Author's Note: Yeah…I just couldn't let this go …happy endings being so illusive I just wasn't ready for this adventure to be over yet. So here's the epilogue and jumping off point for a new story… For as many redemptive tales – there are also unrepentant sinners and the fruits of their labors.
Hot Dog Chapter Eight - Epilogue
Dani marshaled Sam off to the public restroom after too much chocolate ice cream ended up on him instead of in him. Jack and Charlie circled each other like old wolves. Each man's hands were hidden, Jack's in his tan Member's Only jacket pockets and Charlie's jammed deep into his jeans.
Each was trying to protect their truce in their own way.
Over the preceding weeks, Crews observed Jack Reese carefully looking for signs of deceit, but what he found instead were signs of weakness, not mere age. His skin seemed stretch and thin, his complexion sallow and pale and his hair thin and brittle.
"How sick are you?" he opened strongly.
Reese eyed his suspiciously, then chuckled, "Can't fool you can I Crews?"
"No," Crews bit back a nasty retort and held his anger on a short leash. He'd do this for Dani, but trust was not something he'd ever extend to Jack Reese. "She believes you because she wants to…"
"But not you…" Reese smiled and it was an evil grin, "never you."
Crews' eyes were hard and focused. His hands were no longer hidden and he balanced on the balls of his feet ready for anything. "How long do you have?" He tried to sound neutral, but there was nothing neutral in him when it came to Jack. Only his love for Dani balanced the hate buried deep within him.
"Weeks, months at the outside," Reese admitted. "Cancer – AND - neither Dani nor her mother can know," he demanded of a man who owed him nothing.
Charlie nodded curtly. "Why come back now? Why put them through this? Losing you…it will only bring them pain."
"People don't change that much Crews," Reese said sounding annoyed. "I'm selfish. I wanted to see my daughter again, to know my grandson."
Crews tight smile said everything. He knew that Reese wouldn't change, just as he knew Dani wanted to believe badly enough to buy her old man's ploy. "Telling her won't change things," he was cool and very quiet, "I'll keep your secret because I would never consciously hurt her."
"I know son," Reese replied. "I misjudged you. You are good for her, good with her and I know you'll keep my family safe after I'm gone. That's why I'm gonna tell you something that won't help you, but it won't hurt you either."
At this Charlie cocked his head, like a dog hearing a strange noise.
"The same man that got you out of prison was the man who put you there," Reese said levelly and held Crews' eyes.
"Is that so?" Charlie couldn't help the contempt that crept into his voice. "And who would that be?"
"Mickey Rayborn," Jack replied.
Crews smiled. "My lawyer…" he began confidently.
"Was hired by Rayborn," Jack cut him off. He enjoyed watching pain blossom in Crews' eyes as the seeds of doubt he'd just seen took hold. Betrayal, yet another betrayal in the life of a man who'd suffered so many. Then Reese, fed the pain and fire he saw there in Crews' countenance. "Ask yourself – how'd she find you? Most skells who get a pro bono lawyer got themselves websites and support groups. What did you have? Nothing."
Crews eyes were a dark indefinable color as he considered what Reese was telling him. He did not speak, but his entire body was taut like a string. He was no longer thinking - he was well past that - he was reeling from emotions he sought to contain because he knew he could not control them.
"Now consider this…" Reese finished quickly and strongly as Dani came out of the far off restroom holding Sam by the hand. "Your lawyer? She goes from freeing LAPD's #1 bad guy, with $50 million buck of the city's money in his pocket and within months she is an ADA? Doesn't that strike you as odd? Seems like - I don't know…maybe a reward? A payoff? Rayborn owns her Crews and if you're not careful he's going to own you too."
Dani and Sam approached and both men fell silent. False smiles graced their faces and Charlie's eyes hid behind his shades lest Dani see the turmoil there. He kissed her on the cheek, held her close and announced they should be heading home. Plans were made for dinner at the Reese home the next weekend, but it all occurred in a distant far off place for Crews as he puzzled over what Reese told him.
It made sense, now that Connie denied hearing what Kyle Hollis confessed. It all made sense. Her job with the DA's office, her knowledge of and access to his case and how quickly all the mess with Roman had gone away. Being able to tip him off when LAPD was looking to search his house and trying to link him to Ames murder. But the "why" remain mysterious. Why would Rayborn have him locked up in the first place and why free him all those years later?
"Hey," Dani said softly, "Crews? You here?"
It was a familiar refrain, but one she hadn't had cause to use in a long time.
"Yeah," he gasped, "I'm here," reaching for a holding her hand. "Just thinking about baby names," he lied innocently.
"Hmm," she replied as she checked the rearview and found Sam passed out in his car seat from the afternoon's activities.
"Well, I can tell you this…no child of mine will be named after the dog," she laid down the law.
He switched gears quickly, "Mackenzie's not the dog's name," he argued.
"It's not a little girl's name either," she countered.
"Yes, Dani," he pointedly used her own name to illustrate the glaring flaw in her argument.
She scowled and objected, "you know I hate it when you do that."
"Yeah, I know," he apologized quickly and meant it, "I'll stop."
He waited a moment and offered food to his pregnant wife. "Hey, how about we swing by that place on Vine and get Chinese takeout?" He knew she'd eagerly agree, because they liked the place and it was a simple easy solution to dinner. Even Sam liked it when they got Chinese for the handful of fortune cookies they always provided with their meal.
"You know… I think I love you more for your great timing, than all that money," she grinned in agreement.
He breathed easy and his head began to work the conundrum Reese presented him with. A dying selfish man who hated him, told him an story that was easy to believe, but the best of lies is wrapped in a truth. During the next few months, he would welcome a new daughter, bury an old enemy and still be no closer to the truths he sought. A Zen saying echoed in the back of his mind - believe those seeking the truth, doubt those who find it. This was just beginning.