Damn it! He knew he should have zigged instead of zagged! Usually he got that right...what the hell went wrong? Was that another shot? Who else would be shooting at that car at that intersection at that exact moment? As Reese slowly picked himself up off the darkened street he checked for broken bones but found none. Good bit of road rash but that was all, all except for his vanity at being almost run over by a 'mark'. His gun was about 10 feet away where he had flung it as he was bumped by the speeding car.
Brushing off the dirt from his hands and walking toward the gun, he heard tires squeal. Turning around empty handed he was framed in the oncoming cars headlights. It was the 'mark', the perpetrator he was trying to take out. And here Reese was with no weapon and nowhere to run. Crap! He thought to himself.
At the last possible moment another squeal of tires heralded the appearance of a second car. Great, now I'm really fucked! Reese second car screeched to halt in front of him and he heard a woman's voice yell for him to get in the car. Not needing to be told twice, Reese dove through the open passenger side window as the car sped off. With his head almost in the driver's lap and his long legs sticking out the window, Reese was surprised to hear the bang, bang, bang of a gun with a silencer on it. What the hell? The driver was firing at the 'mark's' car bearing down on them. As he pulled his legs and feet into the window and righted himself in the seat, he could hear slugs hitting the driver's side of the car. His rescuer kept on firing at the oncoming car as she floored the gas petal. Moments later Reese could hear the crash of the 'mark's' car. Apparently she was an expert shot.
Speeding through the darkened streets of New York, the woman, Elise gripped the steering wheel with her right hand. Her left hand was holding her side where pain radiated out like a burning knife. However her anger kept her head clear.
"Who the HELL are you?" She almost screamed at Reese. His look of complete shock at her ferocity only made her angrier.
He countered with "Who the hell are YOU?" It was almost comical the way they glared at each other.
Elise glanced down at her left hand it was covered in blood. Damn! She thought, damn bullet came right through the door of the damn car! She took a deep breath and tried not to wince.
Reese heard what he thought was gasp but he wasn't sure enough to ask if she was alright.
"Why were you standing in the middle of street?" She asked through clenched teeth.
He countered with, "Why were you out driving in this part of town at 3am?" Neither seemed willing to give out any information to the other.
As the car careened down the street Elise realized she was going to need some help and fast. She was getting light headed and the headlights from the few on-coming cars were awfully bright. She slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. Reese kept looking over his shoulder, absolutely convinced they were being followed, but saw no other headlights.
He turned back to start in again on this obstinate woman who had saved his life, "What are you doing? Why have you stopped?" He glanced back one more time to check for a tail, "We need to get out of this area now!"'
The woman took a shaky breath and held up her left hand, covered in blood, and said "I think I've sprung a leak".
That set Reese back on his heels but only for a second. He scrambled out of his side of the car and ran around to the driver's side. When he opened the door the woman almost fell out. Grabbing her by the shoulders he carefully slid her over to the passenger side so he could get in. She was pretty much out of it by then, barely conscious of being moved. She moaned slightly when he first touched her.
Elise woke up in a fog of pain and comfort, a strange combination to be sure. Using her ears to try and get a clue as to where she was without letting anyone know she was awake didn't provide a lot of information since the only sound was silence. Slowly inhaling to test the air for scents proved equaling daunting because the air smelled of ...old books? Finally, curiosity won out and she opened her eyes.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light but slowly images took shape. A window on the right had thick drapes that blocked most of the light however around the top and the bottom was enough light to let her know it was daytime. Without moving her head, her eyes scanned over to the left. There WERE bookshelves, full bookshelves with all different kinds and sizes of books. Many looked very old with worn spines and cracked leather covers. In front of her was a desk with computer monitors on it. The lack of light from the monitors let her know they were either off or in sleep mode. So that meant no one had been using them recently.
Still listening intently for any sound, she tried to move and immediately felt the pain that had been nagging her from a back burner, come full force enough to make her gasp out loud. She grabbed her left side and moaned. The location of the pain brought back into focus the memory of just how she had been hurt. That in turn caused her to try to sit up quickly and once again the pain caused her to cry out. The cry turned into a moan as she fell back onto the bed.
Apparently she had made enough noise that someone was coming. Panting from exertion and the pain that it caused, she watched helplessly as the door swung open and a man came through. He was not a threatening figure but she was very aware of her helpless state and the fact that she had no weapons of any kind to defend herself. As he walked over to her bedside, she noticed he had a pronounced limp but his face did not register as anyone she knew. He wore glasses, had a shock of brown hair that stood straight up and sideburns, a little bit longer than what was in style these days. His clothing screamed expensive taste. The cut of the suit, the crispness of the shirt, the perfectly matched tie and vest showed an eye for style and high end taste.
"Glad to see you are finally back with us. My name is Mr. Finch. You gave us quite a scare." Pushing his glasses back up on his nose, he began checking the IV flow on the bottle hanging next to her bed. "You had lost quite a bit of blood before you let our mutual friend know that you had been injured." He chided.
"Mutual friend?" She asked warily.
"Yes, the man you saved with your timely appearance." Walking around the desk he turned on the monitors and waited for them to come out of sleep mode. "If you had not been there at that exact moment, I don't think Mr. Reese would be alive now."
"Reese? Do you mean John Reese?" She asked with gritted teeth. She was still trying to sit up on the bed. It didn't feel right to be having this kind of conversation lying down on her back.
"Use the remote. It's by your right hand. It'll be much easier for you to just raise the head of the bed." Mr. Finch said, never looking up from the monitors. "Yes, Mr. Reese is an associate of mine. We work together." Continued Mr. Finch. Keeping his head down, he used his eyes to look over the top of the monitors to judge his patient's reaction. "How do you know Mr. Reese? He didn't seem to recognize you."
Ignoring Mr. Finch's question, Elise exclaimed, "You! You're the voice in his ear aren't you!" She gasped. Lying back, she let the electric bed bring her head up to a level that made her feel more secure, less helpless than flat on her back.
"I must confess to that charge." Sighed Mr. Finch as he stood up slowly from the desk. He walked back around to stand by her bedside. Taking a closer look at her, he was pleased with what he saw. Her color was good, her heart rate, temperature and breathing rate were all normal.
"Is there anyone I need to contact for you, Ms...?"
Elise looked at Finch and weighed the pros and cons of giving him her name. He seemed harmless enough. Normally, she was physically afraid of no one. She could handle herself very well in a fight, thank you. Her diminutive size always worked in her favor. No one saw her as a threat, at least not until she had them on the floor with a gun barrel pushing up under their chin. But she was injured, shot. She knew she'd lost a good bit of blood in the car and the pain was barely masked by the painkillers so he'd probably give her a little bit of a problem if she made a move to get out of there.
She looked around to take in exactly where she was. There were bookcases filled with books everywhere she looked. The area where the hospital bed was located was just off center but against a wall. There were cabinets with glass doors near the bed. As best she could tell, they were fully stocked with all sorts of medical supplies, gauze, medical tape, bandages, bottles of alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. The top shelf had what looked like a sterilizer for medical instruments. Next to that was a refrigerator. Looking up at the IV bottle above her head, she assumed that it was full of saline solution and other things. It looked like a pretty complete hospital room, but in a library? She wondered who had needed the room before her?
Mr. Finch had quietly sat down and logged on to one of the computers, all the while watching her over the top of the monitor. He watched her take in her surroundings. He knew she was trying to decide if he was a threat or not and if so, how much of one. She missed very little. He could almost read her mind as she took things in, evaluated them, checked them off her list as of no use at this time or filed away for later perusal. Her intense concentration did not include forgetting he was in the room. He moved the mouse with almost no sound but her eyes immediately found him and he felt a small chill with the measuring look he saw in them. She reminded him of someone….. ah, Mr. Reese! She had the same air of calm but extreme control that could change abruptly if a threat appeared. She obviously was not as relaxed as she appeared.
Elise made her decision and she finally answered him. "My name is Elise, Elise Tate."
Finch immediately typed her name into his computer and Elise spoke again. "You won't find me in there. I don't exist."
Pushing back from his monitor Finch looked as Elise. "Well Ms. Tate, you'll have to fill me in at a later date about how you don't exist and yet here you are. Now back to my original question, is there someone we should contact for you?"
Elise leaned back on the pillow with a small groan and looked over at Finch and cocked one eyebrow. "You can call Zoe Morgan".
"Ms. Morgan? Ah! That would explain how you knew about and Mr. Reese and I." Elise was impressed how quickly Finch put that together and how easily he covered his surprise.
"I'll be glad to give her a call for you. Do you feel able to leave here today? You are more than welcome to stay longer if you have a need. I would assume that since you 'don't exist' you probably would prefer to not go to a hospital."
Looking around one more time at the well stocked medical supplies and again wondering how they came to be set up in a library, she let out a sigh and said "I'll mend a lot faster back on my own turf but thanks for keeping my injury quiet. I try to keep off police radar if at all possible."
Damn! Thought Elise to herself a minute later, I must be worse off than I thought. I'm so tired after just TALKING to that man. I can hardly keep my eyes open. I wonder what happened to that Reese guy?
After watching Elise fall asleep, Finch was again surprised at the young woman lying on the bed. She was correct about not being able to find anything on her. When he did his initial search for information on her, it came back with three names but the ages and descriptions were definitely NOT her. She had no wallet or pocketbook with her when Reese had brought her in. Her cell phone was a burner phone and provided no useful information. Finding information about her was certainly going to be an interesting challenge!
Before he placed the call, Finch debated with himself about whether he should tell Ms. Morgan where they were. No one knew about the library but himself and Reese, the fewer the better. But he and Reese had worked with Ms. Morgan a few times and he felt she was more than able and willing to keep their whereabouts secret. So he decided he was willing to take that leap and tell Ms. Morgan where to come and get Ms. Tate. After exchanging pleasantries on the phone, he informed Ms. Morgan about Elise and her whereabouts along with her condition.
Ms. Morgan handled the news that Ms. Tate had been shot better than he thought she would. He could hear the concern in her voice but not any surprise. That alone piqued his interest in just what kind of relationship the women had.
"Ms. Morgan, forgive me for invading Ms. Tate's and your privacy but I feel that for all our safety, I need to be a bit more familiar with Ms. Tate's background. I can spend time the researching her identity, but I'd rather hear it from you."
Zoe sighed. She knew Harold was as good as his word and could find out all manner of things about Elise, things that she might or might not want known. No, it was better if she told Harold the story, thereby controlling the details that he knew about Elise's life.
"Elise was part of a highly trained, exclusive HRT team in Los Angeles until two years ago."
"A hostage recovery team?" Finch clarified.
"Exactly. From what she has told me, the training was very intense, almost para-military as they were to be deployed not only around the country, but possibly as an auxiliary force to the Marines. That part was still in the formative stage when Elise was part of the team. Each member was paired with another in order to make sure that no one person was alone and exposed to the increased level of danger they encountered. Elise was paired with a team-mate named Tim. The two of them were very close. She was more often at his house than her own. His wife and kids considered her part of the family.
And then one day, they were called out to a hostage situation where ten men, that were part of a militia group, were holding a bunch of women and children hostage on a city bus. The men were threatening to blow up the bus and everyone on it if their leader wasn't released from jail. Well, it turns out that they had a sympathizer on the HRT team and that member deliberately ignored the order to take out the man with the trigger device. The bus exploded, killing everyone on it including Elise's partner Tim who had been approaching the bus from the rear where there were no windows. He had no idea what was going on until it was too late. Elise herself was badly injured and spent four months in re-hab. She testified at the trial of the former team member and it was based on her testimony that the man was convicted and sentenced for murder. Elise told me that after that, she could never trust anyone else with her life. She left the team and Los Angeles altogether and ended up here in New York."
Harold could hear the smile in Ms. Morgan's voice as she described how the two of them had met. "I was questioning some low-life about what he had overheard about a conversation between my client and another man, when he pulled out a gun and threatened me. Next thing I knew, some woman came up and disarmed that jerk and handed me the gun. I thanked her and after getting what I had come for from the guy, I asked the woman if she would have dinner with me so that I could thank her for intervening and saving my life. Once I found out about Elise's skill set, I decided that it would help to have someone with a bit more military training working with me and we hammered out an agreement. We agreed that she needed to change her name to protect her parents and as far as I can tell, she has been happy with our arrangements especially since she doesn't have to rely on anyone else to have her back."
"A very independent and dangerous young woman. Sort of reminds me of someone else we know." Harold said.
Zoe chuckled. "Yes they are like two heads of the same coin aren't they? Speaking of which, how is John?"
"Grateful to for saving his life of course. Other than that, you know Mr. Reese." Harold replied.
"Yes, I do and the man still owes me a drink. Perhaps I'll be able to collect on that once I get Elise settled. I'll be by to pick her up in an hour. I need to make some arrangements for her care."
"There is no rush, Ms. Morgan. She is welcome to stay for as long as she needs to."
"Thanks, Harold. I'll see you soon." And she hung up.
About half an hour later, Reese came into the library and his eyes went immediately to the woman lying on the bed. She looked so peaceful and vulnerable lying there. He remembered several times where he had been in her shoes. Shot and having to rely on someone else for the most basic care. He wondered if she would like it any more than he had and then snorted remembering how angry and demanding she had been when questioning him in her car. Just remembering the incident had him frowning and angry again. What had the crazy woman been thinking, getting in between him and a car barreling down on him, its driver pointing a gun at him! He shook his head and walked over to where Finch was sitting at the computer, a strange look on his face as he watched Reese and the woman, whoever she was.
"What are you grinning about Finch? Did you just buy some new suits?" Reese said half jokingly, still a bit angry over what had happened to the woman on the bed.
"No, Mr. Reese, I was just thinking about how grouchy you were when recovering from the gunshots Snow gave you. From what Ms. Morgan has told me and my own observations of Ms. Tate over there, she will not be reacting any better than you did."
Reese raised his eyebrow at the mention of Zoe Morgan. "And just what does Zoe have to do with all of this Finch or are you being deliberately secretive again?"
"It's simple Mr. Reese, Ms. Morgan and your Ms. Tate work together, much like you and I, I suppose."
Reese frowned. "She is not MY Ms. Tate, Finch."
"You've got that right, buddy!" They both heard from the occupant of the bed. Turning to look at her, Reese returned the frown he saw on her face. The woman was so ungrateful for the medical care he and Finch had given her! And yet he couldn't help but notice that even while sick and pale, she was still a beautiful woman. Wait, where did that thought come from? Reese berated himself for making the observation. He had no right to be thinking about her that way!
Elise saw the intense look and frown that Reese gave her and thought, the man could at least be a more gracious a host. After all I saved his life and look what I got in return! She and Reese stood there glaring at each other until suddenly Reese's expression softened.
"I'm sorry Ms. Tate, I've forgotten how bad it feels having to lay in the same bed and wait to heal. Tends to make people cranky."
Oh my! Elise sucked in her breath as she noticed how handsome Reese was now that he wasn't scowling at her. The observation made her angry. She shouldn't be thinking about the man that way! Her anger came out in her reply, "I am NOT cranky!"
Reese gave her a smirk and chuckled. Elise couldn't help but smile back at the irritating man and the two of them ended up laughing.
"Oh!" Elise grabbed her side as the pain shot through her.
Reese was by the bed in an instant. "Are you alright….." He paused waiting for her to supply her first name. He'd darned if he was going to keep calling her Ms. Tate!
"NO, obviously I'm not! And it's Elise." She forced out through her clenched teeth.
"Here, let me see how the stitches are holding." Reese said, lifting the loose shirt up and away from her side.
Elise blushed and slapped his hand away. "I'm fine!" She snapped.
Reese let out the breath he had been holding since he had heard her gasp in pain. "One minute you're fine, the next you're not. Make up your mind Elise."
"Oh bother! Just leave me alone!" She spoke quickly, trying to ignore the thrill she felt when he said her name.
"No, I don't think I will. I've already stitched you up once, I don't want to do it again just because you can't take care of this set!" Elise blushed even deeper when the impact of his words hit her. He must have seen her without a shirt on if he was the one that had sewn her up. Oh, why couldn't it have been Finch that had done it? She felt his warm, gentle hands at her side, probing the edges of the wound. Just then, Zoe walked into the room. She saw Elise with her shirt up and John bending down over her and the look she shot Elise had the other woman blushing an even deeper red. Elise put her hand on Reese's shoulder and weakly tried to push him away.
"I'm almost done Elise! Hang on, you'll feel much better after this." Reese answered from under her shirt. Elise wished the ground would swallow her up right then and there!
"Ok, that'll do, I just loosened a stitch, It shouldn't pull as much now." Reese said straightening up. He noticed Zoe behind them, watching.
"Hi, Zoe. I take it you're here for Elise?" Reese frowned, part of him wishing that Elise would stay here where he could keep an eye on her… wound. Yes, he wanted to make sure her wound healed properly, he told himself.
It was Zoe's turn to frown. So John and Elise were on a first name basis? Hm, perhaps she ought to press the issue of that drink he owed her.
"Hello, Ms. Morgan." Finch said, approaching from over near the computers. "I've put together a bunch of supplies for you and Ms. Tate, including a very high strength antibiotic." Finch handed a large duffel bag to Zoe and then walked over to the bed. "Ms. Tate, it's been a pleasure meeting you. If you ever need anything, please don't hesitate to call. We owe you a huge debt for saving Mr. Reese's life."
Elise colored at the offer and gave Finch a huge smile. Now why couldn't that infuriating man have shown a little gratitude like this? "Thank you Mr. Finch for your help and hospitality. I appreciate it."
"Don't mention it and call me Harold please."
While this conversation was going on, Zoe took the opportunity to quietly ask John, "Hey there! What about that drink you owe me? I'd like to collect, say a week from today?"
"Yeah, sure Zoe, whatever you want." Reese replied, distracted and trying to overhear Finch and Elise's conversation, one that was making the woman smile a sweet smile at Finch.
"Great!" Zoe exclaimed. "I'll meet you at Kosta's on 44th street at say, 8pm?"
"Wait, what?" Reese realized that he had just made plans to meet Zoe for a drink, a situation he had planned on never being in. Well, it was too late to back out now. Served him right anyway for letting himself get distracted by anyone, much less that aggravating woman. "Um, yeah, sure. Eight will be fine."
"Mr. Reese?" Finch called from Elise's bedside. "There is no point in putting Ms. Tate in a wheelchair with all these stairs. Can you carry her down to Ms. Morgan's car?"
"What? No! I don't need…."
Reese was already at her side and removing her covers. "Elise, just shut up." He growled. "Please." He added as an afterthought.
She clamped her mouth down on what she wanted to say. Besides, he and Harold were probably correct in assuming that she wouldn't be able to get down the stairs without some assistance. He swung her up in his arms.
"Glad to see you can take advice sometimes." He said looking down at her and smirking.
"Screw you, Mr. Reese!" Elise said heatedly.
"What?" she asked puzzled. She couldn't seem to think straight with those stunning blue eyes on her.
"My name is John." He stated.
"Well then screw you, JOHN." She emphasized his name as she repeated her earlier words.
"I wouldn't..." John started to say but was interrupted by Zoe.
"John, are you ready to go?" She asked. She couldn't hear what the two of them were arguing about but thought it best to get Elise to the car as soon as possible. Maybe I should get shot, she thought to herself as she saw John holding Elise. She smiled at the absurd thought and turned to Harold. "Thanks for everything Harold. Take care."
They walked out of the room and down several more corridors lined with books. "Wow," Elise commented. "You guys sure have a lot of books! I could get lost in here for days and be happy!"
"You like to read then?" John inquired.
"Yes, very much. Don't you?"
John just shrugged. "When I have the time."
"Ah, yes there is that. Is your boss as much of a slave driver as mine?" she laughed.
John smiled down at her, devastating her senses. "It's usually my idea when to keep working and when to call it a night. I suspect it's the same for you."
Elise nodded. They started to descend a large staircase and she wrapped her arms about John's neck, feeling a sense of vertigo since she wasn't walking down under her own power.
"I've got you." John spoke softly. He couldn't help but enjoy the feeling of Elise's soft body pressed up against his chest. It had been a long time, an awfully long time, since he had been in such a position and holding a woman.
Meanwhile, Elise also was enjoying being held by John. She could feel his strong arms and shoulders flexing as he carried her gently down the stairs, down a corridor and then down another set of stairs. She had to fight to keep herself from running her fingers through John's short, dark hair. She wanted to feel the difference between the soft black hair she was just barely touching with the tips of her fingers and the gray hair at his temples. Perhaps even lean down and…. Wait! What the hell was she doing thinking about him like this, again? She tensed up and then gasped at the pain.
"What is it?" John asked. "Did I jostle you? I'm sorry."
"No, it wasn't you." In order to keep her mind off John , she stared straight ahead and saw that Zoe seemed to be listening to their conversation but that she had her back ram-rod straight. She was even clicking her heels harder than normal on the marble floor. Hm, wonder what's gotten into her? Perhaps Zoe was resenting the fact that she would have to take care of her until she could get back on her feet?
They arrived at Zoe's car then and John gently set Elise down in the passenger seat. "Take care not to pull those stitches." John growled out and then quickly turned and disappeared back into the building.
Zoe got into the car and they drove towards Elise's apartment in silence.
"So, how did you come to get mixed up with John and Harold and shot no less?" Zoe finally asked.
"Well, the idiot of a man was standing in the middle of the road while…." Elise proceeded to relate the story of coming across John and as much of what she recalled afterwards.
"Normally, I'd say you were foolish for involving yourself in someone who wasn't a client, but in this case, I'm glad you did. John is always getting shot at."
"So you've told me. After the way he was standing there unarmed, I'm surprised he hasn't been killed long before now!"
"Well, John is a man of surprising skills." It seemed to Elise that Zoe was hinting at something here.
"Wait, did I hear you and him make plans for a date next week?" THAT would explain Zoe's anger Elise thought. She probably thinks I have designs on the man.
"Well not a date, exactly, but he owes me a drink. Remember I told you about the case he and I worked together?"
Elise nodded. "Well, enjoy. Personally, I'm not sure I could stand to be around him for more than five minutes. Reese was always frowning and grouchy." She tried to allay Zoe's fears. She snorted out loud. "Better you than me!"
Zoe just smiled and then said, "So, we have to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. We have business to take care of!"