Monday, November 10, 2008

Chapter Four

“Oh my god… anyone know this lady? Anyone see who dropped her off? Where did you come from, love?”

I can dimly hear a voice through the fog in my brain, shouting nearby as pinpricks of light start to pierce my eyelids – streetlights? I feel a strong pair of hands lifting my shoulders, helping me into a sitting position on the pavement and I cautiously open my eyes, the glare of the streetlights almost forcing them shut again. I’m not sure where I am, or who this lady is with the warm voice, but at least I’m not being assaulted anymore. Thank god for small favors.

“Are you alright, ducky?” The calm voice is nearer my ear now, and strong arms are holding me upright. “You’re all right now. We’re going to take good care of you. Can you walk?”

I try to shake off the blackness, and with a quavering voice that doesn’t sound much like me, say softly, “Erm, I really don’t know.” I flex the muscles in my arms and legs, and sigh gratefully that nothing feels broken – just used and abused from the fight.

The fight… with the guard from the mission in London. What the hell was that about…

A shout from my supporter stops my train of thoughts in its tracks. “Can I get a gurney outside, please? Right now!” The voice calls out over my shoulder, and I wince at the noise. So… loud…

“It’s all going to be alright, ducks. Won’t be a mo until we get you inside and take care of you. It’s all right now.”

“Where am I?” I finally manage to squeeze out, as I force my muscles to contract again, and push myself into a semi-standing position, leaning heavily on the broad shoulders of the loud voice for support. Between the blow to the head, the kick to the stomach, and a well-placed kick to the back of my right knee, I feel as though I’ve been hit by a ten ton truck – though hopefully I don’t look it.

“You’re at the hospital, love. Right outside of the emergency room. Did someone drop you off? What happened to you, love? How long have you been laying out here? Lucky you weren’t hit by a speeding ambulance, you are.”

I take a deep, cleansing breath, and force my eyesight to lock into place, willing the pain in my head to subside. After a few seconds, I’m no longer squinting in the light, and I try to form sentences that don’t make me sound like a second grader. “I’m… I’m not sure how I got here – I think I might have a concussion. I was… I was in a fight…”

“You were in a fight?” The nurse – I can see she is a nurse now, mid-fifties with steely grey hair, crisp white uniform and a kindly face – looks perplexed and horrified as she looks at me. I realize I don’t look much like a street fighter, so I amend my previous statement to try and wipe the look of horror off her face.

“I mean…a mugger attacked me, and I tried to fight him off. But he must have gotten away, and maybe someone found me and brought me here?” I make it sound like a question, but I know better.

I know damn well that my assailant neither took my purse nor left me on the pavement. He’s the one who brought me here… but why?

Why beat the hell out of me, and then drive me to the damn hospital? Why was the guard from tonight’s mission so intent on breaking every bone in my body and then putting a bullet in my brain? And what made him suddenly stop, and then turn into Florence Nightingale with a trip to the emergency room? There was no rhyme or reason to the attack – or to the resolution of it.

I wanted answers, and I wanted them now.

But I knew it would be a while before they were forthcoming…

“You poor little lamb!” My nurse now had a firm grasp on my elbow and was steering me inside the double doors and into the waiting emergency room, where several chairs were occupied by late night injuries, none of which looked terribly serious. Maybe I wouldn’t have to spend *all* night waiting to get checked out…

Then a thought occurred to me – shit, I should probably get out of here before any records about me get pulled. When operatives are sick or injured on a mission, they are treated by a specific hospital, one which must have a special arrangement with “Pruitt Industries” not to ask too many questions. If Leukos finds out I was treated here without prior authorization, it might be bad…

But if I don’t at least get a couple of paracetemol in me to control the pain, it might be worse.

The nurse continues to plow a path for us both, pushing us through another set of doors and parking me in a small treatment room immediately to our left. I sink gratefully onto the bed waiting there, rolling my neck from side to side to try and loosen the perpetual kink in my neck and shoulders.

“You wait right here, love. I’m just going to page Dr. Cross. He’s the duty doctor tonight, and he’ll take right good care of you, alright? Lovely man, he is. Good doctor. Get you on your way, yes? Just wait right here…”

And with that, she bustles out of the room, and moments later I hear a page on the intercom: “Dr. Cross to emergency. Paging Dr. Cross to emergency, please.”

Well, at least it’s nice to be bumped to the front of the line, and without even having to go through four hours of paperwork first. Apparently getting the hell beaten out of you has at least one small advantage in the world.

Which makes me wonder – how bad do I really look, anyway?

I stand and toddle over to a mirror near a medicine cabinet containing tissues and soap, and catch a glimpse of myself.


No wonder I got the preferential treatment.

My long, brown hair is tangled, the collar on my shirt is ripped, and I have a delightfully attractive bruise welling up on my left cheek, including a small nick where my attacker must have been wearing some sort of ring on his finger, which cut its way into my skin with one of his punches. Inwardly cursing my inability to take him in the fight, I run my fingers through my hair to tame it, try and straighten my shirt, rub the dots of blood from my cheek and wish I had some concealer to hide the no doubt lovely black eye I’ll have in full bloom by tomorrow.

Yeah, but you should see the other guy, I think ruefully as I sit back down on the bed. If nothing else, I know I got a few claw marks into him with my nails, a couple of well timed punches and a really satisfying kick to the groin before he rang my bell…

He was no fighter from the street, though. He was a man trained in hand to hand combat, and with his size and stature, I didn’t really stand a chance in walking away unharmed. But I still couldn’t figure out what the hell he was doing outside my flat. He must have tracked us somehow from the mission, and that thought scared the hell out of me. Leukos is designed to be invisible, so how the hell did he find me?

My nurse returns moments later, and asks for my name. Afraid to use one of my cover names for fear I won’t appear in the system, or that I won’t have health coverage, I have no choice but to give her my real name. She quickly types into a nearby computer, and I can see my medical history pull up on her screen, and the sound of a printer whirs to life in the hallway. After a few perfunctory questions, she retreats again with the promise that Dr. Cross should be right in to see me.

As I sit quietly, waiting for the elusive Dr. Cross to blow in, I think again about making a break for it before my my records can be closely examined – records of childhood shots and strep throat infections, but nothing for the last five years, not even a single prescription. I should just grab a band aid and get the heck out of here and head home. If Nurse Kindly has moved away from the door, I could just walk right out the door I came in, and then call Shane to tell him what happened to the find out what orders I have for treatment…

But before I can even lift myself from the bed a second time, the door swings open again, and with it, my jaw swings to the floor.


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