Since reclaiming his charge on the steps of her new man’s pad, a stony silence greeted Jerry every time he and Dara crossed paths. Her apartment really wasn’t big enough for the both of them. He felt her annoyance with every breath he took. She accepted the threat from Rx Limited as real, but she refused to accept that Jerry had her best interest at heart. Their past came back to haunt him in the worst way.
He set up his workstation in the living room with the only exit within his direct line of vision. The obvious mistrust seemed to tick her off more. He could have sworn that she growled once in his direction before grabbing a cup of coffee and slamming herself inside her bedroom. The trial was only hours away. He knew that having the perfect opening statement was important to her, so he left her to it. And concentrated on getting to the bottom of Alex Baby Face.
Jerry called in every favor and connection he had accumulated in almost twenty years of service to the underground. No one hesitated at his call. He received a series of hits and carefully perused each one. On record, Alex Krycek was listed as a financial advisor. The calculated look in his eyes told another story. Jerry knew in his gut that Alex wasn’t who he claimed to be.
His email buzzed with new mail. He clicked onto the message and had his suspicions confirmed. Alex Krycek was a chameleon. His data changed periodically. Various social security numbers, driver licenses, and careers followed him like a trail. The changes led to one conclusion. Alex Krycek was an operative. Maybe for the government. Maybe not. Whoever signed his paycheck had connections and power.
Now, all Jerry had to figure out was who employed him. Was Dara a part of the equation or just a diversion?
His cell phone rang.
"Yeah," he barked into the receiver.
"We have a problem," said Max, an undercover underground operative.
Jerry tensed. Max was undercover at the federal pen. He had an eye on Jason Morgan. This call was definitely not good news.
"I can't get a specific time. It's been hours. He's got a good headstart."
"Who has he been talking to?" Jerry asked. He made a mental list of everything he had to do. The first was to relocate Keesha and her son.
"His cell mate and Joey Patroni. Mostly, they approached him. Morgan is a loner."
"Something changed in his routine. What?"
"Nothing I can get a lock on. The block is on lockdown. What do you want me to do?"
"You've done enough," Jerry cracked, his voice heavy with sarcasm. He ended the call and dialed Justus.
"What's wrong?" Justus didn't waste time with a greeting.
"I'm moving Keesha and Jacob. I can't tell you when or where."
"Why?" Justus asked.
"Morgan flew the cuckoo's nest."
"But he thinks they're dead. Keesha likes where she is. Jacob is adjusting..."
"We don't know what Jason thinks."
Justus released an audible sigh. "Do what you have to. Just keep my cousins alive."
"There are no other options."
"Hey, Peaches. Your husband here leaving another message," Fox spoke discreetly into his cell phone, consciously aware of his writing partner hanging onto every word. He turned his back even more to face the Manhattan skyline. "I know finding Gwen is important, but baby, it's going on twenty-four hours since I've seen you. Call me back." He laughed softly as he added, "Reassure me that you're alive. Dara's trial starts tomorrow. She probably needs some sisterly support. Hell, I need some support. I love you. Call me back."
He sent the message, flipped the phone closed and returned to his desk. Scully's interested gaze followed his every move. The constant awareness annoyed him. If he hadn't taken the bait in all this time, did she really think she had a chance?
"What's up?" Dana asked. She strained across her desk toward. The position gave him an unappreciated view of her cleavage. He frowned and powered on his computer.
"I mean with the case. Dawn is assigned to the case of the missing cop, right?"
"Gwen and Dawn went to the Police Academy together. Dawn sung at her wedding. Gwen helped encourage Dawn to go for the gold shield. Gwen is more than a missing cop."
Dana had the decency to slink back against her chair. "Sorry. You don't have to bite my head off."
"I'm sorry," he said after a moment of deliberation.
Apologizing was the right thing to do, but he couldn't help his irritation. Here was Dana, jumping on any opportunity to entice him. On the other hand, his wife was busting her ass to find an abducted friend. On top of that, he hadn't heard from the woman he loved in almost a day. The silence wasn't like her. No matter how hard she worked on a case, she always found time to connect with him. The anxiety was scaring him shitless.
"Have there been any leads to Gwen?"
Fox shook his head. "I don't think so."
"I'm surprised we're not covering it."
Dana nodded with understanding. "Because she's a friend."
"No, because of a promise I made to my wife. I leave her work out of my headlines."
Her mouth drew into a thin line. "Oh."
"But I have been thinking about doing another kind of story about Gwen. Every year, black women go missing, but the media attention is never as focused on them. Their disappearances are ignored. The world stops when a white woman vanishes. It's not the same for women of color."
She frowned. "Do you really believe that?"
"Well, I've never really thought about it—"
A knock sounded at their door. Then, Walter Skinner walked in. He nodded in Dana's direction before fixing his bespectacled stare onto Fox. "I need to speak with you."
For a moment, Fox's heart stopped beating. He drew in a ragged breath and rose to his feet. Without saying a word, he followed Skinner into the hallway. Rey Curtis was already there waiting for them. His wife's partner looked away for a second. Rage and fear instantly become one inside Fox, boiling out of control.
Fox grabbed him and said through clenched teeth, "She's not dead!"
After Skinner separated the men, Curtis said, "No, we don't think so."
"What are you telling me?" Fox said with as much civility as he could manage. "Just tell me!"
"She left the precinct last night around eleven. When she didn't report in this morning, I got worried. I tried her cell phone and got nothing except voicemail. Then, a rookie found her purse near a dumpster in Central Park. Everything was there except her cell phone and shield. CSU is going over the scene now. We're doing everything we can to find her."
Fox slumped against the wall. Skinner reached out, but Fox jerked from the other man's touch. "No!" he bellowed. The denial roared from deep within his soul. "No."
"Don't be sorry," Fox bitterly cut off the detective. "Just find my wife."
"If she contacts you..."
"I know the drill," Fox said. "I know what to do." He looked Curtis in the eyes. "I want to see the rookie's police report. I want to know everything."
"You know I can't—"
"You can," Fox said. "You will. I'm her husband. I have a right to know."
"I'll talk to the Captain," Curtis said. "As soon as we know anything, I'll let you know."
Fox nodded and the detective left. Silence lingered in the hallway until Skinner spoke.
"If you want to take some time off—"
"The public needs to be aware of what's going on. It's not a coincidence that two Black female detectives are missing. This should be front page news."
"You're too close."
"Which is exactly why I should write it."
After a second of tense quiet, Skinner nodded his assent. "Get to it. You know when the deadline is."
Jian and Keesha sat on the back terrace and watched Jacob chase fireflies. The little boy giggled and played as if he hadn't a care in the world. And he hadn't. Jian squeezed Keesha's hand. Despite the strange circumstances that reunited them, he felt good about them. They were a lot stronger now than they had been all those years ago. He was confident they could weather any storm.
"Do you ever remember being that happy?" Keesha asked. Her brown eyes glowed with the fierceness of her maternal love. "That's all I've ever wanted for him."
"Then you should be proud," he said. "You're a good mother, Keesha."
"I've made mistakes."
"Everyone has." He shifted on the lawn furniture to face her. "I've been thinking a lot about us."
A slow smile parted her full lips. "Good thoughts, I hope."
"Very. I was thinking how good we are together," he said. "Jacob is bursting with energy. The flower shop has good business. And you and I... Together, Keesha, we are better than I ever dreamed. I love you and Jacob so much. I want us to be a family. An official family. Keesha, I'm asking you to marry me."
Sudden tears glittered in her eyes. She looked away. "Jian, I love you, too. You know that, but marriage... It wouldn't be fair to you to saddle you down with our problems."
"What problems?" he questioned. "Everyone has problems."
"Not like mine."
"Then your problems are mine. It's not like I come pure as the driven snow. I have a past, too."
"Let me think about it," she said after a moment of quiet.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, black jewelry box. "While you're thinking, I want you to wear this." He opened the box to reveal a beautiful, shiny diamond. "It's not as big as you deserve, but in time..."
"Oh, Jian, it's beautiful." She plucked the ring from the box and cradled it in the palm of her hand. "I shouldn't."
"Give me one good reason why you shouldn't." He took the ring and carefully slid it on the ring finger of her left hand. "Perfect fit. Just like the three of us."
When she didn't take off the ring, he sighed with relief. She was scared about their future, but he didn't share her fear.
Jacob soon grew tired of chasing insects. Jian carried the boy inside. The three of them went upstairs to the apartment and began dinner. While Jacob worked diligently on his coloring book, Jian chopped vegetables for stir-fry. Keesha turned on the radio. The cool Jazz station reminded Jian of his neglected violin. He made a mental note to play after they ate.
"We interrupt this program with late-breaking news. There has been a prison escape at the New England federal facility. More news after a word from our sponsor."
Keesha turned her stricken gaze onto Jian. "Oh, God."
"We don't know it's him."
"Trust me," she said quietly, "I know. It's Jason. He's coming after us."