Winter decided he’d keep the phone until he could find something to copy the number in it onto, and that even if they could or were tracking the car, he didn’t care. He knew that where they’d been held was near Gates’ office but since that had burned down there would be a significant police presence in that area, and he didn’t know exactly where it was or if he’d recognise it anyway. Winter sat in the car trying to mentally retrace the details to try find a way into his situation, a lead to follow, when the radio suddenly provided him with one.
“Office Victoria X is reported to be out of her third surgery in two days and is said to be stable and in recovery in Syn General…”
Winter didn’t exactly like the idea of trying to get into the hospital with the police looking for him, but he also knew that he hadn’t assaulted her, and that if she could give him any details about her attackers that would help him find them. He needed that information. Winter turned on the car and started driving towards Syn General, but decided at the last minute to stop along the way at a small, almost run down clothing store to buy a pair of normal sunglasses and a hoodie. It was to his advantage that no pictures of him had been released, but some police officers may know him by sight, and he did fit the description the radio kept repeated during every other news segment. Winter pulled the car into a distant parking spot underneath Syn General and decided he’d not be coming back to it. He threw the keys into a near by rubbish bin and headed for the elevators with his hood up and glasses on. The elevator door opened into the lobby of the hospital. Winter casually strolled in, found an empty seat in the waiting room and sat down pretending to read a magazine and hoping to stop someone who could lead him to ’s room. Winter sat for a long anxious hour quietly waiting for some kind of hint to point him towards the right room, but nothing presented itself. In fact in the whole time he saw not a single police office anywhere in the building. What he did see was a collection of over worked nurses and doctors doing clinic duty, which mostly involved helping drunken people get sober then send them back out into the world. It occurred to Winter that he was actually innocent and the person he’d come to see could confirm that fact, and that he’d spent what felt like far to long not finding Princess. He quickly got up and walked with purpose toward the reception desk, discreetly taking two more painkillers on the way. The Nurse behind the counter looked somewhere between exhausted and uninterested, so much so that she didn’t even look up when Winter stopped in front of her.
“How can we help you today sir?”
“I’m here to see Officer X, can you tell me what room she’s in.”
“Are you with the police or family?”
Still not looking up but taking the time to roll her eyes the nurse said in the same flat tone,
“Sorry sir, but only police on business and family can see patients in ICU, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
A raw flush of frustration shot through Winter but he managed to hold it back,
“I’m afraid that’s not good enough. I’m investigating the disappearing of Princess Keys and I need to question her about her attackers. Now tell me which room she’s in … please.”
For the first time the nurse looked up at Winter and the radio description of him started playing in her head, causing the blood to drain from her face. Winter noticed this and realised what was happening but decided his best shot at getting what he wanted was to remain calm and as innocent as possible. The nurse thought about her options quickly then said,
“For, forth floor, room 275, you’ll, you’ll need to sign in before you can go up though.”
He frowned and wrote ‘Winter’ in the book on the counter before heading off back to the elevators. He knew there would be a police presence outside her room, there always was with police injured this way, but he no longer cared, if they really tried to stop him, he could use force. It was no longer about him, he needed to know who had attacked so that he could save Princess. To his surprise there weren’t any police outside room 275 and Winter instantly presumed it was some kind of a trap in case him or anyone fitting his description showed up, but not having any other options he clenched his fists and walked in. It was a single bed hospital room, for patients in serious condition to recover in peace. At the moment Winter charged in was sitting up politely chatting to two uniformed offices that had brought in her food and some get well soon flowers. The two uniformed office quickly sprang to life,
“What exactly do you think you’re doing in here sir!”
“This is a private room, can we see some identification?”
gasped and covered her face with her hands, Winter growled at the two men,
“My name is Winter, and I’m here to see .”
Both offices quickly drew their guns,
“Winter? As in Mike Wheeler, Winter? You’re going to have to come with us, we’ve got some questions for you. Now turn around and put your hands above your head on the wall behind you. You’ve got some nerve walking in here like this.”
Winter growled and looked at , then back at the men.
“I’m not going to do any of those things, I’m going to ask a few questions then I’m going to leave and if you try and stop me, well, it’s probably a good thing we’re already in a hospital.”
The two men looked at each other nervously, then back to Winter and a silence tension drifted over the room for a moment before it was broken by ’s voice. Only rather than the cheerful bubbly voice Winter was used to, her voice was quiet and raspy, who ever had attacked her, had clearly chocked her quiet severely during the process.
“Guy’s put your guns down, he’s not the guy who kidnapped Princess, and I’ll say that to anyone who asks. He’s also not the guy who attacked me.’
She turned her focus onto Winter,
’Although whoever it was did his best to try make me think it was.”
The two cops nervously lowered their guys and looked at Victoria who motioned towards the door. They looked at each other then back at her,
“We’re right outside if you need us.”
Winter growled again at them but waited until they’d left before approaching . He took up a seat on the foot of her bed and wondered for a moment if he should both with pleasantries.
“What do you mean, tried to make you think it was me.”
Winter’s familiar straight to business attitude made smile despite herself.
“I mean he dressed the same way you do, didn’t say anything and tried to keep his face hidden as best he could. But I wasn’t going down without a fight and managed to get a few good shots in, I managed to leave a mark he won’t soon forget.”
mimed a clawing motion with her hand. For the first time since arriving Winter took a moment to take stock of her. Her one leg was in being held together by a large steel cage, her face was mostly swollen and in various shades of blue black and yellow, her right hand was in a cast and there were bandages covering what had to be stitches on most of the part of her he could see. Who ever had attacked her, had taken the time to really hurt this woman. It wasn’t a simple attack; the man who did this enjoyed it, enjoyed causing the pain and probably tried to prolong it as much as he could. Winter wasn’t going to say anything but her fighting back probably turned him on to some degree. Winter’s blood boiled at the though,
“Is there any kind of detail you can give me, anything that might make him stand out?”
thought for a moment,
“Because I believe the man who attacked you also killed Dr. Gates and kidnapped Princess, and that the reason you were targeted was because of me. I need to find Princess and I need to stop him.”
For once Winter’s voice didn’t sound cold or distant. To it seemed to be the first real time she’d head any kind of emotion in his voice, she could see pain on his face. For the first time she thought she saw the real him, and she realised how wrong she’d been all the years up until that point. She also knew that Winter probably meant to kill the man that had attacked her and even though she was a dedicated police officer, there wasn’t anything she wanted more in the world.
“It was kinda dark, he jumped me on my way home, but he was a big guy, not as big as tall as you and brown eyes not blue.”
“When you say dressed like me? What do you mean?”
“I mean he was wearing a suit, similar to the kind you always wear. Winter who are these people? Why are they after you? Why are they attacking people you know?”
It stuck him how seemingly unaffected was, she was calm enough to ask sane questions and recall small details. Perhaps he’d misjudged her strength of character.
“Would you like the truth or should I lie to you?”
“How bad is the truth?”
“I can take it.”
“Key’s Jr. is trying to make me take the fall for Princesses murder so that he can retain control of the Key’s corporation.”
“But Keys owns half the , he’s one of the most powerful men in the world, why would he risk it all just to kill Princess?”
“On her next birthday she takes over the company and he will suddenly not own anything or have any power anywhere.”
“I used to guard her, his brother liked me or he thinks its poetic, who knows. The man is an idiot and before my days are done I plan to make him realise that. Now is there anything else you can remember about your attacker?”
thought for a few moments,
“Well I couldn’t have been his first victim.’
’He had a massive black eye, couldn’t have been older than a day it was still really swollen, a bit like me now.”
A cold shiver ran down Winter’s spin and visions of how hard he’d punch Thomas flooded through his mind. He’d always been a strange one, the girls at Charcoal used to joke that if they didn’t scream right he didn’t get it up.
“Winter this guy isn’t well, if he’s got Princess then she’s in serious danger… He didn’t just beat me up… he, uummm, I mean, once he’d broken my leg and my wrist and I couldn’t really fight back, he uummm…”
Tears welled up in her eyes and what looked like shame flashed across her face, prompting Winter to put his hand on hers.
“, I’m sorry this happened to you, I really truly am. I’m going to find this guy and I’m going to make sure he never touches another woman ever again.”
“Do you know who he is?”
“I have a suspicion.”
“Well then tell the police and let them find this guy and let the courts put him away, if you kill him you’re just as guilty as he is.”
Winter pulled his hand back, stood up and smiled,
“I cannot do that, if the police get involved they’re only going to get in my way. I’m sorry.”
“Who do you think you are though, taking the law into your own hands like this? And what if you die? Then he just gets away Scot free because you won’t tell me who it is?”
It was a point Winter had not considered,
“I’m the man who’s killed 19 people over the last X years and still been able to walk into the police station the next morning unafraid. I am just as guilty as they are.”
Winter’s expression had returned to his normal cold scowl, flipped up the hood and he turned and walked out. Victoria wanted to protest, to question him about what he’d just admitted to, wanted to call out to the police outside to stop him and arrest him, but she didn’t she couldn’t, as much as she knew it was the right thing to do, to do her job, she wanted to set Winter loose on her attacker more. A few tears slipped down her cheek and her spirit resigned from her job.