Title: Play the Game
Notes: I'm just going to do this! RL has kept me busy and sometimes too tired to read fanfiction, let alone take the time to post new content. So here we go. Homestretch. Thanks to all who reviewed. Means a lot to me.
Summary: "It's just a story meant to scare children," Richard pressed. "She is not that. I mean, do you believe in ghosts now?"
"They never found it?" Abigail repeated guardedly.
"Whatever the hell it was you were looking for!" Richard said with a heavy sigh. "This thing, this story! The Doyles. The Rizzolis. Mary and John. This stupid river! It's all tied together. It's transcended Time itself, don't you see that? Do you know how many nights I've spent just staring at the ceiling and wondering, how could this be my life?"
Maura felt as if she could be asking herself the same question. "Richard, I don't understand why my father would be so invested in an object from so long ago."
"Listen, he didn't want to explain his motives and I wasn't about to ask him twice," Richard said with an obvious shake. "Is it merely curiosity? Nostalgia? Boredom? I don't know. I just know that Paddy came to me. He found me."
Richard's unspoken question hung in the air.
What was I supposed to do?
Richard Brandt had never considered himself to be a lucky man. Tonight was going to prove no different.
He poured himself some scotch after tucking in a restless Mary. Most days, she was easy as pie to deal with, but today she was still struggling with some nightmares. Talking in her sleep about rivers and strange men chasing her. They called her crazy and she drowned.
Richard had hoped putting her story in the paper would ease her troubles a little, help her to feel a little less alone. It wasn't a reputable paper, but it was published. That was something.
The old house was finally coming along. His crime spots on the formidable Rizzoli and Isles duo responsible for funding the renovations. A new refrigerator that stocked mostly wine and ketchup was his proudest purchase. He also bought some restoration cleaner for the wood floors. It was about halfway through spreading the liquid around that he realized he hadn't cleaned up the dust well enough, but he was sneezing less regardless. He spent the most money on the room Mary stayed in. A new bed, new sheets, new clothes and a dresser. He was still sleeping on an old mattress.
And while Mary was an all day, every day endeavor, it was cleaning up the old attic that really held his attention now. He put his tumbler down and began to fish around in some boxes he had pulled. They were old articles written by Oscar Dye, the long lost relative of his that used to own this house.
More recently, he'd found a diary; complete with a name plate labeled DYE and a latch that kept the book locked. There was no key, but the book was old and dusty. Richard was sure he would have no trouble prying it open. However, the newspaper clippings were more readily available and numerous. He wanted to organize those first before diving into the history of Oscar Dye.
ABIGAIL RIZZOLI, BOSTON'S FIRST FEMALE LAWYER DIES
It was one of his favorite articles. It was the reason he'd started writing about Rizzoli and Isles in the first place. He had never heard the name before, not until a subsequent news report followed exclaiming the heroics of one Detective Jane Rizzoli. Taking a killer's gun, aiming it through her stomach and bam! Dead dirty cop. Cop brother rescued. A heartbroken Medical Examiner standing vigil while praying for the first time in her life. A prayer that her friend would live. How could Richard resist such a story?
Some several days of research later and Richard had made the connection that the 1930s lawyer and the modern day detective were in fact related, but rather distantly. The lawyer had been murdered, never had children and her detective husband presumably remarried or something, but his life seemed to lose all records after her death. He most likely died a detective. He died not knowing what happened to his wife. But really, the resemblance between Abigail and Jane was uncanny! That was why he stuck his nose into their affairs. He just had to.
Richard paused, letting his eyes stray up the stairs for a moment. Doppelgangers. It was an inspiring theory to say the least. The idea that any person could have a twin out there, related or not. Mary seemed to really like that theory and at times, Richard wondered if it were possible. He had done what research he could to look into Mary Easton's death. Everything he could find showcased a very young woman, but if he had to hazard a guess, the Mary sleeping upstairs and the Mary from the papers did look awfully similar. One was just really old now.
A knock on the front door startled him. Fear registered first. He hardly knew anyone in Boston, other than his sometimes editor, Brad. Who could be here? He quickly cleaned up his mess and laid the article on the table, before rushing up to the door. He peeked through the peephole, saw a man standing there he didn't know. He yelled, while reaching for an old umbrella by the door, "Who is it?"
"Most people call me Paddy," the man answered.
Richard's blood ran cold. He dropped the umbrella, briefly considered not opening the door but knew it would do no good. He would never get away fast enough and he couldn't leave Mary behind.
On his front step stood the infamous Paddy Doyle. He was a legend to most, because he rarely made public appearances anywhere. He would go for long stretches without a single sighting; fooling most into thinking he was dead. Richard cleared his throat and said nervously, "I wasn't aware you made your own hits."
"Sometimes," Paddy smiled wickedly. "But whatever debts you owe, I'm not here for those. "
"I don't owe you anything," Richard replied bravely, before shrinking some as Paddy forced his way into the house. Richard noticed another broad looking fellow standing on the drive, but it was clear he wasn't coming inside. Richard shut the door. "So, for what do I owe this pleasure?"
"My daughter, your stories," Paddy answered simply. He strode deeper into the house like he owned it, but maybe that's because he did. Paddy laid claim to most of Boston. "You write about her a lot in your little paper. More than The Boston Globe."
"Weird cases attract readers," Richard shrugged. "She helps to pay the bills."
"Now I want you to help me," Paddy said. "Follow her. I mean, more so than you already do. Rizzoli too." The old mob boss turned to him then and added, "I know about the woman upstairs too, Richard."
Richard audibly gulped.
"It's no big thing, son," Paddy shrugged. "Just an old crazy woman, right?"
Richard watched Paddy pour himself a drink. He took a slow sip. With a raised eyebrow, he said, "Or is she more than that, Richard?"
"It's just a story," Richard said weakly. "She is nuts. I mean, don't you think so?"
"I read the story," Paddy nodded. "Sure, she might be crazy, but something about her, ya know? Something wickedly attractive about a woman feeling displaced by time, missing a family that will never know what happened to her. I mean, why else would a crack writer like yourself be so interested?
When I was a boy, there was this story of this River Woman. She escaped from some coppers way back when, disappeared into thin air while fighting for her freedom in the Charles River. Except those coppers had been bought and paid for by a rival mob family and its said her disappearance cursed them. Punishment for their misdeeds. Karma. For years, that story has scared us young boys straight. My father used to tell it. Threaten to throw me in the water and let The River Woman drown me. Just seems weird that you happen to find a woman telling that same story, claiming to be her."
"It's just a story meant to scare children," Richard pressed. "She is not that. I mean, do you believe in ghosts now?"
Paddy swallowed again. His gaze fell some, his expression becoming somewhat far off. "I believe that sometimes, no matter what we think to be true, fate always has other plans."
Richard chuckled, but he was nervous and unsure at what Paddy was getting at. Paddy looked down at the table and picked up the article. He smiled again, "Oscar Dye. I remember this name too. He was the only man brave enough to write about Jimmy Hastens' murder. To follow the adventures of this eager woman lawyer."
"Who is Jimmy Hastens?" Richard asked quietly.
"Family," Paddy said stiffly. "He was stupid, but he was still family. Our organization was young at the time, but thriving. We had just ousted some rift raft. Dom Cirrillo would've been facing time until good ol' boy Jimmy took matters into his own hands and befriended the lawyer. I guess you can imagine how coincidental I find it that all those years ago, a Doyle and a Rizzoli became friends, just as they have now."
Richard could only nod.
Paddy gave the newspaper clipping to Richard and urged gently, "I suggest you look into this. See where it takes you. When you find out whatever you find out, call me."
"Why?" Richard asked. He was a reporter. He couldn't help himself.
"Jimmy found something," Paddy shrugged. "We have never recovered it. He and the lawyer know the location, but seeing how its 80 years later and they both met untimely ends, kinda hard to ask them where it is."
"What is it?"
"Too many questions, Richard."
"But if I don't know what it is, how can I find it?" Richard pressed.
"Just call me," Paddy ordered.
Paddy pulled out a cell phone and also handed that to Richard. Richard stood grimly, holding the items, listening to Paddy open the door and then shut it again. That night, his new life had begun.
The sun was beginning to set on them, a red-orange cast splitting the trees and skipping across the river surface. Momentarily, Maura Isles worried that they would run out of daylight too soon, but what did it matter when it seemed that time was bending at will?
Next to her stood a woman from the 1930s; a Jane Rizzoli lookalike. In a wheelchair not more than a few feet to her left sat another woman from the late 1890s. Then here was this tabloid hawk, a man looking for roots in Boston only to be haunted by mobsters from the past. And now her father was somehow an important piece to this whole thing. Selfishly, she wondered how she was going to keep it all together.
"What is it he wants?" she asked aloud.
A brief gust of wind swept over them, chilling Abigail to her bones. With a heavy sigh, the lawyer admitted, "I'm afraid I never found what I was after. Not before my attacker got to me."
"Figures," Richard muttered sarcastically. "I mean, the chances of us finding whatever the hell it was were slim to none anyway. I mean, this thing was buried more than 80 years ago. It may be deteriorated beyond recovery."
A noise filled the air and it took Abigail a moment to realize the device in her pocket was the offender. Jane's cell phone. She pulled out the device cautiously, read the caller ID on the front screen. Frost. At once, it seemed all three able adults stepped forward to help her with the cell phone. She backed away, slightly offended they thought her learning curve so low. She grumbled, "I can do it."
Maura had shown her Jane's cell phone a few times now. So, she slid the unlock image across the front screen and the phone lit up brighter. She brought the phone to her ear and asked guardedly, "Hello? I mean, Rizzoli."
"Jane. I wanted to get this information to you," Frost said as a way of greeting. "Frankie had me looking into Scott Crane's and Jim Nolan's pasts for you. He was right. They were both affiliated with groups linked to Paddy Doyle, though the evidence is slim at best. As a condition of their release from prison, they worked the Charles River in clean-up efforts. Scott wasn't too keen on the job, but Jim's parole officer informed me that he specifically requested the assignment. He wanted to work the river."
Abigail glanced at Maura briefly, just to let the ME know that they might have something. "Any chance that Scott was ordered to murder Jim?"
"Unsure. The only thing that truly links the two men together is the pawn shop they used to run their drugs through. That place is shut down now, though."
Abigail nodded, "Thanks Frost." She hung up the phone. "Jim Nolan requested to work the Charles River on purpose."
Maura perked up at that news. "Would it be too farfetched to suggest that he was looking for something specific? Maybe an item for his boss Paddy Doyle?"
"The same one he's got me looking for?" Richard added.
Tommy grinned at Maura now. "I thought you didn't guess?"
"It's a suggestion," Maura insisted, glancing sidelong at the younger Rizzoli. "But what does it matter? We still don't know where to look."
"I didn't say that," Abigail said, a wry grin crossing her lips. "I just said I never got to find it."
Richard smiled with her. "You mean, you can actually find this thing? Get this mob guy off my back?"
"I studied the map carefully," Abigail said. "I could probably draw another one up."
"I can pull up current topography of this area for comparison," Maura added, now pulling out her cell phone.
Richard patted Mary on the shoulder, a reassuring gesture. He leaned down to her and got a water bottle out of the knapsack he had hanging from her chair. He opened it for her and smiled warmly, "Looks like we're about to find some mobster treasure and with any luck, Mrs. Rizzoli will help you get home."
"Do you really think it's here?" Mary questioned. She had always been doubtful of Paddy's claims that this item was even retrievable. "Do you think it will help me?"
Richard looked over his shoulder at the three other adults huddling together. Tommy was with Abigail knelt down to the ground, using a stick in the dirt, trying to recreate the map. Maura was busy looking into her cell phone. He turned back to Mary. "I don't know. I feel it's very important that Abigail finish whatever it is she started. I think she's here and that you're here to correct something. I think finding this thing will do that. It will help set the universe right."
"That is my hope too," Mary said, her smile even more weary than he could remember it being. "I just wish I understood my part in all this. I was living my life before Abigail. I don't understand how we're connected or why."
Richard wanted to bring up the fact that Mary's father was a mob baddie, but that didn't go over well the first few times he tried to have that discussion with her. Instead, he sidestepped it.
"Well, maybe the wait is over," Richard said encouragingly, grasping the frail hand of the old woman's in his. "Just be patient for a little while more."
Richard went back into the knapsack and revealed a pen and paper pad. He smiled warmly at Mary first, then turned back to the group. "A reporter is always prepared, you know. Paper and pencil might be easier."
Abigail looked up to him, eyes narrowing in suspicion as they always seemed to do around him. Reluctantly, she waved him over and he happily obliged.
It's buried by the oak closest to the Charles, an "X" scrawled into the trunk. There you will find what you need to take down Cirrillo.
Richard Brandt stood by dutifully, mostly because he had been ordered to by the dynamic duo and their puppy, Tommy, to do so. He wasn't necessarily a man of deep convictions nor did he enjoy being anyone's lapdog, but it seemed just about every person in his life at present were determined to just use him.
Paddy was threatening him all the time. Abby was constantly on guard around him. Maura was nice, but she was the daughter of Paddy. Tommy was doing that protective brother thing, which was weird because of course Abigail was far from being his sister. Even Mary was using him, though not purposely. She was old and unable to do for herself. He couldn't fault her for that. In a lot of ways, he loved that old bat.
Until Mary had stumbled into his backyard quite literally, he had been quite intent on just meandering through life and maybe scoring a few writing jobs here and there. Getting mixed up in some old mob business with an 80 year old lawyer hadn't been the type of story he had been looking for.
"Are you sure that's all it said?" Tommy asked, his voice sounding about as confident as Richard felt. As a reporter, he got fairly good at reading expressions. The expressions of nearly everyone around him were that of grave concern.
Abby blew a sigh through her lips, then rubbed her eyes. "Listen, his letter and the map were quite succinct and crude. I have written out and drawn exactly what he did."
"Crude? Yours can't be much better," Maura said aloud, squinting as she studied what Abigail had drawn. She certainly didn't miss the grunt of Rizzoli disapproval directed her way. Well, Maura was near exasperation herself. Abby and Jane seemed to have a penchant for getting annoyed with her quite easily. She responded pointedly, "I'm sorry, Abby, but perhaps the leap through time has left out some details. This could quite literally be anywhere."
"She's right," Richard chimed in.
Abby now glared at him. "Kindly stay out of it."
"I'm just saying, what if Jimmy wasn't the whip we all think he was? He couldn't even draw a map."
"And yet somehow I feel as if that insult was directed at me," Abby said, her glare reduced to barely open slits of anger. Richard watched as Maura, without hesitation, placed a hand on the lawyer's forearm. She gave a light squeeze and that was enough to draw Abigail's ire off of him and direct soft eyes the good doctor's way. Richard shook his head in annoyance.
"Hey, lady, I don't want to be out here, alright?" Richard all but growled. "I'm doing this for Mary. And I'm not distracted by hot lady doctor McSmarty pants over there either. My head is in the game. Is yours?"
Abigail's swift punch to his face was expected, because hey, this was Boston. And so far, all of the people he had met in Boston were hotheaded and ridiculously good fighters, but he still wasn't as prepared for the hit as he thought he would be. Richard struck the dirt face first, nearly knocking his head into the trunk of a nearby tree.
"Abby!" Maura scolded, the first to latch onto Abigail's striking arm and hold her back before she decided that maybe one hit wasn't enough. She twined their fingers together tightly and pleaded, "Stop, okay?"
"All he's done is bring trouble!" Abby said. "He involved your father, Maura. I don't have to know him to understand how serious that is. You don't think that man is watching us right now as we flounder about, lost souls looking for a damn 'x' in a tree and unable to dig up whatever the hell it is we're looking for?"
"He's a jerk. Don't let him get to ya," Tommy added, now standing to her other side. "We're all frustrated." He then leaned in and smiled, "Nice hit, by the way."
"Tommy, please," Maura said, maddened. "Don't encourage her. Richard may have been deceitful, but he gave us a connection we didn't have before."
And Richard was listening to the talk behind him, but the more he stared at the trunk he landed in front of, the more the words seemed to drown out into silence. He blinked his eyes a few times, wondering if he was imagining it. He was just smacked pretty hard.
No, it was still there. Blink, again. Yep. Still there.
"Guys," Richard called out, struggling to push himself into a more upright position. On his hands and knees he crawled up to the tree. He grinned to himself, "Hot damn, this is it!"
"What?" Abby said, as the three of them had come around to noticing that Richard was up and alert.
"Am I seeing things? I mean, did you just knock a delusion into my head or is that a freakin' 'x' in a freakin' tree?" Richard all but squealed, pointing and then running an index finger over the faint scaring in the meat of the tree.
"Is it an oak tree?" Abby asked, now kneeling down next to him.
"Yes," Maura said undoubtedly. "It is." Then she paused, "Which is odd. Oak trees are really not that common around here. Sycamores and birch were purposely introduced into this area, trees meant to withstand the rigors of being so close to urban conditions. Evergreens too. In fact, some of the trees were planted in a straight row along. . ."
"Maura!" Abby interrupted, with a clenched smile and wide eyes of urgency. "I get it. The Charles was designed to be recreational and perhaps trees such as this one were either dug up or died out while the other more 'urban' trees thrived."
Maura paused, then shrugged.
"Could I point out we are in the middle of a bunch of weeping willows?" Tommy asked. "Not sycamores."
"Does it matter?" Richard cried out. "WE found it!"
To this, all of them exchanged both terrified and excited glances. This was the tree. Jimmy's tree.
After all this time, Abby finally had a lead on the one thing she supposedly had already died for.
Maura stayed with Mary, who had somehow dozed off in the middle of all that racket, but was wide awake now. The two women watched as Tommy, Richard and Abigail used their hands to dig at the base of the tree. Richard had been aware enough to bring a little digging tool, but nothing more than that. He would swoop in when it seemed the ground was particularly hard, then Tommy and Abigail would scoop the loose dirt away and continue to scrape and pull and gripe.
"Let's try and hurry," Maura urged gently. "I don't know how any of the grounds keepers would feel if they saw us doing this."
"I hit something," Richard announced, now more carefully using the tool to dig around the object rather than dig into it. It appeared to be a wooden box and it was now over 80 years old. He didn't want to damage it unwittingly. Maura watched the amateur archeologists extract the old, worn down box. It was fairly simple, a darkened wood that looked as if it would crumble at any moment. Richard held the item and confirmed, "Very fragile."
He handed it over to Abby. The former prosecutor anxiously took it into her hands. The lock or latch had worn off so opening the top was no issue. It was what she found inside that made her gasp.
"What?" Maura asked quietly.
"Nothing," Abby said just as quietly in return.
"What? Nothing?" Richard repeated, almost snatching the box from her, foregoing any attempts to be careful now. He turned it upside down even. A few pieces of the box fell off, but nothing fell out. It was empty.
"How could there be nothing here?" Abby said, leaned against one of the trees they had been digging near.
"Wait," Tommy said. He had now taken his turn with the box. "It's not completely empty. There's a false bottom." He lifted the thin piece of board out of the box, half of it crumbling as he pulled it away. After that, he pulled out an envelope. He looked up at them all, eyes growing large. "Uh. You won't believe this."
"What?" they all seemed to ask simultaneously.
"Maura," Tommy said, walking up to her. He handed her the envelope. "It's addressed to you."
Maura was no more surprised than anyone else as she took the fragile piece of paper. It was yellowed and weathered, but her name was clear as day. Maura. And if she had to hazard a guess, there were reddish brown stains that could've passed for blood on the outer cover. Her feelings were already quite dreadful at the prospect of what she was about to see, but the alleged bloodstains was even more chilling.
Thankfully, the envelope was just folded over, so opening it was easy. She pulled out a folded piece of paper that was just as equally browned and yellowed as its cover. The inside of the page had a short paragraph written on the inside.
"Maura, if you find this letter than it's very possible that I couldn't fix what happened to me," Maura began to read. It was clearly written in Jane's handwriting, something that really shouldn't have been possible, but there it was. Jane had written her a letter nearly 80 years ago and now she was holding it. Her eyes were beginning to sting with tears already.
"It became clear to all of us that nothing was going to stop Cirrillo or Doyle from pursuing it. If they had found it first, then all of Boston would have been in their debt. I couldn't let that happen. My hope is that we will hide the ledger in a more secure place, to give us the upper hand for a change.
I wish I had time to explain more. I want you to know I tried very hard to get back to you.
Maura heard Tommy make a sound. It was almost a grunt. A very pained noise and she too felt it. A note like this meant only one thing. That Jane had lived her life. Maura read the last line again, as if the words would change. I tried very hard to get back to you.
"Your newspapers detail my death," Abby said somberly. "You never read anything more?"
Maura shook her head quickly. "No. There's nothing to indicate that you . . . survived or that your death was faked."
"That doesn't mean Janie died," Tommy argued, then laughed bitterly. He didn't have to say anything more. They were all thinking it.
She's more than likely dead now.
"Even if she lived on in secret, even if she moved away to another city or started a new life, it's the year 2012 now," Maura began, her voice growing higher in pitch and desperation. "If she was alive today, she would have found me, she would have tried to find me. She . . . there's no possible way that she is still alive."
Tommy shook his head again. "No, Maura. You said back at the station, that time isn't linear. Jane is alive right now, just not here. Right? Our stories are happening at the same time."
Abby agreed. "Jane and I did switch, Maura. For a few moments, we did."
"But we don't even have the object that caused this!" Maura said. "We don't have this supposed ledger. Anyone who knows anything is dead. We have nothing."
Richard took this moment to turn to Mary, but the wheelchair was empty. "Mary?" The tell tale signs of splashing had the four adults turn toward the river. Richard's eyes grew wide seeing his elderly friend from the past was already knee high in the water. He stepped forward and shouted, "Mary! What are you doing?"
The river seemed to glisten for a moment. Tommy breathed out a surprised 'whoa' when the river current seemed to swirl around the old woman. It wasn't long before Mary began to shows signs of struggle to stay upright. The river was coming back to life.
"The trigger is Mary?" Maura said aloud.
"The trigger, it would seem, would be distress," Abby reasoned. "We're desperate now. Mary knows of no other way but this and I assume she's grown tired of my past. She wants to get back to hers."
"I don't like the looks of that," Tommy said, as they all watched the river begin to sway from one bank to the other. Mary eventually fell over. Not under, just over. Her head above water, but she was making efforts to swim out further.
"I'll get her Richard," Abby announced, shucking her jacket as she said so. Maura immediately grabbed her forearm to hold her back. Abby warned lightly, "Please, Maura. Let go."
"You're not healed," Maura argued weakly. She knew that Jane would not allow any injury to hamper her work. Abby would be the same.
"Don't have time to worry about me," Abby replied predictably.
"What if it happens? You will die if you go back," Maura said sadly.
"If any of you goes in there, our timelines will be even more screwed up than they already are," Abigail reasoned. "Please, Maura. I'll be okay." Quickly, the former prosecutor gathered up the fraught ME into her arms and said, "There aren't words to describe what you are to me."
"I know," Maura agreed. "I feel the same."
Abby pulled back, "Mary might be the only trigger in this time. I can't miss this chance to go."
"Be careful," Maura ordered, fighting off her tears.
"Shouldn't be so bad this time," Abby reasoned. "At least I'm awake for it."
"Don't joke," Maura said through a watery smile.
"I'll be fine," Abby said again, before taking off for the water.
Once she was in, however, the chills brought back horrid memories. She could smell whiskey. Probably from the man who attacked her that night. Maybe he had been drinking. Abby blinked her eyes and she found herself trying to stay above the water. Suddenly, she was out in the thick of it and Mary was thrashing just beside her. How did she get out here?
"Mary! It's okay!" Abby shouted, swimming toward her, fighting the current and the visions. The old woman looked at her, the fear resonating clearly in her eyes and in the way she gasped for air. Abby lunged forward and the moment she touched Mary, a flash of light blinded her.
It was a flash of light. She was fighting with that man. Was it Torin Grady? She felt as though something had sliced through her abdomen and it hurt, the pain was excruciating. He had cut her with the knife. That was right! And then the flash of light. She woke up in a hospital room next to a woman who looked like Joanna, but wasn't.
This time, the light dimmed away. She was not in a hospital room, but she was definitely in pain. Maura had been right. She was dying. She was going to die.