Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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16. What Just Happened?

Regardless of how tired he was and how anxious he felt, Paul plastered a smile on his face when he saw the mob of fans and reporters. His parents and Joey had already cleared the front entrance and Mick met Mack and him just inside the parking garage.

Paul patted his chest of his leather coat. “Who’s got a sharpie? I left mine in the rig.”

“I got you, Boss,” said Mick, as he pulled out one from his shirt pocket and a rubber band bound stack of signed iTunes cards leftover from the tour.

“Thanks, Mick. I don’t know where my fucking head is at today.”

Paul stopped to visit with his fans first, accepting their good wishes for Maia and him alike.

“We were praying she’d make it.”

“Is she doing better?”

“Will she be all right?”

“How are you feeling?”

“How’s your voice?”

Paul’s fans meant a lot to him. They cared about him as a person more than just his music and career. He totally got why George called his fans his ‘lovelies.’ Paul appreciated his fans and think of them fondly and always to pay attention to them, even when he wanted privacy and peace.

“I’m still contagious,” he said to the fans wanting a hug. He handed out the iTunes cards and signed The New York Times and New York Post’s newspaper mastheads with Maia as a headline. He talked to them, answered their questions, took selfies, and thanked them for their prayers and support. Mick tapped him twice on the back between the shoulder blades which was code for ‘we need to move on,’ to Paul. He finished up the final selfie and said goodbye to the rest as the photographers snapped a bunch of pictures of him walking past them.

Mick and Mack guided him along to the media made a walkway to the front doors when Mack saw Gil from Rolling Stone. Before Gil could object, Mack pulled him into Paul’s path, blocking out the ZNN reporter as Paul had requested.

“Hey, Gil,” said Paul, reaching for Gil’s hand and shaking it. “Maia woke up in the middle of the night. It’s a fucking miracle, man. They took her off life support, expecting her to die and she did a complete 180. What a little walking miracle this kid is, I can’t wait to meet her.”

“How is Maia?”

“Weak. Traumatized. Thank God she’s alive. She’s still on the cardiac floor. We found out she’s always had pulmonary and cardiac issues. DSHS in Chicago needs to be forewarned. I’m coming for them. She needed meds and the foster parent wouldn’t refill them. Maia went to her doctor for samples. I want us to sit down, Gil. Soon.”

“You got it, Paul, thanks. Best to Maia.”

“She’s a classical pianist, won a scholarship and everything. You may have another Lenci chart topper before long.”

“Can’t wait to hear her.”

“Same here, Man. I just want to meet her,” said a happy Paul.

“Likewise, Man. You better go see her. Hey, text me a selfie for the RS webpage.”

“Yeah, will do. I got your digits. We got to sit down. Maybe get a concert in with my little sister.”

“Sounds like a plan, Man. Wish Maia the best from us. We can’t wait to meet her either.”

Paul shook Gil’s hand and returned the smile. Paul could show happiness here. He certainly couldn’t show his excitement around his mother, who he wished had stayed behind or that he could send home to Florida on the next flight. Paul was tired of her irascibility when it came to the girl.

Once more, he turned and waved to the crowd before he went inside, flanked by Mick and Mack as he visited with the fans and sick children who were in the lobby.

Paul grabbed a face mask and put it on and hit the hand sanitizer, as his security got a squirt of it too before the trio moved on. He bent down to talk to a couple children and gave cards to them. One bald girl in a wheelchair had drawn a picture of Paul of him singing on stage. He was moved by it and quickly lowered his mask under his goatee just long enough to take a picture with her on his own iPhone and then posed for her mother to take one with her phone as well.

“Thank you, Annie, this is going on my fridge when I get home,” he said, making the little girl beam as he put the mask back on.

Mick and Mack ushered him into the next elevator, that was surprisingly empty, and he hoped it would stay that way until they got to the 6th floor. Paul stared at the little treasure in his hand like it was an expensive watch or ring as the elevator rose. He said a small prayer for Annie and her mom.

Nothing would take away from the beauty of today. Nothing at all. His eyes met the 6 as it lit up and the elevator bell rang, Paul was ready, it was go-time, it was time to meet this kid who turned his world upside down in seventy-two hours.

Alarms blared as the elevator doors opened and medical personnel rushed past the doors and crowded into Maia’s room. Paul’s eyes scanned the floor for Joey, not seeing him but hearing the loud directions of a doctor.

“Clear!” barked the doctor.

Paul rushed to the window of Maia’s room. Bewildered, Paul still had his mask on and watched the backs of those working to save Maia yet again.

“I got a pulse, it’s very weak,” said a female.

“How did all the lines get cut?” asked the doctor, reaching for the O2 line that had been lopped off. “Get me a fresh line, stat! Wasn’t she on BiPAP?”

“Watch it, there’s water everywhere,” said another nurse’s voice.

“The I.V.’s are cut too! Those were fresh bags too—”

“What happened here? Watch out, can someone get the furniture upright? It looks like a tornado hit this room.”

“More like a Tasmanian Devil,” said Joey, uprighting an I.V. stand. He grabbed a couple towels from the bathroom and threw them on the floor to sop up the wet and shoved them under the bed with his foot so they weren’t in anyone’s way as they worked on her.

“The old woman cut all the lines and attacked Maia. Joey stopped it and I threw her out while he freed her from the BiPAP. She cut that hose and kinked it shut, suffocating her with it.”

“Where is she now?”

“Family room with Barbie. She called security and is waiting on them.”

“Where are my parents?” Paul asked Mack.

“They got Mrs. Lenci in that crying room there,” said Mack, motioning with his head. Through the plate glass, Paul could see that she was flustered and red in the face, and her freshly coifed hair was now in different directions as if she slept on it that way. His mother charged the nurse who was upsetting her and had cornered her against the door, when the security guard rushed in and relieved the nurse, telling Rosa to back off and sit down. She yelled at the young guard in Italian as the nurse fled and shut the door, rushing past the masked Paul and into Maia’s room.

“Go do recon. I’ll be right there,” said Paul to his security team. “Find my dad.”

Paul watched his mother as the officer threatened to handcuff her and Paul wasn’t moving to defend her any time soon. Whatever she did, she deserved whatever the consequence. His feet wouldn’t move even if he willed them to. He wouldn’t defend this level of toxic behavior. Paul turned back to Maia’s window. He didn’t want to hear the words his mother spoke in Italian. The chaos on the floor was abrasive and his heart felt as though it was going to leap out of his chest and take cover somewhere.

“She’s shocky! C’mon Maia,” said the doctor. “How’s that fresh line coming?”

The nurse handed it to him and laced the connections together. Mandy stopped compressing the ammo bag and lifted the seal from Maia’s face as directed by the doctor, watching Maia breathing on her own again. Let's get that O2 back on her. We need fresh bags hung.

Mack approached Paul and looked in the window at them working on Maia. Paul turned to Mack. “Did you see Dad?”

Mack nodded. “He’s in the waiting room being questioned by security. Whatever happened, it’s not good, Mr. Lenci.”

Mick returned to Paul’s side as more hospital security stormed through the staircase doors and were directed to the crying room where his mother was and another was talking to a nurse at the nurse’s station and another went to the waiting room.

Before he could get an update on Maia from Joey, he was approached by a young officer.

“Are you Paul Lenci? Maia Lenci’s legal guardian?”

“Yes, what’s going on?”

“Maia Lenci was attacked. Please stay here. We want to talk with you.”

“Attacked? By who? When?” asked Paul, wanting his answer.

“Hang out right here. We have some questions for you.”

Paul turned back to the plate glass window to assess the situation and what occurred in the fifteen minutes it took him to leave the Black Lung and get upstairs to CICU.

They kept barking Maia’s name and the doctor was louder than the rest with orders of medication and equipment.

“Maia, hey Maia,” he could hear in the background.

“Joey, did you see this attack?”

“The end of it. I made Rosa drop the scissors and stop suffocating Maia.”

Joey picked up the scissors with his freshly gloved hand. Seeing Paul at the window, Joey walked over and held them up for him to see then set them on the countertop and went back to Maia’s side.

“Joey, do you know who that woman was?” asked the resident assessing Maia.

With his eyes on Paul, Joey replied, “Rosa Lenci.”

Paul’s eyes did not leave Joey’s, who stared down his partner. The doctor stood up from the bedside and turned to Joey behind him, seeing Paul through the window. “Who’s that to Maia?”

Joey smirked and replied, “Her stepmother.”

“Is she okay?” asked Paul loudly. Joey shook his head and left the window.

“Get an ampoule,” said the doctor. “Let’s wake her up.”

Maia’s eyes fluttered with the ampoule. “Do not do fucking CPR on me,” she said to the resident with the ammo bag. Just let me fucking die. Everyone wants me dead anyway.”

He smiled at her. “Keep talking like that and I won’t have to do CPR. Can you open your eyes wider for me?”

She did and he took out his penlight and shone them into both.

“Put that shit away,” she said, pointing to the nurse with the ammo bag. Just back off and give me some air. Fucking hell. Crank up the bitch. Fuck...”

Joey shot her a look. “Maia, language,” said Joey.

“Don’t you start! Where in the hell were you? Who the fuck was that old hag?”

“Your stepmother.”

“What a fucking welcome to the family.”

The medical personnel laughed at Maia.

Paul moved into the room. “Is she okay?”

“She’s improving,” said Joey. “Your mother tried to suffocate Maia,” he said turning from the bed towards Paul.

“Joey, please, don’t leave me,” begged Maia.

“I’m not going anywhere. I promise, I’m right here.”

Behind Paul, the security guard said, “Where can we put him? I need him isolated from the rest.”

“Mr. Lenci, what do you need me to do?” asked Mack.

“Go with me. Tell Mick to stay with Joey or Maia. From the way he looked at me, I’m afraid this guy thinks I’m in on it.”

“Paul Lenci,” said the guard, “follow me, please.”

Paul called Daniel Stockton. “Can you get here? Something happened. I think my mother attacked Maia. No, I didn’t see it. I was dealing with the press. I won’t say anything. Thanks.”

“Who was that?”

“An attorney.”

“Were you in on this?”

“No, not at all, I was downstairs with the press when this happened.”

“Convenient.”

“I’m saying nothing more until my attorney gets here. I will not be implicated in something I had no knowledge or part of.”


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