Six Months Later
This is my wife, Kenny thought, looking over at her. This is the woman that I married…gung-ho, impulsive, determined…God, I love her. This feisty, alive, my Max. "Honey?"
She looked up from where she was making copious notes. "Yeah?"
He dropped down on the kitchen bench next to her. "Anything?"
She pushed the laptop toward him. "Maybe… Take a look."
"You're good," he said, shooting her a look. "Max, really, this is…Damn."
"Yeah," she said, as she squeezed his hand. "I need to start dinner."
"Forget dinner. We'll order pizza. We're a team in this right?"
"I'm not running off half cocked," she said quietly. "I'm not 25, reckless, with something to prove. This is our family, Kenny."
I love you, he thought again, we're going to do this. "Want to talk about it?"
Max felt an ache in her chest, as he squeezed back. "If I start crying I'm not going to stop and…I'm okay, really. Are you?"
"Okay isn't the word I'd use, but…I'm here with you. Our kids aren't screaming, and we have a trail. And my wife looks really hot."
"I'm wearing sweats."
"Hotly wearing sweats," he teased, taking in the shorts, old hoodie and ponytail. "I like you like this. In fact."
"Kenny," she groaned, as he nuzzled her neck. This, she thought, we've always been good at this. "We should stop."
He kissed her. "I don't want to stop, in fact…the girls are busy…come on."
"Kenny," she tried again, feeling him slip his hands in the waistband of her shorts. Shivering at bit at his gentle touch, she felt herself caving. "Hmm… right here?"
Kenny pulled back, as Max hitched her shorts back up. "Hey, your video over, Em?"
"Were you kissing? Daddy you always kiss Mommy."
"Your mom is very kissable."
"Can I kiss boys?"
Max laughed at Kenny's stricken expression. "Not for a long time, Monkey Girl. Not until you're...16."
"I was going to say 30," Kenny countered, picking up his five year old, as she squealed in delight, as he turned her upside down. "A boy touches you, you kick him and run, Em. You got me?"
Max closed the laptop, these moments are perfect, she thought, despite it all. This is perfect.
"Let's go get your sister," Kenny said, shooting Max a look. "Give your mom a break."
"They're doing something," Jimmy said. "I know they're up to something."
Jill sighed. "I don't blame them."
"I think the three of you really need to talk."
Max closed the door to Chloe's room, letting out a long sigh. How is she six months old… six months since…damn. Pushing back her hair, she gulped back those terrifying months.
"They're getting so grown up. How is Em five?" Max trailed off. "It seems like just yesterday, you know, we got married, pregnant and…How has it been so long? I remember meeting you. We were so young."
"A lot happened."
Max nodded. "You want to finish what we started?"
He kissed her before pulling back. "We need a plan."
"I thought we always winged it in there," she said. "Jimmy won't let you take time off, we both know that. I can go."
"For a few days. I'll be fine, we can get Sarah to watch the girls and…I'll be fine. Really. Kenny, don't look at me like that. I'm not going to wrestle alligators or tackle serial killers, I'm going to a hospital."
"Who else then? I'm a private citizen, I don't have to go through the red tape that you do and…Kenny, don't look at me like that."
"You're more than capable, I know that," he stated, as they walked slowly toward their bedroom. "Sweden…okay. If Nate is there…we'll figure it out from there."
"What?" Kenny asked. No, Max is going to Sweden, how did I let her talk me into that? "How about next week?"
"What are you two up to?" Jimmy asked.
"Nothing," he stated. "We're just…getting back to normal. Figuring some things out."
"How is Max?"
Halfway to Sweden, he thought, remembering her pained expression. Promising the girls she'd be back in a few days, holding really tightly to them, we must be insane. "She's okay. Up and down, but okay."
Remembering her total meltdown after she went in after Skeeter, Jimmy doubted that. Protective, he thought, he's so protective of her. "How does she feel about working?"
Kenny paused, thinking of their side project. Who she is…digging, taking roads she couldn't if she was still a cop. Digging through Michael's records, his credit cards, finding the trail to Nate. We can't tell Jimmy that. "That's something you need to take up with her."
"How do you feel about her working?"
Sweden, she's going to Sweden… "You know how I feel about it. If it's what she wants, we have some things to hammer out."
I'm insane, Max thought, wrapping her jacket around herself. Sweden, really? Trying to ignore the guilt of leaving Kenny and the kids, who I promised a big surprise when I get back…How can I leave them again? Kenny is going to dress them like clowns too. God, I love that man, but he cannot dress them. Gulping a bit, as she looked at the hospital. Michael took him here. I'm just a private citizen, she thought, going into a hospital. I wish Kenny was here, we always worked better together then apart. No, he's at work, taking care of our kids, I can do this. Private citizen, hospital. Go.
"You know," Jimmy started, not sure how to approach it. "Staying home hasn't kept her safe."
"I know. Max has a way…she attracts the crazies. I'm not sure how she does it. Listen, she's finally," Kenny trailed off, thinking of their private investigation into where Michael stashed Nate. We can't ask him, Samantha killed him, and then… "I know you think she threw away her life, that I forced this on her. She's stubborn, you that, I can't force her to do anything."
"Oh, I think you're the one person who can."
Max gulped, tapping her fingers nervously on the deck. Thank god they speak English. Please, let me find him, we need this.
Max looked up, her heart racing. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry about the loss of his father," Dr. Lindeman said, handing her back the death certificate and all the corresponding paperwork. "It's a tragedy."
Max nodded, tucking it back in her purse. "Our family has had some. Michael and I were never close, but I care about Nate. Whatever I can do to help him."
"And his mother?"
"His mother, my sister," Max trailed off. "She died a couple of years ago."
"Hmm, I believe he said his wife was pregnant?"
Oh crap. "I was pregnant, and had a baby six months ago. Michael, he had some issues, he thought I was…Caroline. He wanted my baby, Chloe, and…I'm not his. Please, is Nate here? My husband and I…we're all he has left."
She grew her hair because she knew I liked it long, Kenny thought, she dyed it back too. She had babies, stayed home with them, she learned to cook, drives carpool, all because I wanted her to stay home with the kids. And now she's hunting down are missing nephew in Sweden. Complicated, that's what my wife is. Changed who she was for me, that's what she said. "Trust me, Max doesn't do anything she doesn't want to do. She isn't some helpless, spineless, damsel in distress."
"Maybe not a few years ago."
"Calling her that will end badly," Kenny deadpanned. "Listen, she…you don't have to worry about Max."
I do worry about her, Jimmy thought, she's going to snap.
"Damn," she said, leaning against the wall. All the way to Sweden for nothing. Two months ago, he was here, before Michael…He was dead. Someone still knows. Sighing, she looked at the paper again. John Taylor, his lawyer. The same one who knew about the warehouse he stashed me in, or at least his firm did. Kenny is going to hate this. I really think Kenny hates everything I do beside breastfeeding and getting knocked up. The perfect mother, his wife, and I'm off playing private investigator in Sweden. Turning her phone over in her hands, she dialed home.
"I was just thinking about you," Kenny said in way of greeting, plopping down on the couch, knowing how much she would hate him feeding their kids hot dogs and eating in front of the television. "How is it?"
"Cold," Max said, filling him in. "What do you think?"
"I'm thinking you're not walking into that law firm. You know they had something to do with that warehouse. We just can't prove it."
"We can't ignore it. He knows where he is."
"So we get the FBI involved and you back off."
"So they can just move him again before warrants are issued? It's going to take…Kenny, I can find him. I'm almost there."
Reckless, impulsive…I must be out of my mind agreeing to this. I think it's her mission to drive me crazy. "Come home, we'll let the professionals handle this."
Wrong thing to say. "You know what I mean. You've cut open some red tape and…Max, come home."
"I need to make a pit stop."