Chapter 4 – James “Jim” Doherty, Part 1

2011/12/16, 02:37:52 – Finch Estate, Southampton (Village), New York


“Heads up,” I said as soon as I saw the trees at the end of the driveway lit up by the headlights of a car. There was never any traffic in this ritzy neighborhood at this hour of the night, so it was a safe bet that the car was Mr. Finch’s. Marty had been mooning like a jealous puppy ever since he’d gotten the call that our boss was bringing home the ex-army guy (Marty still called him “the bum” even though he’d cleaned up pretty good the last time we’d seen him) who’d apparently gotten hurt somehow – possibly in the line of duty, whatever his duties were for Mr. Finch. Marty and I had speculated about that a lot, since we had a lot of time on our hands these days, but each theory was crazier and less probable than the one before. It didn’t bug me like it did Marty (who had a crush on the boss as big as a tweenie girl on Justin Bieber) but I was curious. Maybe now we’d find out, or get some sort of hint as to what the guy did for Mr. Finch that was so all-fired important.

By the time the car rolled to a stop, Marty had the wheelchair placed and I was right behind him ready to assist. I’d turned on the porch light, and although the guy was on the far side of the car and in the shadows, I could still see that he didn’t look good. The last time I’d seen him was when we’d hauled his drunken ass from a cheap hotel to the Ritz-Carlton (talk about an upgrade!) under Mr. Finch’s orders, and he’d just shaved and cut his hair so he’d looked loads better than the homeless Bigfoot impersonation he’d been doing before, but he was pasty pale under all that newly-shaven hair and three sheets to the wind to boot, so it probably hadn’t been his best Kodak moment. Now, he had a better haircut, but he looked like death warmed over – his skin almost had a green cast to it, as though he were seasick or had lost a ton of blood or both.

Mr. Finch practically jumped out of the car as soon as he’d parked it, and told us to use the backboard that was in the back seat (wherever that had come from!) to slide “Mr. Reese” into the wheelchair.

“Please be very careful – he’s injured in his lower left abdomen as well as his right thigh,” the boss directed, his usual nervousness accentuated by the stress this situation was obviously causing him. “He’s just been stitched up, and we absolutely cannot afford to have his wounds re-opened.”

Times like these, I was glad that Marty was such a big guy. He’d played football, of course, back in the day, until a knee injury had taken him out of the game. It was still bothering him when he’d been hired on, but Mr. Finch had made sure that he’d gotten the best treatment – two laparoscopic surgeries later, the big guy was as good as new. Marty could be intimidating just standing up, towering over most people at a hulking 6’5″, and right now he was putting his bulk to good use. After making a bridge from the car seat to the wheelchair with the backboard, he crouched down to grab “the bum” in a sort of hug, one hand on the guy’s ass to slide him over the backboard and into the wheelchair. I was holding the wheelchair steady, trying not to smirk at all the ways I was gonna tease Marty about the new arrival – especially since the guy had to put his arms around Marty’s shoulders during the procedure.

It still blew my mind that a big, strapping guy like Marty preferred guys over girls, but he was pretty discreet about it, so I tried not to give him too hard of a time. I’d even met a couple of his boyfriends over the years, and they seemed to be decent, regular guys. But of course the biggest elephant in the room was Marty’s crush on Mr. Finch, which he kept denying, vehemently, even though he couldn’t keep his eyes off of the boss whenever he was around. Sure, that was our job, to keep eyes on the boss and make sure he was safe, but Marty stared at him like a hungry wolf drooling over a big, juicy slab of steak. I didn’t get it… I mean, Mr. Finch was the nicest boss anyone could ask for, if a bit eccentric, and he wasn’t bad-looking or anything, but… God, there was just something wrong about the way Marty lusted after that man! I’d chalked it up to father-figure issues a long time ago, but that still didn’t make it any easier to swallow. Even Marty must have realized how perverted it was, or he wouldn’t have kept trying to deny it.

Anyhow, I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride with the new guy thrown into the mix. While Marty carried in the backboard and a bag of groceries (leave it to Mr. Finch to have the presence of mind to pick up groceries, even in the middle of a crisis), I pushed the wheelchair up the ramp and rolled “Mr. Reese” into the first floor bedroom. Marty had already turned on the lights and lowered the handrail on one side, but the bed was jacked up rather high, so Mr. Finch fiddled with the controls to bring it down as low as it could go. As Marty set down the backboard and the bag, I locked the wheelchair’s brakes and noticed for the first time how much blood was on the new guy’s clothes. It sure didn’t look good… and from the way Mr. Finch was worrying over him, he must be in really bad shape.

“Mr. DeYoung, before you move him into the bed, I need your help removing his… soiled clothing,” Mr. Finch began, leaning in to unbutton the guy’s shirt himself. “Mr. Doherty, would you please bring my bathrobe – the long one – from my room? And also one of my cotton T-shirts, and… a pair of boxers.”

“Could I borrow a pair of socks, too?” the patient himself piped up, more to Mr. Finch than to me. “I’m afraid I bled all the way into my shoes…”

“Of course,” Mr. Finch responded with a haunted look on his face, and I ran up to his room to grab the requested items.

When I came back, Mr. Finch was wiping down the guy’s back with what looked to be disposable wipes (there was an open package on the bed) and Marty was kneeling on the floor, wiping the guy’s legs and feet clean of the blood he had mentioned. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the fellow, seeing all his bandages now that he’d been stripped down to just his tighty whities – or rather, his pair of black boxers, which had to be bloody, too. Mr. Finch has always been generous, but it still shocked me to realize that he was going to share such a personal article of clothing with his new Wonder Boy. I wondered how Marty was taking it but I didn’t have the time to check on him now – I was helping Mr. Finch get his T-shirt (one of the gray ones he wore when he worked out) on the new guy, careful not to let it catch on any of his bandages. The effort left him panting, which told me how badly he’d been hurt. Marty had put the socks on his feet already without comment.

“Mr. DeYoung, if you can lift him for a moment, I’ll pull the old one off,” Mr. Finch instructed, assessing the situation with clinical detachment. There was the slightest hint of a sigh from the new guy as he realized that he was literally going to be stripped of all his privacy. Marty approached him with some hesitation, too – mostly because he was trying to figure out how to lift him without hurting him or touching his ass, but there had to be a part of him that was revolting against the very thought of what we were about to do. He ended up standing behind the wheelchair to hoist him in a sort of Nelson, leaving Mr. Finch enough room to yank off the guy’s boxers from the front. I was holding out the clean pair so he could put them on right away, but the moment the guy’s privates were exposed, I saw that he’d need to be wiped down there, too.

“You bled like a stuck pig, didn’t you?” I couldn’t help saying as our boss reached for more wipes. There was a low chuckle from the guy as he took the wipes, very deliberately, from Mr. Finch.

“Not a stuck pig… just a shot pig,” he remarked, cleaning up his privates and hips and thighs of all the half-dried blood.

Well, that sure explained how he’d gotten his injuries. He was lucky to be alive if someone had been shooting at him. I wondered briefly whether he’d been exposed to such a dangerous situation in the line of his duties for Mr. Finch, or if it had simply been “an unfortunate accident” like the boss had said to Marty. In New York, anything could happen if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time; still, it was a bit unsettling, since the guy had plainly been hired for his military training and God-knows-what other skills. I didn’t want to think that our Mr. Finch could be involved in some sort of skullduggery, but there it was.

When the guy was done cleaning himself, Mr. Finch took the fresh pair of boxers from me and moved them up his long legs, waiting for Marty to pick him up again and carefully positioning the waist band just below the bandages on his stomach. Then the boss grabbed his bathrobe, which Marty (with a hard swallow that probably only I noticed) helped to hold while the guy cautiously put his arms into the sleeves. A gut injury is a tricky thing, as I knew from experience (hernia surgery about five years ago), and the new guy was probably figuring it out the hard way. One more lift from Marty and Mr. Finch was adjusting the robe to cover him up – it only came down to the middle of his calves, as opposed to the ankles on Mr. Finch, so it was a good thing he’d asked for the socks.

Marty set up the backboard as a bridge again and I helped him slide the new guy onto the bed. He wasn’t quite as much of a dead weight as the last time we’d done this, so that helped, but of course he couldn’t use any of his stomach muscles. I told him to trust his weight to me once I’d positioned my arms behind his back, and lowered him down to lie flat on the bed. Both of us sighed when the chore was over.

“Thank you, gentlemen,” Mr. Finch said, fussing with the blanket and tucking it around the new guy like he was some beloved baby doll. “Mr. Doherty, would you be so kind as to hook up Mr. Reese to one of the IVs with antibiotics? I would do it myself but I’m afraid my hands aren’t very steady tonight…”

“Of course, Mr. Finch,” I answered, and went to the small refrigerator at the end of the room – he’d had a sink and kitchenette installed there to hold a complete set of medical supplies – and came back with what I needed. I’d been a medic in the Navy, so poking needles into people didn’t bother me in the least. I was, however, a bit worried at how much Mr. Finch’s hands seemed to be shaking, now that he mentioned it.

“Would you like a tranquilizer of some sort, Mr. Finch?” I asked as I found a vein in the new guy’s arm and taped the needle down.

“No, thank you, Mr. Doherty. I’ll be all right,” he said a bit distractedly. “Mr. DeYoung, if you would put that backboard away in the broom cupboard – at least, I believe it will fit… Oh, and would you please bring my wing-back chair from the study?”

“Yes, Mr. Finch,” was all Marty said, but I could tell that there was a degree of… numbness, for lack of a better description, in his voice. He was stunned to realize that Mr. Finch – in addition to bringing “the bum” home to his mansion and dressing him in his own clothes – was going to sit up with him all night. Well, maybe not all night, but probably for a good while, since the wing-back chair was the most comfortable one for him. We’d found him sleeping in it on more than one occasion.

I checked that the IV drip was working and covered up the guy’s arm with the blanket before asking, “Is there anything else I can get you, Mr. Finch? Perhaps a cup of tea…?”

“Ah… yes. That does sound nice. Would you like something to drink, Mr. Reese? Or something to eat?”

“I’m good, thanks,” he replied with a wan smile. He looked exhausted, but relieved, and… maybe it was my imagination, but somewhat… amused, as well. “I just drank a whole bottle of Gatorade and you’ve got me hooked up to an IV – I think I’ll be quite well hydrated, Harold.”

My mouth fell open at the familiar way he’d used Mr. Finch’s first name. It sounded perfectly natural, like he’d said it a hundred times before, rolling off his tongue as though it had never even occurred to him how inappropriate it was to call his boss – his employer – like any Tom, Dick, or Harry. The guy wasn’t that much younger than me, was he? After all, he was getting gray at the temples… Shouldn’t he be old enough to know better? Or was it… I could barely even wrap my mind around it – was it something that perhaps Mr. Finch himself had encouraged him to do? Were they working together so intimately that… it was simply a natural outcome that they began using each other’s first names?

I was glad that Marty hadn’t heard that – he was still struggling to bring the wing-back chair in from the other room – and hoped that I would have a chance to warn him so he wouldn’t do something stupid (like, say, cold-cock an injured man) if it happened again and caught him by surprise. I had to make the tea that I’d promised Mr. Finch, so I left them to go to the kitchen at the back of the house. Mrs. Stuckley, the cook, had taught me how to make a proper cup of tea just the way the boss liked it, and I added a plate of cookies from the cupboard in case he began feeling peckish.

By the time I got back to the bedroom with the tray, Marty had brought in an ottoman and some pillows and blankets for his dear Mr. Finch, too, who was now ensconced upon his throne, set up right next to the hospital bed. Marty was hovering over him (a somewhat intimidating picture if you didn’t know how docile he was), practically fawning over him, if you please – offering to remove his shoes and fetch his slippers like a good doggie. Okay, so I added the part about the “good doggie,” but Marty was offering to get the boss’ slippers for him. The new guy’s eyes were closed, but I couldn’t help feeling uneasy – he struck me as the kind of guy who didn’t miss anything and, even with two bullet holes in him, I couldn’t see how he could possibly miss noticing the way Marty felt about our mutual employer. For that matter, I wasn’t sure how Mr. Finch could be oblivious to it, but either it was below his radar or he simply chose to ignore it; in any case, he’d never responded to Marty’s overt overtures in the least – neither encouraging nor discouraging him.

“Thank you, Mr. DeYoung, but I don’t believe that will be necessary. I’ll be quite warm enough with these,” Mr. Finch was saying, indicating the blankets piled on him. “Were you on night watch tonight? Well, if you could please check the perimeter and the road for any signs that I was followed here… Oh, no! I don’t think I was, but just in case, you understand. We can’t be too careful…”

“Let us know right away if you see a black SUV with no headlights,” the new guy spoke up from where he lay. “Although I don’t think they could’ve followed us… I deactivated my cell when we stopped at the store, so even if they went back and traced it, I doubt they’d be able to pinpoint the vehicle I was in. And speaking of vehicles, I left mine on the top level of the parking structure—”

“I’ll take care of it, John, don’t worry,” Mr. Finch interrupted, making my heart drop – as well as Marty’s, I was sure. “Perhaps Mr. Doherty can stop by to pick it up tomorrow, on his way to retrieve your things from the hotel.”

I swallowed and said, “Of course, Mr. Finch,” and set the tea tray down for him, hoping it would distract him from Marty’s reaction. At least the big guy would never cold-cock the boss, but I knew it had to be devastating for him to realize how… close, his idol had grown to his nemesis.

“Ah, thank you, Mr. Doherty… and I’m sorry to have awoken you at this ungodly hour. I hope you can get some rest yet before morning. I’m afraid we still have a busy day ahead of us…”

“Not at all, Mr. Finch,” I answered, and nudged Marty to make him leave the room with me – he was too stunned to think straight for a minute, but at least he automatically followed me out.

“Are you all right?” I whispered when we were out in the hall, the door closed securely behind us.

“I… uh…” he mumbled, then managed, “I have to check the perimeter.”

“Yeah, that’s right. And look out for black SUVs,” I reminded him, hoping he’d focus on the task at hand.

“Yeah. Black SUVs. Right.” He looked down at me with desperation welling in his eyes and asked, “D’you think… maybe it was just… y’know… because he got shot?

I knew what he was trying to say, and what he was hoping for. He’d told me of the one time our employer had called him “Marty” and how much it had meant to him.

“Maybe, Big Guy,” I said, not wanting to dash his hopes outright, but had to add, “but maybe… that’s just how it is…”

He nodded, slowly, before turning to go to the Control Room, where all of the feeds from the surveillance cameras were routed and displayed on sixteen monitors. I felt bad for him, of course, but there was also a part of me that wondered if maybe this might not be a good thing – the kick in the pants Marty needed to give up his infatuation with Mr. Finch. He could never seem to settle down with any of his boyfriends, even a couple of the really nice ones, and I’d long suspected that he was comparing them to Mr. Finch and finding them wanting. Maybe if our boss became very definitely unavailable (although it was hard to consider him as being “available” even now), Marty would get his head out of his ass and be happy with someone ordinary…

At least, that’s what I hoped for as I dragged myself back into bed. As the boss had warned, we had a long road ahead of us yet…

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