Fifteen Years Later
by Kate D.
Introduction - 15 Years Later
Disclaimer: All Equalizer characters belong to Universal and are only borrowed for entertainment; no infringement is intended, and no profit is being made. The same applies to the line of lyrics quoted in Part 2, although a line from any of a number of songs was appropriate, it is 'The Man's Too Strong' by Dire Straits.
Rating: PG-13 violence, mild language, passing mild references to drug use and sex.
Type: Drama, I was asked how I would bring back The Equalizer.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Anna, Leaf, Sherry and my sister without whose encouragement, editing, plot checking and discussion, this would not be written or readable, and to my husband for not smashing my computer over his knee.
15 years later
Music floated through the air, an orchestral concert in a large ornate hall. The audience was dressed up in eveningwear and Scott McCall was playing violin. Applause, and another concert was over. It was late at night when Scott walked out. Across the road there was a car, windows darkened, with a shadow inside watching. As Scott left the pavement a van pulled in behind his car. He was oblivious to it as he reached the door. He pressed the button on the remote to unlock it. Just as he opened the door he was hit with a tranquilizer dart. Looking down at it he said, "Oh shit, not again." The group in the van was efficient. As the dart hit Scott, four of its occupants were already after the shadow. Two went after Scott. The first bundled him into the back of his car as he lost consciousness while the second got into the driver's seat. They were gone in seconds.
The telephone rang in Robert's apartment, startling him awake. The lamp on the table beside him was still on. He had fallen asleep on the couch, a good book still held in his hand. Barely opening his eyes he reached over to his cell phone beside the lamp. "Robert McCall," he answered it.
"They've got Scott," Control's hoarse voice croaked followed by three shots and the sound of the phone hitting the pavement.
"Control?" Robert sat up with a start.
The black jag sped through the concert hall parking lot. Robert scanned the area, searching for his son's car. Nothing. Lights and billboards announced tonight's attraction. Robert pressed re-dial on his phone. Then he noticed the lights and sirens, an ambulance, not a block away. Showing little consideration for the surrounding traffic, he changed direction toward them. He drove a little closer and fitted his car into the first available space. He looked irritably at his phone as he took it from his ear, stuffed it in his pocket and got out of the car. He pushed his way through the crowd around the ambulance and made his way to the damaged car. It was Control's car. A worried look crept into his face as he struggled to catch a glimpse of Control as the medics rushed to close the ambulance. The ambulance tore away, sirens blazing. Robert found himself at the car. The bulletproof glass had done its job. It had been shattered but not penetrated. The door had been forced open. Robert slowed down, distracted.
"Excuse me. Can I help you sir?" A very young looking policeman, trying to clear the scene, approached him.
"My, my friend, Is he all right?" Robert stared worriedly in the direction the ambulance disappeared.
"Um," the policeman appeared shocked to find the driver had a friend, "they're taking him to the hospital."
"I…" McCall looked around his feet. Robert had heard Control's phone hit the road. There was a chance it was down there. "I was trying to make a call and I dropped my phone." The young policeman looked around on the ground and under the car. He got down on his belly, reached underneath the car and retrieved Control's phone.
"Here you are sir." Without a thought he handed it over. The young policeman turned around to survey the scene. Now it occurred to him that he should be asking questions, he turned to the old man but Robert was gone.
Robert let himself into Scott's apartment. The front door opened into a display case open living area containing a collection of musical instruments. Fine art work and framed concert posters decorated the walls. The furniture was stylish but comfortable.
"He's not here." Mickey sympathetically answered the question before Robert had to ask it. "There isn't even any sign that he came back here after the performance. Are you sure he hasn't just met some nice lady and gone out?"
"No, I am not sure he hasn't just met a nice lady and gone out," Robert snapped at Mickey, "Control rang me and said 'They've got Scott', I found Control's car shot to pieces just outside the hall where Scott was playing and Scott is not answering his phone." Robert took a deep breath to calm himself. "Who in hell would want to take Scott now?" he said angrily, pausing just long enough to recognize his own frustration. "Control was watching Scott so he knew he was in danger and he didn't tell me and this," he retrieved Control's phone from his pocket, "this is useless. All this tells me is that Control made fourteen calls in the last hour."
"That's a lot of calls." Mickey calmly took the phone and studied it optimistically.
"Yes, that's a lot of calls. I want you to find out to whom they were made."
"Okay," Mickey agreed but hesitated unsure how annoyed McCall would be at the next statement. "I put a tracker on Scott's car a few weeks ago. I'll get someone to find it."
"Why do you have a tracking device on Scott's car?" Robert demanded, instantly suspicious.
"Some kids kept moving it." Mickey called a number on his own phone while flicking through the menu on Control's. "Yeah. Scott McCall's car has been stolen again. Find it for me." He paused to listen to the reply. "It's urgent. Call me back immediately." His attention was focused on Control's phone.
"The names are encoded but he called one number four, five times. All less than a minute long." Mickey walked back to Scott's bar and ripped off a piece of paper from the notepad and located a pen. "There's nothing else on the phone. I'm surprised it hasn't locked us out and asked for a password."
"Wait a minute, I recognize that number." Robert peered over Mickey's shoulder at the list. "She left the Company years ago. What the hell is he doing ringing her?"
The next morning Robert peered down the street as the subdued light greeted the traffic. He had barely slept. How had this happened after all these years? Impatiently, he watched Mickey's van coming down the street.
"You found Scott's car?" Robert greeted Mickey as he pulled up. Mickey waited until Robert was seated comfortably inside before he nodded.
"Yeah, out by the airport."
"Was there any sign of him?" Robert asked. Mickey was quiet. He put the van into drive and surged forward, merging into the traffic. "Mickey, was there any sign of him?" Robert repeated the question.
"No," he replied softly.
"No bloody help from the Company either, no one has any idea what Control was up to and none of my sources could tell me a damn thing."
"Me too." Mickey let him let it out. He wasn't going to like this trip any better. They drove for a while in a worried silence.
"Mickey? Which airport?" Robert asked as he realized where they were headed.
"Where you've picked me up more than once," he replied grimly.
"You're telling me Scott's car is abandoned at the airstrip the Company uses?"
"Damn bloody Control," Robert swore. "Why didn't he just tell me who took him?"
Mickey slowed the van to park behind Scott's car, abandoned next to a peripheral gate. Robert barely waited for him to stop before he got out and slammed the door. Mickey sighed as he followed more slowly. Robert opened the driver's door and looked inside; the keys were still in the ignition. He popped open the trunk but stopped before going to look. Silently, Mickey took over, knowing it would kill Robert if Scott's body were inside. He lifted the door and stared at the covered masses in the trunk. Gingerly, he reached over and pulled back the cloth. He let out his breath as it revealed a carefully wrapped guitar and some sheet music.
"No sign of Scott," Mickey said as he closed the trunk. "Think I'll get my friend from forensics to have a look. Wouldn't want to destroy the evidence," Mickey took out his phone to call Jimmy to keep watch. "Looks like they dragged him to the airstrip. I'll have a chat with Justin, see if he can tell us what went out of here last night."
"I forgot to ask you what you found out from the police," Robert said.
"Do the words 'black hole' mean anything to you?" Mickey was disgusted by his lack of information.
"Sounds like Justin has been a busy boy. What about Control?"
"Still in surgery, last I heard."
"I picked up the information from the phone numbers you left with Jonah. All the numbers except one were former Company agents."
"Which one wasn't?"
"The repeat number. I have an address from Jonah." He gave it to Mickey.
It was not a long drive and after talking to one of the tenants they made their way inside the apartment block. Mickey knocked and then made short work of the lock. The door creaked loudly as it swung open. The air inside smelled musty and decayed.
"Well," he said to Robert as they entered, "this is the apartment Control made the repeated call to."
"Chris Flynn," Robert supplied, "but the tenant said he never met the man and there was never any mail."
The apartment was on the second floor and handy to a disused staircase, something that would be advertised as "privately situated" or the like. Outside it was clean, neat and average. Inside it was bare. The main room had ‘polished' floorboards. These were thick with a layer of dust on one side of the room but cleared in the traffic area from the door to the kitchen. There was no furniture.
Mickey cautiously checked the bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom was bare too, not even clothes in the closet. The bathroom was grimy and empty. The kitchen alcove was small: a couple of cupboards, a sink and a fridge. He opened the fridge; inside lay one foil tray of dead leftovers and a beer. Through the window above the sink he had a good view of the approach to the back staircase. On the floor in the kitchen there was a small pile of debris, the phone and a monitor. Mickey carefully crouched beside it. The dust had been knocked away from the surrounding area. He turned on the monitor. It showed a clear picture of the corridor immediately outside the door. A person could cover the doorway from the alcove with the protection of the island bar. The person in this apartment knew what was coming.
There was blood staining the floorboards. There was a blanket, some ammunition, a syringe and a piece of paper. With his gloved hands Mickey picked up the piece of paper. It was a photograph: a man and a child. There was nothing written on the back. He looked up at Robert.
"Something ended badly here," he voiced the thought.
"Yes," Robert agreed, "When you get your forensics friend to search the car you better get her to look at this, too."
"Yeah," Mickey said doubtfully as he carefully picked up the phone and hit re-dial. The phone beeped back unsatisfactorily. He dialed a number. "It's Mickey. I need to access the voicemail from this phone." He listened to the other end. "Okay," then he hung up. He waited momentarily. Then the phone rang and he picked it up. "Can you play it back here?" He put the phone on speaker.
"Beep -- Your 5:55 appointment has been canceled," an official sounding voice announced. "It will now be at 12:20 -- Beep -- You have no more messages."
"Control special," Mickey commented. Robert nodded. Mickey went back to the bedroom and over to the closet, pulling the door open.
"Think that guy was Chris Flynn?" Mickey called back to Robert, as he grimaced at the dust-laden shelves in the closet.
"Maybe, Mickey. Who knows? We can run it through the computer. Jonah couldn't figure out who actually owned this apartment. He said the trail was tangled like a bowl of spaghetti. That was just the name on the phone bill."
"Nothing." Mickey walked back to the living room. "A classic safe house. Nothing personal at all except for the picture."
"Yes," McCall replied grimly, "Take me home."
"So Control was warning a list of former Company agents to protect themselves but none of them know why?" Mickey asked to break the silence of the drive.
"Yes," Robert agreed.
"You think it was something from the past?" Mickey probed as delicately as he could.
"How the hell do I know? All I know is that he was watching Scott and he called me last." Mickey knew that that was really eating at McCall: not only was his son missing, but his oldest friend had known and hadn't warned him of Scott's danger. Robert found a parking space for the Jaguar. Gathering himself, he opened the door and stepped out. "I think Control found a leak," he hypothesized as he entered his building, "but he didn't know where in the Company it was located. He didn't know whom he could trust in the Company so he was gathering a list of former agents to help him."
"Still doesn't explain why he didn't come straight to us?" Mickey stopped at McCall's door.
"I don't know. Perhaps he knew that whoever it was suspected that he was watching and contacting us would confirm it." Robert opened the door. Mickey took a few paces inside and stopped. Robert followed him in, wondering why he'd stopped, and looked around him. Justin was quietly sitting in the middle of Robert's lounge.
Now, Justin was a mysterious fellow. Control had produced him out of thin air after a small incident that had resulted in the strong suggestion that Control might be getting old and should leave things to the new generation. Justin had proved a younger, shadowy reflection of the master as Control had him installed as Control, Junior. Control had used this to move up into an even more enigmatic role. The good thing about Justin was that he tended to follow his predecessor's line, which meant that he gave as much help as his position allowed to Robert and Mickey to keep 'The Equalizer' running. The bad thing about Justin, of course, was that he tended to follow his predecessor's line.
"What the hell are you doing in my apartment, Justin?" Robert greeted him irritably.
"We have a problem," Justin answered.
"We have a problem? You're bloody right we have a problem," Robert crossed the room to where Justin sat, a lethal edge cutting into his voice, "because if I find out the Company had anything to do with Scott's disappearance…"
"You already know it has." Justin stood calmly as Robert approached in an attempt to put off the coming tirade.
"... You will have a much bigger problem," Robert advanced, oblivious.
"Threatening me won't get him back," Justin said smoothly
"We're not threatening you, Justin," Mickey replied in the same tone, "We're just insisting you help us."
"I need you," Justin shifted his gaze to Mickey although he ignored his words, "not to investigate what Control was doing or utilize Company resources to find Scott."
McCall looked at the man like he had just grown a tail; then snorted with sarcastic incredulity. "Sure Justin, if that's what you think is best!"
"The Company can't help you," Justin continued, regardless, "with Control in a coma I am one of the few left on your side, and right now I need you to help me by staying out of the Company's business."
"I have no intention of staying out of anything, I am going to find my son and I don't give a damn whether that helps you or not."
"I think you don't have a choice. I need your help to protect Control."
"Do you know what I think? I think that Control was the cause of this. I think Control was in trouble and I think that he was going to ask me for help and I think that someone took Scott to make sure that didn't happen." He herded Justin to the wall and kept coming. "And that makes it the Company's business and I'll tell you what, Justin, whatever they have done to my son I'll do a hundred times worse to you if you stand in my way."
Justin did not appear intimidated but appearances were deceiving. Most people did not intimidate Justin. Most people didn't bother trying, as threatening Justin was as much use as threatening Control and usually ended badly for the person making the threat. Robert McCall, however, could rattle anybody.
"Um, guys," Mickey chose his time to interfere before Robert throttled his part time boss, "I'm sure we can negotiate something, like Justin getting the information for us. Right, Justin?"
"I'll help you but I need your help to protect Control," still against the wall, Justin lowered his voice to a charming whisper and did not take his eyes off McCall, "I need you to only go to the Company through me."
"Robert?" Mickey asked hopefully
"Fine! Fine!" Robert snapped as he took two steps, backing off Justin. Mickey watched him pace.
"And you can't investigate Control's activities as a cause," Justin added. Robert turned on him but Mickey was quicker.
"You're right, Robert, we don't need this Company suit," Mickey brushed him off. "Get out, Justin."
"This is as much your problem as it is mine." Justin didn't move. It was obvious he hadn't expected them to agree to anything. He waited a minute before continuing. "The agent in the apartment you two just came back from found that information belonging to the Company had found its way on to a wholesale network."
"Why is that my problem?" Robert demanded.
"The buyer found out Control was looking into it and, as you said, had Scott taken to make you unavailable," Justin continued calmly, "The information's not going anywhere; we're rerouting it until we find where it's coming from, but if you two go in and start tearing up the Company then it will stop and so will any chance of my finding who is selling the information first."
"If we don't, then your mole is going to know you came here and shut us up," Mickey pointed out.
"Go and make a noise about Scott being kidnapped, by all means," Justin agreed, "but just don't look at what Control was doing as a cause."
"It's a bit bloody obvious though, isn't it?"
"Not if you don't know Control was near Scott last night. That is all I'm asking."
"So far you haven't told me anything I couldn't deduce for myself," Robert said. "How about telling us something useful?"
"Look, I'm sorry about Scott. Really, I am. I'm sure Control didn't intend for that to happen." Justin took a few steps toward the door. He had lost a little of his sparkle during the confrontation. "I put the parking lot surveillance tapes and some files on your table. Please make sure they don't come back to haunt me." He left.
Robert hit the button on his phone to play back his messages in the vain hope that there would be a demand. He slumped in the chair as the last message finished.
"I forgot our agreement." Mickey put a reassuring hand on Robert's shoulder and Robert looked up at him, trying to work out what he was talking about. "That I'd do the thinking when it's your son and you'd do the thinking when it's mine."
It was well into the evening before they found the first sign of Scott's car on the tapes. It appeared that Justin had quite simply grabbed every street camera tape within a mile of the concert hall and given them the whole lot unlabelled, unedited and unsorted. The tapes even appeared to be originals. Either Justin was being uncharacteristically trusting and really needed their help, or he'd gotten to the tapes first and this was to keep them out of his way.
The files, and there were only two, were documents detailing the ownership of the apartment. The short version, once you waded through the various aliases and intermediaries, was that the apartment seemed to be owned by Control. The details of the current tenant were very well fabricated; Robert actually had to go to some effort to find the flaws in the material they had been provided.
"I get the feeling Mr. Flynn doesn't exist." Robert watched Mickey impatiently fast forwarding through Scott's car, with a gradually darkening light illuminating the hall. The angle was terrible. The camera was intended to cover cars dropping off concertgoers at the front of the building and Scott's car was parked at the side.
"Any special reason?" Mickey slowed down the tape as a pedestrian neared Scott's car.
"This well-crafted piece of fiction seems to have neglected the necessity for an occupation; something that is usually asked when assessing a tenant's ability to pay rent." Robert irritably closed the file.
"Did he pay rent?" Mickey noted the counter and went back to fast-forward.
"Don't be silly," Robert said with disgust. "Control owned the apartment and Control paid the rent. No wonder Jonah couldn't figure it out. If I didn't know Control so well, I couldn't figure it out."
Mickey slowed the tape as he recognized Scott exiting the hall. He was with a group of musicians, saying his goodbyes, and then he walked around the corner. A van drove in to park behind Scott's car. There was a moment with Scott out of view behind the van and then, as he opened his car door, six men erupted from the van, four headed across the road spraying a car just out of camera range with bullets. One bundled Scott into the back seat and the second got into the driver's seat. Then Scott's car awkwardly pulled from the curb and drove away from the camera. The others returned to the van and it too pulled away, turning down a side street. The whole thing happened in less than thirty seconds. Mickey paused the tape at the blank street. There was no question. Scott was the target. The tape's time code said 12:24 p.m.
"Rewind the tape, Mickey."
Obligingly, Mickey hit the rewind button on the remote control and the images flickered quickly past, backwards.
"Stop." A second later the tape did so, then Mickey hit the play button. Again, Scott exited the concert hall and said good-bye to his friends. Stomach tight with dread and worry, Mickey hit the slow motion button so they could watch it again.
"You can make it zoom in to this part of the screen." Robert indicated the entire side street. The maximum zoom that the player was capable of covered a little more than he'd asked. Again, Scott disappeared into the shadow of the van, and then emerged to open his door. He looked down as a dart hit his chest.
"Anything in particular we're lookin' for?" Mickey asked.
"Anything, Mickey," he choked. At the very edge of the screen Control's door was forced open. Mickey strained to get a good look at the man who did it. Black clothing, black ski mask, gun, well organized -- Mickey froze the tape. Nothing stood out. There were no identifying marks at all.
"Rewind the tape."
"There are four tapes left. There might be a better angle," Mickey said as he stopped the tape as Scott exited the building.
"I'll get Louis to enhance it," Robert studied the screen. Louis was a special effects expert they had helped out of some trouble some time ago, and he had later found his niche analyzing video for the Company. He put in the next tape. It was a long night.
Mickey put two coffees on the table and settled in to wait. Michelle was hopeless at punctuality unless it involved her true love. Not him, forensics. The main advantages to this coffee shop were its proximity to her lab and the various types of coffee it served, guaranteed to make her grateful and amenable. As usual, she looked hurried as she entered, scanning the room for him. She spotted him in his booth off to the side, then saw the coffee. Her eyes lit up and she rushed to help herself to the seat opposite and the cup. She sniffed the air appreciatively as the smell hit her.
"So, who died?" she joked. Then she realized Mickey's somber face.
"Nobody yet, I hope," he replied as he nodded to her to drink up.
Mickey had met the forensic expert on a case and they'd started seeing each other off and on. Mostly off, since their schedules frequently conflicted. Michelle called him in to investigate more than her fair share of favors. She repaid him professionally by slipping in a few of his when she could. Carefully, he explained as much as he could about the situation.
"Mickey. I don't mind looking at the car, you know that. But if he's been missing more than twenty-four hours, shouldn't you make it official?" Michelle looked at him, concerned.
"Scott's father wants it off the books for now."
Her hand moved towards his, and then stopped, returning to the coffee cup. "You are an irritation," she sighed. "I understand about the apartment. We're breaking in there, but I could do so much more if I could bring the car in." She sipped her coffee in resignation. "I finally get to go out with a man and it's to swab a car and break into an apartment. All right, tell me when you want to do it, and I'll arrange the time."
"Now would be good, if you can swing it."
"You haven't moved it, have you?"
"It's right where I found it, and yes, I wore gloves, before you ask," he rolled his eyes in exaggerated pain.
"The car now and the apartment when I get off work, but you owe me Mickey Kostmayer. I could get in serious trouble if the car ends up being brought in or your friends don't clear away the apartment."
"I owe you," he agreed, a glint in his eye.
Michelle ignored it after the merest flicker. "I need my kit from my car." She finished off her coffee and stood. "You can drive me in your..."
"Carriage?" he suggested, voice heavy with irony. He watched with a grin as she dissolved into laughter.
Scott's car was just as Mickey had left it. He pulled the van up behind it and glanced over at Michelle. "Here we are."
"It looks like a reasonably high traffic area. I probably won't be able to get much from the outside," she frowned. "Did you see anything yesterday?"
"No," he sighed, following her out and waving discreetly at Jimmy, who had been watching the car. He walked her over, staying close but out of the way. "Admit it, princess, the van wasn't as bad as you remembered."
"No, it wasn't. Sounds like you finally got it serviced," she chuckled. Despite her conviction that she wouldn't find anything, she began a thorough search of the surroundings. "Stand over there with the carriage and don't touch anything," she commanded.
"Aw, you only wish you could get your hands on my DNA," he cracked.
"If I wanted your DNA, I have plenty of samples from the last time we worked a case together," she responded, but it was absentminded now, her attention focused now on dusting the door handle for prints. "Gloves and smudges," she grumbled. "Did you or Robert touch the door?" This was why they'd never worked out for long: either one of them was likely to get completely consumed in work.
"McCall did, but he was wearing gloves."
"Doesn't matter. All these are pretty much smudges anyway." She opened the door and saw the keys were still in the ignition. "What about the keys?"
"Not that I know of."
"How's McCall doing?" she asked, in a sudden fit of personal concern as she placed the keys in an evidence bag.
"About what you'd expect."
"Terrible." She moved on to analyze the driver's seat. "You know his son pretty well too, don't you?" She looked up, and Mickey grunted noncommittally. "I only point this out because you look like you slept maybe half an hour, in those clothes, on the floor."
"The couch. And more like two hours." Mickey sighed.
"Someone cleaned this up pretty thoroughly," was her verdict as she straightened, moving to the back door. "I take it Robert doesn't have a spare bed or a shower?"
"I wanted to be ready in case anything broke," he shrugged. "I took the couch."
"But you did sleep?" she asked, voice muffled as she studied the back seat. "Because if we're breaking and entering..." she trailed off as something caught her attention.
"Like a baby," Mickey reassured her.
"That won't wash with me, Mr. Kostmayer," she didn't pause in her inspection, "I know how babies sleep: an hour between feedings, two if you're lucky."
"What happened to calling me Mickey?" he tried a charming whine.
"Okay, *Mickey*," she grinned. "Why don't you sleep while I finish up?" Gathering up her kit with a mischievous grin, she went around to the passenger side to start again.
"Don't need it," he retorted.
"Pardon? Can't hear you." She reached to get something from her bag.
"Nothing," he muttered as he continued to watch her. She really was something to observe at work -- professional, efficient, and completely absorbed. It was only a couple more minutes until she got up off her knees and closed all the doors, packing things back in her bag.
"I won't know till I get these back to the lab," she held up her kit, walking back to the van, "Whoever did this did a thorough job of cleaning. I can't guarantee anything. You owe me more coffee, and more than coffee."
"Let me know when you want to collect," he agreed. "How long before you know anything?"
"It might be a while before I can get these slipped through unnoticed." She gave a nervous shrug. "Not tonight, not if we're going to check out the apartment."
"Well, let's go over now, if you're done here."
"Mickey! I'm already three hours late for work!"
"So it won't matter if you're a little more late." He gave her his best crooked smile. "Just tell 'em you were kidnapped -- top secret hush-hush stuff."
"If I tell them that, they'll think we're having an affair."
"And the problem with that is?"
"You owe me a favor." Robert thought it best he delivered the tapes while Mickey hijacked Michelle.
"Anytime, just as promised." Louis had opened the door to find a very angry and tired McCall. It was easier to agree than to kick up a fuss. He ushered Robert into his home laboratory. The room had one large screen all over one wall and a computer on the desk. The rest of the room was a disorganized library of DVDs, CDs, tapes with a few memory cards and hard-drives thrown in for good measure.
"I need to identify as many people as possible from these recordings." Robert put his large bag on the desk.
"No problem. You don't need to call in your favor. I'd search through your tapes anytime." Louis took the tape that Robert handed to him and put it in the player.
"And I don't wish our mutual friends to know about it," Robert added.
"Oh, that's the favor," Louis watched the playback uncertainly, "Any special reason?"
"Yes," once again Robert watched his son bundled into the car, "That man is my son and our mutual friends do not want me to use these tapes to find him."
"Not a problem then," Louis stopped the tape, "Anywhere you'd like me to look first?"
"I couldn't see anything useful." He shook his head. "I'd like it as soon as possible."
"I totally understand," Louis replied. "It'll take a while but I'll give you a call as soon as I get a picture." He paused in thought. "If I don't use my ... sources," Louis gave up on finding a better word, "I can't give you an ID."
"I'll worry about that, Louis, just get me the pictures." Robert made his own way out. As soon as he was out of sight Louis started work. If Robert's son had been kidnapped, Louis would do everything to help.
Mickey was more cautious about the apartment now he knew it belonged to Control, but a quick sweep made him reasonably certain it wasn't being watched. Just to be sure, he parked two blocks away and they walked up. He picked the lock quickly, but then hesitated, suddenly uncertain of what he would find inside. He opened the door, keeping Michelle behind him as he entered on heightened alert. Nothing. The dust-laden floors had not been disturbed, and the place still smelled musty. He double-checked that the front door was locked behind them and led the way to the kitchen area.
"Mickey," Michelle gazed around the apartment in dismay.
"You said you wanted me to see what I could find here because it might have something to do with Scott being missing?" She entered the kitchen. "What about the person that was here? You know him? Do you know what happened here?"
"Tell me what you can about him, too."
"Okay," she sighed as she set down her kit, kneeling by the bloodstain on the floor. "Did you touch anything, you or Robert?"
"The phone and the monitor."
Michelle took her time here, using her test kits and gathering the ammunition, syringe and some of the debris into sample bags as Mickey watched. "No gun fired here, if that helps," she said.
"The lack of bullet holes tell you that?" Mickey drawled.
"No, Sherlock," she laughed. She sobered, as she stood. "They could have lodged in your poor victim here."
"Then how do you know no one fired a gun in here?" he asked, curious.
"No chemical residue shows up with my magic set. No splatter pattern on the cupboards or walls. If you're sure he was shot, then he and the gun were both wrapped in something."
She cocked her head to the side, considering. "And something was removed, as well. Something smallish, rectangular, like a card."
"Or a photo?" Mickey asked quietly.
"Yes. It would be the right size for that."
"I think I know what it was," he admitted sheepishly.
"I asked you if you'd touched anything," she reminded him.
"Sorry. I'd forgotten."
"All right, Mr. Kostmayer. How about I continue with this so I can get to work sometime today and keep my job, and you go somewhere and sit quietly and not touch anything else."
"Sure, okay." He raised his hands to show surrender. Careful not to touch anything, he watched her for a moment longer before looking for any disturbances in the dust or the grime on the walls. If this place was bugged he wanted to know about it.
Robert walked through security and made his way to Control's office. He was mildly surprised that he wasn't refused entry. Justin stopped his approach in a very public corridor. It was the perfect place to make a scene.
"Where is Control?" Robert greeted Justin. If Justin wanted him to pretend he didn't know about Control, he was more than happy to oblige if it got him the access he needed.
"He's not here."
"My son was kidnapped and all I'm getting from the Company is static. Where is Control?"
"McCall, you have not worked for the Company for almost twenty years; you cannot come in here whenever it suits and demand we help you. We have more important work to do."
"Justin," Robert lowered his voice to a threat, "My son has been taken and since the Company is responsible for the largest proportion of my enemies, I simply want access to your files to find him. I will hold whoever stands in my way personally responsible if anything happens to him. Now, where is Control?" Robert's voice carried and he certainly had everybody's attention now. He had also put Justin in a difficult situation. Justin was not in a position where he could be seen to back down to Robert's request. He would not survive in his office if he gave in to McCall now. If what had happened to Control was public knowledge, then Justin could take him back to the office and admit it using it later as an allowance for discreetly bowing to his requests. If it was not, then Justin could say he would get Control to contact him and use that as an excuse for Control's location. Either way, he would find out exactly if Justin were up to the job.
"Madeline," Justin turned to the person at the nearest desk. "Could you find Jacob Stock for me?"
"He only just arrived," she answered as she scurried out of the way. It was not the response Robert had expected. Jacob looked pale and haggard as he came out of his own office.
"Handle this for me," Justin ordered softly as he retreated.
"What is going on?" Robert let Jacob lead him out of the building. Jacob didn't answer until they were outside.
"I'll get you whatever help I can to find Scott, but right now I'm taking you to Control." Jacob helped Robert into one of the Agency's cars. He got into the driver's seat and sat there nervously for a while.
"Jacob?" Robert asked; he had no leads so far on who had taken Scott and this was a waste of time. He didn't know what Justin was playing at: first he asked that Robert pretend he didn't know about Control because he didn't want it linked with Scott's kidnapping, then he had told Jacob to take him to Control.
"Control was shot the night before last."
Robert closed his eyes. Neither Justin nor Mickey had told Jacob that he knew about Control. Surely Justin didn't suspect Jacob. No, Justin suspected everybody. He kept his eyes closed as Jacob pulled out into the traffic.
"How bad is it?"
"Very bad. I'm sorry."
"Is this common knowledge?" What the heck, if Justin was going to play him, he may as well find out where the field lay.
"That something happened to Control is, but Justin is trying to keep a lid on it." Jacob parked in a delivery garage at the back of the hospital and closed the roller door behind them so the car could not be seen from the street.
They slipped through the back entrance, Jacob acknowledging his security people as they made their way to intensive care. Robert had the distinct feeling that he did not want to be there. The scene behind the glass was the reason why. He did not want to acknowledge that his friend was under that pile of life support equipment. Not while he was angry. He wanted to concentrate on finding Scott before it was too late. Why was he here?
"I think Justin suspects it was someone within the Company. I'll tell my people you can come and go as you please." Jacob handed Robert a small file Robert had not even noticed he had picked up. "The register from the airport."
"Thank you, Jacob," was all he could manage.
Robert didn't stay long. Just long enough to look through the file and decide it was no use to him at this stage. There was nothing he could do for Control, but there had to still be time to save Scott. He caught a taxi back to his car. He had expected to be followed and was disappointed that he was not. It was a sure sign that all players had a severe attack of paranoia. He turned off his phone and pulled over to check the car. There was no sense in being tracked if he couldn't get information from it.
Jonah's little dungeon hadn't changed with time except for the fact it was now housed in more expensive accommodation. The current security system would make a small bank proud. Robert waited patiently to be let in and found his own way to Jonah's back room. Normally, he would have greeted Jonah with "Aren't you getting a little old for computer games?" but this time he just helped himself to a comfortable seat and waited. He was exhausted.
"You don't look so good, McCall," Jonah clicked 'quit' and the sword-wielding warrior was replaced by a screen full of windows. "What have you brought me today?"
"I need the identity of this man." Robert handed Jonah the photograph from the apartment.
"Easy. What? Nobody else wants to help you?" Jonah took the photo and placed it on his scanner. The photograph began to appear on the screen as Jonah sat back down. "I've met this guy," he said.
"Not recently." Jonah moved awkwardly on his seat. "He's Company. What's his name?" Jonah brought up an address list. "I might be able to contact him."
"I doubt it," Robert sighed, "Jonah, can you just run it through the database for me?"
Jonah turned to Robert confused, shrugging as he went back to the screen and started the search. "Apprentice," Jonah switched back to the first directory, "And Guardian, no, not Guardian." He selected "Apprentice" but "Apprentice" was offline. The search opened on to the screen. "That's right, Richard McLace." He hunched in his seat.
"I don't suppose you could magic his file here without anybody finding out about it."
"Of course." Jonah opened yet another program.
"How did you meet him?"
"You are a bear with a sore head this afternoon."
"Somebody kidnapped my son and that is the only lead I have."
Jonah froze as the childlike joy he still got from the hunt drained from him. "He wanted some money shifted so he could disappear with his children. I'll get you the file." Jonah went back to the screen.
"Your cell phone is off." Mickey dragged his eyes open to greet Robert from his position on the couch.
"I know. I turned it off." Robert collapsed into a nearby seat. Mickey could not have been waiting long. A warm inviting smell drifted from the collection of boxes in a bag that Mickey had placed on a table. "Chinese?"
"Yeah, figured we'd better eat." Mickey began to unwrap the parcel. "Michelle says it might be a couple of days before she can slip in the analysis but she'll get back to me as soon as she can. How'd you go?"
"Justin palmed me off on to Jacob. Did you say anything to him?"
"Mmm... nope," Mickey replied. "Why?" He dished himself up some food.
"Nobody mentioned to him that I knew about Control"
"Justin didn't want any mention that Control was shot near where Scott was grabbed," Mickey shrugged.
"Well Justin seems to have everybody paranoid. Everybody seemed to know something had happened to Control."
"Yeah I noticed that, too." Mickey shoveled the food into his mouth. He had half a mind to put some food on Robert's plate. "How's Control, anyway?" He changed the subject.
"On life support."
"Doesn't sound good," Mickey sighed as he paused in mid-bite.
"No." Robert still hadn't helped himself to the food. "The man in the photograph is Richard McLace."
"What?" Mickey choked on his mouthful. "Shane's brother?"
"Yes I believe he has a brother, Shane, who works for the Company." Robert gave Mickey a defeated look.
"Ricky did too but he grabbed the kids and vamoosed." At Robert's look he added, "Somebody targeted him so instead of giving up his kids, he took off with them; no-one's seen or heard from him since."
"Sounds like our mystery agent, doesn't it?" Robert's expression fell, "Do you think he would have contacted his brother?"
"Not if it was going to alert the mole that he was still around somewhere," Mickey shook his head, "They don't get along."
"Would you check anyway? Discreetly," Robert said. "There has got to be something, somewhere. It's been two days. Someone must know who took Scott."
"So find him," he added ill temperedly.
Mickey looked forlornly at his plate, then put it onto the table and pulled out his cell phone. He made several calls, none lasting longer than three minutes. "Now can I eat?" he asked pointedly.
"I'm sorry," Robert backed off, "perhaps I should go and speak to Justin."
"Perhaps you ought to eat," Mickey softened his voice to patience, "I'm already meeting Justin tonight."
Robert spooned the food on to his plate. Mickey was right, of course. He had to eat and losing his temper with Justin would not get him anywhere. Justin was not Control. Control was on life support in the hospital and no matter how angry he was with him it was not going to answer the question of why Control hadn't come to him earlier if he believed he was in danger, or where the hell was Scott.
"And sleep," Mickey added. "Keep your couch free; I'll be using it later." Mickey shot a worried look back at McCall as he left.
When Mickey returned to Robert's apartment, Robert had fallen asleep on the couch.
"How did it go with Justin last night?" Robert was reading through a new pile of files when Mickey woke up. He had fallen asleep sitting up again and needed to stretch.
"He's desperate for anything off those tapes."
"Well, it's a good thing that Louis called then."
"He found something?" Mickey asked.
"He said he has found what he can. He didn't sound very positive." Robert turned over the page. Mickey ate, showered and changed before he left.
"Mickey," Louis nervously ushered him inside, "I found something. It's not much but as I couldn't get a clear shot I went through the reflections." Mickey barely got inside before Louis handed him a CD and a folder full of prints. "The driver of the van wasn't wearing a ski mask."
Mickey's face fell as he looked at the practically unrecognizable images.
"There's a composite. I would have run it through the computer but McCall told me not to."
"That's okay." Mickey flipped to the computer-generated composite. It was still partial but at least recognizable as a face. "I'll take care of it. Thanks."
"If there's anything I can do to help," Louis offered, "Anything at all."
"Yeah. Can I have two more copies of this?"
Mickey dropped off one copy with Jonah before delivering the second discreetly to Justin under the guise of asking after Control. While he was there, it didn't take much to detour into Shane McLace's office. He sat down on the chair in the middle of the room and inspected the walls while he waited. Shane's desk was in front of him with a matching seat behind it. It was a very neat office, all in warm woody tones, charcoal gray leather, and nice abstract prints.
"The infamous Mickey Kostmayer." Shane slammed the door shut as he entered and made his way to his seat.
"Nice office, Shane, you've done very well for yourself. Never figured you as a suit." Mickey tapped the arm of the chair as he made of point of lounging in the incredibly comfortable seat.
"What do you want?"
"I want to talk to Ricky."
"If I knew where he was, do you think I would be here? I'd be hunting down his sorry behind and dragging him back to work." Shane dropped the file he was carrying loudly on the desk. His brother had caused him trouble and he made no effort to hide that it was a topic that caused him grief. "I haven't seen or heard from him in five, maybe six years."
"Any idea who the girl is or when this was taken?" Mickey stood up and handed him the photo.
"Six kids, five different mothers, one set of twins and always in trouble." Shane barely looked at it before throwing it back at him. "I don't want anything to do with him."
"You don't even care if he's dead?"
"I doubt he's dead." Shane got up and came around the table to try to herd Mickey out the door. "I don‘t have his kids on my doorstep."
"I found that next to a pool of blood." He stood up to him. "Will you at least help me find out whether it's Ricky's?"
"If you do me a favor and be discreet with that -- the last thing I need right now is everyone being reminded of Ricky McLace's great disappearing act."
"Why?" Mickey asked with feigned innocence.
"Someone in this building shot Control and when they find out who, they'll be moving everybody and I would like a better job." Shane indicated Mickey should leave.
"Any idea who?" Mickey gave Shane a few steps toward the door.
"I have my money on Michelson. I just hope Richard wasn't involved."
"I don't think so. This is to do with a missing person I'm trying to find."
"Well, I hope you find him." Shane closed the door as Mickey left.
"Mickey, can I have a word with you? " He had hardly stepped away when he ran into Jacob.
"McCall," Robert answered the phone. He had a headache and he'd strained his eyes. "No. No. I haven't heard from him either." This was all he needed.
By the time Mickey arrived at McCall's that evening he'd had a day of hitting his head against the wall. He'd gotten chicken this time, serving it out with the vegetable sides.
"The photograph is a dead end," Mickey reported. "Apparently Richard McLace is alive, well and interstate."
"I have someone trying to hunt him down so I can talk to him. I'm still trying to ID the girl but it's probably one of his daughters."
"I don't think so. That photograph obviously meant something to the agent in that apartment."
"Yeah, but unless Michelle can give us something, someone seems to have swept their existence from the record."
"Did we ask Justin?" Robert finished the contents of his glass and poured himself another.
"Justin said it was a dead end and if we kept looking that way we‘d tip off his mole."
"What about the video then?"
"Took the partial face Louis had to Jonah, Jonah tried all day and didn't find a match. He doesn't like our chances but he‘ll keep trying. Justin hasn't come back with anything." Mickey was spending a second night watching Robert not eat and the level of the bottle Robert was pouring from was a little concerning. "The van was stolen and hasn‘t turned up yet. I spoke to the owner," he said evenly.
"So we still have nothing."
"Well Jacob sent over the archive box full of files." Mickey tried to sound positive.
"Yes, I asked him to. I'll go through them tomorrow." McCall sounded exhausted.
"And I still have a few inquiries to follow up." Mickey gave him a considering look. Something else was wrong. He waited for it.
"Kay called. Apparently Scott was supposed to have lunch with her yesterday."
"Oh. How did that go?" Mickey asked gingerly.
"Not marvelously." Robert poured himself another drink.
"I'll get someone to sit with her."
"Probably a good idea." He sat there a long time while watching Mickey eat. "You should go home Mickey, get some proper rest."
"I picked up some fresh clothes. I'll be right."
Mickey closed the door quietly. It was well into the evening, but it looked as though McCall hadn't moved since they had last spoken that morning. He sat at the desk, immobile. Files sat upon files. Even the computer hummed and played the same monotonous screen saver. It was cars; Scott had set it up. There was none of the classical music McCall usually played while he concentrated -- an intense, strained silence gripped the apartment. Mickey could tell by McCall's posture that nothing had come of the day's search and he had nothing to offer, himself.
In the, what -- full minute since he'd come in? McCall hadn't moved. Mickey doubted his eyes were even focused on the useless file in front of him. McCall's jaw was set in fruitless anger, breath coming short and shallow, hands resting on the file. The glare from the screen on his glasses masked his eyes.
Mickey cleared his throat to make sure McCall knew he was there. "Nothing," he said softly. "Sorry."
McCall swallowed a couple of times, sitting still a moment longer. Suddenly, he flung the pile of files off the desk and across the room with the back of his hand. Only the bottom file remained, and it slipped quietly, paper by paper, to the floor. He ripped off his glasses, throwing them to the desk, but he'd misjudged his force and they bounced once to land with the files.
"Are you telling me that with all our experience, all our resources, we still cannot find one single clue as to who took Scott and attacked Control?" Robert rubbed his face with his hands in frustrated agony. "Scott did not just disappear, Mickey. Someone," he closed his eyes, "someone, somewhere must know something."
"Trouble is we don't know who that is." Mickey spoke softly, leaning against the wall. He watched his old friend warily, ready for another outburst.
McCall didn't disappoint him. "Damn bloody Control and his secrets! Why? Just... why? Why didn't he just come and tell me? He never cared, no matter how many times I told him ‘No.' He still came to me every time. Well he's done it this time, hasn't he?" Mickey gave the barest of nods, letting McCall pour it all out.
"All those years I tried to protect my son from the Company and all its dangers. Gradually everything subsides, the threats fade, and I finally felt I was no longer a danger to him. In the end, it's nothing but Control putting my name on one of his *bloody* lists." Mickey didn't even try to defend this man who had been his boss more recently than McCall's. He kept quiet, knowing that eventually McCall would wind down, would regain his usual composure. Right now, the father needed to express his fear for the son. Mickey bent to gather the spilled files. McCall leaned over, but all he said was, "I don't think we're going to find him in time."
Mickey rose, setting the papers back on the desk. "Keep the faith, Robert," he said gently, setting a hand on the older man's shoulder. He would have said more, but a knock sounded.
"Who is it?" he called.
"Mickey? Mr. McCall? It's Michelle." He looked at McCall, who didn't move. He looked almost hopeless. Mickey took his cue and went to the door.
"Um." Michelle seemed taken aback by the brusque greeting. "I'm sorry. I know it's late. If there's a better time?" she trailed off.
"No," Mickey shook himself. "Sorry -- long day. Come on in, sit down. Want some tea or coffee?"
McCall finally stirred himself, moving slowly to the kitchen to make it.
"Only if it's no trouble," Michelle cast a concerned look towards Scott's father.
"No, no, no trouble," McCall muttered, almost to himself.
She sat on the edge of the sofa. "I thought you'd want to know anything I had as soon as possible, but I'm afraid I don't have much. I couldn't get any clear prints from the car: like I told you at the scene, they had a glove convention, and whoever did the clean up should go into the maid service. The only thing they missed was a small blood spot on the back seat." She fell silent as McCall brought over a cup of coffee.
"And what did you learn from the blood?" he asked tiredly as he set out milk and sugar, and took his chair.
"It was heavily laced with tranquilizers." Michelle replied in a flat, factual tone. "I can try to run a match to confirm whether it's Scott's, if you like?" her voice softened to compassion with the last words. Mickey glanced at McCall who nodded a fraction, eyes shadowed with pain and exhaustion.
"Thanks, Michelle. If you could, we'd appreciate it," Mickey replied for them.
Now she turned to speak directly to McCall. "The drugs were a cocktail but no substance was individual enough that I could narrow to a single source or supplier. I'm sorry. Here's the analysis breakdown." She handed the paper to Mickey.
He looked at it, but to him it was so much Greek. He was sincere, though, when he said, "Thanks."
"Well, you still owe me a lot of very good coffee, and then some." Michelle went through her folder again. "The apartment was a little more... puzzling."
That perked McCall's ears up. "In what way?"
"Well," she studied the papers, "there were at least three men and a woman in that apartment and none of them matched the male you asked me to look for."
"Anything else you can tell us?" Mickey asked.
"Where do you want me to start?" she asked. "The fingerprints belonged to two individuals, but neither is on file. The syringe contained morphine and was contaminated with blood from one of the men and the woman. The pool of blood was comprised of samples from all four individuals." She took a breath. "There was nothing that I could link to anything. I'm sorry. The bullets are common variety, and since none were spent, there is no hope of matching them to a weapon." She shook her head, wishing she had more to offer them. "The place has been cleaned hasn't it? No chance of going back to see if I missed anything?"
"It's been cleaned up so much you wouldn't recognize it. You didn't miss anything," Mickey reassured her. "Thank you. Thanks, for rushing this and for the personal service."
"Mickey," she handed him the report, "is there anything more I can do? Like making you both a decent meal?"
"Later, when we can enjoy it. Let me know what I owe you beyond the coffee. Want me to walk you to your car?"
She stood. "Not necessary," she answered as he walked her to the door. She flicked a glance back at McCall and asked in a low tone "Are you both going to be all right?"
He gave her a smile, but it was a weak reflection of his usual charming grin. "Once Scott's safely home."
"Mickey, to confirm that blood was Scott's I need something to compare it to."
"Well, anything I can get DNA from. Blood, hair, whatever, but I would have to be sure it was Scott's. Or," she hastened to add. "I could run it against his parents' DNA -- then I could be certain, too."
"Somehow, I don't think you want to meet Mom under the circumstances. Would it help to go to Scott's apartment?"
"With a sample from his apartment, I could give you a probable ‘yes' but I couldn't give you a definite 'no.' With just his father's DNA I could give an estimated probability that the sample came from a father/son relationship. Either way, you are going to owe me one hell of a favor, Mickey Kostmayer. The utilization on that equipment is nearly one hundred percent."
"Whatever you want. You've earned it," Mickey replied sincerely.
"I don't believe I'm even volunteering to do this at all," Michelle shook her head. "Call me gutless, but I have the feeling it would be tactless to ask Robert for anything right now. Meet me in the morning, buy me coffee, and we'll go to Scott's apartment."
She smiled gently at him as she walked away. Mickey shut and locked the door. McCall hadn't moved from his seat, his coffee cup disregarded in his hand. Mickey heaved a sigh and began the cleaning up. As he gently took the cup from McCall, he murmured, "Don't worry. We'll find him."
"Kostmayer," Mickey awoke to the irritating vibration of his phone and pushed himself vertical with one hand while answering the phone with the other. Where on earth had he fallen asleep? He dragged his eyes open. Robert was sleeping on the couch and Mickey was leaning against a seat sitting on the floor. He tried to focus on his watch; five-forty something a.m.
"Another night on Robert's couch, Mickey?" Michelle sounded hassled.
"No," he chuckled at himself, "I got demoted to the floor."
"There's been a massive accident Mickey," busy Michelle did not even acknowledge his reply, "if you want me to compare that blood sample you're going to have to meet me on the way to work but I doubt I'm even going to make it back to the lab until this evening. I'm so sorry Mickey."
"It's okay, Michelle, I understood that might happen." Mickey tried to sound 'okay' too, rather than disappointed that Michelle's work had once again interfered with his needs. "How long 'til I meet you?"
"I'm leaving now." He listened to her hurried goodbye as she rang off.
Robert had still been awake going through the stacks of files three hours ago when Mickey had decided to finish reading one more file and then find somewhere to sleep. The file lay discarded with his reading glasses by his lap. Mickey dragged himself to standing, retrieved the blanket folded beside the seat, shook it open and tucked McCall in where he sat. Mickey studied him. His eyes were hollow, dark and tired as if he had not rested in a hundred years. He opened his eyes.
"Mickey?" Slowly Robert hunched over, his shoulders slack, defeated.
"Michelle called. I'm leaving to meet her." Mickey instantly decided that news of the accident and the likely delay could wait. A few times before she had called to apologize, but had been able to slip his job in anyway. Robert seemed to stare into space, motionless, his concern for his son etched into his features. "Robert?"
At the sound of his name Robert turned slowly to his friend with a disoriented expression. He opened his mouth and turned as if going to say something, but then thought better of it and shook his head. "Yes Mickey," he agreed, swallowing.
"Hang in there. After I've talked to Michelle, I'm going into the Company. See what I can dig up before Justin throws me out of there."
"Yes, Mickey," Robert repeated but his mind was elsewhere. Mickey waited a moment before he hurried out to meet Michelle. Robert sat there a good while after he had gone.
Mickey pushed heavily against Robert's door as he reached it. He was tired. He was frustrated. He had nothing. Robert was slouched into the sofa and barely acknowledged Mickey as he let himself in. Printed pages surrounded him in small piles. His eyes drooped tiredly as he stared through the file in his hand, which was resting on his lap.
"Robert?" Mickey greeted him as he crossed to find himself a seat on the couch.
"Bloody useless," he mumbled as he tossed the file on to the table. "Not one bloody useful one in the whole lot." There was no fire, no venom in his voice. He made no attempt to gather the next file to examine, nor even to look up at Mickey.
Mickey took a stuttering breath as he watched his old friend. He should have come back earlier, not spent so long chasing unhelpful leads. How long had Robert been like this? He felt a frown beginning to draw on his face. Stifling it, he moved to the edge of his seat. Reaching forward, he put his hand on Robert's shoulder.
"We'll find him, Robert," the conviction in his voice surprised him, "We'll find him."
Robert met his eyes and nodded, bringing up his hand and loosening the clothing around his chest. Mickey stood up and walked into the kitchen.
"How, um," Robert began after a while, "How did it go with Justin?"
"Justin wasn't there," Mickey answered, then he opened the fridge and got out the leftovers.
"Justin was there. I rang him when I couldn't reach Jacob," Robert heavily got to his feet, stopping to hold on to the back of the couch while he straightened.
"You spoke to Justin?" Mickey could not keep his incredulity out of his voice. He dropped the packaged food on the bench.
"Yes. I spoke to Justin," irritation crept into Robert's voice, as if it were a stupid thing for Mickey to ask.
"On his office number?" Getting angry would not help the situation.
"Yes, not that it did me any good." Robert stretched his back. He'd been sitting there for far too long. "He prefers to play let's shuffle McCall all through his bloody phone system rather than provide some actual help." Slowly Robert's posture crumbled, he let his shoulders slump as he lowered himself back into the seat and put up his hand to hold up his head and cover his face. "The Company is no help. I... I... I, I don't know where to look," he stuttered
Mickey watched him a moment longer, then he picked up the food, shoved it in the microwave and slammed the door, belting the buttons to make it heat.
"Robert," Mickey sighed as he walked over. "You haven't had enough sleep. I haven't had enough sleep," he argued but he didn't know if he was saying the words to comfort McCall or convince himself it was too early to despair. "Justin is a useless bastard," he blurted out, "I spent the entire afternoon being handballed from department to department. The department heads are at each other's throats. Everyone suspects that someone in The Company shot Control, though Justin's right, no one suspects there's a mole. The most popular theory is payback for that Michelson mess. Justin managed to avoid me all day, Jacob was AWOL, my password expired yesterday and the IT geek couldn't even get it reinstated." Mickey found himself breathing heavily. The whole place had been eerily quiet. Everybody had had their heads down working and the feeling that something was seriously wrong had grown more intense with each passing day and it had done nothing to help Mickey's cause.
"Come on, you're right, all this is probably useless," he gestured broadly at the files, "but we'll find something useful in the morning." He was babbling and he knew he was babbling. The microwave beeped. This day was hell. Mickey hurried to retrieve the way too hot food and burned himself transferring it on top of a plate to carry. He did not bother serving it from the foil to the plate before bringing it back the couch. He made space on the coffee table by knocking the piles of paper on the floor. He wished Robert would do something. Just anything. "I've got a meeting with Justin tonight. We'll turn up something tomorrow."
Justin had inherited Control's tradition with respect to meeting places. If the worse the trouble the more out-of-the-way the spot, Justin was truly in trouble. As he climbed down the scaffolding to the temporary platform under the bridge Mickey thought he couldn't imagine a more out-of-the-way rendezvous. Justin was already there, standing in the shadows.
"What kind of game are you playing?" Mickey demanded, not bothering with pleasantries.
"Good evening, Kostmayer. I'm well, and you?" Justin replied calmly.
"I asked a question," Mickey shot back.
"Calm down." Justin tried his best imitation of Control's placation tone. It worked about as well for him as it did for Control, which on Mickey meant not at all. "I'm doing what I have to do."
"You're screwing around with people, like usual," Mickey said in disgust. "You really treated McCall right, didn't you?"
"The situation is very delicate," Justin kept his voice even despite Mickey's rising anger. "What I did was necessary."
That about did it. Mickey had been spinning his wheels, unable to do anything effective -- there was no one to hit, nothing to detect, surveillance, explosives, undercover… all were of no use here. He could do little but watch McCall pull further into himself, seeming to turn overnight from the rock he'd always seemed into a helpless, worried father, aging before Mickey's eyes. Justin's endless games, his poor imitation of the Master of the Company, were just enough to make Mickey blow his stack.
"You could have had the decency to deal with him yourself instead of shunting him off and hiding in your office!"
Justin took a deep breath. "If we're going to find out who's responsible for all this, you're just going to have to play it my way, Kostmayer. You just have to trust that I'm doing what I can." Mickey snarled but Justin ignored it. "Have you been able to identify the driver?"
Mickey hissed, "You have no respect for people. You don't have any idea who shot Control, so you're setting people after each other, running in circles, chasing each other's tails until you can come up with some lame cover story. Control thinks you make a good replacement? You couldn't Control a flock of sheep in a barn. I thought you'd have had more respect for Control than to treat his old friend like that."
"Believe it or not Kostmayer; I care very much what happens to Control." Justin's voice was cold. "But right now I'm trying to stop the Company from collapsing in on itself. That's what Control would do, so I'm doing it for him." He paused, giving Mickey a beat to collect himself. "Have you been able to identify the driver from the tape?"
Mickey's anger deflated, leaving him spent. "No. Not yet."
"Will you come to me if you do?"
Mickey ignored the request. "Who was the agent in the apartment?"
"I told you not to investigate what Control was doing. That very definitely includes the agent in that apartment."
"What would you leave me to investigate? I don‘t have much left to go on."
"I need to know who wanted Scott, and I need to find out without tipping off whoever is behind it. Mickey, believe me that line of inquiry leads nowhere."
"So, what aren't you telling us, Justin?" Mickey rubbed a hand over his face tiredly.
"I'm telling you everything."
Mickey rallied himself. His anger and frustration flared once more. He leaned in close and told Justin, "If I find out you're holding back on me, you won't like me at all afterwards." Mickey turned and climbed back up the scaffold.
When Mickey had finally made it back to Robert's apartment that night, Robert was at last asleep on the couch. Mickey sat down opposite his friend and helped himself to a drink. He had run out of leads. Michelle had called: It was Scott in the car.
Early the next morning, Robert stood looking through the window at Control, or more precisely the equipment that surrounded him and kept him alive. It was very early in the morning and he planned to do something very foolish. Knock over a few ants' nests and see what scurried his way. The search for Scott had run out of leads and there was a great big one called 'The Company' that he had been asked not to investigate. He was not going to investigate. No, he was going fishing, and Justin and the rest of the Company could go to hell. Scott had been missing almost a week. Michelle had confirmed that Scott had been drugged and driven to the Company's airfield by a group who knew how to clean up. The airfield documents had been altered by someone in the Company. He was convinced of that now. Louis and Jonah had gotten nowhere identifying the faces in the few poor frames they had pulled from reflections. Again, as soon as they hit The Company they hit a blank wall. No money trail in or out. None of the usual suspects or even any one of the enemies he had left that he could think of after all these years had stirred. This was definitely The Company's mess. Control and his bloody list. So Justin didn't want him to tip off the mole? Well then, Justin, I grant you your wish. Robert took a deep breath. They would probably just shoot him as he walked in the door. Jacob's little security guards were hanging back. Watchful but not willing to engage him. If they knew what he was about to do.
"Well Old Friend," he said quietly. "You really buggered it up this time." He walked out.
Mickey woke up. The stillness was strange. Robert wasn't there. The blanket was neatly folded on the couch beside him. He checked the bathroom and bedroom. Robert was not there either.
"I am here to talk to Justin." Robert drew his gun on the first security guard that dared to block his path. The others drew their weapons, until they realized that he held a live grenade in his other hand. That was it. Robert McCall had finally blown a gasket. "He's in his office? All right, I'll just go on up, shall I?" Not waiting, he set off all the security alarms as he marched through fully armed.
Robert gave the grenade to the security guard as the elevator came to a stop and sprayed the roof of the office with bullets as he stepped out. Security might be slow but Justin wasn't. He stood in the middle of the floor, looking completely disgusted.
"Is this what a man has to do to get your attention?" Robert asked.
Justin signaled for the arriving security personnel to hold back.
"My son has been missing for almost a week. It is The Company's fault and I am getting no help from you," he choked, "or from any of your bloody little minions. Now, I want you to help me find my son or I will personally tear this Company apart until I find him. Do you understand?"
Justin imperceptibly relaxed. His office staff was under their desks. Robert hadn't shot anything other than the roof and security weren't playing heroes. More importantly, Robert McCall had not mentioned Control.
"I was unaware of the level of your frustration," he started calmly. "Stand down." he ordered the arriving second detachment of security. "You're right," Justin had waited for silence, "I deeply apologize for my oversight and I understand your predicament. Please." He indicated the way back into his office.
"Just send me the bloody information, Justin, or else I will start interrogating your staff." Robert shook with anger. He gave Justin the look he would give a mosquito, just before he stepped on it. After a long moment, he lowered his gun and turned to exit.
"Let him leave," Justin instructed. "Robert McCall is not to be detained. Just leave the man alone and see if you can find something to give him to help him find his son." Justin walked back to his office and sat down. Now the shit was really going to hit the fan.