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A Magic Trick

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“Today is Thursday April 20th. This is Doctor Walts conducting an interview with Jo Martinez in regards to her time as a captive under Peter Logan. I’d like you to start by telling me if it makes you uncomfortable that I’m interviewing you after Mr. Morgan.”

“Doctor. It’s Dr. Morgan.” Jo corrected automatically. Talking out of turn made her wince. She always felt like she had to be calm and collected during these things. As if there were right and wrong answers. There probably were. Answers that would keep her out of the field or put her back in it. She needed to be out there. Knowing what she knew now about Henry she could patrol the streets better. More diligently.

In the six weeks since the rescue she’d regained 10 pounds, almost pure muscle. She wasn’t quite back up to weight from where she started, but she didn’t look like a starvation victim anymore. The nightly news wasn’t helping her case for reinstatement. One of the nurses sold a photo of her he snapped on a phone when she was changing her second day in the hospital. The nurse was fired, not that it mattered since he made a fortune off of it. The damage had already been done. No one could shake off the image of the frail woman she’d been. At least she managed to keep Henry hidden from it all. Couldn’t have people recognizing Henry Morgan from his photo a hundred years from now.

“Right, my apologies, Doctor Morgan.” The woman began writing, as if saying Henry’s name wrong was a trap she set that Jo walked right in to. God these things made her uncomfortable. The session was being held in the psychologist’s home, a tall brownstone that was probably not even half as old as Henry. On the wall was a sort of raised green wallpaper she was sure wasn’t even made anymore.

“Yes, it does make me a little uncomfortable.” Honesty was the best way to go.

“You haven’t been very forthcoming with me or anyone else about your time spent in captivity.”

Jo snorted. Captivity. Like they had been animals on display. How apt.

“I’ve talked to Henry about it.”

The doctor took off her black framed glasses to let them hang from a chain around her neck, “Do you think it’s wise to speak only to him about what happened? I understand the urge since he’s the only person who really knows what you went through, the only one who ‘gets’ it, but don’t you think an outside perspective might be helpful?”

“Not really.” More writing followed. Wrong answer, not surprising. She knew the stubborn refusal to say anything was going to be trouble. She didn’t give one shit. That first morning in the hospital after a kind nurse kicked Jo out of Henry’s bed before guests could arrive she’d told him that whatever he said she would back him up 100%. As far as she was concerned she was sworn to secrecy. The Lieutenant was less than pleased when she wouldn’t even give a statement beyond saying that they had in fact been detained against their wills.

“Let’s talk about Peter. If you had to describe in one word what he felt during these experiments, what would that word be?”

“Fascination.” Jo breathed it out. “He kept calling himself a scientist.”

“I’m told that part of this experiment was depriving his subjects of food. Doctor Morgan was at a perfectly healthy weight when he was found. Can you elaborate on why Mr. Logan chose not to starve him?”

Jo’s mouth clamped shut. The woman put out a practiced sigh. It was designed to make Jo feel bad.

“And if I told you that Henry said you spent those 12 days running through a field with puppies, and that he wanted you to swear under oath that nothing beyond that happened you would say…?”

“There was a black lab puppy I particularly liked. I called her Peppy. She was sweet.” So maybe honesty wasn't always best.

“And if I told you that you won’t be cleared for active duty until you tell me something about your time in that cell?”

“Peppy had a little white spot near her nose and one on the very tip of her tail.”

“Alright.” The doctor said. The annoyance in her voice was real that time. “I’m not asking for a detailed account of what happened. You just told me, point blank, that you were willing to give up your career over this. To commit perjury. I’m not so sure. Give me one real thing. Just one thing. No matter how innocuous. I won’t even make you stay the full hour if you do.”

One more. Just one more. The memory flooded in. She needed reprieve. She needed to be able to go to work. “When Henry convinced them to start feeding me again they gave me milk. Thick whole milk. I’ll never be able to stomach it again. Hanson took me out for a coffee last week and I had to leave because they had a container of half and half on the counter.”

“And how did Henry convince them to start feeding you?”

“You said one.”

The doctor smiled. “So I did.” She pressed a few buttons on her phone, “Susie, will you please escort Mr- excuse me, Doctor Morgan back in.”

While Jo waited impatiently for Henry to arrive the woman scribbled furiously across her legal pad. She needn’t have gestured for Henry to sit when he came in. They all knew he was going to be right next to her.

“I think that both of you need to consider going to therapy for at least a full year. Having said that, I find that most patients who don’t go willingly don’t get anything out of therapy except for a bill. Now, I would like both of you to feel as though you can trust me. I know that trust is probably something you’re both a little short on at the moment, so as a gesture of goodwill I can share with you what I’m going to report back to the Lieutenant word for word, if you’d like.”

Jo looked to Henry. With a small raise of his eyebrows she knew that he was as curious as she was. They nodded for Dr. Walts to continue.

“Both subjects seem to be experiencing symptoms of PTSD, as to be expected. While it is clear from both physical appearance and medical records that Detective Martinez was starved for at least seven days while Doctor Morgan was not it is apparent that Morgan had to make some sort of bargain to keep both of them healthy until the very last day when Morgan’s blood was being collected for an unknown reason.”

Jo shifted uncomfortably. Could they guess? Was there any possible way for anyone to suspect that Henry was starved right beside her? Was there a video sitting on someone’s computer that would reveal exactly what Henry had to do for her? All of the prodding made her sick to her stomach. The woman just continued to read, as if she wasn’t ripping everything to shreds with her words.

“Neither subject will disclose what sacrifice Morgan made. I suspect it was something morally questionable or illegal. Possibly both. After asking some questions sexual abuse or misconduct was ruled out. They think of Mr. Logan as an asexual creature who considered himself above such things.”

Jo kicked herself for not thinking of that excuse. They could easily have played off the entire thing as abuse Henry didn’t want to talk about. Peter had been so aloof, acting beyond the reach of something so petty as arousal, but everyone else didn’t know that. It would have made a great cover story.

“Even though Martinez suffered for a longer amount of time, I think it’s obvious that both parties feel what Morgan had to do was worse than what she endured. As a result Dr. Morgan, while traumatized, has overall better mental health since he was the sacrificer. He feels the end result justified his actions and is making strides towards moving past the event. Detective Martinez, meanwhile, is having trouble letting go of the guilt she feels as a result of gaining food from whatever it was her partner did. She displays survivor’s guilt much like the other victims.”

“Jo. I-” Henry’s eyes were so endless, searching to see if it was the truth.

“Don’t, Henry. I know you think it was the right course of action. I know that you would do it again in a heartbeat if it had the same outcome. I just have to process it for a while.”

He took her hand and squeezed it gently.

The therapist cleared her throat. “While I can recommend that both be put back on active duty status I would suggest they should only be allowed to work together on inactive cases. They are currently unhealthily co-dependent and Detective Martinez might take unnecessary risks to pay back the debt she feels she has incurred.”

“Would you?” Henry asked incredulously.

She fought hard not to roll her eyes. “No. That part is not correct.”

Doctor Walts’ face said she disagreed. “Isn’t it? According to hospital records you’re already sacrificing time and money for Henry’s recovery. Are you saying if you see a bullet with his name on it, you won’t step in front?”

That contemplative face was back.

“Look, you said that if I gave you one detail I wouldn’t have to stay here the full hour. You’ve admitted you think I’m ready for active duty status. If the only reason why you’re reading us that speech is to get us to open up more I’m leaving.”

After only a moment Jo realized she wasn’t staying either way. With a flourish of coat she was out the door with Henry right behind. The soft mutters of apology he made to the doctor before catching up to her made her blood boil.

“We need to talk about this.” He said as the door to the house clicked shut behind them.

“I promise not to get a mortal wound in your honor Henry. I’m not an idiot.”

“No you aren’t, but neither am I. I know you believe you are in my debt now. Allow me to assure you that you are not. Half of what I did was purely selfish. By doing… what I did… I was no longer hungry. It wasn’t all in your name.”

“I know that.” She sighed and tugged on his coat to get him to follow her to a coffee shop nearby. “I also know that the risk was way too big. I saw your face. You were terrified every time. There was pain and suffering every time. It isn’t even like we can say ‘if we had just waited it out we would have been fine’ because we both know they never would have found us if that guard hadn’t sold you to the highest bidder. So yes, Henry, I do think I owe you something. I have no idea what, but something. Even if it’s just loyalty.”

They ordered, her a coffee, and God help them all if it didn’t come back black the way she ordered it. Henry ordered tea. He didn’t even specify a type. Just tea.

“Can I get a name for the order?”

“Jo.”

The teenager looked at her quizically, shrugged and inevitably wrote her name incorrectly.

With so many people passing by their conversation ground to an uncomfortable halt.

“Black iced coffee for Jo!” A twenty-something dude called from behind the counter. Jo went to pick it up.

He held the cup back from her. “You don’t look like a Joe.”

“And yet I am one.” She reached for the cup. He moved it farther back.

“How about I’ll let you have it for the price of your phone number?”

Jo’s eyes rolled of their own accord. “How about I get it for the price I already paid for it?”

“Is there a problem here?”

Henry, as always, was about as subtle as a sack of bricks.

“Well damn, could’ve told me you were taken. Sorry, man. Didn’t mean to hit on your woman.” Finally she got her blessed caffeine and they were on their way to the most empty secluded corner in the place.

“How absurdly rude.” Henry huffed, stirring his tea. “Apologizing to me for treating you so disrespectfully.”

“Sad but true. I made my peace with being thought of as a man’s property a long time ago.”

“But you shouldn’t have to.” Henry scowled.

Jo paused, “Speaking of property, that’s something we need to talk about.”

Henry smirked at her, “Just because we’ve been sharing a bed doesn’t mean I think of you as my property.”

His mouth snapped shut at the the look she gave him. There wasn’t even the smallest part of her that considered that. Sharing a bed was exactly what it sounded like. She’d tried to spend her nights in her own apartment. After three days of toughing it out she gave up trying when she saw that Henry looked as exhausted as she felt. The doctors said it was unhealthy to get so attached. She thought they could shove it. Learning to sleep on her own would be a helpful skill that she was hoping she’d never have to use again. Now if she could just convince Henry that the attraction was not a product of gratitude.

“I’m talking about the fact that there is someone out there that bought you.”

The smirk was gone. Henry shifted in his set uncomfortably. “We can’t know what the guard may have said about me. If one wishes to start a bidding war it simply would not do to advertise having an,” he looked around and lowered his voice, “immortal for sale. They would have thought her insane. I’d be willing to wager she told them she had something unique but not what. She would want me present to show off before any money exchanged hands.”

“It’s not about the exchange of money. It’s about the fact that it’s even out there. Because of that damn picture of me everyone knows that I was one of the captives. It wouldn’t exactly take a huge amount of effort for anyone to figure out that you were the other half. Especially for what kind of money the person was putting up for you. Debbie would have been an idiot to even pick up the phone for less than 10 million for you. I mean, Jesus, how much do you think Putin would put up to buy you? Can you even put a number on that?”

“I highly doubt the negotiations made it to political leaders.” Henry’s voice dripped in sarcasm.

“Never underestimate the connections mercenaries make.”

Henry put his cup down. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

“Am I going to let go of the idea that you might get kidnapped again? Nope.”

“I do hate moving, but I suppose it can’t be helped sometimes.”

“That’s not what I meant either. I think you’re safer here where people know you than off hiding someplace. The more hidden you are the easier it would be to take you.”

She was considering how easy it would right then. The Starbucks was crowded, but not overly so. There were three exits open to the public, although most people would not notice the emergency exit. People were so used to disregarding them they forgot they were even there. With one flash bomb rolled in the entire place would clear out in two minutes. The exit closest to them lead to the black alley. Henry could be grabbed and into into a vehicle in fifteen seconds. Jo’s stomach lurched against the coffee.

“Wherever your mind just went, it’s better suited here.” Henry said slowly.

She had no idea the panic was that bad until she came back to herself. A single drop of sweat rolled down her back. It felt disgusting. She was disgusted.

“And now it’s time to change the subject. Let’s talk about something nicer than my constant fear that you’ll be kidnapped any minute now. How many kids have you had?”

Henry’s face shifted from worry to Dad mode. She wasn’t sure it was something anyone could get used to.

“Just the one. Abby and I weren’t capable of having more, and before her there was no one I wanted to raise children with.”

“I spent a lot of my life raising babies. None of them were mine, of course.” She said as Henry raised an eyebrow. “Just kids in the neighborhood. I earned money every summer taking in all the stray children and keeping them alive until their parents got home from work. Wasn’t the most fun or glamorous job, but it kept me in clothes and food.”

“Did I ever tell you about my years with the midwives?”

Jo huffed out a laugh, “No, but I feel like you’re about to.”

Jo’s phone rang as Henry was gearing up to talk, “Martinez… Yep, I’m approved and ready to rock… Oh thank God! Henry was about to start telling stories… We’ll be right there.”

A real smile lit up her face, “Want to go catch a murderer before the good doctor has a chance to talk to the lieutenant?”

“Yes please.” They left in such a hurry she almost forgot her drink.

The body was sitting atop a garbage heap. The smell was horrific and yet Hanson was standing at the edge of the rubble holding a box of doughnuts and they were leaving fast. Jo grabbed one for herself, dunking it into the coffee she was holding. She leaned back against a warm black car.

“What are you doing here?” Lieutenant Reece asked. The woman was just as well put together as always. She looked totally in control, even amongst the flies.

“I was cleared. You can even ask Dr. Walts.”

“As was I.” Henry added with his smirk, “Is there a reason why we are all standing around instead of going to the corpse for examination?”

“HENRY!” Lucas threw himself at the older man, wrapping his arms tightly against Henry’s back. He responded by patting his overenthusiastic companion lightly on the back wearing a look of discomfort.

“Lucas…” Henry said warningly as the hug went on for a touch too long.

“Sorry.” He stepped back, brushing off Henry’s coat. “We have reason to suspect that the dude was poisoned. We’re waiting for Hazmat suits to arrive.”

Henry said, “Ah,” then took off up the hill. Lucas called out after him to no avail.

Jo ignored the twist in her gut. Instead she focused on the amazing combination of fat and sugar dipped in coffee she held in her hand. She let the food melt in her mouth and turned her face up to the sun. It was still so beyond her capability to understand just how quickly normal could change. Eating doughnuts while standing in the sunshine? That wasn’t normal anymore. It was a treat. An absolute decadence to be free and warm and fed.

It took less than two weeks to re-shape every conception she’d ever had. She took another bite to keep the rise of panic in her stomach where it belonged.

Her eyes popped open when she felt someone staring. Turns out there were a lot of people staring.

“You gonna stop him?” Lucas asked, totally bewildered. “There could be a toxic substance up there.”

“He’ll come back.” She paused on her own words, “I mean, I’m sure he’ll get back here and talk about how he could tell from 50 feet away there wasn’t any danger. Until he does…” she waved her doughnut, “I’m staying right here.”

“As I suspected,” Henry came back down the heap, “the suspect did indeed die of poisoning, but it is not aerosolizable. It’s perfectly safe now. Lucas, grab your equipment. I’ll need samples.” Henry rubbed his hands together, just as happy as can be.

“See?” Jo mocked, her mouth full. “Told you.”