With the help of Ellie, Angie carried their dirty dishes into the kitchen and began to clear everything away. “Thank you for dinner, momma,” Ellie said as she stood on her step ladder and started helping her mother get rid of all the dirty dishes.
“You’re welcome, baby,” Angie replied softly.
Several quiet minutes passed before Ellie sighed and stopped drying. “Momma, what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? You been quiet for a long time. Am I in trouble? Are you in trouble?” She asked, looking up.
Sighing, Angie too stopped what she was doing and looked at her daughter. Darn her and Jesse for having such an observant daughter. She may have only been six, but there weren’t many things she missed or didn’t pick up on with a quickness. It was one of the things that had Angie and Jesse fighting over whether she would be a lawyer or doctor. “No… Well… Look, let’s get some ice cream and sit and talk.”
“Okay,” Ellie yelped, jumping off her step ladder after grabbing a couple of spoons and following her mother back to the dining room where they sat. After a couple of scoops of some chunky chocolate ice cream, Elle looked at her mother and asked again what was wrong.
“Okay, where do I start?” Angie mumbled.
“At the begin,” Ellie replied.
Chuckling, Angie reached over and lightly flicked at her daughter’s nose. “It’s the beginning, sweetheart,” she hinted. “But okay…Well mommy and daddy were a little close with a bad, bad man a long time ago and now the bad man is back and wants to hurt daddy.”
“But why? Daddy never hurt nobody,” Ellie hinted.
Well, Angie thought as the memory of the fight she witnessed between her father and her husband flashed before her eyes. Back then when Jesse said if he hadn’t killed Les, he would have killed him, Angie never thought it would turn out to be a lie. Whether Les lived or died, Jesse fate had already been made. Hell, so had her fate. “No, but daddy did break a rule and now the bad man feels like he has to pay.”
“Oh… Well… What rule did daddy break?”
“He fell in love with the bad man’s daughter.”
Gasping, Ellie looked at her mother like she had three heads. “Who? You?!”
“Yes… So, now daddy has to find the bad man and talk to him. Help him understand why he did what he did.”
“Do you think the bad man will listen?”
“I hope so. I certainly hope so.”
“Hey, Jesse, let me ask you something,” SSA Paul Norton asked running up to him before he stepped on the elevator.
Jesse was in the middle of texting his wife when his new friend Paul ran up to him. After the night at the little hang-out he and Paul had formed a friendship like no other. Even though he was a much older gentleman, he felt like they had the same mentality. And to make matters even better, he trusted him more than he trusted Isaac Malone. “Yea, what’s up?”
“I think I have an idea on whe—“
“Hold up!” Jesse interjected, before pressing the up button real fast. “Don’t say anymore,” he whispered. Not long after, Jesse had pulled Paul onto the roof of the FBI building and near one of the vents. “Okay, what were you going to say?”
“What? What’s up with this?” He asked, confusingly.
“I… I don’t know. You ever get a funny feeling in your gut that someone can’t be trusted? Like they are waiting on you to say something?”
Shrugging, Paul looked around and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Jesse, I think you’re paranoid.”
“No, no I’m not. You’ve felt it, I’ve seen it.”
Paul looked like her was torn between being completely honest with Jesse or if he wanted to continue the charades. “Okay, every now again I get that feeling. I chalked it up to be gas or whatever, but…” He just shrugged again.
“But, what is this,” he gestured to his surroundings, “all about?”
“I’m going to tell you something… And it stays between us. Okay?”
“Yea, alright. Fine.”
Jesse looked around one last time before fixing Paul with a knowing look and lowering his voice. “Papel is out.”
“What? That’s absurd.”
“No, it’s not. Check into it and once you do, come back and talk to me.”
“Jesse, you’re paranoid. This case is very, very close to home for you and—“
“No, sir. This is case is in my home. This case is my home. And I promise you, I’m nowhere near paranoid.” And without saying another word, Jesse left Paul on the roof with his thoughts.
The entire ride down, Jesse thought back to how Paul assumed he was paranoid. No paranoid was no longer a word in his vocabulary. Hadn’t been for over 20years! After being on the run for 2 decades, Jesse learned from experience there was no such thing as paranoia. If he had a gut feeling that something was wrong, then damnit, something was wrong and he was going to do everything in his power to prove it. And that certainly wasn’t going to change now. He was not going to stop until he proved to him, Isaac and the entire FBI that something was up with this entire thing.
“Franklin Hubbard,” Jesse said into the phone once he made it out the building and headed to a nearby café.
Several seconds later, Frankie greeted him. “Hey dad, what’s up?”
“Hey, Frankie. How is everything?”
“Eh, everything cool. Mom is still off work.”
“Yea, she said she was still having dizzy spells.”
“She came in this morning for a check-up. She said she could barely see out of her right eye. They said the hit made a vessel burst, blood obscured her vision.”
“What?” Jesse gasped. “She didn’t tell me that.”
Frankie explained to him that Angie didn’t really want him to know because of the case. “She said she needed you to stay focused on catching whoever or doing whatever they got you out there doing, so you can come home,” he concluded. Because they were on the hospital’s line they spoke around the entire case to avoid letting on that they knew more than people thought. It was on the only way they could communicate without getting into any trouble. It was the only way Jesse could stay on top of everything without bringing more trouble to his family and friends.
“That woman,” he sighed. “Listen, you take care of her for me. I will try my best to be home by the end of the week. I rescheduled my flight after the load grew this morning.”
“Jesse,” Paul interjected, rushing into the café out of breath.
Looking up at Paul, Jesse could tell by the look on his face that he knew exactly what Jesse was trying to tell him on the roof. “Franklin, let me call you back. And I won’t mention anything to your mother.”
After exchanging a few more words with Frankie and giving Paul a chance to calm down, Jesse hung up and fixed him with a knowing look. “So… Are you ready to talk?”
“How did you know?” Paul asked.
“I have a friend,” he replied, clasping his fingers together and tilting his head to the side. “How did you find out?”
Lowering his head and his voice, Paul explained how he did a search on Papel and discovered that while there had been check-ins from the unit he was in, there had been some suspicious things happening. “The check-in times are coming in, long after the actual check-in time. Everybody is checked-in at noon, but his… His isn’t checked until 3, sometimes 5. They’re saying that it’s a computer error, but why only him.”
“Did you look on purpose or did you cover up the search?”
“That’s the thing… Isaac came up to me and asked me if I found anything, the minute I discovered it. It’s like he was watching me. Watching my computer.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him I was trying to check his visitor log to see if anything stuck out at me. Any names that might lead us to who he may have entrusted to do his dirty work,” he explained, looking around. “I’m pretty sure he bought it because he asked for the list so he can give a second look. Maybe we’re missing something.”
“Right,” Jesse smirked, biting into his burger.
“I think he has a hand in all of this. I don’t know how and I don’t why, but my gut is telling me that he’s involved… In all my years with the bureau, and working alongside him, I never thought this would happen.”
Jesse stared at him for a couple of minutes, before deciding to speak. “So now that you know, are you willing to help me?”
“Help you how? They’re watching our every move, listening to every conversation… How you found out without them knowing is still a mystery to me,” Paul scoffed, dropping his head.
“Like I said, I know people. In my 20years of being on the run, you learn who you can and cannot trust and you learn to take information given as a Christmas gift,” he explained. “And help me find him and do something I should have done years ago… Remember I said Papel has a hit out on me or my entire family?”
“What?” Paul yelped. “Man, c’mon with that. I thought that was a joke, you know shake up the rookies.”
“No, seriously!” Jesse hissed, before deciding they needed to take a walk so they won’t chance being heard. After paying the bill and getting their drinks to go, he and Paul cut down a street and went toward the park and by the lake nearby. Because of the kids playing and dogs barking at the snow, Jesse knew nobody would be able to hear anything between the two. “The contract is real. He told me. And he assured me that under no certain terms, he was going to get his way. Now for a long time I thought that he was full of shit, but after doing some digging and finding the one last person who worked the case with me, I found out it was true.”
“So why not act on it already? Why sit and wait?”
“For years I waited and waited and waited for something to happen, but nothing ever popped off and then I stopped. But now I know he wanted me to sweat, then not worry and then sweat some more. He’s torturing me again. We spent a full year together, he’s threatened everything in my world, and he knows what makes me tick.”
“This person… The last person that worked the case of Les Baxter with you, what they say? How come they haven’t been touched?”
Jesse dropped his head. “Because she was a victim… And she went into hiding, because she helped without actually trying to help, aid in us shutting everything down.”
“She? Who?” Paul whispered, now intrigued.
Looking around once more and taking a deep breath, Jesse uttered the one name he never ever thought would become an important part of his and Angie’s lives yet again. “Yvonne Caldwell.”