"I'm off to get food," Annie said as she walked away from the printer and sat the sheets that had come off next to her laptop.
"Don't forget the—"
"Hot and sour with won tons. Yes. I remember, Detective Taylor." She walked over to the bed and pulled on her sweatshirt and jacket.
"How about sweet and sour today?"
"Alright." She walked to the door, unlocking the locks, and left.
Mac listened and when he was sure she was gone, he lifted his foot onto the barstool and fiddled with the ankle cuff. After ten minutes, he gave up and walked over to an evidence box. He pulled out Jared's bagged clothes and laid them out; he wasn't going to open any of them unless he had a good reason. Mac grabbed the magnifying glass at the end of another counter and slowly started over the clothes.
Annie left the restaurant with a bag, passing people. To them she looked like a teenage boy and unnoticed by Lindsay and Danny sitting in their car across the street. Lindsay's phone rang.
"Hello?" she asked.
"A woman was here," the restaurant owner told her. "She ordered that soup. She has on a gray sweatshirt with a hood and black jacket."
Lindsay saw Annie a block down and pointed her out to Danny, repeating, "Gray sweatshirt with hood and black jacket."
Danny spotted her, nodding.
"We see her. Thank you."
"That's her?" Danny asked.
"Yeah," Lindsay nodded as she dialed another number. "Sherriff Webster. The suspect has been I.D.'d. She's heading west. We'll tail her until your men can apprehend her."
Danny started the car and followed. "We're not supposed to be doing this, you know," Danny told her.
"Do you see Mac or Stella here?"
He wagged his head side to side a little.
Annie tromped through waist high weeds, her mind wandering over the last seven days. Did her captive even realize it had been a week? She heard a car approaching on the dirt road in front of her and slowed as the police car stopped in front of her. The police officer in the passenger window rolled down the window.
"Hi," he said.
She stared at him; keeping far enough away that he'd have to get out to grab her and give her time to run.
"I haven't seen you around here before."
"Just moved here."
"Oh? By yourself?"
"With your family?"
"You're on private property. You need to leave."
She didn't reply or turn away.
"Did you know that?"
"I was just going across to the house on the other side. It's shorter than following the road. I didn't think anyone'd mind since this place is abandon."
"What house? There's several."
"I don't know. My classmates just drew me a map."
"Well, you're still trespassing. Why don't we give you a ride?" He opened the door, climbing out.
She backed away.
"Is there a problem?" the officer asked.
"I'll just go back and take the road. Thanks for the offer."
He rested his hand on his gun. "If you're so worried about your safety, we should give you a ride."
Annie heard a twig snap behind her and froze. She turned her head and from the corner of her eye, she saw two officers and Danny walking toward her. Annie dropped her bag and bolted – away from where she had hidden Mac.
The police and CSI chased her. The driver in the car turned around and followed along the road. Annie glanced at the wooded hillside. She darted across the road, heading into the woods.
Behind her, Danny separated from the officers and began closing in on her. Annie started up the hill with large steps, zigzagging to reserve her energy. Danny followed. She crested the hill and started down the other side. Danny used the loose dirt underfoot to slide and gain momentum to go past her. He disappeared behind a clump of tree and as she ran past, he lunged out, tackling her.
She screamed, punching and clawing at him. The sudden attack surprised Danny, but not enough to let go. He knew she was panicking, but his anger for her kidnapping Mac was much stronger. He spotted her gun under her coat as she reached for it. The two struggled for control over it. Suddenly it went off. When her fight didn't stop and he didn't feel a shot, he figured it had missed. He pushed her arms up, pinning her with his body. He wrestled the gun from her hand and tossed it aside. Loch Sheldrake deputies came sliding down the hill and they helped to get her handcuffed. Danny pulled a winter glove from his pocket and picked up the gun. His brow furrowed. He tested the weight in his hand.
"What is it?" the officer that had stopped her asked.
He aimed it at a tree and shot. The tree was unharmed.
"It's fake." He turned and stormed up to her. "You kidnapped Mac with a fake gun!?"
She didn't answer or look him in the eye.
"Get her back to the station!" Danny hissed.
They led her back over the hill. Danny looked at the gun again, testing the weight again. He looked up as Lindsay slid down the hill to him.
"What is it?"
"It's a toy gun. A fake. She kidnapped him with a fake gun."
Lindsay looked up at the retreating officers and suspect, and then the gun, and then Danny.
"That's a good thing," she said.
"How do you figure that?"
"She probably knew he wouldn't go willingly, but she clearly didn't want him hurt."
"Naw. No. She planned this too well."
"Danny, that's just it! She planned this too well. Didn't you hear Stella? The stab wounds are off. Maybe she really didn't kill Jared Raspton."
"Yeah? Well she really kidnapped our boss. That makes her a criminal in any book." Danny headed up the hill.
Lindsay turned, following him.
Mac looked at his watch. It was three o'clock. What was taking Annie so long? She never took more than thirty minutes to get their lunch. He returned to slowly running a florescent flashlight over Jason's clothes. He stopped suddenly and went back to a hair. It fluoresced. He moved the light over the rest of the clothes and discovered at least four more hairs that fluoresced. He sat the light down and carefully cut the seal. He pulled on gloves, grabbed a pair of tweezers and reached in, removing one of the hairs. He sat it on a slide and tapped a plastic square over the hair, flattening it onto the slide. He moved to a microscope and slid it under. What he saw was an auburn colored hair, the same color as Annie's, but at the root and down to the tag it was almost black it was so dark brown. This wasn't Annie's hair. Mac pulled the slide off and prepared the tag of the hair for a DNA test.
He started that and then looked at his watch again, then the door. His worry had several levels. One was because he was beginning to sympathize with her – the more evidence he was finding that would have saved her, the more sympathy built right alongside the guilt he didn't catch it. In part because he was starting to get hungry and all that was in the refrigerator was an apple, yogurt, and a half bottle of water. The level that troubled him the most, the most practical one, was that if she was hurt and unable to tell anyone where he was, he was going to die here. She was the only one that knew how to unfasten the ankle cuff.
Mac looked at the case file, but his eyes stopped on the printed papers by her laptop. He walked over and picked them up, then sat down on the barstool. He skimmed the first page and realized it was her thesis. Mac picked up a pen and started reading it, making corrections as he read.
Annie stared at the table even when Danny walked in. Mud had dried on her clothes, face and hair forming stringy mats. Despite the grime, she was actually still quite attractive, but Danny didn't notice. He was outraged, angry, he hated her, and all he wanted from her right now was to know where to find Mac. Danny tossed a pad of paper and pen on the table.
"Draw me a map. Show me where you hid him," Danny ordered.
She didn't look up at him or the paper.
"Where is he, Annie?" Danny asked as he started circling her.
She didn't answer.
"Annie, you are going down for the murder of Jared Raspton. You have breaking and entering, robbery, and kidnapping on your record now. And if you don't tell us where he's at, and he dies, you'll have two counts of murder. You'll be in jail for a long, long, long time."
Annie didn't answer.
"Come on, Annie," Danny said, leaning on the table in front of her. "You're caught. Just tell us where Mac is. Where'd you hide him? Did you kill him already?"
She barely shook her head.
"No? He's alive still?"
She didn't answer.
"Did you hurt him?"
She didn't answer.
Danny slammed his hands on the table. "DID YOU HURT HIM!?"
A tear slid down her face.
"Don't cry," Danny fulminated, "You don't get to cry!"
That only made her start crying more. She closed her eyes.
"WHERE IS MAC TAYLOR, ANNIE!?"
With shaking hands, she reached out and pulled the notepad and pen in the center of the table to her. She started drawing on it, labeling lines with street names. She put an X on the paper and pushed it across to him. He picked it up, looking it over before turning his glare back on her.
She didn't answer.
"Is he here?"
She still didn't answer.
Danny ran his finger over his bottom lip for a moment. "I'm going to this spot and looking for him. If I don't find him, or I find him in less than good condition, I will have them throw the book at you." Danny leaned on the table, looking into her face. She still didn't look up. "Do ya hear me, Annie? You will go away for a very long time if I find you've done anything to hurt him. Anything."
She didn't answer him or stop crying. Danny left the room with the map, slamming the door behind him.
Mac looked up from the thesis when the printer started printing out the results from the hair tag. He pulled the sheet off, staring at it. He sat it down and turned, stretching to grab the sheet from the counter behind him. He sat the two side by side and in that second, he suddenly had all the reasonable doubt he needed to order the case re-opened and the evidence examined again.
Mac looked up when the locks on the door started rattling. He smiled, anticipating her face when he told her he might have found a second person that had been near Jared Raspton the day he died. The door opened and his smile faded when police came into the basement. Followed by Danny and Lindsay. Lindsay spotted him first.
"MAC!" she said, running to him.
He laughed a little when she hugged him viciously. Then she fell back, grabbing his face.
"Are you okay? You have a bearded!"
He couldn't help but laugh again. "I'm aware of that. Does anyone have a bolt cutter?" he rattled the chain. "You have Annie?"
Lindsay dropped to one knee to look at the ankle cuff. "Yeah. She's being transported to New York now. What the hell is this?"
Mac looked up, seeing an officer reaching for a bag of evidence.
"NO!" Mac bellowed.
It silenced the room. He looked at Lindsay and Danny.
"All the evidence has to be collected and taken back to the lab. It can't be contaminated," Mac told them.
"We'll go through the entire place."
"No. Lindsay. The Jared Raspton evidence. I need all of it taken back to the lab by you or Danny."
He watched Danny slowly walk toward him.
"I've only opened two of the bags, so we can still consider the rest uncontaminated. I'll figure out a way to get the lawyers to accept the rest."
"Wait… Are you saying… You want to run all this evidence for her? You want to prove she was innocent?"
"She is innocent, Danny. We, no, not we, I messed up. I signed off on this case and I never should have. There is so much wrong with it that any lawyer worth their salt would have pressed to have it thrown out."
"Boss," Danny started, lowering his voice. "Are you sure you're okay? You know… Sometimes when people are kidnapped they… You know…"
Mac gave him a long, cool stare. Danny didn't back down.
"Danny, we may have sent an innocent woman to prison. I can't have that in my lab."
Danny nodded. "Right. Okay."
Lindsay looked at the thesis paper. She pointed at it. "Is this hers?"
Mac looked at it. "Yeah."
Lindsay looked up at him, watching his face as he stared at it. She patted Mac's shoulder and then left to hunt down bolt cutters.
The door of the interrogation room opened but Annie didn't look up. The person entering grabbed a chair and brought it around, sitting it next to her. They sat their foot on it and she looked down at the ankle cuff they revealed when they pulled their pant leg up. She looked up at Mac.
"Do you mind?" he asked.
Without hesitation, she unfastened and pulled it off. He took it from her and then sat down. He looked over the cuff.
"Was it really Houdini's?"
"Said so on eBay."
The two shared a slight smile. Mac held her eyes.
"You're in a lot of trouble. You know that, don't you?"
She slowly nodded.
"We're going to run the evidence here at the lab so it won't be omissible. I've called in a favor with a friend for you. This time you'll have a competent lawyer. Until he gets here, don't talk to anyone. Do you understand?"
"Do you need anything?"
She smiled a little, looking at the table.
"My soup grew on you, didn't it?" he asked with a smile.
She smiled a little more, nodding.
"I'll see what I can do. Hang in there." He stood.
"Why are you doing this now?"
"Because I'm a CSI, Annie, and I overlooked details I shouldn't have."
"So you're doing this for you?"
"The end result ends up being for you, so does it matter?"
She held his eyes, not speaking for a minute. Quietly she said, "If you don't think Claire wouldn't care, then no."
Mac looked down at the cuff in his hand. He looked back into her eyes and gave her a single nod. Mac turned and left the room. Outside his CSI and Flack quickly emerged from the observation room thirty-one.
"What are you doing?" Flack asked. "They're sending up officers to question her in your kidnapping."
"Hawkes, I want you to pull out the clothes and look for an auburn hair that fluoresces. Run the tag and then run it against all the suspects and witnesses from the case. Danny, under the hilt of the knife, there's blood of both Jared and someone else. I want that DNA and see if it matches the hair Hawkes is going to find. Stella, go over her case files and find all the errors in it. There are a lot. While Hawkes and Danny are waiting for DNA results, they can help you work through the ten hours of her interview."
"Ten hours?" Stella asked.
"Yeah, and it's not pretty to watch. Lindsay, you and I need to go over the stab wounds. We have to figure out how tall the person that stabbed Jared really was because that person certainly wasn't five foot two. I'll meet you in the lab after I'm done talking to Flack."
His team left with their separate assignments. Mac finally turned his attention to Flack.
"I should have caught this, Don. I should have seen these errors and I didn't. Her being in jail is my fault."
"She kidnapped you."
"She did. But she told Danny where I was and I don't believe she ever planned on hurting me."
"You don't know that."
"Something in me does."
"Are you sure this isn't something… else?"
"Well, it's not unheard of that a captive starts having feelings for their captor. So—"
"No, Don, this isn't Stockholm Syndrome. This is me trying to make amends for nearly destroying a young woman's life. Okay?"
Flack slowly nodded. "Okay."
"I want you to watch out for her. Don't let anyone infringe on her rights again."
"You got it."
Mac turned to leave but stopped, staring through the window of the door. Flack looked into the room. Annie was leaning on the table with her head buried in her arms. She shook every so often from crying.
"Go on," Flack told him. "I'll watch out for her."
Mac left. Flack grabbed a box of Kleenex from the observation room and went into the room. He sat down in the chair next to her and held a Kleenex out to her. She took it.
"Do you need anything? Is there anyone I should call?" Flack asked her.
She didn't answer, just as Mac had told her not to. Flack sat the box down on the table and leaned on the table, waiting silently next to her.
Michelle Raspton was a tall woman; she was five foot nine. Her dark brown – almost black -- hair was neatly styled, with not a strand out of place. She stood at the observation room window, watching Flack and Annie. Mac entered carrying a folder and stopped beside her, looking at Flack and Annie for a moment.
Annie had her arm straight out on the table and her head laying on it. She stared at the wall. Flack sat across from her, fiddling with his cell phone. Mac was proud of the Detective. He'd gone beyond what Mac had asked and had taken on her personal protection. He even threw the Detectives who tried questioning her out when they became hostile toward her for kidnapping Mac, telling them he'd handle questioning her from now on. It took him five days to gain her trust, but she had finally opened up to him and trusted him as much as she now trusted Mac. So, when Mac and his CSI found the real murder, he let Flack tell her, and ask her to help them. All she had to do was sit in the room and wait – there would be no questions for her today and the microphone would not be recording her voice.
"That's her. That's my ex-husband's killer. Are you the one that asked me to come down her to identify her?" Michelle asked, and without waiting, added. "I can't believe someone so young would be such a monster."
Mac looked at her. She didn't see the look. She didn't see the anger that was in the cold stare he held on her. She didn't feel the rage he was holding back.
"I was going over the case file," Mac began. "You told the CSI that interviewed you that you were at a play when he was killed."
"Yes. I was at The Farnsworth Invention."
Mac looked over a sheet. "You said it was a seven o'clock show on a Saturday? Is that correct?"
"I guess so. That was over three months ago. I don't remember."
"That's what I have here in your statement."
"Then I guess that is correct. Why?"
Stella came in, handing him a paper. She moved around to the window, watching Flack and Annie.
Mac looked over the paper and then looked back up at Michelle. "That play wasn't showing at seven o'clock on Saturdays."
"I don't remember, Detective… I'm sorry. What was your name?"
"Oh! She kidnapped you. It was all over the news. I'm glad you're alright."
Mac didn't acknowledge the statement. "You said you hadn't seen or spoken to your ex-husband at all that day."
"I rarely spoke to him, and almost never saw him. So I guess that's right. Why are you asking all these questions?"
"Just clearing up some facts."
She smiled. "Oh."
"So why was he in your apartment when he was murdered?"
Stella slowly looked back at Mac, then at Michelle. Her attention turned to Michelle.
"He stopped by sometimes when he was in the area and needed to freshen up."
"But you just said you rarely saw him."
"That's right. He had a key, came and went as he pleased."
"Right." Mac looked at the papers again, flipping a few pages over. "So I guess that would explain how your hair got on his clothes."
He nodded, looking up at her. "Yes. There were several of your hairs on his shirt. And judging from the root growth, you must have dyed it auburn maybe four weeks before."
"I don't dye my hair."
"You don't?" Stella asked.
She leaned over Mac's shoulder, pulling a paper free. "So you didn't go to Stylz three weeks earlier and request Chocolate Almond."
"Oh! Yes. I did. I was presenting awards at my ladies club."
"Did you know that color matches Annie's hair color?" Mac asked.
"No. I didn't. What are the chances?"
"Pretty good for someone trying to pin the murder of her ex-husband on someone else," Mac told her. "We've been doing some digging, Mrs. Raspton. Turns out your husband divorced you on grounds of infidelity, which nullified your prenuptial agreement and took away all your rights to his estate. But not his will. He hadn't changed that. You were still in there for three-quarters of his estate and money. However, in order to get to that, ahe'd have to be dead. The day he was murdered, you called him three times from your apartment. Then you called On Time Delivery and requested Annie as the delivery person. You told her supervisor that you'd be there in a very narrow window. Seven-thirty to eight, the time she showed up. But the problem is, Mrs. Raspton, you left behind hair on his clothes, and blood was under the handle of the knife you used." Mac referred to the folder. "You told the CSI that questioned you, when he asked about a bandage on your hand, that you had cut it while on a yacht with some friends." Mac looked up at her. "To cooperate, you allowed them to photograph the cut." Mac held up the photo. "It's the kind of wound we'd see on someone who cut herself while stabbing her husband eighteen times, and aiming for his heart."
"I didn't do this. She did." Michelle pointed into the room.
"There is no physical way that Annie could have killed your ex-husband at the angle of the stab wounds, Mrs. Rapston. Only someone who stood at a similar height could have done that, which you do. You killed your husband, and then framed Annie."
"Her finger prints were all over the knife."
"Yeah. They were. She grabbed it to keep Jared from pulling." Mac answered. "Annie has maintained her first aid certificate for the last twelve years, so what she did was to save his life. And that is exactly what the neighbor said she told him, and exactly what the paramedics interviewed said she should have done. She wasn't trying to kill him, she was trying to save him."
"Why would she try to save him? She claims Jared raped her. That's more than enough motive!"
"Because she isn't the monster you are, or your husband was."
"She kidnapped you!" Michelle yelled at Mac. "How can you defend her?"
"She kidnapped me because of you and I'm not defending her, I'm following the evidence, which leads right to you. Arrest Mrs. Raspton," Mac ordered the officer.
"This is preposterous!" Michelle cried out as the officer handcuffed her and they left the room.
Stella watched her leave and then looked back at Mac. He was watching Annie and Flack. She tugged on the folder, getting his attention.
"I'll go take care of this paperwork, Mac. I think you have some business to take care of before it leaves the building."
Mac smiled, letting her take the folder. He went into the interrogation room and crouched beside Annie.
"Time to go."
"Back to jail?" she asked.
She sat up and stood. Flack walked around and handcuffed her. The three walked out of the room with her and around to the elevators. Flack tapped the call button.
"Am I still being charged with murder?" Annie asked him.
She nodded, looking away.
"But you still have charges of robbery and impersonating an officer. Most of the places you stole from have dropped charges on the robbery, but the City of New York isn't one and they'll be asking for the most."
The elevator doors opened and they got on.
"Isn't kidnapping pretty bad?"
"I'm not pressing charges. Oh, and your thesis was turned in on time. Your professor is confident you'll graduate."
She looked up at him and he held her gaze.
"Why'd you do that?
"I think Claire would have appreciated it."
Flack looked at Mac, surprised by his answer.
Annie wasn't. She looked away, softly telling him, "Thank you."
The doors opened but Mac didn't follow them off.