As it turned out, escaping from the hospital wasn’t as hard as he’d expected. At least it was easier than the first time he’d had to do it, which probably made it seem easier than it was. In comparison, this time was child’s play. There was no wrist sensor to set off the doors, and the flimsy paper one that they gave him upon admission was much easier to remove. He didn’t even bother using his teeth. Next, he’d found the door wasn’t even locked, so he didn’t have to pick it. Of course, that was the small victory of the day. Levering himself out of bed had been the Olympic medal moment. He nearly passed out before he got his footing back. Getting dressed had been almost as challenging, seeing as how anytime he moved his arm, it pulled at the stitches in his side. Still, he’d managed. The only drawback was that the clothing in the closet was all spare scrubs. He had no idea what happened to the clothing he’d worn into the hospital, but he had the sneaking suspicion that it had been cut off him and tossed into the rag bag at some point. They were ruined, of course, but he was sure that he would have stood out less with a shirt stained with blood than he was in mint green scrub pants and a matching shirt. His jacket was there, just like Melanie had said it was, and the case was still in the pocket. A moment of panic struck over him and he ripped it open, amazed that there was some chill left to the vials. He felt around behind them, his fingers finding the cold pack that was making this possible. He was getting too damn lucky with this thing. He needed to get it somewhere cold pronto.
The cop in the waiting room hadn’t even looked up when he walked past, too engrossed by a game on his cell phone to care about the random person in scrubs that was walking out. He did feel a bit bad. He was sure that when it was discovered he was gone, this guy was probably going to get a good bit of the blame landing on his shoulders, but it was these kinds of things that he couldn’t worry over, not when he needed to hole up, lick his wounds, and try to figure out what his next move would be.
He had the vials, but they were rather useless without the book. Seeing as how Boris and Natasha were positive that he’d taken both, it was likely that he had taken them and chose to leave a clue to the vials rather than the book. It was probably a smart idea, but like Natasha had said, with the vials they could figure out how the weapon worked again, even if it would take a very long time. He was starting to feel like everything he’d done when he had his memory had all been part of some long winded diversionary tactic. Every step he took forward, he took another five diagonally. And even though he’d been interrupted by Boris and Natasha, he was pretty sure that there weren’t any clues pointing to the book. He’d even checked the case for a clue of some form, thinking that it would be the only place he could leave a clue behind that wall. So far, it had been a bust, but he was going to check it more thoroughly once he had the chance to sit down for five minutes.
It had taken some doing to get back to the motel room. It was definitely where he’d picked up his earlier tail and he was determined that it wasn’t going to happen again. So he grabbed his stuff, left what he owed the place on the bedside table, and made his way back onto the street with his bag in tow. Of course, moving along with a bag made life just that much more entertaining when you had a bullet wound, but again, it just couldn’t be helped.
It took him all of three seconds with a phone book to decide on his next plan of action. He would just have to hope that no one overreacted. But seeing as how his luck sucked, it was most likely that it would lead to a major over reaction. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
That was how he happened to be sitting in apartment 3B only an hour after his escape from the hospital. Of course, it would have taken him less time if he had been able to move at his usual speed, but he had to slow down to keep from ripping up his side. In fact, it was a miracle that he’d managed to climb up the stairs to the third floor. It took a lot of support from the railing, a couple panted rests on the landings, and then he’d slid along the wall until he found 3B, but clearly there was a victory.
The furniture in the apartment all looked like it was second hand, but well cared for. There were blankets and doilies on the furniture in the living room that added a homey touch. There was very little by way of decoration on the walls, but it wasn’t cold. The bedroom was equally as plain, clearly the room of someone single, and he’d only had to take one look in the bare fridge to support that. When you lived alone, you didn’t have to keep things stocked up. He figured it was more of a shop-on-the-way-home or just order takeout situation in the apartment. That was a bit sad, he thought, especially for a nurse. But then, look at what he had been living off of. The only balanced meal he’d gotten since he’d left the hospital in Boston had included throwing a glass of milk onto his order of a cheeseburger with all the veggie toppings on the menu. The milk had been a generous addition, considering that there was beer readily available. There were more vitamins and nutrients in a glass of beer than a glass of milk, or so he assumed. He must have read it somewhere. Still, he’d taken advantage of the empty fridge, stowing the case and breathing easy now that it was going to be properly cooled.
Sinking down into the lumpy old arm chair on the far side of the living room, Jack made himself comfortable with the latest issue of TV guide, hand resting over the wound on his side. He could have gone for a cold beer, but there wasn’t a drop of alcohol in the entire apartment. Had he known, he would have stopped for a six pack on the way or something. If someone ever invented liquor delivery they’d make a fortune. ‘Beer in thirty minutes or less or it’s free’. They’d put Pizza Hut out of business in a week.
Before Jack could muse further, there was the sound of footsteps in the hallway. They came to a stop right outside the door, and the scrambling sound of keys could be heard. A moment later, the door opened and a very flushed looking Melanie Blake walked into the apartment. Jack merely raised a eyebrow as she gave him a dirty look.
“Hi, Honey. How was your day? Should I fetch your slippers and a martini? You look just beat,” he deadpanned, turning the page in the TV Guide.
“I ran out of there the minute I could,” she told him, tossing her coat onto the back of the couch. “Which just happened to be after an hour of interrogation by the NYPD.”
“Why were they interrogating you?” Jack asked, still reading up on which episodes of Family Ties were going to be shown. He liked to know what he was getting into when he invested half an hour of his life, after all. TV Guide was officially his favorite publication of all time. He was going to take this when he left.
“Because Edith blabbed that you were my ex-husband, Jim. She told them flat out that I was the only person who knew you and you hadn’t had any visitors. So when you decided to escape from the hospital – which is ridiculous, by the way – who did you think they’d want to talk to?” she sighed, looking exasperated.
“And what did you tell them?” Jack asked.
“That you were sitting my apartment reading the TV Guide.”
Jack glared at her, catching the sarcasm in her voice easily. She wasn’t funny.
“I told them that you were a degenerate gambler and you were probably down at the tracks playing ‘guess how many stitches’ or something,” she replied, sitting down across from him, not bothering to take a minute and change out of the same scrubs she’d worn at the hospital. “I told them that you told me someone shot you over a gambling debt. They didn’t seem too interested in finding you after that.”
“I’m glad you came up with something plausible.”
“It was the best I could do, seeing as how you flat out told me that you were going to leave before the police could talk to you.”
“Did I?” Jack replied, closing the TV Guide, seeing as how he didn’t think that he’d said that in so many words.
“I know you, Jim. You’re far too easy to read,” she replied. “You never do sit still if you can help it.”
He couldn’t really disagree there. He knew that much about himself on his own, after all. And he supposed they really had known each other well if she was able to read him like that. He stayed quiet, watching her and thinking that there was something beautiful about her and the way she was still looking out for him, even in her utter exhaustion. Maybe she still loved who he used to be, too.
“Unless someone shoved the TV Guide and a remote into your hands,” she amended.
“I’m glad some things haven’t changed, then,” he replied easily.
“Some things really have. I didn’t know you could pick locks,” she told him, sounding a bit accusing.
“You need to get a better lock on there. I popped the handle with a paperclip in about the time it took you to get your keys out. You need a double bolt system. Having just a handle lock is asking to be robbed.”
“You go tell the super that, or better yet, do it yourself.”
“I just might. Then I know it’ll get done right,” Jack threw back, looking thoughtful.
“I suppose you’re going to want to stay for a while, then.”
“Yeah, just until I figure out what to do next,” he replied, thinking it wasn’t too unreasonable. After all, it wasn’t like he was asking to move in and pick up where they left off on their ex-wedded bliss. He just needed to pass out somewhere there was medical attention readily available.
“Alright. You can use the couch. The underwear rule is in effect, too.”
He felt his eyebrow arch again, wondering what she was talking about. He had taken a few minutes at his motel to change out of his borrowed scrubs, and he’d been sure to throw on a fresh pair of skivvies.
“That rule means that you can’t wander around in your underwear. I want to find you’re at least wearing pants at all times. Understood?”
“Fine, but I want to implement my own underwear rule where you’re not to wander the house unless that’s all you’re planning on wearing,” he threw back with a slight grin.
He actually thought that she’d get mad, maybe throwing a pillow at him or something for being so crass with her after everything that he couldn’t remember them going through. Instead she started chuckling and it built up to a laugh. If she was pretty in her exhaustion and when she was slapping him, then she was downright gorgeous as she was laughing. She wiped under her eyes before looking over at him and letting out the odd burst of laughter.
“You know, whenever you open your mouth, I hear a stranger using your voice, then you try and be funny and it’s like you’re you again and...I’m laughing.”
She looked over at him a bit wistfully, all the amusement leaving her. He wished he could have kept her laughing longer.
“I really hope you get your memory back, Jim.”
“I do, too,” he replied.
“It still won’t fix things,” she reminded him, curbing him before he could make any assumptions. He could see why – they had a unique kind of chemistry going on that left no doubt in his mind as to how they’d ended up married.
But the fact of the matter was that he was a man without a memory. He didn’t remember the things about her that someone who loved her should know. Playing house with the only woman he remembered, learning more about her as they got to know each other again, sounded really nice, but he couldn’t forget that he was a man on a mission. He needed to find the book and shut down the cell or she wouldn’t be safe. Everything was connected, after all, especially when you took into consideration how connected the world was and it just made things worse if one part of that web were to suddenly collapse on itself.
Sobering a bit, he nodded, watching as she nodded in return. Yeah, they understood each other.
“You can use the shower first. I’ll order pizza and we can watch whatever had you so interested in the Guide.”
He nodded, thinking that nothing had really gotten him interested in watching TV over talking to her, but he could tell that she wanted something between them so that they didn’t feel so alone in the apartment. She didn’t even have a cat or fish to make it seem like something was watching them and giving them a judging look.
“Go. Shower. I’ll change the bandage when you’re done,” she urged, standing up and offering him a hand.
This time it wasn’t his aches and pains that made it hard to get up.