jerk. He doesn't mean it. Here. Take it, I've got others at home."
"Thank you," Caroline managed. She dabbed at her face. Mascara left spidery stains behind on the cloth. Stupid, to be crying in front of this man, who wasn't remotely anyone she'd ever known.
"Are we done?" Sonny snapped at Celeste. One of his hands was clenched, the other rubbed at the back of his neck. "It ain't getting any cooler out here, and this fish is gonna stink up the limo as it is without us screwing around making new friends." He shifted from foot to foot and now it was as if Caroline wasn't there at all.
"Yeah, yeah. Such a gentleman." Celeste flashed Caroline an apologetic grin. She took Sonny's elbow and looped her arm through his. "Comeon, babe. Take me home."
And then they were walking away, leaving her behind again. Caroline watched as a sleek white limo pulled up to the curb. Sonny held the door open for Celeste, scanned the street again, one of his hands loose and ready to go for his weapon. Just before he joined the girl in the smooth leather seat he turned and glanced back to where Caroline stood. Just stared, eyes narrowed, distrust in every line of his thousand dollar suit. As if she was the threat.
She didn't move, couldn't have moved if she'd wanted to. What kind of threat could she possibly be to such a man?
The limo glowed white-hot in the sun when it turned the corner at the end of the block. Caroline watched, shivering, as the city swallowed it whole.