By Kellyanne Lynch
* Please e-mail ScullySloan@juno.com with questions, comments, theories, complaints, or words of wisdom.
Thursday, 12:50 P.M.
Jesse watched as Mark slept, his arms crossed, when Amanda walked in.
"How's he doing?" she asked, standing behind her friend.
Jesse shook his head. "I don't know. I mean, medically, he's fine, but I was talking with him earlier..." Jesse looked into Amanda's eyes. "He's really worried about Steve." His voice wavered, and he turned from her. "I, I didn't know what to say. I just told him to get some rest. He didn't want to, but..." Jesse sniffled. "I gave him medication..."
"Jesse." Amanda turned him to face her and hugged him.
"We heard the gunshot," Jesse stated as Amanda held him. "And Mark heard him... heard him scream..."
"Steve's handled a lot of dangerous situations as a cop," Amanda reminded Jesse. "He's had a lot of bad things happen to him. But he's a good cop. I feel confident that he'll get through this..."
"He's been shot, Amanda!" Jesse snapped, pulling away. As tears streaked down his face, he said, "No matter what Steve has done in the past, no matter how good a cop he is, he's been injured, a least. At the very least. And they have the advantage now. I mean..." Jesse coughed. "I mean, what are the chances that they'll let him live?"
"Jess," Amanda whispered, lowering her gaze. "I'm just hoping, okay? What did you want me to say?"
"I'm sorry." Jesse headed for the door. Amanda reached for him, but he raised his hand to her. He slipped out of the room and walked as far as the vending machines. After staring at the selections for a couple of seconds, he found nothing desirable and left.
When he returned to Mark's room, Amanda was gone. Jesse sighed.
Jesse looked around, attempting to locate the source of the sound. Kneeling, Jesse checked under the bed.
This time, the noise sounded in his left ear. Jesse glanced to the left and saw Mark's lab coat draped over the headboard of the bed. Reaching into the coat pocket, Jesse's hand wrapped around a cellular phone. Jesse pulled it out and switched it on.
"Hello?" Jesse croaked, then cleared his throat.
"Sloan," a computerized voice pronounced. "We have your son."
Jesse's mouth hung open, and he glanced at Mark. "What do you want?" he gave his best impression of Dr. Sloan.
"Cash," the voice answered. "Fifty thousand dollars; bring it to the burnt-out restaurant on Fairfax Road tonight at eight. Just you, Sloan. If I even suspect company, your son will die."
Jesse squeezed his eyes shut. His heart was racing, and his breathing was heavy. The rapid intake and release of air tickled his throat, and he coughed. Tears filled his eyes.
"Please! No! Don't hurt Steve!" Jesse coughed and held back his tears. "Please, let me talk to him!"
"Your boy is unresponsive at the moment." The phone clicked off.
Jesse hung up the phone and buried his head in his hands.
"Jesse?" Amanda whispered. Jesse glanced through his fingers to find her standing in the doorway. Rushing to his side, she embraced him. This time she held him longer, allowing him to sob into her shoulder. She ran her hand across the base of his skull and down his neck. She rubbed his back with her other hand.
"I wish I could say that it'll all be okay," Amanda breathed. "But we really don't know..."
"That was them!" Jesse exclaimed. "They just called on Mark's phone, demanding money!"
Amanda drew back and looked into Jesse's eyes. "What did they say?"
Lowering his head, Jesse replied, "They thought I was Mark. They want fifty thousand dollars delivered tonight at eight..." He pulled a pad of Post-its from his back pocket and began writing on the top sheet.
"Fifty thousand?" Amanda's nose scrunched up as her eyebrows drew closer to her eyes. "That's a rather low ransom. They're not after money."
"Well, what do they want?" Jesse questioned.
"I think they want to lure Mark ."
Jesse gasped, causing himself to cough. He returned the Post-its to his pocket. "They're planning to kill Mark!"
Amanda sat down at the end of Mark's bed. "Then we don't have much time to find the kidnappers," she concluded, taking Mark's hand in her own. She glanced at Jesse and her eyes filled with tears.
"Well who would want to hurt Steve to get to Mark?" Jesse asked, seating himself in a chair beside the bed.
Amanda shook her head. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
Jesse coughed and slumped back in the chair. He watched Amanda's grip tighten on Mark's hand as she stared at Mark's face, as her tearful eyes met his.
"We have to do something," Amanda stated. "But what?"
"Well," Jesse sighed. "The only link we have with the kidnappers right now is their phone call."
"What did they say?"
Jesse retrieved the note from his pocket. "That they want fifty thousand dollars in cash brought to that burnt-out restaurant on Fairfax. And they want it tonight."
Amanda shook her head. "That doesn't give us much time to find Steve. We'd better wake up Mark."
"I don't think we should." Jesse shifted in his chair as he put away the Post-it. "We shouldn't worry him. We should find Steve on our own."
"But he might know something that would help us." Before allowing Jesse to respond, Amanda shook her sleeping friend. "Mark! Mark, please wake up!"
Mark's eyelids twitched and fluttered open. Squeezing her hand in his, Mark looked up at Amanda. She promptly turned to Jesse.
"Mark," Jesse sighed, his head returning to his hand. "We got a call for ransom money."
Bolting upright in bed, Mark threw the blankets from his body. "Well, how much do they want?"
Amanda sighed. Closing her eyes, she said, "Mark, you're not going to meet the kidnappers."
Mark furrowed his eyebrows. "But, but I have to meet them! Amanda, I know that it's giving them just what they want, but it's the only way."
Mark looked up at Amanda with tears in his eyes, causing her to turn away.
"Mark!" Jesse stepped in, putting his hand on the older doctor's shoulder. "The ransom they're asking for is only fifty thousand dollars. Now if they were just after money..."
"They're not after the money," Mark concluded and sighed. Closing his eyes, he lay back in bed.
"They may or may not want to hurt Steve," Amanda spoke quietly. "But they're definitely after you."
Mark opened his eyes. Glancing from Amanda to Jesse, he asked, "So what can we do?"
"Well, we need to consider all the facts," Jesse said. “If we can glean why they want to meet you, we might be able to figure a way to get Steve back."
"Might." Mark repeated and sighed, covering his face with his hands.
Jesse winced and lowered his head. "I'm sorry, Mark," he whispered. "I didn't mean to put it that way. But we do need to review what has happened."
Mark lowered his hands and nodded. "Okay. Let's start from the beginning."
"And where would that be?" Amanda asked.
"Last night." Mark sat up straight in bed, laying a hand over Amanda's for support. "Steve was paged."
"At what time?" Jesse questioned.
Mark squinted and bit his bottom lip before replying. "I'd say it was around three in the morning."
"That's right," Amanda nodded. "That's what you said earlier."
"He came into the house," Mark continued. "And he called the number on his pager."
"Did you hear what he said on the phone?" Amanda inquired.
"Yeah," Mark nodded. "I woke up when Steve reentered the house to use the phone. He was close to the kitchen, so he called from there. He said something like, 'did you page me?' He never said the person's name... but it was a man who called! Steve said that this morning on the phone. He was tracking a man who called."
"So what else did Steve say on the phone?" Jesse asked.
"I'm guessing that the man on the phone had said something about catching a criminal, because Steve commented on the arrest being so soon. Then he said he'd drive over to the station. That's all he said on the phone. I caught him before he left though, and asked him where he was going so late. He told me about the criminal. Then he left."
"But you said that there was not an arrest," Jesse said.
"Yeah. When Steve called this morning, he was saying that he couldn't even find the man who had called."
Amanda raised an eyebrow. "So maybe the kidnapper called him to get him to leave the house last night."
Jesse scrunched up his eyebrows. "I don't get it! Steve wasn't kidnapped until this morning."
"They may have expected to find him last night," Mark speculated. "But perhaps they didn't find him until this morning."
"Well where did they find him?" Amanda asked, turning to Mark. "Where was Steve calling from this morning?"
Mark shook his head. "I don't know; he didn't say. But no matter where he was, an officer down at the station is bound to know where he was supposed to go today."