DC Central Detention Facility
Two weeks later
After seeing the red message light, Gillian Foster pressed the text button on her phone.
Smiled when she saw the message.
-hi Gillian! ! how's it going?
She didn't have to look at the name of the sender. The multiple exclamation marks always gave Emily Lightman away.
-I'm good. How are you? How's school?
-school would be even better if dad didn't keep calling and texting and distracting me!
-He loves you
-Maybe that too but he misses you!
-can you distract him for me? so i can study in peace? a mind is a terrible thing to waste, Gillian. do it for my grades? please?
Gillian laughed out loud.
-so you'll do it?
-i'll invite u to my convocation...and buy u cupcakes.
-That is tempting.
-so that's a yes then?
There was no quick response after that and Gillian wondered if that meant an end to their banter. That the next message wouldn't be so light-hearted. Gillian knew that, jokes aside, what happened between her and Cal hurt Emily too.
-are u ever going 2 forgive him?
Gillian bit her lip, not sure how to respond. Part of her wanted to forgo this texting business and just dial Emily's number. She was so much better with voices than she was with the written word. Writing was Cal's forte not hers.
-There's nothing to forgive, Em. There's some things that need to change between us and I need a little more time, but your Dad and I, we're going to be okay
-i'm not twelve, Gill.
-It's the truth.
-ok. but don't wait too long. u and dad are getting old. it's not like u have all this time to waste
-LOL...just kidding. ok, mostly. u know i love u.
-Love you too
-btw...you're still invited to my graduation even if you're still not talking 2 dad four years from now. mark the date in your calendar
Even if she hated texting, she loved that it made her feel like Emily Lightman was still very much a part of her life. Made her realize how much she missed her, especially after all that she'd done for her after the accident.
-I'll be there. Promise
-good. gotta go. talk to u soon.
-For sure. Miss you. xoxo
She hadn't even put away her phone when Dr. Doug Penn barged into her office. Unannounced, as usual. It irritated her when he did that and Gillian figured that's precisely why he did it.
He stared at the Blackberry in her hand.
"I hope that was a business call."
"It wasn't," Gillian shot back. Two could play this game. Personal calls weren't forbidden, even if her boss liked to pretend they were.
He tossed a folder on her desk. "Tell me you were joking about this recommendation, Dr. Foster."
Gillian had no idea what he was talking about. Had to open the folder to find out. Recognition dawning on her when she saw the name inside.
"Did you recommend an early parole for DeShawn White?"
"Yes," Gillian did remember him now. The twenty-one-year old. Doing ten years for armed robbery. The session she had with him last week. It was hard to keep track. There were so many inmates. So many sessions. They were already starting to blur together. "I did."
Dr. Douglas Penn took the folder from her hands.
"I'm going to read an excerpt from the transcript of your session for you, Dr. Foster." He cleared his throat with a little cough. "There's a question here, from you: 'DeShawn what's the first thing you would do if you were granted an early release?' His response was, 'Rob a store that's got worse security system than the last one?'"
Gillian closed her eyes with a groan. "It was a joke."
She remembered fighting back a smirk at the response. Remembered feeling a sense of triumph for having eased the man out of the one-word answers from his previous session.
"It's here in black and white."
This time she grabbed the folder from Penn's hands. "If you're going to insist on black and white, why don't I read the part that comes after that?" Her eyes scanned the paper until she saw where he'd plucked the sentence from. " ' Seriously, doc? I wanna spend a whole day with my son. Wanna watch him breathe when he sleeps at night. Hear him scream his lungs out when he wants food. Wanna hold him 'til he stops crying. Wanna change his diapers for the first time. Feed him. That's what I wanna do. I want more than twenty minutes behind bars with my boy. I want it so bad and I swear to God I'd never do anything to mess that up again' "
"You think an attorney is going to read that part if he goes out and robs another business the second we let him out?"
"He's not going to rob another store!"
"You know this how?"
"I believe him!"
"Why? Was it something about the sound of his voice when he talked to you?"
Gillian bit her tongue, fighting back the urge to say what she really wanted.
"No," she said softly. "Because everything he's done here according to your own records has shown a desire to better himself. He's shown remorse for his actions. Written letter of apology to those affected. He's made the effort to continue his education behind bars and..."
She didn't get a chance to finish. Penn cut her off mid-sentence.
"Well, then he should be smart enough not to joke about robbing another store." He frowned as he met her gaze. "I'm overriding your recommendation due to a self-confessed probability of recurring offense. You can thank me later."
"I don't agree..." she countered but Penn had already turned his back on her. Was already making his way out the door, as unceremoniously as he'd entered it a few minutes earlier.
"I didn't ask if you did," was the last thing she heard him mumble.
She watched him leave, speechless, mouth hanging open, until finally the anger took over and it made her want to kick something. Made her pick up a pencil case and throw it against the wall in frustration.
It nearly hit Alex Almeida when he entered her office.
He ducked and raised his arm in front of his face.
"Wow..." he observed after the object crashed to floor, away from him, half a dozen pens rolling on the ground next to it. He looked at her, amused. "You'r so sexy when you're angry, Gillian. You almost make me want to switch sides."
Gillian cringed. "I'm sorry."
"For making me want to switch sides?"
She smiled a lop-sided smile. It was hard to stay angry around Alex. "No. For almost killing you."
"You're going to have to throw a little harder and pick up something bigger if you really want to kill me. Saw Doug leaving. Guessing it was him you were trying to kill." Alex made a disappointed face. "Too bad you missed." Then he handed her a folder. "I came by to cash in on my favour. Remember when I took one of your cases two weeks ago so you could do that stuff for the Lightman Group..."
"Yeah...of course. I'll take care of it."
"Not until tomorrow. Maurice has a big reception at his restaurant tomorrow night and I want to leave early, to go home and get glamorous before I join him."
"I can do it today," she told him. She had no plans and could stay late. In fact it still felt weird sometimes, to work only an eight hour shift. Still didn't quite know what to do with all the extra time on her hands.
"He's getting patched up by the medics today. Won't be ready for us until tomorrow."
Gillian raised her eyebrows, letting him know she didn't understand. Every now and then he'd make casual references to something that went right over her head.
"He got beat up pretty bad," Alex explained. "Apparently word got around that he's a pedophile."
"Why wasn't he in solitary then?" she questioned. That much she'd learned. Those in for child molestation weren't given much interaction with other inmates. Precisely so they wouldn't get beaten to a pulp. And when an inmate did get beaten up there was always an obligatory psych consultation afterwards. To make sure he wasn't suicidal. To see whether he was mentally stable enough to handle solitary confinement.
" 'Cause that's not what he's in for. He's in here for aggravated assault."
Gillian opened the folder and felt a chill run down her spine when she saw the name.
"What is it?"
"I'm sorry. I can't do this one."
"Do you know him?" He eyed her. Must've caught some of the fear on her face.
"He's the guy I went to assess for that Lightman Group case two weeks ago. Cal Lightman is the guy he assaulted! But... that isn't what he's supposed to be in here for!" Her mind tried to piece together what could have happened. Hunter Kline wasn't supposed to be in here yet. Detective Wallowski had only just started putting together a case against him and if it came to a trial that could take months. Not weeks. Unless...
Unless she couldn't put together a case and that's all they had left to nail him for. An assault charge.
"Are you serious?" Alex sat down across from her, reaching over into the bowl of candies that sat on her desk. Helping himself to a couple. "This guy assaulted Dr. Lightman? That's crazy."
Gillian shuddered as she thought back to those hours she spent with Kline at the police station. At this things she could see on his face. The unspoken threats he kept shooting in her direction. "I'm sorry, Alex. I can't take this guy for you. Not this one. I'll take any other case off your hands."
"No worries," he told her, unwrapping one of her candies. "I put your name down for Kline on the list tomorrow. But I'll change it."
She saw the concern on his face as he studied her. "I haven't seen any guy freak you out like this. And I've seen Doug assign you some major creeps."
Gillian slipped into a wool sweater. It suddenly felt so much colder in here. "I don't know what it is about Kline," she admitted. "He didn't even have any prior convictions since coming in here. But there's something about him..."
"Hey...it's okay, Gillian. I'll keep him," Alex assured her. "I'll find another criminal for you."
"Look, I'm sorry it turned out that way," Cal Lightman told her.
"I didn't come here for sympathy," Wallowski reminded him. Her hands were in her jean pockets and she made no move to sit down on the couch in his office. Cal sensed it wasn't going to be a long visit and he was glad. He had a flight to catch after all. "I wanted to tell you what happened. In person because you and Foster...you both did what you could to help me with this." She sighed. "Even if all I got in the end was a lousy assault charge. Six months. It's a joke. He'll probably be out in three. If that."
"You're welcome," he shot back. "Aren't you glad I'm so bloody aggravating?"
She mustered a meagre smile. "You know we even had several cops in Bangkok who were ready to help us build this case. There's some teenage prostitutes who were left in really bad shape after Kline went there this spring. They're willing to talk."
Cal held up his hand wanting her to stop. She kept telling him more about this guy than he cared to know. Kept putting images in his head that he didn't want there.
"Let it go," he said softly. "It's not your fault they killed the first search you did."
"Or that a second search warrant was pointless." She sighed. "Of course we found nothing. It's just so damn unfair."
"It's an unfair world, luv."
"You did what you could," he reminded her. "And more."
Cal met her dark eyes and let her know he understood.
"Will you let Foster know?"
Her gaze lingered on him. "How are things with you two? Any better?"
Cal shrugged. "We haven't talked. Not since that evening at the station." Cal could see that she wanted more of an explanation but the truth was he didn't really have one to give her. Even if he wanted to. Which he didn't really. "Decided to stop pushing and give her whatever time and space she wants."
"Okay..." Wallowski frowned and he could tell that she didn't agree with his tactics. Not that it mattered. For once he was going to go with his guts as far as Foster was concerned.
She spotted the duffel bag that sat on his couch. "Are you going somewhere?"
"You're going to see Emily?"
"That's right...and she doesn't know it," he added with a grin. "Surprise visit from Dad to make sure her flat mate really is a girl. Got worried after I met a guy called Dana last week."
Wallowski was about to say something but Ria Torres poked her head into his office, interrupting them. "Dr. Lightman, can I talk to you for a sec?"
Wallowski leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Was just leaving anyway. When are you back?" she asked.
"You're going to California for one night?" she asked incredulously.
"That's right," he told her. "Housing inspection and breakfast with my daughter."
"So I've been told." He gave her a little wave as she left and Torres entered his office.
"You're really leaving me in charge?"
"For one day," he reiterated. "How much damage can you do in one day?"
Torres wasn't amused. "I don't mind, you know. Just wish you would have let me know or something."
"Told you this morning didn't I?"
"That's not exactly giving me a head's up!"
Cal looked at her in disbelief. In spite of all his skills at reading people, most of the time he couldn't figure out the bulk of them. Including his prodigy. Ria Torres was smart and ambitious and didn't hesitate to let him know it. He'd have expected her to jump at the chance not freak out.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled. "Next time I'll put a notice in the paper a month beforehand."
She rolled her eyes. "Are you going to be on your cell?" she asked.
"No," he told her. "I'm going to be in California. For one day."
"If there's an emergency?"
"Emergency?" Cal stared at her. What possible emergency could there be? He wasn't asking her to run a hospital. "If the building's on fire you can call 911."
Torres threw her arms in the air. "Fine. If you can't be serious I won't be either..."
Cal cringed. Maybe he could be less of a plonker sometimes. "Torres, you're gonna be fine. And if you really need someone nearby, call Foster."
"Foster? Foster doesn't even work her anymore!"
"She still owns half the place. I'm sure she'll wanna know if you're blowing it up."
Lightman caught Loker's dark wavy head of hair in the doorway of his office.
"Or you could call me," he offered.
"There you go," he told Ria. "You can call Loker."
He grabbed his duffel bag and leaned in towards her ear, whispering. "After you call Foster."
She gave him a real smile this time. "Have a good trip. Say hi to Emily from us."
"Will do," he mumbled, already walking down the corridor, his back to them as he threw up one arm in a good-bye wave.
Ronald Reagan National Airport
Cal Lightman thought he would come close to missing his flight and instead the damn airplane had the audacity to be late coming in and therefore, he'd just been informed, it would be even later going out.
Instead of nearly missing the plane, he'd now be stuck over an hour sitting in a departure lounge, debating whether to spend money on an overpriced beverage.
He wished he'd brought a book. But he couldn't be bothered to make the effort of choosing one from the nearest news stand.
Instead, he ambled down to the nearest fast food counter and grabbed a pre-made sandwich along with a cup of tea in a Styrofoam cup. Now that he had the time for it, he might as well have dinner since they weren't likely to serve him anything but a bite sized bag of pretzels once he was in the air.
After paying for it at the register, Cal threw his duffel bag on the ground and sat down at a table next to a floor-to-ceiling window, staring out into the tarmac as an Air Canada jet rolled into the gate right next to him, before glancing back to check the time on his Rolex. Not even ten minutes had passed since he'd decided to leave the departure lounge and grab some food.
Patience wasn't his strong suit and unwrapping his sandwich suddenly made him lose his appetite. It looked like someone had thrown it together a week ago. The lettuce and tomato bits were limp and soggy, sticking to the bread like cling wrap.
Cal hesitated, about to take a bite, then he changed his mind and set it back down on the tabletop, pulling his cell phone out from his pocket instead. He dialled her number.
It rang only twice before she answered, the sound of her voice changing his mood with one word.
"Just wanted to remind you the offer for a drink is still on. That there's no expiry date."
"Ah...good to know."
There was no anger or irritation in her voice. Only a bit of amusement and it made him smile. She was happy to hear from him. Just as she'd been happy to have him in her space that day at the police station.
"It's good anytime. 'Til I die."
"That gives me a lot of time to take you up on it."
He chuckled. "Maybe I should put an expiry date on it then."
She said something in reply, but he couldn't hear it. A noisy, beeping cart full of luggage whizzed by his table.
"Where are you?"
"Airport. Waiting for my flight to San Fran."
"You're going to see Emily?"
"Yeah, just one night."
"California? For one night?"
"You don't trust me to leave Torres in charge for longer than that do you?"
He heard her laugh. "I don't know. I think she might do a good job of it."
"You think you could give her quick call tomorrow, to make sure?"
"Yeah...I can do that. If you do me a favour in return."
"Give Emily a big hug from me."
Cal smiled. "Done."
It felt nice. To have a normal conversation with his best friend about nothing. The kind they used to have on a daily basis and that he took for granted until he couldn't have them anymore. It almost made him forget why he called her.
"Wallowski stopped by the office today..."
There was silence on the other end, so he went on. "She wanted to tell me about what happened with Kline after you did the assessment. Apparently they dismissed the findings of the first search they did. Gave her a second search warrant, but of course that was a joke. They didn't find anything at that point. So the only thing they had left to nail him for was the broken nose he gave me at the station. He tried to fight that too, tried to use his legal connections to speed up the proceedings and get the whole thing thrown out. He tried to argue he was needled and provoked but Wallowski said the judge who gave him the time was a guy he'd pissed off one to many times as a lawyer. Shocking isn't it? Kline pissing off a judge."
"I know...he's at the jail already."
"He is?" It shouldn't have shocked him the way it did. It was the closest prison to where Kline lived and where he was tried. Why would they ship him elsewhere?
"Apparently word got out that he likes little kids and he was beat up pretty bad last night. They'll move him into solitary once he's out of the infirmary. Make sure he has virtually no interaction with the other inmates."
Cal swallowed. As if Hunter Kline needed more fuel for his rage. He might not have eaten a bite of his sandwich yet, but he suddenly felt a heavy, leaden feeling in his gut when he thought of the guy in the same building as Foster.
"Tell me you're not going to have any contact with the guy."
"I'm not going to have any contact with the guy."
He wished that Gillian was standing across from him, so that he'd know with certainty that she was telling the truth. Wished he could tell just by listening, the same way that she could.
Maybe his silence made his doubts obvious to her.
"He terrifies me. I can't even put a finger on it. Or a diagnostic label. I wont go near him again. Promise."
"Good." Her assurance relieved him. Even if what he really wanted was to have her out of that building for the next six months and back under his roof at the Lightman Group. Even if it was sheer arrogance to think he could protect her from the likes of Hunter Kline better than a whole building full of armed guards and steel bars.
He heard a noise in the background and then Gillian cursing. It made him grin because she did it so rarely.
"Sorry...was about to make dinner and forgot I turned on the stove after putting the oil in the frying pan. Have to go."
"Go on then," he told her. "Bet whatever you burn will still taste better than my airport sandwich."
"Not so sure about that. Have a good trip and don't forget the hug for Emily."
"I won't. Thanks, luv."
Lightman ended the call and finally picked up his soggy sandwich and took a tentative bite. It was good that they could talk again. Made him feel like he hadn't entirely lost his anchor. But it was a double-edged sword too. Because every encounter, every touch and every conversation, ended with him missing her even more than he did before it began.