“Victim’s name is Charles Walker Hansen. Born in Sydney, Australia, August 14, 1992, currently 21 years of age. Six feet, 180 pounds. Last seen on January 12, 2014 in his organic chemistry class at Harvard University. Ostensibly lives in a dorm with four other seniors, but each separately corroborated that he never moved in.”
“So where has he been staying, sir?”
“Unknown. Personality is seen by others as isolated, irritable, unsociable. Mother deceased, father’s status unknown.”
Normally when Yancy got home, the first thing he did was check the grain of the carpet outside his door to see if it had been touched since he left. This time, he didn’t have to, because his lights were all on, AC/DC was playing on the stereo inside, and there were burgers cooking on the grill on his balcony.
He paused at the door. Thought about turning tail and heading to Tendo’s, avoiding whatever shit-storm was heading his way. His sense of self-preservation was definitely pushing that option.
But the sad thing was, he missed Raleigh.
He opened the door, which was unlocked, and found Raleigh in the kitchen, shirtless, digging around in his fridge.
“You’re the weirdest burglar I’ve ever seen,” Yancy said.
“Cheers, mate,” Raleigh said. It echoed in the mostly empty fridge. He pulled out a beer and cracked it open with his ring, eyeing Yancy with an unreadable expression as he drank from it.
Yancy swallowed. Took a half-step forward. Thought fuck it and strode forward, catching Raleigh in a hug.
Raleigh didn’t flinch, just moved into it, arms tight around Yancy’s back. For that moment, it was like being a teenager again, like nothing had ever changed.
Yancy pulled away first, stealing Raleigh’s beer. “How long have you been back in Boston?”
He should have waited to ask that one instead of giving Raleigh to opportunity to hide in the fridge again as he grabbed another beer. He would have liked to see Raleigh’s face as he said, studiously casual, “Three years, give or take.”
And just like that, Yancy was back to feeling like the wrong-footed, sanctimonious prude whose brother missed his 30th birthday because he’d been forced to flee the country for fear of facing felony drug possession charges.
Or so he’d thought, that is. Apparently Raleigh hadn’t been out of the country at all, and he’d just missed Yancy’s birthday because he felt like it.
Last three birthdays.
“Three years?” he said, voice flat. “You’ve been in this city for three fucking years and you never called?”
Raleigh’s shoulders went tense, and his voice tightened with that defensive slant he got whenever he knew he was guilty and didn’t want to admit it. “What do you want me to say, man? I didn’t think you wanted me to.” He gestured with the hand holding his beer. “Up-and-coming FBI agent can’t have a drug runner for a brother.”
Yancy rubbed his temples and changed the subject. This wasn't how he wanted things to go, the first time he'd seen his brother in years. “So where were you before that?”
“Mexico, Thailand, Australia… You know, wherever the winds took me.” Raleigh waved outside.
“What are you doing here now?”
Raleigh scraped his fingernail on the damp label of his beer, pulling up the edges. “Remember that time in third grade when I got sent home for biting Edward Harvey?”
Yancy searched his memory. “Oh yeah, that little shit. What’d he do? Took your Tonka truck or something?”
“It was a G.I. Joe helicopter,” Raleigh said, smiling.
Yancy smiled back instinctively, because whatever else you could say about Raleigh, his good moods were infectious. “So?”
Losing his smile, Raleigh pulled his phone out of his pocket and scrolled through it for a moment. He passed it to Yancy, who glanced down and froze.
Chuck Hansen was smiling up at him, naked and rumpled and warm, the folds of the dark blue sheets falling over his body in waves, keeping him scarcely decent. Morning light filtered over him, giving him a sweet, approachable air. But his smile was wicked.
“Oh, Raleigh,” Yancy said.
“He’s mine,” Raleigh growled. “And I want him back.”
Of course, Yancy thought, watching as Raleigh salvaged what he could of the burnt burgers. Of course that was why Raleigh had come back.
Because someone took his toy.
He finished his beer and set the empty bottle to the side. “So how’d you meet him?”
Raleigh smiled, like he’d been expecting the question. “He saw my bike outside a coffee shop and started asking questions about it. Followed me around for a while, wouldn’t leave it alone. Then I got home late one night and he was wasted on my apartment steps, just turned legal to drink or something. Said it was his birthday and he wanted me as a present. And man, could you resist that?” His grin turned dirty.
“You’re sick.” Yancy shook his head. He did some quick calculations in his head – Hansen had a mid-August birthday, and Harvard started class the day after Labor Day, so – “So what, this drunk 21-year-old kid comes onto you and you fuck him and he moves in with you – what, max two weeks later?”
Raleigh looked surprised. “How’d you know we live together?”
“He never moved into his dorm at Harvard,” Yancy said with a dismissive flap of his hand. “So he moves in with you two weeks after you fuck for the first time, and five months later you think you own him? The fuck’s going on in your head, Raleigh?”
Raleigh just shrugged. “He’s mine, Yance. S’all there is to it.”
Yancy rubbed his forehead. “Alright. But here are the ground rules, if you’re staying with me. You don’t go through my shit, you don’t ask me questions about the case, you don’t blame me when it goes slower than you’d like.”
Raleigh nodded, setting his jaw.
“And Raleigh?” Yancy reached out and grabbed Raleigh’s arm, turning the inside of the elbow up. “No drugs.”
Raleigh’s eyes flashed. Then he took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “Yessir,” he said.
They ate burnt burgers and talked about nothing until two AM.
In the morning, Yancy padded on the balls of his feet like a cat to sneak past the couch without waking up his brother. He was slightly worried when it worked – Raleigh had always been a light sleeper. He used to wake up every time Dominique opened the door to check on them in the middle of the night, and then pester Yancy awake when he wasn’t able to go back to sleep after.
For the first time he grasped that Raleigh was pretty torn up about this. Maybe it wasn’t just a game, for once.
Raleigh’s back, Yancy almost said to Tendo as they greeted each other at the coffee machine. Then, when Sasha asked him how he was, almost blurted, My brother’s in town. Worst of all, had to bite his tongue to keep from admitting Remember my drug running younger brother? Sleeping on my couch when he ran into Stacker in the hallway.
The impact would be lost on Sasha, but Tendo had been friends with Raleigh for years before – everything, and Stacker knew enough.
But it was a thought that kept popping up in Yancy’s head at intermittent points in the day, alternately making him smile and cringe as he remembered the circumstances of Raleigh’s return. My brother’s back, he thought.
My moronic, sweet, drug running little brother is back. Looking to complicate my life more than ever.
There were worse things, he figured.
Yancy’s spare blanket was bunched up on the floor next to the couch when he got home. When he looked out the window, he saw that Raleigh’s bike was gone. Raleigh’s duffle bag was lying open on the ground, and Yancy stared at it for a long moment.
When Raleigh came back late that night, Yancy was eating fried rice and leafing through a handful of papers on the kitchen counter. Raleigh dropped his jacket on the floor and went to the bathroom, and Yancy sighed and slid out of his seat to go hang up the discarded article of clothing.
He paused at the weight of the leather jacket, patting along the front until he found the lump. The distinctly gun-shaped lump. He pulled a revolver out of the inner pocket and popped open the cylinder.
Loaded. One bullet missing.
Yancy frowned and wiped off his fingerprints before replacing the revolver in its holster, then hung up the jacket on the hook. He returned to his seat on the stool. When Raleigh emerged from the bathroom, he glanced at the jacket, then Yancy, then back at the jacket, and shook his head.
“Dinner’s on the stove,” said Yancy.
“You always fuck up fried rice,” Raleigh said, grabbing a bowl from the cabinet to the left of the stove, because that’s where Yancy had always kept his bowls, because that’s where Dominique always kept her bowls. “Which, I maintain, is a feat more impressive than your 1600 on the SATs.”
Yancy took a bite of his perfectly adequate, not at all crunchy, fried rice. “Just cover it up with more soy sauce.”
“And suddenly I remember how you always fuck up fried rice,” Raleigh said, snickering. He pulled up a stool across from Yancy and peered upside-down at the papers spread out over the counter.
Yancy gathered them up before Raleigh could get more than a cursory look and tucked them into the file folder, out of sight. “I got some questions for you.”
“Hit me up,” said Raleigh, as he dumped liberal amounts of soy sauce over his fried rice.
Yancy leaned on his elbows. “If you want Hansen back so bad, why didn’t you report him as missing to the police?”
“I couldn’t break the code,” Raleigh said, like it was obvious.
Yancy sneered. “I can see he’s very important to you, if some arbitrary code you have with a bunch of gang members and murderers is more important than his safety.”
Raleigh took a bite of his rice and chewed it slowly. “What do you think they would do to him, if I broke that code and told? How many pieces do you think he’d be found in?”
“So you’re saying they haven’t hurt him because of some code you have?” Yancy pursed his lips. “Then what’s the point of kidnapping him in the first place, if they’re gonna play nice?”
Raleigh looked down, stirring the rice without bringing any more to his lips. “They’re gonna play nice until they find out I’m not paying the ransom.”
Yancy nodded his understanding. Then Raleigh’s words hit him. “…What ransom?”
Raleigh froze with his fork halfway to his face. “You didn’t know?”
Yancy sat bolt upright. “What ransom?”
Raleigh, after some apparent internal debate, dug his cell phone out of his pocket. He scrolled through until he found a grainy picture, which he passed to Yancy.
It was Hansen again, but there was nothing sweet or soft about him this time. He was bound to a chair, gagged, bleeding from multiple lacerations on his face and neck. His hair was matted and his eyes were wild, and he was visibly struggling against his restraints. Around his neck hung a sign, bold black capital letters scrawled on white paper.
I want the head of Hannibal Chau.
“Yancy,” Raleigh said, as Yancy shot up out of his chair, fumbling for his cell phone. “Yancy, you can’t tell them.”
Yancy raised his gaze just long enough to shoot Raleigh a warning glare. “Bullshit I can’t tell them, this changes everything.” His frantic fingers sought out Pentecost’s number in his contacts.
Raleigh grabbed for the phone, making a disgruntled noise when Yancy pulled it away. “Where are you gonna say you got it? From your drug running little brother? Or what, did they send it to you themselves?”
“Whose phone did it come from?” Yancy asked, ignoring him.
Raleigh didn’t respond.
When Yancy looked up, he found Raleigh staring at him, stone-faced, betrayal in his eyes. “Whose phone,” Yancy repeated, harsher.
“Chuck’s,” Raleigh said, frowning deeper. “Who the fuck do you think? What, you think they had my number?”
“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Yancy muttered. He pressed the Call button on his phone.
In a flash, Raleigh ripped the phone out of his hands, ending the call before tossing it somewhere behind him. Yancy made an angry noise and went to duck around him, and Raleigh body-blocked him, using his extra three inches of height and 20 odd pounds of muscle to his advantage.
“They didn’t give the Feds that ransom note because they didn’t want you to have it,” Raleigh said. “I’m not willing to see what they’d do when they found out you do.”
“Right, because we’re going to tell them,” Yancy snorted. “We in the FBI have a habit of announcing all our strategies to the people we’re trying to arrest.”
Raleigh just shrugged. “There’s someone on the inside.”
“The fuck are you – there’s no one on the inside,” Yancy said. His fingers clenched into fists at his sides, nails biting deep into his palms.
“There could always be someone on the inside,” Raleigh said, irritatingly calm.
“The FBI isn’t like your gang of thugs. I trust each and every one of my coworkers with my life.” Yancy said, shaking with anger. He jabbed his finger into Raleigh’s chest. “I’m not like you.”
Raleigh flinched. “Alright. What are you willing to bet? His life?”
Yancy opened his mouth.
Yancy went silent. He swallowed, falling back a step.
“Why do you think I came to you?” Raleigh asked, advancing on him. “Huh? You think I woulda picked working with the FBI as a first option? When my club found out that was the condition of the deal, they shut me out. I got iced because I was too much of a liability. I can’t get within two goddamn miles of Chau without an armed escort out.”
Yancy didn’t say anything. But he thought – you’re that possessive of him? You’d kill the head of your club to get him back? Or at the very least, they think you would.
“So I can’t work with my club to retrieve him, and I can’t do it alone. I need you to get him back.” Raleigh swallowed. “If either my club or the kidnappers found out I’d shown you that picture, I’m dead and so is he. You asked me to stay out of your shit. Well, I’m asking the same thing.”
Yancy worked his jaw. “If you want me to get Hansen back, I need all the information. That ransom note would help.”
“I want you to get him back alive,” Raleigh said. “Whole. Safe.” The firm line of his lips wavered, turning down at the corners.
Yancy sighed. He rubbed over his mouth with his hand. “So you just – show me that picture and won’t let me do anything with it?”
“I never said that,” Raleigh said.
Yancy looked up.
“You can’t tell them. But you can find him.” Raleigh hunched his shoulders, looking at Yancy with those large, pleading eyes, exactly the same as when he was nine and he had broken the window of Dad’s truck with a baseball. “Please, Yance. You gotta find him. I need you to.”
Yancy looked at his brother, saw the absolute trust in his eyes. And sighed again.
“Tell me everything you know,” he said.
This could be big, Yancy thought, drumming his fingers on his desk, lips pursed. Could be something.
But how was he supposed to justify this theory to Pentecost without revealing where the information had come from? Kaiju had it out for Chau, had been encroaching on his empire for a long time. But they weren’t supposed to know about Chau, so they couldn’t have come to that conclusion.
He gave a start when a plastic bag was dropped onto his desk, and looked up to find Tendo watching him quizzically. “Long night, Becket?” he asked, leaning against Yancy’s desk.
Yancy looked into the plastic bag and smiled, pulling out the Reuben for himself and handing the meatball sub to Tendo. “Nah. Just stuck on this Hansen case.”
Tendo gave a hum of agreement. “Wish the baddies had been nice enough to leave us clues when they nabbed him,” he said.
“That would be nice,” Yancy murmured, distracted.
“If only we knew where he was staying,” Tendo said. “Might have little more luck there.”
Yancy took a bite to avoid having to answer. He’d been to Raleigh’s place, had seen plenty of evidence that Hansen had been living there (toothbrush on the bathroom counter, boots at the door, textbooks stacked neatly on the desk, an odd contrast to the clothes strewn over the floor), but there had been no signs of forced entry and Kaiju hadn’t left any clues.
For all the information he was getting from both directions on this case, Yancy was no closer to figuring out what the hell was going on. It fucking sucked.
He leafed through the stack of glossy pictures on his desk with the hand that wasn’t holding the sandwich, and frowned when he realized something. “Why don’t we have any pictures of his bike?” he asked.
Yancy didn’t quite freeze up, but he did close his eyes for a second to curse at himself for slipping. “I thought I read somewhere that…”
“Huh,” Tendo said. “Remember anything else?”
Go big or go home, Yancy thought. “Yeah, uh, lightweight dual-sport bike. Black. Suzuki, I think.”
“And he used it to drive to class?”
Tendo grabbed his keys.
Yancy half-stood. “Wait, where are you…?”
“It’s gotta still be outside the chemistry building, I figure.”
Yancy grabbed his coat.
“It was a good idea,” said Tendo, looking down at the black Suzuki.
“Yeah,” Yancy said, examining it from all angles. It appeared untouched. “Back to square one.”
“But now we know Hansen got nabbed before he left campus,” Tendo pointed out.
Yancy frowned, thinking about this. He made a mental note to look up Hansen’s class schedule, wanting to know who the last person to have seen him was.
Something to think about.
There were so many fucking things to think about.
Two days later, Herc Hansen showed up outside headquarters.
And by ‘showed up,’ Yancy meant showed up, sitting on the ground in scuffed boots and a worn leather jacket, legs extended in front of him. Yancy slowed as he neared the man, recognizing that he looked familiar but not able to pinpoint his identity.
Herc unfolded himself, showcasing long legs and military precision in his ruler-straight posture. “Yancy Becket, right?”
“I’m Herc Hansen,” Herc said. His eyes dropped over Yancy. When he picked his gaze up, he didn’t look impressed. “I’m here to get my son back.”
Yancy frowned deeper at the phrasing. Herc had been Black-Ops in his day, he knew the power of delivery, and Yancy smarted at the implication that the FBI was so incompetent as to need someone else to solve their cases for them.
Then he realized something much more unsettling. “How’d you know I was on the case?”
“I have my ways of finding things out.” Herc said. “We going in or not?”
If Herc’s attitude of superiority hadn’t already nettled him, the cryptic bullshit would have. Yancy dearly wished he could tell this smarmy prick they weren’t in need of his help, but they both knew any information Herc had on the case could be essential. “Right this way,” he said, smiling with his teeth. “I’m sure Tendo will be happy to get a statement from you.”
Herc smiled back.
When Yancy came home that day, there were two paper grocery bags up on the counter. He peeked inside and saw fettuccini pasta, cans of cooked tomatoes, bread, garlic, breadcrumbs, and other such fixings.
Yancy checked his phone, but he already knew the date. Tuesdays had always been Dominique’s day to cook, when Richard had the night shift. Spaghetti was just about the only thing she could make without ruining it.
He rolled up his sleeves.
The rumble of a motorcycle sounded outside a few hours later. Raleigh was whistling when he came inside, and grinned as he inhaled a deep breath of air, scented with garlic and tomato. “My subtle hint worked!”
“Subtle, right,” Yancy snorted, closing his laptop before Raleigh could see anything on the screen.
Raleigh immediately gravitated toward the bowl of prepared ground meat on the counter and began rolling it into balls and laying them out on the greased baking dish. The ease of his motions spoke of decades of familiarity, and Yancy had to smile as he remembered all the Tuesdays of years past, flinging blobs of raw meat at each other while Dominique scolded them and Jazmine cried about getting caught in the middle.
Leaving Raleigh to his task, he went to shower and change, then stayed in his room to read over some of the case files, only emerging when the scent of garlic bread wafted through the apartment. He smiled when he found full place settings out on the island, with all the utensils in their proper location, cloth napkins under the forks, water glasses set on coasters that Yancy didn’t know he had. Raleigh had even placed the knives facing the plates.
Sitting, Yancy gestured for Raleigh to serve the meal. He let Raleigh take the first bite, and raised one eyebrow.
“S’good,” Raleigh said, grinning. “Just like Mom used to make.”
Yancy made a face. “Damn, means I overcooked the pasta.”
“Nah.” Raleigh took another bite. “Well, maybe.”
It was pretty good, though. He’d gotten the spices right, and the meatballs held together well enough without being gummy.
“So what do you need to know?” Raleigh asked.
Yancy raised his eyebrows, fork suspended in midair.
Raleigh shook his head, expression impassive. “I know that face. You’ve got questions. Hit me up.”
“More of a theory,” Yancy said, rubbing his jaw. He set down his fork. “They’ve got Chuck ransom, ostensibly as an incentive for you to kill Chau. But clearly it isn’t working since you’ve been iced, and they have to know that. So there’s got to be another ulterior motive.”
“Plus,” Raleigh said, mouth full, “You aren’t supposed to know that the ransom is Chau.”
“Exactly. For the Feds, it’s not about Chau. So I figure they’re using him as a distraction, but I don’t know what from.” He sipped his water. “Thoughts?”
Raleigh frowned. “I kinda thought the same thing, actually. Like, they’ve got some other reason to want a human shield – they’re planning something big, and they need a hostage to keep the Feds at a distance. Since they want Chau out of the way anyway, it’s two birds, one stone. Even if I don’t get baited into killing him, they’ve got their hostage anyway.”
“Fuck,” Yancy said, letting out his breath in a low hiss. He rested his chin on his hand, thinking.
“There’s more,” Raleigh said.
“There is,” Yancy agreed. “Rals…”
“Oh, balls,” Raleigh said under his breath.
At any other time, Yancy may have smiled. “You got in too deep.”
“How d’you figure,” Raleigh said, but it came out flat. He knew Yancy was right, deep down.
“If they could have picked anyone to get at Chau, Chuck wasn’t their only option. There’ve gotta be hundreds of guys in your club that they could have used against him. But they picked you.” Yancy sighed again, even heavier. “Because you’re in too deep. What are you, Chau’s second in command?”
“Just about,” Raleigh said, eyes downcast.
“You fucking idiot,” Yancy said.
Raleigh shrugged. It was a little late to be lecturing him about it, and they both knew it. “My turn?”
“Go for it,” Yancy said, picking up his fork again.
“You talked to Chuck’s father,” Raleigh said.
Yancy’s gaze darted to his laptop, which was exactly where he had left it, pushed aside to make room for their plates. He frowned. “I didn’t think you could crack the password.” That was the only reason he had left it out there while Raleigh was cooking, considering he’d known damn well Raleigh was going to try.
“I couldn’t,” Raleigh said. “But you called him Chuck.” He dished each of them a second helping of pasta, so confident in this assumption that he didn’t even need to read Yancy’s response to know for sure.
Yancy cursed himself silently. He’d forgotten what it was like to be around someone who knew all his tells, and he’d grown complacent from it. Of course Raleigh would notice that he had never called the kid by his first name before, and of course he’d know that Yancy had only started calling him Chuck when a different Hansen arrived, more deserving of the surname treatment.
Raleigh worked his jaw, suspicions confirmed. He rubbed his temples.
“It’s not like you don’t wear a bulletproof vest all the time already,” Yancy said. “Just… be careful, alright? You know how dangerous he is.”
“It’s only a matter of time till he finds me, you’re saying.”
Yancy nodded. “Be ready.”
Raleigh nodded back slowly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
They finished eating, and Yancy looked down at his plate with a furrowed brow before poking around the serving bowl. “Rals, did you eat the bay leaf?”
Raleigh affected an expression of utmost innocence. He didn’t say ‘who, me?’ aloud, but he didn’t really have to, with those Bambi eyes on full-force.
“You fucker,” Yancy laughed. “You got the leaf, you do the dishes, whether you ate the fucking thing or not.”
“God damned Communist,” Raleigh said, stacking up their plates.
Yancy laughed louder.
So Kaiju was using Chuck as a distraction, most likely. A hostage. A human shield, Raleigh said. But from what? The nebulous and contradictory information Yancy had gleaned from various sources didn’t add up, and he couldn’t fathom what Kaiju was after.
Money was just the start, he thought, tapping his pen in an arrhythmic beat on his desk. Money was only one part of power. But there was something else in their aims, something grander.
“How is it,” came a voice behind him, “that you’re in the exact same position every time I come looking for you?”
Yancy spun around in his chair, grinning at Tendo. “Not my fault you always look for me in my designated ‘stare broodingly at the desk’ portion of the day.”
“I enjoy the fact that you acknowledge your broodiness without doing anything to change it,” Tendo said.
“I’ve learned if I look harried enough, you’ll usually bring me food because you don’t know any other ways of showing human sympathy or emotion.” Yancy looked at him expectantly.
Tendo laughed. “Close enough. Wanted to invite you to lunch with me and Allison.”
“She’s back from Guatemala?” Yancy said, half-rising from his chair.
Tendo nodded. “Big bad fled to Monaco before they could make the bust. She’s pissed.”
“You know, I think I might be busy for lunch after all,” Yancy said, sitting back down.
“Aw, she’s not that scary,” said Tendo, which was a total lie and the lying liar knew it. “She really wants you to come, man. She’s bringing that narcotics friend of hers–“
Tendo nodded, grinning wide. “Just be glad I warned you.”
“I can ask out women by myself, you know,” Yancy said, folding his arms over his chest. He may have been pouting a little. “Tell your wife I don’t need her help. And I know you’re encouraging her.”
“Mori would be good for you,” Tendo said, shrugging. “She’d get tired of your soulful angsting act fast.”
“I’m not angsting, I’m just –”
Yancy’s cellphone buzzed. He picked it up and found a message from Raleigh: meet me at the common?
“I really am busy for lunch,” Yancy said to Tendo, already texting Raleigh back with confirmation. “I’ll meet Mori another time.”
Tendo shook his head. “I’m holding you to that, Becket!”
Yancy absently flipped him off as he left.
He found Raleigh on a bench looking out over the water, sitting on the back with his feet on the seat. He leaned over, elbows on his knees.
“What’s the deal with the swan boats and the duck statues?” Raleigh asked as Yancy approached.
It took Yancy a moment to remember the name of that famous picture book about ducklings that was a source of a rather absurd amount of Bostonian pride. “Make Way for Ducklings,” he said, joining Raleigh up on the bench.
“And the swans?”
“Make way for swans, too, I guess,” Yancy shrugged. “What’s up?”
“Got you lunch,” Raleigh said, passing him a wrapped-up sandwich and a bottle of birch beer. “From Dave’s.”
“Sweet,” said Yancy fervently, popping off the bottle cap with his ring. He took a swig. “What’s up?”
Raleigh stole his soda and took a drink. “What’s the difference between root beer and birch beer, anyway?”
Yancy rolled his eyes. “Made from different kinds of bark, I assume. What’s up?” Raleigh wouldn’t be stalling this much with new information unless it was seriously bad shit, and he braced himself.
“Nothing, Jesus,” Raleigh said, laughing. “Just, you’ve been looking tense. I know this case is wearing you down, and I know for a fact you haven’t left the house for anything but work and shopping in the last week. Wanted you to get some fresh air.”
Yancy blinked. Then he relaxed, tension easing from his shoulders. “You fucking hypocrite,” he said, elbowing Raleigh’s side. “How long’s it been since Chuck got taken?”
“Couple weeks,” Raleigh said.
Yancy, eyebrows raised, took a bite from his sandwich.
“Fine,” Raleigh said, to which Yancy smirked. Raleigh was so easy. “Thirteen days, give or take two hours.”
“Yep,” Yancy said, looking out at a passing boat. “And don’t even bother telling me you’re going to be able to relax and think of anything else until he’s back –”
“So I’m not either,” Yancy said. “S’just how it goes.”
Raleigh fiddled with his ring. “Thanks,” he said.
Yancy took another bite.
The next day, Yancy was picking up lunch at the Wagamama in Cambridge with Sasha Kaidanovsky when he spotted Raleigh outside the window. He was walking with his normal swagger, a bit quicker than normal, and Yancy watched for a few seconds before he realized what had caught his eye.
Raleigh was matching his pace with the man ten steps ahead of him. When the man slowed, Raleigh did. When he sped up, Raleigh did too. And when the man turned into an old secondhand bookstore, Raleigh followed him in.
“I’ll be right back,” Yancy told Sasha, and ducked out. He ran across the street and slipped into the bookstore, crouching low and padding down the center aisle. He peered through the racks of books until he spotted the hem of Raleigh’s leather jacket.
Raleigh had the other man backed up against the wall and was speaking to him too low for Yancy to hear. But the sound of bills being counted was unmistakable, as well as the rustle of a plastic bag exchanging hands.
The man said something and tried to ease past Raleigh. For a second, it seemed like Raleigh would let him go. Then the man gave a loud squeak as he was lifted clean off the ground, presumably by Raleigh’s fisted hand on his collar. All that Yancy could see were his dangling knees, feet thrashing about and knocking some books off the shelf. Then he saw Raleigh’s other hand move into the pocket of his leather jacket and emerge with a glint of silver between his fingers.
He expertly spun the butterfly knife, twirling it a few times before ending with its blade out. He lifted it up, out of Yancy’s view, and hissed something to the man. The man squealed back, “I won’t, man, I promise!” and Raleigh muttered back a few words before returning the knife to his pocket.
There was blood on his hands, and he wiped it off on the man’s white button-down shirt, leisurely, more effective a threat than any amount of knife-twirling.
Then Raleigh let the man drop back to the ground with a thump. He turned, walked out the door, and he was gone.
It was hard to reconcile.
The considerate, grinning Raleigh talking about duck statues and root beer. And then the other Raleigh, the one Yancy didn’t like to think about. Chau’s second in command.
Yancy waited at the kitchen counter, absently sketching the man from earlier while he still remembered his face. Skinny and short, wearing thick black glasses. Might have been a professor with that suit, which would explain why he was on Harvard’s campus. Definitely too old to be a student.
He was doodling dragons on the margins of the paper when Raleigh finally got home, tossing his jacket over the back of the couch and ambling over to Yancy with a grin. He glanced down at Yancy’s sketch.
To his credit, he didn’t try to lie. “It’s not what you think,” he said.
Yancy raised his eyebrows, not looking up. The wings were too small, he thought, and set about fixing that.
“Yes, I bought drugs. No, I’m not going to use them. Even if I wanted to, the fucking berry flavor, ugh.” Raleigh tossed the baggie onto the table.
Despite himself, Yancy glanced over. Two pills, with a clear coating and electric blue liquid inside. He picked it up and held it to the light to see its legendary glow. It didn’t disappoint.
“I got them for you,” Raleigh said, growing angry at Yancy’s lack of response. “Don’t give me this shit, I got them because I think it could be a clue.”
“You didn’t have to threaten him,” Yancy said.
“I didn’t –“ Raleigh started. His lip curled in a sneer. “That’s bullshit, anyway. Those stories about the Feds, you know, torture at Guantanamo, breaking the Geneva conventions shit – I guess those are just a myth, huh?”
Yancy made a mental note to go over the definitions and differences of the FBI and the CIA with Raleigh later, when the conversation was less fraught. “I’ve never –”
“I didn’t either,” Raleigh said, flushing. “Sure, I told him I’d cut off his tongue if he told Kaiju I’d bought ‘em from him, but I wasn’t actually gonna.”
Yancy set his jaw. “Then what was the…”
“He was struggling too much, kneed me in the arm. He made me nick my own hand,” Raleigh said, showing Yancy his palm, which bore a neat two-inch slice along the thumb. “Little shit.”
Yancy blinked, absorbing this. Raleigh was buying drugs from some dealer for Yancy, for the case – or so he claimed. “Who is he?”
“His name’s Newton Geiszler. He’s a professor at Harvard,” Raleigh said.
Yancy mentally congratulated himself on his excellent deductive reasoning.
“I’ve seen him around Chau’s compound a lot. Dunno what he does there, but he’s got some hand in the crime network of the city, I think.” Raleigh hooked a stool with his foot and dragged it over, lifting himself onto it. “I dunno if he actually helped synthesize Kaiju Blue, or he’s just on it, but he talks to Kaiju more’n anyone else I’ve met. That’s how I knew he had it. I was tailing Yamarashi, saw him pass some of that on to Geiszler.”
“Kaiju Blue,” Yancy murmured. “We call it Driftwood because it’s the spring break drug. You should see how many of those empty capsules get left on the beach after the college crowd leaves.”
Raleigh nodded. “Back when I was –” He gave a vague gesture. “– It was selling for 50 bucks a pair. Now it’s 500 each.”
Yancy thought for a second. “So they’re putting something new in it. Something valuable.”
“That, or they’re running out of whatever chemicals they need to synthesize it,” Raleigh said. “Supply and demand, you know.”
Yancy rubbed his jaw. It rankled him that he hadn’t thought of that himself. He comforted himself by thinking that Raleigh had a few more hours to ponder this while Yancy was sketching dragons. “You always were a smart kid,” he said.
“Much obliged,” Raleigh said. “Think it has something to do with Chuck?”
“It just might,” Yancy said, turning the bag over and over, watching the blue fragment over his skin like sunlight through a gemstone, or a flashlight shone through Blue Curaçao. He pocketed it to give to Allison, wondering if Raleigh really had only bought two pills, or if....
He decided he didn’t really want to know.
“Deputy Assistant Director Tendo Choi speaking. Can you state your name into the microphone?”
“And you are aware that you are being recorded?”
“I don’t know who the bastards are who’ve got my son. I don’t know why. But I can tell you, it has something to do with a guy he had been seeing. Wouldn’t tell me much about him, just that he was older by maybe five, six years, and that he was an American living in Boston. But Chuck’s not usually secretive like that. Normally I can read my son like I’m in his bloody head. And this guy, this American. He’s bad news.”
“Were you aware that Chuck never moved into the Harvard dorms for this past semester?”
“No. No, I wasn’t. Where was he?”
“We were hoping you could tell us.”
“Find the American. That’s where you’ll be able to find my son. It’s his damn fault Chuck’s caught up in all this.”
“How long have they been involved?”
“I’m not certain. It could be anywhere over four months. Probably close to a year.”
“Raleigh,” said Yancy from the doorway.
Raleigh didn’t turn around.
“Raleigh,” Yancy said, voice hardening.
Raleigh straightened up, picking his fisted hands up off the desk. He turned.
Yancy jerked back, stunned and… and scared, at the look in his brother’s eyes. This wasn’t the expression of his silly, sweet little brother. This was the look of a man who was prepared to kill. Who wanted to.
“What a motherfucking hypocrite,” Raleigh said, poisonously soft. “I can read my son like I’m in his bloody head,” he mimicked. He spun back, glaring at the tape recorder. “Oh yeah, Herc? You read him so well, and you think it’s been four goddamn months since I got involved with him?”
“Raleigh,” Yancy said, grabbing his brother’s shoulder.
Raleigh shook him off, snarling like a rabid dog at the recorder. “Yeah, you’re a great father, keep telling yourself that. I’m the bad influence, I’m the one who damaged him. It was all me, you’ve got me!”
“You need to back away right now,” Yancy said, low and smooth. He started to tow Raleigh out of the room.
Raleigh started to follow, then flared up, shoving Yancy off. Yancy grabbed for him again, at which point Raleigh threw a punch, wild and uncontrolled, but with the force of his full weight behind it.
Instinctively, Yancy caught the fist and twisted with it, spinning behind Raleigh to slam him up against the wall, keeping him there with a forearm pressed against the back of his neck. “You swore, Raleigh,” he said – shouted, and he found to his surprise that he was shaking with anger. “You said you wouldn’t go through my shit. You swore.”
“This is different!” Raleigh said back.
“You know what, though? It’s not. This is so like you,” Yancy said, abruptly weary. He released Raleigh and stepped back, and Raleigh sagged against the wall without moving.
“Yance,” he said, quiet, wounded.
Yancy laughed without humor. “But you’re right. This is low even for you,” he said. He started to walk out of the room.
Raleigh’s voice stopped him. “You’re right,” he said, so muted and broken that Yancy turned around despite himself. Raleigh was massaging his wrists where Yancy had gripped. “I am low. But have I ever dragged you down with me before?”
Yancy paused. Thought about it. “No,” he admitted.
“This is different,” Raleigh said again.
It was different, Yancy thought. He just couldn’t see how.
They avoided each other for the rest of the night, each simmering with rage, though for different reasons. Yancy heated up leftover Chinese food and glared at the kitchen counter as he ate, and Raleigh took a pack of cigarettes onto the balcony and chain-smoked with a grim scowl.
Yancy was mad that Raleigh had invaded his work after promising not to. And, he realized after a good deal of introspection, he was mad that Raleigh didn’t care about his anger. Mad that Raleigh didn’t give a fuck that he’d broken Yancy’s trust, all he cared about was that smug, superior fuck Hercules Hansen.
Raleigh had betrayed Yancy, and he wasn’t even guilty. All he cared about was Chuck fucking Hansen. The boy he had been with for five months.
Who moved in after two weeks? Yancy thought bitterly, stabbing at his lo mein with perhaps more viciousness than was strictly necessary. What made this little jackass so special? Bloody Australian tosser, Yancy fumed.
And suddenly, the puzzle pieces fell into place.
Three years, give or take … Mexico, Thailand, Australia … Just turned legal to drink … You think it’s been four goddamn months?
Raleigh had been traveling, three years ago. Traveling in Australia.
Yancy grabbed his computer and googled ‘legal drinking age in Australia.’
Raleigh was still on the balcony, but he wasn’t smoking anymore. Just standing there, elbows on the railing, head dropped like he physically couldn’t hold it up.
Yancy opened the sliding door. Paused there, fingers gripping the doorframe. “Rals,” he said, “have you been with this kid for three years?”
Raleigh shrugged. “Give or take,” he said quietly.
Yancy stepped onto the balcony, sliding the door shut behind him. He sank down, back to the wall. “You met him in Australia?”
Raleigh nodded, joining Yancy up against the wall. He had an unlit cigarette in his fingers, and picked at the ends of it as he spoke, spilling little bits of tobacco onto the ground. “At first I thought he was following me around because he was a narc, tipped off by the Feds that I had fled the US, or something. But nah, it was just him.”
“And I did my best to keep him away, I swear. Told him to leave me alone because I didn’t want to get involved. Get him involved. But he just kept at it, teasing me and asking all these nosy questions and pissing the shit out of me…” Raleigh let out a long, weary breath.
Yancy didn’t say anything.
“And then I got home late, and he was piss-ass drunk on my steps, and it was raining, and he looked up at me and just – held out his hands, and told me it was his 18th birthday, and whispered ‘please,’ and…” He carded his hand through his hair, gripped it tightly. “I took him inside. What else could I do?”
“Yeah,” Yancy said quietly.
“Yance, we didn’t even fuck. Not til like two weeks later, when he told me he was going to school up in Boston, and asked me to come with him, and…” He gestured out at the city. “Here I am.”
“Does he know?” Yancy reached over and grabbed Raleigh’s hand, tapping between Raleigh’s fingers with his pointer, where he knew without looking he would find minute track marks.
Raleigh gave a low, bitter laugh. “Of course he does. I told him before I even bought the plane ticket back. I couldn’t do that to him. And he went kind of quiet and then said, ‘ok,’ and that was it. Last thing he ever said about it.”
“And it’s three years later, and he’s living with me and making me waffles on Fridays because he doesn’t have class, and I shaved my beard and quit smoking for him.”
Yancy looked at the blond stubble on Raleigh’s face, the cigarette in his hand.
Raleigh’s voice dropped. “And then one day he’s gone. And it’s my fault.”
Yancy sat silently, absorbing everything he had just learned. This was Raleigh like Yancy had never seen him before, a Raleigh who knew the meaning of the term ‘accountability’ and saw the consequences of his own actions. It was unsettling and strange, and a small, dark part of Yancy hated that he hadn’t been important enough to make Raleigh change.
He took the cigarette from Raleigh’s hands and shredded what was left of it between his fingers. “Why didn’t you call, Raleigh?”
Raleigh gave a humorless smile. “I drove by, day after I got back. Stopped outside your house and waited for a few hours. And this car pulled up and you got out of the passenger seat, told the person inside you’d see them tomorrow. And I was still coming down from the shakes – I needed a hit like you wouldn’t believe. I was on fucking heroin withdrawal, and you were carpooling.” He set his chin on his drawn-up knees. “I couldn’t do it, man.”
“And the next three years?” Yancy raised his eyebrows.
Raleigh shrugged. “It took me a while to get clean. And then I was gonna tell you, but there was a bust and my boss had us on lockdown, and –“ He inhaled deeply. “I wasn’t kidding, you know. You’re an FBI agent, you can’t have a drug runner for a brother. I told you, I won’t drag you down with me.”
Yancy prodded him with his pointer finger. “So why this time?”
Raleigh swallowed. “He’s – Yancy, he’s mine. And I let him get taken. And he’s scared and alone and he needs me, and…” His voice cracked.
Yancy looked at him for a long moment. Then stood up with a long-suffering sigh. “Alright, little bro. Let’s go finish listening to those depositions.”
Yancy was getting tired of being shorter and skinnier than every other guy in his life. Raleigh, Pentecost, and now –
“What the –” he managed to get out before a hand clamped over his mouth, courtesy of whoever was dragging him behind a pillar in the parking garage. He twisted and lashed out with his elbow, managing to catch his abductor in the side, but all he got was a muffled grunt before he was shoved face first into the concrete column.
“Be quiet,” the man hissed in his ear. He sounded very… Australian.
“Hansen?” Yancy asked.
Herc Hansen released him, giving him the chance to turn around and face his assailant head on.
Yancy had to admit, this was unexpected. “What the fuck?”
“You know something,” Herc said, dangerously low.
“Don’t play dumb, you know something and you aren’t telling,” Herc slammed his fist into the column next to Yancy’s ear.
Yancy flinched away. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Herc smiled like a crocodile. “You won’t make eye contact with me. You think I don’t notice? And I saw your face when I said Chuck hadn’t seemed off when he came home over the summer hols last year. So what exactly do you know that makes you such an expert on my son?”
Yancy swallowed as Herc cracked his knuckles, one by one.
“You’ll find I have my ways of getting information.” He dropped his voice. “You might not appreciate the lesson.”
Yancy pasted on a smile of his own, equally sharp. “Yeah, mate, we’ve all seen ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ I know some shit. Does Pentecost know you’re going around threatening to torture his agents?”
“You gonna make this hard for yourself?” Herc said, raising one eyebrow.
Yancy lost the smile. “You wanna ask yourself the same question there, Hansen?”
Herc sighed, falling back. He seemed to realize that the intimidation tactic was failing him, and abruptly switched tracks. “You know something and you aren’t saying it. Why? Because it’s dangerous, if it comes out. Because it’s a risk.” He scrutinized Yancy’s face. “But for who?”
Yancy stared back at him, poker face at full strength.
“You can’t tell them, alright,” Herc said. He rolled his shoulders. “Let’s assume it’s because you’re protecting someone. Chuck, or yourself. I can be an ally.”
“I promise you, if you tell me what it is you know, I won’t put my son in any more danger. You can trust me about that.” Herc leaned in. “Dunno who you’re protecting, but I promise, I’m not gonna do anything that would put Chuck at any more risk. You’ve got information, Becket. You don’t know what to do with it. Tell me.”
Yancy shifted from foot to foot. He dropped his gaze.
Herc settled back, smiling. So sure he’d won.
He was right. “Alright,” Yancy growled. “But you can’t tell anyone else, and you can’t do anything stupid and rash.”
Herc shook his head, serious as anything Yancy had ever seen.
“There’s a ransom note,” Yancy said.
Herc’s eyes went wide.
Yancy was a bit preoccupied as he entered his security code and scanned his thumbprint, wondering if he’d done the right thing. Wondering if Raleigh would be in danger because of it. But there was no way Kaiju could find out, right?
Although maybe that was anticipating the threat from the wrong direction.
There was probably an idiom about that, right? One of Aesop’s fables? Missing the forest for the trees, or something. Focusing your attention in the wrong place. The lion who watched for danger from the sea, and was unprepared to be kicked in the head by the angry kangaroo.
He was getting a little hysterical, he reflected. He definitely needed coffee.
But when he turned the corner into the kitchen, he found the espresso machine being used by an unfamiliar woman – a Japanese woman with blue streaks in her hair, a military set to her shoulders, and the faint lines of hidden weaponry under her clothes.
Mori would be good for you, he heard Tendo say in the back of his mind.
Fuck, he hoped so.
“It’s got too many settings,” he said.
She turned. “Far too many. You know how to use this dratted machine?”
“It takes a while to learn her ways,” Yancy said, coming forward to press a few buttons. “She’s a bit finicky with strangers, but once you learn to navigate her moods, she’s putty in your hands.”
She pursed her lips, but her brown eyes were light and warm. “File under: things that men generally say about women and not kitchen appliances.”
“You know men who would say that about women?” Yancy made a face. “You need to meet new men.”
“I do not disagree with that,” she said, smiling for real now.
Oh, he thought. And he always dismissed the whole heart thumping, weak knees thing as a myth.
He opened his mouth.
Then Stacker’s voice spoke from behind him, “Becket, this is our brightest young narcotics agent, Mako Mori.”
Her eyes went wide at his name, and she rattled off a question in Japanese.
Yancy winced. “Ah, no, that’d be my brother.”
She looked at him, startled.
“I’m Yancy Becket,” he said, holding out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
She shook his hand. “The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Becket.”
He hesitated. “Look, maybe I could –” he said, and stopped. He didn’t really have an ending to that statement in mind – take you out for coffee that isn’t from a machine I creepily anthropomorphize?
“Maybe you could,” she agreed when he didn’t finish. She picked up a pen and a sugar packet and wrote down her number, then handed it to him.
“Maybe I will,” he said, grinning stupidly down at it.
“Maybe you should,” she said, and smiled.
“I will never understand the mating rituals of young people these days,” Stacker commented.
Yancy shrugged. “Me neither, sir.”
“I can tell,” Stacker said.
Sasha watched Yancy toss a hacky sack to himself from across the room for a few minutes before drifting over. She hoisted herself onto his desk. “Stuck?”
“Yeah,” Yancy said.
She plucked the hacky sack out of the air on his next throw, and he scooted back in his chair to give them more room to toss it back and forth. “I hear you found his bike.”
“Yep,” he said.
“Which means he got taken directly after class, I guess.” He tossed the sack from hand to hand for a moment before flipping it back to her.
She threw the ball a little too high so he had to lunge to get it, his chair rocking back dangerously before he stabilized it. She laughed, and then laughed harder when he glared at her. “Who saw him last?”
“His orgo 2 professor, I think.” Yancy dug through his files and came out with the transcript of that interview, which Tendo had done. Sasha rolled the hacky sack between her hands as he read through it. “He held Chuck after that day to talk about his final grade, actually. Then he stayed later to keep grading after Chuck left.”
“Final grade? In January?”
Yancy frowned. Yeah, that was weird. He reread the paragraph. “Final grade for orgo 1. Chuck had him last semester too. Wanted to talk to him about his final grade for that.”
Sasha nodded. Her internal alarm bells seemed to have been satisfied, but Yancy’s were only just starting to chime.
He dug through his finals some more and pulled out Chuck’s unofficial school transcript. “He got an A,” he said slowly. “So what did his professor need to discuss?”
Sasha shrugged. “Many reasons,” she said.
“Yeah, or he was stalling Chuck so no one else would be around when…” Yancy glanced at the transcript again, looking more closely at the Organic Chemistry I row. Thursdays from 6-9, labs on Tuesdays from 7-11, review sessions Mondays from 5:30-7, discussion sessions on Tuesday or Wednesday from 5-6.
Christ, what a time-suck.
And then he read further.
Fall term 2013
Newton Geiszler, PhD.
Well, well, well.
Yancy bought a small notebook in the Harvard bookstore. He worked it around in his hands and creased the pages along the corners, trying to give it a well-worn appearance. Once satisfied, he walked to Café Pamplona and bought a latte, debating getting a croissant too before deciding it would be too difficult to juggle so many things in his hands.
Then he went to find Geiszler.
Geiszler was alone in his office, and looked up with a kind of startled deer expression when Yancy rapped his knuckles on the doorframe. Yancy would have made a mental note of this suspiciously guilty look, only he kind of thought that might be the little bastard’s default expression.
“Dr. Geiszler?” he said with a warm smile. “Name’s Yancy Becket, I’m with the FBI. Got just a few questions, if you have a moment.”
“Um, sure, of course,” Geiszler said, fumbling with his papers.
Yancy watched his trembling hands, and made sure Geiszler noticed him doing it.
“What’s this about? I already talked to you guys about Chuck Hansen, I don’t know any more,” he said.
Yancy settled into the chair across the desk from him, setting the cardboard coffee cup down. He tipped his chair back, propping his feet up on the edge of a small trashcan, and dug the notebook from his inner pocket. “Oh, just a few follow-up questions, if that’s alright.”
Geiszler blinked four times. “Of course, right, yes. What can I do for you?”
“Yours was Chuck Hansen’s last class of the day before his disappearance, yes?”
“Yes,” Geiszler said.
“What was the subject of your lecture for the day?”
Geiszler blinked again. “Um, acid catalysts. The, uh, the reaction of carboxylic acid and alcohol, to make an ester. It’s an equilibrium reaction, see, and –”
“Great, great,” Yancy said, making a note in the pad. “Do you happen to remember what he was wearing?”
Geiszler furrowed his brow. “I think, uh, sweatshirt and jeans, maybe? Boots, he always wore boots. And his motorcycle jacket.”
“Fantastic. How is Chuck doing in your class? Is he focused?”
Seemingly despite himself, Geiszler snorted. “Chuck’s always focused. He’s a good kid. Always did the work, though I don’t think he studied much. Chemistry came easy for him. Pretty much aced the – Sorry, uh, what are you writing?”
“Hm?” Yancy looked up. “If you’ll let me ask the questions here…”
“Right, um, sorry,” Geiszler said, flustered.
“I’ve heard that Chuck could be characterized as unsociable and irritable.”
Yancy made a note in his pad.
“Wait, what are you –” Geiszler said.
Yancy’s smile tightened, and Geiszler fell silent. “Unsociable and irritable,” Yancy continued, “and a bit high-strung, his roommates say.”
Geiszler nodded, barely a jerk of his head.
“But, interestingly, the source of his stress doesn’t seem to derive from his classwork,” Yancy said.
Geiszler didn’t seem to know how to respond.
“One might think…” Yancy said delicately.
It hit Geiszler, what he was getting at. “No way, not Chuck,” he said, shaking his head. “Drugs? No, not him. He wouldn’t – he’s a good kid, he wasn’t –“
“Unsociable, irritable, high-strung,” Yancy murmured, making another note in his pad. “You’re a chemistry professor, you must recognize the symptoms. I’m no expert, but I’d say, hypothetically… Heroin? Cocaine? Kaiju Blue?”
“Those aren’t the symptoms of –” Geiszler started, then seemed to realize his mistake.
Yancy raised his eyebrows. He made a note.
Geiszler stayed silent.
“Maybe you could tell me something about Kaiju Blue, Professor?” Yancy said.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Geiszler said, barely moving his lips.
“Great, great,” Yancy said. “Now, Chuck is a mechanical engineering major, correct?”
“Um, yes, I believe so,” Geiszler said, thrown by the sudden subject change.
“Is it normal for a mechanical engineering major to be taking advanced organic chemistry? It isn’t necessary for his degree, is it?”
Geiszler shrugged. “Chuck’s interested in a lot of the natural sciences, I think. He’s not just in the classes for the grades, he’s really into learning the stuff. He’s a –”
“Good kid?” Yancy filled in.
Geiszler nodded slowly, eyes distant, unfocused. “Yeah,” he said. “He is.”
“I know. So why don’t you tell me about that?” Yancy said, still in the same nonchalant tone.
Geiszler seemed to waver, his eyes flitting back and forth from Yancy to the door.
Not yet, Yancy thought. Make the wild animal come to you. He thought Newt would be some sort of flightless bird, if he had to assign him a spirit animal. “So you had him for organic chemistry last semester as well, correct?”
“That’s right,” Geiszler said. His voice was growing raspy.
“And you held him after class on the day of his disappearance to talk to him about his final grade in that class.”
“Is that something you do with all your students?”
“Yes.” Geiszler said, then, “Well, no. Just, uh, the failing ones.”
Yancy raised an eyebrow. “But Chuck got an A.”
Yancy made a note, then took a moment to take a long swallow from his coffee.
Geiszler cleared his throat. “His final project was very innovative, see. I was asking, uh, if he was planning on expanding it, maybe thinking about getting it published, once he’d done some more research.”
“What was his final project on?”
“Reactions of alkenes, I believe,” Geiszler said, finally. “I’m sorry, it’s been some time.”
“I understand,” Yancy said, still smiling warmly. “Did he seem interested in being published?”
“Interesting.” Yancy wrote something down. “That seems like a lot of extra work, for a mechanical engineering major.”
“Yeah, well, Chuck was never scared of work,” Geiszler said. “Like, he came to every optional review session.”
“Oh yeah?” Yancy’s smile widened, welcoming.
“Yeah,” Geiszler said. “On, uh, on Halloween, he showed up, and he was the only one who did. We ended up talking about microrobotics for two hours.”
“Good kid,” Yancy commented.
Yancy took a long draw from his coffee. He wanted to give Geiszler time to remember. To think about the animated look on Chuck’s face, when he got invested in the conversation.
Within minutes, Geiszler’s face seemed to crumple. His eyes welled up.
Yancy wondered at the aptness of the phrase Move in for the kill, and said, “Tell me what a good kid Chuck is.”
Geiszler stared at him. Neither of them blinked.
He hardened his voice. “Tell me why anyone would want to kidnap him. More than that, tell me why you would let them."
Geiszler dropped his head into his hands and let out a long, drawn-out breath. “It wasn’t my idea,” he said. “I never wanted…”
“I know,” Yancy said, softer.
“He broke?” Tendo said.
“Told me everything he knew. Didn’t even take 15 minutes,” Yancy said, grinning. “Man, those Brits are onto something with that interrogation technique.”
“So Kaiju has Hansen…” Tendo mused. “What are they doing with him?”
Yancy took a sip from his barely-touched latte and made a face. Cold coffee, ugh. It made a better prop than beverage. “Human shield, I figure.”
Tendo pursed his lips. “You know Kaiju’s gonna figure out that we know it’s them, as soon as they realize Geiszler’s in custody.”
“Good,” Yancy said. “Forces their hand. Now they need to act. They don’t have the element of surprise anymore, and they know it as well as we do.”
Tendo frowned. “Yeah, but we still don’t know why.”
“It’ll come,” Yancy said, running his finger lightly over the spine of his notebook. “It’s coming together, I just gotta figure out how. His confession’ll help.”
Tendo’s eyes tracked his fingers, and he raised one eyebrow. “What were you writing that whole time, anyway?”
“Lyrics,” Yancy said. “Nifty trick. Takes just enough concentration that I don’t have to think about keeping a focused expression, but doesn’t distract from the sting.”
Tendo stole the book and flipped through it. He read through the scrawled words. “Gotta admit, I’m curious why you picked ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,’” he said.
“Because it is the anthem of our generation and I will fight anyone who says differently,” Yancy grinned, and went to go report to Stacker.
A shout from the living room woke Yancy up at two in the morning.
Yancy hated being woken up in the middle of the night.
He buried his head under his pillow, but a loud thud soon echoed in his apartment, followed by another series of yells. Apparently the problem wasn’t going away.
He staggered up and out the door, fumbling for the light switch. Turning on the overhead lights, he found Herc Hansen, pistol in hand, in the doorway. On the other side of the living room was Raleigh, who was hiding behind the couch with his fingers wrapped around the grip of his own revolver.
“Christ,” Yancy said, yawning. “This couldn’t wait until morning?”
“Who the fuck is this asshole and why is he pointing a gun at me?” Raleigh yelled back, far too alert for this time of night. Of course, he was looking into the barrel of a gun, which Yancy understood kicked up the old adrenaline a notch.
“Hercules Hansen,” Yancy said, and saw Raleigh freeze.
Raleigh seriously had the worst poker face.
“I have a feeling you might know my son,” Herc said.
“Shit,” Raleigh said.
“Pretty much,” Yancy agreed.
They talked it out over coffee, after Yancy made them put their guns away and sit down around the kitchen counter like civilized people.
Herc and Raleigh had their hands wrapped around their coffee mugs, but neither was drinking. They hadn’t broken eye contact since they sat down. Yancy probably would have been scared of the murderous rage in their eyes, if he hadn’t been close to falling asleep on the counter.
“How’d you find out?” Yancy asked Herc, inhaling the steam wafting from his mug.
“You think I was just gonna take that information and not try to find out where you got it from?” Herc said, voice rumbling. “First I thought you were the one involved in the gang, but then I dug up your family history. This little bastard’s got a rap sheet longer than my arm, under the name Jax Teller.”
“Trust me, I know,” Yancy said. But Herc had it wrong, if he thought Raleigh had chosen a pseudonym so he’d have an easier time getting away with his myriad crimes. He’d taken on that name a long time ago, because, well…
Up-and-coming FBI agent couldn’t have a drug runner for a brother.
“What information, Yancy?” Raleigh said, with that same stone-faced serial killer look he’d worn when he first heard Herc’s deposition.
Yancy set down his mug.
“What. Information.” Raleigh gritted out.
“I told him about the ransom note,” Yancy said.
Raleigh turned to him, mouth open. For a moment, his eyes showed only betrayal, heartbreakingly honest. Then they narrowed with rage once more. “You had no fucking right!” he said.
“He’s my goddamn son,” Herc snapped back.
“Right, because you’re such a model father,” Raleigh said, spinning on him.
“Shut up!” Yancy cut in. “Rals, I get that you’re mad, and I get why. But I can’t do this alone.” He swallowed. “I can’t. And whatever your personal beef is with Hansen, he wants his son back as much as you do, and he’s willing to fight just as hard to make it happen. He could be a good ally.”
Raleigh glared at the counter, frowning. Still better than yelling, Yancy thought.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Herc asked in a low grumble. “What would you know about my parenting skills?”
Raleigh sneered. “Sorry, I wasn’t aware abandoning your only child for the entirety of his adolescent years qualified as ‘parenting skills.’”
“Oi,” Herc said. “I don’t have to take this from you. You’re the one who got him kidnapped, you sick fuck.”
Only because he knew Raleigh so well was Yancy able to detect his flinch, Herc’s words cutting deep.
He recovered fast. “Alright, riddle me this. If you’re such a great father, tell me who he’s been dating for the last three years.” Raleigh smirked.
Herc didn’t reply – didn’t even move. Stood with his arms crossed over his chest. The only sign that he’d heard was the deepening furrow between his brows.
“Yeah, three fucking years, Hansen.” Raleigh leaned forward. “Which you would know if you had ever been home the summer before he left for college. Nice house, by the way. Big fan of the maple hardwood floors. I especially liked fucking Chuck for hours in his childhood bedroom. He gets so goddamn sweet when he’s fucked out, he makes these noises –”
That was when Herc snapped, lunging across the kitchen with a mighty roar, fist drawn back.
“Swear to god, Rals, if you don’t start behaving…” Yancy said. He adjusted the ice pack over his throbbing eye, crossing his legs as he leaned against the kitchen cabinets.
Raleigh squirmed. “You didn’t have to get in the way,” he mumbled. “I can take a punch.”
Yancy swept his legs out, knocking Raleigh flat on his ass on the tile floor. He dragged Raleigh over with a hand on his collar. “It is three in the goddamn morning. I am about to get my face stitched up by a psychotic Australian who has it out for my ex-junkie little brother, who got kicked out of his gang for being too much of a loose cannon. I’m totally stuck on this goddamn case, I need to find this kid before you two kill each other, and I haven’t gotten laid in three months. If you don’t start behaving this fucking minute –”
“Fine, fine!” Raleigh raised his hands. “I’m sorry.” He reached out and curled his fingers around the back of Yancy’s neck, rubbing circles with his thumb. “You know that, right? I am sorry.”
Yancy shrugged, switching the placement of the ice pack so he wouldn’t have to face Raleigh’s stupid puppy-dog eyes. “It’s kind of my job. I was already on the Chuck Hansen case before you –”
“Not that.” Raleigh hunched over, knees drawn up, arms wrapped around them. “I know you blame yourself for the way I turned out, cuz you raised me and Jaz after Mom died. But you shouldn’t. All my fuck-ups are on me. You can’t hold yourself accountable for it.”
Yancy rested his hands in his lap, ice pack dripping onto his bare legs. “This is new,” he said.
“I’m not the person I was last time you knew me.” Raleigh fidgeted with the hem of his pajama pants. “He makes me a better person.”
Yancy was startled to see tears in his brother’s eyes.
If Chuck made Raleigh a better person, then…
“You’re not gonna go back to –” Yancy sat bolt upright.
“Nah, I’m staying clean,” Raleigh said, smiling slightly. “But smoking – cigarettes, that’s all I swear – and growing out my beard again, and all that. I tell myself it’s just until he comes back, but what if – Yancy, what if –”
Yancy slid his arm around Raleigh’s neck and reeled him in, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “We’re gonna get him back,” he promised. “I swear we will. But Hansen’s gonna help, so you gotta behave.”
“I’ll be good,” Raleigh said, ducking his head.
“I’ll be better,” Raleigh amended.
“There it is,” Yancy said.
The next day, Yancy’s stitches (which he explained away with some half-assed excuse about a drunk asshole on the T) itched terribly, and he was scowling and irritable all day from it, glad to be busy with paperwork so he didn’t have to interact with anyone.
Naturally, that was when Tendo decided to play his favorite game of annoying the ever-loving shit out of Yancy.
“Hey,” Tendo said, coming up behind him and ruffling his hair.
Yancy ducked his head away.
“Hey, Becket-boy, I’m talking to you.” Tendo nudged his shoulder.
Yancy ignored him.
“I’m coming home with you today,” Tendo said, poking Yancy’s cheek.
Yancy kept chewing on the end of his pen and ignoring him.
“I’m serious,” Tendo said.
“I’m kinda busy, actually,” Yancy said. “Plus, my apartment’s a mess, I have errands to run, and I’m still trying to teach you proper manners like not inviting yourself to other people’s houses without any indication of being welcome.”
“I wanna see Raleigh,” Tendo said.
Yancy felt the blood drain from his face. “Shut up,” he hissed.
Tendo raised his eyebrows.
“Fuck,” Yancy said, dropping his head in his hands. “Later, alright? Not here.”
In Tendo’s car after work, driving to Yancy’s apartment, Yancy finally felt comfortable asking, “How’d you know?”
“Pieced it together,” Tendo said. “Couple ways. Saw you at the grocery store last week with pickles in your cart. I remember how much you hate pickles.”
“They’re gross,” Yancy muttered.
Tendo smiled. “You haven’t invited me over to watch hockey for a couple weeks.”
“I actually am busy on the Hansen case,” Yancy started.
“That’s another thing,” Tendo said, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “You’re weirdly obsessed with this case. And you know some things you shouldn’t know. Kid’s bike, for one. I looked around and didn’t find it mentioned anywhere.”
“So?” Yancy set his jaw.
“So the American Herc Hansen was talking about,” Tendo said, annoyingly calm. “It’s Raleigh, isn’t it.”
Yancy looked out the window.
“Fuck,” Tendo said. He looked over. “He’s clean?”
“Silver linings,” Tendo said, shrugging one shoulder.
Yancy shrugged back.
“Tendo!” Raleigh crowed, leaping up from the couch.
“Little Becket!” Tendo said. They hugged, clapping each other’s shoulders. “Thought I should drop by to see you when I learned you were back in town.”
“Learned?” Raleigh looked at Yancy.
Tendo looked at Yancy also, then back to Raleigh. “Figured out.”
“Not actually better,” Raleigh said. “Yancy…”
“He saw me buying pickles, Rals. S’not like I’m shouting it from the rooftops.” Yancy rolled his eyes and went to get a water bottle from the fridge.
Raleigh laughed. “So you’re keeping Yance on his toes, then?”
“I try,” Tendo said with a grin, rocking back on his heels. “Allison and I –”
“You’re still with Allison?”
“Am I,” Tendo said, flashing his wedding ring at Raleigh.
“Hey, congratulations!” Raleigh said with genuine warmth, admiring the ring.
“And we’re trying to get Mori in on it, but Yance won’t go for it,” Tendo said.
Raleigh blinked at him. Yancy could see the quizzical thoughts behind his eyes (You’re trying to get Mori in on your marriage?) and took pity on him. “Trying to get Mako in on keeping me on my toes,” he said.
Recognition dawned. “Ohh,” said Raleigh. “Mako?”
Fuck, the surname treatment – or lack of, really. Yancy cursed Raleigh for noticing.
“She’s…” Yancy said, and stopped. Pretty much anything he said would incriminate him, he thought. Although the act of not saying anything seemed to incriminate him just as much, which, fuck.
Raleigh narrowed his eyes.
Two hours later, when Tendo left, Raleigh turned to Yancy. Smart kid, to pounce before Yancy could flee.
“Mako?” he said again.
“Leave it, Rals,” Yancy said.
“Why won’t you go for it?” Raleigh said.
“No, seriously,” Raleigh said.
“Because I’ve got too much other shit going on in my life,” Yancy said. “Can we stop talking about this now?” He walked out of the room.
Raleigh followed. “Like what?”
“Like, shut up,” Yancy said. Not one of his better moments.
“If you’re talking about Chuck, and me –”
“Not everything is about you.”
“ – I didn’t ask you for that,” Raleigh said.
Yancy turned. “The thing is, you did. You had to know what you were asking me to do for you, coming here.”
Raleigh sagged. “C’mon, man, that isn’t what I wanted. I don’t want you to give up your life for me.”
“I’m not –” Yancy started hotly. He cut himself off and rubbed a hand over his face. “If I were, which I’m not… It’s nothing you wouldn’t do for me, right?”
Raleigh hesitated for a long time. Too long, and Yancy’s stomach ached with every passing second. God, after all this time, and he’d always thought…
The Becket brothers, Tendo had always called them. When exactly had that stopped being who they were?
Who Raleigh was, more accurately.
Then Raleigh cursed. “Of course I would,” he growled. “You know I would.” He grabbed Yancy and reeled him in, hugging him so tightly Yancy’s ribs creaked.
Yancy hugged back just as fiercely.
“Please go for it,” Raleigh muttered into Yancy’s shoulder. “Just a date, s’all I’m asking.”
“Ok, kid,” Yancy said. “I’ll ask her out.”
“Promise?” Raleigh asked.
“He’s right, though,” Tendo said the next day, gesturing with chopsticks, an errant noodle flying off the end onto Yancy’s desk.
“Your life is in kind of a holding pattern,” Tendo continued, picking up the noodle and popping it into his mouth. “Even before he came back, it always seemed like you were waiting for something.”
Yancy picked up the discarded chopstick wrapper and began tearing it into neat, uniform pieces.
“I’m not your therapist and I’m not gonna try to analyze why,” Tendo said. He set down the cardboard carton of lo mein. “I know it has something to do with Raleigh and your parents, whatever. But it always feels like you’re waiting. And that’s fine, man,” he added. “That’s fine. Except I don’t think you know what you’re waiting for.”
Yancy arranged the shreds of wrapper in a loose pyramid, then flicked it with his finger so they went fluttering across the desk. “I thought you said you weren’t trying to be my therapist.”
Tendo shrugged. “Yeah, well.”
It was the implicit challenge in Tendo’s words combined with the promise he’d made Raleigh that had Yancy calling Mako before he even left work that day. As it turned out, she was going to be in the building dropping off something for Pentecost, and before he knew it, they had agreed to meet up to go grab drinks, which gave him only a few hours to quietly panic.
They met outside HQ after Yancy got off. “I am glad you called me,” Mako said as they walked to the bar.
He liked her frankness, her lack of doublespeak. “I’m just glad I didn’t make too terrible a first impression, what with my intimate relationship with the coffee machine.” He thought over what he’d just said. “I’m not helping my case, am I?”
She laughed. He got the feeling she didn’t normally smile as much as she did around him, and it made him embarrassingly proud. “You don’t have to worry about trying so hard, Mr. Becket.”
“Yancy,” he said.
“Yancy,” she said.
Fucking choirs of angels, Christ. This was getting a little pathetic. “So what were you giving to Pentecost?”
“Dinner,” she said. “I do not think he’ll be coming home tonight. The Hansen case, you know.”
The blood actually froze in Yancy’s veins. He looked around as if expecting Pentecost to pop out of the bushes and knife him in the thigh. “Sorry, uh, did I…?”
“Oh!” Her eyes went wide. “No, he’s my father. I didn’t mean – we are not – I just –”
“Thank Christ,” Yancy exhaled, his heart rate returning to normal. “I think I literally saw my life flash before my eyes.”
She raised her eyebrows. “And?”
“Not enough tobogganing,” he said.
Mako smiled. “I haven’t heard that one before.”
“Guess I’m just special,” he grinned, opening the door of the bar and letting her enter in front of him. “So you’re Pentecost’s daughter? Why didn’t I know that?”
She pulled his chair out for him. “We try to keep it quiet. Accusations of nepotism, you know, with him being the deputy director, and me having gotten the job so young.”
“Yeah, but anyone who actually knows you, they’d realize…” Yancy trailed off, thinking. “Hey, what do you know about Kaiju Blue?”
“Kaiju Blue?” She tilted her head at him. “What about it?”
“I sent samples of it into the lab with Allison but it’s taking a while to reverse engineer, I think,” he said. “Is there an active ingredient that would be hard to find? Something that would halt production while they got more of it? Heineken,” he told the waitress as she appeared by their table with a smile.
“Same for me,” Mako said. She shook her head at Yancy. “Not in the drug itself, no. The coloring though, I can see that as giving them some difficulty.”
For a moment, Yancy was sure he misunderstood. “You’re telling me that the reason they’re hiking up prices on Drift is because they can’t get it the right color?”
Mako looked at him, puzzled. “I suppose? The blue dye is unique.” She laughed. “In narcotics, we don’t call it Driftwood or Kaiju Blue – we call it Pepsi Blue. The color is so…”
“That’s exactly it,” Yancy said, smiling.
“It is just missing the berry flavor,” she said.
He blinked, the words echoing in his head. “Berry flavor?”
“Yes, Pepsi Blue was…” She waved her hand.
“Berry flavor,” he said to himself. Committed it to memory to examine later.
“Apparently they’re bringing it back,” she said. “I saw an ad.”
He frowned. The puzzle pieces were all starting to come together, but he couldn’t quite make them lock in place.
Now wasn’t really the time, he thought, looking across the table at Mako. Mouth open to ask her normal first date questions about siblings and college, something she’d said earlier caught his attention. “Is Pentecost really that torn up about Chuck? – Hansen?” he tacked on, and hoped she wouldn’t notice the pause.
“Well, Sensei is good friends with Hercules Hansen from when they served in the Gulf War,” she said. “It must be hard to see a friend lose a child like that.”
Harder than watching a brother lose his boyfriend? he wondered, but didn’t say anything. He wondered about Pentecost’s and Hansen’s friendship, too. Why it had been the first he’d heard of it, weeks into the case.
“You look like a dog chewing on a bone,” Mako commented. “Penny for your thoughts?”
“You wouldn’t want to see inside my head,” he said with a rueful smile. “Too many balls in the air.”
She looked curious, but didn’t ask.
The waitress came by with their beers, and Yancy took a long sip before leaning forward. “Sorry I’ve been such a shit date, making this all about me and the Hansen case.”
“I don’t mind,” she said, nudging his foot under the table with her own. “At least you’re not like Sensei. He spends all his time trying to rein in Hercules, it seems. He hired him as a consultant just to give him access to the case files so Hercules wouldn’t get arrested hacking in.” She made a face. “I should not judge, but I do not think civilians should be given access to confidential information.”
Yancy looked down. He wondered what she would think about the amount of information he’d shared with Raleigh. He doubted it would be particularly approving.
She saw his expression and ducked her head. “Although perhaps I am one to talk. I feel I have probably shared more private information with you than is necessarily prudent.”
He couldn’t really argue that, so he just shrugged. “I won’t tell anyone,” he said.
“That is not really my point,” she said, but she was smiling. “But maybe we should talk about something other than work.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Yancy said. But, sad as it was, he couldn’t think of anything to say. Thoughts of Raleigh and Chuck and Herc bounced around in his head, Drift and Pepsi Blue and 500 bucks a pop.
Mako seemed to be having the same problem. She fidgeted with her beer bottle, making patterns with the condensation on the table. Then she looked up. “Want to hear more about the synthesis of Kaiju blue?”
“Yeah,” he said immediately.
Yancy paused with his foot halfway out of Mako’s car.
Mako noticed. “Everything alright?”
“Yeah,” Yancy said. “S’all good.” He flashed a smile over his shoulder. “I’ll call you later, alright?”
“Ok,” she said.
He got out and shut the door, walking slowly up the front walkway. He stopped when he reached the steps and set down his briefcase to cross his arms over his chest. “Is this gonna be a thing now?”
Herc looked up at him, shading his eyes with one hand against the dim light of the setting sun. “What?”
“Never mind. What are you doing on my front steps?” Yancy asked.
Yancy rolled his eyes and went to move past him, at which point Herc’s hand lashed out and grabbed his wrist. “The fuck, Hansen?” Yancy said, trying to tug his arm away.
“You think he’s good for my son?” Herc asked.
Yancy stopped struggling. He looked at Hansen hard, reading the weary lines spider-webbing out from the corners of his eyes, the dark circles below them. He sat down. “I don’t know. Your son’s good for him. I like to think it’s mutual.”
This was a very picturesque moment, he thought. He wished he had a beer or a cigarette, just to do something with his hands.
“I do know that Rals isn’t messing around,” Yancy offered. “He’s got a ring.”
Herc’s head whipped towards him.
“Yeah, I was going through his shit,” Yancy said, and winced. That didn’t look good for either of them. “I love my little brother, but…”
Yancy smiled. “He’s clean,” he said. “And he’s got a little velvet box with a ring in it. Don’t know if he bought it before or after your son was taken.”
Herc nodded pensively. He was quiet for a long moment. “That legal?” he finally asked.
“In Massachusetts, yeah,” Yancy said.
Herc nodded again.
Yancy watched the cars go by.
“Well?” Herc said.
“Well, wingman him.” Herc waved vaguely. “Talk him up. Tell me why I should be okay with your criminal little shit of a brother marrying my son.”
Yancy laughed. He thought for a second. “He’s loyal, for one. Devoted. He would take such good care of Chuck, you wouldn’t even believe it.”
Yancy looked down at his hands, picking at his cuticles. “If Chuck asked him, he’d leave the business. He really would.”
Herc’s brow furrowed in a way Yancy was starting to recognize.
A spike of irritation pulsed through Yancy. “Whatever. Doesn’t matter what I say, you’re not gonna like him anyway.”
He didn’t miss the discomfort that tightened Herc’s shoulders.
Realization struck, cold and slimy in Yancy’s gut. “You’re not gonna believe me no matter what I say,” he said, eyes widening. “Which means…” He shot to his feet.
Herc caught his wrist again. “Becket, wait,” he said in his thundering tone of command.
“You fucking piece of shit,” Yancy said, ripping his arm away. “You’re stalling me out here, fucking with my head, making me think my brother might have a future where he’s happy, and the whole time he’s in there –”
Herc stood up, face flushing red with anger. “What do you want from me, huh? You think I can just stand by and watch my son throw his life away for that –”
Yancy pulled back and punched him across the face, so hard his head snapped to the side. It felt good.
“If my brother sabotages himself on his own, that’s one thing. But don’t you dare blame him for spiraling down when you’re the one leading him there,” Yancy said. He started for the door, but doubled back and shoved Herc, sending him stumbling. “Who do you think paid for Chuck’s tickets to see you last summer, huh? Who took care of him when he was drunk and depressed and alone on his 18th birthday? Who pushed Chuck into applying for that graduate program at Stanford?”
Herc’s face paled.
“You didn’t know,” Yancy said softly. “You didn’t even know that Chuck’s going to Stanford next year. How can you even pretend –“ He shook his head, sneering. “No wonder Raleigh hates you.”
This time, when he went to head inside, Herc didn’t stop him.
“Don’t do it,” Yancy said from the bathroom doorway.
Raleigh jerked around, eyes going wide. He stood up from his crouch. His gaze darted over Yancy’s shoulder.
“Wondering what happened to your detaining tactic?” Yancy asked, but it was rhetorical. “C’mon, he’s setting you up, you know that. He wants you to disappoint him.”
Raleigh looked away. “It’s nothing he wouldn’t do himself,” he said.
“Yeah, I know.” Yancy walked over, gently taking the butterfly knife from Raleigh’s hands. He slid it into his pocket, unmindful of the blood coating the blade. “He knows it too. You haven’t said anything to him that he didn’t already know about himself.”
Raleigh sagged. “I just, I…”
“Shh, I know.” Yancy grabbed the back of Raleigh’s neck, knocking their foreheads together.
Raleigh sighed, all energy gone. He slumped into Yancy. “What am I supposed to do now?” he asked, voice broken.
“Clean up. Wash your face and hands in the kitchen, change clothes,” Yancy said, pushing Raleigh towards the door. “Go for a drive. Clear your head.”
“And kid?” Yancy looked up, meeting his brother’s eyes. “I promise things will be better in the morning.”
At that, Raleigh smiled. He left.
Yancy sank to his knees, leaning over the edge of the tub to turn the bound man’s face towards his.
“Hey,” he said, comforting, kind. “You’re the one they call Knifehead, right? Looks like you met my friend Hansen. I’m sure you recognize the name.”
The man didn’t react, his eyes flitting back and forth between Yancy’s face and the door.
“Sorry about the mess,” Yancy said, wincing as he glanced down at neat slices in the man’s clothing, the pools of blood. “We’ll tape up your wounds before we hit the interrogation room.”
The man’s eyes narrowed.
“Oh yeah, dunno what you thought, but this isn’t some Good Cop, Bad Cop situation where I’m playing nice to get a confession out of you.” Yancy leaned in further, smile sharpening. “If it was, then Teller – He’d be the Good Cop. Yeah, you know all those stories about torture at Guantanamo, breaking the Geneva conventions type stuff? Not all stories.”
After all, if Raleigh was any indicator, that’s what civilians believed. Yancy wasn’t about to disabuse them of the notion.
He patted the guy’s face, then made a face at the blood transferred onto his hand.
“I’m really looking forward to chatting with you later,” he said, and pulled his phone out of his pocket.
“You mean to tell me that you just found him like this on the street, Becket?” Stacker asked. He looked at Yancy for a moment, then turned back the TV screen, where Aleksis Kaidanovsky was interrogating Knifehead.
“Uh, yes sir. That’s correct.” Yancy put on his best guileless expression, all big baffled eyes.
Stacker sighed. “Just tell me Herc Hansen had nothing to do with it.”
Yancy looked at the ceiling. “I, uh… In good conscience?”
Stacker sighed again.
That night, Yancy stared at his phone, turning it over and over between his hands.
He wanted to think it was a coincidence, that Hansen had picked that day to bring Knifehead to Raleigh arbitrarily. But he couldn’t help but go through every possible scenario in his head. Mako was Pentecost’s daughter, she probably told him that Yancy had asked her on a date. Pentecost was Hansen’s friend, it’s possible he had mentioned the date to Hansen.
Had it been random, that Hansen showed up on the day that Yancy wouldn’t be home?
He wasn’t paranoid enough to think it would happen again. Not in exactly the same way, maybe.
But he could have stopped Raleigh if he had been there. Did stop Raleigh.
But he had to be there.
And he could admit, it wasn’t just about that. Wasn’t only about keeping Raleigh contained. It was about Yancy’s own inability to compartmentalize. He didn’t have the mental fortitude to commit to a relationship with his brother’s distress in the back of his head, a lingering secondhand emotion that never really left.
He wasn’t feeling Raleigh’s pain, not even close. Couldn’t even imagine what it was like, to be missing the love of his fucking life, to be at fault for his abduction. But he was sensitive to it. Raleigh was hurting, and Yancy hurt with him.
Mako would be an escape, he knew. A distraction, a balm, a light to banish the shadows.
But Raleigh didn’t have that option. His light was – was scared and alone in Kaiju’s clutches, and Raleigh felt that with every moment of their separation.
I can’t do this right now, Yancy wrote out in a text, then deleted it.
It’s not you, it’s me. Delete.
I’m not at a place in my life where I can – Delete.
My fucking junkie brother got his fucking boytoy kidnapped and now he’s all sad-faced Muppet baby and I need to – Delete.
Though that last one was tempting.
In the end, he called her.
He almost lost his nerve when she answered with a bright, “Hello?” because he could just imagine her sitting up in bed, arms around her knees, every strand of hair in place. Or better, disheveled, a tangled blue halo framing her face.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s Yancy.”
“Yes,” she said.
“I…” he started.
“Oh,” she said.
He winced, rubbing his hand over his face. “I’m sorry I’m doing this. I really don’t want to, this isn’t me just looking for an easy way to blow you off.” He let out his breath in a long stream. “I like you a lot.”
“Is it your brother?” she asked.
For a moment, he was sure he heard wrong. His throat worked convulsively. “What?” he rasped.
“I don’t know anything about it,” she said. “But Sensei remarked to me that your current, um…”
“Yeah,” he said.
“State,” she finished, “is abnormal, and that the only cause he could imagine for it is your brother. He speculated that Raleigh might be back.”
Yancy closed his eyes. He was never going to tell Raleigh about this, after all the times he’d ragged on him for being a shit liar. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s my brother. He’s going through a tough time, I need to…”
“I see,” she said.
“Not like that!” he said, realizing that all she knew about Raleigh were his former drug habits. “He’s clean. He’s just, er…”
“Going through a rough time,” she filled in. “I understand.”
He smiled. “Please don’t be mad that I’m doing this,” he said.
“I’m not angry,” she said. She sounded a little sad, and it may have been fucked-up, but it gave Yancy hope. If this bummed her out as much as it did him, then. Well.
“Then, please still be single in a few weeks,” he said.
She laughed. “I will not wait around for you, Yancy Becket,” she said archly.
“But,” she relented, “when you are ready, you should call me, and we will see.”
“I’ll do that,” Yancy said.
“See that you do.”
He hung up the phone and flopped back onto his bed, staring up at the ceiling.
Fuck, he had to get this Chuck Hansen case wrapped up, and fast.
The next day, Tendo and Yancy spend hours poring over all the information they had, almost overwhelming in quantity. Information from Raleigh, Geiszler, Knifehead, Herc – from Chuck’s other professors, Mako, Chuck’s roommates, news reports and press releases. Finally all the pieces were aligning, and the fuzzy understanding Yancy had gradually became clear.
Finally, Tendo leaned back. “We got it,” he said. He ground the heels of his palms into his eyes.
“We fucking got the bastards,” Yancy grinned. He was exhausted, sure, but exhilarated at the same time.
They fist-bumped before standing in unison to report to Stacker.
“Good catch, Becket,” Allison said. She dropped her voice. “Someday you gotta tell me exactly how things have been going down behind the scenes here.”
“It’s been… odd,” Yancy admitted.
Stacker entered. “Is everyone here? Good. Special agent Yancy Becket will give the debriefing.”
Yancy, surprised, blinked at him. He supposed he knew as much about the case as anyone – more than anyone, even if nobody knew the extent. He stood. “Uh, well, we’ve gathered that Kaiju is going to break into the Pepsi bottling company in Milton. Apparently Pepsi’s bringing back the discontinued beverage Pepsi Blue, the syrup of which is used to flavor Kaiju’s signature drug Kaiju Blue, having been unused in the basement of the bottling factory since 2004. So Kaiju needs to get that dye before it comes out of storage, where they’ve been sneaking it off the premises one barrel at a time with the help of an unknown employee. We know they’re going to act, but we haven’t been able to figure out when.”
“Until now,” Tendo supplied.
“Until now,” Yancy agreed. “We got some new information from Knifehead that corroborates what was said by Geiszler. Unfortunately, it seems like their break-in is scheduled for tomorrow, which doesn’t give us much time to prepare.”
He stood and paced, gesturing as he spoke. “The other bad news is, we’re fairly certain they’re gonna use Chuck Hansen as a human shield. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had him at gunpoint outside the building.”
He didn’t look at Herc Hansen’s face when he delivered this line, but the aura of fury rolled off him in waves, so thick Yancy could feel it from across the room.
“But, on the plus side, the Director of the Northeast branch of Pepsi-Cola has been willing to cooperate with our requests for tomorrow. All employees will be taken to a secure area prior to the infiltration by Kaiju. He’s given us blueprints for the building, access to all security cameras, and access codes past the security checkpoints for the high-clearance areas, most notably the safe where recipes are stored.”
“So what’s the plan?” Allison asked.
Yancy faltered. “Honestly? The plan is, take the fuckers out.”
“How delightfully vague,” she drawled.
“I expect we’re going to do a lot of improvising,” Stacker inputted.
Yancy nodded. “The plan is, neutralize the threat on Chuck Hansen, remove him from the danger zone, and follow Kaiju inside. It’s hard to say exactly how that will go until we see their defenses. We already have agents in place watching the area, which is clear so far. But it’s unwise to move rashly when they still have Hansen as a hostage. They know we’re going to prioritize his safety.”
It wasn’t until he said that last sentence that Hansen’s shoulders relaxed.
Raleigh woke up when Yancy banged the cabinet door shut, and scowled over at him with red creases from the couch imprinted on his face, hair matted on one side and sticking straight up on the other.
Yancy grinned brightly. “Morning, brother dear,” he sang.
“What the fucking fuck,” Raleigh said.
“It’s gonna be a good day today,” Yancy said cheerfully. He watched his own hands as they cut the crusts off a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which was soon wrapped in plastic and slipped into a paper bag, alongside a banana and a container of yogurt.
When he looked up through his eyelashes, Raleigh was watching his hands, brow furrowed in thought. Then it sunk in, and Raleigh looked up, eyes wide.
“Don’t say anything,” Yancy said. He grabbed his suitcase and walked out of the apartment, down the steps, and into the black SUV waiting at the curb for him.
Dominique had always packed that exact lunch for the boys when they were going on a field trip.
My brother is accurate with a Raufoss up to 900 yards, Yancy had texted Herc Hansen the night before.
Then, a few minutes later, sent another text. Think about it.
He wouldn’t bet his life on it, but he would wager cold, hard cash that Herc Hansen’s SUV would be parked down the street when the FBI made their move, and that Raleigh would have arrived in the passenger seat.
Yancy was three minutes from the site when his cell phone cut out, not just the 3G, but the phone connection and Wi-Fi also. He cursed, glowering out the window until they had rolled up next to Stacker’s SUV and he slipped out, immediately ducking down to join his boss behind its cover.
“How long?” he asked.
“It started ten minutes ago,” Stacker said. “Tendo said it could last another 15, at least. How wide is the perimeter?”
“About 1000 meters,” Yancy said. “No communication with anyone outside, then.”
Stacker nodded. “And they knew that we would need a sniper.”
In lieu of answering, Stacker passed him an iPad with a camera feed to the front of the building they were staked out in front of.
Chuck was bound, gagged, and strapped to a chair, balanced on top of a platform of generic metal barrels. A red dot danced lazily over his chest, never straying far from his chest – though Yancy wasn’t sure if his heart was the target, or the lump in the black padded vest he wore, thick and cumbersome with explosives. Another red dot lingered a few feet below, sighted on the centermost barrel.
We’ve all seen Zero Dark Thirty, Yancy had said to Herc. Apparently Kaiju had all seen The Hurt Locker too.
“Fuck,” he said, hissing through his teeth.
“Tendo, report,” Stacker said into his walkie-talkie.
“Actually, sir, this is Becket’s area of expertise more than mine,” Tendo’s crackly voice returned.
Stacker looked at Yancy, one eyebrow raised.
“Other Becket,” Tendo said.
“Hunting was the only thing he and our father connected over,” Yancy said. “Sir.”
Stacker rubbed his jaw. “With a sniper rifle?”
“There’s a lot of wilderness in Alaska, sir,” Yancy said.
“With all due respect, it’s not like you haven’t already hired Hansen as a consultant,” Yancy said, and added after a beat, “Sir.”
“Stop doing that,” Stacker growled, and then spoke into his walkie-talkie, “Alright, get him over here.”
“He’s already on his way,” said Tendo.
Stacker looked at Yancy, both eyebrows raised this time. “Wasn’t he supposed to be out of the country?”
Raleigh and Herc arrived minutes later, ducking under the police perimeter to join Stacker and Yancy behind the SUV.
“Gimme the debriefing,” Herc said.
Yancy and Raleigh traded looks. Raleigh rolled his eyes.
“Heat signatures in the building suggest Kaiju has made it past the first security check,” Yancy said.
“So what’s holding you back from following them into the building?” Raleigh asked.
Stacker and Yancy traded looks.
“They’ve got a civilian as a human bomb,” Stacker said.
Herc and Raleigh paled simultaneously as recognition struck, and Raleigh started to stand before Yancy dragged him back down. “The computer screen, idiot,” Yancy said, handing them the iPad to examine.
Raleigh and Herc both looked at the screen for a long moment. Herc moved to adjust the zoom, and Raleigh let him without complaint.
“Shit,” Raleigh said.
Herc hummed his agreement.
“What is it?” Yancy asked.
“They’ve got a perfect sightline,” Raleigh said, craning his neck towards the side of the street opposite Chuck’s location. “S’gotta be what, 800 yards?”
“Bout that. Crosswind’s in their favor,” Herc said.
Raleigh changed the angle of the camera. “The, uh, hmm. It’s probably the Observatory.”
Herc pointed behind them to the left. “That way?”
“So what’s the problem?” Yancy asked.
“So they’ve got a great vantage point,” Herc said. “We’ll have to be above them, but the buildings above them, where we could get a clear shot – they’ve gotta be 1000 meters.”
“More,” said Raleigh, scanning over the skyline of the city. His eyes locked on a building in the far distance. “I’d say – 1150, easy.”
“And we’d have to hit ‘em at the same time to neutralize the threat,” Herc said, scratching his jaw. “That’s the point of doubling ‘em up. Wonder why they didn’t put more marks on him.”
That one, Yancy could answer. “There are only two members of Kaiju skilled enough to make an 800 meter shot, Otachi and Leatherback. The rest of them are all inside the building.”
“So can you do it?” Stacker asked.
Herc and Raleigh traded looks. Raleigh let out a long breath.
“It’d be tough,” Herc said.
“And we couldn’t have laser sights, to keep from alerting them,” Raleigh said.
“I’ve never made a shot that far before.”
“Especially in this kind of wind.”
“And we’ve got to get clean headshots.”
“It’d be rough,” Raleigh said.
“I didn’t ask how difficult it would be,” Stacker said. “I asked, can you do it?”
Raleigh looked at the camera feed again. This time, though, he wasn’t looking at the dancing red dots, wasn’t analyzing the angles of the snipers. He looked at Chuck’s face, and the absolute lack of fear on it.
“Yes,” Raleigh said.
“Yes,” Herc said.
“Go,” Stacker said.
Stacker gathered everyone he could spare around while Raleigh and Herc made their way up to the roofs of the buildings they’d decided on.
“Alright. First task is neutralizing those explosives. Once our ranged guns takes out their snipers, bomb squad, you get Hansen out of that vest and away from those barrels. Agents, we need to go in and flush them out. I’ll have eyes on each corner of the building to round up the strays. If you have the advantage, shoot to wound. I want some men alive. But if there is any question of your safety, you shoot to kill. Understood?”
“Yessir,” they all nodded.
“Get ready,” he said. He turned to Yancy. “Becket?”
“I’m going in,” Yancy said.
“I thought you might,” said Stacker.
Raleigh’s voice came in over the walkie-talkie first. “I’m in position,” he said.
“Unit 2?” Stacker asked.
Herc’s voice was slightly out of breath when it came through a minute later. “In position.”
“A bit out of shape, old man?” Raleigh teased.
“Your building had a fire escape, ya fucking wanker,” Herc said crossly.
“Wait, did you… Did you climb the building?” Raleigh asked.
“Convenient window placement,” Herc said, like it was nothing.
Yancy had to admit, he was impressed. He could tell Raleigh was too, from the way he didn’t reply.
“On my count,” Stacker said.
“Actually, could Hansen do it?” Raleigh asked. “I feel like we could time it better if one of us counted it off.”
“That’s fair,” Stacker said.
“On three,” Herc said. His voice had lowered, softening its tone. Yancy had seen it before on field agents – the zone, they called it. When you entered another state of consciousness, reducing yourself to only you and the gun and the target, aware of the distance between you and little else.
He’d seen Raleigh zoning too, but he felt there was a difference between a heroin-induced daze and a sniper’s focus on the mark.
“One,” Herc said.
Everything was quiet and still.
“Two,” Herc said.
Yancy held his breath.
“Three,” Herc said.
One gunshot cracked through the air, and for a terrible moment Yancy was certain they’d fucked up. Then he saw both red dots blink out of sight, and realized that they had achieved such perfect unity that the sound of the shots had overlaid.
“Move in,” Stacker ordered.
Yancy waited long enough to see Chuck taken away in an ambulance (struggling and cursing the whole time, the little bastard) before he slipped into the building. He padded down the hallway on the balls of his feet, crouching down to peer around every corner. As he passed the first security checkpoint, a blur of movement outside the window spooked him, and he spun, gun raised.
Raleigh waved from the fire escape.
“Christ,” Yancy said, and opened the window. “You’re not actually allowed to be in here, you know.”
“Try’n stop me,” Raleigh said, climbing in.
Yancy sighed, figuring it was a lost cause. “Shoot to incapacitate, at least. He wants them alive.”
Raleigh nodded. He patted himself down, adjusting the guns and knives outlined under his clothes. His Raufoss was slung over his shoulder.
“Let’s do this,” he said, slipping his butterfly knife up his sleeve.
Yancy felt his empty pocket.
Huh. He hadn’t even noticed Raleigh stealing it back.
Raleigh was one crazy motherfucker, Yancy learned.
He’d never seen Raleigh in action before, and there was something beautiful and feral about it, a wild animal being unleashed on its vastly inferior prey. Even now, ducked behind a cabinet with three sets of footsteps echoing in the hallway outside, Yancy only wondered how Raleigh was going to get them out of this, not if.
Raleigh closed his eyes, listened to the uneven breathing from the hallway. Then he nodded to the fire extinguisher on the wall near where Yancy was crouched.
Yancy nodded. He crept over and carefully unhooked it before returning to his spot. He looked at Raleigh.
Raleigh held up a finger.
The door opened, and the footsteps entered. “Come out, come out, Jaxie-boy,” a voice said – Scunner, Yancy thought.
The footsteps got closer, echoing until they were nearly on top of them.
Now, Raleigh mouthed.
Yancy dropped the fire extinguisher and rolled it toward the Kaiju members.
“What the –” Scunner said, before Yancy fired a shot directly into the extinguisher. It exploded on impact, sending a billowing cloud of foam and fumes into the air.
“Shit!” one of the other members cried out.
“Teller –” Scunner said, firing blindly out of the cloud, a few feet to the left of where Raleigh was hidden.
And Raleigh rolled, turned, and fired three shots with no pauses in between, directly into the cloud of steam.
Three bodies dropped.
Yancy held up his hand, and Raleigh fist-bumped him with a smile.
They finally made it to the intersection of hallways that broke off to the main safe, and Raleigh started to turn down it before Yancy stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“All the other agents will be down there already,” he said. “We should – there’s a basement garage, I wanna make sure no one gets out that way.”
“You know how to get there?” Raleigh asked.
Yancy closed his eyes, envisioning the blueprints for the building in his mind’s eye. “Yeah, the stairs on the northwest side.”
“Sweet,” Raleigh said, leading them in that direction.
They made their way silently down the stairs, Yancy in front and Raleigh behind. They got all the way to the basement level without confronting anyone, and Yancy peered around the corner and jerked back, eyes wide.
“Slattern,” Yancy mouthed.
“What?” Raleigh mouthed back.
“Slattern,” Yancy hissed in Raleigh’s ear. “The leader of Kaiju. I’d bet you a million dollars he’s the one that ordered Chuck’s capture.”
Raleigh’s face hardened.
Yancy peered back around. “Shit, he’s getting into a car,” he said.
“Time to act, then.” Raleigh stood up, escaping Yancy’s hand as he tried to drag him back down, and walked straight into the garage.
“Drop the gun, Teller,” Slattern said.
Raleigh’s gun fell to the ground with a clatter.
Yancy allowed himself a brief, indulgent moment to rub his temples before returning his hold on his gun.
“Kick it towards me.”
Raleigh kicked his gun to Slattern. “You don’t make a very good super-villain,” he said. “Poorly executed evil plots.”
Slattern laughed. “I admit, everything didn’t go precisely the way I intended, but it got the job done.”
“Really?” Yancy had to admire the steadiness of Raleigh’s tone. “Because Chuck’s safe, you didn’t get Chau’s head, and half your club is captured or dead. Not sure what the job was, but it really doesn’t seem like it got done.”
Slattern’s voice slanted with amusement. “You think I care about your little boyfriend? He wasn’t even a blip in my radar. Although I didn’t pin you to be working with the FBI…?”
“I’ve got layers,” Raleigh said.
“Like an onion,” Raleigh added.
Slattern laughed again.
“You’re wondering, aren’t you? How long I’ve been a double-agent for?” Raleigh shifted a little, exposing more of Slattern to Yancy.
But Slattern matched his step, pacing in a circle with him to keep Raleigh in between him and the door. If it were intentional, or just instinctive, Yancy didn’t know. He bit his lip.
“Was it after you kidnapped my boyfriend?” Raleigh asked. “Or have I been working with the Feds undercover in Hannibal’s club for longer than that?” He laughed throatily. “I’m in your head now. You’re wondering, what’s my game?”
“I know your game, Teller,” Slattern said, voice turned ugly and grim, no longer bright with amusement.
“Do tell,” Raleigh said.
Slattern let out a growl. “You’re not with the FBI at all, because you don’t have the integrity. No, scratch that. You don’t have the balls to betray Hannibal Chau. You’re nothing but a spineless little boy trying to fit in with the grown-ups, and every time you fuck up, your big daddy Chau fixes all your mistakes. So don’t come crying to me –”
Yancy, knowing he was never going to get a better opportunity, tossed his gun in a high arc, where it landed in Raleigh’s hand – the left one, the non-dominant one, fuck – but Raleigh didn’t hesitate for even a moment before swinging his arm over and emptying the clip into Slattern’s face. Yancy saw Slattern’s body jerk once, twice, three times, before collapsing into a bloody heap of brain matter and splintered bones on the ground.
Yancy walked over and nudged at him with the toe of his shoe. He knelt down and felt through Slattern’s pockets, grinning sharply when he found a slip of paper in the inner lining of his jacket. He’d expected it to be a computer chip, but he supposed Pepsi wanted to one-up Coke’s famous handwritten secret recipe.
“You sly dog,” Raleigh said approvingly. “You caught him monologuing.”
“So much for shooting to incapacitate,” Yancy said.
Raleigh shrugged. “I missed.”
“I’m sure,” Yancy said.
Raleigh kicked Slattern’s body on their way out.
“Here you go, sir,” Yancy said, handing the paper over to Stacker.
Stacker accepted it with a slight smile. “I’m glad you, and only you, with no outside help, were able to acquire this for me.”
Yancy grinned. “I feel like you picked the wrong profession, sir,” he said.
Stacker raised an eyebrow.
“You would make a good mob boss.”
Stacker hmmed in agreement.
Yancy stretched his arms.
“Not,” Stacker said, “that you would know anything about it, of course.”
“Who, me?” Yancy widened his eyes.
He’d never seen Stacker Pentecost roll his eyes before.
Yancy showed up with Stacker at Brigham & Women’s Hospital at 5:40. At 5:45, he learned what room Chuck Hansen was in, and texted Raleigh.
At 5:47, Raleigh showed up.
Yancy looked up, saw his brother, and stared. He stood up. “How did you…?”
“I was outside. Is he conscious?” Raleigh looked past him at the closed door.
“Yes,” Stacker said.
“Talking to Herc,” Yancy said.
Raleigh moved to the door. Just then, it opened, with Herc blocking the doorway.
Raleigh faltered for a moment. Then he said, “If you don’t get out of my way, I’m going to shoot you in the face.”
Herc cracked a tired smile. “Well, we can’t have that, can we,” he said, and moved to the side.
Yancy was sure Raleigh would appreciate this later, when his tiny lizard brain realized the meaning behind the gesture. That Herc was standing aside and letting Raleigh see his son – marry his son – was no small concession.
But Raleigh couldn’t see anything but Chuck in that moment, and they all knew it.
He crossed the room faster than Yancy had ever seen a human move, not stopping until he was looming over Chuck. The hand he raised to stroke Chuck’s cheek trembled.
Then Chuck smiled. “Oi,” he said. “What kinda road kill died on your face, mate?”
Raleigh kissed him like something out of a romance novel, large hands cradling his face, eyes closed, his whole body curling into it. And Chuck kissed back with equal desperation, knuckles going white from the force of his grip on Raleigh’s leather jacket, eating into Raleigh’s mouth like he was starving for it.
“Oh, you little bastard,” Raleigh crooned, pulling away. “You bloody little bastard.”
Chuck made a face, though his eyes were twinkling too much for his scowl to be taken seriously. “You picked up smoking again.”
“And I quit again,” Raleigh said, peppering his face with kisses that Chuck didn’t even pretend to squirm away from.
Chuck grabbed Raleigh’s hands to examine his fingernails. “As of when?”
“Five minutes ago.” Raleigh reconsidered. “Two minutes ago.”
Chuck shook his head. “Liar.” He nuzzled Raleigh’s hand, pressing a kiss into his palm before pushing it away. “Whatever. I’m not kissing you if you taste like smoke.”
“Liar,” Raleigh mocked before kissing Chuck slow and sweet and lingering, biting at his lower lip as he drew away.
Chuck followed, lifting himself to catch his mouth once more. They kissed deep enough that Yancy looked away, but it wasn’t until Raleigh’s hands strayed under Chuck’s blanket that Herc barked, “Enough, Becket.”
They sprang apart like guilty puppies, having apparently been lost enough in the feel of each other’s lips that they had honestly forgotten they weren’t alone.
Yancy wondered if he would ever feel that strongly about another person. It was hard to imagine.
Of course, it would have been hard to imagine for Raleigh too, before he saw the way his eyes lit up and his smile softened when he was around one Chuck Hansen.
Raleigh settled on the bed next to Chuck, stroking his hair as Chuck curled into him like a pleased cat. “Babe, this is my brother, Yancy, and his boss, Stacker Pentecost.” He pointed at each of them in turn.
Yancy gave a stilted half-wave.
Chuck raised his eyebrows. “Huh. Ray always said you were the nice, normal Becket. He didn’t say anything about you being awkward as all hell.”
“Normally I’m not, when I’m not meeting someone for the first time after watching my brother try to eat their tonsils from their mouth,” Yancy said.
Chuck laughed. “Fair enough. And you’re – wait, Stacker Pentecost? Like army buddy Stacker Pentecost?” His eyes went wide. “But he’s the head of – and you’re –” He looked up at Raleigh, then back at Stacker, then back at Raleigh.
“I have no notion as to what you’re referring.” Stacker said.
Raleigh pressed a kiss into Chuck’s hair. “It’s been a strange couple of weeks, sweetness.”
“Huh,” Chuck said, frowning.
“There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you,” Raleigh whispered, so quietly that Yancy only knew what he said by reading his lips.
Chuck’s face flared up. “Huh,” he said.
That night after the hospital kicked them out, Yancy and Raleigh picked up pad thai and ate it leaning against the hood of Yancy’s car, looking out over Jamaica Pond.
“Fuckin’ hipsters,” Raleigh said, flipping his middle finger at a couple who rode by on a tandem bicycle.
Yancy laughed. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey what?” Raleigh asked, distracted by his noodles.
“What’d Herc say to you?” Yancy elbowed him gently.
Raleigh had looked adorably terrified when Herc had clapped a hand over his shoulder and dragged him off to get coffee while Yancy and Stacker got a preliminary statement from Chuck. When they returned 20 minutes later, Raleigh had been smiling, but that could have been due to the way Chuck’s whole body angled towards him when he walked into the room, a sunflower towards the sun.
Raleigh laughed. “Nothing I didn’t expect. Told me if I was gonna make an honest man outta his son, I need to get out of the club. I’m not taking a drug runner for a son-in-law,” he said, mimicking Herc’s husky growl.
Yancy poured some hot sauce from the little container onto his noodles and stirred it around. Took a few bites. “And?” he asked.
Raleigh nudged him, smiling softly. “I’m gonna. Was gonna before he said anything. I’m getting out in California. Once we move to Palo Alto, I’m done.”
Yancy nodded. He looked out over the water. “Can’t believe you’re leaving so soon. You just got here.”
“Well…” Raleigh said, pulling a face.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Raleigh said, hushed. “It’s rough. But Yance, he’s…” He shook his head, unable to express the scope of his emotions, vast and dark and wild as the ocean.
“I know,” Yancy said.
Raleigh shot him a grin. “’Sides, I’m here til at least June. You ain’t getting rid of me for three months, brother darling.”
“Yeah,” Yancy said, smiling back. “But I love you and all, but dude, you need to get off my couch if baby Hansen’s gonna start hanging around.”
Raleigh laughed. “Deal. But in exchange, you gotta do me a favor.”
Yancy raised his eyebrows.
“You gotta call Mako Mori.” Raleigh pinned him with a steel gaze. “Promise me, man.”
Yancy pulled his lower lip between his teeth. He nodded.
They dug back into their food.
A tattooed, glasses-wearing hipster wandered up to them. “Hey man, can I bum a smoke?” he asked Raleigh.
Yancy wondered why no one ever asked him to bum smokes, then looked down at himself (grey suit and a red tie) and over at Raleigh (unzipped hoodie over a black tank top, torn jeans, steel-toed boots missing their laces) and stopped wondering.
“Sure,” Raleigh said easily, digging his pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket. He started to hand one over, then paused. “You know what?” He looked down at it, then passed the guy the carton. “Take them all.”
Yancy took a pull from his smoothie, fighting a smile.