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January 2013

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Save the Date, Chapter Three in The Unusual Suspects

Title: Save the Date, Chapter Three in The Unusual Suspects
Author: CelesteAvonne
Disclaimer: For Fun and Fun Alone!
Spoilers: References to all 10 episodes of The Unusuals.
Pairing/Characters: All canon pairings, including Shraeger/Davis, Walsh/Beaumont, Delahoy/Crumb, and Banks/Demopolis
Rating: PG13
Word Count: ~10,000 (split between posts)
Summary: The situation intensifies as the Second Squad learns that the Hand Writing Killer is now targeting the people connected to them rather than random strangers.



Delahoy, bloody-nosed and furious, shoved Dr. Harold Zimsky into holding. Banks, equally furious and not bloody, slammed the door shut.

Zimsky came to the bars. "But I can explain—"

Banks raised a warning finger. "Not. A. Word," he snarled.

Beaumont rounded her desk with Cole and Alvarez trailing after her. Delahoy was dabbing at his nose with a wadded handkerchief – Leo's – and muttering under his breath. He collapsed into his chair and titled against the wall to staunch the blood.

"What the hell happened to you?" Beaumont asked.

Banks said, "Went down to the morgue to ask the ME about the Ryerson autopsy—"

"—and Vader here attacked us with a light saber," Delahoy finished.

Cole ventured closer to Delahoy to see if his nose was broken and was rewarded with a shouted, "Get the hell off me, I'm fine."

"That's Dr. Zimsky," Beaumont said.

"Yeah, we know," Banks said. He squirted antibacterial gel in his palm and vigorously rubbed his hands together. "The guy who ran from Walsh and Shraeger in the park this afternoon."

"His story checked out, though," Alvarez said. "They kicked him loose..."

"Yeah, that was before," Banks said. "Cole, pass me Zimsky's case file from this afternoon." Cole handed the file to Banks, and as he opened and began to skim, he said, "Eric, you wanna do the show-and-tell portion? You've earned it."

"That I have, my man. That I have," Delahoy said in a voice a shade more nasal than his normal voice. He tossed the bloody handkerchief to his desk and withdrew an evidence-bagged cookie tin from his coat pocket. "We found this in Ryerson's apartment. Guess what's in it."

"Not... cookies?" Cole asked.

Delahoy uttered a fake laugh, which Banks picked up. "Cookies, that's good," Banks said, still laughing. Then, abruptly and simultaneously, they both stopped, and Delahoy said, "Fingers."

"What?" Beaumont asked.

Banks looked over the edge of the case file. "Fingers, snapshots of all of us, and these..." He dumped his evidence bag full of credit cards and the security badge onto his desk.

Alvarez nudged the credit cards around with a pencil eraser so that they could all read Ryerson's name on them.

Cole stared at the badge photo, looked over his shoulder at the board in the briefing room, and said, "That's not Ryerson."

"Bingo," Delahoy said.

"I know who it is," Beaumont said. She stepped back to her desk and returned with a file. She opened it between them, revealing the photocopied mug shot of inmate number 13413, Noel Blanch.

"The numbers," Banks said. "Anyone else recognize those digits?"

After a moment, Beaumont said, "I'll be damned. I put in a call to the 5-47 in Long Island an hour ago. I haven't heard back."

"I'll give 'em a call," Alvarez said. "Nicole and I had dinner with Captain Powers and his wife in Montauk this summer. I'm certain that if Noel Blanch is on Long Island, they'll have him within the hour."

Delahoy drummed his thumbs on the cookie tin. "White Christmas," he said.

Cole said, "What are you talking about?"

Delahoy smoothed the plastic over the embossed Santa face. "Noel Blanch. White Christmas. This guy, he's—" he waggled his fingers in the air "—crazier than a blender full of hamsters."

Banks stared over Delahoy's head at Zimsky in the holding cell. "Bet this joker knows him."

"Let's dig deeper into Zimsky's background check," Cole said. "See what kind of student he was."

"He hit you with a light saber?" Beaumont said.

Delahoy scrubbed his forehead. "Bastard thinks he's Qui-Gon Jinn."

"Let me have a crack at him, okay?" Banks said to Delahoy. "You sit this one out."

"You sure?" Delahoy asked.

Banks closed Zimsky's file folder. "Oh, I'm... I'm very sure," he said. He knew exactly how to play it.

XXX

"Hiya, Harold," Leo Banks said, scraping his chair forward to the table. "Big day for you. Two trips to jail, and you got to hit someone with your laser sword."

"It's a light saber," Zimsky said.

"Whatever, look," Banks said. He switched off the video recorder. "Let's talk off the record for a sec, how's that?"

"Off the record, that sounds cool."

"Shut up," Banks said. "You know the guy you hit? That's my partner, Eric." Banks laced his fingers together and leaned in, conspiratorially. "Here's the thing, Harold. Eric's had an unbelievably bad couple of days." Banks paused. "He's got a brain tumor."

"Eesh. That sucks," Zimsky said.

"I know. Tough breaks, right? Now, he's known about it for months, but he kept it a secret, 'cause that's the kind of guy he is. He's got this gruff exterior, wrapped up inside another, even gruffer exterior, but beneath that, there's a heart. He doesn't like to see his friends hurt. So he kept the news a secret."

Zimsky's brow furrowed. "I, uh, don't get—"

"I'm not done," Banks said, his tone terse and incisive. "Yesterday, we're taking an early lunch, nothing extraordinary, when in comes Eric's something-on-the-side, know what I mean?" Banks grinned a shark's grin. "Yeah. Cute little Asian girl. She comes in and drops the brain tumor bombshell on me. Apparently, she's known about Eric's condition for a while. Two months, to be exact, because she helped him steal an MRI..."

Zimsky straightened, his eyes widening. He said, "Oh."

"And the penny drops," Banks said. "And it's sweet, right? She risks everything because her guy's too scared to go see a surgeon."

"That guy?"

"Hard to fathom, I know. He once jumped from a rooftop through a window to save an old lady, yet he's afraid of doctors." Banks chuckled. "But see, what I didn't understand is that the something-on-the-side-girl isn't just 'on-the-side' for him. She's not some cute Asian girl with a fetish for medical equipment. He likes her."

"And I ratted her out," Zimsky said.

Banks nodded. "She lost her job. Now, Eric's not too happy about that or the fact that you just busted his nose with a Star Wars toy. He's prepared to do some damage. Oh, and I should tell you, the cancer's terminal, so he's not concerned about long-term repercussions."

Banks felt his throat constrict. Suddenly he couldn't breathe. It was the first time he'd said it aloud, and it overwhelmed him. He poured himself a glass of water and took a long, steadying sip. When he felt like his heart was no longer clawing its way up his throat, he set the glass aside, and focused his full attention on Zimsky.

"Look, Harold," Banks said. "You're a dork, all right. You're young and delusional—"

"—Hey, wait—"

"Twice in one day you tried to evade capture from armed police detectives," Banks said.

Zimsky rolled his eyes and shrugged.

"But you're not stupid," Banks said. "That's why I think you wanted to get caught."

Zimsky gnawed on his thumbnail. He looked scared, but he wasn't talking.

"You're actually a decent kid, but you got pulled into something and now you're in over your head. Am I right?"

Zimsky opened his mouth to say something, then shut it and stared at the ceiling.

"Okay," Banks said. He pulled a brown folder from the box on the floor. "Know what this is?"

"Amazing Spider Man number 618?" Zimsky said hopefully.

"Everything's a joke, is it?" Banks said. He opened the file, flipped to the third page. "It's Ross Ryerson's autopsy report. Let's see: cause of death, asphyxiation. Sixteen hours later, stab wound to the heart, badge number carved into his chest. That's what you reported. That's your signature on the page."

Zimsky cleared his throat. "Yes."

Leo ruffled the pages. "What's this? No mention Ryerson's missing fingers. I wonder what that could mean?"

It had the desired effect. Zimsky paled and shifted in his seat.

"I checked Ryerson's corpse at the morgue, while my partner was reading you your rights. Seems like a detail as important as missing appendages would have made it into an autopsy report. You know what the penalty for perjury is, Harold?" Banks asked.

"Should I guess?"

"Five to ten years," Banks told him. "How about the sentence for assaulting an officer?"

"Um—?"

"Five to ten years." Banks said again. "How about interfering with a police investigation? Aiding a fugitive? Fraud? And why would an ME remove fingers from a corpse?"

"I know that one," Zimsky said. "To prevent the confirmation of identity."

"Did you cut off Ryerson's fingers, Dr. Zimsky?"

"No," he squeaked.

Banks banged the table with his fist. "This isn't a game, Harold. You've got an impressive list of crimes piling up – mugging, burglary, kidnapping, resisting arrest, assault, perjury... murder. You're guilty of at least three, but my friends out there are building a case for the rest. It'll be a strong case, too, 'cause they're good at their jobs and they're very motivated. You've hurt every last one of them."

"I didn't mean to hurt anyone," Zimsky said.

"Doesn't matter," Banks said. "It's all gonna hang on you, unless you start talking."

"So I'm doomed," Zimsky said.

"Basically," Banks said. "But you can start to make it right by telling us what you know."

Zimsky raked his hands through his moppish hair and blew out a sigh. "I know you won't understand, but... I gave my word. I'm not gonna talk."

"You gave your word?"

Zimsky shifted in his chair. "Look, you care about your partner. I get that. And I saw how when I came at you with my light saber, he took point. That's The True, right there. He's your point guy, like Han to your Chewbacca, or the Sherlock to your Watson. He's more than a friend. He's your family. I totally understand."

Banks narrowed his eyes at Zimsky. "Right..."

"Well, it's the same with us. We're family. We have a pact. So I'm not gonna say anything, because I don't want them to get hurt." Zimsky pushed back in his seat and grimaced.

"Even faced with up to twenty-five years in prison?" Banks asked.

Zimsky shrugged. "Look, I'm an odd duck, Detective Banks. In high school, my idea of a sweet Friday night was helping the biology teacher pickle pig fetuses in formaldehyde. I didn't have friends. I had guys who pantsed me during marching band or gave me swirlies or cripple nipples. It's different now—"

"—Yeah, it's different," Banks said. "You're a long, long way from high school. You're a doctor—"

"That's just a title, man. I belong to something bigger. I'm sorry about your partner, I am. But my friends are everything to me. I'm not gonna sell 'em out."

Banks pressed his lips together. "Have it your way, then. When they get caught, maybe you can all have adjoining cells at Sing Sing."

"Only one problem," Zimsky said, a faint smile in his eyes.

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

"They're never gonna get caught."

XXX

Delahoy told Beaumont he was going home to change his blood-stained shirt. Mostly, that's what he'd intended.

Instead, he wound up at the Belvedere Hotel.

When Officer Dobbs looked like he was going to be inquisitive, Delahoy shut him down with a glare. Dobbs opened the door to Monica's room, and Delahoy nervously patted a paper-wrapped package in his pocket before stepping inside.

She was by the window, speaking on the phone in Korean, and when she turned, she murmured, "I'll call you back." She dropped the phone with a clatter to the table and practically catapulted into his arms.

"See, that's nice," he said, drawing her into the folds of his overcoat. He tried to downplay his elation at her reaction, but the truth was, it made him dizzy, the scent of her hair and the frenzy of her attention. He couldn't remember when anyone had ever been that happy to see him.

She said, "I saw the news. You found that woman."

"Yeah, we did. We're still looking for the guy, though..." He opened his eyes. His vision blurred the room to bright smudges, but he noticed several stacks of printouts on the end of the bed. And a laptop, and a printer.

"Hey, uh—"

She held him at arm's length and peered up into his face. "What happened to you?"

"New ME hit me in the face—"

"—What? Why?" She pushed him into his chair and began to examine his nose. "Are you all right?"

"Ow," he said, pointing to his face. "I can't see out of my left eye."

"You pointed to your right eye," she said.

"Really?"

She nodded.

He sagged into the cushion. "Then I have a new symptom."

Monica sat on the edge of the bed and rested her hands on his knees. "Eric," she said. "We should talk."

"Okay, me first," he said. "There's this, uh, wedding on Saturday..."

Her forehead wrinkled. "What?"

"My... co-worker, friend, whatever, Cole, he's getting married. We should go."

"Are you trying to distract me with a wedding?"

"Is it working?"

"No."

"Fine." He pulled himself upright. "Okay. Your turn. What's with all the papers?"

"It's research."

He glanced again at the stacks of pages. "You're in protective custody," he said.

She gave him her Duh look.

He squinted at her. "Where'd all this come from?"

"You didn't think I'd just sit around all day..."

Eric rubbed his nose and winced. "I assumed you'd take advantage of the free cable—"

"—Please. I can only watch so much of What Not to Wear," she said.

"We have that in common," he said.

She smiled again. That was nice.

"How did you—research?" he asked.

"Officer Dobbs took me to my apartment so I could get my computer and printer. I've actually compiled these files over the last six weeks, so today I printed them out. For you."

Monica passed one of the documents to him. He eyed it sidewise, but the lines of text wibbled and writhed across the page. He handed it back to her. "Sum it up for me, okay, I'm a little concussed."

She rolled her eyes. "Oh come on, it's just a bruise."

Eric sent her a sharp look. Then he caught her smirk and understood. She was teasing him. He wondered for the thousandth time why he hadn't met her sooner.

He said, "Seriously, what is it?"

"Alternative and clinical treatments," she told him.

He snatched the pages back from her. He brought them close to his face and forced the wavering text march into straight lines. It was a report detailing some kind of experimental laser treatment. The file contained procedures, survival rates, the number of months in recovery, and full-color illustrations.

Nausea crawled over him. He put the pages aside. "No," he said.

"No?"

"No. I can't. Needles, feeding tubes. I can't..."

"You'd rather die than have a feeding tube?"

"No," he snapped. He stood up and heard the rustling of the paper package in his coat pocket. "Here," he said, tossing it to her. "I got you this."

She caught it awkwardly, opened it, peered inside.

"It's ginger," he explained. "The lady at the place said it's good for... the stuff. The, uh... Anyway I figured since the flowers didn't go over so well, maybe something practical..."

"That's very sweet," she said. But she said it in her semi-sarcastic condescending tone which made him think she either didn't have a firm grasp on the English language, or she had a very firm grasp on smart-ass and wielded it like an extremely sharp Samurai sword.

Either way, he didn't know how to respond. So he said, "Did you eat?"

"I had dinner about an hour ago. You?"

"Don't remember," he said. "Everything tastes like carnations today, so..."

"Interesting," she said.

He sniffed. "Yeah? For me, not so much."

She stared up at him. "Really? You readily complain about your symptoms, yet you refuse to consider treatment options. When I do try to talk to you, you either attempt to deflect or distract me. If you just need someone to talk to, you should find a counselor, or a Rabbi—"

"—I'm half-Jewish, okay—"

"—Or maybe someone who's less invested in your future," she finished. Now she looked like she might cry, and he was horrified. "What's the real reason you came to see me tonight, Eric? To talk about your tumor? To ask me to your friend's wedding? Was it for sympathy because you got hit in the face? Or was it to bring me an over-the-counter morning sickness remedy, because you feel guilty for knocking me up?"

He blinked and rocked on his heels. "Unbelievable," he muttered. "How do you do it? How do you go from being this tiny vulnerable woman to a frilled lizard lady on a Harley, with like, flamethrowers and knives—"

"—You came to me for help," she said, gesturing to the printed pages spread across the bed. "Before the MRI, before our supply closet... thing, you came to me. That means you want to live."

"Stop. Wait," he said. "Say that again."

"You want to live," she said.

He swore softly. "That's what Karen said."

"Who?"

"Karen Delmonte. The ex-girlfriend I was seeing everywhere. She said those exact words."

"In your head?"

"Yes, the hallucination of my ex-girlfriend." Then he laughed. Hard. So hard it hurt him. He found the chair again and collapsed into it. "Your greatest ally is your own mind." He steepled his hands over his mouth. "She, uh. She led me to you."

Monica drew his hands down and clasped them with her own. "You know what that means, don't you?"

"It means..." He let out a sigh. "I don't want to die."

She pushed her hands through his hair, ruffling it back from his forehead. "I'll go with you on Saturday." She kissed his furrowed brow. "We'll talk about the rest on Sunday."

He brought his hands to her hips. "Thank you," he murmured. "Or whatever."

"Can you stay?" she asked.

He couldn't. Not really. Not with Leo interrogating Dr. Zimsky. Not with all of Second Precinct in chaos.

But.

He wasn't about to tell her no.

XXX

Walsh and Shraeger felt somber with defeat as they entered the precinct, only to find the office in a flurry of activity.

The first thing Walsh noticed was Eddie on the phone at his desk. When they saw Banks talking animatedly to Beaumont and Cole, they jogged over to find out what all the excitement was about.

"Hey, what's going on?" Shraeger asked.

"Zimsky happened," Banks said. He tapped a stack of papers against his desktop to neaten them before slipping them into Zimsky's file.

"What?" Walsh said. "Again?"

"Yeah, but he's not talking," Banks said. "We've got enough to charge him, though. Perjury, obstruction, and assault on an officer."

"Oh, wh—" Shraeger looked around. "Delahoy. Where's Eric?"

"He's all right," Beaumont said. "Went home to change. Zimsky busted his nose."

While they brought Walsh and Shraeger up to speed about Ryerson's apartment and the trip to the morgue, the sketch artist came in with the composites from the traffic cam footage. Walsh spread the three drawings across Beaumont's desk for them to see.

"I'll be damned," Banks said, pointing to the middle sketch. "That's Zimsky."

"Yeah, and that one is definitely Noel Blanch," Shraeger said.

"And Bachelor Number Three?" Walsh asked.

"No clue," Banks said. "I'm sending Zimsky down to the Tombs for processing, then dropping these off at the lab for a proper ID." He tapped the cookie tin and shuddered. "I'll be back."

As Banks left, Alvarez joined them. "Just got off the phone with the 5-47. They're trying to locate Noel Blanch. His secretary said that Blanch has been on an extended tour of the Appalachian Trail since June 30th, that he calls every few days to check in, but no one's actually seen him in three months. His wife and kid are in Boise, visiting family."

"No, he's been here in the city," Shraeger said, sweeping a hand over the traffic cam photos.

"Okay, so we have three possible suspects," Walsh said. "One's in custody. One's a mystery. The other is close by, we just don't know where."

"And we have seventeen hours to figure it out," Shraeger said.

"What about Jeff Blanch?" Beaumont asked. "Any leads there?"

Walsh shook his head. "No, it's a dead end." He massaged his forehead. "He's not playing the game. He's a spectator."

"I'll put out an All Points for Noel Blanch," Cole said. "Maybe the uniforms'll pick him up."

"Wish I could share in that optimism," Beaumont said.

"Well, we've sent down for transcripts on Zimsky and fingerprints for the... fingers," Shraeger said. "Now we wait."

"Yeah," Walsh said. "We wait until they make the next move."

XXX

"This is the part of the job I really dislike," Allison said. "The waiting."

Jason scooped four slices of extra crispy bacon onto her toast and went to work slicing the tomatoes. "And you know, the moment we get to sleep, that phone's gonna ring. You want onions?"

"Nah, but some ketchup would be nice," she said.

"You can't have ketchup on a BLT," he said.

"Says who?" She smiled.

"Says the proprietor of this establishment," he said. "It's ketchup-ception."

"Well," she said, trailing her finger around the edge of her plate. "I'm the customer, so I'm always right."

"Not even going to argue with that," he said. He cut her sandwich in half and slid the plate across to her. Along with the ketchup.

He poured them each a cup of coffee and sidled onto the barstool beside her.

"You know, Kowalski's widow—"

"—Hannah, right?—"

"—Yeah. She said Burt never talked to her about work. He kept their personal life separate from the job."

"How long were they married?"

Jason shrugged. "Sixteen years, I guess." He plucked a fry from her plate.

"Must've worked for them," she said. "Were they happy?"

Jason thought for a while before he said, "I don't know. He never talked about her."

"It's like he led a whole other life, isn't it?"

Jason turned his mug between his palms.

"You all right?"

He waved his hand. "Sure," he said. Then, "I mean, he had secrets. She knew he had secrets. She could've left. Had plenty of reason to. Why'd she stay?"

Allison said, "Someone I know said he likes a woman with secrets. Maybe she was the same way?"

"Yeah, but were they happy? Was she happy?"

"Jason, what's this about?"

He picked up his mug, set it back down. "It's this case. Got me thinking."

Allison leaned back to look at him. "This sounds pretty serious."

"Like with us, we're both on the job."

"Right..."

"So, the line's all blurred. Work. Life. Us. It's all the same," he said.

"I got no problems with that," Allison said.

He grinned. "Me neither. Then I think of Nicole and Dr. Crumb. I don't even know her, but she and Nicole are both at least connected with police work. They know the gritty of it, you know? They see it every day, they know the risks. But, what about the others? What about Hannah Kowalski? Or Amy Burch? Does that girl even know what she's getting into?"

"She loves Henry," Allison said. "And he adores her. Isn't that enough?"

He scrutinized her. It seemed incongruous that this tough, sexy powerhouse of a woman who could take him down with her bare hands could still believe with a school girl's innocence in the strength of love.

Which was probably why he was crazy about her.

But the thing was, he knew more about Henry Cole than she did, and it worried him that Henry might be more like Kowalski than Allison would have ever guessed.

Allison finished her coffee. "You pick up your suit for Saturday?"

"Uh, no," he said. "Not yet."

The wedding seemed like a distant dot on the horizon. Right now his mind was clouded with the details of the case. He couldn't think beyond it, and he wondered, in the light of what had happened with Amy and Nicole, if it might not be a bad thing to postpone it.

When the idea came to him, Walsh almost dismissed it. Then it returned, with friends.

"The wedding," he murmured.

Allison gave him an odd look. "Yeah? What about it?"

"We're the targets. We'll all be there," Jason said. A mixture of excitement and dread filled him as the pieces clicked into place. "I think I figured it out. I think they're gonna hit the wedding."

END OF PART THREE

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