Chapter 11 – Fight Night
It was late and he was dead on his feet. He’d been awake for over twenty hours straight and his body wanted sleep. Too tired to drive, he headed to the Doctors’ lounge. The hospital provided simple accommodation for exactly this situation. Often shifts ran over or doctors were required to work double shifts, it wasn’t uncommon to sleep at work. He went and had a long hot shower before hitting the bed.
He let the water run down him as he thought back over the day. It could have gone a lot better, but it wasn’t a complete disaster. He had a week. That was probably better than he deserved. He just had to hope that a week was going to be enough.
He wished he’d asked for a month. He’d asked for that amount of time because he’d expected that this feeling would be gone in a week, but now, after the day with her, he could see he was wrong. This wasn’t something he could be cured of so easily. The more time he spent with her, the more time he wanted to spend with her. The feeling wasn’t lessening, it was getting stronger. He wasn’t going to shake it off after a mere week of her company.
He turned the water off, dried himself and sat on the small single bed. He couldn’t stop thinking about her. The nursing staff had kicked him out at the end of visiting hours and then he’d wandered the hospital for an hour or two, just trying to get his head straight. He needed to remember his ambition, his drive, and what Tom Layton stood for. What had been so clear in his head now seemed so distant. He couldn’t see anything past her. His ambition to surpass his Father seemed trivial and his need to be the best meant nothing if that success required him to be the man he was.
The man he was? Did that mean he wasn’t that man anymore? In the week since she had woken, had he changed into someone else? He had told her that he wasn’t Doctor Lay-em anymore, but it wasn’t until this very moment that he truly believed that. Even if it didn’t work with Jill, the thought of that gave him pain, but if he couldn’t make it work then he still didn’t want to go back to the womanizer he was. He was tired of that. He was ready for something more than that. He was better than that.
He shook his head. Tomorrow he might be back to feeling himself, or he might not. He would just have to ride the wave and see where it took him.
He went to pull out his phone and found the pocket empty. He patted down the other pockets in his jeans and jacket and found nothing. Damn. He searched his memory. He’d pulled it out when he’d sat down in Jill’s room and put it on her side table. Damn. He threw his clothes back on. He needed that phone. He might be officially on holiday, but he still had to be contactable by the hospital in the event of an emergency. He was a specialist surgent and that was part of his contract.
He looked at his watch as he took the lift to her floor. It was after 11pm, the hospital was sleeping. He would just sneak in, grab his phone and leave. If he was careful he wouldn’t even wake her. It would be best if the nursing staff didn’t see him either. Having someone see him sneaking into a patient’s room at this time at night when he was off-duty, might result in questions being asked and would definitely result in rumours circling. With less than a week to prove himself, neither of these would be helpful.
He turned into the corridor that held Jill’s room and was surprised to see Stan sitting on a chair with his head resting on his chest. He’d never been to Jill’s room at this hour of night, but he’d assumed that Stan would have been standing at attention not snoozing on a chair. Saying that, Stan wasn’t a young man and it was a long night. It was understandable that he might want to rest his feet and, just because his head was lowered, that didn’t mean he was asleep on the job.
“Quiet night?” Tom smiled at the slumped man.
When he didn’t answer Tom hesitated. He didn’t want to wake him, but he also didn’t want him to think that he was sneaking into her room for something other than his phone. The last thing Tom needed was for Stan to wake up and overreact to finding him in the room, in the low light he probably wouldn’t recognize him. Knowing Tom’s luck, Stan would probably pull his weapon and apprehend him, and then Derek would find out. It would be embarrassing to them both to have Derek questioning him as to his motives.
Waking Stan was the best course of action. Stan might be a little chagrin from being caught snoozing on the job, but he’d know that Tom wouldn’t report him. He’d be thankful.
“Stan,” Tom whispered as placed his hand on the man’s upper arm and shook him gently.
The soft groan that came from Stan caused Tom to freeze in place. There was something wrong. He looked over Stan, paying more attention to the details. Stan wasn’t resting he was injured. A dark liquid dripped from his side, off the chair and formed a puddle on the linoleum floor. Without thinking Tom dropped to his side and took the man’s pulse. He was alive. He needed to stop the bleeding. Tom reached for his phone then realised that he didn’t have it.
“Help her,” Stan groaned, “Jill.”
Tom was on the other side of Stan to the door. He looked around the injured man and saw movement in the room. There was someone in there. Whoever had hurt Stan was now in Jill’s room. She was in danger.
He walked as silently as he could. The curtain around Mrs Grant was drawn hiding her from view. There was a man standing over Jill’s bed, he was wearing the coat of a doctor and scrubs underneath, but his footwear was wrong. In that second, he noticed Jill’s legs moving in the bed, that the man was holding her down, forcing her against the bed.
Without a second thought, Tom rushed in dropping his shoulder and ramming his body into the man sending him flying into the bedside drawers and against the wall. Jill gasped a breath as Tom moved between her and her attacker. He had his back to her but her soft sobs reassured him and enraged him, at the same time.
He fought the need to turn to her, assess her and comfort her. No, his first priority must be to protect her. She was alive. If he was distracted then this man would take advantage of the opening and it wouldn’t end well for either of them. He’d been in enough fights as a youth to know that you never turn your back on an assailant. He needed to protect her and that meant dealing with this man. While he drew breath, no one would ever hurt her again.
“Who the hell are you?” the man twisted to look at Tom, “This ain’t none of your business.”
Even in the low light Tom could see that his face was aged and ugly with a large mouth, round nose, small eyes, receding hairline, long lanky dirty hair and there were tattoos down his neck and on his hands. His sneer made him look even more grotesque. This guy wasn’t a hospital employee, Tom could put money on that. He was here for the sole purpose of hurting Jill. This man wasn’t a school boy, an amateur, or an opportunist. He was a criminal sent here to deal with Jill.
“She is my business,” Tom growled back, “I’m not going to let you hurt her.”
“Then boy,” the man’s lips lifted into a half smile, “You better be prepared to meet your maker.”
The guy’s eyes darted to the bed and before Tom could stop himself, he too was looking at the gun that was lying on the covers at the foot of Jill’s bed. He twisted back to look at the ugly man who was now looking at him as a smirk twitched at his lips. His expression showed his contempt, his indifference to Tom, and made it clear that he didn’t think Tom was more than an interruption to his work. With one twist of his lips he showed that he didn’t view Tom as any threat.
Tom returned the glare. He wasn’t going to let this man intimidate him. This man could only see the surface of Tom, he didn’t know that Tom knew how to fight. And yet, Tom had never fought a seasoned criminal. This guy was close to forty and had some mileage. Tom’s hands had grown soft since he focused on his career and his body wasn’t as conditioned as it had been back in those days. He knew the techniques but was he capable enough to defend her?
The gun, that was the lynch pin, whoever held the gun would win the fight. He was closer to it than the other man. All he had to do was to take a couple of steps backwards and he’d be able to reach the weapon. He picked up his foot to take the first step when something hard slammed into Tom, he staggered backwards hitting the opposite wall. He ignored the searing pain. From the corner of his eye he saw the man moving for the gun.
He pushed off the wall as he swung his whole body behind his outstretched fist. He timed the attack well as his fist caught the man’s jaw line sending the man’s head backwards. Tom didn’t drop his hands. He didn’t take his eyes off the man. All his concerns vanished, he could still do it, there were somethings that you didn’t forget.
“Lucky,” the man sniffed a sneer but didn’t drop.
He stayed on his feet and as he turned in Tom’s direction, Tom followed up with a jabbing punch into the man’s face. He grunted, staggered backwards, and a trickle of blood appeared at the side of his mouth. He wiped it away with the back of his sleeve.
“You’re pissing me off, boy,” he said as he raised his head to Tom with a hard, angry look in his eyes, “I’m done playing with you. I got a job to do.”
Tom glared back but didn’t answer him. He couldn’t let his man beat him. He wasn’t going to let this man touch Jill again. He was in a serious fight with more at stake than his pride or his hands. He was going to fight this man even if he broke bones doing it. He didn’t care about his hands, he didn’t care about his career, all that mattered was Jill’s safety.
The man moved faster than Tom anticipated, a fist collided with Tom’s cheek bone sending his head back and blurring his vision, but he stayed on his feet and countered with three hard jabs aimed into the man’s midriff. Despite Tom’s fists landing successfully in the man’s stomach, he didn’t double over. Instead he rammed his knee upwards and straight into Tom’s own abdomen. Tom grunted and tasted blood, but he stayed between Jill’s attacker and that gun.
The men glared at each other as they breathed heavily. The ugly man didn’t bother speaking. It was clear that he didn’t think Tom was a serious opponent at first but that had now changed. Tom didn’t need to hear his words to know that this man was intent on killing him and then finishing off Jill.
In the distance Tom could hear noises, voices in the hall, but he couldn’t afford to be distracted. He just had to hope that Stan was getting the attention he needed. Even if he wasn’t, there was nothing Tom could do for Stan now. If he had tried to save Stan, Jill would have died.
He saw the muscles bunching and the arm move, and without thinking Tom ducked to the left just as the fist flew past his head. Then he bent his knees and dodged the follow up left hand jab. Tom knew that combination. As a schoolboy, he’d trained himself to avoid that one. He straightened up bringing his fists up with him and catching the man on the base of his jaw with one and missing the side of his head with the other. He brought his hands back in front of his face in time to shield himself from the next combination. The fists glanced off his forearms which he held firm despite the pain.
He gasped for breath but lashed out with another series of fast strikes, two meeting their targets but the third going wide allowing the ugly man to get up close to him. He wrapped his hands around Toms neck as he shoved him backwards. Tom’s feet had been in the wrong place, unbalanced after missing the strike, so the momentum and the man’s own strength propelled him backwards and his back collided against the far wall. The man’s face was inches from Tom’s as he leaned his body into Tom’s pinning him.
“Time for you to piss off, boy,” His breath that sank as Tom fought against the weight pressing him into the wall.
He pushed against him hard then released suddenly, bringing up his knee into Tom’s stomach as he did. Tom felt the wind rush from him as his abdomen was pushed upwards into his lungs. He fought for breath.
“Nice knowing ya,” His teeth were yellow and crooked as he tightened his hands around Tom’s throat choking him.
His lungs hurt from the knee to the stomach that winded him and the hands that were choking him. He couldn’t draw breath, but he wasn’t ready to give up on Jill. He pumped his fists at the man’s torso but there were dark spots in his vision and he could feel the strength leaching from him. He was dying. He couldn’t loosen the hands around his neck. He couldn’t breathe. He felt himself slipping unconscious and there was nothing he could do. Jill. He had to save Jill. Jill.
“Let him go,” the voice from across the room came with the distinctive click of a safety mechanism being released, “Let him go or I will shoot you.”
Tom sucked in deep gulps of air as the man in front of him slowly raised his hands and turned to face the woman holding the gun. The dark spots in his eyes vanished as the oxygen surged through his body. His lungs hurt but that was a small price to pay. He was alive but so was the other man. He was edging towards Jill as Tom fought to re-inflate his lungs.
Jill had two hands on the weapon and her face was white, but she didn’t lower the gun. Her eyes flashed to Tom once but when she saw that he was bruised but unharmed she narrowed her eyes at the man.
“Now, little darling,” he crooned, hand outstretched, “How about you give me that gun. You don’t want to shoot me.”
“Stay where you are,” Jill’s voice shook but her hands were still.
“Have you ever shot a man, little darling?” he edged closer towards her, his eyes focused on hers, “It’s a messy business taking a life. You can never get that out of your head. Do you really want my blood on your hands?”
“Stay there,” Jill was trying to sound confident, but she couldn’t get the fear out of her voice.
“Now, little darling, how about you give me that gun before you do something you’re going to regret,” his outstretched hand was centimetres from the barrel of the gun as he closed the gap between them.
“Don’t,” Tom pushed off the wall, grabbed the man’s shoulder twisting him to face him, “Call her,” using every bit of the strength he had left he threw a fist into the man’s jaw, “Little Darling,” he followed up with another two fierce punches which connected with the man’s face, “She’s not your,” he stepped in as the man staggered back, “Little anything.”
His final punch caught the man on the side of the head and he crumpled to the ground at the end of Mrs Grant’s still pulled curtains. Tom didn’t stop to check the pulse on the unconscious man, he turned to Jill who was still aiming the gun at the wall where the man had stood.
“Jill,” he said in a gentle voice, “Put the gun down. You are safe. Put the gun down.”
“He,” her eyes came to Tom’s, there were tears forming in them, “He was going to kill me. He was hurting you.”
“I know,” he didn’t take his eyes off her, “Give me the gun Jill. You are safe. I’m here.”
“But,” she was shaking, “But he, he, oh my gawd, Stan! He did something to Stan!”
In her fright she lowered the barrel of the gun and turned to where Stan was. As she did, Tom rushed over, gently took the gun from her hands, put the safety back on, and gathered her into his arms.
His back was towards the doorway where he could hear voices and people running. Someone said something into the room and the lights came on. Jill jumped as the bright light surprised her, but his hold over her tightened.
He held her to his body as she sobbed. Her face was in his shoulder as he buried his head in her hair. He wrapped his arms around her as tightly as he dared as she cried. He needed to feel her against him, to know that she was alive and uninjured, and to reassure himself that she was safe. He could feel his mouth moving and he knew that he was talking to her, soothing her, but he didn’t know what words he was using. He couldn’t concentrate on anything but the rise and fall of her chest.
Somewhere in the background he knew that the night nurse had found Stan and that there were a team of doctors working on him. He gathered Jill up in his arms and turned his body so that if Jill looked she wouldn’t see that. If Stan died, she shouldn’t have to see that. It wasn’t her fault and he didn’t want her to have to live with that burnt into her memory. He cradled her on his lap and held her.
The gun was still on the bed. He knew that the man on the floor wasn’t dead. He would regain consciousness and Tom wasn’t sure what he’d do after that. There were people in the hall. His escape route was gone. But there was no guarantee that the man was going to give-himself-up without a fight. Tom wasn’t taking any chances. He picked up the gun and held it firmly as he held Jill and watched the crumpled figure on the floor at the same time. He wouldn’t hesitate to shoot the man before he touched her again.
“Doctor Layton,” a voice he didn’t recognize came from the door.
He didn’t take his eyes off the man on the floor.
“Doctor Layton,” the voice at the door said again, “I’m Rob and this is Abe and Alex from Security. We have our credentials here.”
Tom nodded but didn’t relax. The man on the floor groaned.
“I need you to give me the gun Doctor Layton,” the man who called himself Rob said again, “We will take your attacker into custody until the police get here but you need to give us the gun first. Doctor Layton?”
“He attacked her,” Tom spat the words.
“Yes, we know,” Rob said, “We can restrain him but only after you put the gun down Doctor Layton.”
Tom turned to find three large men waiting at the end of the bed. The closest one held his hand out which contained his identification, the other hand reached for the gun which Tom lowered and handed to him. The other two men rushed in and bundled up the man on the floor.
“Do you need medical attention?” Rob asked him.
“No,” Tom wrapped his other arm around Jill. She was still crying and shaking as she clung to him.
“What about?” Rob nodded his head towards Jill.
“Jill,” Tom whispered, his heart beating fast as the anger and fear constricted his throat, “Did he hurt you?”
That man was in her room, holding her down on the bed. He knew that she had no external injuries, but he could have touched her, raped her, before Tom arrived. He could have done anything to her before Tom interrupted him. That knowledge made him furious.
“I,” she sniffed, “I don’t think so.”
“Did he touch you,” Tom’s voice was cold.
“He held the pillow over my face,” she whimpered, “I couldn’t breathe.”
“I know,” he released his held breath and closed his eyes in relief, “I’m sorry.”
“But you,” she frowned as she brought up a shaking hand to touch one of the bruises on his face, “You stopped him.”
“Yes, I should have never left you alone,” he huffed. “I should have been here.”
“I wasn’t alone,” her eyes flew in the direction of the door which he’d blocked with his body, “Stan? What’s happened to Stan?”
“He’s still alive, Ma’am,” Rob was standing between them and Alex and Abe, who had their attacker up and standing between them, “They’ve loading him onto the gurney now. I expect he’ll be in surgery soon. The lady in the next bed is uninjured too.”
“She seems a little confused, but uninjured.”
“Just you wait until Frank hears about this, young man,” Mrs Grant’s voice came from behind the curtain, “He’ll have words to say.”
“It was thanks to Mrs Grant that we’re all here,” Rob glanced at the curtain, “She sat on her buzzer and called the Police, the fire department and the ambulance service. I think she was on the phone to the army, airforce and navy when we arrived.”
“Thank you, Mrs G.,” Tom breathed out.
“As much as I like fight night,” Mrs Grant responded, “I like your pretty face more.”
“I’m going to stay here,” Rob smiled at Mrs Grant’s words but remained professional, “I’ll be at the door. The boys, Abe and Alex, are taking this piece of excrement down to meet the Police. And I’ll be here until the Detective arrives with his men.”
“Stan?” Jill asked again as she moved to look at the doorway.
“Jill,” Tom pulled her back into her chest, “Don’t worry about Stan. The doctors will look after him.”
“But what if he dies?” fresh tears filled her eyes.
“You are safe,” he whispered. He wasn’t going to lie to her and promise that Stan was going to be fine. He couldn’t lie to her. “Stan has a team of doctors looking after him. Let me look after you.”
He held her as she cried. He knew she was in shock, but he was confident that she wasn’t hurt. She didn’t lose consciousness due to his attempt to asphyxiate her, so it was unlikely there would be any permanent damage. The phycological damage was something he couldn’t judge.
“Tom, you’re still here,” Derek Salter was looking down at the pool of blood at the door, “Shit, that bastard, excuse me Jill, I didn’t see you there. Are you both alright?”
“Derek? Detective Salter?” Jill squeaked and stiffened against Tom.
“Jill’s been shaken but physically she’s uninjured,” Tom said in a low voice as he continued to hold her.
“I see,” Derek lifted an eyebrow at Tom. “Do you mind if I ask you both some questions.”
“Jill needs to rest,” Tom wasn’t ready to let her go.
“We could step out of the room,” Derek indicated his hand.
“I’m not leaving her,” Tom said as Jill’s hold on him tightened. “I’ll answer your questions here if they can’t wait until the morning.”
“Alright,” Derek stood at the end of the bed as Tom cradled Jill on the bed, “What were you doing here so late at night?”
Tom answered Detective Salter’s questions honestly and openly. He held Jill while explained where he’d been and why he’d come back, what he’d seen and what had happened after that. The only question he stubbled on was when Derek asked him about the nature of his and Jill’s relationship. He had told him that they were friends but that felt like a lie.
Jill remained silent throughout. She didn’t move from his arms. It was only when Derek left that he was forced to release her. The duty doctor insisted on examining her. Tom knew why. The hospital had to ensure she was uninjured, and he was conflicted in his opinion. If they were sued, then they would be found negligent if they didn’t have an impartial doctor examine her for injury. He paced the floor outside the curtain as the doctor did his tests.
“Are you alright,” he asked her as the doctor left the room.
He stood at the end of the bed unsure as what to do. He wanted to gather her up and hold her but it felt wrong to impose himself on her. He needed to hold her. He needed to hear her heart beating against his chest. But he also needed her to want that too. Watching her, he waited for the invitation.
“I think so,” she whispered and looked away.
“I don’t want to go,” he said as he stood looking at her, “I know that the deal was that I am only allowed here during visiting hours, but, I don’t want to leave you.”
“Stay,” her voice was so quiet he could barely hear her, “Please stay.”
He felt the tension leave him. He carried the chair from the other side of the room over to next to her bed and sat down.
“Will you sleep?” he leaned forward in the chair to take her hand.
“Maybe,” she didn’t shake herself free of his hand but instead she crawled up into a ball facing him, “Thank you.”
“What for?” he got up and pulled her covers up.
“Saving my life,” she whispered.
“That’s what friends do,” he smiled as he made sure she was warm and then took her hand again as he sat, “I’m not going anywhere. You can sleep. I’ll be here if you wake.”
He shuffled the chair forward as he watched her drift off to sleep. His face hurt, his gut felt like it had been rammed with a wrecking ball, his arms ached, and his knuckles were bleeding and bruised, but his heart was singing. She was safe. That was all that mattered.
He closed his eyes and fell asleep with his hand in hers.