Chapter 8: Burned
“His name was Scott Winchester. He travelled through space and time. I knew him when I was younger, in college. He worked with my sister. His job was to make sure pieces fall into place to ensure a certain outcome. His primary mission was my sister. His second mission was you. He went to your future and saw who you become. The path for you to get there was dependent on him paving it. So he set it up so that you were supposed to get where you needed to be.” Savannah glanced at Makoto. “You still with me?”
Makoto fingered the insulin pen in her pocket as she suddenly felt dizzy. She felt her heart drop. She forgot to administer before she ate that afternoon. Fantastic.
“Like what?” She breathed, barely keeping it together.
“He told me the last time I saw him that one day a case would come to my attention involving four glowing coins and a missing sea captain. He told me that I would also receive a daughter of a Japanese diplomat named Akari Makoto. He told me to assign her the case.” Savannah said simply. “That’s all he said. I trust him, so I have.”
“What else?” Makoto demanded, breathing deeply.
Savannah was aware of her struggle to remain calm, but made no move to assist. Instead, she gave Makoto the information she needed. “My uncle Murdock is the man you spoke to on the phone. Winchester told him that two investigators that work for him would one day stop the theft of a truckload of jewels, and that the truck would vanish into red smoke. Winchester told him to write about it and make it public. Then he said that if Makoto Akari ever called about it, make sure she gets all the information she needs.”
Makoto’s eyes shifted upwards, feeling the blood draining from her face. “Did he say anything about kidnappings?”
Savannah shook her head with a slight frown. “No. That’s all I know of. Why? Have you...have you been kidnapped?”
Makoto’s shaky fingers tugged the insulin pen out of her pocket, her heart jumping as it got stuck. She jammed her whole hand into her pocket and forced the pen out, shaking her head hastily. “No, ma’am.” She mumbled haltingly. “Just wondering. Please excuse me.”
Makoto staggered out of the room and slammed the door, falling against the wall. Was it a panic attack or diabetes? How could she tell? How much insulin did she need?
Makoto reached back into her pocket for her finger prick, not even noticing as her knees buckled and she slid down the wall, hitting the ground harshly.
The pen fell from her numb, tingling fingers and her vision waned as her other hand grasped at the finger prick.
She felt her head buzzing and she forced a labored breath through her lungs, but it didn’t help. It was her blood sugar—far too high without insulin to counter it. Otherwise known as hyperglycemia.
A dark blob seemed to form in front of her, but she must have imagined it.
It moved slightly, and she got a whiff of leather.
She heard pounding and felt her blood pulsing beneath her skin. A second later there was a sharp pinch and a soft click.
“You see this?” A harsh voice said suddenly. Makoto’s vision slowly faded into focus and the dark blob in front of her became Tadashi. He was holding up her insulin pen as she leaned against the wall and gasped in panic.
“This is the epinephrine of diabetes. If you feel yourself, you know, dying, stab yourself. Don’t wait around, Makoto. With the way you think, you’re liable to get yourself killed.” He said snappishly, shoving the pen back into her case and pushing it into her hands.
“J-jerk...” She mumbled, feeling sweat on her skin. She needed water.
“I’m not the one who can’t keep herself alive even with the proper tools in her very hands.” He responded.
A second later, he poked her in the face. “Hey. You hear me?”
She slapped his fingers away and focused intently on calming down.
A few minutes of hearing him insult her later, Makoto felt well enough to stand. She mumbled a quiet thank you and staggered down the hall.
She had to find Chester. Maybe he found something. Maybe he needed her help. Whatever the case was, it was far better than hanging around with Tadashi.
She shouldn’t be driving. Alexia had warned her that she might need to consider giving it up, just in case.
Of course, that was absurd, so Makoto didn’t listen. By the time she got out of the parking lot, she felt a hundred percent better, anyway.
Makoto slipped into her car and pulled away from the college, away from Tadashi. For a guy who really seemed to hate her, he sure did have a bad habit of showing up when she needed help.
She stopped at a light, turning her music up.
She already had two coins. She had a box full of Angelika’s information and a new angle of research to attack. If she were going to collect all five pieces and prove that the legends were real before it was time to graduate, she was going to have to get on it.
The date flashed by on an electronic road sign as the light turned green. June 25th.
Makoto tapped the gas, moaning to herself. So much for doing research tomorrow. It would be June 26th, the memorial day of the War of America.
The ceremony was to be held in Chicago, and Hiroshida wanted Makoto to go.
If she remembered right, from when they planned it two months ago, they were flying out that night.
Makoto turned down Ashland Road, two streets away from Airport.
That meant she’d have to get some work done before her plane left.
Three minutes later she pulled into the hospital beside Chester’s empty car.
She went inside, taking the elevator down. A couple of guys at the maintenance desk stopped her, but let her go on through when she showed them her badge.
For a long minute, all she heard was her own heels on the smooth concrete floor. She passed sterilizers and blanket warmers and various other hospital machines, but no Chester
She was about to ask if anyone had seen him when, suddenly, a kid came running down the hall. He looked to be about seventeen, his face panicked and his hands shaking.
As his eyes fell on Makoto and a couple of other guys, he waved his hands in the air to hail them, as though they hadn’t seen him coming.
“What’s going on?” Makoto demanded nervously. She peered in the direction that he had come, but saw nothing. Something was very wrong.
She could only pray that Chester wasn’t involved.
The kid screeched to a stop, panting breathlessly with fearful tears in his eyes. “Help,” He cried through ragged breaths. “The—the sterilizer’s shell ruptured—” He broke off and doubled over, nearly suffocating.
“What are you saying, Jones?” One of the guys demanded.
Blue in the face, Jones began to back in the direction he had come. “There’s a crack in the shell—some guy was walking past when it split and he got blasted with steam. It’s not good, Charlie.”
Makoto felt her heart drop. It could have been Chester. What if it was Chester? “Show me.” She ordered.
For a second, Jones looked like he was about to ask her who she was, but wisely chose to focus on the severity of the situation.
He turned and jogged weakly back down the hall and she followed.
By the time they got practically to the other side of the hospital, both Jones and Makoto were weak in the knees and blue in the face.
“Where is he?” She wheezed, seeing at least five doors lining the hallway in front of them.
“Through here.” He picked himself up and practically crawled through the third door on the left. Makoto took a long breath before following.
It was actually unlikely that it was Chester, considering all the people that work in hospitals. No matter who it was, any measure of panic wouldn’t be helpful in the least.
She pushed her hair back and stepped strongly through the doorway.
Instantly her resolve melted.
Laying on the floor was Chester Strapps, hardly hanging onto consciousness. The skin on the right side of his face and his right arm, and the palm of his left hand was burnt and slightly bubbled. She dropped to her knees, crawling forward and inspecting him further.
The cloth of his right sleeve and side was soaked—from water from the steam or blood from the burns, she wasn’t sure. It was probably water, considering the burns would be dried and closed from the heat almost instantly.
The underside of his left forearm was also burned. To her eyes it was plain to see that he’d been walking past the machine when it burst. He’d thrown up his right arm to block his face, but it was too late. Then he’d lifted his left arm to protect the rest of his face, baring his palm and the underside of his forearm to the steam.
She touched the side of his throat that wasn’t burned and checked his pulse. It was slow, but not so much to be terribly worried about.
She fought the repulsion as the smell of burned flesh permeated her senses.
“What do we do?” Jones demanded.
“We’re in a hospital,” Makoto responded. “Get a doctor.”
He spun around and went to do as she said, the poor kid running again.
“Makoto?” Chester spoke through a groan.
She turned back to him. “Yeah?”
“I might have gotten into trouble.” He mumbled with a pained laugh.
“You think?” She smirked at him.
He groaned in pain and she looked down at his shoulder. It almost looked like the skin was still bubbling. “Hold still, Chess. Help is coming.”
“One day?” Hiroshida raised an eyebrow, stepping through the doorway of the bunker. Across the room, sitting on the same table that he’d been laying on a day previously, Tadashi was meticulously re-stitching his injury.
“That’s got to be a record. How did you break them this time?” Hiroshida collected two short blades and a black belt.
Tadashi watched him move around quietly, and then winced as he pricked himself. “A couple of whackos were waiting for Makoto in the library.”
“And you pulled the stitches taking them out?” The older man guessed.
“Nope.” Tadashi put down his wire and mopped up a little bit of blood that trickled from the newly repaired wound. “Went to their place outside of Coral Cove and found a massive brick mansion. Pulled my stitches falling out the window.”
There was a short sigh as Hiroshida turned around, a bag in his hands. “Falling out the window.” He repeated blankly.
“I was running.” Tadashi responded. He slid off the table and buckled his sword belt on.
“Tadashi, do you know why I have two bodyguards for myself, a bodyguard for Sakuza, but none for Makoto?” Hiroshida wondered, setting the bag down and crossing his arms.
Tadashi laced up his jerkin with a perplexed frown. “Never thought about it, no.”
The older man shook his head with a small smile. “Don’t lie to me, you know you have.”
“Fine. Yeah, I know.” He slipped his mask on.
“I don’t have a bodyguard for Makoto because I trust you to be able to keep her safe.” Hiroshida frowned. “And yet she’s been kidnapped nine times.”
“Ten times.” Tadashi responded.
“You mean to tell me you’ve failed to keep her safe ten times rather than nine?” The girl’s father demanded.
“To be honest, Hiroshida, it’s kind of hard to remain close enough to her to keep her out of trouble when you won’t allow me to be nice to her.”
“It’s not your job to be nice to her.”
“Then you’ll find her kidnapping count to be rising rapidly. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go.”
“Where are you going?” Hiroshida demanded, still busily packing for his trip.
“Makoto gathered the same clues that I did from the men in the library. She’ll draw the same conclusion that I did and find the mansion. There’s danger there—I’m going to...bodyguard.” His answer seemed to satisfy his master until he was halfway out the door.
“What were you running from when you fell out the window?”