Sam heard the knock on the motel room's door exactly 46 hours and 32 minutes after blazing his way out of the Isaacson compound.

While Martin had shivered and sweated out his newly acquired bullet wounds, Sammy had settled into a routine of pacing, tending his patient, desperately trying to contact Moira, and waiting for a sign - something, anything - to tell him what to do next.

And then it came.

A series of five, short knocks fluttered on the cheap wood of the motel door. It was a password signal. One he hadn't heard in over seven years.

Sam sat up on his twin mattress and went still - almost convinced that he'd hallucinated the sound. He trained his eyes in a dark corner of the room to adjust them. He'd stared at the tube so long, things were a blur. Martin's sleeping form was an elongated lump of blankets on the other bed.

There it was again. The signal knock. 

Sam clicked off the low-volumed TV and hopped off the bed fully clothed. He hadn't even showered since retrieving Martin. His visitor had to be one of his other brothers - Lewis or James. Maybe Charlotte if there was a God. But how would any of them know where he was. However, if it wasn't any of them, who else knew the knock?

He chanced a look at the peephole. A pair of light gray eyes peered back at him.

Sam exhaled a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding, and opened the door. "Char, I can't be-" Sam's words choked off when Deirdre Templeton strode past him, went straight to the bathroom, and flipped on the light. The smell of gunpowder residue trailed after her. She turned on the faucet and cupped water in her hands to splash her face with.

In the next second Sam closed the door and his gaping mouth. This wasn’t real. His step-mother was dead. This was Charlotte and his eyes were playing tricks on him in the dark.

She turned around and leaned against the cheap linoleum counter. Deirdre's face dripped water onto her gray t-shirt. "We have some poor timing don't we, Sammy?"

Sam realized he was shaking his head, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. He glanced at Martin on his bed, still pale, but no longer fever-stricken. Maybe it was Sam who had a fever now.

"Quite a show you gave Isaacson." Deirdre pushed off of the counter and strode back into the dim lighting of the bedroom area. "Rivals my own little powwow."

"No. No no no no. How is this possible?" Sam finally managed to say. "You're....dead."

She sighed and slouched into a fabric-covered chair with springs poking out of its arm. "I've already been over that once today with my daughter. Now I'm here to offer you a way out of this mess."  She turned on a lamp next to her and squinted at him.

Still, Sammy could only stare. His brain had short circuited well before this twist in his life.

Deirdre pulled off her belt holster and tossed it, gun and all, onto the table next to her, groaning like she'd just let go of a hundred pound weight. "Cripes, Samuel, you look terrible. You run out of hair product? Come on, take a seat." She kicked the other chair towards him.

Sam smoothed back his hair and sat down. His heartbeat was steady again, but he didn't think his mind could take much more.  "Deirdre, please make this make sense. Why are you here? There's just too much, right now. Too much." Sam looked again at his emaciated brother and had to consciously keep from touching his hair.

"Like I said-" she let her head fall back against the chair and worked her neck. "We both have horrible timing."

"Why is that?" 

"Well, for starters, you busted up the Isaacsons right before the Feds were about to move in and take care of everything the legal way." She looked at him without moving her head, as if waiting for him to protest his innocence.

Sam closed his eyes, breathed in, and exhaled frustration at what further damage he'd caused. No, he wouldn't regret what he'd done. Marty was safe now because he'd ensured it. Who knows how things would have gone if the bumbling Feds had been the ones to raid the place. Sam opened his eyes again. "And what did you do, Deidre?"

Her quiet command faltered and she suddenly looked her age - worry lines and all. Her permanent smirk slid away and she straightened up in her chair. "'s complicated."
Sam waited, confident her guilt would keep her talking. God knew what she was going to say.

She blurted, "I put the Hire on Charlotte."

Sam had his semi-automatic against Deirdre's throat before he realized he'd even stood over her. His other hand held her face, smashing her cheek between his fingers. His angry breath fluttered the dark hair above her forehead. "One reason I shouldn’t kill you."

Deirdre swallowed. "Can't kill someone who's already dead, Sammy... Besides, I was only trying to help my daughter."
"Well, you've sure corked it up haven't you?" Sam felt all the adrenaline of fatigue and anger thrashing in his blood, urging him to find someone else at fault for all this. He couldn't bear this guilt anymore.

"Let go, Sammy." Deirdre's words sounded strangled, her mouth smashed to the side by his hold.

"Why? Why did you do this to us? Martin and I were so close. We were almost out."

"I'll explain, but you have to let me go."

Sam tried to call upon his training - to dispose of this threat before she could do any more damage. She was a liar, couldn’t be trusted… Relation or not, she'd caused all this. But try as he might, the cold-blooded detachment Sam had been raised to revere wouldn't respond. And Deirdre's eyes, just like Charlotte's...Sam felt his fury at her turning back into self-hatred. Was there no going back from what he'd become? Did Bud really win?

He shoved away from Deirdre and backed up. No surprise to see her quietly set her own firearm back on the table. She'd probably had it trained on his head the whole time. The only hint of her alarm was the rapid pulse showing at the base of her delicate throat. Angry red streaks remained on her cheek from his hand.

"Why?" Sam turned in a circle, not sure what to do with himself. Except put down the gun. He opened a dresser drawer and put it there were he couldn't see it.

"Same reason you and Martin turned to the Feds. Family." Deirdre folded her hands in her lap, but not before Sam noticed they were shaking. "They were only supposed to bring her to me. Paulie's next. I was going to..."

Sam couldn't keep his hands off his head anymore and yanked on chunks of his hair. His stomach churned over, and for the first time since childhood, he thought he might vomit. Hearing Paulie's name. That's what had done it. Paulie dead, Martin almost dying on his watch yesterday, no sign of Moira...

His step-mother stood and came near to put her hand on his arm. "Sammy, I just wanted to give them what I couldn't back then. A way out. I wanted to take them back with me to start a new life finally...This all just went so wrong. I didn't know you guys had ticked off Isaacson. I'd been out of the game for so long, I just didn't know that he had it out for Bud's Hires. I-"

Sam wrenched away from her. "Of all the people to go to for a Hire, you chose Harold Isaacson." He couldn't keep the anger out of his voice. He didn't want to. He wouldn't allow himself to hurt her physically, but he still had words. And anger. So much anger.

"Please, you can't deny that I had the right intentions. And you can’t blame me for them grabbing Moira by accident… We can still fix this, but we have to work-"

"Jesus, Deirdre, Paulie's dead." Sam picked up the lamp and hurled it past her head. The ceramic base shattered above the headboards and pieces rained down on Sam's mattress. For a heartbeat, he thought they might had have hit Martin, too. But the debris settled over Sam's bed only. 

Sam swallowed back a lump that had formed. It sounded loud in his ears. He folded his hands behind his neck, but felt the pressure as if from a distance. Someone touched his arm and spoke to him in frantic tones. He didn’t respond, just kept his eyes trained on the floor. There was nothing left to say. Nothing mattered.

Over time he became vaguely aware of a woman crying. He wasn't sure who she was. Deirdre Templeton had never cried for anything or anyone, so this broken woman kneeling on the urine-stained carpet couldn' t be her.

Sam stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. A dirt-streaked, exhausted man with wild hair and eyes. He didn't know him either. He wasn't sure he ever could.

Time passed with him staring at the stranger in the mirror and listening to the heartbreak of a dead woman. He wasn't sure how long he endured this before closing his eyes again.

When he opened them, he smoothed his hair back and saw his own reflection looking at him.

The woman calmed herself into silence. She stood up and wiped her eyes until there was no trace of sorrow.

She was Deirdre again. He was Sam again. But they were different.

The phone rang, allowing the illusion that the past five minutes had not happened. Deirdre pulled her shoulders back, strode to the nightstand, and answered. "Yes," she said. A moment later she hung up the phone, looking thoughtfully at Martin’s still form. She inhaled slowly locked eyes with her step-son.

Sam didn't know who it was on the other end or what they wanted, but he knew what Deidre's face said.

It was time to move.

The End

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