Title- (Sending All My Love) Along the Wire
Fandom- Catch Me If You Can
Genre- slash, angst
Warnings- angst, unbetaed content
Disclaimer- I do not own Catch Me If You Can the movie, book, or play; furthermore, this is in no way related to the real person Frank Abagnale Jr.
Summary- Carl gets a call the night his ex-wife tells him she and their daughter are moving away.
A/N- Title is a line from the Journey song "Faithfully," that I thought fit this. This is not a song-fic, though.
The night guard didn’t even bother asking Carl Hanratty why he’d suddenly returned to the FBI office in the middle of the night. Everyone who worked in the building knew that he was divorced and, having no family to go home to, had made his work the center of his life. It wasn’t uncommon for Hanratty to leave the office after midnight, or even not at all.
Coming back in the middle of the night, though—that was unusual. Tonight, he hadn’t come to the office to think about work. He’d come to avoid thinking about something else.
Hanratty set the files he’d brought with him on the desk and sank into his chair with a sigh. He opened one and began flipping through the pages, not really paying attention to what was written there. He paused when he came to a picture within the file, pulling it from the paperclip holding it in place.
The picture was of the Thompson family, David, Joan, and their little girl Maria, who had been robbed of their life savings by a con artist. Last he’d heard, the stress was causing arguments between the Thompsons, and they were near getting divorced.
Hanratty laid the picture down with a sigh and rubbed his hands over his face. It seemed like no matter what he did, he’d be forced to look at the reality he was trying to forget. He’d been supposed to get a call from his daughter that evening, and for that he had rushed home, work forgotten and inconsequential. He and Grace had talked for only a short period of time, before she handed the phone over to his ex-wife. Grace was a teenager, trying to get out from under her protective mother and live her own life. She certainly didn’t have much time to spare for the father who’d left when she was four.
Although it was more accurate to say that his wife had left him, Hanratty knew he had driven her to do so. Even then his work had been important to him. Where romantic passion had dimmed, the passion for hunting down criminals had only blazed hotter. His wife had gotten tired of his excuses.
The divorce had come as a surprise, even though he should have been expecting it. Hanratty hadn’t wanted to admit that things had gotten that bad. His wife had left, and she had taken Grace with her. She’d gotten remarried soon after. She and Grace moved to Arlington, Virginia with the new husband. It wasn’t far from D.C., and Hanratty always tried to visit when Grace had a long weekend off from school. Somehow, things always got in the way.
Now, though, there would be no chance of weekend trips, no spontaneous drives to visit his little girl. Hanratty’s ex-wife had told him that her new husband was being transferred to an office in Chicago, and he was taking his wife and step-daughter with him.
That, at last, was the reality Hanratty had been trying to escape when he came to the office that night. Being at his empty little apartment had been too painful. Everywhere he turned in that apartment, he saw another glaring reminder of his solitary state. From the boxes of takeout in the fridge, to receipts for a laundry service on the counter, to the furniture from the large house he’d owned now crammed into a space sized for one, everything was a reminder that his family was gone, and would soon be further gone.
Hanratty sat with his face in his hands, as though an extra barrier between his eyes and the world might somehow block out the reality of his situation. He’d intended to come here to forget, but this office was just as much his home as the apartment. It was just as familiar, and now, in the dark silence of the night, just as lonely.
The silence was suddenly broken by the shrill tone of the office telephone, making Hanratty jump. It was too late for someone to be calling on business—Hanratty jumped to his feet and grabbed the phone. Maybe his wife had tried to call him again, and reasoned that he must be at the office if he didn’t pick up his home phone.
“Hey, Carl,” a distinctly male voice sighed into his ear, and Hanratty sank back into his chair, his hopes dashed.
“Frank,” he greeted in return, for he knew that voice well. Frank Abagnale Jr., the most wanted conman in the country, and Hanratty’s personal prey. Under any other circumstances, he’d have been running a trace on the phone line, making conversation to keep Frank on the line and maybe get him to spill something about his location or his latest con. Tonight, though, none of that mattered.
“Little late to be working, isn’t it?” Frank asked.
“Little late for teenaged boys to be awake, too,” Hanratty replied. He sighed heavily into the receiver. “Why are you calling me, Frank?”
“Probably for the same reason you’re at the office in the middle of the night,” came the soft reply. Hanratty didn’t like it. He didn’t want to think that this man, this con artist whom he was supposed to be profiling, might know something about him.
“Ah, so you’ve got your hands full trying to catch criminals too, huh?”
Frank chuckled softly at the sarcastic rejoinder. “That’s not what I meant. And not why you’re really there, I think. Won’t you tell me the truth?”
“Why should I tell you anything? I’m supposed to be trying to catch you.”
“Because I already know,” Frank said solemnly, not at all disturbed by Hanratty’s annoyed tone. “I told you, I called for the same reason.”
“And why did you call?” The conversation was getting tiring. It seemed like they were speaking in circles.
“I asked you first.” There was humor in the static-y voice. Hanratty sighed and tried again.
“Because you’ve got nothing better to do?”
“Carl. You wear a wedding ring. You have a kid. Don’t try to tell me you don’t have anything better to do.”
Hanratty ran a hand over his eyes. He couldn’t forget that he was talking to one of history’s most prolific con men. He hadn’t gotten to be one by being stupid.
“Frank… Did you hate your parents when they got divorced?”
There was silence for a moment, and at first Hanratty thought he wouldn’t answer. Then the soft voice spoke. “I couldn’t hate them. They’re my parents. What I hated was that they wanted me to choose between them. It seemed better to choose neither, and run away. And now… Well, you know. I’d get arrested if I tried to go back.”
Hanratty frowned, although he knew the other man couldn’t see it. Frank had tried to make a joke, but it was obvious that the memory was painful.
“Why don’t you call them, Frank?” he asked gently.
“I tried for a long time after I ran away,” Frank answered, his voice filled with dull sadness. “But they never answered. Now I just call you.”
The simply phrase spoke volumes: Frank has been forgotten by his family. There was no one he was close to, no one who knew the real Frank Abagnale Jr., rather than whatever persona he put on. The only person he could turn to was the FBI agent trying to arrest him.
It was a painful thing to realize. Hanratty was torn between the natural urge to offer comfort, and the knowledge that no matter what Frank’s own life was like, it was and would always be Hanratty’s job to arrest him. It would be wrong to make Frank think there could ever be any other reality. It would be wrong to do anything to make him think that Hanratty might willingly let him go out of pity. At the same time, the knowledge that he was the only person in the world that the young man could turn to in a time of emotional need was a heavy weight upon his shoulders.
He was surprised by the sound of Frank’s laughter across the phone line. “Well, that’s my reason. Now it’s your turn.”
“My turn for what?” Hanratty asked, although he already knew. Even though Frank had been honest with him, honest to the point of giving Hanratty a distinct advantage and power over him, Hanratty didn’t feel at all comfortable returning the favor.
“Fine, I’ll say it. You work too much. You love your family, but you also love your work, and even though you don’t mean for it, it seems like your work always wins if it’s a contest between the two. Your wife wants a divorce, and she’s taking your little girl. You don’t want to be around her right now, so you’re at the office, trying to distract yourself from what’s going on at home. Does that sound about right?”
Hanratty was silent. Aside from the fact that Frank didn’t know that the divorce had happened long ago, and this was just a relocation, he’d discerned the reality of the situation with surprising ease.
“Carl, you know that no matter what you can still visit your little girl. You can still give her a call whenever you think about her.” Frank’s tone was pleading, and Hanratty knew that he was speaking as someone who had seen his parents divorce, and felt abandoned and ignored when they split. “Don’t forget to do that. If you wait too long, it’ll be too late, and she won’t even bother answering.”
“I won’t.” It was a promise not only to Grace, but also to Frank. He loved his daughter, and would have called her without prompting, but when he heard the sadness in Frank’s voice, there was nothing he could do. He had to swear to Frank that he wouldn’t let what had happened to Frank be repeated with his daughter.
“Carl, how come you’re here tonight? If she kicked you out, couldn’t you stay with a friend? You’re not just going to sleep at the office, are you?”
“What friends, Frank?” Hanratty asked dryly. There was no point in hiding anything from this man; he’d probably already figured it out. “I barely have time for my family. The only people I could possibly call my friends are the people I work with, and I can’t talk to them about this.”
“I know what you mean,” Frank replied softly. It struck Hanratty suddenly that the other man truly did know what he meant. Both of them were trying to forget about their family issues by distracting themselves with their chosen occupations. Their lives were so consumed by those occupations that they didn’t have any friends outside their work, and those people couldn’t really be called friends. They had no one to turn to for emotional support. That was why Frank had made this phone call, and that was why he, Hanratty, had been there to receive it.
“Don’t stop calling.”
“I’m not going to. And you don’t stop trying to catch me, huh?” The tone was light, but there was a great deal of meaning in the words.
“Never,” Hanratty said with conviction. The normalcy of it, of swearing to catch this conman, was comforting, but he also understood the deeper meaning to this promise: he was swearing to never ignore or forget Frank, to never abandon him as his parents had, and to never lose track of the real Frank Abagnale Jr. behind the self-effacing masks he put on. He was promising to support and comfort Frank, in the same was Frank had promised when he said he wouldn’t stop calling. He was admitting, both to himself and to Frank, that he cared about this man, and understood that Frank cared for him as well.
“Don’t ever forget to chase me,” Frank whispered.
“Don’t you ever forget to call,” Hanratty replied.
“Neither will I.” The understanding between them, so complete and unquestionable, brought a strange feeling of calm and happiness to Hanratty like he hadn’t felt since before his divorce, and perhaps not even then. Even during their happiest times, he hadn’t connected with his wife in such a way. The bond between FBI agent and criminal, however unconventional, was all the two men had left in the world, and it was something they would treasure.
“When’s the divorce finalized?” Frank asked, gently changing the subject.
“They’re leaving a week from Friday.” The divorce had been finalized years ago; this was just an extension of that. Even so, it hurt just as much as when his wife and Grace had moved out.
“I guess you’ll still be working around, say, one o’clock that night?” Frank asked, and Carl took his meaning.
“I’m sure I’ll still be here then.”
“But not long after. Go home, Carl. Get some sleep. You’re going to need it, if you ever want a chance at catching me.”
Hanratty chuckled. “Right.” Frank was teasing him again, a welcome return to their usual exchanges, but Hanratty couldn’t bring himself to reply enthusiastically. He didn’t really want to catch the conman anymore. He much preferred the thought of Frank roaming as he pleased and calling when he felt like it, to the thought of Frank trapped in a cell where Hanratty had to come to him.
There was a clicking sound, and a dial tone buzzed in his ear. Hanratty set down the phone and stood, preparing to go home. He had the feeling it wouldn’t seem quite so lonely now.