Author's Note: So, in the process of working out my next chapter for "Coming Full Circle", the muse drove me to finish this chapter instead.
I do think you'll all be pleased. ;)
Chapter 3: Warning
Faith Yokas stands at her locker, staring at a piece of stained and crumpled paper loosely gripped in her trembling hand. She has to fight down a feeling of nausea as she stares at the scribbled words written on the torn page. Gradually, the sights, sounds, and smells of the 55th precinct's locker room begin to dim until she becomes lost in her own thoughts, oblivious to the world around her.
It's their third year of partnership, and they've never come across anything or anyone that they could honestly describe as being sinister.
The kinds of criminals they deal with on the daily basis are often misguided, selfish, and lacking common sense – but sinister? No.
As Bosco puts it, the average criminal is just a "stupid jag-off," dangerous in his own right, but not particularly menacing.
Since joining the force, they have witnessed crimes of passion resulting in the kind of violence and mayhem which might shock the ordinary citizen. They've seen dead bodies. They've been at the scenes of violent homicides. They've observed first-hand the evils wrought at the hands of the deranged and mentally ill – harmless but for the fact that they forgot to take their medication. They have even arrested men and women for committing atrocities against children out of some perverse pleasure or vile addiction.
Disgusting? Absolutely. But sinister? Not really.
During one of her many RMP-passenger-side-monologue/rants, Faith once said, "there's a difference between crimes of passion, where somebody kills somebody in a moment of anger, and the sadistic kind of bastards you read about in books who prey on people, torture them, and play mind games with them."
After her speech, Bosco had whipped his head to the right, his brow scrunched up in an expression of disgust. "What the hell kind of books do you read?"
They've never experienced the kind of evil that plots and plans to cause harm, just for sport. That kind of stuff is for Hollywood, sleazy horror movies, or those cheap psychological thrillers that somehow manage to make the best-seller list – not the real world.
Not until now.
It's their third year of partnership, and it's taken them this long to finally piss off the wrong criminal.
It's four words scribbled on a piece of scrap paper, yet the threat is ominous.
'We've got your partner.'
Her eyes are drawn to the drops of blood splattered and smudged liberally along the edges of the paper. Her gut tells her immediately what the forensics lab will take hours to analyze: it's Bosco's blood.
By now, he's been missing for over 72 hours – three whole days.
She's called and checked every person and place she could think of, even managing to track down his father and brother (no easy feat) to demand answers. But no one has seen or heard from him.
It is as if he simply vanished.
Faith is at her wit's end. She cannot fathom what could have happened to her partner.
She's been working tirelessly since Bosco was officially deemed a 'missing person,' and just hours ago was demanding info about something, anything from the detectives upstairs.
"We've got no evidence, no motive, no demands, no nothing – we've got nothing," she said with a pause, staring hopelessness in the face. "Is that what you're telling me?"
"No distinguishing fingerprints were found, in his apartment or his car," detective Grimaldi replied in his thick Brooklyn accent. "It's like the guy vanished."
"God, there has to be something…something you're missing," she said, leaning bone-weary arms against the older man's untidy desk.
"The boss has got practically the whole department working non-stop on this case, and nobody's found one lead," the detective needlessly reminded her, throwing his fat head back to swallow a gulp of coffee out of the Styrofoam cup in his hand.
He continued, reciting things she already knows, heedless of her personal agony.
"Forensics already went through everything. There were no signs of forced entry at his place, his car is still sitting out front of his apartment complex where he'd left it; nothing was out of the ordinary," he stretching out chubby arms in exasperation. "Maybe the guy just took off."
Faith's eyes narrowed instantly, her voice hard. "What are you sayin', Jelly?"
"People do it all the time. They're unhappy with their lives, so they take off for Mexico or some tropical island. Poof," he snapped his fingers. "Never seen or heard from again. It happens."
"He wouldn't do that," Faith says, breathless with anger. "How could you say that?"
"Hey, I mean no disrespect…." He threw up his hands in a gesture of non-offense.
"Jelly!" She barked, incensed by his nonchalance. "He's my partner. I know him. He's missing."
The older detective stared are her for a moment, then shrugged, his eyes conveying a rare glimmer of compassion. "It's a better thought than the alternative, right?"
The alternative being that her partner is being held somewhere and tortured, or worse, that he's lying dead in some obscure back alley….
"We have to find him, Jelly," she whispered, eyes brimming with emotion. "You understand? We – I have to find him." She had to leave then, before she broke down completely.
After she shows the note to Grimaldi, he asks Lt. Swersky to seal off the locker room as a crime scene.
He and Captain "Stick" Elchisak proceed to grill her for hours, trying to get her to think of anyone whom Bosco might have pissed off lately. …Well, pissed off more than usual.
She can think of nothing out of the ordinary. Just their everyday criminals.
It's starting to get her. She hasn't slept in two days. She hasn't had one moment's peace since she found that horrible note in her locker. Fred is worried about her, begging her to come home and rest, but she refuses. Bosco is her sole concern, and her fear for him consumes her mind. She's sure she missed something, because a person does not just disappear without a trace.
A few more precious hours pass, and Swersky informs her that the department expert analyzed the handwriting, his results being inconclusive. The Lieutenant makes the suggestion that maybe this was an 'inside' job, because of the note in the locker room. Out of concern for her safety, he assigns Sully and Davis to be her personal watchdogs until the investigation is complete.
Faith now sees even her co-workers as potential suspects, enemies.
So many of them hold grudges against Bosco for one reason or another – but who would actually kidnap and hurt him? When she starts scrutinizing the facial twitches of every person she comes in contact with, she knows it's too much. Her own precinct has become a place full of danger.
Filled with distrust, she escapes Sully and Davis' watchful eyes and leaves the stationhouse.
She walks briskly in the dark, destination unknown.
All they have is the note. Someone has her partner, but does not seem to want anything in exchange for his safe return. Is it merely a taunting gesture? Something meant to torture her psychologically?
If so, she cannot survive another three days of this. She will go insane.
She has to find him.
The last time Faith saw her partner, was at the end of their last shift together – it was a Wednesday, and they'd actually finished up the paperwork at a decent hour. It was just before midnight, the mid-April air was crisp and cool, and Bosco was going to walk home.
"Why don't you take the subway with me?" She had asked, already knowing what his answer would be.
"Faith, there's no way I'm gonna share the same air with those people."
"'Those people,' Bos?" She raised her eyebrows in mock annoyance.
"I mean uh…I mean the air out here is just so much better," he stammered, trying to fix his blunder.
"Uh-huh," she replied, hiding an amused grin. "See ya' tomorrow."
"See ya', Faith."
Apparently, he'd never made it home.
Thursday morning, Bosco was a no-show, and Sergeant Mackis hadn't been pleased.
"Boscorelli knows that he's supposed to call in if he's sick," she'd lectured Faith.
"I know Sarge, I'm sure there's a good explanation."
"With Boscorelli, it's always something," the woman had snorted, turning away.
She'd tried calling him on her lunch break, then called his mother at her bar, then called the station to see if he'd checked yet. On her second meal break, she went knocking on his apartment door and got no answer, and that's when she began to feel uneasy.
Swersky already had the crime lab go through the place with a fine-toothed comb, but she can't trust that, now. She can't trust anyone, anymore.
After a few minutes of aimless wandering, her feet, seemingly with a mind of their own, begin to lead her toward his apartment. She hasn't had a chance to look there herself, yet.
'Maybe there's something they missed,' she thinks. 'Something only I would notice.'
Her breath quickens as she determinedly climbs the stairs to his apartment on 82nd street.
'Please, please let me find something,' she begins to pray as she heads down his hall.
To her utter disbelief, her prayers are answered – and much sooner than she could have imagined.
At first, when her gaze falls on the dark-clad figure slumped against Bosco's door, her brain comes to a stuttering halt. For a moment, she forgets to breathe.
She cannot comprehend what she's seeing, and she certainly can't accept it.
It's him. There is no mistaking his solid form, still dressed in the clothes she last saw him wearing.
This is not how she'd played it out in her head. This was not one of the myriad of scenarios she'd envisioned. It goes against everything she learned in criminal psychology; hell, it goes against anything she's ever read in a fictional crime novel, for Bosco's captors to just let him go, much less dump him at such a conspicuous location.
Then a thought forms. 'He's dead. They killed him and left him here for me to find.'
It's enough to bring her to her knees, yet she remains upright.
As she inches closer to the body, a sob erupts from her throat. He's covered in blood and bruises, his limbs lying haphazardly around him, as if his captors had literally just tossed him onto the floor.
She bends down, the tears spilling over her eyes and down her cheeks as she witnesses the full damage done to his battered, motionless body.
His face is mottled with hues of purple and black and blue. His left eye is swollen shut; his right is rimmed by a shiner, the eyebrow sporting a deep 2 inch long gash. Dried blood is crusted under his nose, smeared across his chin and forehead. She notices another gash along his hairline. Her eyes travel to his lips, swollen and purple and sporting numerous cuts. Her hand brushes against his unmoving chest, and she notices that his jacket, too, is torn and stiff with dried blood.
She cannot suppress a shudder. "Oh, Bosco…what did they do to you?"
Her eye catches a folded piece of paper lying in his lap; her hands reach for it and open it as if they have minds of their own.
'Consider this a warning.'
"Bastards," she whispers furiously. Then, "son of a bitch."
She does not know what to do with the anger suddenly coursing through her, so she stands, hands bracing against the wall, tears still streaming down her cheeks as she gasps for air.
They killed her partner, and she doesn't even know who 'they' are, or why. All she knows is that a light in her life has been extinguished, and it's not fair. It's not right.
A bitter taste fills her mouth. She doesn't want to be a cop anymore. Not after this. Not without him.
The wave of emotions coursing through her is profound, and the harsh sounds of Faith's sobs echo off the walls. Her grief is so intense that she almost misses the small sound below her.
Her body tenses, and her eyes travel down to stare at the motionless body.
A tiny, broken moan falls from her partner's lips.
Her partner, whom she was seconds ago certain was dead. For a moment she can only stare in shock. Then her brain finally catches up with her. Dead people don't moan.
"Oh, my God! Bosco! Oh, thank God!"
Tears fall anew as she drops to her knees, cradling his filthy, blood-crusted face in her shaking hands.
"Bosco? Bosco, talk to me."
It is a single half-gasped word – yet it is music to her ears.
An overwhelming sense of relief washes over her, and she finds herself nearly hysterical with relief.
'He's alive! He's alive!'
She's so close to his face that she can feel the heat of his every breath on her skin. The sensation is enough ease the burden she's been carrying in her soul, the horrible weight of worry and fear and grief. Just feeling the tingling of each shallow exhale against her tear-stained skin washes it all away, leaving her feeling light again, like after a cool spring rain.
Then suddenly, before she realizes what she is doing, her lips are crashing against his, Bosco's blood mixing with her desperate tears.
His swollen eyes shoot open to slits, and he attempts to mumble her name, sounding confused. This brings her to her senses. Gently releasing his battered face, Faith pulls away, eyes wide with the realization of what she's just done.
"Oh, my god," this time her astonished voice is tainted with guilt. "I'm so sorry."
The moment had lasted mere seconds, but she has no time to contemplate its ramifications. Bosco winces, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably against the door. Another soft moan falls from his lips, successfully shaking Faith out of her brief reverie.
She pulls her cell phone from her pocket, flips it open, and dials 911. She hurriedly rattles off her badge number and the address to the dispatcher, asking for backup and an ambulance. Once the call ends, she tosses the phone to the side, reaching out for her wounded partner.
"Bosco, I called an ambulance – you're gonna be okay, just stay with me," she soothes, one hand grasping his jacket. His only answer is to shift again, then cry out hoarsely in pain.
"What? What can I do, Bosco? Where does it hurt?"
"Ev…ev'rywh're…." He mumbles, breathing rapid, harsh breaths.
Unable to watch him struggle anymore, Faith slides next to him against the wall, carefully maneuvering until his back is resting in her lap, his head lolling against her upper arm.
"Who did this to you, huh? Bosco? Who hurt you like this?"
"Don' know…jag-off jus' bea'…bea' th' shit out 'f me."
"I know, I can see that," she retorts dryly. "Just hang on though, alright? I hear the sirens already."
"Not goin' any…anywh're," he slurs.
They're silent for a few moments as Faith expectantly watches the entrance to the hallway, the fingers of her right hand massaging circles into the back of her partner's bloody hand.
"You fought back," she comments. Of course he did. He's Bosco. And from the looks of it, he fought back hard. His hands are all torn up.
"Shoul' see th' oth'r guy…."
She snickers at that, but grows somber at his next question.
"Did you…did you jus'…kiss…me?" His voice is small and unsure, and she sighs as she quickly reassures him.
"Yeah. I did."
"Oh. 'Kay. Jus'…checkin'."
"Yeah, well don't get any ideas. I'm a married woman."
A painful, shit-eating grin spreads across his face, and Faith knows she'll never hear the end of this, just as she knows with equal certainty that Fred will never find out about it.
"Knew…you l'ved m-e…." he chokes out, teasing, and she pushes aside her alarm at his growing difficulty breathing to smile for him.
"There's that pompous ego again," she retorts lightly.
She can hear the clomping feet of the paramedics making their way upstairs, and is able to relax marginally, knowing that her partner will soon be safe.
She doesn't understand how, or why; all she knows is that her partner was given back to her.
The last note had said, 'Consider this a warning.'
She takes it for its true meaning – a warning that life is short; that Bosco could be taken from her at anytime. All they have is today, moment by moment.
Later, at the hospital, Faith finally gets her answers about Bosco's disappearance and injuries.
The man responsible was none other than Mark Verniero, the grief-stricken older brother of a man who'd been arrested by Bosco for drug possession and later killed in prison. Mark was a custodian who worked graveyard shift at the precinct, which is how the note came to be in Faith's locker.
He and a couple friends ambushed Bosco just a few blocks away from his apartment, then held him in the cellar of a house in the Bronx. They beat him savagely, and their plan had been to kill him, but in the eleventh hour, Mark couldn't stomach it. After dumping Bosco in front of his apartment door, he drove down to the precinct and turned himself in.
When Faith visits him a day later, he cries and begs for her forgiveness.
A sinister man? Hardly.
As for Bosco, the wounds will heal. He will be on sick leave for a few months recovering from four broken ribs, multiple metacarpal fractures in both hands, a broken zygomatic bone, a concussion, and surgery to fix a punctured lung.
She's loathe to ever talk about that kiss, but knows Bosco will demand the conversation once he's more coherent.
She also knows he will freak out about it, and there will be time to worry about the consequences, about if it will change them.
For now, it's enough just to have him alive and whole. Having Bosco is enough.
Faith realizes they are lucky, and considers it a warning that they might not always be so.
A/N: Weiver. That "review" backwards. Please. With sugar on top. :P
In this chapter, I wanted to do a kind of 'nothing is as it seems' theme. Meaning, I didn't want to write the average Faith/Bosco thriller, where there's an evil dude bent on their destruction, blah, blah, blah. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I just wanted this to be different, maybe a little more original.
I hope that was achieved.
Metacarpal – bones in the hand
Zygomatic – cheek bone