They were in yet another hospital room. Frank sat by Joe's bed, his head in his hands, not wanting to see his brother lying so still, hooked up to the myriad of machines that were keeping him alive – the ventilator pushing air into Joe's lungs, the heart monitor beeping with each faint beating of his heart, the IV dripping blood into his veins to replace what had been lost. The phone calls had already been made, and people had started making their way to the hospital. Their parents were being tracked down on their vacation cruise in Alaska to be given the news.
Their friends had set up a vigil in the ICU's waiting room – Chet, Tony, and Biff sat still and silent, waiting for any sign from Frank or the doctors that Joe would be okay, that he would survive. Phil called in every half hour from the airport in Los Angeles, his flight delayed by storms on the west coast, the ringing phone a jangling interruption that made them jump each time. Marisol alternated between holding Chet's hand, praying softly in Spanish, and running back and forth between the waiting room and the cafeteria with cups of coffee and tea. Kara stood alone by the windows, a pale, ghostly version of herself, and stared out into the darkness, her shirt sleeves still stained with Joe's blood.
Is this what it was like for
you when it was me in the bed, Joe? Frank thought. I don't
know how you stood five days of this without going crazy. I haven't
even been here an hour, and I need to hit something. Hard. A weak
smile crossed his face; this was Joe's way of reacting to stress, not
his. He generally withdrew inside himself; Joe was the one who
punched holes in walls.
He lifted his head and took Joe's hand in both of his own. "She's safe, little brother. We got the guy. She's all right. Now I need you to be. I don't think I could take it if..." He let out a long, slow, unhappy breath and tried to steady his voice. "Just rest and heal, Joe. We're all here for you." He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. This wasn't supposed to happen, he thought. This time the case was supposed to be easy. He snorted. "Yeah, easy. Right. And yet here we are again."