Threatening 24

Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

When I woke next, Ranger was still sitting on the chair beside me, texting on his phone. He had a file open on the rolling table beside him. I must have made a sound; Ranger looked up, his lips curling up into one of his half-smiles. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

"A bit better. I don't feel nearly so nauseous, I am not dizzy, and although I still have a headache, it isn't as bad as it was earlier. What time is it?"

"It is eight o'clock."

"Have you eaten?"

"Not yet. I can get something later. Are you hungry?"

"No. My stomach is still a little too unsettled to really want food. I don't remember eating my chocolate bar. I was saving it to share with you", I said despondently. A tear slipped down my cheek.

"I can buy you another chocolate bar, Babe." He pressed the button for the nurse to come back.

"But you never buy me chocolate bars."

He smiled. "I will make an exception this time. It's not your fault you were unable to eat it."

"According to Morelli, it was."

"Morelli is an idiot and he is wrong. You did not drug yourself. You felt you were in a safe place and acted accordingly. You made a mistake, but that does not mean it was your fault. I thought you were in a safe place as well, and I left you there to do the shopping. I was also wrong, but that does not mean it is my fault either. It is solely the fault of Lundel."

"Do we know for sure that is who was there?"

"Yes. We were lucky in that the tape from the laundromat was in good condition and did not have to be cleaned up very much. In it, we can see him with his hand over your coke. There are a couple of good face shots as well. Morelli wants to show you the tape tomorrow. They found the coke can and have tested it, and have found GHB in it. Also, I got a pretty good look at him as he brought you outside, and after seeing the file you and Tank put together, I recognized the man as being Lundel. In the meantime, I think the doctor will likely release you. The nurse has been checking your vital signs while you were sleeping and she seems pretty happy with the readings. Rex is in my apartment. You're still coming to my place, right?"

"If you don't mind."

"I would prefer it. I need to know you are all right. It's just that I know Joe wants you at his place as well. Now, I have not told your family you are in the hospital but, knowing how fast Burg gossip travels, I would assume that is why your phone keeps pinging. For the sake of family harmony, you may want to respond to them tonight."

Oh, great.

The nurse came in. "How do you feel?" she asked as she took my vitals again.

"Better than I did. Still not one hundred percent, but less nauseous and my headache is more manageable. I'm not as dizzy and the tightness in my chest has disappeared completely.

"Good", she replied, "I know the doctor wants to talk to you again and has been waiting for you to wake up. I will get her now, before she goes off shift."

Morelli came into the room shortly after the nurse left. "How are you feeling?"

"Better. Still not back to normal, but definitely better than I was. How has your day gone?"

"Frustratingly. We went to Lundel's apartment but he was not there. I will try again this evening. Ranger, please thank Tank for the file he sent over. He has done a lot of good background research and has made my job much easier."

"I will let Tank know, but it was Steph who did the research."

"Really? Good work." He looked at me with surprise. He is so used to thinking of me as a bumbling idiot – and most of the time I am – he is always surprised when I do something right.

The doctor came in with my chart in hand. "Your vitals are good, your heart is functioning normally again, your blood pressure has stabilized, and your oxygenation levels are back where they are supposed to be. You are good to go. Take it easy over the next 24 hours, drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids to continue to flush the drug out from your system, and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for your headache. You should feel perfectly back to normal in 24 hours.

"Thank you for your help."

Ranger went to get a wheelchair for me, despite my protestations that I could walk. I didn't really mind. I still felt unsteady and tired. While Ranger was getting the wheelchair Morelli sat down in the chair Ranger had vacated.

"Now, about all those telephone messages I left. Scaring me half to death won't get you out of having a conversation with me."

"I know. And I am willing to have that conversation with you, just not yet. I have to get my head screwed on straight before I can even consider what is happening with us."

"For the record, I am very sorry for everything I said. I was out of line."

"You were only out of line if you didn't mean it, and that is the problem. I think you did mean it. You honestly want me to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom. That works for some people, but I am not strong enough as a person to be able to stay at home full time. I would go insane. And in truth, I'm not sure if I even want kids. My family wants me to have kids, but they seem like a lot of work for little personal gain. Again, it is for some people but I am not sure if it is for me. I have a crazy life right now, but it is my crazy life and in many ways I like it. And then there is the topic of your job. I don't like your job any better than you like mine, yet you are good at it and are unwilling to change as well. But do I want to bring up kids with someone who is in such a dangerous job? There is a lot to think about and I haven't finished thinking through all those things yet. I need to fall back and regroup."

"All I know is I love you and miss you."

"I love you in many ways as well, and I definitely miss you. But I don't know if that is enough. No matter what happens, you will remain one of my closest friends."

"Are you together with Ranger now?"

"No, Ranger is also one of my closest friends. He's been helping me with dealing with shooting Brodie, both professionally as well as psychologically. I've been a mess, and this stuff with you hasn't helped. But if you are asking me whether we have hooked up, no we haven't. I need to get stabilized myself and sort through my feelings before I figure out where I want to go." And that is mostly true. But Morelli and I had had a somewhat open relationship. We hadn't really been committed to each other. Hell, I could barely even tell him I loved him. Hooking up with other people was sort of a gray area for us. As far as I know, I delved into that gray area more than Morelli did, and I delved into it with Ranger the night before I shot Brodie. It made me feel guilty until Morelli yelled at me and broke up with me in front of everyone.

"So I didn't blow my chances completely then?"

"Let's just say you made me start to think long term when I was only thinking short term. That is probably a good thing, but it will take me some time to sort out where I want to go. I have been coasting for so long that thinking about what I truly want is new to me."

Ranger walked in pushing a wheelchair. He looked at the two of us and a curtain fell down across his face, hiding his emotions. "Tank is currently bringing up the car and I have signed all the paperwork. Are you ready to leave?"

"Very much so. I just want to go home and have a hot shower and go to bed."

Morelli's face took on an inscrutable look. "Ranger's place is not home."

"It is for the time being", I said. Ranger looked happier but Morelli's face grew dark.

"I don't like it. I don't trust him", Morelli said.

"But that's the thing. You relinquished any say about this three weeks ago. And you don't have to trust him. I do and that is all that matters."

Ranger came over to my side and helped me off the bed, keeping hold of my arm as I walked over to the wheelchair. I sat down, Morelli handed me my purse, and the three of us – all unhappy for our own reasons – walked out of the hospital to meet Tank at the doors.

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