Gail, crying, terrified.
Gail, tied to the chair in front of me.
I tore open my eyes, my body involuntarily wanting to sit up, but pain causing me to remain on my back. I lay there, trying to control my breathing. Every breath sent a sharp, stabbing pain through my shoulder.
It was still dark outside.
Or is it dark again?
I lifted my good arm up to my face, rubbing my dry eyes, and moved my tongue around my desert dry mouth. I craned down, to look at the bandages over my shoulder, the tight skin pulling and sending fresh pain through my body.
I moaned, shutting my eyes, and relaxing as much as I could. My head still felt foggy, and my eyes begged to close and return to slumber, but my mind filled with questions. Questions and an urgency to get out of here and get back to finding Toni.
If I was here, then everyone else was in danger.
I looked around the room, a private box, with the curtains drawn, the door closed, and the windows shut tight. Machines stood all around me. A heart monitor, and I.V stand, and, I smiled, a morphine dispenser.
I felt around on the bed for the little button, and pulled it into my hand, pressing it, and letting the euphoric, painless haze take over.
I closed my eyes, waiting for it to take me back to my dreams, but my thoughts had other ideas. As soon as I closed my eyes, I saw them again. Everyone I cared about, dead. Gutted, bleeding, and lifeless, at the feet of Toni, who was smiling like an excited child showing off its achievements.
I opened my eyes again with a sigh.
Can’t even sleep with drugs. Great.
I looked around my bed, moving only as much as my body would allow, and found the call button. I pressed it, hoping the good doctor would have something up his sleeve to help me get some rest.
The doctor from last night came in, Dr Martin. A tablet in his hand, and his eyes as tired as mine.
He shut the door, “Detective Mason, you’re awake. That’s good.” He said tapping on the screen.
I swallowed the razor blades, clearing my throat to talk, “Hey Doc. How long was I out?”
He came to the side of my bed, laying the tablet down next to me, and pulled my hospital gown down to look at my bandages.
“About seventeen hours. You came in just before 4am this morning. It’s a little after nine in the evening now.” He smiled up at me, “How do you feel?”
“Tired. Sore.” I said, wishing my mouth to give me even just a drop, “Thirsty.” I finished.
He reached over to the table, and I heard water being poured into a cup. He turned back to me with a straw, and brought it to my lips, “Have some water.”
He waited while I sucked in the refreshing, soothing liquid, and placed the cup back.
“You’re very lucky, detective. The bullet went through your shoulder but didn’t cause any major damage. It chipped your collarbone, but nothing that won’t heal in time.”
“I’m not lucky,” I mumbled.
“How so?” Martin asked, picking up the tablet.
I grunted out a dry laugh, “Trust me, Doc. I’m just not.”
I felt his hand on my arm, “You need to get some rest. The nurse will be in later to change your dressing, and your Captain has an officer outside your door. Feel free to call if you need anything.” He said and began walking out.
I called to him, “Hey doc, you got anything to help me sleep?”
He stopped, and turned to me, “Sure. I’ll be back in a minute.”
When the doctor came back, holding a tray with a syringe and some wipes, I wondered where Gail was. She came in with me, hours ago.
Is she still here? Has she gone home, back to mine? Is she safe?
“Hey Doc, where’s my phone?” I asked.
He paused, “You didn’t have one with you when you came in. Do you want me to call someone for you?”
I thought about that for a second, “No, its ok. I just wanna sleep. Sleep without dreaming.”
Martin smiled, “Well this will do just that. I will be back to check on you in the morning.” He pushed the needle into the tube of my I.V, and my head began to float as my eyes closed. I smiled and let the darkness take me.
Nightmares, pain and a bright light woke me up.
So much for a dreamless sleep.
I lay there for a moment, my eyes closed, pain throbbing in my shoulder, and my mouth back in the Sahara again. I pulled in a long breath, catching the scent of a sweet floral fragrance in my room.
I opened my eyes to see a nurse in the room, her back turned to me, against the back wall. She did something, her arms moving around, and then stepped away to reveal a large bouquet of white lilies.
“Nurse!” I called out after her.
She turned to me with a wide smile, “Oh hey Detective, you’re up. Let me get the doctor.” She said.
“Wait. Where did those come from?” I asked, gesturing to the flowers.
She turned back to them, “Delivered for you this morning. Gorgeous, aren’t they?” She said and left my room.
I heaved myself up the bed, using my good arm to push my heavy body. I kicked the blankets off my legs, getting tangled in the tubes of the IV, and cursed out loud.
The door opened, and Doctor Martin came in, his smile quickly turned to a frown when he saw me getting out of bed.
“Detective Mason, what are you doing?” He asked, coming over to me.
I fought with the blankets and the tubes, “I need to get out of here. I need to get back to work.”
Martin came over, pushing me back into bed, “Absolutely not. You were shot last night, you need to rest, heal-”
I pushed him out of my way, “Drop it Doc! I can’t sit around here waiting.” I said, looking at the flowers in the back of the room.
The door to my room opened and Tom, Eli, and Gail came in.
Tom ran over to help the doc, “Paul, stop!” He said, holding my arms.
My eyes darted between Tom’s eyes and the flowers.
Tom turned to see the cause of my outburst, and shouted to Eli, “Get those out of here!”
Eli ran over to the Lilies, grabbed them, and darted out the room. I sat back down on the bed, my head feeling faint, and my body screaming in pain, “I need to find him, Tom. I’ve already wasted a day sitting here.”
Tom gestured for the doctor to leave the room and sat down next to me.
“He’s gone quiet for now. We haven’t heard anything from him, until now.” He said, motioning with his head to where the flowers stood.
I laughed, “He’s waiting for me.”
“You’re lucky he didn’t kill you.”
“If he wanted me dead, he would have aimed a little higher. He doesn’t want me dead, he wants me to suffer. To feel pain, but not to be out of action. That’s why he’s waiting. Waiting until I get out of here, so he can send me on another wild goose chase.”
Tom helped me ease back onto the bed, pulling the pillow up and picking the blanket up off the floor.
He sighed, “Let me go have a chat with the doctor. See when you can get out of here.” He stood, gave me a glare to stay in bed, and left the room.
I looked over at Gail, standing in the back of the room, her eyes filled with tears, her arms wrapped around her. She was scared. I motioned with my head for her to come over. She came to the side of my bed, taking my hand into hers as a tear fell.
I squeezed her hand, “Hey, I’m ok. I’m ok.” I said.
She shook her head, “I thought you were going to die. There was so much blood… I’ve never seen anyone get shot before.”
“I’m sorry, Gail. That must have been so scary for you. All of this must be terrifying for you.”
“It’s not that…” She paused, looking away and wiped a tear off her face.
I sat up a bit more, “Hey, what is it?”
When she looked at me, I saw something flash over her face. A split-second moment of true worry. Real fear for me.
“It’s you. I don’t want to lose you.” Her voice as quiet as a whisper.
I lifted my good arm, shifting for her to lay down next to me. “Come here,” I said.
She crawled up onto the bed, resting her head on my chest, “I’m not going anywhere.” I said, closing my eyes and taking her in.
The coconut and vanilla smell, the warmth of her body next to mine. Her arm over my chest, resting on my stomach.
It’s been so long since I held someone like this, that wasn’t a pint-sized bag of hyperactive giggles.
The door opened again, and I felt Gail tense, and begin to move away, but I pulled her back to me, holding her tight. I opened my eyes to see Tom and Eli both smiling at us.
Tom eventually said, “Your doctor said you can go home today, but only if you take some time off work to rest. He’s getting your medication ready now, and he will be in to see you before you go to show you how to change your dressing. I have to agree with him, Paul. You need to take a few days off, to let that heal.”
I smiled, “Whatever you say, boss. But you and I both know Toni has other plans.”
The smiles quickly faded from both their faces and Tom nodded, “I know. That’s why I’m not insisting. When we find him, I will make sure you all get two weeks paid leave.”
A happy, cheerful ringing sounded out in the room, and Gail quickly got off the bed, “Sorry” She mumbled as she pulled her phone out her pocket. She looked at the screen, then at all of us, showing me the unknown number calling.
I reached my hand out to her, sliding it to answer when she placed it in my hand, “You missed.”
“Are you in pain, Paul? Are you suffering, like I am?” Toni’s dragged out words rang out in the room.
“Not at all. In fact, the morphine drip they have me on is making me feel pretty damn good right about now.”
“Bring her back to me Paul, or I won’t stop hurting you. I don’t have to inflict pain on your body to make you hurt. Maybe I will cut Tom’s fingers off? Or gut Eli’s little kid, what’s his name, Bennie? Or I can always pay that pretty little Gail another visit. She is something special to you, isn’t she Paul? You see, there are many ways to hurt you. To make you suffer. I don’t need to resort to barbaric acts like shooting you with a gun, but I wanted you to feel pain. Real pain, as I feel now.”
Everyone shifted, looking at each other.
“Toni… Is that your name? Toni? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, Toni, let me make myself clear, in case you missed it the last time we spoke. You will… NEVER… see Lilly again. Never. I don’t care who you threaten, or hurt or kill, she is safe and will stay as far away from you as she can get until I know you are dead and rotting in the ground. Do you understand me? You want to play games, fine. But if you think for one second that I will bring that little girl back here, back to you, you are more delusional than I thought.” I said, looking at Gail.
She crossed her arms and looked away from me.
Toni sighed heavily over the line, “We will see if you still feel that way after today. And, Paul, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He said and hung up.
I dropped the phone to my lap and leaned my head back against the pillows.
Everyone stood in silence for a moment, then Eli spoke, “My son is in Mexico, with my wife’s brothers. If he goes after that bunch, he’d be doing us a favor. They don’t take no shit, and he would be dead the moment he lands in the city. As for me, he comes after me and I put a bullet in his head, or I die trying. That’s the job.”
I looked up at him, nodding slowly.
Tom said, “He’s upset again, and we know what he will do. I need to get back to the station, get everyone on high alert, and do a press briefing, warn the public. All of us are now targets, and from now on we travel in a group or with police escorts. I don’t want any of you alone, not even for a second, understood?”
We all mumbled in agreement, and Tom headed for the door. Once he was gone, I turned to Gail, holding out my hand.
She took it, her eyes sad, and came to stand next to me.
“I only said that to piss him off, you get that right. I do care. I care about you, and it will kill me inside if anything happens to you.”
She smiled at me, her face still filled with worry.
“I know. I’m just not used to being a target. You guys are big tough cops who deal with this kind of stuff all the time. I’m just a nerd who sits in an office all day playing on my computer.”
Eli came to the other side of my bed, “Gail, we got you. Neither Paul nor I will let him get to you. No matter what.” He said, looking down at me.
I nodded in agreeance.
Eli continued, “Shits about to get real messy now guys. Time to go do what we do best.”