Don’t let it twist you up inside
Time never fails to make the heartache stop
You’ve got to let those feelings go
I’ll give you everything I can if you say the word
Give me your pain
Give me your anger
Let me be your rock
I can be the pillar of strength that you need
I’ll help you keep it all together
It’s better late than never
Lay your world on me
I can take the weight
Ozzy Osborne – Lay Your World On Me
Psyche Evaluation, Virginia 2009
“Ethan, tell me what sort of childhood did you have?” He considers fudging his answers. Nothing would give him more pleasure than to skew the data but he knows it would be pointless. Face to face, these guys are experts, especially Dr Celia Marinovich. She can spot bullshit at a hundred paces.
“Difficult but no worse than many children.” An honest answer that gives nothing away.
“Come along, Ethan, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder a mile wide.”
“You made me give up the only woman I will ever love. I think I have reason.”
“Mia was only a girl. She would have tired of you sooner or later.”
He holds back his retort, pausing just long enough to make her shuffle in her seat. “If you believe that then you don’t know her at all. God help the poor bastard that ends up supervising her in the field because you lot don’t have the first clue as to what makes her tick as a woman or as an agent.”
“Well, perhaps you can enlighten us sometime. In the meantime, answer the question.”
“Sorry, what were we talking about?” He’d love to take her down a peg but if the rumors were true, she was about to head up his department and he couldn’t afford to be on the back foot with her.
“Your childhood.” As painful as it was, he was going to have to go there.
“I was bullied. It was shit. I changed. It stopped. End of story.” Knowing he was antagonising her and being able to stop were turning out to be two different ends of his spectrum at the moment. They were engaged in a psychological stand-off and for the sake of his future position with the firm he decided it was time to throw her a bone.
“When we were kids our parents moved us from one side of the country to the other. From Maryland to Seattle, away from family and friends, to Dad’s bright new future and our uncertainty.” And here comes the question…and how did that make you feel? Only she didn’t.
“I don’t understand the move. Your grandfather owned half the media outlets on the East Coast that were outside New York. Why the move?”
As an adult he could see that his father needed to break from his grandfather’s empire and build his own. But at the age of 9 his world came to an end. “My father and grandfather didn’t always see eye to eye. When the chance came to expand to the West Coast my Dad took it.”
“But it didn’t make you happy?” Oh, it was just a box of birds!
“I was a tubby kid who was hopeless at team sports and buried his head in books. I spent a year having my head shoved in a toilet and another three not getting to eat my lunch each day. The ultimate humiliation came at thirteen, when my little sister stood up to my tormentors calling them names that they would have to go home and look up in a dictionary. She was ten years old and precocious. She was my hero.”
For those first few years, when life was hell and the future seemed too far away to contemplate, they were a tight unit. They invented their own games and became a solid team of two. So much so, that their parents were often distraught that they couldn’t reward or punish either one of them without including the other.
“Your parents had no idea what was going on?”
“No. My father was hardly present in our lives at that time. My mother had her own challenges.”
“She was trying to save the marriage?” His father’s affair was in his file. Obviously without the shit that actually went down between his mother and his father’s mistress but certainly with the car accident that resulted in a hospital stay for Kate and his mother.
“She was trying to forgive him and herself. She wasn’t exactly coping in that time. I am sure that my mother raced back into her design business to get away from us and to get some control over her life.”
“Why do you think she wanted to get away from you?”
“The car accident?”
“Yes. But we used to tag team her, too. Just for the sheer hell of it. When Kate refused to do her homework, I would join in with her campaign against the teachers even though it would make me feel ill not to be compliant and studious. When I came home with another shirt ripped, sporting another bruise, Kate would play nurse maid, even though she quite often had gained a scrape or two of her own by leaping to my defense. As teens, we fought in that way that siblings do, but when a crisis hit, Team Kavanagh would present a united front.”
“Your mother found this behavior challenging?”
“At one stage, my mother found life challenging. My sister and I, we had each others backs. We’d unite first and fight about it later.”
“Yet, you say your parents have a happy marriage now. What changed for your parents?”
“Dad was admitted to hospital during one of Mom’s buying trips. She was in London and he was undergoing a raft of tests in the cardiology unit. Kate and I were inseparable, making sure that Dad had everything he needed, that he was visited and reassuring Mom that she didn’t need to rush home. She did anyway and I guess the shock of almost losing him helped her to forgive even if she couldn’t forget.”
“So this tag team with your sister, Kate. This could be a good thing?”
“We were there for each other. Always. When our dog Jake died after ten years of devotion, I made sure that Kate never arrived home to an empty house and she joined me on my morning run taking Jake’s place at my side.”
He had seen her through every disagreement and heartache, she had helped him get in shape and become more socially acceptable. She was always strong and socially competent. He always knew the right thing to say to ease her crippling self-doubt. She was his best friend and he was hers, even though they would never admit it each other.
“So you would do anything for her?”
WTF! Kate arrives back at the apartment on Sunday night and I know I am looking at the shell where my once vivacious partner-in-crime had been. She looks like crap. No, she is actually making crap look attractive.
The shell shuffles straight past me with TJ in tow as she heads to her room. TJ looks like a spare prick at a wedding when she shuts the door in his face, leaving him standing in the hall with her bag in his hand.
“What the fuck happened?” He jumps at the sound of my voice in the enclosed space and if I’m not mistaken, he may have just squealed like a pig. Looking around he can see that he has to get past me to get out of the apartment and he looks scared shitless.
“I-I-I’m not entirely sure. Kate asked me to bring her home and Elliot didn’t argue so I figure that whatever happened last night involved a fight.” TJ has developed a case of verbal diarrhea, shitting out words like he’s shelling peas. Perhaps not so shitless after all.
I turn his words over in my head trying to make sense of his outburst. No, if this was a fight she would be spitting-tacks angry not broken. The only explanation is … “Was she at the Treehouse last night?” TJ shakes his head.
“I figured they must have stayed here or out at Bellevue. They didn’t arrive back until late this afternoon. They both looked wrecked, like they had really tied one on last night. Must have been one hell of a party.” Judging by how hungover Mia was this morning, you would think that it had been more like a keg party than a family birthday, but the only ones that would have been feeling worse for wear are Mia and Grace. As for Kate I know that she didn’t touch a drop and Elliot had kept things pretty tight himself.
“What do you want me to do with this?” He holds out the overnight bag to me. I reach out and take it off his hands.
“Thanks, man. I’ll give it to her.”
After TJ leaves I make tea and trot down the hall to knock on her door. I don’t wait for her to answer, if it pisses her off as much as it used to when we were kids then that might be a good thing.
“Tea?” The room is dark. All I can see is her silhouette lying on the bed. When I approach I hear the quiet sobbing. I place the cups on the side table, slide into sit against the headboard and gather her up into my arms. “Hey, baby girl, what’s going on?”
She clings to me as her heart shatters taking mine with it. Kate is normally so under control, taking every heartache in her stride. This is more than a misunderstanding with Elliot but sitting here waiting for her to open up is more than a man can take.
“Did you fight with Elliot?” She pulls back shaking her head as I pass her a wad of tissues. Time to go into my mind-reading act. Fucking sucks to be me.
“Katie, were you at the hospital last night?” Her whole body tenses up then she collapses into mournful sobs. I pull her in close, my shirt getting more and more damp with every shudder of her shoulders. I simply let her go for it, shedding a silent tear or two of my own. “Baby girl, I’m so sorry. So very sorry.”
The tea goes cold, which is fine by me. Eventually, I get her to lie down and sleep while I hold her. It takes hours of silent tears but I feel her breathing change not long before dawn. She hasn’t spoken a word. I let myself out of the room and retreat to my own for a few hours of sleep. Less than two hours later I hear her banging around in the bathroom. When she emerges she looks like death but I have coffee ready knowing that whatever she thinks she is going to do today will not be put off by me telling her she looks like shit.
Instead I get dressed and drive her across to the Kavanagh Media building dropping her outside the front before finding a car park and heading upstairs to for an unscheduled meeting with my father.
“Ethan Kavanagh. How wonderful to see you. Is he expecting you?” My father is the ruler of his domain in every sense of the word but he’s no match for his PA, Carol, a woman of advanced years, expansive girth and bulldog tendencies when it comes to guarding the boss.
“No, mam, but I was hoping that you might be able to find a space for me to grab a few minutes of his time.” My ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ smile won’t sway her but I’m ever hopeful the serious soulful eye approach might work. She crumbles.
“He has a few minutes now before the board meeting but it will cost you.” She taps her cheek expectedly.
“You’re an angel Carol but your secret’s safe with me.” I plant the requisite kiss on her wrinkled cheek, ever thankful that my father hasn’t replaced her with a younger, leggier model. She ushers me into the inner sanctum where my father is scanning through news stories on a bank of monitors.
“Ethan, what can I do for you son?” The father who was never around in my youth has no qualms about stopping his current activities to talk with me now. He always makes me laugh when he makes claims for having brought us up when we all know that Mum pretty much did that on her own. Selective memory is a beautiful thing.
“Hey, Dad. I just dropped Kate downstairs. Thought I would come up and say hi.” He looks a little skeptical. “Are you going to see her for lunch today?”
“I thought I would wait at least a week. She doesn’t need her old man stepping into her newly acquired territory. Especially when he is the boss.” He walks over to the executive bathroom and straightens his tie in the mirror. His hands pause when he catches my eye over his shoulder. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know the details but she isn’t in good shape.” Understatement.
“Lover’s tiff?” I shake my head, although Elliot’s absence last night might mean more than I want it to. He’s on my shit list if I find out he has done anything stupid to hurt Kate. Trouble is my singularly-focused sister can be pretty damn flaky when it comes to running the gamut of unpredictable emotions. Poor bastard, there will be days when he won’t be able to tie his shoelaces the right way for Princess Happy. Dad breaks into that thought stream with a sledgehammer. “Don’t tell me that fucker, Jack Hyde has gotten to her.”
Connecting the dots is why my Dad earns the big bucks. This is perhaps my biggest fear but Kate hasn’t confirmed that Hyde has been anywhere near her. “I’m not sure but you might want to find someone who can keep an eye on her.” It’s not my place to tell him about the baby but now he has planted the seed I feel the need to find out if we have located Jack Hyde.
Less than an hour and a cup of coffee later I phone the safe house.
“Jensen. What’s the current intel on Jack Hyde?”
“Feds located his vehicle at the home of Elizabeth Morgan, HR Manager for SIP, late yesterday afternoon.”
Fuck! and you didn’t think to share that with us? My slight reservations about Rory Jensen have just grown to active dislike and mistrust.
“Is he still there now?” There is a pause. Well, that would be a ‘yes’.
“Kavanagh. I want you to come in. You’ve got training to do. Agent Grey has got two hours on you already.” Well, you can get fucked…Sir, and Mia will understand. I cut him off and locate Elizabeth Morgan’s address with a phone call to SIP and some fairly cheesy chat up lines to the receptionist. I spend the rest of the afternoon casing her house but Hyde is nowhere to be seen.
I make sure I am back in the city in time to pick Kate up from her first day at work and I take her out for quick meal at a Tappas Bar not far from the apartment. After I have watched her push the food around her plate for 10 minutes I decide I can’t take the silence any more.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” I’m sipping a beer while she drinks nothing more than water. Shuffling in her seat to avoid my question causes her to wince. “Come on, I need to get you home and back to bed.”
“I’m alright, Ethan.” If I could see even one hint of the old defiance in her eyes I might have hesitated but this is a broken and battered Kate. Shit! “Did he hit you?”
“What?” She looks momentarily confused. “No! Elliot would never do that!” Jerking her body upright to defend her man has her gripping her side, not her stomach.
“Don’t shit me, Kate. You’re hurting in all the wrong places for this to be just about losing the baby.”
“What the hell would you know, Ethan?” She struggles to stand up before stalking out of the restaurant. I throw some cash on the table and race out after her.
“Kate, wait!” I catch her just as she gets to the end of the restaurant block. I know I shouldn’t grab her but I need to know how bad this is. Swinging her around to face me causes her to cry out in pain. “Your upper body? Do you have bruised ribs?”
Her head is lifted, eyelids closed as the tears tumble down in large drops. I pull her toward me, careful not to hug too hard.
“The baby?” My question causes her to collapse against me in shudders. “Who hurt you, Kate? Was it Jack Hyde?”
A fresh round of sobbing starts with a nod of her head. Oh, Christ! Hyde is a dead man.
The next day I am back outside Morgan’s house when my phone rings. I glance at the screen. Jensen. “Kavanagh, where are you? You’ve missed another training session.”
“I’m working the case…Sir.” Sipping my luke warm coffee, I never let my eyes leave the property.
“Bullshit, Ethan. You’re sitting outside Elizabeth Morgan’s house. Get the fuck away from there. I already have a surveillance team there as do the feds. If they catch you there this case will be blown.”
“Yeah, well. They have to catch me first.”
“Listen to me. Get your ass back to the safe house now.”
“No can do, Sir?”
“That wasn’t a request. It was an order, Agent Kavanagh. You will not blow this case on some personal vigilante bullshit.”
It takes a moment for his words to sink in before I scream out of the street heading back to the Seattle CBD. Within half an hour I am standing in front of my boss contemplating the ways in which his head will leave his body.
“You motherfucking bastard! You knew what he did! Did you have a surveillance team stand there while he beat the crap out of my sister?” Both hands go to his chest as I shove him backwards across the cramped surveillance room. He stumbles for a second before he faces off at me again. Then he sighs.
“We picked him up coming back to Seattle three days earlier. Our Escala agent saw him make his way up to the helipad while it was unsecured. He tampered with Grey’s chopper and then left the building. The agent followed him on foot to a cafe near SIP where he met up with Morgan. They left together in her car. By the time the agent reported in and got a car they were long gone. We immediately set up a team outside her house.”
“You asshole! You knew the chopper had been tampered with and you did nothing?”
“No, we suspected and we tried to get a team up there to undo the damage. They were interrupted but had done enough of a fix that Grey was able to land.”
“Jesus Christ. You’re really going to claim that? You could have just come clean and told Christian not to fly the damn thing.”
“We were going to make another attempt. We had no way of knowing he was going to take it up the next day. Our satellites had him the whole way anyway and we sent that truck in to pick them up once they reached the road.” It would have taken nothing to monitor Christian’s flight plan traffic and stop him from flying. As for letting the President and VP of one of the largest companies on the Western seaboard stagger around in the wilderness for five hours? There is a special place in hell for people like Rory Jensen.
“Does Mia know any of this? The way you’re playing with her brother’s life? Jesus Christ, how many violations are we willing to commit to get to the bigger prize. Are Christian and Kate just collateral damage to you, asshole!?”
“Jesus, Ethan. You know that we are trying to work around the FBI operation. We’re a sleeper group, this is what we do. Fuck, I didn’t make the rules.”
“WHAT FUCKING RULES?” He doesn’t look away, breaths coming hard and fast. He isn’t comfortable with any of this. They’ve had Mia effectively in deep cover for fucking years, they just never bothered to tell her. The sooner we get away from the agency, the better.
“We can’t just leap in and intervene at every turn. We have to let some of this play out.”
“Fuck, playing it out! That was my sister and Mia’s brother, you prick!” He barely flinches. Less than a flicker of his eyelids.
“You said you would deal with your sister, Agent Kavanagh. As to Mr Grey, the Director feels it is time that we brought him in.” He kind of has me there. I said I would speak to her about backing off but with everything that happened over the weekend, there hasn’t been time. As if I don’t feel completely sick that I didn’t keep her safe but then how was I supposed to know Hyde would attack her in the grounds of Bellevue.
“I should have been told that Hyde had surfaced.”
“You were too fucking busy hurling accusations at me for pulling our resources off the search for Grey’s chopper. We knew where he was, we would have had a team there in less than an hour but you and I both know that there is a much bigger picture that means we have to protect the integrity of this case. Shit, sending in the rescue truck was a massive risk. If any of Grey’s security team had got on to that they would have pulled Escala apart and found our surveillance.” All I can do is place my hands on the table in an effort not to fall flat on my face. When he speaks again he lowers to a more conciliatory tone. “Look, Ethan, I’m sorry about your sister. Hyde was too fast for our guys to step in.”
“Where is he now?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“DON’T! DON’T FUCKING STONEWALL ME! Where the FUCK is he now, Jensen?”
“You are not going after him alone. He is not even our target. You’ve got to let the feds deal.” My anger is only one table-shove away from psychotic. I step back, jaw clenched, fists ready to punch someone’s… anyone’s lights out. I back towards the door a couple of steps before turning to step through it. Rory moves quickly to get between me and the door. “Don’t do this, Ethan. I don’t want to have to restrain you.”
Until this moment my eyes have been focused on the exit but now I slowly raise them to meet his. “Then get out of my way. That prick is mine.”