For disclaimers see Part 1
by Bonnie (email@example.com)
Just like that it was over. There was a deathly silence in the air, only broken by Mrs. Hinkel's raspy breathing. Then, just as suddenly, there was a flurry of activity as Carol tucked away her gun and practically jumped to where Carlos lay on the floor. Dr. Hinkel walked over to his wife and led her to the table, where Mishka was half sitting, half standing, caught in the middle of not knowing what to do.
Irene was at Anne's side in an instant, kneeling beside her daughter and Shana. Kevin and Mike were there, too, kneeling on Anne’s other side. Anne was struggling to get up, feeling too helpless lying on the ground. She growled when she felt her mother's hands on her body, holding her down. The growl got louder when Kevin and Mike also put their hands on her.
"Let me get up," she enunciated carefully, trying not to snap at them. "I'm okay." She winced when she pulled her good arm from her mother's grasp and that movement also moved her injured arm.
"Honey, you're not okay," Irene said soothingly. "You've been shot, and you should be lying down."
"Mom, I was shot in the arm, not anywhere lethal," Anne said. "It's not even bleeding anymore." She knew that was just from the makeshift tourniquet, but it was as good an argument as anything. Anne looked up at her lover, who had been strangely quiet, and sent her a pleading look. Shana's eyes were dazed, as if she was in some sort of trance, but they soon warmed up to the look in Anne's eyes.
Shana could see that Anne was at the end of her patience and she knew that if she wanted to get up, she would, even if she had to fight all of them to do so. She had seen it often enough during practice and on the court. She also realized that letting her get up now would probably hurt Anne less than fighting her.
"Okay, honey," she murmured, "let's get you upright." She put her hands under Anne's shoulders and carefully, but as unobtrusively as possible, pushed, while Anne flexed her abdominal muscles and pulled herself into a sitting position. Shana ignored Irene's outraged squawk and helped Anne to her knees, and finally to a standing position. Anne was a little pale and slightly green when she was finally standing, so Shana moved closer and gave her a long hug that served to soothe her and give Anne some support in case she needed it.
"Thank you, sweetheart," came the lowly burred reward straight into her ear. Shana just shivered in reflex and started to turn Anne towards the table. "Come on, honey, let's get you over there so Dr. Hinkel can take a look at you."
The old man, who was just checking his wife, looked up and sent Shana a relieved smile when he saw the couple walking over. "Please call me Fritz," he said, pulling out a chair for Anne.
He turned to talk quietly to Mishka for a second. Mishka nodded and put his arm around Mrs. Hinkel's shoulder and talked to her in a quiet voice. Mrs. Hinkel looked at him, then at her husband, and gave him an encouraging nod. Dr. Hinkel gently laid his hand against his wife's cheek before he turned to Irene. "Where is your first aid kit?" he asked, all business now.
Carol was looking at Carlos with an unreadable expression in her eyes. Shana looked at her and wondered if the sheriff was contemplating kicking the prone man just for the fun of it. Next to her, her lover’s arms were on the table, one hand covering Shana's, while Irene and Dr. Hinkel were taking a close look at Irene's first aid supplies.
"Is he … dead?" Mrs. Hinkel's voice sounded faint. "I didn't mean to kill him," she whispered in a rush. "I really didn't. I just wanted him to stop." She leaned heavily against the back of her chair and the support Mishka offered her.
"It is good if he is dead," Mishka offered in a compassionate tone. He was clearly worried about the older woman, who looked exhausted. "Don't worry."
"Yes, but … what about … what he said about the evidence he has hidden? Won't Ms. Patakis … Anne … get in trouble?" Mrs. Hinkel cast a worried look towards where Carol was still leaning over Carlos.
"Maybe," Mike threw in from where he was standing, "but we all know that he was lying, and we all know that Anne has nothing to do with it." He shot her a reassuring smile. "Everything's going to be okay."
"Yes," Carol spoke up for the first time, "especially since Carlos is still alive." She didn't sound particularly happy about it. She touched the back of his head and felt a crack there where blood was seeping out to slowly pool beneath his head. Better not mention this one right now. The old lady is worried enough as it is. She decided to just tell the doctor when she had the chance. She turned, putting herself between the body and Mrs. Hinkel, and sent the older woman a reassuring smile. "He'll have one hell of a headache, though, once he wakes up.”
When she saw that Mishka was talking to Mrs. Hinkel in low tones and pulling her head down on his shoulder, she got up quickly and grabbed some towels from the kitchen counter to put under Carlos's head. She hoped that they would help put some pressure on he wound and also help hide the blood.
When she turned towards the table she saw Irene watching her with a knowing look in her eyes, and she gave her a half-shrug to tell her that there wasn't much she could do about the situation at the moment. She knew she needed to get Carlos and Anne to the hospital, but she wasn't sure that they'd both fit into her car or that it was a good idea to transport them together. Especially since she had no idea how long it would take her to get them to the hospital in this kind of weather.
She got up and kneeled down next to Mrs. Hinkel, continuing to reassure her. "Besides, I'm convinced that he was lying, and that should count for something. I am a sheriff, after all," she said with a self-deprecating grin.
Kevin decided he needed to do something and walked back over to Shana and Anne. Shana looked up as he came closer. She could see the worry and the deep love for her lover etched deep into his face, and she was mildly surprised. Why are you surprised? You know he's her best friend, and you know he loves her? Just because … She shook her head to dispel the image of Kevin and Anne together, and tenderly stroked her lover's hand in reflex.
She was still angry with Kevin on behalf of her lover, on behalf of the pain Anne wouldn't probably even admit to feeling, and for a second she was close to saying something that she might regret later. Her control was hanging by a tenuous thread as it was, and she swallowed to push the anger away. It wouldn't do any good anyhow, she knew, and Anne would just be hurt if she attacked the man who had essentially saved her from herself.
With a deep breath she took another look at him and let it go.
"Shea?" Kevin looked at the blonde woman with a look of concern and worry. He wondered what he had done to deserve the contempt he had seen blazing through her eyes for a second. Maybe I'm imagining things. Or … He pushed that thought away when he saw that Shana was concentrating on her lover again. "Shea?" he asked again. "We need to get her to the hospital. That wound needs to be looked at."
"Hey," Anne growled, "I'm sitting right here, you know."
Shana looked first at her lover and then back up at Kevin. "We know that, Kevin." Okay, she was still slightly irritated by his presence, she admitted to herself. "I just don't know if that's going to be possible with all this snow. Can you check outside and see what the situation is? I don't even know if Anne has her SUV here," she said with a look at her lover.
Anne simply nodded. "It's in my garage."
Kevin touched Shana's shoulder and was only a little hurt when she flinched. "Shea, we definitely have Carol's car, and that should be sturdy enough to get us through this weather. But I'll go check outside and check on the other cars. Maybe there's nothing to worry about."
He stood and turned, giving Mike a look that spoke of his worry about both women. With a short movement of his head he let the smaller man know that he was going outside. Mike nodded, knowing that Kevin wanted him to take care of things here.
It was white.
Kevin wrapped his thick black down jacket closer around him and turned in a small circle. There was no other way to describe it. Off-white house. White trees, white road, white cars.
Damn, how did it get so bad so fast? Kevin looked at the cars again, noticing for the first time that the sheriff's car wasn't among them. Hoping that it was somewhere even a bit sheltered, he turned to go back inside. Just as he was about to enter the house again, Anne's comment about her car came back to him. Letting out a sigh in a long cloud of air, he passed the house and went over to the path that led to Anne's garage.
Dr. Hinkel sat down next to Anne and Shana, groaning a bit at the aches and niggling pains in his body. Some days he felt his age more than others, and with everything that had happened today, he felt very old all of a sudden.
His eyes were gentle as he looked at the young women before him. He had been so blind when his daughter had come to him, telling him she was unsure about where her life was leading her. And now he had missed most of her life, and would probably never see her again. In truth, he had resigned himself to the fact that he would never see his only daughter again long ago, when the detectives hadn't been able to find any trace of her. And now that he had actually met the man who had taken their daughter away from them, and had heard what he was capable of, he had given up completely. All he could hope for was that Daniela hadn't had to suffer too much.
Or that she had managed somehow to escape and make a life for herself. Even then, he assumed, they would never see her again. Their daughter had always been proud, and after having something like that happen to her he very much doubted she'd be coming home to them. And if she had been able to come home, or wanted to, she would have done so by now.
Of course he would never mentioned anything like that to his wife. He couldn't do that to her, although he wondered how she managed to cling to hope after all these years. It made him look at his own feelings, and deep down he doubted that he was a good father. Still, even his wife had seemed to resign herself to reality lately, and this trip to the United States seemed more like a long goodbye to his daughter and the last place her trace had led. Maybe that was why they had decided to ask Mishka to come to Germany with them. Offering the young man some hope for his future was opening a world of hope for them as well.
He sighed and looked at Anne. "How are you doing?" he asked quietly, unobtrusively checking Anne's pulse with a hand on her wrist. It was not as strong as he had hoped, and her hand and forearm were colder than expected. He knew Shana had pulled the bandage too tight to stay on for long but he would never hurt the young woman by mentioning that.
"Okay, Ms. Patakis. I'm going to take off this bandage now to take a look at the wound." He saw Shana flinch and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure we'll be able to take you to a hospital soon," he continued, knowing that what he was saying was even more important to the woman sitting on the other side of the wounded tennis player. "I just need to assess the damage."
Kevin made his way through the snow to Anne's house. The garage was to the right of it, and he knew from long hours of watching Anne play around with her cars and bikes that there was a door around the corner. He walked at an angle to the corner of the low building and stopped when he saw tracks on the ground leading to and from the door. The tracks were already lightly covered with snow again but they were clearly visible.
With a very bad feeling Kevin walked the last few steps to the door and opened it. Inside it was warm, as he knew it would be, and everything looked normal as far as he could tell. He switched on the light and let out a sigh of relief when the room actually became bright. Looking over the cars, he couldn't see anything wrong until he came to the last car in the row.
The hood was slightly open and Kevin knew the second he started walking over to the car that someone had tampered with the cars. He doubted that only this one car had been worked on, especially since it was a sports car and of no use to them in this weather anyway. He opened the hood and checked the motor. He took note of the rather large handprint on the motor block, thinking that the sheriff would be happy to see it. He took a closer look and found what he was looking for after a minute of rummaging around: several cables had been cut. He checked all the other cars as well and noticed the same thing in all of them. Too bad I haven't got a clue what those cables are for. He scratched his chin. "Damn, have to ask Anne when I get back," he said aloud. She was the one always doing something with her cars, claiming that it relaxed her.
He shook off the feeling of dread at the thought of not having a good enough car to take Anne to the hospital and turned to go back to Irene's house. Once outside, he remembered Carol's car and fervently hoped that she had parked the car so out of sight that Carlos hadn’t damaged it. He thought back to the moment Carol had entered the kitchen, and the surprise on Carlos's face, and suddenly he felt pretty sure that they would at least have one good car. With a smile he kept walking.
Carefully Dr. Hinkel removed the tourniquet from Anne's arm. He kept one eye on the work he was doing and one eye on his patient's face, prepared to stop at the slightest sign of too much discomfort. All he could see was a relaxed expression, which he assumed to be all bravado for Shana and for Anne's own peace of mind. He marveled at the tennis player's ability to hide the pain he knew she had to be feeling, and he wondered how many years of pains and injuries and probably even mental anguish had gone into its perfection.
There was a short hiss of pain when the final layer of the bandage was lifted and the blood began to circulate and find its way out of the wound again. But by the time his eyes had traveled to Anne's eyes she was back in control. He saw that Anne's other hand was balled into a tight fist, though, and he sighed, knowing that she used the pain of even getting that banged-up hand into a fist to distract from the wound in her arm. He wondered if the tender touch Shana provided this curled-up fist was helping or distracting the dark-haired woman.
Dr. Hinkel checked the wound as carefully and as thoroughly as he could under the circumstances. He lifted the arm slightly to see the entry wound and the exit wound, but couldn't see much because of all the blood that had clotted them. He caught movement with the corner of his eye and knew without looking that his wife was standing next to him. He looked at her, and without even thinking about it, took the gauze from her hand. It was drenched in something he assumed to be a cleanser of some sort that Irene Patakis had around, and he began cleaning the wounds. When he was finished with the exit wound he looked at Anne, letting her know that they would have to turn the arm so he could have a better angle.
Anne nodded and moved her arm. As soon as her body noticed the movement, she almost tossed up everything she had eaten in the past three days at the sudden nausea that threatened to take over her body. She clamped down hard on the bile and concentrated on the loving feeling of Shana's hand stroking her own. The nausea abated slowly and Anne took a deep breath.
She wasn't really worried anymore, she realized. Carlos was down, everyone here knew she was innocent, and the wound in her arm could be repaired. Yes, she had lost some blood and playing tennis wouldn't happen in the near future, but she had planned on maybe giving up anyway. Fuck, she sighed. It does make a damn difference if I decide to quit or if Carlos and this fucking bullet decide that for me! In just that second she knew she would be back on a court as soon as possible, even if it was just for one tournament.
And she already knew which tournament it would have to be.
Feeling rather queasy, Shana watched Dr. Hinkel as he checked Anne's wound. She had never seen a gunshot wound up close before, and the thought that a bullet had ripped through her lover's arm only intensified the nauseous feeling. To her, the entry wound looked like a gaping crater, dark red and black, torn skin and muscle. Shana tried to distance herself from the fact that she was looking at Anne's arm, but it wasn't working. The bile was slowly rising and she knew she had to look away. Or better yet, get out of the room.
Anne felt her lover tense and turned her face to look at her. She saw the lines on Shana's face, saw the fierce concentration in her eyes that were glued to the wound and the lips that were pressed together so tightly they were almost white. She's going to keel over soon if I don't distract her. Anne cleared her throat to get her lover's attention, then again a bit louder when it didn't work the first time. Slowly, Shana's exes tracked to hers, and after a second of clearly readable effort, the look in the green eyes softened.
"Hey." Shana tried to smile.
"Hey, yourself." Anne tightened her fingers around Shana's for an instant.
"Need anything?" A shaking hand softly pushed back a dark lock from Anne's forehead before falling gently back down on the shoulder.
"Apart from you? Nothing." Anne sighed. "But I'd really appreciate it if you could check on Mom for me." She nodded in the direction of Irene, who was looking a little lost standing in the middle of the room. "I'd like to know how she's holding up."
"But nothing, baby," Anne said quietly. "I'm really okay here, and there's nothing you can do for me at the moment. You can do something for Mom, though." She saw the hurt gliding across Shana's features and the insecurity that settled down in her expressive eyes. Geez, could I have done that any more stupid than that? "I love you, Shea, but I really need you to take care of this for me. And then I need you to be back as soon as possible." She extracted her hand from under Shana's and reached up to cup her lover's face. "I miss you when you're not close, you know?"
That at least got her a half-smile and a nod. Shana's eyes closed for a long second before they opened again, now a lot clearer than before. She leaned in to give Anne a gentle kiss on the cheek. "I think I know what you're doing, darling, but it's okay," she whispered in Anne's ear, "I'll go over and talk to Mom. I love you." With a final kiss she got up and walked over to Irene.
Anne turned towards the keenly watching doctor. "I guess you have about two minutes before she's back, and I want that arm bandaged by then. Okay?"
"No problem," the doctor agreed with a smile. It was so fascinating to watch the women interact. "There's nothing much I can do here anyway. I cleaned the wound as well as I can here, and it doesn't look as bad as it could have, but I honestly don't have much experience with gunshot wounds." Since this is the first I've ever seen … "I'll put a bandage around it, but everything else has to be done at the hospital."
Anne nodded and watched as he put gauze pads on both wounds and, with his wife's help, started wrapping her arm. The bandage was tight, but not too tight, and she felt a little better with it. At least you can't see that ugly hole now.
"How does it feel?" Dr. Hinkel asked as he finished putting on the bandage.
Anne tried to lift her arm and was relieved that it hurt, but wasn't pure agony any longer. "It's okay, I guess." She tried to curl her hand to a fist and nearly blacked out from the pain. She hissed loudly and took a deep breath. "If I don't do stupid things like this, that is." She shook her head at herself, smiling ruefully, knowing she'd probably have Shana by her side any second now.
Her smile grew wider when she felt a gentle pat on her shoulder and a tender kiss on the top of her head.
Mike was feeling pretty useless standing there in the middle of the room. His lover was outside, taking his time checking the cars and the weather. Mrs. Hinkel was in Mishka's obviously capable hands, while Dr. Hinkel was taking care of Anne. Shana had talked to Irene and was now standing behind Anne, Irene directly behind her. And he really, really didn't want to go over to Carol and Carlos and have to deal with them. With a deep sigh he resigned himself to go after Kevin, out into the cold, when the door opened and Kevin returned. Mike couldn't help the smile that bloomed on his face at the sight of his lover.
"So, what's it look like outside?" he asked casually.
"Hrmhp," Kevin grunted as he struggled with his coat. "Depends on what you're asking about, buddy." He put his coat over the back of the nearest chair. "It's not snowing any longer, but everything's completely white outside. I haven't got a clue what the roads look like."
He shrugged, then shook his head. "Carlos took care of the cars anyway," he mumbled with another shrug. "I checked Anne's garage and all her cars have been tampered with. I'm not sure what he did--"
"Yes, but I bet Anne would know," Mike interrupted hopefully.
"Yeah, right," Kevin snorted, "and we really want her to crawl under the hood of some car with a gunshot wound in her arm." He ruffled his partner's hair, half affectionately, half exasperated. "Great idea, buddy, but get real."
Mike blushed and gave him an apologetic smile. "You're right, big man. I'm just so used to her doing anything and everything. She always seems so invincible." He pointed towards Anne. "I mean look at her."
Kevin did, and what he saw made him smile. Anne was sitting at the table, apparently testing what her arm was capable of. Right now she was holding her arm in a slightly bent position, moving it from left to right, as he had seen her doing millions of times during warm-up before. Then he saw her sneaking a glance at her lover, who was talking to Irene, before stretching out the arm low over the table and slowly curling her hand into a fist. He almost laughed out loud when he caught Shana watching Anne with a slight smile. That woman knows you, my friend. He couldn't stop his laughter when Shana's hand came down on Anne's good shoulder a second before Anne's fist closed and Anne looked up at her lover with a mixture of pride and remorse. I wonder if I can use her influence in Anne's practice sessions …
His thoughts were interrupted by Carol. "Hey," she greeted the two men as if unsure what else to say. "How's it looking outside?"
"It's white, but I think it's not as bad as it could be," Kevin replied with a shrug. "What is bad, however, is that Carlos seems to have tampered with the cars." He looked at Carol's face, which sported a nice frown. "At least he did with all the cars I could check, which are Anne's and the ones parked in front …" He let his words trail off, waiting for the sheriff to say something.
"So you didn't see my car?"
"No, I couldn't see it anywhere around." He shrugged again. "I was wondering where it might be. I do remember seeing it outside before, though …" He gave Carol a pointed look.
"Yeah," Carol sighed, "I had a bad feeling when I was out earlier and I took it to a spot I know." She looked into Kevin's patient gray eyes. "It's not far from the road, but it's still pretty secluded, and I hope he didn't find it." Or if he did, that I'll be able to fix it.
Mike's eyebrows kept inching up his forehead while Carol was talking, and he thought about what she was saying and not saying. "So, you know Irene's place well enough to know a nice secluded spot for your car?" he blurted out, watching the blush slowly creep over Carol's pale features. "One that can't be seen from either house?"
"That's interesting," Kevin added, always willing to follow his smaller lover on one of his mental side trips. "Care to explain?"
Carol looked at the floor and sighed. "Yes, I will explain, but not now," she said quietly. "Now, I think we should get out of here and to a hospital as soon as possible." She looked over her shoulder to Carlos's body. Kevin followed her gaze and could see that the towel under his head was slowly getting darker. "And as fast as possible."
"All right," murmured Kevin and Mike nodded. "What do we do?"
"I need to go get my car up to the house, and you should get Anne ready. I think I'd also take the doc—"
"You mean you think Shana would stay here while we take Anne to the hospital?" Mike interrupted incredulously. "Lady, you're not living in their world if you think that's going to happen."
"Listen, there isn't that much space in my truck, and it's going to be hellish enough with Carlos, Anne, and the doc in there," the sheriff muttered under her breath, just loud enough for the two men to hear.
Kevin shrugged. "We'll have to think of something, then, because you either take the two of them or I'll bet you everything I own that Anne will refuse to go." He saw the frustrated look on Carol's face. "Go get the car, we'll think of something."
Carol turned around and walked away, but Kevin and Mike could just barely hear her saying, "You know, Carol, the next time the county asks you to choose a car, take a Hummer. Or a minivan. Or better yet …"
Then the door closed behind her, leaving Kevin and Mike to stare at each other.
"You have a plan, oh big one?" Mike asked.
"Well, we'll better start planning then, my friend, or this is gonna get complicated," Kevin said as he put an arm around his lover's shoulders.
The smaller man grinned up at him. "Like it wasn't before, right?"
More in Part 29
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