Teasers & Deleted Scenes
Woodbridge, VA, July 2009
Danny Brady expected all sorts of things when he opened his front door on the hazy early evening sun, but Chaz Villette with a casserole dish was not any of them. He stepped back in surprise; Chaz either took it as invitation or opportunity and shouldered past him. Brady shut the screen door--after the horse is in?--and turned around to face the uninvited denizen of his living room.
He folded his arms (defensive body language, five yard penalty) and swallowed. "This is new."
Chaz held up the casserole like Wilt Chamberlain palming a basketball. "I know you like lasagna. I'll just stick this in the fridge."
Brady was being bulls-rushed, and he wasn't sure how he felt about it. But he followed Chaz into the kitchen anyway, studying the other man's body language. Superficial confidence, but it was bravado. The stiff shoulders and puppet-string jerkiness gave him away. When he crouched to slide the casserole into Brady's barren fridge, Brady said, "Maybe you should offer me a beer."
Chaz stood, a Coors in one hand and a Dogfish Head in the other, and let the fridge swing closed. A half-smirk acknowledged Brady's irony. "When did you start drinking real beer?"
I should have thrown that shit away. "It's for friends." He extended the opener, accepted the Coors that Chaz held out to him, and twisted off the top.
Chaz's beer let out a fine trail of vapor when he popped it. The cuffs of his long-sleeved shirt were buttoned close despite the sweat that dappled his hairline. He threw his head back and drank, throat working. When he lowered the bottle, the beer was a third gone. "Mind if I sit?"
Wordlessly, Brady gestured to the stools at the breakfast bar. He hitched his own seatbone up onto one and turned the open Coors in its condensation ring. Chaz sat down one chair away, right arm draping the bar.
Brady said, "I can do for myself, you know."
Chaz raised an eyebrow at him.
"I wasn't hurt." Not like you were--
"Is that so?"
Brady stared at his beer as if he were going to have to monologue the label. He could do it, actually, in a Shakespearean style. Or film noir. Or phone sex.
It had been one of his better party tricks in college.
He studied Chaz's face, the receptivity, the drawn skin over sharp-edged bones. There was a lot of peace and quiet in Chaz's expression. Kid learned that trick from Duke. But it didn't matter: the kid wasn't a kid anymore. No thanks to Brady. He'd done it on his own.
He tried again. "I don't deserve this." He'd meant to say need. There was honesty in shock.
Brady's mouth hurt from not twisting. "Something like that. Chaz--"
"Danny. Look. You know I know, okay? You don't have to talk about it."
Another quarter-turn for the beer bottle. Brady sketched a hangman's noose on the countertop with wet fingertips. "I don't?"
Chaz shook his head. Drank another third of a beer. Nerving himself. "No, of course not. So what are you going to tell me? That she got her sticky fingers inside your head and made you see the world through her lens? That sometimes you still don't know which thoughts are hers and which are your own? That you feel filthy all over the inside of your skin, and shamed, and like you should have fought harder, done more? That saying you weren't raped is a technicality?"
Chaz's voice shook. He stammered, and for a second the kid was back, uncertain, hesitant, exhausting himself with watching for cues and clues on where to go and what to do.
"You don't have to tell me." Chaz finished his beer.
Brady's head ached around the bruise. The healing Taser burns on his back itched. They'd scar. No biggie. Nobody would ever notice unless they were close enough to kiss.
"You fought back," he said, because it was lying there in between them. And he had to make Chaz understand, somehow, that Brady hadn't measured up to Chaz's example or his own expectations.
Chaz looked at him. Stared, really, and then swallowed and looked down. His brown hands paled as they clenched on the empty beer bottle.
"Before I decided to die," Chaz said, conversationally, "I crawled to him and put my head in his lap. Because I wanted to. Because I needed him."
Somehow--too many years in the interrogation room?--Brady managed not to say oh. Instead, he said, "You didn't have to be rescued."
"Really? Because if you hadn't been there, my plan--inasmuch as I had one--was to die on the lawn. I just wanted to get away from the blood. And the mirrors." Brady could tell Chaz was peeling his fingers off the beer bottle by force of will as he set it down. "There was too much blood in that room."
Brady thought of Andre. Of Daphne, of Chaz, each on the business end of his gun. He thought about pulling the trigger, and about not pulling it. He thought about his first visit to Kay Baylor, and if he should be going back. You're here for me. And I wasn't there for you.
Think of what an asshole would do, Danny, and do something different.
He thought about Gray.
He snorted. He shook his head. He put it down on the cool countertop between his hands, next to the untouched beer. "I used to drive a Mustang."
"Fits the profile," Chaz said, standing. "You mind if I get another beer?"
"Help yourself." Brady picked his head up. He reached for the Coors. "Make it a round."
J. Edgar Hoover Federal Building, Washington D.C., July 2009
Chaz's voice had echoed out of the fridge. "Hey, Brady?" Back to a last name basis. Good.
Brady had set down his first, now empty, beer. "Yo."
"Talk to Daphne, would you?"
Brady had felt his face crunch up around the wince. He should have handled that already.
So here it was Tuesday morning, and Brady made himself look up at Daphne as soon as she set her drink on her desktop. He said, "Hi."
Her mouth did something funny. "Hi."
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. "Worth, look. I'm--"
She turned, hands twisting, and said in a rush, "I should have had your back. Brady, I am so sorry I did not get you out of there."
His own apology choked him. He spluttered for a moment, then managed to stammer, "I pointed a gun at you."
She blinked. Once, twice. "You saved my life," she said. "You got me out of there, to where I could get a text to Falkner. And I left you--" She choked. Looked down. Finished. "I left you with her."
He couldn't look at her. Christ in a go-cart, it's all of us. Staring at his desk, he said, "You did everything possible. You did well. You saved my life, Daphne."
This time he looked up. He met her eyes, saw her squint. "It's the job. Next time it might break the other way. I'm home and dry, right?"
"Right," she said. "The job."
She still didn't sit. He waited.
"That Zingermann, he's a bulldog, huh? Can we get more cops like him?"
"Very quiet bulldog," he agreed. "Who says 'stuff' a lot."
She pulled her chair out, hesitated. "Want coffee?"
"Love some," he said, and waited until her footsteps faded before he let himself turn away.