Prologue

2011/12/15, 20:50:19 – Shots fired on top level of St. George’s Hospital parking garage. Connection to earlier shots fired on 3rd level of parking garage unknown; currently under investigation.


“Hold on,” Finch told him as soon as Carter slammed the door shut. Reese had just enough time to grab the handle of the armrest and brace himself before the town car’s tires squealed in a sharp right turn. He didn’t know Finch could drive like that, punishing his luxury vehicle with such brutal abandon, but knowing that every second and every little bit of distance that they could put between themselves and their pursuers counted, he was glad to discover that Finch was, indeed, capable of driving like a madman.

My pursuers, he corrected silently in his mind. They’re not after Finch – they don’t even know he exists, and never will… at least not if I can help it. Assuming that Carter doesn’t tell them…

He hoped desperately that his gut – the metaphorical part of it, rather than the physical part, which was burning up with pain at the moment – was right, and that Carter would not divulge the fact that he had a partner to the Agency. Although the name she knew would be an alias (no doubt already disposed of), the description would be a far more useful tool for Mark to use in hunting down the man Reese had come to know as Harold Finch. Carter, having interviewed the man at length as well as being a trained police officer, would be able to provide a deadly accurate description if she so decided.

Reese winced, the searing pain in his thigh and abdomen threatening to blind his other senses. Perhaps the pain was clouding his judgment… perhaps, in his effort to block out the physical pain, he was also blocking out the delicate sensory input that his mind processed to make those judgment calls.

What if I’m wrong? What if Carter tells Mark about Harold?

Drawing a ragged breath, Reese gasped, “You shouldn’t have come… Too big… a risk…”

“Just hold on, John,” Finch demanded, although his voice was trembling. “Hold on a bit longer…”

When he had put enough distance between them that he deemed it impossible for the agents to pinpoint their car, even with a vehicle description from Carter (for Finch did not suffer from Reese’s optimism), he pulled into a dark alley around the corner from a convenience store. Turning off the lights but leaving the engine running, he hobbled around to the rear to check on Reese’s injuries for the first time.

“Take these,” Finch said, shaking out two pills from a prescription bottle which he had snatched out of the console compartment. “I’ll get you some water in a minute, but they’ll take the edge off the pain.”

Reese managed to swallow them down while Finch unbuttoned the lower half of his bloodied shirt, wincing at the sight of the gaping wound.

“The blood looks clean… let’s hope it didn’t puncture your G.I. tract,” he muttered, pressing his white handkerchief against the hole. “Can you keep pressure on it?”

“Sure. If the drugs don’t make me… pass out,” Reese rasped.

“Where else were you hit?” Finch asked, squinting in the dim light.

“Right leg. Use my belt… as tourniquet,” Reese mumbled, removing his right hand, which had already been pressing down on that wound. Finch quickly removed the belt from his trousers and tightened it above both the entry and exit wounds in Reese’s thigh.

“You should lie down – conserve your strength,” he said, wiping the blood off of his hands on his pinstripe suit. “I’ll go get some supplies at the store and… then I’ll figure out where to take you for treatment.”

“No! No hospital,” Reese declared, his eyes flashing open with sudden clarity. “They’ll find us…”

“I’m quite aware of that, Mr. Reese,” Finch said, trying to calm him and at the same time get him to lie down on the back seat. “Trust me, I’ll think of something… someplace they won’t think to look for us. And with enough money, I can ensure our… privacy.”

Reese was beginning to feel the effects of the medication so he decided to let Finch have his way for now. He was simply so… tired. He heard Finch shut the car door and, in the ensuing silence, began to replay the events of the night. The two hit-men (one a hit-woman) sent after the girls had been taken care of, so that was all right. The problem had started when Carter had shown up with none other than Mark Snow.

No… the problem was, I’d called to let her know where I’d be without figuring out how long it would take me to finish the job, he analyzed, focusing on the problem in his mind in an effort to ignore the pain coursing through his body. I didn’t calculate on her getting there before I left… Even without Mark, she could’ve tried to arrest me… That was… stupid…

Wincing at the thought, Reese replayed the exact moment the pain had hit.

He must’ve had a sniper on the next building over, he decided, remembering how the impact had spun him. He knew I’d park on the top level to reconnoiter the area; he’d set it up before I was even finished with the two downstairs… He let me finish the job while he set the trap for me… Damn bastard! Carter would’ve tried to stop me right away – kept me from shooting the perps so she could arrest them, like a good cop. No wonder she let me go… she wanted to arrest me, not shoot me… I guess I’ve got too much of the Agency in my blood, he thought mirthlessly. Shoot first, cover up later. I’m lucky Carter’s got too much Upstanding Citizen in her blood…

Finch returned, opening the driver’s side rear door and fumbling with a drink bottle in his hands.

“Here, take a sip of this… You’ve lost a lot of blood,” he said, lifting Reese’s head just enough so that he could swallow the sweet drink without choking. “I don’t want to make you bleed out any more, but you need something…”

Placing the bottle in the cup holder, Finch then shrugged out of his suit coat and folded it, fashioning a pillow of sorts to place under Reese’s head. He extended the center seat belt until it would fit around Reese’s middle – including the hand that was still pressing against the wound in his abdomen – and placed a paper sack on the floor in front of him before getting back in the driver’s seat.

“I have to stop by one of my safe houses to pick up a few things,” Finch explained, almost to himself, “but I have an idea who might be able – and willing, for a few dollars – to patch you up.”

Reese only grunted in assent, his eyelids feeling inordinately heavy from the painkillers, but at least the pain was manageable now.

“Just hold on a little longer,” Finch whispered. “Stay with me a little longer, John…”


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