DISCLAIMER: Copycat is the property of Jon Amiel and Warner Studios, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Everything I know about forensics, botany, and serial killers I learned from tv. *grin* take everything with a grain of salt. except the botany which is made up altogether. ;o)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: First part of the New Beginnings series.
Looking around the plain, busy FBI office, MJ couldn't quite figure out why she was there. The phone call had been from the secretary of the Deputy Director of the San Francisco FBI office and all she knew was that her presence was requested for a meeting with Mr. Jeffrey Gilfoyle, the man himself. Dressed in her usual fare of slacks and a blouse under a blazer, MJ stood out as being almost stylish in comparison to the agents going about their business and she hid a fond, slightly sad smile. Ruben would have stood out like a sore thumb with his stylish suits and ties.
The phone rang on the secretary's desk and the woman picked it up, listening to the other end for a moment before replying respectfully, "Yes, Sir."
Which was, of course, MJ's cue to stand. Doing so, she acknowledged the nod from the secretary and walked to the door behind and to the right of the woman's desk. Stepping into a large, ornate office, meant to intimidate she was sure, MJ met Jeffrey Gilfoyle in the middle of the office, accepting the hand he put out to her with, "Mr. Gilfoyle. It's a pleasure."
In his early forties with sandy hair and pale blue eyes, Jeffrey Gilfoyle was quiet and unassuming, but with an air of power that was unmistakable. MJ had no trouble seeing him taking over the SF office and then moving national probably within about five years, then moving on to politics.
"The pleasure is mine, Detective Monahan," he replied. "Please, have a seat."
Sitting in a luxurious leather chair, briefly wondering how he'd gotten the budget for it, MJ sat opposite Gilfoyle and said, "I have to admit that I'm pretty curious about why I'm here."
Gilfoyle's handsome face broke into an easy smile as he answered, "There's no real mystery, Detective, I'm sorry if it came across that way. We'd like to offer you a job in our Serial Investigation Unit."
MJ's mouth actually dropped a little at the statement and it took a few moments to collect her composure. "Excuse me?"
"Your work with Dr. Hudson in the Foley case was truly outstanding, as is your record, Detective Monahan," he explained. "This is a new, experimental program and we want Dr. Hudson on board. Not as the AIC, of course, since she's a civilian, but on the lead team. Unfortunately, Dr. Hudson was less than receptive to the idea."
Barely stifling a laugh at the diplomatic words, she questioned, "Did she tell you to stick it where the sun doesn't shine?"
Gilfoyle grinned with honest humor and answered, a bit rueful, "Pretty close to it. It's the first time in a long time someone's done that too, put me in my place."
"Doesn't seem to have done you any harm."
"I had a good relationship with my mother's hand on my backside when I was a kid. Strong women are part of my life, Detective, and always have been."
They shared a grin at that, and MJ relaxed.
"In any case, Dr. Hudson did mention that while there was a snowball's chance in hell for her agreeing to join our team, if she did, you would have to be there. No ifs, ands, or buts about it."
Chuckling, MJ nodded. "I bet she did."
"You would be based here, but the cases would be national, so travel is required. Especially where Dr. Hudson won't be mobile. Your salary would double, as would your benefits."
"Helen wouldn't be mobile? You wouldn't want her with the team where we are? That would hamper things unnecessarily."
"She's agoraphobic, last I checked."
MJ shrugged. "Things change. Let me talk to her and see what we see."
Eyebrows raised, Gilfoyle said, "So you're interested?"
"Of course," MJ replied. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Dr. Hudson led me to believe that you were very attached to your current position," Gilfoyle admitted.
Smiling, MJ stated, "Helen knows me pretty well, but I think I still have some surprises in store for her."
Gilfoyle stood, offering his hand again.
MJ stood in response and took it, knowing that the interview was over. "Good to meet you, Sir."
"You too, Detective."
Leaving the office, MJ fought the grin trying to escape. It wouldn't do to show potential coworkers that she was a pushover, after all.
Pulling into the parking lot of Helen's pier front apartment building, MJ looked up at the apartment with a grin. The wooden window slats were wide open to let the sun in and she could just picture Helen pacing around the living room, waiting for her arrival. She'd called Helen before actually going to the FBI office and confessed to being baffled as to why she'd been asked down.
Looking back at the conversation, she knew that the tension in Helen's voice wasn't sympathy for an unknown situation, but nervousness about how MJ would react to the offer.
This was going to be fun.
In the last three months since Ruben's death and the killing of Peter Foley, the serial killer that had been copy-catting the big name serial killers, the two women had become staunch friends and allies. They talked daily, morning and night, going through small rituals that helped Helen get on with her life. That helped MJ to get on with losing a partner and the chaos and guilt that had followed.
They'd both gone through therapy, though for different reasons. MJ had finally stopped going to her own, knowing that she'd never not feel guilty about how Ruben had died. She'd stopped beating herself up about it, thanks to Helen, but the guilt and sadness lingered. But she was still accompanying Helen to meetings and her therapy for the agoraphobia. She'd personally checked out both, not willing to let Helen go into an unfamiliar situation with the possibility that someone there might have a grudge against the other woman.
Sitting at the back of the AA and NA meetings, unobtrusive and unassuming, no one took any notice of her after the first few times. She usually brought a book or paperwork so the time wouldn't be 'wasted,' as Helen had protested at first. And she gave those people the credit and anonymity that they deserved by not listening to anything said there. She turned off her hearing every time until Helen spoke.
The low, smooth, rhythmic cadence of her friend's voice was impossible to tune out. No matter how hard she tried not to listen, MJ heard every damning and insecure word. About the fear and the pain. About the need and craving. About the loneliness, even though she was no longer alone as she had been. It was difficult to hear, but she knew that Helen wanted her to hear it all.
The first time Helen had stood up and given her name, their eyes had met. Helen's dark eyes were pleading with her for something and even though she still didn't know what that was, MJ gave her full attention whenever Helen started talking. She put down the book or paperwork and watched the slender, tall woman as her words tumbled out, halting and uncertain. When she was done, MJ would smile at her as gently as she could. Helen would return the smile briefly before looking away, as if embarrassed, while the next person began speaking.
That's when MJ would pick up her book or paperwork and tune things out again.
Climbing out of her almost-new police issued car, only four years old this time, MJ strode across the parking lot to the main door. It was only moments before she was at Helen's and knocking jauntily on the large wooden door.
It swung open only seconds later, confirming MJ's suspicions that Helen had been just down the short hall in the living room, roaming around restlessly. Leaning against the doorframe, MJ looked up at the taller woman and drawled, "So. I hear the FBI is looking for new talent."
Helen grimaced and motioned her in, waiting until MJ was inside before closing the solid door. "I didn't want to prejudice you by saying anything."
Snorting, MJ glanced back at her and replied, "For, or against?"
"What did you say?" Helen countered.
MJ hated that neutral mask with a passion. When Helen didn't want her to know what she was thinking or feeling, which, granted, wasn't often, that mask would descend and MJ was left clueless about how to handle the other woman. Of course, there was one sure way to break through it. "What did you want me to say?"
"MJ," Helen warned, exasperated.
Grinning at that, MJ sat on the couch and replied, "I said yes."
Helen froze in place. "You said yes?"
"Of course I said yes. Helen, this is a huge promotion."
"But you love your job."
"And you hate traveling."
"So why ?"
Crossing her leg almost primly, MJ looked over at Helen's distraught face and replied, "Because this is a chance to do something bigger, and different, and more more. I love being a cop, and this is the same thing only, well, not."
"You'd have to go through their training course," Helen replied, almost desperate. "You'd have to go to Quantico and go back to school."
Uncrossing her legs, MJ leaned forward, seeing the serious distress on her friend's face and in the jerky movements as Helen's long legs took her pacing around the room. Staring quietly at the other woman, MJ said softly, "You wanted me to say no. Even though this is something that you want to do, you wanted me to turn it down. That's why you made me a condition of acceptance."
Helen stopped short and nodded, her back to MJ. "I can't you'll be gone. I won't be able to see you."
"Helen," MJ said, still soft. "Look at me."
Reluctant, Helen turned to face her. "What?"
"You'll be fine."
"Yes, you will."
"No, MJ, I can't do this without you."
Smiling, MJ stood and walked over to Helen, pulling her close for a hug. "Yes you can. I'll call you morning and night, just like now. And if you want, you can call me when you go to a meeting and leave the cell phone going so I can hear things there, too."
"I just I feel so stupid saying this but I feel safer with you here," Helen admitted.
MJ's smile increased and she squeezed Helen's shoulder as she stood back. "I could have Nico stay close to you while I'm gone."
Snorting, Helen replied, "He's almost as obnoxious as you are, only not as subtle about it."
A laugh escaped and MJ nodded in agreement. "Very true. But he's a good man or I'd never have married him in the first place."
"You divorced him," Helen pointed out.
MJ grinned outright. "He's still a good man, even if he's impossible to live with."
Sighing, still troubled, Helen said, "I suppose I could well, it's not like I can stop you, right?"
"With a single word," MJ replied softly, putting her hand on Helen's arm.
Eyes wide and dark, Helen returned her stare for a long moment before sighing explosively and shaking her head. "No."
Disappointment went through MJ, but she forced a smile and said, "Okay. I'll call Gilfoyle and tell him it's a no-go."
Startled, Helen shook her head. "No, I meant, no, I wasn't going to stop you."
Surprised, but very pleased, MJ smiled and exclaimed, "Oh! Great!"
A rueful smile lit Helen's face and she said fondly, "You're impossible."
MJ didn't deny the accusation.
Even though Nico was a comforting, solid presence not three feet away, Helen felt horribly exposed as they waited for MJ's plane to be announced. No one was paying them the least bit of attention, Helen knew that, but she couldn't help the shivers that occasionally ran through her. The feeling that someone was watching never went away, even knowing that no one was doing anything of the sort. A small hand gripped her arm and brought her attention back to MJ's smiling face.
"Hey. You okay?" MJ questioned, soft but insistent.
What was it about this firecracker of a woman that made her relax with just a few words? Nodding, Helen replied, "Fine."
"Well, I figured that since the paranoia was constant, there was no real need to mention it," Helen said dryly.
MJ chuckled, but it died quickly as the plane was announced over the loudspeaker. Tightening her grip on Helen's arm, she said firmly, "I'm proud of you. Doing this takes a lot of guts, Helen. You should be proud of yourself."
Though she wanted to deny it, MJ's praise was too precious by far to do something so cavalier. Forcing a smile, Helen replied, "Thank you."
There was a too-quick hug and then MJ had her shoulder bag in hand and was saying, "I'll call you as soon as I touch down at the airport and make sure Nico's treating you good."
Nico acknowledged the comment with a grin and a wave, though he didn't intrude.
Nodding, Helen replied, "Be careful."
"I will. Those rookies won't know what hit 'em."
"Now that I believe."
They both laughed, and then the plane was called again and MJ hesitated. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"I'm fine. Go, before the plane takes off and you have to do something stupid, like fly standby," Helen assured her.
Grinning, MJ nodded and walked backwards towards the gate with unerring accuracy. She pointed sharply at Nico, to Helen's surprise, then turned and was in the floor of people to get on the plane to Washington, DC. When she was gone, Helen sighed and looked at Nico, who was now at her shoulder.
"She's something' else," he murmured, a wistful smile on his face.
Helen nodded and agreed, "She certainly is."
"So. Let's get you back to your place before you turn into a pumpkin."
The too-jovial joke grated on Helen's nerves and for a brief moment she considered running after MJ and going with her to DC. Anything was better than being separated from her by three thousand miles. But sanity was a fast counter to the wild notion. This wasn't just something that she had to endure, this was something that MJ had to do. Helen hadn't missed the shock of disappointment on her friend's face when MJ had thought she'd said no to doing this.
This was something that MJ wanted to do, very badly, and Helen wouldn't stand in her way. It might kill her in the process, but she'd let MJ go.
That thought in mind, she smiled at Nico and agreed, "That sounds like a good idea."
"How're you doing?"
The sturdy, soft voice was a balm to Helen's jangled nerves and she admitted, "I want a drink."
"How many days is it?"
"That's right. And if we have to start over, I'll kick your ass."
Laughing softly, Helen reminded, "I told you that you didn't have to stop drinking just because I did."
"Partners do things together, remember?"
"Yes, I remember," Helen agreed, smiling. "So how was the flight?"
"Terrible. I had a mother with a screaming child for two hours."
"Yeah. That was when he threw up on me."
Helen laughed outright. "Oh, MJ, I'm sorry. I shouldn't laugh."
"And yet you are."
Still chuckling, Helen asked, "Did your luggage make it?"
"Yes, thank God. I changed the second I got them back and sealed up the vomit shirt and pants in a bag."
"Wow. That's a lot of vomit."
Dry, MJ agreed, "No kidding."
Heading over to the bedroom, Helen stretched out as she said, "So you start class tomorrow?"
"Later this morning, at this point, yeah. I probably won't get any sleep. By the time my security clearance is checked, I get shown to my dorm, and how awful is it for me to have to say 'dorm' at my age? By then, it'll probably be around three and there's no sense in getting only a couple of hours sleep. Hey how's Nico treating you?"
"Fine," Helen assured her. "He's being very gentlemanly what did you threaten him with?"
"Nothing. I just asked him to treat you nice."
The innocent tone didn't fool Helen a single bit. The very first day they'd met, MJ had tried the 'wide-eyed, little girl' routine on her and she hadn't fallen for it then, either.
"You are so suspicious, Helen. You really should talk to someone about that."
There was a brief silence before MJ asked, "So really. Are you okay?"
Helen struggled for a moment, then admitted, "I'd be better with you here, but yes, I'm okay."
A soft sigh filtered over the phone and MJ said, "Good. I know you can handle it, but I want to be there too. It makes me nervous, letting you out of my sight."
Surprised, Helen sat up straight. "It does?"
"Yeah. I guess I've grown attached to being around you. Probably too much. Can't be objective about you anymore. And knowing that you're the pinup girl for serial killers in the making doesn't exactly lead to a good night's sleep. That's why I didn't want you to fight me on Nico. It makes me feel better than he's there."
All of which was news to Helen. She took a moment to digest it, a smile tugging at her lips. "He's taking good care of me, though I think he's kind of baffled as to why he's doing that. You have a way of making people do things they don't normally do, MJ."
Chuckling, MJ replied, "Really? I'll have to remember that. Oh damn."
"I'm here. I have to go."
"Already?" Helen asked, dismayed.
"Yeah. I think the cabbie's here use light-speed or something, even on dark Virginia roads in the middle of the night," MJ said, wry. "Hang on."
Helen heard her settling up with the cabbie and getting her suitcases out of the trunk of the cab, then the sound of the car pulling away.
"Okay. I'm back, but someone's waiting for me, I can see them."
"Well, you be careful," Helen admonished. "Make friends and play nice."
MJ laughed, the sound musical and carefree. "Yes, Mom. Thanks. And if you need me, you know how to get in touch with me. For anything."
Helen nodded, thinking about the arrangement they had with Gilfoyle about Helen's calls always getting through to MJ, no matter where she was, and agreed, "I do."
There was another, longer pause, then MJ sighed and repeated, "I have to go. Get some good sleep, okay?"
"Okay. Good night, Helen."
"Night, MJ. Good luck."
The disconnect was before the word even finished and Helen sighed, pressing the 'off' button on her own phone and setting it on the bedside table. Pulling up the covers, she stared at the shadows on the ceiling and sighed again.
It was going to be a long six months.
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