DISCOVERY NIGHT

Penn O'Hara 2004

Jake can't contain his curiosity over Donovan's Mystery Woman.

Sequel for 'Karaoke Night' which I recommend should be read first.

Time: Soon after the episode, 'Manhunt'.

Usual UC:Undercover fanfic disclaimers apply.

Rated: PG

The day after 'Karaoke Night'.

Here ya go, Cody."

Jake set a full coffee cup down on Cody's desk and then pulled up a chair beside him. He peered at the screen on the laptop in front of the unit's tech wizard but it showed nothing more interesting than Cody's inbox. Jake knew his colleague was popular online, but he also knew that the only people who wrote to him were fellow-geeks.

"Coffee," Jake said. "Just the way you like it." He ignored the look of suspicion from the younger man, knowing what prompted it. Monica and Alex were giving him amused looks too from the long table that served as lunch/debrief/hang-out table, but he ignored them as well.

Jake never bothered making Cody cups of coffee.

"So... thanks," Cody said slowly, "what do you want?"

"Nothin, nothin. Well..." Jake moved in a little closer, edging the laptop away from Cody's attention. "I just wondered... if you knew more about this Marguerite of Donovan's."

"Nooo... should I?"

Jake spread out his hand. "Well, you and him went out the other night. On your own. I thought maybe..."

Cody took a sip of the coffee and grimaced. Jake suddenly remembered he didn't know how Cody liked his coffee. He had just made one the way he liked it. Too bad. It was the thought that counts.

"Wrong. If you're wondering if Marguerite turned up that night Donovan went out with me, she didn't. Tina did. Tina then… Marguerite last night. I wonder who it will be next time."

Jake smiled. Cody was peeved because he hadn't scored last night. None of them had. Except Donovan.

Jake looked at the others, desperate now that Cody had proved a dead-end. "Does anyone know anything about her?"

Monica looked up from the book she had been reading and shrugged. "Why do you want to know?"

"Why do I... You mean, you're not curious!" Jake's whole life was shrouded in secrecy, a by-product of the work he did. But he wasn't comfortable with others holding back from him, particularly the people he relied on to watch his back. Donovan was one big mystery to him and the tension that created was starting to gnaw at his nerves.

Monica shrugged again. "I guess so. I figure she's a professional singer and had no business being in a karaoke bar. And that hair? Though beautiful, isn't natural. She was wearing a wig. A good one. And she knew what she wanted. And got it. Donovan. Other than that..."

"Alex?" Jake believed Monica. The woman was savvy even for a psychologist. She knew people and she was observant, both traits invaluable for her job here. "You and the boss were chatting for a while there. Did you find out anything?"

Alex threw up her hands in defence. "Nope. And we weren't chatting. I was trying, unsuccessfully as you know, to persuade him to sing for us."

"Then where the hell did she come from?" Jake's plea encompassed them all. "And what was she doin' there?"

"I thought that was rather obvious," Monica said, surprise banishing her apathy. "The way she was all over Donovan, I wouldn't have thought I'd have to spell it out for you."

"You know what I mean." Jake pushed back his chair and started to pace the platform where they held their briefings. It was his way of sorting through things. He preferred his boss as the 'iceman' they previously thought. It made more sense given the way Donovan handled each assignment. Hell, handled Jake himself! An ordinary man couldn't have called Wilkes' bluff in the standoff that had Wilkes' girlfriend at the mercy of Frank and Jake at the mercy of the bank thief. And no ordinary man had worked out precisely how far to push Jake to get what he wanted. Donovan had the uncanny knack and knew how to use it.

"Go and ask him yourself," Monica suggested, dropping her eyes back to her book, her middle finger poised to turn the page.

Jake knew Monica was done with the conversation but he wasn't giving up. "You don't ask him things like that. You don't expect an answer anyway. That's what I mean! Last night he was totally out of character."

"Only the kissing part," Alex said, sliding onto a chair and grinning at him.

"Kissing! They weren't kissing. They were…consuming each other!"

Alex frowned. "What's your problem? You guys are into that sort of thing, aren't you?" Then the grin came back. "You're jealous it wasn't you!"

"You got it all wrong." Jake grabbed his chair again and pulled it alongside Alex. "Figure it," he said. "Donovan's the steel that holds this place together. If he goes soft on us, what'll happen to the rest of the team?"

"Bit melodramatic, don't you think?" Cody asked, still trying to drink the too-sweet coffee.

"Hey..." Jake stabbed the air with this finger. "He got me out of my funk when Keller went down, didn't he? Not many could have done that. The man's as tough as nails."

"He only got a little carried away after a woman sang to him," Alex said. "It's not like he's having a nervous breakdown."

Monica held up her hand. "I think what Jake's trying to say is that he needs his leader to be steadfast where his job is ever-changing; predictable where Jake's perps are psychotic. An anchor. Immovable."

Jake was impressed. He wasn't sure what Monica meant, but it sounded right. He needed an anchor. And one without cracks. He wasn't sure that was fair on Donovan, but that wasn't Jake's problem.

He heard the sound of soft footfalls on the stair above him and looked up to see Donovan heading down to their level.

"Jake, Alex. We're on the move. I'll explain on the way. Cody, patch into the head mikes. Monica, find out everything you need to know about ADA Nazario Ferrero."

Jake automatically headed for the passenger side of the car, getting there before Alex and dictating who sat in the back. Jake knew better than to ask Donovan if he could drive. He knew his boundaries, but he was determined to push the one on the man's deviation from character. Marguerite.

"Hey, boss," he said, once they had pulled into the main street traffic with Donovan at the wheel. "Gonna see Marguerite again?"

Donovan glanced across at him before watching the road again.

Jake got the silence he expected, but he had to break the ice. "She was... you know, a nice piece..."

"Cody..." Frank buzzed the other man back at base through his head mike, then switched on the intercom in the car.

"Yeah boss?"

"Get me to Cook County Court."

"On it."

"So," Jake persisted, "are you seeing her again?"

Donovan flicked him a look then switched back to the road.

"O-kay..." Cody came through the car speakers, "head towards Roosevelt and Michigan. Two blocks south and you'll hit Fourteenth Avenue. That's where you'll find your courthouse."

"Thanks. Monica?"

"I'm here."

"The ADA. How many cases has he lost?"

"In the last twelve months since he's been appointed? Only the big ones. Petty crime, assault - no problem. But financial fraud or any case involving clients with connections? They slip right through his fingers."

"Thanks."

"Sure thing."

"So, Frank..." Jake heard the frustration in his voice but didn't care.

"Forget Marguerite."

Alex snickered from the back seat and Jake looked out the car window, feeling like he had been put in his place. And good. Get over it, he thought.

"We'll be walking through the Court," Donovan briefed them. Have a good look while you're there and use the mikes to report what you see to Cody. Layouts, exits, security protocol. Next time we're in there, we'll be lawyer and clients."

"We're after Ferrero?" Alex asked.

"No, we're after his judge."

Jake couldn't forget about Marguerite. And he couldn't do his job with a mystery on his mind. When he got home that night, he made a phone call. Throwing himself into his favourite chair, phone in one hand and a beer in the other, he waited for his connection.

"Danny, yo man, how're ya doin?" He grinned hopefully into the mouthpiece. Danny Devine was a good friend and better private detective who had, unofficially, proved invaluable to the UC unit on many occasions.

"Jake? Is that you man?"

Jake wasn't surprised at the surprise in his friend's voice. It had been a while. It seemed as if he never had any time for friends anymore. "Yeah. It's me. I've been busy."

"You're always busy. Or AWOL. How they been hangin'?"

Jake laughed. "Hangin' just fine, Danny. I got a job for you."

"How is it that's the only reason why you call me lately?"

Jake leaned his head back on the chair and closed his eyes. "Yeah. I know, I'm slack. So sue me."

"No point doin' that. Last time I checked, you were broke. Records show your pay packet goin' out as fast as it comes in."

Jake sat up so fast, he tipped some of his beer into his lap. "Shiiiit. Danny, do you mind? I pay you to check up on other people, not me."

"Just bein' thorough, man. What's the job?"

Jake didn't know where to begin. How could even someone as good at ferreting out information as Danny help him with so little to go on? "It's not an easy one."

"They never are. That's why you pay me the little bucks."

Jake gripped his phone. It was do or die. "I want you to find a needle in a haystack, Danny."

Four days later, Danny rang back.

Despite working on the current sting, Jake had been impatient for this call. Donovan's mystery woman had been plaguing him.

"Jake?"

"Have you found her?" Jake was too impatient to hear what Danny had to say for common niceties. He thought it was an impossible task, but maybe his friend had come through for him.

"Let me get this straight," Danny said. "You want me to find a tall woman, who calls herself 'Marguerite' but it's probably an alias. She's beautiful in that certain kinda way, she can sing real nice and she's not averse to picking up strange men in bars. Oh, and she probably wears wigs."

Jake's heart sank. Danny hadn't found her. "You came up empty."

"Did I say that?"

"What?"

"I think I found her."

"Thanks man." Jake's day just got a whole lot better. After spending five hours in the courthouse with Donovan posing as Alex's clients, his boredom threshold had been maxed. Now things were looking up. He didn't know what he was going to do with Danny's information, but he sure was going to do something.

"What can you tell me about her?"

"Well, I didn't get any info on her. I just said I found her. It's up to you to go digging once I've given you the co-ordinates. Okay?"

"Sure. Fire away." Jake didn't care. With a lead, any sort of lead, he was a pretty good detective himself.

"Check out an address on South Clark Street. Got a pen?"

"Hang on." Jake darted to the unsteady kitchen table that doubled as his desk. He pushed aside papers, mostly bills and junk mail, to expose the pen that he pinched from Alex months ago. He poised it above a ripped envelope. "Yeah, shoot. Oh, Danny?"

"Yep?"

"How'd you find her? I didn't really think you would."

"Hey, man, I never reveal my sources. You wouldn't need me then, would you? 1369 South Clark. That's all you'll need. Go check it out."

"Okay, thanks Danny. I owe you."

"As always. Next time."

Jake hung up the phone and stared at the address on the envelope. He could go alone but he didn't want to. Jake had no idea what he would say or hope to accomplish once he confronted Marguerite but it wouldn't hurt to take another woman with him.

He picked up the phone again.

"So this is where you're gonna find Marguerite?" Alex asked.

Jake stared out of his car window at the building opposite. It was like every other building in the neighbourhood. Only the number of storeys and thickness of grime on the indeterminate colour schemes varied. This was just another concrete box with small windows on each storey and a serviceable door at the top of a short flight of slightly less serviceable stairs. At least it had a little less rubbish around its perimeter.

He turned back to Alex who was peering past his shoulder at the building. She looked like she wasn't prepared to leave the car, Marguerite or no. "According to Danny," he said, "and he's never wrong. Coming?"

She hesitated. It had been hard enough talking her into coming with him, but now he wondered if he was going to have to drag her out of his car.

"I don't know, Jake. I feel like we're poking our noses where they don't belong."

"Like we don't do this every other day?"

She glared at him. "That's different. That's the job. This... this is an invasion of privacy. And it could be we're messing into Donovan's private life too, which he's not going to thank us for. And I don't even know what we're gonna do when we meet her."

"Improvise as always." He appealed to her with everything he had. Wide-open brown eyes, devastating smile, he even tried for the earnest puppy-dog look. It usually worked on her. "Alex, you're here now. Let's just do this."

"Oh, okay." She pushed herself out of the car door and shut it behind her.

"Yesss! " Jake gloated. Worked every time. He got out his side of the car, locking the door. He doubted they would need a fast getaway.

Crossing the road, Jake reached back for Alex's hand. "What'll we do? Be the couple whose car has broken down and needs a phone?"

"In this day and age of cell phones?" she frowned, looking up and down the street. "I don't think so. How about interested house-buyers? We were out on a night on the town, and we happened to walk past this quaint little building and it's just what we're looking for. Maybe she knows of someone on a floor interested in selling?" Alex headed up the stairs of the building with him. "What floor's she on anyway?"

"Danny didn't say. We'll just have to check the mailboxes."

He tested the handle on the front door and it turned easily, but instead of opening onto a stairwell and foyer lined with mail slots, Jake found himself in a richly-appointed reception room: small, but comfortable-looking with several sofas, low tables topped with magazines and books, and large potted plants arranged in every available corner. The lighting was muted, the decor complete with a small reception desk and a young attractive woman behind it.

"Good evening," she said, standing to greet them and indicating one of the sofas. "Please take a seat." When they didn't move, she picked up a pen and a large leather-bound notebook and headed toward the nearest sofa. "I'm Bethany. How can I help you? Which one of you is interested in our establishment?"

Here's our opening, thought Jake, if he knew what the establishment was. He looked around the walls hoping for a sign, a mission statement, an advertisement - anything - to shed some light on exactly where they were. There was only one sign and it didn't help much. It was high on the wall opposite the reception desk. Gold embossed letters denoted the wall where it was fixed as the 'Wall of Fame'. Underneath it were photos of men, about thirty of them - large photos, head and shoulder shots, head and torso shots, full-length portraits and there wasn't one alike. The men were all good-looking and were either dressed well or semi-clad.

Where the hell were they? Jake was going to throttle Danny when next he got his hands on him. His friend had to know where he sent him, but hadn't bothered to fill him in, letting him assume it was the private residence of Marguerite. It was obviously something commercial and he wondered what part Marguerite played in its industry.

But Jake's job involved working on his toes. That's how he stayed alive and this was no different. "I am," he said, and dazzled Bethany with a smile.

"Excellent!" she said, indicating the sofa nearest to her. "We're always looking for new recruits and I'm sure Marguerite will love you." She opened the notebook she held and waited for them to sit before seating herself on the sofa opposite.

"Wait! Marguerite? Is she here?" Was it going to be that easy?

"I'm sorry, no, not at the moment." Bethany began writing on a new page in her book. "She's only here by day. She has a family to go home to at night."

Jake tried to catch Alex' attention but she was staring at the photos on the wall. A family? What was she doing hunting Donovan? He looked back at Bethany. "Can we contact her?"

"Jake." Alex put her hand on his knee and squeezed. He ignored her, too close to learning more about Donovan's mystery woman.

"I'm sorry," said Bethany. "Marguerite won't need to see you until I have more details and referrals. You do have referrals?"

"Jake!" Alex squeezed harder on his knee.

"May I see them?" Bethany persisted, a slight edge slipping into her voice.

Jake didn't even know what sort of referrals he would need to get past the sentry dog to his ultimate destination, Marguerite.

"Jake!"

"What?" He snapped back at Alex but she wasn't looking at him. She was still looking at the 'Wall of Fame'. "Alex…"

"Look at that photo," she said with a tinge of awe. "The one in the third row, second from the right."

Jake looked. It was a head and shoulders shot of a young man with dark waving hair falling past his shoulders. His face was what some called 'aquiline' - perfect narrow features contained in a finely trimmed beard. Sculpted brows arched above dark eyes, the slim straight nose was not too long, and a generous moustache framed an impossibly full mouth. He looked like a movie star. In fact, he looked familiar and Jake wondered if he'd already seen him in a movie.

But he wasn't interested in male movie stars. "Alex, not now!"

"But Jake! Have a good look at him."

Bethany sighed. "Ah yes, you have excellent taste. He was one of Marguerite's favourites. He pulled in all the rich ladies. They had to be wealthy to afford him. He was very lucrative in his day."

"Was?" Alex asked, turning to Bethany, her eyes wide.

"Unfortunately for Marguerite, he retired and changed careers. We lost him and large portion of our clientele. They were devastated. Some of them went to other agencies trying to find him, but I don't think they were successful.

"And his occupation was...?" Alex asked slowly.

Bethany smiled at Jake. He knew what was coming next, even if Alex hadn't worked it out yet. Jake hadn't missed the 'afford him' comment. "Escort, of course. There's a cruder term, but we don't use it."

"Gigolo," Alex breathed, looking back at the photo.

"So about Marguerite," Jake said, turning back to Bethany and hoping Alex was satisfied now.

"Jake! Forget Marguerite!" Alex was nearly shouting at him. He remembered Donovan using those same words. Neither of them realised the full extent of his tenacity.

"Don't you see who that is?" she insisted.

He squinted back at the photo. "Gee, I don't know. I picked him for some B-movie star. Do you know him?"

"Know him?" The question came out in a very uncharacteristic squeak. "Look again! Cut the hair super-short, add a little grey at the temples, and take the moustache and beard back to a light goatee. Who've you got?"

Jake looked harder. And let his imagination follow Alex's instructions.

"Son...of...a…!" Jake rounded on Bethany. "What's his name?" Jake demanded, his voice hoarse.

"I'm sorry." Bethany snapped her notebook shut and her chin went up in disgust. "If you are not here to…"

"The man in the photo!" Jake felt as if he'd been hit by a bus. "What's his name?"

"We don't divulge names," Bethany said, belligerently defending her position. "Only to interested clientele. Paying clientele."

"Shit!" said Alex, and Jake heard his partner losing patience as well. "I'm an interested clientele. I do this all the time. Sign me up! Now, what's his name?"

"It's not that easy." Bethany stood and went to show them the door. "Anyway, as he's a retired contractor, we wouldn't give out any information without his permission. The most you'll get is that photo."

Alex jumped up and reached both hands to the photo. Bethany was right behind her, preventing her from actually ripping it off the wall.

"I don't mean you can have it, literally!"

"Are there any others?" Alex demanded.

Jake looked more closely at the ornately-bound volumes on the table in front of him. "Alex! These books are albums. There might be another one in here." Jake hurriedly opened one and flipped through it.

"Where?" Alex joined him, closely followed by Bethany, who slapped the book shut on Jake's fingers.

"You won't find his photo in the available files," she said testily. "I told you, he's retired. That's all we've got." She picked up the album and held it to her chest like protective armour. "If you're not legitimately seeking to join our stable then please leave."

"As if." Jake came around the low table and stared Bethany down. "We want Marguerite and you're going to give us her number, okay?"

Bethany relaxed a little. "Look, if this is a bust or something, we're legally registered as a business. You're wasting your time."

Jake came in closer, toe to toe. He wasn't above intimidation if it got what he wanted. "No, you're wasting my time. Since when was it not a reasonable request to personally talk to the proprietor of a business before deciding to join her ... stable?"

The phone rang and Bethany looked at it in relief. She slipped past Jake and reached the phone on its third ring. "Yes? ... Thank goodness! ... They're all yours." She hung up the phone and indicated the door to the right of her desk.

"You're wanted," she said. "In there."

Jake looked at Alex who shook her head, as confused as he. "What's in there?" he asked.

"You won't know unless you go in, will you?" Bethany walked out the front door, letting it close softly behind her.

"What the...?"

Instinctive action banished his confusion.

Moving swiftly, Jake flattened himself against the wall to the right of the door, and indicated that Alex should take the left. She followed his lead and then he bent down and removed the gun he always carried inside his sock. Flipping the gun into his left hand, he leaned across and grabbed the door handle with his right, mouthing a count to three while Alex watched. On three, he turned the handle and pushed in the door in one motion and the two of them erupted into the room beyond, guns covering the interior in a practised sweep.

"Alex. Jake. Nice of you to drop in," Donovan said from a seat behind a large heavy-duty desk.

Jake's gaze had already processed the rest of the room. Some minor video equipment, TV monitor, a phone on the otherwise empty desk where Donovan sat, and another sofa and couple of chairs in front of the desk. There was movement behind him and Jake jumped and swung his gun around but pulled back in time as he saw Cody throw up his hands in surrender. Monica was right beside him. They had been against the wall, out of the way of Alex's and his entry.

"Hey, guys," Cody said, throwing himself onto the sofa.

Monica went over to the video feed and fiddled with the controls, unsuccessfully trying not to smile. "I have to rewind this to the place where Alex discovers the boss's photo. It's worth seeing again."

"Geesus! What is going on?" Jake swung his gaze from one to another and then back to Donovan. "What is this?"

"This is teaching you a lesson, Jake," Donovan said, rising and moving from behind the desk. He leaned back against the front of it and crossed his arms. "Once again, you disobeyed an order. I told you to forget Marguerite, but you still pursued it. One of these days you'll take me seriously."

"This was a sting?" Alex asked. "But why me? I didn't do anything!"

Donovan flicked her a glance, as cold as the one he had directed at Jake. Jake felt sorry for her. It had been his fault not hers.

"You let yourself get dragged into this, Agent Cross. You should have known better."

Alex collapsed onto the sofa, flung her head back and closed her eyes. "You had me so… going."

"And Jake too," Cody said gleefully. "When he worked out whose photo he was looking at, you could have played ping pong with his eyeballs."

Alex's head snapped upright and swung around to Donovan. "That photo! Was it really you?"

Donovan inclined his head. "I paid my way through college by modelling - photographic mainly. I've still got a few of the portraits lying around."

"You mean you weren't really a gigolo?" Cody said, genuinely disappointed.

Alex's eyes widened. "Art classes?"

Donovan smiled, a mere stretching of his lips. "One or two."

"Shit! What I wouldn't give to have been in one of those sessions…"

"I'd rather not," Cody said. "I've heard about Art Class models and I definitely do not want to go there."

Donovan straightened from the desk, looking around the room at his team. "Leave us. Jake, remain behind."

The others filed out of the room, Monica closing the door after her. Jake knew a lecture was coming, he knew he deserved it, but he figured if his boss would only open up a bit more, all of this wouldn't have been necessary.

Donovan went back to the chair he had vacated earlier, leaned his elbows on the desk, and steepled his fingers against his chin. "Take a seat, Jake."

Jake settled into one of the seats in front of the desk. He leaned back in it, almost tipping it on two legs, showing a bravado he didn't really feel.

"When I tell you something, I expect you to listen. And act upon it."

Jake looked away from the intensity in Donovan's gaze. "Yeah, sure, I know that."

"You know that. You remember that. But you don't act upon that. You go ahead with your own agenda. Do you know why?"

"I was curious..." The mutiny in his voice sounded juvenile even to his own ears, but he didn't care. He was tired of the pep talks.

"I don't mean just in this instance, Jake. I mean every time. Every time that it doesn't suit you to back off."

"You think I'm a loose cannon." Hell, he sounded like a spoiled brat, but Jake couldn't help himself. He hated this side of Donovan.

"I don't think. I know. What we're going to do about it, is another thing."

Jake waved a hand behind him. "Don't you think this was all a bit elaborate just to teach me a lesson?"

"No. I don't." Donovan leaned forward and placed his linked hands down onto the desktop. "You never had any accountability for your actions. Your decisions. So, you continue with what suits you. This time, you only made a fool of yourself and Alex in front of your team. Next time...who knows?"

Jake couldn't believe his ears. Surely Donovan didn't want a mindless robot in the job. "What are you saying? I'm not allowed to use initiative?"

"No. I'm saying you need to observe, to evaluate and act in any situation except in the ones where you are given a definite instruction from a superior. A direct order. If you do that and it all goes down badly, your nose is clean. If not, you get stuck cleaning up the mess. And one of these days, Jake, it will get very messy."

Jake was mesmerised by the look in Donovan's eyes. It was unflinching and primal. It spoke of things seen or experienced that hadn't even touched Jake yet. Things that Jake hoped would never touch him.

"Can I trust you on this, Jake?"

Jake's gaze slid away. "Yeah, sure, boss. Sure you can." He threw his hands in the air. "I'm cured. Honest. Obey orders at all times, work on instinct every other time. Got it."

Donovan leaned back in his chair, in no hurry to dismiss the younger man. Jake started to squirm in his seat, as if he was in the Principal's office and was one step away from expulsion.

"Is there anything you want to know?" Donovan asked.

It was on the tip of Jake's tongue. In fact, it almost fell right out there and then.

Who's Marguerite?

But he pulled back in time.

"No boss, nothin'. Nothin' at all."

Finis.