Bailey hobbled out of her room on Sam’s arm. There was personnel running everywhere; the confusion couldn’t be less evident. The women had to stop a few times to avoid nurses and residents wheeling gurneys down the halls like their pants were on fire. Because the elevator had been only one of two in the entire hospital, foot traffic on the stairs was almost impossible to navigate through.
But Bailey’s mission wasn’t to get out of the hospital. Sam tugged on Bailey’s sleeve when she veered away from the stairs, but Bailey needed to find the officers guarding Mathews’ door. She had to tell them about her suspicion.
“Where are you going?” Sam asked her. “We should let reception know your room is free.”
“Show me where he is,” Bailey replied. She pulled Sam along as she continued away from the stairs.
“Okay,” she said, pointing ahead of them. “He’s in room A23.”
That’s only ten rooms down from Ace, Bailey thought. She had to make sure he was alright. Bailey and Sam passed Ace’s room quickly. As they neared the officers outside A23, Bailey heard a familiar shout.
It was Charlie, followed closely by James. They were covered in blood and dirt; they must have been tending to the patients in the lobby and floor below. Bailey didn’t spare them a second glance. She didn’t answer their frantic questions. She had to stay focused. She had to talk to the officers. They stopped close behind her when she stepped in front of room A23.
“Sir,” she said, addressing the first officer. He turned at the sound of her voice. “There needs to be a protection detail outside room A13.”
“And who might you be?” the officer asked.
“She was in the elevator with Doctor Mathews,” Sam answered brusquely.
That made the officer do a double take. “You shouldn’t be here. You should be in your room,” he told Bailey.
“She’s not hurt,” Charlie said.
“Is she under arrest?” James questioned.
“Guys, cool it,” Sam snapped over Bailey’s shoulder.
“And who are you three?” the second officer inquired.
“They work here too,” Bailey replied. “Look, this isn’t the point!” All three nurses and the officers fell quiet. Bailey looked the first officer straight in the eye.
“He attacked me and the hospital because he thought I was seeing a patient,” she explained, jabbing a finger at Mathews’ door.
“Were you?” the second officer asked.
“Not the point,” Sam growled.
Bailey ignored the twinge in her stomach. “Mathews rigged the elevator himself. He might have been working alone, he may have had help somewhere else. I don’t know.” She took a deep breath and waited. When no one tried to interrupt her, she continued.
“Ace Owens is in room A13. I would like to go see him, but I would like an officer to go with me.”
The officers glanced at one another. Stevens, the one Bailey had first spoken to, left his post and began following Bailey and Sam to A13. Behind them, the other officer said, “Stay here,” to Charlie and James.
They replied with, “We should go. We just wanted to make sure Bailey was okay.”
Bailey didn’t see them leave. She had reached Ace’s door now. She turned to Sam. “I need to talk to Ace alone. I’m fine, really. Go help Charlie and James,” she said. “I’ll have the officer with me. Go, please.”
Sam put a light pressure on her friend’s arm before ducking out from under it.
With Sam gone, Bailey turned to Officer Stevens. “I want to go in alone,” she said.
“Why’d you need me then?” It wasn’t angry or condescending. Stevens was simply curious.
“I don’t want anyone coming in to try and hurt Ace.”
“What if they’re already in there?”
He’s got a good point, Bailey thought. She pressed on with, “Mathews wanted me. Wanted me dead. I don’t know which. If someone’s in there connected to him, I have to protect Ace. He’s my patient. I’m the reason he’d be in trouble in the first place.”
Stevens nodded and turned so that his back was against the wall. Taking that as a sign that she could go, Bailey opened Ace’s door. He was sitting up in his bed. His face was set and his fists were as clenched as they could be in the bandages. When he saw who had opened his door, he visibly relaxed.
“What the bloody hell just happened?” he asked her. Bailey rounded the end of his bed and sat down. “The doctors were all coming in to check on everyone but—”
“Are you alright?”
Ace gave Bailey a startled look. “I am fine,” he told her, “but they said there was an accident. I heard it. The crash was so loud—”
“But you’re not hurt?”
Ace’s eyes narrowed now. “Other than the burns, Bailey, I’m fine. What is going on?”
Bailey noticed that Ace’s heart rate had accelerated since she’d come into the room. His EKG would be just another havoc the residents would have to deal with today. She sighed, looked away from him. “There’s going to be police outside your door for a while. They’ll be there until they decide what to do with Doctor Mathews,” she said.
“He thought I was seeing you.” When Ace didn’t respond, Bailey added in a low whisper, “He thought we were romantically involved.” She peeked at him under her eyelashes. Ace was staring at her.
“Why would he think that?” he asked incredulously.
“Because he’s crazy,” Bailey said, glad that he thought Mathews was as crazy as she did. “Instead of asking me out he just assumed we were banging and planning to run away together once you were better! He went all psycho and trapped us both in the elevator at the end of the hall.”
“Holy hell,” Ace gasped. “That wasn’t—?”
Bailey nodded feverishly. “So many people got hurt because of him,” she said, “and I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t put it past him… If the elevator fell, how can we rule out that nobody died?”
Ace’s face fell. His eyes travelled over Bailey’s face and down her arms, then over to the door. “Mathews did creep me out that one time you two were in here together,” he said finally.
“You were awake,” Bailey accused, remembering. She stood from the bed. “You could have said something!”
“I was afraid he’d hurt you! I couldn’t do anything.”
“How do you know? Mathews could have—”
“He could have what, Bailey?” Ace leaned forward suddenly. “Mathews was acting unusual. You told me that he’d always taken a liking to you, ever since you started. Am I wrong?”
Bailey thought back to the conversation they’d had the Thursday before. She’d complained to Ace that Mathews never took no for an answer. He never seemed to realize that what Bailey was doing was politely rejecting him when she said she had other plans and no time to see him after work. He’d given that up about a month or two after she’d started at the hospital, but ever since then Mathews hadn’t stopped being overtly friendly. He seemed to always choose her for his cases over Sam or Charlie or James. Bailey was tired of being first when he unmistakably knew that Sam, at the very least, was much more qualified to be on his team than she was.
Ace could tell that she knew the answer. “You avoided him for the rest of the week, didn’t you? I thought he’d actually given up for once. I thought he was leaving you alone like you wanted,” he continued.
“As did I,” Bailey confided. She slowly returned to his bedside and sat down. There was a moment of silence between them. It was comfortable, even if it was charged with unease. Bailey glanced at Ace; he was staring at her.
It wasn’t a nasty stare, Bailey noted. Ace was looking at her with a kindness she hadn’t expected. She hadn’t wanted to befriend him. She usually treated patients and they went on their way. But Ace was different. When her friends at the hospital had their own lives to worry about, when they didn’t have time for her, when her own mother barely came around, Ace had been the one to listen to her. Ace had his own problems to deal with, and yet he had been the one to give out kindness freely.
He hadn’t expected it to come back to him. He didn’t expect to be treated differently because he was damaged. Every one of the patients was damaged in one way or another. Ace had seen that Bailey needed someone to talk to and he’d been that person. Therefore, naturally, Bailey had become his friend.