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Chasing Ghosts

Title: Chasing Ghosts 5/?

Author: veiledndarkness

Rating: R

Pairing: Implied previous Bobby/Jack, Max/Jack

Summary: Not all those who wander are lost.

Disclaimer: Not mine, no harm intended, and no profit made

Crossover between Four Brothers/Max Payne

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4



X

Surrounded by takeout cartons, some still full, some long since empty, Jack fiddled with his chopsticks, beating out a slow pattern on the wooden table. His appetite sated, Jack flipped a chopstick in the air, catching it before it clattered back down amidst the mess of dinner.

“Show off,” Max muttered under his breath. He’d used a fork for his meal.

“Takes practice is all.” Jack grinned and flipped his chopstick, watching it land on two spring rolls. “I learned years ago, it was the first thing Bo…” his lips tightened into a parody of a smile. “I…I was a quick learner.”

Max set his fork to the side of the plate. “You don’t need to do that. Don’t try and avoid it.”

“I doubt you want me tellin’ you all about him.”

“You’re right and you’re wrong.” Max sighed as he sat back on his chair. “No, I don’t want small details but you don’t have to hold it all back. He is…he was important to you. Michelle was important to me,” his voice caught at that, the same sound Jack had grown accustomed to hearing when he mentioned his wife.

Jack bit the inside of his cheek. “Yeah, you got a point. Doesn’t matter anyway, that’s the past, this is now, and you have the rest of the dumplings over there. Spare some?”

Max looked as though he wanted to protest the abrupt changing the conversation. He held out the carton, his dark eyes scrutinizing every inch of Jack’s face, searching for any sign of what, Jack wasn’t sure.

“Thanks,” he picked out a dumpling, skewering it on his remaining chopstick. He nibbled along the edge of it, aware of Max still staring at him. He’d figured that eventually Max would tire of always watching him, but, as it turned out, he hadn’t up to this point.

“So…um, I know you said you work in the Cold Cases, right?” At Max’s nod, Jack fought the urge to fidget. “Before that though, what kind of department were you in?”

“I worked with the DEA and the Homicide department,” Max pushed the carton closer to Jack.

A heavy silence fell between them. Max looked away, his eyes narrowed. “Why?”

Jack let his chopstick slide down to his plate, the dumpling forgotten. That creepy guy he’d seen…He forced a shrug. “Just curious, I guess. Don’t know that much about you after all.”

“I left them because of what happened. Michelle and…” Max’s face closed off for a long moment. “They never found the guys who did it, like they disappeared into thin fucking air.”

“Christ…” Jack sighed. That explained a lot.

“But why Cold Cases?” he prompted when Max said nothing.

“Guess I figured I could find something that would lead me to some info,” Max shrugged a little, “Something to help me figure out why I lost them.”

“They’re not lost.”

Max’s fingers curled into a fist. “No? What do you call it?”

Jack swallowed awkwardly. He wasn’t afraid of Max, per say, just uneasy about his potential to explode. “It’s not lost,” he murmured. “They’re gone…”

“Bullshit.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he snapped, “Why the sudden curiosity, Jack?”

“I…I don’t know. I was curious, I told you. You’re not much for talking.”

“Yeah, well curiosity killed the cat.”

Jack blinked rapidly. Max sounded so mad at such a simple question. “Look, I know what the DEA is, ok? It’s not some big shameful thing.”

“You don’t know shit. Stop asking questions.”

Jack moved off his chair and shook his head. “Yessir, Detective Sir…”

“Jack…Jack, sit down,” Max sighed, one hand clasping Jack’s left wrist. “I’m sorry, it’s not…damn it!”

“Let go of me.” Jack yanked his wrist loose. “I’m not pissed,” he lied. “I need some air. I’ll be back in a bit.”

“It’s snowing too hard right now,” Max protested. “It’s storming.”

Jack weighed his options. Truthfully, he was tired of bickering with Max all the time but the idea of spending a night out in a city he was unfamiliar with, knee deep in snow with no real money to speak of? He sighed heavily and nodded.

“Fine,” he crossed his arms over his chest. He didn’t care if he was pouting or not.

Max did look somewhat apologetic. “You full now?”

Jack leaned against the table and grabbed a fortune cookie. “Yeah,” he muttered. He cracked open the shell, removing the slip of paper within. He squinted at the tiny writing and huffed out a laugh. “Figures…”

…in the end, all things will be known…

He snorted and crumpled the piece of paper into a tiny ball. Without a further thought, he stuffed it into his jeans pocket.

Max seemed to be looking over Jack’s shoulder, his gaze unfocused. “You want a drink?”

Jack nodded. “God yeah…”

X

In the morning, Jack waited until Max had left for work. He’d spent the night on the bed next to Max, alternately cold and hot throughout the hours. Max hadn’t touched him and for that, Jack was grateful. He hadn’t felt up to a round of angry sex.

Within moments, he bundled himself up and headed out, locking the door securely behind him. He tucked the key that Max had given him deep into his pocket, his breath forming in puffs above his head even before he’d completely stepped out the front doors of the building. He shivered and tugged his scarf up higher on his neck. “Damn snow…”

He pushed through the snow, grimly aware of the slushy snow that was leaking into his battered boots. Ignoring the growing wetness of his socks, Jack continued on until he found a payphone, one only half buried in the mountain of snow on the sidewalk. He shoved the door to the side, grunting as it squealed and squeaked and resisted his efforts.

Jack kicked the door open all the way and stepped inside, wincing at the smell. Someone had used the booth as a toilet recently. He thumbed through the old phone book, tracing through the lists of libraries in the city. He looked up, checking for any bystanders before ripping the page out.

With a sigh, he folded the paper into a square and stuffed that in his pocket as well.

X

The hushed inside of the library was somewhat comforting to Jack. He’d escaped to more than a few in his younger years, hiding away from bullies until his brothers had taught him the finer points of fighting back. He’d bruised his fists practicing with Angel, with Bobby, had learned to dodge with Jerry. And yet, the library was still familiar in a way that calmed him.

Melted snow gathered around his chair, seeping into the carpet beneath him. Jack focused on the screen, his fingertips flying over the keyboard. Through search engines, Jack tracked the scant information that he’d gleaned from Max in the time he’d been in the apartment. He bit his lip, reading as fast as he could through the news articles that had been printed immediately following the death of the Payne’s.

The words hardly varied from Max’s. A robbery, a break in gone horribly wrong, mother and child shot to death. Max had come home during the break in, seen the broken window and run upstairs. One of the murderers had been shot by Max as he’d run up the stairs, searching for his wife, another as he’d struggled with the man in front of the bedroom door. The third had escaped out the window, leaving Max to find the bloodied bodies of his wife and son.

Max had been ten minutes too late to save them.

Jack blinked away tears. It reminded him far too much of Evelyn’s death.

There had been almost no leads, no prints beyond the first two who’d been shot on scene, no prints, no visual description of the third man, and no motives beyond robbery. When the interest in the case had faded, Max had transferred to the Cold Case department. His partner at the time, Alex Balder, had stayed in the Homicide unit.

Jack sat back, exhaling softly. He ran both hands through his damp hair, feeling chilled to the bone. He thought fleetingly of Bobby, of how doggedly he’d pursued Victor Sweet and his men, fighting Victor to the death over what had been done to his mother, what Victor had tried to do to Jack. Bobby would have done no less than Max, he was certain of that.

He knuckled his eyes, rubbing them tiredly. What had searching out sad information given him?

Jack sighed and clicked through several of the links, following the name of Max’s old partner. He was still listed in the precinct from before. Max hadn’t mentioned him at all. Jack chewed on his lower lip, rubbing his tongue stud against his teeth. Why hadn’t he?

On a burst of curiosity, Jack searched for any history on Michelle Payne. Her name came up in old archived information from a corporation with the name of Aesir. And again as a scholarship program. Jack frowned.

The Michelle Payne Memorial Scholarship Fund, a funding for art students to be exact, a program started less than a year ago. No mention of this from Max either. In fact, had Jack not gone through the photos, he’d of had no idea what she even looked like, let alone that there was some scholarship fund in her memory.

Jack grabbed a pen from the desk and a scrap of paper, jotting down Alex Balder’s information. “Super sleuth Jack Mercer on the hunt,” he mumbled dryly, finding little humour in the situation. Prying details from Max had given him nothing but a headache, but Bobby had schooled Jack well in the art of never backing down.

Searching for who had arranged Evelyn’s death had consumed Bobby, even when Jerry had known what going up against Victor Sweet would entail. Jack rubbed his shoulder absently, massaging away the phantom pains. He could still hear the gunshots that had flown through the air. He supposed he always would.

Jack logged off the computer, erasing his search history before he left, Alex Balder’s numbers burning a hole in his pocket.

X

There was something about police stations that gave Jack the creeps. He stared up at the building; his shoulders hunched defensively, almost waiting for a random cop to hassle him. “You’re not in Detroit anymore,” he kicked at the snow, shaking his head.

No one, short of Max, knew who Jack Mercer was in this city.

Walking into a police station and asking to speak to some cop though? Jack fumbled for the slip of paper and unfolded it painstakingly, re-reading the phone numbers listed. A phone call might be better, he reasoned, less suspicious in the end. With that, Jack hurried to the nearest pay phone and scrounged for change in his jacket pocket.

He dropped the coins in and punched in Alex’s main phone number. With each ring, Jack heard his heartbeat pounding in his ears. “This is nuts,” he whispered aloud.

“Detective Balder,” a voice finally answered, one that sounded somewhat distracted.

Jack held his breath. And just what the hell was he going to say to this man? ‘Hi, I’m currently fucking your ex-partner and he won’t tell me anything about his dead wife’s murder?’

“Hello?”

Jack licked his bottom lip and firmed his grip on the phone. “Uh…h-hi…” he groaned inwardly. Brilliant, Jack.

“Who is this?”

“I…I’m a…”

“Look kid, I’m a busy man. If this is a prank call, then go ask some other guy if his refrigerator is runnin’, ok?”

“No! No, wait, I’m-I’m not, it’s not that,” Jack rushed out hurriedly. “I’m a friend of Max Payne’s and…and…”

“Uh huh,” the man snorted at that. “Max Payne doesn’t have friends, kid. Good-bye.”

“Wait!” Jack pleaded. “I’m serious; you’re Alex Balder, right? His old partner?”

The detective paused, giving Jack a glimmer of hope. “What did you say?”

Jack held the phone closer, his fingers suddenly slippery with sweat. “Before he transferred to the Cold Case Unit, you guys worked together. You uh…you worked on his wife’s death?”

There was a long pause and Jack mentally counted thirty unbearably long seconds before he heard the cold fury in the man’s voice as he spoke.

“Who the hell is this and why are you calling me?”

“I’m…” Jack took a quick breath. “I’m a friend of Max’s, I swear. A, uh…new friend, that is. I was reading up on what happened to them, an’ he never mentioned you, but I found your name in the newspaper articles, and I thought, maybe you’d talk to me and…yeah…”

“You thought wrong.”

“Please, Detective Balder. Just, just give me five minutes of your time. I won’t call again; I’m only…trying to help him.”

“You’re trying to help him by bringing up the worst day of his life?”

“I…”

There was another long pause and just as Jack was about to hang up the phone, he heard the muted sigh on the other line. “I’ll give you ten minutes, but not in my office. Meet me at the coffee shop two blocks from here.”

“Thanks,” Jack blinked rapidly, stunned at the reply. “Yeah, no problem, I’ll be there.”

“Yeah,” with that, he did hang up then, the dial tone echoing in Jack’s ear loudly.

Jack hung the phone up, his hand shaking. “I must be nuts…”

X

In the coffee shop, Jack pretended to look at the old plastic menu on the table, his knee bobbing nervously while he waited for any sign of a cop. The waitress was currently giving him pointed looks, as if waiting for him to pull a gun and rob the place.

Jack looked up as the bell over the door tinkled and a man stepped into the doorway, dusting snow from the shoulders of his coat. He was of medium height and had rapidly greying reddish hair. His lined face looked around the shop warily and Jack would have pegged him for a cop in three seconds flat. He moved his head to the side, regarding the people sprinkled here and there.

Finally his eyes landed on Jack. He studied him for a moment and then walked over, pulling his chair back unceremoniously. He sat down and glared at Jack. “I’m guessin’ you’re the ‘friend’ then, huh?”

Jack entertained himself with the idea that the detective was possibly homophobic. He nodded and gave him a polite smile. “Yessir, I’m Jack, and you’d be Alex, right?”

“That’s Detective Balder to you.”

Christ. Jack tried not to roll his eyes. Cops…

“Uh yeah, sorry, Detective,” he said with a quick nod.

“Jack who?”

“Mercer, Jack Mercer.”

He said nothing, simply looking at Jack with narrowed eyes. “How do you know Max?”

Jack kept his polite smile in place. Oh this would be fun…

“Um well, I’ve been uh, staying with him, actually.”

Alex’s eyebrows lifted up nearly to his hairline. “Really,” he stated.

Jack felt colour rising up his neck and into his cheeks. “Yeah…” he gave a little cough and felt his smile weakening. “For about two weeks or so now,” he added.

“And why would he let you stay with him?”

Jack swallowed awkwardly. “I don’t know. He kind of brought me back with him. I needed a place to stay.”

“I see.”

Jack bristled at that. “No, you don’t. I know exactly what you’re thinkin’ and you’re wrong. I’m not a whore.”

Alex looked at him, his lips quirking in a not quite sneer. “Who said anything about you being paid?”

“Listen here you asshole,” Jack began, his eyes wide with anger, forgetting the whole reason he’d pleaded with him to meet together.

“Sit down,” Alex snapped. “I don’t give a shit about that right now.”

Jack exhaled and sat down, gripping his knees. “I’m asking for your help, not your opinions.”

“You want my help by bringing up the murders? Some friend…”

“I want to help him,” Jack said through clenched teeth. “I care about him and I know he’s not handling things well.”

Alex nodded once and looked away, his hand drumming on the table idly. “I don’t know how many ways there are to handle what he went through.”

“I’m aware of that. But, what I mean is, he’s shut down. You gotta have seen that.”

“Max is Max. He’s not going to suddenly become a happy guy, Jack, you need to understand that. Who he was and who he is now,” he paused, his face drooping sadly, “That’s two very different people.”

Jack huffed impatiently. “You aren’t getting it.”

“What’s to get?”

“Everything!” he exploded.

Alex shook his head slowly. “Jack, there’s nothing you can do for him. Michelle was everything to him. When she died, he stopped caring about everything else. And to tell you the truth, even if he found the missing guy, it still wouldn’t fix anything. Nothing’s gonna bring either of them back and deep down, he knows that.”

“So I just give up and watch him rot away in misery?”

“You seem like a nice kid overall, Jack. Move on and look for someone…better suited to you. Trying to help Max isn’t going to work. You don’t wanna get mixed up in this kind of business. He’s not on the even path any more.”

Jack clenched his teeth. How he loathed being treated like a pesky child underfoot. “Some partner you are. You’re a shitty friend if you’re not even willing to try.”

“And you don’t have all the details, ones you’re better off not knowin’.”

“I would if you’d give me a fucking break!”

Alex stood up and pushed his chair back against the table. “There’s nothing I can tell you. I had nothing to go on myself and I pushed and pushed but the case was a dead end. End of story. It’s not like I’m happy that we never had any damned resolution. Take my advice, Jack and leave before you get hurt, or worse, before Max hurts you.”

“He’s not exactly the violent type,” Jack hissed.

“That you’ve seen. So far,” Alex added pointedly. “You don’t know all of Max. It’s better if you don’t.”

“Go fuck yourself then,” Jack screeched his chair back. “All I wanted was something to go on, something to help figure out why that apartment feels like it’s choking the life out of him one fucking day at a time. I’m not askin’ you to go out and solve the murders tonight!”

Alex regarded him with silent, sad eyes. He turned away and strode over to the door, letting it slam behind him, the damned bell tinkling as the door shut. Jack sat back down and rested his head on the table, suddenly exhausted. Alex’s flat out refusal to aid Jack had absolutely infuriated him and made him want to dig his heels in even more.

He ignored the waitress who walked by him with a huff of disapproval. This hadn’t gone well, he mused.

X

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Dec. 9th, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
Well let's hope Max doesn't find out about this. I like how the way you do the story, Bobby's a character even though he's not technically here. I really don't remember the details of Max Payne, it was a painful blur (pun intended) but maybe Jack can help Max heal and heal himself in the process, make him strong enough to go get Bobby back.
veiledndarkness
Dec. 13th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
Lol, yeah, Max would not take that news well.

The movie was definitely not as good as it could have been. It had good points and bad ones for sure. It needed to be fleshed out a bit more, I think, and then maybe some of the plot points would have made more sense.

And thanks :) Glad you're enjoying the story.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )