The Client

Chapter 14

Independence Day brought with it more bright, balmy weather. From the sun's position it was between nine and ten in the morning. While the day was a day for celebration it also brought another appearance for Abby at the local Independence Day festival with her dad to open the place. She stood behind her father as he spoke to some reporters. Abby was flanked by Mike and Paul. Charlie needed Johnny at the hospital today and with all their other employees out on assignments Paul stepped in and filled in for the outing. Abby waited patiently for Brennan to finish talking with the press. After he was done she grabbed Mike by the hand and led him off the stage, "Let's go explore."

"Have fun, Princess," Brennan called after his daughter.

"See you later," Abby called over her shoulder. Paul followed the duo down the metal stairs.

After walking around for a few minutes they came to a section of food venders. Abby's stomach growled. "Time for a snack break," she decided. They pulled up at the end of a line to a food truck.

Abby read the menu board, "Funnel cake and lemonade yum."

"Deep fried snickers," Mike wrinkled up his nose. Some of the other offerings sounded disgusting.

"Got something against deep fried sugar?" Paul quipped.

"Everything," Mike replied. He noted some more people joined them in line. A man in a baseball cap and then a family.

They moved forward in the queue. Once at the front, Abby ordered a funnel cake. She looked back at the guys, "Do you guys want anything?"

Mike looked to Paul. "You pick," his boss said. Mike made a selection. They paid and waited. The vendor handed them out the food. Abby reach up for her funnel cake. Mike took the tray of fries and grabbed a couple plastic forks. "Chili cheese fries, you naughty boy," Paul teased. Mike gave him one of the plastic forks.

"Holiday calories don't count," Abby shrugged. She pulled off a piece of the funnel cake and popped it into her mouth. After eating the piece she licked the powdered sugar off her fingers.

The three walked around and ate. They ended up at the games as they were finishing their food. Different vendors were calling out. "Anything you'd like to take a crack at?" Paul offered.

"I don't know, everything looks like fun," Abby replied. They came upon a ring toss game that didn't have any waiting.

"Step right up and try your luck," the operator called. Mike saw something he'd like to win for Abby: a huge, red plush bear hung in the back in the prize section. He hesitated. They were still on the clock and Mike was trying to keep up a professional appearance in front of his boss. There was nothing much Mike could get past his boss however. Paul read Mike's hesitation and decided to give him an opportunity to go for it and play the game.

"I say it's rigged," Paul crossed his arms over his chest.

"You think?" Abby asked.

"Well, why don't we test that out, shall we?" Paul said.

"How are we going to do that?" Mike questioned.

"You play it," Paul said. He then turned to Abby, "Mike's the best- if he can't win it this game is rigged."

"Is it all right?" Mike wanted to clear it with Abby.

"You know it is, Mike," Abby answered. Paul gave a look that said, 'I've got this.' He'd watch out for Abby.

Mike paid his money and the operator handed him the three rings. Mike situated himself then threw the first ring. He gave a snap to his wrist as he let go. It landed perfectly around the neck of the middle bottle of the back row. The next two flew in the same path and landed around their target.

"Three perfect tosses," the operator smiled, "Pick your prize."

Mike pointed to the prize he wanted. The operator got it down and handed it to him. Mike held out the oversized plush bear to Abby, "For you."

Abby squeezed her new gift to her chest. She batted her eyelashes and beamed at Mike. "Thanks," Abby cooed.

"You're welcome," Mike soaked up her happiness. He lingered in the moment as long as he could. Something of course had to pull them out of it. The hairs on the back of Mike's neck stood on end. He couldn't shake the feeling they were being watched.

"What's wrong?" Abby asked.

"It's just a feeling right now," Mike said not wanting to alarm her nor have her blindsided. Over Paul's shoulder Mike caught a glance of a man in a baseball cap staring intently at Abby. He had seen that guy behind them in the line at the food vendor. Mike stepped closer to Abby. He caught Paul's eyes. Paul looked behind where Mike indicated. It only took a flick of his head for the guy to come into view. That nearly imperceptible movement alerted the man in question that he had over stayed his welcome. He headed out into the crowd having become seemingly disinterested. Mike managed to snap a picture of the guy with his phone. Chasing the man down would cause a scene that they didn't need. He hadn't done anything wrong. Staring might be rude but it wasn't against the law.

Still Paul brought out his phone and called Lauren, "We saw a guy paying a little too much attention to Abby… Probably just a creeper." Chances were the baseball cap man was just a guy looking at a pretty girl. He covered the receiver. "Send the picture to her," Paul directed Mike.

Charlie watched through Hannah's hospital room window. The child had woken up two days ago. The TV was on, yet Hannah wasn't paying much attention to it. The little girl's shoulders sagged. Her face was rather downcast which worried the doctor.

Johnny stood next to Charlie. He's cell phone beeped. He checked it. "Is Abby ok?" Charlie asked.

"Yeah, it's just an email from 'Your Story' they got my sample in," Johnny shook his head. He couldn't believe Charlie had talked him into this.

"That means they probably got mine too," she still hadn't taken her eyes off of Hannah.

"When do you think we'll learn anything?" Johnny asked.

"Soon," Charlie answered, "You coming in?"

"I don't want to upset her like last time," Johnny declined. Hannah had wet the bed when Johnny had followed Charlie in.

"You know it's not you, right?" Charlie assured him.

"Yeah," Johnny replied. He'd still like five minutes alone with the guy that hurt the little girl. Charlie patted his arm then pulled herself towards the door. She nodded to the policewoman that had been placed on Hannah's room before she went in.

Charlie knocked on the doorframe as she entered. The child looked up. Hannah's face brightened at seeing Charlie, "Doctor Charlie."

"Hey, Sweetheart," Charlie smiled. She picked up Hannah's chart and read it over. Charlie peeked over it at Hannah, "How is my favorite patient?" Hannah frowned. She had no idea who Charlie could be talking about. There was no one else in the room. "You, Silly," Charlie sat at Hannah's feet, "How are you feeling today?"

"Ok," Hannah answered.

"Bored of Sophia the First?" Charlie inquired. She could hear the cartoon going in the background. Being a pediatric surgeon kept her abreast of the latest cartoons and characters.

"I like the tiger show better," Hannah admitted.

"Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood?" Charlie asked.

"It's my favorite," Hannah replied.

Charlie grabbed the remote, "Let's see if it's on." She switched the channel to the one she knew the aforementioned show was aired.

"It's on," Hannah beamed. They watched it silence for a few minutes.

"Listen, I have to go back to work, but I'll come back and check on you later ok?" Charlie patted Hannah's good leg. She got out of the bed.

Hannah grabbed Charlie's hand with her uninjured, smaller one. "Don't leave," Hannah plead. Large, crocodile tears began to fall from her brown eyes.

"I'll be back," Charlie promised. She could see Hannah didn't fully believe her. "It's the fourth of July. Want to see the fireworks tonight?" Charlie wrinkled her eyebrows.

"Yes," Hannah answered. She couldn't nod because her neck was still in the brace.

"Tell you what," Charlie offered, "You rest up while I go to work and if you're feeling up to it I'll take you some place special to see the fireworks."

"Really?" Hannah replied.

"It's a promise- I always keep my promises," Charlie nodded, "But remember you have to rest if you want to go, alright?"

Back at the capitol building, night was beginning to fall. Abby leaned with her elbows on the terrace railing staring at the darkening sky. This had to be the perfect place to watch the fireworks from. Mike saw her shiver against the cooling air. He took off his suit jacket and slipped it over Abby's shoulders, "Here you are."

"Thank you," Abby smiled at him.

"Did you have a good time at the festival?" Mike asked.

"I did," she nodded.

He joined her in leaning against the railing, "I guess the fireworks are going to start soon."

"Today was the fun stuff," Abby turned towards him leaving just one elbow on the rail, "Tomorrow I get to plaster a smile on my face and wear feet killing high heels all night."

"It's not all that bad is it?" Mike copied her movement.

"No, I guess not- I love the dress I'm going to wear," Abby conceded. She tucked some of her errant chestnut hair behind her ear. Abby tilted her head, "And you'll be there."

"I will," he nodded.

The second Mike finished speaking the fireworks began with a bang. The first red spark streaked through the sky. Then came white and then blue. Everyone else's attention fixated on color explosions in the sky. Abby focused on Mike's face. Mike watched her through lowered eye lids. They leaned towards each other slowly, their eyes closing. Softly, his lips met hers. Their kiss was tender and chaste yet set off a thousand fireworks in her mouth and through the rest of her body. They parted until their just their noses were touching. She looked up at him with a mix of awe and desire. He stared into her brown orbs his eyes still half closed. He obviously felt the fireworks too. Abby grabbed his face and kissed him a second time. She needed to feel those fireworks again.

With a nurse's help Charlie transferred Hannah's hook ups into a portable stand. The nurse and Charlie eased Hannah to sit on the side of the bed with one on each side of her. "Ready?" Charlie asked.

"Ready," Hannah repeated.

Charlie looked at the nurse, "On my count: 1-2-lift." They gingerly lifted the girl into a wheelchair.

"You doing ok?" Charlie knelt down in front of Hannah.

The grimace faded away from the little girl's face, "Yeah." It wasn't so bad. Charlie thanked the nurse before the other woman left.

"Where are we going?" the excited child asked.

"You'll see," Charlie pushed up from her hands on her knees. She walked to the back of the wheelchair. "My friend Johnny is outside," Charlie warned Hannah.

"Is he coming with us?" Hannah's eyes widened.

"Yes, it's his job- he protects me," Charlie explained. She waited to see if Hannah understood what she was saying. "You don't have to be afraid of him- he's really nice," Charlie added. Hannah stayed silent.

Charlie took ahold of the wheelchair handles and began to take Hannah out into the hall. She started to tremble. Johnny squatted down to make himself appear smaller to the frightened child. It seemed to take the edge off of her fear. "Hi," he smiled. Hannah couldn't find her voice. She could only stare at him with big eyes. "I may not look like it, but I'm one of the good guys," Johnny assured her.

"Let's go," Charlie said, "We don't want to miss the fireworks."

Johnny waited until Charlie pushed Hannah past him before standing. He walked behind them so not to frighten Hannah any more than necessary. The police officer followed them over to the elevator. Charlie hit the call button. It took a few moments for the elevator doors to open. The group shuffled inside.

Hannah's mind kept spinning. She knew Johnny was in the elevator with them. Still Doctor Charlie was smart and she trusted Johnny. "Question," Hannah stammered. From her voice the question she had was obviously for Johnny.

"Yes," Johnny said sweetly.

"You… protect… Doctor Charlie?" Hannah stuttered.

"That's right," Johnny answered. He came up to the side of the wheelchair and squatted down to her level. "I am not going to let anyone hurt either of you," Johnny promised. They rode the elevator all the way to the last stop. Charlie brought them down a hall to an outside door. Johnny reached over and pushed the bar to open it. He let them go out into the twilight, onto the roof access.

The policewoman stayed by the door. Charlie settled the wheelchair then took up the blanket she brought along. She came in front of Hannah and tucked the blanket in around Hannah to keep the cooling summer air from giving her a chill. "Comfortable?" Charlie asked. The little girl smiled. Getting fussed over was not something Hannah was used too. She seemed to enjoy it.

The first burst of light hit the sky. "Wow," Hannah squealed. Charlie smiled at the pure joy on Hannah's face. It was good to see after all the little girl was going through. Johnny noted the way Charlie's eyes softened when she looked at Hannah. That was the look of a mother to her child. Johnny wasn't sure if Charlie was aware of it herself yet, but he could see that she was slowly falling for the kid. She scooted over and sat on the roof beside Hannah. Johnny joined them. For the next hour they watched the fireworks light the night sky.

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