Chapter 6 – Nancy Stuckley, Part 1

2011/12/16, 07:32:25 – Finch Estate, Southampton (Village), New York


When I got down to the kitchen, Marty had already made coffee and was sitting in the breakfast nook, staring out at the yard rather morosely.

“Good morning, Sunshine,” I teased. Usually that was all it took to make him smile, but today he only turned a glum grimace towards me. “Good gracious, Marty – what’s the matter?” I asked as I pulled out a carton of eggs.

“Mr. Finch got in, late last night,” he said, which made me whirl around to look at him in surprise. Ordinarily that would’ve made him as happy as a lark, so I didn’t understand what the problem was until he explained, “He brought… the new guy with him. He’s been… hurt.”

What? Who’s been hurt, Mr. Finch or the new guy? And how bad is it?” I demanded, the eggs forgotten for the moment.

“The new guy. Nothing life-threatening, probably… We put him in the first floor bedroom.”

“So is Mr. Finch all right?”

“Yeah, he’s… fine.”

“So how did the new guy get hurt? Was it on the job?”

“I… I don’t know. He was shot… twice, I think.”

Shot? How? Was it a robbery? Was he protecting Mr. Finch? Marty, for heaven’s sake, what happened?

“I don’t know,” he confessed, looking rather miserable. “I… I didn’t even think to ask. I don’t know if Mr. Finch would’ve told me, even if I had… You know how secretive and mysterious he’s been, ever since… since he hired this guy…”

“Yes, but… surely, he would have told you something,” I insisted, slightly frustrated. Marty was the sweetest man, but not always the brightest bulb in the box. Since he hadn’t given me much information, I started thinking out loud. “If he’s brought this new fellow here to recuperate, he must have been hurt on the job – Mr. Finch probably didn’t want him in a hospital where he wouldn’t get any rest with all the noise and commotion. Although I suppose he might bring him here even if he’d gotten hurt outside of work,” I amended. “He’s that kind and generous, you know… and in New York City, anybody could get caught up in a crime and get shot these days…”

Marty nodded slowly, looking down into his mug, and mumbled, “It… didn’t even occur to me, that he might’ve been protecting Mr. Finch… but you’re right. He might’ve taken those bullets for him… Maybe that’s why he brought him here…”

“You and Jim have been wondering why Mr. Finch hired him to start with, when he’s already got you two,” I pointed out. “You said this fellow was probably a military man before, right? That he had some special training? Well, maybe Mr. Finch knew that he might be attacked, or suspected that someone was up to something, and that’s why he hired this fellow – to protect him from whatever was going to happen. Although I can’t fathom anybody wanting to hurt Mr. Finch… but then again, when you’re as rich as he is, who knows what crazy people might do…”

Marty nodded again, but I got the feeling that he was only half-listening. Of course, he’d been on night duty (both he and Jim were scrupulous about their jobs, almost to a fault) and if Mr. Finch had arrived with a wounded man in the wee hours of the night, it was understandable that he’d be exhausted. I remembered that I was supposed to be making breakfast – and that I had two extra mouths to feed, now – and got busy making scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, oatmeal, and yogurt with fruit and jam.

“Marty, do you think the new fellow will be able to eat regular food?” I asked, trying to imagine what it would feel like to be shot, and failing.

“I… I don’t know. I think so… He was awake and talking last night, anyway… or this morning, really…”

Jim came down the back stairs, dressed for the day but also looking a little tired.

“I heard you had some excitement last night,” I said as he shuffled in and helped himself to coffee.

“Yeah! The new guy. Got shot in the gut and his right leg,” Jim informed me. “Mr. Finch had him treated somewhere before he brought him here, but we had to clean him up and put him in Mr. Finch’s clothes. It’s a good thing Marty’s big enough to pick him up! I think I’m going out to fetch the guy’s stuff today, and he said something about his car, too. I don’t know what he was doing for the boss when it all went south, but I guess he’s lucky to be alive.”

“We’re lucky that Mr. Finch is all right,” I remarked while flipping the bacon. “Do you think they’ll want breakfast now? I could keep some of this warm for them if they’re not up yet…”

“I’ll go take a look and see if they’re awake,” Jim offered. Marty sighed, audibly, over by the window. “What now, Big Guy?” Jim asked him.

“Nothing,” was all he said in return, staring out at the yard again. Shrugging, Jim left to go to the front of the house, and came back a few minutes later with a troubled look on his face.

“I’m sorry, Big Guy,” he said, going straight over to Marty to pat his back.

“What is it?” I asked, pausing in the middle of dishing out the scrambled eggs. Something had to be wrong for both of them to be acting so strangely.

“Well… they’re still sleeping,” he said, hesitating. “It’s just… the new guy… he’s… holding Mr. Finch’s hand. Or vice versa. They look… very cozy, together…”

My mouth dropped open. So that’s it! No wonder Marty was so down. The new fellow that Mr. Finch had hired… he must have gotten close to him – very close – in the past few months… which made sense, since Mr. Finch was keeping the strangest hours lately, staying out all night sometimes without even bothering to sleep at one of his apartments in the city. He hadn’t been back to the house for almost two weeks, too. If he’d been spending all that time (or even a good portion of it) with the new fellow, it wasn’t surprising that they’d gotten close. But… holding hands? Now that was a whole different story…

“Well. If Mr. Finch has found someone… special… we should be happy for him,” I said, although I knew it wouldn’t be easy for Marty. Poor Marty… He was such a nice fellow, but Mr. Finch had never seemed interested in him. Actually, Mr. Finch hadn’t seemed interested in anybody that way – he’d never brought home any lady friends, either. I hadn’t expected him to be… attracted to other men, but if that was how he was, well… that was his business, wasn’t it? For my part, I couldn’t ask for a nicer man to work for, and he certainly deserved all the happiness in the world – especially after all the pain he’d gone through from his accident.

All of us had been with Mr. Finch every step of the way through his rehab, helping him get around and taking care of his everyday needs. At first it was hard to even give him a shower… Jim would cover his sutures with pieces of Ziploc baggies and tape them to make sure that they were waterproof, and Marty would try to pick him up without hurting him and set him on the seat in the bathtub. Of course Marty wanted to be extra careful, since he had such a soft spot for the gentleman – it was pretty obvious that he adored him and practically worshiped the ground he walked on. I’d noticed it within a month of his coming to work for Mr. Finch. It was just… so sweet, the way he looked at him. But Mr. Finch either didn’t notice or pretended not to – probably to spare Marty the embarrassment of an out-and-out rejection. But Marty didn’t mind… he was just glad to be working for him, as were the rest of us.

It was a little hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of Mr. Finch having a… a boyfriend, I guess he would be. I’d never met “the new guy” or even seen a picture of him, so I couldn’t imagine what they would look like… together. I was really tempted to peek into the bedroom to see them holding hands, but I didn’t want to go tiptoeing over there while Marty was still up. Maybe after he’d turned in, if they were still sleeping, I could go over with the breakfast tray to see if they were ready for some food.

I made sure that my two boys ate enough for breakfast, seeing as how they’d be busy for the foreseeable future. They aren’t really my boys, of course, and Jim is a bit too old to be my son, but that’s how I think of them anymore. Even Mr. Finch, although he’s my employer, seems like a nephew or some such. He doesn’t seem to mind (much) when I fuss at him to get more sleep or to come home on the weekends – he knows I’ve only got his best interests at heart, bless him! Over the years, we’ve practically become a family… at least, as much of a family as three bachelors and an old widow could be. Sam and Caroline are a part of it, too, and we spend almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas together.

When Marty finally dragged himself upstairs to get some sleep (or try to), I put the kettle back on the stove. Jim eyed me over the newspaper with a shrewd look.

“You’re planning on sneaking in there to catch a glimpse of the lovebirds, aren’t you?” he flatly stated.

“Well… they have to eat sometime,” I huffed. “Especially if the new fellow’s hurt, he needs to get his strength back. What did you say his name was?”

“Mr. Reese. Although… Mr. Finch called him ‘John’ last night…”

No!” I gasped. “Did he, really?”

Jim nodded. “Right in front of Marty, too. I thought the big guy was gonna keel right over! But just before that, while Marty was dragging the wing-back chair into the bedroom, I heard the guy call Mr. Finch ‘Harold.’ How’s that for cheek?”

“It sure sounds cheeky,” I admitted, “but if they’re… you know… involved, then I suppose… it’s just natural…” I reheated the scrambled eggs and bacon in the skillet, but didn’t bother making new toast yet. “Tell me, Jim – what is this ‘Mr. Reese’ like? I know you said he was homeless before Mr. Finch found him…”

“Homeless and an alcoholic. Marty said his breath alone could’ve knocked him over when we first picked him up at the police station,” Jim reminded me. “He smelled like he’d been sleeping in the city dump, too. You heard how much trouble Sam had clearing out the car…”

“Of course I remember,” I interrupted, a bit impatiently. “But I’m talking about now – you said he’d cut his hair the last time you saw him. Is he good-looking? Charming? Smart? Funny? Surely, if Mr. Finch is interested in him, there must be more to him than the ‘alcoholic bum’ that Marty always talks about.”

Jim considered it for a moment. “He’s tall,” he finally answered. “And I guess… you could say he’s good-looking. He didn’t look so hot when they came in last night, but getting shot doesn’t help anyone’s looks, you know. I think he’s smart… he’d have to be for Mr. Finch to hire him. I commented that he’d bled like a stuck pig when we were cleaning him up, and he just sorta laughed and said he was a ‘shot pig,’ so he must have a sense of humor…”

The food was hot again and the kettle was boiling, so I made some tea for Mr. Finch and loaded up the cart that I’d used so often while he was recovering from his injuries. I was anxious to see this “Mr. Reese” for myself.

“I’d better go with you,” Jim said, folding the paper and getting up. “They might need some help moving him. He’s hurt in the lower abdomen, so he’ll be out of commission for a while… as I can attest to from my hernia surgery.”

I tried to keep the cart as quiet as possible down the carpeted hallway, and Jim cracked open one of the double doors to check inside. I could hear Mr. Finch’s light snoring as Jim nodded to me to take a peek. Sure enough, I could see Mr. Finch’s arm resting on the bed next to the other man, who had our employer’s hand clasped in his own. I couldn’t suppress a smile, even though I knew the sight had to have broken Marty’s heart – they just looked so cute together!

Then the figure on the bed moved, and I could tell that he was looking at the door – at me.

“I think he’s awake,” I whispered to Jim.

“We probably woke him up,” he sighed. “Damn guy is uncanny…”

Jim opened the door and crept in to whisper to Mr. Reese, and Mr. Finch stopped snoring and sat up.

“Mrs. Stuckley, please come in,” Mr. Finch called out. “I’m sorry to have given you so little warning…”

“Nonsense, Mr. Finch. You know I always keep the larders stocked with enough food for an army,” I said, wheeling in the cart.

“And it’s a good thing that you do,” he said, quickly letting go of the other man’s hand. “Ah… Mrs. Stuckley, this is Mr. Reese. I’m sure you’ve heard of him,” he added dryly.

“Oh, yes! I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt, Mr. Reese,” I said, catching a glimpse of his angular face in the dim light as I pulled out the table for the hospital bed. “But not to worry – we’ll take good care of you until you’re back on your feet again.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Stuckley,” came a polite, gentle voice – hardly what I’d expected from a man hired for his military skills. “Something smells delicious.”

“Would you like tea or coffee?”

“Coffee sounds wonderful,” he said with fervent sincerity.

“Preferably decaf,” Mr. Finch put in. “I’m sorry, Mr. Reese, but you need to rest as much as possible.”

“Of course. Although you do realize, painkillers work better with caffeine…”

“Let’s not start mixing your drugs just yet,” Mr. Finch countered. “But that reminds me, you’re probably ready for another dose…”

I left to make a fresh batch of coffee (thankfully I had decaf on hand) and toast. When I returned, Jim was standing guard outside of the door.

“They’re not quite ready for you yet,” he told me. “Bathroom duties.”

“Oh! Oh, of course, the poor man,” I replied. “But… if you’re out here… does that mean…?”

Jim nodded with an expression of disbelief. “Yes. Mr. Finch insisted that he be the one to help Mr. Reese.”

“Well… Well, now, that’s… something, isn’t it?” was all I could think of to say.

We waited in silence until Mr. Finch himself opened the door, and after pouring some coffee for Mr. Reese and making sure that they both had everything they wanted, I opened up the curtains to let in some sunlight. It helped me get a better look at Mr. Reese as he ate his breakfast, and I was pleased to see that he wasn’t just “good-looking,” as Jim had begrudgingly conceded, but actually quite handsome. He still looked exhausted, which was understandable, but his eyes were warm and expressive – I swear they twinkled when he caught me studying him – and the smile that curled his mouth was filled with good humor. Yes, I could definitely see why Mr. Finch would be attracted to him!

Jim had asked about his duties for the day, and Mr. Finch was telling him which hotel Mr. Reese had been staying at. Hotel? I wondered. Why wouldn’t he have an apartment? It seemed strange to me, but maybe there was a good reason for that – Mr. Finch always had his reasons.

“It may be better not to check out immediately,” Mr. Reese interrupted. “That might tip them off…”

“Ah… You’re right. We can wait on that for a few days,” Mr. Finch agreed after considering it. “Never mind checking out, Mr. Doherty, but you’ll need the passkey to get in…”

“It’s in my wallet, wherever that went…” Mr. Reese mentioned.

“Oh, I’m sorry! It must still be in your trousers… I tossed it in the wastebasket with everything else…”

“I’ll get it,” Jim said, stepping over to the wastebasket – which was overflowing with what must have been Mr. Reese’s clothes. I could see a dark, reddish-brown stain on the white shirt. That had to be blood. And there was a lot of it. When Jim fished a wallet out of the back pocket of the trousers (that looked tattered on one side), it was covered in blood, too – enough to drip.

“Good gracious!” I gasped before I could stop myself.

“Ah… yes. He was injured quite seriously,” Mr. Finch explained to me, while Jim wiped off the wallet with a dry patch of the trousers.

“This must be the passkey,” Jim said, pulling out a white card – it amazed me that hotel door locks looked like credit cards now. The wallet with the rest of its contents he set on the table.

“My clothes are either hanging in the closet or in the top drawer,” Mr. Reese told him. “My… spare tools, are between the box spring and mattress. I have a few toiletries in the bathroom, but if they won’t fit in the bag, don’t worry about them.”

“Duly noted,” Jim responded with his usual efficiency.

“I had another wallet – a billfold – tucked into an inside pocket of the jacket,” Mr. Reese said. “I suppose that’s ruined, too…”

“Never mind your suit, John – we can go shopping for new clothes once you’re better,” Mr. Finch said.

“Of course it had to be my favorite suit,” Mr. Reese sighed.

“But they’re all the same,” Mr. Finch pointed out with a hint of exasperation.

“There are subtle differences… nuances,” Mr. Reese insisted, in a tone that made me smile as I poured Mr. Finch another cup of tea. Oh, yes – he could keep Mr. Finch on his toes!

“Here’s your billfold,” Jim said, finding it and tossing it onto the bed. “At least you didn’t bleed on that.”

“Small favors,” Mr. Reese muttered, mixing some jam into his oatmeal. “Oh, my gun is still in the car, under the passenger seat.”

“I’ll unload it and bring it in before Sam has a cow,” Jim assured him, “although he’ll have a cow anyway if you bled all over the seat…”

“Afraid so… mostly on the back seat. Not that I wanted to, you know. And speaking of cars—”

“Mr. Reese, don’t worry about it – Mr. Doherty is quite capable of taking care of it,” Mr. Finch insisted, no doubt worried that the man was overexerting himself.

“I don’t doubt that he’s capable, Mr. Finch, but they might be hanging around,” Mr. Reese said with a meaningful look. “He’s going to need a cover story – one that checks out.”

“I’ll get to work on it,” Mr. Finch said, getting up out of his chair with his plate still half full.

“Mr. Finch,” I put in, “whatever you need to do, I’m sure it can wait for a few minutes until you’ve finished your breakfast. Lord knows what you’ve been eating while you’ve been gone, if at all, and we can’t have you collapsing from malnourishment! I think one patient is quite enough to handle at a time, don’t you?”

“Ah… Yes, of course, Mrs. Stuckley,” Mr. Finch meekly answered, sitting back down.

“I’m glad that you make sure he eats properly, Mrs. Stuckley,” Mr. Reese said with a broad grin, which he didn’t even attempt to hide. “If it eases your mind at all, I do try to get him to eat at normal hours, but when we’re busy, sometimes the best we can do is Chinese take-out.”

Chinese? All that sodium!” I cried out, horrified. “Mr. Finch, you know how bad that is for your blood pressure! And mine…”

“Mrs. Stuckley, really… it’s not that often,” he protested weakly.

“It’s bad enough that you work so late into the night – the boys have told me that you even stay up all night, sometimes! We simply must get you some decent nutrition. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, of course,” I declared, making a mental grocery list.

“Uh… Mrs. Stuckley… you do realize, Mr. Reese is going to need a lot of protein to make up for his lost blood, and for his injuries to heal…”

“Of course I do, Mr. Finch, but that doesn’t mean we have to clog his arteries with cholesterol or make his blood pressure skyrocket. I’ll make sure you both eat good, balanced meals while you’re here,” I told him with grim determination. “I’m very sorry, Mr. Reese, that it took your getting hurt so badly for Mr. Finch to come home and bring you with him, but I have to confess that I’m rather glad your wounds will take a while to heal – at least while you’re here, I can make sure that you’re both well taken care of!”

“I’m relieved to hear you say so, Mrs. Stuckley,” Mr. Reese replied earnestly. “I was worried that I’d lose my girlish figure while I was laid up… and it’s so much harder to get back in shape, now… I’m not a spring chick anymore…”

“Don’t you worry about a thing,” I assured him, noticing that Mr. Finch was nervously nibbling on his toast. “We’ll have you back on your feet and ship-shape in no time!”


Caroline came over while I was still washing up the breakfast dishes, having heard of our new visitor – or member, really, since he was Mr. Finch’s employee already – as well as the sad state of Mr. Finch’s car.

“Sam says there was blood everywhere,” she told me, paling at the very thought. “How is he? Is he going to pull through, do you think?”

“Oh, yes – he seems well enough for having been shot,” I answered. “Although I can’t imagine how awfully it must have hurt to be shot, let alone twice!

Shuddering at the thought, we headed out to the local grocery store. Caroline usually went with me when we did our weekly shopping, and even helped me prepare for big dinners, like when we knew Mr. Finch would be home. Her husband, Sam, had been Mr. Finch’s driver for nearly twenty years now, and not long after 9-11 he had offered them the cottage on the edge of this property as a bonus for having Sam leave the limousine service and become his personal chauffeur. Their kids had all grown up by then so Caroline had been ecstatic about moving out here. For the past few years she had been babysitting her daughter’s little boy, but he’d just started first grade this fall, leaving her at rather loose ends this season. We both agreed that having Mr. Finch as well as the new mystery man home was cause for celebration, and I was excited to whip up some of my best recipes.

On our drive out to the store, I told her as much as I could about Mr. Reese – how beautiful his eyes were, how soft-spoken and good-natured he was, and of course how sweet he had looked holding on to Mr. Finch’s hand. She was thrilled to know that Mr. Finch had finally found someone special, even though she only saw him a few times a year. It was hard not to like the gentleman, with his charming smile and shy, eccentric little ways.

I’d been hired by Mr. Finch over fifteen years ago, right after Fred (my husband) had died of complications after surgery. He’d been a diabetic most of his life, and although I’d tried to keep it under control with a strict diet, he’d worked in construction where it was just too easy and too tempting to grab a “snack” from the street vendors whenever he felt like it. We hadn’t had any children, so I’d worked as a school lunch lady for years, but when Fred was gone I realized that I had very little money in the bank and a lot of unpaid hospital bills that had been piling up over the years. I’d left all of the money matters to Fred, which had turned out to be a bad choice.

With not a lot of work experience to fall back on, I’d applied at a temp agency for work as a housekeeper and cook, and was grateful when Mr. Finch not only hired me but also actually preferred to have me live in his house. It saved me the cost of rent and, he claimed, it gave him peace of mind to know that somebody was keeping an eye on things while he was in the city. The past few months he’d been especially busy and hadn’t been home much, but at least the boys – Jim and Marty – were with me, so I had plenty of work to do and didn’t feel as lonesome as I usually did, rattling around in this big house by myself. It still felt good to have Mr. Finch home, though… and I was bound and determined to make him want to stay.

For lunch I steam-cooked some fresh chicken breasts in stock, covering them in foil to keep the juices in, then cutting and tearing them to make a light, sweet salad with grapes, apples, and mandarin oranges. I didn’t have time to make bread from scratch, but thankfully there were “half-baked” loaves in the freezer that I could pop in the oven and serve fresh and warm – they could make sandwiches with the chicken salad if they wanted to. I used the stock and drippings from the chicken to make soup, too, adding lots of celery and some homemade dumpling noodles. It was the best thing for a cold, and although none of the men were sick, I figured that it would be a good preventative measure.

Mr. Reese raved over the food, especially the soup, claiming that it was the best he’d had in years.

“Of course, I have to admit, I haven’t had many home-cooked meals in recent years,” he added with a wry grin. “But this really hits the spot.”

“Oh, Mr. Reese… I wish I’d known!” I told him. “I would have sent some lunches with Mr. Finch! Lord knows what all preservatives are in the things they serve at the restaurants in town… And Mr. Finch,” I said, rounding on him just as he took another bite of salad, “how come you didn’t invite Mr. Reese for Thanksgiving dinner? It’s not like I didn’t make enough food for an army!”

“It’s all right, Mrs. Stuckley – I already had plans,” Mr. Reese said, charmingly coming to Mr. Finch’s defense. “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’d been living on the streets, homeless, before Mr. Finch gave me this job. I wanted to go back and help at the shelters where I’d been fed and cared for when I was down-and-out. It felt good to be able to give back…” He turned the sweetest, most tender smile towards Mr. Finch. “Thanks to Harold, I’m in a position to give back to them now. You’ve no idea how good it feels to be able to help… to have one’s dignity back…”

Mr. Finch blushed in embarrassment and tried to hide it by wiping his mouth with his napkin. I couldn’t help smiling as I went back to the kitchen to get Mr. Reese a second bowl of soup.

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2 Comments

  1. April Valentine

     /  2012/08/09

    This story has some lovely moments, but I just can’t wrap my head around the problems with the medical issues. There’s no way Finch should have given fluids or pills to Reese before he was seen by the doctor and no way he should be able to eat solid food the day after abdominal gunshot wound surgery, even if he was going to have an enema, which could also be problematic if there was any damage to his intestines in the shooting. I do love the characters of the bodyguards though and the whole house Finch has. Loved the chapter with the morgue doctor. Even though Finch asks him to “stitch up” Reese, there would be a lot more needed than just stitching his wounds but the caring between Reese and Finch helped me overlook that.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your review! I’ve actually been stuck on writing this story because of some of those issues — most notably, the fact that he can’t have a colonoscopy right now… (Bummer! Found out after getting this far that the gas used to bloat the intestines would be super bad for his stitches…)
      I had to let Finch give him something since there were three hours (in the show) between their leaving the garage and getting to the morgue. Please assume that Finch has some knowledge of medical treatment and gave him what was appropriate out of his stash of meds.
      I’ll go back and change his breakfast/lunch to soup or something easier on his GI tract, although I did mention that he hadn’t punctured any intestines. Sometimes I wish the show would give us more information on those sorts of things… but of course, this whole story started out because I realized that there was a big chunk of time unaccounted for between his getting shot and going back to “work”.
      I’m glad you like the house staff, though! Of course in canon, Reese still doesn’t know where Finch lives, so it blows my premise to Hades… :p

      Reply

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