Authors Note: So here I am again, with another offering to the TV gods. Of course I don't own these characters and I'm making no money from this. I hope you enjoy this new one and don't forget to let me know what you think.
Damned If You Do is set in late season three, somewhere between 3.14 and 3.19 and contain no pairings, just a good old fashioned Reese and Finch adventure.
Damned If You Do…
Sometimes you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Harold Finch came into The Library later than usual. He smiled as he shuffled up the stairs, carrying a pair of drinks, as he heard the low almost whispered voice of his partner. At first he'd thought the younger man had been on the phone but as he got closer he could hear what was being said, "Whatcha doin'? Hmm? Whatcha doin'?" and it became clear who he was talking to. He peered around the corner of the room to see the deadly John Reese sat cross legged in Bear's dog bed with the animal sat opposite staring at him adoringly. John had Bear's head between his hands, their foreheads pressed together and was talking to him and scratching him behind the ears. He pretended not to notice as Reese's foot moved to subtly kick something under the doggy bed. Harold shook his head, it looked like the ex-operative was covering up another one of Bear's book-related crimes. He just hoped that this time it was not a first edition. Despite his penchant for ripping expensive books to shreds, that dog had been so good for them both and as a result was forgiven most things. He made Harold feel safe, John feel human and kept them both from drowning in their respective loneliness.
"I know you're there Finch." John froze and then turned to stare at him. Bear turned to stare too, the pair mimicking each other, heads still together, which amused Harold, reminding him of that saying about owners looking like their pets. If John was a dog, Harold mused, then he'd be a Malinois too.
"Good morning Mr Reese." Harold greeted, as the ex-spy got up from the dog bed and smoothed down his suit, clearing his throat a little. He hid it well but Harold could tell the other man was slightly embarrassed at being caught being so soppy with their dog.
"I thought you were going to have a lie in after last night's exertions." Harold commented.
"Couldn't sleep." John admitted.
Harold frowned and studied the man in front of him. They'd not finished their previous job until almost four that morning, protecting a journalist who'd attempted to uncover a group of drug smugglers. John had ended up in a bit of trouble and Harold had felt it necessary to send the full cavalry running to the rescue. A shootout had occurred and Lionel had been grazed with a bullet. The injured detective, for all that he liked to complain, had actually finished the night with a smile on his face. Harold suspected the portly man of becoming swept up in the adrenaline rush that came with helping the numbers, and actually starting to enjoy it. John on the other hand had left the group with that pensive frown on his face. Harold knew that since Carter, John had been increasingly concerned about putting their remaining detective in danger. He was still mourning the loss of the woman, they all were. He had come back to work a lot more cautious with everyone's lives but his own, and seemed to want to shoulder the blame for every little hurt that befell them.
"Do we have a new number?"
"Yes." Harold replied simply and wandered into the halls of the library to find the books that corresponded with the code. He'd kept the method of receiving the numbers to himself for so long, but now that the other man knew how it worked all that seemed a little silly. He knew that his need to keep his secrets had been logical at the time but it was so much easier now that the group had fewer things to hide from each other.
He retrieved the books he required quickly and came back to the computer. John stood over his shoulder, sipping his cappuccino as the web search gave them the person who belonged to the social security number. John's mouth set in a frown as the image of a woman in her thirties appeared.
Her name was Olivia Karola, a thirty-three year old mother of two from a housing project in the Bronx. Within minutes Harold had found the name of the care home she worked at as a care assistant and the name of her long-term partner and father of her children, Dan McKay, forty-two and out of work since a construction accident that had badly broken his hand. A quick credit check showed they were just scraping by, although John pointed out that considering the circumstances that had been a given.
"Look into this Dan McKay a bit more." John said grimly, both men already sensing where this was going. Sometimes their investigations were convoluted and complicated, other times the answers were painfully obvious. John grabbed his motorcycle jacket from the coat stand, "I'm going to head up there and check it out."
John was weaving through traffic on his bike when he received a call from Harold. He could tell from the way the smaller man said his name upon answering that he wasn't going to like what he had to say.
"I think you're right about McKay Mr Reese. Before he worked construction, Daniel McKay was a Corporal in the Marines. He did a tour of Iraq but when he came back he had some trouble adjusting. I hacked into his files at the VA, it seems he was treated for over a year for PTSD and anger issues, he seemed to be getting better, got a job working with his brother in construction which he held for three years before his hand got crushed under a falling metal joist. This set him back with his therapy. He's signed onto welfare with persistent debilitating pain and has been living off his check from the VA for the last fifteen months. I called Detective Fusco who says aside from a DUI during his days as a Marine he didn't have much of a record, but in the last year or so he's been arrested five times for bar fights and twice for assaulting his partner."
John frowned. He knew now why Harold had been so reluctant to say anything. He was torn, his automatic reaction was usually to side with military personnel. He had more than enough experience of how hard it was for some people over there and he'd had his fair share of nightmares and difficulty adjusting himself. He knew he had a habit of giving leeway to veterans, let them get away with things he wouldn't tolerate from others. But it also couldn't have been easy for Ms Karola either, having stuck with him through that, and he was impressed that she had done. And no matter how much he wanted to believe in someone, violence was a step too far and he knew he couldn't be swayed by military loyalties. His thoughts turned back to Jessica, knowing that there was no excuse for the fear and violence that she had lived with in her marriage.
He didn't want Harold to know what he was thinking though so instead he replied. "I bet Lionel loves you for that. Wasn't he grumbling about taking a sick day?"
"He called someone to run a check for him. He's assured me the only thing he's leaving his sofa for today is to answer the door to the pizza guy. What is your plan Mr Reese?" Harold asked, trying to herd the man back onto the subject at hand. Harold disliked tangents, that was something that John had been unable to change in him despite almost three years working together. "I'm putting a package together for Ms Karola, money, tickets for her and her children, the kids are at school, I could send a town car to pick them up…"
"Not yet Finch." John said. "I want to talk to him first."
There was a pause, John could tell that Harold was trying to decide what to say, trying to decide whether or not he agreed with this course of action. Or perhaps he was trying to decide what his definition of 'talk' was, did he mean with his tongue or his fists? The hesitation was only fair, John conceded, as he wasn't sure which way this was going to end up either.
"Okay, I'm going to go over and keep an eye on Ms Karola at the care home." Harold said.
"What about Shaw?" John frowned.
"Ms Shaw can take the next one. Unless she's needed of course. It has been brought to my attention that I don't exactly give any of you any days off, so I will endeavour to do so when possible."
John smiled, "But it wasn't Shaw or I asking for a day off was it?"
There was a sigh on the other end of the line, "I have been informed that 'even Wonderboys and GI Janes need a day off once in a while', besides I don't think care home detail is really her thing."
"Well you've got that right. But when you tell her why you didn't involve her, I'd lead with that. Finch, I'm coming up on the address now." John couldn't reach his earpiece to turn it off through the helmet, but after a couple of seconds it went silent, indicating that Harold had broken the connection.
He pulled up to the block and parked the bike outside it. He took his phone from his pocket and fiddled with it, so that it looked like he'd pulled over to respond to a message. He kept his head down towards his phone but glanced up at the building. Most of these blocks were built the same so if you'd been in one you knew the layout of most of them. The apartment belonging to his number and her boyfriend was likely to be in the east corner on the fourth floor.
It had been a long time since he and Harold had worked a simple number together. For a long time now they'd been embroiled in the dealings of shady government agencies and relentless domestic terrorists. That was not what he'd come back for, and he was getting increasingly frustrated with being pulled back into that world. It would be nice to help a genuine victim for a change, and John hoped that if he played his cards right here that he could actually save a whole family.
He watched the windows for about ten minutes but couldn't see any movement. He checked his watch, it was just after midday. Ideally, he wanted this wrapped up before the kids came home from school, so he got off his bike and strode towards the building. Entry into the block was easy, someone had vandalised the door so that the electronic lock no longer worked. He swung the door open and entered the gloomy lobby. The elevator was broken too, so he took the stairs. John wrinkled his nose, the stairwell smelt of piss and weed and there were gang tags graffitied on the walls. It was far from the worst place that John had been, but it certainly wasn't somewhere he would have wanted to raise kids.
"Harold," he clicked on his earpiece. "I'm going to see if anyone's home."
He got to the door of the apartment, confirming it was the one he'd been watching. The door was old but had been touched up with a recent coat of white paint. There were a few semi-circular dents by the lock, which indicated that at some point the police had used a metal enforcer to bash it open. The enforcer had chipped the paint, which suggested the damage had been recent too. He knocked on it, trying to work out what he'd say when it opened but it didn't. He tried again, but could hear no noise from inside the apartment and there were no shadows shifting at the peephole to suggest there was someone there, so he got out his bump key and entered quietly.
"Finch, there's no one here, I'm going to take a look around. This door has been 'done' by the cops recently, suggests to me an escalation of violence." He gave Harold a running commentary like he'd used to. As life had gotten more complicated, and perhaps as Harold began to trust in John, they no longer talked to each other quite so much in the field. Shaw would have scoffed and accused Harold of trying to micromanage, and there was a time that John would have agreed with her. But John had realised early on that it was Harold's way of being worried about him, so he'd indulged it and had at some point come to enjoy the mix of brilliant insight and sardonic banter as he worked.
"Oh goodness." Harold muttered on the other end of the line.
"What is it?" A half-smile crossed John's face. The reclusive billionaire sounded utterly mortified by something.
"This care home. I told them I was looking for a place for my father… but I think I may have misjudged my attire. They're going to think I hate him."
John smirked, "You're saying anyone whose son wears a pocket square wouldn't be caught dead there? Well what did you expect?"
"Some level of dignity?"
"So what are you going to do?" John asked, still searching through the drawer, cupboards and closet in the house. He placed a couple of tiny cameras, one on the television which gave a good view of the kitchen and living room, as well as front door, the second in the bedroom, placed on the top of the closet. He used his phone to check the picture and angled it up so that it would catch people standing but nothing that went on in the bed. Reese imagined what Kara's reaction would have been if he'd done the same on a CIA job, she would have called him a 'Boy Scout' and laughed at his prudishness, but things were different now and he could afford these people at least some privacy.
"I think I'm going to have to buy the place." Harold said. John could practically hear his frown. He wondered, not for the first time, just how much money the billionaire had to burn.
"Finch, when you looked through this couple's financial history, did you happen to see which one bought the gun?" He had knelt down to look under the bed and drawn out a shoebox containing a revolver and a box of ammo.
"Erm, no. Neither has a firearm registered. There was nothing in their records."
"Which is unusual for a Marine don't you think?" The gun was fully loaded so he emptied the bullets out and studied the firearm closer. It had been cleaned immaculately, which told him that it belonged to the military man rather than his wife. The serial number had been scratched off. "Definitely belongs to him though. He should know better than to leave it somewhere the kids can get access." He reloaded it and then slid it into the waistband of his slacks beside his regular weapon. There was no way he was going to leave it where it was to be used on his wife, or worse yet, to get found by their two girls.
"Harold, there's little else here. I'm going to hazard a guess and take a look at the sports bar a few blocks down."