Bonus Scene: Farewell Chorus, an alternate scene for First Chorus
Look at you guys go! We hit 200 reviews on First Chorus and that means a bonus scene. So how about a little something-something regarding our mysterious FBI agent Cash. While this bonus scene does not contain any direct spoilers we recommend not reading if you haven’t read the first two Cardinal Sins books.
The key scraped against the lock as I let myself into Pops’ old bungalow outside of DC. He refused to live close to the Bureau. Said it was too much hustle and bustle for him, and he hated being that close to important places that were constantly under threat.
Ole Pops, he wanted to relax on the rare occasions he was home.
Light rustling drew me to the back of the hallway where his bedroom was. I walked through the living room, doing my best to ignore the somber mood blanketing every surface. When he called me and said there wasn’t much time left… I was shocked.
I’d just had lunch with him a few weeks earlier before we were sent to different parts of the US.
Him, following a lead on the Judge while he was in between cases.
Me, tracking down a known pedophile now that he’d escalated to kidnapping and crossed state lines.
His bedroom door was cracked, and as I started to push it open, an older plump woman in a pair of smiling cats scrubs turned from the dresser where she’d laid out medicines, probably pain killers.
“You’re Mr. Morgan’s son?” She kept her voice pitched low as Pops’ loud breathing dominated the small space.
“Yes,” I nodded. I was his only son. His only family. He didn’t have any brothers or sisters, parents had passed away when I was a kid. Mom was just a bad memory for him. For years it had been just us.
I ducked under the doorframe. Pops and I were both tall guys. Why he lived in a place with such low doors and ceilings made no sense. If I were going to profile him, I’d say the small enclosed space made him feel more secure. Safe.
But we didn’t profile each other.
“He’s had a good day. We’ve managed the pain as best we could. I don’t think it will be long now,” she scooted around me toward the door, stopping for a brief moment as she squeezed my biceps. “I’m sure he would be happy you’re here.” She started to leave, but I stopped her with a question.
“Will he wake up?” Grit caught in my throat.
She pursed her lips as her gaze shot back and forth between my eyes. “Maybe. It wouldn’t be impossible, but don’t beat yourself up if he doesn’t, okay?”
I jerked my head up, then she slipped down the hallway. Probably for a smoke break if that was a faint trace of smoke lingering on her clothes. Honestly, it was hard to tell.
The smell of pending death permeated the air, making it hard to detect anything else.
“Pops, how did this happen?” I whispered as I took the nurse’s stool and pulled it closer to the bed. I slid my hand in his, savoring the warmth that my head was screaming wouldn’t last long.
If it wasn’t for my eyes, I would be a carbon copy of him, but I got my eyes from Mom. Now, looking at his gaunt and yellowish skin, his slack mouth, he was frail and sickly. Something he’d never been before.
I sat there for a full hour, soaking in his presence that even dimmed was still a physical force.
Then something happened.
His eyelids fluttered.
“Pops?” I jumped up from the stool.
“Mm.” His voice was weak, but he used it.
“Can you hear me, Pops?”
“Cash,” he wheezed, his voice just a little stronger. Thicker.
“I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” I choked out. I wouldn’t cry. We weren’t that type of men. But fuck if I didn’t want to. This was the only person in my life I cared about. Hell, I’d followed in his footsteps. Picked up his obsessions.
Well, one obsession.
“I…want you to take the journals, ‘kay?”
“The…journals…” That was not entirely unexpected, but not what I thought he’d use his last bit of energy to tell me.
“They’re yours. Secrets…yours now.”
“Are we talking about your work journals, or did you have a cute personal journal with a lock on it?” I tried to joke with him, but I choked over the words again, damn it.
“Work journals. You’ll find him. I know you will.” His murky green eyes clouded over as he tried to focus on my face. But he couldn’t.
He wasn’t asking. He didn’t have to. He knew I was in deep from the first time he’d shown me the files at age thirteen, and how much it meant to both of us.
“I will, Pops.If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll find him. We’ll close the case. That’s our legacy, right?”
“Shame…” He coughed, sounding like loose pieces of his lungs bounced around in his chest.
They absolutely were. Every one of the victims we’d identified were glamorous criminals. Kind of hard to want to punish him for those deaths when the system failed.
Except we’d been on the trail for so long, Pops for decades, that we couldn’t give up now.
Shit. I couldn’t give up now.
“You’re right. They’re assholes.” I chuckled, and this time, it was real. This was our banter. It was familiar. Welcome.
“When find him…Tell him…I…” His breathing became labored, his chest rocking with each attempt.
“Tell him what, Pops?” I gripped his shoulder. “What did you want me to tell him?” I kept asking in case it would make him fight harder, if only for a few minutes.
“Love—you—kid,” he got out, in between breaths.
My mouth dried out. We didn’t say those words. I couldn’t remember a time either one of us had ever come close. But I didn’t hesitate to return it. “I love you too. But what did you want me to tell him?” I asked again, desperately trying to keep him with me.
In the end, it wasn’t enough.
He lapsed back into sleep and never woke up again. Instead, I sat there for four hours and listened to his struggling breaths. I doubted I blinked once the entire time. I stayed in case he woke long enough to finish saying what he wanted me to tell the Judge. Sentiment didn’t play a huge role in our lives.
My head was tied up in the puzzle of the Judge and who he was. How he’d managed to evade us for so long.
Like any good puzzle, I just needed to make sure I had all the pieces, then I could pick apart all the patterns.
And there were always patterns. I just couldn’t see them yet.
The next day, when I left Pops’ place. I took the journals with me.
It was my case now.
© 2022 Heather Long and Blake Blessing