Twelve hours-more than that by now, actually-since he had gotten Leila out of that truck. Twelve hours to reassure themselves that she was fine; time for them to confirm the security of the new safe house for the Cruz family and gather supplies for them. Twelve hours since Fusco had arrested Nicola Petrosian; Reese and Finch did everything they could in that time to verify that no one was still seeking Leila aside from the police.
She had smiled at him as Finch took her to her grandparents a few minutes ago, her tiny hand grabbing at his finger for a second. Leila reminded him of all the things he wanted once, the things that he couldn't have. Had chosen to let go of, he told himself. They wouldn't fit him; he wouldn't fit them.
Twelve hours since he had left Carter at the safe house, blood on her hands as she pressed against the bullet wound in Szymanski's abdomen. Twelve hours since she had told him to go.
Reese continued walking toward the hotel; the closest of his bolt-holes to the Cruz's safe house. Ignoring the sting of the cold air on his abraded wrists, he took out his phone, looked at it and finally dialed the number of the latest burner phone he had given Carter a couple of weeks ago.
To his surprise it rang. Reese almost pressed the end button; instead he let it continue to ring until he heard a click. No response other than that for a moment, but then Carter said his name with a flat tone.
"Detective. Thanks for answering your phone."
"Force of habit," she told him, her voice tired instead of teasing.
"I'm surprised you haven't destroyed it already."
He heard her sigh. "I haven't had time to think about it yet." She paused and then asked, "What do you want?"
I want you to tell me you didn't mean it. He couldn't say that. She hadn't ended things on a whim. John had crossed too far over her lines; betrayal instead of blurred edges. His choice had gotten another cop shot. "How's Szymanski?" he asked.
She didn't answer right away; he listened to her exhale and take a couple of steps, her shoes clicking on the floor. Tile of some kind, from the echo; either she still was at the hospital or back at the station. Finally she said, "He got out of surgery an hour ago. The first twenty-four hours are the most critical, so we're waiting to see."
She didn't let him make a reply; instead she asked, "Is Leila alright?"
"She's good. She's somewhere safe." Right now Finch was laying the groundwork of a paper trail to allow Leila's grandparents to have temporary guardianship of Leila until they figured out what would be best for her. Reese couldn't imagine them letting someone else raise her after getting to know her.
Time to say what he couldn't tell her earlier. "I'm sorry, Carter," he offered. He didn't know how far his regrets extended-would he have done anything differently, knowing that it would give him the end result of Leila's safety? Szymanski was a casualty and Elias had Moretti now. Part of the price when risk was the only option left.
It was done, though. He couldn't alter what had happened, whether he wanted to or not. Reese didn't say anything else after his apology, leaving himself open for all the arguments and recriminations she could heap on him. To his surprise, she didn't take the opening. Instead she said, "You going to try laying low for a while?" Carter tried to sound natural but the strain was in her voice, in the catch in the middle of the phrase. "I'm guessing that Elias is developing quite a taste for blood."
Truce, then. She wasn't going to chew him out like an exasperated sister trying to keep a bratty brother under control. He missed it already-the way she tried not to smile when she scolded him for doing something outrageous. You always want what you can't have.
"Maybe," he answered her. Elias wouldn't be looking for him, at least not just yet. He'd be busy taking everything he could from Moretti before disposing of him, John guessed. Sooner or later he and Finch would come back under Elias's scrutiny, though. It was inevitable that their work would force their paths to cross again. Perhaps by withdrawing her help now, Carter might avoid some of the fallout. Wishful thinking, thought John, knowing Carter's own determination to bring Elias down.
"Tell your friend to look out for himself," said Carter. "That is, if he isn't listening right now."
"He's not." Probably not, thought Reese. He'd like to believe that this was the kind of moment that Finch would leave private, but he had no way of knowing that.
He wondered even now what it was Carter had seen in Finch that persuaded her to let them go after Reese had gotten shot. Something he'd never asked her about; another unanswered question.
"You look out for yourself too, John," she quietly added.
"Stay out of trouble, Carter," he replied, echoing her recent words to him, but the phone line was dead. Shoving his scraped hands into his coat pocket, he walked the rest of the way to the hotel.