As God is my witness, inasmuch as God pays attention to lowly writers of porny crossover crackfic, this is the very last story in the Calling universe. I'd call it a trilogy, but then I'm pretty sure the ghost of Douglas Adams would laugh at me.

This story took me one year, two months, and nine days to write. The process was a distinctly non-linear one; I wrote one of the very last scenes early on, and spent the rest of the time guiding events in that direction. Over that year et cetera, I went through a period of severe depression, during which I couldn't write anything, and stopped working on this for a few months. I wasn't sure I'd ever finish it.

"The Ending Hour" is dedicated to the amazing and talented Liz, who fell in love with Harry from the start, and without whose love, support, and oh my God endless nagging (I jest! No, but seriously, folks), the completed version may never have seen the light of day.

Characters and situations from Tru Calling and Due South do not belong to me. Spencer, Olivia, Keith, Lazarin, Margery, Isaac, Tom, Bett, and assorted other background characters are my creations. OMG DUN STEEL.

Or at least drop me a line if you do, so I can come over to your house and find out what kind of crack you been smoking, Little Bunny Foo Foo.

The title comes from the song "Pat's Trick" by Helium, from their album The Dirt of Luck.

The Ending Hour
by Maya Tawi

part one


"Your teeth are gold, you're not that old
I would tell you the truth but I'm not that bold
Hit me with your hand, my mouth is full of sand
Everything I say ends with end"
--Helium, "Superball"


Spencer Godfrey's fingers flew over the keyboard like a spastic piano player's as she hunched over her small laptop computer, muttering obscenities under her breath. A trickle of sweat made its winding way from her hairline down her temple. Her eyes never left the screen.

Just as she was about to deliver the killing blow, two sounds encroached upon her solitude: the shrill bleat of the telephone, and the rattle of the front doorknob.

Her finger slipped.

"Son of a bitch," Spencer muttered, scowling at the screen. Mere seconds ago, Raven Darkfyre had been about to reduce her opponent to puppy kibble; now, she lay crumpled on the ground in a pile of her own steaming intestines. In the background, Jezebel Blayze stomped around and whooped silently, doing her pixellated victory dance.

Son of a bitch. And she'd been trying for weeks to beat this level, too.

Spencer clicked the game window closed and aimed the fakest, sunniest smile in her arsenal at the front door. She ignored the phone as it continued to ring, mentally relegating the caller to the dark netherworld of voice mail.

The doorknob stopped rattling after a few moments, as the intruder realized that the door was already unlocked. Hinges squealed in protest. A shock of untidy blond hair appeared in the doorway, its owner following not far behind.

Spencer opened her mouth.

"Shut the fuck up and answer the phone," Harrison Davies said, clocking her expression in an instant.

Her smile became a smirk as she gave her erstwhile boss a long, head-to-toe look. Hair rattier than usual; sunglasses that didn't quite hide the dark circles under his eyes; crumpled button-down shirt, obviously slept in-- he'd had a better night than she had. "Dude, you look like shit," she said. "Shouldn't the party be tonight?"

"Was that you shutting up and answering the phone? I couldn't tell."

"And you the great detective." She waved a negligent hand, and on cue, the phone stopped ringing. "They'll call back. Meanwhile, the world has to know: how's it feel to be--"

"Don't say it," Harrison growled, slamming the door shut, then flinching at the sound.

"--thirty?" Spencer finished, as loudly as she could.

Harrison groaned. "Screw you, Godfrey."

"In your dreams, Davies." She shot a pointed look at her watch. "Anyway, I don't know why you're riding my ass about the phone. Weren't you supposed to be here like an hour ago?"

"Traffic," Harrison grunted, stomping through the reception area to the kitchen in the hallway beyond.

Spencer raised her voice, pitching it to carry around the corner. "What fucking traffic? You live upstairs!"

Harrison emerged a moment later with two new accessories, an open bottle and a distinctly friendlier expression on his face. He grinned at her dubious look. "Wasn't home," he said, in the lofty tones of the well-laid, and sometimes the want-people-to-think-they're-well-laid.

"And here I thought you'd found a hooker that delivers."

"Yeowch," Harrison said. "Holster those claws there, before somebody gets hurt." He swallowed a mouthful of beer and surfaced, still grinning.

Spencer clamped down on the rising tide of annoyance with some effort. He was supposed to be the snappish one, and her the inappropriately cheerful, not the other way around. She shouldn't have been surprised; Harrison had the mood swings of a sugar-hyped five-year-old. Sometimes she wondered if it wouldn't be a good idea to just send him off for a nap.

Even if he was now, officially, over the hill.

"Guess you're right," she said, voice dripping with false sympathy. "Wouldn't want you breaking a hip or anything. Bones get brittle at your age."

"Jesus Christ, Godfrey. I'm thirty, not dying."

He winced even as he said it, a comical look of horror spreading across his face, and Spencer couldn't contain her snicker. "Convince yourself, Grandpa."

"Shut up," Harrison said again, with no real heat. "Any messages? Bills to ignore? Huge rubber checks to frame and mount?"

Spencer accepted the shift in conversation with good grace; she could always give him his birthday present later. With any luck, he'd take the package of Depends and the subscription to AARP magazine in the spirit was intended. That the spirit was benign sadism, she wasn't sure what that fact did to the odds.

"Mirelli called twice," she said, shoving a stack of phone messages towards him. "Loves the pics, wants to see the rest of your portfolio."

Harrison made a face. "That woman is...." He trailed off, fingertip and beer bottle circling vaguely around his left ear.

"No shit," Spencer said. Who knew she'd get off so much on snapshots of her husband screwing some 18-year-old rent boy? "Landlord wants rent--"

"I paid that already!"

"Last month, slick. Try and keep up." Spencer flipped through the rest of the messages when Harrison made no move to take them, squinting in an attempt to decipher her own scrawl. She was the master of the one-handed no-looking phone message; it wasn't the first time Harrison had rolled out of bed and down the stairs an hour or two late. Down side was, she couldn't always read the notes afterwards. "Couple new jobs, said you'd call 'em back. Cat lady wants a consult--"

"Oh, not again--"

"--and oh, hey--" remembering-- "no cold hard cash, but you did get a package."

Harrison frowned. "I did?"

"You did indeed," Spencer said. "Who do you know from the Chicago police department, anyway? Old arresting officer?"

Harrison stopped in mid-swig and stared at her over the lip of the bottle.

As birthdays went, Harrison had had better. Still, there was room for improvement; any day that started with the hangover from hell had nowhere to go but up.

Or so he hoped. A package from the Chicago P.D.-- it could go either way.

He set down the bottle and peered at the box, leaning over so far his nose nearly brushed Spencer's desk.

"Hey!" She shoved him away, and he stepped back, hands raised in surrender. "You gonna ralph, do it on your own desk. I got paperwork here."

"My paperwork," Harrison reminded her.

She glared. "Your point?"

He just grinned. Hiring Spencer Godfrey had been one of his more genius ideas. Every respectable P.I. needed a chick secretary, he figured, and when he realized he actually had the income to afford one, he hadn't been able to resist. A few people had answered his Internet ad, but Spencer had been the only one with an iron bar through her sinus cavity. Intrigued despite himself, Harrison hired her on the spot.

It didn't hurt that easy on the eyes, despite the hardware. Just out of college, with a totally useless degree in comparative religion, she wasn't even jailbait. And yet somehow, during the three months since he'd hired her, Harrison had never quite gotten around to making a move. When it came right down to it, he supposed he enjoyed having a secretary too much to screw up the relationship with sex.

Which just showed how fucked-up his priorities had become.

Harrison eyed the package, not quite willing yet to solve the mystery yet. Instead, he patted his pockets and found a crushed pack with two battered cigarettes inside. The smokes were a relatively recent development. Ray Kowalski had left him a half-empty pack when he was in town a couple years before, and by the end of the month Harrison was up to a pack a day. He'd never been able to resist the allure of a bad habit.

"So what's the deal?" he asked, slipping a Marlboro between his lips and flicking his lighter. "That come in this morning, or what?"

Spencer wrinkled her nose. "Are you even like allowed to do that in here?"

Harrison froze, his hand still cupped around the flickering flame of the Bic. "It's, like, my office," he retorted, his words only slightly muffled by the filter.

Spencer rolled her eyes. "New tenant laws." The dumbass was implied. "There were notices in the lobby all month. Guess you missed 'em. Quelle surprise."

Harrison inhaled and blew a deliberate plume of smoke in her direction. She made a face and waved it away.

"That's it," he said. "I'm buying the building."

"Good luck with that," Spencer said.

Harrison knew a dismissal when he heard one. He grabbed the package and retreated into the rear office. It had been his bedroom before, until a couple years back, when he realized that what with the whole repeating-days thing and the financial opportunities it presented (Davis disapproved; Davis always disapproved), he actually had enough cash coming in to afford to rent the apartment upstairs. Unfortunately, most of his dubiously-gotten gains went first into cleaning the place out and making it livable; and then, once he was done, into the suddenly steep rent, as his renovations had apparently caused the building's value to skyrocket. Three hours, two dangerously raised voices, two near-fistfights, and one threat of legal action later, he and the landlord had settled on a compromise number, one which still took a sizeable chunk out of what funds his more-or-less-weekly jaunts into the past could afford him. And that wasn't even counting the replay days when he'd been too busy to hit the track, or had-- once or twice, no big deal-- forgotten to note the winners the day before.

All in all, he was just as poor as he'd ever been, but at least this time he was poor in comfort.

The bed and the card table had both been moved upstairs; all that remained in the room was a heavy wooden desk, rescued from the curb back in May when all the college students had abandoned ship for three more months. Harrison shoved the piles of paper off the desk and onto the floor, then propped his hip against the side and set to inspecting the package.

He weighed it in his hand, then studied the return address. The label was written in an untidy scrawl, nearly illegible, but he thought he recognized a 2 and a 7, or maybe an eel, and the word precinct. Or peppermint.

Curious and, well, more curious. He thought Chicago, he thought P.D., he thought Fraser and Ray. But they were no longer even there, hadn't been for-- he did a quick mental calculation-- almost eight years now, and he couldn't think of anyone else there who'd want to send him anything. Unless it was an exploding thing-- fallout from the Garvey fiasco? Harrison refused to consider himself important enough to track down and blow up, especially eight years after the fact. Besides, a crazy mail bomber probably wouldn't use the 27th as a return address.

Then again, it would be the crazy thing to do.

Only one way to find out. Harrison took a deep breath, squeezed his eyes shut, and ripped open the box.

It occurred to him, halfway through the process, that he really ought to have told Spencer to take an early lunch break or something, just in case.

Oh well. Too late now.

He waited a few seconds, face frozen in an anticipatory wince; when nothing exploded and all his bits stayed attached where they were supposed to be, he cracked open one wary eye.

It wasn't a bomb, it was a file folder. And scrawled on a yellow Post-It, in the same handwriting as the address label:

Happy 30th.


"McGruff," Harrison said aloud, as recognition dawned. Which begged yet another question-- why the hell was Lieutenant Harding Welsh sending him a birthday present?

He scowled at the file folder. That'd better be porn in there.

A few moments later, his fingers were shaking.

It wasn't porn. It was better than porn.

It was Jack Harper.

Laid out in front of him, in official black and white, was the asshole who'd dogged Tru for years and then finally killed her-- four years ago now, right in front of Harrison's eyes. The asshole who'd vanished for good that night, gone completely off the grid, leaving behind no evidence whatsoever.

The very same asshole who'd been working with their own father in order to prevent Tru from saving lives.

He spread unsteady hands over the pages, flattening them on his desk. Some of it he already knew from his own investigations, but Welsh had access to information a lowly P.I. wouldn't, and in his infinite inscrutability, he'd passed it on. Birth certificate, medical records, even a mug shot from the Baltimore P.D.-- drunk and disorderly, he read, and bit back a hysterical giggle. He was willing to bet Jack hadn't actually been drunk that night.

Or if he was, he had a damn good reason. Like time travel.

It was the last item, that caught his eye, and he picked it up, tracing reverent fingers over the lines of print. It was an invoice for payment to a private investigator-- also in Baltimore, hey, coincidence-- and a photocopy of a contract, requesting a search for someone named Olivia Doyle.

The signature at the bottom was Jack's.

Harrison's fingers tightened in triumph, creasing the photocopy in his grasp; then he frowned down at it, thinking. Fuck knew how Welsh had gotten his hands on this supposedly confidential information, but the how wasn't bugging him so much as the why. As far as he knew, he'd never even mentioned Jack's name to the man. In fact, the only people apart from Davis that even knew who Jack was, and why Harrison would be looking for him, were....

Ray and Fraser.

Harrison replaced the invoice and snapped the folder shut, then stuffed it back into the box, struck by the sudden, irrational paranoia that it would disappear if he left it unguarded. The safe was in the front office, behind Spencer's desk; he remembered the combination on his first try, then slid the box inside.

Spencer scooted her chair back from the desk, giving him a strange look. "What is it?"

"That," Harrison said, feeling giddy, "is the Holy freaking Grail." He slammed the safe door shut and spun the dial. "Hey, Spence. How much d'you think it'll cost to call Inuvik?"

She fixed him with another narrow stare. "That in Russia?"

"Close enough," Harrison said, and reached for the phone.

He shooed Spencer out of the chair, and she abandoned her post in a huff, stomping into the kitchen and banging cabinet doors open and shut. Harrison unearthed his battered, badly-out-of-date address book from the cluttered desk drawers.

Ray answered on the third ring. "'Lo?"

"So hey," Harrison said, winking at Spencer in the doorway, who snorted and retreated back into the kitchen. "You have a phone number. You have a phone. I thought you were, like, in the wild up there."

"So hey," Ray mimicked. "I'd recognize that grating voice anywhere."

"You should talk."

"And you really shouldn't."

"Cute. And bite me."

"So you're old now," Ray said, with a faint trace of glee in his voice. "Big three-oh. Got your will in order and everything? Got insurance? You fall, you break your hip--"

"Yeah, yeah, everyone goes for the hip. If I'm old, you're fucking ancient, Kowalski."

"You get my package?"

"Depends," Harrison said. "You route it through Chicago?"

"Hey, mail service up here's crap, but it's not that crap," Ray said. "Phones, we got. Post office, takes a little longer."

"Yeah, well," Harrison said. "Your pal McGruff remembered the occasion, and he sent me the most darling little trinket."

A pause. "Am I nuts, or did you just say Welsh sent you a birthday present?"

"Roughly translated. Any clue why he'd be keeping a file on Jack Harper?"

"Why he-- hell no, I never--" Ray broke off, then said, "Oh. Oh, shit, yeah."

"Uh-huh," Harrison said. "Meaning?"

Ray sounded almost sheepish. "Uh, back when we were looking for Garvey, I asked Frannie to get me Harper's record. We never used the info, so I told her to just check back every once in a while. You know, just in case."

Harrison stared at the phone. "That's the sweetest thing I ever heard. You going soft on me, Kowalski?"

"Not yet," Ray drawled, the two small words dripping innuendo.

Harrison bit the inside of his cheek, hard. Not the time, not the time... ah, shit. He shifted discreetly in his seat. "Guess Welsh found it. Wonder how much he knows?"

"Probably everything," Ray said.

"He scares me sometimes."

"Only sometimes? Thought you were smarter than that." Ray paused. "Why, is there anything good in it?"

"Could be," Harrison allowed. "He's looking for someone, some chick named Olivia something or other. Something Irish. I'm thinking, I get there first--"

Ray's voice had suddenly sharpened. "You do that. Want some company?"

A wave of heat surged through him at the question, and he realized just how much he wanted to say hell yes. He also realized it would be a really bad idea. If he reacted this way just hearing Ray's voice....

Ray was with Fraser, and Harrison would just end up tying his dick in knots over it. Sure, that hadn't been a problem the last time-- and oh Jesus, the memories of that weren't helping any-- but he suspected that in this case, the time for replays was long past. Besides, at this point, another threesome would only depress him.

Although it just might be worth it.

Harrison cleared his throat. "Nah," he said, pleased when his voice stayed steady. "No, uh, I think I got this one. But, uh, I'll let you know."

"Do that," Ray said. "So hey, you still chasin' corpses?"

Harrison raised his middle finger at the phone. "Hey, Ray, what the hell do you do up there anyway? You a Mountie now too?"

"Didn't I tell you?" Ray sounded smug. "I'm a forest officer. Later, brat."

Harrison pulled the droning receiver away from his ear and regarded it in silence for a few seconds.

"Asshole," he said.

He told Spencer to hold his calls-- and that was a thrill right there, Hold my calls, and if she rolled her eyes even more than usual, he was flying too high to give a shit-- and spent the rest of the morning in the rear office, hunt-and-peck-typing as he searched the databases for Olivia Doyle.

He soon determined that, for all intents and purposes, the woman no longer existed. She'd dropped off the map a couple years ago, without so much as an active bank account to her name. As impossible as it was to track down her current incarnation, however, it was child's play to figure out where she'd been; all Harrison had to do was follow the trail of arrest records. Baltimore, petty theft and a B&E; D.C., possession of controlled substances; Birmingham (Birmingham? Harrison wondered, eyeing the geographical gap askance), possession with intent to sell; Detroit, grand theft auto, fittingly enough; Chicago, grand theft auto plus larceny; and back east to Philadelphia and the innocuous charge of loitering with intent, where the trail stopped cold. So Doyle was a criminal, if not a very good one; Harrison wasn't surprised. More curious was the fact that as far as he could tell, she'd never done time, not even for a few months.

He filed away the question in the back of his mind and hit print. If Jack Harper was looking for her, she'd hardly be Mother Teresa.

Unless Jack was looking for her so he could kill her.

Harrison dismissed the thought with a quick shake of his head. Reluctant though he was to ever give Harper the benefit of the doubt, instinct told him that even Jack wasn't dumb enough to hire a P.I. to find someone he intended to off. Hell, four years of trying to connect him to Tru's murder, without even the faintest whiff of success, told Harrison all he needed to know. Jack was too good at covering his ass to leave such an obvious trail.

Unless the trail was a double bluff.

Harrison shook his head again, more violently this time. Trying to second-guess Jack Harper's motives could give a guy an aneurysm.

No, Jack had some other reason to find Olivia Doyle, and that meant Harrison had to find her first. His options were more or less limited to two-- start at the end of the trail, or the beginning.

Or, option C: do both.

Another quick database search turned up Olivia Jane Doyle, born March 3, 1986, in Baltimore County, Maryland. Harrison sent off a quick official request to the Baltimore Hall of Records for her birth certificate-- that was one of the things he never quite got over, how he could flash his P.I. license and suddenly official-type people told him everything he wanted to know-- then paused with his hand halfway to the phone.

Forget professional courtesy; the flip side was that cops, as a general rule, really didn't like P.I.s. Compensation for the perks, he supposed. The odds were pretty astronomical that the Philly arresting officer wouldn't tell him a damn thing over the phone, licensed or not.

Well, Philadelphia was a straight shot down 95 on the way to Baltimore. He could be there in six hours, and into Maryland in another two.

Decision made, Harrison shut down his laptop and shoved it into a duffel bag, then hefted the bag onto his shoulder and headed upstairs to pack. The prospect of imminent action was cheering. Harrison Davies was on the case, and no way would Olivia Doyle slip through his fingers. And after that....

He'd spent the past four years looking for Jack, with nothing to show for his efforts but a two-pack-a-day habit and a growing attraction to tequila. Suddenly there seemed an end in sight.

To get to his apartment, he had to go out the front door and back in through the building lobby. On his way out, he stopped at Spencer's desk and snapped his fingers to get her attention.

"Going somewhere?" she asked, not looking away from the screen.

"Got a break in a case," he said, ignoring her scoff. "I'll be gone a couple days. Take care of Horner for me, would ya?"

He breezed out without waiting for an answer, and was halfway up the stairs before he realized that she was stomping after him.

"What the fuck?" she yelled.

Harrison paused, key in the lock, and glanced back. "What the fuck, what? I'm outta town, you're taking over. Seems pretty simple to me."

"But what-- I can't--" She raced up the steps two at a time, barging into the apartment before he could close the door in her face. "I'm a secretary, you dumbass!"

"And a stellar secretary you are," Harrison said, dropping the duffel bag on his bed and throwing open the closet door. His two cleanest shirts and a handful of underwear went into the bag; toothbrush and hair gel followed after, and then he knelt and peered under the bed, rummaging for his boots.

She stared down at him in horror. "But boss, I, no-- you can't!"

"I can," Harrison informed the underside of the bed, "and I am."

"But-- no, but Horner--"

"Needs photos of a 60-year-old dude doing a sprightly two-step." He stood and handed her a battered black boot, the right one; the left was still missing in action. "It's insurance fraud, Spence, you can do this in your sleep."

Spencer hurled the boot back at him with deadly accuracy and unnecessary force. "No I can't! You can! I've never done this shit before!"

"Sure ya have," Harrison said, rubbing his sore shoulder with a wince. "The Peterson case--"

"Only 'cause you couldn't find a decent hooker on short notice! And I sure as hell wasn't the dick then!"

"Jeez, Godfrey, are you trying to scar me for life?"

Spencer looked like she couldn't decide whether to be offended or not. Before she made up her mind, Harrison dropped the duffel bag and took a step forward, resting a light hand on her arm.

"Hey," he began; then "hey," more loudly, when she tried to shake him off. "You can do this, Spence. You're good. You're damn good, okay? You're smart, you're quick, you don't take no shit. And more to the point--" He released her arm and mimed snapping a photo in her face. "--you know how to work a Kodak. This is seriously a no-brainer, kid. Don't sell yourself that short."

"I'm gonna kill you in your sleep," Spencer snapped.

Harrison grinned. "Buck up, camper," he said, giving her shoulder a hearty smack.

She punched him in the same shoulder she'd used for target practice. Harrison bit his tongue to keep from yelping. Couldn't show weakness in front of the enemy.

"What's all this about, Davies?"

"Unfinished business," Harrison said, and zipped the bag shut with a flourish.

Spencer cocked an eyebrow. "Billable business?"

Harrison snorted. "Don't I wish."

He called Davis at the morgue to give him a heads-up. Three years of chasing corpses together, as Ray had so delicately put it, had done little to make the two of them friends; Davis still considered Harrison irresponsible, irreverent, and a bad joke on the part of the Forces of the Universe, while Harrison still had a hard time respecting anyone who arranged his DVDs in alphabetical order. But on the subject of Jack Harper, they agreed: Bitch was going down.

He hung up with Davis's fervent well-wishes still ringing in his ears, then did a slow pivot in place, gazing around the apartment for anything he'd forgotten.

There wasn't much to take care of after that. Work delegated, cryptkeeper warned, secretary sufficiently freaked and thus punished for her earlier torment; all that remained was to get in the car and drive.

He glanced at the phone on his way out the door, then stopped and, almost as an afterthought, picked up the phone and dialed again. The phone rang ten times, and he imagined the sound echoing in an empty wooden cabin, muffled by the surrounding snow. Mid-eleventh ring, he hung up.

Who did he think he was, Jimmy Olsen? He didn't have to get permission from the big boys before leaving town.

But the staccato dial tone had reminded him of the waiting message, so he picked up the receiver again and punched in the code for voice mail. He checked the clock as he did-- just after noon; he could still make good time if he floored it, and who was he kidding, he always floored it-- and then his sister's voice rang loud and grating in his ear.

"Missed you again, huh? I think I'm starting to see a pattern here. Well, listen, you know I'm back in town, and you know where to find me. Whenever you decide to crawl the hell out of your snit, I'll be waiting."

Meredith paused, then added, "And fire your secretary, Harrison. Her phone manner is appalling."

Harrison slammed down the receiver and made a mental note to give Spencer a raise.

The Mustang had finally died for good six months before, and Harrison had mourned it the way he usually reserved for children and family pets. All told, it'd had a good run; certainly lasted longer than anything else he'd ever won in a poker game. But the Smurf was dead now, and the ten-year-old Nissan he'd bought off a friend of Isaac's just wasn't the same.

Still, it got him from place to place, and he made good time to Philadelphia, pulling into the parking lot of the PPD headquarters just as the sun was starting to set. He took one last drag off his cigarette, tossed it out the window, then cranked up the window and emerged, squinting in the fading orange light.

He'd called ahead about an hour out of the city; Doyle's arresting officer, Keith Hunter-- Detective, now, though he hadn't been at the time-- should still be around. Harrison shoved his sunglasses up his nose and strode through the front door.

He was greeted by chaos: raised voices, loudly complaining perps, and-- was that a mime? At least he wasn't adding to the noise level. Harrison plugged his ears, wended his way through the confusion, and made it to Hunter's desk on his third try.

"Keith Hunter?"

The guy scowled up at him. He was tall and skinny, with untidy black hair and a disgruntled set to his jaw. "Whaddya want?"

Harrison flipped his ID open. "Harrison Davies. I called about an hour ago."

"Right." Hunter's expression didn't soften; when he stood, he towered over Harrison by a good head and a half. "Olivia Doyle?"

Harrison followed him to an empty interrogation room, collecting a Styrofoam cup of tepid coffee on his way. Once he was seated, Hunter tossed the file on the table with a soft thwack.

"Busy day?" Harrison asked, making no move to take the file.

Hunter's scowl deepened. "Riot at a performing arts convention downtown."

That explained the mime, then. He wondered if it also explained Hunter's bad mood, or if that was just habitual. Harrison dismissed the thought, focused on the file in front of him, and took a deep breath.

Low expectations, he reminded himself. If there was anything important here to find, Jack's pet P.I. would have found it already. Which reminded him-- "Anyone else come looking for this recently?"

"'Bout a week ago," Hunter said, still looking dour. "Popular girl."

"Guess so." And then, finally, he opened the folder.

Olivia Doyle's mug shot stared up at him. She was on the tall side for a woman, clocking in at five-eight, with long, lank dirty blond hair and thin, almost elfin features. Something about her seemed familiar, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

"So, dude," Harrison said, setting the picture aside and paging through the rest of the slim file. "Arrested for loitering? How does that happen?"

Hunter leaned back against the wall and shrugged one shoulder. "I wouldn't've booked her for it, except I ran her name and turned up a sheet long as my arm. You're familiar?"

"And impressed," Harrison agreed. "How the hell'd she stay out of jail so far?"

"Money, and lots of it." At Harrison's disbelieving look, he shrugged again. "Hey, I'm just telling you what I know. I checked out all her previous charges, and she managed to buy her way out of all of 'em. Knocked down to fines or community service. No time served for our little princess."

"Deep pockets?" She hardly fit the profile. Anyone that rich wouldn't keep getting caught.

"Or a sugar daddy."

Which made more sense, but was hardly useful information. Unless.... "Who paid the fine here?"

"She did. Cash," Hunter added, squashing Harrison's hopes. "Sorry."

It wasn't a total dead end. "She's gotta have an account somewhere, for her boyfriend to wire the funds."

Hunter shrugged a third time. "Never checked. Go to town."

Harrison snapped the folder shut, grinned, and stood. "Don't mind if I do."

Olivia J. Doyle had an old Bank of America account, inactive for the past three years. After some ineffective bullying, and some rather more successful cajoling, Hunter pulled the transaction history. The last withdrawal was in Philadelphia, one-fifty even. And two days earlier, a wire transfer of-- surprise, surprise-- a hundred and fifty bucks.

"She have a lawyer?" Harrison asked, scanning the meager file for the third time, hoping for some small detail he'd missed.

Hunter snorted. "Not for a pissant charge like loitering. Don't know about the others."

Harrison made a mental note to check on that later; it was a long shot, but eventually, he knew, he'd run out of leads. "Permanent address?"

"Some place in Baltimore. Don't get excited, I checked. The building's been condemned for years."

Of course. Harrison sighed and waved the file vaguely in the air. "Mind if I photocopy?"

"Knock yourself out," Hunter said.

He followed Harrison to the copier, starting to look less dour and more intrigued. "So what's your interest in this girl anyway?"

Harrison hesitated. "Long story," he said as the copier whirred and spat. "I'm looking for a guy who's looking for her."

"Sounds complicated."

"You have no idea."

Hunter leaned against the copier, long limbs moving in his suit with a kind of awkward grace. He shot a quick glance over his shoulder, then lowered his voice. "Wanna tell me over dinner?"

Harrison froze for a moment, then slowly started to move again. Gay, and the world gays with you. Somehow he managed not to snicker.

"Sorry," he said, and even kind of meant it. Hunter was kind of good-looking, in a grumpy kind of way. Harrison'd screwed Ray Kowalski; he was a connoisseur of grumpy. "I'm leaving town as soon as we're done here. Stuff to do, you know?"

Hunter shrugged, looking no more disgruntled than usual. "Whatever," he said, and ambled back to his desk.

Harrison turned back the copier and bit his lip to keep from grinning.

Oh yeah. Over the hill his ass. He still had it.

Harrison arrived in Baltimore too late to visit the Hall of Records, and too early to break into the P.I.'s office and go through his stuff. Instead, he sat in his cheap motel room, fresh pack of Marlboros at the ready, and set about trying to track down the source of Olivia Doyle's wire transfers.

After four hours, he'd found precisely jack and shit, and his eyes were starting to glaze. Every turn had led him to yet another dummy corporation, or overseas account whose information he couldn't access. Whoever was looking out for the girl, they were covering their tracks but good. Which in turn made him think of Jack again, but if he was the one, why would he have to hire someone to track down Olivia now? Unless he'd lost track and was trying to find her again. The last transfer had been over three years ago.

Three years... something about the timing seemed significant, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it; his brain felt like Swiss cheese. Harrison sighed and pushed the computer away, rubbed his eyes, and glanced at the clock.

Just after two a.m. Perfect.

Jack's pet P.I. was a man named Edward Lazarin, with an office in a seedy strip mall in the eastern part of the city. Once he found the address, Harrison knew instantly that this was what Meredith would call the bad part of town. And then she'd give a disdainful sniff. He knew from experience; she'd given his own office the same stamp of disapproval.

With any luck, he'd be long gone before anyone noticed yet another suspicious-looking loiterer in the area. At the moment, he was in good company.

He pulled into a deserted alley, and was for the first time glad for the death of the Mustang-- the last thing he wanted to do right now was attract attention. Parked in a pool of shadow underneath a broken streetlight, the Suit Machine was practically invisible.

Harrison left the car in what he suspected was a no-parking zone and circled around behind the building, where he was pleased to have his wild hopes confirmed. The shops all had back doors that opened onto another, closed alley, occupied by an overflowing Dumpster. Wrinkling his nose, Harrison started to count the doors, lost count and had to start again, then realized he couldn't remember whether Lazarin's office had been third or fourth from the end. He strolled back around and counted-- fifth, of course-- then completed the circuit, ending up at what he was almost positive was Lazarin's back door. The state-of-the-art alarm system reassured him. He doubted that the coin-op laundry next door would have shelled out that kind of cash to protect their machines, not even the really expensive front-loading industrial ones.

As well as being a reassuring presence, it was a bitch and a half to disarm. Before he clipped the last wire, Harrison closed his eyes and held his breath, certain he'd missed a circuit somewhere.

No alarm. Oh yeah; I'm that good.

After a full three minutes, during which time no sirens sounded in the distance, Harrison gradually started to breathe again, staggered a bit from the head rush, and set to work on the lock itself.

Less than a minute. He blew imaginary smoke from the ends of his lockpicks before tucking them back into his jacket.

Once inside, he closed the door soundlessly behind him, turned on his pocket flashlight, and swept it around in a full circle. He was in a hallway, with two doors leading off to the sides and one straight ahead. The first door yielded a bathroom that looked like it hadn't been cleaned since the turn of the century-- the last century; the second revealed a small, cluttered room filled with cardboard boxes. The only furniture was a ratty couch that may or may not have originally been that particular shade of beige. Harrison was about to close that door as well when a sudden soft sound and a small shifting motion from the couch made him freeze.

The body on the couch stirred again.

Harrison snapped off the flashlight and held his breath once more. It was probably Lazarin, working late and too tired to drive home. He couldn't shake the nagging feeling that he should have seen this coming.

When Lazarin made no further sound, and the silence still rang unbroken in Harrison's ears, he started to edge slowly out the door, pulling it shut in front of him. He winced at the click of the latch, but heard no movement beyond the door.

Safely back in the hallway, Harrison started for the rear exit again, then stopped. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and turned and stared longingly at the other end of the hall.

Lazarin's office would be behind that door. Office meant filing cabinets, filing cabinets meant files; with any luck, files would mean contact information for Lazarin's clients-- and one client in particular.

He'd come down here to find Olivia. If it was Jack who led him to her, so much the better.

Harrison crept down the hallway, eyes fixed on the shadowed outline of the door. When he passed the closed door to the storage room again, his heart thudded so loudly he was half-afraid it would wake the dead, never mind the very much alive man on the other side of the plywood.

He paused and tried to listen over his racing pulse. Still no sound from within.

The door to the front office was locked as well. Harrison had it open in less than ten seconds. Only when the door closed behind him, the second barrier between him and the man sleeping in the next room, did he turn on the flashlight again.

His heart dropped into his boots.

No filing cabinets, no drawers, no nothing. Just a sleek metal desk, utterly devoid of storage space, and on top of it, a brand-new desktop PC.

Son of a bitch. Where the hell was Spencer when he needed her?

Spencer drummed her fingernails on her desk and scowled at the computer screen. When nothing continued to happen, she heaved an impatient half-groan, half-sigh and sank further down in her chair.

Her roommate, Anjali, stopped in the doorway of her room and leaned inside. "What's up?"

Spencer continued to scowl. "Fucking porn takes for-fucking-ever to download."

"Shame," Anjali said.

"It's not that kind of porn."

"Shame," Anjali repeated, and ducked out again.

Jack Harper stood with his ear pressed to the door and held his breath, mind racing.

Mostly, it was racing with profanity.

Shit, he thought, shit, shit, shit. Harrison Davies. Harrison fucking Davies.

The coincidence was staggering. It was also massively unlikely.

That it was Harrison, Jack had no doubt; he'd only caught a second's glimpse of the man, before Junior Einstein there had wised up and switched off the flashlight, but Harrison was impossible to confuse with anyone else. Even after three years, a somewhat unfortunate haircut, and an appalling shift in wardrobe if that wrinkled suit jacket was any reliable indicator, the way he moved was unmistakable. Swaggering, loose-limbed...

Jack shook his head. I'm thinking like a bad romance novel here.

...really kind of gay.

That's better.

Jack was a pretty smart guy, but even he couldn't think of a plausible reason for Harrison to be poking around Eddie's office that wasn't related in some way to his own charming self. Obviously, Davies was here looking for him. Perfect fucking timing, too.

Jack's fingers tightened on the door handle, and he mashed his ear even harder up against the door.

After a few long seconds, he heard the office door open, then shut again.

Moron, he thought, more impressed than he suspected the situation truly deserved. Harrison might be an idiot, but he was an idiot with balls.

So what to do? Sneak out while Harrison wasn't looking, or try to watch and see what he was doing? Or even surprise him, let him know he wasn't the only one who could sneak around? The thought was oddly diverting. Further thoughts of how best to accomplish said surprise were even more so.

Following directly on the heels of that last thought, it occurred to him that distracting Harrison might have its own side benefits as well. Such as giving Eddie enough time to figure out where Margery Doyle's mortgage payments were coming from, for example, and to locate the owner of the source bank account. Eddie was convinced, for a variety of reasons that Jack always tuned out once he got started, that Olivia was the one making the payments.

Jack didn't listen, but he didn't doubt either. There were a lot of things about Eddie that Jack distrusted as a matter of course, but his hunches weren't one of them.

So all he had to do was buy Eddie enough time to find the girl before Harrison did. He wondered if Harrison knew what Olivia was, if he was looking to repeat a little history, before it turned back around and repeated on him first.

Only one way to find out.

Jack plastered his cockiest grin on his face and stepped out into the hallway.

Harrison didn't dare swear out loud, but that didn't keep him from replaying the litany over and over in his head. Fucking shit. Son of a fucking bitch. Motherfucking piece of crap....

His computer skills pretty much consisted of finding the on button; navigating the various databases to which he subscribed; and an unerring, almost uncanny instinct for tracking down the really good porn. Spencer did things with computers that verged on indecency in most states, and were probably illegal in all of them, but Spencer was 500 miles away and probably out doing whatever it was 22-year-olds did on Tuesday nights. Harrison's memories of his own 22-year-old Tuesdays were somewhat hazy, which probably meant that alcohol had been involved in some way.

And of course, all of Edward Lazarin's files were password protected.

Harrison gritted his teeth as he tried every sneaky trick he could think of to try to copy the files-- which, all things considered, weren't very many-- and then resorted to typing in passwords at random, with a similar lack of success. He cast desperate eyes around the room, and found no photographs or other personal items. In the movies, passwords were always the names of the beloved family pets pictured in said photos, or some other meaningful nearby trinket, but unless Lazarin's was blank_white_walls, he was shit out of luck.

He typed it in, just in case, and was pretty sure that Windows only flashed the "Access Denied" message because its designers had somehow forgotten to program in the ever-useful "Are you fucking kidding me?" response.

Harrison glanced at the clock, and this time allowed himself to curse quietly. Less than twenty minutes and already he'd run out of options, with a whole lot of not-much-at-all to show for his efforts. Worse, the sky would be lightening soon.

It was so fucking unfair. Jack's information was in there; he knew it. Hell, he could see the file, harperj, he just couldn't get to it. Reaching bodily into the hard drive and cracking it open with his bare hands wouldn't get him anywhere, but the urge was compelling, and at least it would provide some stres relief.

But he hated, absolutely hated, the idea of leaving empty-handed.

Tough shit. Get to it.

The voice sounded a lot like Ray's, and was not without sympathy.

Harrison sighed and closed his eyes, digging his knuckles into his forehead in frustration. Two possible leads, two dead ends. He still had to check Olivia's birth certificate, whatever good that would do. And when that turned into strike three, he would come back here and park his butt in front of the building twenty-four-seven, until Jack's sorry ass finally showed--

A sudden creak broke the silence just as he was reaching to shut down the computer. Harrison froze, then glanced over his shoulder, and felt rather than saw the figure moving between him and the hall door.

He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry.

The click of the safety catch was almost deafening.

For a few seconds, Harrison's heart stopped..

"Shit," he heard himself mutter, "shit, shit, shit," and a better approximation of his outlook on the next few minutes, there never was. Without taking his eyes off the figure with the gun, he raised his hands-- slowly, carefully-- and rose from the desk chair.

"Look," he began, without much hope, "this is your shi-- stuff, obviously, I shouldn't be here, I get that, and look, I couldn't get into your files anyway, so if we could maybe forget this whole thing and you let me walk away--"

"Harry, Harry, Harry. You never do change, do you?"

"--I mean, I'll pay you, okay, you do for me and--" And then Harrison's brain caught up with his mouth, and he stopped. "Wait, what?"

"Case in point," the figure said.

Harrison stared, open-mouthed, as he began to revise some basic assumptions about the situation. Not Lazarin in front of him. Lazarin probably wasn't that short (like he had room to talk), and probably didn't sound that fucking sarcastic all the time, and Lazarin would most definitely not call him Harry.

With equal parts hope and dread, Harrison slowly raised the flashlight and snapped it on.

Jack Harper grinned at him, face shadowed like a death mask.

It took a while to dislodge his tongue from the back of his throat. Eventually he managed a strangled, "You fuck."

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Now don't go getting all sentimental on me-- hey!"

Heedless of the gun, Harrison leapt.

The last thing he was aware of was Jack's expression, shifting from surprise to annoyance. Then something hard and unforgiving slammed into the back of his skull, and he immediately became aware of Jack's boots instead.

Then he wasn't aware of anything at all.

Jack blinked down at the unconscious body on the floor.

"Well," he said, hefting the gun in his hand, "that works too."

He wiped a streak of blood from the gun butt with a fastidious curl of his lip, then slipped it back into the waistband of his jeans. He couldn't stay there any more, of course; no telling when Harrison would wake up. But he'd leave a note for Eddie first, in case Harrison was still there when he came back. No sense in getting the cops involved, not when he was pretty sure there was still a warrant out for his own arrest.

Besides, getting Harrison arrested, while amusing, would hardly be sporting at this point in the game.

Pity, though. It would solve so many problems, and would have the added bonus of pissing Richard off royally.

On second thought....

Jack smiled and tore up the note.

Spencer checked and re-checked the film in the camera, then checked it a third time, then forced herself to stop before she totally over-exposed the roll. Then, as an afterthought, she replaced the batteries.

She hoped she remembered how to turn the damn thing on.

She bit her lip and stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, well aware of the ridiculousness. Harrison was right; this was a piece of cake. All she had to do was trail the old guy, wait for him to do something more strenuous than, like, shuffleboard, and snap a few photos, then e-mail them to Horner by the end of the day. And if Simon Cardwell didn't cooperate, well, no skin off her nose. Maybe he really was injured. All she had to do was watch and see.

Who was she kidding? Her first solo job; she was scared shitless.

Her lip gloss had smudged onto her teeth. She scowled and started to re-apply. She'd dressed for inconspicuousness that morning, which had necessitated raiding Anjali's closet when she was still asleep; as a general rule, Spencer's wardrobe tended more towards the very much conspicuous, thank you. The pale pink lip gloss made her look washed out, and the neutral eyeshadow made her eyes look smaller and undefined. She'd certainly never pick herself out of a crowd.

"Fuck it," she said aloud, and shoved the camera into her bag.

She downed a cup of coffee on her way through the kitchen, not bothering to sugar or cream it for once, and was just reaching for the door when the buzzer rang.

She yelped and dropped the bag, and heard an unmistakable crack.


"What!" she snapped, flinging open the door.

The postman blinked at her, looking bewildered. "Uh. Package?" He thrust it at her like a peace offering.

Spencer snatched the package with the blackest glare she could muster and moved to slam the door again. Unless it was a brand-new camera, she didn't much care.

"Wait!" the guy protested, sticking one sneakered foot in the doorway. Brave man; she barely caught the door in time to prevent broken bones and a nasty lawsuit. "You gotta sign for it!"

"Oh, Jesus," she sighed, opening the door again. She signed the electronic handheld thingy with a tight, angry scrawl, then slapped the stylus down on the pad. "Happy?"

"Delirious," the postman said, and fled.

Spencer closed the door, somewhat more gently this time, and rested her forehead against it. She closed her eyes and rubbed them, screwing her carefully-applied earth-tone eyeshadow all to hell, then took a deep breath.

She contemplated dropping the package next to the camera bag and walking out, but there was a FRAGILE stamp across the front, and-- her eyes narrowed-- a postmark from... Inuvik? The name sounded familiar. She frowned and studied it more closely. Canada, not Russia. Close enough.

It wasn't addressed to her. She hadn't expected it would be.

Curiosity piqued, she drifted back to her desk and sat down, eyes still fixed on the return address. F & K, it read, like that should mean something. Fragile; hey, maybe it was a new camera. Maybe F & K were camera manufacturers.

She should be so lucky. Like Harrison would be ordering his equipment from the ass-end of Canada.

She couldn't think what else it would be, though. Unless... hey, Harrison's second mysterious package in as many days. The first one had sent him fleeing the state; maybe this one held some more info he'd need her to pass on.

And maybe she was desperately curious, and trying to justify it to herself.

Spencer snorted and ripped open the package. Federal offense, schmederal offense; she'd been opening Harrison's mail since day one.

Something fell out and clunked on the desk, and she belatedly remembered the "fragile" stamp again. If she'd broken this, too.... But it seemed in one piece, though she couldn't say exactly what that piece was supposed to be. It looked like bone-- animal bone, hopefully-- held together with strips of leather, lined with... feathers? And beads?

She shook her head. What the fuck, Davies?

A light, experimental shake told her that the package wasn't empty yet. The next item filled the box almost entirely. It was long and flat, maybe a foot and a half long, and wrapped in bubble wrap. Spencer popped some of the bubbles before tearing off the wrap, and found herself looking at the back of a picture frame.

Oh, the suspense. She grinned, her earlier annoyance forgotten, and played a mental drumroll in her head before flipping over the frame.

"Oh," she said aloud, eyes widening. Then, "Hello."

It took her a good ten minutes to stop snickering. Then, still grinning like a loon, she carried both the picture and the bone... thingy... into Harrison's office, arranging them neatly on his desk.

Disposable camera, she thought on her way out the door, nudging the abandoned camera bag aside with her toe, then the job, and found she didn't mind so much after all.

She locked the door behind her and ambled down the street with a pleased, dreamy smile on her face.

It was a beautiful day.

It wasn't the first time Harrison had woken up with a gun in his face. It was, however, the first time in recent memory that the throbbing in his temples was not due to a hangover.

"Jack," he growled, pushing himself up on his elbows, then collapsed back onto the carpet. "Okay, ow."

"Not quite." The voice was a flat Baltimore drawl that didn't help his headache any. "Though I guess that answers the question of what the hell you're doing here."

Harrison squinted at the source of the voice. Light streamed in through the front windows, and he shielded his eyes to get a better look. His fingers brushed the sore spot on his temple, flaking away bits of dried blood, and he bit back another exclamation of pain.

This had to be Lazarin. He was tall and kind of narrow-looking, like he'd been built to regular scale, then grabbed by both ends and stretched. His hair was thick and black, and either he hadn't shaved that morning or he had serious facial hair issues. The Beard That Stomped Tokyo.

Harrison wet his lips. His mouth was parched, his lips cracked. So unfair that he hadn't actually been drinking last night. "Look, I don't suppose you'd just--"

"Let you go quietly?" The gun waggled in admonition. "I've already called the cops. You just stay there."

Fucking fantastic. "Jack put you up to this?"

"I'd say coming in to find an unconscious intruder in my office was the deciding factor there, actually."

Way too many syllables for him to deal with just then. Harrison scowled, and immediately regretted it as his head started pounding anew. "Do you even know what Jack's done?"

"Don't know," Lazarin said, "don't care. He pays his bills, I'm happy."

"Look, I'm a P.I.," Harrison tried, hand creeping into his jacket. "I'm licensed, okay, I'll just show you--"

"In Massachusetts," Lazarin said, throwing his ID at his head; Harrison ducked just in time. "And nice try," he added, as Harrison's hand closed over his empty shoulder holster, "but-- found that already too."

Lazarin didn't throw his gun at him. Harrison supposed it was too much to hope for. He just held it in his other hand, leaving Harrison to stare down the twin barrels with growing dread.

"Look," he said a third time, wincing at the desperation in his voice. "I'm just looking for Jack, okay? I got no beef with you."

"You do now."

"Well, sure, now," Harrison said, still staring at the guns. His own piece; that was just low. Shit; the police were coming, he had to get out of here. "Come on, can't we just--"

His cell phone rang.

Lazarin started at the sound, the guns wavering briefly. Harrison flung himself to the side, gritting his teeth as the pounding became a dull roar, and rolled around the side of the desk, light-headed and dizzy from the pain. The gunshot didn't help his headache any; nor did the plaster raining down on him from the wall above.

"Watch that trigger finger!" he yelled, gauging the distance to the front door. His phone was still ringing. He tossed it across the room, and another shot followed the sound.

"I am watching!" Lazarin yelled back.

Harrison rolled his eyes, scrabbling at his ankle holster. He'd learned more than a few things from Ray.

He waited till he heard Lazarin's footsteps rounding the desk, then fired a warning shot over his head.

"Way to frisk, genius!" he yelled, as Lazarin ducked.

Lazarin's only response was an annoyed grunt.

As fun as it was, a shoot-out in the middle of Baltimore wasn't exactly his idea of a good time. If the cops hadn't been on their way before, they definitely would now. Harrison took a deep breath, braced himself, and shot to his feet, sprinting to the door and firing two more shots over his shoulder as he went.

A bullet zipped by dangerously close to his ear, but he made it out the door otherwise unscathed.

He rocked to a halt in the middle of the parking lot, shielded from Lazarin's view by an old beaten-up Chevy station wagon, and looked around desperately. No cops, thank God; the way his luck was running, he wouldn't be surprised if he'd run straight into their arms.

An old woman stepped out of the laundromat, took one look at him, screamed, and ran back inside.

"Morning!" Harrison called after her, seized by the sudden irresistible urge to giggle.

He tucked the gun back in his ankle holster and slunk out of the parking lot as inconspicuously as possible. His neck itched from the strain of not turning around to look.

His car was still in the alley. His radio, and a good portion of the passenger-side window, was not.

"Son of a bitch," he said, and kicked the tire.

Voicemail; figured. Harrison was probably still sleeping it off.

"Hey, Davies," Spencer said, keeping her binoculars trained through Cardwell's window. "Old man's glued to his sofa so far. Totally action-packed. Just thought you should know." She grinned. "Oh, and you got another package, birthday boy. Tres interesting. Very educational."

She paused.

"Oh, and Ikindabrokeyourcamera. But it so wasn't my fault."

Harrison checked his reflection in the rearview mirror and had to admit that he did look pretty scream-worthy. His hair was matted with blood, and dried trails showed where it had trickled down the side of his face to his chin. The third bullet had come closer than he'd thought, nicking the top of his ear; he hadn't felt it before, but when he prodded it gently, a white-hot flare of pain rocketed through his skull.

He sighed and turned the key in the ignition, taking mental inventory. He'd lost his ID, his cell phone, and his favorite gun, and he didn't expect Lazarin would be returning any of them. Not to mention that when the cops did come, he'd still be screwed. Hell, he'd be lucky to keep his license.

Maybe he shouldn't have run; maybe he could've talked things out with the police. But time was running out. He had to find Jack, like, yesterday.

He had found Jack yesterday. Fat lot of good that did.

Okay, so he had to find Olivia, figure out what Jack wanted from her. Turn the game around to his advantage. Somehow.

Christ, his head hurt.

He drove back to his motel room in silence, sending occasional betrayed glances at the gaping hole where the stereo had been. Shower first, then half a bottle of aspirin and a whole fucking pot of coffee. He thought wistfully of the vodka bottle in his luggage, then dismissed the thought; if he was going up against Jack again, he had to stay sharp.

Then, the Hall of Records. Whatever good that'd do him.

His career was in ruins, his stereo was missing, and his skull felt like he'd gone three rounds with a baseball bat-- and lost. But damn it, he was a man on a mission.

Jack prided himself on his ability to lurk. It was a hard-won skill, honed over many years of attempting to look inconspicuous, as it simply didn't do to stand out in a crowd when one was attempting to ensure that innumerable ill-fated people met their destined, often sticky end. While he didn't have a lot to be proud of, it was the small things that counted. He used to be able to take the long view, to tell himself that he was ensuring the smooth and uninterrupted operation of the universe; now that that was no longer the case, however, he was pretty sure he was just Richard Davies' hired thug.

But damn, could he lurk. Right now, he was lurking so well, neither Eddie nor Harrison had seen him waiting at the far end of the parking lot.

He lurked a bit longer, waiting for Harrison to disappear from view and noting not-so-incidentally the direction in which he was disappearing, then turned the key in the ignition and eased his car-- late-model lurk, of course-- out into the street.

The engine was louder than he remembered. Not so good for lurking.

But Harrison didn't seem to notice as Jack trailed him slowly through a warren of side streets and back alleys, staying back just far enough to almost lose him twice. Sloppy, Jack chided to himself, and grinned as Harrison put a hand to his head and winced. He wasn't quite on top of his game this morning. Hadn't been last night either. Bad luck for Harrison, good for him. Jack knew from Harrison's game. He'd been watching it for some time.

Well, lurking and watching. And not doing a hell of a lot else.

He wasn't supposed to be. He was supposed to be done with this whole ridiculous charade. Tru had passed the torch on to baby brother, and that was supposed to be Jack's retirement. One last job-- find his successor, pass on a little torch of his own-- and then he was doneski. Outta here. No longer suffering the weight of the whole damn space-time continuum on his shoulders.

Unfortunately, "one last job" had turned out to take upwards of three years to complete, and that was only assuming that an end was in sight. Obviously said successor didn't want to be found, and given Jack's own experience with said torch, he couldn't blame her for hitting the decks as soon as she started in with the whole repeating-days thing. But it sure as hell made his life more difficult, so much so that he'd eventually been forced to concede defeat and call in a professional. He'd briefly entertained himself with thoughts of hiring Harrison, but figured he wouldn't get through the front door with his head still attached. Eddie was a friend of a friend, and he seemed to be getting results, but the whole process had been much more painful than he suspected it really needed to be.

Still, he found he didn't mind as much as he'd expected at first. Maybe only two-thirds as much. There was a certain illicit thrill in knowing just how hard Harrison was looking for him, and being right fucking there the whole time, just out of arm's reach. It wasn't like he would interfere in the rewind days anymore; he was hardly equipped. So he followed Harrison around and took notes, and good ol' Dick Davies kept him in boho-chic style, minus the chic part of course. All in all, given the previous seven years of his life, it was kind of a refreshing change.

At least the scenery was attractive. Harrison had grown up nice. Now that the end was looking pretty damn nigh, in fact, he almost thought he'd miss it.

Then, watching Harrison kick the tire of his plundered Nissan in frustration: Oh yeah. I'll definitely miss this.

It was the little things that brightened up his day.

He'd miss it, but not that much. Not so much that, after noting which motel Harrison pulled into and driving on past, he didn't pull out his cell phone and punch in Eddie's office number.

Eddie's greeting sounded depressed, as usual. "Lazarin Investigations."

"Yo," Jack said, deftly executing a one-handed turn around the block. "What's up?"

"Jack." Eddie's voice sharpened. "Your little friend made quite a mess here."

"Yeah, I saw. Nice dramatic exit, too. Guns blazing, very Bonnie and Clyde, sans the Bonnie of course." For so many reasons. "If you didn't want a mess, maybe you shouldn't've shot at him."

"You were there? Why am I not surprised?"

"Because I lurk." Jack could hear the faint murmur of official-sounding voices in the background. Official, officious; somewhere between the two. "You called the cops?"

"Of course I fucking called the cops. If you didn't want me to call the cops--"

"Was I complaining? I was asking." Jack hit the gas and sped through a yellow light, in a hurry even with no destination in mind, though hopefully that'd change in about two seconds. "Tell me you found joy last night. And if Joy was in your pajamas, I don't wanna know."

Puzzled silence from the other end. Then, flatly, "What?"

Jack sighed. Nobody got his humor.

"The girl," he translated, hitting the brakes just a little too hard as a second stoplight took him by surprise, and ignoring the chorus of angry honks behind him. "What's the story?"

"Right." Eddie cleared his throat, back on surer ground. "Someone's definitely paying the old woman's mortgage, and it definitely isn't her. The account was tough to track, it was under a false name--"

"Yeah, yeah," Jack interrupted, "cookies and pats on the head all around. Later. Just gimme an address, Eddie."

Eddie sighed. "She's in Towson. 17 Lennox, unit 6."

Jack gripped the phone tighter as he spun the wheel in a U-turn, heading back towards 295. Towson was a 30-minute drive in good traffic. He was so fucking close.... "I could kiss you," he announced.


"No, seriously, Eddie. Be very, very glad you're not within lip range right now."

"Jack," Eddie said, louder this time. "Why are you looking for her?"

Jack's grin vanished. "No questions asked, remember?"

"Yeah, but the guy said--"

Fucking Harrison. "She's my long-lost fucking sister," Jack snapped. "And by the way, Harry's at the Motel 6 off 695. Don't mention my name." He snapped the phone shut and tossed it over his shoulder into the back seat.

"Oh yeah," he added a moment later, to empty air. "And your check's in the mail."

The healing powers of caffeine, Tylenol, and several gallons of near-scalding water combined to put Harrison in an almost non-murderous mood. He stepped out of the shower with one towel wrapped around his waist and another around his head-- still complaining, though not as loudly as before-- feeling oddly well-disposed toward humanity in general. He still wanted to strangle Jack with his bare hands, of course, but maybe now he'd make it quick.

He flopped down on the bed, still towel-clad, and closed his eyes for a few seconds, briefly indulging the fantasy of real sleep in a real bed. But he didn't have the time, and anyway three cups of coffee were already busy doing God's work, racing through his bloodstream and kicking him awake, alert, and restless.

Harrison dressed quickly, only giving his hair a quick finger-comb in the mirror before leaving, not even bothering to gel it for once. Jack was on the trail; time was of the essence.

Red-hot research action, he thought grimly, sliding behind the wheel of the violated Suit Machine, here I come.

The records clerk had already pulled Olivia Doyle's birth certificate. He was dubious about Harrison's lack of ID, but Harrison spun a convincing tale about being mugged, helped no doubt by the scabbing cut on his ear and the edge of the bruise poking out from underneath his hair. And if the kid smirked a little at the thought, big bad P.I. taken down by a mugger-- okay, maybe not so big-- at least he handed over the damn paper without further complaint.

Pride was a luxury at that point, and not one he felt much like indulging.

The certificate, as expected, didn't really tell him much he didn't already know. Olivia Jane Doyle, born March 3 at Johns Hopkins, mother Margery Elspeth Doyle, father unknown-- he frowned; that was intriguing, but not necessarily helpful-- six pounds, three ounces, tiny footprint....

Okay, now you're really reaching.

Harrison sighed and returned the certificate to the kid behind the desk. "You got a computer I can use?"

The kid pointed without a word.

Harrison sat down in front of it with another sigh. He should have brought his own laptop. Accessing the database remotely always took way longer. And to heap insult on top of injury-- he stared at the screen in disbelief, frustration twisting in his gut-- the web interface was down entirely for maintenance. He couldn't access it, period.

He opened his mouth to swear. What came out instead was, "I'm an idiot."

It was a long shot at best, but worth a try; the alternative meant trekking all the way back across town to his motel room, wasting precious time he was beginning to suspect he didn't have. And if he didn't check, he really would feel like an idiot.

Slowly, hunting and pecking as he went, Harrison typed in

There were no Margery Doyles in the greater Baltimore area. There were, however, several M. Doyles, and-- his eyes widened in triumph-- one M. E. Doyle, on Monticello Court.

It couldn't be that easy. It wouldn't be that easy. If Olivia's mother knew where she was, Jack would've tracked her down ages ago.

But at the moment, it was the only lead he had.

Monticello Court turned out to be not ten minutes from his motel. Harrison parked a block away from the house and scanned the area as he walked, unable to shake the feeling that Jack was right on his tail. No thatch of thick brown hair, no annoying smirk; he was safe for now.

Margery Doyle's address was a townhouse like any other on the block-- an end unit, which he supposed was a good thing, but still on the small side, with gray-painted siding and rotted wooden columns on the side porch. The garden, in contrast with the porch, was neatly kept, brightly-colored flowers in full bloom with no weeds in sight.

Harrison took a deep breath, shot one last paranoid glance over his shoulder, and rang the doorbell.

The answering bark nearly made him fall off the porch. It was loud, and deep, and seemed to come from about two feet in front of him.

It sounded like a very big dog.

He hesitated with one foot on the porch and the other on the walkway, weighing his determination against the instinct to flee. Before stubbornness could be trumped by common sense, the door opened, and a golden blur leapt onto the porch and knocked him sprawling on the grass.

"Boomer, no!" Harrison barely heard the woman's exasperated shout; he was too busy squirming under what had to be a solid hundred pounds of weight, trying to protect his throat and his groin and any other vulnerable yet essential parts that might be in reach of sharp, snapping teeth. It took him a few seconds to realize that while the teeth may have been sharp, they weren't actually snapping, and even then he was completely unprepared for the warm, rough wetness that dragged across his face, from the point of his chin to just above his eyebrow.

Then something wet and sticky dripped into his right eye, and he got it.

Oh, gross.

"You licked me," he accused.

Wide brown eyes regarded him in silent response.

"Boomer," the woman said again. She sounded more amused than annoyed now, and Harrison felt a small swell of irritation. He shoved at the dog. It sat down on his thighs and rested its head on his chest.

"Boomer," Harrison said, with what little authority he could muster in his current position, "get off."

The dog licked his ear.

"I am so sorry," the woman said, leaning over him and tugging at the dog's collar with surprising strength. "She just loves men, I think it's the voice. Give her a whiff of testosterone and she completely forgets who feeds her. Bloody chauvinist, I always thought."

She helped him to his feet and started brushing him off, hands flitting around his back and shoulders like small, excitable butterflies. Unaccustomed as he was to the attention of older females, who always seemed to want to fatten him up for some undoubtedly nefarious purposes, this only made Harrison more nervous and uncomfortable.

"Hey, sorry to barge in on you like this," he began, twisting away as she circled around and began to brush off the front of his jacket, in an effort to ward off her roaming hands. "Um, this is kinda embarrassing, 'cause I don't have--"

My ID, he meant to say, and had his mouth open to finish the sentence, but he never quite got there. Mainly because, as soon as she caught a glimpse of his face, Margery Doyle was staring at him like he was Jacob Marley come to life, or whoever that ghost guy in that cartoon duck movie had been.

"--um," Harrison finished, returning the stare with interest. "Uh. What--"

And then her hands clenched in his lapels, and she breathed, "Richard?"

Harrison actually felt his jaw drop.

The moment passed, and she colored and gave an embarrassed little laugh. "Oh, no, of course not, how silly of me. He'd be what, fifty by now? Sixty?"

Somehow Harrison managed to close his mouth. "Um," he said again, still staring. "You-- wha--"

Her flush deepened. "Oh, I'm so sorry. You just-- you look so much like someone I used to know, I don't--"

"Richard Davies?" he blurted, his own hands wrapping around her wrists. She couldn't be-- couldn't possibly mean--

Her face brightened, and she gazed raptly into his eyes.

She was, and she did.

"You're his son, aren't you?" she asked. "Only you look so much like him, I thought at first...."

She trailed off, still beaming at him. Harrison opened his mouth and shut it a few times, feeling like a fish, or maybe just like he'd been smacked by one. The sun beat down on his head; sweat collected between his shoulder blades, trailing sticky fingers down his back; and Margery Doyle knew his father. Knew him well enough to be speechless with joy at the sight of him, so maybe she didn't know him that well at all.

He couldn't quite seem to form words. He was barely even aware of Boomer doing her damnedest to stick her nose in his crotch.

Margery Doyle knew his fucking father.

And yet when he finally found his voice, the first thing that came out was an incredulous, "I look like him?"

"Well." She gave him a bashful little smile that creeped him right the fuck out. "Like he used to, anyway. I imagine time's passed for him as well as the rest of us, hasn't it?"

"I guess," Harrison managed, not really sure what it was he was agreeing with. He was still trying to wrap his mind around this new information. Margery knew-- she knew--

And then, just like that, the pieces came together with a near-audible click. Olivia's mysterious benefactor, the dummy corporations that of course a lawyer would know how to set up, the odd familiarity of her features, the reason Jack was looking for her-- Jack, who'd worked for his father, doing God knew what....

"Holy shit," he said through stiff, numb lips. "He's Olivia's father, isn't he?"

She gave him another once-over and said, "You'd better come in."

She offered him a drink, which he accepted gladly and downed in a single gulp. It was Irish whiskey, the good stuff, deserving of better treatment than he gave it, but somehow he couldn't muster the necessary guilt. He was too busy doing the mental math. If Olivia Doyle was born in 1986, and he was born in '83, then that meant--

That meant his mother had still been alive, back when Richard was here in Baltimore, consorting with this... this chippie. His little piece on the side.

Harrison hadn't thought it was possible to hate his father more than he already did. He'd been wrong.

This chippie, who was currently plying him with expensive Irish booze, who had enough of a lilt to her voice after however many years stateside to remind him, too late to be useful, that Irish things had always had a tendency to fuck up his life.

"--sweet girl," the chippie was saying, and Harrison dragged his attention away from his empty glass and back to her face. She was pretty, he realized, in a plump, lined sort of way; she must've been a looker in her day. "But terribly conflicted, you know. She never had an easy time of it. Lord knows I tried my very best, but Livvy-- well, she was always searching, you know? Never happy with what she had."

Join the fucking club, Harrison thought, and tried not to let it show on his face.

Margery seemed to be waiting for an answer. Harrison said, "Oh," and tipped the glass back, in a vain effort the catch the last stray drops on his tongue. The alcohol was beginning to spread outward from his chest, warming him, but it wasn't nearly enough.

"I'm so sorry," Margery said, refilling his glass-- and just for that, Harrison was willing to accept her apology, for whatever it might be. "This must be a terrible shock for you. Only I thought you knew, which was why--"

She broke off, narrowing her eyes. "Why are you here?"

Harrison drank, and the lie slipped easily off his well-lubricated tongue. "He, uh, he asked me to find her, just didn't say why. I'm-- I don't know if I mentioned, I'm a P.I., it's what I do--"

A little too easily. He snapped his mouth shut before he started to babble.

"Well," Margery sighed, "it's hardly a surprise, I suppose. Only the last young man didn't mention Richard's name, so I thought--" She hesitated, looking wary, and seemed to choose her words with care. "Well, Livvy has been in trouble before. I thought-- well, I didn't think he had her best interests at heart."

"Last young man," Harrison echoed, his fingers tightening around the glass.

"Well, yes." She studied him. "About your height, but stockier, you know. I didn't tell him...." She trailed off and bit her lip. "Maybe I should have."

"Sarcastic fu-- kinda guy?" Harrison suggested, tipping the dark liquid back and forth in his glass. "Kinda smarmy?"

"That's the one." She brightened a bit. "You know him?"

Had to be Jack. "Yes," Harrison said, and left it at that.

"Well, I told him I didn't know where she was." Margery shrugged. "I can be very convincing when I want to be. Livvy's a very private person, you know. I didn't think she'd appreciate the intrusion."

A small bubble of hope rose in Harrison's chest, temporarily crowding out the numbness. "So you do know?"

"Of course," Margery said; the What are you, an idiot? was implied. "I'm her mother, after all."

Harrison acknowledged this with a slight nod, wondering if his father even cared where he was. Well, he probably would care, if he knew.

"Ms. Doyle," he began, with more care than he usually gave his words. "Why didn't you tell him where your daughter was? The-- the other young man, I mean."

Margery leveled him with a cool, piercing gaze that he felt all the way in the back of his skull and said, "She asked me not to, of course."

Harrison placed the half-full glass back in the middle of the coffee table. Suddenly he wasn't thirsty anymore.

"Why--" He cleared his throat and started again. "Do you know why she asked that?"

Margery's gaze didn't waver. "She didn't say. I didn't ask."

"And now?" His pulse pounded in his throat, leaving a metallic taste in his mouth.

"Well," Margery said, "you're family, aren't you?"

Harrison swallowed.

"Yeah," he managed to say, after a few false starts. "Yeah, I-- I guess I am."

"Well then," Margery said, and spread her hands.

She gave him the address and a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie, and Harrison accepted both with a kind of dazed agreeability that probably went a long way towards convincing her that he wasn't-- how did she put it?-- someone who didn't have Olivia's best interests at heart. Truth was, Harrison didn't give a damn about Olivia's interests, good or otherwise. It was other people's interest in her that had him curious.

So either Jack Harper had his own reasons for finding Richard Davies' bastard daughter, or he wasn't the one looking after all, but was still working for Richard. Harrison forced himself not to clench his fists and crush the cookie. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his father. Before the shit hit the fan, certainly. The asshole hadn't even come to Tru's funeral, but then, he must have suspected that Harrison would've been trying to throttle him the second he walked in the door.

After all this time, he still didn't know what his father's angle was, but it didn't really matter. Jack worked for him, Jack had killed Tru, and that was all he needed to know condemn the fucker.

He paused on his way out the door and glanced back; he had to ask. "Do I really look like him?" The thought made his skin crawl, though he did his best not to show it.

"Spitting image," Margery said. "Well, you're shorter than he was, but other than that-- I suppose that's from your mother?"

"I wouldn't know," Harrison said through clenched teeth. "She's dead."

He tossed the cookie on the lawn, uneaten, on his way back down the path.

Margery watched Harrison Davies leave the yard with a sudden sense of foreboding. The resemblance really was remarkable; he was undoubtedly Richard's son. And yet he hadn't seemed very pleased by the revelation. In fact, he hadn't seemed pleased by much of anything, though he had certainly appeared to appreciate her whiskey.

Not that she begrudged it him. It had to be a terrible shock. What was Richard thinking, sending him off like that without telling him the whole story?

Unless Richard hadn't sent him. The sense of foreboding deepened, and she bit her lip and turned, staring at the half-empty glass on the table and struck by the ridiculous urge to save it and order a DNA test. But no, the resemblance; Harrison's paternity wasn't in question. But that didn't necessarily mean he hadn't been less than truthful.

Even if that weren't the case, perhaps she shouldn't have been so quick to talk. She'd been caught off-guard by his sudden arrival, her tongue loosened by her excitement. Only now did she recall that there was a reason she hadn't spoken to Richard in the past 27 years. Margery was no idiot. She knew he'd been mixed up in some unsavory business, even if she didn't know the details. When the last young man had come calling, she hadn't been able to shake the impression that now he had Livvy mixed up in it as well.

And now she'd sent his son right to Livvy's doorstep.

Seized by a sudden impulse, she grabbed the telephone and dialed Livvy's number. It was the first time she'd called from home-- usually she left the house and used a pay phone, as Livvy had requested-- and for a few horrible seconds, she couldn't recall the number. But her fingers remembered, as easy as breathing.

One ring, two, three, four, five. Six.

Her relief dissipated as quickly as it had come, leaving her light-headed and staggering.

Seven. Eight. Nine.

Hot tears pricked at her eyes, and she squeezed them shut.

Ten. Eleven.

Margery hung up.

"Shit," she said in a low, forceful voice.

Then, moving on autopilot, her mind a perfect blank, she crossed the room to the desk and opened the middle drawer. Richard sent her his new phone number every time it changed. She'd never dialed them before, but she never threw them away either.

It was a day for firsts.

Margery took a deep breath and dialed. She didn't recognize the area code, 206, but could imagine the phone ringing somewhere very far away.

Richard answered on the second ring. "Geri? My God. What's wrong?"

She didn't even bother to ask how he knew it was her.

"Richard," was all she said, "your son was here. Looking for Livvy."

There was a long silence. Then, just as she was afraid he had hung up, he asked quietly, "Which one?"

Jack's cell phone rang.

"'Scuse me," he said, and answered. "Yeah?" He paused. "Yeah, well, big surprise. No, I'm with her now. Don't worry about him, the cops--"

Another pause. "What, didn't I tell you? He broke into Lazarin's place last night. Should be cooling his heels in a nice holding cell before long--"

He broke off, and two small parallel lines appeared between his eyebrows. "Hey, chill. Look, I'm sure no one's gonna make him their bitch for at least the first week or so-- look, all I'm saying is, this might be the best solution-- okay, fine. Whatever. Your call, your funeral."

He jabbed at the end button, then started to dial again. "Yo, it's me. You kept the stuff? Great, I'll be by in about an hour. And hey, listen-- gimme about--" He checked his watch. "--four hours, then cut our boy loose. Yeah. I don't know. Guilt, I guess. Never cared for the stuff myself." He shook his head. "Yeah, later."

Having Lazarin on their side was nice, Jack reflected as he hung up, but it was always good to have a backup plan. A contact in the Baltimore PD went a long way towards peace of mind. Thank God for Richard Davies' near-bottomless pockets.

Though why some of that cash couldn't find its way into Jack's own pockets on occasion, he'd never understood.

He slipped the phone back into his pocket and smiled at Olivia Doyle, showing far too many teeth. "Right, that's settled. Now where were we?"

She stared back at him with wide, dark eyes and didn't answer.

In the background, her phone rang again, and continued to ring.

In retrospect, Harrison reflected later, he really shouldn't have stopped at his motel room on the way.

Of course, as long as he was thinking retrospect, might as well go wild, right? In retrospect, he ought to have checked out that morning and taken everything with him in the car, so there wouldn't even be a motel room to stop at. Failing that, at the very least he should have been paying attention when he walked in, on the highly unlikely chance that-- and yep, there they were-- the cops just might be waiting for him.

In retrospect, Harrison always came off a lot brighter than he figured he really was.

In reality, he'd stopped to check out before leaving Baltimore, which had seemed like a good idea at the time, and he wasn't paying attention for what he felt were totally valid reasons. Margery Doyle and her daughter, his father's daughter-- the "unknown" on the birth certificate.... Apart from the obvious implications, and the way they struck a distressingly raw spot inside that he didn't even think he still had, it raised new, unanswerable questions, chief among them: Why was his father looking for her now, after everything? And the big one, the one he'd never managed to answer: Just what was he doing, working with Jack in the first place? After being married to Elise Davies, what had made him choose the side he had?

And of course, lurking in the background of all that, the twin stunners of revelation: I have another sister. I look like my dad.

He wasn't sure which fact he felt less prepared to deal with at the moment.

Which, in the end, all went a long way toward explaining why he didn't realize that the movement in his room probably wasn't the maid until he was staring down the barrel of a gun for the third time in less than 24 hours-- fourth, if he counted the way Lazarin was double-fisting it with his own damn gun. Baltimore might be a high-crime city, but he was pretty sure the motel maids hadn't started packing .38s.

It wasn't the first time he'd been arrested, but it might have been the most embarrassing. Professionally speaking, at least. There was that one time....

Well. Best not to think about it now.

"Look," he said about an hour later, slumped at an interrogation table and rubbing his wrists where the handcuffs had bit in, "I told you already. I'm a licensed private detective, okay?" He was aware his voice was dangerously close to a whine, and tried to rein it in a bit. "So yeah, I shouldn't've broken into his place, but it's lot like I took anything. That's gotta be, what, a fine, right?"

"Actually," said the stone-faced cop in front of him, who was doing a pretty credible job of staring him into the ground, "that's about ten years. Burglary in the third degree," he added as Harrison's jaw dropped.

"But I didn't take anything!"

"Breaking and entering with the intent to commit a crime. And yes, information theft counts as a crime," he added, as Harrison opened his mouth again to protest. "Plus these--" he slapped the lockpicks on the table-- "add another three years."

Harrison paled. "You're shitting me."

The cop smiled. "You're not a very good detective, are you?"

"That," Harrison said with as much dignity as he could muster, "is a matter of opinion."

"And then there's this." Harrison's backup gun joined the lockpicks.

He sat up straighter. "Hey now, that I do have a license for. With me, I mean." He reached for his wallet. "Look-- here--"

"Not in Maryland, you don't."

Harrison froze, then sagged back down in his chair. "Good point."

"So that's another three." The cop paused. "Of course, we're talking maximums here. Who knows, you might get lucky."

Harrison slumped down even further, contemplating the evidence arrayed on the tabletop. His mind spun in dizzy circles. Somewhere, he knew, Jack Harper was laughing his butt off.

He was deep in self-pity when the door opened, and a younger cop poked his head in. "Story checks out. He's licensed and registered in Mass."

"You sure?" The older cop looked disappointed. Asshole.

Harrison stared at them. "Wait, you didn't know?"

The older cop mirrored his stare. "What, 'cause you said so?"

"No," and he barely managed to refrain from tacking smart-ass on the end of that, "'cause Lazarin kept my ID. Not to mention my--" He snapped his mouth shut just in time; if one gun could get him three years (maximum), no way was he gonna cop to having a second.

Three years. Jesus. He tried to do the math. Three plus three plus ten... Jesus fuck.

No way. It had to be a bluff. He hoped.

"Your?" the younger cop prodded, as Harrison felt his eyes start to glaze over.

He snapped to and shot the guy a baleful look. "My cell phone."

"Won't need that where you're going," the older guy said, looking way too happy at the idea.

Harrison scowled at him. "That's it? That's, that's withholding evidence! Arrest him!"

"Later," the cop drawled, as the one in the doorway gave a discreet eye-roll and ducked out again. "I'm busy now."

"I can fucking see that." A little too late, he tried to look appeasing. "Look, the guy I'm after, Jack Harper, he's got an outstanding arrest warrant. For murder, not some pansy-ass B&E. Check Lazarin's records, he's in there."

"Later," the cop repeated, pushing his chair back with a loud scrape. He stood.

Harrison stared at him. "Later, what's later? What are you gonna do now?"

He grinned. "Well, you just confessed, didn't you?"

Harrison opened his mouth, then shut it again. He ran through his options in his mind. They made a sadly short list.

Finally he said, "I want a fucking lawyer."

"Sure," the cop said. "I'll bring 'im down to your cell."

Harrison slid even further down in his chair. Any more and he'd be sitting under the table. It didn't sound like such a bad idea at the moment.

"Can't I at least get a smoke?" His voice sounded weak to his own ears.

The cop grinned and tossed his own half-empty pack of Camels on the table. "Keep the pack."

They printed him and did the headshot thing, then led him down to the holding cells. Harrison followed in a daze, his brain still beating its imaginary head against an imaginary brick wall. Sixteen years. Sixteen years.

Shit, he'd be old by then. Turning thirty was nothing compared to the prospect of forty-six.

Not exactly the best birthday ever.

They let him have a phone call, but wouldn't let it be international, and anyway, Harrison figured, calling 'em from jail, that was a new kind of low. He called Spencer instead, was both relieved and dismayed to find that her phone was switched off, and left a quietly desperate message, getting less quiet and more desperate somewhere around the end of it. Now there was nothing to do but sit in a cell and wait.

He used to be good at waiting for bail, had this whole zen thing going. He'd gotten out of practice. It wasn't a hobby he found he'd missed.

The next three hours were among the most miserable of Harrison's life. He'd had worse days, he recalled, but only just. Watching Tru die, and not being able to stop it. Finding Ray dead, and those awful minutes before he'd realized he could bring him back. Losing Lindsay. The tragic haircut disaster of '06.

Fuck it. He'd made it through the first Christmas without Tru, less than a month after her death, when Meredith was packing to leave and he'd finally known that his father was a lying, murdering bastard, and there wasn't enough alcohol in the world to erase the fact that he was totally and completely alone. He'd make it through this.

What, an inner voice mocked him, sixteen years of this?

Harrison ignored the voice. It had to be a bluff. Had to be. He'd been arrested for B&Es before, and even when the lawyers were talking time, they'd never been talking that kind of time.

Of course, he'd had access to a pretty good lawyer back then. Meredith had bitched and moaned and probably snorted a few extra lines because of it, but she'd always made sure he had the very best in criminal representation. These days he'd be lucky if he could even afford representation, period.

She was back in the country, he remembered. He could always give her a call--

No. He'd never be that desperate.

At least not until the case actually went to trial.

Harrison wasn't alone in the cell, but at least his cellmate had the good grace to be unconscious and possibly dead. Cellmates were always a crapshoot. In the very best case scenario, he'd end up with a sharp, decent kind of guy who he could actually talk to; worst case, he'd be twice Harrison's size, cruising on various illegal substances, and either inclined to be far too friendly or not nearly friendly enough. Out for the count, like Sleeping Beauty over there, was a tolerable middle ground, though it left him far too much time to sit and think. Even defending his virtue, such as it was, would've at least been a way to pass the time.

In the end, it was over with little fanfare. A cop unlocked the door, not the fat bastard but the same guy who'd done the fingers-and-face thing, took him back upstairs, and uncuffed him by the front desk.

Harrison blinked and rubbed his sore wrists. "Wait, what?"

"Guy dropped the charges," the cop said, already turning to leave.

"Yeah, but what--" He froze with his mouth open, having no intention of finishing the sentence. His gun and the lockpicks; Fat Bastard had seemed pretty convinced that those alone would land him a prison sentence.

The cop gave him a strange look. "What, you wanna argue with me on this?"

"No," Harrison said. "I really don't."

"You're free," the cop said. "Go in peace, my son."

He got his car keys and his wallet back, but not the lockpicks or the gun. He wasn't about to ask. He headed straight for the parking lot, intending to put as much distance between him and Baltimore as possible, and never so much as set foot in Maryland again.

But before he could flee the state for good, there was Towson.

It was almost five. Whatever sense of urgency he'd felt that morning had long since fled. Either Olivia would be there or she wouldn't; either Jack would have gotten to her, or not. But either way, he had to find out.

The sun was just setting when Harrison pulled up in front of the apartment building. He felt vulnerable without a gun, and left the car unlocked in aid of a quick getaway, though he resisted the urge to leave the keys in the ignition. The theft of his stereo may have cut the car's resale value in half, but that was still no reason to make it easy to steal the rest of it.

He stared up at the front of the building for a few minutes, wondering which windows belonged to unit 6, and whether he wanted the lights to be on or off. Then, bracing himself, he crossed to the vestibule door. The door itself was propped open, in what had to be a shocking violation of apartment regulations, but at least it made his job easier.

Number 6 was on the second floor. He pressed his ear against the door, heard nothing, and reached for the doorknob. It turned under his hand.

Easing the door open the bare minimum required, he edged slowly into the darkness beyond, keeping his back against the wall.

"Olivia," he called softly. No answer.

Harrison took a deep breath and moved further into the apartment, hands out in front of him as his eyes adjusted. It seemed to be a small space, with a wall immediately to one side and an open area to the other. The last fading light of sunset filtered through closed blinds, just barely illuminating the dark with a dull orange-gray glow. He bumped into what felt like a kitchen counter, and turned just in time to see movement.

"Hey!" he shouted, reaching for a weapon he didn't have, and swore under his breath when he realized his mistake. The figure didn't seem to notice. It was heading for the door, he realized, and he started forward, expecting whoever it was to make a run for it.

The door slammed shut. The light snapped on, bright and fluorescent, blinding him for just an instant.

Harrison blinked, pulling back against the counter, hands raised now in a defensive stance. Then his vision cleared.

Jack Harper leaned against the closed door, lips twisted in his habitual smirk.

"Took you long enough," he said.

Harrison felt the breath leave his lungs in a rush, the grating voice like a punch in the gut. His own lips curled into a snarl, baring his teeth, and he demanded, "Where is she, Jack?"


His hands dropped to his sides, curling into fists. "Did you kill her?"

"No." Jack said it easily, unconcerned, pushing upright off the door and slipping his hands into his pockets. Lying, his body language suggested, would be a waste of effort.

Harrison gritted his teeth. Lying was what Jack did, easy as breathing. So his body language lied too.

"Why not?" he demanded, when no more information was forthcoming.

Jack eyed him for a moment, head to the side and cocked slightly back. Harrison thrust his jaw out and fixed him with an expectant glare.

"Because I'm sick of killing, Harry," Jack said finally. Harrison snorted, and Jack continued, ignoring him. "Because I killed Tru and it didn't make things better. Our side didn't win, and conversely, the universe didn't come to an end. Reality kept on truckin', you stepped in to fill big sister's shoes, and nothing changed."

He paused. Harrison felt his fingernails digging into his palms, felt a dull hollowness spreading outward from his stomach, almost anger but not quite. Neither Jack's expression nor his voice had changed; he was just Jack, all sardonic drawl and disdainful eyebrows and amused eyes, like he was talking about the weather. But there were new lines around his eyes and mouth, Harrison realized, lines that hadn't been there-- what, four years ago now? It seemed barely enough time.

"No-fucking-thing," Jack repeated, meeting Harrison's glare without so much as a flinch. "It didn't end, and it never will."

"'It'," Harrison scoffed, finding his voice, "what 'it'?"

Jack stepped closer; Harrison tensed his shoulders against the urge to back away. "This whole bloody dance, Harrison. The oldest battle in the book."

"What, God and the devil?"

"Don't flatter yourself." Jack looked even more amused. "I mean old and new. The establishment and the upstart." He paused, giving Harrison a long, thoughtful look, so heavy it was almost a physical touch. "Figures. I never saw you as the establishment type anyway."

Harrison let that statement pass without comment, filing it away for later. "So if it's pointless," he asked instead, "why the hell are you here?"

Another step, and the effort to stay still nearly fused his spine. "Because, Harrison," Jack said in a low voice, "your father knows things about me that nobody else does."

He wet his lips, aware of a new unease that had nothing to do with being unarmed. "Blackmail," he managed to say, and even dredged up another glare to go with it.

Again, Jack tipped his head to the side. "Such an ugly word."

"Fine, so why not just kill my--" Harrison stopped himself just in time. "Kill him?"

"Like I said," and Jack took the last step forward, "I'm sick of killing."

Harrison stared at him, unable to think. Barely able to breathe. Every instinct was clamoring no, stop, too close; was going Jack, going murderer, evil, killed Tru, get him, end this, end it now.

"And," Jack said softly, "I'm sick of not being able to do this."

Then Jack leaned in and kissed him, and the voice of common sense dissolved into a dull roar.

It was an expert kiss, neither angry nor tender but thorough. Jack's hands gripped the back of his skull, firm, with only a barely noticeable tremor; Jack's tongue probed his mouth, patient until he found his lips parting against his will, slipping in and then out again before it even occurred to Harrison to bite. He pulled away just long enough to gasp, "Jack, what the fuck," and Jack seemed ready for it. He dug painful fingers into Harrison's jaw and met his gaze with eyes that were all pupil.

He swallowed, and Jack said quietly, "If you're gonna kick me in the balls, I suggest you do it now."

Harrison just stared at him for a few seconds, torn between hysterical laughter and... well, hysterical screaming, he supposed. His head spun, outraged and confused, thoughts slipping away when he tried to get a grip on them. He was all too aware of Jack's presence, the heat of the body pressed against his, and it wasn't making it any easier to muster a coherent protest.

It had just been too damn long. Too long since Isaac, too long since Bett-- Bettina Macavoy, the obligatory post-Isaac still-like-girls affair that had developed into his first real relationship since Lindsay; doomed in the end, of course, by his Tru-like habit of running off without warning or explanation every time a corpse woke up and did the saaaave me mambo. Too long with inappropriate fantasies of Spencer circling his brain, like a stash of drugs he'd dumped but couldn't quite bring himself to flush just yet.

Which, lovely mental image there.

Too long, and too long wondering about Jack, about their short-lived friendship and the consequences of obsession, and the sudden sexual awareness that made his heart pound in time with Jack's rapid breath. Tru's voice echoed in his head, a half-remembered snippet from a conversation he couldn't remember ever having-- You really hate him-- and Tru, God, so many reasons not to do this, and she was just the biggest and most obvious, and Jack killed her in front of him--

--and he still couldn't force himself to move.

"I'll take that as a yes," Jack said.

The second kiss was less practiced, more frantic somehow, as though somewhere a dam had broken. Harrison felt a slow burn rise in his chest as the hollowness started to recede, and finally he raised his hands, fully intending to push Jack away. He pushed, all right, but away didn't materialize; Jack's back slammed against the closed door, and then Harrison was kissing him, years of rage and helplessness transforming into frenzied urgency, fingers digging into the shoulders he'd meant to shove.

Jack groaned deep in his throat, and his own hands tightened, hard enough that Harrison knew he'd have finger-shaped bruises along his jaw. Harrison felt the groan before he heard it, vibrating between their bodies, and realized that he was hard, that he had been since the first kiss, and Jack was hard too, and goddamn it had been too long since he'd felt that kind of answering heat, too long and it was too good now to even think about stopping.

He checked in briefly on the voice of common sense, and noted that it seemed to have stepped out for the duration.

He was starting to feel lightheaded by the time Jack broke the kiss and pushed back, propelling him back against the kitchen counter again. The shock of the hard edge against his spine nearly dragged him back to full awareness; he began to struggle, and Jack's hand slid down from his jaw to his neck.

The stockiness that Harrison had taken for extra weight was actually hard muscle, if the strength of the hand around his throat and the unyielding forearm beneath his scrabbling fingers were anything to go by. He started to struggle for real, that kick-in-the-balls thing suddenly sounded like a really good idea, but before he could put it into action Jack ground down against him and Harrison's brain shorted out once more.

Too fucking long. And it had been one hell of a day.

It didn't take long after that. The opposite wall was just a couple of feet away, perfect for Harrison to brace one foot against as he thrust upward, meeting Jack's hips on their way down. His back lodged some serious complaints, well aware that he was going to be feeling the position for days, but the rest of him couldn't seem to care. He clawed desperately at Jack's back, trying to get a good grip, and kept his teeth clenched as he came, determined not to give the bastard the satisfaction of a single sound.

Jack groaned again as Harrison jerked beneath him, and bit down hard at the junction of his neck and shoulder. Harrison felt a second flood of sticky warmth spread against the crotch of his pants, over his softening dick, and then Jack collapsed against him, pressing him back so far he thought his spine might snap. His boot hit the floor again with a thud.

Jack took a deep, shuddering breath, then slowly stood.

Harrison eased himself upright with a wince, both for the twinge in his back and the rapidly cooling wetness in his boxers. He felt dazed and reeling, off-balance; it took some effort to stand up straight, but he managed, and raised his eyes to meet Jack's with a defiant scowl.

Jack seemed shaken, but he didn't look away. He met Harrison's glare squarely and said, in careful, measured tones, "I do appreciate your restraint in not employing physical violence."

Harrison closed his eyes and scrubbed at his mouth with his sleeve. He could feel himself starting to shake.

"Harry--" He heard, felt Jack take a step forward, reach out a hand. "Listen--"

His eyes flew open, and he slapped the hand away. "Don't," he managed to choke out, "don't-- you--"

Jack lowered his hand and watched Harrison, wide-eyed and unusually silent.

Harrison took a deep breath. "What the fuck was that, Jack?"

Jack's voice was matter-of-fact, his words candid. "I have no idea."

Harrison gave a short bark of laughter. "Like hell. How long?"

"What, we're talking measurements now? Bit late, don't you think?"

Harrison took a step forward; Jack held his ground. "How long, jackass?" he growled. "You said you been wanting to do it. Don't fuck with me, not now. How long?"

Jack closed his eyes briefly. "Don't know," he said, and catching Harrison's expression, added, "No, really." His smirk seemed halfhearted, a pale shadow of its normal self. "You watch a guy long enough, things happen. It's hard to tell when."

"I thought you wanted Tru." The words came out without conscious thought, and then he realized, yes, he had thought that. Thought it and never knew.

"I did," Jack said. "Once."

"And then you killed her." It still hurt to say it.

"I didn't want to."

"Sure you didn't." Harrison leaned gingerly back against the counter, propping himself up on his elbows, watching Jack with wary eyes.

"You had a connection," Jack said softly. "The two of you. I envied that."

"You wanted in," Harrison said, and shook his head. "You sick fuck."

Jack cocked his head. "It's funny, you know, you're really not my type."

"You think we should be having this conversation now?"

"Dumb blonds were never really my thing."

Harrison bared his teeth. "Hey, asshole, if I was dumb, we wouldn't be here."

"You got smarter," Jack said, with another ghost of a smirk.

Harrison shook his head again. He felt tired, his bones heavy with exhaustion. "I can't fucking deal with this."

"By the way," Jack said, and handed him a plastic grocery bag. "I believe these are yours?"

After a moment and another glare, Harrison took the bag and glanced inside. His cell phone, ID, and the gun he'd left at Lazarin's.

"It's not loaded," Jack added, as Harrison grabbed the gun and pointed it at him. "I'm not dumb either, you know."

He checked anyway, then scowled and shoved the empty gun in his shoulder holster. "You had him drop the charges."

"You might thank me for that."

"Oh sure," Harrison said. "Hold your breath. What was the point?"

Jack shrugged. "It bought me time."

"And the other gun? My picks?"

"Conveniently lost." Jack gave him a pointed look. "They can be found again, if I don't walk out of here. Just in case you were thinking of getting cute."

"Blackmail," Harrison said again.

This time Jack shook his head. "Insurance. I'm sentimental, not suicidal."

Harrison nearly choked at that. "Oh, yeah, you're a teddy bear."

"So I've been told."

Harrison pushed himself off the counter and took a step forward. Jack held his ground. Harrison stared at him, disappointed when he didn't flinch. "What's this all about?" he demanded. "Why does my-- why does he want her?"

Jack's expression flicked through startled, confused, and amused, all in a few short seconds. "What, you haven't figured it out yet?"

"I know she's his daughter. What is it, guilt over Tru?" It sounded stupid even as he said it, but he couldn't think of anything else.

"If you don't know," Jack said, "I'm sure as hell not telling."

Harrison watched him with narrow eyes. There was an answer there somewhere, lurking behind the smirk, but in his current state he didn't have a hope of deciphering it.

"Well!" Jack said, with a brisk airiness to his voice that sounded forced. "It's been fun, Harry, really, but I have just got to go."

Harrison took another step. "You're not going anywhere."

"Now, now," Jack said, pointing at him as he backed towards the door. "Insurance, remember? Keep your license, Harry, stay out of jail. It's what Tru would've wanted, don't you think?"

"Screw you, Jack."

"Already did, Harrison."

"I'll find you again," Harrison said through clenched teeth. "You know I will."

"Oh, Harry." Jack shook his head in mock-disappointment. "You're assuming I'll be there to be found."

Before he could figure out what that was supposed to mean, Jack was gone.

Harrison cleaned up as best he could in Olivia Doyle's bathroom, then drifted back downstairs to his car, moving in a kind of shell-shocked daze. His mind was blank, and he kind of hoped it would last long enough for him to get back to his apartment and the bottle of Jack on top of the fridge before reality kicked in again.

No, scratch that. Not the bottle of Jack. The bottle of Jack was going into the trash as soon as he got home.

Jack. His skin crawled, and the knot in his stomach got tighter. He suppressed a shudder and tried to think of nothing at all.

The drive back to Boston took six hours-- some kind of record, he figured-- two packs of Marlboros, and the loudest silence from the gaping hole of a not-stereo he'd ever heard. To his surprise, he found he didn't mind the quiet all that much; the loud drone of the engine filled his head and didn't leave room for much else. He pulled into his parking space just after two in the morning, stumbled up the stairs, and tossed the bottle of Jack Daniels out the window with an extremely satisfying crash, followed shortly by every single item of clothing he was wearing. Five minutes later, he was fading into unconsciousness on top of the crumpled sheets, stark naked and shivering despite the heat.

The last thing he saw before falling asleep was Tru's face, pale and slack and empty in death.

It was his first hangover-free morning in months. He really should have been feeling a little less like death warmed over, but that was how it went. Lose some, lose some more.

Spencer was bent over her computer as usual, fingers darting back and forth on the keyboard. "Hey, boss," she greeted him without looking up. "I'm leaving, and I'm taking the clients."

Harrison slammed the door closed with his foot; he'd made an early-morning beer run, and his arms were full of six-packs. "I'm guessing the job went well?"

"Bowling league," she said smugly. "Even a pending lawsuit couldn't keep the old man from his lanes. It's like a sickness, bowling. I could totally hack this job."

"The incriminating evidence?"

"On your desk."

He set the case down on the kitchen counter and frowned into the trash can. "That looks a hell of a lot like my camera in there."

"Okay, that," Spencer said, "not my fault. I was fending off the UPS guy."

"Yeah, I hear they're vicious."

"This one wasn't so bad. He brought you a birthday present." Her smirk could only be described as devilish. Harrison clung to the faint hope that her glee was due to pixellated violence. "Also on your desk," she added, smirk widening, and that hope crumbled to dust.

He opened a beer on his way into the back office. He had a feeling he'd be needing it.

His desk was tidier than he remembered it ever being. All the better to show off the new additions; nothing less than the opportunity for sadism could compel Spencer to straighten the disaster that was his filing system. The photos were in a neat stack in the corner, with a Post-it reading VICTORY!! stuck to the top. Some bizarre bone-and-string contraption sat on the opposite corner, but that wasn't what had prompted Spencer's leer.

Centered on the desktop, in pride of place, was a framed picture. Harrison edged closer with unwilling curiosity. It was a charcoal drawing, the lines hasty and smudged, with a violent energy that made the figure almost seem to come alive. The figure, in this case, being his own naked self. The likeness was unmistakable.

He didn't really need to see the signature, but his eyes fell to the scrawl in the lower right corner anyway. RK.


Harrison groped for his chair and collapsed into it, still staring at the picture. He downed half the beer bottle in one gulp, then took a deep breath and reached for the phone. Ray answered in the middle of the fourth ring.

"Canadian Love Shack, can I take your order?"

"Been meaning to ask," Harrison said, smiling despite himself. "What the fuck is a forest officer?"

"Canadian-brand forest ranger," Ray said promptly. "I woulda thought you could figure that one all on your own, Harry."

"Oh, I figured. Just couldn't picture you as Smokey the Bear. Hat and everything?"

"Hey. I rock the hat."

"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that."

Ray paused, and Harrison heard an indistinct mumble in the background. Then, in a different, lower voice, he asked, "How'd it go?"

How, indeed. "Total fuck-up as usual," Harrison said, with forced lightness. "Big surprise, considering the source, right?"

"You're not a fuck-up." It sounded automatic.

"Gee, thanks."

"You're a fucker, but you're not a fuck-up."

That was better. "Bada-boom."

"But seriously, folks." There was a brusque sort of compassion in Ray's voice, probably the only kind Harrison could handle at the moment. "What happened?"

Where to fucking start. Harrison closed his eyes and said, "Well, let's see. Got knocked unconscious, shot at-- oh yeah, got hit on by a freaking cop--"

"Before or after getting shot at?"

"Before. Unrelated."


"Got arrested," Harrison continued, "again, unrelated--"

"And Jack?"

He covered his face with his beer hand and slopped a few drops down his shirt. "Found him."

"And?" Ray sounded impatient.

"Screwed him," Harrison mumbled through his fingers, and drained the bottle.

Silence. Then Ray said, "I take it back. You are a fuck-up."

"Ha ha." He sighed; it came out more like a groan. "You ever screw anyone you hate?"

"Yeah," Ray said, after a long moment.

"You ever stop feeling like shit about it?"

"Oh, sure. I look back years later an' just laugh."

Harrison sighed again.

"Was he any good at least?"

"Please don't talk about it."

"Moving right along then." Was he laughing? He'd better not be laughing.

"Moving right along," Harrison agreed. "Got your package, asshole. You traumatized my fucking secretary."

"She loved it," Ray said smugly.

"Yeah," Harrison said, "probably."

"Whaddya think?" Ray sounded... anxious? Surely not.

"Oh, it's great. Perfect lobby art. This'll really bring in a better class of clientele."

"It's not supposed to go in the lobby, you dink."

"And you don't think it's just a little narcissistic to hang a naked picture of myself in my bedroom?"

"Ooh, big word."

"Bite me."

"Make me."

"It's...." Beautiful? Amazing? Totally unexpected? All true, none of which would ever pass his lips.

"Great," Harrison settled for at last. "It's great. Thanks."

Ray sounded pleased, which made the whole situation almost worth it, and also like he was trying not to show it, which was way more endearing than it should be. "I told Ben to put his name on the card," he said in an offhand tone, "but he wanted to get you something himself. Hope you like sextants."

"Hell, who doesn't?" Harrison had no idea what a sextant was, but with a name like that, how could he go wrong?

"Seriously, Harry--"

He closed his eyes. "Yeah. He was good."

"Shit," Ray said. "Sorry."


"You wanna...." Ray trailed off.

"Talk about it?" Harrison snorted. "Not in this lifetime."

"You want us to come down?"

Yes. Too much. "Nah. It's over. Nothing else to do."

"Fucker. You're not giving up on this one."

"It's been four freakin' years, Ray. What the hell can I do?"

"One a these days," Ray said, "I'm gonna tell you about Beth Botrelle. You are not giving up on this, Harrison."

He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes again. This was going to take something a hell of a lot stronger than beer.

"Harrison. You listening to me?"

"Yeah," he said. "Okay. Sure."

"Say it. Mean it."

"Look, I gotta go. I'll call you later," Harrison said, and hung up before Ray could respond.

He was tired. He was so goddamn tired, and people kept expecting things from him, Davis and Meredith and Spencer and Isaac, and now even Ray fucking Kowalski was expecting some dogged Mulder-like pursuit of the truth. He'd been hanging out with the Mountie too long. Harrison had tried, and he'd failed, and what about that was so hard to understand?

He'd bet on the wrong horse one too many times. Some days, it was better to just cut his losses and go home.

Gambling was an addiction. He'd learned that much at twelve-step, before he'd given it up as a lost cause. Maybe it was time he finally learned to break the habit.



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