Chapter 2: The Fifth Estate Emancipation
About an hour later, Penny was sitting on the examination table wearing a gown. A technician wearing magnifying glasses carefully scraped under her fingernails and put the scrapings into vials. Dr. Patel came in and said, "Miss, your X-Rays look good. You only have some abrasions from the athletic tape on your face and some trauma to your wrist nerves from the nylon tie, but I don't think there's any permanent damage. You don't have any broken ribs, and, other than the nerve trauma to the wrist, you have some strained ligaments in the wrists, nothing that I think will be permanent. We'll want the orthopedic and neurology departments to do some follow-up with you, but I think that, with rest and some anti-inflammatory injections, you should be all right. They will probably want you to have some therapy on your wrists. We have a nurse who will be in with a rib brace in a few minutes and show you how to wrap yourself. It would have been better if they had broken the ribs because the deep tissue injury will be painful and will take longer to heal."
"Oh, I know how to wrap my ribs," Penny said. "Old cheerleading injury. When you're the one they throw up in the air, sometimes you crack some ribs."
Leonard walked into the room with the Diet Dr. Pepper Penny had sent him to find and handed it to her. "Yeah, Wyatt," he said into the phone. "She's doing very well, considering what she's been through. Here she is. Penny, you dad wants to talk with you."
"You called my Daddy? Why did you do that?"
"I thought he would want to hear that you are all right before he finds out what happened some other way. Here, talk to him."
"Hi, Daddy. [Pause] No, Daddy, I'm fine. [Pause] Leonard told you all about that, did he? [Scowling at Leonard] According to the doctor, I have sprains and what they think is temporary nerve trauma to the wrists, bruised ribs, and some scrapes. I'm going to be all right. [Glaring at Leonard] Leonard, though, is going to have to re-learn how to sit with my foot up his . . . no, Daddy, that's not necessary. [Pause] Daddy, no. [Pause] All right, Daddy. Call me as soon as you know when your flight is going to arrive, and I'll have somebody come get you."
"Wyatt's coming?" Leonard asked.
"Yes, thanks to you. Why did you have to upset him?"
"Penny, he made me promise him I would tell him if anything happened to you."
"When did he get you to make the promise?"
"I don't know, we talk all the time."
"You talk to my Daddy?"
"Yeah, we've become close friends. Oh, good news, Penny," he said, "I just talked with the commander, and three people fitting your descriptions of the bad guys came into the urgent care clinic near our apartments, all with similar injuries to the ones you described. They think they have our guys."
"Which one's missing?" she asked. "There were four of them."
"I'm not sure. I know the guy whose skull you cracked came in, and the one you kicked in the, uh, groin."
"Did they get my stuff back?" Penny asked as the technician finished scraping under her nails.
"Not yet, but they're optimistic. The people at the clinic got suspicious and called the officers about a half hour after about the time you said they left your apartment. They have taken them into custody and are bringing them here because their injuries are so serious. The one you hit with the bat and the one you kicked in the groin are in pretty bad shape. The police called the judge on call and have requested a search warrant to search their car and their homes, but they don't think they had time to make it home. They are not cooperating, but they parked the car outside the clinic, and the police think your things may be in there. The officers want to go through your apartment with you when you're released and see if anything else is missing."
"You know," Penny said, "I don't think I'm going to be able to work for several days. I'm sore, and I expect that, if what I have is like some of the injuries I had as a cheerleader, I'm going to be so sore tomorrow."
Leonard said, "I already called The Cheesecake Factory and told them what happened. Your boss said to take all the time you need, that he'll have someone cover for you."
"How am I going to pay my bills?"
"Don't worry about that. I'll take care of everything."
Penny leaned into Leonard and put her head on his shoulder as the technician cleaned her hand after finishing scraping under her fingernails. "Thank you," she said.
"For being so sweet and supportive. I don't know what I would do without you."
"Miss?" a nurse said as she came through the door. "There are reporters here who want to talk to you. Are you up to talking with them?"
"Me?" Penny asked, "Why do they want to talk with me?"
"We have reporters who stake out the hospital. A reporter on duty learned that a 100-pound blonde worked over four thugs twice her size, and she wants to talk with you."
Penny looked at Leonard and said, "We need to talk more later about you calling my Daddy."
Leonard turned to the nurse and said, "I think we need to get the investigators' permission for you to talk to the reporter. Do you know where Lt. Jackson is?"
"Is that the tall officer who looks like Denzel Washington?" the nurse asked. "He's just down the hall. Do you want me to get him?"
"That would be great," Leonard said. "Penny, how do you feel about talking with the press?"
"OK, I guess," Penny said, "If James approves."
"Yes, Lt. Jackson. He's so sweet. He keeps calling me 'baby girl' and said how proud he is of me." She closed her eyes and snuggled into Leonard.
"Yes, ma'am," Lt. Jackson said a few moments later as he was coming through the door with another Diet Dr. Pepper for Penny. "What can I do for you? Is there anything I can get you, anyone I can call?"
"The press are here and want to talk with Penny," Leonard said. "I'm not sure that's a good idea, but, if you approve, it's up to Penny. What do you think?"
"How did they find out?" Lt. Jackson asked. "Well, all right: It's up to you, baby girl. What do you want to do?"
"Well, I guess I can talk with the reporter, if you and Leonard can stick around and help me call them off if I start getting uncomfortable."
"Maybe we need to get your doctor in here, too, to put a plug in the interview if they tire you out too much," Leonard said.
Dr. Patel, Penny's ER doctor, talked with Penny for a few minutes before he gave the OK for the press to come in. He and Lt. Jackson had other things to do but said that Penny should be able to handle the press just fine.
The nurse escorted Penny and Leonard into a room with a small corner table and chairs. She explained it was one of the rooms outside the surgery wing where doctors would meet with patients' families.
As soon as she saw the cameraman, Penny said, "Oh, lord: I thought I was meeting with a reporter. I don't have on any makeup, and Bernadette hasn't gotten here with my clothes yet."
"Hi, Penny," the Hallie-Berry-looking reporter said, extending her hand. "I'm Jan Robinson with CBS. I'd like to chat with you, and no, you don't need makeup and something other than the hospital gown. This is actually better. We can show just how beaten up you were. This is my cameraman, Jake."
"Sup?" Jake asked.
"Sup?" Leonard said.
"And this?" Ms. Robinson said, extending her hand to Leonard.
"Leonard Hofstadter," Leonard said. "I'm with Penny. I can leave if you like."
"No, sweetie: Please stay," Penny said, laying her head on Leonard's shoulder again. "You've been so great through all of this."
"So Leonard is what, your fiancé?" Ms. Robinson asked.
"No, he's my boyfriend," Penny said. Penny furrowed her brows as she noticed Leonard wince.
Penny and Ms. Robinson talked for over an hour about the events of the day. Ms. Robinson got Penny to laugh for the first time since the incident. They also talked about how Penny came out to the Los Angeles area nine years earlier to become an actress and about how difficult it had been to get roles, although Ms. Robinson remembered Penny's hemorrhoid treatment commercial. Ms. Robinson's intern showed up with the Diet Dr. Pepper Penny had said she wanted when she had offered to get her something. They laughed when Leonard asked how many Diet Dr. Peppers she had that day and wasn't she afraid she would be awake all night. "No, sweetie," Penny told him, "I plan to take so much of the pain medication that I don't think I'll be awake tonight."
They concluded the interview. Ms. Robinson had Leonard write down his telephone number in case she wanted to call Penny for any follow-up questions and to check on her. Penny asked which local station would carry the interview and when, but Ms. Robinson said, "You don't understand, Penny. I've already heard from CBS News in New York. The producers at CBS This Morning want the interview. You're going national."
"Really?" Penny asked. "When will the interview air?"
"Most likely, it will air sometime tomorrow. And they may want to call you while they're on the air and talk with you by phone. Do you have a head shot I could send them to put up if they call you?"
Leonard said, "Here: How about this one?" and showed a picture from his phone.
"Oh, that would be perfect," Ms. Robinson said. "Here's my card. Could you send me a high resolution copy of the picture?"
"This one is hi-res," Leonard said. "Here you go [typing on his phone], it's on the way now."
"Great," she said. "And Penny? You might want to get some representation. I think you might have more requests for interviews than you can handle after the interview airs."
By the time the interview was over, Bernadette and Amy had arrived with Penny's clothes. Leonard told her she didn't need any makeup, but Penny borrowed Bernadette's lipgloss.
On the way home,
Leonard tried to get Penny to stop by a restaurant so he could get her
something to eat, since she hadn't had anything since breakfast. She said they
would figure out something, that she just wanted to get back to his apartment
and sit on the sofa in some sleep pants and her Hello Kitty slippers, and maybe
she would send him out for something.