Tie Break

by Bonnie


berlinpup@yahoo.de

2002

For disclaimers see Part 1.


Part 10

Chapter 11

Anne ran out of her mother's house, her long legs carrying her quickly to the door. Once outside, she started to jog along the driveway, only to almost fall down after a couple of steps. The thin layer of snow barely covered the ice beneath it and she had to fight to stay on her feet. Only her excellent sense of balance kept her upright.

Whirling her arms wildly she maintained her balance, but realized at the same time that she might have just made a big mistake because her hand was protesting loudly against the abuse. She had to use every ounce of her concentration to push down the pain that shot up her arm. Damn, damn, damn. This doesn't feel too good. She knew that was an understatement.

But

Going back now would feel even worse. If Anne hated one thing it was giving in, crawling back, looking weak. She could feel her face turn into a disgusted grimace. I can do this, she told herself. And she did. Just like always. She put on her poker face and walked on.

Thank God it's not snowing anymore. She looked up at the sky with a grim smile.

At that moment, the first snowflake hit her squarely in her left eyeball.

"Thank you," she murmured to any weather gods that might be listening. "Too kind of you. I was really looking for a challenge today." She walked a little faster. "Fuck you! You won't stop me!"

She growled deep in her throat and redoubled her efforts.

*******************

Irene shook her head at her stubborn daughter. Nothing I can do about it now. She moved over to the bed and sat down beside Shana's limp body.

"Can you tell me what's wrong with her?" she asked the elderly man who was just examining a set of matching bruises on the blonde's shoulders. "Is she going to be all right?"

Mr. Hinkel looked at his patient for another long moment before he raised his eyes to meet Irene's. He nodded. "She's going to be all right. She was extremely lucky. I'd love to get her to a hospital to have her X-rayed, but from what I can tell without that, I'd say she has a concussion and some very deep bruises at both her shoulders." He shook his head.

"What is it, Mr. Hinkel?" Irene asked.

"Please, Mrs. Patakis, I think you should call me Fritz. Isn't that customary here in the States?"

Irene nodded. "But only if you call me Irene."

Fritz Hinkel smiled at her. "My wife is called Hilde." He looked over to his wife, who smiled at him with a love born of a lifetime together. "Now, where was I? Oh, yes. You wanted to know what I found strange, I presume?"

Irene nodded again, unwilling to interrupt the older man.

"Well, I was a little surprised to see those bruises on her shoulders because I've only ever seen them on drivers of sports cars at home."

"What do you mean?"

"The bruises indicate that the patient," he smiled at Shana, "used a 4-point-harness instead of the normal 3-pointer, and I didn't know that they were used over here as well. They are much safer."

He continued, this time pointing to Shana's upper body. "4-pointers have two shoulder straps instead of one that crosses the chest."

"Ah," Irene said, at that moment remembering a talk with Anne a long time ago. "I see. Well, Shana won a Porsche at the tennis tournament in Filderstadt." She smiled at Fritz, hoping she had pronounced the name of the small German town correctly. He nodded, well familiar with the tournament. "The car had those harnesses, and she was told that they were much safer, especially in sports cars, and she had them installed in all her cars ever since. So did Anne after Shana gave her a lecture on safety."

"Oh," the white-haired doctor nodded, "that explains it. A very wise decision. This way her stomach was unharmed and she received much less trauma to her upper body. Her shoulders and the bruised area on her hips will heal quickly, especially since she has very strong muscles there."

Irene's eyes tracked to Shana's shoulders, following the rather pronounced shoulder muscles all the way down to her relaxed and still very obvious biceps. Her shoulders were discolored, sporting matching bruises that were turning an ugly shade of purple right before Irene's eyes.

She gently caressed the skin over the bruises, willing them to heal as fast as possible. "Rest now and heal, sweetie. We'll be here when you wake up. Everything is going to be all right." She looked up at the doctor to have her statement verified by his old gentle eyes.

"Yes," he said, recognizing the need for reassurance, "everything is going to be all right."

*******************

When Anne arrived at the crash site, the snowflakes were twirling around her like a demented ballet troup. She stumbled towards the car, hoping that what had triggered her mind was still there - and still visible in all that snow.

She walked around and around the car, making a smaller circle with each turn at the tree the SUV was leaning against. She searched her memory for what she knew had bothered her the first time she saw the car wreck. She stopped and contemplated the car from the driver's side.

And then it hit her.

There were scratch marks all along the side of the car that shouldn't be there with that kind of accident.

"Ooookay," Anne murmured to an absent Shana, "you either scratched your car along a very small but robust tree before you chose to crash headlong into that larger model there, or-"

Or someone had pushed her friend's car off the road. On purpose.

Which meant that someone was trying to hurt Shana. Was maybe trying to do more than just harm her. Was maybe trying to kill her.

But why? And who?

Anne walked back to the house, her mind filled with more questions than answers from her disturbing foray into the wintry twilight. She needed to talk to Shana, and soon. Maybe she knew what was going on here.

She trudged home through the increasing snowfall, her mind filled with questions and a very distinct feeling of dread.

Chapter 12

Anne made it back to the house just before the weather turned into a full-blown snow storm. She entered through the front door and simply stood in the large entrance hall for a moment, then shook herself vigorously like a wet dog. Snow flakes and drops of melted snow flew from her head, but she didn't care.

She peeled herself out of her thick, wet jacket, grateful for the zipper that opened easily and the fact that cold outside had reduced the pain in her wrist to a dull throbbing.

When she had gotten herself out of her jacket she sat down on one of the chairs in the hall that also doubled as the hotel's reception area, knowing that the task of removing her boots would be a real challenge. She didn't know why and didn't think too hard about it, but she was unwilling to have her mother help her.

Unfortunately, the cold had made her hands not only unresponsive to pain but also to the commands her brain sent them, so she had to wait for a bit before she bent her head and concentrated on her task. One-handedly she tugged at the laces that were tied in her usual double knot, realizing quickly that opening them by herself would be impossible, especially since the laces were wet and clung together like overcooked spaghetti.

Anne sighed deeply. Her head was hurting again and she felt completely exhausted now that the adrenaline was wearing off. She took a deep breath and went to find her mother, who she knew would still be with Shana.

She entered what was now Shana's room and saw her mother sitting in a wide, very comfortable armchair beside the bed. Mr. Hinkel stood in front of the large window, obviously in a quiet conversation with her mother, while Mrs. Hinkel straightened the blanket that covered Shana up to her shoulders.

"Oh, Shana," Anne gasped, seeing Shana's bruises for the first time. Besides the deeply bruised area on her shoulders and collarbones there was also a slight discoloration along the temple where Shana had obviously hit either her seat or something else. It was the side of the head that had been bleeding before, but since her friend didn't wear a bandage around her head, Anne assumed that the wound had not been too deep or too serious. Oh, baby, you must hurt so much.

Okay, time to find out what's wrong with her. And with me, her hand added, reminding her with a jolt that she still had to take care of herself. But first things first.

*******************

Irene heard the quiet gasp from the door and knew without looking that Anne had returned and that she had seen Shana. She excused herself and turned away from Fritz to watch her daughter. When Anne closed her eyes and took a deep breath, Irene got up from her armchair and slowly walked over to her daughter.

Anne was watching Shana with a very odd look on her face, one that Irene had never seen before and couldn't read. All she knew was that Anne was definitely not thinking good thoughts at that moment.

She reached out and gently touched her daughter's arm, just letting her know she was there. She didn't expect any reaction from Anne, who seemed to be deep in thought and miles away, but the dark head turned and blue eyes looked straight into her own. Irene knew her daughter, knew that she could lock away all emotions, hiding them until they went away never to return from the dark pit they were banished to.

Today, one look into those blue eyes told her more than any words ever could. Her daughter's eyes showed deep pain, helplessness, and confusion. All Irene wanted to do was take Anne into her arms and comfort her. She pulled her child close and enfolded her in a comforting embrace. When her legs came into contact with Anne's legs, she noticed that the jeans Anne were wet and that she was still wearing her boots. Of course, she can't get out of them alone. Okay, I just have to get her to let me remove them. Probably won't be easy

"Mom?" came a hoarse whisper. "Can you please help me get out of my boots?"

Irene looked at her daughter, totally dumbstruck. Oh my God, did my child just ask for help?

"Please?"

"Of course, honey." She took her daughter's arm and led her over to the armchair. "We're going to get you out of your boots and wet jeans, and then the good doctor here is going to take a look at your hand."

Anne let herself be guided to the armchair, offering neither resistance nor even the slightest hesitation. Irene's forehead was furrowed in an extreme frown. I've never seen her so compliant; her hand must really hurt. She looks so tired.

As soon as Anne sat down Irene started working on her boot laces. For a moment she considered simply cutting them to shorten the procedure, but then her fingernails found the right point and she untied the knots as fast as the wet laces allowed. Once the boots were off she reached up to get her daughter out of her jeans. Their eyes met and for a second Irene could see a self-conscious grin at the situation forming in Anne's eyes. She raised a dark eyebrow at her mother as if she wanted to dare her to proceed, which Irene promptly did.

Soon the jeans were pooled at Anne's ankles and she just stepped out of them, giving the wet fabric a disgusted kick as she did so. Anne's legs were a bright red from the cold and Irene was sorely tempted to give them a brisk rub to get them warm. She resigned herself to getting a warm blanket from a drawer in the corner and putting it over the cold legs instead.

A grateful grin was Anne's only comment, but that was more than enough for Irene.

*******************

Fritz Hinkel watched the interaction between Anne and Irene with a bittersweet smile. He looked up at his wife and saw that she was watching the pair as well. Their eyes locked and for a moment both faces reflected a quiet sadness that was quickly followed by wistful smiles and the comfort of a shared hope.

Irene noticed the look the elderly couple shared and decided that she wanted to find out what that was about. Later.

Fritz concentrated on Anne then, certain that the woman's hand would not get better by being ignoring. He just hoped she would let him have a look at it. From what he had seen so far the tall woman didn't look like she dealt well with being cared for. He was quite certain that she would not be an easy patient, so he decided on a direct, businesslike approach.

"It's time I take a look at your hand, Ms. Patakis," he said in a tone that brooked no argument.

Anne just looked up at him with an unreadable expression on her face, not moving a muscle, not acknowledging that she might have heard him.

"Hilde, hilf mir bitte. " He asked for his wife's help. "Sie macht's mir wirklich nicht einfach."

He heard his patient chuckle.

"No, I might not make it easy," the tall woman muttered just barely audibly.

Fritz stared at her, not sure he had really heard her translating what he had said.

"Oh, Keine Sorge, Doc," his patient continued. Don't worry. She switched to English again for her mother, who looked like she didn't enjoy being left out of the conversation. "I'll try to be as compliant as possible."

"I didn't know you spoke German, Ms. Patakis," he said with something close to wonder in his voice. There was just a hint of an American accent when she spoke German. He grinned at her and shrugged. "That's good. Just in case I can't express myself clearly enough in English."

"You're doing just fine, Doc," Anne reassured him. "But please call me Anne."

"Okay, Anne. I'm Fritz. Now, give me your hand."

Anne raised her right hand just high enough for him to take a look.

"The one that is injured, Anne," her mother admonished her. "Come on, you know you need to have it checked out."

Anne opened her mouth to say something, but before she could utter a sound, her mother continued, obviously feeling what her daughter needed to hear. "Shana is quite all right, honey. She has a concussion and some scratches and bruises, but she's going to be just fine. Except for a monstrous headache when she wakes up."

Anne smiled gratefully at her mother and raised her injured hand from its position in her lap. She winced as the pain of moving her hand shot up her arm.

The doctor pulled over a nearby footstool and lowered himself to his patient's level. He gently took the hand and noticed the pain that flittered across Anne's face when he moved the wrist. He positioned the strong hand on his left palm and forearm so that the injured wrist just touched his fingertips.

He examined the joint with the fingertips of his right hand, trying to assess the damage to it without causing any more pain than necessary. He fervently wished for an X-ray machine right now, knowing that it would be the easiest, fastest and least painful way to come to a diagnosis. But he had been a doctor for so long that he knew he could diagnose the injury by touch alone if he needed to.

He prodded the wrist with his fingertips searching for bones that were out of place. His touch bordered on tenderness and he moved the hand and wrist with ultimate care. He held a great deal of respect for the woman whose hand he held, having followed her professional career for years. He also knew that although the left was not the tennis player's dominant hand, it was still probably worth millions of dollars.

He breathed a sigh of relief when his touch discovered that all the bones were in the right places.

"Okay, it's not broken," he told Anne. The tall woman simply nodded, telling him with the small gesture that she had already been sure of that.

"You knew."

"Didn't feel like it," came the mumbled reply. "It feels more like it's sprained, and I'm a little worried about the ligaments and tendons. I've been having trouble with the ligaments anyway."

Fritz Hinkel realized that as a professional player Anne had to know her body very well and he confirmed her fears with a slight nod of his gray head. He also knew that if a ligament in the wrist was torn completely she could very well lose the full range of motion of that hand. "Yes, the wrist is badly sprained and I'm afraid it will take a while before it'll be back to normal. And you know as well as I do what could happen."

A nod from his patient confirmed his assumption. "But I've never seen a wrist like yours on a woman, so strong and full of muscles. I'm very confident that the ligaments were as protected as they could be and that everything's going to be all right."

He gave her a smile. "You'll have to keep it rested as much as possible, and you should take something for the pain if it becomes too much."

Anne shook her head. "No, it's okay. Just some good old R.I.C.E. "

"Rice?"

"Oh, sorry. That's what my physical therapist always says when I sprain something. Rest, ice, compression, elevation."

The doctor nodded. "Yes, that sounds like something I would say, too."

"I'll just put a bandage and a cold gel pack on it. That should relieve some of the pain. Anything else?" Her voice sounded weary and the doctor realized he should end his examination so that she could get some rest. He looked at her closely and saw for the first time the hollow look to her eyes and the dark circles that made her appear much older than she was.

Irene left the room in search of a cold gel pack. It was a good thing she always kept several in the fridge, a habit born from raising two very active children.

"I'm going to check this hand out some more. I'll put a bandage on it and then I want you to get some rest," he said before continuing with his gentle prodding of the wrist.

"There's too much to do," Anne said, although her voice sounded as if sleep was the only thing she would be able to do.

"Whatever there is," came her mother's voice from the door, "I can do it. What do you need me to do, honey?" She walked over and handed the gel pack to Mrs. Hinkel, who stood behind her husband's shoulder.

"You need to call the sheriff, Mom. Shana's wasn't the only car involved in the crash." Anne seemed to have a hard time concentrating. She focused her eyes on a corner of the room before she went on. "Someone needs to get Shana's stuff from the car when the sheriff has seen the crash site. And we have to make sure that Shana is as comfortable as possible "

Her voice trailed off.

"I'll do all that, sweetness. You'll just get some rest."

Mr. Hinkel finished his examination of Anne's hand and with a nod of his head reassured Anne about the extent of her injuries.

The tall woman sighed. "Well, nothing I haven't had before," she said, recalling other injuries to various joints. The doctor wrapped her hand and forearm with an elastic bandage. He put the gel pack on the outside of the wrist, holding it in place with the rest of the bandage. He started to open his mouth, but before he could say anything, his patient interrupted him.

"I know, I know. Keep it rested. As little movement as possible, yadda yadda yadda," the tall woman said as if to herself. "Remember R.I.C.E.?"

The doctor smiled and nodded. Anne looked up at him and, pushing away her tiredness, smiled at him sincerely. "Thank you very much, Doc. I don't know what we would have done without you today. I'll never forget that."

Looking into her eyes he saw the sincerity and knew that she was speaking from the heart. He smiled and patted her shoulder. "Go get some rest now, Anne. You need it. We'll go back to our room. If you need anything, just call." With that he smiled at his wife and the two of them turned to leave the room.

"Wait, please," Irene called after them. She turned to Anne. "And you get in that bed. Now. Keep Shea company. She's going to need you when she wakes up. You'll have a lot to explain."

"Mom," Anne squeaked while throwing a wistful glance at the sleeping form on the bed. "I can't just get into that bed with Shea. I'll stay right here. This armchair's pretty comfy and -"

"Nonsense. Do you really want Shana to wake up in a strange bed alone? She won't even know where she is. You can't do that to her. Now get in that bed before I have to knock you out and carry you there."

Anne had to grin at the visual image of her smaller mother carrying her to the bed. Why am I fighting this? All I want is to crawl in there with her and be close to her. I need to be close to her now! I'm so tired

The tall woman got up and walked over to the bed, dropping the blanket that had covered her legs. She climbed onto the high king-size bed and slipped under the covers, realizing only then that her blonde friend was naked except for a pair of boxer shorts. For a moment she contemplated getting up again, but she saw the stern yet gentle look on her mother's face and decided she liked where she was. She rolled onto her side and positioned her injured hand on the covers so that it didn't get jarred while she was sleeping. As soon as her head hit the pillow she was fast asleep.

Irene shook her head with a relieved smile that showed all the love she felt for the two injured women. She quietly closed the door and followed the Hinkels, wanting to give them a proper thank you.

And then she would call the sheriff.

TBC in Part 11.


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