End of Innocence
Part 1

Mickey Kostmayer climbed the stairs to his apartment, taking them one at a time instead of his usual three. Despite being kicked out of a warm bed in the middle of the night he was feeling pretty damn good. Angie had made it clear, as soon as they got back to her place, that he wouldn't be able to stay all night. She had an important meeting in the morning and said she needed to get at least some sleep.

He reached his floor and walked to his apartment while fumbling in his pocket for his key. It had still been fun and he'd persuaded her to let him stay longer than she first intended – just not the whole night. Too much self-control – that was Angie's problem.

The phone was ringing as he opened the door and he picked up just before the answering machine kicked in. "Yeah?"

He expected to hear either McCall's or Control's voice. They were the only ones crazy enough to call him in the middle of the night when he was off duty. Instead, a childish voice started singing, "Pony boy. Pony boy, won't you be my pony boy?"

He dug back through his memory for the song; it was one he and Nick used to sing with their dad when they were kids.

"Who the hell is this?"

There was no immediate reply, but then he heard the singing again, "Pony boy. Pony boy, won't you be my pony boy?"

Minutes earlier he'd been feeling pretty mellow but now he was getting pissed. In disgust he slammed down the phone. It rang again almost immediately, and he heard the same kid's song, but the voice was weeping, "Pony boy. Pony boy, won't you be my pony boy?"

"Look asshole, it's three in the morning. I'm warning you if you don't stop this crap I'm going to find out where you are and come over and make you eat that fucking phone."

The lack of reaction told him that whoever was calling either didn't know him well or was too stupid to back off. Yet, at the same time there was something familiar about the voice. He listened, willing himself to remember where he'd heard it before.

"Pony boy. Pony boy, won't you be my pony boy?"

Oh my God!

"Nick? Is that you?" He waited, praying that it wasn't his brother. What could have happened? Nick had been fine a couple of days ago.

"I don't know what to do, Mickey." The voice on the phone was weak and high pitched, like a kid.

What the Hell?

"Where are you?"

"Pony boy. Pony boy, won't you be my pony boy?" Nick sang again, his voice sounded pitiful.

Mickey started pacing as far as the cord on the phone would allow. Nick hadn't been like this in years. "Tell me where you are. I can help you."

"Pony boy. Pony boy…" The voice faded for a moment and Mickey heard sobbing. The sound made him feel sick. "No one can help me, Mickey. I couldn't stop myself and now God has turned his face from me. All that is left is darkness."

Mickey's stomach turned over. What could Nick mean? "Just tell me where you are. I'll look after you." He kept his voice calm to try to avoid spooking Nick more.

There was silence and Mickey thought Nick had hung up. Finally his brother spoke again, his voice a barely recognizable whisper, "The devil has made a home in me. I have to drive him out but I don't know how. Help me Mickey, you’re my big brother. I need you."

His tenuous hold on his emotions broke. "God damn it! Tell me where you are!"

"Don't blaspheme!"

For a moment Mickey thought that his brother had snapped out of whatever madness had gripped him, his response was so typical. But his hopes were shattered when the started rambling again.

"My soul is blackened by sin. I am marked forever by lust and sacrilege." His voice rose in a wail. "Lord help this sinner!"

Jesus! What had Nick got himself into?

"Nick! Please, trust –" With a click the line went dead.

Mickey punched in Nick's number at the rectory. He waited with increasing impatience as the phone rang and no one answered. Just as he was about to slam down the receiver and drive over to Brooklyn, an unfamiliar voice answered, in a voice thick with sleep, "St Christina's."

"I need to speak to Father Kostmayer, is he there?"

"Do you realize what time it is? Father Kostmayer is away, I'm Father MacLauren, can I help?"

"Where is he?"

"I'm sorry, my son, I can't give out that information. But perhaps I can help."

Mickey took a deep breath, his first reaction was to demand the answer but he had to stay calm. He didn't want to let on that something was wrong with Nick. "I'm Father Kostmayer's brother, I didn't know he was going to be away. I need to contact him urgently – some family business has come up."

"Well…"

"Look Father, I know it's late but my number is in his address book. My name is Michael Kostmayer. Get the number and call me back. That way you can prove I'm on the level."

"No, no, that's fine, my son. Nick has talked about you. He's left to go on his yearly retreat. "

"Oh yeah, "Mickey mumbled into the phone. "I forgot, he goes off every year just before the holidays. Could you tell me where he went and if there's a phone number where I can reach him?"

"There's no phone at the retreat, but he'll be back by next week. And of course, if he contacts us here at the church before that, we'll be sure to tell him you need to speak to him," Father MacLauren said.

Since there was no phone where Nick was going, it meant that Nick had never made it to the retreat.

"Okay, thanks, Father, "Mickey said, "I guess I can wait until Nick gets home, since there's no way to reach him. Thanks anyway." Mickey hung the phone up but kept his hand on the receiver. It was time to call in some debts. Who would be best to ask?

Making up his mind, Mickey lifted the phone up and punched in more numbers. He heard a gruff voice, slightly slurred from sleep, answer, "What?"

"Hey, Hobie, how's it going?"

"Yo, Mickey. What the hell are you doing, calling in the middle of the night? Whassamatta, she kick you out of bed?"

He ignored the comment. "I need a favor."

"Oh man, you sound like hell. What sort of favor? Last time I helped you out Control was on my ass for months."

"I need a trace on all the numbers that called my home phone in the past few hours." His answering machine flashed that there were five messages stored there. It was a good bet that most of those calls had been from Nick.

"Your home phone? Shit! When do you want those numbers?"

"Sorry, Hobie, it's urgent. I need them yesterday."

The usually brusque voice changed and Mickey heard concern instead, "Urgent huh? You got a problem, man?"

"Nothin' I can't handle." He hoped he was telling the truth.

"Give me fifteen and call me back. I'll see what I can do. Take care, amigo."

Mickey put the phone down and waited.


Mickey sat with his arms resting on the steering wheel of his car and closed his eyes for a moment. He was exhausted. The heater in his car was on the fritz and he was cold. Hobie had come up with five different locations for the numbers Nick had used to call him. They were in Brooklyn and he'd gone to them all and had still come up empty.

He'd checked and there had been no more calls since the one where he'd spoken to Nick himself. It was as though his brother had vanished off the face of the earth.

Getting out of the van and huddling deeper into his parka, Mickey walked across the street to the steps of McCall's apartment house. He paused, not sure he was doing the right thing coming here. If Nick hadn't sounded so crazy he might have been able to persuade himself not to involve McCall, but it made sense to get back-up. The area he had to search was too big for one man and he also needed McCall's contacts to set up a permanent watch on his phone. If Nick called again, Mickey wanted to know about it ASAP.

He walked up the steps to the brownstone. Using the key that McCall had given him for emergencies, he let himself in the outside door. Once out of the wind he felt a lot warmer and unzipped his jacket – and abruptly, he hoped that Nick had enough outdoor clothes with him – he could freeze to death in a few hours at this time of year.

With increasing reluctance he climbed up to McCall's third floor apartment. Once he got there he didn't stop to think, just knocked on the door. At any other time, the thought that he was about to become the next client for The Equalizer might have made him smile.

The doorbell rang and Robert set the morning newspaper down and glanced at his wristwatch before getting up to answer it. Seven am. It was rather early for company.

He looked out the peephole and was surprised to see Mickey standing there, disheveled. Robert smiled and shook his head. It seemed that Mickey had been out late and, as had become his habit recently, was dropping by for early morning coffee and a chat before heading home to sleep off the all-nighter.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this morning?" Robert said as he flung the door open. His good mood vanished as he looked closely at his friend. Mickey was slumped against the wall, unkempt and tired as was usual for such an early morning visit, but his eyes were deep-set with fatigue and shining with a feverish glow.

Mickey's eyes darted away from Robert's face. "I need your help, McCall."

Taking a fortifying breath, Robert stepped back and let Mickey in. He followed him into the living room where Mickey took his favorite chair. Robert sat catty corner to him on the couch, saying nothing, instead waiting for his friend to speak.

"Nick's missing," Mickey wasn't looking at him, his eyes seemed glued to his hands.

Hiding his surprise, because Nick had always seemed the antithesis of his hotheaded brother, Robert studied Mickey, waiting for more information. When none seemed forthcoming, he spoke.

"Fill me in on the pertinent information, Mickey. I'll do anything to help, but I need more to work with. When and why? A young priest doesn't just disappear."

Something tickled Robert at the back of his brain. Didn't he read something in the paper this morning about the Brooklyn Archdiocese and some sort of unpleasantness? He tried to dredge his memory for the details while watching Mickey, who showed all the signs of intense discomfort.

"I got home about around three and the phone was ringing." Mickey punched the arm of the chair, "He'd been calling me for hours. There were calls on my machine. I should have been home!"

Robert leaned forward, "If you spoke to Nick, then he isn't missing."

"No!" Mickey's voice was strangled with emotion. His face was twisted with pain. "He wasn't making much sense. He was crying, hysterical. He begged me to come and help him. He begged for help and hung up. I don't know where he is, I've been searching all night."

Mickey jumped off the couch and paced away. He looked out the window and his back shuddered a few times, as if to regain control of himself.

"Mickey," Robert said, beginning to bristle at the lack of information. "If it's as bad as it seems, you've got to tell me everything. I'll help, but I can't do anything unless you let me know what's going on."

Rising from the chair, Robert stepped towards the liquor cabinet. It was early in the morning, but to Mickey it was merely a continuation of the night's travails. He sloshed a generous helping of brandy into a glass.

"Take this," he ordered, holding the drink out to his friend, "and then let's get down to business."

Mickey glanced over his shoulder and grabbed at the tumbler, inhaling the liquid in one swallow. "Thanks, McCall."

He returned to the couch and Mickey, after a deep breath, went to the liquor cabinet, poured another three fingers of brandy into the glass and followed to sit back down in his chair.

"From what you've said," Robert started, "Father Nick has been though something that has unnerved him. True?" He kept his voice even and calm.

Mickey cleared his throat. "Something must have happened to him, but all he said was that God has deserted him and that he's sinned so badly he can never hope for salvation. He said that he needed me to help him. He called me his big brother. He hasn't done that since the last time." Mickey stopped talking.

Robert felt his heart drop. "The last time? Had this kind of breakdown happened before? When? What had it to do with?"

Mickey's distress increased. "I just need to find him, that's all. Leave the history the hell out of it. He's missing. I got a call from him, traced it to Brooklyn. He's not at the church. They say he's on retreat, but he's not. He's alone and in pain, somewhere!"

Robert couldn't remember another time when Mickey had lost his composure this badly.

"Goddamn it," Mickey shouted, "he's suffering and needs my help and I'm not there for him. The one person I love more then anything on this earth and I'm sitting here with my thumbs up my ass, letting my kid brother suffer. Letting him down again!" Mickey's jaw was set, his teeth bared in pained fury. "Just help me find him McCall. Nick's personal life, his history, isn't any of your damn business!"

His anger flared at the words but Robert quelled the emotion. Mickey had never shown such disrespect to him, and he knew that the outburst must have been coming from some deep hurt.

He stood up and walked into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. He kept his voice low, calm, but authoritative. "I suggest you get yourself under control, Mister Kostmayer. We can't start to find your brother if you aren't thinking straight. Use the bathroom and throw some water on your face while I get coffee and food for us. When you return we'll both be better equipped to start to get some productive work done." He nodded toward the bathroom. "Go, Kostmayer. I'll expect you back at this table in five, with your head clear and your emotions in check."

Mickey stood up, all the fury gone out of him. He swiped his hand at his nose and moved towards the bathroom, his steps leaden.

Robert finished filling the coffee maker and busied himself with setting out food on the table. If they were going on a manhunt, there would be no telling when they'd get a chance to eat again.

After visiting the bedroom to get into the correct clothing for outdoors, Robert re-entered the living room to see that Mickey was already at the table, eating.  The glass of brandy was by his hand, the coffee was poured and a plate of food sat in front of him.  Robert was pleased to see that he was much calmer.

He sat opposite and poured a cup of coffee for himself. "As you are aware, when I take on a job, I am the one in charge."

Mickey looked directly at Robert and nodded his agreement.

He picked up a bagel and started to smear it with butter, "And when I ask for information, it's not because I want to delve into any secrets, or to indulge a liking for salacious gossip, but because I might need that information to fulfill my promise to help. Agreed?" He looked at Mickey to see his response then he took a bite from his bagel.

Mickey set his fork down. 'I'm sorry McCall, it's just that –" He took a deep shuddering breath, "It's just that I'm afraid for Nick. He sounded out of his head. Something real bad must have gone down."

Keeping his voice calm, Robert wiped his mouth with a napkin and pressed further. "Has he a history of this? You alluded to such a thing before when you said 'the last time'."

Mickey stared at him for a long second, seeming to have a debate with himself. Finally, he picked up the glass of brandy and poured it into his coffee. He held the cup in both hands and sipped. When he again looked up, Robert was taken aback to see tears in his eyes.

"When we were kids, after our Dad died, my mom became friendly with a new next-door neighbor." Robert saw Mickey's expression change to one of pure hatred. "A Mrs. Polchow; Mom thought she was so wonderful, because she was an educated woman who played the piano and appreciated music and books. Mom didn't see that the woman was a drunk because she spoke so well and acted so high class." Mickey broke off to drink his spiked coffee again. He took a few more deep breaths. "No one knows about this McCall. Once we found out we never spoke of it again – that is, until now."

Robert nodded, letting Mickey take his own time.

"Mrs. Polchow told mom she appreciated their friendship, flattering her by saying that that mom was such an intelligent woman, and we were such bright boys. She offered to teach us the piano – free of charge."

Mickey cleared his throat again, and to Robert it covered the sound of a sob. "Nick was excited by the idea of lessons, but I didn't want them. I was a wild kid who would rather play ball than play piano, but my mom insisted. She wanted the best for us.

"My first lesson was my last. I thought Mrs. Polchow and her house were creepy. After the lesson I threw a fit and told my mom I wasn't going to waste my time. What I didn't tell my mom, was that Mrs. Polchow had copped some feels of my dick a couple of times during the lesson."

"Damn it,' Robert breathed.

"Yeah, well. I was thirteen, what the hell did I know? I did my best to rationalize it, telling myself that it didn't really happen, that it was all my imagination. After all, my mom said I was supposed to behave and obey what grownups and the teachers told me to do. Mrs. Polchow said she had to help me to sit correctly at the piano, and it only lasted for a second each time. What did I know; maybe that was how they got you to sit correctly at a piano. It was the 60's. No one had even dreamed about a woman molesting a kid in those days. So I never went back and forgot all about it." Mickey finished his coffee, but his hand was shaking.

Robert felt ill.

Mickey continued talking, his voice sounding hollow, "Nicky was such a good kid, such a little guy. He always did as he was told. He knew mom was hurting after dad died and he never made a fuss about anything. And he loved music, he wanted to play piano so much. He was looking forward to his lessons –."

Mickey did sob then. It fought its way out of his chest and tore out of his mouth. "Oh God, because I didn't say anything, mom sent Nicky to his first piano lesson the next day. He was only ten years old."

"Lord," Robert didn't know what else to say.

"Nicky never let on what she was doing to him. We had no idea. All we knew was that he always went to his lessons and that he played well. Polchow even managed to get mom a deal on an old, used piano so Nick could practice in-between lessons. Mom lavished praise on Nick for being so talented and dedicated and for never missing a lesson. She told him to be sure and be grateful to Mrs. Polchow and to always listen to her so that he could become a great musician and make them both proud. She thanked Mrs. Polchow over and over again for taking such an interest in Nicky!" Mickey sat shaking his head.

"Mickey, I'm so sorry. And he never said anything about it?"

"No. We had no idea. I never had a clue."

Robert speculated a bit on the information, "How long did this go on? Nick never asked inappropriate questions about sex? Many young abuse victims do."

"He took lessons for four years. Over that time Nick and I would talk about sex, I was the older brother and I was kind of wild. But the thing was – I didn't know much myself, so I didn't think anything he asked was strange."

"There weren't any older men about that he might speak to?"

"The only older man Nick and I knew well was Father Wroclaw at the church. We spent a lot of time there but you don't talk to priests about sex. When I started to date, Nick used to ask me questions about what I did to the girls and what they did to me. He was always asking if it was a sin and would I go to hell for it. He was a religious kid, so I thought he worried about me and what I was doing. It never occurred to me that he was asking about what he was doing with old Polchow. I kept telling him that what I was doing was natural and felt good."

"The Hippy era was upon us about that time. Free thinking and sexual revolution and all—right?"

Mickey nodded. His expression grew bleaker. "The thing I regret most was that I always told him that a real man never talks about what he does with a woman. If I didn't tell him that, maybe he would have said something."

Robert reached for the coffee pot and refilled his own cup and, without asking, he filled Mickey's too.

Robert paused a while, trying to read Mickey's expression. "Look, you didn't know what secrets he held and you were just a youngster yourself. It would have been impossible for you to have had any idea." He leaned back in his chair. "Let's get down to business. What happened to Nick that he broke down, like today?"

Mickey seemed to steel himself. "We have the same birthday, you know, three years apart. On my seventeenth and his fourteenth we came home from school and had birthday cake with our mom. She worked dinner shift in the neighborhood diner and we celebrated before she had to get to work.

"I was all excited, my seventeenth birthday. I was a damn big shot, cock of the walk. One of my gang had a car and we had made plans to go into the city to see what kind of fun we could get into." Mickey seemed to be speaking to himself now. "I would have invited Nick to go along. I should have, but I thought he was too young, just a kid. And he was going for his piano lesson. He had something to do. If I had known what was going to happen I would have…"

Robert waited for a long while in silence, until his friend remembered he was there.

Mickey shook his head. "I got back after midnight and found my mom hysterical. When she got home from her shift, Nick wasn't there. As far as she knew he had gone for his piano lesson and never returned, so she went to Polchow's house. Before she got there she was stopped by the neighbors, all excited with gossip." He took a breath, "The cops had been there earlier. Polchow was dead. They said she had been found naked and dead in her bathroom, all the signs were that she had finished two bottles of wine and was working on another when she had fallen in the john, cut her head and bled to death. Her husband found her when he got home from work."

"And no sign of Nick?"

"No, and mom didn't ask. If Nick had been there the neighbors would have fallen over themselves to tell her. She kept her mouth shut, went back to our house and waited for me to get home to go find him."

Robert didn't want to ask, but he had to. "Was he involved in her death?"

"No, he wasn't," Mickey glared at him, but then all the anger on his face turned into a look of sorrow, "I searched for him and found him hours later in the basement of the church, there was a broken window and kids could get in and out without being seen.

"I found him half out of his mind with grief. Nick told me Polchow had been fooling with him from the first day of lessons, putting her hands on him, telling him to touch her. It had been going for on all those years. She had made a big deal about his fourteenth birthday coming up and planned a celebration saying he was old enough to be considered a man. When he got to her house that day, she gave him wine and got him good and drunk and took him into her bed for the first time. Before that, she had said he was a child and she had always done everything to him in the piano room."

"Poor boy," Robert muttered,

"Yeah, but she was still in charge in bed, pouring even more wine into him, ordering Nick to do things to her and to permit her to do what she wanted to him." Mickey paused, his face pained at his memory, "Nick couldn't stop crying. I couldn't calm him down. Seems when he woke up after the sex, he felt sick and got a good hard look at her. She was older than our mom, her makeup was smeared and she stunk of drink, snoring. He thought he had sinned as a man sinned, and would be damned to hell for it. When Nick started to leave she woke up and ordered him to get back to bed. But Nick got dressed and told her he wasn't ever going to go to her anymore, that he was leaving for good."

Robert thought of the many cases of child abuse he had discussed with Alice Shephard in her capacity as a Sergeant in the NYPD when he was searching for a runaway girl. "She wouldn't permit that would she? She turned the tables on him and promised to tell everyone what they had been doing, but would blame it all on him. She threatened to tell the world that he forced her have relations with him – right?"

Mickey nodded, "Yeah, classic molester move, blame the victim. She swore she would tell the church and mom, and that Nick would be made to pay for raping her."

"Did Nick lash out at her?"

"No, not Nick. He wasn't like that, he ran away. She was still cursing at him when he left. He told me he went to the park and sat alone in the cold, wondering what was going to happen to him. He wished he had never met her. He wished she was dead."

"Just wished? Did he do anything?"

Mickey looked up, his eyes burning with anger, "I told you she was alive when he left. But to Nick, wishing for her death was a terrible sin. He stayed in the park for a while, crying and praying for God's help. Finally, he decided to go home and get me. He was going to tell mom everything that had happened and he hoped I would take him to Father Wroclaw so he could confess his sins. He was on the way home when a bunch of gossiping neighborhood biddies surrounded him and told him, with all the lurid details, that Polchow was dead."

"So she was falling down drunk and that's what killed her?"

"Yes, but Nick thought that his wish for her death had come true, and that he had caused her death, or that he permitted it to happen, or something. So he lost it. He was coming off his first drunk, filled with shame about his first time and then his abuser was dead. Everything came down on his head all at once and he lost it. Christ, he was only fourteen years old."

"You never told me anything of this, Mick, you've kept it hidden all these years. I'm so sorry." Robert sighed, even with all that he had dealt with in his long life, he would never get used to hearing about children being used for the gratification of adults’ deviant lusts. "What happened next?"

Mickey shrugged and seemed to be finished with his memory. "As luck – or maybe not – had it, Father Wroclaw was upstairs in the church and had heard Nick crying to me and came to the basement to investigate. He took over. I was only too happy to let a grownup handle it. And Nick loved that old man. When Father Wroclaw told us that it was all going to be fine, we believed him. He took Nick under his wing, told me not to say of word of this to mom, just tell her Nick was with Father Wroclaw at the church and would be staying there for a while. He told me to go home and forget everything that Nick had told me." Mickey sighed, "And that's what I did. I tried to forget and made like nothing happened. Nick and I never mentioned it again."

"Never?"

"Nope, Father Wroclaw told mom that he thought Nick would learn more at the church seminary upstate. He enrolled him in the school, and when Nick got home months later, he had decided to become a priest. My mom was thrilled. A son wanting to be a priest was an honor."

"Do you know of anything that might have recently happened to set Nick off again?" Robert asked.

"No idea, but I have to find Nick. I have to."

Robert inhaled deeply, "We shall, Mickey. I promise you." He got up and started to clear the table while Mickey sat in his chair, looking lost and exhausted.

Silently, Robert mulled over the people who were available to help him. Jimmy for phone surveillance. That would require a Company van. Easy enough to procure.

As he passed the kitchen counter, he glanced at the newspaper he had been reading that morning. Under the middle fold was the headline, "Brooklyn Archdiocese Admits To Child Molestation Charges Against Local Priest."

Robert's stomach turned. People who were sexually molested as children often became child molesters themselves. Was that what brought on Father Nick's breakdown? Had he been discovered to be a child molester?

Mickey rubbed his hand over his face. Ignoring the knowledge that his bed was in the other room, he thought about making some coffee. There was no way he would allow himself to rest until Nick was safe.

McCall was waiting downstairs for Jimmy. If Nick called again before the trace was set up he had to be here.

Pacing around the room, he remembered a caged tiger he had seen once in Berlin zoo. Damn! That was exactly how he felt! When a knock finally came on his door, he was across the room and had dragged the door open so fast that he thought it would come off its hinges.

Jimmy, standing outside took an involuntary step backwards, "Morning, Mickey." Jimmy lifted the dark leather bag he was carrying, "McCall sent me up to get the wire tap set up."

"Good." He pointed across the room to the phone, "I'll be with you in a minute."

Heading into the bathroom, he took a leak and then splashed cold water on his face. This going without sleep shit was fine when you were twenty but by the time you were nearing forty it was much harder. He looked at his toothbrush and figured he could spare the couple of minutes it would take to clean his teeth. At least then, even though he felt like shit, his mouth wouldn't taste like it.

When he got back into the living room, Jimmy was already working on the phone.

"How's it going?"

"Fine, a couple more connections and I'm done. With the equipment I've got in the van I can trace any call to this line in no time."

Mickey paced restlessly as Jimmy finished up. Christ! He hated waiting around.

Fortunately, before he could suggest his leaving the apartment and going down to the van, Jimmy finished. Picking up his jacket, Mickey shrugged into it as they left the apartment.

On the stairs, Jimmy said, "Robert said your brother wasn't well and that you needed to find him."

Not wanting to discuss it, Mickey just nodded.

They got outside and Mickey saw more questions coming but after a look at his expression, Jimmy didn't ask them. "No problem. Glad to help. I've got all the equipment right in back."

Jimmy's normal slow manner as he climbed into the van made Mickey want to yell with frustration. They had to get moving and find Nick. He circled his neck a few times to try to ease the pressure. At least the phones were fixed. Now that the trace was set he felt happier about going off to St Chris to go through Nick's office.

He looked up and down the street and was surprised that the Jag wasn't still parked there – maybe McCall had to do a quick errand or something.

Mickey climbed inside the van – the heat hit him like a club. "Shit! You're gonna roast in here, Jimmy." Feeling a little woozy from the warmth, Mickey looked at the equipment. It all looked to be working fine. All they needed now was for Nick to call.

Jimmy grinned at him, "You like the new heater I had installed? I was freezing my butt off during all those winter stakeouts."

"Where's McCall?" Suspicion began to lurk in the back of his mind.

This time Jimmy wouldn't meet his eyes. "Isn't he outside?" he said with an overdone look of surprise.

"No he isn't!" It was hard, but he controlled the impulse to grab the other man by his collar and get the truth out of him.

Damn McCall! What the hell game was he playing now?

Mickey punched the side of the van. Jimmy flinched.

"Jeez, Kostmayer!" he whined, "Don't wreck the van! Control'll take the damages out of my pay!"

"Fuck the van. I'll pay for any damage. Just tell me where McCall's gone."

Jimmy hesitated, seeming to weigh McCall's orders with Mickey's obvious rage. Finally he sighed and said, "He didn't tell me. He just said he was going to check some things and to get you to wait here till he got back."

What the hell was McCall up to? Didn't he trust him? It was his brother who was missing!

He snatched up the phone and dialed McCall's car phone. It was picked up on the first ring.

"Robert McCall."

For once he hated the calm, reassuring sound of his mentor's voice, "Why the hell did you dump me?" He couldn't control the fury in his voice.

"Listen to yourself, Kostmayer. You are not thinking or behaving objectively."

"I don't care, I need to do something! I can't just wait here. I'll meet you at Saint Chris"

"No!" The snap in his voice made even Mickey think twice about crossing him, "You agreed that I would make the rules. We can discuss this later, when I get back." The phone clicked as McCall hung up on him.

Rage pounded in his head and Mickey slammed the receiver down. He saw a frightened Jimmy retreat to the back of the van and that's when he realized that McCall was right. He was out of control and no good to the job at hand. He had to start to think like a professional. His training told him he ought to get some rest while he could and he wanted to be close to the equipment in case Nick called again. When Mickey spotted the bedroll tucked in back of the van, his mind was made up.

He tried to make his voice calm, "You wanna sit up front for a while? I'm gonna try to get some sleep and I want to be here to answer if Nick calls."

Jimmy nodded, "Sure thing, Mickey."

"And I don't want McCall to get away from me again. Just remember, Jimmy," his voice came out deadly calm now, "if you let him sneak out on me again, I'm gonna take you and this van apart piece by piece."

Jimmy bolted out the door.

As Robert made the turn onto Mickey's street, the plain black company van was parked down the block. He could see Jimmy in the front seat but there was no sign of Mickey about.

The street was filled with vehicles, so he double-parked a few cars away, hoping that, by now, Mickey would have got over his anger at being left behind.

He climbed out of the Jag, noticing that Jimmy was getting out of the van. He motioned Robert to stay where he was, tucked the newspaper he had been reading under his arm, and jogged to meet him.

Robert greeted Jimmy when he was closer. "Everything set Jimmy?"

Jimmy's dour expression didn't change as he nodded. "I got the phone hooked up to all the newest telecommunications bells and whistles the Company has," he said in little more than a whisper, "I'll be able to get the number and the location of the incoming calls real quick."

Robert looked around the street. "Why are you whispering?"

Jimmy shot a furtive glance at the van. "Kostmayer's catching a few zees in the back and I don't want to wake him up. He's a little bit sore at you for going off by yourself."

Robert sighed, "I thought as much."

"And I gotta tell you McCall, this don't seem like the day to make him mad. His mood's bad enough to start with and he nearly took my head off when he heard you'd gone and left him behind."

"I'll take care of that. Did Mickey fill you in on everything you need to know about what we're doing here?"

"No. He hasn't told me a thing and there was no way I was going to pry."

Robert nodded in understanding. He had hoped that Mickey would have filled Jimmy in on his own, but he saw now that he had to explain the situation himself. "Look, you need to know this. Father Nick's had some sort of breakdown, stemming from sexual abuse during his childhood. He’s gone underground somewhere. We need to find him."

Jimmy's face fell. "Jesus McCall, that's too bad. I've always liked the guy. It's a real shame that he hadda go through something like that. Good thing you told me. I'll know what to expect when I hear him on the phone. If Father Nick calls again, maybe I can think of a way to get him to speak to me, you know, break in on the message if he sounds like he'll say where he's hiding out."

Jimmy glanced at the newspaper he held in his hand and stared at the headline with a sudden appearance of dismay. He took a quick look over his shoulder at the van. "McCall, we gotta talk before Kostmayer wakes up."

Robert noticed that the van was moving a little on its springs. "You'd better hurry, I think he's awake."

Jimmy held the newspaper up. "I don't know if you've heard about it, it's in the paper. There's some sort of big trouble in Brooklyn with the Catholic Archdiocese. They've found a priest who's been molesting kids."

"I read that this morning."

"I don't know if you know this, but there's supposed to be a connection between being molested as a kid and doing the same thing to children once you've grown up. Do you think that Father Nick…?"

Robert saw Mickey jump from the van and sprint towards them.

"Put the paper away, Jimmy. I hope not, but we don't know yet."

Mickey interrupted the sentence. "Don't know what McCall?" His red-rimed eyes were blazing.

Jimmy slipped the paper under his arm.

"I was just telling Jimmy –"

"Telling Jimmy why you decided to leave me the hell out of this investigation? Why you high handed it and searched my brother's place without me?" He stood closer, nose-to-nose, and Robert could see that his colleague was at the end of his emotional rope. "Where the hell do you get off cutting me out of the investigation?"

Forcing down his own anger Robert matched Mickey's glare with a powerful one of his own. "We agreed, when I took on this job, that I am in charge. I lead this investigation not you, and I say who takes which task." He saw Mickey's temper dampen. "You came to me for my expertise. I intend to do the best job I can for you. Do you understand?"

By now Mickey's body language answered any question Robert might have of his friend's state of mind. Eyes glued to the pavement, hands shoved deeply into his jacket pockets, Mickey looked contrite.

"Sorry McCall, but I don't like being left out of the loop. Nick's important to me and I'm getting a hinky feeling about him." He looked up; Robert saw that his eyes were clear and focused. He was ready to work. "Okay, what'd you find out at Saint Chris?"

Robert led the way back to the van and all three men climbed into the back. He noted that the temperature was a bit too warm. Jimmy took his seat in front of the communications equipment and put just one side of the headphones on, so he could hear the conversation. Robert and Mickey sat opposite each other, then Robert leaned over, switched off the heater and emptied his pockets.

"I found Nick's appointment and address book. I also checked the last call he made on his private phone. It was to an Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting place a few blocks from the church." He tried to keep his voice neutral, "Mickey, do you know if Nick was having trouble with alcohol?"

"I don't think so, but Nick and I never did much drinking together. We'd take in a game every once in a while and he'd have beer. Hell he'd only have one to my three. I don't think he has any problem with alcohol."

"Don't mean anything," Jimmy volunteered, "My brother-in-law managed to knock off a fifth every night after he got off work, never drinking during the day. No one knew he was a souse."

Mickey glared at Jimmy. "Thanks for that information, but I don't think that applies to Nick."

Jimmy shrugged, "But if he was real upset that he'd been found molesting kids, that's a damn good reason – "

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Mickey roared, his voice brimming with disgust. "Child molestation?"

Jimmy looked at Robert with panic clearly on his face. "But McCall, you said you knew about the investigation into the child molestation and the priest in Brooklyn!" Jimmy's voice was a high whine, "You said you heard about it."

"What?" Mickey bellowed, his face a mask of shock. "McCall, what the hell's going on here?"

Robert steeled himself, "I read it in the paper this morning. I didn't say anything to you because I haven't had a chance to investigate it yet."

Mickey saw Jimmy's newspaper and grabbed it away and studied it. Robert nodded an okay at Jimmy. There was no reason to hide anything from Mickey. It would all come out, no matter the truth.

"It says that the priest is from the Borough Park section," Mickey said after he finished reading, "That's not Nick's parish. It's not Nick."

"Mickey," Robert started, hoping to keep his friend's temper and emotions from exploding, "Something is definitely amiss at Saint Christina's. There was quite a commotion there; the priests were very upset about something. I had to take a lot of precautions so as not to be spotted getting into Nick's room, so I couldn't hear any conversations, but the overall feeling there was turmoil."

Mickey blurted, "If the Brooklyn Archdiocese is okaying an investigation into – something – then all the churches might be worried, I don't think it had anything to do with Nick!"

"Yeah," Jimmy said, "but the timing is really strange. Maybe the Bishop's investigation set Nick off 'cos of being abused as a kid. Maybe that –"

"Damn it, McCall," Mickey seethed, and Robert noticed that his hands were balled into fists, "Why did you tell Jimmy?"

Jimmy hung his head and stared at his feet, "I'm sorry, Mickey, I didn't –"

Robert felt his patience fade, "All right! Both of you. We all need to share everything we know in order to do what needs to be done. You can trust Jimmy to keep all of this confidential. Can't he, Jimmy?"

Jimmy's face shifted into a look of hurt, "Of course, McCall, I'd never say nothing about it anyways, but especially about Kostmayer's brother."

"So we stop all of this whining and accusations and get down to the job at hand." He addressed Mickey, "If you can't control yourself, you'll be of no use to this investigation or to Nick. I need a professional mindset, Kostmayer. Save your hurt feelings for later."

Mickey mopped some sweat from his face. He took a deep breath and Robert was relieved to see a calm look to his eyes once again. "What first McCall? The appointment book or look into the AA phone call?"

Robert permitted himself a small smile. "Good man, that's more like it. I think we delve into the appointment book and I'll see if I can get any added information from some people I know."

Next