Charlie couldn't believe what she had learned from Dr. Mercer. How did he justify keeping this information from Toby all these years? While it was true that Ray didn't know where Maya was now he had at one time. There were clues that could be followed to trace where his mother had been, and perhaps from there they could find where she had gone. Charlie knew she had to share this new information with Toby and hope that it led to answers for both of them.
She knocked gently on Toby's door, but no one answered. Music was filtering through the door, and she started to grow concerned when a second more insistent round of knocking went unheeded. "Toby?" Marx called out. Nothing. She tried the door and moved forward cautiously when it easily swung open. Charlie saw him lying still on the couch then her eyes fell to the envelope lying upside down on the floor. She hesitated a moment before coming closer.
"No it's not a suicide note." Toby's voice rang out startling the detective before he opened his eyes and sat up. Toby noted her slight glare as he flipped off the music and turned on a lamp. "Liv decided to break things off." he explained indicating the envelope on the floor. Charlie's expression turned to anxious sympathy. She didn't always see eye to eye with Dr. Faucet but she knew they had been trying to work things out.
"Sorry Toby…" Charlie awkwardly attempted to fill the silence.
He shrugged it off with a cynical chuckle, "Should've seen it coming anyway." Seeing Charlie's confused expression he continued. "She couldn't take me constantly being in her head. Guess I'm not that different from Ethan after all, huh? You were right Charlie. Violating the mind is no better than violating the body. Rape is rape regardless –"
"Wait a minute I never said – " she interjected with anger stirring in her voice.
"But it's the truth. What I do- it's no better." He countered raising his voice as emotions intensified.
She came to sit beside him on the couch and lowered her voice. The words wanted to catch in her throat, but she forced them out as she held his gaze for emphasis. "Toby you are not a rapist. What Ethan did …" her voice faltered a moment but neither looked away. "What Ethan did was deliberate. He used power and control to force pain on another. You have never used your ability to harm anyone. "
"Never harmed anyone…" he narrowed his eyes challenging her assessment, "So exposing the secrets you wouldn't have willingly shared was fine with you?"
She blinked, looked down and whispered, "That was not done on purpose. You weren't trying to hurt me."
"But I did all the same. Intentional or not intentional harm was still done. I'm no less the freak." He insisted.
"Intention does matter… legally and personally. Human nature isn't perfect sometimes people get hurt. But you are not a freak. How many people are better off for you having used your gift? You are forgetting the good you have done and only focusing on what harm youmay have inadvertently caused. Going to beat yourself up because you're not perfect? Got news for you – no one is. " Charlie mentally shifted gears and thought of how to bring up the information she had come to tell him. "There is something I need to talk to you about … it's why I came over. "
Toby put his emotions of guilt and self-recrimination aside to listen. "OK, what's up?"
"I talked to Mercer about your file." Toby visibly tensed but said nothing. "He doesn't know where Maya currently is, but … Toby, when you were five Ray managed to track down your mother. " Toby rapidly blinked and tried to absorb what Charlie was telling him. "She was still running from people and decided that you would be safer away from her. I think she intended to come back for you once the danger had passed. Why she didn't I'm not sure. "
"Ray never said anything …" Toby struggled to believe the words that flew in the face of what he thought of his mentor and the closest thing to a father he had ever known.
"I know… he focused on helping you to block out the voices. Over time it seemed less important." She conveyed more of the conversation that she explored with Ray.
'Less important' he thought and sarcastically chuckled. "My mother was alive… he knew she was alive and never told me." Anger began to creep into his voice.
"I don't agree with his decision Toby, but he was trying to protect you in his own way." She paused a moment. "There's more." She needed to lay it all out for him and allow Toby to decide what to do with the knowledge. He stared at her with wide eyes and attempted to slow his breathing to a calmer level. "I reviewed the footage from the robbery at Mercer's office. There was an emblem on Clooney's cufflink that I've been trying to match. It looked familiar but I couldn't place it. I realized on the drive over here where I've seen it before. The jacket Ethan was wearing had the same image on the upper right hand corner. I think the same people that sent Clooney are tied in with Ethan. "
It was Toby's turn to share what he knew about Ethan from reading his mother's journal. "I know. Clooney was Ethan's father. Maya got involved with him and then he used her. Frank helped my mother escape just before Ethan was born, but Clooney found us and took Ethan back. Ethan grew up being a tool for them to manipulate, but he is not with them anymore. He's trying to find Maya. He's trying to figure out the truth. "
"How can you be sure Ethan is not part of a set up? That he is not still working for them?" Her cop's instinct was to question everything.
"He's not. All I can do is ask you to trust me on that. "She nodded acceptance to his request, but she still felt uneasy about the whole situation.
Ethan sat in the hotel room punching away at the keys on his laptop as he checked on the status of the Institute's computer system. He had left a back door password that would enable him to get back into the system whenever he needed to while still allowing the general passwords of the staff to be disabled. They had managed to find a few of the digital malware files he had planted but the system was still functioning at only about 60% of its normal capacity. The distraction and lack of full defenses allowed Ethan the freedom to explore the archive files to search for more information on Maya. Most of the files were from before Ethan was born and would not grant current location or condition, but after a few hours of searching though encrypted files that were coded numerically rather than labeled with names he found data on Maya that was less than a year old. Seems the Institute had been monitoring Maya in hopes of her leading them back to Toby rather than picking her up out right. She had been moving constantly using a variety of aliases, but the resources of the Institute were far reaching and despite the extended time frame and creative ways to stay under the radar she had not been able to successfully escape their notice.
One set of image files included x-rays taken a few months earlier. Judging by the doctor's notes accompanying the copied scans, the images were showing a malignant brain tumor. The clinic had advised surgery, but Maya had fled before the operation was performed.
There was nothing noted about Frank. Maya must have realized she was being tracked and had sent Frank to find Toby rather than taking the chance of leading the Institute's operatives to her son. What Frank's instructions were when he found Toby was still a mystery. Ethan copied the files to his laptop and disconnected.
Ray sat at the visitor's station waiting for Frank to be brought in. Their eyes met as the older gentleman sat down and they both paused for several moments not sure where to begin.
"How are you feeling Frank?" Ray began with some small talk.
"OK… doing OK. How is Toby?" the concern showed in Frank's voice.
"He's fine. The trial is coming up soon so perhaps you will get to see him then. Your attorney feels confident the case will result in a self defense verdict being rendered. Toby's still looking for Maya. Frank, do you remember what happened to the second baby that Maya gave birth to? Can you tell me anything about Toby's younger brother?" Ray's voice was tinged with curiosity and concern.
"Brother…. Brother – "Frank's eyes lit up. "Yes Maya had another boy. Only saw him once. Beautiful baby. Baby boy… yes she did have another baby." Frank's physical condition was no longer a major concern but his memory was not fully recovered and often came back in starts and fits.
"Frank do you remember where you helped Maya escape from… do you remember where you met Maya and Toby… or William as he was called then?" Ray knew it might be a lot to ask of Frank to go back and pull those dim recollections from his memory.
To his surprise, Frank rattled off an address that Ray quickly jotted down. Ray read the address and looked up at Frank almost cautiously. "Are you certain?"
"Worked there yes…. Long time ago." Frank nodded.
"Have you remembered what Maya wanted you to tell Toby when you found him?" hope shone in Ray's voice.
"Tell Toby… no I don't remember anything I was supposed to tell Toby. Was supposed to call Maya…. Call her when I got here and found him. Yes, that's right I was supposed to call Maya and let her know." Frank's confidence strengthened as he retraced the memory.
Maybe Frank was never intended to actually talk to Toby, but rather simply check on him and report back to Maya. Visiting time was almost up and Ray wanted to get back to his office to check out this address. "Thank you Frank… take care and I'm sure this will be resolved soon."
"Couldn't go back there – it wasn't a good place. Don't let them find Toby." Frank pleaded as he was led away.
"I'll try my best old friend…" Ray commented to himself as he watched Frank leave with the attendant.
Toby's cell phone started ringing and the sound startled both him and Charlie with its shrillness. Walking over to pick it up from the computer table he saw the call was coming from a number he didn't recognize. Glancing over to where Charlie still sat on the couch he pressed the answer button and hesitantly said "Hello?"
Ethan's voice came back, "Found some interesting scans archived that I thought you might want to see. Seems Maya was wrong… it wasn't her mind reading that was the issue. Sending them over now to your E-mail. Going to check out her last destination. "
"What scans?" Toby tried to question Ethan for clarification but the call ended with a final click before he could get the words out.
Charlie looked over at Toby in puzzlement. "What was that all about?" She walked over to Toby who had put the phone down and was logging onto his e-mail.
"Ethan – said he sent some scans on Maya." The images popped up on screen and Toby scrutinized them closely.
Charlie was at a loss as to what the images on the screen represented. "What are we looking at here?"
Tension was plain on Toby's face. "It's a tumor. Looks like a pretty nasty one at that. Untreated this could easily prove fatal." He looked for a date code. "These were taken four months ago. "
"How long would someone with this condition have?" Charlie asked.
"Untreated... it's hard to say exactly without comparison scans to know how fast the tumor is growing, but even at the size of this image … " Toby shook his head. "It would definitely be affecting emotion and higher reasoning ability. We need to find her – fast."
Ray locked his office door, walked over and sat down at his computer and typed in the address Frank had given him. General searches were coming up empty, but when he started using abbreviations in the street address a possibility came up. The search came back with a research center specializing in neuro-science. A few clicks later he found the page detailing the latest published research articles and was surprised to recognize one of the authors as a former colleague. Dr. Benjamin Walker had been one of the brightest minds in Mercer's graduate level education courses. It had been years since they had spoken, but were on good terms during the time they were classmates. Perhaps he should give Ben a call and see what he was up to now. It certainly would be a better route to take than calling up the office number and asking if they were conducting unauthorized secret research on mind reading.
Dr. Walker was out of the office, so Ray left a message asking for a call back for help concerning a baffling case he was working on that could use a new perspective. Feeling restless, Ray decided to take a drive just to see if he could locate the address. When Ray opened his office door to leave he found Toby standing there with Charlie a few feet behind him.
"Going somewhere?" Toby's voice was friendly enough but there was an edge of tension that Ray immediately picked up on.
"Was heading out to grab a bite to eat." The excuse was not a total lie as Ray did plan on grabbing lunch before coming back to the office, but the smile on Toby's face disappeared.
"Bit far to go for lunch isn't it?" Toby indicated the piece of paper in the professor's hand showing the address and directions Ray had printed. Ray's shoulders slumped in resignation as he took a few steps back into his office, issuing an unspoken invitation for Toby to join him.
Sensing that this was not a good time to be a third wheel, Charlie opted to exclude herself from the discussion. "I'm going to go grab a cup of coffee." She tossed out then headed down the hall to the vending area. Toby never replied but rather kept his gaze on Ray as he began walking forward. When both men were alone in the office the pleasantries were dropped.
"When were you going to tell me Ray?" Toby's voice cracked with emotion.
Wary eyes turned back to meet Toby's pained expression. "Tell you what Toby? "
"You knew. You knew that my mother was alive yet you never told me. How much else do you know? What else have you kept from me?" The barrage of questions exploded from Toby's mouth refusing to be kept silent any longer.
"She asked me to keep you safe… " He wiped a hand over his eyes, "I did that the best way I knew how Toby. I made the decisions I did while trying to honor your mother's wishes. I only spoke to her that one time before she disappeared again. So much time has gone by since then… who knows what happened to her after that conversation. There was no way to reconnect, and you had already been through such trauma. "
"And the address? What's at 8273 W. Carlton Way… is she…" Toby could barely believe that Ray would deliberately hide Maya's location from him, but now his trust was shaken with the past secret revealed.
"I don't know." Ray admitted.
Toby glared at him. "Why don't I believe you?"
"Frank gave me this address as the place he used to work at… the place he helped you and Maya escape from so many years ago. What it is now… if it even has any connection to what was happening back then, I honestly don't know Toby. "
"Then why were you going there?" Toby wanted to believe him.
"To check it out… to see if I could find out more information. " Ray claimed
Charlie had walked back slowly to give the two men time to finish their conversation. Hearing the words pouring out through the open office door caused her to lean against the frame with cup in hand and listen to this last exchange before interjecting her own remarks. "So what? You were planning on just walking in the front door and demanding to know what they did with Maya? Oh there's a plan." She scowled disapprovingly.
Toby and Ray both shot her a startled look. They had half forgotten she was there. She took advantage of the silence to walk further into the office. "Have you given the police this information?" The question was directed at Ray although she glanced over at Toby as well in silent assessment.
The guilty look on Ray's face was answer enough. "I wanted to check it out first." The words tumbled out in an only half believable tone.
"Now I know where he gets it from." She mumbled disgustedly under her breath. The two men looked puzzled. "Toby is always sticking his nose into police matters and now I see you ready to head off like the lone ranger as well." She retorted to Ray. "This is a police case and I would like you both to stop playing cop. Let me see the address." Charlie indicated the paper in Ray's hand. He handed it over reluctantly.
"You are not going without me." Toby insisted.
"And if I have you arrested and held to keep you from following?" She knew it was an empty threat, but Charlie was praying that Toby wouldn't see through it. He grinned.
"You are still on leave detective. Somehow I don't think Becker would look too kindly on the whole situation." The gleam in Toby's eyes screamed he had won and he knew it.
The phone on Ray's desk came to life and Ray hustled over to grab the receiver before the second ring finished. "Hello?"
"Dr. Mercer?" The voice on the other end of the line came back.
"Yes, this is Dr. Mercer. Can I help you?" the voice seemed familiar, but was not instantly recognizable.
"This is Dr. Benjamin Walker. You left a message on my voice mail regarding a second opinion on a case," he explained.
Charlie and Toby were watching Ray intently. "Yes… would you have time to meet with me to review the details?" Ray vaguely inquired trying to keep his guests from realizing what the conversation was pertaining to.
"What case are you working on, and if you don't mind my asking, why call me?" Curiosity filled Dr. Walker's voice.
"It's a case for a course I'm teaching that brings into light some research published in your most recent paper." That was a flat out lie, but Ray needed an excuse to get off the phone and out of the office.
The name finally connected in Dr. Walker's memory and he questioned, "Mercer… Not Ray Mercer?"
"Yes actually." Ray confirmed.
"I didn't recognize your voice at first. Look, I'm going to be leaving this afternoon for a conference, but we could meet when I return in a couple days." The relation to his recent work quickly dispelled Dr. Walker's natural hesitancy.
Hope flickered out for Ray that he could use this meeting as an excuse to escape his office and this interrogation. "That would be great. Will look forward to meeting with you then." Ray finished with the pleasantries and ended the call and then had to turn to face Toby and Charlie again.
"A colleague that I attended university with…" Ray gave in quick explanation to the questioning stares.
"Uh huh… I'm going to go check out this address." Charlie tossed off as she grabbed her keys from her pocket and headed for the door.
"Right behind you." Toby just grinned at her narrowed eyes, but didn't stop following her out.
"Toby..." Ray's voice had a hesitancy held over from their earlier, unfinished discussion. ++I'm sorry for not telling you back then, but I still think it was for the best.++
Toby paused for half a moment to exchange an expression mixed with disbelief, pain, and empathy with his lifelong mentor before walking out the door. They would definitely talk more later.
Ethan had tracked Maya's movements to a little bed and breakfast where she had stayed the night before the accident that had resulted in her car being deserted along the snowy bank.
"She didn't mention where she was headed, but sure was in a hurry to get started. Was out of here before breakfast was even served." The puzzled hostess explained to Ethan. +++Didn't even leave a tip. Hummppt+++ There was nothing of use that he could pull from her mind. Frustrated, he gave her a curt nod and let the door slam on his way out.
Another dead end. Ethan was starting to wonder if it would just be better to let her disappear back into the past. He had never known what it was like to have a mother. So why did he care so much now? Out of leads and partly out of habit, he wandered the back roads that led towards the Institute.
"You OK?" Charlie glanced over at Toby. "You haven't said a word since we left."
"What is there to say?" He shrugged her question off, but the bitterness in his voice easily gave him away.
Expressing her feelings was not exactly Charlie's strong point. Having feelings in the field while bullets were flying was a distraction a cop couldn't afford, and Charlie had learned though her life as well as her police training to put on a good poker face to keep her emotions hidden. That was probably why she could tell Toby was doing exactly the same thing now. Someone who didn't know Toby might only see his calm exterior, and not catch the tightness around his eyes or the little too practiced smile with the squared shoulders that were a tad too straight. But she had been around him enough to know he was holding back a tidal wave inside.
"For what it's worth I don't think he understood how much it would hurt you." Her tone was still business-like, but there was also an unspoken invitation to talk. Toby stared at her as she kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead. Still she caught his glare in her peripheral vision.
"Charlie, he kept the fact that my mother was alive from me. How can someone not know…" his voice choked off as he turned to look out the window in an effort to fight back the tears.
Charlie glanced in her rear view mirror seconds before the black Ford truck behind them revved up and slammed into the back of the car. There was no time to correct the skid to keep the car on the road. The best she could do was attempt to control the obstacles the car crashed against as the car flew off into the ditch.
Author's Note: Life has gotten rather crazy again – I plan on picking up again in the next installment with resolution to the questions from Toby's past as well as Charlie and Toby's future. Hopefully written over this summer break… but will have to see what life allows. Thanks again go out to my beta reader Joyce without whom I would not have been able to put up this second half due to my computer crashing.