I stayed with Gail until she was asleep. Eli had gone home, to help his family pack and make sure they made it onto the plane safely.
We decided that the best thing for all of us, was if we stayed here until this was over. Safety in numbers, and all that.
I sat in the dark, watching Gail sleep peacefully, her face tucked into the pillow and the blanket pulled up to her chin and thanked God she was ok.
Tonight could have gone so much worse, and as sad as she felt about her cat, she was very lucky to be alive.
My body cried for sleep, but every time I closed my eyes I saw Alex, laying in the field, the green grass stained with his blood.
I gently got off the couch, fixing the blanket over Gail, and went to the kitchen. My whiskey bottle from earlier stood on the counter, and I needed all the help I could get to fall asleep.
I stood in the dark, not wanting to disturb Gail with a light, and leaned against the counter, sipping straight from the bottle.
I almost lost her today. He could have killed her, but he didn’t. Why?
I thought back to the call, the way she screamed and the fear I felt at that moment. It reminded me of the fear I felt when I first saw Addison tied to the chair in front of me.
I took a long sip of my whiskey again.
That note he left her, and the toy. What was it about the toy?
Something wasn’t sitting right with me about it, but what? I took another sip.
I didn’t even know she had a cat.
But it wasn’t that. I stared at the tiles in my kitchen, thinking.
Feather on a stick.
Feather… On a stick.
I took another sip.
“Feather on a stick!” I shouted as the realization came to me. I slammed the bottle down on the counter, and ran into the lounge, to Gail’s side.
I dropped to my knees next to her, and gently placed my hand on her shoulder, “Gail.” I whispered.
She stirred but didn’t wake.
“Gail,” I said a bit louder and shook her.
She shot up with a scream and hit my hand away.
“It’s ok. It’s just me. You’re safe.” I said holding my hands up.
Her large blue eyes darted around the room, getting her bearings.
They fell on me, and she calmed, “Paul. What’s happened?” She asked, brushing her black hair out of her face.
I sat down next to her, “Nothing, you’re ok.” I said, lifting my arm up for her to lay down on my chest. She gave me a weak smile and curled herself into me.
“Hey, remember yesterday, when I came to the lab. After the techs found all that stuff in my house?” I asked, gently brushing the back of her head.
“Yeah.” She said quietly.
“Remember I told you that I felt like a cat with a feather on a stick?”
She tucked her face into my shirt.
Wrong time to mention that.
“Yeah, I do.” She mumbled, her voice breaking.
“He heard me say that to you.”
She sat up, her eyes filled with new tears, “Your phone was tapped.” She said, wiping a stray tear as it rolled out her eye.
“I know. But I think we should sweep the lab, just in case. He’s everywhere, and I think he’s been one step ahead of us all this time because your lab is bugged as well.”
“I don’t think so,” she pulled the blanket up over her, “To get to my lab, he would need to walk through a police station, a secure door, and past at least two security checkpoints.”
“He got the toy to your lab. And he broke into my car, outside a police station, and planted Lilly’s picture in my house with thirty cops here. I think it’s safe to say he knows how to get past security.”
“I will ask the techs to sweep the lab in the morning, but I don’t think they will find anything.”
I met her eyes, “I just want to be sure. I don’t want to take any more chances. You could’ve died tonight, and that would’ve been on me. He got too close, and I won’t let that happen again.”
She stared into my eyes for a moment. Her mind working.
“Why are you being so nice to me? You hardly ever spoke to me before, and I always thought I annoyed you. What’s changed?”
I turned away from her, my whiskey mind begging me to tell her I liked her, but my rational head saying it’s not the time or place to have that conversation.
“You helped me out a lot with this. I guess I never appreciated what you do until I saw you in action. And this is my mess. It’s me he wants, and I dragged you into this. What kind of man would I be if I didn’t keep you safe after putting you in danger in the first place?” She shifted again and lifted my arm up to rest her head on my shoulder.
I waited for her to get comfortable, the smell of coconut and vanilla filling my nose from her hair.
“Thank you, Paul. I do feel safe with you. Like this.” I smiled to myself, gliding my hand gently over the back of her head.
“Go back to sleep. Eli will be back soon, and we have another long day tomorrow.”
I rested my head on the back of the couch and closed my eyes.
Images flashed in my head.
The tall trees.
Blood on the grass.
Lilly running away from me.
Lilly laying in the field, dead.
I jerked awake, my heart racing, and my free hand on my gun. I took stock of my surroundings. Gail was asleep, next to me, holding my hand. The blanket covering us both, and my phone buzzing on the table.
I gently moved out of Gail’s grip, leaning forward to grab my cell, and answered it when I saw Eli’s number on the screen.
“Hey,” I said with a groggy, tired voice.
“Hey, Paul. I’m on my way back to yours. They’re safe, in the air and on their way to Mexico City.” Eli said.
I leaned back again, fixing the blanket over her, “Ok. See you soon.” I whispered. I hung up the call and tossed my phone on the empty space on the couch next to me. I gently pulled my hand out from under Gail’s and rubbed my face.
I didn’t want to move, to wake her, but I was busting for a piss. I untangled myself from the blanket, and Gail’s arms, and stood slowly. I waited, watching to see if I had woken her up, but she got comfortable again and continued to sleep.
I ran up the stairs quietly, did what needed to be done in the bathroom, and came back down. I got to the bottom step when a knock on the door made me change direction.
That will be Eli.
I got to the door, opening the deadbolt on the top, and swung it open, coming face to face with the barrel of a gun. A loud bang deafened me, and I was thrown back onto the floor. I reached for my sidearm, the pain in my chest searing through me, and lifted it up to the entrance, but there was no one there.
Gail came running over to me, dropping on her knees next to me. I couldn’t hear her words from the ringing in my ears, but I understood the panic on her face.
She left for a moment, then came back with my phone at her ear, held there by her shoulder. I cried out in pain as she pressed the blanket onto the wound, my head spinning, and the feeling in my right arm slowly fading.
The ringing in my ears subsided, and I heard Gail saying my address followed by, “Officer down! Get help out here, now!”
I leaned my head back on the wooden floor and bit back the scream of pain I wanted to release. Gail dropped the phone, and placed one hand on my face, “Stay with me, Paul! Come on! Stay with me!”
I saw the blue and red lights through my open door, and two paramedics came running in, followed by Eli, Tom and two other cops, their guns drawn.
Gail stepped away, and I tried to move my head to see her, but the pain burned in me.
One of the paramedics brought his face closer to me, “Detective Mason, my name is Clive. We need to get you into the ambulance. Try not to move, ok? We’re gonna take care of you.” He said as the other one worked on the hole in my body.
Eli and Tom came over, “Is he going to be ok?” Tom asked, his voice thick with worry.
“The bullet went into the right shoulder. Looks like a through and through. The doctors will tell you more at the hospital.”
I craned my neck to look behind me, catching Gail’s watery eyes as the paramedics rolled me onto the stretcher, and lifted me onto the gurney. I was strapped in and rolled out the house.
They loaded me into the ambulance, and I smiled when I saw Gail hop in the back with me. She grabbed my left hand, holding it tight and the doors shut. Two hard bangs on the back door and we were off.
As the pain in my chest eased from the medication injected into my arm, I smiled at Gail. Her face wet with tears, she smiled back at me. I squeezed her hand, unable to speak with the oxygen mask over my face.
She leaned closer, “You’re gonna be ok. It’s not as bad as it looks.” She said. Her words made me chuckle, and the pain again ripped through my shoulder. I cried out and closed my eyes.
We got to the hospital, the paramedics wheeling me inside, and four doctors surrounded me. I felt Gail’s hand slip out of mine, and I looked up to see her waiting at the end of the hall. I was taken to an exam room and one of the doctors spoke to me.
“Paul, I’m Doctor Martin, I’m gonna look after you tonight.”
I nodded, my eyes closing at the fuzzy, dizzy feeling in my head from the drugs.
Martin leaned over my face, so I could see him, “We’re gonna knock you out for a while, so we can clean this up, ok? You're gonna be just fine. Just take deep breaths, and I will see you when you wake up.” He said.
I felt the cold liquid enter my veins, and as I tried to keep my eyes open, I quickly lost the battle.