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A case of unintended consquences

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Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

 

It had been a long day and Don Flack was looking forward to getting home, putting his feet up and chowing down on something tasty before going to bed. He stopped in his tracks and groaned inwardly as he remembered the sparse state of his fridge. He’d meant to pick up groceries the previous day but had forgotten to until he’d already been home. There’d been enough to pull together a makeshift meal that night, but Don fancied something a bit more substantial now.

Glancing at his watch, he quickened his pace, hoping that he’d be able to make it to Wu’s deli before it closed. To his relief, as he rounded the corner, he saw that the lights were still on.

 

“Perfect!” Don told himself as he went in.

“Evening, Mr. Wu,” called Don to the owner who was busy at the register.

“Good evening, Detective Flack,” smiled the old man back at him. “It is good to see you.”

Don grabbed a basket from the stack and started making his way through the shop.

“Oh, Detective Flack,” called Wu, “We have had a delivery only this week of those rice crackers that you like. With some new flavors as well. They are at the back of the store.”

Don waved a hand in acknowledgement as he changed direction. Those snacks might not be the healthiest option, being deep fried and all, but he was having a jones for something spicy, and the crackers sounded like they’d hit the spot. Besides, he told himself, it wasn’t like anybody was looking over his shoulder, counting his calorie intake, right?

 

As if on cue, Don’s phone rang. Basket in one hand, he pulled out the phone with the other, “Flack,” he said.

“Don, it’s Mac. I see you dropped in the background info on the Tyler suspects.”

“Yeah,” Don stopped at the shelving unit which contained the crackers. “Adam said you were in the middle of a ballistics test. Didn’t want to interrupt. You get any results?”

“Yes, unfortunately it was a negative result. No match to any of the guns recovered at the scene, but looking at the background you supplied, it seems that Albert Tyler owns a few more guns than we found. I think we need to pay him another visit.”

“I’m just on the way home,” said Don, “But I can be back at the lab in half an hour. We can go rattle Tyler’s cage together.”

“Your shift is over,” said Mac, firmly. “This can wait until morning. Go home and have a proper meal for once.”

“Sure thing, ‘mom’,” said Don, grinning. “Says the guy who probably skipped dinner in favor of test firing guns!”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” said Mac, ending the call.

Don put his phone back in his pocket and returned to browsing through the shelves, adding items to his basket as he went. He heard the bell above the door to the deli ring a few times, but it wasn’t until he heard the scream that he realized something was wrong.

 

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Mr. Wu was busy writing up a list of stock that needed to be ordered when a teenage girl walked in. Glancing at her, he saw that she wasn’t one of his regular customers, but he smiled in greeting to her anyway and went back to his list. A few minutes later, he heard the door open again, but when he looked up, the smile faded from his face as he saw a hooded youth with a knife in one hand.

Before Wu could say anything, the youth grabbed the girl, holding the knife to her throat. She screamed, which only served to make the youth hold her tighter. “Open the register!” he yelled, “Now, or I’ll cut her throat!”

“Please, do not hurt her,” said Wu. “I…I will give you what you want…” He fumbled with the drawer to the register. Out of the corner of his eye, Wu could see a movement in the aisles, and he felt a surge of relief as he remembered that Detective Flack was still on the premises. “Please…this is old register…does not work so well.” Wu pitched his voice as loud as he dared, so that the robber would not notice Flack’s approach. He dropped his gaze to the register, opening it with a loud ‘ping’…and when he looked up again, Flack had his gun to the robber’s head and was ordering him to drop the knife.

Wu breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the knife fall to the floor and the youth release his hold on his hostage. But his relief was short lived.

Flack had started searching the youth, “Wu, call 911, tell them I need couple of uniforms over here…” Wu caught a movement out of the corner of his eye, but before he could shout a warning, the girl had picked up the knife…and stabbed the Detective in the shoulder.

 

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NYPD officer Maloney raised the Crime Scene tape for Mac and Hawkes to enter the scene.

“Thank you,” said Mac, “What have we got?”

“Kid tried to rob Wu’s deli,” replied Maloney. “Off duty Detective stepped in, got himself stabbed for his troubles.”

“How is he?” asked Mac as he took in the scene.

“Medics are bringing him out now. Looks like he’s gonna make it.”

Mac followed his gaze to the doorway of the deli where a figure was being moved on a gurney. His eyes widened as he recognized the patient behind the oxygen mask. “Don?” Mac was by his side in a second, with Hawkes close behind. “Don, can you hear me? What happened?”

“What’s his condition?” Hawkes asked the medics.

“Single stab wound, upper right shoulder from the rear. We’ve managed to control the bleeding for now, but we need to get him to the ER.”

“You’re bringing him to Trinity?” asked Hawkes.

“Yeah,” replied the medic.

Mac glanced away from Don, “I want to be kept informed of his condition.” He was about to continue, when he felt a hand brush his, and he looked down to see that Don’s eyes had flickered open. Mac hadn’t seen Don so pale since the bomb blast the previous year, and now he leaned in close to the younger man, taking Don’s hand and squeezing it.
“You’re going to be okay, Don,” he said reassuringly.

“Mac…” Don’s voice was weak. “Gun…they took…took my gun…”

“We’ll get it back Don. We’ll catch them and get it back. You just take it easy, I’m on the case now.”

Don nodded slowly, his eyes closing.

“Sir,” said the medic. “We need to transport him now.”

Mac nodded and stepped back to allow them to move the gurney. He watched until Don was loaded into the ambulance, and then turned his attention back to the scene. “Let’s do it,” he said.

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Detective Maka was waiting inside the deli. “Detective Taylor,” she said, nodding in greeting.

“Detective Maka,” acknowledged Mac. “What happened here?”

Maka glanced at her notes as she replied, “According to the owner, Mr. Wu, a girl came in just before closing time. Guy comes in a minute or so later, next thing Wu knows, guy grabs the girl, sticks a knife at her throat and tells Wu to empty the register. Wu is doing just that when he sees Flack approaching the perp. Flack comes up behind the guy, puts his gun to the kid’s head and gets him to let go of the girl and drop the knife. Only as soon as Flack starts frisking him, bam, the girl gets hold of the knife and stabs him with it.”

“She was in on it?” asked Hawkes in surprise.

“Looks like it,” continued Maka. “Wu said Flack was down back when the perps came in. My guess, the girl comes in first, didn’t see him, and figured it was safe to take the place. It’s a good ruse. Grab a hostage; people will fall over themselves to help. And if your hostage is also your accomplice, makes it all the easier.”

“Unless there’s somebody like Flack to step in,” said Hawkes.

“Yeah,” said Maka. “Wrong place at the wrong time.”

“There is no right time to get stabbed just for doing your job,” said Mac. He was silent for a few seconds as his mind processed the information he’d been given. “Did Mr. Wu give you a description?”

“He did better than that,” Maka nodded towards the ceiling. “He’s got a security camera set up. He’s getting me the tape for tonight.”

“Pardon me, Detective Maka.” Mr. Wu approached the group, videotape in his hand.

“Good evening, Mr. Wu,” said Mac. “I’m Detective Mac Taylor with the NYPD Crime lab. This is Doctor Hawkes. We need to take a look around your premises.”

“Of course,” said Wu. “Anything that will help you find those responsible for hurting Detective Flack.”

Mac was surprised, “You know Flack?”

“Oh yes, he is regular customer here. It was he who told me I should have a security camera. Is always telling me I should be more careful especially late at night.” Mr. Wu sighed heavily, “Perhaps I should have listened to him, but this used to be such a good neighborhood. Nobody would dream of stealing from neighbor…but now…my cousin was robbed a few nights ago…and now Detective Flack…that poor boy, is he going to be all right?”

“He’s in good hands,” said Mac.

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To be continued

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.
Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles.

Chapter 2 – Revisited pain

 

Stella hurried along the corridor to the ER admissions desk and flashed her badge at the receptionist. “Detective Bonasera, NYPD Crime Lab. You have a Detective Flack here?”

“Let me just check the system,” said the Receptionist.

Stella tapped the counter impatiently. She couldn’t believe that Don was back at Trinity Hospital. After the weeks he’d been a patient here the previous year, all the hours that Stella and her colleagues had spent by his side, it just wasn’t fair that he was back here again. Mac had phoned her at home, filling her in on the details and ordering her to Trinity to get whatever information she could from Flack and his doctors, but Stella would have gone anyway as soon as she’d heard.

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Mac carefully dusted the door of the deli for prints. He knew it was likely to be a wasted effort. With so many customers coming and going during the day, even if he *could* get any clean prints, there was no guarantee that they would be from the robbers. But it was procedure, so Mac continued. He’d already processed the deli countertop where the perp had touched it while being searched by Flack but had found mostly smeared prints and only a few partials worth checking. Mac glanced over again at the bloodied patch of floor where Flack had fallen. Hawkes had already taken the necessary photographs and samples and once the scene had been fully processed and cleared, the blood would be washed away, and it would be as if nothing had ever happened. Mac said a silent vow that he would not rest until he’d found Flack’s attackers. With an effort, he pulled his gaze away from the blood and focused on his work.

Mac heard Hawkes approach him and he asked without looking up, “Find anything outside?”

“A pile of cigarette butts on the curb. Could be our perps were waiting outside and smoking. Or maybe a driver just pulled up and emptied their ashtray.”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Hawkes held up an evidence bag holding what looked like a clump of hair. “I fished this out of a dumpster just down the block. Mr. Wu said the girl was a blonde, right?”

Mac looked at the wig, “Maybe she’s not anymore.”

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“Detective Flack sustained a deep laceration to his right shoulder,” Doctor Adams told Stella as he walked with her through the E.R. “We’ve managed to control the bleeding, and I’m waiting on his x-rays to see if there’s any damage to his scapula.”

“Is he going to be all right?”

“He bled quite heavily before reaching us. There is a possibility of nerve and muscle damage, but I wouldn’t consider his injury to be life threatening. He’s been extremely fortunate. A few inches to the left and the blade could easily have hit his spine.”

“Thank God,” breathed Stella silently. Out loud she asked, “I’ll need to speak to him.”

“Of course,” said Adams.

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Stella took a deep breath to settle herself before she pulled back the curtain around Don’s bed. “Hey there, Flack,” she said gently. “How’re you doing?”

Don was propped up on the bed, his right arm immobilized by a sling and his face almost as pale as the hospital gown he was wearing. He smiled wanly at Stella’s greeting. “Been better,” he said tiredly. “Doc says they’ll be keeping me a day or so for observation or something.” He shifted on the bed, sucking in his breath as his shoulder protested. “Mac got any leads yet?”

Stella shook her head, “They’re still processing the scene. There’s not a lot to go on. You feel up to telling me your side of things?”

“Not much to tell…” It didn’t take long for Don to fill in Stella on what had gone down.

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The robber was so fixated on Wu and the register that he didn’t react until Don’s gun pressed into the back of his head.

“NYPD. Drop the knife and let the girl go,” ordered Don. “NOW!” At the back of his mind, he was seriously hoping this dirt bag would obey. Don really didn’t want to have to fire his weapon. Apart from all the associated paperwork, he couldn’t be sure whether the bullet would lodge safely in the guy’s brain or continue through and maybe hit the hostage or Wu in the process.

The robber hesitated…and then the knife clattered to the floor and the girl ran sobbing to one side.

“Okay, now kick the knife away.” The robber obeyed. Don pushed the guy towards the counter and kept him covered as he quickly checked for weapons.
“Wu, call 911, tell them I need couple of uniforms over here. Tell them…” But Don’s words were cut off as he felt an agonizing pain in his right shoulder. He slumped forward against the robber, who reacted quickly, elbowing him in the face and knocking him to the ground.

Don found himself flat on his back on the ground, barely able to move as he looked up at the former hostage…the girl who was standing over him with a bloodied knife in her hand. He tried to aim his gun at her, but pain lanced through his shoulder, and he could barely lift his hand a few inches off the ground.

He could hear Wu in the background, yelling angrily in Chinese.

Don’s focus was on the girl as she turned to her partner in crime and ordered him, “Get his gun.”

“What? No way, we have to get out of here!” The kid tried to pull the girl away, but she shrugged him off and strode towards Don.

He tried to move away, but it felt like he was pinned to the ground, and all he could do was watch as she bent down and wrenched the gun from his nerveless hand. Don tried to sit up but could only manage to raise his head a few inches and watch as the pair ran out of the shop. He flopped back against the floor, gasping as a fresh wave of pain shot through his shoulder.

“It will be okay,” said Mr. Wu, suddenly appearing in Don’s line of vision. “Help is on the way,” he said, crouching down beside him. “You will be all right, Detective.” He started speaking softly in Chinese and it almost sounded like a prayer.

Don nodded weakly. His eyes closed and he let the darkness take him.

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“Dammit Stell, I messed up good. I shoulda…shoulda known from the outset there was something not right with those two.”

“You did everything by the book,” said Stella firmly. “You see somebody with a knife at their throat, you’re going to think victim, not suspect. Any one of us would have thought the same thing.”

“Yeah…maybe…whatever…but they got my gun…I couldn’t even hang on to that.” Don punched the mattress in frustration.

“You were on the ground, bleeding, Don. It wasn’t your fault. Anyway, Mac’s on the case, you know he won’t rest until he finds those perps,” said Stella confidently. “None of us will.”
From the look on Don’s face, Stella could tell that he wasn’t completely convinced, but before she could say anything else, Doctor Adams hurried in, carrying a set of x-rays.

“Excuse me, Detective Bonasera, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to finish your interview.”

“I’m almost done anyway,” said Stella, “What’s going on.”

In response, Adams held up a shoulder x-ray to the light. Stella frowned as she looked at it. “That white spot…is that what I think it is?”

Adams nodded, “It looks like the tip of a blade.” He turned to Don. “Detective Flack, there’s a piece of metal lodged in your shoulder. We need to remove it as soon as possible. I’ve paged surgery, and we’ll be taking you upstairs as soon as a theatre becomes available.”

“You guys want to cut me open again?” asked Don, his face paling even further.

“Well yes,” replied Adams. “If the metal migrates, it could easily end up lodged against your spine, resulting in paralysis or even death.”

“What are the odds of that happening?” asked Don. “I mean, it looks pretty fixed to me…why…why can’t you just leave me alone? I don’t want no more surgeons poking around in my insides! I’m not giving you permission…just give me my clothes back and I’m getting out of here, right now!” He pushed back the blanket with his good hand and started to sit up, but a wave of dizziness swept over him, and Stella was easily able to push him back down.

“Doctor Adams, could you give us a minute, please.”

“All right, but I must strongly insist that you reconsider, Detective Flack. There’s no guarantee that the piece of metal will stay where it is. No guarantee at all.”

Stella waited until he had left before turning her attention back to the Detective. “Don…” she started to say, but Don interrupted her.

“I know what you’re gonna say, Stella,” he said, his breath ragged. “And I’m sorry, but I got enough bits of evidence fished out of me for one lifetime. I just…I just can’t let them go slicin and dicin on me again…I just can’t…” He bit his lip and looked away from her.

“Don,” said Stella, gently. “Right now, collecting evidence is the least of my concern. You heard what Doctor Adams said. You could end up paralyzed if that bit of metal moves too far. I know you don’t want to have more surgery, and after all that’s happened, I can’t blame you. But please Don, this is your life we’re talking about. If you don’t get it removed now, you could die.” She took Don’s hand in both of hers and squeezed it. “We nearly lost you last year…Mac and I sat outside your room for hours, not knowing if you were going to live or die. I don’t want to have to spend the next few weeks or months wondering the same thing.”

Don sighed heavily. “I just hate all this…hospitals and doctors and the way people look at you differently when something like this happens. The way they look at you, like you’re just a piece of evidence or something.”

“Yeah Don, I know exactly what it’s like.”

Don glanced at Stella, “Ah dammit, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s okay, like I said, I know what it’s like to have people treating you differently after you’ve been the victim of a crime.”

“I never treated you no different Stella,” interrupted Don. “No way.”

“I know, and you have no idea of how much that meant to me when I got back to work. But Don, you can’t let that affect this decision. This is about you, nobody else. Now no one is going to force you in to having this surgery, that I promise you. Not me, not your doctor, not Mac. It’s going to be your decision all the way. Just promise me you’ll at least think about it, okay?”

Don shook his head, “No.” he said, tiredly.

“Don…”

But Don put his hand up to stop her, “I mean…no, I don’t need to think about it…call…call the Doc back in…tell him he can do what he has to do.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” said Stella as she gave him a quick hug, being careful not to jostle his shoulder too much.

 

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To be continued

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles. Mac and Hawkes processed the scene while Stella checked up on Don in hospital.

Chapter 3 – Fragments of information

 

Mac sat in the lab watching and re-watching a copy of the security footage from Wu’s shop. He and Hawkes had gone over the entire scene with a fine-tooth comb, but apart from the wig, this tape and the tip of the knife taken from Flack’s shoulder were their only solid clues.

Stella was working on the knife, Hawkes had taken the wig, and Mac was left with the tape. He frowned as he watched the girl pick up the knife and approach Flack.

“Oh man!”

Mac turned around to see Danny and Lindsey standing behind him. Danny had his arms wrapped tightly around his body and he was biting his lip as he watched the images on the screen. Mac quickly stopped the playback. “I don’t like watching it happen any more than you do, Danny, but it has to be done. If there’s any clue to the identity of Flack’s assailants on this video, then I need to find it.”

“Have you found anything?” asked Lindsay.

“Not a lot,” admitted Mac. “Unfortunately, we haven’t got a clear look at either of their faces. The first robber’s face was obscured by his hood and the second by her hair. The girl does look to be about average height with long blonde hair. It ties in the descriptions both Flack and Mr. Wu gave us. Unfortunately, we found a blonde wig outside the premises.”

“You think it’s hers?” asked Lindsay.

“It was too clean to have been in the dumpster for long, and it didn’t look cheap, so I can’t see why anybody would have just thrown it away,” replied Mac.

“Unless they were afraid it’d connect them to the crime,” said Danny. “What do you want us to do, Mac?”

“For the moment, nothing,” said Mac. “Stella, Hawkes and I will handle this. If I need more hands, I’ll call on you, but for now we’re not exactly overwhelmed with evidence.”

“You’re kidding,” said Danny, a note of anger in his voice. “C’mon Mac, this is Flack we’re talking about. I gotta be part of this. You have let me do something to catch these bastards.”

“I don’t ‘have’ to do anything,” said Mac, calmly. “You have an evidentiary hearing in a few hours and a grand jury to testify for in the afternoon. I need your full focus on those cases.” He turned back to the video, a sign that the conversation was over as far as he was concerned.

Danny watched him for a few seconds before storming out. Lindsay glanced quickly at Mac before hurrying after Danny. She finally caught up with him at the elevators where he was punching angrily at the buttons.

“Who the hell does he think he is,” muttered Danny angrily. “Flack’s my buddy, dammit. I should be there finding those bastards who put him in the hospital. Not sitting on my ass in a courtroom.” He thumped the call button again.

“He’s our boss, that’s who he is,” said Lindsay. “I know you want to help Flack, I do as well. But Mac’s priority is the lab, not any single case. If he needs our help, he’s not too proud to ask. Right now, the best thing we can do to help is to work on our own cases and leave Mac free to work this one.”

“It still sucks,” muttered Danny.

“I know.”

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Stella fixed the chunk of metal into a clamp and securely tightened the grips.

She’d stayed with Don at the hospital until the nurses had taken him to be prepped for surgery. Officially she was still taking his statement and processing him. Unofficially, Stella wasn’t about to leave Don alone. She didn’t really think that he’d change his mind about the surgery again, but she wasn’t about to take the chance. Squeezing his hand as he’d been wheeled away, she promised that she’d be there when he woke up. Don had shaken his head at that, “You’ll be back at the lab figuring out how a chunk of metal is gonna tell you who stabbed me. I…I’ll be fine Stella…you go work your magic…”

He’d been right, Stella thought grimly to herself as she carefully shaved off tiny slivers of metal, catching them on a sample slide. As soon as the surgeon had handed her the tip of the knife and assured her that Flack was safe in Recovery, she’d headed back to the lab. A part of her wanted to be there when Don woke up, not wanting him to be alone, but the Scientist part of her had overruled the Friend, and she had taken Don’s clothing and the knife fragment and gone back to work.

“Let’s see what you have to say for yourself,” said Stella as she fed the sample into the mass spectrometer.

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“I hope you’ve had better luck than I did,” said Mac, as Stella walked into his office several hours later.

“Maybe,” said Stella. “I don’t think we’re looking for any common or garden pocketknife. The metal is an alloy not used in modern manufacturing. I think we’re looking for an old weapon.”

“Who uses an antique knife to hold up a convenience store?” asked Mac.

“Maybe the same person who wears an expensive wig,” said Hawkes, as he joined them. “I thought the wig looked good quality, and I was right. It’s not a mass manufactured product, this was a specialty item, a custom fit job. Probably cost a couple of thousand. Now the makers label had been removed, but there was a tag with a reference number on it. Once we find out who made it, we should be able to find out who bought it.”

 

“Which won’t necessarily tell us who was wearing it,” said Mac. “But it should get us a step closer.”

“I also recovered some hairs from inside the wig,” said Hawkes, “From observation alone it looks like they’re from at least two different sources. Maybe more. Adam’s running DNA on them. He’s also running DNA on the cigarette butts I found, just in case they’re connected.”

Mac rubbed his hand over his face, “Was there anything else in the dumpster where you found the wig?” he asked Hawkes.

“Apart from the usual bags of trash? Nothing relevant,” said Hawkes.

“Why would you throw away your disguise but not the weapon?” asked Stella.

“They could have dropped the knife down a drain,” said Mac. “But the wig wouldn’t easily fit through a grating.”

“Neither would Don’s gun,” said Stella. “You’re sure it wasn’t in the dumpster with the wig?”

“Positive,” said Hawkes. “I emptied it completely. If it had been there, I’d have found it.” He turned back to Mac, “So where do we go from here?”

“Stella, see if you can pull a clear picture of the knife from the video. If it is an antique, maybe a dealer will recognize it. Hawkes, follow up on the wig.”

“You got it,” said Hawkes, he started to leave, then turned back, “Any word on how Flack’s doing?”

“I contacted the hospital,” said Mac, “They said he’s ‘resting comfortably’ and doing as well as can be expected, whatever that means.”

“Translation, he probably feels like crap, but he’s going to be okay,” said Hawkes, cheerfully.

Mac smiled wryly as he watched the pair leave.

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Several miles away, Don Flack was indeed feeling like crap.

Physically, he knew he wasn’t doing too badly. His surgeon had shown up earlier and had seemed reasonably optimistic about Don’s prospects for making a full recovery. He’d also prescribed enough drugs to reduce the pain of the injury to a level that didn’t mean Don was catching his breath every time he changed position in his hospital bed. Don knew from experience that he could have been feeling a hell of a lot worse.

No, it wasn’t the physical effects that were making Don feel so bad. He kept replaying the incident in his mind knowing that there had to have been something he could have done, should have done to change the outcome. He should have kept track of the knife when the robber had dropped it…he should have kept a better eye on the so-called hostage…and most importantly, he should have kept hold of his gun.

The sickening feeling in the pit of Don’s stomach didn’t stem so much from any physical damage. It came from the knowledge that he’d let them take his gun. Somewhere out there were a couple of kids armed with a fully loaded gun because he hadn’t been able to hang on to it. If they hurt somebody with it, that was going to be on him. And he was flat on his back in a hospital bed instead of out there trying to track them down. Oh, he’d given Stella a cursory description of the pair, what little he’d seen of their faces through a blur of pain, and maybe once they were caught, if they were caught, maybe he’d be able to pick them from a line up. But until then, all he could do was sit and wait and try not to think about the damage they could do with a gun, and the damage they’d already done to him.

 

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“So how may I help you, Detective Taylor?” asked Carol Stewart as she took a seat in her reception room.

Hawkes had finally tracked down the maker of the wig that he had found. The firm in question had kept detailed records of all the customers and had been able to supply them with the name and address of one Mrs. Carol Stewart who had had it custom made a dozen years earlier.

Stella hadn’t been optimistic about their visit, “An address like this, she’ll probably set the lawyers on us as soon as we mention why we’re here,” she said to Mac as they waited in the reception room for Mrs. Stewart.

Mac for his part felt that given Mrs. Stewart’s age from her driving license records that she was unlikely to have been the ‘young woman’ from Mr. Wu’s description. Although as Maka had pointed out when passing the information along, “Wu would probably describe anybody under fifty as ‘young’. I’ll bet he even carded Flack the first time he sold him a six pack!”

Maka may have been right about that, thought Mac. However, he could tell from the family photo on the wall of Mrs. Stewart and her teenage daughters that she was likely both too short and too wide to have been the girl on the video stabbing Don. Her daughters on the other hand.
Mrs. Stewart’s arrival interrupted his train of thought.

Mac took a set of photos out of an envelope and handed them to Mrs. Stewart, “Do you recognize this, Mrs. Stewart?”

Mrs. Stewart took a look at the photos and laughed, “Goodness me, that looks like Julia!”

Mac and Stella exchanged glances, “Julia?” asked Stella.

“Why yes,” replied Mrs. Stewart. “You see, several years ago, I was undergoing treatment for cancer and well, one of the unfortunate side effects was that I was going to lose my hair. So, I had a wig professionally made and wore it everywhere, and it just gave me a confidence boost when I needed it. It almost made me feel like things were still normal. You’ll probably think it silly of me, but I called it Julia and well, she was almost like a real person to me.” She handed the photos back to Mac. “Do you mind telling me why you have a photo of her?”

“We believe that this wig may have been used during the commission of a robbery,” said Mac. “Ma’am, do you mind telling me where you were the night before last?”

“Do you think that I dug out Julia and took a walk on the wild side for old times’ sake?” Mrs. Stewart smiled at Mac. “No, I don’t mind. I was attending a charity function at the Plaza. I believe the Police Commissioner was there too, if you need to confirm my attendance.” Her smile was warm but there was a warning edge to her voice.

“I’m sure he’ll remember you,” said Stella. “But it’s Julia that we’re really interested in. Do you know what you did with…her, after your treatment was finished?”

“Why I gave her to…” Mrs. Stewart hesitated only momentarily before continuing, “You know, I really don’t know. I think that after I’d been given the all clear, I probably wanted a clean sweep. I know that I gave a lot of my clothing from that time to charity, Julia must have ended up in one of the boxes.”

“Of course,” said Stella. “I don’t suppose you remember what organizations you donated to?”

“I’m afraid not. I’m sorry that I can’t be more help,” said Mrs. Stewart, standing to show that as far as she was concerned, the interview was over.

Mac and Stella exchanged glances but stood as well. “Thank you for your time.”

There was the sound of footsteps and an adolescent girl with short blonde hair, hurried into the room, “Mom, I need to borrow…” Her voice trailed off as she saw who was in the room. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll come back later.”

“It’s okay, we’re just leaving,” said Mac. “And you are?”

“This is my elder daughter Alicia,” said Mrs. Stewart. “Who should be studying right now.”

“And where would she have been the night before last,” asked Stella, with deliberate casualness.

“Well really, Detective Bonasera,” snapped Mrs. Stewart. “I hardly think that’s appropriate.”

“It’s okay, Mom,” said Alicia. “I’ve nothing to hide. I was having a study session at Nathan’s. We have a history test coming up and we wanted to be prepared.”

“We’d like his full name and address, please,” said Mac. To Mrs. Stewart he said, “Ma’am, I do understand your annoyance, but we are investigating a serious crime and if this Nathan can confirm Alicia’s whereabouts, then that’s one more person that I can eliminate from our enquiries.”

Mac didn’t know if he’d succeeded in allaying Mrs. Stewart’s annoyance, but she hadn’t prevented Alicia from giving them Nathan’s details.

“That could have gone better,” said Stella as they walked back to their car.

“Maybe,” said Mac. “But do you think that Alicia would be described as a ‘young woman’?”

“Oh yeah.”

------------------------------

An hour later, Stella and Mac were again sitting in a reception room. This time at Nathan White’s house where he was however not alone.

Robert White had introduced himself to Mac and Stella when they came in. “I’m Nathan’s uncle and his de facto guardian while his parents are in Europe. I’m also the family legal representative.”

“Does Nathan have reason to believe he’ll need a lawyer?” asked Mac as he and Stella took their seats.

“I always find that it’s best to have at the very least an impartial observer when dealing with the police,” replied Robert smoothly. “May I ask why you wish to speak to my nephew?”

“We’re investigating a robbery and are following up on a statement made by an Alicia Stewart,” said Mac, keeping a close eye on Nathan. “She gave your name and we simply wanted you to corroborate what she told us about her whereabouts.”

“The head of the New York Crime Lab is checking out alibis. That seems like an inefficient use of resources,” said Robert. He saw the look of surprise on Mac’s face. “I do my research before all meetings, Detective Taylor.”

“I happened to be in the neighborhood,” said Mac, evenly. “All I need is for Nathan to confirm where he was the night before last.”

Nathan glanced at his uncle, who nodded in confirmation, “Go ahead Nathan.”

“I was here, having a study session,” said Nathan, “We have a history test coming up and we wanted to be prepared. I was here all night.”

“Was Alicia Stewart here?” asked Mac.

“Yes, she was here.” Nathan glanced at his uncle.

“Was there anybody else here?” asked Stella, with deceptive innocence, “Or was it just the two of you…’studying’.”

“I..um…no, there’s a few of us in the study group.”

“If you can give us their names and contact details, we’d appreciate it,” said Mac.

“Of course,” said Robert. “I’ll have the details sent to your office directly.”

“We don’t mind waiting,” said Mac. “It’ll be more efficient.”

A flash of annoyance crossed Robert’s face, before his features were schooled into a neutral expression. “Nathan,” he said, “Make a list of your friends so that Detectives Taylor and Bonasera can go and waste their time somewhere else.”

Stella had a look around the room while Nathan was writing out the list. A display case on a table in the corner caught her eye and she discreetly moved over to it. “That’s a lovely collection you have here. Do you mind if I take a closer look?” She smiled disingenuously “I’ve recently developed an interest in antique knives.”

“What?” said Robert, still watching Nathan write. He glanced over to where Stella was standing. “Oh that? Of course, just please don’t break anything.”

Stella lifted the lid and almost caught her breath when she saw the contents. “I’m afraid that somebody already did.” She turned the display case towards the others. Six knives were inside, each with an elaborate antique hilt. Six knives, one with a piece missing from the blade.

To be continued

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles. A wig found near the scene led them to its original owner, a Carol Stewart, and checking her daughter Alicia’s alibi led them to the home of a Nathan White whom Mac and Stella spoke to under the watchful eye of his uncle Robert. While there, Stella discovered an antique knife in a display case, which was missing a piece of its blade. A piece which appeared to match the one removed from Don after the stabbing.

-------------------

“I still think we should have brought Nathan in for questioning,” said Stella.

She and Mac had taken the display case and its contents back to the lab for processing. Robert White had tried to object, citing their lack of any search warrant. Mac had shut him down immediately, “The display case was on full view in a room that we had been invited into. Detective Bonasera asked for and was granted permission to open it by the owner’s legal representative. From a purely visual inspection, we have reasonable cause to believe that one of the knives may have been used as a weapon in an armed robbery. We don’t need a warrant to collect it as evidence.”

“An *armed* robbery?” said Robert.

“Yes,” said Mac, “And an off-duty NYPD detective was left in a critical condition when he tried to intervene. There could easily have been a felony murder charge on the books.” The quick glance from Robert to his nephew didn’t escape Mac’s attention. Neither did the sudden look of shock on Nathan’s face.

 

“We don’t have enough to charge him with,” said Mac as he watched Stella photograph every angle of the display case. “Until you finish processing this, we can’t even be sure that this is the actual weapon.”

Stella gave him a look and Mac put up his hands in capitulation, “In any event, Nathan White is not only lawyered up, he’s also a minor. The knife only gives him means. He’s given us an alibi and as his uncle was so keen to point out, there’s a lot of people coming and going in that household what with the staff, and the members of the study group. At this point we don’t even have enough to compel a DNA sample.”

“And there’s another thing,” said Stella, reluctantly. “You saw him writing the list of names. He’s left-handed, and neither of the perps on the video looked as if they were.”

“Finish processing the box and the knife and let me know as soon as you have anything,” said Mac.

“Will do,” said Stella, her mind already focused on the next step.

 

-----------------------------

A few hours later.

“Detective Taylor!”

Mac turned around as he heard his name being called. “Detective Maka. I hope you have some good news for me.”

“I have news, but I’m not sure how good you’ll think it is.”

Stella joined them in Mac’s office, having seen Maka through the window of her lab.

“I spoke to Mr. Wu again,” said Maka. “Actually, he contacted me and wanted to talk. Apparently, he spoke to his cousin, you know the one he said had been robbed. And get this, it was the exact same M.O. Robber with a knife, blonde girl as a hostage.”

Mac and Stella exchanged glances as Maka continued, “So then Wu gives me a list of friends of his, all of them small shop owners like him who’d been robbed recently and when I checked them out, in five cases in the last three months, the exact same thing happened. A robber held a blonde girl at knifepoint and forced the guy behind the counter to open the register.”

“How the hell did nobody connect them?” asked Stella.

Maka shrugged, “Most of them weren’t reported. By all accounts, the robbers only took a few hundred dollars from the register before letting their ‘hostage’ go and running out and then the supposed victim disappears from the scene before anybody can get her name. For such a small amount and when there weren’t any other witnesses, these guys just figured that it wasn’t worth while bothering the police.”

“Were they able to give you any descriptions?” asked Mac.

“Plenty,” replied Maka, “Unfortunately they’re all over the place. The only consistent point is that the hostage was a young blonde woman.”

“Or a young woman wearing a blonde wig,” said Mac, thoughtfully. “Multiple samples of hair inside the wig, multiple DNA donors on the cigarettes. What about the knife?”

 

“Scrubbed clean,” said Stella, “And I mean scrubbed. I found traces of bleach on the blade and detergent on the hilt. The good news is that it’s definitely the weapon used on Flack. The piece that was retrieved from Flack’s shoulder is a perfect visual match for the missing portion on the blade we took from Nathan’s house. I ran a sample from them both through the mass spec to confirm and they’re identical. We have the weapon.”

“We just can’t prove who handled it.” Mac was thoughtful for a few seconds before he spoke again. “Test all the other knives,” he told Stella. “If you find anything, have Adam run it against the DNA found on the cigarettes and the hair from the wig.”

 

“So, what are we looking at?” asked Maka. “Some sort of gang initiation? They usually come with a lot more bloodshed.”

“Six cigarettes,” said Mac, “Six knives in the display case.”

“And six people in Nathan White’s study group,” said Stella. “Mac, tell me we have enough to compel a DNA sample.”

“We may already have one,” said Mac. He picked up an evidence bag which contained a sheet of paper with a list of names on it. “See if Adam can get anything from this as well. If it’s a match to one of the cigarettes, it’ll put Nathan at the scene and prove he lied about it.”

“And if he’s lying about where he was that night,” said Stella, “Then Alicia Stewart was also lying.”

“Two down, four to go,” said Maka. “Do you want me to go through that list and check up on the other kids?”

Mac looked at the list and frowned as he considered the question, “No,” he said, finally. “Right now, they know that we’re looking at Alicia, because of the wig, and Nathan because of the knife. Two suspects, two perps. We start shaking the other members of the ‘study group’, they’re going to know that we think there’s more of them involved. Right now, hopefully they’ll think we only know about the one robbery. I’d like to keep it that way until we’re ready to bring them in.”

“I’ll get back to the knives,” said Stella, taking the evidence bag from Mac and initialing the chain of custody docket before leaving the office.

“I’ll see if I can run down some photos of the kids in the group,” said Mac to Maka. “If you show them to the other victims, maybe we can work out who did which robbery.”

“I can drop by the hospital with them as well,” said Maka, “See if Flack is able to make an ID.”

“No,” said Mac. “I’ll be heading over there myself. I can run them by him then.”

“Give him my best,” said Maka as she and Mac moved towards the door. “Poor guy, his timing sucks. Another five minutes and he’d probably have been on his way home before those kids hit the place.”

“Yeah, bad timing,” said Mac, a grim expression on his face.

 

----------------------------------

 

“How are you feeling now, Don?” Mac asked as he took a seat beside Don’s bed a few hours later.

Don shrugged and then grimaced slightly as his shoulder made its displeasure known, “I’ve been better…but I’ve been worse.”

“Well, you are looking better than the last time I saw you,” said Mac. It was only half true. While Don’s complexion was back to its usual color, there were dark shadows under his eyes and his smile seemed a little less bright than usual.

“The docs say I can probably go home in a day or so. All going well I could be back at work by next week.”

“That is good news.”

“Yeah,” said Don, “Course it’ll only be desk duty until I can lose this.” He gestured to the sling which was keeping his arm and shoulder immobilized. “Anyway, what brings you here today? You getting anywhere with tracking down those dirtbags who put me in here?”

“We’re making progress,” said Mac. He saw Don’s face light up and then watched as the expectant look faded with Don’s realization that Mac wasn’t going to elaborate further.

“Making progress?” said Don, “That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna say?”

“Don,” said Mac, gently, “You know that I can’t discuss the details of an active investigation…”

“With a victim,” interrupted Don, a note of bitterness in his voice. He let his head fall back against the bed.

“I was going to say, ‘witness’,” said Mac. “And probably a material one at that. The last thing I want, the last thing either of us wants is for a flashy defense attorney to kick up a fuss about feeding details to a witness and compromising their testimony. You and I both know there wouldn’t be any basis to the claim, but a jury might be convinced otherwise, and there is no way that I’m taking chances with this case, with *your* case.”

Don sighed, knowing that Mac was right, “Sorry Mac. I just…I just feel so useless. I should be out there, you know, doing something, anything to find them. Instead, I’m just stuck here.” He thumped the mattress in frustration.

“Well, there is something you can do from here.” Mac picked up the envelope that he’d brought with him and extracted a photo array booklet. “Do you feel up to looking at some pictures, see if you can make an ID?”

“You have somebody you like for this?”

“Maybe,” said Mac. “If you can make a positive ID on either of the perps, that will certainly strengthen the case. But if you can’t, then we’ll just let the evidence speak for itself.” He held the booklet out to Don.

“Okay,” said Don, a little hesitantly as he took the booklet. He put it on the bed in front of him and bit his lip as he looked at it. This should be easy, he told himself. After all, practically every time he’d closed his eyes since the incident, he’d seen that face staring down at him. And the way she’d looked at him, that expression was going to stay with him for a long time.

Wiping his hand on the blanket, Don reached out but couldn’t quite bring himself to open it.

“Don.”

Don looked up to see Mac watching him intently. “Take your time,” he said reassuringly. “And remember, don’t feel that you have to pick out somebody. It’s entirely possible that we haven’t got the right people yet.”

“Yeah,” said Don, “But if you have and I can’t make a positive ID, that’s not gonna help the case.”

“You let me worry about that,” said Mac. “In any event, you were flat on your back, bleeding heavily. It will be easily understandable if you weren’t in a position to focus properly.”

“If it gets as far as a line-up, maybe we should do it with me flat on the ground and them standing over me,” said Don, a wry smile on his face. He took a deep breath, “Okay, let’s get it over with.” He wiped his hand on the blanket and opened the booklet, and almost threw up in his mouth as he looked at the first picture. The long blonde hair was identical to that of his attacker, and it took Don a few seconds to realize that the face was different, the nose was just that bit too rounded. He moved on to the next picture which again had the same hairstyle and a frown appeared on his face as he realized that the same was true for every picture on the page. “Mac?” he asked in surprise.

“Just look through the photos,” said Mac. He’d located the online yearbook for the school attended by all six members of the study group and had had Adam photoshop the wig onto not only the six students in question, but to a random selection of students also in their year, hoping that it would help not only Don, but also the shopkeepers who’d fallen victim to the gang.

Mac watched as Don worked his way through the pages, taking his time, occasionally flipping back to an earlier page to look at it again or turning down a corner of a page before he moved on. Finally, with an air of exhaustion, Don reached the end of the booklet and closed it, leaning back against his pillows, eyes closed. Mac let him stay like that for a short time before speaking, “Don? Did you recognize anybody from the array?”

Don opened his eyes and looked at Mac, “Not the guy. There’s a few there that looked like they could have been him, but honestly, I mostly just saw the back of his head and when I was on the ground, he was further back. I just can’t say for sure.”

“That’s okay,” said Mac, reassuringly. “What about the girl?”

“Not much better,” admitted Don, “There’s two of them, I don’t know, I mean they look like they could be her. I just…I just can’t be sure, you know. It’s just the expression on her face…after she’d…after she’d stabbed me…” Don swallowed hard before continuing, “Mac, she looked like she’d enjoyed it.” He glanced away. “I’m sorry, I wish I could be more help.”

“You’re doing fine, Don,” said Mac. He made a note of the photos that Don had tentatively selected and then put the array back in its envelope.

“So, what next?” asked Don. He caught the look on Mac’s face, “I know I know; you can’t comment on the investigation. But you need to get these kids. Not just for what they did to me. But if you don’t stop them, they’re gonna do this again, and now they have a gun. My gun.”

“I haven’t forgotten about that,” said Mac. “We are doing everything possible; you have my word.”

Don sighed, “Yeah. I know.”

“There’s something else I need to say to you, Don,” said Mac, looking as uncomfortable as Don had ever seen him. “It’s about that night, before everything went down. My phone call to you, it distracted you…delayed you…if it hadn’t been for me, you’d have been out of the deli and on your way home before all this happened. I’m so sorry.”

Don’s face was expressionless as Mac apologized, and then a few seconds later, much to Mac’s surprise, it creased up with laughter.

“You have got to be kidding me, Mac,” said Don, an amused expression on his face, “You don’t seriously believe that this is all *your* fault?” He gestured to his shoulder, “That has got to be the dumbest thing you’ve ever said. I mean, not that there’s a lot of competition, cause you know you’re like a genius or something. But come on, no way in hell can this be laid at your door. If anything, I’m the one who screwed up somehow, letting my guard down like that.”

“You did nothing wrong,” said Mac, firmly, “I went over the security footage with a fine-tooth comb. You did everything by the book, no officer would have done anything different.” He caught the look on Don’s face and added, “And no, that’s not ‘feeding details to a witness’, that’s just confirming facts already in evidence. The only person responsible for you being in hospital is the girl who stabbed you.”

“Well as long as you get that as well,” said Don. He sighed, “Look, even if your call had delayed me enough, which it didn’t, imagine how I’d a felt if they’d turned over Wu’s place just minutes after I’d left. Theres so many ifs and buts. If I’d gone straight home…if I’d picked up groceries the day before…hell, if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to decide what flavor crackers to try… It happened the way it happened and there’s nothing anybody can do to change it. I just…I just have to live with it.”

“Well hopefully bringing the perpetrators to justice will make it easier to live with.” Mac stood up to leave, “And I promise I will do everything in my power to make that happen.”

“I know you will, Mac.”

Don slept a little easier that night, knowing that Mac would keep his promise come hell or high water.

 

To be continued

Chapter Text

Notes: Set roughly a year after the season 2 finale (because that’s when I started writing it)

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles. The weapon used was discovered by Stella while she and Mac were checking up on an alibi. Maka told them of a number of similar robberies that had taken place, leading Mac to suspect that up to six people could have been involved. He showed photos to Don, who unfortunately wasn’t able to make a definite identification.

--------------------

 

"You lied to us, Nathan," said Mac as he stood over the table in the interrogation room.

"I…I…didn't…" Nathan stammered in reply.

"Detective Taylor," snapped Robert White. "My nephew has agreed to answer some questions in a more 'formal' setting, at your request. But I'm telling you here and now that I will have no hesitation in calling a halt if you persist with this bullying attitude"

"Bullying?" Mac smiled evenly at Robert. "Okay then, let's just deal with facts."

Mac sat down at the table beside Maka and opened the file he’d brought with him. He put a photo on the table that showed the display case that he and Stella had taken from Nathan's house. "This case was located in your parent’s house in which you are currently the sole permanent resident. Fact." He put down another photo showing the damaged knife and the piece of metal that had been removed from Don's shoulder. "One of the knives in that case was a perfect match for a shard of metal removed from Detective Flack's shoulder and has been confirmed as the weapon used both in an armed robbery and an assault on Detective Flack on the sixth of this month. Fact."

“And as I’ve told you already,” interrupted Robert, “Many of my nephew’s friends have access to the house and that display case. Not to mention the staff.”

Mac ignored him and put a sheet of paper in an evidence bag on the table. "Do you recognize this?"

Nathan looked at it and nodded.

"This is a sheet of paper that you handled in my presence yesterday. Can you confirm that?" Mac glanced at Robert, "that is if your lawyer has no objection."

Nathan glanced at Robert, who nodded tersely. "Yes," said Nathan. "I wrote a list of names on it and gave it to you."

“This is a DNA profile that we extracted from the sweat deposits that were on that page.” Mac put a sheet of paper on the table. "There was only a single DNA donor in the sweat deposits, which means that this profile is of Nathan's DNA. Fact." A second page was added to the first. "This is the DNA profile that we extracted from saliva on a cigarette butt. As you can see, they're a match for each other. My conclusion is that the cigarette was smoked by the same person who handled the paper. Namely, you. Fact."

"Well done, Detective Taylor!" sneered Robert. "You've caught my nephew on a charge of underage smoking. I'm so relieved that my tax dollars are being put to such good use. You want to put the cuffs on him now?"

"Maybe you should ask your nephew where he was when he was smoking that cigarette," said Mac, calmly. "You see, the cigarette in question was retrieved from outside the scene of the aforementioned armed robbery and assault. A crime that took place on the sixth of this month. On a night that your nephew claimed he was home studying all night. Lying to a police officer in the course of a felony investigation is also a felony. Fact."

"I'm sure it was just a mistake," said Robert quickly. "Nathan was nervous when you spoke to him earlier. He was clearly confused about the dates in question."

"So, you're saying that he wasn't home studying all night that night?"

"Yes…no…" Robert's voice trailed off and Mac watched as he visibly collected himself. "Detective Taylor, I think that I need to speak to my nephew…alone."

"You do that," said Mac, gathering his evidence together. "And be sure to remind him of the consequences of lying to the police and also of the concept of joint enterprise, especially when it pertains to an assault on a police officer."

Stella had instructed the tech to switch off the speakers and was waiting for Mac in the observation room. "You really think he'll rat out the others?" she asked, even before the door had swung shut behind him.

"He knows we can place him at the scene," said Mac. "He knows that we found the weapon in his house, and he knows that we know he lied about being there. Prosecutions have succeeded with less."

"True," said Stella. "But we also know that he most likely wasn't the one holding the knife that night."

--------------------

Stella had finished processing the remaining five knives. They had clearly not been subjected to the same deep cleaning as the weapon used on Don, as she had managed to retrieve epithelial cells from each of them and had sent them to Adam for testing.

The initial results had been confusing. Five knives, but only four separate donors as two of the knives appeared to have been handled by the same person. And with the cigarettes, again there were six cigarettes but only five donors. Nathan's DNA had appeared on one cigarette and one knife which appeared to rule him out of having been the person who had carried the knife into the store.

"It doesn’t make sense, Mac," Stella had said as she'd paced up and down in Mac's office. "We theorized that the six of them were in it together. Each of them used a specific knife and smoked a cigarette before two of them went into the store. The person whose DNA is on a cigarette but not a knife must be the one who was carrying that knife into the store."

"And they're the one person we can rule out as having stabbed Don," said Mac, frowning as he looked at the results. "But if we're assuming that the entire study group is involved and going to be covering for each other, why is one of them not joining in."

 

"Guys, I think I have the answer!" Adam had hurried in, a handful of photos in his hand. "I should have noticed it before now, but I was so focused on getting the hair right and removing glasses and stuff to match the witness descriptions that I wasn't looking at the actual faces and then when you told me that Flack had only been able to narrow it down to two, I took a closer look, and it was staring me right in the face and…"

"Slow down Adam," said Mac, exchanging glances with Stella, "What was staring you in the face?"

"Their faces. Flack didn't make a mistake in the identification. Alicia and Emily Stewart aren't just sisters, they're twins…identical twins." Adam held out the yearbook photos to Mac. Alicia was as Mac had seen her at her home the day before. Short blonde hair, fully made up. Emily however had longer hair, black in color and was wearing glasses and less makeup. At first glance, there was certainly a familial resemblance, but it was only when you ignored the superficial features, the hair, and the make-up… "Two of the samples of hair taken from the wig showed signs of having been dyed. One blonde…"

"And one black," said Mac, "And identical twins would have identical DNA which is why it looked like only five people were involved."

"Which means that one of them was the person who stabbed Don," said Stella, her face lighting up at the prospect of bringing them to justice. And then it fell as she realized, "But there's no way we can narrow down which one of them it was. DNA won't help and with the wig, there's no way to easily differentiate them visually. Hell, we can’t even prove for sure that both of them were involved to nail them as co-conspirators."

"Then we'll just have to ask somebody who will know for sure" said Mac, firmly.

----------------------

Stella glanced back through the window. "Let's hope that his uncle can convince Nathan that it's in his best interests to co-operate, because I'm betting that the other five will be working on getting their stories straight as we speak."

"They can come up with all the stories they like," said Mac. "As long as Nathan tells us the true one."

“Looks like he’s ready to talk,” said Stella, watching as Robert knocked on the door of the interrogation room.

-------------------------

Mac and Maka retook their seats at the table.

Robert cleared his throat, “Without admitting to any culpability, my nephew is willing to provide some information which may assist you with your enquiries. We would of course require that such information be taken into account, should you be considering any charges against him. And of course, we would require such consideration in writing before Nathan says anything.”

“And what sort of ‘consideration’ were you expecting?” asked Maka.

“Full immunity, in return for Nathan’s statement.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” snapped Mac. “Your nephew is a co-conspirator in an armed robbery and an accessory after the fact to an assault on a police detective.”

“Alleged co-conspirator,” Robert snapped back, “And I’m not kidding. Full immunity to all charges or I take my nephew home right now and we take our chances in court.”

“Uncle Robert,” Nathan was looking sick to his stomach as his uncle shushed him.

Mac was stony faced as he listened to Robert. Oh, he’d known that a deal would likely have to be struck, given that their evidence against him was circumstantial at best. It galled Mac to think that anybody even indirectly responsible for the assault on Don would get to just walk away, but better that it was one, rather than all of them.

 

"I'll speak to the DA’s office," said Mac, finally. "There's no guarantee that they’ll grant full immunity. At the very least, he'll expect a full outline of every other related crime and your testimony against your co-conspirators." He stood up.

"Well, Detective Taylor," said Robert, a trace of smugness in his voice, "You’d better be very convincing. Just don’t take too long or maybe we’ll decide that this isn’t in Nathan’s best interests after all."

Maka followed Mac out of the room, "He had better give us something worthwhile," she said.

“He will.”

----------------------

A few hours later, Mac was hoping his confidence hadn’t been misplaced.
He’d had a discussion with ADA Latham about the case. “So, all you have on Nathan White is circumstantial evidence?”

“We can place him at the scene,” said Mac, “We found the weapon in his house. He lied about his whereabouts.”

“But?” asked Latham.

“But we’re reasonably sure that he wasn’t the one who stabbed Flack, and we also don’t believe that he was the other person in the shop. We could charge him with being a co-conspirator and an accessory after the fact; but without him, we’ve no way to get to the rest of the group.”

“So, what’s the problem? One gets you five, including the kid who did the actual stabbing. Sounds like a good deal to me.”

So, Mac had returned to the interrogation room with the necessary paperwork.

Nathan hadn’t looked too happy as Mac laid out the terms and conditions.

“Full disclosure," says Mac. "That means that Nathan tells us about every single other robbery that he and his friends took part in.” He saw the look of shock on Nathan’s face, “What, you thought we hadn’t figured out what was going on?” Glancing back at the agreement, Mac continued, “We want your statement as to when and where each robbery took place, and who exactly was involved each time. I want every detail, down to the exact amount that was stolen. And you’re going to have to testify to that at any resulting trial. If it’s discovered at a later date that you’ve lied about anything, no matter how small a detail, then the whole deal is null, and void and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in relation to this robbery. Do you understand?”

 

"I understand," said Robert.

"I wasn't talking to you,” said Mac.

Nathan was looking sick to his stomach, "Yeah…I understand…"

"Then let’s get started," said Mac. "Who else is involved?"

“Alicia and Emily,” said Nathan. “James, Nelson and Tara. We’re all part of the same study group at school.”

Mac checked against the list of names that Nathan had given him the previous day. “It’s just the six of you?”

Nathan nodded. “It…it started out as a joke. We were supposed to be studying, but we were bored. We never meant anybody to get hurt, that’s why we used the knives from my parent’s house. We figured the edges weren’t sharp enough to cut anybody by accident. Alicia and Emily thought of the wig so that we couldn’t be identified. We thought it would be just a bit of fun, to see if we could get away with it…” His voice trailed off as he saw Mac’s expression.

“Please continue,” said Maka. “We don’t have all day.”

It took over an hour for Nathan to finish his statement. Mac did his best to keep a neutral expression on his face, but inside he was seething as Nathan listed out all the robberies that he could remember being committed by the group. He’d included all of the ones on Maka’s original list and several more besides. It seemed like pretty much every possible combination of the three boys and three girls had taken part in the various incidents, each taking it in turns to be the robber or the hostage.

“How did you decide who hit which place?” Maka had asked him.

“It was all random,” said Nathan. “We drew straws before we left my place, then whoever’s turn it was to be the robber took their knife and the hoodie, the ‘hostage’ takes the wig, and we all meet up at the agreed location. Alicia figured that if we dressed the same way each time, nobody would ever realize that there was more than one pair involved. And Emily said that if we all wore the same thing, nobody could ever prove who was wearing it on a specific date.”

Finally, Nathan got to the final robbery. Mac sat forward in his seat and in the observation room, Stella stepped closer to the window, not wanting to miss a single detail.

“So, whose turn was it at Wu’s deli?” asked Maka.

Nathan swallowed hard, “James…James and Emily.”

“Yes!” Stella had to stop herself from punching the air with delight.

Nathan continued, “We always have a smoke while we’re outside, waiting to make sure that the place is empty.” He looked at Mac, “We were sure that nobody else was in there. The plan was always for one person to go in and check things out, and if they don’t come out after a set time, then the second one goes in. If we’d known there was a cop there, we’d have never gone ahead with it, I swear!”

“So, Emily went in first?” asked Mac, in as neutral a voice as he could muster.

“No, I mean, I...I don’t know,” stammered Nathan. “We were outside, finishing our cigarettes, and then Alicia starts kicking up a fuss. Saying that it wasn’t fair, that Emily had had more turns than anyone else and that she should be the one going in. And Emily told her to suck it up. Alicia accused her of rigging the draw. Then Tara said that if they didn’t shut up then she’d take the wig and go in, and the pair of them turned on her.”

Nathan took a drink from the glass of water on the table and replaced it with shaking hands, “They were always like that, always trying to one up each other. Emily only joined the study group because Alicia was in it. Alicia got contact lenses so she wouldn’t have to wear glasses like Emily, then Emily saw people compliment Alicia on her yearbook photo, so she got contacts as well. Neither of them can stand the thought of the other one getting ahead of them, but if anybody tries to go up against either of them, they’ll close ranks and shut them down.”

“How did the argument end?” asked Maka.

“One of them grabbed the wig and stormed off. James went after them, the rest of us just waited. Next thing we know there’s shouting coming from inside and they both come running back towards us, so we start running as well. We always had a backup plan that if anything went wrong, we’d split up and meet back at my place and swear we hadn’t left. Tara and I hopped on the subway, I don’t know what the others did, but we all got back within about half an hour of each other. I didn’t even know until I saw the knife that anybody had been hurt. I swear, if I’d known a cop had been hurt, I wouldn’t have done it…”

“Done what?” asked Mac.

“Cleaned the knife,” said Nathan, a wretched expression on his face. “They said it was just a flesh wound, that the guy would be fine. I didn’t…I swear, I thought they were telling the truth…”

Mac and Maka exchanged glances before turning back to Nathan, “So was it Emily or Alicia who inflicted this so called ‘flesh wound’?” asked Mac.

“I don’t know,” said Nathan, almost in tears at this point. “I swear to God. They both had their hoods up while we were smoking. One of them grabbed the wig and walked off, the other never opened her mouth while we were waiting. When I got back home, they were both talking like they’d been the one inside the shop.”

Stella nearly thumped the window in frustration. “How can we be so close and still not have the answer,” she thought.

Mac was clearly feeling the same frustration, but he controlled his temper, knowing that if Nathan was telling the truth, then it would do no good to take his anger out on him, and at that point, Mac was fairly sure that Nathan was too scared to lie.

“One more question,” said Mac. “What happened to Detective Flack’s gun?”

“What gun?” asked Nathan, clearly confused.

to be continued

Chapter Text

Summary: A random choice made by Don Flack one night sets a chain of events in motion that may change his life forever
Notes: Set roughly a year after the season 2 finale (because that’s when I started writing it)

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.
Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles. Maka told them of a number of similar robberies that had taken place, leading Mac to suspect that up to six youths could have been involved. He interviewed one of them who admitted to his involvement in the gang, but was unable to identify which of the identical twins also involved had been the one to stab Don and steal his gun.

----------------------
“One more question,” said Mac. “What happened to Detective Flack’s gun?”

“What gun?” asked Nathan, clearly confused.
----------------------

 

“What now, Mac?” asked Stella, as she took a seat in Mac’s office a few hours later.

Mac and Maka had gone through Nathan’s statement with him, pinning him down as to specific details. He’d stuck to his insistence about not knowing which twin had actually been in Wu’s deli that night and Mac couldn’t shake him on any other aspect of his story. Finally, once Mac was sure they’d got everything they could from Nathan, he’d allowed him to leave, but not before ordering Nathan to have no contact with any member of the study group until further notice. “If I find that you've sent so much as a text to any of them or anybody connected with them," he'd almost growled, "I will have you arrested on a charge of obstruction of justice and shipped off to Rikers."

"I'll makes sure he stays incommunicado," a visibly shaken Robert had assured Mac.

"What now? Hell, if I know," said Mac, wiping his hand over his face. "Nathan's testimony should be enough to get us warrants for DNA and fingerprints. If we get a match to the cigarettes, that will put them outside the deli, and hopefully tie them in to the knives. With Nathan’s statement, that should be enough to charge them with conspiracy and as accessories."

“But we’ll still only have Nathan’s word for it that James was in the deli,” said Hawkes, who had joined them for an update on the case, “And we’ve no way of knowing which twin went in with him.”

“We might get lucky with the prints,” said Mac, thumbing through the case file on his desk. “There were a few partials on the deli counter. If we can match any of them to James, then we can apply a bit of pressure to him and get him to confirm who was with him. And twins don’t have identical fingerprints, so if I can match one of them to the prints I lifted from the deli door, we may be able to prove which sister was inside.”

“It still feels like a long shot,” said Stella, frowning. “Personally, I’d rather just haul both girls in and sweat them until one of them gives.” She caught Mac’s eye, “I know, I know. They’re still minors. We have to tread carefully.”

“Minors with powerful parents and probably high-priced lawyers. Plus, you heard what Nathan said, those girls may have one hell of a sibling rivalry going, but they’ll close ranks against any outsiders. I doubt we’d get either of them to turn on each other.” Mac was silent for a few seconds before continuing, “Don said that the girl who stabbed him looked like she’d enjoyed it.”

Stella and Hawkes exchanged glances.

“So, what do you suggest for the interviews?” asked Stella, finally. “Top down, start with James and the twins? Or bottom up, run with Tara and Nelson, see if they’ll corroborate Nathan’s story and use that to put pressure on the others?”

“Let’s wait and see what we get from the DNA and prints,” said Mac. “Maka is collecting the warrant from the judge as we speak. If we get the samples from all five this evening, Adam can put a rush on them, and we should have preliminary results by morning and can take it from there.”

“I hope she hurries up with those warrants,” said Stella, glancing at her watch. “I’d like to call in and see Don this evening and I don’t particularly want to have to flash my badge to get around missing visiting hours!”

“Hawkes and Danny can serve the warrants and collect the samples,” said Mac. “You’ve pulled more than your share of double shifts these last few days. Go and check in on Don and then have a good rest. It’ll be a long day tomorrow and we’ll all need to be on our game.”

 

-----------------------------

 

“Hey Don,” said Stella, popping her head around the door to Don’s hospital room a few hours later. “You up for a visitor?”

 

“For you Stella, anytime,” said Don, sitting a bit more upright as Stella walked into the room.

“I’m glad to see you looking a bit better than the last time I saw you,” said Stella, as she sat down beside him. “Hospital food must agree with you.”

Don pulled a face, “I don’t know how anybody gets better while eating that stuff. But they’re supposed to be cutting me loose tomorrow, so at least I’ll get a decent meal once I get home…” He suddenly groaned loudly.

“Don!” Stella was ready to jump to her feet and get help, but to her relief, Don laughed.

“It’s okay, I just remembered that the whole reason I was in Wu’s that night in the first place was cause there wasn’t a crumb to eat at mine!”

“Well, if you want,” said Stella, relieved that Don wasn’t in pain, “I can give you a ride home tomorrow and we can pick up some provisions for you along the way.”

“You mean it?” said Don.

“Of course, and if you’re lucky, I might even cook you a dinner for your first night home.”

“You’re the greatest, Stella.”

“And don’t you forget it!” Stella watched Don smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “So how are you feeling now?”

“Okay…I guess,” said Don with a sigh. “I’d have probably been out of here before now, but the doc wanted to make sure the antibiotics were doing their thing. He’s pretty sure there’s not gonna be any permanent nerve damage but well, we won’t know for sure until the stitches come out, and I can start some physio.” He was silent for a few seconds before continuing. “I just want it all to be over, you know.”

“Well, you’ll be home soon and back on the job before too long.”

Don shook his head, “I don’t mean that, I mean, I don’t mean just that. I just want it all finished, the case, having to testify if it comes to that. I want to be able to put it all behind me for good. I…I don’t want to have to remember what it felt like, not being able to move…and knowing that if she’d turned my gun on me…that I wouldn’t have been able to stop her.”

Stella could feel her heart aching for Don, and she wished there were something she could say or do to help him. At least in her own case, she thought grimly, what memories she’d had to deal with had been tempered by the knowledge that Frankie had no longer been a threat to her. But she couldn’t even offer that reassurance to Don.

Mac had warned her before she’d left the lab that evening to exercise caution in her conversation with Don. “I know it’s second nature to talk shop, even when we’re off duty. But remember that he’ll be a material witness, not a detective, when this comes to trial, and we need to restrict his information accordingly.”

Stella squeezed Don’s hand gently, “I know that Mac has already explained why we can’t discuss the details of your case with you. But I promise you that we are doing everything we can to bring your attacker to justice. And we are making progress with it. With luck, we may have news for you soon. We won’t let you down.”

 

Stella had stayed with Don until visiting hours were over. He’d seemed somewhat more at ease by the time she’d bid him farewell, and she hoped that the next time she saw him that she’d be able to give him better news about the case.

 

-----------------------------

 

The next morning, Stella entered the lab with a spring in her step, looking forward to getting down to work.

“Danny!” she called out, seeing him walking down the corridor ahead of her and hurrying to catch up with him. “I went to see Don last night,” she said as she matched her pace to his.

“Yeah?” Danny pushed his glasses up on his nose, “How’s the big lug doing?”

“Pretty good,” said Stella. “He won’t be shooting hoops for a while, but he says he’ll be back kicking your ass on the court before you know it.”

“In his dreams,” grinned Danny. “Well, I spent the evening collecting DNA and fingerprints with Hawkes. Man, I thought some of those kids were gonna wet themselves they were so nervous! A few of them on the other hand, cool as anything.”

“Let me guess,” said Stella, “The Stewart twins weren’t worried about it.”

Danny looked at her in surprise, “Yeah, how’d you figure that?”

“Just something Don said,” Stella had a grim expression on her face.

 

“Well Mac should have the results by now,” said Danny. “And me, I’ve got two dead bodies in Central Park waiting for me. It’s gonna be a busy day!”

---------------------------------

“Please tell me you have good news there,” said Stella, as she walked into Mac’s office.

“Preliminary DNA results,” said Mac, looking up from the case file in his hands. “All the cigarettes were smoked by members of the study group.” He handed a copy of the results to Stella. “DNA results on the knives.” He handed her a second sheet. “All of them were handled by the members of the study group.”

“Except James,” said Stella, reading the report. She looked at Mac, “That ties in with Nathan’s statement and pretty much confirms that James’s knife was the one used on Don.”

“And James was most likely the one in the deli that night. We can match him to the partials taken from the countertop, but there’s not enough points of comparison for a definitive ID on him or either of the twins.” Mac saw Stella’s face fall, “We did however get enough prints off the display case to prove that both twins had handled it along with the other four.”

“Is it enough for the DA to bring charges?”

“It’s certainly enough to bring them all in for questioning,” said Mac, “No matter who their parents and lawyers are.”

“Just let me at them,” said Stella, handing the file back to Mac.

“Maka and I will handle the interviews,” said Mac. “I want you running point on the lab today.” He raised his hand to still Stella’s objection, “I know you want in on this, but I need you supervising things here.”

“Fine, just make sure you get them.”

“You can count on it.”

-------------------------------

 

Several hours later, Mac’s confidence in his ability to ‘get them’ was fading somewhat. Without exception, all five of the suspects had shown up with their lawyers and had – somewhat smugly in the cases of the Stewart twins – refused to comment beyond a statement from their lawyers averring their non-involvement in any criminal activities.

Mac had started with Tara, hoping that when confronted with the evidence placing her at the scene and the knowledge that one of her cohorts had confirmed her participation, that she would admit her involvement and corroborate Nathan’s statement. But although visibly shaken by the evidence set before her, she had continued to insist – through her lawyer – that she was simply part of a study group that wanted to do well in their exams and that she had no idea how her DNA had ended up near a crime scene.

He’d fared no better with Nelson whose lawyer read out a statement that was practically identical to the one issued by Tara’s lawyer.

Mac had switched tactics when it came to James’s turn to be interviewed, implying to the youth that not only had his guilt already been asserted by his friends but that the fingerprint evidence was damning him as well. With a lot of suspects, that amount of proof was usually enough to convince them to confess their guilt, or at the very least have their lawyer try to make a deal. But it was all to no avail. James continued to deny all knowledge of robberies and neither Alicia nor Emily even showed a single crack in their façade of innocence.

“They’ve all got their stories straight,” said Maka, as she and Mac regrouped following the interviews. “Practically word for word.”

“I knew there was a chance that they’d close ranks,” admitted Mac, “But I thought we’d be able to shake at least one of them loose from the pack to confirm Nathan’s story.”

“Do you think we have enough for a conviction?”

“That’ll be up to a jury,” said Mac, grimly. “But I believe the evidence is there.”

“Well, let’s hope the DA agrees with you.”

 

To be continued

Chapter Text

Summary: A random choice made by Don Flack one night sets a chain of events in motion that may change his life forever

Notes: Set roughly a year after the season 2 finale (because that’s when I started writing it)

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles.
Mac and Stella identified a group of teens who they believed were behind a number of robberies and the attack on Don. One of the group took a plea bargain and agreed to testify against the others. The rest were brought in for interviews but each denied any involvement.
-------------------------

A few hours after the last of the interviews had been concluded, Mac was just pulling on his coat when Stella walked into his office.

“Mac, got a minute?”

“Just the one, Latham wants to speak to me over at the DA’s office.”

"Oh, do you need me to cover things here?” Stella frowned, “I was going to ask if I could duck out for a few hours.”

“Leaving early two days in a row?” Mac smiled at her, “Who are you and what have you done with the real Stella Bonasera?”

Stella made a face at him, “I told Flack I’d give him a ride home from the hospital. He just texted to say they’re discharging him within the hour. But if I’m needed here…”

 

"I shouldn’t be too long," said Mac. "You go and look after Don, and hopefully I'll have some good news for him the next time I see him."

---------------------------

Stella glanced over at Don as she drove through the city. He’d seemed a bit more like his usual self when she’d picked him up at the hospital, even joking with the porter who’d wheeled him out to Stella’s car.

“So where do you want me to bring you to stock up?” asked Stella during a lull in the conversation, as she pulled up at a set of traffic lights.

Don was silent for a few seconds before speaking, “Do you think it’d be okay if went to Wu’s place?” he asked. “I mean, it won’t mess up the case or nothing if we cross paths.”

Stella looked at him with a surprised expression on her face. “As long as you don’t discuss the case, it shouldn’t be a problem,” she said, carefully. “But are you sure that you want to go back there?”

“Yeah,” said Don, “I’d kind of like to see if Wu is doing okay, after what happened and all.” He forced a grin on his face, “Plus I never did get those rice crackers he promised me.”

Stella knew Don well enough to guess that there was something being left unsaid, but if that’s what he wanted, she wasn’t going to object. “Then we’ll go there,” she said, smiling warmly at him. “You just start making a list of everything you want to pick up. And don’t make it all junk food!” The lights turned green, and she quickly stepped on the gas before the taxi driver behind her could sound his horn.

Wu was manning the register when Don walked in. A big smile lit up his face and he hurried out from behind the counter to greet him, grabbing Don’s left hand in both of his and shaking it enthusiastically. “Detective Flack! It is so good to see you. I am so happy you are recovered!”

“I’m not quite fully recovered yet,” admitted Don, nodding towards the sling on his arm, “But I’m getting there. I just wanted to see how you was doing.”

“I am most well,” said Wu. “And I am most honored that you came. Please, please, is there anything I can get you?”

Don introduced him to Stella, who handed over the list that she had prepared with Don’s help. Wu took a look through it and excused himself, bustling away, shouting orders to various staff members to find everything. Don waited by the counter, taking it all in. At one point, his gaze was caught by a patch of floor which looked a heck of a lot shinier than the rest of the tiles around it.

An involuntary shudder ran through Don’s body as he realized that that was where he had fallen what seemed like an eternity ago.

Images and sounds flashed through his mind. A uniformed officer asking his name…an oxygen mask being placed over his face…pain as the paramedic applied pressure to his wound…a glance of sympathy from Maka as he was wheeled past her on the stretcher…the blast of cold as the night air hit him outside the deli…Mac’s voice reassuring him…

 

“You okay?” Stella’s voice brought Don back to the present day.

“I’m…” The words ‘I’m fine’ were on Don’s lips, ready for him to put on the mask and pretend that everything was cool…that he hadn’t nearly bled out only a few feet away from where he was now standing…that it was no big deal that he could barely lift a fork without his right hand shaking…that he was facing hours upon hours of physical therapy before he’d be cleared for full duty. Taking a deep breath, he finally said, “No…not really…”

Stella’s arm linked through his.

Don continued, “I didn’t think it’d be so hard…I could have died right there…” He shuddered slightly.

“Do you want to go back to the car?” asked Stella, gently. “I can wait for the groceries.”

Don shook his head, “I’m here…if I leave now…I might not ever come back and I won’t let them take that from me, not as well as…” He bit off the words.

“I do know what it’s like,” said Stella, “Not feeling safe in a place you thought nothing would ever hurt you.” She smiled ruefully, “Why do you think I moved last year? But you’ll get through this. We’ll get you through this.”

A look of understanding passed between them.

“I just want this all to be over,” said Don, finally. “I want to be back on the job, solving the case…not being the case.”

“It will be over soon,” said Stella.

-----------------------------

Several hours later, Mac Taylor stood outside Don’s apartment door. He raised his hand to knock, but hesitated, knowing that while he would be welcomed, the news he bore with him would be less so. Finally, he let his fist fall to the door, aware that the news was going to be delivered one way or another, and he owed it to Don to be the one to tell him.

Mac mentally counted the seconds as he waited for a response. Just as he was about to pull out his phone and check that Don had indeed made it home, he heard movement from the other side of the door. To his surprise, it was Stella who opened it.

“Mac!” said Stella, her surprise matching his. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question,” replied Mac automatically.

“I told Don I’d fix him a meal once I got him home. We’ve just finished eating,” replied Stella. Lowering her voice slightly, she added, “I thought he could do with some company.” In a normal tone, she continued, “Come in, I’m sure he’ll be delighted to see you.”

Mac wasn’t so sure, but he followed Stella down the hallway to the living room where Don was settled on the couch, cushions supporting his right arm, TV remote in his other hand. A smile appeared on his face as he saw Mac, and he thumbed off the TV, before dropping the remote on the table before him.

“Hey Mac!” said Don. “Didn’t expect to see you so soon. Do you want coffee or a beer?” He glanced at Stella, “Stell, would you mind?”

“I’m fine,” said Mac, taking a seat opposite Don and Stella, who had joined him on the couch.

“So, what brings you here?” asked Don.

Mac hesitated briefly before replying. “I had a meeting with Latham at the DA’s office about your case. We’d identified a number of people who we believe were involved and interviewed them this morning.” He could see Don sit up a bit straighter as Stella leaned forward. Mac hesitated before continuing, “I’m sorry Don, it’s not good news.”

 

------------------

“What the hell do you mean you’re not filing charges?” Mac was leaning over Latham’s desk.

“I brought it to the DA myself,” said Latham, “But he thinks that the evidence you have so far just isn’t strong enough to get a conviction. Especially with the lawyers that are going to be involved.”

“Fine,” Mac’s fists were clenched as he tried to keep his temper. “My team will go back over the evidence and find him something that he can’t ignore.”

“That’s not going to happen, Mac.” To his credit, Latham looked almost embarrassed as he continued, “Apparently, the parents of the kids involved don’t want the possibility of a prosecution hanging over the heads of their little darlings. They feel it might affect their chances of getting into a good University. That’s why I’ve been instructed to agree plea bargains with them.”

Mac prided himself on his professionalism, but this was severely testing him, “Plea bargains?” he almost spat the words out.

“Hey, you said yourself that the evidence is mostly circumstantial,” replied Latham.

“We have a sworn statement from Nathan White implicating all five of his ‘friends’ in the robberies.”

“And I have five statements from their lawyers claiming that Nathan is lying. Look at the facts Mac. The weapons were in Nathan’s house, and while you can prove that some of the others handled them, you can’t prove who handled the one used on the night.”

“The cigarettes put them all at the scene.”

“Outside the scene, and they could easily have been taken from the house and planted there by Nathan.” Latham sighed as he looked at the expression on Mac’s face. “Look, you believe they were all involved, and I believe it too. But you put them in front of a jury, and you and I both know it could go either way. This way, at least we get them to plead to a specimen count of misdemeanor robbery and it’ll go on their record.”

“So, they’ll get what, probation for a first offence and have their records sealed once they turn eighteen?”

“That’s what the boss said. Frankly, I think he just wants this to go away quickly and quietly, preferably without a trial. You know he’s up for re-election next year.”

“And let me guess, there’s some familiar names on his list of donors. Did you even try and get him to change his mind?”

“I prefer to pick my battles,” said Latham, “This isn’t a hill I’m prepared to die on.”

“Just one more question, Latham,” said Mac, as he prepared to leave, “Are you going to tell Detective Flack that he’s been sold out for a political career, or will I?”

 

--------------------------

Don slumped back against the couch as Mac finished explaining the basics of the situation to him, “So that’s it then?” he asked, wearily. “Case closed. They terrorize local shopkeepers, stab a police officer, steal my gun and then just get to walk away?”

 

“Mac, there’s got to be something else we can do?” said Stella before Mac could reply. She glanced at Don, concern evident on her face.

“I did manage to get one concession,” said Mac. “The plea bargains cover all crimes committed by the suspects before the robbery at Wu’s. That means that that robbery and the attack on you is still officially an open case. And I promise you that the file will remain on my desk until it’s closed.”

 

“How did you get the DA to agree to that?” asked Stella.

“I told him that I’d make sure the Detective’s union would kick up a fuss if he tried to plea out Don’s assault down to a misdemeanor. He wasn’t too happy about it, but he’s agreed.” Mac looked over at Don, “The DA’s office will be notifying you officially tomorrow. If you want to fight their decision, you know I’ll support you.”

“And so will I,” said Stella.

“What would be the point?” asked Don, a note of resignation in his voice. “If there isn’t enough evidence…” He saw the look on Mac’s face and added quickly, “It’s not your fault, if the evidence isn’t there, it isn’t there.” Don’s emotions were mixed to say the least. On the one hand, the kids that were responsible for hurting him were going to get away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist…but on the other hand, and Don hated himself for feeling this way, on the other hand, no prosecution meant no trial and no prospect of having to sit there in a courtroom and relive the whole experience again while being cross examined and trying to explain why he hadn’t been able to do his duty and stop them.

 

“It’s over Mac,” he said, hoping that it would be true.

 

-------------------------

Stella saw Mac to the door of Don’s apartment. “I’m going to stay with Don for a bit,” she told Mac as she opened the door. “Just to keep an eye on him.”

“Is he okay?” Mac asked.

“He will be,” said Stella, “It’s just a lot to take in.” She sighed, “I feel like we’ve let him down somehow.”

“I know,” said Mac, “But I meant what I said about the file. It’ll be on the edge of my desk for as long as it takes.”

Stella closed the door behind Mac and returned to the living room. Don was sitting where she’d left him, staring blankly ahead of him. He didn’t move as Stella sat back down beside him. Wordlessly she squeezed his hand, wishing there was something she could say or do to help him. Inside, she was fuming at the injustice of it all, but she knew Mac well enough to know that if there’d been anything he could have done to change the outcome, he would have.

“Thanks for staying, Stell,” said Don, finally.

“You’d do the same for me,” said Stella.

 

---------------------

To be continued

Chapter Text

Notes: Set roughly a year after the season 2 finale (because that’s when I started writing it)
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles.
Mac and Stella identified the perpetrators, but the DA decided to make plea bargains with all concerned. Mac promised Don that he’d keep the file on his case open, but Don just wanted it all to be over.

---------------------
Five months later, Don Flack climbed out of his car. He rolled his shoulder experimentally and grimaced slightly at the slight twinge as the muscles loosened up. It could be worse, he told himself as he locked the car. He’d been stuck on desk duty for over a month after he’d returned to work and had endured extensive physiotherapy before recovering sufficiently to be cleared for active duty. But now, five months later, the scar on his back and the occasional stiffness in his shoulder were the only lingering effects from that night in Wu’s deli.

“Well,” thought Don, a smile on his face as he walked towards the location of the crime scene he’d been called to, “the only negative effects.” Because Stella had also lingered in his life and their relationship could most definitely not be counted as a negative.

-------------------------------

Stella had stayed for a few more hours that first night, leaving only after repeated assurances from Don that he was fine, just tired after the long day. Neither of them had really believed it, and Stella had returned the following evening, after her shift had finished. Ostensibly just to help him finish the leftovers from the meal she’d cooked him the previous night. But over the next few days she’d checked in with him regularly and Don’s spirits had lifted every time he saw her name come up on his phone or heard her voice.

The night before Don’s return to work, Stella had offered to come over and cook for him again, but Don had insisted that this time he would provide the meal. Stella hadn’t arrived empty handed though, bringing with her a bottle of wine to share.

“It’s non-alcoholic, I’m afraid,” said Stella as she put it down on the kitchen table. “I figured you’d be off the booze until you’ve finished your meds.”

Don had appreciated the gesture, and the company. It wasn’t that he was anxious about returning to work, far from it. He couldn’t wait to get back to even the restricted duties that were going to be his lot until he was medically cleared. But it had been a long time to be alone with his thoughts. Every time his shoulder twinged, every time he tried to reach for something with his right hand, every time he shook out yet another dose from his prescription bottle, he was reminded again of what had happened. He’d spent the last few days trying and mostly succeeding in convincing himself that he was okay with what had happened to him. At least with Stella here, Don knew he’d have a few hours where the attack on him wouldn’t be the main focus of his mind.

Stella had promised herself that she wouldn’t bring up the attack unless Don did. She knew from experience that no matter how well-intentioned, comments and well wishes from other people could sometimes be like ripping the scab off a freshly healed wound. This was Don’s trauma to deal with, and all she could do for him was to be there for him whenever he was ready to rip the scab.

It wasn’t until the wine had been mostly drunk and the takeout containers tidied away that Stella broke her promise.

“Thanks, Stell,” said Don as Stella sat back on the couch beside him. “I’d have given you a hand, but you know…” He gestured towards his sling with a cheeky grin on his face.

“Well, you’d better make the most of it, Don,” Stella smiled back at him, “Because you owe me a proper home cooked meal once your shoulder is healed up, and I plan to sit back and watch you clean up!”

 

“Uh-oh, maybe I’d better get stabbed again!” Don’s smile faded as he saw the look on Stella’s face. “What?”

“How can you joke about it?” Stella regretted the words as soon as she’d said them, but she couldn’t stop. “How are you not still angry about what happened?”

“Who says I’m not angry,” replied Don. “But maybe I just don’t want to waste my energies on something that I can’t change.”

“You could have been seriously injured. If the blade had hit your spine…”

“But it didn’t,” said Don, firmly. He took Stella’s hand in his. “Compared to what I’ve been through before, this is barely a flesh wound. Yes, it could have been worse, but it wasn’t. And there’s something else. If I hadn’t gotten myself stabbed…do you think youze and me would have been sitting here eating dinner tonight?”

“No,” conceded Stella. She didn’t resist as Don pulled her closer.

“A few more stitches, another scar…that’s a small price to pay to have you here with me.” Don leaned in and kissed her.

 

-------------------

And that had been the last time they’d discussed it. Don continued to insist to Stella that he was okay with the whole situation and the lack of resolution to his case, and Stella, while a part of her suspected that Don was lying to himself about it, knew that he had to be allowed to deal with it in his own way.

Over the following few weeks, Stella and Don continued to see each other regularly. While they didn’t cross paths at work as often as when Don was on full duty, Stella still made a point of checking in with him, whenever her caseload took her to Don’s precinct. And most of her free evenings she stopped by his apartment.

Although they’d never had a ‘third date’, much less a first or second, their relationship had slipped so easily from friends to lovers that was a wonder that it hadn’t happened before then.

Mac had said as much to Stella after she’d almost shyly told him about the change in their relationship.
“I know it’s not so much of an issue for the moment,” said Stella, pacing up and down Mac’s office. “Not while Don is still on restricted duties. But when he’s been cleared, if you think it would be a problem, us both working the same crimes. I mean, we could work different shifts or…”

“Stella!” Mac finally got a word in edgeways. Stella stopped her pacing and looked at him, then as he gestured to the chair, she sat down across from his desk.

“Stella,” said Mac, again. “I’m happy for you, for both of you. And maybe not as surprised as I should be. But I trust you and I trust Don and I have no doubt that you’ll both be able to continue to behave in a professional manner when working together. For my part, I see no problems with it.”

“Thank you, Mac,” said Stella, her relief clearly evident.

“So how is Don doing?” asked Mac.

“He’s getting there,” said Stella, with a sigh, “His doctor is happy with his progress, all going well, he should be cleared for full duties within a few weeks, maybe a month at most.”

Stella forced a smile to her face as she stood. She knew that she wasn’t being entirely honest with Mac. Physically at least, Don was making good progress. Emotionally however, was another matter.

 

Don was attending mandatory counselling sessions with the Department psychologist, and while Stella didn’t press him for details, she worried that Don was stubborn enough to want to deal with his issues in his own way, by pretending that they didn’t exist.

From her own experience, Stella knew that that wasn’t a viable solution in the long term, but all she could do was be there for Don, knowing that sooner or later the situation would come to a head.

------------------------------

In the end, it happened sooner than Stella had expected.

It had been a few weeks after Don had returned to work. His shoulder had healed enough for him to discard the sling, but he still hadn’t regained sufficient strength in his right arm to be cleared for full duty. The day in question had been a frustrating one for Don, as Stella found out later. He’d spent most of his shift on the phone, tracking down information for other detectives in the squad and then had to sit and watch as they in turn used that information to bring in suspects for interrogation. Don had watched as his colleagues congratulated each other on getting a confession and hadn’t seemed to remember that Don had been the one to track their suspects down in the first place. He knew that they weren’t deliberately overlooking his assistance in closing the case, and a part of him acknowledged that maybe he too had occasionally been somewhat remiss in recognizing the work of the support staff in the precinct, but for some reason, that day, that case, the frustration just got to him, and he’d left early, citing an unspecified medical appointment as an excuse for his departure.

 

Stella had shown up at his apartment a few hours later, having noticed Don’s absence at the precinct when she’d shown up to interview a suspect. Aware that he had no scheduled medical appointments that day, as soon as her shift had finished, she’d headed over to Don’s apartment, letting herself in with the spare key he’d insisted she’d take a few weeks prior. “Not that I’m trying to rush things or nothing,” Don had said with a grin, “But I figure there’s no harm in you having one for emergencies, you know like when I’m too lazy to answer the door!”

Although Stella was touched by Don’s trust in her, nonetheless, she had never used the key without giving him a heads up about her impending arrival. Until today.

Stella was just closing the door behind her when she heard the sound of breaking glass coming from the kitchen, accompanied by a lot of swearing.

“Don!” Stella hurried the short distance to the kitchen, to find Don crouched on the floor, picking up pieces of glass.

“Stella?” Don looked at her in surprise and then yelped as his hand brushed against a shard, drawing blood. “Dammit…” He bit back the words, “Sorry Stell, didn’t mean to swear.”

Stella glanced around the kitchen. There was broken glass on the floor beside Don and more lying against the wall. Stella didn’t need her CSI kit to have a good idea of what had happened.

“Let me help,” she said, gently, as she crouched down beside Don. “Go get your first aid kit, I’ll clean up here.” She saw a flicker of emotion cross Don’s face before he sighed and pushed himself to his feet, swaying slightly before he regained his balance.

------------------------

“So, do you want to tell me what happened here?” Stella had swept up all the glass and carefully deposited it in the trash and was now cleaning the cut on Don’s right hand, relieved to see that it was small enough to not need stitches.

Don shrugged, “I was doing some cleaning and dropped a beer bottle.” He sucked in his breath as Stella used an alcohol wipe on the cut.

“Sorry,” said Stella, her attention apparently focused on Don’s hand. “Looks like you dropped another one against the wall.” Don’s hand abruptly pulled away from her and he had a sour expression on his face when she looked up. “What? You think I didn’t notice the distance between the two debris sites, or the dent in the wall above the second site. Not to mention the volume of the glass was more than could have come from a single bottle.” Stella picked up a dressing and gestured for Don to put his hand back on the table. “So, I’m guessing that you were carrying a few bottles and dropped one.” She applied the dressing and smoothed it down over the cut. “And then what, decided to throw the other one at the wall? I mean, I can’t say I haven’t wanted to do something similar myself when I get pissed off.”

“Looks like you’ve got it all figured out,” Don sighed heavily. “Fine. I was carrying the bottles to the trash and…” he swallowed, hard, “…and I couldn’t hold it. A goddamned beer bottle…an empty bottle and I couldn’t even carry it as far as the trash can.” The humiliating memory burned in his mind.

Don had gone home with the intention of drinking away his frustrations. But two beers in and his gloom had lifted enough for him to realize that that was not a healthy coping mechanism. So, he’d decided to clean himself up and maybe put on a game or something, anything to get his mind in a better place. He’d grabbed the bottles and headed for the kitchen.

He’d had a bottle in each hand and then only feet away from the trash, his whole arm had spasmed and the bottle had slipped from his suddenly nerveless fingers, smashing to the ground. It hadn’t been the first time he’d been hit with muscle spasms. His doctor and physical therapist had warned him that it would be a side effect of the healing process as the nerves and muscles knit together. But he hadn’t had one for well over a week and had assumed that he’d gotten past them. The sudden betrayal by his body, coupled with the frustration from earlier and the deep-seated resentments that he wasn’t even admitting to himself, all combined to make Don hit breaking point and then next thing he knew, the second bottle had been launched from his hand.

Don had regretted his action even before the bottle had hit the wall and had cursed mightily as he crouched down to start picking up the pieces. Stella’s sudden arrival had only served to heighten the humiliation he was already feeling.

Stella had Don’s hand clasped in both of hers. “I know it’s difficult Don, I know you want to be able to put all this behind you and get back to full duty. This…” She squeezed his hand gently, “It’s just a little setback. You were probably tired, maybe overdid it a bit…”

“It’s not about that.” Don pulled his hand away from Stella and stood up. “I can’t talk…I don’t want to talk about it.” He turned away from her, his shoulders slumped, his breathing ragged.

Normally Stella wouldn’t have pushed him, but she knew that this was a crisis point and was worried about him. Standing, she moved quickly to Don, putting her arms around him, and holding him close. “Sometimes you need to talk about things no matter how much they hurt. Otherwise, they’ll just eat away at you until it all boils over.”

“Who are you, my therapist?” There was no malice in Don’s tone, just an overwhelming sense of weariness, as if he was carrying a burden too heavy to bear.

“No,” said Stella, softly, “Just your friend.” She felt Don’s sigh.

“It’s not fair,” said Don, so quietly that Stella could hardly hear him. He looked at her, his face as bleak as Stella had ever seen it. “All the years I’ve been a cop. All the cases I’ve closed. All the cases I’ve worked with you and Mac…” His voice cracked slightly, “Why did my case have to be one of the ones that got away?”

Stella tensed up, “Don, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that we let you down and couldn’t get you the justice you deserve. I swear, both Mac and I did everything we could…”

“No, no, no.” Don pushed away from Stella, “This is why I didn’t say nothing before. It’s not about you and Mac and what you did or didn’t do. I don’t want to lay any guilt on youze like that. I’m not angry with you, or with Mac. I’m angry with those kids for hurting me…with the DA for not pressing charges…and with myself, because every day I’m stuck behind a desk is a day that I can’t get justice for somebody else.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “And I’m scared that I’ll never get out from behind that desk again…”

Stella pulled Don back into her arms, wishing that she had the right words. She wanted to reassure Don that everything would be all right, but it just sounded to her ears like empty platitudes so in the end she just hugged him close and let him vent all the pent-up anger and fear that he’d been bottling up inside him.

A few hours later, when the storm had passed, Don found himself on the couch, exhausted both physically and mentally, but with an overwhelming sense of relief that he’d been able to get things off his chest. It hadn’t just been the stabbing that had been weighing on his mind. Don had admitted to Stella that he still felt a degree of resentment that Lessing had never stood trial for his actions either.

“It sort of felt like I’d a sign on my back, Stell,” Don’s hands were wrapped around a mug of hot tea as he sat on the couch facing Stella. “And it said, ‘take your best shot, you’ll get away with it’.” He sighed heavily, “And I know that that Lessing guy was totally cuckoo and not mentally fit to stand trial, but I also know he was competent enough to set up a bomb without blowing himself to bits.” He took a drink from the mug. “And a part of me wishes he had.” Don caught Stella’s eye, “And another part of me wishes that Mac hadn’t tried so hard to talk the guy down. But I got past it.” He sighed, “Maybe it was easier to accept it at first because I hadn’t been waiting for the case to get resolved. By the time I was even fit enough to even be told about it, Lessing was already in custody, and it was pretty obvious he wouldn’t be fit to stand trial. And I tried to tell myself that it was okay…but I guess…I guess I just never dealt with it properly. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to deal with it all.” Don was silent for a few minutes before he spoke again, “I think I’m ready now…”

That hadn’t been the end of it though, not by a long shot. However, it had in a sense been the beginning of the end.

Don had gone back to his therapist and opened up to her more in their next session than he had in all their previous ones. With her help and with Stella’s of course, he’d managed to get himself back on track. He still of course had the nagging concern about his missing gun to deal with, but as he explained to his therapist at the final session before she signed off on his emotional health, “I’m a cop. A lost weapon is my responsibility, even if its loss wasn’t my fault. I can accept that, and thanks to you, I guess I can live with it.”

 

---------------------

To be continued

Chapter Text

Summary: A random choice made by Don Flack one night sets a chain of events in motion that may change his life forever
Notes: Set roughly a year after the season 2 finale (because that’s when I started writing it)
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the CSI NY characters, I'm only borrowing them, and I promise to return them in minty fresh condition when I'm finished.

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles.
Mac and Stella identified the perpetrators, but the DA decided to make plea bargains with all concerned. Mac promised Don that he’d keep the file on his case open, but Don just wanted it all to be over. Five months later, after some initial difficulties, Don has recovered both physically and emotionally from the attack, helped in part by his romantic relationship with Stella.

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Don mentally reviewed what he’d been told as he approached the crime scene tape. “Armed robbery, shots fired, at least one casualty.” Dispatch hadn’t been too heavy on the details, but Don had heard enough to know that somebody from the Crime Lab would likely be joining him on the scene soon enough. He hoped it would be Stella. Not that they’d be able to do much more than focus on their jobs, but her presence always brightened up Don’s Day. He wasn’t even aware of the involuntary smile that appeared on his face as he ducked under the crime scene tape.

“Detective,” said the uniformed Officer who met him just inside the tape.

“What have we got here?” asked Don as they walked towards the scene, “Dispatch said an armed robbery?”

Officer Martin nodded, “Yeah, kid with a gun tried to hold up the bodega. Didn’t know that the owner had a gun under the counter, much less that he was a champion sharpshooter. Dropped the kid with a single shot. Hostage didn’t even have a scratch.”

“Hostage?”

“Some girl who was in the shop as well. Looks like our dirtbag thought grabbing her would make the owner comply faster.” Martin nodded towards a patrol car where a young woman was standing with another uniformed officer. “My partner, Officer French is trying to get her statement, but I think she’s still in shock.” He glanced at Don, “Maybe you’ll have better luck charming her.”

“Yeah, maybe,” echoed Don, as they walked towards the patrol car on the way to the shop. “I’ll speak with the shopkeeper first.” There was an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach as he approached the car. As they neared the car, the woman looked up at him and Don felt the blood drain from his face as he stopped in his tracks. Her hair was different, and this time she wasn’t smiling, but it was definitely the same face that had haunted him five months earlier. There was a brief flash of emotion on her face before the young woman turned away. “I want to go home,” Don heard her say quickly to the uniformed officer. “I’ve told you everything that happened. Please, can I just go now?”

The uniformed officer glanced at Don, “We just need to ask you a few more questions, and then I’m sure we can see you safely home.” He looked at Don, questioningly.

Don swallowed, hard, before responding, “Bring her down to the precinct,” he ordered, a harsh note in his voice. “Take her statement and keep her there until we’ve had a chance to talk to her.”

French and Martin exchanged glances, before Martin nodded. French guided the woman to the patrol car.

“Detective,” said Martin, carefully, “Not that I’m trying to tell you your job or nothing, but this kid was held at gunpoint. She’s a victim here.”

Don didn’t look away as French put the woman in the back seat and closed the door. “I have reason to believe that this isn’t the first time she’s played the victim.” He glanced at Martin who was looking at him curiously. “Bring her in.”

Don ignored the look of surprise on Martin’s face, instead turning and walking back in the direction of his car. He took out his radio and called dispatch as he went, “Yeah, this is Flack, badge number 8571. I need somebody to cover the armed robbery. I’m…a bit under the weather right now.” It wasn’t exactly untrue. Don could feel his heart pounding in his chest and his breathing was a little ragged.
By the time he reached his car, Don felt like he might throw up, so he sat sideways on the driver’s seat with the door open while he tried to regain his composure. Taking a few deep breaths, Don tried to remember the exercises that his therapist had taught him to restore his emotional balance when things got too much for him.

Slowly he managed to get his breathing under control, and by the time he heard Mac’s voice, the nausea had passed, and he had almost regained his equilibrium.

“You okay, Don?” There was concern evident in the voice, matched by the expression on his face when Don finally looked up.

“It’s not often we beat you to a crime scene,” added Stella, who was standing beside Mac, case in hand.

Don stood up, “It’s her,” he said, flatly. He could see Mac and Stella exchange puzzled glances, “The one who stabbed me…her or her sister, I don’t know which.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “The so called ‘hostage.’ I saw her outside the scene. Uniforms were trying to get a witness statement out of her.” He laughed hollowly, “Witness statement.”

Stella put her hand on Don’s arm.

“Where is she now?” asked Mac.

“I told them to bring her in to take her statement. Said to keep her there.” Don rubbed his hand over his face, “I called dispatch, asked them to send another Detective. I should have asked them to get Maka. I can’t work this case, Mac.”

“It’s okay, Don,” said Mac, reassuringly, “I’ll call Detective Maka and fill her in.” He turned to Stella, “Stella, take him home. You can’t work this scene either.”

“I need to go back to the precinct, update my boss,” said Don.

“I’ll clear it with your Lieutenant, Don.”

“No,” said Don, with an air of finality. “I’ll take Stella back to the lab and then I’m going back to work.” He sighed, “I’m not gonna lie and say that I’m fine, because yeah, I did get a little spooked by seeing her again. But just cause I don’t get to work this case, doesn’t mean I’m gonna let her stop me doing my job. Now you want to pull rank on me cause you think it’s for my own good, well that’s your call. But it’s not what I want, and I’d appreciate it if you’d trust my judgement in this matter. Okay?”

“Okay,” said Mac, a half-smile on his face. “Stella, I’ll see you back at the lab.” He nodded to them both and turned away.

“You do realize that we had permission to play hooky for a few hours and you just turned it down?” said Stella, a wry smile as she linked her arm through Don’s.

“Damn,” said Don, “Is it too late to call Mac back and have him order me home again.”

“Yes,” said Stella, “But we’ll make up for it after our shifts are over. Come on.”

--------------------------

Mac was troubled as he approached the scene. If Don was right, then if looked like the cautions issued to the kids five months earlier had failed to dissuade them from carrying on their criminal activities. He made a mental note to have Maka check on reports of any other similar crimes in the intervening period. If they’d graduated to using a gun instead of a knife, perhaps more victims had reported it.

Or perhaps either Alicia or Emily Stewart had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would indeed be somewhat of a coincidence for one of them to fall victim to an armed robber using their own MO, but Mac had seen stranger things happen during his time in the lab.

But then there was also the alternative that Don had been mistaken in his identification of the ‘hostage’ in this case.

Stella had never mentioned it directly to Mac, but he’d had his suspicions that Don had been dealing with more than just physical trauma from the attack. Don had all but confirmed them after he’d been cleared to return to full duties. Mac had commented about it being good to see Don back at a crime scene, and Don had admitted that there’d been more than one point when he hadn’t been sure that he would make it back. He’d made an offhand comment about how he’d been dealing with more than physiotherapy, but he’d assured Mac that he was on top of things. And for the past few months, at least as far as Mac could tell, that had seemed to be the case.

But Mac was aware that even when somebody thought that they’d dealt with their issues, it might only take a little thing, a sound, a word…a report of the similar crime to the one they’d been affected by…to trigger a response. It could well be the case that Don could have seen his attacker’s face in that of a complete stranger.

 

Mac wasn’t sure which outcome he dreaded most. Steeling himself, he went into the shop.

The body was supine on the ground. A single bullet hole in the forehead, the only visible sign of violence. A pool of blood surrounded it and Mac stepped carefully around it as he approached. A sinking feeling came over him as he recognized the figure. “Nathan,” he said softly, swearing under his breath.

 

---------------

“There must be some mistake,” a visibly distraught Robert White told Mac later that day. He had been brought in to make the official identification, and Mac had had the unpleasant duty of explaining to him the apparent circumstances of Nathan’s death. “Nathan would never do something like that…” He saw the expression on Mac’s face, “The robberies last year…that was different…that was just a foolish kid’s game. He wouldn’t even know where to obtain a gun.” Robert sucked in his breath sharply, “The gun…you think it was the one belonging to your Detective? You think that *Nathan* was the one who took it?”

“We’re still conducting our investigation,” said Mac, carefully. “Can you tell me, was Nathan still in contact with the other members of the group?”

“No,” said Robert, firmly. “His parents forbade it. They had wanted him to transfer to another school, to give him a fresh start. But Nathan insisted on staying where he was. He thought that changing schools mid-year would affect his grades and his university applications. So, they agreed on the condition that he had no contact with the others, beyond what was required at school.” He took a deep breath, “Things were…difficult for him. He’d become a bit of a social outcast. Word spread about his plea agreement, that he’d ratted on his friends. Nobody wanted to be friends with a snitch,” he added bitterly. “But the last few weeks, he seemed happier in himself. I thought things must have improved a bit.”

“We’ll need to examine his phone and computer.”

“Of course.” Robert was watching through the window as Sid pulled the sheet back over Nathan’s face. “Anything you need. I won’t stand in your way.” He looked back at Mac. “Just please, promise me that you’ll keep an open mind. Don’t just write him off a spoiled rich kid committing crimes for kicks.”

“I can promise you that I will follow the evidence wherever it leads,” said Mac. “Whether you like the outcome or not, that’s not up to me.”

“I just want the truth.”

“We all do.”

------------------------

Mac left Robert with Sid to go through the formalities regarding his nephew’s body. He believed the man had been genuine in his belief that Nathan had had no contact with the other members of the study group. Unfortunately, Alicia Stewart, who had been interviewed by Maka earlier, had told a different story. Through her lawyer of course.

“She’s blaming Nathan for everything,” Maka told Mac, a grim expression on her face. “Claims that she agreed to go with him on a pity date to show that there were no hard feelings. They were on their way to the movies, she wanted to stop off to get a bottle of water. Next thing she knows, Nathan has followed her into the shop, grabbed her and pulled out a gun. Shopkeeper pulled his own gun. One shot and Nathan is dead on the ground and she’s claiming she’s never seen the gun before.”

“Do you believe her?” Mac almost smiled at the expression on Maka’s face. “I didn’t think so. Well, let’s hope that this time we have the evidence to prove her wrong.”

Mac had both conversations on his mind as he returned to the lab.

“Mac!” He turned to see Lindsay coming towards him, a sheaf of reports in her hands.

“Tell me you’ve got good news there,” said Mac as they walked towards his office.

Lindsay’s smile faded slightly. “I ran both guns through IBIS," she said, with what was, for her anyway, a distinct lack of enthusiasm. "The shopkeeper’s gun was legally registered to him and came up clean. But the one that was found on the perp…" She hesitated.

“It’s Flack’s missing gun,” said Mac, tiredly.

Lindsay nodded, “There’s no doubt about it. And the only prints on the gun were Nathan’s.”

“That would tie in with Alicia’s statement, her claim that Nathan was behind the whole thing.”

“Not necessarily,” Lindsay’s face lit up, “I dusted every surface on the gun, and then I did the same with the bullets.”

Mac stopped in his tracks, a spark of hope lighting in him as he listened to Lindsay. “And?”

“And there were prints on the bullets, and get this, none of them belonged to Nathan.” Lindsay saw Mac start to speak and quickly added, “And they didn’t belong to Flack either. The gun must have been wiped clean before Nathan used it, but they forgot to clean the bullets.”

“They?”

Lindsay nodded, “I got matches to the prints that were taken during the investigation into Flack’s stabbing. I ran them twice to make sure…both twins handled the bullets.”

“Which means that both of them knew about the gun.” Mac knew that this was a big step. His mind raced through the ramifications, and he started a mental list of what he needed to do next. “This should be enough to get a warrant for the Stewart residence,” he said, as he took the reports from Lindsay and started scanning through them. “Take Hawkes with you. Focus on the twin’s rooms and see if you can find where they kept the gun and if there’s anything to tie them into Flack’s scene and then…”

“Mac, got a minute?” Mac looked up to see Stella walking up to him. Instinctively he closed the reports before she got close enough to see them.

“Just let me finish with Lindsay,” said Mac.

“Sure.” Stella stood beside them for a few seconds before realizing that he wasn’t going to continue speaking, “And I’ll just wait for you in your office.” She walked away quickly, a slight flush of embarrassment appearing on her cheeks.

Mac joined her in the office a few minutes later. “I’m sorry Stella,” he said, “I didn’t mean to be so abrupt.”

“No, it’s fine,” said Stella, “I know, my relationship with Flack means I need to be kept out of the loop on this. I’ve already had Lindsay blocking her screen from me whenever I walk past her lab station. But it’ll be worth it if you can get a result.”

“I know it can’t be easy, having all this come up again.” said Mac. He sat down at his desk, “How’s Flack holding up?”

“He’s good…well, maybe not ‘good’. He’s as okay he can be. Trying not to let it get to him, but it’s difficult. Right now, he just wishes, well we both just want it to be over.”

“I can’t promise you anything,” said Mac, choosing his words carefully, “But we are making progress and I can promise you that I’ll update both of you as soon as I’m in a position to do so. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news for you soon.”

Stella smiled, a little wistfully, “I remember you saying that to me a few months ago. And then we found out that the DA’s office was going for plea bargains.”

“It’ll be different this time,” said Mac, “Trust me.”

Chapter Text

Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles.
Mac and Stella identified the perpetrators, but the DA decided to make plea bargains with all concerned. Mac promised Don that he’d keep the file on his case open, but Don just wanted it all to be over. Five months later, Don was back on the job when he was called to the scene of an armed robbery, only to discover that the same perpetrators were involved.
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Mac and Maka sat across from Alicia Stewart and her lawyer for the second time in less than six months. This time however, Alicia was looking considerably less composed than she had been before. Mac knew that she was aware that both her and her sister Emily’s rooms at their parent’s home had been searched the previous day. He knew that she knew that her sister was sitting in another interrogation room with *her* lawyer. What she didn’t know, what she couldn’t know for sure was what forensic evidence Lindsay and Hawkes had collected and processed and was now sitting in the files on the table before them.

“Let’s start with the gun, shall we?” Mac put a photograph on the table between them. “This gun was taken from the body of Nathan White following an attempted armed robbery. Do you recognize it?”

Alicia glanced at her lawyer, who nodded at her. “If you say it’s Nathan’s gun, I’ll have to take your word for it,” she said. “I don’t know anything about guns.”

“You said in your original statement that you didn’t know that Nathan had a gun with him when you went on your ‘date’. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Alicia nodded, “I would never have gone anywhere with him if I’d known he was armed.”

“So, Nathan never showed the gun to you at any point? Never took it out to brag about it?”

“NO!” snapped Alicia, “I’ve already told you; I didn’t know he had a gun with him.”

“Detective Taylor,” Alicia’s lawyer intervened, “My client has already answered your question.”

Mac ignored him and continued, “So if I were to tell you that I’d found your fingerprints on the gun, what would you say to that?”

A smug look appeared on Alicia’s face as she answered, “I’d say that you were lying to me, trying to coerce a confession.”

Mac nodded, “Yes, you could be right about that. That’s why I’m showing you this forensic report which confirms that your fingerprints were indeed found…on the bullets in the gun.”
A wave of satisfaction came over Mac as he watched the color drain from Alicia’s face. He quickly pressed his advantage. “We’ve also confirmed that this gun was the one taken from one Detective Flack during the course of an earlier armed robbery.” Mac pushed a copy of the report across the table to the lawyer who glanced quickly through it.

“And there’s more,” added Mac. “Yesterday, as you and your lawyer know, we executed a search warrant on your parent’s house. Do you recognize this scarf?” Another photograph was placed on the table.

Alicia shook her head, “No,” she said, her voice so low that Mac and Maka could barely hear her.

“No? Strange, because we found it in *your* dresser.”

“I suppose that a fashion plate like you,” said Maka, “Probably has so many scarves that you forget what some of them look like.”

“We tested the scarf and found traces of gun oil. You see, Detective Flack is very conscientious when it comes to keeping his weapons well maintained. We matched the trace on the scarf to the same brand of gun oil that he used on his service weapon.”

“That’s circumstantial evidence at best,” interrupted the lawyer, “I’m sure that many gun owners use the same brand.”

“Perhaps,” said Mac, “But we also matched a fiber found on the gun to that same scarf.” He pulled another report from the file and shoved it across the table. The lawyer picked it up and scanned through it, glancing uncomfortably at Alicia when he’d finished.

Mac continued speaking, “Let me tell you what I think happened. After you’d stabbed Detective Flack and taken his gun, you returned to Nathan’s house along with your sister. You gave the knife back to Nathan to clean and replace. You probably didn’t realize that the knife had been damaged until it was too late to dispose of it. Or maybe you thought that an empty space in the display case would attract too much attention. Either way, you were likely sure that we’d never find it. But you didn’t tell the others that you still had the gun, you and Emily wanted to keep that for yourselves.”

 

“NO! It wasn’t me!” Alicia’s voice cracked slightly. “I didn’t take the gun…”

“You were just hiding it, were you?” asked Mac, “Holding it for somebody else?”

“Yes,” said Alicia, hastily, “I mean no, I…we just didn’t want to get in trouble…”

“We?” You mean you and Emily?” Mac kept his voice carefully neutral.

“Alicia,” interrupted her lawyer, “I don’t think you should say anything more until we’ve had a chance to discuss this.” He glared at Mac, “In private.”

“You might want to talk fast,” said Maka. “You see we’ve already spoken to Emily and shown her the same evidence, and she wasn’t too happy about it either.”

Mac continued, “I think that you and Emily have had Detective Flack’s gun in your possession ever since one of you took it from him after you’d stabbed him. I think that you kept it because you knew we didn’t have enough for a search warrant five months ago, and maybe you figured your little gang could get back in action and up the stakes by using a gun rather than a knife. But you didn’t count on your friends deserting you and your little ‘study group’ being disbanded.”

Maka had interviewed the remaining three members of the study group again and each of them had claimed that following their plea agreements that their respective parents had banned them from having anything to do with either Nathan or the Stewart twins again. Tara had also reluctantly confirmed that Nathan hadn’t been the only one whose social life at school had been affected. “Everybody knew that Alicia and Emily were the ringleaders, and nobody wanted to take the chance of being caught up in another of their schemes.” Maka had checked with the school principal and confirmed it to Mac. “The twins got bumped from pretty much every extra-curricular activity going. Prom committee, school newsletter. Nobody wanted their input on anything.”

“You both blamed Nathan for snitching on you and ruining your fun. And you tried to punish him by making sure he was a social outcast at school. But that wasn’t enough for you. You wanted him to suffer. So, you convinced him that if he committed another robbery then you’d let bygones be bygones. But this time, he had to use a gun instead of a knife. And you picked a busy time of day, when you knew there’d likely be plenty of witnesses. My guess is that you planned for him to get caught holding the gun and whatever money he’d manage to get. Maybe you or Emily would call in an anonymous tip, get us to search Nathan’s home and find the gun. Or maybe you planned to have him be caught before he could leave the store. And then you’d just slip away in all the confusion, just like you did before.”

“It wasn’t me!” cried Alicia, “I had nothing to do with any of this. Somebody else must have put Nathan up to it. I’m the victim here.”

“The text messages we retrieved from Nathan’s phone say otherwise.”

“He said he’d deleted them…” Alicia bit back the words but it was too late, and a grim smile appeared on Mac’s face.

“Accessory after the fact to an armed robbery and assault on a police officer,” said Mac, ignoring her protests. “Attempted armed robbery and felony murder. You might want to check with your lawyer just how long a sentence each of those carries. But don’t worry,” he added, almost as an afterthought. “We’ll be charging Emily as well. With luck you might even get adjoining cells.”

“Detective Taylor,” Alicia’s lawyer wasn’t looking too happy. “Surely there must be some ‘agreement’ that can be reached?”

“I’m not making any deals today,” said Mac as he gathered the files together and stood up. “If your client wants to try and reduce her sentence, I’d suggest that she start with a full confession, preferably before her sister does.”

Maka followed Mac outside, “You do know that they probably will be able strike a deal with the DA?” she said cautiously, “Theoretically, if they each accused the other of being the instigator, a jury might consider that reasonable doubt.”

“True,” admitted Mac, “And they could well decide to take their chances in open court. But if they *do* try to make a deal, they’ll still have to admit to a conspiracy charge, and that will mean jail time.”

-------------------------------

Two days later, Mac had a sense of déjà vu as he stood outside the door to Don’s apartment, his hand raised to knock on the door. This time however, he was not surprised when Stella opened the door in response.
“I hope it’s not too late,” said Mac, as Stella stood aside to let him in. “I didn’t want this to wait until morning.”

“Well, you’ve missed dinner,” said Stella, forcing a smile on her face. Not that she was unhappy to see Mac, but she knew he’d been called to the DA’s office earlier that day and it didn’t take a genius to figure out why he was now here. “Come in, Don’s just finishing the dishes.”

Mac followed her into the living room and took a seat opposite the couch where Stella sat down. Don joined her a few seconds later. “Long time no see, Mac,” he said, lightly. “What brings you here?”

“I presume that Stella has been keeping you updated on the progress of the bodega shooting?” Mac said carefully. He watched as Stella’s hand searched out Don’s and squeezed it gently.

“Yeah,” said Don, “Well as much as she can, given that you’ve been keeping her out of the loop as well.” He held up his free hand to stop Mac’s response, “It’s okay, I know why it has to be like that.”

“Well, I’m here tonight to update you on everything,” said Mac. He smiled, “It’s good news this time, well, better than the last time.”

Mac hoped that Don would see it the same way. It had taken a few more sessions in interrogation, and a lot of arguing back and forth between both sets of lawyers and the DA’s office, but finally plea agreements had been reached, which if not exactly satisfactory to any party concerned, had at least seen some measure of justice served in Mac’s opinion. Alicia had initially tried to blame James and Tara for the robbery at Wu’s Deli, claiming that they had been the ones who had stabbed Flack and stolen his gun and then given it to Nathan. “I must have taken her scarf by mistake that night,” she’d told Mac.

“And did you also mistakenly handle the bullets as well?” Maka had asked her, sarcastically, before pointing out that they had eyewitness testimony from Flack that had ruled out Tara as his attacker.

Alicia’s lawyer had eventually convinced her to stop digging a hole for herself and she and Emily had both ended up making another plea bargain with the DA’s office.

“They’re going to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery at Wu’s Deli,” Mac told Don and Stella. “And accessories after the fact to an assault on a police officer. In return, the DA isn’t going to prosecute them on a felony murder charge for the bodega robbery. They’ll both be treated as adults and will have to serve at least eight years before they’re eligible for parole.” He hesitated before continuing, “I know it’s not enough, not for what they’ve done, what they put you through…”

“It’s more than we got five months ago,” said Don, quietly. “What about the bodega owner? Is he gonna cop any heat for shooting that Nathan kid?”

Mac hadn’t anticipated that that would be Don’s first question, but he wasn’t entirely surprised, “It’s been deemed self-defense. In other circumstances he’d be called a hero for saving a hostage’s life.”

“Instead, he has to live with shooting a kid who was manipulated by two sociopaths,” said Stella, grimly.

“Nathan made his own choices,” said Mac. “He could have walked away from Alicia and Emily, but instead he went along with them, he took the gun into the bodega.”

“My gun,” said Don. Stella and Mac looked at him.

“This isn’t on you, Don,” said Stella, “You’re not to blame for any of this.”

“If I’d been able to hang onto my gun, they wouldn’t have had it to give to Nathan,” said Don. He took a deep breath before continuing, “But from what you’ve told me, if they hadn’t had my gun, they’d have probably found another weapon and this would all have played out the same way. Maybe the bodega owner would have hesitated to shoot if Nathan had had a knife instead of a gun, maybe not. That’s on him, but all this happens because some spoiled little rich kids wanted to play cops and robbers and picked the robbers’ side. That’s on them. I wish it hadn’t gone down like it did, but there’s nothing I could’ve done to change it.”

Mac stayed for a little while longer, answering all the questions that Stella hadn’t been able to ask him during the course of the investigation. Don had stayed silent for the most part, occasionally asking with a wry smile for Mac to translate something into ‘proper English’.

This time it was Don who escorted Mac to the door when he left. “Don, I’m sorry we didn’t get an admission as to which of the twins was the one who stabbed you,” said Mac, as he had his hand on the door. It was the one thing that was still nagging at him. Mac had tried to get it included in the plea agreements, but both lawyers had shut him down, and the DA hadn’t pushed for it. Probably, thought Mac, he was too concerned about the details of his involvement in the previous plea agreements coming out.

Don shrugged, “Sounds like there’s no way you’d have got either of them to turn on the other and they’re the only ones who’d know for sure.” He frowned as a memory hit him, “The one who at the bodega…” He bit his lip, “There’s no way it’d hold up in court, but I swear she knew who I was. Maybe she remembered me from the deli…maybe her sister told her what I looked like…” He pulled himself together, “Does it really matter now? They’re both going away, at least for a few years. And that wouldn’t have happened without you and your team Mac. I owe you for that.”

“You’d have done the same for me,” said Mac before he left.

Don returned to the living room and sat down on the couch beside Stella. She wrapped her arms around him and held him close. “Now it’s over,” she said gently.

“Yeah,” said Don, feeling as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “But you and me, Stel, we’re just getting started.”

THE END