John walked slowly back to the small hotel where he'd rented a room. He really didn't have anywhere else to go, not after leaving Finch on the bench under the bridge. He'd decided to stay, decided to accept the job. It had been interesting, something to do instead of wallowing in grief and booze. It had felt good to use the skills he possessed for his own reasons instead of the company's, to achieve something good instead of bad.
What had he told Stills before he shot him? That he'd gone all over the world looking for bad guys but there were plenty of them right here all along. And according to Finch, the numbers never stopped coming. It sounded like he'd be kept pretty busy. While the two of them were still alive at least.
Because not only had he accepted a job from the man he knew so little about, the two of them had apparently made a suicide pact together. They would probably end up dead for real, Finch had said. If one of the 'numbers' were dangerous enough, or if the wrong people found out they weren't actually dead, things could go south fast.
That was all right, though. John wasn't really sure he wanted to live that much longer any way. If he could spend the time helping a few people, at least maybe that would make up for some of his past mistakes. Though "mistakes" was perhaps the wrong word, too light a word. He'd killed, committed atrocities, lied, cheated, hurt. All in the name of his country, but did that really matter in the long run? When you were judged, did you get to explain that you'd be ordered by your government to commit the crimes you were being judged for? He doubted it. He wasn't sure what he believed in any more, but whether you called it God or karma or just... something, he knew what you did in life mattered. Every life was important to someone, even the worst terrorists had their reasons and those they held dear. And his own government wasn't perfect; mistakes could be made, the wrong people ordered killed. There were questions he'd never asked, reasons he'd never been given and they were, in his mind, worse than the deeds he'd done. So, no, he could never really atone for the things he had done, the lives he'd taken, the lives he hadn't saved. But if he did the work Finch had hired him for, maybe he could attempt to balance the scale just a bit. It wouldn't win him a place in the heaven he wasn't sure he believed in, but that was all right. He'd long ago accepted what his ultimate fate might be.
His room was on the fifth floor of the old hotel, facing an alley, relatively secure. It wasn't much different from the room he'd fallen asleep in the day he'd met Finch, the one he hadn't been in when he'd next woken up. This time, he was pretty sure Finch wasn't going to move him but he decided he wouldn't drink himself to sleep just in case.
Besides, he didn't really need to. He'd gone, what? Four days without a drink. And he didn't even really miss the stuff. He only drank to numb the pain. Working for Finch had been just as effective. He hadn't thought of Jessica much at all while he was working the case.
It kind of amazed him that his skills were still as sharp as ever though. He had let that detective get the drop on him, but that was pretty much his only mistake. And it had allowed him to make the guy into an asset. He was going to have fun with Fusco. When he wasn't knee capping bad guys, he could take a little of his anger and self hatred out on the poor cop. But what had happened in Ordos and getting out of China and back to the States and learning Jessica was dead and hiding in a bottle for a couple of months hadn't made him forget everything. At first, when he had first agreed to help Finch, he had been a little uncertain. Not that he would have admitted that to the strange man who'd somehow found him. Then he had realized that it was just like riding a bicycle where his skills were concerned. Months of living on the streets and drinking hadn't ruined his aim or his instincts.
If they had, he supposed the mysterious Mr. Finch wouldn't have wanted him after all.
He'd told the man he'd done some digging. That had consisted of hitting the public library to use the internet. He hadn't been able to find anything on Harold Finch though. Now that he knew about the Machine, however, he realized that wasn't that surprising. Finch was off the grid. It would be interesting to learn more about his new boss. Why was he such a private person? Why was he dead to the world? Where did he live?
He hung up his jacket and pulled out the bottom drawer of the dresser. The laptop he'd bought with Finch's money was in there. It would be easier than using the library to try to find things out about Finch -- and what else was he going to do in his off time?
He plugged in the laptop and booted it up, this time deciding to try a name he'd gotten from following Finch this morning. He'd waited outside the library and the man had emerged at about eight-thirty. From there, he caught a cab and proceeded to an office building in Manhattan that housed a company called "I.F.T". John typed the initials into Google.
A scream suddenly reverberated through the silence of the hotel hallway. John was on his feet before he even thought about it.
He had his Sig in his hand and stood behind the door to his room, cracking it open slightly so he could see into the hall without showing himself. Nobody was there.
A second scream cut through the quiet. It sounded like it was coming from a room at the other end of the hall.
John was moving before he could think, rushing down the hall, determined to help whoever was in trouble. Before he could get there, another scream reverberated, fraught with terror and pain. Every instinct John possessed told him he had to save the woman who was in trouble.
He put his hand on the door knob, unsurprised to find it locked. Taking a step back, he kicked it open, bursting into the darkened room.
On the bed, two figures froze at the sound of his intrusion. A man, fully clothed except for his pants around his ankles was on top of a frail looking woman who was naked. John could see her shredded clothing scattered around the floor and the bed.
"Sounds like your attentions aren't wanted, fella," John said, leveling his weapon at the man.
"What do you know about it?" The man, who was burly and covered with tattoos, sneered at John. "She loves it."
"Doesn't sound that way to me." John cocked his gun.
"Let me go!" the woman shouted, taking advantage of her attacker's hesitation to scramble out of his grasp, backing up toward the headboard.
Snarling in rage, the man turned fully in John's direction, trying to charge toward him. But he'd forgotten his pants were down and he not only looked ludicrous, he tripped. In another instant, John was standing over him, his Sig at the man's temple.
"You can do one of two things," he told him, voice level. "You can pull those jeans up and get out of here or you can stay there and wait for me to shoot you."
Finally taking the threat seriously, the man scrambled to grab at his twisted pants and began yanking them up. He pushed up off the floor and got them up to his waist, but didn't bother zipping them. Without a word, he took a step for the door.
"And if you try to hurt her again," John ground out, still pointing his gun at him, "I'll know about it and I'll kill you."
"You can have her," the man snapped, losing no time as he made a dash for the door.
When he was gone, John turned to the shaking woman. She'd pulled the thin bedspread off the mattress and had wrapped it around her thin form. John slipped his gun into his belt and approached her cautiously, hands out.
"It's okay. You're safe now," he told her, his voice soft but gentle.
"Th-thank you," she responded, her voice rough from her screams. Tears began slipping down her cheeks and she sagged onto the bed, covering her face with her hands.
John stood over her, but he didn't touch her. Much as he wanted to, he feared his touch would only trigger her. "Do you know him?" he asked after a moment.
She nodded and looked up. A bruise was starting to form on her right cheek. "I w-work with him. He gave me a ride home and wouldn't leave. I told him no... "
"Is there someone you can call?" Reese asked.
She looked at him blankly.
"Do you want to go to the hospital?" he tried.
She shook her head. "I'm okay. Just... want to go home... " More tears fell.
"Is there someone you can call?"
"My sister lives uptown," she finally told him. "I... don't have a phone though."
Reese pulled his own from his pocket. "Here."
He waited while the woman made the call, relieved when her sister apparently answered and told her she would come to pick her up. It sounded as though the sister was relieved to hear from her, and Reese thought perhaps they hadn't talked in a long time. It was easy to surmise from the side of the conversation he could hear that the sister's life was a lot more positive than the woman's he'd rescued.
When she finished the call and handed back his phone, Reese felt at a loss. He was glad he could help, but wasn't sure what he should do next. He didn't want to leave her alone in case her attacker came back.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"I'm Julie," she said, brushing her hair back from her face. "I... guess I should get dressed."
"Of course." Reese stepped back.
"Don't leave!" Julie sounded panicked.
"I won't," he assured. "I'll just stand over here by the door." He moved out of her way and closed the door, standing with his back to her.
He could hear her moving around, drawers being opened as she searched for some clothes to put on. He could also hear her softly crying.
He let himself relax, leaning his right hand on the wall and breathing deeply to slow his heart rate. He wondered if Finch had gotten Julie's number or if he hadn't, why not. Perhaps the guy who'd attacked her had done it on the spur of the moment, he reflected, not planning to rape her or not communicating in any way that he was considering it. He'd have to ask Finch more questions about the kinds of plans his Machine looked for in predicting the crimes.
Footsteps approached him and he realized Julie must be finished dressing. He took a breath, intending to ask if she was ready for him to turn around before he did so.
A whoosh of air was the only warning, but he didn't have time to react before a heavy object hit him on the temple. Pain exploded in his head and his knees gave way. John had only a hazy view of Julie, her expression grim and determined, as she swung the skillet at his head a second time and the world went black.