Partners in life and partners in crime, Frank and Vincent always had each other. They were ready to take on anything as long as they were together. But now the world Vincent knew, the world Frank taught him, has changed. The war has come to their doorstep and no one is safe.
Things once taken for granted may no longer be dependable, alliances will be questioned, but their vows still ring true: In sickness and in health, until death do them part.
With any war there are casualties. But no amount of crying or throwing of breakables on my part, or simmering insanity on Frank's, could've prepared us for what was waiting on the other side of the Atlantic: a battle that was already over. One that hadn't even begun.
Roger Foster, former client of Adler and Associates, was arrested for the murders of Gideon Adler and Margaret Evans. The murder weapon, a semi-automatic 9mm, was found wrapped in a blood stained cloth under his porch. He'd been threatening the firm for weeks. It was such a strong case against him, not even Gideon could've gotten him off. Open and shut. Guilty. The end.
But not for us.
It should've really been a relief that it wasn't connected to Assassin War and therefore wasn't Frank's fault, but somehow being your average every day double murder actually made it worse. Not only had Maggie and Gideon not been assassinated, their deaths could've easily been prevented if they'd just let us do what we did best.
And now we were on our way to see the bereaved, to undoubtedly do what we did worst: act like human beings.
Joe solemnly drove us from the airport back to Casey's apartment after giving us the lowdown on the unfortunately mundane murder situation. Frank said nothing. He hadn't spoken a word in hours. I had a migraine that was quickly growing in severity so any silence was good silence as far as I was concerned, but one glance at him in the rearview mirror proved this silence was far from good.
Frank could handle guilt. He was used to guilt. After eighteen hours of traveling he'd prepared himself to admit guilt. He'd probably even come to terms with the fact that if Simon had killed them, we would sooner or later have to let Casey know the truth: that this never would've happened if he hadn't ignored Frank's request and drawn everyone's faces in the sketchbook he subsequently misplaced around Malkolm's handler. Frank wouldn't lie to Casey again, not after what happened last time, but saying “I told you so” over the barely cold bodies of your parents would've been far less severe if it could be said while holding the severed head of the man who killed them. Now all that planning and plotting was completely wasted. It wasn't Frank's fault, it wasn't Casey's fault, the man responsible was safely behind bars, and Frank looked bewildered in a way that would've been pitifully adorable if it wasn't so unsettling.
Tilting the rearview mirror back where it belonged and following my gaze, Joe cautiously asked, “Is he okay?”
“Can we swing by the jail to kill this guy and a minimum of twenty other people on top of it?”
“Then no. And when he sees Casey upset he's gonna completely lose it.” He'd already lost it enough not to notice that we were talking about him.
Joe parked in Maggie's old spot in the underground garage, and because I'm a shitty person I automatically wondered whether I got to claim her 1968 sea green Cadillac convertible. She had been scared of me, but I didn't think I'd be written out of her will. She probably didn't have a will, and that thought more than anything else made me tear up all over again.
It wasn't fucking fair. They weren't the kind of people who got murdered. I should know, I was intimately acquainted with those people.
Quickly getting out of the car lest Joe see me cry, I announced that we were gonna take the stairs to the eighth floor since that was kinda Frank's thing. Frank followed me to the stairwell while Joe shuffled his crippled body to the elevator. Frank kept looking around with that same lost, confused expression, like we'd arrived at a hit site and our mark was nowhere to be found. “I know, babe.” I reassuringly squeezed his shoulder and he habitually put his arm around me, but he was so far gone he didn't even question my reference to our lack of murderistic opportunities being basically the same as “Lucy pulling away Charlie Brown's football.”
Frank paused at the front door of the apartment he'd been paying for since he met them, buying his way into Maggie's trust and the only chance he'd ever get at having a normal life. That unspoken promise he'd take care of Casey in her absence. He heaved a sigh and squeezed his eyes shut in the way that usually ended with his hands around my throat. Then he spat, “Fuck!” and went on in.
Bella and Sophie Durrant, the au pair, were in matching black dresses. Joe and Miranda sat together on the sofa. Casey and the kid were nowhere to be seen. Frank warily took everything in, on edge like this was a surprise party and he was waiting for someone to jump out at him and try to bring happiness and glee. There sure as hell wasn't any of that to be had around here.
“He's in the bedroom,” Bella said. She looked hangry, though I could've been projecting. And now there was no one left to bake me peach pie. My migraine got suddenly much worse.
Frank glanced in that direction with a look of thinly disguised dread like water was about to come flooding out the closed door à la The Shining. A torrent of blood was precisely what we needed right now. I would've settled for a little splash. Or just a sip to take with my pills. Instead I swallowed them dry. It wasn't as if this situation could get any more uncomfortable.
“Shall we?” I asked.
Setting his jaw in a way that he probably thought made him look mournful but really just made him look murderous, he lowered his head and led the way.
I'd only seen Casey cry once before, after Bella spontaneously aborted their kid all over me, and seeing someone fall that far from his normal state of happiness was just as traumatizing as the unborn child gore she'd left on my clothes. But I knew it was even more traumatizing for Frank. Casey was the golden standard of joy for him, a pillar of light untouchable by the demons that haunted Frank. Formerly untouchable.
He was lying in bed, curled up with his sleeping daughter, twirling his fingers in her hair. The glow from behind us in the hallway and a purple dinosaur nightlight plugged into the wall gave just enough illumination to show that it was even worse than I'd imagined. He looked like he'd been crying for weeks, not just hours. It looked like he hadn't smiled in even longer. And never would again.
“Hey,” Casey said quietly, his voice as hoarse as Frank's had been when he broke the news to me, and I realized we'd been standing there staring at each other for awhile. Or at least, he and Frank were staring at each other. Frank hadn't moved, not even a nod in Casey's direction. And just like that, Frank had turned a brand new shade of crazy.
There was the calculating murderer Frank that I knew and loved, and the out of his mind tearing his thumb off to protect me Frank that I liked even more, but this was animalistic and desperate, chew his foot off to get out of the trap unreasonable. And he genuinely looked trapped.
“So,” I started, glancing at Frank in a silent plea to stop me from saying something I shouldn't as the tension increased in the room. He didn't. “At least it's not your fault.”
Casey's eyes drifted towards me and they were all swollen and bloodshot and my idiot inner voice decided that the only logical course of action would be to give him advice on being an orphan since I had way more experience in that matter.
“This sucks. A lot. Trust me, everything in your life is going to change. Everything. I mean, your dad died already but that's not really the same. Plus he was kind of an asshole. Being an orphan is like, serious abandonment. But look on the bright side you've totally got the jump on me with the whole assassin ward thing, with Frank and with Bella, so it's not like you're going to have to go out and suck cock—” By the grace of god I stopped myself, but god's grace was momentary and not very thorough since I only gave pause long enough to confirm, “she is asleep, right?”
Leaning over her to check as if he wasn't fully aware of the possibility of having to explain to a little girl why anyone would suck on a rooster, he slumped back to the damp pillow. “Yeah. She's asleep. Maybe you should go to bed too. You look tired.” It was the nicest way I'd ever been told to shut the fuck up.
“I have a headache,” I said, an excuse for my failed attempt at a Hallmark Card sympathy speech while not actually apologizing directly. I didn't want to say I was sorry. I kept thinking about the dream I'd had about them, about Maggie calling me a killer. If we'd done what we were supposed to, what was in our nature, we would've killed Roger Foster and Maggie and Gideon would still be alive. Casey wouldn't be crying and Frank wouldn't be...going and lying down with Casey and staring helplessly into space the way Hugo did when I was sick and he couldn't comprehend with his doggy brain what to do to make me feel better, but every ounce of his oversized being needed to fix me.
But Frank spooning him just made Casey break down and sob, and even if I could handle watching Casey do that while my head pounded there was no way I could handle seeing Frank's reaction to it as his eyes got more and more distant.
“Well goodnight,” I muttered, swallowing another handful of pills as I shut the door behind me.
Joe was leaning against the wall, not close enough to eavesdrop but close enough to be the first thing I saw when I left the room. “I've got this. You go to bed.”
He didn't have to tell me twice.