Fandom:Person of Interest
Rating: Mature for violence and descriptions of injuries
Word Count: ~37K
Warning: violence and descriptions of injuries and treatments
Spoilers: all of season 1
Summary: Following an explosion, Reese loses parts of memory including everything to do with Finch and the Machine. Not sure who to trust, John evades the FBI, CIA and Carter as he attempts to remember who he's become and why he's drawn to this strange man with a limp.
Author's Note: So this fic was originally started as part of pod_together, but then it kept getting longer...and longer...and longer. And then I saw the announcement for PoI Big Bang and decided that would work better. This fic would never have been written without the initial cheerleading from podcath. I'd also like to thank togsos for her awesome, awesome art. She captured the scene exactly as I'd pictured it in my head. Final thanks go to sevencorvus for letting me participate in the Big Bang at the last minute.
Harold just managed to keep himself from looking across the street where he knew John was still watching him. Knowing John was this close but aware that any movement he made toward the man would only send him back into the shadows beyond where even the machine could find him was torture. He signalled the waitress and ordered a pastry and a cup of tea, wondering when John had eaten last. Was he okay? He touched the ear bud he still wore, wishing for that steady voice to say something deprecating.
He opened his book and forced such melancholy thoughts away. Detective Carter had just turned the corner and John had not moved to continue his surveillance on her. He'd written a short note on the back of the picture of Tara Spencer that John was trailing her and that their friend had managed to plant a bug with instructions not to attempt contact or to remove the bug as they might lose John. He knew Carter would follow along, all too aware of John's ability to disappear completely.
He spent fifteen minutes in the diner, pretending to read his book and nibbling at the roll the waitress brought him. He checked his phone and saw a map with a dot where John was standing. His friend wasn't carrying a phone that could be tracked and it would be incredibly easy to lose him, but Harold had to believe that John would follow him now. Even if he wasn't exactly sure where John was, he could be sure that he was there.
He closed his book and lifted his head, hoping he appeared to have been engrossed in the words on the page. He went through the motions of dropping a twenty on the table to cover his snack, still sitting on the plate. He'd picked at it and it certainly looked half eaten, but was actually just torn apart. Since John's escape from the hospital, he'd found he had no appetite. He'd had to force himself to eat enough to keep his body going.
He began the walk back to the library, deciding to stay on foot to make it easier for John to follow. He was hoping that seeing where they worked, being around the building they spent so much time in, would help John return to himself. He wasn't sure if any of John's memories had returned, but he hoped there was something. He had to believe John remembered at least little things and that was why he was following himself and Detective Carter.
His back was aching by the time he made it back. The little dot had long since disappeared from his screen as the tracking code he'd written lost John to the shadows and the mass of people around him. Harold made his way slowly up the stairs, looking around the quiet library and wishing for the first time that someone else was there. He'd always found solace in the silence but now it was oppressive. John never made much sound, but there were always little hints that he'd been there. A book moved here, a stack of papers skewed there. A cup of tea by his keyboard. Another cup with coffee on the other side, next to John's chair, left to cool while the other man wandered somewhere among the shelves, poking into Harold's secrets or just looking for something to keep himself occupied for an hour while Harold typed.
Harold jumped as a pigeon took flight from the other side of a boarded up window. He was going to slip into full on depression if he wasn't careful. He straightened and walked to the work station. He needed to watch Detective Carter's progress and check to see if any of the cameras around the building had found John lurking somewhere nearby.
John was careful as he followed Harold, keeping to the opposite side of the street and even taking alternate routes as his feet carried him toward their destination. The walk felt familiar and he had to shake his head more than once to clear images of this man in different suits on different days in other parts of the city, John still behind him. If they were friends, then why had he been following the smaller man?
They walked for twenty minutes and John found himself smiling in appreciation of the other man's continued gait. He could tell by the strain in his back that the walk was not pleasant for him, but he pushed his way on. His fingers itched to stroke along the back of his neck, digging into a few spots and forcing his spine back into alignment.
He slowed his progress as they approached an older building, its facade cracked and the windows boarded for what seemed months or years. He'd been here before. But what was it? It definitely wasn't an office building. The age and structure could have belonged to a church, but that was wrong.
“The decline of western civilisation.”
He frowned as the thought came unbidden to his mind, sounding suspiciously like Harold's voice. Had he said those words? The smaller man had checked the people around him before ducking around a door and heading inside. Was this where he worked? But what did he do?
He could see three separate ways of getting inside, two of which Harold could use and he assumed there were others around the building. Deciding that he could always return to his surveillance on Detective Carter if he lost Harold in the building, he began circling, his eyes catching everything. It took three circuits of the building before he felt he was comfortable he knew the exits that Harold would have access to. He could see a few other possible choices for himself.
There was a small cafe across the street where he could set up surveillance but he decided against that. He walked the surrounding four blocks and found a few more less obvious spots but passed them up for now. As he walked, he kept finding that he knew what he would see when he turned a corner, found flashes of memory of walking this same circuit on other occasions, on different days, but he couldn't remember why.
It took three hours of wandering before he finally headed up. He'd noticed several extra cameras in the area and had taken great pains to avoid their searching eyes. He assumed there would be additional cameras on the roofs so planned his ascent in detail. He found a fire escape a block and a half away between two buildings that were closer together than most of the rest. Had he been in top shape, he would have attempted to scale the side of a building, using various piping to lever himself up, but he didn't think his ribs could take the strain and his burned arm had started to ache enough he didn't think the muscles would hold him for that long.
He stood on the fire escape just below the lip of the roof, letting his eyes wander across the entire expanse of sky above him. He didn't see any cameras, but knew there could be smaller spy cameras installed anywhere. He would have to risk it, he decided. He eased over the final barrier, still watching and winced as everything pulled. The concrete scraped over the burn and he had to put too much weight on his ribs, but he made it.
Sitting behind a maintenance duct, he took several minutes to simply breath, pushing the pain back down to a manageable level. Once he felt he could continue on in his searching, he peeked around the duct, looking for signs that he'd been spotted. There was a camera two buildings over that panned on a regular cycle.
He frowned at it, recognizing the design. He favoured that kind of camera, especially when setting up a safe house or base of operations. If he did work with Harold, would the other man have access to the feed from it? John's vision blurred as he remembered being in a darkened room, book shelves all around him as he stood behind Harold, the other man sitting in front of a bank of monitors that showed half a dozen camera feeds watching a crime scene and a smaller feed showing Detective Carter at her desk. Code ran across the central monitor and Harold was typing quickly, speaking just as fast, but the words were lost to the memory.
He sat back behind his duct and held his head as an ache started behind his temples and the image faded away. Was that room in the building on the next block over? He couldn't remember, but he thought it might be. If that were the case, then Harold seemed to be a friend. It was only the knowledge that he couldn't say exactly when that memory came from that stopped him from returning to street level and walking into the library and asking Harold.
His eyes popped open, startled. The library. HQ. The old building was a library, closed by the city some time ago.
“A bank I control bought it then promptly declared bankruptcy. The property is in a sort of limbo. It doesn't exist.”
“Like you? I did a little digging.”
John sat up straighter as the memory began to fade. “No,” he whispered, reaching a hand out as if he could grasp the memory back to himself and recall the entire conversation. He needed to get in there, he decided. But not when Harold was around. He wanted time to check the entire place by himself. If he was working with Harold, if that was where they had set up their HQ, then there would be signs. There would also be signs up here.
He pulled himself to his feet, finding a new energy to continue his search. He slipped across the roof with an easy grace, his injuries all but forgotten. He couldn't think, he knew. If he had set this up, then his body knew how to avoid surveillance. He ducked suddenly and turned to find another camera just panning across where he'd been standing. He smiled. He knew this place. This was his.
Thirty minutes later, he was on the roof of the library, picking his way carefully between the spires, eyes searching as he ignored the renewed ache in his ribs and side. It was easier now that he had a task for himself.
He always tried to place it on the southeast corner, he knew. He crouched suddenly as a glint of something that didn't quite belong caught his attention. His fingers traced the outline of a case, feeling where he'd installed clamps to keep it flush with the original roof. He didn't need to remove it completely, so he continued his search until he found a covered clasp. A flick of his hand and it was open to reveal a print scanner. He pressed his middle finger against the pad, knowing that thumb or forefinger would activate a failsafe.
The case clicked open to reveal a remote that would disable the cameras he'd installed and put them on a five minute timer before small charges would destroy them. There would be half a dozen other identical remotes within seven blocks of this building, he knew and he could almost picture their locations. He stared at the little device in his hand. It required a seven digit alpha-numeric code to work.
He flipped through the pages of a book as he waited for Harold, his mind not on the story, but catching random words and forming the digits of the code he'd use. Code generators were never his preference and this method amused him on some level, though he couldn't say why. His mind was just twisted that way, he supposed.
He leaned forward and let his head drop into one hand as the image made his head ache spike. He wished he could remember something without the constant pain, but decided it would be worth it if it meant he could know who he'd become since leaving the Agency.
He returned his attention to the case and found a small tablet tucked into the back. He dropped the remote and pulled the tablet out, keying the power on without thought. The small computer took a moment to boot up and he noticed the power level was around half. He'd have to charge it before the month was out, he knew.
Feeds from twelve cameras came alive on the screen, showing him the area around the library. On the street level, he could see people moving through their lives, completely unaware that they were being watched. A few roof top shots told him that his only companions this high were pigeons, crows and the odd rodent.
He tapped a few keys and a status bar appeared, telling him that someone had entered the library a few hours ago, the timestamp matching when he knew Harold had gone inside. There was an entry for the roof a few minutes before that indicated he hadn't been as stealthy on his approach as he'd thought, but he found he wasn't concerned. The only other person he might have given access to this system was Harold and he was beginning to think that the other man had been aware of his presence in some way for some time now.
He settled himself into as comfortable a position as he could, the tablet still in his hand and he keyed the alert that would make the machine vibrate in his hand should Harold leave. He closed his eyes as exhaustion began to creep up on him. He was safe here, he knew.
The system found John as he circled the library and Harold watched the few feeds that his friend's face appeared on. He remembered watching in bemusement as John had made this same reconnaissance run after their first case when he'd decided to stay. He knew John had set up a number of safeguards around the building, had watched from his own hidden cameras as John made his installations. At the time he'd wanted to keep his a secret in case the two of them ever fell out for some reason, after which he would need that kind of advantage. After the Root incident, he'd come close to telling John about his system, but wasn't sure how the former spy would take the omission. Months later, he knew John would shake his head and make a comment about how Harold just needed to have the better toys and give him that conspiratorial smile and walk away.
It served to help him now as John knew to duck his own equipment but not Harold's. He felt for the other man as he watched the tanned face screw up in pain as he came over the side. The injuries hadn't seemed to hinder him too much as he trailed Carter, but Harold wasn't sure how often the other man had been able to change his bandages and he knew John would not have asked anyone for help.
John turned away from the camera and looked across the roof before sitting back down, his eyes closed as he cradled his head in his hands. Was he remembering, Harold wondered. John reached forward on the screen, his lips forming a single, silent word before he sat back again. He felt like John's hand closed around something in his chest as John's face contorted into something unreadable and strained.
“Please let me help you, John,” he said, speaking in low tones to the figure on the screen, despite knowing the other man couldn't hear him.
Almost as if he did hear Harold, John turned back toward the library and his expression was lost to Harold. He pivoted his body and began to move gracefully toward the edge of the roof, ducking here and there to avoid his cameras. Harold held his breath as the other man crossed from one roof to another, the two close enough that John was able to jump it with little effort on his part. For that, he'd always been a bit jealous. He'd had to go to each individual roof to install his system and he'd been limited to only the surrounding buildings. The library's own roof was a near maze and he'd feared doing himself injury if he attempted that one.
After a few minutes, John had travelled to the adjacent building and Harold zoomed in on how John would cross. This building was further away from its neighbours and the same irregularities that had kept Harold off also discouraged anyone from attempting to cross. John was doing something in a corner hidden from Harold's view. He'd gone up from within the library the first time, but his destination now was clearly this building.
When John did emerge, Harold's breath caught and he wanted to go outside and beg John not to attempt to cross that way. He held a grappling hook in one hand and was carefully aiming it across the six foot expanse. The hook flew true and caught firmly. John secured his end with something in the corner that Harold didn't have a very good visual on and tested the hold.
He took a few deep breaths as he pulled on a pair of thick gloves to protect his hands from the thin rope. Harold looked away, his fear overriding his knowledge that John was good at what he did and would never attempt something he wasn't sure he could do. When he returned his attention to the screen, John was dangling from the rope, his face turned away so Harold couldn't see just how much pain John was in. Long minutes later, John's feet finally touched solid rock and Harold gasped in relief.
John sank down on the other side, his arms wrapping around his torso as he recovered himself. Soon enough he stood back up and began untying the line before tossing it back across the roof. He'd be coming down through the library, Harold realized and almost stood to go meet his friend. But no. He would wait until Harold left the building. If he was coming this way, he still didn't remember enough to trust Harold and he would want a chance to poke around on his own.
The familiar form was soon lost among the varied spires of the library headed for a place Harold had seen him go when he first installed his cameras. Harold was tempted to leave the building immediately, hoping to expedite the process, but he didn't. He was normally in the library for hours at a time. Glancing at the clock, he decided he would force himself to stay here for another two hours or until something legitimately took him outside and then he'd be sure to give John plenty of time.
He kept the feeds up to catch any move John made from the roof and willed his mind to other screens, letting the research he'd done on the current number fill his thoughts and hoping his self-imposed two hours would pass quickly.
Every step was agony, but he pushed his way through it. If he stopped now, Mark would find him and then he could only hope for death. He pushed past the sadness of seeing Carter at the agent's side, aware that they'd never had any kind of deal and that the agency was very good at developing relationships that would serve their needs. He should have expected that they would dig their claws into her, especially since he'd left enough clues that she meant something to him.
He reached up to touch his earpiece, calling Finch one last time.
“John!” Finch sounded so relieved to hear him. John knew the other man was about to do something stupid like try to save him. “I've been trying to call you.”
“Yeah. Been kind of busy,” he said, like it was a normal day and he'd just gotten caught up in his surveillance.
“Where are you?'
He briefly considered lying, but knew it was child's play for Harold to find that information on his own. “In the parking structure.” He only barely held onto a cry of pain as he stumbled slightly on a step. “It's not looking good,” he admitted, deciding that keeping this from Harold was a futile endeavour.
“Carter sold you out. They got to her.” John could have laughed at how affronted Harold sounded, but knew the other man wouldn't understand. There had been more than once when he'd been the one to turn an asset, when that same condemnation would have been spoken about his methods and he really couldn't be upset.
“Yeah, they're clever like that,” he said instead. There was silence over the line and John could hear that Harold was in the car, no doubt speeding toward him. He needed to stop that from happening, to keep Harold safe and very far away from here. “I wanted to say thank you. For giving me a second chance.” He hated goodbyes, had never been very good at them, but with his wounds, he knew he needed a doctor but also that he couldn't risk Harold.
“It's not over, John. I'm close. Just get to the ground floor.” Harold was so insistent, so intent that he would be there. John knew he'd never convince him to stop this fool's errand, but tried anyway.
“No. You stay away. Wouldn't risk it.”
Harold remained stubbornly silent, though John did hear the car accelerate. He wasn't worth the risk of Harold's capture. He could handle whatever the agency put him through, but Harold...Harold was strong, but he wasn't prepared for what they were capable of.
He could hear tires screeching as Mark navigated his way through the garage, searching for John and John forced his failing body forward. If Harold was going to come for him anyway, he was going to do everything he could to get them out of there faster. When he pushed open the door to the ground level, he nearly fell over. He'd been so intent on putting one foot in front of the other and not stumbling on the stairs that he hadn't noticed when he'd finally made it.
He turned as Harold's Lincoln came tearing into the garage, the undercarriage making horrible noises against the concrete as it scraped bottom. Despite his protests, he was happy to see his friend. He hadn't been looking forward to dying slowly in an alley and he knew that Harold would take care of him, had something up his sleeve.
The few steps it took to cross from the door to the car had been almost more than he could handle and he reached out for Harold, grateful when the smaller man took some of his weight and helped him keep his balance. He was still careful not to overpower his friend, aware that Harold's own injury could topple them both.
The door slammed open behind them and Carter's voice interrupted his thoughts, forcing them to stop mid stride. “Hold it!”
The three of them stood still and John tried to turn to face Carter, but the movement sent a spike of fire through his gut.
“You,” muttered the detective, recognizing Finch.
John thought Harold might say something, anything, but the other man was apparently at a loss for how to explain the tableau they presented. It was Carter's decision what to do now. Nothing they said would convince her one way or another.
After several long moments, Carter lowered her weapon, sighing tiredly and then holstering the gun. “Get him out of here.”
The words spurned them on and he felt as his weight was transferred from Harold's arms to Carter's as Harold returned to the wheel and Carter bustled him into the back. They shared a look and John wanted to thank her and ask her why she had changed her mind and a million other things, but couldn't find the words. She nodded at him, like she'd understood at least some of the undercurrents of the exchange. She told them to go and then shut the door, leaving him staring at the tinted window as his eyes lost focus.
“John,” said Harold, pulling his attention back to the front.
“You shouldn't have come,” he said, his voice beginning to crack as his body continued to lose blood at a rapid rate and his limbs got heavier. At least now if he died, it wouldn't be curled in a damp alley with rodents ready to start their feast before his heart had stopped. It was a morbid thought, he knew, but an odd sort of comfort.
He met Harold's eyes in the mirror and he saw that he'd come to mean as much to Harold as the other man meant to John.
“Thank you,” whispered John, his eyes drifting closed as the darkness called to him, pulling him down into its painless abyss.
John gasped awake, pitching forward and crying out as his current injuries protested the movement and phantom pains caused the muscles in his stomach to spasm. He wrapped an arm around his middle, trying to ease the pain but it continued to rip through him. He pushed himself back, knocking his head on the brick but not caring. Gritting his teeth, he tried to take slow, deep breaths but his lungs refused to cooperate.
Slowly the phantom pains subsided and he was left with the more manageable agony of his current injuries. He searched for the tablet that had been in his hands and found it at his side, the screen a little dirty from being tossed around, but otherwise unharmed.
Harold was still downstairs, it told him and John seriously considered making his way down and begging the man to tell him what he was missing, to fill in those pieces he couldn't find in his own mind. But that wasn't how he operated. He needed to find the memories on his own or he'd be doubting their veracity. He found he didn't want to doubt Harold.
“They lied to you. I never will.”
He closed his eyes, shaking his head as he found he was suddenly bombarded with images, thoughts and feelings. Moments with Harold, some with Carter or Fusco, but always Harold there beside him or in his ear, his soft voice a strange comfort in its constancy. He still wasn't sure just what it was they did together, but it was coming closer.
He rubbed absently at his ear, suddenly itching for a comm device. When he realized what he was doing, he pulled his hand away, irritated at himself. Instead, he checked the time and found he'd slept for nearly two hours. He rubbed a hand down his face before setting the device down. Standing up was a bit of a struggle and he'd have been a sitting duck if someone had attacked.
His body had stiffened and he had to lean against the brick for a moment and catch his breath again. He hated cracked ribs and how much they hindered his natural litheness. He took a few steps along the roof then walked back to his starting point. Since he was on the roof, he couldn't exactly take a stroll to stretch his muscles, but he didn't need much space.
He checked the door that would lead him downstairs and then made a full circuit of the roof, careful of cameras. His tablet was dancing in a little circle as its vibrations alerted John that Harold was on the move. He watched the screen as the man came limping out of the library, his coat carefully buttoned against the elements. Harold paused at the door, looking both ways like he expected to find someone waiting in the shadows. He checked something on his phone then moved purposefully toward the street.
John made it to the edge of the roof and easily spotted the limping figure halfway down the block. He continued to watch as Harold turned the corner. The man looked thinner, he noted absently, like he hadn't been eating. He really should take better care of himself. Waiting a few minutes to confirm that Harold wasn't just taking a walk around the block, he finally turned and headed back for the access hatch. Under other circumstances, he might have waited longer, determined how long Harold was usually out and made his entrance accordingly, but he threw caution to the wind and headed down.
The latch was secured with a mechanism of his own design, and that gave him reassurance that he didn't actually need to be worried about Harold returning early. Did he want to get caught? He couldn't say for sure, but he was strangely sure that it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if he was.
Ten minutes later, he was in the building and making his way down an ornate staircase. The building was four stories tall, but vaulted ceilings on the first two levels made it taller than average. The fourth floor was mostly storage. He found weapons stashes and had momentary flashes of memory of when he'd placed them here. There were shelves of books, most with tags identifying them as property of the New York City Library System. The few without those tags had cracked spines and had clearly been read multiple times. He'd seen Harold with various books in most of his flashbacks and thought the other man stored them here after he was finished, his collector's spirit not letting him sell them to a second-hand shop without careful consideration.
John moved to the third floor and found more shelves with bins of computer parts stashed between the rows. Here were the makings of bugs, cameras, tracking devices and even phones. In the back he found a workbench set up with bits strewn around haphazardly. He sat down carefully and fiddled with a bit of wiring.
Harold hadn't taped a new picture to their board in over twenty-four hours and John was getting restless. He'd found the innards of the old microfilm reader and had been working on getting it operational. He doubted they would ever need to use it, but it was something to do with his hands and the complex parts kept his mind occupied.
He smiled to himself. He may be the brawn of the operation, but he'd always enjoyed tinkering with things. He was certainly no computer genius like Harold, but he at least knew how to repair most of the devices they used even if he wasn't sure of the exact theory behind their design.
Moving away from the bench, he turned to where he had half a dozen duffle bags neatly piled together, ready for him to grab a few rifles or to add a tag that said “Plan B.” He frowned to himself. There was a memory in that, he knew, but it wasn't coming. He stared at the bags, willing the memory to come as easily as the last few, welcoming the possibility of a piercing headache if it only meant that he would know, would remember everything.
John gritted his teeth, kneeling down to feel the nylon of the bags between his fingers, to mimic the motions of placing tools in the bag and attaching a tag. When nothing came to him, he repeated the motions. He took a bag over to the closest weapons cache and began loading it with rifles but still nothing came. Pain did begin to pierce through his skull, though, as he ground his teeth together harder and harder.
The guns jumped as he slammed his fist onto the wood in frustration. John dropped himself into the closest chair, letting the shotgun he'd been loading into the bag fall where it would. Taking a few long moments, he took a deep breath, holding back a wince as his ribs protested. He held it for several beats before slowly blowing it back out. He closed his eyes, and began releasing the tension from his muscles, mentally moving from head to foot until he had relaxed again and the pain in his head had dulled to the quiet ache he'd been living with since he woke up in the hospital.
Standing, he turned his attention to the rest of the floor and found little more of interest. As he headed for the staircase, he found a folding metal grate blocking anyone from ascending to this floor from a lower level. It was secured with a padlock that was stupidly easy to pick and figured it was more a deterrent for any homeless who might wander up here for warmth and shelter. It wouldn't do to have someone finding all those weapons.
There was another folding grate and padlock at the entrance to the second floor and he paused here, aware that this was the heart of the operation, though not sure why he felt such confidence in that fact. He hadn't explored the first floor yet and it was quite possible there were additional blocked off areas. It was very likely, even, that more existed closer to normal points of entry.
John glanced around the landing, looking toward the first floor at the debris strewn floor that he could see. He looked back up from where he'd come. Nothing moved. He returned his attention to the padlock in front of him and realized he was nervous. It felt as if he'd been searching for answers forever and now he was nervous at the prospect of finding the truth.
Kara's back was to him as she threw the beacons out and he raised his gun, ready to kill his partner because Mark had said she had betrayed her country. But this was Kara, a woman he knew better than himself and he knew with absolute certainty that she would never betray her country. Yes, she would kill, torture, maim and so many other things that were against the laws of her country for the sake of her country, but she would never actually betray it.
He leaned his head against the wall as a wave of grief passed over him. He was afraid that he would find that he'd turned into that person behind this gate. He'd left the CIA, let everyone believe he was dead and lived in squalor to keep from being the man who followed orders unquestioningly from men who could very well have been sending him on a traitorous mission. If he had become that man after all, he wasn't sure he could live with himself.
His hands moved to the lock seemingly of their own accord and began the simple process of picking it. He may not know what he'd find behind the curtain, but he wouldn't walk away just because he feared what might be there.
Taking a few small steps past the barrier, he found more bookcases. They created a walkway to his right and he looked down that direction. There was a generator down the hall and just around the corner of the wall, he knew. If he wanted, he could destroy that generator and put Harold out of business for about a day. Or, he could rewire the thing and then—he shook himself out of that thought. Rewiring devices to destroy the area around them was simple, yes, but thinking about it now was hardly productive.
He turned himself pointedly away from the generator and started walking toward where he could see lights flickering a few shelf lengths away. The room opened to his left and a he found a desk with half a dozen monitors in standby mode and two keyboards in front of them. On the foremost screen, a blinking cursor silently asked him for a password.
His hand was at the keyboard, ready to type in the letters but stopped with a finger hovering over the B key. Harold probably had some sort of key logger built into the system or at least something that would alert him if John started doing anything with the computer. He turned away, deciding to wait before he risked that just yet.
A glass board with a large crack running through it took up the corner of the nook where he'd just come from. There were pictures taped to the board with the odd news article to the side and post-it-notes with names and pertinent facts stuck to half of the pictures. He was at the board in a few short steps, taking all of the information in a single glance before looking over each again to find the small things that might connect them.
From what he could tell, the woman whose picture was in the middle had fallen in with a criminal element, possibly after her husband had died (cancer, according to the obituary taped to the side of the board) and was now in peril from the very people she had turned to. John frowned at the board. There was more to it than that, he knew, but couldn't consciously see what his gut had. He raised a hand to touch at one of the surveillance photographs but pulled away before his fingers made contact. He moved that same hand to his ear and rubbed absently.
When nothing leaped at him, he turned away from the board and saw a much larger board through a doorway. He approached that one, aware that this would take much longer to take in. A list of numbers—social security numbers—ran down the middle with bits of string linking those numbers to pictures and articles. Every number on that list was dead, some by criminal means and others apparently from natural causes. What the hell was Harold involved in? What was John involved in?
The quiet ache suddenly became a fury of agony like seeing the board had flipped a switch in his brain telling him he just wasn't ready for this much information yet. He turned away, both hands cradling his skull as he flailed for a chair to sit in while the blinding pain passed. He found one a few feet behind him by nearly tripping over it and gratefully sat down. He wanted to curl into a small ball, but his injuries protested almost as loudly as his skull.
He rocked himself back and forth, letting the agony wash over him in waves that gradually began to subside. He felt his pulse at his temples and concentrated on the steady rhythm, willing it to slow and letting the pain go with each beat. Once it had passed enough for him to move without doing further injury to himself, he stood and fled the building, unsure of his final destination and uncaring for the moment.