When Reese gets taken out, it's a shock - it's a hell of a shock - but it's not a surprise. Not to her, not to Finch, not to Fusco and least of all, Joss suspects, to John himself.
Donnelly had spent a two-hour pre-op briefing repeating that the Man in the Suit was to be brought in alive, though -- Donnelly's surprised.
She's next to him in the surveillance van when it happens. Parked half a block up from the old meat packing plant that John went to ground in, air conditioning maxed, listening to static and radio chatter.
Listening to the Fed's game plan going south in a hurry - kind of John's specialty.
Donnelly leans forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped under his chin, unblinkingly intent on the grainy cam footage, even if the lag is so bad it's all shadows and glare.
I see him! I see - wait, no clear target. He's going up!
Staccato gunfire: muted, but still audible inside the van, tinny over the radio.
A laugh - someone laughs.
And an explosion on the top floor blows out what's left of the windows and sets fire to the night sky.
Joss recoils and throws her hands up, even with reinforced windows and a hundred meters for cover. Swears she feels the heat. Her eyes water at the sudden brightness and she's irritably blinking the tears away before it registers that maybe she's earned them.
The warehouse roof burns hot and fast - too hot and way, way too fast. Joss doesn't need Alvarez to tell her there's some kind of accelerant at work, or Donnelly muttering the same thing in stilted horror before he raises his voice to demand a casualty report.
The teams radio in, confirming no casualties. Status of target unknown, but, damn, did you see that? No way he made it out.
Her chest tightens and her hand clenches into a fist, because under these eyes she has to paste on a smile that makes her stomach churn. She turns away, takes a breath and watches as the wind off the Hudson take what it's given, sends hot ash and flakes of wood dancing over the water like fireflies.
"John, what did you do?"
As she climbs out of the van and stands staring at the blaze, already hearing the distant sirens of fire trucks, it occurs to her that maybe there's a plan she isn't in on.
Wouldn't be the first time.
Maybe she wasn't told. Maybe they wanted her reaction to be real, for God knows what reason.
By the time she makes it back to the station, she's running on fumes and fury. She's working out exactly what piece of her mind she's going to give them when her cell interrupts with the default ring tone of caller blocked; it'll be that son of a bitch, smirking because she was worried.
Which she wasn't.
"Carter," she answers flatly, no way in hell she's giving him the satisfaction.
"Detective Carter. Is - Has." Finch coughs and his voice is stronger, but still strained. "Has John made contact?"
The fury drains away. "No," she says. "He hasn't."
"I'm sure he's fine." Finch clears his throat again. "He's a very resourceful man."
Across the desk from her, Fusco's expression folds into concerned lines: the ones that always make him look wary, like he thinks caring means he's getting played.
Joss shakes her head in answer to his unasked question. "Yeah, you know John. I'm sure he's fine," she echos instead. "Do you need me to-" she starts, just as Finch begins to stutter an invite to the bar they've taken to using as their point of contact.
"Sure," she says. "I can do that. He'll know where to find us?"
"I'll leave him a message. And feel free to invite Detective Fusco."
"We'll see you there." She slips the cell back into her pocket and looks back across the desk.
Fusco jerks his chin up. "That who I think it was?"
"Yeah. He's at the bar." She forces a smile. "You coming?"
Fusco watches her a long moment before he shrugs. "Yeah. Okay."
They drink sparingly and talk about nothing until the bar closes a couple hours later. At least one set of eyes is always watching the door, but John never does make it.
Two masked figures burst into an apartment. They push the man inside to the floor. Gunshots.
Outside the bar, she offers Finch a ride home. She's not sure which of them is more startled when he accepts.
It's not an apartment, it's - she guesses an old library? Once they get past the stacks, haphazardly piled computer guts and boxes of ammo, make it into the main room, she realizes he really has taken her home. Not where he sleeps, maybe, but where he lives.
Seeing a crumpled blanket on a couch, she's not even sure about the former.
"So this is where the magic happens, huh?" She fills the silence to delay, just a little longer, acknowledging the obvious fact that Reese isn't there.
Finch's mouth turns up at the side; it's not a smile. "Yes. I suppose so." He moves around her to study the screen of the computer on the largest desk. Lines of data reflect in his glasses; his expression doesn't change.
Reese isn't there, but she can see his echoes: a Glock 17 lying in oiled pieces on a rag; a Kevlar vest, pocked with a spray of holes, discarded against the wall.
A second box of take-out. A second mug.
Something cold and wet trails along her fingers with a snuffling sound. Her nose wrinkles and she looks down into the eager eyes of Bear. He's carrying a leash in his mouth with a hopeful expression; he hasn't been walked.
John might let Finch hang a while - she doubts it, but the man has one warped sense of humor. He'd sure as hell let her worry. But he wouldn't leave Bear waiting. Absently, she scratches between the dog's ears.
"I'll check with the local precincts, you take the hospitals," she offers, when Finch surfaces from his review.
"I've been monitoring both since the incident. Amongst other places." He stops, head angled and eyes averted to a point just beyond her. "I already received the alert on my cell phone. They found a body in the warehouse an hour ago. It's too badly burned for facial identification, but the height and build is consistent with - it's consistent."
Reflexively, Joss checks her own cell. Nothing from Donnelly. She looks up again, confused and inexplicably angry. "You can't be sure."
"He didn't say goodbye," Finch murmurs; his frown is more perplexed than saddened.
She's lost. "What does that mean?"
"They also found several personal belongings, including an admittedly badly melted ear bug," he goes on, ignoring the question, and then pauses. "I can send the details to your cell, if you'd like to go over them?"
The urge to snap at the calm front - and she's damn sure a front is all it is - is strong, but she swallows it down. "You didn't say anything."
"No." He blinks, eyes bright, but still not focused on her. "Well. Thank you, Detective."
"Please, don't let me keep-"
"Harold." She holds a hand up and he recoils like she'd slapped him. At least he finally meets her eyes. "Is there anything that can be traced back to you? I'm part of the investigation, I have access."
He pulls at his cuffs as he turns stiffly away. "No. The equipment won't give them any leads and I certainly wouldn't ask you to compromise yourself any further than we - I - already have. But I do appreciate your concern."
"I'm sorry," she says, because she doesn't think either of them can deal with anything else.
He twists his torso only enough to look awkwardly back, feet shuffling just so to accommodate the motion. His smile hardens. "I think you mean, ‘I told you so.'"
"I mean, I'm sorry." She lays a hand on his shoulder and gently, gently squeezes. John treated what he cared for like glass, that's the least she can do.
Finch doesn't move and she lets her hand fall away. The part of her that can never quite stop being cop, never stop trying to flip the bad to the good, is glad - God, glad - that at least it's not John left here, bereft. Without a master.
It would be a blood bath.
She's retreated back to the door of the room before Finch rallies and speaks again. "Thank you," he says. "I do appreciate it. Sincerely." He maneuvers himself into the chair; the corner of his mouth tightens in discomfort. "If you don't mind, I have some things to tie up before I take Bear for his walk."
She pauses at the door. "But you'll call me?"
She can hear the not, but she doesn't call him on it.
And she doesn't look back.
In the morning, when Frank in evidence asks about the circles under her eyes, she tells him an old Army buddy died.
Close enough: she loved John. Not like family and not romantically - as if either of them had it in them - but like something. Like something.
Fusco joins her at the water cooler, fast enough she suspects he's been waiting for her to arrive. "You hear anything new?" His eyes narrow in a way he probably thinks is conspiratorial. "You know. From him."
"Right." He snorts. There's an edge of bitterness there, resentment, but there always is and she's long since decided she doesn't care why. Mostly, he sounds amused. Wry, but amused.
"Just. I don't know. I go every day hoping tall, dark and terrifying will fall off a cliff and get out of my life." He shrugs almost philosophically. "Then, I guess -- we got to do some good, you know?"
She's not sure she likes Fusco. Or maybe, the problem is, she likes him, but her gut tells her she can't trust him, and that's worse. But right now, it doesn't really matter.
She smiles and jabs gently at the soft target. "You saying you'll miss it, Fusco?"
"Hell no," he denies quickly. "Hell. No."
She stares at him; raises an eyebrow.
"Fine. Maybe a little bit." He shifts on his feet. "You think the little guy's still listening?"
"Maybe," she temporizes; although she's pretty sure Finch isn't monitoring them. Or, if he is, he ignored her tentative offer to talk a few hours ago. But if Fusco thinks he's being watched, perhaps she can trust him a little more. "How'd you get in with them, anyway?"
She's never asked before; she was curious, but she doubted she'd get an answer. But that was then and less than twenty-four hours later, this feels more like nostalgia.
"It's kind of a funny story," Fusco says. "I'll tell you about it some time."
"Uh huh." She shoots him an old fashioned look.
"I will," he promises. "You ever wonder how they did it?"
She doesn't bother to ask what. "I got theories."
Fusco studies her in turn and there's an unfamiliar gleam in his eye, something intent and focused. "Me too."
Better to have cards on the table than blood on the ground. That's what her grandmother used to say. She purses her lips. "But maybe this isn't the best place to discuss it?"
After work, she goes to the library. The door opens under her touch, it wasn't even locked. There are fresh scrapes on the floor, as if large boxes have been dropped or dragged, and the air isn't as dusty - windows have been opened at some point.
The books are still in the stacks, but even before she makes it to the center room, she knows she'll find it empty.
Just the pane of glass, shattered in the center, fractures seeking the frame.
Like a web.
Fitting, she supposes, and wishes he'd said goodbye.
Bear is waiting patiently in her hallway when she swings by the house to change before meeting Fusco at the bar.
His bedding is neatly stacked by the stairs, a pile of toys next to it and a pile of food bags next to them.
She sighs and crouches; Bear's tail thuds twice on the floor. "Hey, there," she croons softly.
She searches his collar for a note. There isn't one, but there's a chewed-looking English to Dutch dictionary half under his paw.
"I'm a cat person," she breaks gently to the dog. "But I think we can get along. For a little while."
A battered truck stops on a dark, deserted stretch of highway. A figure climbs out, opens the trunk and drags out a body.
"Stop there." Joss holds up a hand and leans forward to hiss, "You were going to kill him?" The bar is loud, but it's not that loud. Besides, if she doesn't restrain herself, she's not sure she won't go right ahead and punch him.
Not because it's John - he didn't need or want her defending him, dead or alive. It's because Fusco is a police officer and she knew he was dirty, but nothing like this.
Fusco glares defensively back. "It was complicated, okay? Stills was -- he had stuff going on and Reese got in the way. You should'a seen the rifle he had on him."
She shakes her head. "Who else? Who else did you help Stills kill?"
"No one that wasn't as dirty as us," he snaps. "And back up the crusade - how many people have you helped Reese take out, huh? I'm not saying I was happy about it, but Stills and me… we had each others backs since we were kids.
"It was just that last one it all went south. The lawyer - that wasn't right."
She doesn't bother to dignify that with a response, scowling into her soda, stabbing at the ice with a straw.
"Why do you think he didn't kill me, huh?"
"Because they needed you," she answers promptly. "I bet you rolled right on over."
"You bet your ass I did. You think I want my kid getting that knock at the door? But you know as well as I do Reese could have flipped four, five cops in our precinct alone.
"He didn't take it personal," Fusco concludes. "So you sure as hell don't get to."
"John is not our baseline of morality, Fusco." She's furious and she wants to stay that way, but she can't, because above everything and anything else, she's honest. Her hands aren't a whole lot cleaner. Haven't been since the garage, when she made a choice and had to own it every single day since. Szymanski nearly died because of that.
"You going to the IAB?" Fusco huffs without amusement. "Hell. Maybe you'd be doing me a favor."
"I should," she says, quietly. Sure, Fusco could bring her down with him, but she doesn't think he would - he got himself into the mess he did because loyalty flat outran right.
Fusco pauses with his hand wrapped around a bottle of imported, concerned as the silence lengthens. "Wait, you really gonna do it? Because I need a couple hours if you are."
"Depends. You straighten up?" Her mouth curves into a mocking smile. "Flying right?"
He starts to nod, but then he shrugs. "They had me running with HR. I'm in deep and I got no shovel, if you know what I mean. Honestly, I don't see it ending so good."
She stares at him over the table and he stares back. He meets her eyes for a second or two before his gaze darts back to his beer. "But, hey. Just what I deserve, right?"
She thinks about a man in a dusty, far away country, who'd gambled everything on her honor and lost it all to the chain of command. "You and me both."
Fusco clears his throat and holds two fingers up to the bartender; one more round. "Theories, yeah? You said you had some."
He laughs, genuinely amused. "What? You don't trust me, Carter?"
She's already resisted the urge to punch him; she doesn't even attempt to restrain a roll of her eyes. "Talk."
"Fine. Fine." He leans forward, intent again. "Their intel came from agencies, right? But some of it - you're not telling me that the stuff they got on that politician came from any agency: e-mail, phones, CCTV. Warrants don't come through that fast when money's in the mix."
"And some of their intel was the reason for investigation, not a result of it," Joss concludes for him.
"Right." Fusco stabs the air. "Exactly. You can't tell me our friend with glasses was watching every feed, reading every e-mail, listening to every phone conversation, twenty-four seven."
She looks at him over her glass. "So how the hell did they do it?"
When Finch dies, she's not even nearby. She reads the report the next morning: 2 a.m., a car went into the East River.
No suspicious circumstances.
She's not shocked and she's not surprised.
But she's damn suspicious.
A woman runs, staggers, down an alley, terror in every harsh pant of breath. There's a bundle clutched tightly in her arms.
Reese never got a memorial service, because Reese never existed. But ‘Harold Wren' lived and breathed - kind of - and she receives an invitation to attend the burial a week later. She doesn't recognize the writing and there's no signature, so she doesn't feel bad about bringing her gun, or her partner - even if Fusco has exchanged a rumpled brown jacket for a rumpled black one and called it a day.
The priest murmurs words. They're probably nice and all, but she's not in the mood to listen that closely. Something about ‘Wren's' extensive charitable works, nothing about a global hacking network.
There are at least fifty people at the graveyard, business types, and it would be a pointless exercise to try and guess which one invited her. Once the crowd filters away, there are four people left ringing the still-open grave and she studies them carefully.
A man with dusty blonde hair who introduced himself as William Ingram when he spoke a few short words, and called Finch ‘Uncle Harold' with a thin-lipped smile.
A blonde a few years older than she is, Joss guesses, whose suit is gray and whose blouse shimmers elegantly, almost defiantly, in pinks and blues.
A slender woman in her mid-thirties with a sharp auburn bob and piercing eyes that look closer to angry than sad. It's the hair that throws Joss for a second before she identifies Harold's kidnapper: Samantha Groves. Root.
A man with a thick scar running down his cheek and slicked back hair. He's wearing a cheap suit and grey tie, and he's even made the effort to shine his shoes.
Joss catches Fusco's eye and throws his attention to Groves. He sidles a little closer. Groves isn't showing signs of attempting to escape and the nephew and the blonde are talking, so Joss decides to take Elias' messenger boy first.
She strolls over and stops in front of him. For the sake of the nephew, she keeps her voice level and tries not to glare. "Say what you came to say, Marconi."
He nods, expression cool. "The boss wanted to send his condolences. Just to be clear? Personally? I'm not sorry for your loss."
"Maybe I should take you down to the station and find something for you to be sorry about."
"Sure." Marconi shrugs, unconcerned. "Then I'm out in a couple hours and you're wasting a real nice day on paperwork."
She sniffs. "Anything else, or you just decide to give the cheapest suit in New York a walk?"
"The boss just wanted you to know it wasn't us."
She laughs under her breath. "Honestly? I never thought it was."
That seems to take him aback. "Seriously?"
She mimics his shrug. "Not Elias' style. He'd want people to know who did it. The right people, anyway. But I bet he knows who did."
"Nope." Marconi shakes his head, and Joss is strangely relieved that he hasn't even suggested it might be an accident. "And it ain't our business. But, maybe we trip over something, we'll let you know. As good citizens."
"Sure. Good citizens. Get the hell out of here."
Once Marconi is walking away, Joss heads towards the blonde woman and extends her hand. "Joss Carter."
The woman nods with a pleasant smile. "Zoe Morgan. I know your work, Detective."
"And I know yours." Joss doesn't try and keep the wry edge out of her tone, is rewarded with a quiet laugh. "How did you know Harold?"
Zoe's smile dimples. "A little better than he thought I did." She glances at Ingram before she lowers her voice and continues almost carefully. "I was hoping to see someone else here, although I understand he may not be able to make it?"
Oh. Oh. "No, he won't." Joss doesn't have to try to look sympathetic. "I'm sorry."
Morgan's smile doesn't flicker, but her chin lifts a bare degree and her jaw tightens almost imperceptibly: tiny, tiny tells of distress, gone in a moment. "I see."
Zoe Morgan is damn good.
"So I take it you didn't send me the invite for today?"
"No, I'm afraid I only found out about this a few hours ago myself."
Joss hesitates, then, "Fusco and I were going to take this to a diner, discuss a few things, share a few memories. If you wanted to join us?"
Morgan wavers and Joss can see a war between head and heart as clear as day.
Head wins. She never thought it wouldn't.
"I have an appointment, but thank you for the offer." Morgan turns, five hundred dollar heels twisting the grass. Half a step and she turns back, holding out a card. "But if I can be of any assistance during this trying time, please don't hesitate to call. After business hours, of course."
So maybe every heart has a Hail Mary in it.
Joss takes the card and slips it into her pocket as Morgan picks her way towards her limo, waving an imperiously impatient hand to the waiting driver.
When she turns back, Fusco is nervously eying Groves and Ingram is hovering between them, looking more than a little concerned.
She jams her hands into her pockets and wanders back, directly towards Groves. "You know there's no time out for funerals, right?"
"There should be, don't you think?" Groves smiles brightly.
"No." Joss drops her hand to her belt and searches towards her gun. "Hands where I can see them."
Groves holds her arms out and spreads her fingers. "Really? Don't you want to know why I invited you? William does."
Three white boxes flash red.
The four of them sit in a diner, uncomfortably arranged in a booth by the window. Groves laughs softly when Joss wordlessly points to the inside seat, is still grinning when Joss slides in after her. That leaves Fusco and Ingram packed in on the other side.
Briefly, Joss considers calling Zoe Morgan and then disregards the idea. That wasn't why Morgan handed over her card. Besides, they're out of seats.
"This is nice." Groves leans forward, chin cupped by her hand. "Cozy. Is anyone else eating? I'm famished, funerals always make me hungry."
Fusco sends a searching look Joss' way; she ignores it, nodding to Ingram instead. "Joss Carter. I'm sorry about your uncle. Were you close?"
Ingram half-smiles. "Not as close as I thought we were, apparently." He picks at the cuff of his shirt, nail pulling at a loose thread.
She'd assumed he was just another suit, that his tan came out of a salon, but now she can see the calluses on his hands she's not so sure.
"He's not actually my uncle, he and my father were best friends." Ingram's smile strains between amusement and disbelief. "And, it turns out, collaborators on super secret government projects." He nods to Groves. "Kelly's had some … really interesting things to tell me."
Fusco eyes Groves. "Kelly did, huh?" He glances to his side. "Oh. Uh. Fusco. Lionel Fusco. Detective Carter's partner." They manage a cramped, awkward handshake.
"There was only one super secret government project," Groves corrects calmly. "The rest of his work was just secret."
"Mr. Ingram," Joss starts, but Ingram shakes his head, looking pained.
"Will, please. Mr. Ingram sounds weird. Doctor Ingram, if you really feel the need for an honorific."
He's wincing, not smirking, so Joss quells the kneejerk reaction that the whitest of the white collars tends to bring out in her. "Okay, Will. Whatever this woman has told you-"
"That Uncle Harold and my father worked on this huge, top secret government project, which is currently in the wrong hands. That his name wasn't even Harold Wren. That he knew Alicia Corwin and they were all involved in developing whatever it was, which I'm pretty sure the company sold for a dollar." He holds up a forestalling hand. "And she already told me she kidnapped him."
"It's important to start relationships out on the right foot." Groves drops the menu back on the table.
"Did she tell you that she killed Alicia Corwin?" Joss asks. "And at least one other man?"
Will swallows. "No. I." He glances at Groves. "What?"
"It didn't seem relevant to the topic at hand." Groves smiles up at the waitress who's made her way over. "Apple pie with a scoop of vanilla. And a root beer," she adds with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Joss shakes her head; she's not going to play. "And three coffees." When the waitress has gone, she turns to Groves. "Why are you here?"
"Because there's still someone to save." Groves pulls a single napkin from the dispenser. "That's what you do, isn't it? Didn't you ever wonder where they were getting their information?"
Fusco pulls at his tie to loosen the knot. "Nah. The little guy was some kind of computer geek, right? They can get anything."
Her partner is a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them. People make assumptions and he lets them - perps and colleagues alike - because he can, because it's always better to be underestimated.
Joss has never had the luxury; a woman in the force can't afford to, a black woman, even less so. Has to admit she wouldn't work that way, even if she could.
Groves is making those assumptions now: a flash of disdain. Dismissal. Twin points of red flush the woman's cheeks as she straightens. "Harold is a great man."
Is, not was. Joss is glad someone shares her suspicions, but she'd have preferred it wasn't the psychopath.
Will coughs and holds up a hand. "Can we take this back a step? What was Uncle Harold doing?"
Joss presses her lips together and glances at Groves who, for once, appears to be willing to let someone else answer. Fusco only shrugs when she looks his way.
Great. That's just great.
"He and another man looked after the interests of people that we - that the police - may not have reached in time, or weren't able to help in such a responsive fashion."
She's pretty pleased with her uncharacteristically delicate phrasing, until Ingram's eyes narrow. "They were vigilantes," he says flatly.
"Yeah," she admits. "Okay. But they did good work. Believe that." She pauses and then goes on softly. "We're trusting you with a lot, Will. You understand?"
He nods readily. "Uncle Harold was a good person, I don't believe that the people he worked with would have been anything less." A smile briefly appears. "I'm not planning to go running to the papers, if that's what you're worried about. I just want to understand."
They fall silent again as their order arrives. Groves pulls her pie towards her with a happy sound. She studies it critically for a moment and then pushes it away untouched.
And Joss, haltingly, tries to explain. What they'd done. The lives they'd saved.
When she's finished, Will looks no less mystified than he did when she'd started. "Why? I mean … Uncle Harold? He was a great guy, don't get me wrong, but the person you're describing, I never met."
"I wish you could have." She smiles, knows the sadness shows through. "I think you would have been proud of him."
"I am." Will nods firmly. "I guess, he and my father. Whatever they did. They did it for the right reasons."
"Sure," Joss says soothingly. "They were good men. I don't know what they worked on, but whatever it was, it would have been something that made the world a better place."
Something that pulled Finch under the radar, locked him in an abandoned library and compelled him to spend every waking moment trying to save people he'd never met with a man even more damaged than he was.
Joss knows penance when she sees it; knows exactly what it looks like. She saw it in John the first time they met. She sees it in the mirror every damn day.
Finch's nephew doesn't need to know that.
Will frowns pensively down at his empty cup. "Is there anything else?"
He's alive, she wants to tell him. I know he's alive and when I get my hands on him, I'm going to shake him until his glasses fall off.
"No," she says. "That's it. He wouldn't have wanted you any more involved that you already are - you can see how dangerous it is."
Will frowns, expression pulling in sullen lines. "I don't care, I'm not sitting whatever this is out."
Fusco nudges him, shoulder against shoulder. "You got any other family? Mother? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Kids, maybe?"
Will's mouth hangs open uncertainly, suddenly cagey. Unsure if he's answering a question or somehow implicating himself. "Why?" he finally manages.
"Because even if you don't care about you, you got to care about them. You think the other guys sweat collateral damage? I got a kid. I got an ex. And if I had this to do over? I would run so far and so fast away from this, you wouldn't even see dust."
When Will looks Joss' way, seeking confirmation. Maybe hoping for it. Just a little. She bites the inside of her cheek and nods. "Do it for the people you still have left, Will. Let it go."
It takes another ten minutes of persuasion between them before Will finally gives in and heads out, still wearing the same faint frown. Groves says nothing during the impromptu intervention, but when the door swings shut behind him with a soft chime of the bell, her eyebrows rise. "'The other guys?' What do you think you know?"
Fusco adds some creamer to his refilled coffee and smirks to himself. "Please, there's always 'the other guys.' So you think Finch had a source on the inside? Inside what?"
Groves smiles. "Well. That's the question, isn't it?"
"One of them," Joss allows. "What do you want?"
"To repay a debt and free an innocent. That's all I ever wanted. But here's the thing. I don't want to go to prison - I have way too much to do. So I'm going to help you, but I'm only going to do it on my terms."
Joss watches as her expression hardens, saccharine stripped away and eyes glittering with intent. "Arrest me, or use me. You don't get both."
"The NYPD has been finding missing people without your help for a while," Joss counters, not breaking her gaze.
Groves ignores that and sips at her drink. "Here's the deal, Jocelyn. Do you mind if I call you Jocelyn? It's such a pretty name." She doesn't pause for a reply, but Joss hadn't been planning on engaging anyway. "I tell you where to go to find their information source and you just slide out the booth and let me go use the little hackers room."
Joss glances across the table. Fusco's shoulders lift minimally: he's leaving the ball in her court.
They don't have a damn choice. "Talk."
"Just to you," Groves says, and points to Fusco. "He wasn't invited."
Two men jog down an alley. They're in no hurry, they know where it ends.
Joss goes home.
Taylor is at a friend's, but Bear pads into the hallway, ears pricked forward and fluff dangling from the corner of his mouth. There goes another cushion.
Past scolding - can't quite twist her tongue around the Dutch pronunciation - she pats him and heads into the kitchen. She isn't hungry, but she makes a cup of coffee and fills Bear's water bowl, checks her messages and opens the door of the washer/drier. After a moment's deliberation, where her mother's chiding voice features strongly, she decides laundry can wait.
Then, only then, she crosses to her desk and sits in the chair.
She stares into the camera on the top of her laptop. It's off - the only light a reflected glint from the cars passing outside.
"I know you're there," she says.
She waits until her coffee is cold and then stands, stiff and sore in ways she hasn't been for a long time. "Okay, I understand. I'm. I'm sorry for your loss."
The camera light glows green, just for a moment.
She freezes. "You can hear me?"
The speakers trill softly.
"Son of a bitch."
A door opens, light spilling into the darkness. A man carrying a trash bag is silhouetted for a moment. The woman falls towards him and, startled, he catches her.
In the morning, Joss' cell rings as she's tugging her jacket on. She presses the received button and then wedges it between her shoulder and cheek as she tries to figure out where the other sleeve went. "Cart-"
"Royal Alpha Delta."
"Mirrors Romeo Echo."
"I don't understand what you're-"
"Redemption Lima November."
The phone cuts out and she glares at her computer's camera, for want of a better target. "Seriously? That's supposed to mean something to me?"
The light pulses green.
"Well, it doesn't." She keeps staring and wonders how she'll know when it blinks.
When her cell rings again, she snags a pen and holds the back of a receipt against the wall before answering. "Okay, go."
"Was that so hard?" She grumbles as she considers the number. Could be a few things, but a social security seems the most likely. She Bings it, just in case, but after a couple pages of aircraft parts, she straightens and reaches for her cell.
Fusco picks up on the second ring. "Fusco."
"You at the station?"
"You kidding me? I'm in at seven - I got paper work up to here. And you don't want to know where here is. I see my kid again before he's eighteen, it's going-"
"Fusco. I need you to run a number for me."
He's silent for a long moment and then, "Sure, I can do that."
Two men push their way into the kitchen of the restaurant, guns waving. A man holds his hands up to ward them away as a woman grasps her baby to her chest and prepares to run.
From a side room, another woman throws herself in front of the men. She has a gun in one hand and a shield in the other.
Another set of numbers come through a couple days later, but the call doesn't end with the last digit. She takes that as an opening.
"You think he's really dead?"
The camera light on her computer pulses red.
Red light for no, green for yes - they worked that out early.
"Me either." She sips her coffee and stares beyond the monitor. "You helped John and me find him before, didn't you? So why not now?"
Nothing from her cell and the light stays cold.
Yes or no questions. Fine. "Would it be dangerous for him?"
A flash of red.
"Dangerous for you?"
Nothing again and she shakes her head. "Don't give me the silent treatment, I got a sixteen year old kid and you got nothing on that."
The green light is faint, grudging, but it's there.
She smiles. She can work with that. "Well, that's sweet, but I can take care of myself. So what are you waiting for?"
Her cell rings.
CAMERA ACCESSED HUB 003
MEDIAN TEMPERATURE: -15.8° F.
Two yellow-squared men slump together, shoulder-to-shoulder, backs pressed against a frost-touched, metal-lined wall.
The shorter man's slow breaths puff white and his head rolls on his chest.
The taller man shifts awkwardly, but carefully, until the other's head rests against his shoulder.
AUDIO ANALYSIS: "Come on, [unknown]. Stay [unknown] me."
The door swings open and a red-boxed man enters.
"Huh." Fusco leans back in his chair and looks at her over the glasses perched on the end of his nose. "You busy?"
There's a drift of paperwork piled on her desk, the phone hasn't spent ten straight minutes on the hook and she's three reports behind, and it's only Tuesday. She spent the weekend stopping a woman who'd been intending to poison her research assistant, though, so that was something. "Busy? Me? No," she deadpans. "Don't you see me kicking back with a Mai Tai?"
"I do something nice for you and this is what I get?"
She raises an eyebrow. "You finally stop eating those burritos?"
"Not that nice," he smirks. "I traced that mystery number for you."
That stills her hand over the keyboard; the number she'd finally been given hadn't matched a social security number and, a day later, she was still treading water. "So what you got?"
"Four. You add two and two, and that's what you get. It's the property registration number of the plant where Wonder Boy got toasty." He ignores her frown and hum of disapproval. "That's weird, right?"
She nods. It is. "Donnelly never said how he knew John was there. I figured he was looking after a client and Donnelly got lucky with surveillance."
"I don't think so. Reese had me looking for the wife and baby of that guy who got killed in the home invasion." Joss nods - she's familiar. Now. "I checked, the victim, he had nothing to do with the plant. Nada. So whatever's in that building-"
"Their source thinks it's important." She relaxes back in her chair, fingers tapping deliberately on her chair arm as she thinks: one-two, one-two. "Somebody wanted that warehouse to burn, but it wasn't the Feds and I'm pretty sure it wasn't John either."
"Looks like." Fusco slides the glasses off his nose, rubs at his eyes. "And maybe our friend with the glasses worked that out."
"He didn't say goodbye," Joss murmurs. "John. And Harold was surprised. Like … he was expecting John would say something before -- if things went bad."
She stands abruptly, reaching for her coat. "I gotta go."
"You need help?" Fusco asks flatly, like he's already resigned to the answer, always running one step behind the other kids.
But he still keeps asking, and that has to mean something to someone.
"It didn't work out so great for Harold when he played the Lone Ranger." She smiles, hard. "Let's see how a couple of trained cops do."
Fusco looks surprised, and then pleased. He stands quickly, curses under his breath as he tries to untangle himself from his mouse lead.
"You ever going to tell me who their source is?" he asks as he's tugging on his jacket.
She pulls her own coat on with more decorum and keeps her tone cool, even if his fumbling enthusiasm is kind of endearing. God help her. "Depends. You ever going to get out from under HR?"
He shrugs. "Fair enough."
SUBJECT(S) CORE TEMPERATURE: 95.5° F.
SUB-QUERY: FREEZER TEMPERATURE
The thermostat clicks twice.
The shorter man looks up painfully without releasing his grip on the wrist of the man next to him, who appears unconscious. Behind broken-lensed glasses, his eyes narrow.
AUDIO ANALYSIS: "Oh dear."
On the camera fitted high in the corner, a light flashes green.
SUBJECT(S) CORE TEMPERATURE: 95.7° F.
The meat packing plant was mostly wood and corrugation; the wood is in piles of wet ash, the metal is warped and twisted. There's nothing there except the remains of police tape and a few hopeful gulls, pecking their beaks black.
Joss pulls out her cell while Fusco looks over the remains.
"Okay," she says. "We're here, so show me."
The screen of her cell brightens into CCTV footage, which she guesses must have come from one of the office buildings behind her; she twists to look back out of habit, but sees nothing. Her screen shows the explosion. The swarm of police, fire service and first responders. The body bag coming out of the wreckage.
She frowns. "Go back."
Fusco turns. "You got something?"
"I-" She watches again and then swears under her breath. "That's not Valdez."
She doesn't know the medical examiner well, but she knows he's not a large blonde, given to wearing a cap pulled low over his face. "Some guys got past the tape with ID from the Medical Examiners, but Mike's not with them." She touches the screen to fast-forward impatiently through the footage. The fake examiners, two more of them than originally went in, leave with a bag barely five minutes before Valdez's team arrives and - after some more fast-forwarding - leave with another.
Finch had to have seen this; he had to have figured it out. And then he'd gone hunting, without telling her, and he'd gotten himself taken. She doesn't care what his excuse is, when she finds him (she can't hope for them yet, she can't) there's going to be words.
"Why didn't you show me this before?" she demands.
"You talking to me?" Fusco doesn't wait for an answer; rolls his eyes and turns away. "Of course you're not talking to me."
The light on her cell flashes a sullen red.
"Don't give me that," she scolds. "Who were those guys? They look … serious."
Fusco wanders back, hands buried in his pockets. "We got something?"
"Yeah, maybe." She turns the cell so he can see the sheets of the men. "Russian mob. You remember that thing with Yogurov a few years back?"
"Sure. Wait, this is to do with that?" Fusco frowns. "I thought Elias wiped those guys off the map?"
"Not all of them." She shakes her head and her mouth twists against a sour thought. "I bet, we look hard enough, we'll find this place belonged to the family."
"So, what? They just lured Reese here to kill him for something that happened three years ago?"
"And probably tipped off Donnelly too, just to be sure." She doesn't recognize the names or faces her ‘source' has found, except for one man in his thirties with a mop of blonde hair who she's sure was on the CCTV log.
"Okay," she says to the cell. "I can waste time tracking these guys down, or you can tell me where they are right now."
CAMERA ACCESSED HUB 001
Joss glares up into the camera above the heavy metal door of the club. She presses her badge to the lens when the view slot doesn't slide open fast enough. "Detective Carter, NYPD. Open up."
The slot slides back with a heavy metallic clank and a pair of suspicious eyes peers out. "You got a warrant?"
She smiles sweetly. "You got a liquor license?"
Fusco leans in from the side. "And, you know, this looks like a fire hazard to me. We should tell someone."
"We should," she agrees. "I commend your concern for the well-being of the community, Detective Fusco."
"Fine, fine, fine!" The viewer slams shut again and the door swings in. The man behind it has thinning brown hair and a flannel shirt, damp with sweat.
The place is hot.
He scowls. "Wadda ya want?"
CAMERA ACCESSED HUB 002
The dingy corridor ahead of them is empty, except for the increasingly nervous door man, who calls himself Anton and swears this is his first week on the job.
Joss checks her cell; ahead, at the T-junction, is another camera and it's clearly showing three men, waiting around the right-hand corner. One is the blonde. Wordlessly, she shows the video to Fusco.
He nods and pushes Anton back, gesturing towards the door they came through with a jerk of his chin.
Then he pulls a flash-bang grenade out of his pocket.
He shrugs, pulls the pin, and throws.
CAMERA ACCESSED HUB 003
SUBJECT(S) CORE TEMPERATURE: 98.6° F.
Two yellow-squared men slump together, shoulder-to-shoulder, backs pressed against a metal-lined wall.
The shorter man stares almost unblinkingly into the camera.
With bloodied hands, the taller man picks patiently at the cuffs around his wrist with a sliver of wood.
The door bursts open under the weight of another, semi-conscious man.
NAME: ADASKIN, VITALY
A man and a woman follow him.
The man stands in the doorway and faces the corridor, keeping his gun trained on the two men outside, while they roll on the floor.
NAME: FUSCO, LIONEL
The woman crouches. She waits.
NAME: CARTER, JOCELYN
The tall man speaks.
AUDIO ANALYSIS: "What took you so long?"
The green light dims.