Making sure to keep the car's tires clear of the icy patches on the road, Robert turned the corner and spotted Alice right away. She was standing under the harsh light of the streetlamp at the northern end of City Hall Park, right near her own unmarked police-issue car. The brightness of the lamp did its best to push back the gloom of the winter's night and some of the blonde hair that had escaped her hat shone gold as it whipped around her head in the blustery wind. As he pulled up in front of her he noted that even though her feminine frame was all bundled up in a red Christmas-cheerful coat, she still looked every inch the world-weary NYPD Sergeant.
He pushed open the passenger side of the door and as the inside light switched on the bitter cold air hit him. Alice slid into the car and slammed the door after her. Her cheeks were red and she sniffed as she raised a tissue in her gloved hand to swipe at her nose.
"Hello Robert," she said, her voice was loud in the quiet of the car.
"You look tired, let me take you to a restaurant or bar. It would be warm and I could offer you something to eat or drink."
Alice shook her head, "No thanks, I don't have time. I'm due to meet one of my CIs soon on my latest case."
"So late? Meeting a Confidential Informant is always risky, but at this time of night? Your job is tough enough," Robert said, "why take extra chances?"
She shrugged, "I'm on the night shift for a while so it's pretty much the middle of my work day. "
"Oh, I see. Would you like me to accompany you? I would gladly "
She smiled, "No Robert, you'd frighten my skell off. If I drove up in this car, he'd either run away, or hit me up for more than the going price for information."
He nodded. "I understand. I just want you to know that I appreciate your helping me."
"Hey, you told me you it was important, and I know you enough to trust you to do the right thing with any info I bring you." She pushed her glove up to check her wristwatch. "I've got to get going. Let me tell you what I got from Detective Green in Brooklyn. He was the primary on the Farell case."
Robert pounced, "Did you say 'Was' the primary detective?"
She shrugged, "Whatever your interest in this case, if your client's connected in any way, the point might be moot. The case has already been closed."
The surprise of that statement rushed in his head. "Do you mean that the police have found who killed Farell?"
"Turned out not to be a homicide, but a kind of accidental suicide."
"What?" He couldn't believe it.
"Look Robert, I don't know how you're involved here, but I'll give you the fast rundown of the investigation. They found Farell dead in her bed with evidence of a recent sexual encounter, but she didn't have a mark on her. Brooklyn started the usual investigation. She made lots of enemies among the people in the neighborhood and there was a list a mile long of probables including a husband."
Robert lifted his eyebrows in surprise. "I heard she was a widow."
"One of many lies she told about herself. She has a husband in the Bronx, she emptied their joint bank account a couple of years ago and ran."
"Seems that was far enough. Her husband didn't care enough to go look for her. He was happy that she was gone."
"Yep, she had that effect on people. And that's what broke the case so soon."
She was silent for a few seconds and Robert looked at her in expectation.
"Green had three of his CIs fall over themselves wanting to give him information about Mrs. Amelia Farell. Seems she'd been bothering the street hustlers looking to score roofies."
Robert searched his memory He seemed to remember something about roofies. "That's also known as the date rape drug, right?"
Alice smiled, "You do know something about everything, don't you? Yeah it's kind of new to this area. The chemical name is Rohypnol and it's colorless and odorless and it dissolves quickly into drinks and induces amnesia. The pushers on the street thought it was hilarious that a middle aged broad was looking to get some
" she looked at Robert and colored slightly. "To er, get a date, to take advantage of a man."
"I quite understand Alice." And he did. Things were becoming clearer about Nick's story, that he had blacked out and didn't know what happened.
"Green called in some favors in the ME's office and got a rush order to check for it in Farell's system. He also did a real close once-over of Farell's apartment. He found a stash of roofies in a bag that had only her fingerprints on it. They also had a can of Pepsi that had been by her bed, where they found some partial prints of a male, but Farell's prints were covering those. So she was the last person to hold the can."
"Was the drug delivered to the victim in the soda?"
Alice stared at him for a moment, as if trying to read him. Then she nodded. "Seems Farell put the drug in the Pepsi which she gave to the male to drink. There was a scotch bottle by the bed; her fingerprints were the only ones on that. So it looked as if she was doing lots of booze as she was, er, doing the guy her victim."
Along with a flush of disgust, Robert permitted himself a slight relaxing of tension. It looked as if Nick wasn't responsible for Farell's death but poor Nick, what a horror this news will be for him. "What did kill her then?"
"As far as Green could tell she must have picked up the can and drunk the soda without remembering it was loaded with roofies. She was pretty drunk. ME says the combination of the Rohypnol with her elevated blood alcohol repressed her breathing and she must have just fallen asleep and never regained consciousness."
"And the male in the bed?" He kept his voice neutral, "You have semen, hair and partial fingerprints. Will the police conduct a search for him?"
"No reason to. New York City doesn't have the money to conduct tests to find out the identity of victims, especially when the person responsible for the crime can't be prosecuted." Alice turned in the car seat to face him and cleared her throat. "Look Robert, the official line is for me to tell you that if your client has any knowledge of this crime, that he should come down to the department and tell us everything."
Robert looked away from Alice, and out the window at the cold darkness of the city street "I understand ."
Alice's voice got quiet, "But off the record... If I knew someone who had been raped and the man Farell drugged had been raped, don't let yourself think otherwise and the person responsible for that crime was beyond prosecution, like Farell is, I wouldn't put him through the system. There'd be no reason to put him through that horror. Rape is devastating to anyone, and it's as difficult to get over for a male as it is for a female. Maybe more."
Reassured, he asked, "If I had any knowledge of such a person hypothetically you suggest that there's no reason to bring him in to the police?"
Alice redid the scarf around her neck, tucked the hair under her hat and placed a hand on the door handle. "As an officer of the court, I'd never say such a thing." Her lips stretched in a sad smile as she looked at him, "But unofficially, yes, that's what I'd tell you."
Robert took her gloved hand and held it for a moment. "Thank you Alice. I owe you one."
"Get your client some help Robert. It might be a terrible thing to say, but it's better that the woman's dead. This way she'll never get to do this to another person, and her victim doesn't have to worry about testifying to get her off the street." With that she opened the door and was out of the car. Alice slammed the door shut and with a little wave, she was off walking.
Robert kept watch over her until she got to her car. She slid inside and in a moment, the lights were on and the vehicle sped off.
Robert was already dialing the car phone. He was very eager to let Mickey and the rest know that Nick was innocent of all wrongdoing.
"Hello?" Jimmy answered the phone.
"Jimmy tell Mickey and Cameron and Nick if he's awake that he's not guilty of harming Mrs. Farell. It's a bit complicated but "
"McCall, McCall!" Jimmy was shouting to be heard, "He didn't kill her, really? McCall, that's great --!"
"Yes it is Jimmy, put Mickey on the phone, I'll explain more to him."
"No can do, McCall, Mickey just this minute flew outta here like a bat out of hell, a man on a mission. He was sitting and talking with Nick in the bedroom and then all of a sudden, he's running out the apartment, telling me to watch Nick and that he'd be back soon."
DAMN! Robert started the car, "I don't like the sound of that. At all. I'll be back at the safe house within a couple of minutes if traffic cooperates. Sit tight. Is Cameron still there?"
"Yep," Jimmy answered, "He's sitting with Nick now."
"Go and tell him that I've found out Nick is innocent of any crime, that he was a victim, pure and simple. Don't let anyone leave, I'll be right there."
Robert could hardly concentrate as he merged into traffic. He had a very bad gut feeling. Mickey leaving his brother at a time like this was a bloody bad sign. He could only hope that he would get back to the safe house before Mickey did.
Robert checked his watch once again; he had been back in the safe house for over an hour and Mickey had yet to return.
Where the bloody hell had Kostmayer gone?
When he looked up he noticed that Cameron, who had been concentrating on writing something in his notebook, was watching him.
"Looking at your watch won't bring Mickey back any faster."
Annoyance welled up in Robert's chest. He had been barely able to control his frustration as it was, Mickey should never have left the safe house. What he didn't need now was a psychologist treating him like a child.
He glared at Cameron. "Noted."
Cameron smiled as if at a private joke, and continued to write in his notebook.
Just then, Jimmy tiptoed out of Nick's bedroom and closed the door with exaggerated care. "Father Nick's still asleep. He's resting real quiet now. No nightmares, it looks like. I just hope Mickey gets back before he wakes up." He looked at Robert. "Are you gonna tell him that he didn't do nothing to that woman, or are you gonna wait for Mickey to tell him?"
Robert sighed and looked toward Cameron. "I suspect we will have to follow the good Doctor's call on that."
Cameron removed his glasses and wiped them off. Robert recognized that as a ploy to give him time to think about an answer.
"I'd much prefer his brother to be here, to hold his hand," Cameron said, setting his glasses back on his nose, "It's going to be a hell of an emotional wave for someone in Nick's situation to ride out. Having his brother here to lean on for support would be most beneficial. But I don't want him to suffer any longer than he has to by thinking that he's guilty of such an heinous crime as murder."
"Or that he was screwing a woman," Jimmy added, then he blushed, "You know, thinking that he'd broken his priestly vows and everything."
"Thank you, Jimmy, for that clarification," Robert said.
Cameron placed his notebook on the cushion next to him, "I'd much prefer his brother to be here though."
"So would I," Robert agreed.
"If we need to, I can call the excellent private hospital I'm affiliated with," Cameron looked at Robert, "You know the one I mean."
Robert nodded. It was owned by the Company but accepted a few private patients, but only those referred by its own people.
"I can get Father Nick admitted within the hour. And I promise I'll do that, Robert, if Nick looks as if he'd be harmed by waiting for his brother to show up."
"I know that Mickey would want to be here before Nick was taken anywhere, I "
"Nick's my patient now. And I'm the one who's responsible for his care and well-being, until I'm told otherwise by Nick himself."
Just then Robert heard the lock on the front door disengage. He stood as a familiar looking man entered, followed closely by Mickey.
"Where the hell have you ," Robert started to say, then he noticed that Mickey was holding a gun in his hand.
"Don't make any sudden moves McCall," Mickey called out, "Keep calm and stay away from me and no one will be hurt. You too, Jimmy."
Robert was aware that Cameron was frozen on the couch and that Jimmy was trying to make himself smaller by leaning against the wall in the kitchen. As Robert looked, he recognized the new member of the group.
"Bishop O'Toole," Robert nodded at him in greeting, "We meet again."
"Mister McCall," the Bishop smiled, "I'm sorry we had to encounter each other again under such sad circumstances."
"Shut your mouth, tight," Mickey growled. He looked around the room, "All of you, get out. I brought O'Toole here for Nick. He wants to confess get absolution. Then, after that's done," his voice broke, "I'll let the Bishop go."
Bishop O'Toole turned to look at Mickey, "Please my son "
"I'm Mister Kostmayer to you." Mickey exploded, "You don't have any hold over me, damn it, but you do over Nick."
Bishop O'Toole stared at Mickey, "Can't you see that kidnapping one of the church's servants is not a good way to deal with your troubles?"
"Where the hell do you get off mouthing your empty platitudes to me?" Mickey roared. He lifted the gun higher to aim it at the Bishop's head.
With growing apprehension, Robert noticed that Mickey's eyes had a glassy look and his complexion had turned the color of beets. With his left arm, Mickey shoved the Bishop across the room. O'Toole fell against the wall and slid to the floor. Mickey was standing over him in a flash, shoving the gun down into the clergyman's face. "Keep your empty promises to yourself. You're here to help Nick, because he's naive enough to believe you and the church. I'm not that fucking stupid."
"Mickey!" Robert bellowed at the top of his lungs, "Stand down, man!"
Barely turning his head, Mickey glanced at Robert. "Leave now, McCall. I know what I have to do. I'm finally going to do what's best for my brother. The Bishop here is going to forgive Nick and help him to a state of grace, and then I'm going to help Nicky out of this situation, give him the peace he deserves. Then, I swear, I'll let O'Toole go and I'll disappear somewhere you'll never find me."
Robert let all emotion drop from his body. He made his voice calm, "Nick isn't guilty of committing any wrong, Mickey. There's no reason for any of this. You ran off half-cocked before all the data was in. We've gotten important information from Alice. There was no murder. Farell overdosed on alcohol combined with something similar to knockout drops. Nick didn't harm her in any way. Stop all of this foolishness now. Put the gun down."
At first Mickey's face registered relief. But then it hardened into a look of hatred. "Damn you McCall, that you'd lie to me about something like that! I'm not stupid enough to take your word on anything right now. I know how far you'd go to protect anyone on your watch. You aren't above bending the truth to fit your purposes."
Red-hot anger flared in Robert. "That's it!" He caught Mickey in his sternest glare. "If you hadn't have run off like some sort of guilty child, intent on making everything right, you would have been around to hear that Farell died through her own perverted scheming. She gave Nick the date rape drug in a drink, and then molested him. The dammed woman was so drunk that, later on, she drank the dregs of her witches brew herself."
"It's true, Mickey," Jimmy slowly stepped out of the kitchen. "McCall ain't lying. They're called roofies and she drugged Father Nick. He didn't do nothing wrong."
Robert saw that Mickey was finally understanding the meaning of his words as his gun hand began to sink towards the floor.
Robert took a deep calming breath. "Alice told me that according to the police, the case is already closed. So if you will stop playing the ridiculous role of noble, self-sacrificing big brother, we can all start to get to the important issue that is before us right now: the best way to help Nick heal and get through this horrific incident."
Mickey shook his head as if waking up from a trance.
"Your brother's been raped man," Robert said, "It's time that you started to look to his needs, not to alleviate your remorse for not being there for him when he went through this before. You can assuage your guilty feelings some other time!" Then he walked to Mickey and put a hand on his shoulder. "Put the gun away, Mick. We need to tell Nick what's happened. At least then he'll know he did not break his vows to the church willingly.
Mickey stood over Bishop O'Toole for a moment more. His heart was beating out of his chest and there was a tingling in his fists that always happened before he whipped the shit out of somebody.
He turned away from the fallen priest.
Jimmy rushed forward and gave the Bishop a hand up. "You okay your holiness?"
O'Toole smiled and said, "Thank you. I'm none the worse for wear."
Mickey still felt a flush of disgust toward the religious pompous ass. He holstered his gun and started to walk to the bedroom door. "I'll tell Nick what happened."
"Wait!" Cameron said. He turned to Jimmy, "Would you mind checking in on our patient. I want to make sure he didn't hear any of this argument."
"Sure," Jimmy nodded and went to the bedroom.
"Nick's in an extremely delicate state, Mickey. I don't think it would be a good idea to rush in and surprise him with this news. It might bother him more than we can imagine," Cameron said.
Mickey felt his stomach turn. "Why? It's all good news. He didn't hurt that bitch; she forced him to screw her. From what he told me before, he was hardly aware of what was happening. He's going to be thrilled that he didn't force himself on her and didn't kill her."
"It's going to be harder on Nick than that," Bishop O'Toole spoke.
Mickey turned his wrath on him, "Nobody asked you. I don't need to hear your crap now."
Cameron looked at Jimmy as he came back into the room. "Is Nick up?"
"No," Jimmy said as he went back to the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen. "He's sleeping pretty deep." He turned to Mickey, "I think you'd scare the hell out of him if you just walked in and woke him up."
Cameron nodded. "Thank you Jimmy, I agree."
Jimmy beamed and went back to making sandwiches.
Mickey looked at Robert to weigh how much the old man was pissed. Robert looked tired, but his eyes were as sharp as ever as he turned his gaze on him.
"You're out of control Mickey. I suggest you sit down and let the experts decide on what's best for Nick right now."
Mickey knew it was true, so he got even angrier. "I'm Nick's brother. What happens to him is my decision. I'm not leaving to up to others not like last time. I'll take care of him. "
"I understand your position, Mickey," Cameron said, "It's just that Nick might take the news that this woman molested him as badly as the other news. It's another blow to him " The he looked at the Bishop. "I won't say anything else. Not here. Suffice it to say that this news could make Nick suicidal. I want to break it to him as gently as possible."
Suicidal? Mickey felt as if someone had delivered a blow to his gut. All he had thought about was the relief of knowing that Nick wasn't going to prison and that he wouldn't have to have to kill him to protect him from that hell. What good would all of this be if Nick killed himself now because that bitch used him?
Bishop O'Toole shook his head. "Nick won't become suicidal. It will be hard for him to accept what's happened, but suicide is a sin, he'd never do that to himself. I'd suggest that you watch for other symptoms of severe mental distress."
Scalding anger flashed though him. "Shut the fuck up!" Mickey seethed. "So now you know more than a psychiatrist just because you're a priest? Where the hell do you have the gall to open your yap about my brother?"
O'Toole turned a mild face to him. "I know that you're angry Mickey, but it won't help to misplace your anger now."
Mickey recognized that tone of voice; it was the sound of all the smug self-righteous people who had always tried to make him regret his choices in his life. The bastards!
"I know exactly where to point my anger, you pompous prick!"
"Mickey!" Jimmy gasped.
"I'm not so certain," O'Toole looked into his eyes, "You came to my office intent on bringing me here at gunpoint. If you had simply asked, I would have gone anywhere to help Nick. I've been his confessor and his friend for years." Mickey watched as the Bishop looked around the room. "I might even hazard the guess that I know him better than all of you in this room. And that includes you Mickey."
Hardly aware of what he was doing, a red haze enveloped him and Mickey felt himself move toward O'Toole with his fist flying. Somehow Mickey found himself on the floor looking up before he realized what had happened. McCall had taken advantage of his tunnel vision on the priest to insert his body between them and had brought him down.
"I'm asking you to please calm yourself," Robert said through clenched teeth, bending to bring his face close, "You're making things worse right now." He backed away.
Mickey sprang to his feet and O'Toole faced him. Through his anger, Mickey recognized that the priest was not going to back down.
"In addition," O'Toole said, "Nick is one of my flock, under my guidance and I will not allow him to be taken away from all he knows and loves of the church. The church will, once again, send him to get help, as we did when he was young."
Mickey felt strong arms hold him back. He struggled to get loose, but Robert had a firm grasp on him. "Be a professional, man," Robert muttered in his ear. "Violence isn't needed here. Now's not the time to act like a hurt adolescent. Nick comes first, not your guilt over what you didn't do as a teenager."
The words stopped him cold. Robert had put his finger on his emotions. For some reason, he kept thinking of Nick as a kid who needed his protection. He didn't want to make mistakes concerning his brother again.
"Listen to me," Robert said, "Trust me in this. Nick asked for Bishop O'Toole and we have to respect Nick's intuition for his own survival. Your brother wants to make his confession to God. Let him."
Through a force of will Mickey made his muscles relax. "I won't desert Nick," Mickey said as a foreign feeling of hopelessness washed over him, "I won't leave him to suffer alone again."
Robert put his arm around Mickey's shoulder. " I promise you we won't leave Nick to face his demons on his own. Cameron is here to give his opinion, and we will all including Nick decide what's best for your brother."
"I think we need to include Nick's psychiatrist too," Bishop O'Toole said.
"What?" Cameron stood up. He looked at Robert. "You didn't tell me he was already under another doctor's care, I would have called him in on this right away."
Mickey felt his mouth open in amazement. "Nick has a psychiatrist? I didn't know."
O'Toole nodded. "On the first day he entered the seminary his parish priest, Father Wroclaw, introduced me to Nick. He's been under a psychiatrist's care since he was fourteen. Father Wroclaw loved that boy and cared deeply about the Kostmayer family. He knew your mother was a good woman who wouldn't be able to hold up under your father's death and the knowledge that she had made it all too easy for a child molesting predator to use her young son. "
Mickey blanched. It was true. Father Wroclaw had explained this once to him. He had forgotten.
Bishop O'Toole started to take off his coat. "Father Wroclaw realized that she never would have understood that the woman who abused Nick had made sure that your mother wouldn't recognize that anything was wrong. If the truth had come out, your mother never would have forgiven herself, so Father Wroclaw made certain that the church got Nick all the support and help he needed. Nick has had care and counseling for over twenty years. He was doing very well, before this. He's a deeply religious man, and a sensitive and caring priest."
Mickey felt his stomach turn and shame overcome him. "I never knew that Nick had gotten help. I took it for granted that it was swept under the carpet because the church wanted to get a hold of him as a novitiate."
Bishop O'Toole took a small notepad out of his jacket and wrote something down and handed it to Cameron. "Mickey, I'm sorry that you've taken it for granted that the church wouldn't have done its best for your brother. Nick didn't want to burden you with the knowledge that he was getting help. He saw that you had buried the memory about Mrs. Polchow, so he decided to not share his problems with you. He wanted to protect you from any pain."
"Protect me?" Mickey breathed, "Nick wanted to protect me?"
Bishop O'Toole stepped toward the bedroom door. "I'll go in to Nick now and sit with him until he wakes, then I'll hear his confession and tell him what has happened."
"I'm going in too!" Mickey said. "I want to be there when Nick wakes up. He'll need me."
"No," O'Toole insisted, "I will hear his confession and give forgiveness, and that must be in private." He put his hand on the doorknob, "I'll tell Nick what actually happened right away, to let him know that he has not sinned at all, but was sinned upon."
"No," Mickey didn't like the feeling that he was leaving Nick's welfare to other people again. "It's my job to be there for him when he wakes up. He's been through a lot."
"Nick loves you and looked to you for help," O'Toole said, "But now his love of God is what he needs and what will ultimately help him through this time of trial."
Mickey felt a rage growing at the Priest's words. "You're not going in there alone. When he was afraid and alone Nick called me, not you. He knew that I would always be there for him and I will be. And damn it, you can't stop me!"
O'Toole slowly moved to stand right next to him. "Mickey, you were willing to permit Nick to speak to me before you took his life, why then won't you let him speak to me in order to continue his well being?"
"What!" Jimmy gasped and Mickey started to turn towards him, but stopped when he saw the sadness on Robert's face.
"I I wasn't going to kill him " Mickey didn't know what to say. It sounded so bad when you said it out loud like that. "I would never harm Nick. I was going to "
"Save him, I know my son," O'Toole said, "You said as much when you forced me from the rectory. Nick and I have had long conversations about you over the years, so I know what kind of man you are. I've an idea of how you have lived your life, from the fears that Nick has shared with me about your health and your soul's well-being."
"I'd do anything to help Nick." Mickey felt hollow.
"I know," the Bishop said, "You are a astonishingly brave and loyal man who would give himself over to the devil himself to help your brother. Nick knows that. I know that. Just have the courage now to permit Nick to look to his Lord to help him." He touched Mickey on the shoulder. "I will call you the moment Nick asks for you. I promise." Without another word, he turned and entered Nick's bedroom.
Mickey felt as though he was struck dumb. He looked to Robert. "What should I do?"
Robert set his jaw. "You do what you think best. But do it calmly and with great thought. Cameron will advise us in the psychological aspect of Nick's health."
Cameron held the small paper that Bishop O'Toole had handed him. "I'll call Nick's doctor and fill him in on what's happened. Would you mind if I have him come here to speak to his patient?"
"Of course, tell him to come," Robert said.
"I'll consult with him and then we will all have a better idea of how to help Nick. I'll agree to act for Mickey as a consultant with his doctors."
Cameron went into the second bedroom and Mickey suddenly felt all the wind go out of his sails. Collapsing onto the couch, he couldn't even bring himself to look at Robert.
A moment later he felt a shadow fall over him. When he looked up, Jimmy was there with a cup of coffee and a plate of sandwiches. Mickey waved them away but he heard Robert's voice. "You know better than to refuse food and drink now. You're at the end of your emotional and physical rope. Take what Jimmy's made for you."
Mickey looked up for a second, and saw real worry on Jimmy's face. Then he looked at Robert's tired presence and reached for the food and drink. He sipped the coffee and felt its caffeine and warmth revive him. Then he took a sandwich and choked it down, trying not to imagine what Nick was going through at that moment.
Cameron walked back into the room and accepted a cup of coffee.
"Nick's doctor will be here soon, he's coming with an ambulance to take Nick to the hospital.
"Hospital?" Mickey asked, "Is that really necessary?"
"Don't worry, Mickey, it's a fine facility. He and I both think it's the best thing for Nick, for the first few days at least. It seems Nick had spoken to him earlier in the week. He was very upset about the news of the child abuse accusations against the Brooklyn Archdiocese. He was furious that any priest would ever abuse a child and couldn't understand how anyone had looked away from the offending priest's history."
Mickey shook his head and they had originally thought Nick had done something to children. They were so wrong.
Cameron continued, "I didn't tell his doctor everything yet. We'll fill him in when he gets here, but from what I've just heard, Nick has been getting very good care all these years. It should help him with his recovery."
Mickey felt his eyes tear up. "You think so?"
Cameron took a deep breath and thought about it a minute. "It's the best scenario I can think of. Nick is in for a lot of hard work, but it looks as if he has a strong support system. It looks promising."
Mickey took that information and they all sat in quiet for a while.
Bishop O'Toole opened the bedroom door and motioned to Mickey, who shot off his feet to get to the doorway.
O'Toole grabbed Mickey's arm to stop him from running into the bedroom. He smiled at everyone. "Nick is still weak and a little confused, but he took the news well enough. Nick now understands that he is free of sin and has done nothing that would have God turn his face from him. He's made his confession and is quiet and feels much better. He even sees this as God's way."
"What?" Mickey couldn't grasp what the Bishop could be talking about.
"I'm proud to say that Father Nick sees what happened as the Lord's way to protect others from Mrs. Farell's sickness. He seems to think that he was made to suffer through this horror so that other innocent people would be saved from this experience."
"Oh for Christ's sake," Mickey cursed.
O'Toole nodded. "It is indeed for Christ's sake."
Mickey shuddered. I'll never understand how these holy-moly guys think.
"Come in to see him, Mickey, he's asking for you."
Mickey started to go in the room, but first he looked at Robert and then he reached into his holster, removed his gun and handed it over to him.
"I won't be needing that," he said, then he went through the door to do the best he could for his kid brother.
When Mickey entered the bedroom, the first thing he noticed was that the lone light was still the only illumination in the room. Nick must have wanted it dark for his confession. He saw that his brother was still lying in the bed, covered up to his neck by the comforter. Nick was quiet, his eyes shut and Mickey wondered if he was sleeping.
"Nick?" Mickey whispered.
His eyes opened and Nick's arms rose from out from under the bedcovers in welcome and his face now had a tearful smile. "Did you hear, Mickey?"
Mickey dropped to his knees by the bed and he and his brother embraced.
"I heard. I'm glad you didn't do anything wrong Nick. You didn't do anything wrong, you know that right?"
Pulling his head away to look into his face, Mickey saw that Nick's eyes were red rimed and puffy.
"Everything happens for the Lord's good purpose," Nick said, and his voice hitched at the end of the sentence.
Mickey wanted to yell that the bitch killing herself was the only good that come out of any of this and if she had offed herself a year earlier, then things would have been even better. But Mickey stopped himself. Nick would never agree.
Mickey made himself smile. "You're gonna be fine, Nick, you've got a lot of people who care about you, who want to help."
"I'm truly blessed by the Good Lord," Nick said.
Mickey felt his stomach turn. "Don't."
Nick looked up at him, his face calm innocence, "What do you mean?"
"Let's stop playing the game we usually play with each other. I'm sick of it. What you've been through should teach us that we can't keep doing our Kostmayer brothers dance. I need to do better for you than I have. I want to start now."
Nick shook his head. In the shadows of the room, Mickey thought Nick suddenly looked young again, like he did when they were kids.
"I don't understand Mickey. I'm telling you what I'm thinking."
"You're doing what we always do when we decide the other one can't deal with reality. We repeat platitudes that will make the other one turn away and not get too close to the truth."
Nick leaned further back onto the pillows and hugged the comforter under his chin. Mickey stared at him. He really did look like a kid now. Should I bother him with this, after what he's been through? He leaned closer to Nick and spoke in a soft voice, "The Bishop said something that made me feel sad."
"What did he say?" Nick's voice was calm.
"He said he knew you better than I do." Mickey felt hot tears forming in his eyes.
Nick was silent for a few seconds. "Maybe he does. I talk to him a lot Mickey, much more than you and I talk."
"And that made me feel bad." Mickey patted Nick on the chest, the thick comforter letting him feel little of his brother's shape or substance. "We never really talk and that made me feel bad too. We blather about everything else when we're together, baseball and stuff, but we don't really know about each other's lives. We've fought too much about the different ways we look at the world so we keep away from talking about anything personal. I don't want that to continue anymore, Nick. You're my brother. You're the person that I love most, and best, in the world."
"I love you too, Mickey."
"And the Bishop said that you've been protecting my feelings by not telling me about things that you think might hurt me. From now on, I want to talk about everything with you ."
"I give my burdens to the Lord. He listens to my problems and helps me."
Mickey swallowed his annoyance. He made his voice soothing, "Stop, please. Every time I ask about your life, you answer with a stupid pious cliché that you know makes me cringe. So we fight and then we never get to really talk."
"It's not a stupid cliché! It's what I believe in."
"And when you ask about me about what I've been doing, I don't want to burden you with it all so I make certain to tell you the nastiest and bloodiest story I know. You cringe, throw a religious saying at me, we argue and we both back away from each other. It's a goddamn dance we do."
"It's the truth. We should have shared so much of what was going on in our lives with each other. I would have wanted to know that our birthday was a hard time for you. I thought birthdays meant nothing to you and you forgot mine along with yours."
Mickey saw the light reflect off of the tears that were welling up in Nick's eyes, "I never once forgot your birthday, Mickey, but every year I begin to feel bad around December, flashing back to Mrs. Polchow and what happened. I found that going on a retreat helped me work through the bad memories."
"Don't you see, I wish you had told me. I could have helped."
Nick shook his head, letting the tears slide down his cheeks. "You never wanted to talk about it, even when I got back that first summer, after it all happened. For years I thought you hated me."
Mickey nearly choked, "What? Why?"
"Because I let it happen. I let her do those things to me."
"Oh God, Nick, never! I never "
Finally, wiping the tears away, Nick nodded, "I know. My psychiatrist explained it to me a long time ago. He helped me see that you must have felt guilty for not protecting me and that's why you never mentioned what happened."
His throat closed with the feelings of remorse and Mickey had to force the words out. "I'm sorry I let that happen to you! I should have told you how sorry I was a long time ago!" Mickey bent his head. Saying those words hurt more than anything he could remember.
Mickey felt Nick's hand on his head, as if in a blessing. "I never blamed you. I never told you about it and I never asked for your help. How could you have known to rescue me? You were a kid, not a mind reader."
"But " Mickey felt his heart tear wide open, he knew that Nick would hate him after he told the truth, "Polchow put her hands on me that first time I went for a lesson. I should have warned mom, warned you, warned somebody. But I didn't. I talked myself out of realizing what she did." Mickey kept his head down, he didn't want to see the hate in Nick's eyes. He had let his little brother walk into a madwoman's house and be used by her.
"Oh God, Mickey!" Nick's voice was so filled with emotion that Mickey almost felt like clutching his chest to keep his heart from falling apart.
A dam of guilt a flooded over him. "I'm sorry, Nick, I'm sorry." All the years of remorse were streaming out.
"I didn't know that she molested you too!"
"I should have told Mom and that would have stopped you from going. I'm so sorry Nick."
"No, it wasn't your fault, not at all. Mickey, listen to me. You couldn't have known what was going on during those piano lessons. I didn't even understand what Polchow was doing to me for years. It's a known fact that child molesters pick their victims and their families very carefully, and prepare ready answers for any questions that might come up. If you told Mom, Polchow would have denied it and Mom most likely would have been on her side."
"What?" Mickey felt his mind go blank. "How can you say that? If I had told Mom what the old lady did to me, she would have stopped you from going for lessons."
"That's not how it works Mickey. From all the studies I've read and been told about, people like that drive their way into the parents' good graces. They make sure the parents admire and feel indebted to them. Remember how Mrs. Polchow gave Mom so much praise and support and help that Mom thought she was her best friend in the world, maybe even her only friend. If you had told Mom that she had manhandled you that first time," Nick took a deep breath, "Mom probably wouldn't have believed you. She might have said that you were making it all up to try and break up her friendship with Mrs. Polchow, or that you didn't want me to learn how to play the piano. You always did want to toughen me up."
Mickey almost lost it then. He stared at Nick, feeling his eyes wide open in astonishment, "No, I can't believe that "
"It's true. It's taken me years of therapy to fully understand how Polchow made sure that Mom never noticed anything strange about the lessons." Nick suppressed a shudder, "No one could imagine a woman molesting a child back in those days. Mom thought Mrs. Polchow was a wonderful influence on us, she was educated and well-read, the things mom wanted most for us. Telling her that Polchow touched you wasn't something she could have dealt with."
"No, I know Mom wouldn't have let it happen."
Nick shrugged, "She had so much going on that was bad in her life then, if she lost her friend and believed that I was being used like that, it would have been too much for her to handle." Nick patted Mickey's arm. "Telling on Polchow wouldn't have stopped the abuse. It would have just caused a rift in our family or it might have torn mom apart, breaking her. I forgave Mom long ago, she did all she could. She protected herself by refusing to see that anything might have been amiss about Mrs. Polchow's interest in me."
Mickey didn't know what to say. All these years he thought that if he had only told his mother, that Nick would have been saved from all of this. How was it possible?
Nick placed his hand on Mickey's shoulder. "You need to get some help. You were a victim of abuse too."
Mickey nearly laughed. "Me? I don't need any help. I'm Okay."
Nick grabbed Mickey's shoulder harder. "Maybe that's why you live in such a violent world. You might have been scarred by Polchow and it made you into what you've become."
"What I've become?" There it was again, Nick talking about him as if he were a rabid animal. "Look, I know I don't talk about my job much, that I downplay what I do, calling it barely even a trade, but it's a needed skill."
"I know, but maybe "
"Maybe nothing." Suddenly Mickey recognized that they were playing that game again. Nick says something about his job, he lashes out, and they don't talk at all. Mickey took a deep breath. It was time that all changed.
He cleared his throat. I know that you think I do horrible things for my job and that I like it "
"I never meant that," Nick looked hurt.
"They don't push a gun in my hand and sic me on a target. I'm not a crazed killer, willing to throw my life away on a game. I'm a highly trained agent for the United States Government. I've been through, I don't know how many, psych tests and screenings and evaluations. I'm not an unthinking, unfeeling assassin. I'm trained to do a tough and needed job."
"You? You've been to a psychiatrist? I never dreamed of that "
"It's not something I'd tell you, or anybody. I'm not the type to talk about it, especially when I never knew you were getting help for what you've been through. I thought you had buried the memory and left it alone."
Nick looked over the side of the bed and saw that Mickey was on his knees. "Pull up the chair and get comfortable. I think we need to talk."
Mickey dragged the side chair closer to the bed and sat in it. Nick pushed himself higher and sat leaning with his back against the headboard.
Mickey looked at his brother in the low light and was surprised that he could just make out that Nick was crying hard.
Suddenly, Nick's hands were rigid and at his side, his eyes wide open and terrified. "Oh God, what are you doing to me? Stop! Stop! Don't touch me there. Don't. Please don't! God. God I'm so frightened. I'm dirty. I feel dirty!" Nick was crying hysterically.
Mickey didn't know what to do, the sudden change in Nick was startling. "Who? Who are you talking about?" It could have been either of the women.
Nick began to wail in pain and terror. Mickey was astounded. A moment ago he had seemed in control and now he was Mickey got up and tried to wrap his arms around his brother, but Nick began to flail about. His eyes were glazed, unseeing.
He became violent, weeping inconsolably and punching with all his might at Mickey. "Get away! Get away!" Nick was roaring and thrashing around on the bed. "Oh God," he screamed, "what's happening to me? Help me! Help me!"
Realizing that Nick was beyond his help, he ran to the door and almost collided with Cameron and Bishop O'Toole running in. The two men went to Nick's side.
"We were just talking and " Mickey called out.
Cameron was already armed with a hypodermic. "I expected something like this to happen," he said, "He's having a flashback." Bishop O'Toole held Nick down and Cameron deftly injected him with the needle. Nick relaxed almost instantaneously into sleep.
Feeling dazed, Mickey stumbled into the living room where Robert took him by the shoulders and sat him onto the couch.
Mickey leaned his head on his hands, the thoughts running around his brain made him weak. He could hardly form words. "We were talking, really talking, for the first time in years and all of a sudden Nick flipped out."
He felt Robert's weight sink into the cushions next to him as a hand patted his shoulder. Robert's voice was near him and very gentle. "Nick has a long road ahead of him, my friend. But I have to think that getting the lines of communication open between you two has to be one of the things that will help him. Being able to lean on each other will help you both more than almost anything else."
His heart heavy in his chest, Mickey looked towards Robert. "You think so?"
Cameron came back into the room. "Nick's ride will be here in a few minutes. Bishop O'Toole will help get Nick ready to go. Where's his coat?"
Jimmy came forward and opened a closet, "I'll get it and help the Bishop. I'll get a few more blankets too. To keep Nick warm, it's cold out there." Arms full, he bustled into the bedroom.
Cameron turned. "You and Nick were together for a long while before the flashback. Did you two manage to talk?"
"Yeah," Mickey leaned against the back of the couch. "We were finally cutting through all the bull and really talking, and then " Mickey looked at Cameron, "Then he was screaming and crying. I've never seen Nick like that."
"He's not a well man. Give him time. He'll most likely be asleep for the rest of the night. You can drive to the hospital to see him in the morning."
Mickey shook his head. "I'm going to be there when Nick wakes up. I'll sit by his bed. "
Cameron smiled. "I thought you'd say that. I'm going to send Jimmy downstairs to help direct the ambulance and Nick's doctor to this apartment." He went into the bedroom.
Robert cleared his throat and stood up from the couch. "It looks like you're going to spend a while longer continuing the objective of the day."
After a moment of confusion, Robert's meaning dawned on him. Mickey nodded. "Yep, I guess I'll still be searching for my brother."
"And, I warrant." Robert added, "after a while, this time, you're really going to find him."
"Yes," Mickey said, "I think after twenty years, I'm finally going to get to know the real Nick."
The sound of an ambulance's siren whooped twice on the street below. Mickey went to the bedroom door and called in. "Help's here."