A/N – for everyone waiting for an update on any one of my other stories, I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm going to post any updates soon. I usually have these stories in my mind and once I get them out I don't feel like writing them anymore, and usually they aren't finished in my minds so they aren't finish when I post them. If anyone wishes to complete any of them – please feel free to do so. Just let me know, so I'll be able to read them myself.
As always – reviews are always welcome. Hope you enjoy this one. It deals with suicide, so if it's not really your thing you should stop reading…
"Hi, you've reached Rachel Epstein. I'm not available at the moment, or not feeling like answering the phone. Please leave a massage and I'll call you back, or not…"
"Mom, Hi. It's me. Again." Dov said, lowering his voice a little and turning away from the locker room door, when he noticed that Oliver entered the room.
"Dov, Prep in five." Dov turned his head and nodded in acknowledgment and Oliver left just as quickly.
"You haven't been answering. I'm starting to get a little worried." He continued. "I know this day is difficult…. Ah.. Call me when you get this." He finished and hung up the phone.
He sat heavily on the bench for a few minutes. He just couldn't shake the feeling in his gut that something was wrong. Very wrong. This day is always hard for him too. The sixth anniversary of his brother's death. His exhaled loudly. Adam's death was still a mystery to him. He still felt that there was something that he could have done differently that would have prevented his brother's death. If he had only picked up the phone and called him that day. If he had only stopped by… if he had just…
Dov shook his head trying to clear his mind. These thoughts will get him nowhere. He just had to get through the day somehow and then everything will get back to normal. He wanted to take the day off, but with Tracy, Nick and Andy still on the task force, and Chris leaving, they were short staffed as it is. He and Gail had been working double shifts almost all week. He was exhausted and the day hasn't really started yet. And he still couldn't get a hold of his mother…
"Dov, hey. You coming?" Oliver interrupted his thought once again, sounding a little bit pissed this time. "Frank's looking for you.."
Dov got up slowly and joined Shaw for the briefing.
"Epstein, nice of you to join us" Frank said as they entered the briefing room. "As I said" He got back to the briefing as Dov took his place by Gail in the second row. "I know it's hard. We are still short handed. But I can assure you it's for a good cause…." Dov knew he meant the task force's assignment. "So let's try and overcome this and do our jobs. Back to basic people…" He went on but Dov wasn't really paying attention. He got his phone out so he'll be able to see when his mom calls. He wouldn't want to miss the chance to talk to her if she called him back. He just needed to make sure she okay Well, relatively okay, he corrected in his mind. One would expect that it would get easier after six years. It hasn't.
"Epstein. Are we disturbing you?" Frank asked sarcastically.
"No sir." He said and leaned forward trying to regain his focus, putting his phone back in his pocket and taking out his note pad instead.
"Good. You're riding with Shaw. Peck, you're with Swarek. Go people. Do your job" Frank dismissed them.
"Thanks a lot, Dov." Gail hissed as she passed by him on her way out.
Great. He almost groaned. Riding with Oliver. Again. He's been doing this job for three years now and it still seems like Frank doesn't trust him enough to ride alone or with another rookie. He knew that the past year had been a rough patch for him professionally but still. He isn't a rookie anymore. He also knew that this was also affecting Gail. Because of him she'd been riding with Swarek for the past week as well, hating every minute of it and making sure he knew it.
It was going to be a very long day, he thought as he joined Oliver outside. It was freezing outside and it wasn't even mid-November. He blew some hot air into his hands and rubbed them together. "I'm driving." Oliver stated and he didn't even bother to argue. He went around the police car and entered the passenger side. Yeah, a very long day.
"Loook Epstein" Shaw started after a few minutes of driving in silence, "I know it's hard with Nash and McNally away and I know you miss Diaz – "
Dov tried to hide a groan. He was in no mood for one of Shaw's pep talks. They were actually quite depressing, though pretty accurate.
"But you've got to get your head in the game." Oliver just went on. "It's been weeks since – "
"Can we make a stop at Wellington Avenue?" He interrupted him.
"What? Why? It's over at 27?" Oliver sounded surprised and a little agitated. He knew something was up with Epstein. He just knew it.
"It's probably nothing." Dov tried to explain. "But it's a… ah.. It's kind of a special day…" He stuttered a little. "And my mom hasn't been answering her phone... I just want to make a quick stop to make sure everything is alright." He said in a tone that meant he wasn't really asking.
Shaw studied him for a couple of seconds before returning his attention to the road. He could tell that Dov was going through something. The guy has been off his game for the past few weeks. He contributed it to Dov not being selected for the task force and for Chris' leaving. But maybe there was something more to it. He decided to let him have the benefit of the doubt.
"Sure. Just call it in, let them know we're on a break" He said, as he turned the car around.
"Wow. This is where you grew up?" Oliver asked as he parked the car in front of a big brown brick house, in one of the more prestigious neighborhoods of the city.
"No. my mom moved here a couple of years ago after my grandmother had passed away." He said, already half way out, trying not to run inside. The feeling in his gut intensified with each passing second.
"Mom?" He yelled as he approached the house taking his keys out. He quickly opened the house and went inside, Oliver following right behind him. "Mom?" He called again, louder this time.
He decided to check his mom's bedroom upstairs first and climbed up the stairs to the second floor, two at a time, looking for his mom, ignoring the family pictures hanging in the hallway; especially his brother smiling face; and looked for his mom. He looked around the vast bedroom. There was nobody there.
"She's not here." Oliver stated the obvious. Dov didn't seem to hear him.
He just turned around and ran downstairs to the kitchen, leaving Oliver behind, frantically searching for his mother. The first thing he noticed as he opened the kitchen door was the strong smell of gas. It was hard to breath but he went inside anyways. It wasn't anything like the training he'd had in the academy, which meant to prepare him for working under extreme circumstances, like after being sprayed with pepper spray. With the pepper spray his eyes stung and his throat burned just like now, but he didn't feel like he was suffocating. He immediately started to cough and felt an upcoming asthma attack. He couldn't remember if he took his inhaler with him this morning. He was too distracted when he left the house.
And then he noticed his mother lying on the floor, her face hidden by her hair. Dread spread through his body and he didn't care anymore about his breathing.
"Mom!" He called and dropped to his knees by her side. "Oh god, oh god, oh god…." He rambled as he turned her on her back. "Please, wake up… please wake up, mom." he pleaded and tried to stop the coughing fit. He put his ear to her mouth and felt nothing. She wasn't breathing.
He put his hands together and pressed against her chest, trying to perform CPR like they were taught in the academy. "One, two, three, four, five" he pressed and tried to draw air to blow into her lungs. He couldn't breathe himself, let alone doing it for anyone else, but he tried anyway. He was coughing harder now and black spots clouded his vision but he kept going.
"One, two, three, four, five" he pressed again and counted between coughs, wiping his eyes every now and then. He didn't even notice he was crying.
Oliver followed Dov downstairs after a couple of minutes. He was going after him as his partner exited the upstairs bedroom but then noticed the picture on the shelve and stopped to get a closer look.
It was picture of a young man about Dov's age, maybe a little younger. The resemblance was unmistakable. It was Dov's brother. But what got Oliver attention was the black frame and the Yahrzeit candle. He knew that Jewish people light it in memory of the dead. He didn't know Epstein had a deceased brother. He also noted the date at the bottom of the picture – it was hand written and marked his birth date and the date of his death. "Shit" he whispered. No wonder Dov was so out of it today. It also explained why he worried so much about his mother.
After a few minutes he went downstairs and then the strong smell of gas hit him. It grew stronger as he got closer to the kitchen. He opened the door and was shocked by what he saw. Dov was performing CPR on a middle aged woman, obviously his mother, who's been clearly dead for awhile. Oliver started to cough violently himself and covered his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his uniform. He quickly ran to the stove and turned it off. He opened the window and turned his attention back to Dov. He clearly had trouble breathing too and was coughing hard, but still tried to breathe for his mom and was crying simultaneously. But that could also be a side effect of the gas, he vaguely remembered.
"Dov!" Oliver shouted. "Dov!" He tried pulling him away. "The whole place can blow up. Come on!" Dov wouldn't budge he struggled out of Shaw's grip and kept doing CPR on his mother. Oliver tried to grab him again, this time from behind and trying to get him to let go. Dov fought him back.
"Come on. She's gone" He tried again.
"No" Dov said but stopped struggling. Oliver started running towards the door that led outside. He was starting to get dizzy and his head was throbbing fiercely. Once outside he sank to his knees still coughing violently and tried to take deep breaths of cold clean air. When he looked back at Dov his blood ran cold.
He had carried his mother's body outside and continued to perform CPR, though it was clear that he couldn't breathe himself. His lips had a slight tinge of blue and he could almost feel his partner's labored breathing.
"One, two, three, four, five." Dov pressed against his mother's chest and blew air into her lungs, which left him gasping for air as he repeated the process.
"Come on, Oliver…" He continued with the CPR. "Help me out…"
"Dov" He said quietly as he got to his feet. The world was spinning for a short time and he almost lost his balance but quickly regained his composure. "Dov." He laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Come on, man. She's gone"
"No..." Dov ignored him, wiped his tears and did another round of CPR between another hard coughing fit. It sounded like he was choking, Oliver thought.
"Dov" Oliver kneeled beside him so he'll be able to look his partner in his eyes. "She's gone" He put both his hands on Dov's and stopped him from continuing. He could hear him whizzing. "She's gone" he repeated.
Dov fought him weakly but after a while finally stopped. He sagged to the floor, his hands resting on his mother unmoving chest, his forward leaning on her sternum. Even thougth Dov's face was obscured from Oliver, he could tell he was crying and he was also still coughing. "Wake up… wake up… wake up…" He whispered to himself over and over again.
"I'm so sorry, Dov" He said quietly and got up, wanting to let Dov some privacy to grieve over his mother before he had to report it in, before the guys from 27 division will swarm in.
Oliver went inside, looking for something to cover the body with. He found a couple of blanket on the sofa and went back outside. Dov was no longer leaning over the body, but was now sitting next to her, resting his forehead on his knees. He was still crying. He covered the body with one of the blankets, and covered Dov with the other. "Come on." He said softly, taking Dov's right arm and gently lifting him off the freezing ground, careful that the blanket won't fall down. Oliver could hear Dov wheezing when he inhaled and exhaled and his lips were definitely blue now. He sat him on a small wooden bench in the yard facing away from the body.
He contemplated on saying something to him but didn't seem to find the right words so he just went on with his job and reported Dov's mother's death to dispatch. After calling it in he called Frank on his cell phone. Frank was mad at first since they disappeared in the first place and then ended up in another division's territory but was sympathetic once he told him the deceased was Epstein's mother. He gave them both the rest of the day off to deal with their statements and told him to tell Dov he can take as much time of as he needed to take care of everything. He also told him to get them both checked out at the hospital, since they were exposed to carbon monoxide. He didn't argue, looking back at Dov who still seemed to be having trouble breathing.
His next call was to Sam Swarek.
"Sam, hi – "
"Olie, what are you doing over at 27?" Sam asked and Oliver could almost hear him smirk over the phone.
"Is Peck with you?"
"Yeah, Why – ?"
"Put me on speaker" He asked.
"What's wrong – ?"
"Just put me on speaker, please." He repeated.
"Okay, we can hear you."
"Look the body over at 27, it's Dov's mother. It seems like suicide." he started, lowering his voice and getting some distance between and Dov, though he was still sitting on the bench where he left him, minutes ago.
"How is he?" Gail interrupted. Oliver looked back at Dov over his shoulder. He stopped crying but was staring a head into space and seemed oblivious to everything around him. He could also clearly see that he was breathing shallowly in an uneven rhythm, the air before him clouding slightly with every breath.
"Not so good" He answered. "Look, I'll have to stay here with the guys from 27. We were the first to arrive. Can you… Can you come over so one of you will be able to take him to the hospital? He's not breathing so well…"
"Sure" Sam answered. "We'll be there in 10." Oliver heard the sirens before they hung up.
After a few minutes Oliver heard sirens and saw two police cars from the 27th division pulling into the driveway. "We're out back" He called to one of the officers, a young one, who he did not recognized, and went back to Dov. He was still staring into space and did'nt acknowledge him as he kneeled again beside him. His breathing was worse.
"What's the matter with you guys?!" The officer from 27 yelled as he approached them. "Or did they not teach you over at 15 how to not contaminate a crime scene?" He added sarcastically. "Who moved the body?"
"Hey, hey…" Oliver straightened up and shoved the guy away from Dov.
"Don't touch – "
"Show some respect, alright? She was this guy's mother." He told the officer, Ericson, he learned his name now that he stood near him.
"Oh…" He seemed a bit embarrassed for just a second but then went straight to business.
"Sorry, man" He said to Dov, who still wasn't moving except for when the violent coughs racked his body, "but we need to examine the body, get your statement…" He kneeled by the body, but as he tried to examined her, Dov suddenly snapped.
"Don't… touch… her…" He said in a breathy voice, his wheezing clearly evident.
"Look, we're just doing our jobs – "
"Hey," Oliver intervened, "Give us a few minutes, okay?" He bargained with Ericson.
"Okay, Sure… Take your time… Say goodbye and all that…" He didn't seem pleased but he backed off and Dov sat back like before trying to get enough air into his constricted lungs. It was getting harder and harder for him to breathe. Oliver sat beside him on the freezing bench for a few minutes waiting for Peck and Swarek to arrive.
"Dov!" Gail yelled and ran towards them. Swarek was right behind her. Oh thank God, Oliver thought.
"Dov" She called him again and squatted next to him placing her hands on his knees. "Look at me." She tried. He didn't seem to notice her. She could see that Shaw wasn't exaggeration when he said that Dov didn't look so good. His lips were blue, she heard him wheezing with each labored breath and he was sweating even though it was freezing outside. She touched his chin and tilted his head so he'll be looking directly at her. Her next words were a complete shock to Oliver and Sam.
"Dov, where's your inhaler?" He didn't answer, though he raised his eyes and looked at Shaw, his eyes were focused for the first time since they discovered the body only 20 minutes before, and Oliver realized that Dov was actually embarrassed.
"Dov, where is it?" Gail persisted.
"Pocket… Right…pocket." He said between coughs.
"Okay." She retrieved the inhaler, shook it and took the lid off, placing it between Dov's lips. His hands closed around the device as Gail squeezed it and he inhaled as deeply as he could. She closed the lid off and was going to join Oliver and Sam, but Dov grabbed her hand, stopping her. He took the inhaler from her with shaking hands and took a second dose.
Gail left him the inhaler and gently squeezed his shoulder, sensing that he needed the physical contact, as she went to talk to Oliver and Sam, trying not to stare at the body.
"It's the anniversary of his brother's death today." Oliver whispered. "I saw a picture when we were inside – "
"Oh God." Gail said, shocked. "First his brother and now this…"
"What are you talking about?" Sam asked.
"His brother also – " She started and then caught herself.
"Never mind. Forget I said anything." She tried taking her words back, though she knew it had already been done.
"Peck" Sam started in his TO voice. "There's going to be an investigation. The guys from 27 are already sweeping the house. Whatever it is, it's going to come up…"
She knew he was right. "His brother also committed suicide. About six years ago. He hung himself."
"I had no idea…" Oliver said sounding genuinely upset. "I've worked with the guy for three years and I had no idea. Asthma. Did you know about that?" He asked Swarek but did not wait for his answer. "And a brother, who killed himself…"
"He doesn't like to talk about it – " Gail tried to rationalize it.
"He still doesn't look good. Have the paramedics checked him over?" Sam asked, deliberately ignoring Oliver's train of thought.
"No. He wouldn't let them."
Gail went back to Dov, Shaw and Swarek following her. Dov's breathing still sounded labored.
"Did it work?" She asked mentioning to the inhaler, which Dov held tightly in his left hand.
"No…" He said, his voice barely above a whisper, and slightly shook his head.
"Do you think you need to go to the hospital?"
"Okay…" Oliver said and mentioned for the EMT's to come closer.
"No. "Dov said. "No ambulance…" He said, inhaled loudly and labouredly and coughed a couple of times.
"Fine. Peck you take Epstein to the hospital. We'll stay here so that Shaw can give his statement." Sam summarized. "Can you stand up?"
Dov rose slowly to his feet refusing Gail's and Oliver's offers to help. He swayed on his feet when he straightened up but quickly recovered. He looked down for a split second to the covered body of his mother and then looked up at Sam and Oliver. "Thank… You…" He said quietly, "For… everything…" He added between coughs. He sniffled a little and Oliver wasn't sure if he was going to cry again or if just because of the cold. He then turned around and went to the car, parked in the drive way, Gail by his side.
They drove in silence for a few minutes. Gail didn't really know what to say to him. She wanted to say she was sorry, but that seemed too little – there isn't much comfort in that one small word.
"Do you want me to call someone? Your dad maybe?" She tried.
"No… I… can't… deal… with… him… right… now…" He said in a breathy sound. "There's… no… one…" He wasn't wheezing anymore, though it was obvious he still had trouble breathing. Gail just left it at that and didn't press any further. They drove in silence for a while.
"Pull over." Dov suddenly said, pulling her out of her thoughts.
"Pull over." He repeated in a tight voice.
She didn't really have any place to park the car, so she just came to a stop in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, hoping that no one will question her right to do so with a police car. The minute she came to a full stop Dov opened the passenger's door, doubled over and vomited onto the pavement. Gail still heard him coughing and could see his muscles clenching and unclenching with each painful spasm.
After a few agonizing minutes he stopped and straightened up, accepting the open bottle of water Gail handed him. He rinsed his mouth and spat out a couple of times before finally closing the door and buckling himself again.
"You good?" Gail asked, still concerned about his breathing.
"Yeah…" He said, but he sounded anything but.
They didn't say anything for the rest of the drive to the hospital.
Once at the hospital, Dov sat heavily in one of the chairs in the waiting area as Gail approached the administration secretary. He prepared himself for a long wait and was a bit surprised when a Gail came back only seconds later accompanied by a female doctor.
"This is Monica." Gail introduced the blond doctor, and Dov, now remembering that there were rumors that she and Swarek had a thing a few years ago, understood why he didn't have to wait long.
"Okay, officer – "
"Epstein. Dov Epstein." Gail answered before he got the chance.
"Okay, officer Epstein, I understand that you're having some trouble breathing – "
Dov nodded and then doubled over in a coughing fit, which lasted almost a minute.
"Okay." She said once the fit was over. "let's get you in an exam room." Monica added and she and Gail helped him up and into one of the free exam rooms.
"First, let's get you out of these." She said and then removed his vest and took off his uniform shirt. "It'll help with the breathing." She then took out a stethoscope and instructed him to lean forward. The stethoscope felt cold as the doctor gently placed in on his back under his black T-shirt, from left to right.
"I guess severe asthma attack, am I right?" She asked sympathetically while still listening through the stethoscope.
"Any other symptoms?"
"He was exposed to gas earlier, monoxide." Gail said but did not elaborate. "He was wheezing and coughing pretty bad before and he threw up once. But the wheezing stopped. It's a good sign, right?" Gail asked.
"No." She answered in a sever tone and removed the stethoscope from her ears. "Actually, it's not." She straightened up and reached behind him. "We'll set the nebulizer. You know the drill. This will help in the meantime." She said placing a nasal canola behind his ears and under his nose. "I'll check up on you in a little while."
A nurse came by a couple of minutes later and set up the nebulizer. Dov took the nasal canola off and placed the device between his lips, leaning back and closing his eyes.
"Dov?" Gail asked and waited until he opened his eyes again and looked at her. "I'm going out for a second to call Chris, okay?" Dov nodded, letting her know he was okay with her telling Chris exactly what happened. "I'll be right outside." She said and went outside taking her phone out of her purse and started dialing before she was even out of the room. Chris picked up on the third dial.
"Gail, hey. How's it going?" He sounded cheerful.
"Chris, ah…" She didn't know how to start. She closed the door behind her and lowered her voice a little so that Dov won't be able to hear her conversation.
"Gail, what's wrong?" Now he sounded worried.
"It's Dov – "
"Oh, my God – "
"No, nothing like that." She added quickly, once she realized what her choice of words was implying. There are certain things you can't say in their line of duty.
"It's… It's his mom. She died. It looks like suicide." The line was quiet on the other end.
"Chris?" She asked after a few seconds. "Are you there?"
"Yeah… Yeah… How's Dov?"
"Not good." She answered sincerely. "I'm with him at the hospital. He was pretty out of it when we arrived on scene. He and Shaw found the body. He's having a really bad asthma attack…" She stopped and took a shuddering breath. She turned back and opened the door to the exam room a little, just enough to see Dov lying on the only bed in the room, leaning against the wall, his eyes closed, as he breathed through the nebulizer. He didn't notice her and she closed the door again. "I've never seen him like this. Not even after Tyler Marks –"
"Okay… Okay… I'm on my way. I'll be there in a few hours. I just need to find someone to cover for me." Chris said.
"You don't have to do that." She said but hoped he'll come anyway.
"I want to… he'll need our help." Chris said and Gail knew he was right. "I'll call when I get to the city." He added and hung up.
Gail went back to the exam room. Dov didn't seem to move, though his breathing seemed easier, or maybe it was just wishful thinking. She wasn't sure. Gail didn't say anything as she grabbed a chair and sat by the bed, placing her left hand on his shoulder, letting him know that she was there for him.
They sat like that for a few minutes; the only sound in the room was the nebulizer as Dov inhaled the medicine, allowing his airways to re-expand.
"I don't get it…" Dov said quietly, breaking the silence.
"I just don't get, why she – " he was unable to finish the sentence.
"Why your mom –?"
"No. It's not that. I get why she did what she did." He opened his eyes and looked directly at Gail, still leaning back. "When Adam… I didn't get it then. But with her, I understand why."
"Then, what is it?" She asked a little confused.
"I don't get…" He started and stopped inhaling on the nebulizer again. "I don't understand why I wasn't a good enough reason for them to stay…" He finished quietly and closed his eyes again. Gail leaned her chin on his shoulder, her forehead touching his left temple.