Improbable Cause

Chapter Five: A Sighting

"So, what did you learn from the victim?"

Much to their annoyance, Goren and Eames had arrived at the airport and gotten through security only to discover that their flight was delayed because the previous flight the aircraft was being used for was also delayed due to the fact that the pilots had gotten stuck in traffic back in New York. Determined not to waste their time, they'd commandeered a corner and spread out their files, but they'd gotten off-topic.

"Perp's a narcissist, thinks he walks on water and every woman on Earth should be grateful if he deigns to give him the time of day. Fiercely, violently jealous, but repeatedly cheated on his wife and seemed to think this was the way things should be. I can't stand guys like that," she added almost as an afterthought.

If they'd been in the squad room, Goren probably would have let that last comment pass unremarked upon. But this was an airport, they had time to kill, and he felt more comfortable being informal with her here. "Speaking from experience?"

"Yes," she admitted. "There were one or two, especially once I entered the Academy. The old-boys' club mentality seemed to bring that out in them - not that they wouldn't have done it anyway, but it seemed to make them think it was okay, and there'd be five guys standing behind them in an instant if I tried to say they weren't being fair. I've never told you the story of how Joe and I got together, have I?"

In fact, it was fairly rare that his partner mentioned her late husband at all. "No, you haven't."

She smiled. "He was a year ahead of me in the academy. He stopped me in the hall and asked me to go on a date with him, and by then, I was so fed-up with guys at the Academy that I turned him down flat."

Bobby laughed a little despite himself. "And what? He kept pushing you until you gave in?"

She grew serious. "The opposite, actually. When I said no, he just accepted it and walked away. That was my first clue that something about him was different, so I watched him for awhile, and one of the guys I was talking about - well, people like that don't change, but the kicker was when he gave his girlfriend of the moment hell for hugging another guy, and the two of them got into it and you could hear them on the next floor - anyway, the guy was getting some backup, and one of the guys tried to bait Joe into joining. So he stands there for a minute, looking like he's going to say something really deep, and everyone shuts up to hear it, and then he says 'well, I hear it's good for couples when one person starts picking up the other person's habits, but if all she was doing was hugging him, you have a ways to go'. The woman started laughing, I started laughing, some of the guys who'd been watching started laughing - anyway, I was so impressed that he stood up for her, and basically took the wind out of everyone's sails at the same time, that I decided I'd give him one chance, so I went up to him and I told him that if he didn't mind being asked out by a woman instead of vice-versa, we could go on a date. And - well, you know how it ended."

Bobby was laughing in earnest now. "He really said that?"

"To the letter."

He was silent for a few moments before returning to their original train of thought. "You see yourself in Margaret, don't you?"

"I should know better than to try to put anything past you, shouldn't I?" she said, but she was far more amused than annoyed. "Yeah, I see myself in her. It's not easy for women in jobs that are usually considered men's work, and even though women nurses were the norm by then, women in the Army weren't. She was surrounded by a bunch of men who all had the same kind of good-old-boy thing going as a lot of cops do. So, what does this tell us that might help?"

"First off, he's going to default to seeing male officers as more of a threat than female officers - more fool him, with you on the case," he added, smiling at her. "Between the two of us, you're the one who's actually shot someone. If it comes down to a confrontation, you should take point, he won't see you as a threat and you'll be able to get the upper hand on him more quickly. I'm likely to intimidate him because of my size and that would get his guard up. He may be an idiot and an aged one at that but the Army trained him; the last thing I want is a fight on my hands."

Eames nodded. "Agreed. So, did you and Dr. Pierce have a nice chat?"

Goren shrugged. "Sure. I got a few good Korean war stories out of him."

"Such as?" She gave him a look when he didn't answer. "Oh, come on, I'm bored."

"Well, have I ever told you about the weather in Korea?"

"No, why?"

"Suffice to say, it's brutal. Boiling hot in summer, bitterly cold in winter. This one story takes place in the summer, a particularly hot night even for Korea, which is saying something, and none of them can sleep. So the company CO finally gives in and takes a sleeping pill; meanwhile, the company clerk has decided to take apart the PA system to get some practice fixing it, the company second-in-command is sorting out his family's taxes because their accountant was just indicted, Dr. Pierce's bunkmate is stressing out over some chore that needs to be done back at his house in the States, Dr. Pierce is annoyed because his bunkmate keeps waking him up, and then-Major Houlihan is dealing with a heat rash in, ah, an unfortunate place. Got all that?"

Eames nodded. "So I take it something happens?"

"Well, a patient comes in on an ambulance, and considering his condition the doctors want him evacuated as soon as possible, which means they need to call for a chopper to come as soon as it's light enough to fly. But the only person who can send out that request is the company CO, who's conked out, so they have to wake him, and he's loopy from the sleeping pills. He makes the request with help from the clerk and goes back to bed. Maybe an hour later, the company second-in-command needs carbon paper, and the company clerk has had issues with people taking the carbon paper and has locked in the safe, which he doesn't have the combination for. The only person who knows the combination -"

"The company CO," Eames surmised.

"Got it in one. So the second-in-command goes to get the CO; meanwhile, the clerk is starting to worry because he's realizing he doesn't know as much about the PA as he thought he did. The CO opens the safe and goes back to bed, but Major Houlihan is assisting in surgery and hears that there's a chopper coming, and she realizes that she can get the chopper to bring the lotion she needs for her heat rash, but since everything in the army is streamlined, the only person who can requisition supplies -"

"I get the picture."

"So she goes and wakes him up again, and he's completely loopy. She takes him to the phone, which is in the same room as the PA, which the clerk has finally just about managed to get fixed. Meanwhile, Dr. Pierce's annoyance with his bunkmate and his bunkmate's frustration with being away from home have come to a head and they're shouting at each other. So Major Houlihan is trying to explain her situation, and the company clerk finally manages to get the PA fixed but is so excited he forgets to turn it off. The colonel starts rambling about what Margaret is telling him, while she's trying to keep her situation private, and since the PA is in the same room as the phone -"

"Oh, my God." Eames began laughing.

Goren nodded. "Dr. Pierce said it completely stopped his fight with his bunkmate cold. But the best part is, the Colonel woke up the next morning and didn't remember a thing! He couldn't figure out why Margaret was so mad at him. And was she ever mad."

"I bet she was. And by the way," Eames added, pointing out the window, "I think that's our plane pulling up to the gate."

xxxxxxxxx

"Captain." Goren barely got that out before falling silent, clearly listening to Ross talk. "Okay. Got it." He waved at his partner to get her attention. "Got it. Will do, Captain." He hung up the phone. "There's been a sighting."

"Where?"

He rattled off the address Ross had given him. "He was seen heading into a foreclosed house. Unis are sitting on it until we get there."

"How reliable is the tip?" Eames asked, already reaching over to switch on the dash light and the siren before she sped up.

"Credible, anyway. Enough that we can't afford to ignore it."

Eames nodded. "Call whoever's running the show down there. Tell them ETA in ten."

xxxxxxxxx

Eames and Goren had stopped outside the house just long enough to be brought up to speed and get suited up in bulletproof vests. Then, tailed by a dozen uniformed officers, they broke open the door.

At first, there was nothing but repeated shouts of "Clear!" echoing through the empty house. Then Eames pushed open a door and was faced with more than she'd been expecting. "I've got a basement!"

Her partner was behind her in an instant and four officers were there a few moments later. They proceeded slowly into the basement, flashlights held high to combat the darkness; the basement appeared to have almost no sources of natural light and the power in the house had been turned off long ago.

Goren's eye was quickly drawn to a door, and as he looked through it, he realized there might have been a mistake. "Hey - do we have eyes on the garage?"

"Yes," a voice replied through his radio. "In any case, the garage doesn't adjoin the house, and we'd have seen him cut across the yard."

By now, Eames was standing next to her partner. "Actually, not quite. The garage does connect to the house, there's some sort of tunnel down here." She cued up her radio. "Dispatch officers into the garage."

The command was acknowledged, but hardly a minute later, Eames' radio crackled to life. "We've searched the garage, Detective, there's no one here but us. If he was here, he must have escaped between when the call came in and when we got into position."

"Copy that," Eames said frustratedly. " Damn it! Okay, stay put for now; if he hasn't already used that as an escape route let's not give him the chance now. Goren, you stay here, keep eyes on the search of the basement. Melvin, Jansen." She waved to two of the uniformed officers. "We'll check the passageway."

Goren nodded, still holding his flashlight high. All of a sudden, a voice sounded behind him. "Hey, you! Stop there!"

He didn't even have a chance to react before he heard a shot and then a bullet whizzed past his ear. He heard the echoing sound of metal on metal and then saw one off the officers fall, hit by the ricochet of the bullet that had just missed his head. Another quickly reached for his radio. "Ten-thirteen!" he called out. "Ten-thirteen! Officer down, repeat, officer down!"

"Stop there!" the first voice repeated. From the proximity, he had to guess it was meant for him.

He slowly raised his hands. "Okay, okay. Just take it easy. No one has to get hurt here."

"Police!" came Eames' voice from behind Goren, in the same direction as the stranger. "Drop the weapon!"

The next thing they heard was the sound of something hitting the floor; it appeared the suspect had obeyed Eames' instruction literally. Every cop in the vicinity winced and jumped back, but the gun thankfully didn't go off. Eames called out a second later, "I've got him!" and they all heard the click of handcuffs locking shut.

"Harrington!" one of the officers called out, rushing to the side of her downed partner. "You okay?"

"Vest took it," he groaned. "I'm gonna be sore as hell tomorrow, but no permanent damage. I can walk."

Two more officers surrounded their injured comrade as Eames, Goren, and the others marched the cuffed man up the stairs. As they came into the light, the man looked over at Goren and blinked in surprise. "You're not Penobscott."

Eames eyed the man she held with equal surprise. She didn't need to look at the picture to confirm. "Neither are you."

*~*~*~*

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