On the Subject of Irrational Numbers

Chapter Two: Back to Basics

"We have a new number, Mr. Reece." Harold Finch announced as the ex-CIA operative entered the subway car that held his work station.

John glanced at the photograph that appeared on one of the screens. "Is it a lead on Shaw?"

"It doesn't appear to be. Unless the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City has decided to join Decima." Harold started pulling up the man's records. "A possibility, but a very slim one. They are far too cavalier about their murders to employ the medical examiner to cover them up. And I doubt that citizens of the United Kingdom meet up to have tea with their fellow countrymen. As of yet, I can see no connection to Greer or to any of Decima's known operatives."

"I could see you finding a way to join that tea party."

"Yes, well, perhaps if our lives weren't constantly threatened by Mr. Greer," Finch retorted with his own dry wit, "he and I could find some time for a cup of tea and a pleasant conversation."

"So, chief medical examiner?"

"His name is Henry Morgan, but there's not much more I can tell you about him. His electronic footprint is practically nonexistent. I can tell you that it was recently altered by a very good hacker. And before you ask, it's too rough to have been Samaritan."

"So what's he hiding?" John murmured, leaning in closer to see the picture of the man.

"I'm afraid that's a question you'll have to answer." Finch smiled slightly, "I believe Detective Fusco will be thrilled with your newfound zeal for your job."

"Oh." John had been avoiding dragging Fusco into anything because he of all of them had the most to lose. And not only that, he would be forced to attend more of the job that had been assigned to him for cover.

He wasn't sure what it was about the job. Maybe it was the fact that it went against the purpose Finch had given him when they met four years ago. Working Homicide was like visiting a display of his biggest failures. Every dead body in the streets was someone he had failed to save. It was reliving that crushing moment when he had been told that Jessica died.

Finch's voice snapped John back out of his thoughts. "I'm going to look more into the alterations that were made to his record. I had you and the detective assigned to a new case with Dr. Morgan as your ME. You will need to leave soon in order to meet Detective Fusco before you get the case file." Harold was pulling up several of Henry's recent cases on the screen, setting one aside that seemed concerned with a hacker group with an MO similar to Vigilance. "I'll keep you updated on my progress."

With something between a grimace and a smirk, John turned away. "I guess I'll see you after I get off work."

Detective Lionel Fusco seemed genuinely surprised when John showed up and accepted the casefile from the lieutenant, after refilling the reformed cop's coffee cup. He made a mental note to do this more often, if only to mess with Fusco's head.

"Is IA busting your ass again?" Fusco asked once they were in the car. "Because I can't think of another reason that you would show up on time to work and actually go with me to the crime scene. The last time you were this diligent, the lieutenant was after you for your low closure rate." He snorted. "If it's going to be like that day, does that mean we going to be busting people across the city? I could use four fewer cases."

"Lionel, if Internal Affairs was after my badge, you would be one of the first to know."

"Dammit. This means you aren't closing four cases in one day again, are you?"

"No." Reese was content to leave it there, but the true reason for his uncharacteristic diligence prodded him. "What do you know about Dr. Henry Morgan?"

"The ME? That's why you're actually doing your job? Fantastic." Fusco's speech devolved into unintelligible muttering. "…can't help your own partner…gotta save the whole damn world before you can think about your actual job. And who gets stuck with Wonderboy? Me, that's who."

The scene was cordoned off when they arrived and John recognized the medical examiner from the pictures of him that he had seen on Finch's computer screen. He was stooped over the body taking in some of the smaller detail, but he looked up as they approached.

"Ah, Detective Fusco. Good to see you again." John had known ahead of time that Dr. Morgan would have an accent, but there was something behind it. He sounded kind of like Finch. The man was polite, as a matter of personal preference rather than professional courtesy. Like Finch, Dr. Morgan's words were simple, precise, and to the point. "I don't believe I've met your partner."

John took that as an opening to introduce himself. "John Riley. I was transferred recently."

"And he's got a bunch of CIs from working undercover with Narcotics, so he normally works the living side of the investigation."

Outwardly, John remained calm and unmoved, but he was slightly surprised and impressed that Fusco was lying through his teeth about John's usual activities. Although, given the detective's involvement in some of John's extra-vocational activities, revealing anything about John would immediately implicate him as well.

"We all start to branch out a bit after a while. I've been getting more involved in the living side of the investigation lately." The ME took his glove off and held out his hand for John to shake. "It's nice to meet you, Detective Riley."

"Nice to meet you too, Dr. Morgan. What have we got?" John shifted attention to the woman on the ground so he could force pair Henry's phone. Except he wasn't registering a phone other than Fusco's within the radius.

"She was poisoned with cyanide."

"How can you possibly know that without the lab results?" Fusco asked.

"The color." Both Lionel and Dr. Morgan turned to look at him as he spoke.

"I take it that you have seen a cyanide death before," Dr. Morgan asked.

John shifted, uncomfortable under the sudden attention he was getting. When he had joined the CIA, cyanide pills were standard issue for spies if they ever got caught. They were shown the effect of cyanide on the body, explained in detail what was happening in the body and how to counteract it if they ever ingested their pills in error. But the memory of bright pink bodies stained his mind with the kind of indelible ink that only the brain can have. "One or two."

Fusco was still staring at him as the ME turned back to the body. Locking eyes with the detective, John shrugged slightly. The less Fusco knew about that time of his life the better, no matter how many things it would explain.

"Is there any way I can get in contact with you if I have questions about the case?"

Dr. Morgan glanced over his shoulder. "I can give you my office number."

"What if you're out on another case?" John pressed. "Can I get your cellphone number?"

"Oh. I don't have a cellphone. I don't believe in them."

John held his phone. "But they do exist. See?"

"That's not what I meant, and I'm sure you know that." Dr. Morgan stood up again and stepped back so the woman's body could be loaded onto a gurney and taken to the morgue. "You are welcome to come with me to the morgue if you have any questions."

John spent the rest of the day at the morgue, increasingly more interested in the murder case, though he was loathe to admit it while he was supposed to be monitoring Dr. Morgan. He hadn't spent much time on this side of investigation at all, despite Lionel's complaints about how John would have been perfect for chopping up bodies considering the normal damage he did to the human body. And perhaps getting involved with the gore side of things would turn Fusco off even faster.

He was really just hovering when the female detective came in.

"Hey, Lucas. Is Henry back yet?"

The gangly lab tech looked up from the project he was working on. "Yeah, he's in his office."

"Good." She seemed to see John for the first time as he stood over the body of his victim. "Who are you? Have we met before?"

"I'm John Riley, a detective from the 12th." He took off the gloves he had been required to put on and held out his hand in greeting. "And no, I don't believe we have met."

"Oh. Well, I'm Detective Jo Martinez. Henry's typically my medical examiner." She wasn't saying it in a possessive way, but it sounded more cautious than he thought she needed to be. "Wait, Riley? Aren't you that detective that closed several cases in a day?"

"And I'm just here to work another one."

"The pink dead girl?"

"Ah, Detective Martinez. Good afternoon." Henry glided over to the examination table and started poking around in the victim's body again. "Oh, Lucas, I have the final write-up for Mr. Bradley's case on my desk. If you get a moment, could you take it to the mail center so it can get back to the detectives who need it?"

"Sure thing, Doc. I was due for my break anyway." The assistant washed his hands and went to get the file.

"Hanson wanted me to ask if we're still on for tonight. Since you weren't around all day, he thought maybe you had gotten too busy to go to the bar with our group."

Interesting, John thought as he paired Detective Martinez's phone. At least I can get something close to him tonight. Then I can do the rest of this the way I used to before I met Finch.

The rest of the evening had been fairly uneventful for their new number, John had found. As gathered from Detective Martinez, he went to a bar with a few of his coworkers, including the detective and her partner Mike Hanson. Hanson's wife was apparently also there, and received many congratulations for the expectancy of her third child. Meanwhile, John had gotten back into the morgue to bug Dr. Morgan's office.

Then he started flipping through the case file again. Something about it was bothering him, but he wasn't exactly sure what it was. Dr. Morgan's notes were very neat and accompanied many of the pictures.

There were scratches on the woman's throat, skin and bits of blood under her nails, both of which bore up the ME's supposition that she had died due to a lungful of hydrogen cyanide. And they had a name for her now: Christine Harmon. She had worked at a program development company that helped create and streamline apps. Maybe he could get Finch to look into her...

Taking stock of his handiwork and making a mental note to bug the good medical examiner's place of residence next time it was empty. He'd like to know why the doctor lived above an antique shop though.

"So," Finch asked when Reese returned to the subway tunnel later in the evening. "How did you enjoy actually doing your cover job?"

John rolled his eyes expressively at his true employer. "I still hate paperwork."

"And the good doctor Morgan?"

The ex-CIA agent ran his fingers though his salt and pepper hair. "I honestly hope that he isn't the perpetrator. I like him. But he doesn't believe in cellphones, which makes the job a little more difficult. What did you find out about him?"

"Well," Finch began pulled up a few records. "There are a lot of inconsistencies—so much that I am beginning to wonder what, if any of this, is actually true."

"So it's not Witness Protection?"

"Hardly. The additions were made to his public files after a case with a group of hackers. He saved one of them and she fleshed out his file in return. It's actually some very good work."

"So we still don't know exactly who he is or where he comes from? Maybe we'll learn a bit more from the bugs I planted."

Finch leaned back to look at John. "Perhaps. At least we don't have to deal with Decima at the moment. A normal number at this point could help us regain our footing without Shaw."

John's jaw tightened. If Greer ever got within shooting distance, he wasn't sure he would be able to stop himself from firing on him, even if it killed his cover identity.

For the first time in a long time, John wasn't sure he wanted to stop himself from killing him.