Survival instinct. Some people have it in spades. Will Ingram doesn't have it at all. But his new girlfriend has enough for both of them. Unfortunately, she's not who he thinks she is. And her Number just came up. If Finch and Reese are going to save a life – and a budding romance – they'll have to find out who she is, who wants her dead, and why, even after she brutally dumped him, she won't stop following Will all over the city.

Season 1, before Firewall. Language, violence.


To live is like to love - all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it.
Samuel Butler


Harold Finch stood up and stretched carefully. He'd been sitting still for much too long; his neck and back were stiff, painful. It had been a long time since he'd spent a whole morning at this particular desk. He realized that he'd been expecting the phone to ring and call him away. He glanced at the large stack of papers he'd finished going through with some satisfaction. Then he moved to one of the windows – two whole walls of the office were made of windows – and looked down at the city. The view was satisfying, as well.

He'd needed a quiet day. So had Reese. He hoped John had taken the chance to get some rest.

He thought idly about lunch. He wasn't really hungry yet, but he should make plans, maybe reservations. Not Italian. Not Indian. Something lighter; it had been a low-activity day so far…

Predictably, the moment he began to make plans, his phone rang.

He checked the incoming number, then answered it with just the right annoyed briskness in his voice. "Harold Wren."

"Mr. Wren," a strong male voice said, "this is Robert Berry. Skydd International Security."

Harold felt cold all over, like he'd been suddenly splashed with ice water. "Mr. Berry," he said carefully. "How can I help you?"

"Mr. Wren, I'm very sorry to have to tell you this. There's an issue with Dr. Ingram's security detail."

Not splashed, Harold decided. Dunked in ice water and sinking fast. Not Will. I can't lose Will, too. "An issue. What sort of issue?"

"We've lost contact with the detail. We're doing everything we can to re-establish surveillance on the subject. We have a back-up team on the way. But at the moment … you wanted to be informed of any change in status."

For a moment Harold simply held his breath. He was convinced, somehow, that if he inhaled he would drown.

"Mr. Wren?"

"Yes." Harold shook his head, made himself inhale and exhale. "How soon do you expect an update?"

"Within the hour."

"Please keep me informed. I'll keep this line open."

"Yes, sir."

Harold thumbed off the phone and gripped the back of his chair. It kept him upright. Not Will, he thought again. I can't lose Will. The ice in his veins began to transition to rage. Skydd was the most expensive private security firm in the world, and presumably the best. It damn well ought to be the best; they put a huge amount of their revenues back into training and equipment. He knew, because he owned 60% of the stock. Their elite team should have been able to protect one young man without losing track of him. What the hell kind of …

Ice again. If management couldn't contact their very professional operatives, it might well mean that the men were dead, and the only reason for that would be because Will was …

He reached for his phone again. Hesitated. Will was half-way around the world. There was not a damn thing John Reese could do for him. He was good, but he wasn't that good. Finch took a deep breath. He was being hysterical. He had to get his emotions under control. Think, he told himself firmly. You don't even know that Will is in any danger …

He hit the speed dial anyhow.

"Finch," Reese answered after the first ring. He sounded relaxed, a little sleepy.

"Mr. Reese, I …"

There was a firm, polite knock on his office door.

"Oh, God," Harold breathed. He stood up, opened a drawer, dropped the phone in, left it open. "Come in," he called as firmly as he could.

His assistant opened the door. She looked anxious. "Mr. Wren, there are some gentlemen here to see you. They say it's very important …"

Harold nodded. "Please."

She retreated, and two men came in. They were in suits, clean-shaven, middle aged. Very serious. They were there to tell him that Will Ingram was dead. He was absolutely certain of that.

He tried to swallow; his mouth was too dry. "Gentlemen?" His voice sounded thin, scared. He glanced down at the phone. Reese could hear him, hear everything. It was a spider-thin thread of comfort.

"Mr. Wren," the slightly taller man said. "My name is Brian Ware. I'm with the State Department. This is Kevin Serra."

Harold gestured to the guest chairs. "Please, sit down." They did, and he dropped into his own chair. He knew. He felt sick and so very cold. He didn't want to know, but he knew. "How can I help you?"

They shared a look. "Mr. Wren, you're, uh, you're listed as next of kin for Dr. William Ingram?"

"Yes." He clenched his hands in his lap until the nails drew blood on his palms. He should explain that he was not really Will's uncle. He should ask why they were there, as if he didn't know. He should … he couldn't. He just waited.

"There's been an … incident," Serra said. "Dr. Ingram has been kidnapped."

Harold took a deep breath. Kidnapped was a relief. Kidnapped was bad, but it better than dead. "Kidnapped?" he repeated, trying to keep the glee out of his voice. He sounded a little giddy, but that could pass as stunned.

"In Mali. This may be the work of Islamists, but it's more likely that it's a local faction, a gang. That this was done purely for profit."

"When?"

"About two hours ago. Dr. Ingram and another aid worker were taken on the main road."

Harold stirred, glanced down at the phone again. Half-way around the world, but there might be time, Reese might be able to get to him. "If this is a question of ransom …"

Both men shook their heads. "We don't pay ransoms," Ware said firmly. "We find that it rarely resolves the situation in a positive manner."

"Then what …"

"We're only here to advise you of the situation," Serra continued. They exchanged another look. "We have a team in place. A rescue operation is being carried out."

Finch blinked at him. "What … now?"

"Yes."

Harold didn't know how to respond. He didn't know what to feel. Right now, half-way around the world. No chance for Reese to intervene. Will's life was in the hands of strangers, and he was helpless.

But they were trying to rescue him. Right now.

"That's very … quick."

"Mr. Wren," Ware said, "were you aware that Dr. Ingram was under the protection of a private security detail?"

Harold nodded. "Yes. His father set it up initially. I maintain it now. Will – Dr. Ingram, doesn't know. He's quite … independent. Stubbornly so."

They both nodded again. "The men on the detail disappeared shortly before the attack."

"Disappeared?"

"We're trying to locate them. But their absence was what alerted our people to the increased danger. That allowed us to get a team in place. Unfortunately we weren't able to prevent the kidnapping."

Harold looked toward the windows. The view was no longer satisfactory. He hated being helpless more than anything. Will's security people had disappeared. Either they'd been bought off or they were dead. Most likely they were dead. He felt a moment of grief, regret, for men he didn't know. But Will was still alive. Still in danger. His concern focused back on the young man. "When … when will we know?"

"Hopefully within the hour."

An hour. It might as well be an eternity. "I see." He nodded, trying to think. What do people do, while they wait to learn if someone they cannot bear to lose has been lost? How do they wait to hear if the nearest thing they will ever have to a son has died a violent death half a world away? Human interaction. He didn't do human interaction. He glanced at the phone again. "Can I … that is … would you like some coffee?"

He didn't wait to see if they nodded. He palmed the phone out of the drawer, walked to the door and opened it. "Ms. Lowe, would you get these gentlemen some coffee, please?"

"Of course, Mr. Wren." She still looked concerned, rattled by the badges they'd no doubt shown her, but she was wonderfully efficient, as always. "Would you like some more tea?"

"I … no." He put his hand to his mouth. "No, thank you." He glanced at the men, who were watching him. "Excuse me," he mumbled. He pressed his hand to his mouth again and hurried across the office to his washroom. He closed the door behind him and leaned against it. The room was dim and blessedly cool.

Finch turned on the tap and ran water in the sink. Then he put the phone to his ear. "John?" he said quietly.

"I'm here, Harold. Tell me what you need."

"I need to know that Will Ingram is safe." His voice cracked, and he fought to get it under control. "I don't know what I should do."

"You're doing what you're doing," Reese said firmly. "Give the suits some coffee and wait for news."

"I can't just wait. I can't."

"Do you have satellite surveillance set up on him?"

"Yes." It was ethically questionable, he knew, to have hacked national security satellites for the sole purpose of keeping watch over his wayward nephew. He didn't care.

"I'm almost to the library. I'll need the password."

Finch hesitated. If he gave him the password Reese would need to get to the satellite feed, he could access so many other things. So many secrets. It hurt, badly …

Not as badly as losing Will would.

But even if he had the password, Reese could do no more than watch. It was all happening so far away, beyond even his significant powers to intervene.

"Finch," Reese said, "you change the password every day anyhow." He sounded annoyed, impatient. Stung.

"Of course," Finch relented. He keyed the password into the phone and hit send. "Please …"

"I'll let you know what I see." His voice lost its edge. "He's a very high-value target, Harold. Try to …" he stopped. "Have a little faith."

Harold closed his eyes. "I have a little." He slipped his earwig in, dropped the phone into his pocket. "So very little." He splashed a little water on his face, dried it off, turned off the tap. Went back to the men waiting at his desk. "I'm sorry," he said. He took his glasses off, wiped a small droplet of water off with his thumb. "No word?"

"Not yet."

Ms. Lowe came in with the coffee tray. The coffee pot was silver, the cups real china. She'd brought tea for him, too, though he'd asked her not to. He took the cup between his hands, grateful for its warmth. He did not drink it. He was afraid he'd vomit for real.

The men fixed coffee for themselves and settled back uneasily. Serra glanced at his watch. After a moment, Ware brought his phone out, checked it, set it on the edge of the desk.

"This must be a terrible job," Finch said quietly.

"Sometimes," Serra agreed.

"Mr. Wren, please understand," Ware added. "We're doing everything in our power to get your nephew back safely."

"I know," Finch answered. His hands began to tremble and he had to take them away from the comfort of the warm cup before he spilled the tea. He dropped them into his lap, out of sight. "I know."


1982

Harold stared through the glass at the fifteen bassinettes inside the newborn nursery. They all looked alike to him. Except for the pink and blue blankets and some statistically insignificant variation in size, they were identical. Small, red-faced, eyes stubbornly closed. Not one of the babies looked happy to have arrived in the world. Honestly, he didn't blame them.

He felt Nathan at his shoulder and shifted his gaze to the plastic bin that had 'Ingram' written on the name tag. The infant within was absolutely unremarkable, as far as he could see, except for faint blue bruises on each side of his face, in the shape of the forceps that had saved his just-started life.

"He's gorgeous, isn't he?" Nathan said quietly.

Harold simply nodded. It seemed more polite than an outright lie.

"The nurse said she'd never seen a more perfect newborn."

"Hmmm." Of course she had, Harold thought. That was her job. He looked over at Nathan. "How are you?"

"I'm exhausted," Ingram admitted. He looked it. "Longest damn night of my life." He shook his head. "I never thought it would be so …" Then he stopped, squared his shoulders. "But they're okay. Both of them, they're okay."

Harold nodded and looked back toward the infant. Nathan would never sneak into the nurses' station and read the whole chart, the way he had, so Nathan would never know how fearfully close he'd come to losing both of them. He would never need to; it didn't matter now. As he'd said, they were both, against all odds, safe.

"What will you name him?" he asked.

Nathan's reflection grinned at him in the window. "We haven't decided yet. But I'm really pushing for Harold."

Harold smiled back, startled but pleased. "Please don't do that," he said earnestly. "I'm flattered – honored, really, but … it's been an awful name for my generation. It would be absolutely dreadful in his."

Besides, he thought, your wife hates me. If you name your son after me, she'll remember that every time she looks at him. The boy's had a rough enough beginning. He doesn't need that, too.

If Nathan knew how much unspoken animosity simmered between his best friend and his wife, he pretended not to. But he accepted Harold's recommendation without argument. "What would you name him, then?"

Harold considered. "Something conventional. Classic. Something that sounds like the name of a rich man's son."

Ingram chuckled. "We're not rich men yet, Harold."

"We will be," he promised. He half-turned, reached up a bit to put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Believe me. Your child will have everything he needs in the world. And everything he wants."

Nathan's blue eyes considered, nodded. "Thank you. I need that reassurance right now. I can't believe I have a … I have a son, Harold. I never thought I'd … I thought at this point in my life I'd still be … I don't know, chasing girls and drinking too much beer and …" He shook his head. "I have a son."

At that moment he looked very young to Harold. He was right, he should be chasing girls and drinking too much beer. Enjoying his summer and looking forward to girls and beer at graduate school. Irresponsible, carefree, with nothing more to worry about than whether there was gas in the car. Instead he was newly married and had a brand new son. He was hopelessly mired in domestic bliss. Well, mired in domestic something, anyhow.

He was also exhausted and anxious. Scared. The full weight of the responsibility was settling on Nathan's shoulders. A wife and a son. A baby.

The grandmotherly nurse inside the nursery finally noticed the two young men. She ambled over and pushed the bassinet closer to the window, so that they could look directly down on the blue-blanketed bundle that was Nathan Ingram's son. The infant had a little shock of hair on his head, light brown, which stood straight up. His nose looked mashed, and he had dark circles under his eyes.

This close, the bruises from the forceps looked brutal.

Harold looked away, at his friend again.

The expression on Nathan's face took him by surprise. His mouth was tight, but his chin quivered. His eyes were suspiciously bright. The shoulder under Harold's hand began to shake. "Poor boy," he murmured, very softly. "My poor boy."

He was enraptured, Harold realized. His friend was completely and utterly smitten with that little creature. He was in love with the boy. And for the first time, Harold believed in the concept of love at first sight.

He considered the sleeping baby again. "William," he pronounced softly.

Nathan blinked. "As in Shakespeare?"

"Author of great romances," Harold confirmed. "If he has his mother's looks and his father's wealth, it will suit him perfectly."

Nathan chuckled. "Harold, you've gone poetic on me."

Harold laughed with him. "I'll try not to make a habit of it." He tapped the glass softly. The baby slept on, but the nurse gave him a warning glare and he lowered his hand. "Still, it's a good name."

"William," Ingram repeated. "Will, for short, I think. You're right. It's a good name." He nodded. "Thank you, Uncle Harold."

Harold looked at him. They were strange words, next to each other that way. But he could get to like them. Uncle Harold. And Will Ingram. They were good names, both of them.

It wasn't until much later, when it was too late to reconsider, that he remembered that the author of great romances had also been the author of great tragedies.


2012

Reese sat down at the computer, reached for the keyboard. Hesitated. Then he shook his head. He'd tried to guess Finch's passwords many times. Now that he had one, freely given, he had no reason not to use it. But it felt wrong.

He shrugged, input the password. The system came to life for him. He glanced at the many screens and displays. He passingly understood what about two-thirds of it did. Some of it he would never understand. And at least two screens, he was fairly sure, were games. The genius versions of 'Minesweeper'. Not that Harold would ever admit it.

'Freely given' was probably not the right term, he corrected. Under extreme duress was more accurate. Reese had learned everything he could about Will Ingram's background when the young man first appeared in Finch's life. But exactly how Will and Harold were connected was still a bit fuzzy. He knew that Will was the only son of Nathan Ingram, who had been Harold's partner and probably oldest friend. He knew the boy called him Uncle Harold, and that he was one of the few people that Finch suffered himself to be hugged by; there was clearly affection between the two. But the exact depth of the relationship had eluded him. Finch seemed to be willing to let the young man live his own life and make his own mistakes. He'd thrown his bail when Will had been arrested for a minor crime, but he hadn't stepped in beforehand, though he obviously could have.

The fact that Finch was so distressed now told Reese that he had probably underestimated the boy's significance to him. Will Ingram was important enough to give up his password for.

Reese studied the displays, finally found what he was after. That it was already running confirmed his new knowledge: Finch was clocking his Will Ingram 24/7. The kid was half-way around the world and his not-technically-uncle checked up on him at will.

John didn't want to think about how often Finch checked in on him. But then, he'd gotten used to the idea. Mostly.

Mali. He shook his head. What the hell was Ingram doing in Mali? Charity work, Doctors Without Borders, fine. But there were other places where doctors were needed, places that weren't a tinderbox of civil unrest. Places where bullets weren't flying on a daily basis, and where citizens weren't being stoned to death for religious offenses. Much safer places. The boy had been in Sudan, which had been somewhat better. But he seemed to have an affinity for the hot spots.

The State Department men had said Finch had a security team to following the boy. It probably paid extremely well. But Reese didn't envy them a bit. A rich kid like Will Ingram was likely to be a spoiled pain in the ass to protect.

What had happened to them?

He pulled the joystick over to him and scrolled around the view of the city. The men in Finch's —Wren's— office hadn't said that the kidnappers were still in the city, but it seemed likely. If they were correct that it was a local gang, they wouldn't have ventured outside their safe zone. The fact that the rescue mission was already in place also meant that they hadn't traveled far.

Over his earwig, he could hear the silence in Harold's office. The occasional clink of china cups. Very distant phones and voices, outside the closed door. Every so often he caught Finch's ragged breathing. He was trying to stay calm.

Reese paused. He was doing this this hard way. He released the joystick and hit the reset button. His satellite view snapped back to what the government was watching over the city; he was suddenly looking straight down over a building at the fringes of the city. Zoomed in. The State guys were telling the truth. The operation was already under way.

"I've got eyes on them," Reese said quietly. He heard Finch sigh very softly.

He studied the view for a moment. On a hunch, he clicked a control button. Tactical data came up to the left of the screen. Finch was fully embedded in the system; Reese could see exactly what the operators could see. He glanced over the data. It was a CIA team, not military. Covert, in theory; the US government could deny any involvement if things went completely south. But they didn't seem particularly interested in remaining covert. They were going hard.

Something seemed wrong. The weaponry wasn't quite right. The personnel …

Finch said, "I wish I could see what they're seeing right now." There was movement; he'd probably moved away from his desk.

"I'm sure we'll have news soon," one of his guests told him.

Reese looked back to the satellite view. "They're in a building at the edge of the city," he said. "It looks like there are multiple floors. The hostages are at the center of the building, probably on the top floor." All he could see was the heat signature, of course, but the two of them were in very close proximity and unmoving in the center of the room, so it was a safe assumption. There was one other signature in the room, pacing. Guarding them. "They're alive," he added.

There were eight other signatures in the building. Two were at the corners, northeast and southwest. The others were clustered around the front of the building, all together. "They have two look-outs posted, but the rest of them are not set in yet. They're not ready to defend themselves."

They weren't going to get a chance to get ready, either, Reese thought. Outside the building, the team was set. Five men covered the exits and the perimeter. One more moving at the side of the building. They were backed up by two snipers on opposite sides of the building. Well-armed and well-organized. He leaned forward. They would need to get that guard with the hostages first. He needed to get word to them, to tell them … then he shook his head. They were looking at exactly the same satellite view he was. They were perfectly aware of that issue.

He knew the men on this strike team. Not these particular men, but men just like them. He'd been one of them. They were trained, professional, determined. They knew what they were doing.

Finch cleared his throat.

The sixth man, the one that had been moving, was inside the building. He had likely climbed the outer wall, entered through a window. He moved quickly toward the hostages. "The team is getting set up now," Reese reported. "It will take a few minutes to get into position."

He wasn't quite sure why he was lying to Finch, except that it seemed kinder.

John remembered everything about being where they were. The soft smell of gun oil. The weight of the vest, and of the gun in his hands. The sweat dripping down his back. The soft voice in his ear, quiet commands over the radio. The bright hyper-alertness of his whole body. The feeling of the team, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone around him. Being part of the pack. He remembered the tension, the excitement, of this moment. Everybody staying tight, reporting in. In position, ready, go on three…

The heat signature of the moving friendly reached the room with the hostages. The guard went from upright to vertical. He was down. In the next instant the hostages also went down. Reese felt his breath catch. But the two shapes moved, still down, probably rolling. They went from the center off the room to the nearest wall, and then more upright to the closest corner.

Not safe, he thought, but safer than they had been a minute before.

"Probably doing final equipment check now," Reese lied into Finch's ear.

The sentry on the southwest corner fell next.

The other friendlies moved into the buildings. There was a brief firefight, but the hostiles were badly outmatched.

The last sentry got outside the building – fire escape, ladder, something – before he was picked off by the sniper.

The strike team secured the building and a team of four moved in two different directions toward the hostages. They moved cautiously but very swiftly, and were with them within thirty seconds. They moved them out with the same cautious speed.

In the space of two minutes, the team and the hostages were out of the building.

Reese sat back, let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "They're safe, Finch."

Finch started to answer, turned it into a cough. "Excuse me," he said to the State men.

"The hostages are out and they're safe," John clarified. "Ingram's safe. They're on their way out of the city now. Take a deep breath."

Harold did, audibly. "Can I … more coffee?" he offered faintly.

His guests demurred. Reese had the notion that at least one of them had an earpiece of his own and knew what was going down.

He watched as the satellite view pulled back. The strike team had vehicles waiting. They bundled their rescued hostages away quickly, probably quietly. Reese couldn't tell which of the two bright dots was Will Ingram and which was the other aid worker, and it didn't matter. They stayed very close together. Half-way around the world, they were safe.

"I wish that phone would ring," Harold said.

"I'm sure we'll have news soon," one of the men assured him.

"It's an inner-agency operation," Reese told him. "It will take a few minutes for word to move up the chain and back down."

No one pursued the trucks as they left. Possibly the operation had been too quick and quiet to attract any local attention. More likely the local officials had been bribed to ignore it. It was unlikely that the national government would get involved. They couldn't afford to anger the US; it was in their interest to pretend it had never happened. And they had enough problems with their own people.

There would be some kind of transport out of the country waiting, somewhere. Still a chance of a second attack, an IED or an ambush. But none of that was likely, and the men around the hostages were still heavily armed, highly alert.

Will Ingram was as safe as he could be.

Reese looked at the screens in front of him. He wouldn't get another chance like this. Quickly he began to look through the other screens.

A phone rang in Finch's office. One of the State guys muttered into it, and then announced, quite clearly, "Mr. Wren, Dr. Ingram's been recovered. He's safe."

"Oh, thank God," Finch breathed. "And the other man, too?"

"The other …"

"You said another aid worker had been kidnapped with him."

"Right, sorry. She's a woman, actually. I think." Cups clicked onto china, chairs were moved.

"Oh. Oh. I don't know why I assumed … thank you. Thank you so much. Can I … is there any chance I can talk to Will?"

"It will be an hour or two before they can get a secured signal out," one of the government suits told him. "We will have him contact you personally as soon as possible. But be assured that he is safe."

"Yes. Thank you. Yes." There was a brief pause. "Should I … that is, can I go to meet him? In what, Germany? Is there …"

"We're not sure, Mr. Wren. Those arrangements will be made once the operation is wrapped up. But I believe the plan is to bring them directly back to the States."

"I see …"

"Someone will contact you once that's been decided."

"And as we said," the other one contributed, "we'll see that you get to speak directly to Dr. Ingram as quickly as possible. But it will take a few hours."

"I'll keep my cell phone with me," Finch vowed. "I … I really don't know what to say."

"We'll be in touch."

There was movement; a door opened and closed. There was silence. "You all right, Harold?" Reese asked.

Harold's voice was soft but clear. "Much better now, Mr. Reese."

"The boy needs a keeper."

"He had one," Finch answered. "A very expensive team of them, in fact."

"Maybe you need to keep him close to home for a while."

"Easier said than done, I'm afraid. But I'll see what I can do." A pause. "I just need to get him home, first."

"Oh, it sounds like the State Department will take care of that part."

"Yes. Thank you, John."

"I didn't do anything but watch," he pointed out.

"Knowing that you were watching was helpful. Reassuring, at any rate. Thank you."

And then, as Reese expected, the screens in front of him went blank. He could hear the keys of the phone click as his employer changed his password. He grinned to himself and sat back. Will Ingram was safe, Finch was annoyed, and he hadn't even mussed his jacket. Not a bad morning's work, he thought. Not bad at all.


Finch limped into the library less than an hour later. Sometimes the limp was less pronounced; today it betrayed how tense his body still was. Reese sat in one of the side chairs, pretending to be innocently reading. He could tell by the way Finch sat down at the computer that he wasn't buying it. "Good morning," he said cheerfully.

"Afternoon, actually, Mr. Reese." Harold's hands flew over the keyboard and a moment later the system sprang up again.

Reese watched him for a moment. "You can't blame me for trying, Harold. You knew I was curious when you hired me."

Finch nodded without looking up. "Of course. That's part of why I hired you. And I don't begrudge your attempts to find out more about me. Any of them." He paused, looked over at Reese. "I truly appreciate your help this morning. Your observation made a difficult situation … somewhat easier."

"You haven't heard from the boy yet?"

"No. But they said it would take a few hours." His mouth drew tight. "I did hear from the director of Skydd. Will's entire security detail is dead."

"That's what you expected, isn't it?"

"Yes. Unfortunately." Finch shook his head. "I'm glad they were able to get to Will as quickly as they did. I can't imagine days or weeks of that kind of waiting. A single hour was agonizing."

Reese nodded. "They were planning to extract him."

Finch frowned, puzzled.

"They were planning to take him out of Mali before he was kidnapped. They knew someone was coming for him." He paused. "They must have gotten some good intelligence. From somewhere."

He watched the words sink in. Finch relaxed a notch. They would probably never know for certain whether the Machine had played a part in Will Ingram's swift rescue. But it was definitely a possibility. The money his captors might have demanded for ransom would have paid for a lot of terrorist activities.

"The boy's safe, Harold. He'll call soon. Relax. Maybe take the rest of the day off."

Finch just looked at him. After a long moment, Reese realized why. "We have a new Number."

"I told you, Mr. Reese. The Numbers wait for no man." With some resignation, he turned back to his keyboard.

John rolled to his feet. "All right. Get me what you can. Then I'll deal with the case. You deal with your nephew."

"I appreciate that," Finch answered. "And I may take you up on it. But as you say, Will is safe. And even if they fly him out right now it will take most of a day to get him home. Perhaps we can resolve this new matter before he gets here."

"Sure," Reese answered. They'd had Numbers they'd resolved in under a day. Plenty of them. But the way the world worked, he was absolutely certain this wouldn't be one of them. "Start the preliminaries. I'll go get some coffee. And tea."

"Mr. Reese," Finch said, before he got to the doorway. John turned back. "Thank you."

Reese nodded, a little embarrassed by the warmth in his employer' eyes, and went out.