The Client

Chapter 21

Charlie pointed to the letter on a coloring page. "H," Hannah smiled, "Like my name."

Charlie smiled at her and nodded, "That's right- what is on the page?"

"A hat," Hannah laughed.

"Very good," Charlie beamed. Hannah had been blossoming while under the care of Charlie and the nurses. The five-year-old was a very fast learner, Charlie noted.

"What color do you want for the hat?" Charlie inquired. She held up an open box of crayons.

Hannah furrowed her little brow and thought for a moment. She scanned the crayons, "Yellow, please."

"Here you are," Charlie selected the crayon. She slipped it into Hannah's little left hand. "Like this," Charlie gently helped her place her fingers. Hannah was right handed so it took a bit for her to get used to using her non-dominate hand for things like coloring. Hannah glowed as she colored the object in. Try as she might yellow got outsidethe lines. The doctor tried not to let Hannah feel her nerves. Hannah's social worker was coming in today for a meeting.

The redhead was right on time. Tara knocked on the doorframe, "Dr. Demarco?"

"I'll be back ok?" Charlie said. She slipped outside to join Tara in the hallway. "Hello," the doctor greeted.

"Good to see you, Dr. Demarco- how is Miss Perkins?"

"You know Hannah's full name?" Charlie inquired.

"Hannah Perkins daughter of Samuel McCall and the late Madison Perkins," Tara nodded.

"Does this mean you caught him?" Charlie hoped.

"He's being held without bail," Tara nodded. Hannah had confirmed it was her father that threw her down the stairs.

"We're going to court tomorrow to sever his paternal rights," Tara informed her, "Can I count on you to testify?"

"Anything you need- I'll be there," Charlie nodded.

"All right," Tara said.

"What's going to happen to Hannah now? Does she have any other family?" Charlie questioned.

"No family that are willing to come forward for her- I'm afraid she's staying in the system," Tara replied.

Charlie put her hands into her pockets. She shifted forward on the balls of her feet. Her next question was on the tip of her tongue. "Is there something you want to ask me?" Tara said.

"What would it take for me to become Hannah's foster parent?" Charlie inquired.

"Have you talked with your husband about this?" Tara asked.

"I'm not married," Charlie answered.

"Boyfriend, fiancé?" Tara asked.

"Neither, I'm sort of in love with my work," Charlie replied.

"I understand that being a surgeon requires a great deal of time commitment," Tara said.

"Yes, it does," Charlie straightened her white lab coat, "There's not a lot left for dating."

"If you don't have time for a relationship, how could you have the time that Hannah would need?" Tara questioned.

"I will make time for Hannah," Charlie vowed. She wanted that little girl. Charlie sighed and looked through the window of the hospital room at Hannah, "She's worth it."

"Who's this Johnny that is always around you?" Tara motioned her head down the hall to where Johnny was standing. From guarding the door, he had gone a respectable distance so not to interfere with the meeting between the two women, just in case Charlie asked what he thought she was going to.

"An overprotective friend," Charlie replied.

"Does he have a reason to be?" Tara inquired.

"There was an incident at my apartment building while I was at work," Charlie disclosed, "No real harm done."

"That's very fortunate," Tara replied, "Is that still your place of residence?"

"No, the lease was up last month anyway- I am actually looking for a house," Charlie covered. She would soon be house hunting. Johnny was going to kill her.

"If you don't mind me asking, where are you living now?" Tara questioned.

"I have been staying with Governor Sinclair and his daughter while I find a place," Charlie added.

"Wow, you have friends in high places," Tara opened her briefcase and took out a pamphlet. "Read this and then go to the highlighted website- they'll give you all the details you need for becoming a foster parent; you can even set up an interview."

"Will do," Charlie said.

"I can't promise you'll get Hannah," Tara warned, "She'll go to the most qualified placement."

"I have been Hannah's doctor, I know her limitations and what she needs," Charlie pled her case, "I can get her everything that she requires."

"I will take it under advisement," the social worker made a note in her files, "See you tomorrow." Tara left with a bob of her head.

Charlie set her shoulders. She was going to have to fight and that's just what she planned on doing. Charlie was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't move when Johnny come up beside her.

"How did it go?" he asked.

"About how I expected," Charlie shrugged.

"Sorry to hear that," Johnny frowned, "I think you'd be a great mom- Hannah sure likes you." He squeezed Charlie's shoulder.

"I am going to talk with Abby," Charlie said. She got out her phone and texted her friend. Charlie was going to need a lawyer. She saw her email alert and checked her inbox. "Did you get the email from MyStory?" Charlie asked.

"Yeah, two more days," Johnny replied.

"You make that sound like a bad thing," Charlie turned to him.

"I guess I am a little nervous about what the DNA analysis will turn up," he admitted.

"You can always leave the family connections box unchecked and just look at the medical stuff," she encouraged him.

"I'm planning on it," Johnny eyed her, "I don't think I want to add any crazies to my family tree." Charlie play shoved him. He laughed. She smirked back.

Paul began to spread jam on his toast, when his phone started to ring. He brought his phone up and held it between his shoulder and his ear, "Briggs."

"Hey, Paulie," Jerry, one of his FBI agent friends greeted.

"Hey, Jerry," Paul finished with the jam. He set his toast on his plate. "What do you have for me, Man?" Paul asked.

"Jeremiah Bello turned evidence," Jerry past what he found out along.

"So he's out?" Paul inquired. He placed the spoon he had been spreading with in the sink.

"Yep, after 4 months," Jerry answered.

Paul shook his head. With the charges Mike had landed the guy with, it should have been decades not months, "Where is Bello?"

"I can't tell you where he is," Jerry frowned.

"Come on, Jer," Paul coaxed.

"He's part of an ongoing investigation- my hands are tied," Jerry leaned back in his computer chair.

"He could be the instigator of two attacks on a family member of a government official," Paul asserted, "I am asking for her safety concerns."

"I am going to talk to the agent in charge of the investigation and see what he has to say," Jerry offered, "I will do my best."

"Thank you," Paul tipped his head even though the other man couldn't see the gesture.

"I've got a briefing in like five minutes," Jerry rubbed his forehead.

"I understand- go get 'em," Paul replied.

"Tell, Lisa I said hi," Jerry said.

"I will, when she calls," Paul promised. Lisa was out overseeing another one of their security jobs.

"I'll call if I find out anything," Jerry said before hanging up.

"Appreciate it," Paul replied.

"Barber, come on!" a voice from the background on Jerry's side of the connection called.

"Got to go," Jerry got up and tightened his tie.

"Later, Man," Paul hung up.

Mike loved Abby's laugh. He loved everything about it. Mike loved the sound that rang in the air, the sight of her red painted lips curved up in a smile, even the way her chocolate hair would bounce slightly. Yep, he was falling hard. It took all Mike had in him not to smile, watching her laugh as she met with one of the foundation's project managers- a raven haired woman named Rin. In the outside world he had to carry some semblance of professionalism. He couldn't afford to get distracted.

"I hope the timeline meets your expectations," Rin said.

"It's very ambitious, but definitely workable," Abby nodded.

Mike's phone began to vibrate. He walked away just enough so he wouldn't bother Abby's ongoing conversation. Mike unlocked the phone and scrolled up to answer. "Warren," Mike greeted.

"I know Abby is at work so I will make this quick," Paul skipped the formalities.

"I'm all ears," Mike replied.

"Bello turned evidence- he's out," Paul warned.

Mike's stomach fell. He swallowed, "How long?"

"Roughly around 18 months," Paul guessed from the information he was able to track down and what Jerry had told him. Mike closed his eyes and let the information sink in. Bello had been free for over a year and a half?

"Do we know where he is?" Mike's mind raced.

"We'll have a briefing when you get back in," Paul continued, "Hopefully, I'll know more by then."

"Yes, Sir," Mike replied. Abby looked up momentarily as if she sensed his discomfort. He hung up and she went back to the manager.

"Thank you for the update," Abby brought the meeting to a close. The two ladies stood.

"See you in two weeks," Rin shook Abby's hand. Abby walked her to the door. Mike followed them. Rin exited out into the rest of the building.

"What's going on?" Abby asked.

"I'll tell you in just a minute," Mike answered. He stuck his head out of the door. "Jakes, I need to talk to you," Mike called his coworker inside the office.

"What's up, Mike?" Dale entered the office.

"Just got an update from Briggs," Mike looked at both of them.

"And?" Dale asked.

"Bello weaseled his way into a deal- he's out and we don't know where," Mike said.

Abby noticed Mike's muscles starting to tense, "You think it's him?"

"Should we call Johnny?" Dale suggested.

"I am betting Briggs already did," Mike replied.

Abby's phone beeped. She pulled it out of her pocket and read the text. "Charlie wants to meet for lunch," Abby looked up at Mike. Her brown eyes asked for approval.

"As long as your schedule allows I don't see a problem," Mike smiled.

"All right," Abby texted back a yes.

"Where would we be going?" Dale asked. It took too long to get back and forth to go to the estate.

"We usually go to Cherries," she answered.

"What kind of place is that?" Dale inquired.

"A restaurant run under a hotel," Abby said.

"Is that the place where they vandalized your car?" Mike asked.

"Yeah," she shook the image out of her head.

"Do they have indoor tables?" Mike frowned.

"Yes, I wouldn't ask to go otherwise," Abby assured him. She sent a second text asking Charlie if they could meet there. "They have excellent crab cakes," Abby added.

"I just might have to try those," Mike said.

"I'd share with you," she batted her eyelashes at him.

"That's not a bad idea," Mike crooned.

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