Being back in the city felt surreal after everything that had happened. He left alone unsure of himself now his partner newly risen from the dead was by his side, his Uncle Michael and his sister Jennifer were there intent on helping him solve this case that has haunted him for months. He loved them dearly but he wasn’t sure he liked putting them in the line of fire. They were civilians not trained like he was at putting theirs lives on the line. Maybe he’d feel better if they were taking this more seriously.
“Hey what’s with the look?” Zayne asked.
“I don’t like this” Jeff growled
“Yeah we got that,” Zayne said a bit glibly “but what choice do we have? It’s not like we have the resources of the department backing us up.” He ran his fingers through his hair”I just want this over so I can hold my son” The pensive look in his eyes showed how much strain he had been under.
“You and me both” Jeff slapped a hand on his partners back “I’m going to miss Charlie. He’s a really good kid.”
Zayne got this far away look in his eyes before replying. “I’ve been thinking once we solve this case I might leave the department…”
Jeff stared at him like he had grown two heads “you can’t be serious! Why?”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think while I was recuperating.” He walked several steps away before stopping at a window. Staring out at the fogy early morning city landscape he sighed “after losing my wife I thought my life was over. The bachelorette showed me I still had a heart. That I wanted a family.” Jeff moved to join him at the window “I know I did everything I could to push the girl away on the show. I’m embarrassed by the way I acted but that was the start. The push I needed to open my heart up again. Charlie needs a mother.” Turning his back on the city below “what would have happened to him if I had died? What will happen the next time someone takes a shot at me with a little more success?”
“Don’t you think I worry about those things too?” Jeff asked grabbing Zayne’s arm preventing him from walking off “I have a son I haven’t seen since he was born.” He stopped blinking back tears letting his hands drop to his sides “I want this nightmare to be over. I want to hold my wife and tell her I love her. I want to see my son and see how much he’s grown.”
“Then let’s use the resources we have and solve this thing” Zayne said putting a hand on Jeff’s shoulder “How about it?”
“Ok,ok” he put his hands up in surrender “you win. I just hope nothing goes wrong.”
“You and me both” Zayne said turning serious.
Joining the others in the living room Jeff frowned as Jennifer put her phone away. Catching his eye she stuck her tongue out at him “don’t worry baby brother I was just calling Jean to see if she’s heard anything from Peter about Chase. Peter promised he’d keep her informed.”
“I…just as long as you don’t call Mrs Reynolds without us in the room,” Jeff finished giving her a baleful look.
“I said I wouldn’t, didn’t I?” she retorted rolling her eyes “I’m not stupid.”
“I know I’m sorry,” Jeff tried to placate his sister’s ruffled feathers. “I’m just on edge. We’re dealing with some dangerous people and we don’t have any backup.”
“It’s time you learn to rely on someone Jeff,” Jennifer went to hug “I learned that the hard way.”
He blinked not sure if his ears were playing tricks on him or not. Jennifer never admitted to being wrong…ever. This was the closest he had ever heard her come close to it. He wondered if this had anything to do with the falling out between her and their cousin Robbie. He was about to ask when Uncle Michael walked into the apartment carrying his twins. “Think these will do for our ruse?”
“Are you sure about this?” Jeff’s frown deepened even more.
“I’m sure” Michael nodded “Just don’t tell their mother. Nina will kill me if she finds out.”
“You didn’t tell her?” Jeff was appalled “don’t you think she has a right to know. They’re her kids too…”
“Calm down,” Michael put the kids down “the kids aren’t in any danger. All we need is for them to go to Mrs Reynolds daycare a few times, right?”
Jeff nodded grudgingly “but what if something happens to you?”
Shrugging Michael gave him a cocky grin “then Nina will kill you instead.”
“That’s not funny” Jeff stuttered feeling things slipping out of his control.
Zayne seeing how Jeff was starting to fume stepped in “alright let’s get down to business.” Once everyone was seated except for Jeff who prowled around the room. “The kids should be safe enough. My concern is Michael’s safety. You have to appear to be an easy target. Someone the killer feels he can overcome in some way.”
The first realization of the danger he was actually volunteering for started to seep into Michael as he lost his grin giving him a serious expression. “So what do I do? The only combat training I have know I learned from video games….”
“Meaning you have none,” Jeff growled from where he stood by the stairs.
“Yeah but I was pretty good at Mortal Combat,” the cocky grin appeared for a moment before being replaced with determination. “I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m doing. I’m going to trust you guys know what to do and will be able to help me if I get ino trouble.”
“This is going to be impossible,” Jeff threw his hands up walking away.
Ignoring him Zayne gave Michael a considering look “you look in pretty good shape.”
“I guess,” Michael agreed with misgivings “what’s going through that head of yours?”
“That we might be able to teach you a few rudimentary defense moves to protect yourself,” Jeff said coming into the room again.
“Ok I’m game for that,” Michael said standing up to face Jeff.
“While Zayne is coaching Jennifer on what to say when she calls Mrs Reynolds you and I are going to start your training.”
“Why do I have the feeling I’m not going to like this?” Michael asked following Jeff outside.
“Oh probably because you’re not,” Jeff told him with a gleam in his eyes.
On the day of the interview Jeff and Zayne pulled their resources and connected both Jennifer and Michael to a wire. “We’ll be here listening to everything that’s being said. Just act natural.” Jeff told them.
“Sure easy peasy,” Michael said glibly “just ignore the tape pulling on my chest hairs.”
“Like its easy to act natural when you know you have an audience” Jennifer added. She had images of the only school play she had been in as a kid. She had froze as she looked into the crowd forgetting all of her lines she had spent weeks memorizing. She had run from the stage in tears. The only comfort was finding her dad behind the curtain with his arms open waiting for her. Telling her not everyone was meant to be on stage and that it would all be ok.
Jeff gave her a concerned look “can you do this?” he asked her looking deeply into her eyes.
“Yes” she said becoming irritated with him for second guessing her and the memory from the past. She tried her best not to think about her dad. Every time she did she felt his loss that much more. All she wanted to do was forget everything about him. If she couldn’t bring him back she didn’t want to remember what she was missing.
“Are you sure?” he asked placing his hands on her shoulders sensing something was wrong. “I need your head in the game. If it’s not they’ll sense a setup.”
Shaking him off she scowled out him “I said I was fine. I can do this. Stop second guessing me,” she turned and walked away.
“She’ll be ok” Michael said in his ear “I have a feeling she’s not upset about doing this. Trust her. She’ll do fine. If not I’ll do all the talking. After a I’m the bait afterall.”
Sitting in his Uncles mini van minus the backseats listening to the wires Jeff mumbled “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Zayne gave him a sharp look. From experience he learned to appreciate his partners hunches, his ‘bad’ feelings. When he said he had a bad feeling he was usually right. He focused more on the mundane voices of Mr and Mrs Reynolds as they expanded upon the daycare facility and it’s services. Things didn’t get interesting until Mrs Reynolds took Jennifer and the kids on a tour.
They heard Michael’s voice saying he should follow and see the facilities for himself when a new voice was picked up asking him to stay. “I think I should go with my my wife” he said his voice unsure, nervous.
“She’ll be back,” the voice said. Jeff looked over at Zayne for confirmation. The disembodied voice belonged to Mike Wilson, Mr Reynolds son.
“I think I should….”
“Sit relax” Mr Reynolds said sounding more sure of himself than when his wife was in the room.
“We have a proposition for you,” his son’s voice came through wire loud and clear.
“Wwwhat proposition?” Michael stuttered feeling his mouth go dry as the men pressed in. “Um I’ve got to go,” he jumped from his chair as they attempted to grope him. Running from the room heart pounding he found Jennifer and the kids in the kitchen. “Honey we’ve got to be on our way.” His voice sounded shaky even to his own ears.
She nodded thanking Mrs Reynolds for the tour. Michael breathed a sigh of relief when they stood outside of the apartment. “What’s wrong?” Jennifer asked.
Shaking his head weakly Michael started walking towards the exit “I’ll tell you later.”
Getting into the van Zayne and Jeff waited for them in the reinstalled back seats. While the kids were being situated into their car seats Jeff demanded “what happened in there?”
Gulping for air Michael leaned on the steering wheel “I now know what a piece of meat feels like.”
Jennifer stared at him while the others exchanged bleak looks. “Are you saying what we think you are?” they asked simultaneously.
“Yeah if you’re thinking they tried to have their way with me,” Michael said “I think I might be sick. That was more than what I bargained for.”
“Both of them?” Zayne asked his voice incredulous “I’ve know Mr Reynolds for almost a year and he never tried anything…”
“Be thankful he didn’t” Michael said putting the van in gear and merging with traffic.
“This puts a whole new spin on the case,” Jeff said quietly from the backseat “could the father and son be working together? Is the determining factor the victims refusal of their advances or had they given in?”
“So if I’m following you line of thought,” Michael said looking into the rear view mirror “I’m definitely on the chopping block. I must meet their type and by rejecting them I may be their next victim.”
“Pretty much” Jeff said “from now on you’re not going anywhere without one of us.”