Eli waited for Gail and I at the entrance to the hospital, a patrol car parked behind his white Land Rover.
I looked up at Gail, “Can I get up now?” I asked as she pushed my wheelchair towards the exit.
“Not until you’re at the car. Doctors orders.” She smiled back.
I sighed, but let her push me through the door, and towards Eli. She stopped, engaged the breaks, and I stood slowly, my body still sore from the gunshot, and the hard impact of the floor. Eli opened the passenger door for me and helped me get in.
I glared at him, “I’m not crippled, I can do this myself,” I said, using my good arm to grab the handle by the door and haul my ass into the seat.
Eli smiled, “Hey, come on, Enjoy the attention while it lasts,” he said, shutting my door.
Gail climbed in the back seat, and when Eli was behind the wheel, we made our way back to mine.
Eli pulled the car behind my Camaro and killed the engine. The squad car slowing to a stop on the street in front of my house.
Gail and Eli jumped out, and I slowly pulled my body out the car. It felt good to be home, and out of that cold, stale hospital room. Eli opened the front door and I stepped into a clean, fixed up and rearranged house. I paused, taking in the drastic change from the mess I left it in when I was rushed to the emergency room.
Gail came past me, her face turning a little red, and dropped her backpack on the floor by the side table.
I went into the lounge, “Did you guys clean up?” I asked, looking at everything back in its place, the holes in the wall patched up, poorly, and the smell of fresh paint.
Eli shut the front door, “Yeah, Gail stress cleans. I would have gone for a beer if I knew she would drag me into it.” He said dryly.
I smiled to myself, “Thanks, guys.” I mumbled.
Gail came to the lounge, rearranging the pillows on the sofa, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to impose, but I was so worried about you yesterday, and when I get stressed I clean. But once I started and I saw the holes in the wall and the missing lights… Eli was here so we did what we could. Hope that’s ok.” She mumbled without looking up at me.
I went over to her, grabbing her arm gently and pulled her up from obsessing over the pillows. I looked her in the eyes, “Thank you. I don’t mind at all.”
She turned away, her face again turning red, and I lowered myself into the sofa.
Eli came from the kitchen with two beers and handed me one. I smiled and took it eagerly from him, but Gail moved with lightning speed, grabbing it out of my hand, and glaring at me, “Are you crazy? You’re on medication. No beer!” She said and stormed off into the kitchen.
Eli grinned, taking a long refreshing sip of his ice-cold beer, and smiled at me.
“Mmm… That’s good.” He mocked.
I swallowed nothing, “You’re an asshole.” I mumbled with a smile before Gail came back, handing me a cup of coffee.
He grinned, “So I’ve been told,” he said, lifted his bottle to me and took another long sip of his beer.
Gail sat down next to me, reached for the remote control and turned the TV on.
“Captain will be making a statement soon.” She said, flicking till she found the local channel. She muted it as it was only stupid ads on for now.
I glanced out the window, spotting the patrol car in front of my house, and asked, “Eli, how did Toni get to my front door with a gun last night? Didn’t we have cops outside?”
Eli and Gail both dropped their heads.
I sighed, “Shit.”
“He killed the officer in the patrol car. Slit his throat. Shot you with his service gun.” Eli said.
A knock on the door sounded, and Eli placed his bottle onto the table, gripped his gun, and motioned for me to stay on the sofa while he checks it out. He went to the door, peered out the top window, and relaxed as he opened it.
“Sorry to bother you guys, Detective Rodriguez, there is a man here saying he has a delivery for Detective Mason. What do you want me to do with him?” The officer at the door asked.
Eli looked at me, then back at the officer, “What’s he delivering?”
“Flowers I think. He’s in a bright red van that says Molly’s Bouquets.”
I stood from the couch, hearing everything they said and went to the door. I swung it open more and looked outside.
A small red van stood in my drive, a nervous-looking man standing by the driver’s door.
I went outside, and down the three steps to the front yard. I crossed the small patch of grass, and approached the driver, “You have a delivery for me?” I asked.
“Are you Paul Mason?” The guy asked.
I nodded, and the driver stepped to the back, “I have a whole van full of flowers here for you.” He said opening the back doors.
The strong, sweet smell of the white lilies filled my nose as I stared at hundreds of white flowers filling the loading space of the car.
“How many?” I asked.
“Twenty-nine dozen. All paid for. Where do you want them?” The driver asked.
“Take them back. Re-sell them if you want, burn them, I don’t give a shit, just get them out of here.” I said, stepping away from the doors.
The man agreed reluctantly, shut the doors and got in the van. I went to his window and knocked.
He rolled it down and I said, “Don’t deliver any more flowers here. If you get an order for any more flowers for me, or for this address, tell whoever places the order that I don’t want them.” I said.
The driver nodded and turned the car on. Eli came to stand next to me as we both watched the van pull out and drive down the street.
“Twenty-nine dozen, that’s a bit of a random number,” Eli said.
I shook my head, “No, it's not. That’s how old Gail is. He’s playing games again. This time I’m not biting. Not until he comes for me again. Except this time, we’ll be ready.” I said and went back into my house. I went into the kitchen, opened the fridge and pulled out a beer. I twisted the cap off and swallowed down a long, cool sip.
I felt Gail’s eyes burning into me before I even looked at her. My good mood gone, I turned to her, “He’s coming after you next. Those flowers were his way of telling me. Twenty-nine dozen.” I said, taking another sip.
Her pissed off glare instantly turned to fear.
She squared her shoulders, “Let him come. This time we will be ready for him.”
I smiled at hearing my own words echo out of her mouth. “We need to get a plan together. No good saying we’ll be ready when we have no idea what he’s going to do.”
Another knock on the door, and this time the officer didn’t wait for anyone to open. He barged in, “Detectives!” He called out.
We all ran to the front door, to find the officer and a young woman, hysterical and crying behind him.
“Who’s this?” Eli asked.
“I don’t know. She said she will only speak to Mason. Said it's an emergency.” The officer said.
Eli nodded to him and gestured for the woman to come forward.
“Miss, my name is detective Rodriguez, this is detective Mason,” Eli said gesturing behind him at me.
She ran over to me, her eyes pouring out with tears and I realized I recognized her. Not in the way you would an old friend, but as someone you see regularly, passing by.
“You're Paul?” She asked, grabbing my shirt.
“I know you. You live a few houses down from here?” I said, frowning up at Eli.
“He has her! He told me to come here, and to only speak to you. Please, help me!” She sobbed.
I put my good arm on her shoulder, “Calm down, tell me what’s going on? He has who?” I asked.
“Claire. My baby. He has my baby girl! He told me to come here after the red car leaves and to tell you he wants his Lilly back, or he’s going to kill her! Please, do something!” The woman shouted.
I shut my eyes as my heart raced. The pictures of Alex and my nephew and Lilly, gutted and dead in the field filled my head.
Eli came over, pulling her away from me, and to the lounge. He called the officer to him, and Gail came to me, “Oh God, Paul. This is crazy. He wouldn’t hurt that baby, would he?” She asked.
I looked up at her, my eyes burning with the angry tears that filled them, “Gail,” I pulled her out of earshot from the sobbing mother, “She’s probably already dead.”