Title: Play the Game
Notes: Thanks for your patience between updates. And of course thanks for the reviews, the follows, the favs. Keeps me going.
Summary: Oscar was back with a box of old newspapers and he was already rambling, "This house has been in our family since The Redcoats were marching around here! So much history I could share with you, Jane. With you both."
Oscar Dye noted how close the two women stood next to one another. It seemed no matter of magic or time would put any distance between the two. And while he noticed Abby's posture would be a bit different from the woman standing before him now, he could see how difficult it would be to distinguish between the two personalities at first glance. He took in the fedora, the blazer, the pants. All of it was Abby, but the bewildered look in her eyes was not.
To think, he was going to experience this strange phenomenon first hand (and would feel a little less crazy to boot).
"What are you doing here?" Joanna asked again.
"I followed you. Figured I could see the dead girl for myself," Oscar shrugged. He coughed roughly, sounding like a man who spent many years smoking but the reality was his health was failing. He knew it, just wasn't sure what to do about it. He ran a hand through graying hair, though it did nothing to calm the disheveled look. He continued, "Bobby comes into the paper talking about Abby's death and what he saw and he just didn't sound convincing enough for me. And don't worry now, I got copy ready to print for the morning. I just figured if she were still breathing, she would be with you."
"I still need her," Joanna argued, almost defensively.
Jane involuntarily glanced at the other woman with curiosity. There was so much emotion in that statement. Too much given that she was not the person Joanna claimed to need. Jane suddenly felt a heavy weight on her shoulders, as if a responsibility she didn't know about had been thrust into her arms without preamble. In fact, she felt obligated to thread her hand into Joanna's. She squeezed tightly and swore, "I'm not going anywhere."
The words didn't sound like Jane's own, but they were at the same time. Joanna was confused by their joined hands at first, but couldn't deny the comfort the gesture provided. In fact, her grasp only grew stronger, more fraught with tension.
Oscar just shrugged, pretending not to notice their little exchange. At least these two had each other, he mused to himself. If everything he had been told was true, their predecessors hadn't been quite as lucky. So he said, "I get it, you know. It'll be easier to do what you gotta do dead. Get those hungry wolves working for Cirrillo off your case, for a lil while at least. Honestly, not trying to judge."
"Hey, I'm sorry, but you mentioned me feeling whole again," Jane cut in, glancing at Joanna apologetically and releasing her hand. "I mean, I get it. Killer on the loose, but what did you mean by that?"
Oscar chuckled. "You're not the only one the Charles has swallowed up and spit back out as someone else. I've seen this before."
For the first time since this all began, Jane began to feel as if she was finally getting somewhere.
Joanna, on the other hand, just groaned. "Okay. You're all certifiable!"
For Jane, that was enough. She turned to Joanna defiantly and said, "Hey, I think it's time you come to terms with this. It was you that wrapped me up this morning and you stitched up the cut. I was still bleeding, okay? Look at me now, look at my scar. Jo, please. You can't not see this anymore."
The stubborn side of Joanna was bringing about the pout currently on her face, but the insanely irritated fire in Jane's eyes was overwhelming Slowly, reluctantly, she placed a hand on the hem of Jane's shirt. With one glance up to meet Jane's eyes for permission, she then lifted the shirt up just enough to view the scarring one more time. It was the same as before, the surgical line both healed and faint. A sense of wonderment, then horror washed over her and as her fingers began to tremble, she lost hold of the shirt.
"What is happening?" Joanna whispered.
Oscar placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Maybe we can find out together."
The old man led them to his car, which Jane recognized to be a very early model of a Chevy Independence. Well, to Jane it was an early model. For Oscar and Joanna, it was probably the best new thing going and it was shiny and well kept too. The paint was bright red, the tires ridiculously big. She had this urge to grab her cell phone, to call her partner, Barry Frost and she imagined them fangirling together over this piece of art.
But of course, she knew she could not.
The two women pressed into the back seat, which sent Jane's claustrophobia into overdrive. Not to say she actually suffered from such a fear, but suddenly all she could think was, 'how could anyone survive in this heap of metal should it crash?' It seemed they barely had room to breathe and moreover, she couldn't quite find the seat belt. Maybe it didn't have one.
The car roared to life quite literally and they took off. Oscar stayed silent, which irked Jane a bit. It seemed he would wait until they arrived at their destination before he would elaborate on his knowledge of her ordeal. But it did give her the opportunity to take in her city or rather, what her city had been.
Telephone poles stretched along the streets, their trunks looming over the patrons of the city as symbols of technological progress. For whatever reason, the thick wires seemed so much more perceptible now than they would have in her time. And they whizzed by other landmarks, like The Ritz Theater, round light bulbs illuminating the title of the latest film to hit Hollywood. It was glitzy and grand in its own way. So much of the city was full of life and Jane was seeing it in full color. The black and white historian photos from her textbooks in high school failed to capture the vibrancy of the people and the time.
She shifted in her seat some, which caused her fingers to accidently brush against Joanna's. She was going to mumble an apology, but Joanna fiercely grabbed hold of her hand, squeezing so tightly and with so much need, Jane felt as if the other woman's anguish was being transferred to her. It was painful.
"Jo," Jane whispered, though she wasn't sure why she was.
"Shut up," Joanna ordered. With sharp eyes, hinted with a shade of grief. "Just . . . not a word."
"What's wrong?" Jane pressed.
"Everything," Joanna hissed, whipping her head around to face Jane and nearly knocking noses with her. Unconsciously, she leaned until her forehead rested against Jane's. She closed her eyes and willed herself to keep her tears at bay while she said, "I just need you to be you."
Something was happening and while Jane was just barely registering that they had an audience of a very old man driving them around town, she was finding that none of that mattered. All that mattered was that Joanna was safe with her and that they were in this together. And she knew she shouldn't feel that way, because this wasn't her time and Joanna wasn't really her friend or her partner or anything that should make her feel this way!
They were two women, brought together over an expanse of time and space and Jane could think of only one other person she had ever felt this close to.
It was the reminder of Maura, a splash of cold water to the face. Jane pulled away, blinked her eyes a few times, felt the world refocus. She could see Joanna blinking too, clearing up the haze that had settled over them.
The car lurched to a stop and Oscar looked over his shoulder with a soft smile. Jane could see he was trying to hide his sympathy, trying to pretend he couldn't hear the ache in Joanna's words. He announced, "We're here."
'Here' had somehow melded the city into countryside. A long drive led them up to a grand home of red brick and dark shutters. At the door, Oscar produced some keys and it became obvious that this was his house. He led them inside and encouraged that they make themselves comfortable while he went in search of what he needed.
Jane was keeping a healthy distance between herself and Joanna. To her comfort, she found that Joanna was doing the same. The cramped space in the car had done something, had awakened something that shouldn't have been. Jane knew who she was, she knew what she felt was right. But for a few brief moments, she thought that all she needed was Jo. That Jo was hers to protect and to care for. She knew that those feelings could not be her own.
Oscar was back with a box of old newspapers and he was already rambling, "This house has been in our family since The Redcoats were marching around here! So much history I could share with you, Jane. With you both."
He dropped the box on a table in a nearby room. It was story time.
August 1887 Boston
Oscar Dye was simply a young man, aspiring to be a great writer. It was all he had ever wanted for as long as he could remember. But what was he doing now? Obituary runs. His genius, his education reduced to this.
The deceased was Mary Easton. The coroner was finishing his reports, readying the final details and while Oscar waited, he noticed the sullen expression of a young man staring out a nearby window vacantly. Slowly and with great curiosity, Oscar found himself gravitated toward him.
"Sir? Need help?"
"That woman. She is not Mary, but no one believes me," the young man says quietly. "They called me in to identify her and she . . . I can't explain it sir, but it's not her."
The young man's sadness was palpable. Oscar felt the devastation in his own bones.
"Forgive me if I'm crass, Sir, but she had been suspected to be in that river for a long time. Her features were likely disfigured due to such conditions."
"No! I did identify her as Mary. She looks like Mary, but I know she's not."
The young man turned around, his eyes bloodshot with fatigue and grief.
"Then why tell the coroner it was her?"
"And have me look foolish in front of all her other acquaintances who say that it is?"
Oscar was bewildered. They awkwardly stood next to each other and Oscar knew he should probably leave this crazy to himself, but he couldn't go. Instead he held out his hand, "My name is Oscar Dye. I work for the paper. I just wanted to put in the proper information for the obituary."
"Bless you," the man said, though with very little sincerity. He stepped closer to Oscar, almost with a wild look in his eyes. "Start by telling everyone that the woman in there is not Mary. That her brother, her only family knows Mary and that it's not her. It just . . ."
Oscar could feel for the man. After weeks of wondering and searching, he was told that his sister was dead. That they found her body (a floater in the Charles River) and that she was dead. He just couldn't accept the facts, that was all.
"I'd be more than happy to find justice if there was a mistake, but unless you have. . ."
"Just before she disappeared, she was different," he begins, his voice soft and far off. Oscar is immediately stilled, not just by the tone but by the chill in the air. "We had been out by the river that day, intent on getting in a swim if we could help it. It's always been just us, you see. We looked out for each other. We were out there and something strange happened.
The water was calm and Mary dived. She liked to scare me, you see. After a few frightfully long seconds, I realized she wasn't funning. She was drowning. So I went under and I searched. I couldn't find her. She was gone! I bobbed up one last time and saw her. I swam to the bank and there she was . . . at least I thought it was Mary."
Oscar was at rapt attention. "You thought?"
"She looked at me, as if she didn't know me. I surmised that she bumped her head, but after a trip to a doctor, she checked out fine physically. Mentally, she was beginning to lose touch. She said she was not Mary. She was Sue Easton."
"Easton? Any relation?" Oscar wanted desperately to scribble this all down, but being the great obituary writer that he was, he didn't bring pen or paper. The details were usually so minute; he just put them to memory.
"That was the funny thing, Oscar. You see, we did have a Sue in the family, but she was long dead. A grandmother that died before Mary had learned to crawl. I tried to convince Mary she was just imagining this. That the Sue we were told of had a missing finger on her right hand. Lost it in a farming accident as a young woman. For days I showed her that all her fingers were still there.
Until about a day before she disappeared. She came to me, wild and excited. She yelled, 'see! I told you, John!' She held up her right hand. A finger was missing."
"No!" Oscar gasped. "She cut off her finger? She cut off her finger to prove she was Sue?"
"But she didn't! I thought she had, but when I grabbed her hands and looked closer, I could see that the injury had long since healed over. As if the injury had happened many years ago. As if she really was Sue!
I don't know why I didn't think to check the river. It was where everything went wrong. She must've tried to go back, knowing that she didn't belong here. That she was in the wrong place, the wrong time."
Oscar managed to convince his editor to run the story, but only to go as far as to say that a family member was convinced that the body they were burying was not Mary Easton. Oscar was allowed to note that the body was missing a finger, but was forced to acknowledge that four other persons had identified the body as Mary and that for the foreseeable future; her death was noted as an accidental drowning.
The woman died with the legacy of being a crazy. An even crazier brother left behind spending the rest of his life claiming his sister, Mary, was still out there somewhere.
Oscar had never come across another case like that, not until now. He was pushing sixty-three. He had been writing stories for a long time, but nothing like the obituary for Mary Easton.
They were drinking tea and eating hard shortbread cookies at his estate. Oscar clearly had money, but didn't seem to mind his somewhat lowly journalism profession. His father had wanted Oscar to become a doctor.
"He's dead now," Oscar said between bites, crumbs resting in his beard. His manners had disappeared with his youth, apparently.
"John Easton?" Jane asked for clarification. Oscar liked to talk and had mentioned several people in the last few minutes. He could've been referring to anyone's death.
"Yes. Shame that no one believed him," Oscar said nonchalantly. "I can't say that I believed him either, but the anguish on the man's face was so raw. I felt I was doing him some good by at least publishing what he believed to be the truth. I felt I was helping him."
Jane sensed a calm settling over Oscar. "You were drawn to him."
Oscar nodded. "I was. For some reason, I couldn't seem to convince myself that the man was completely screwy. A small part of me hoped that Mary was still alive too."
"Now what do you think?" Jane pried.
Oscar smiled. "I think that I made a grave mistake not keeping in touch with Mr. Easton. I shouldn't have doubted him."
"And you saw the body?" Joanna asked, having said very little during the retelling of John and Mary's story. It was an important question. Jane's wound had miraculously healed itself. According to Oscar's story, Mary had magically lost a finger.
Oscar nodded again, managing to wipe his mouth with a napkin before speaking this time. "Yes, I did. She was missing a finger. The mortician did the best he could, cleaning her up and everything for the viewing. She had been found floating, the air in her body replaced with water. She was bloated some, but it was clear that the injury to her hand was not a fresh cut. Not something she lost in the river."
"Like my scar," Jane murmured softly, unconsciously placing her hand over her stomach. "I did this a year ago."
"The reporter in me would love the chance to really talk with you, Jane," Oscar said hopefully.
Jane laughed darkly. "If I don't figure out how to correct this, I promise you one hell of an interview."
The next few moments found them drinking their tea. Jane had never once thought what it must've been like for Bostonians before her time. Why would she? Everything seemed quieter and lovelier at first, but people still killed people. People still suffered, they still experienced loss. Why would history be any different from her present?
There were still bright spots, like Abigail and Joanna. Two women who just wanted to make things right for those they cared about. She wondered briefly if she could live in this time for the rest of her life.
Of course, the answer was no. She couldn't do it. She didn't want it. She wanted to get back to her home, to her Boston. Back to her family and Maura.
"I better clean this up," Oscar said, gathering the dishes. "And I'll prepare a place to sleep. It's getting late. No sense in going back to that river in the dark."
The two women were left at the table, silence falling over them. Thoughts bounced around in their heads. Questions upon questions. Joanna spoke, as if reading Jane's mind. Answering some of her questions without them being asked aloud.
"Jimmy tried to tell me about Mr. Doyle," Joanna said, not looking anywhere particular. "I didn't want to listen to him. We had already lost our mother. If what he was saying was true, we would be without a father as well."
"What do you think happened to him?" Jane asked.
Joanna kept her gaze ahead. "I think Cirrillo hired an old hand of ours, Torin. Torin always felt underappreciated working with us. Mr. Doyle wasn't one to mark targets frivolously and Torin had an insatiable taste for blood. Cirrillo probably promised him a fortune to switch sides, to kill for him."
"Do you really believe Mr. Doyle has no blood on his hands?" Jane questioned.
Joanna chuckled darkly. "I said he wasn't one to mark anyone, but as a last resort? I know he did. I'm sure he filled many of his foes with daylight himself."
The young woman sniffled just then. It was what Jane couldn't see with Joanna so dutifully avoiding her gaze, using her long red hair to shield her face. She couldn't see the tears.
Now the subtle shaking of Joanna's shoulders made clear that she was crying, maybe willing herself to stop and pull it together. Her voice was cracking as she spoke, "Oh, Jane. I miss him. And now I have to miss her too."
Jane looked at the ground. "I'm sorry. I guess you've been having to repeat yourself, tell the same stories. Even the stories that are painful."
"No. Stop, please," Joanna begged, finally facing Jane with watery eyes. "You should be happy now, you know. I finally believe you. I know you could not be my Abby."
"So, my miraculous stab wound recovery wasn't enough proof?" Jane cracked. She really couldn't help herself. Humor was the only defense mechanism she had for circumstances like these. Well, not that she had ever been in a circumstance quite like this before. She was relieved when Joanna stifled a chuckle and thought that maybe they were on their way to being friends. "What do you want to do now?"
"Abby and I had tried to find some financial records in my father's office," Joanna explained, carefully dabbing her eyes in a true effort to strengthen up. "We thought that if Cirrillo and my father were actually in this together, the proof would be there. It was my suggestion to look, but only to humor Abby's suspicions. I had my doubts. I just didn't want them to be true. I had hoped by not finding anything incriminating, it would ease my worries."
"It didn't," Jane said softly.
Joanna smiled sadly. "No, it didn't. Oscar came to us shortly after that set back. A letter had been delivered to him, postdated after Jimmy's murder. I guess my brother wanted a backup plan. "
"It was hidden out there, right? Abby went out there to find it," Jane concluded aloud. "Maybe all of this isn't random. I was at the river looking for a murderer before all this happened. Did Oscar ever find out what killed Sue Easton?"
Joanna furrowed her brow. "What does that man's old story have to do with this now?"
"Probably everything," Jane reasoned. "Or maybe nothing. I just, maybe if we find out what happened to Sue, we can figure out a way to fix this. I think Abigail Rizzoli needs to be here for this. I think she's the one that needs to help you through this, not me."
"But what if this is it?" Joanna said quietly. "What will happen if you switch back? Is that even possible? If we fix this, then she will really be dead."
"Or maybe this is what was supposed to happen all along and this keeps her alive," Jane argued gently. "Either way, we don't know. I just know I can't let this go on. I don't belong here."
"Trying to fix this could kill you too," Joanna said firmly. "Is that what you want?"
Jane gave a self-depreciating laugh. "What I want is to go home, wherever home may end up being."
Jane felt a hand slip in to hers, grasping tightly.
Joanna exhaled slowly, steadily. "I guess the answers we both seek are at the river. Let's rest tonight. Have Oscar tell us some bedtime stories, then we will go there tomorrow. Together."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've got a soft spot for me too," Jane chided, with a raise of an eyebrow.
"I guess it's just something about you Rizzolis," Joanna replied cheekily. "Maddening, yet charming."
Jane's smile grew broader then. "I guess I'll take that as a compliment."
Joanna nodded her agreement. "It's the best you'll get out of me." She stood up bringing Jane with her since their hands were stilled clasped in what seemed to be for an unspoken need for comfort. "Let's go. I'm sure Oscar has a hope chest we can raid."
Jane's face twisted some, in much the same way it would whenever Maura began spouting off words she didn't really know or understand.
"What the hell is a hope chest?"