Domino Effect

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Chapter Twenty Two

Bailey walked slowly down the street. She was in a fog. The haze that clouded her mind kept her from noticing exactly where she was headed. She didn’t have a particular place to go, but she needed to go somewhere. She needed to stay occupied.

If there was silence around her, she knew that she’d start to think back on what had happened. Bailey watched as the cracks in the sidewalk passed rhythmically under her feet. There were cars passing her, she knew it, but the fog made every noise muffled. It entranced her.

This was a good thing. The murkiness let Bailey understand what was around her—the cars, the people, the buildings—but it kept anything from bothering her. A car tried to rush through the crosswalk at the stop sign; Bailey merely glanced in its direction as it honked. She continued on her way and it zoomed past her. The rude hand gesture made by the driver went unnoticed.

The people around Bailey seemed to sense that she was off in another world. No one tried to talk to her. No one tried to return her keys after she’d dropped them; Bailey simply stopped walking, backpedaled a few steps, and picked them up.

It was only when she had grass under her feet did she really look around. Bailey found that she was in the cemetery behind the visitor’s center. She sighed. Her feet had carried her over to a gravestone at the very back corner of the plot. She knelt next to it. Then she collapse onto her side, curled into a ball.

“How did I get into this mess, Dad?” Bailey asked the air around her.

No one answered.

“I know I should have come earlier,” she continued.

There was still silence around her.

“I’m sorry,” Bailey apologized. She ran her fingers through the soft grass. “Mum’s sorry too, Dad. She misses you so much. It messed her up when you left. But…your bills are paid now, so I think she’ll finally be okay.”

Bailey waited. She was the only one in the cemetery. That was definitely preferred. If Bailey was ever going to break down, now was as good a time as any.

“My boss tried to kill me today,” she said quietly. “He was obsessed with me or something. He tried to kill us both, actually. His plan ended up… I got out, at least.

“It was horrible, Dad,” Bailey continued, sitting up. “He thought I was seeing this patient—Ace. He’s really sweet and he seems smart and dapper and polite…” she trailed off as she thought about her friendly interactions with Ace. “Ace, I mean. Not Mathews. That’s my boss. He’s the one who wanted me out of the way…so he could kill Ace and take his money.”

Bailey shook her head mechanically. “I don’t know. It’s all so overwhelming. But Ace’s wife seems a bit,” she searched for the right word,” possessive, though that’s still too tame. The only time we really ever spoke she made sure I knew that I was supposed to tell her if her husband died.”

She didn’t want to talk about Mathews anymore. Ace and his wife was still a harmful subject, but his wife continued to be a mystery to Bailey. She was nowhere to be found, and Bailey and Ace were much safer for it.

The light wind ruffled her hair. Her blond tresses were down over her shoulders and she tucked a bit behind her right ear.

“It was strange,” Bailey remarked. She hadn’t spoken this freely in such a long time. It was refreshing; she sat up straighter. “What do you think, Dad? Do you think she’s into something? Maybe a conspiracy theory connected to Ireland? She doesn’t have an accent, but foreigners lose them all the time if they’re here long enough. Is that why she hired Mathews to kill Ace and me? Why does she need so much money?

“I mean, Ace, I get,” she continued, “he inherited all of it and he wanted to help his little brother. But why would someone so beautiful—and I mean, Dad, if you saw her, you’d flip a gasket—need so much money? It just doesn’t make sense.”

She waited, but deep down she knew he wasn’t there to answer her. A small, bittersweet smile crinkled her eyes. Bailey stood and brushed her hand on top of her father’s gravestone. The marble was cool and rough under her fingers.

“I’ll figure it out,” Bailey told him. “I always do, right?”

Bailey blew a kiss to her father. Then she began weaving her way between the gravestones to the entrance of the cemetery. But she stopped suddenly at the stairs. A gust of wind had twirled her hair and Bailey could’ve sworn she had heard someone behind her. Someone talking to her.

She turned and said, “What should I do about Ace?” repeating the unspoken question. Bailey smiled. “He and his wife don’t seem too happy, but I don’t really know. He’s a good bloke, Dad. I wish you could have met him.”

Bailey had returned home after a short but thorough investigation by the town police. Once the gunshot had stopped ringing through the halls of the hospital Bailey had pulled back the chair and unlocked the door to Ace’s room. When she opened it, she gasped; the amount of blood pooling around Mathews’ body was appalling. Ace hadn’t wanted her to go. His tubing didn’t let him leave the room, and he was too weak for Bailey to allow him to use a portable. He sat on his bed looking more morose than he had since he’d been admitted.

“Dane?” she called out. The hall was relatively empty except for the coroner and a few police officers. “Dane!”

“Bailey, it’s okay!” Dane rounded the corner and swiftly put his arms around her. “They got him.”

“Oh, thank God you’re alright,” Bailey said through fresh tears. She sniffled heartily. “Where’s Sam?”

“She’s with Charlie and James down in the cafeteria. Everyone’s there.”

Bailey began really sobbing now, and she was brushed aside as Doctor Arrington stepped into Ace’s room and closed the door behind him. But before the door closed Bailey had turned and looked at Ace. There was a resignment in his eyes. His smile didn’t reach them. Bailey didn’t know if he had accepted that Mathews was finally unable to hurt them or if he had accepted that Bailey was no longer in the room with him, and that she was going to go back to her life without him.

As Dane led her away, the police questioning her as they walked, Bailey thought back to those terrifying moments with Ace. What was she going to do now? Ace had clearly just pronounced his affections for Bailey. How did she feel about him? Was there a reason she had felt safe with him in that room, or was it just because they were both the targets of a greedy killer?

Bailey had always liked talking with Ace, more so than with any of her other patients. It was hard not to be guarded around them. They didn’t know any part of her life and Bailey didn’t think they had a right to. Just because they spurted everything they had ever done out to her didn’t mean she had to reciprocate. But with Ace…

Bailey didn’t realize she was truly sobbing until Dane’s muffled voice said, “Can we leave this until later?” The police then left them and Dane towed Bailey over to one of the booths in the cafeteria. They had climbed down the stairs and walked through five corridors before Bailey had realized they were on the first floor.

“Bailey!” a woman screamed and before Bailey knew it, Sam had thrown herself into her arms.

“Ger’off,” Bailey muttered. She wasn’t in the mood for hugs and kisses. She wasn’t in the mood for squeals of delight that she and Dane were alive. She wasn’t in the mood.

“What happened?” asked James as he ran over to them from his table he was sharing with Charlie. “There was police everywhere and we heard a gunshot—”

“Mathews is dead,” Bailey deadpanned. She pushed Sam off of her. Everyone was staring at them. At her. Bailey felt a blush rise in her cheeks.

It wasn’t from embarrassment. Not really. She was angry. She really didn’t feel up to talking about that. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone? Didn’t they realize she had been traumatized? Bailey, out of every other nurse in the hospital, had been singled out by a crazy wife and an even crazier doctor. She just wanted to call her mum and maybe check on Ace one more time before heading home. She winced. Ace could take care of himself, couldn’t he? The threat was gone and he was being questioned. He still had to heal. Bailey could leave him alone for more than twenty minutes, couldn’t she?

But the thought that he was alone up there was nagging at her. She began chewing on her lip. Sam snapped her fingers in front of her face. “What, sorry?” Bailey answered vaguely.

“Babe, chill,” Dane cautioned. “Maybe…” He glanced at Bailey’s faraway, glazed eyes. “Maybe we should help her get home.”

For once, Sam didn’t argue. She didn’t press the issue that she hadn’t gotten any gossip. Sam and Charlie and James nodded and together they helped Bailey through the cafeteria once more and up the stairs to the next floor.

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