The night went by as Mack slept with a heavy mind. First, he traveled across the country only to have his niece cancel on him. Second, his own best friend led him into something he knew he was too deep into already to turn back now.
He was slow to get up from the bed as he took a deep breath and kept his eyes shut. What was he going to do when he arrived at the hospital? Was it even worth it anymore?
Of course it was worth it. If being in the military taught him anything, it was definitely to be one step ahead of his opponent. But who was his opponent exactly? Donnie? Jade? Emilia?
He reached over and picked up his phone from the nightstand. Three missed calls from Donnie, but he wasn't going to call back. Not after what had happened.
The hospital was located within the city which made the drive short and sweet. Mack entered through the doors without delay and made his way to the information counter by the end of the waiting room.
There were a variety of different people waiting: some on their cell phones, some filling out papers on clipboards, and some dozing off. Mack presumed that the wait was taking a while judging by the boredom and impatience on everyone's faces.
Mack approached the counter, and the receptionist was a young, blonde woman who eyed Mack, intimidatingly. There was a wall behind her, and on both sides of that back wall, there were two deep hallways which were filled with medics and contained rooms and elevators.
The woman wore a nursing scrub and had frames around her eyes to aid her vision. Her smile was subtle, but she tried her best to present herself. She was petite compared to Mack, so he had to angle his head down to look her in the eyes.
"Hello, sir. Do you need help with something?" She started.
Mack knew that he had to find out whether Jade was actually here. He did see her wearing a doctor's coat in yesterday's photos. There was no way those could've been manipulated.
"Yes, is there a doctor by the name of Jade Bennett here?" His heart began pounding a bit. What an idiot he would seem if things didn't turn out the way he had predicted.
The young receptionist took a moment to think as her gaze shifted above her and she tilted her head upwards. "There isn't anyone here by that name. Are you sure you're in the right section of the hospital?"
He had to try the name attached to the email from the night before, before heading off. There was no harm in doing so.
"Is there an Emilia Paul here?"
The woman took a deep breath like she was irritated by Mack's questions, and she arched her head towards the ceiling again to think.
"She's available by appointment only. Do you have one scheduled for today, sir?" The woman clicked rapidly on the mouse of the computer in front of her, preparing to schedule an appointment for Mack.
He didn't know how else to get to Emilia, so it was better to schedule the appointment and see her then. That way, he could at least talk to her face-to-face and find out what was going on.
"Would you like me to schedule one for you, sir?" The woman pressed on. She was gradually growing more and more impatient with every second Mack took before he answered a question of hers.
"Yes, please," he finally responded. He turned to look around the extensive waiting room, but too much focus was on the task at hand to take into consideration every little detail of the area like he usually would.
"What is your name, sir?"
As soon as he faced the woman again to reply, he caught a sight of someone down the left hall.
There, he saw Jade exiting the elevator. Her hair was short and wavy, and she was dressed in a white doctor's coat. Just like the pictures, he thought.
She smiled as she conversed with another doctor who exited the elevator beside her. Bingo.
"Is that her?" Mack asked the receptionist, completely forgetting about her previous question.
The woman rolled her eyes before turning around to glance behind her. She sighed heavily once more and peered back at him with an even more agitated look on her face. "Sir, she only sees patients by appointment."
That's it. Emilia was Jade. But why? What was her purpose of going by a second name? What was she running from? Who was she running from?
Mack took off from the front of the counter and went towards the hall, swiftly putting one foot in front of the other and repeating "Ms. Paul" as he tried to get Jade's attention. He didn't know what the hell he was doing, but it didn't matter at that point.
"Ms. Paul!" He called out again as he stepped towards her direction. She began speedily walking in the opposite direction after bidding her companion goodbye. He knew that she could hear him loud and clear, but she didn't turn around once. She knew something was going on, and Mack was aware that having the chance to explain himself was not up for debate.
"Sir, you can't be back there!" The woman at the counter called out, but her comments were disregarded.
"Emilia!" He called out this time.
"Security!" The woman bellowed to the guards located by the front of the hospital. "Security! I need assistance!"
Once Mack turned and caught a glimpse of a number of guards responding to the call and approaching him, an urge coaxed him to do something that he never would have done if everything had gone according to plan:
It felt like time decelerated as Jade spun her head around to look him straight in the eyes. Her eyes widened and her gaze almost made it seem as if she was frightened for her life. Why?
Before he could declare that he didn't mean any harm, she took off running around the corner.
He raced after her, calling out "I just want to talk!"
And it was true. He merely wanted to inquire a few things and clear the misunderstandings he had. He wasn't there to hurt her at all.
She forced herself through the door that lead to the fire escape stairway and sprinted her way up, taking two steps at a time. The alarm system blared sending the noise throughout the entire hospital, and the lights simultaneously flashed yellow throughout the stairway.
Mack attempted to keep up as best as he could, but she was smart, using the alarms as a diversion. People from the floors above began rushing down the stairs as Mack struggled to find his way up. He kept his eyes on Jade, but she was too far ahead to keep track of. Eventually, he lost her within the crowd of people.
Once he finally reached the highest point, the entire top floor was reticent. There were no people, and there was no sign of people being on the floor even moments before the alarm went off. Just gurneys and medical machines and supplies occupied the vacant space. Storage area, he thought.
He steadily made his way into the area, taking one step at a time and carefully studying the sector to be sure that no one was going to assault him at the last minute.
Towards the end of the floor, there was a side door swung wide open, and it was the only one with the light on. The room contained nothing but a few desks against the white walls and a row of beds on the other end. He knew this was a trap, but why turn back now?
Before he even took his second step into the room, Mack felt a fist strike him right at his cheek.
He turned around fast enough to block the next blow. There was Jade, jabbing at him.
But he didn't fight back. He consistently blocked and dodged her attacks as he tried to clarify himself.
"Please, I just want to talk!" Mack had to get through to her somehow, but his approach wasn't as great as he had originally planned.
Jade was persistent with her hits, not absorbing a single word Mack was crying out to her. He tried to break them off as she was about to execute them, but he still took a lot of the damage.
She was flexible and resilient in a way where her fighting style exhibited it all. Not only was she skilled, but she was also patient. She executed her hits when she knew she would succeed but pulled back when she knew she needed to.
It went on long enough before she dropped to the floor and swung her legs under him to send him flat on the ground. Jade pulled a taser gun from one of the drawers in the room and aimed the weapon at him.
Mack was laying face down on the floor, and the best he could do was to just stay put. He saw what Jade was capable of, but he didn't know whether she was capable of doing something extreme.
"Get on your knees and put your hands on your head." She pointed the weapon as she stood a few feet in front of him. Her stance was strong and firm as she stood her ground. This girl is not playing any games, he thought.
He did as he was ordered and got onto his knees. He brought his hands to the back of his head and interlocked his fingers to keep them steady. "Please, I'm not going to hurt you. Just let me explain-"
"Take whatever you have out of your pockets and slide them towards me," She demanded, still keeping her weapon pointed at him.
"Take whatever you have out of your pockets now!" Jade said again, but this time, with more rage and frustration. He could sense the uneasiness in her voice. She wasn't trembling, but her voice faltered ever so slightly.
He did as she commanded. First he slid his cell phone. Then his wallet. That was all he had on him, and now they were on her end of the playing field.
"Miss, this is not what you think it is." He tried to get to her with his words but did not succeed. There was no way she was going to listen to a stranger.
The weapon stayed angled at Mack as Jade lowered herself down to snatch whatever he had slid towards her. She went for his wallet and looked inside every little nook and cranny of it until she came across his ID.
"John Tyrell Mackenzie." She paused, still keeping her eyes on the identification card. There was less demand in her voice and more confusion on her face. She realized that this man was no danger to her as far as she knew. "Who sent you?"
"I'm not with any organization. I'm not here to hurt you." He still had his hands on the back on his head and was on his knees, looking up at her. "You're Jade, right?"
C'mon, Mack. Make this work, he thought.
"How did you find me?" Her expression was less intense than it was before. This man was no threat to her. She had been sure that whoever was after her would have appeared familiar to her in an instant. This man did not fight back, and he did everything she had told him to.
Jade picked up his cell phone and scrolled through what he had on it to figure out more about him.
"Someone told me I'd find you here. I just want to figure out what the hell is going on."
"Donnie Tesla?" Her eyes widened. She identified the name instantly just as she analyzed the messages on Mack's phone. "Get up," she told him, descending the weapon in her hand and stuffing it inside of her coat pocket.
"You know Donnie? He's been scouring the earth for you." He rose up, and she handed him back his belongings.
"You don't understand. You can't be here." She made her way towards the door that lead out to the hallway and conscientiously made sure no one was listening in on their conversation. This all seemed too familiar to her.
"What is going on? I've been on one hell of a trip these past few days, and nothing is making sense." Mack rotated from where he was standing to look at her standing by the doorway.
"Listen, you have to get out of here. Pretend like this never happened."
"I don't think you're even listening to what I'm saying."
"Look, you don't know what the hell you've gotten yourself into. You shouldn't have come."
He stopped for a moment to process what she said. You don't know what the hell you've gotten yourself into. You shouldn't have come. What did she mean?
"Just go on and don't mention this to anyone. It's for your own good."
Mack stepped up beside her. "Are you in danger?"
She did not answer right away. "I can't tell you that. Just forget all that's happened here. Please."
Jade brought her hand up to the left side of her head and brushed her hair behind her ear. There, Mack caught sight of a small cartilage piercing: a hummingbird.
She walked out into the hallway, looking back at him once more before leaving the scene.
It was evident that the blows Jade took on him were having an effect on his body, but he just shook it off. Nothing but a bruise, he thought.
Mack eventually put his belongings back into his pocket but kept his phone out. He unlocked the device and noticed unread messages from Donnie.
Mack, call me back when you can. I found something that can help you find Jade.
It's been an entire day since I heard from you. Did you get the job done?
Mack, pick up your fucking phone. This is not funny.
No way in hell was he going to return any calls or messages from the liar that had been his best friend for years. How could he had been so blind? How did things change so fast?