When Truth Comes Knocking Chapter 20
Home of Derek Morgan – Morning –
He hadn’t slept. He couldn’t. The thought of being accused of playing a part in the death of thirteen boys was unsettling. How would he defend himself against such charges? One could make a strong case against him with so many victims who’d come after him. He’d never imagined that there could be others like him; young boys terrorized, humiliated and shamed by Carl Buford. Derek had believed the older man’s assessment that he’d brought it on himself. Carl would tell him each time they were together that Derek wanted what was happening and that he should feel proud to be chosen by him. Thinking about it now suddenly made him sick to his stomach.
Penelope was exhausted. Neither one of them had slept with Derek battling his demons well into the early morning. She turned over watching as he jumped from the bed and rushed to the bathroom. The clock on the nightstand blinked seven a.m. and her pursuit of sleep would have to wait until later. So, she pulled herself from the warm bed and made her way to the kitchen. She started the coffee going and began busying herself making breakfast for the two of them. She heard the shower running and she knew it wouldn’t be long before he rounded the corner. Her cell rang and she breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of her friend’s name flashing on the screen.
“JJ! Good morning.”
“Hey, is everything okay?”
JJ heard the tension in Garcia’s voice. She already knew the answer to her question.
“No, no JJ everything isn’t okay. He didn’t sleep last night. Every time he closed his eyes…JJ it was awful. I’m not sure this is going to work.”
“Hang in there, Garcie. It’ll work…it has to work.”
“Derek is strong, the strongest person I know but I’m not sure if he can take this.”
“You know him better than any of us. How many times has he been there for all of us?”
“Too many to count.”
“Well now we have to be there for him.”
“But what if he doesn’t want our help? I mean he’s kept this secret for so long. His family didn’t even know.”
“Well, they know now; we all know. It’s time he faces this head on.”
“I hope you’re right. I love him JJ and it’s killing me to see him in so much pain.”
“I know but he needs you now more than ever before.”
He couldn’t seem to get the water hot enough to wash away the memory of Carl’s touch. He scrubbed and scrubbed his skin was red and raw but Carl’s hand print still felt heavy against his flesh. He thought he’d buried it all tucked away in a dark space in his mind. He’d gone on with his life and had done well for himself leaving his past and the old neighborhood behind. He’d managed to keep his family safe after his father’s death and convinced himself that the price he paid was necessary. No one knew, no one. For so long he thought he wore some sort of brand that gave away his secret but after a while, graduating from college and law school he’d dismissed that notion. His accomplishments and occasional happy moments had never been sabotaged by the truth and Carl had kept his distance even when Derek was in Chicago on business or for a visit. But know things had changed, someone knew. Someone had decided to come hunting for him ready to collect on a debt he owed for his survival.
She was waiting for him in the kitchen worrying and pretending not to be but she never could hide her feelings from him just like he couldn’t hide his from her. She looked up and handed him a cup of coffee, the sadness in her eyes giving her away. He could smell the food from the other side of the house and he was reminded how much he loved her.
“Sit breakfast is ready.”
“Thank you Baby Girl. I’m not…”
She raised her hand to silence him and he raised his in surrender taking a seat at the table.
“I know you’re not hungry but you need to at least try to eat something.”
Derek nodded and took the plate from her hand and waited for her to join him with her plate in her other hand. She was beautiful even without makeup and she was much too good for him. With all that was happening he knew that now more than ever.
There were no thanks needed from him. So, without responding she took a small sip of coffee and softly looked at him from across the table.
It wasn’t a question as much as it was a statement of fact.
“Yeah. I’m sorry for keeping you awake. Maybe I should stay in the guest room tonight…”
“Like hell you will, Derek Morgan! I’m here for you.”
“I know you are.”
“Besides, we’re off for the next few days and we can both try and get some rest.”
“I won’t hold my breath on that one. With this inquiry hanging over my head I won’t get much sleep until it’s all over.”
“I’m sorry you’re going through this Derek.”
Again he shook his head and made an attempt to eat. He loved her breakfasts and he only wished that he had an appetite to really appreciate her efforts. She mimicked his actions and began picking at the eggs and turkey bacon on her plate.
“So what are your plans for the day?” She asked.
“I think I’ll work out in the garage. I have projects I need to finish up for my Baker street house. What about you?”
“JJ wants to go to the spa but I can stay if…”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Please, don’t…don’t do that.”
“This is the reason I didn’t want you or anyone to know.”
“No. I’m fine! I can’t take the pity, the walking on eggshells…the looks and questions that everyone is afraid to ask! I can’t do this, Garcia!”
Dropping his fork in his plate and tossing his napkin on the table he stood angrily pacing the floor.
“I’m sorry! It’s just…I don’t know what to say or do that will make this all better! You know me, Derek! I have to make things better! It’s who I am! Pity? No I don’t pity you! I love you and…and admire you for being strong beyond anything that makes any sense…”
“Strong?” He turned to face her. “Strong? Penelope, I’m a fucking coward! I let other boys become victims of a man I knew was a monster! A pedophile! I kept my mouth shut!”
She stood and approached him cautiously placing her hand on his forearm. He was trembling and using every ounce of his strength to maintain control.
“NO! No! I should have told someone, anyone…I didn’t think they’d believe me…he said no one would believe me…”
He pulled away from her roughly startling her. She watched motionless and in shock as he bolted from the room and out the door into the garage. Her heart told her to go after him but her mind forced her to leave him alone and to allow him the space and time he needed. She felt her heart break. When it came to him she didn’t know how to be still or silent. She loved him more than she thought possible but she was powerless to make things better…to take away what had happened before they’d met and powerless to save him from himself.
He’d hurt her…with his words and his actions. That was the last thing he ever wanted to do. The rage was not for her it was for him, his life; the lies the pain and the fear. The fear that had crippled him and made him weak and had made him a fraud. It was why he would deny being a hero when she spoke of him being one and it was why he ran from gentleness and the care of others. He wasn’t deserving of kindness…he knew what he had done in secret. He was dirty and vile just like the man who’d trapped him in that cabin and whispered his intentions and showed him what it felt like when you let down your guard and allowed yourself to trust.
He stood against the farthest wall for what seemed like forever. He heard the front door close then the heavy engine of Esther start up. He pushed her away maybe for the last time. Who would blame her she didn’t deserve a broken man like him. She could do so much better. Then he moved to the cluttered workbench it was so symbolic of what his life had become. Bits and pieces of wood, and tools, nails and screws all lying idle with no purpose unless they were connected something. Then he saw the rope tucked in the corner of the workbench nearly hidden by his assortment of power tools. Pushing his way past the clutter he pulled it from its hiding place. Slowly he began to unwind it from it’s large spool a little at a time; inch by inch. No, he didn’t deserve Penelope or any of his family and friends. He’d fooled them all with his bravado and eagerness to run into danger keeping them from having to do the same. He continued to unravel the rope until half of it was pooled at his feet.
“You need to pay for what you’ve done! You killed us! It’s your fault! Your fault…your…”
He saw his body laying on the floor and an all too familiar blank stare looking back at him piercing him accusingly, lips ashy and blue. Her screams rang out behind him just as he crossed over beyond no return. Again he’d shown his cowardice, his need to run away, refusing to hold himself accountable for his sins.
“Derek! How could you? Why?”
Her voice trembled as she pleaded for an answer she would never get. He was a scoundrel because now she would be forever haunted, blaming herself for not being able to change his mind or reach him in time. This wasn’t an act of love or fatigue it was easy, pedestrian, cruel. Cruel because his mother would always ask why and wonder why she hadn’t seen the signs. After all, she’d been a nurse for thirty years…she should have known, should have insisted he get help.
He wanted to take it back, wanted to pretend the thoughts had never entered his mind but his body lying lifeless on the floor spoke to who he really was. It screamed from the dark chambers of hell that he had been a fraud, a murderer of children by proxy…and he deserved to die but not like this! Not at his own hands…NO…He deserved a jury of his peers, a jury of parents who’d been forced to bury their sons because he would not save them with his voice, his testimony of his shame and the pain he’d endured at the hands of a monster who’d once whispered in his ear that he loved him while he violated his small body. He wasn’t the only one, which meant he wasn’t special. There were others, before and others after…all of which would meet him in hell…ready to strangle him and beat him all over again.
“Derek? Derek! DEREK!”
He turned to look her in the face and for a brief moment he didn’t recognize her and he didn’t know where he was. Then the haze disappeared and he was present again standing at the cluttered workbench. This was the place where he found distraction after rough cases, the noise of power tools blocking the thoughts of death and evil from his mind. Working with his hands, pounding nails and knocking down walls forced him to focus, and daydream on what would become of his handiwork.
“Where’d you go?”
“I called your name three times…”
“I’m sorry…I was just…”
She watched him worriedly from the doorway. His hands were trembling and he seemed a million miles away. She’d made up her mind to leave and join JJ but after a block away she had to turn back. No matter what he said or did she couldn’t leave things the way she had before he stormed out of the kitchen. Seeing him now she was glad she did.
He watched her take the steps to close the gap between them. He needed to apologize and tell her that she did not deserve his anger. The tears streaming down her face were his doing so before she could say a word, he pulled her against his body and held her tightly. She was his lifeline. She was his anchor and things were rocky without her this he couldn’t deny. He pulled away slightly and brushed a few stray hairs from her face looking deeply into her eyes and waiting for just the right moment.
“I was wrong. You didn’t deserve that…”
“No, please let me finish.”
She nodded and waited.
“I can’t do this without you. I don’t want to do this without you, do you hear me?”
“Please, I’m so sorry. I know I don’t have the right to ask but please don’t give up on me.”
“Never, Baby Boy. Never.”
Then the buzzing of his cell phone broke pulled them from the moment. Digging it from his pocket he looked puzzled at the unknown number. She watched him as he answered wondering if it were more bad news.
“Your inquiry begins tomorrow. Nine a.m. sharp….and Agent Morgan, don’t be late!”