18. Confrontation

Reese had continued his sweep of the Russwood mansion, even after Evan swore that all the devices he had planted were exposed.

“You might not be the only one who was planting them,” Reese pointed out, and conducted a thorough search. It did not turn up anything else, but Fred Russwood (who followed him around for the duration) was grateful for the peace of mind that it provided. As Reese re-entered the living room to say his goodbyes to the rest of the family, he was glad to see Evan holding Isabella, who had just gotten up from her nap.

As soon as he had settled into the limousine that Finch had sent, Reese checked his cell phone, hoping for a message from Finch and disappointed to find none. He was tempted to call him, but knew that if Finch were still dealing with Carter, a call from him was the last thing he needed. He wondered how innocent Finch was going to play for the detective – she had obviously seen the footage from the hotel lobby, so she must also have seen Reese lean in to kiss his beloved partner. There was no use denying their involvement.

Would he pretend to have not recognized me from the robbery? Or that he’d recognized me, but got involved with me, anyway? No… that would be too twisted. It would be best for him to deny any knowledge of my criminal activities. He’s just an innocent bystander who doesn’t know what I really do. But then, why would I have gotten involved with him? Sex? Well, I guess that’s possible… if I were some sick pervert who got off on remembering how frightened he’d been… But it’s more likely that I approached him to make sure that he wasn’t injured too badly during the robbery. And then… I fell for him. Yeah, why not? He’s sweet, smart, adorable… a bit shaken up and vulnerable, so I’d feel protective of him, but with plenty of good qualities to keep me coming back for more. So, he’s an unplanned complication… a liability… Ha! I sound like Finch now – I’d fallen in love without planning to. Carter’s gonna take me for an amateur, or at least think I’m getting careless. Maybe I should’ve just let that kid take our money…

Despite his concern for Finch, however, he couldn’t stop the warm feeling in his chest from spreading as he remembered how Finch had (in the hearing of the entire Russwood family) declared his love for him. It had meant so much when the reticent man had admitted it in the privacy of their hotel room – Reese was not ashamed to acknowledge that it had been a life-changing occasion for him. But it was also singularly satisfying to hear Finch say those three words in front of an audience… under duress, perhaps, or out of necessity, but saying them nonetheless and with feeling. It had been a long time since Reese had felt so helplessly, recklessly, even giddily happy; in fact, it had been over ten years.

Reality would not allow him to bask in that happiness for long, however. His cell phone rang, and the number calling him was not Finch’s.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Mr. Westerton. If that’s really your name.”

“I have many names, Detective Carter,” he answered calmly.

“So it would seem. I hope this isn’t a bad time for you – Harold only gave me this number on the condition that I would respect your time,” she said, placing a special emphasis on the name.

“Not at all, Detective. I am entirely at your service.” Reese lay back against the leather upholstery and tried to relax. “So… you’ve met Harold.”

“Yes – a very nice man, but too trusting. He swears that you aren’t capable of hurting a fly.”

Reese smiled at the irony of Finch acting like a gullible fool.

“I find his trusting nature to be one of his more… endearing qualities.”

“And one that you’re willing to exploit?”

“Now, Detective – there’s no need to be rude,” Reese chided, though mildly. “I’m sure Harold doesn’t have any complaints.”

“Not yet, anyway… until you decide that he’s too much trouble, or too big of a risk, and dump him. He thinks the world of you, you know – you’ll break his heart.”

“Well, we all take risks, Detective…” Reese said evasively.

I find it interesting that you decided to take such a big risk with Harold,” Carter needled. “If you just wanted to make sure that he was all right after the robbery, why keep sleeping with him? For that matter, why sleep with him at all? I’m sure his injuries must make it rather… challenging.”

Reese knew she was trying to sound out the depth of his emotion for the man, to ascertain whether he was truly in love with Harold or merely using him. Her derogatory tone in referring to Harold’s injuries was a way of getting a reaction out of him, but he would not take the bait – he needed to pretend (at least as long as he could) that he did not have any feelings for Harold, in an effort to protect him.

“I’m a very patient man, Detective – I’ve learned the value of biding my time. And Harold is… not without his special charms.”

“I see… so if I were to take him in for questioning?”

“You would get nothing of value out of him, of course. I only take calculated risks, Detective… I would never give an amateur – a civilian, really – any information that you could use against me. Although if you could find out what he would like for Christmas, that would be helpful; I’ve been having trouble deciding what to get him.”

“So you want to continue seeing him?”

“Detective Carter, must you be so tiresome? Of course I would prefer to continue our mutually convenient arrangement, but if you’re somehow able to requisition a twenty-four-hour surveillance team to put on him, I will dispense with the formalities of a break-up and simply disappear from his life. He is… expendable.”

“I wonder how Harold would feel to hear you say so.”

“Why don’t you save me the hassle of breaking his heart and do it for me? I’m assuming you’ve recorded everything I’ve said – it should be easy enough to replay it for him… and watch his fragile ego shatter before your eyes.”

Carter was not recording the call, and she mentally kicked herself for not thinking of it. However, she still trusted her instincts when it came to reading people – even over the phone.

“You’re bluffing,” she said bluntly. “You may be good, but nobody can inspire that sort of devotion without at least exposing a piece of themselves. And after all the time you’ve spent together? He may be a pushover, but he would’ve seen through you by now if all you wanted was a convenient fuck-buddy. People with disabilities are highly sensitive to being used or taken advantage of, ‘Mr. Westerton.’ And if all you wanted was an impressionable, trusting sort of man to have sex with, you could’ve chosen any number of guys here in the City – even younger, more attractive, and completely healthy men. So why would you keep coming back to Harold unless you actually have some feelings for him?”

When Reese could not answer right away, Carter smirked in triumph.

“What I really wonder is how long you could keep yourself from intervening, if I were to enter Harold’s house and tie him to a straight-backed chair, then pull his head back with a rope or towel, just a fraction of an inch at a time, until he was screaming and begging for mercy. If he doesn’t have any useful information, I guess I would just have to keep doing it until he gave me every last bit of useless information—”

“Do you have family, Detective?” Reese said in a cold, hard tone. “Because if you so much as touch Harold, I’ll hunt them down—”

“So much for not caring, huh?” Carter interrupted, relieved to know that she had won this round, at least. “The truth is, you do care about Harold. Probably more than you ever intended to. Maybe you’ve been on the run for so long that the chance to be with someone – even for a simple conversation over dinner – was too much to resist. Maybe getting him to trust you enough to let you touch his body, even around his injuries, is some sick sort of game for you. Or maybe, you’ve just grown so tired of the isolation and loneliness of being on the lam that you want to pretend, even if you know it can’t last, that you’re a normal person who has someone to go home to. Maybe, for all of your training and skills, you’re just human.”

Reese closed his eyes and let his head roll back on the seat. He had known that the façade of his indifference would have crumbled sooner or later, but this was sooner. And the insights it had revealed to Carter were far too accurate for comfort.

“Detective Carter… I’m going to assume that you have a family, or at least some people that you care about. Think of them and consider what I’m going to say: Leave Harold out of this. He’s off-limits.” Reese took a deep breath. “Please.”

There was a pause as Carter did consider her family, and in light of what she knew Reese to be capable of.

“Detective, since we first met, I haven’t killed anybody that didn’t deserve it,” Reese continued. “Even some people that did deserve to be killed, I didn’t. I’m asking you to take that into consideration. I’m not a threat, Detective – I’m just trying to help people in trouble. My methods may not be sanctioned by any law enforcement agency, but I’m getting real results. Sure, I understand that you still need to arrest me, and if I slip up and you catch me, that’s only fair. But please don’t drag Harold into this. He’s just a… a very sweet man who happened to open up his heart to the wrong person. I never meant for it to go on so long… I never meant to hurt him. And it will hurt him if I’m forced to disappear from his life, but no more than it will hurt me. I’m asking you to let this go, for the sake of the last shred of humanity that he’s rekindled in me.” Reese licked his lips before adding, quietly, “He’s all I have worth living for.”

Carter’s brow furrowed in dismay. And he’s all Harold has worth living for, too… she realized. After a minute, during which Reese could hardly breathe, she sighed.

“Damn it, I can’t do this! Not for your sake, you understand, but for his,” she clarified. “I still want to see you in cuffs, but I don’t want to see Harold put through the wringer any more than you do. But I’m warning you, if you ever hurt anybody with your vigilante stunts, I will go after Harold. If nothing else, you’ll have to come to the precinct to rescue him, and I’ll be waiting for you.”

“Fair enough, Detective,” Reese conceded, relieved.

“Are you done with your job for the Senator?”

“Almost. Once I find the perpetrator, I’ll hand him over to you. The Senator has a good portion of the evidence against him.”

Or, you could give me his name and I’ll bring him in myself.”

“Tempting, but no thanks. I’ve already given Mr. Russwood my word that I would handle this matter personally. But I’ll try not to shoot the culprit if at all possible, Detective.”

Carter sighed deeply. “I suppose that’s the best I can hope for at this point.” She caught some movement in one of the apartment windows and glimpsed Finch pulling off a large book from his shelf.

“It’s not so bad, is it, Detective?” Reese was saying. “I do most of your work for you, and you get to lock away some bad guys.”

“I just wish you were what you’ve told Harold you are,” she said wistfully. “You could just settle into a normal life like that, you know – run a business, help Harold take his bar exam, live together and have a happy, ordinary life…”

“Raising prize-winning geraniums, no doubt,” Reese added dryly.

“Geraniums are nice. The kind of guns you use, not so much.”

“But then, who would go around duct-taping the bad guys for you, Detective?” Reese chuckled. “Anyhow, as delightful as it has been to talk with you, I need to get going.”

“I suppose you’ll be calling Harold to assure him that this was all a big misunderstanding.”

“That’s my plan, yes.”

“Well then, I’ll let you go – for now. Harold just bought a box of condoms, so you wouldn’t want to disappoint him, now, would you?”

“…Detective, I think you’ve invaded my privacy – our privacy – quite enough for one day.”

Carter snorted in amusement as the call was disconnected.

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2 Comments

  1. Modaeof

     /  2014/08/03

    “Raising prize-winning geraniums, no doubt,” Reese added dryly.

    pure gold. I completely lost it at this part. I’m new in this fandom, German television somehow doesn’t manage to show us this series at a time you can comfortably watch it, but I really love your stories! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! And wow, I’m glad the show is at least on in Germany! I know they’re showing it in China and Japan too. It’s such an awesome series!! 😀

      Reply

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