elgrey: Artwork by Suzan Lovett (DM_MartinIcon)
[personal profile] elgrey

The fax spewed out another endless loop of paper and Jack groaned inwardly. He knew it would be from Bennett; every other fax he received these days was from Bennett containing more meticulous deductions about the Indemnity killings. Bennett had deduced that the timeline of the killings could be worked out as precisely as a sudoku puzzle. He had filled in a decades long calendar of known disappearances with big red squares for where he was deducing another killing must have taken place, and wanted the FBI to go through the disappearances from that time and find ones that matched the general appearance of Ryan Senior and Ryan Junior’s victims. He thought the final tally could be much higher than anyone had ever imagined.

Jack tore the latest loop of fax paper out of the machine and walked into the bullpen to deposit it in front of Sam. “You deal with Bennett and find his missing victims for him.”

Sam grimaced. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?” Jack looked across at Viv. “I thought you said Bennett was a good guy?”

Viv shrugged. “He is.”

Danny perched on Sam’s desk a little gingerly. His hand still automatically went to his side when he moved too fast and Jack had forbidden him to leave the office for another two weeks.

“Not even to go to the bathroom?” Danny had enquired.

“I could make it a month.”

Danny had been much better behaved after that, although still inclined to sigh heavily and insist that there was nothing wrong with him, even though there obviously was. Now, he leaned forward – carefully – and read the fax over Sam’s shoulder. “Ah hah. From the shape of his handwriting I deduce that Sheriff Bennett is what women technically refer to as a ‘hottie’.”

Sam looked accusingly at Viv who sighed. “Sam, they asked, I answered.”

“Is there something wrong with him?” Martin peered over Danny’s shoulder to peer over Sam’s, handing Danny a cup of coffee as he did so before taking a sip of his own. He still had to hold his ribs if he moved quickly but his bruises had faded to faint blue and yellow mottling.

“Yes, he’s not married. He’s therefore single and available and clearly not busy enough or he wouldn’t be sending us sixteen faxes a day with his latest deductions.”

“I think you should liaise with him.” Elena handed Sam one cup of coffee and Viv another before sipping her own, and Jack realized that now everyone had coffee except him. “And then I think you should tell us all about it – in detail.”

Jack noticed that Martin looked slightly glum about that suggestion and had to admit that, although he had no business feeling that way, he felt a little glum himself. Viv, Danny and Elena all seemed to think it was an excellent idea though. “Why don’t you people get love lives of your own instead of having to enjoy them vicariously through the rest of us?” he enquired.

Sam gave him a slightly pitying look. “Jack, if Danny had any more of a love life he’d be too tired to work.”

“I have a child, which is kind of like being forced to live in a convent. And Viv is married,” Elena explained. “She’s not allowed a love life.”

Martin took another swig of coffee. “I heard that, in some states, married people are allowed to have sex. If they get a note from their church.”

“I don’t think so,” Jack assured him. “I think that’s just something they tell you unmarried types so you’ll go through with the ceremony when your time comes.”

Danny smirked at Jack. “You have a sex life now?”

“None of your business.”

Sam glanced up at Martin. “If I couldn’t make a relationship work in New York, how likely is it that I can make it work in Wisconsin – a state, by the way, in which I do not live.”

Martin shrugged. “On the plus side, it’s very unlikely that anyone from the office would see you out with the guy. And Sheriff Bennett could tell people that you were his sister and they may actually believe him.”

Jack snorted. “Yeah, and as it’s Wisconsin, they would believe you even after they knew you were sleeping together.” At the look Sam gave him, he grimaced. “We could all pretend I didn’t say that out loud.”

Raising her voice, Sam said: “For the last time, I wasn’t the one who got shot – ”

“This time.”

“I wasn’t the one who got lost in the snow.”

“We weren’t lost,” Danny protested. “We were following the stream.”

“I wasn’t the one who had to be airlifted to a hospital or who scared the crap out of you by getting himself taken prisoner by a serial killer.” She pointedly didn’t look at Martin or Danny. “So, take it out on the guilty parties, not me.” Sam swept up the fax with dignity and headed for the file room.

Viv gave Jack a level look. “And speaking as someone else who didn’t get shot or kidnapped by a serial killer, I’d appreciate you dialing down the paranoia and the attitude a little too.”

Elena nodded. “It’s true, Jack. Maybe Danny and Martin aren’t safe to be let out without a keeper, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay the price for their…” She turned to Danny: “How do you say ‘tontería’?”

“We weren’t stupid,” Danny protested.

“My mistake – necedad.”

“Our deeds weren’t foolish either,” Martin put in.

Danny held up a hand to Jack. “You see? He’s learning.”

“All you need to do is to get a little transmitter and put it in their pockets so you always know where they are.” Elena smiled brightly at Jack.

Jack knew he had hired Elena for reasons other than just her efficiency – she was also truly evil at times, and he liked that in a woman. “I was thinking more along the lines of one of those cranial bugs. How do those little alien implants work again, Martin?”

Martin sipped his coffee, unperturbed. “You do realize that signal can be blocked by any good brand of tinfoil?”

Elena looked regretful. “It had better be one of those retractable dog leashes then.”

“We didn’t do anything wrong!” Danny insisted.

Jack tapped the table. “I seem to recall giving you very clear instructions about the things you were and were not allowed to do. You weren’t allowed to get yourselves concussed, get yourselves shot, or make me call out Search and Rescue to look for you. Shall we have a recap on how that turned out?”

“Circumstances conspired against us.” Martin looked across at Viv for help but she shook her head.

“You scared everyone half to death, Martin. No one is forgiving you two any time soon. But, don’t worry – this came today.” She pushed an opened envelope across the table to them. “Buster still loves you.”

Jack watched as Danny and Martin both had to tilt their heads to one side to look at the contents. Martin peered at the verse. “That doesn’t rhyme or scan. And that word definitely isn’t spelled right.”

“Which word?” Elena enquired.

“Any of them.”

Danny tilted his head the other way. “Yes, I’m touched by the sentiment but his poetry sucks.”

Elena also glanced at the contents of the card curiously. “So do you, apparently, at least in his fantasies.”

Without looking up from her report, Viv said conversationally: “I had no idea you two were so flexible. The mail room was most impressed.”

Martin was practically standing on his head to look at what Jack guessed was an illustration of some kind. “I don’t think that’s physically possible.”

Danny glanced at it briefly. “Yeah, it is.”

Elena nodded. “Oh yes. Definitely.”

Martin looked at the picture and then back at them with a whole new respect in his eyes. “Really?”

Sam came back in with another box of files, pausing to look over Danny’s shoulder. “That’s what yoga classes are for.”

Martin glanced up at her in mild reproach. “But we never…” He broke off to cough instead, while Jack tried not to smirk.

Sam gave Martin a dazzling smile. “I’m sure Danny could show you.”

“I bet Mac could too.” Jack gave up trying not to smirk and just went for it. The reproachful look that Viv and Sam both shot at him told him too late that no one was apparently meant to be commenting on Mac’s little crush. Luckily, it went right over Martin’s head anyway. He and Danny were too busy feeling picked on and unloved to notice.

“How long are we going to be punished for things that weren’t our fault anyway?” Martin asked resignedly.

Jack checked his watch. “About two more weeks.”

“I can’t believe I’m in the doghouse for getting shot!” Danny protested.

“It’s for willfully and negligently getting shot.” Sam dumped the box on the table. “There’s this new thing called ‘ducking’ – you and Martin should try it some time.”

Elena shook her head. “Eighteen years without killing anyone and – how long were you two alone with him before the guy couldn’t control himself any longer…?”

Martin looked longingly at the empty white board. “I’m actually hoping someone is being abducted right now, just to get the rest of you out of the office.”

“You can help me with these.” Sam put a second box of files on the table. “We’re looking for Ryan’s type who went missing within the specified time period.”

“And for those who need a reminder of Ryan’s type…” Danny pointed at Martin. “Behold Exhibit A.”

“Yeah, I’ll be sure to put that on my bio if I join one of those internet dating agencies.” Martin opened the first file he came to and began to study it.

“What’s the age range again?” Elena took a handful and pushed them along the table to Danny, before grabbing another pile of files for herself.

“Between nineteen and thirty-five.” Vivian took a stack of files for herself and handed Jack a pile of his own.

He looked at the files without enthusiasm. “This is Bennett’s obsession, not mine.”

“It’s not like we have anything else to do,” she pointed out, reasonably.

The phone ringing half an hour later made them all look at it in surprise. Jack felt almost aggrieved. He was just starting to get caught up in going through the old files, and so was everyone else, the pile of possible victims already containing four likely missing men. At the thought of having to gear up to search for someone now, he felt a surge of weariness. He picked up the phone. “Malone.”

The message was unexpected but more welcome than a report of a missing person. Sam was coming back in with another box of files as he put down the phone. He nodded to her. “Your godson is on his way up along with the rest of the family.”

Glancing around at his team, he noticed the way Martin immediately adjusted his tie and smoothed down his hair, trying to look less rumpled, becoming abruptly aware of his still-lingering bruises when they had been completely forgotten a moment before. Danny was also fiddling with his tie and picking fluff from his jacket. Jack watched them not meeting each other’s eyes for a moment and then said quietly: “You didn’t get Ryan killed. You weren’t even there. He got himself killed when he decided to resist arrest. And even if you had – which you didn’t – you would still have done Mary Ryan a favor. Okay?”

Danny shrugged as if the thought of feeling guilty had never crossed his mind. “Sure.”

It was left to Martin to say: “What about Margaret? Whatever else Ryan was, he was her father and he loved her.”

“She’s still better off without him.” Jack held his gaze. “Believe it, Martin. It’s the truth.” Which was when he realized that, on balance, he did like Martin doing the whole ‘I want to be Jack when I grow up’ thing because on occasions like now it meant that his word carried a lot of conviction and therefore a lot of comfort.

Ironically, when Mary and her extended family arrived, with their visitor IDs pinned or clutched a little stickily, Danny and Martin were the least stressed, immediately being distracted by the fact there was a baby to coo over. Jack had taken a cursory glance at Samuel Hope, too, and had to admit that the baby was not unattractive, and did seem to be one of the contented gurgling kind that were sometimes difficult to resist – although he intended to give it his best shot. Sam was busy throwing missing person’s files back into their folders and boxes so that Mary wouldn’t see them and Vivian was immediately annexed by Charlotte, who seemed to have at least a hundred pictures she had drawn to show her, and who was not exactly slow about ordering Danny and Martin around once she realized that they were as much of a pushover as her father.

Jack had been hoping that Elena might have turned out to be made of sterner stuff, but she let herself get suckered into helping Margaret with her homework within five minutes, and Jack shook his head, retreating to his own office on the pretext of having to make a phone call.

“I’m sorry.”

Mary Ryan was standing in his doorway. It was a shock to see here there, in the place where he had once looked at her photograph and thought how much like a Madonna she was. Today there was even a crack of light finding her brow like a benediction. Her hair was still neatly plaited, but he saw a few signs of rebellion from her previous restrictions in the fact that she was wearing jeans. He remembered, from looking through their closets after Charlotte had gone missing, that Mary had not owned a pair of jeans, only a long row of dresses in demure blues and blacks. Ryan had liked his wife to dress like a member of the Exclusive Brethren as Jack recalled. It was too much to hope that she would have cut her hair and henna’d it orange before getting a nose stud, he supposed, but the jeans were something.

She came into the room without being invited, which surprised and quite impressed him, although the way she sat down in the chair opposite him was still too neat and quiet, elbows pressed into her sides to avoid taking up more than her allotted space.

He could hear Charlotte laughing outside. Viv and Sam had said she was a very happy child, a little spoiled by her father – who as well as being the world’s biggest wimp when a woman went into labor was doting to the point of idiocy with kids – but undoubtedly happy and well adjusted and articulate. Social Services had insisted on taking a few of Davidson’s foster kids away and but Jack suspected they would be back as soon as they could get away from wherever they were put next. Most people who went to Davidson’s seemed to end up staying. Vivian and Davidson were now bosom pals, somewhat to Jack’s annoyance. Viv had even called in a few favors to find someone to teach the women there self-defense.

“What are you sorry for?”

Mary gave a pained little laugh. “For so many things. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you where Margaret was when you tried so hard to find her. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth when you arrested Frank. I’m sorry for what happened to your agents. I’m sorry for all the things that were done to my brother because I didn’t find a way to stop Frank from…”

Her voice cracked and Jack winced. “Your brother doesn’t seem to hold it against you. And he could have called the police too. It wasn’t as if he never had a chance to leave the farm. He put up with the guy as well.”

“He was protecting me.”

“And you were protecting him. And Ryan played you both so you ended up not being protected from anything. Do I think you were an idiot not to go to the police? Yes. Do I think you were an idiot not to tell me what the hell was going on when I was there in your house, ready and willing to listen, yes. But do I understand why you didn’t? Yes, I sort of do.”

He watched as she twisted a handkerchief between her fingers, then caught herself doing it and stopped, smoothing out the creases carefully. “If I betrayed him, he would kill again, and if I told you about the murders but you couldn’t convict him – that would have been the worst betrayal of all. I used to look out at those woods and think about all the places where Frank could hide a body, all the campers and hikers who would just disappear…. He used to watch them. He thought about it. I used to see him thinking about it. They came by for directions sometimes. I was always so scared he wasn’t going to be able to hold onto his self-control, but he did. He said he was man of his word, and he was.”

“Yeah, real big of him not to kill anyone as long as you kept having sex with him.” Jack couldn’t hide his exasperation and so didn’t try. “When you went missing, didn’t you think he’d be suspicious?”

“I thought you and Agent Johnson would talk to him again. I hoped that you wouldn’t find me and he’d just assume I’d been murdered – and he’d have to keep his word even though I’d broken mine.” She looked guilty about that, the burden of not keeping her promise. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

He lowered his voice. “He raped your brother. He murdered your father. How could you live with him after that?” How could you let him touch you without your skin crawling?

“How could I not when if I wasn’t with him he’d keep doing that to other people?” She closed her eyes. “Neither of us thought that he would ever do that to Nathan until it was too late. He was always hitting him but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know he was a murderer. I thought he just wanted Nate to stay out of trouble. We never really saw anyone. It was just us. Frank kept saying that Nate and I had never known what it was like to have a proper family, to live proper lives, and he wanted that for us. And he was going to make sure we had it.” Her smile was very sad. “We thought being a proper family was probably a little different from what we had with him, but we didn’t know for sure. Clare was stronger than us. Even though she never had a family either, she knew what she was missing. She knew it was meant to be better than it was.”

Jack glanced out through the glass at Clare who was holding the gurgling baby while effortlessly monitoring her daughter. “She seems to be a girl of strong character.”

“She saved all of us.” Mary straightened another crease in her handkerchief. “I couldn’t save Nate, but she did.”

“You sent him away before Ryan killed him. He wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t told him to.” Jack gritted his teeth. “Why didn’t you call us from the hospital? Tell us you didn’t want your husband to know you’d left him?”

“I was afraid. He said that he would find us if we ever tried to leave – that he’d never rest until he did.”

“My agents could have been killed.”

“I know.” The remorse in her eyes was so heartfelt that he felt his anger sputter a little. “I’m so sorry. I thought you’d be the one to go. I thought you could deal with him. You seemed to know what he was like.”

Jack almost laughed. “Well, I didn’t get a lot of back up from you when I was asking if he hit you or Margaret, did I?”

“He didn’t.” Her sincerity was unmistakable as well. “I kept hoping you’d ask a different question.”

“Well, silly of me, I know, but it didn’t occur to me to ask ‘Oh, and by the way, is your husband a serial killer?’”

“I am sorry.” She darted an anxious look out at the bullpen. “Are they okay?”

“They’re fine. But I don’t appreciate my agents getting shot because of people not telling me things. I’ve got three agents out there now with bullet hole scars. Can you imagine how inefficient that makes me look?” He gazed at her for a moment before his curiosity got the better of him. “Did you love him?”

The sounds of Charlotte suggesting a game they could all play filtered in from outside. Danny was counter-suggesting that they should eat lunch while Elena was asking for quiet so Margaret could finish her project.

“I can’t remember,” Mary admitted. “If I did, it was a long time ago, and the man I loved never existed. The man I loved didn’t kill people.”

Jack sighed, conceding the point. “You know, we’re not all drunken wife-beaters or serial murderers. There must be some normal guys out there somewhere you could meet.”

Mary smiled as if he had said something very funny. “You think I want to meet someone? You think I want to share my life with another man?”

“Don’t you?”

“I want to be a widow for the rest of my life, Agent Malone.”

He had never heard a woman say the word ‘widow’ like that before; like it was a key that opened all doors and the quiet room in the house that always got the afternoon sun. She rose to her feet. “Sheriff Bennett keeps coming to see us. He wants us to help him identify everyone Frank killed. We don’t really know anything, but he comes anyway. I’m not sure he’ll ever forgive me for keeping quiet for so long.”

“Would you do it again?” Jack asked curiously. “Play it the way you did?”

“No. I’d find the courage to send Nate away the first time Frank hit him.”

“What about you? You’ve spent half your lifetime tiptoeing around drunken or insane men and doing what you’re told. Wouldn’t you change that or would you stay with him?”

Mary leaned across and opened the file on Jack’s desk, one of the old ones they had looked at when Bennett had started faxing them information. The dead man’s face gazed up at them. “I know all their names now. All the ones so far.” Mary turned the photograph around so she could see it more clearly. “This one was called Silas Perry. Frank’s father killed him sometime in the April of nineteen sixty-three. I’ll never know the names of the ones he didn’t kill because I stayed with him. But I know they’re out there. I know they have lives that would have been lost. Eighteen years, Agent Malone, and Sheriff Bennett thinks Frank and his father used to kill at least three or four a year. That’s more than fifty people who aren’t dead because I kept my promise. Yes, I’d stay with him. I just couldn’t be a part of bringing another murderer into the world, of watching my son turned into something he didn’t want to be.”

She gazed into Jack’s eyes and although the logical part of him knew he disagreed with her on every level, there was something about her conviction that was almost contagious. Her voice was still quiet and gentle and she seemed to need an answer. “There must have been a time when Frank could have become someone else instead, mustn’t there? You hunt down killers all the time. Wasn’t there always something that made them that way? Something someone could have done?”

“We don’t know.” Jack closed the file, hiding the dead man’s eyes. Mary had identified him correctly, even upside down. He wondered how much obsessing she was doing over her late husband’s victims. If she was going to hug her guilt to her like a comforter for the rest of her life. At least this was one of the ones whose body had been found, forty-three years ago now; any surviving relatives were probably going to take very little comfort from knowing that his murderer had finally been stopped. “We don’t tend to meet up with them until after the damage has been done and someone else has paid the price for it.”

“My son is going to grow up to be a good man.” Mary straightened up.

“Are you going to tell him the truth?”


He was surprised when she didn’t even hesitate. “Do you think that’s wise?”

“I think it’s something he has a right to know.”

“Does Margaret know?”

“She knows enough. She’s always been someone who watched and understood things. She knew I was afraid of him, she just didn’t know why. Now she does.”

“Her and me both.” Jack glanced up at her, words still burning the tip of his tongue like a chili pepper every time he thought of his time in her kitchen, knowing something was wrong and not able to get at it, an elusive thread he could never quite catch hold of; and then walking into her kitchen on that last occasion, afraid of finding the bloodstains that meant Danny and Martin had died here. He realized he was still angry about that and probably always would be but he only shrugged. “You know, we could go over this a thousand times and it wouldn’t make any difference. You did what you did and it’s done now.”

“I nearly told you.” She hesitated in the doorway. “I thought about it. I was just so used to being the one who took responsibility for stopping Frank… I felt that was the least I could do after what he’d done to Nathan – what I let him do to Nathan by marrying him and not realizing in time what it was I’d married. Even when you were right in front of me, looking as if you could carry some of that burden, I couldn’t seem to let go.”

Jack thought about her kitchen in the Catskills, with the clock ticking and the faded paint on the units, and the faucet in the sink dripping that slow beat into the metal sink; their lives had seemed so quiet and so calm, and all the time Mary had been driving a crazy ghost coach along a causeway with the sea getting higher and higher as the wind whipped at them like a flail. “You know, you’re probably due a breakdown.”

She nodded. “Later. I’ll have one later.”

“You should. You’re owed one.”

He held open the door for her and they looked out at the baby Clare was rocking, and Margaret – her roots starting to grow out now to reveal the dark hair beneath the blonde colorant – still working on her homework while Charlotte made Danny read her a story and Nathan ineffectually tried to stop her bullying him.

“I really am grateful for everything you did, Agent Malone,” Mary said softly.

“I’m grateful to you for not being dead.” He glanced at her. “Too many dead missing people lowers my average. Means I miss out on my Christmas bonus.”

“As Margaret and I were both alive does that mean you get a toaster this month?”

Surprised to find she had a sense of humor, it took him a moment to respond. “It works on an accumulator. Twenty more and they let us have an espresso machine.” Jack watched Charlotte ordering her father, Danny and Martin around for a moment, and shook his head. “You do know your brother has just exchanged one tyranny for another?”

Before they stepped out into what had once been a working office and was now a child-induced chaos, Mary touched his arm. “I’m sorry you weren’t the one who got to find Margaret. I know how hard you looked for her.”

“Not hard enough, obviously, or I would have found her.” He looked across at Danny, who was wincing after most unwisely picking up Charlotte at her command. Martin hastily took the girl from him, then winced himself as even her light build pulled on his cracked ribs.

“Oh, for goodness sake…” Jack strode across and took Charlotte from Martin. “You, young lady, are way too good at getting your own way. And you two are idiots. Sit down, both of you. Help Margaret with her homework.”

“Her homework’s difficult,” Danny explained. “That’s why we’re letting Sam and Elena do it.”

Nathan looked across at his niece sadly. “I’m never much help to her. Her spelling’s much better than mine.”

Margaret beamed up at Elena confidently, talking excitedly about the animals at Davidson’s and how much fun school was, except for the boys, who were kind of stupid. She said this in more surprise than condemnation, as if there was no logical reason for them to be like that and yet they persisted in being so.

Jack thought of those photographs of Margaret in Ryan’s house and the reports from her teachers about how painfully shy she was, never offering an opinion, never able to speak out in front of others; how very different she was now. “I think you’ve helped her just fine, Nathan.”

“Yes, they stay stupid until one gets to be about thirteen,” Elena explained. “And then overnight they suddenly seem much less stupid and much more interesting.”

“But it’s an illusion,” Sam assured her. “They are, in fact, still stupid. Don’t let your hormones fool you into thinking otherwise.”

“Hey!” Danny protested. “Do you know how tough it is when you’re in High School to get a teenage girl to do more than look at you and giggle? We deal with rejection every day, and it’s conditioning like that, Samantha, that’s the cause.”

“Hear, hear.” Martin obediently passed Charlotte the pen she was asking for while still reading Margaret’s homework over her shoulder. “High School is much tougher for us guys and that’s mostly because girls have it fixed in their heads that we’re idiots and they would be too if they even contemplated going out with us – and that’s because their friends are always telling them that.”

Sam shook her head. “Danny, let’s pretend for a minute that Margaret is your daughter, now, given what you remember about being a teenage boy and with the knowledge gained since while doing this job of the usual behavior patterns of the average teenage boy, how would you like her to be treating the average High School Boy when she’s thirteen?”

“As if he carries every plague toxin known to mankind.” Danny nodded emphatically. “Margaret, listen to Samantha. Teenage boys are indeed very, very stupid – have nothing to do with them.”

“Traitor,” Martin told him.

Elena glanced at him. “If you had a daughter, would you let a High School boy drive her to a movie?”

“Hell, no. I wouldn’t let him walk her to school.”

Mary took the baby from Clare and he gurgled up at her happily, waving fists and feet around in the unnecessarily cute manner of all infants everywhere. A coil of Mary’s hair came loose from her plait, and the low winter sun arced through the window and gilded it. He noticed her ID for the first time, and realized they all had the same surname, every one of them a Hope. He watched Mary look from Clare and Nathan – who were gazing at one another in a goopy manner he thought quite inappropriate to people with an exhausting four year old – and then at Margaret, who was patiently explaining her homework to Martin, who, despite an accountancy degree, was feigning ignorance of any knowledge of fractions, and Charlotte who was drawing a picture of what looked like Danny on the back of a piece of paper that Jack hoped wasn’t needed for anything else. When Mary smiled, he understood it completely, and found himself looking around the table as well.

Perhaps his wife and daughters were in Chicago, and perhaps his father was dead, but he still felt as if he had a family here; a family that occasionally disagreed with him or scared the hell out of him by nearly getting themselves killed, but a family all the same. Vivian, Danny, Samantha, Martin, and now Elena. Unlike Mary, he’d had the opportunity to hand pick his particular extended family, and he thought he had done a pretty good job.

Viv caught his eye. “Why are you smiling, Jack?”

He looked around at them again, all of them alive and well, and not dead in the snow. “No reason at all.”

The End
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