Chapter 1: A Bad Idea
Hindsight, being what it was, would reveal to Henry many things after the encounter was over. For example, he would later know with startling clarity that everything had gone to hell the moment he’d uttered the words,
“Would you like to see a magic trick?”
In the months leading up to the capture of Detective Martinez and himself they had been trying to catch the madman who would eventually ensnare them before they could get to him. One would think with the absolute wealth of forensic evidence the man left behind he would be easy to apprehend.
The man’s M.O. was simple. Abduct two people who were in some way emotionally attached to each other. Place these unfortunate souls in a room, and tell them that only one of them was ever getting out alive. The way out was to kill the other person. The slower and more painful the death, the faster your own release. No weapons were provided, although some ‘participants’ were clever enough to break the mirror above the small sink provided in each room.
In one of the scenarios Henry was unfortunate enough to find a female victim still alive whose father slit his own throat to keep her alive. The department hired two counselors specializing in survivor’s guilt specifically for the victims piling up. They knew they used to be good people. It was the therapist’s job to convince them that after starving for ten days anyone would have been capable of what they were forced to do. Half committed suicide in the following weeks.
“I don’t get it.” Jo sighed, looking down at the bodies of two college roommates. The men decided to have a fair fight to the death, as far as Henry could tell. In the ensuing brawl they’d both succumbed to their injuries.
“This guy leaves us DNA, fingerprints, hair, witnesses. Everything we could possible want and we still have no idea who he is.”
Henry tipped over one of the corpses onto its side. A gash down his back was long and jagged. Not the fatal blow, but it very well could have been under different circumstances. Exsanguination was a terrible way to die. The pain, nausea, and resulting heart attack were all terribly unpleasant.
“Unfortunately we know exactly who this man is. We just don’t know his name or address.”
And they wouldn’t know it, not until he pumped a gas into the lab. Lucas was in the room as well, but Henry had faith that the killer left him unharmed. By the time Henry recognized the scent of the ether he was already fading into unconsciousness. He couldn’t even catch Jo as she fell.
“Wakey, Wakey!” The voice was male, in his late 30’s or early 40’s. As his vision swam into focus Henry could make out thick rimmed glasses on a gaunt face framed with an eerie smile. The man’s suit was shabby, though it used to be of good quality. A single hired gunman stood near the door. Not one stick of furniture could be found in the blank room.
“Look at you two!” The man circled around them. They were in a one room house. From the smell alone Henry could tell they were far outside the city limits. “Industrious, the both of you. I’ve been following your work. Ms. Martinez, you’ve been looking into housing and apartments trying to piece together how I rent these places. I know you were close to figuring out my naming system. And you, Dr. Morgan. Combing my DNA for rare genetic markers. Nearly found one, tsk tsk. Couldn’t let that happen.”
He was still smiling. It was making Henry sick to his stomach.
“I think you both have an understanding of what will happen here. There’s a sink to provide you with all the water you need in the washroom. No door of course, but the wall does provide some privacy. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I don’t provide food during the experiment phase. Once one of you kills the other and I assure you, it will happen, I will start feeding you. If you torture your comrade I’ll let you go that day. Mutual fighting will keep you for three days, and just letting someone die of natural causes or suicide will keep you in here with their rotting corpse for a full week. The smell alone will make you want to claw your eyes out.” He smiled and stood.
Once the man was almost to the door he turned around, “Oh yes. Dr. Morgan, I’ve heard of your incessant hero complex. If you try to break out of here via the floor or the ceiling or what have you, I’ll kill her. Remember, the more amused I am, the better your own chances of survival.”
Jo looked to Henry with weary bloodshot eyes. “Think there’s a deck of cards around here somewhere?”
They ended up having to make their own deck of cards out of wallpaper they ripped down. Without having to say anything they both understood that the plan was to wait patiently for help to arrive. They’d left behind enough clues for Hanson to put them together. Hopefully. Henry did not have much faith in the plan, truth be told. All of the other pairs were found within the city. If anything the police would be sweeping abandoned or newly rented apartments there. The scent of lush greenery wafting in through the ventilation spoke of a rural landscape just beyond the walls of their confinement. No one was coming.
In his long life Henry had never starved to death. Once when entrenched and running low on supplies during WWI he’d put a bullet in his head just to get his body back to normal from its emaciated state after only seven days.
They had now gone ten without.
Jo, who had less body fat and muscle to begin with was terrifyingly frail. When two guards came in to shackle them neither could even pretend to surmount an escape. They were placed on chairs with their ankles bound. Their captor came in wearing the same decrepit suit and holding a bag of fast food. Henry had never wanted a hamburger so badly in his life. With a scrape of metal against concrete the man pulled up a chair not five feet from them.
He began to eat in front of them. Slowly. A whimper escaped Jo. “I don’t know why a week and a half is the tipping point,” He paused for another bite. “but it is. Did you know that I used to be a magician? Low level stuff, never made it to the pros, but I did love the excitement. The amusement. You two sitting here discussing past cases and playing with your wallpaper is just not any fun.” He smiled again and threw a piece of lettuce between them. Henry reacted on pure instinct to get to it first. Jo slammed her shoulder into him and snatched it.
She looked horrified, “Henry I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be.” He said with all the sincerity he could.
“See, now that was fun!” The man cackled.
Not for the first time Henry considered taking the easy way out. He could be gone from this place in the blink of an eye. If he did that though, Jo would be left behind to be killed. Even worse the lunatic and his men would see what happened. But who would believe them?
“Would you like to see a magic trick?” He shouldn’t have proposed it. It was an awful plan. The hunger was just so pervasive, so gnawing. All he could think of was making it go away. He wouldn’t have done it, never even would have considered it if the ache hadn’t gone so deep. The day before he drank so much water he’d been unable to keep it down just to feel full for a moment. He could only imagine how bad it was for Jo who was eating the wilted piece of lettuce that had been on the floor.
The man sat up a little straighter. “What kind of magic trick?”
“The best magic trick ever performed. In fact, if I show you this trick and it is indeed the best one you’ve ever seen in your life, you agree to feed Detective Martinez and let her go.”
That evil grin spread wide, “Finally, someone who knows how to play my game. Will you need any materials for this trick?”
“A gun with a single bullet.”
The man threw back his head to release his laughter. “That’s it?” He rubbed his hands together and sat back in his chair, considering the pair of them. Henry knew the risk he was taking. He had to believe that the clearly criminally insane man in front of him was a man of his word. As Henry ran naked from whatever lake or river he’d get evaporated to he had to trust that the madman would actually let Jo go.
“I have one condition to add.” The man said gleefully. “If it is indeed the best trick I have ever seen you have to do it twice so that I have the chance to figure out how you did it.”
“If he does it twice you have to let us both go.” Jo added.
“No.” The man snapped at her. “He made the deal for you.”
Twice added an element of danger far beyond what Henry had anticipated. He looked over at his partner, panting with the exertion of one sentence worth of lung capacity.
“Henry, no.” Tears began pouring down Jo’s face. “Why are you always doing this? Why do you always have to sacrifice yourself?”
“I’m afraid you’ll understand far better in just a moment.”
The man came back with a glock complete with silencer in his hand. “So what kind of a trick can you perform with a single bullet?”
“Where is the nearest body of water?” Henry asked, eyes following the gun.
“This house actually sits on a lake. It’s quite serene.”
Henry sighed, “I am going to disappear before your very eyes and reappear, naked, in that lake.”
“Now that is something I’d like to see.” He kicked the gun over to Henry.
Henry picked the gun up, its weight so much heavier with his muscles so malnourished. With a heavy heart he put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. Jo screamed.
With a click… nothing happened.
Henry brought the gun back down in dismay.
The man was giggling, “Sorry. I had to see if you planned to shoot me. Actually, I was kind of hoping you were planning to shoot your partner over there. The look on her face would have been priceless, but the look on it right now is almost as good.”
Henry did not dare look at the horror he knew he would find on Jo’s face.
“You know, I have this whole stockpile of weapons available for participants. I’d be perfectly happy to provide them if people would just ask, but no. They prefer fists and teeth.” He shrugged. From out of his pocket the produced a bullet which he handed to Henry.
“NO!” Jo whimpered as he loaded it. “Please Henry, no. We have more time, it’ll be okay. It takes weeks to die from hunger. I’m okay. Just give it a few more days.”
He turned to look her dead in the eye. “I promise Jo, it’s just a trick.”
This time when he pulled the trigger there was a flash of pain, searing light, then the cold of the water. From shore he could hear a guard screaming that a man just appeared in the lake.
Despite it having been the middle of spring Henry still emerged from the water with his teeth chattering. At least the restoration had given him back his strength, leaving the clawing hunger behind. As the guard force marched him back to the house Henry memorized his surroundings. It was clearly a cabin. The frame was all wood and brick with a path of planks leading down to the beach. The lot was encircled with towering trees blocking sight of anything beyond. They walked in through a screen door porch. Henry could hear laughter even that far out. The room holding Martinez was reinforced with metal plating that was clear to see as he was shoved through the door frame.
“BRAVO!” The man clapped wildly, laughing all the while. “I was convinced you were simply taking the easy way out. Yet another suicide to avoid confrontation.” He clasped his hands, a dreamy look on his face. “Well done, Dr. Morgan. It’s not often I’m surprised.”
Despite his theatrics, their captor was not what was holding Henry’s attention. It was Jo, still sitting in the chair with wide eyes stained red with tears. Clear tracks ran down her pale face.
“I saw your head come off. There was blood. Brain.”
“I told you, it’s just a trick.” They stared at each other for a long moment.
“What are we waiting for?” He interrupted their silent communication. “It’s time for the encore!”
“First,” Henry’s eyes were still locked with Jo. “Food. For Detective Martinez. That was the best trick you’ve ever seen, was it not?”
The man grumbled, “I suppose.” He tossed to her the bag of food he’d been eating from earlier. She just stared at it.
“Jo,” Henry urged, “You have to eat.”
Her eyes drew back up to meet Henry’s. “Not until after the second time. I’ll just throw it up.”
The guards brought Henry clothes because ‘it was so impressive that you also ditched the clothing!’ and made him change before they handed him another bullet to put in the gun.
“No, no! Not yet! This time I want to watch from the lake.” The man scurried away, leaving Jo and Henry alone together in their prison.
“It’s not a trick, is it?” Jo asked quietly.
“No. Look away this time. It’ll be easier.”
She did as asked. It was far harder to pull the trigger a second time.
When he was shoved through the door with another set of sweats Jo’s eyes were still clenched shut.
“It’s okay.” Henry said soothingly. She let one eye open to a slit. Henry crouched down next to her chair, opening one of the cheeseburgers. “Eat. You’ll need the strength to walk. No more than a few bites, leave the buns.” He shouted back toward the door, “Can we get some milk please? She needs phosphate and magnesium.”
Henry didn’t even know if anyone was still there. All of his focus was on Jo, still looking so weary and horrified.
“When he lets you go, walk away from the lake. There has to be a road nearby. Hitchhike. It’s not the safest mode of transportation but you stand less than 3% chance of being attacked and I know you can defend yourself.”
“Did someone ask for some milk?” The man came in with a jug of whole milk. They both flinched away when he let it fall to the floor with a loud thud alongside a bag of red plastic cups. Henry cautiously opened the bag to pour Jo a cup of milk. She drank in small sips, eyes unblinkingly looking up at their captor. The naked hate there fueled Henry’s own rage.
“Well then. I’ve held up my end of the bargain. You’ve always let your subjects go as promised. It’s time for Detective Martinez to be on her way.”
“As a matter of fact, I don’t think you did hold up your end of the bargain.”
Henry’s body was bathed in adrenaline. Jo’s grasp tightened on her cup.
“You see, Henry… My name’s Peter by the way. I’m not sure I properly introduced myself. The problem, Henry, is that you said you’d show me a magic trick, and as we all know, magic isn’t real. What you did? Now that was real. If it was real, it didn’t fit the requirements set forth. You understand. Now, because I saw you put a gun to your head and splatter your brains everywhere…which also disappeared I’m glad to see… I’ll count what happened as suicide. The detective will be let go in seven days.”
Finally Henry understood the term incandescent with rage. He stood, towering over Peter. “Clearly your definition is wrong. What you are used to are illusions. What the bloody hell would you call that other than magic?”
The sole female guard leveled a gun at Henry’s head.
Peter smiled cruelly, “An act of God.”
As he turned Henry reached out to grab him back, but Jo put one soft hand against his side to keep him in place. It was everything he could have feared. Jo was still in captivity, the captors now knew his secret, there was no where to turn. Peter and the guard with the gun walked out talking in hushed tones.
Quietly the remaining guard unshackled Jo and left the room with a resounding thud.
“You’re an idiot, Morgan.” Jo said, meaning every word.
“Oh, I am aware.”
“I hate whole milk.” Jo said into the darkness.
They were spooning on the floor. Henry’s sweatshirt was unzipped, lying over them as a substandard blanket. The detective wasn’t producing enough body heat. Shivers wracked through her even as Henry tried to warm her back up.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that the refeeding process can be delicate. It wouldn’t do to have you eat foods that-”
“It’s not a judgment. I don’t care.” She forced herself even farther back into him as more shivers came. “It was just a fact. Something about me. Now tell me something about you.”
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Keeping everything hidden would be impossible now. Jo had seen enough to know that he was withholding more than even she had ever suspected. At least a series of confessions would be easier than a never ending trail of questions.
“I have never in my life sleep-walked to the East River. I also have never been in the water, naked, for fun.”
“No skinny dipping in your wayward youth?” She chuckled, which lead to lung rattling coughs.
“I’m afraid not.”
The pause that followed was audible. “I had a dog growing up that we rescued from the pound. Her name was Lilah.”
Henry almost laughed. Such a soft ball statement to answer to. “The estate I grew up on had many hunting dogs as well as a few horses. Cats were common around the stables, though I wouldn’t have called any of them pets.”
“So you were a rich kid. I knew it. Only a rich kid would wear a full suit to work at a morgue.” Jo poked him jokingly with an elbow. He tried not to wince at how bony it was.
“Your name is Martinez, and yet I have not heard you speak Spanish.”
“Is not! You form some of your words as though you grew up speaking two languages at least.”
Her eyes were certainly rolling, “All right, yes, I speak my fair share of languages. Don’t pretend like you don’t either. It just reminds me of my Dad. I was a different girl back then. It was a different lifetime.”
“If there is anyone who understands abandoning an old life, it’s me. Here’s a fact for you, of all the languages I speak the one with the fewest native speakers is Welsh.”
“Why would anyone need to learn Welsh?”
Henry scoffed, “It’s not what you need to learn! It’s about learning for the sake of-”
The door swung open. The silhouette of Peter and the guard back lit in the doorway was enough to freeze Henry’s blood.
“I was up thinking about it all night. I just couldn’t fall asleep without knowing something.”
Peter flipped on the light. As they blinked while their pupils dilated the figures approached. Henry rolled onto his back just as the shot hit him in the chest.
Right lung punctured, certainly collapsed. He coughed up frothy red blood. As Jo reached out to try and stem the flow of blood he waved her off.
“Don’t… ruin… clothes.”
“You’re,” she swallowed hard and reached for his chest again, “I mean, when the bullet- there’s already splatter-”
More blood coughed up. “Never seen you… loss for words.”
“Yeah well, I’ve never seen you with a sucking chest wound before.”
Peter came to stand over them, peering down at Henry. Jo kept one ineffective hand over the hole and flipped him off with the other.
“How long is this going to take? Wait, wrong question. This does work with bullets in general, right? Or is it strictly a suicide thing? Because if it is, WOW will my face be red!”
If Jo hadn’t been low on energy the swung she took at Peter probably would have landed. Henry liked to think it would have hurt too.
“What the hell are you trying to prove?” She spat at him.
“I was just curious. Does it only work when he does it?”
Jo looked to Henry. It occurred to him that he probably should have lead with that, but he didn’t have enough oxygen left to say anything. All he could really do was pass out.
Before he broke surface on the water he considered, for just a fleeting second, holding his breath and swimming for a different shore. Just floating away.
The burn in his lungs forced him up and out. He wouldn't have done it anyway. He sighed and began his butterfly toward the guard. The man wasn’t even looking at him, just playing on his phone. It dropped into the water when Henry asked for the set of sweats sitting by the shore.
Jo was waiting for him this time, arms wrapped around her knees. “It took longer.” She unwrapped the sweatshirt from around her shoulders, opening it up to him as a blanket again. He gratefully crawled into her embrace. Her back was sticky with his blood.
“So sometimes it takes a while.” She tried again to get him talking.
“I’m sorry. I should have told you. I don’t disappear until I am officially dead.”
“And when exactly is that? When your heart stops? When you brain shuts down? What happens to you? Why does it happen to you? You’re not going to tell me that you’re a water God who needs to be returned to regenerate, are you? I’m not sure I could handle that tonight. If that’s the case, just lie to me.”
Only Jo could make him chuckle under such circumstances, “Last time I was dissected they didn’t have MRI. I can’t be sure about the exact definition. I don’t think it’s heart specifically. There are a few distinct moments after being beheaded that stick with me.”
“Please tell me you’re joking. I already threw up the milk. I don’t need more dry heaving.”
“WE’RE GOING TO NEED PEANUT BUTTER AND SUPPLEMENTS!” The words echoed in the room that was empty except for them.
Peter only killed him twice the next day. Jo tolerated the peanut butter pretty well until the knives showed up. The day after that it was three times.
Drowning. Extremely unpleasant, but quiet.
Shot to the stomach. Slow, painful, and devastating for Jo who held him silently as he bled out.
Cyanide. Quick and to the point.
On day four after the disastrous magic trick Peter brought in a garrote. As the man pulled it taunt over Henry’s throat until he could feel the capillaries in his eyes burst he hoped Jo would be able to keep her bread down. Vomiting was not helping her recovery.
Unfortunately for everyone involved Peter watched far too many movies about strangulation and had never actually done it before. It takes several minutes without oxygen for death. As soon as Henry lost consciousness Peter let him slump to the floor. Henry had to wake up ten minutes later, throat burning, to see Jo screaming at a guard to let her go. She was fighting tooth and nail to get to his ‘body’. The room fell silent when he groaned to get their attention. Jo got one good hit to the guard’s nose. He answered with a hard backhand. Henry’s detective, even weak from hunger, was too tough to let it sway her off her feet. She turned an ugly glare his way.
The guard was sent to the floor in a shower of blood from the bullet Peter sent through his skull. Jo was left paralyzed from fear in the mist that floated down.
“My apologies.” Peter said sincerely, offering her a handkerchief. “All of my people know better than to do damage without consent. I believe the spirit of the agreement I have with Dr. Morgan here specifies you come to no harm.”
She took the cloth. What else was she supposed to do?
“As for you,” Peter turned a wide grin at him, “I thought for a minute there we’d gone and used you all up! Some toys only last for so long you know. When you didn’t disappear, well… guess I should have checked for a pulse, eh?”
He looked down at the body of the dead guard and tsked at it. “It’s a shame not all deaths are self cleaning like yours.”
Even through the excruciating pain of a partially collapsed larynx Henry tried to plea when the gun came out again. Death was a far more fearsome mistress than agony.
It was probably just in his head, but he could have sworn the water was getting colder.
“We need to get you out of here.” Martinez said almost on repeat once he came back. The blood from the guard had been badly mopped up leaving a wide rust colored stain.
“Jo, sit. Please.” She was searching the walls with her nails. Looking for any bare hint of a chink in the armor. “I’m fine.”
“Yeah well I’m not.” She continued undeterred. He had to place his hands on her shoulders, gently holding her in place to get a moment of stillness. She shrugged him off.
“I know that it was… disconcerting when I didn’t disa-”
“Disconcerting? No, Henry. It was not disconcerting. I have watched you die A LOT in the past few days. That sentence was so fucked up my brain had trouble getting my mouth to even say it. Do you get that? Can you even comprehend that I have had to rethink everything I have ever known about you? About life?”
He sighed. He’d interrupt if he thought it would make anything better.
“Knowing that when we were laughing about you being a pervert because you were found in the river really means someone killed you earlier that day? That is disconcerting. Watching that fucking psycho ‘kill’ you and having you just lay there? Terrifying. The idea that I would have to sit here alone and watch you rot was mind numbing in a horrifying way.”
She took in a huge shuttering breath, “But at least I knew, or thought, that you were out. You were free. He’s just running through a list. Bullets? Check. Knives? Check. What fresh hell do you think he’s going to bring in here? I’m just not-” the air caught in her throat, “I don’t know that I can watch this for another three days. And you’re not even getting free then. Jesus.”
She crossed her arms on the wall in front of her to lean her forehead on. The tears she was obviously trying to hide were dripping onto the floor beneath her. Very carefully he placed his hands on her back.
“I’m sorry I never told you.”
She released a wet chuckle, “You can’t seriously think I’m mad at you for not telling me about this. Not when you knew that something like this was a real possibility.”
Those huge brown red rimmed eyes turned to him. “This hasn’t- has this happened to you before?”
He nodded. “A very long time ago.”
She dropped her voice to a light whisper, “When we get out of this, I’m not going to tell anyone. Ever.”
“I have no doubt. Now please, come away. We don’t need him withholding food again because we aren’t behaving.”
There was no furniture for him to steer her towards, so he simply moved her toward the corner where their makeshift cards were left discarded. He could feel her fight the urge to yell at him for guiding her at all. It brought a small smile to his lips. Together they quietly ate some Ritz crackers and washed them down with juice.
“How many times have you died?” There it was. The beginning of the questions.
“I’m not entirely sure.” He answered honestly. “Too many.”
“And the water thing?”
“The first time I died it was in water. It wasn’t what killed me, but it’s where I expired. It could be completely unrelated, I suppose. Some cosmic coincidence.”
Jo began gathering the cards. He assumed they were playing Rummy again. There were only so many two player games. “How much of your resume and employment records are fake?”
“None of the experience is fake. I really am highly trained and qualified, however a few of the dates and more than a few of my references are not as legitimate as one would expect.”
She nodded while rearranging her hand. With a few more players Henry would have suggested poker. Martinez was very good at keeping a blank face.
“Why do you ask, Detective? Plan on having me fired for lying on my application?”
The look she shot at him stated very clearly she did not enjoy his joke.
He drew and discarded a two of spades. “Since you asked I suppose it’s my turn for the next question. If you had to describe your mother in five words, what would they be?”
For several hours they were able to distract each other with more mundane questions. Ice cream flavors, favorite colors, blood type, favorite books, authors, television. When she outright laughed at his affection for ‘I Love Lucy’ it occurred to him that she still had no idea how old he was.
True to form as soon as he was about to reveal which ‘79 he was born in the door opened. The duties of the guard Peter shot were taken over by the female guard. She was a burly woman with an angry red scar across her neck. She conducted a sweep before nodding. Peter wheeled in a defibrillator and monitor. Jo gagged just once before he was even properly hooked up.
“I am so excited we were able to find this!” Peter’s enthusiasm was anything but contagious. “I truly am a scientist at heart. Oh the things we can learn together! Today I’d like to find out exactly how long your pulse has to stop before you evaporate.”
Henry was strapped down on a cot. A pulse monitor was attached to his index finger. It showed the slow steady beat of a healthy heart. Peter pulled up a stopwatch app on his phone. It was all so mundane.
When Jo came over looking for all the world like she was ready for a fight Henry fidgeted. Instead she just knelt by his bed and took his hand in hers.
“Don’t watch. Just hide in the washroom. I’ll be back soon.”
She shook her head. “No one should have to die alone.”
The hum of the defibrillator powering up sounded like pure dread. He was selfishly happy to have the warm human contact she offered.
That time his last thought was, ‘I wonder if he even knows why they say that’ as Jo slipped her hand out.
Everything was still there when he returned from the lake. Jo kneeling by the cot. The equipment. Everything.
“Forgot to start my stopwatch in all the excitement.” Peter chuckled and pointed to his phone screen. “Guess we’ll have to try again.”
For the first time Henry struggled against his captor. Dying was supposed to buy him time! There was supposed to be a reprieve! Time to talk to Jo and forget for just a minute. All he wanted was a few minutes! The woman holding him was massive, but all of his training had been an exercise in how to take on an opponent larger than oneself. He braced himself for the pain that inevitably followed a head butt.
Peter actually laughed at the ensuing brawl. Henry and the woman were evenly matched until the click of Peter’s gun sounded. Through the blood dripping into his eyes from a cut Henry could see the barrel pressed to Jo’s temple.
“I would be deeply disappointed if I had to shoot Ms. Martinez, Doctor. I find myself conflicted. You see, I told you I would let her leave, and yet at the same time I told you that if you tried to escape I would harm her. You see my dilemma. Since the escaping clause was first chronologically I feel I have to uphold it. Don’t make me.”
“Henry,” Jo’s voice. Soft. “If you can’t anymore…”
He walked quickly to the bed, because he still could. For her he had a few deaths left in him.
She held his hand while he was strapped in. She whispered the last rites in Spanish against it. It had been a long time since Henry considered himself particularly religious. It felt good none the less.
Peter didn’t bother dressing him or making excuses before doing it a third time. Henry wept as Jo whispered to him.
Chapter 2: From Outside
Never in her life had Jo been so ill. It wasn’t the starvation or even the fact that she couldn’t keep most of the food down. She had the stomach flu at the beginning of sixth grade. That was a kind of ill she understood. This pervasive nausea that seemed to well up from her very soul had nothing to do with food. It had to do with the man who was sleeping with his nose pressed to the nape of her neck.
She never used to be able to sleep while being spooned. When they were dating Sean fell asleep holding her like that a few times. Every night she’d wiggle free to sleep unencumbered. It used to feel like a trap. Steel jaws holding her in place. Now the rhythmic push of warm breath was all that stood between her and insanity.
In a few short hours it would be morning and Peter would appear again with the newest nightmare. He would walk in and she would start her new mantra, ‘just one more time’. She wasn’t convincing herself anymore. Craziness was beginning to sink through the crevices of her mind. Demons living in the hard to find places were murmuring to her. They told her she couldn’t watch again. She’d rather die. It was starting to seem like a sweet solution. So easy. She could get Peter’s gun. They’d shoot her within seconds. She might be able to get him first though, and if not she wouldn’t have to hear Henry’s death rattle ever again.
She burrowed into him. The heavy arm around her middle she lifted to cover her head. In his sleep Henry closed around her, cradling her head in an odd hug.
If he could handle one more, she could handle one more. In just a few short days she’d be released. Peter’s grin was melted into her retinas. The amount of detail she would give the sketch artist would be disturbing. Whether the precinct liked it or not she would get that picture on every channel on every T.V. until someone recognized him. She’d track him down, break Henry out, and dance on the pool of blood she’d leave under Peter’s corpse.
It was a satisfying fantasy.
The level of comfort she was feeling from picturing it while feeling the weight of Henry’s arm across her face made her feel like maybe if she held onto it she might be able to sleep without nightmares. She tried in vain to keep her mind from straying. It was no use. There were too many questions still unanswered. She was starting to understand that some of them would never be answered.
From their unconventional twenty questions game Jo realized that Henry saw himself as a perfectly normal guy who simply ended up in water when he died. Just another immortal, nothing to see here. Like it was a weird genetic mutation. She saw him more clearly.
When Peter called it an act of God Jo saw the truth in his words. Her awkward M.E. was something greater than a mere human. Aphrodite was born of Poseidon’s waves. If Henry wasn’t a God he was an instrument of one. A fierce warrior meant to go into war against the Titans themselves. Achilles’ only weakness was a heel not dipped into the river Styx. Maybe all of Henry had gone into the river of souls. Maybe when he died Hades chased him to the surface of a pool in a never ending game of cat and mouse.
Maybe she’d spent too much time reading about Greek Gods as a child. Didn’t stop her from being snuggled up against an impossible thing.
She let out a dark chuckle. Before they’d gotten captured she’d been picturing them like this. Sean had been gone for a long time. The twinges of attraction she felt for Henry were always replaced by guilt in an instant. Then as the weeks went by it was a couple minutes before the wave of guilt hit when she thought of Henry romantically. One morning she appraised her cute co-worker without even a hint of remorse. She’d been working up the nerve to ask him for drinks in a more-than-friends way. How was she even supposed to be able to sleep without him now? No one else was ever going to be able to chase away the image of him, so still after being strangled, not disappearing.
She shuddered. He murmured against her hair soothingly. Even in his rest he was protecting her.
He found a way to get her out of this Hell. It was her job to get him out. In her absolute resolve she missed it when sleep came for her.
When the door thumped open for the umpteenth time Jo’s adrenaline shot her into fight or flight. It was always fight. Even in a hopeless situation Jo never could back out of a brawl, she was just usually in more control of the urges. She willed her intelligence back into place. Henry tensed beside her. It was day six.
Just one more. You can handle one more.
The equipment was back. Jo hated that fucking monitor. Hearing that infernal beep was so much worse than just seeing something then nothing. It made the whole thing more tactile. Visceral.
And why was that fucker always in such a good mood? Did the psychosis act as a natural high? Was he just too fucked in the head to realize he was evil as shit? Jo disliked her fair share of people, but part of the job was disconnecting from murderers and rapists. She’d never hated someone before. The burn of it was overwhelming her common sense.
He was wearing one of his two suits. Asshole must keep them in a dry clean rotation somewhere in town. She filed that thought away as evidence to track down for when she came back to put his head on a stick. His shiny shoes were covered in a fine mist of dust. If she could get a sample the lab would be able to trace it back. She solved cases without Henry for years before he blew into her life.
“I was up early this morning just having myself a think about George,” he saw their confused looks, “sorry the guard I killed. What a mess that was to clean up. Not like you. It got me to thinking, if I take your blood from you and then you die, does it still vanish with the rest of you?”
Peter produced tubing and needles from his cart. “Let’s find out!”
They strapped him into the cot again. For a few minutes she decided to believe the delusion that they might just take blood, shoot Henry, then leave for the rest of the day. After about a pint was removed Peter disconnected the bag, attached longer tubing, and dropped the end into a bucket.
“How long will it take you to exsanguinate?” Peter said conversationally.
Henry winced, “With this set up? Ten maybe fifteen minutes. If you let me get into warm water it will go much faster. Or give me alcohol at least. Anything to speed it up.”
“Sorry. We’ll just have to wait and see.” Peter wandered off to poke and prod at the blood bags.
“Talk to me.” Jo begged. “Tell me a story. A happy one.” She took his free hand again. It was better when she could feel him.
He was already getting pale, “I’m having a hard time coming up with anything.”
“How about the first time you met Abe?”
Henry smiled fondly. Wide and genuine. “Abby and I hadn’t been together for very long. He was so small. You know Nazis almost never kept babies. Don’t know why they didn’t kill him. He was so fragile. Keeping him was Abby’s idea, but I named him. Abraham. It’s a good name.”
Jo didn’t know she’d barely been breathing until realization stole the last of the air from her lungs.
“Abe’s your son.” She said as soon as she got air back.
Henry nodded. “Do you know what every parent wants? They want to die before their children do. Jo, I’m so afraid he’ll die before I can cure my curse.”
His hand was getting cold. Shivers wracked through him. “You think you’re cursed?”
He nodded weakly.
“How did- the very first time. What happened?”
“Centuries ago,” she felt the weight of that like it was an anvil, “I was working as a doctor on a slave ship. I tried to save a negro man-”
“Feeling weak?” Peter was walking back over, cheery as ever. Jo gently shushed Henry.
Jo shut her eyes at the noise, hoping desperately the shot put Henry out of his misery. She could feel the now all too familiar slime of someone else’s warm blood through her shirt. When she realized his hand was still in hers she looked to find the source of all the blood.
It was Peter’s. His eyes were wide with shock as he stumbled back.
The guard fired again, this shot hitting Peter between the eyes, “Sorry boss. Got a better offer.”
In an act of pure instinct Jo kinked the line of tubing, keeping it from draining any more blood.
“Don’t take this personally, Doc, but you are the weirdest thing I have ever seen.” Debbie motioned the other guards into the room. “I know a few people willing to pay good money for a toy like you. Nothing but business.”
She leveled the gun at Jo. “Turns out pretty brunette cops also have their spot in the market.”
Henry started twisting in his restraints.
“Don’t even think about it. Why do you think I talked Peter into draining you? Can’t fight if you’ll just pass out when you stand. Can’t believe he fell for it. All I had to say was, ‘I bet if you separate his blood it won’t, you know, Poof! Gullible little shit.”
Debbie’s biggest mistake was thinking that Henry was the real threat. Jo was a coil ready to spring. It would be two steps to Peter’s gun. She could shoot Debbie. As absolutely sick as the concept was, as much as it made her skin crawl, she could use Henry as a shield. All of the guards were in the room. Once he died there would be no one to stop him from making a break for it. She’d just have to hold out against the next two until he got help. She looked down at him, hoping he would see the plan forming in her eyes. All he could do was blink at the ceiling.
“Hey, Debs.” One of the other guards was peering into Henry’s blood bucket. “There’s a shit ton of blood in here. I think it might be too late for him. Want to reset and try again?”
She joined him, shrugged, and said, “Might as well let it finish itself. I do kind of want to know if it’ll go with him. I doubt the buyer’s going to send me updates.”
They chuckled together.
Jo slid an inch closer to the gun. If you were going to steal second, do it inch by inch until the pitcher notices. But then, out of the corner of her eye Jo saw something that filled her with pure relief.
Deadly silent black shoes crossed in front of the doorway. S.W.A.T. was sneaking in behind the guards.
“DROP YOUR WEAPONS!”
They all went for their guns. It cost all three guards their lives.
“STEP AWAY!” One of the S.W.A.T. guys yelled at her.
Jo had to let go of the blood tube to put her hands on her head. “I am Detective Martinez! The man on the table is Doctor Henry Morgan! He needs an ambulance. NOW!”
Hanson stepped out from behind the S.W.A.T. team, badge shining in the florescent lights. She could have kissed him.
“Jo are there any more?” She shook her head emphatically. “Stand down!”
She rushed back to Henry, pinching off the tube again as soon as S.W.A.T lowered their guns. His unfocused eyes rolled toward her when she smacked his face.
“Henry, listen to me! Are you listening?” She was pulling the needle from his arm frantically. “I need you to survive. Hanson’s here. You’ll be in an ambulance in no time.”
He nodded just a little before his eyes slid shut.
“NO!” They popped back open. “I mean it! Don’t you fucking die on me!”
Forget everything she thought she knew. This, this was real terror. If he died he’d dissolve in front of a room full of witnesses. There would be reports. Recordings. Press. Dissections. He’d have to escape in the night and never be heard from again. It would kill her.
She straddled him on the cot, one hand holding his tightly, the other clutched at his neck making sure his pulse was still there. It was fast, far too fast under his sweaty skin, but it was there.
“We can do this. You and me. We’re okay.”
He smiled with a grimace, “Hypovolemia. 12th worst way to die.”
Jo gaped, “You have a list?”
Henry’s head lolled.
“Back to me! Come on!”
Hanson was right there next to her. “Jo, you have to move. The stretcher’s coming. There are two buses waiting. Come on.”
She knew what he was doing. He thought Henry was a goner. He wanted her in a different ambulance so she wouldn’t see it. She got down from the cot, one hand in Henry’s, the other still at his throat. Henry squeezed her hand back as the EMTs flooded in.
“You!” The tone in her voice brokered no argument. It stopped the EMT dead in his tracks. “Call the hospital. Tell them to get A- blood ready. Go!”
She stepped back long enough for two female EMTs to get Henry onto a stretcher then kept stride with them as they rolled toward the doors.
“Jo, yours is over here. Come on, let him go.” Hanson grabbed her arm as she went past. The punch she threw caught him square in the eye. He fell with a litany of swear words.
“ANYONE ELSE WANT TO STOP ME FROM GETTING IN THE BUS WITH HENRY?”
The Lieutenant, who she hadn’t even noticed until right then, put her hands up. Her eyebrows were sky high.
“Good.” She growled.
The rescue crew worked around her warily in the ambulance, flashing worried looks. When they were on the road after Henry was on an I.V. one of them tentatively placed a blood pressure cuff around her without asking. Before she could snap Henry captured both her hands with his weak sweaty ones. All her fight left. She placed her head on his stomach and sobbed her way to the hospital.
Once they arrived she really did have to let go. The feel of the distance growing between them as he was wheeled away was as sharp as knives in her gut. It doubled her over when they turned a corner.
“Ma’am? Are you alright?” A nurse, probably 60 years old, placed a callused hand on Jo’s arm.
“I’m NYPD Detective Martinez. I just came in with the man being wheeled down the hallway. His name is Henry Morgan. I want an update on him the minute you know anything.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be the police officer who was kidnapped a few weeks ago?”
“What gave me away?” Jo laughed awkwardly.
“I hate to tell you this honey, but you’ve smelled better. How about we get you into your own room? Let’s just get you to triage.”
With Henry out of sight it was so much easier to surrender. Well, mostly surrender.
She let them lead her to a curtained square with a bed where they took her blood pressure again and assessed exactly how malnourished she was. She’d avoided the mirror in their prison the whole time she’d been captive. The greasy strands of hair hanging down wouldn’t have been a surprise. What she was really dreading was seeing how her arms, once toned with muscle, became skeletal sticks.
It took 45 minutes for them to admit her. No one said anything about her partner’s condition. She needed to call Abe and tell him to have Henry’s bags packed. If Henry didn’t make it she would have to leave AMA and tear around whatever town they were in to find the body of water he landed in.
Once her brain locked on Henry’s condition she lost the cool poise she’d gained. They tried to put her in one of the those awful gowns. She demanded scrubs. Once the scrubs were on they tried to take her to an MRI. From there the situation escalated into her yelling that she wasn’t going any-fucking-where until someone gave her some real answers. A new nurse had the nerve to tell her she wasn’t family so they couldn’t release any info to her.
“Whoa there.” Hanson came in, his eye a shiny blue. “I’m not pressing charges but I make no guarantees about them if you let the fists fly again. Jo, Henry is stable. He’s one floor below you, and if you shower and let the nurse take some blood I’ll even push you down there in a wheelchair.”
“I don’t need a fucking wheelchair.” She didn’t mean to snarl at him. It was just all so much.
“Hanson, hasn’t anyone ever told you it’s a bad idea to corner a feral animal?” The Lieutenant asked from the doorway. “Detective, how about if I escort you to see Morgan right now you promise to shower and get a physical afterward?”
Jo assessed her boss, “Shower, blood work, and I eat whatever food they give me. No physical.”
“Deal.” The older woman stepped aside to let Jo pass.
When she was within arms reach of Hanson she grabbed his forearm for a second. “I didn’t mean…” she pointed at his eye.
“Of course.” He nodded solemnly. “It was a rough day.”
Henry’s room looked just like hers. Plain beige floor and walls with weird pictures of pale pink flowers hung around. The television was a big boxy thing with Jeopardy playing quietly. If Henry had been awake she would have turned it off for him. He would probably be insufferable at Jeopardy. Constantly getting every answer right if it was old, asking why it was relevant if it was something modern.
The bag of blood filling him back up looked unnatural suspended from the pole.
A curtain separated his bed from an unoccupied one. “Why can’t that be my bed?” Jo asked no one in particular.
“Because I was afraid of what you might do to the nurses if something went wrong.”
She waved Jo off, “Nope. Today, today I am Joanna.” She sat down in an ugly brown patterned chair. “The day you two went missing the Commissioner told me to write an obituary for each of you. Now here you both are, alive. The relief has nothing to do with me being a lieutenant.”
“How did you find us?” Jo wanted to settle down in the bed next to Henry. Clutch his wrist to feel his pulse. She settled for holding his hand from a chair.
“Pure luck. We have a detective in deep undercover working a human trafficking case. When he came across the opportunity to purchase a ‘pretty female cop’ he reported it.”
“There was nothing about-” She gestured at Henry.
Joanna shook her head, “No. We assumed he was already dead. Imagine our surprise when we find both of you alive with food available. Want to tell me what happened?”
“Has anyone called Abe?” Henry’s son. His 70 year old child. Suddenly Jo desperately wanted to know how old Henry was. Had he carried a spear into battle alongside a thousand naked troops on Greek islands? He said his first death was on a slave ship. Those dated back to ancient Egypt. Probably before even then.
“He’s on his way. Don’t think I didn’t notice the subject change.”
Jo just nodded along. The chill that swept along all hospital corridors made its way down to her bones. Suddenly the shower didn’t sound so bad. Joanna let her go back to her room with the question still lingering in the air.
The distance back to her room wasn’t so bad after seeing him. Standing naked in front of the mirror after her shower Jo saw clearly why the world was walking on eggshells around her. She had her own black eye standing out against pale gaunt skin. There was a cut on her forehead she never properly cleaned. Her eyes spoke of wild reckless abandon. The anemia that came with having no iron for days meant she had bruises everywhere she’d been held. Blue finger marks were starting to turn sickly green on her arms. All of her looked like a skeleton covered in skin.
The food she promised to eat had to be choked down before they could take blood. The phlebotomist said it would be impossible to find a vein without something to plump them up a little. Hanson sat by her bed rambling about unimportant things his kids did while she was gone. It was the best part of her day.
She tried valiantly to sleep in her own room after everyone left. It was standard protocol to have a nurse wander in every hour for blood pressure checks, so she thought ‘how bad could it be?’. The answer came in the form of nightmares. They entered through the beeping of her pulse on the monitor. It threw her unconscious mind back to that cot. Back to where Henry died over and over under the shock of the defibrillator. He’d thump down, eyes wide and unseeing. In her haunted mind instead of disintegrating he just laid there, like after the strangulation. The nightmares didn’t even have to invent something new, just rearrange all the horrific images filed away.
After screaming herself awake the second time Jo waited patiently for the night nurses to leave before stripping off all the equipment she was attached to. She left the splint line in grabbing onto the pole holding her I.V. bag of nutrients to bring with her. Abe was asleep in the chair next to Henry’s bed snoring loudly.
Jo officially had no more fucks to give. She moved Henry’s covers aside and climbed right in. He startled awake under her.
“Sorry. Go back to sleep.”
With great effort he maneuvered onto his side to give her more room. Always looking after her.
“I mean it Henry, just go back to sleep. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“Trust me,” he moved her hair down and away so he could slot his head against her neck, “My sleep will be far less disturbed now that you are here.”
“I came by earlier.”
“So I hear. Hanson told Abe that you were doling out punches to those who dared keep you from me, though I remember that happening before we came to this establishment. I am sorry I missed your visit. I wasn’t asleep at the time so much as in medically induced unconsciousness.”
“Well, as long as you weren’t ignoring me.” They chuckled together.
“Thank you.” He whispered against her. “I wanted very badly to give up earlier. If I had… there wouldn’t have been many other options.”
“It was purely selfish. Who else would I buy fine antiques from?” She was over come by a fit of giggles.
“Jo,” he said it with such seriousness her laughter faded, “I don’t suppose you asked one of the nurses ‘where the hell are we?’”
She laughed so hard Abe woke up yelling about turtles.
Chapter 3: Therapy
“Today is Thursday April 20th. This is Doctor Walts conducting an interview with Jo Martinez in regards to her time as a captive under Peter Logan. I’d like you to start by telling me if it makes you uncomfortable that I’m interviewing you after Mr. Morgan.”
“Doctor. It’s Dr. Morgan.” Jo corrected automatically. Talking out of turn made her wince. She always felt like she had to be calm and collected during these things. As if there were right and wrong answers. There probably were. Answers that would keep her out of the field or put her back in it. She needed to be out there. Knowing what she knew now about Henry she could patrol the streets better. More diligently.
In the six weeks since the rescue she’d regained 10 pounds, almost pure muscle. She wasn’t quite back up to weight from where she started, but she didn’t look like a starvation victim anymore. The nightly news wasn’t helping her case for reinstatement. One of the nurses sold a photo of her he snapped on a phone when she was changing her second day in the hospital. The nurse was fired, not that it mattered since he made a fortune off of it. The damage had already been done. No one could shake off the image of the frail woman she’d been. At least she managed to keep Henry hidden from it all. Couldn’t have people recognizing Henry Morgan from his photo a hundred years from now.
“Right, my apologies, Doctor Morgan.” The woman began writing, as if saying Henry’s name wrong was a trap she set that Jo walked right in to. God these things made her uncomfortable. The session was being held in the psychologist’s home, a tall brownstone that was probably not even half as old as Henry. On the wall was a sort of raised green wallpaper she was sure wasn’t even made anymore.
“Yes, it does make me a little uncomfortable.” Honesty was the best way to go.
“You haven’t been very forthcoming with me or anyone else about your time spent in captivity.”
Jo snorted. Captivity. Like they had been animals on display. How apt.
“I’ve talked to Henry about it.”
The doctor took off her black framed glasses to let them hang from a chain around her neck, “Do you think it’s wise to speak only to him about what happened? I understand the urge since he’s the only person who really knows what you went through, the only one who ‘gets’ it, but don’t you think an outside perspective might be helpful?”
“Not really.” More writing followed. Wrong answer, not surprising. She knew the stubborn refusal to say anything was going to be trouble. She didn’t give one shit. That first morning in the hospital after a kind nurse kicked Jo out of Henry’s bed before guests could arrive she’d told him that whatever he said she would back him up 100%. As far as she was concerned she was sworn to secrecy. The Lieutenant was less than pleased when she wouldn’t even give a statement beyond saying that they had in fact been detained against their wills.
“Let’s talk about Peter. If you had to describe in one word what he felt during these experiments, what would that word be?”
“Fascination.” Jo breathed it out. “He kept calling himself a scientist.”
“I’m told that part of this experiment was depriving his subjects of food. Doctor Morgan was at a perfectly healthy weight when he was found. Can you elaborate on why Mr. Logan chose not to starve him?”
Jo’s mouth clamped shut. The woman put out a practiced sigh. It was designed to make Jo feel bad.
“And if I told you that Henry said you spent those 12 days running through a field with puppies, and that he wanted you to swear under oath that nothing beyond that happened you would say…?”
“There was a black lab puppy I particularly liked. I called her Peppy. She was sweet.” So maybe honesty wasn't always best.
“And if I told you that you won’t be cleared for active duty until you tell me something about your time in that cell?”
“Peppy had a little white spot near her nose and one on the very tip of her tail.”
“Alright.” The doctor said. The annoyance in her voice was real that time. “I’m not asking for a detailed account of what happened. You just told me, point blank, that you were willing to give up your career over this. To commit perjury. I’m not so sure. Give me one real thing. Just one thing. No matter how innocuous. I won’t even make you stay the full hour if you do.”
One more. Just one more. The memory flooded in. She needed reprieve. She needed to be able to go to work. “When Henry convinced them to start feeding me again they gave me milk. Thick whole milk. I’ll never be able to stomach it again. Hanson took me out for a coffee last week and I had to leave because they had a container of half and half on the counter.”
“And how did Henry convince them to start feeding you?”
“You said one.”
The doctor smiled. “So I did.” She pressed a few buttons on her phone, “Susie, will you please escort Mr- excuse me, Doctor Morgan back in.”
While Jo waited impatiently for Henry to arrive the woman scribbled furiously across her legal pad. She needn’t have gestured for Henry to sit when he came in. They all knew he was going to be right next to her.
“I think that both of you need to consider going to therapy for at least a full year. Having said that, I find that most patients who don’t go willingly don’t get anything out of therapy except for a bill. Now, I would like both of you to feel as though you can trust me. I know that trust is probably something you’re both a little short on at the moment, so as a gesture of goodwill I can share with you what I’m going to report back to the Lieutenant word for word, if you’d like.”
Jo looked to Henry. With a small raise of his eyebrows she knew that he was as curious as she was. They nodded for Dr. Walts to continue.
“Both subjects seem to be experiencing symptoms of PTSD, as to be expected. While it is clear from both physical appearance and medical records that Detective Martinez was starved for at least seven days while Doctor Morgan was not it is apparent that Morgan had to make some sort of bargain to keep both of them healthy until the very last day when Morgan’s blood was being collected for an unknown reason.”
Jo shifted uncomfortably. Could they guess? Was there any possible way for anyone to suspect that Henry was starved right beside her? Was there a video sitting on someone’s computer that would reveal exactly what Henry had to do for her? All of the prodding made her sick to her stomach. The woman just continued to read, as if she wasn’t ripping everything to shreds with her words.
“Neither subject will disclose what sacrifice Morgan made. I suspect it was something morally questionable or illegal. Possibly both. After asking some questions sexual abuse or misconduct was ruled out. They think of Mr. Logan as an asexual creature who considered himself above such things.”
Jo kicked herself for not thinking of that excuse. They could easily have played off the entire thing as abuse Henry didn’t want to talk about. Peter had been so aloof, acting beyond the reach of something so petty as arousal, but everyone else didn’t know that. It would have made a great cover story.
“Even though Martinez suffered for a longer amount of time, I think it’s obvious that both parties feel what Morgan had to do was worse than what she endured. As a result Dr. Morgan, while traumatized, has overall better mental health since he was the sacrificer. He feels the end result justified his actions and is making strides towards moving past the event. Detective Martinez, meanwhile, is having trouble letting go of the guilt she feels as a result of gaining food from whatever it was her partner did. She displays survivor’s guilt much like the other victims.”
“Jo. I-” Henry’s eyes were so endless, searching to see if it was the truth.
“Don’t, Henry. I know you think it was the right course of action. I know that you would do it again in a heartbeat if it had the same outcome. I just have to process it for a while.”
He took her hand and squeezed it gently.
The therapist cleared her throat. “While I can recommend that both be put back on active duty status I would suggest they should only be allowed to work together on inactive cases. They are currently unhealthily co-dependent and Detective Martinez might take unnecessary risks to pay back the debt she feels she has incurred.”
“Would you?” Henry asked incredulously.
She fought hard not to roll her eyes. “No. That part is not correct.”
Doctor Walts’ face said she disagreed. “Isn’t it? According to hospital records you’re already sacrificing time and money for Henry’s recovery. Are you saying if you see a bullet with his name on it, you won’t step in front?”
That contemplative face was back.
“Look, you said that if I gave you one detail I wouldn’t have to stay here the full hour. You’ve admitted you think I’m ready for active duty status. If the only reason why you’re reading us that speech is to get us to open up more I’m leaving.”
After only a moment Jo realized she wasn’t staying either way. With a flourish of coat she was out the door with Henry right behind. The soft mutters of apology he made to the doctor before catching up to her made her blood boil.
“We need to talk about this.” He said as the door to the house clicked shut behind them.
“I promise not to get a mortal wound in your honor Henry. I’m not an idiot.”
“No you aren’t, but neither am I. I know you believe you are in my debt now. Allow me to assure you that you are not. Half of what I did was purely selfish. By doing… what I did… I was no longer hungry. It wasn’t all in your name.”
“I know that.” She sighed and tugged on his coat to get him to follow her to a coffee shop nearby. “I also know that the risk was way too big. I saw your face. You were terrified every time. There was pain and suffering every time. It isn’t even like we can say ‘if we had just waited it out we would have been fine’ because we both know they never would have found us if that guard hadn’t sold you to the highest bidder. So yes, Henry, I do think I owe you something. I have no idea what, but something. Even if it’s just loyalty.”
They ordered, her a coffee, and God help them all if it didn’t come back black the way she ordered it. Henry ordered tea. He didn’t even specify a type. Just tea.
“Can I get a name for the order?”
The teenager looked at her quizically, shrugged and inevitably wrote her name incorrectly.
With so many people passing by their conversation ground to an uncomfortable halt.
“Black iced coffee for Jo!” A twenty-something dude called from behind the counter. Jo went to pick it up.
He held the cup back from her. “You don’t look like a Joe.”
“And yet I am one.” She reached for the cup. He moved it farther back.
“How about I’ll let you have it for the price of your phone number?”
Jo’s eyes rolled of their own accord. “How about I get it for the price I already paid for it?”
“Is there a problem here?”
Henry, as always, was about as subtle as a sack of bricks.
“Well damn, could’ve told me you were taken. Sorry, man. Didn’t mean to hit on your woman.” Finally she got her blessed caffeine and they were on their way to the most empty secluded corner in the place.
“How absurdly rude.” Henry huffed, stirring his tea. “Apologizing to me for treating you so disrespectfully.”
“Sad but true. I made my peace with being thought of as a man’s property a long time ago.”
“But you shouldn’t have to.” Henry scowled.
Jo paused, “Speaking of property, that’s something we need to talk about.”
Henry smirked at her, “Just because we’ve been sharing a bed doesn’t mean I think of you as my property.”
His mouth snapped shut at the the look she gave him. There wasn’t even the smallest part of her that considered that. Sharing a bed was exactly what it sounded like. She’d tried to spend her nights in her own apartment. After three days of toughing it out she gave up trying when she saw that Henry looked as exhausted as she felt. The doctors said it was unhealthy to get so attached. She thought they could shove it. Learning to sleep on her own would be a helpful skill that she was hoping she’d never have to use again. Now if she could just convince Henry that the attraction was not a product of gratitude.
“I’m talking about the fact that there is someone out there that bought you.”
The smirk was gone. Henry shifted in his set uncomfortably. “We can’t know what the guard may have said about me. If one wishes to start a bidding war it simply would not do to advertise having an,” he looked around and lowered his voice, “immortal for sale. They would have thought her insane. I’d be willing to wager she told them she had something unique but not what. She would want me present to show off before any money exchanged hands.”
“It’s not about the exchange of money. It’s about the fact that it’s even out there. Because of that damn picture of me everyone knows that I was one of the captives. It wouldn’t exactly take a huge amount of effort for anyone to figure out that you were the other half. Especially for what kind of money the person was putting up for you. Debbie would have been an idiot to even pick up the phone for less than 10 million for you. I mean, Jesus, how much do you think Putin would put up to buy you? Can you even put a number on that?”
“I highly doubt the negotiations made it to political leaders.” Henry’s voice dripped in sarcasm.
“Never underestimate the connections mercenaries make.”
Henry put his cup down. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”
“Am I going to let go of the idea that you might get kidnapped again? Nope.”
“I do hate moving, but I suppose it can’t be helped sometimes.”
“That’s not what I meant either. I think you’re safer here where people know you than off hiding someplace. The more hidden you are the easier it would be to take you.”
She was considering how easy it would right then. The Starbucks was crowded, but not overly so. There were three exits open to the public, although most people would not notice the emergency exit. People were so used to disregarding them they forgot they were even there. With one flash bomb rolled in the entire place would clear out in two minutes. The exit closest to them lead to the black alley. Henry could be grabbed and into into a vehicle in fifteen seconds. Jo’s stomach lurched against the coffee.
“Wherever your mind just went, it’s better suited here.” Henry said slowly.
She had no idea the panic was that bad until she came back to herself. A single drop of sweat rolled down her back. It felt disgusting. She was disgusted.
“And now it’s time to change the subject. Let’s talk about something nicer than my constant fear that you’ll be kidnapped any minute now. How many kids have you had?”
Henry’s face shifted from worry to Dad mode. She wasn’t sure it was something anyone could get used to.
“Just the one. Abby and I weren’t capable of having more, and before her there was no one I wanted to raise children with.”
“I spent a lot of my life raising babies. None of them were mine, of course.” She said as Henry raised an eyebrow. “Just kids in the neighborhood. I earned money every summer taking in all the stray children and keeping them alive until their parents got home from work. Wasn’t the most fun or glamorous job, but it kept me in clothes and food.”
“Did I ever tell you about my years with the midwives?”
Jo huffed out a laugh, “No, but I feel like you’re about to.”
Jo’s phone rang as Henry was gearing up to talk, “Martinez… Yep, I’m approved and ready to rock… Oh thank God! Henry was about to start telling stories… We’ll be right there.”
A real smile lit up her face, “Want to go catch a murderer before the good doctor has a chance to talk to the lieutenant?”
“Yes please.” They left in such a hurry she almost forgot her drink.
The body was sitting atop a garbage heap. The smell was horrific and yet Hanson was standing at the edge of the rubble holding a box of doughnuts and they were leaving fast. Jo grabbed one for herself, dunking it into the coffee she was holding. She leaned back against a warm black car.
“What are you doing here?” Lieutenant Reece asked. The woman was just as well put together as always. She looked totally in control, even amongst the flies.
“I was cleared. You can even ask Dr. Walts.”
“As was I.” Henry added with his smirk, “Is there a reason why we are all standing around instead of going to the corpse for examination?”
“HENRY!” Lucas threw himself at the older man, wrapping his arms tightly against Henry’s back. He responded by patting his overenthusiastic companion lightly on the back wearing a look of discomfort.
“Lucas…” Henry said warningly as the hug went on for a touch too long.
“Sorry.” He stepped back, brushing off Henry’s coat. “We have reason to suspect that the dude was poisoned. We’re waiting for Hazmat suits to arrive.”
Henry said, “Ah,” then took off up the hill. Lucas called out after him to no avail.
Jo ignored the twist in her gut. Instead she focused on the amazing combination of fat and sugar dipped in coffee she held in her hand. She let the food melt in her mouth and turned her face up to the sun. It was still so beyond her capability to understand just how quickly normal could change. Eating doughnuts while standing in the sunshine? That wasn’t normal anymore. It was a treat. An absolute decadence to be free and warm and fed.
It took less than two weeks to re-shape every conception she’d ever had. She took another bite to keep the rise of panic in her stomach where it belonged.
Her eyes popped open when she felt someone staring. Turns out there were a lot of people staring.
“You gonna stop him?” Lucas asked, totally bewildered. “There could be a toxic substance up there.”
“He’ll come back.” She paused on her own words, “I mean, I’m sure he’ll get back here and talk about how he could tell from 50 feet away there wasn’t any danger. Until he does…” she waved her doughnut, “I’m staying right here.”
“As I suspected,” Henry came back down the heap, “the suspect did indeed die of poisoning, but it is not aerosolizable. It’s perfectly safe now. Lucas, grab your equipment. I’ll need samples.” Henry rubbed his hands together, just as happy as can be.
“See?” Jo mocked, her mouth full. “Told you.”