The sights of Beckett's pistol were centered between Pat's eyes. They both stood on the roof of the building with the wind blowing snow fiercely against their faces. The city's lights and holiday decorations illuminated the darkness around them, with the sun preparing to make its daily arrival on the horizon.
Beckett's finger ached as he held the trigger just beyond discharge. He had been waiting for this moment for so long, yet now doubts were clouding his mind. The badge hanging around his neck told him what his duty expected of him, but his heart was contradicting those expectations.
"Beck, you know I'm right," Pat stated. "You know what you should do, regardless of what you're supposed to do."
"What I should do and what I'm supposed to do should both be one and the same," Beckett replied.
"Huh, yeah they should. Can you imagine living in such a world? Where all is right, and clear, and concise."
"I can't imagine a worse kind of hell."
"Yeah, you would see it that way, wouldn't you? You know in many ways, you and me have a lot in common. In other ways though, we are nothing alike. We're two cards from the same deck; a Queen of Hearts and a King of Spades."
Beckett struggled with his moral dilemma. He wanted to take him in, he needed to. Something, however, was keeping him from doing his job. Perhaps it was his heart, perhaps it was his head. Perhaps it was something else.
Whatever the cause, he continued to stand, frozen in place. The handcuffs hanging from his belt dangled in the wind, his arms shook from being extended out for such a duration of time, and his face was beginning to go numb from the windchill atop that building. He knew that the rest of his team would be there any minute, and strangely, he dreaded their arrival.
The Empire State Building had an ominous glow in the distance. The sky on the horizon was beginning to turn pink and orange, heralding a new day. All of the children of the city would soon be waking to discover the presents under their festive trees, and all Beckett could think about was whether the man standing in front of him deserved a bullet in his head or not.
Finally, after the worst night of his life, he exhaled and relaxed. His arms lowered, taking his aim away from Pat's face. He allowed his face to be contorted into a smile as he sighed in relief. "Even if I wanted to let you go, I couldn't. You have no place to go," he said, his emotions swirling around in his head.
"No," Pat said proudly. "You see, that's where you and I differ. I do have someplace to go. I came up here knowing that. I have one place to go."
To Beckett's horror, Pat quickly pivoted on his heel and turned to face the edge of the building.
The Gulf War was in full swing and Pat was living up to his family's expectations. He had come from a long line of soldiers, and he was excited to carry on the legacy. It had been two years since he graduated from high school, and he wasn't looking back. He was stationed in Saudi Arabia, and fighting on the front lines. He was making his country and family proud.
He was training to become a paratrooper, with hopes of Special Forces being in his future. He regularly made jumps from planes and helicopters, becoming skilled in skydiving a parachuting.
On top of his accomplishments in the Army, he had also fallen in love with a fellow soldier. His name was Ricky, and he was his commanding officer. Pat never made his feelings known, however, due to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell laws. He had learned early in life to hide his true feelings because society tends to fear what it doesn't understand. Pat felt as though it was easiest to just avoid people's judgements all together.
This time seemed to feel different though. He had never had such strong feelings for someone else before, and Ricky seemed to be sending him similar vibes as well.
One day, shortly after waking up in the morning, their camp was ambushed. An explosion rocked one of their artillery sheds, destroying multiple valuable weapons and much of their ammunition. As they approached the rubble to investigate, gunshots began to rain down on them from the hills above. Two soldiers were hit as they ran for cover.
Pat dove behind a truck and crawled to his tent to get his rifle. He turned off the safety and tried to remember his training. Most of it was nothing but a haze, but he still felt confident in himself.
The storm of bullets continued as he made his way back to the truck. The noise was deafening. Glass shattered from the windows and fell down on him. Pieces of metal flew as bullets tore through the truck's nose and engine. Pat glanced over the hood and saw a group of Iraqis making their way down the hill, armed with assault rifles.
There was a short pause as a couple of them stopped to reload. Pat used this gap as an opportunity to return fire. He aimed across the front bumper and fired multiple shots at them. He saw one fall to the ground and the rest run for cover. He continued to fire at them, taking one more down before they concealed themselves behind a boulder.
Other soldiers fired at another group approaching from the West. They were holding them back quite well, slowly thinning the herd. The Iraqis fired back, taking one of Pat's comrades down. Pat quickly realized that it was Ricky that had gone down.
Pat's stomach suddenly twisted into a knot. He fired at the group behind the rock more before running to Ricky. He dropped to his knees at Ricky's side to see that he was still alive, but fading fast. He grasped under his armpits and began to drag him to safety. He made it about halfway to the medical building before being stopped by a bullet grazing across his upper back.
It was a sharp, burning pain. He saw a spray of blood in his peripheral vision and suddenly became extremely weak. The adrenaline coursing through his veins made up for it however, and he continued to drag Ricky to shelter.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he had made it to the building. Medics rushed over and helped him. They took Ricky to remove the bullet from his chest and treated Pat for the wound on his back. In all the commotion, he had completely forgotten that it was even there. As they patched him up, the chaos outside slowed to a dull roar and eventually stopped all together.
Pat watched in horror as multiple bodies were dragged through the dirt to the medics, only to be pronounced dead on the scene. He could feel tears welling in his eyes, and he hadn't even heard of Ricky's condition yet. He was terrified. He dreaded what they were going to tell him.
All that happened had made him feel numb. He had feeling in his extremities, but his brain had lost connection. He couldn't react anymore. He couldn't feel anymore.
"Thanks, man," a voice said behind him. Pat instantly recognized it and turned to face him.
"Fuck, man! I can't believe it!" He exclaimed, excitedly. They hugged strongly, patting each other on the back firmly.
Pat grimaced as Ricky hit his bullet wound, but ignored the pain in the moment. The two continued to share exclamations of relief in the aftermath of the impromptu battle.
Pat spent the next few days struggling with his emotions greatly. He was tired of feeling ashamed of who he was. He almost lost Ricky in the battle and no longer wanted to risk that happening without him knowing his true feelings. He decided to tell him.
He found him in his tent, sitting with a few other men.
"Hey Ricky, can I talk to you outside?" He asked, nervously.
"Yeah, sure," he replied as he stood up.
They walked outside and Pat began one of the most difficult conversations of his life.
"I love you," he uttered, cutting straight to the chase.
"Ha, I love you too, man," Ricky replied, sarcastically.
"No," Pat said, his voice breaking. "I mean, I'm in love with you."
Ricky just stared back, blankly. He didn't say anything. His lack of response or emotion tore through Pat like a knife.
"Please say something to me, shit!" Pat exclaimed.
Ricky remained silent.
Pat reached out and placed his hand on his shoulder, searching for some sort of emotional response from Ricky. He was trembling and needed some sort of human contact, just for reassurance.
Ricky, suddenly reacting, pushed Pat's hand away and delivered a hard punch to Pat's gut, knocking the wind out of him. Pat staggered, aching in pain. His entire body had been aching in tenseness and the sudden physical trauma to his stomach knocked him off balance. He gasped for air, trying to regain equilibrium, as he watched Ricky just walk away from him in disgust. Tears ran from his eyes, dropping to the dusty ground below.
The next day he was forced to pack his bags and leave for the states.
As Beckett sat in his car, watching his kids run up to the door of Chelsea's house, he pondered the same thing he pondered every other weekend. He tried to figure out what ever happened to his life. He wondered what happened to his family. At one time, he was the father of two happy children, and the husband of a happy woman. Now he was just a sad, part-time father and ex-husband with a drinking habit.
He had shaggy, dark brown hair that he would just push backwards with his hand. He had stopped shaving as often, as he no longer woke up early enough in the day, and typically had a fair amount of stubble on his face. His career warranted a shirt and tie, but he didn't put much thought into it. His shirt was normally wrinkled and his tie was never tightened. He was a mess of a man, to say the least.
It had gotten to the point that he couldn't even remember if him being a mess was what caused his family to fall apart, or if his family's demise caused his turn for the worse. It didn't matter though, because regardless of what caused what, there he sat. After another weekend of takeout food and rented movies, he watched his preteen offspring return home to their mother's home in Westchester.
Perhaps it was his unwillingness to move out of the city that first began to cause trouble. He didn't want to succumb to upper-middle class suburban life. He preferred being in the city, where all the action was. Plus, he never wanted to be too far away from his work.
Perhaps his work was actually what began to tear things down. He had never considered himself to be a career-focused individual, but being a detective was demanding anyway. He took his cases seriously and tended to get tunnel vision when he worked them. Unfortunately, his family was rarely in that tunnel.
Maybe that was what did it. Maybe it was his incessant and near-sighted focus. It was both a blessing and a curse. It allowed him to make some great accomplishments, but prevented him from seeing what he destroyed in the process.
Whatever the case, whatever caused the damage, he still had to deal with it. He still had to tend to the wounds. He still had to sit there and watch his kids walk up to Chelsea's home; to their home.
After coming home from Saudi Arabia, Pat wasn't dealt the best hand. Normally, military service would be a benefit in finding work, but his dishonorable discharge combined with the crippling economy made it almost impossible. He spent a year living off of unemployment and food stamps before finally finding work.
It wasn't glamorous, by any means. It was barely tolerable, and paid about as much as the unemployment, but it was work. He was a custodian at Proditones; an upscale department store near Midtown, Manhattan. He abhorred every second of it. It was exhausting, disgusting, and degrading. He had to work late nights, and made barely enough money to support himself.
He had spent two years putting his life on the line to serve his country, and falling in love caused all of that to fall to pieces and fade away.
Something that was no more his choice than the color of his skin had destroyed all that he had worked on. His family, after telling him that he was a disappointment to them, no longer spoke to him. They completely shut him out of their lives, like he didn't even exist. Pat often wondered if he would be better off not existing. Maybe they had the right idea. Maybe he was the one that needed fixing.
Whatever the case, he spent his mid-twenties emptying garbage cans, cleaning bathrooms, and mopping floors. He was a step below entry-level with no promotions on his horizon.
After a while of self-loathing things began to look up for him. He began to become friendly with one of his managers; Sam. He was about the same age as him, and he suspected the same orientation as well.
His suspicions were eventually confirmed when they became romantically involved with each other. They kept their relationship concealed for reasons relating to store policies. Relationships frowned upon, especially when one was a manager. There were many relationships going on around them, and they were much less concealed, but they thought it best to err on the side of caution. After all, Pat did not have the best history with relationships.
They would meet at each other's homes or at restaurants in either Brooklyn or Queens to be sure to avoid familiar faces. After about five months of this, however, their secret got out. They decided to get coffee in Manhattan. Throughout the entire encounter, they just acted like coworkers. However, as they parted, they kissed goodbye. Their lips met for a brief and loving moment, but the moment ended when Pat noticed another coworker over Sam's shoulder.
Suddenly his stomach twisted into a knot and he felt like he was going to throw up. His coworker had a surprised look on her face, and quickly turned and exited the establishment. Pat was absolutely horrified and knew that only bad things would follow. Sam tried to comfort him and assure him that it would be okay, but Pat knew better. He knew how things like that worked, how the world worked. There was an immense fear of the unknown, and his life was forever lost in that unknown. His life was tearing the fabrics of society, according to those around him.
The next day, Pat's fears and suspicions were confirmed. He received a notice of termination, stating that his involvement in a relationship was deemed inappropriate and created a conflict of interest. Interestingly enough, that conflict of interest appeared to be only one-sided, as Sam remained employed along with the numerous heterosexual employees that openly dated.
The fact that Sam's last name was Proditone probably helped him keep his job. He was a Daddy's boy with plans of inheriting the fortune of the store and becoming one of the snakes that ran it. Apparently he was able to swing the entire situation into him going through a phase and being over it. It was funny how that worked.
Pat turned in his uniform and name tag, and left the premises. As he walked out the door, his mind was overcome with hatred. He hated Proditones, he hated the family that ran it, he hated the military, and he hated his family. He hated everything. He wanted revenge, he needed it. He was fed up with being punished for who he was. He was done being reprimanded for loving.
Three years later, on a late December night, a call rang out through Beckett's office. A possible homicide was discovered in an apartment in the Upper East Side, almost to East Harlem. Beckett threw his badge around his neck, grabbed his pea coat, and proceeded into his regular routine.
He drove through the mild late-night traffic in with his emergency lights flashing, being careful on the snowy roads. He arrived to the apartment building to find multiple police cruisers parked outside and crime scene tape wrapping around the front door. It was a normal sight for Beckett. He threw his car into park and made his way into the building.
He was greeted by one of the officers that initially responded to the call and he led him upstairs to the scene. The building was dark and decrepit. The walls were painted white, but stained yellow. Areas of the drywall were cracked and missing, and the entire hallway possessed a stench of cigarette smoke and urine. As he made his way upstairs, the smell of urine was joined by the distinct odor of human feces. This was something that Beckett was quite used to, as most dead bodies void their bowels.
He entered the room to discover the culprit of the nasal disturbances. The body of a man lay on the living room floor, a dark puddle of blood soaking under his head and shoulders. As he approached the scene, he noticed the bullet wound on his forehead, with pieces of skull and brain exposed, and the gun itself still grasped in his hand.
"Suicide?" Beckett asked.
"That's what we think, we haven't found any evidence of foul play yet," the officer said in return.
Beckett nodded, inquisitively. He examined the man's body on the floor. He looked over his legs, then up through his torso and ending on his head. Everything seemed to point to suicide. He had the gun in his hand, the lights were turned off, his apartment hadn't been cleaned in what looked like almost a year, and they had even found a note on the table.
I'm sorry for what I did. I loved you, but I couldn't accept that. I know nothing could ever make right of what I did, and I can never forgive myself for it. My mind and my heart just couldn't come together, and there was no other option for me.
Beckett had become somewhat numb to the emotional toll that his job tended to take. He looked at it as a job and nothing more.
"It's pretty textbook; a tragic romance. Have you found anything with the neighbors?"
"Nothing yet but we're still talking to them," the officer said.
"Oh, yeah, his name's Ricky. It looks like he's got a military background but we still need to investigate further."
Just as the young officer said that, another entered the room with some troubling news.
"Sir, one of the tenants down the hall said that she saw someone leaving Ricky's apartment in a hurry after she heard the gunshot," he said. "She described him as slender and possibly a bit younger than Ricky, but couldn't see much else of him. She said he had a hood up over his head."
The dynamics of the crime scene suddenly changed. The investigators began going over the apartment more thoroughly and Beckett realized that it may not be the textbook romantically-instigated suicide that he had originally suspected. Foul play was officially on the table.
They continued investigating and interviewing neighbors until the early hours of the next morning. They didn't have any leads other than the woman seeing the man leaving the apartment, but fortunately, they didn't need much more than that. The decaying complex had no security cameras, but there were a plethora of them outside, so they decided to start there and begin to build a list of suspects.
The sun began to peek up over the horizon, sending waves of orange light and warmth between the buildings. Beckett enjoyed the slight increase in temperature as he waited on the sidewalk for the owner of the deli across the street to retrieve the footage from his security camera. It pointed in front of the deli, but could have captured the unknown man as he left the building.
Finally the deli owner was able to pull up the footage on the old monitor and they all watched in anticipation. The watched the footage of the entire night at an increased speed, seeing a couple of people but nobody matching the woman's description.
"He must've had the common sense to watch for cameras on buildings," Beckett stated as they left the deli, disappointed. Just as he said that, however, he noticed something that might solve their dilemma. It was an ATM positioned next to the apartment building. "Let's hope he forgot about ATM cameras."
As the morning dragged on, Beckett's lack of sleep began to nag at him, and he decided to leave. He left the investigators to do their work and made his way home to sleep and wait for the bank to retrieve the ATM's footage.
The day was stretching into the early afternoon and the traffic was picking up in Manhattan. Beckett loved living in the city but he hated driving in it. It was nothing but a huge headache. In addition to the vehicular stress, he was developing an actual headache of his own. He suspected that it was either his lack of sleep or lack of bourbon. Luckily, however, he was on his way to replenish both.
As he entered his apartment, he head throbbed worse than ever. He threw his badge on the table by his couch after doing the same with his coat. He removed the harness from his torso, holding his gun, and hung it in the closet of his bedroom.
He had a fairly nice apartment, but his upkeep had fallen ill lately. It was rare to see his sink empty or his clothes clean. He had mostly just stopped caring after Chelsea and the kids left.
He grabbed the brown bottle of bourbon from his dresser and took a large swig. The aged liquid slid down his throat and his head almost instantly began to clear up a bit. He sat on the edge of his bed with the bottle, light creeping through the blinds behind him. He stared blankly, trying his best to not think about anything. Between his family falling apart and his constant exposure to evil and wrong-doing at work, thinking about nothing relaxed him like nothing else. The bourbon helped him achieve that lack of mental activity.
He took a few more swigs before finally crawling into bed and drifting off into slumber. He slept somewhat solidly but was awoken that evening to his cell phone ringing. He rolled over, reaching for his phone. His eyes were still partially closed so it took him a moment, but he eventually stumbled upon it and answered the call.
"Ugh, Beck," he mumbled, still trying to fully wake up.
"Detective Beckett," the voice on the other end began. Beckett recognized it as someone from his office, though he was having trouble conjuring up a name. "We have the footage from the ATM."
"Okay, I'll be right down."
He dragged himself out of bed, threw on the first outfit he came to, threw on his harnessed gun and badge, and tried to perk up with a cup of coffee as he left.
Moments later he was sitting in the evidence room at the precinct, waiting for the monitor to boot up and play the retrieved footage. After it began, they increased the speed until seeing a hooded figure walk past. They froze the video on the figure to examine more closely. Unfortunately, the footage's quality was very poor and the figure was only passing by. However, there was one frame in which a portion of his face was visible.
He appeared to be younger, late 20's perhaps. He was clean shaven, and wore a black hooded sweatshirt and light-colored jeans. It wasn't much. For that matter, it wasn't even close to what they needed to identify the individual. It was, however, a start. They had a suspect.
That night Beckett found peace of mind at the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. As the last drop fell from the opening and into his mouth, he lost his balance and fell to his bed. He struggled to get back up but eventually gave up.
He just lay there on his bed, staring up at the spinning ceiling. Tears formed in his eyes as his mind drifted across the usual subjects. Chelsea and his kids danced around his head, ripping every last shred of happiness from his body, leaving him crying himself to sleep.
As his state of consciousness drifted, the visions in his head remained, but became much more vivid. He was standing in the snow, outside of Chelsea's home. He could see in through the window. They were sitting in the living room around the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts. They looked happy.
Beckett tried with every muscle in his body to run into the house and join them, but he was forced to just stay there in the yard, alone. He watched Chelsea as she opened a gift from the kids. She smiled with the same smile Beckett had fallen in love with so many years ago. She radiated elegance and beauty. Nothing in the world had ever made Beckett more happy and scared than her. She had the ability to melt his heart before ripping it from his chest, and he allowed it to happen every time. Somehow, when it was her doing the ripping, it was worth it.
He watched his daughter and son playing around with each other, pushing and shoving. It was the same roughhousing that he hated to love. He was terrified of them getting hurt but thrilled to see them having fun.
He thought the same thing that he always thought. He wondered where it all went wrong. He wondered where and why he ever let go of the best thing that had ever happened to him.
As he stood there in the dark, snow building on his head and shoulders, a loud beeping sound rang through the still night air. It was a sharp, rhythmic, almost musical noise. It was so loud that Chelsea and the kids turned and peered out of the window to see where it was coming from. Beckett saw them and began to wave frantically, trying to get their attention.
For what seemed like half a second, he was sure that they saw him. Their eyes met, and he knew it. Chelsea smiled ever so slightly, and they shared an extremely brief moment together. Unfortunately, as soon as his and Chelsea's eyes met, he discovered the source of the noise. It was his cell phone ringing on his nightstand.
He rolled over in bed and reached for it, squinting through the bright light of the late morning sun pouring in through the window, flooding his bedroom. His head throbbed and he felt like he was going to throw up. He wasn't sure if the cause of these symptoms was the bourbon or the dream. He hoped that it was the bourbon, but deep down he knew that it wasn't.
Finally he was able to answer his phone and muster up his best attempt at a greeting.
"Ugh, Beck," he uttered, clearing his throat.
"Detective, we got an ID from some of the prints we pulled from the scene," the forensic analyst said across the phone. "We need you down here to discuss it."
Beckett pulled himself up from his bed and made a valiant effort of dressing himself. It was a sad sight, but he had grown accustomed to it. He made some coffee quickly to liven his spirits before leaving for the office.
"His name's Pat. He was in the Army with Ricky, but was discharged for being openly gay. After he was discharged he worked for Proditones for a while but was fired for an inappropriate relationship. After that though he kind of fell off the grid. We're trying to figure where he went in the last three years, but we aren't turning anything up yet."
"Any family in the area?" Beckett asked.
"His parents live upstate."
"Then that's where we'll start."
Three sharp *knocks* rang through the house as Beckett banged his knuckles against the door. There was a pause, but eventually a woman answered the door. She was older; graying hair and deep lines forming around her mouth and above her brow. Her aging appearance was paired with a soft and inviting voice.
"Can I help you?"
"Ma'am, I'm detective Beckett. This is my partner, detective James. I was hoping that we could ask you a few questions about your son, Pat," Beckett replied.
"Of course, please, come in. Would you like something to drink?"
"No, thank you. Ma'am, when was the last time you were in contact with Pat?"
"Oh, it's been a very long time, years I'm afraid. Why? Is something wrong?"
Beckett paused, preparing for one of the worst parts of his job. "Ma'am, Pat's fingerprints were found at the scene of a murder, in Manhattan."
She covered her mouth in shock. She was at a complete loss for words. As she searched for something to say, Pat's father entered the house.
"What's going on?" he said. He had a much harsher voice and personality than his wife.
"Sir, I'm detective Beckett. I was just hoping to ask you a few questions about your son, Pat."
"There's not much to tell. He hasn't had anything to do with us in a long time,"
"Why is that?" Beckett asked.
"He turned his back on us. All that we did for him, all that we gave him, he threw it all away."
"Because he was gay?" Beckett asked, trying his best to sound innocent and politically correct, but knowing that he was failing.
"Because he lost his morals! His faith! His...everything!" the man said, becoming heated.
Beckett sensed the touchy subject and chose to bring the interview to a close. After a short pause, allowing the tension to diffuse a bit, he spoke. "Well, ma'am, sir, thank you for your time. If you think of anything else that may be of assistance, please contact us." Beckett and James shook their hands, handed them a card with their information, and exited their house.
"So some psychological trauma can be expected," James said as they got into their car.
"Jesus, I guess so. He basically disowned his son because he was gay," Beckett said back as he started up the car and began to drive back to the city.
"People are that way because of their faith, yet Jesus taught to love unconditionally. I don't know how so much hate could come from something that was meant to bring people together."
"I don't know, James, I don't know."
They drove a while, eventually seeing the city on the horizon. As the sun sat behind the buildings, their phone rang. James answered it, having a short conversation with the investigator on the other end. Upon ending the call, he relayed the message to Beckett.
"They want us to stop by a slum by Harlem. It's near the last known home of Pat, and apparently has a lot of homeless military vets."
"It's worth a shot."
They made their way to the slum as nightfall was bestowed upon city. Lights came on around, keeping the metropolis alive and well as the sun tagged out with the moon. The lights, however, became dim and yellow with age as they approached the slum. They parked the car, exited, and began to ask around.
They approached several men and women, giving Pat's name and description, hoping to dig up some information. After about an hour, things seemed to look up. They spoke with an elderly man, who seemed to have known Pat.
Mentally, the man did not seem to be completely well, but he still had things to say about Pat. "He was a good kid, but was given a shit life. He's sharp, strong, but dark. He's got something dark in him," the old man stated.
"What do you mean 'dark'?" Beckett asked, intrigued.
"I don't know man, I ain't no doctor. He just had something bad in him, ya know? He hurt, he was hurting. He could fly though, like, he had wings or some shit."
Beckett sensed the man's mental state worsening as his eyes began to glaze over and his words became slurred. As he noticed these things he also noticed the needles on the ground, and decided to take the man's statements with a grain of salt.
"Let's get out of here," he said to James.
They returned to the office and parted ways for the night. Beckett returned to his sad life alone to find his faith at the bottom of a bottle.
Over the next month, their incoming evidence came to a screeching halt. Beckett and James knew that Pat had at least something to do with Ricky's death, but they just couldn't come to a conclusion on the case. That combined with their chief's eagerness to close the case and move on to other cases caused his death to officially be ruled a suicide.
Beckett wasn't happy about the decision, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Ricky's death wasn't the only that needed investigating, so he needed to move on. The problem was that he found himself struggling to do so. Something about it just didn't sit right with him, and it became his new source of anxiety.
One afternoon, he was taking a smoke break on the sidewalk outside of the office. The hot smoke felt good in contrast to the bitter late-December weather. As he exhaled a cloud of smoke into the frigid air, his phone rang. He looked at his phone with a grimace, seeing Chelsea's name on the screen.
He struggled for a moment, considering the red button over the green one. Eventually his heart won over his brain, and he decided on the green.
"Hi Chelsea," he said, emotionlessly.
"Hi Beck. I wanted to discuss Christmas with you," she said back.
"I was waiting for that."
"Don't make it seem like it's easy for me, you know damn well that it isn't. You can see them the weekend after, but I think it would be best for them to spend Christmas with me. The rest of the family will be here, it will be better for them."
"Yeah, you're right," he said. Somewhere inside of him, he knew that she really was right. However on the surface, it was easier and made him feel better to just act like she was the typical crazy over-controlling ex-wife
"The typical Beckett answer, short and not caring at all," Chelsea said, annoyed.
"I gotta get back to work Chels, is that all you needed?"
"I guess so, yeah."
With that, their conversation ended. It was the same uncomfortable back-and-forth that always occurred when they spoke to each other. Beckett hated every bit of it, but saw no other option.
He finished his cigarette, stomping it out on the snow-covered pavement. He took a deep breath, trying to clear his head before getting back to work. Before walking back into the office, he used the back of his hand to wipe away the single tear that was falling from his eye.
A subway train rushed past Pat as he stood against the wall of the tunnel, between steel supports, dressed completely in black. A second later, he was left in silence once again. He peered out at the rest of his crew, signaling to continue moving forward.
They continued walking for about another hour or so, carrying demolition equipment. Rats scurried off into the darkness, and there was an overwhelming stench of garbage and urine. The muffled noise of the traffic above them accompanied them on their underground journey. The air was chilled, stagnant, and thick. At times, it almost became difficult to breath.
They had to stop two more times to allow trains to pass, before reaching their destination. They placed their equipment on the ground, behind a wall and out of sight of any passing trains. They set up their large stepladder, powered on the generator, and got to work.
They first began to cut through the steel that lined the ceiling of the tunnel. Sparks flew, lighting up the obscurity of the tunnel, as they created a somewhat large, square hole in the metal. After getting the piece of steel removed, they began to drill through the concrete beyond that. They removed large chunks of the concrete, leaving them in a pile on the ground. Every so often they had to switch tools to cut through the metal bars within the concrete that increased its structural integrity.
Eventually, they had a sizable hole carved into the ceiling, leaving about six inches of concrete at the top, separating them from the surface. They admired their work shortly, before packing up the equipment and traveling back the way they had come, back into the disgusting darkness with the rats and trains.
Christmas Eve came sooner than Beckett wanted it to. Before he knew it, he had been caught with his pants down and needed to go shopping. He knew that he technically had a week before he would see his kids, but shopping after Christmas just didn't seem right to him.
Both of his kids were becoming teens and were less interested in toys than they used to be. This made shopping much harder and more expensive. He decided to go to Proditones, near Midtown, since they would have both clothing and electronics. Granted it was all overpriced, but that was what they liked.
He browsed the store, picking up quite a few gifts for his children. He ended up getting more than he had planned on, but didn't see the crime in it. After all, he had to make up for being a secondary parent.
As he looked at a case of smartphones, he heard an unfamiliar voice behind him.
"Detective Beckett!" the voice exclaimed.
Beckett turned around not knowing what to expect. He was stricken with shock when his eyes fell upon a disturbingly familiar face. Pat was standing in front of him, holding his hand out to be shaken. He had grown his beard out a bit since he had taken the picture they had from his military record, and his hair was a bit longer as well, but it was still him.
Beckett stood, speechless, as Pat grabbed his hand and shook it excitedly.
"I understand you handled the death of a man named Ricky. He was a dear friend of mine. It was a shame what happened," Pat said.
"Yeah, a shame," Beckett managed to get out. "It was a shame that we weren't able to really find out what it was that happened to him."
"I thought it was ruled as a suicide?" Pat asked, curiously.
"Yeah that's what they decided," Beckett answered, suspiciously. He didn't know what to think of what was happening. He was having a conversation with who he was sure had murdered Ricky. "Even though you and I both know that that's not what happened."
"I'm not sure of what you're insinuating, detective."
"Of course you're not."
"Well whatever the case, I should probably get going. Oh, and your kids will love those gifts," Pat said, pointing to what Beckett had picked out.
"What?!" Beckett exclaimed, becoming uneasy. Before he could get a response from Pat, however, he had disappeared in the crowd of last minute holiday shoppers.
He ran through the mob of people, trying to locate Pat, but was unsuccessful. His mind was spinning out of control and his heart was about to come out of his mouth. He felt sick to his stomach and terrified. He dropped the gifts he had spent so long picking out and made his way to the door. As he left the store, immersing himself in the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan on Christmas Eve, he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed Chelsea's phone number.
He listened to the ringing noise anxiously, his blood pressure rising. Finally he heard her voice on the other end.
"Hello?" she said.
"Chelsea! Listen, I'm going to have someone posted outside the house tonight. You're not in danger, but the lunatic from my last case is trying to get in my head, and I just want to be careful. Don't tell the kids, I don't want them to worry."
"Wait, what? I thought it was a suicide?" Chelsea asked, confused.
"That's what they decided, but it was mostly because of a lack of evidence."
"Beck, I-," Chelsea began to say, struggling for words.
"Don't worry hun, you're not in danger. I'm just taking extra precautions." Beckett tried to sound calm and collected on the phone, but he was far from that. He was panicking, terrified, and half thinking about going to their house himself. He didn't want to scare them though, so he decided to stay.
After somewhat pulling himself together, he called the office to get an officer posted outside of their home, and then spoke with his chief to see how to proceed. Unfortunately, his chief shot him down instantly.
"Beck, I don't know why you're so close to this case, but you need to get off of it. Legally, there isn't anything we can do about an innocent guy talking to you," he stated.
"Sir, he knows who my kids are! He's inserting himself into the investigation!" Beckett exclaimed.
"No, he's not, because it's not an investigation anymore."
Frustrated and scared, Beckett turned to the only thing he knew to calm him down and clear his head. There was a bar a couple of blocks away.
He sat on the stool, his glass of whiskey trembling in his hand. The alcohol didn't soothe his mind as usual. It only numbed the everlasting pain. His head was spinning around his throbbing heart.
After his third drink, he heard sirens race past the bar and stop down the street. He had completely lost track of the time; it must have been a couple of hours since he had walked into the bar. Curious, he got up from his cloud of despair and walked to the window to see what the sirens were going to. When he saw that they were parked outside of Proditones, his curiosity melted with his anxiety and he decided to investigate.
He paid his tab and left the bar. It was getting late, the sun was setting and the city was lighting up around him. The air was cold and snow was falling as he walked up the street. As he approached the parked police cruisers, he held out his badge and introduced himself to the officers.
"Detective Beckett. I was down the street when I saw you go by. What's going on?" he said, allowing his professionalism to mask his distress.
"Robbery in progress," the officer stated. "Unknown number of perps, but they have the store's managers hostage."
Beckett's stomach churned and his heart sank as he quickly realized who was robbing the store.
The muffled shouts of the managers could be heard in the distance as they struggled against the restraints in the locked back office. Pat stood on the other side of the door, catching his breath from the struggle. After a moment, his breathing slowed and his pulse decreased in rate, and he was able to see the canvas that he was about to paint his masterpiece upon.
He had a view of most of the store from where he stood. He could see the menswear department to his right, part of the womenswear department to his left, the electronics up the escalators, and jewelry directly ahead. It was a welcoming sight, one of retribution; of justice. He had been waiting a long time for this moment, and it felt sublime to finally be there.
He gave his crew instructions, and headed for the staff bathroom in the back of the store. He propped the door open as he entered and set the duffel bag of supplies down. After reviewing his calculations quickly, he got to work. He drilled four holes in the floor, one at each corner of a fairly large square. After blowing the dust away, he placed a tube of explosives into each hole, and connected each with wires.
Pat took a few steps backward, shielding himself with the door of one of the stalls. When he was ready, he connected the wires. There was a sharp, loud noise as the explosives detonated. Pieces of stone and tile banged against the other side of the stall door and there was a small cloud of smoke that rose up from the floor.
Pat walked out from behind the door to see the damage. The floor was cracked and crumbling where the explosives had been. He grabbed a large sledge hammer and struck the floor a few times before the remains of concrete and tile fell below, revealing the location of subway tunnel that they had worked in previously. He slid a ladder down into the hole and turned to assist his crew.
They had already begun to load up bags with expensive merchandise from all departments. They began to transport the bags to the hole in the floor and lowered them down into the subway tunnel. They took clothes, electronics, and jewelry. Instead of taking merchandise, however, Pat had another goal.
There was a safe located on the second floor. He made his way there with equipment. He suspected that with the sales of Christmas Eve combined with the banks being closed for the holiday, the store probably had close to a million dollars locked away.
After getting through a couple of locked doors, he was at the safe. He set up his equipment and began to drill through the think metal door. It made a loud, screeching noise. Small, curled pieces of shrapnel fell into a pile on the floor as he dug through. The process dragged on for around ten minutes before he finally broke though and the door's locking mechanism crumbled to pieces. He removed the drill and pulled the door open. His nerves pounded in his head.
A welcome sight of green bills gave Pat chills. He counted the wraps as he packed them into a bag, eventually coming to a rough estimate that matched his original theory. He was happy, more so than he had been in a long time. However, he tried not to get caught up in the moment, because the battle had not yet been won.
Beckett strapped on a bulletproof vest as the officer briefed him on the situation. There were unsure how many perps were in the store, but were certain that it was a robbery and had three managers as hostages. Every ground floor entrance was locked from the inside and secured with wire ties around the handles. However, they were preparing to send men in through upper level windows to contain the situation.
"Do we know what kind of danger the hostages are in?" Beckett asked.
"Not fully, no, however we have no reason to believe that the perps are violent. It's a robbery, well planned and executed perhaps, but not violent yet," the officer responded.
"Unfortunately you might be wrong there. I was in the store earlier and saw a suspect of a murder case that was closed recently. He wasn't convicted, but I still think we should tread lightly. Have you tried contacting them in the store?"
"Yes, but there isn't any answer."
"Well it's not like they have any place to go. Let's play this smart," Beckett stated.
More police cruisers were arriving, blocking off the street and creating a party of dancing red and blue lights between the buildings, illuminating the falling snow. Beckett lit a cigarette as he stared at the store, trying to make sense of everything. He wanted a drink; his buzz was wearing off. Unfortunately, he was going to have to rely on nicotine to provide his mental stability for the night.
He breathed deeply, feeling the sharp, warm smoke fill his lungs before releasing in into the atmosphere. The smoke mingled with the steam from his breath and snowflakes in the air.
He knew that it was Pat in the store, but he didn't exactly know why. He knew that his termination had something to do with an inappropriate relationship, but couldn't really understand the connection between that and robbing the place, or the connection between being kicked out of the army and murdering a fellow soldier.
None of it made sense to him. The preceding situations didn't match up with his reactions. Whatever the case, he had to try and figure out how to stop him.
"Detective, we have access to the cameras in the store," an officer said behind him.
Breaking his trance, he turned and followed the officer to the computers on the hood of his cruiser. He brought up the cameras, showing the interior of the store. All of the cameras were blacked out, except for the one on the manager's office, where the hostages were being held. There was a figure standing with his back turned to the camera. However, they could clearly see that he was holding a rifle as he stood there outside of the office door.
Beckett's longing for alcohol suddenly grew stronger, causing his head to throb. He lit up another cigarette to alleviate the pain, only being mildly successful. It was officially an armed robbery, which meant the hostages might have been in more danger than they had previously assumed.
This wasn't how he had planned on spending his Christmas Eve, although he had been planning on being drunk and alone, so he wasn't quite sure which was better.
He and the officers continued to discuss possible ways to enter the store, eventually coming to a fairly simple solution. At least, it seemed simple in their plan. Beckett knew, however, that it was never as simple as it seemed.
A sniper was able to get a view of the man outside of the office's door from a fire escape across the street. He could see the man, still standing with his back turned holding the rifle. The plan they had come up with involved the sniper taking out the man and them charging through the doors simultaneously. They were confident that they could get men to the hostages before the rest of the perps were able to react to the sudden invasion.
Beckett was on his last cigarette and the night was nearing the following day as he loaded a pistol in preparation of the assault. He loaded the clip into the grip of the gun and chambered the first round. He took one last, long drag of smoke before stomping out his secondary source of faith on the icy asphalt beneath him.
Everyone was in position. Beckett stood behind a wall of law enforcers, waiting for the signal to move.
Suddenly, they sprang into action. The sniper fired a shot through the window, hitting the man in the head and dropping him to the floor. At the same time, they broke through the glass doors and stormed into the store.
Beckett stayed behind the assault rifle-clad gentlemen, allowing them to pave the way for him. As they entered the store, they were not met with what they were expecting. The store was empty, of both people and much of its merchandise.
They flooded the first floor, finding no perps whatsoever. Beckett made his way to the hostages with other officers. They ran to the man lying face-first on the floor, realizing quickly that they had been deceived. The man guarding the hostages was nothing more than a mannequin holding a toy gun. The sniper's bullet had almost exploded the plastic man's head.
They burst through the door, finding the store managers inside. They were tied up, but unharmed.
Beckett's head was pounding, synchronized with the beating of his heart. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he tried to make sense of everything.
"The safe upstairs is empty, they cleaned the place out," an officer stated over the radio.
"They must still be here," the officer with Beckett stated.
"Come check out the men's bathroom," another officer said over the radio.
They all headed in that direction with haste. As they entered the tiled room, the officer inside removed a stall door from the floor, revealing a hole in the floor. They shone their flashlights down into the subway tunnel below.
"Fuck, they tunneled out of here with the rest of the rats," a frustrated officer stated. "Let's get men down into that tunnel and men at all of the surrounding stations," he ordered into the radio on his shoulder.
None of it felt right. Things still didn't add up to Beckett. He couldn't make sense of it, but was at a loss for words or thoughts. He strolled through the store, gazing in amazement at the work they had done. He always felt guilty about it, but he couldn't help but be impressed when such a thing was pulled off successfully.
That was actually what didn't add up to him. He couldn't imagine a successful escape through subway tunnels. The trains would constantly be blocking their path, and by the time they reached an exit, the police would surely be catching up to them.
He was quite confident that whoever escaped through the subway tunnels would be caught shortly, and that's why he didn't think Pat had escaped that way. As he stood amongst the chaos, he watched snow flying in through the window that the sniper had shattered. The little white specks fluttered into the store, floating and gliding through the air, before softly landing on the floor.
That was when Beckett put it all together. He turned and broke into a run for the elevator, ignoring the investigation going on behind him. He quickly jumped in and hit the button for the roof. He didn't know what he would find up there, but he tried to convince himself that he was ready for it as the numbers on the floor indicator slowly increased.
Pat breathed in the cold night air deeply. The brisk air felt relaxing in his lungs. He watched in the distance as the horizon began to fill with the bright colors of dawn. The lights of the city were being presented with their daily competition with Mother Nature. As he stood there on the roof of the building, he heard the door open behind him.
"It took you a little longer than I figured it would," Pat said to Beckett, with his back still turned.
"I guess that old man wasn't as crazy as I thought," Beckett said, catching his breath and pointing his gun back at Pat. "Although I think cars can go faster than parachutes, so I have some bad news for you."
"I'm not planning on parachuting off of the building," Pat said, amused.
"Well if you're planning on flying off of this building, I have more bad news for you."
"You're just full of bad news, aren't you?" Pat said with a strange calmness in his voice. "Beck, you know I'm right," Pat stated. "You know what you should do, regardless of what you're supposed to do."
Beckett knew he was right. He knew, as they spoke there on the roof of the building, that he should let him go. After struggling through his moral dilemma, he finally was able to let his arms relax. He realized that even if he wanted to let Pat go, he had no place to go, except for the one, inevitable place.
As Pat turned to face the side of the building, Beckett yelled out to him.
"Did you kill Ricky?" he asked, longing for the answer.
"No, I didn't kill him. I loved him. I still do," Pat answered, solemnly.
With that, Pat leaped from the edge of the building. Becket lunged forward in horror, trying to catch him but missing. He watched in astonishment and wonder as Pat spread his arms and legs, revealing a wingsuit. Wind caught in the pieces of material between his appendages and Pat swiftly flew off between the buildings into the distance, disappearing from sight.
The cold air and snow stung against Pat's face as he glided through the city. He caught glimpses of lit up trees through windows as he flew through the air, twenty stories above the ground. He did his best to steer between the towering structures of lower Manhattan, successfully maneuvering to the Upper Bay.
As he flew over Battery Park, revealing the water beneath him, a feeling of freedom washed over him.
The Statue of Liberty was quickly approaching on his right as he aimed for the boat waiting for him at the dock on the western coast of Brooklyn. At the perfect moment, he pulled the cord to release his parachute. It quickly caught the air and pulled him to a halt in a short moment. It was the same rush he had been trained in in his service.
He glided down to the boat, landing with precision on the back. He packed away his parachute and started up the boat. It rumbled to life and he quickly made his way out into the bay, heading south. The boat quickly got up to speed, thanks to the powerful engine. It didn't take long for Pat to drive off into the distance, with the sun rising up behind him, saturating the dark city with yet another day.
As the day dragged itself into the early afternoon, after the worst night of his life, Beckett was finally able to go home. What bothered him was why he considered it to be the worst night of his life. He wanted it to be because of the robbery at Proditones, and Pat's involvement with his family. However, he struggled to fully believe that.
The truth was slowly creeping into his mind. He was slowly realizing that the reason he was so relieved that the night was over, was because of him instead. He had suddenly realized who he was.
He had a family that he had taken for granted. He had happiness and love, and for years he had not realized the importance of that. Pat had his entire life taken from him, simply for loving, yet Beckett was given love and he pushed it away. He had drowned his true feelings in alcohol and self-pity. He had convinced himself that he and Chelsea simply were not meant to be, and perhaps that was true. However, he and his family were meant to be, and he finally understood that.
As he walked up the stairs of his apartment building, approaching his unit, he was startled by what he saw in front of his door. There, on the floor in a neat pile, were the presents he had picked out at Proditones for his kids and Chelsea.
At that moment, Beckett realized that he was smiling, and for the first time in years, it wasn't because of alcohol or success in his career.
Pat would never be completely free. As he started a new life, the memories of a past one would forever haunt him. He would forever hear the sound of Ricky shooting himself as he stood in the next room of his apartment. He would forever feel the pain of someone he loved being in even more pain than he. However, he was finally able to move on.
He was finally able to live with the pain. It no longer crippled him. It lingered, but was at bay. He was able to try and live again. He was able to try and love again.
Just as Beckett began to pick up the pieces of his life, leaving the bottles in the cupboard, Pat picked up the pieces of his heart, leaving the pain in the past.