Authors: Lee Goldberg
"How did Steve get a date with Rebecca's roommate?" Jesse asked.
"He got her a coffee table," Mark said.
Jesse thought about that for a moment. "Good thing he didn't get her a couch. They'd have to get married."
Steve arrived outside Lissy Dearborn's apartment in Culver City ten minutes early. He thought about driving around the block a few times or simply sitting in his car and listening to the radio until the appointed time. But he thought of her rugged humor, the meat cleaver in the wall, and the fresh bear claws, and couldn't wait.
He strode into her courtyard and thought about the day he had planned for them, beginning with grilled fish in a restaurant overlooking the beach, followed by a long walk along the water, and if she wasn't too tired, a movie in Santa Monica.
But he wasn't sticking to any preconceived plan. He'd let things play out naturally. Maybe they wouldn't leave the restaurant. Maybe they'd walk for miles. Maybe they'd drive to Las Vegas, play a few hands of blackjack, and drive back into the Los Angeles basin as the sun was rising on a new day.
Steve was so busy fantasizing about the day ahead, he didn't notice the front door of Lissy's apartment was ajar until he was standing right in front of it.
He knocked on the door. "Lissy? It's me, Steve."
The door swung inward enough for him to see the edge of the new coffee table he'd sent her.
He knocked again. "I know I'm a bit early, but I thought it was better than being a bit late."
Steve was chastising himself over the lame remark when the door crept inward even more and revealed two bare feet of someone lying on the floor. His heart skipped a beat and he felt a terrible sense of déjà vu, remembering how he first met Lissy, kicking open her door and finding her in a violent struggle with an intruder.
He pushed open the door and saw Lissy lying facedown on the carpet, groaning softly. He rushed inside, crouched beside her, and gently turned her over. She was unconscious, a gash under her right eye, the skin just beginning to swell underneath it, as if she'd just taken a punch.
The realization was beginning to sink in when Steve sensed the motion behind him. He was starting to whirl around, reaching for his gun, when the kick caught him in the side, knocking the wind out of him and sending him sprawling.
Before he could recover, the boot caught him in the face, rolling him over. Fighting for air and consciousness, Steve struggled to his knees, looking up just as Tom Wade brought the coffee table crashing down on his back.
One thought went through Steve's mind as the coffee table splintered apart and the blackness overtook his consciousness:
It's a good thing I can't afford nice furniture.
By the time Dr. Mark Sloan emerged from the monthly staff meeting, it was well after two p.m. His broken arm was aching and his stomach was growling.
He ambled over to the cafeteria and decided to reward himself with a pie doubleheader: chicken potpie for lunch and chocolate cream pie for dessert, and a milkshake to wash it down with.
It wasn't the healthiest lunch, but it quenched his appetite and made him forget all about how much his arm hurt. Eating chicken potpie, even a bad one like the cafeteria served, always evoked pleasant memories of his boyhood. His mother often made potpies for Mark because she knew she could get away with feeding him anything that way. Calling a meal a pie made it a treat, no matter how many vegetables were inside. They had beef potpie, chicken potpie, garden potpie, and his mother's favorite catchall, leftovers potpie.
Now, whenever Mark ate a potpie, he felt soothed, relaxed, even loved. It was amazing the medicinal and psychological healing powers one simple entrée could have, Mark thought. He devoured his pie, drank half his milk shake and, feeling renewed, went back to his office to finish up the paperwork he'd left behind yesterday.
Before getting started, however, he checked his voice mail. There was only one call, from Dr. Mandel Yorder, the physician who treated Pike at the Family Doctor clinic in Panorama City. In consideration of the help Dr. Yorder gave him, Mark didn't mention the doctor's name in his statement to the police. It was a necessary omission, but one that bothered Mark anyway. He hated leaving a crooked doctor on the street.
"I gave the guy you sent over what he asked for," Dr. Yorder said on the recording. "But now I'm wondering what you were really after. Is it me? We need to talk."
Mark had no idea what Dr. Yorder was talking about, so he gave him a call. The phone was answered by a woman's voice. He couldn't tell whether it came from a machine or an actual human being but, as he recalled, he had the same problem when he met the receptionist face to face.
She took his name and Dr. Yorder picked up almost immediately.
"Is anyone else listening in on this call?" Dr. Yorder asked.
"Not that I'm aware of," Mark said.
There was a pause. "Interesting choice of words, Mark. Is that a legal disclaimer cleared by the district attorney's office so they can use this recording in court?"
"I am not recording this call nor is any law enforcement agency that I know of, okay? Now what is bothering you?"
"Ever since your friend left here this morning, I've been going over the whole thing in my mind. I started thinking, what if it was some kind of setup? If it is, I want to state now, for the record, that he walked in saying you sent him for syringes and a vial of Versed. You're a doctor, I granted the request as a professional courtesy. I would never have given them to him otherwise. So if you sent him for any other purpose, it's entrapment."
Mark felt goose bumps rise on his skin. He could think of only one person who knew he'd been to see Dr. Yorder.
"This man who wanted the sedatives," Mark asked, "did he look like he'd just stepped out of a John Wayne movie?"
Dr. Yorder breathed a sigh of relief. "So you did send the guy. I was worried there for a minute. Where did you find this guy, at a rodeo someplace?"
"How much Versed did you give him?"
"Ten cc's, just like you asked," Dr. Yorder said. "I don't get you, Mark. You're too good to give him the stuff your self but you don't mind sending him to me for it. Interesting ethics you've got there."
"I didn't send him, Manny."
Dr. Yorder caught his breath. "Then how did he know about me? How did he know to use your name? And how come you're able to describe him?"
"He followed me when I visited you the other day and must have improvised the rest," Mark said. "He's a United States Marshal."
"Oh my God."
"Don't worry," Mark said. "It's not you he's after."
The question raised another shiver on Mark's skin. He could think of only one person Tom Wade could still want and why he'd need a sedative.
Mark hung up on Dr. Yorder, leaving his question in the air, and quickly dialed Steve's cell phone.
There was no answer. After five rings, he got kicked into Steve's voice mail. Mark left a message, asking Steve to call him right away, and hung up.
Mark turned to his computer, pulled up Rebecca Jordan's admission information on screen, found her home phone number, and gave her a call.
He let the line ring twenty times. There was no answer, not even from a machine.
Something was very wrong. He could feel it.
Rebecca Jordan was in danger. And so was his son.
He reached for the phone again to call the police, then stopped himself. What would he tell them? That he couldn't reach Rebecca and Steve on the phone? That he had a feeling there was trouble?
The police wouldn't help him. Mark was on his own. He jotted down Rebecca's address and hurried out, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread.
Mark borrowed Jesse's car and drove with one arm to Rebecca Jordan's apartment in Culver City, using surface streets to avoid the gridlocked freeway. It was the longest half hour of his life. The dread that had hung over him since leaving the hospital became blood-chilling fear when he saw Steve's car parked in front of the apartment building.
There could be a hundred harmless explanations why Steve's car was still there, but Mark knew none of them applied.
There was violence in the air.
Mark parked in a red zone, ran into the courtyard, and started looking for Rebecca's apartment. His eyes were immediately drawn to the one open door in the building. As he approached, he recognized the splintered pieces of the coffee table on the floor.
"Steve!" he yelled, bursting into the apartment.
His son was on his knees, still too dizzy to stand, rubbing the back of his head.
"I'm okay," Steve said. "Check on her."
Lissy was getting groggily to her feet as well and, like Steve, was more concerned about someone else's well-being than her own.
"Is Rebecca okay?" Lissy said weakly. "She's all alone in her room."
Mark scrambled down the hallway, past one empty bed room to the other, where he saw Cuddle Bear in a chair facing an unmade bed, pillows propped up against the head board.
Rebecca was gone. As he knew she would be.
She wouldn't have been able to leave on her own with her broken arm and leg. His eyes searched the room. It only took him a moment to find what he was looking for. On the floor beside the bed was an empty syringe.
Mark took a handkerchief from his pocket, picked up the syringe, and placed it on the nightstand to prevent someone from stepping on it and to preserve any fingerprints.
He went to the kitchen, took two ice packs from the freezer, and brought them to the living room, where he found Steve helping Lissy onto the couch. Her cheek was swollen and bruised.
"Rebecca is gone," Mark said, handing ice packs to both Steve and Lissy. "Tom Wade has her."
"He's the one who walloped me with the coffee table," Steve said. "How did you know Wade would be here?"
Mark told Steve about the phone call from Dr. Yorder and the details of their conversation, though he left the doctor's name out of it. He also shared his theory that Wade sedated Rebecca so he could carry her out of the apartment without a struggle.
"Is he really a United States Marshal?" Lissy asked, holding the ice pack to her cheek.
"How did you know he was a marshal?" Steve asked.
"He showed me his badge, right before he decked me. One of these days, it would be nice to see you without getting the crap beaten out of me first."
Steve smiled. "You're one tough lady."
"And you're my knight in shining Levis," she said.
"Wade didn't make any effort to hide his identity," Steve said, turning to his dad. "In fact, he made sure she knew who he was before he attacked her. Surely he knew she'd tell the authorities his name."
"He's an honest man," Mark said.
"Who punches a civilian, clobbers a cop, and kidnaps a woman." Steve picked up his gun off the floor and put it in his holster. "Does he still think he's capturing a fugitive? Nobody is going to prosecute her, but now they sure as hell will be lining up to prosecute him. What is Tom Wade hoping to accomplish?"
It was a good question, one Mark had been thinking about since he got off the phone with Dr. Yorder.
"This isn't about the law or arresting Rebecca anymore," Mark said. "Wade wants justice."
"He's lost his mind," Steve said.
"He's lost his son," Mark said.
"But Rebecca didn't kill him," Steve said. "Wade did."
"It all goes back to the murder of the sheriff's deputy in Spokane. Rebecca and Pike were both in the car that ran him over," Mark said. "That's the event that ultimately led to the moment when Wade shot Pike. If she isn't held responsible in some way, then there's only one person left for Wade to blame for his son's death."
"Himself," Steve said.
"I don't think he can live with that," Mark said.
"I don't care whether he can or not. The way I see it, he's a kidnapper now, armed and dangerous." Steve took out his cell phone and started dialing. "I'm putting out an APB and alerting the FBI."
While Steve made the call, Mark examined Lissy's bruise and made sure she was comfortable. He didn't see any reason to call an ambulance, or any indication that her injuries merited a visit to the hospital. She was relieved to hear that. There was a big deductible on her medical insurance and she was going to need the money to buy new furniture.
Steve hung up the phone and came over to them.
"The APB is going out now, along with Wade's picture and the make and license number of his rental car, though he's probably switched cars or plates by now," Steve said. "I
can't figure out what he's doing. He could be anywhere."
Mark thought about everything he'd learned about Rebecca Jordan since she leaped out of her office window. He thought about Wade's unwavering belief in justice and his son Pike's rebellion against it. And he thought about the number of syringes Wade took and the amount of sedative in a vial of Versed.
When he put those facts together, it all made sense.
"I know where he's going," Mark said.
Tom Wade knew how to run without leaving tracks, physically or electronically. He knew how to blend into a sea of faces and become invisible. He knew how to survive without an identity.
And he knew none of it mattered. Because he knew the ultimate truth no fugitive was willing to accept:
Everybody leaves a trail.
He'd been a hunter too long. In the end, the pursuer always had the advantage.
They were out there, chasing him even now, but he wasn't worried. By the time they found him, his job would be done.
Justice would be served.
Wade was driving a Toyota Canny, the best-selling car in America. There were hundreds of thousands on the road. It was blank, unremarkable, and to the casual observer almost identical to a dozen other Japanese and Korean sedans. The LoJack had been deactivated, the rental car stickers removed, the license plates changed. No one would notice the car or its driver.