“A tranquilizer dart?” I stood outside Margaret’s room, incredulous.
“Yes. Undoubtedly manufactured with a large dog in mind. Maybe a cougar.” The young doctor who had been tending my mother explained. “An accident certainly.”
“What? How does that even happen?” I asked. “We live ten miles from the mountains.” He shrugged.
“You might be better able to answer than I can.” He said. “Do any of your neighbors work with animals? Any vet’s or dog catchers? Zoo employee?”
“How should I know?” He waved the question off.
“Well, the good news is, your mother is going to be fine.”
“Thank God.” Relief spread through me. Margaret was going to be all right.
That’s the trouble with having only one relative. Being left without any is short business. It’s hard not to worry about it becoming a reality.
“Can I see her?”
“She’s not awake yet, but yes you can.” He nodded. “Be patient, it’s a slow process. Also, while she’s coming out of it don’t pay too much attention to what she says. Sometimes the line between reality and dream gets a little blurry.”
“OK.” I said, unsure what that was supposed to prepare me for. Margaret was so grounded I always assumed she dreamt about grocery shopping or paying bills. “What about the dart?”
“As for that,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m not your man. But I think the guy you want to talk to is on his way.” He gestured behind me and I turned. Down the hall was the same police man from earlier, the one at our door.
And following him closely was Marco.
“Vi!” He rushed forward and wrapped me in his arms before I had a chance to run. “Are you alright?” I hung in his embrace limp and mute and boiling. Marco let me go. He stared into my eyes in his paralyzing way which only made me more furious because I couldn’t break away. “How is your mother?” He asked.
“She’s going to be fine.” I practically spit. “No thanks to you.”
“Hang on, I know your mad but,”
“But nothing, where did you go? You left me there alone. What if Margaret had died?” I laid into him.
“She wasn’t going to die.” He said.
“You didn’t know that!” I barked. “You didn’t stick around!”
“Vi wait, just take it easy for a minute…”
“Give me one good reason why I should!”
“Miss,” the police officer who had been, until then, standing by and letting us spar spoke up, “Your mother was hit by a tranquilizer dart.”
“I know!” I roared. The cop stepped back and I felt stupid. “Wait, how did you know?”
The man in blue pointed a Marco.
“You knew?” I snarled.
Marco nodded. I couldn’t decide if I should be more angry or less.
“You left me there in a frenzy when you knew exactly what had happened?!”
“I had to go.” He said, speaking slowly and softly as though his tone could shape my mood.
“No you didn’t!”
“I did.” He was emphatic. “Right after I saw the dart I saw the window it flew through. I knew what had happened and I knew it could happened again. I left to find the shooter. I left to protect you. ”
Marco had done it again. He made me feel awful for treating him like a dog when everything he did was because he cared about me. I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it, but it was getting old.
“Did you find them?” I said, wondering if it would have been better to lead with an apology.
“Yes,” he said.
“I saw a couple kids. When they saw me, they took off. It looked like one of them had a tranq gun.” He explained. “I ran after them but lost them. They must have hidden out in someone’s garage, maybe one of the empty units. In either case, they got away.”
Next to Marco the police man nodded silently. “It’s true. He came back to the house to organize a door to door search.”
“We’re still searching….”
“So nothing. You don’t have anyone.” I said. “Oh Margaret…how could anyone do that to her?”
“They were just kids screwing around Vi. It was wrong, but it was an accident.”
“Why didn’t you say?” I wilted. Marco stepped close and put his arms around my shoulders
“Why do you think I told you to stay down?” he whispered, gazing into my eyes with the love and caring I was finally ready for. Next to us the policeman cleared his throat.
“Miss?” He broke in. “If you’re up to it, could I ask you some questions? That tranquilizer gun is still out there. After today, the kids who have it are probably too scared to touch it, but it’s still out there.”
“Sure.” I turned to Marco. “Margaret isn’t awake yet but would you stay with her until we finish?”
He brushed my cheek with the back of his hands and smiled.
“Absolutely. Whatever you want.”