A/N: Thanks for the reviews! Sorry for the delay, but I decided to re-write this chapter and it took a while to get it done.
Corner of Fulton Street/Hendrix Avenue
Cypress Hills, Brooklyn
The apartment he was searching for was situated above a drycleaners and right next to an elevated subway track. As the 'J' train passed overhead, he nervously paced on the corner as he smoked a cigarette. He was out of options with places to go and the address book he had was as thick as a phone book. Robert Goren knew a lot of people, and there were a lot of names and numbers and addresses to choose from; however, he didn't know who anybody was nor their relation to him. All except for one.
Out of all the names in the book, only one had the same last name as himself. And from the many numbers erased and addresses scratched out and replaced, he figured that his brother moved around a lot. That was something he'd found out today, that he had a brother. It was exciting to know he had someone, a family member, since there had been no indication of that in his home. His mother was still alive, but currently upstate and in an institution. So, she would be little help to him, but hopefully his brother would be.
Finally ridding himself of his nerves and gathering some courage, he opened the door that led to the apartments above the store. A couple of men were standing on the steps and as he walked in they both turned and stared hard at him. He knew immediately that they were dealers but didn't act like he cared, because he really didn't, as he started for them. Keeping his eyes on the floor, he pushed his way past one of them and started up the stairs to the third, and top, floor.
On the third floor landing, a couple of kids, boys, were hanging out and passing a cigarette and beer bottle back-and-forth between the two of them. They looked no older than twelve years old. He caught their eyes and saw a painfully dark look in both of their eyes, like they'd seen way too much at such young ages. He thought about taking the contraband from them but knew that they would only steal more, so he let them be as he headed down the hall in search of the apartment.
There were sounds from a television blaring through the walls of one apartment and hip-hop music from another as he got closer to the end of the hall. Coming upon a door on his left, he saw a woman leaning against the frame and looking him up and down from head-to-toe.
She smiled seductively at him as he got closer. "Lookin' for a good time, honey." He didn't answer her as he walked on by. "Your loss," she called back at him before yelling down the hallway. "Jeremy! Ya okay?"
He looked back at her and realized she was one of the boy's mother. She turned back to him and gave him another look so he turned around and kept walking. The next door was the one he'd been looking for. As he reached up to knock, he heard the woman.
"Ya know Frank?"
Giving a hard knock on the door, he glanced over at the woman as he asked, "Is he here?"
"Should be." She leaned on the frame again as she eyed him. "Wha'd ya want with him?"
Turning to fully look at her, he said, "That's none of your business, now is it."
"He's a friend, and since he's been here I ain't never seen you around before. He owe you money?"
He wondered why she would ask him that just as he heard the lock turn and a chain fall against the door. It opened and he saw a man standing on the other side. He was nearly as tall as him, skinner, and staring at him with blue eyes. However, the look was one of familiarization.
"Bobby, what're you doing here?" the man asked after a brief moment of staring at one another.
"Frank…?" he said in a near question and hoped that he didn't catch it, but he had.
Frank's eyes grew suspicious as he said slightly, "Yeah, come in."
Taking one last glance at the woman down the hall, he stepped into the apartment. After one quick glance around the living room, he didn't have to wonder about that 'owe money' comment any longer. There was hardly any furniture and what was there was used, worn down, and covered in either clothes, papers or magazines or junk mail, or dirty dishes and take-out boxes.
"Sorry for the mess, I've been busy, you know. Working and everything."
Looking at Frank, he gave a nod as he said, "Doing what?"
Frank seemed to be offended and angered by that question as he said, "Is that what you came here for, to know what I'm doing? I'm working."
Not understanding where the bitterness was coming from, he backed away as he felt threatened. "I wasn't trying to start anything. I was…I was curious, that's all."
"So what is it?" Frank asked as he didn't make any move to invite him further into his apartment or to have a seat or anything. He didn't even ask him how he was.
Frank glared at him as he said, "Why are you here, Bobby? The last time we talked you were pissed at me."
He wasn't sure what to expect when he came here, but this hostility wasn't exactly it. "I want to talk. Can we do that…can we, talk, Frank?" When he didn't get an answer, he gestured to the kitchen, asking, "You got any coffee?"
Frank looked toward the kitchen as if he was trying to see if he did. After a moment, he said, "It's instant."
"That's fine. I'll get it," he told him as he started for it.
"No," Frank interrupted as he moved in front of him. "I'll get it. Just…here," he said as he picked up a pile of clothes off the couch. "Have a seat," he told him before carrying the clothes into the bedroom. He tossed them on the bed before coming back out, and shutting the bedroom door behind him. "I moved in a month ago and I'm still unpacking."
"It's okay, thanks." He watched as Frank went into the kitchen before sitting down and taking out the pack of cigarettes.
Digging around his coat for his lighter, he pulled it out and lit up the cigarette as he looked over the small apartment. There was an old television sitting across the room sitting on top of a dresser. A few photos were taped or tacked to the wall in various spots; he got up and walked over the wall to get a closer look. One of the photos was of a woman with two boys standing in front of her; all were smiling except for one of the boys who only stared at the camera. The woman looked young in the picture but from the hair-styles and outfits worn, he knew it was dating back to the sixties.
She was their mother, and she looked beautiful. Another picture was of two men, one a teenager and the other was older, caught in a candid moment. The teen boy was sitting on a staircase in what appeared to be a backyard. The man was in shorts and a shirt, barefoot, and in the middle of speaking at he was gesturing to a motorcycle that sat in front of them. He could tell that the teen boy appeared to be Frank, and the other, from his height and age, was most likely their father.
"I don't know how you take it."
Turning away from the photos, he saw Frank coming toward him with the cup. He offered his thanks as he took it from him. As he stood standing, Frank sat heavily on the couch. In an overflowing ashtray on the coffee table, he picked up a half-burnt cigarette and re-lit it as he sat back.
Eying him from the couch, Frank said, "I didn't think you smoked anymore."
Shifting around, he shrugged a little as he said, "I'm not quite sure what I do anymore." He grew silent as he took a sip of the coffee and grimaced in disgust. Hoping the cigarette would easy the taste, he took a long drag off it and choked out a cough. Nope, that only made it worse. "This tastes like shit."
Frank chuckled a little as he rubbed over his hair. "Told you it was instant, you despise that stuff. You said once that drinking it reminded you too much of the Army, having to drink months old instant coffee on freezing nights in Korea, or some shit like that."
Staring down into the cup, he fought through the dark emptiness of his mind for some connection, for any memory or feeling of familiarity. When he came up empty, he felt the loss all over again. It sunk his heart even further down into the lonely pit; and it burned. It burned with hate and misery…The pain of not remembering his life was becoming too much.
"You're looking pale. You're not going to be sick, are you?"
Shaking his head, he walked back over the couch and sat down beside Frank. There was no connection between them. He couldn't even think to call the man his brother because Frank didn't feel like his brother. He had no memories of their life together, or of their childhood. What their relationship was like, he didn't know, but from the greeting he had with him at the door, he figured that they were at odds with one another. That maybe, even with a memory, it would be hard to call that man his brother.
Pushing down his groan of distaste, he took another swallow of the horrible coffee before setting it on the table, next to the overflowing ashtray and a bottle of prescription pills without the prescription label. He picked them up and shook it as Frank reached over and snatched it out of his hand. It didn't take a detective to know that Frank didn't have a prescription for whatever it was in the bottle. It also didn't take a detective to see that his brother had a problem. Or, multiple problems.
Deciding not to voice his suspicions, he asked instead, "Have you seen the news?"
Frank shook his head as he looked over at him. "I try to avoid it."
Smiling slightly, he should have expected that answer. People in the kind-of neighborhood Frank lived in didn't watch the news very often. "I'm uh…" he trailed off as he tried to focus his thoughts and how he was going to explain everything to Frank. Having to trust someone, and needing so answers, he knew he had to drop his guard. He just didn't know if this man was the one to do that with. "I'm in need of someplace to stay," he said instead.
Frank was taken back by that as he looked at him, confused. "And you want to stay with me?" he asked surprised.
"Why not?" he asked with a shrug. "You're my brother."
"Yea, but…What about your friends. I mean, you still have that friend of yours…Lewis. Can't you stay with him?"
He remembered seeing that name in the address book but didn't know who the man was. And from the address in the book, it had only appeared that this Lewis guy was his mechanic.
A sudden rumble shook the walls, vibrated the floors, and bounced the coffee cup over the table. Quickly grabbing it before it could tumble over, he waited out the passing of the subway train as it sped by the window. Seconds later the rumbling stopped and he could hear car alarms annoyingly blaring from the street below.
Looking over at Frank, he saw him sipping on his cup like nothing had just happened. "How often?"
"Every hour or so."
"Jesus," he sighed and started to laugh a little. "Why'd you move here?"
"It was cheap." Frank started laughing himself. "I only found out after I moved in why it was such a great bargain."
"Let me stay, just for the night. Then, I'll talk to Lewis tomorrow." He waited expectantly and Frank finally gave a nod. Smiling a little, he said, "Thanks."
"You didn't really expect me to say no, did ya? You're my little brother," Frank looked him over and then said, "Well, not that little anymore. You keep putting on weight you're going to start looking like our uncle."
"Which Uncle is that?" he asked.
"Mom's brother…" Frank gave him a weird look as he stood up. "Roberto, you know, the guy you're named after," he said matter-of-factly like he was an idiot for not knowing.
"I look like him," he genuinely asked because he was curious.
Frank gave a slight shrug as he headed to the kitchen. "A little, especially now that you're older, and bigger," he teased as he disappeared around the corner.
He quickly finished off the coffee as he stood to follow Frank into the kitchen when there was a knock on the door. Turning towards it, he called out, "I'll get it."
"Bobby, wait," Frank called out as he hurried into the room.
Having been closer, he was already at the door and looking through the peephole as Frank came up beside him. There was a man one the other side who he recognized as one of the dealers from downstairs. Blinking back at the door, he turned to Frank and pointed to the door as he grabbed the handle. "I got it."
"It's my house, Bobby, c'mon on, let me-"
"No, no, I got it," he said again as he push Frank out of the way and unlocked the door. He opened it and stared at the man for a few seconds before telling him, "He's good tonight, alright. Come back next week." The man went to speak when he shut the door in his face and locked it. Turning to Frank, he told him, "While I'm here, you're staying sober, unless it's beer. Got it."
Frank looked pissed as hell as he stepped up to him. "This is my house so why don't you just leave, Bobby!" he suddenly snapped as he pointed toward the door. "You're obviously in trouble if you want to stay here."
Frank went over to the TV and turned it on as he told him, "Let's see what's on the news."
Stalking over the wall, he yanked the chord out of the outlet. "I said to calm down, Frank."
"Stop telling me what to do!" he shouted as he tried to grab the chord from his hand. When Frank couldn't get it he pushed him hard in the chest but barely moved him as he said, "You're always doing this!"
"Doing what?" he asked in both anger and confusion.
"This!" Frank said as he gestured between them. "You're always trying to control my life for me. Yeah, so I get high. Big deal, but it's my life, asshole. You can't just come here and try to tell me who I should be friends with or what to do! Okay! Why don't you go back to your perfect fucking life and leave mine alone!"
Staring hard at this man before him, he felt the urge to hit him. And the urge wasn't due to the fact that he was yelling at him, and accusing him of interfering with his life, but for the simple fact that he called his life perfect. Why was that one statement so infuriating to him, but not all the others?
It didn't matter. What mattered was that he no longer wanted this man's help with anything. Shoving the chord into his chest, he pushed him back until the television fell off the dresser. At the sound of the television busting on the floor, Frank was falling over the coffee table. It wasn't until then that he realized what he'd done and why. He was so enraged, he felt like pulling Frank just to push him down all over again.
And from the look in Frank's eyes, this hadn't been the first time he'd lost his temper with him. It almost looked expected.
Swallowing the tight lump in his throat, he gravely asked, "I always lose my temper like this?"
Frank shivered below him as he covered his head with his arm. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he looked up at him, saying, "Not always, but enough…and usually it's with me. At least you didn't hit me this time."
It took him a good half minute to finally walk away; he stepped over the broken TV on the floor and headed to the door. He didn't say anything as he unlocked the door and left.
'J' Subway Train
Brooklyn into Manhattan
As the train cruised over the streets of Brooklyn and then over the river into Manhattan, he pulled the notepad from his jacket pocket and started re-reading.
After his run in with the woman named Nicole Wallace, he had done his research. He went to the same library in Brooklyn and with the help of Melanie was able to gather some information. All he'd gotten from his extensive research was that Nicole had been accused of crimes but never convicted. That was why he had gone to see Eames.
It hadn't been to just to let her know he was okay, but to get information. He had figured Nicole was trouble, but he didn't think she was a killer. And now, with the added information that she was big on poisons, he wondered if she had poisoned him.
He was tired of being left in the dark, of feeling blind in the world he lived in. It was the worst feeling in the world to not be able to trust ones own mind.
Taking out a pen, he flipped to a blank page and started writing. It didn't take long before the pages were filled of his thoughts, the information he'd found about Nicole, about Frank, and of a timeline he'd been able to trace of his own life. He tried to piece some things together but he was still lacking facts.
There were still too many questions running around his head and not enough answers. He felt himself coming to a stand-still in his head with no where to go. The steps to take were blurring as he tried to foresee the coming storm.
And there would be a storm.
He felt the dark clouds on the horizon and knew that this feeling was a warning. From what Eames had told him, he could have very well killed Caleb. And then from his explosive anger with Frank not long ago…The rage he'd felt was frightening. That thought sent a tremor through him as he thought about what Nicole had told him earlier that day.
The conversation he had with her was like playing a game of chess, a lot of give and take, a lot of well-thought out strategic moves being planned. Through it all, he couldn't help the thought that it had been fun, exciting, and the feeling that he'd done it many times before.
"You haven't told me what the nature of our, relationship, is," he said as they headed toward the subway.
Nicole had offered to drive him, but he refused. The one person he felt he could trust so far was Detective Eames. However, because Eames's lack in telling him everything that was going on, it was hard for him to put himself in her hands. He knew she was on his side, but where exactly was that line?
"The nature of our relationship has been quite complicated."
He looked over at her as they approached the staircase that led down into the tunnel. "That didn't answer my question."
"Yes it did."
The smirk that formed on his face couldn't be helped. For some reason, it was strangely exciting. He paid for his fare along with hers even though he didn't think she was actually going to get on the subway, before pushing through the turnstile. She was right behind him as he ventured over to a vendor and bought a bottle of water.
After he took a sip of the water, he asked, "Are you the one who did this to me?"
Nicole seemed taken back by that blunt question. He saw the slight twinkle in her eyes and the quirk of her lips, like she'd been caught and was deeply amused by it. "I didn't do anything to you, except…"
He waited her out as she tried to bait him. Despite his own weird feeling of excitement, he was getting frustrated. He needed answers, and just like Eames, this woman was leading him around in circles. When he started to shift from one foot to the other, nearly squirming under her gaze, she finally smiled slightly. "You enjoy seeing me squirm, don't you?"
"It's not very often when I get to see the stoic become unhinged."
The stoic…Was that what he'd been like before? Or was it only with her? Taking a sip of the drink, he looked down the tracks and saw a faint light coming. "Except what?" he finally asked.
"Except try to help you, of course."
She was just as bad as Eames with not answering him directly. Feeling irritated, he said, "We don't have much time. You need to get to the point. Why did you come to me? Why expose yourself now?"
"My, my, I just love it when you're confused and bitter. I told you, I want to help you, Bob-," she caught herself and gave him a smile. "Robert."
"Help me to do what?"
"To learn the truth of who you are. You don't remember but we were rudely interrupted the last time. I don't like interruptions."
"How did it happen?"
With a weary smile, she simply answered, "Competition happened. Don't worry, love, we no longer need to worry about that; I took care of it."
He stared down at her for a long moment as he tried to focus on her, her tells, and what she was actually telling him. He didn't know why, but he felt that she spoke in cryptic tones that had to be deciphered. The problem was he didn't understand the code or language used.
"Here," she said as she pulled out a phone and handed it to him. "That other one is currently being tracked. If you wanted to stay hidden, Robert, you should've never used it to call a cop."
The train screeched to a stop beside him as he took the offered phone. "And this isn't going to be?"
"Never. I made sure of that. I, unlike you, have never been found once on the run." She gave him a cheeky smile as she started to walk backwards into the crowd. "Smart move, by the way."
Before she could get too far, he pulled up the phone and took a quick picture of her. "What was?" he asked.
Nicole scowled at him for taking her picture, but kept walking as she told him, "Hiding in plain sight. No one notices anybody in this city," she told him that before turning around and disappearing into the crowd that was pushing around him to get on the train.
The jolt of the train forward brought him back to the present as he pocketed the notepad and pen. It wasn't his stop so he remained seated as a couple of people got on and sat down. Once the train was moving again, he looked around the train and spotted a transit officer glancing his way. The man was a young guy and looked like he hadn't been on the job long. The fear mixed with anticipation in his dark brown eyes gave that away. It was a look of inexperience.
When the transit officer turned his head away from his, he got up and started moving down the subway car. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the officer speaking into his radio. Feeling a spark of panic in his chest, he pulled open the door and stepped through it into the next car. He kept going, not too fast to cause alarm, but not slow enough to have the officer come up behind him unexpectedly.
Feeling the train slowing, he gripped the overhead bar by a door and glanced back to see the officer walking through the doors from the last car. Once the doors opened he got off and immediately headed to the stairs. Knowing he didn't have long before a patrol car got to the entrance, once he hit the staircase going up to the street, he bolted.
"Hey, stop!" the transit officer yelled out.
Not stopping, and really not knowing why, he kept running. He hit the pavement of the sidewalk and darted out across the street as a couple of taxis braked and car horns erupted in his ears. There was no reason to look back as he knew he was being chased as he turned down a dark alley between two buildings.
The freezing air was burning his lungs as he pushed through a gate and slammed it behind him. As he did so, he turned slightly and caught sight of the officer giving chase about fifty yards behind him. Through the walls of the brick building he could hear a thumping sound, like a bass guitar, beating through the walls and around the alley.
Sliding on a patch of ice as he rounded a corner, he nearly fell but caught himself on the dumpster as he found his footing and kept going. A second later he heard a yell and then a bang into the dumpster. The officer must have hit the ice too but was unable to catch himself.
There was a fence in front of him and no way through it but over it. He leaped up and caught the top of it and pulled himself up but instead of jumping over it, he reached toward the fire escape as he stepped up on top of the fence and pushed himself up. He caught the top rail with both hands and pulled himself up the ladder until he got his foot on the last rung.
Looking back down, he saw the officer on the radio as he limped toward the fence. Huffing out a breath or air, he scaled over the railing and then headed up the fire escape. The roofs were worse than down on the streets as the cold wind stung his face as he took off the wool cap and tossed it. Then he transferred everything that was in his jacket pockets to his pants before tossing the jacket as well. The Yankees ball cap had been shoved down in the inside jacket pocket so he pulled it on before covering it with the hood of the hooded sweatshirt he'd been wearing.
He scaled over several rooftops before jumping down onto another fire escape. The sirens were scattered over the streets and he saw the red and blue lights as he dropped down into an vacant lot. Stuffing his hands into his pockets, he lit up a cigarette as he walked across the lot. There was a construction fence up, separating the lot from the street so he couldn't been seen as he made his way to the street.
There was a padlock and chain on the gated fence but whoever locked it up last left enough gap in the chain to push the gate open and get out. He had to maneuver around it and suck in his gut but he was able to get through the gap and stumble onto the sidewalk. The sirens were getting closer so he stopped and bought a paper at a newsstand. If he started to run, that would give him away. All he had to do now was act normal.
A couple of feet down on the corner was a vendor selling hot pretzels and coffee. So he stopped and got him both before looking both ways to cross the street. There was a bus stop with a bench so he sat down as the cop car turned the corner and slowed to search the street.
Pulling out the cell phone, he made a call as he watched the car out of the corner of his eye. As he listened to the ringing, he felt the anticipation of her voice. He couldn't explain it, but her voice felt like a lifeline. The only light he had in this dark world that made no sense to him. Her voice was helping him to hold onto any sense of hope in finding out the truth…In finding himself.
On the sixth ring, she answered, "Hello?"
"If I'm just a person of interest then why are the cops willing to chase after me?" She was silent for a long moment. He felt her hesitation and it angered him once again. "I thought we were over this, detective."
"Why were you running?" she asked instead which made his jaw tighten.
"Because I felt I had to. Is there a warrant out?" Again, she was silent and he got his answer. It hadn't taken him long to understand that her silence meant that what he said was right. "Why?"
"There was another murder," she finally told him
Those words hit him hard as he stared at the patrol car creeping along the street, getting closer to the bus stop. "Let me guess…I'm the number one suspect." When she didn't speak, he gave a nod. "You know, Eames…your silence speaks louder than words." then as the cop car passed him and continued on, he asked, "Should I turn myself in?"
"That would be the smart thing to do, Bobby."
He didn't feel like correcting her on the name, but he had heard her tone. She had more to say. "But?"
"But nothing. I know you, you'll do the right thing. Running-"
"No, detective, you used to know me. How can you know a man who doesn't even know himself?"
She was quiet for a moment before telling him, "Because, despite your lack of memory, you're still you. You still think like a cop."
At hearing that, he felt a smile twist his lips. Well, she had him there. "You're right, I do, but…As of right now, I'm not a cop. I don't know what I am, I don't know who I am, and running…As long as I'm out here, I can do something. If I'm locked up, I can't defend myself."
"Then come to me. I can help defend you."
"Only if you promise not to keep anything from me."
"I don't know if-"
"I can't trust you, Eames, if you continue to keep things from me. You want me to meet with you? How do I know there won't be a swarm of cops or that other detective there, waiting like last time."
She sighed heavily and he knew he was putting her in a tough spot, between a rock and a hard place. Between her job and him. "I'm sorry about that. It wasn't my call. If you meet me tomorrow, I promise you it'll be just me and you this time."
Taking a moment to think about it, he finally agreed, "Okay, tomorrow. At 9 am I'll call and tell you when and where."
"Oh, and uh, one more thing…What number came up when I called?"
Without a moments pause, she answered, "It didn't. It came up blocked. I almost didn't answer."
He thought that over and wondered why Nicole, a sociopath that was his enemy, would be trying to help him. It didn't make any sense. "Good night, Eames."
He hung up the phone and stuffed it into his pocket. Taking a bite of the pretzel, he got up off the cold bench and started down the street, back the way he'd come. The cops would continue canvassing the area so he continued along Canal Street, toward the subway entrance.
That entrance was a lot busier than the one in Brooklyn as he pushed through several groups of people while heading toward the platform for the number 6 subway train. Once on the train, he opened the paper and kept his head down as it sped along the tracks under Manhattan and into the Bronx.