See part 1 for disclaimers and warnings
By Greek Warrior (Joan)
Christmas day was spent in leisure. The two women had opened their presents to each other that morning after Raven had to practically drag her companion out of bed. Kris had been sound asleep, snoring lightly when six feet of manic energy had landed on the bed. Raven was on her hands and knees, straddling the young woman and bouncing up and down. Kris had later been thankful they didn’t have a waterbed. She was sure she would have been seasick.
Later that day Granny shooed Kris out of the kitchen and took over, cooking not a traditional dinner since they had done that for Thanksgiving. They had decided on steaks, French fries, garlic bread and a green salad. After the meal that was spent laughing at Granny’s childhood Christmas stories, most of which consisted of her father’s less than successful attempts to portray Santa Claus, they gathered around the tree in the living room to exchange gifts.
“We never did figure out how my dad got the impressions of the sleigh marks and the deer tracks on the roof since it was covered in snow. And of course he swore it wasn’t him.” Granny finished her story as she sat down on the couch.
“Maybe he didn’t.” Raven stated seriously.
“Don’t tell me you still believe in Ol’ Saint Nick?” Granny asked somewhat hesitantly. She was looking from one to the other, trying to figure out if her leg was being pulled.
“Sure we do. We also believe in the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns and little fairies with magic dust.” Kris explained and Raven wiggled her eyebrows at her old friend.
“You almost had me going there.” She chuckled as she leaned over and handed a gift to Kris. “That’s for both of you.” She added.
Granny remembered the almost argument the three of them had just after moving into their new houses. She had wanted to put a monetary limit on the amount spent for presents between them and the two younger women had protested. She had put her foot down and finally won by telling them if they didn’t, she wouldn’t be accepting any gifts from them. That had set off another ‘discussion’ deciding on what the amount would be.
Kris unwrapped the thin box and removed its lid. It was a picture of the two women standing side by side with Raven’s arm around Kris’ shoulder and Kris’ arm circling Raven’s waist. Granny had snapped the picture late one afternoon when the three of them had gone down to the waterfront to explore the shops and to walk along the docks. They had taken a short ferry ride and on the way back, Granny had captured them with their backs leaning against the aft railing and the setting sun behind the mountains as a backdrop. She had the shot enlarged to an 8 x 10 and had it framed in a very plain silver frame.
“This is great. Thank you.” Kris jumped up to kiss the smiling woman on the cheek.
“It’s prefect, we don’t have very many pictures of us together.” Raven added her gratitude. “It’s your turn, open yours.”
Granny picked up the roughly foot and a half, square box that was a couple of inches thick, wrapped in brightly colored paper with a green bow. She knew what the box contained since she had shook the package earlier and heard the puzzle pieces shift within. Raven and Kris knew of her crazy obsession with jigsaw puzzles, she was just curious to see what kind of picture she would be putting together. She ripped off the paper and saw a garden of flowers staring back at her. All different kinds and colors in no discernible order.
She grinned brightly. “Ooh, this is going to be fun. A thousand pieces, too.” Then she noticed the certificate taped to the back of the box. “What’s this?” She asked as she started reading. “I’ve heard of ‘Book of the Month’, ‘Coffee of the Month’ and even ‘Beer of the Month’. But I’ve never heard of a ‘Puzzle of the Month Club’.”
“You get a different puzzle each month for a year, each being at least 1000 pieces.” Kris explained.
“We signed you up for the hard category, but we can change it if you don’t think you can handle it.” Raven added with a smirk.
“Oh no, I recall telling you that there hasn’t been a puzzle made that I can’t assemble. You just wait and see.” Granny stated with confidence. “I may be completely crazy by the time I’m done, but I will finish them. And no smart alec comments from the peanut gallery.” She pointed towards Raven. “Thank you both, very much.” She added sincerely.
“You’re welcome.” Raven responded. “Do you want more?” She pointed to Granny’s empty cup. At the older woman’s positive nod, she headed towards the kitchen.
“Kris, have you talked to your sister yet?” Granny’s delicate way of asking if maybe the young woman’s mother might have come around since the holidays sometimes make people put aside their problems. She knew it hadn’t made a difference at Thanksgiving but that had been less than a month after everything had happened and she was hoping that with a little more time, Kris’ mother might be regretting her decision to ostracize her oldest daughter.
“Viv and my father called day before yesterday to say Merry Christmas and to warn me that mother was still basically denying my existence.” Kris looked down at her empty eggnog cup.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” The older woman leaned over and patted Kris’ knee. “It’s her loss.”
“Thanks, but it’s okay.” Kris had been trying since the phone call to shrug it off and not let it get her down. She didn’t want this to put a damper on their first Christmas together.
“No it’s not.” Raven came back into the room carrying the pitcher of eggnog. “But there’s not much we can do about it until she decides to come around.”
“My father did ask us to join him in New York after the peace talks were over. He thought that Viv could come up too and maybe the four of us could have a mini vacation.” She had been so happy that he was making such an effort to adjust, she almost cried when he suggested it.
“Well that sounds like fun.” Granny had hoped at least someone in that family, other than Kris, had some sense. “When are the talks going to be over?” Granny asked.
“They’re scheduled to start after the first of the year and I figure about four to six weeks at least. They’ll have to blow hot air at each other then argue back and forth and make sure the world doesn’t think that one side is giving in to the other.” She explained.
The three women spent the rest of the afternoon talking and taking comfort in each other’s presence. John and Sharon had stopped by in-between family gatherings.
Later that night found Raven and Kris sitting on the floor in front of the fire, watching it burn down to embers. Kris was sitting between the older woman’s legs leaning back against her chest. Raven had her arms wrapped around her lover’s waist. “You tired?” Raven asked when Kris yawned loudly.
“Yeah, how’d you guess?” Kris laughed.
“I keep getting a nice view of your tonsils.” Raven chuckled and kissed the blonde head that was leaning back against her shoulder.
“Impossible.” Kris said as she snuggled closer to the solid warmth holding her. “Had’em out when I was five.” She explained sleepily.
“Come on, love.” Raven stood up, bringing the limp body with her. “It’s beddy-bye time.”
The next afternoon Kris answered the front doorbell to find Sergeant Hardly.
“Hello, ma’am. Is the Captain here?” He took his cap off and grinned at the young woman.
“Merry Christmas, Sergeant, I mean Herman.” Kris corrected herself before he could remind her. “Yes Raven’s here. Come in and have a seat, I’ll get her for you.” She led him into the living room.
Kris found Raven at the computer in the den they used as an office. “Was that someone at the door?” Raven asked.
“Yeah. Herman said he needs to talk to you.” Kris stood next to Raven and leaned her butt against the desk.
“Herman?” Two eyebrows shot up. “Are you sure he didn’t come to see you?” Raven leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. “Should I be jealous?” She managed to keep the scowl on her face even though the corners of her mouth had tried to curl into a grin.
“What?” Kris stood up straight with her hands on her hips and her foot tapping out a quick steady rhythm. “Do you think...” She paused in her tirade when she saw Raven’s mouth betray her. “What am I going to do with you.” She sighed dramatically.
Raven stood up and tweaked her companion’s nose. “Anything you want. But not right now, cause once we start I don’t want to be interrupted.” She smiled lewdly, kissed Kris passionately and headed for the door.
Kris licked her lips at the thoughts that were running through her head, then spent a minute shoving her libido back into it’s cage. “If she keeps throwing those images at me, I’m gonna need a bigger cage.” She informed the empty room then followed her lover out.
“Sergeant, you needed to see me?” Raven noticed the difference in the man’s attitude towards her immediately. His body language indicated to her that something was most definitely different. Gone was the hero-worshiping soldier and in his place was a suspicious individual.
“Captain.” He came to attention and saluted. “The Colonel sent me.” Herman wiped his sweaty palms on his trouser legs when Raven motioned for him to be seated. He hoped that he could remember exactly what he had been told to recite to the woman seated across from him. He knew that if he made a mistake she would pick up on it and would be forewarned that they were on to her.
“And why would he do that, Sergeant?” Raven glanced at Kris who entered the room and quietly sat down on the far end of the couch.
Herman also glanced that way and watched the young woman sit sideways and tuck a leg under her in order to face them. “I…ah.” He turned his eyes back to the Captain and cleared his throat. ‘I have to concentrate, Kris’ life is in my hands.’ He took a deep breath. “We received a message from one of the informants. Some of the members of the terrorist group have managed to enter the country. They’re targeting Kris, I mean Ms Whitfield.” He grinned sheepishly at his slip up. He had been told to keep things professional, by the book. “We were told that they think she would be an easier target since she’s not under the protection of the Secret Service with the rest of her family.”
“Does Colonel Albright want me to bring her in?” Raven’s sixth sense was jumping up and down, warning her that things were definitely not as they seemed. “Maybe I should call him.” She started to stand.
“No.” Sergeant Hardly yelled. “I mean…he told me to stay here and help you protect her. He didn’t want you to have any contact with The Division. He still doesn’t know who the traitor is and he doesn’t want to take any chances of them intercepting the phone call.”
‘Bingo!’ Raven forced her body to return to her chair and stay seated when all she wanted to do was beat the shit out of this guy. Other than John, Albright and herself the only other person at HQ to know that there’s a traitor, would be the traitor him or herself. She was willing to bet that Hardly was just a pawn in the plan to take Kris. She didn’t think anybody was a good enough actor to play dumb as well as the Sergeant did. And she knew that whatever lies he had been told were ones that prayed on his obvious feeling for Kris, so he wouldn’t be so easily convinced to turn over the person behind the scheme. She decided playing along would be the safest option for Kris.
Raven saw the puzzled look on her companion’s face and discreetly shook her head, signaling Kris not to question anything. “Okay, Sergeant, let me show you the security measures that I’ve installed.”
Herman couldn’t believe his luck, since before this most of it had all been bad. ‘It’s about time I caught a break. I’ll get to show my uncle that it wasn’t a mistake to get me a job with The Division and I’ll get to save the beautiful damsel in distress at the same time.’ He almost jumped for joy when he stood up to follow the Captain. ‘I wonder if Kris will fall in love with me after I save her?’
He had a grin on his face the entire time Raven led him through the house showing him the main security system. She did not show him the back-up system that was programmed to sound an alarm directly to John and Colonel Albright.
It took several hours before Kris finally cornered Raven alone in the bathroom; it was the only place Herman didn’t follow her. “Explain to me just exactly what is going on. I know something’s bothering you.”
“I don’t know, exactly.” Raven saw Kris take a deep breath that meant she was about to explode and hurried on. “But I do know that the informants that supposedly gave them the information were killed before we left the embassy. And that Albright would be the only one to contact me. And that John and the Colonel were the only other people at The Division that knew of the leak.” She watched as her companion took in the explanation.
“Oh God.” Kris was scared but tried not to show it. “You mean he’s in on it?” She studied her serious partner and realized that Raven was scared.
Raven pulled Kris to her and held her tightly. “I don’t think he’s aware that he’s in on it.” She explained her theory of the Sergeant being used.
“That doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better, Taz.” She lifted her head form where it rested against Raven’s shoulder. “What are we going to do?”
Raven had to smile despite the circumstances. It had always been her and the team, even where John was concerned. She had never been part of a ‘we’ before. “We are going to catch this S.O.B. before he or she has a chance to get within striking distance of you.” She tilted her head down and lightly touched her forehead against her companion’s.
“And how pray-tell, are we going to do that?” Kris pulled her head slightly back from Raven’s when she felt her eyes going cross-eyed.
“First of all we need to get you to Granny’s without our friend out there knowing.”
“He acts like we are joined at the hip. He’ll know if I disappear.” Kris paced the best she could in the confined space. “And most importantly, I’m not going to leave you here by yourself to face God only knows what.” She stopped in front of her friend and lover. “Don’t ask me to do that.” Kris placed her hand over Raven’s heart. “Please.” She realized that the fear she saw in the blue eyes gazing into hers was for her safety and that her partner would do whatever it took to keep her safe, including sacrifice herself.
Raven cradled the pleading face, lovingly in her hands. “Sagira, I can’t concentrate on catching this bastard if my attention is on keeping you safe.” She rubbed her thumbs across Kris’ cheeks to wipe away the single tear that fell from each eye. “Besides, you have to warn Granny and make sure she’s safe. You can call John from her house, he’ll get both of you out of here and send someone to help me.”
Kris sighed deeply. “I don’t want to leave you but you’re right about Granny. She could walk in on the middle of this and get hurt.” She wrapped her arms around Raven’s waist. “But you better keep yourself safe, Captain, otherwise I’ll kick your butt.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Raven chuckled.
“Captain Chandler?” Herman called out. “I think there’s someone outside the house. I heard a noise out back.” He looked at his watch. He had to get her out the backdoor so he could let the Major in the front. Otis had already been waiting and he knew that the Major wouldn’t be happy if he blew the plan now. “Captain?” He called out again.
Raven shook her head. “Supposedly we’re trying to catch these people off guard and he is yelling loud enough to warn them.” She whispered to Kris. “Here, Sergeant.” She opened the door just wide enough to squeeze her body through, then closed it behind her. She didn’t want him to know Kris was in there.
Kris had her instructions. She was to wait five minutes before heading for the kitchen and the side door. Raven had surmised that if Hardly wanted her in the back of the house that whomever was out there would most likely be coming in the front. Kris would then be able to sneak across the area between houses without being seen. Kris hoped Raven was right. She checked her watch and seeing that it was time, slowly opened the bathroom door and stuck her head out. Complete silence greeted her. She cautiously made her way into the kitchen and to the door. She opened the door and peered out into the fading twilight. She thought she heard a faint noise coming from in front of the house and had to stop herself from heading that way to make sure Raven was safe. Instead she sent a silent prayer up to the heavens for her lover and ran towards the small house and the phone that meant help for her and the most important person in her life.
Raven let the Sergeant lead her towards the back of the house. “What did you hear?” She whispered as they both stood by the back door.
“It sounded like glass breaking.” He hesitated, unsure of what to tell her.
“Hmm…I wonder why the alarm didn’t sound?” She walked back towards the front of the house and the hallway where the panels for the alarm system were located. She was now sure in the knowledge that he didn’t want her in the front part of the house, she was also sure that he would follow her and leave Kris a clear path to escape.
“Maybe he cut the wires.” Herman thought that sounded logical. “Where are you going? The noise came from back there.” He had turned and pointed towards the backdoor. When he turned back towards the Captain, she had made her way to the front door and was in the process of passing through it.
Raven kept one eye on the Sergeant and one eye scanning the area ahead. She was less concerned with Hardly and when she noticed movement behind the Sergeant’s car, it drew all her attention. She was trying to determine how many people she was dealing with, when her body felt a threat coming from behind her. Her instincts reacted quickly enough to keep the club from making full contact, but not quickly enough to have it miss her completely. She collapsed to the ground unconscious.
“What the hell happened?” The Major asked. “You were supposed to keep her busy.”
“She wouldn’t cooperate.” Herman explained. “I didn’t know what else to do.” He looked down at the unmoving figure with blood streaming out of the cut on her forehead. He turned rather pale at the thought that he might’ve actually killed someone.
Otis glared at the Sergeant as he knelt down to check for a pulse. ‘There better be one. I get to kill the bitch, not some buffoon that can’t follow orders.’ His fingers pressed into Raven’s neck. He grinned sadistically as he felt the strong and steady drumming against them. “Go find the Captain’s wh…Ms Whitfield and bring her here, hurry.” He yelled at Herman to bring him back from his haze. The Major grabbed Raven’s ankles and pulled her beside the car to shield them from prying eyes.
Kris knocked frantically on the door. “Granny, open up.” She was trying to convey urgency without raising her voice.
“Hold your britches.” The older woman yelled. “I’m coming.” She looked out the small window on the door then opened it quickly when she saw it was Kris and the state she was in. “What’s wrong.”
Kris shut the door and locked it behind her. “I need the phone, now.” She said as she rushed by the older woman and into the kitchen. She yanked the receiver off the base, nearly pulling the whole thing off the wall in the process. She reached John at home and explained the situation.
Granny stood by and listened to one side of the conversation. When the young woman hung the phone up the older woman put her arm around Kris’ waist and just held her, giving her a chance to calm down.
After a short time Kris was able to catch her breath and settle down. “John said that we should lock ourselves in the basement and wait for him to get here.” She wiped her eyes that had tried to tear up when talking to him, with the napkin Granny handed her.
“Sounds like sage advice to me.” The older woman said. But instead of opening the door that lead to the small root cellar, she opened a broom closet and pulled out a double barrel shotgun.
Kris stared at the gun that was probably longer than the woman wielding it. She picked her jaw up off the table, where it had landed at the sight of this little woman and this really big gun. “What…” It came out as a squeak so she cleared her throat and tried again. “What are you going to do with that?”
Any reply was silenced by the sound of a gunshot coming from the direction of the main house. Both women froze and stared in that direction. Kris moved first but was brought to a stop by a surprisingly strong hand gripping her arm.
“We can’t just go running out there.” Granny pulled the young woman around to face her.
“Let me go.” Kris tried to pull free from the two strong hands that now held her. “I have to go, she could need me.”
Cautiously Raven opened her eyes. She wanted to see what the situation was, hopefully without alerting the Major and Sergeant to the fact that she was conscious. She discovered that she was in a bad position, flat on her back with the Major kneeling in front of her by the side of the car. He would surely notice any movement on her part. She couldn’t see or hear Hardly and assumed that he was searching the house for Kris since that’s where Otis’ attention was riveted. Raven knew that she would need to make a move before her companion was discovered. There was no way she would wait until Kris was found and placed in danger.
She moved as quickly as she could, but there was too much distance between her and Otis to cover before he noticed. He raised the gun in his hand and fired once. Raven’s right leg crumbled under her and she hit the ground again. This time at least she was conscious.
“That was pretty stupid, Captain.” He stood and closed some of the distance between them, taking care to stay out of her reach.
“Why are you doing this, Otis?” She pressed her hand over the hole in her leg, trying to slow the bleeding. “I always had you pegged as a company man. The real gung-ho type.”
Before he could answer her, Hardly ran out of the house in a panic. “She’s not in there, she’s disappeared.”
“Calm down, Sergeant. She couldn’t leave without us knowing. Are you sure you looked everywhere?” He kept his eyes and gun on Raven while questioning the agitated man.
“Yes, sir. I checked everywhere, twice.” He paced ringing his hands. “What if she hurt Kris? They disappeared for a few minutes right before I tried to get her out the backdoor like you said to do.”
“If that was the case, then you would have found the body.” He was beginning to panic a little himself, then he remembered. “She’s probably being held in the other house by the old woman. Go find her and kill the old woman while your at it, she’s got to be in on it too.”
“But Major, I’ve never…I mean she couldn’t be any trouble, can’t I just tie her up?” Herman begged.
“Hardly, she’s innocent.” Raven yelled before Otis could stop her. “Major Otis is the traitor. If you listen to him, Kris is as good as dead.” She finished just as Otis delivered a kick to her injured leg.
“Shut up.” He pointed the gun at her. “Or I’ll kill you now instead of later.” The Major threatened in a voice that was hushed so Hardly couldn’t hear. “Go, Sergeant, you have your orders.”
“Please, Sergeant.” Raven ignored the threat and called out, but Hardly continued around the side of the main house towards the smaller one.
Major Otis was laughing. “This is even better than I could’ve imagined.”
“Why?” She asked again. ‘Maybe if I get him talking, he’ll screw up and give me a chance at overpowering him. Don’t all psychos like to sing their own praises?’ She tried to remember what she had learned from the psychology classes she had to take when she was in training.
“Why?” He leaned casually against the side of the car. “I’ll tell you why. You, Captain are the why. You get promoted instead of me. You get fieldwork instead of me. You get commendations instead of me. You get everyone praising your work instead of me. That’s why.” His voice was steadily being raised with each point he made and his face became redder and redder. But he never gave her a chance to jump him.
‘He’s gone off the deep end. The gods only know what he’s going to do to Kris.’ She continued to watch, hoping for an opening.
“This way I can set you up to be the traitor and get back at The Division by making them all look like the fools they are.” He had settled down and again leaned back against the car. “I’ll kill Hardly with your gun, kill you and come out looking like a hero for figuring it out. It’ll be too bad that I couldn’t get here before you turned the girl over to the terrorist. Can’t leave her around to blow the whistle, though.” He grinned. “Is your whore any good? Maybe I can spare some time to have some fun with her before they take her.” He grabbed his crotch. “She’s got a nice ass, I’ll bet it’s real tight. I’d love to hump that.”
Raven was blinded to the precarious position she was in by her rage. She got to her feet in a flash and charged the grinning bastard before she could think things through. She might have had him too, but she hesitated a split second when she heard a gunshot come from Granny’s house.
Herman headed for the house, all the time mumbling to himself. He really didn’t want to kill anyone much less an old woman, but an order was an order.
Granny let go of Kris’ arms. “I know and we’ll go see if she needs us, but we have to be careful. It won’t help if we go charging in and get caught.”
“I know.” She admitted. “But I’m scared something bad has happened to her. I feel it in my gut.” Kris closed her mouth and tilted her head towards the door, listening. “Someone’s coming.”
Granny quickly hid in the hallway just outside the arched entranceway to the kitchen holding the shotgun in a death grip. Kris grabbed the first thing she could find to use as a weapon and ducked behind the door. Both were taking deep breaths trying to calm their racing hearts.
The Sergeant slowly pushed the door open and stepped inside. He crouched down to peer under the table that was in the breakfast nook to his left and saw nothing but stars before he collapsed.
Granny entered the kitchen in a crouch; gun ready, after she heard the deafening shot. “Are you alright?” She shook her head wishing the ringing in her ears would go away. She had forgotten how loud a gunshot could sound in an enclosed area.
Kris sat the frying pan on the stove. “Yeah, his gun went off when I hit him.” She was sticking her fingers in her own ears trying with little effect, to lessen the ring. “Is he dead?” She peered over the older woman’s shoulder as she knelt down and checked for a pulse. Kris audibly exhaled when Granny assured her that he was still breathing.
“He’ll have one helluva headache but he’ll live.” She reached over and opened a drawer, pulling out a pair of scissors. “Get me that duct tape off the pantry shelf, would you. We wouldn’t want our friend here to get away before the cavalry arrives.” She proceeded to roll him onto his stomach and tape his wrists together behind his back. She taped his ankles together, then bent his legs at the knees and taped his ankles to his wrists. “That should hold him.” She reached for the Sergeant’s pistol and stood up. She held the gun out, offering it to Kris. “Do you know how to use it?”
Kris took the gun. For some reason it was lighter than she thought it would be. “No, I’ve never used one before.” She continued to stare down at the weapon in her hand.
“If I show you how, do you think you could shoot someone if you had to?” She knew that if she let Kris carry the gun, the young woman would have to be willing to use it. If Kris faltered at all, it could mean all their deaths.
Kris raised her head and looked her friend in the eye. “If that someone was hurting Raven, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it.”
Granny nodded her head once, satisfied that Kris meant what she said, then quickly showed her what to do. They paused as they started out the door and looked at each other as another shot was heard. “Let’s go.” They said at the same time and resumed what they now considered their mission at a brisker pace.
The split second hesitation is what cost her the upper hand, although she managed to knock the gun out of the Major’s hand. Otis recovered from his surprise and drove his fist into the side of her face with enough force to knock her to the ground. Raven tripped him with her good leg as he went for the gun he dropped, instead of her. He landed hard on his stomach but turned over and kicked Raven in her ribs when she tried to crawl past him towards the elusive gun. By the time Raven had managed to recover enough to make it to her knees, Otis had gotten to his feet and picked up the gun.
“As much pleasure as it would have given me to torment you, I think you’re way too dangerous to keep alive any longer.” He aimed the gun and smiled. “I will enjoy sending you to hell, though.”
“I’ll be sure to save you a seat.” Raven replied just before she felt the impact of the bullet.
Granny was sure that the shot they heard had come from in front of the main house. By using the trees and shrubbery as cover, they where able to make their way to the edge of the garage without being seen. She peeked around the edge and saw the man on the other side of a car, but couldn’t see Raven. “Stay here in case I need you as backup. Kris nodded her head as Granny moved slowly and as silently as she could. She had moved closer and could now see the dark-haired woman lying motionless on the ground. She raised the shotgun to her shoulder. “Drop the gun.” She called out. “And move away from her.”
Otis jerked his head around and laughed at the sight that greeted him. “Or what?” He spread his hands out to his sides. “You think you’re going to shoot me?” He laughed harder. “Damn, woman, that gun is bigger than you are.” He started moving the hand that was holding his gun in her direction.
There were two blasts in quick succession. “No, asshole, I know that’s what I’m going to do.” Granny replied as she lowered the now empty shotgun. There was no need to see if he was dead, one of the cartridges of the buckshot had caught the Major in the face.
Kris was at Raven’s side almost before Otis hit the ground. “Oh God! Raven…love?”
Granny hurried to the other side of their very still friend. “Easy, Kris, she’s still with us but she’s losing a lot of blood and we need to try to stop it.” She checked Raven’s pulse and then her breathing as best she could without a stethoscope. “Kris.” She used one hand to shake the young woman; the other was busy trying to stem the flow of blood. “Don’t fall apart on me now, she needs our help.”
Kris swallowed her fear and anxiety. “Okay, what do I do?” She concentrated on taking deep, even breaths and on what Granny was telling her.
“Good girl.” Now that she had Kris’ attention, she could focus on Raven. “Go get towels or sheets. Anything that’s clean that I can pack the wounds with.” She yelled since Kris was off and running into the house before she could finish.
Raven rolled over from her side to her back and groaned. She opened her eyes and started to panic when she saw the older woman hovering over her.
“Be still. You shouldn’t be moving around. You’ll make the bleeding worse.” Granny scolded her.
“You need to get out of here. Where’s Otis? Where’s Kris? Is she okay?” Raven’s eyes darted around looking for answers.
“Calm down, Raven, Kris is fine.” She reassured the distressed woman. “Otis is dead, if that was the guy with the gun’s name. The other one, the dark-haired man, he’s tied up in my kitchen.” She glanced up, willing Kris to hurry. “Help is on the way, but I need for you to stay still so you aren’t bleeding as much.”
Kris ran out of the house and skidded to a stop beside the now conscious woman. She handed Granny the makeshift bandages and gazed into blue eyes. “Please don’t leave me.” She pleaded as tears streamed down her face. She gently grasped Raven’s hand and held it to her cheek.
“Hey.” Raven brushed her fingers against Kris’ wet cheek. “I’m not planning on going anywhere, love.”
Granny was growing concerned. Raven’s breathing was becoming more labored by the minute. She had checked for an exit wound and found none, so she knew the bullet was somewhere inside. She had seen the results of bullets ricocheting around in the human body like a pinball and was very concerned about this one’s path of destruction. The only thing she was fairly sure of was that one of Raven’s lungs had been punctured, probably collapsed and the chest cavity was more than likely filling with blood.
“I love you.” Kris said as she gently kissed Raven’s forehead.
“Love you, too.” Raven managed. She knew she was growing weaker but she was determined to hang on. ‘I’ll be damned if I’ll give up now that I’ve got something and someone to live for.’
Granny heard the sound of the helicopter and swallowed hard at the memories the sound invoked. If she closed her eyes, she was thirty years in the past. A sea of red flowing past in an endless stream of body after body. She shivered and opened her eyes. That was why she had quit nursing a long time ago, all the nameless faces that paraded through her mind.
The helicopter landed in the front yard just as several cars pulled to a stop not far from the three women. John was the first to run to them with Dr. Kudirka, who was on staff at The Division right behind him. The paramedics trailed behind with their equipment, waiting for the Doc’s orders.
Colonel Albright stood beside Otis’ body; his hands clenched in fists so tight that his knuckles were turning white. He took a few minutes to collect himself before joining the concerned party around his Captain. “How is she?”
Kudirka responded without stopping his treatment. “We repacked the wounds and put in a chest tube.” He lifted his head to look at one of the paramedics. “Bring the stretcher now.” He stood up to move out of their way. “But we need to get her to the hospital now to see what other damage was done.” They all watched as he moved towards the helicopter with his patient.
John drove the two worried women to the hospital. Kris had put up a struggle when told there wasn’t enough room in the helicopter for her, but gave in when Granny made her realize that she would be more of a hindrance than a help to those keeping Raven alive.
Kris paced from window to doorway, each time stopping to stare towards the large double doors that led to the operating rooms, before she slowly headed back to the windows where rain angrily pelted against the glass panes.
Sharon sat beside John. He called her on the way and she made it to the hospital just after they had taken Raven into surgery. Her eyes followed the young blonde’s silent, methodical trek. Sharon had been through the waiting game twice before. Once when John had been slightly injured in a minor explosion. And once she had held vigil with him the last time his Captain had been hurt. She remembered that her first reaction had been relief that it hadn’t been John hurt again. Her second reaction had been guilt at her first one. She had only known Raven for a few months when that had happened and she liked the sometimes sad, most of the time quite woman, even though she told herself she wouldn’t. Sharon remembered convincing herself that the Captain was a rival for John’s affections and that deep down he loved Raven. She soon found out that was true, but the feelings that they had for each other were like two close siblings. After that, Sharon was able to relax and try, ‘try’ being the operative word, to get to know the sedate woman. ‘God knows she didn’t make it easy.’ Sharon thought as she continued to watch Kris who seemed to have had no problem in jumping in and removing layer after layer of protection Raven had encased her heart in. She squeezed John’s hand when she looked over and saw the malicious look on his face. She would have to ask him later, what he had been thinking about.
John had slouched his tall frame down in his chair and rested his head against the back. He stared unseeingly at the white ceiling tiles. ‘Why her again? Just because that wanna-be soldier couldn’t compete, he takes it out on her.’ They had learned a few things from Hardly after he had been retrieved from Granny’s kitchen floor and had put two and two together. He knew that Raven would be the one to fill in the few blanks that remained. ‘I hope he ends up in the lowest level of hell.’ He was imagining all the horrible things he would like to have done to the worthless bastard when Sharon’s touch brought him back to reality.
Albright sat motionless. He hated this part of his job. It was the waiting and the not knowing that drove him crazy. He turned his thoughts toward Major Otis. ‘How did he get that far-gone without someone noticing something? How did he pass his psychology exam? I know one thing; everyone’s going to have them more often now, that’s for sure. I also need to talk to the team that interviewed Hardly.’ He pushed his glasses up on his head and rubbed his eyes. ‘Make sure that gullible fool is just that and not in on this.’ He sighed and pulled his glasses back down. ‘The General’s probably busted a gut by now, demanding to know how this happened.’
After an hour or two of watching Kris pace, Granny tried to get her to sit. She was unsuccessful. She wondered how long before the young woman wore a trench down to the floor below them. She closed her eyes for a few minutes, but was inexplicably drawn back to the rhythmic pacing. She could see the tension and strain in Kris’ body and face. She sent up a silent prayer that Raven would be all right. She didn’t care to think about what might happen if Kris lost her.
Kris looked at her watch; again, ten minutes had actually passed since the last time. She looked down the hall for what seemed like the millionth time. ‘Still empty. Why won’t they tell us something?’ She nearly cried out loud. ‘It’s been five hours since they took her in.’ She pivoted and retraced her steps. She stared at the wind driven rain lashing against the panes of glass. It seemed to her that the wind was punishing the rain for some reason, as it angrily drove the drops of moisture this way and then that way. She at first could identify with the rain since she ran the gambit of her emotions being pulled first in one direction and then in another. She started with fear, fear of losing her friend, companion, and lover. Then she moved to denial. Denial that Raven could one minute be with her and the next minute gone. Disbelieve came next. Kris almost talked herself into believing that this was a nightmare and that she would wake up any minute now next to the warm body of her lover. Now she was angry, just like the wind. The problem with that was the person she was angry with was dead and she didn’t have anyone to take it out on.
Kris turned from the window just as Dr. Kudirka entered the waiting room. As many times as she had wished for the man to appear, she wasn’t sure what she would do now if it turned out to be bad news. She suddenly wondered why she just remembered the old saying, ‘No news is good news’, she now wished he would disappear.
John sat up on the edge of his chair and Albright stood. All eyes in the room zeroed in on the man in blood covered blue scrubs, silently pleading for a positive report. He motioned for Kris and the Colonel to sit and pulled a chair closer for himself.
“They’re closing now and in a few minutes we’ll take Captain Chandler to the recovery room.” He wiped the sweat trickling down his forehead with the cloth head cover he had removed and was still clutching in his hand. “The bullet in her leg passed through muscle and tissue and missed the bone completely. Her leg will be fine.” He paused and took a breath. “It’s the other one that caused all the trouble. It shattered a rib on entry and deflected downward. The bone fragments tore a rather large hole in the lung but we were able to repair without having to remove any of it. The bullet nicked the liver, kidney, and the small intestines. We had to remove the damaged tissue from the liver and removed a small portion of the intestines. The right kidney had to be completely removed.” He expected the slight panic. “She can live a perfectly normal life with one kidney.” He would not tell them that the bullet deflected once again, this time off her pelvic bone and that it then passed into her uterus and that it also had to be removed. He would discuss that privately with his patient. He only hoped that she didn’t want to have children or that adoption would be an option if she did.
“So she’s going to be okay?” Kris’ question came out as more of a hopeful statement.
“She’s lost a great deal of blood and therefore is very weak, but barring infection, I’d say she’s got a good chance of a full recovery.”
“When can I see her?”
Kudirka smiled slightly. The young woman was not being very subtle in letting him know that she had no intentions of being kept away from the Captain’s bedside. He deferred to his boss.
Albright looked at Kris then turned to the doctor. “I’m sure not going to try and keep her away.”
“When she’s settled in ICU.” The doctor answered. “Now, if there’s no more questions, I’m going to get cleaned up.”
“Thank you.” Kris said sincerely to the retreating form.
Kudirka smiled at the young woman. “You’re very welcome. But the lady there,” he pointed to Granny, “is the one that should get a lot of credit. She kept the Captain alive until help arrived.” He answered just as sincerely.
The older woman blushed at the praise and attention as all eyes turned towards her. And when Kris gave her a look of undying gratitude, she stared down at her shoes, unable to meet the young woman’s eyes. She was grateful when the Colonel drew the attention away from her and to himself.
“I need to go check on our people. Make sure they’ve been cleared through security and tell them to meet us in ICU.” Albright announced as he stood and stretched. “John, would you check to see if the hospital personnel have been cleared?”
“Sure thing, boss.” He also stood; glad to have something to occupy himself with.
Kris entered the ICU room and looked at the motionless form lying on the bed. Slowly her eyes scanned the tubing that ran into and out of Raven. Her ears picked up the bleeping of the heart monitor and the hissing of the oxygen that flowed through the small tubes and into her nose. Raven’s eye was black and swollen shut and she had a pale and hollow look about her. “Oh God.” Kris covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a sob.
Sharon came in behind the young woman and placed her arm around Kris’ waist. “She’ll be okay. She’s been through a lot worse.”
For some reason Kris didn’t find that comforting. She of course had seen the scars on Raven’s body and heard the origins of a few of them, but it had been fairly easy to dismiss the fear she felt when the woman that had suffered the injuries had been whole and healthy at the time.
Granny entered and stood on Kris’ other side. “Why don’t you let me take you home so you can get some rest? I’m sure she won’t wake up until tomorrow at the earliest.” She tried to coax.
“No, I want to be here.” She drew her eyes away from the unmoving figure lying in the hospital bed. “I don’t want her to wake up alone.”
“I’ll stay with you tonight so you don’t have to be alone.” Sharon said to Kris.
“And I’ll come back in the morning to relieve you.” Granny told Sharon. “I’ll bring coffee and something for breakfast. You, young lady, try to get a little sleep.” She hugged Kris and kissed her cheek.
“I’ll try.” She promised. “And thanks, guys. I probably would have fallen apart if you hadn’t been here.”
“What are all these people doing in here?” The young nurse whispered to her superior who had just finished a conversation with two of the men loitering around one of the rooms.
“They’re with the CIA.” She informed her young colleague. “The patient in bed 8 belongs to them. She came in last night with gunshot wounds.” Emma shrugged her shoulders like it was an everyday occurrence to have armed people in their unit. It had happened a few times in her long career but it tended to make her nervous. “You’ll have to work around them. They’ll be here until she’s moved. Here, take a look at her chart.” She handed it over. “I’d like you to be her nurse, you haven’t had a gunshot wound yet. It’ll give you some valuable experience.”
‘Great.’ Lisa had misunderstood the ‘belongs to them’ statement. She thought Emma meant that the patient she had just been stuck with was a felon. ‘It’s not nerve wracking enough in ICU, we get to have public enemy number one as a guest.’ And this was just her second day in the Intensive Care Unit. She was beginning to regret changing rotations. She sighed as she looked over the new patient’s chart. “There isn’t a name listed.”
“There never is in a case like this.” Emma explained.
Lisa rolled her eyes as she continued to familiarize herself with the patient’s condition and the doctor’s orders. She had only been an LPN for six months. “I knew I should’ve become a dental assistant.” She mumbled under her breath.
“What was that, dear?”
“Nothing.” Lisa smiled. “Just talking to myself.”
“Oh, Janet called. She’s going to be a little late. It seems the 520 bridge decided to stick in the up position again.” Emma was referring to one of the two floating bridges that crossed Lake Washington. The central part could be raised to allow boats to pass and sometimes decided it wanted to stay that way.
Lisa wondered if today could get any worse.
Kris had laid her head down on the bed beside Raven’s hand and had dozed off sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Sharon woke up as the sun was making its way into the room. It had peeked through the clouds and through the cracks in the blinds covering the windows. She left the room to stretch her legs, leaving Kris to get some much-needed rest.
Lisa looked nervously at the man sitting beside the doorway for bed 8. “I’m just gonna…” she pointed into the room, “check on the patient.” The man nodded his head at her, but made no move to accompany her. “Shouldn’t you come with me?” She stopped with one foot inside the doorway.
He looked up at her surprised. “Why? Do you need help doing your job?”
“No, of course not.” She put her fists on her hips. ‘Who does this guy think he is? Asking me a stupid question like that.’ “I thought you were here to watch the patient.” Truth was, she admitted to herself; she was a little scared. She had never treated a convict before and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be alone in the same room with one.
“I am.” He decided to give the nurse a break, even though she was kinda cute when she was flustered. “But the staff has been cleared so you’re okay to treat her.” The guard explained.
‘I’ve been cleared? That’s a funny thing to say. I guess they were concerned about one of us helping her.’ Lisa gathered her courage and walked into the room, after all, the patient was still unconscious. ‘I hope she’ll stay that way. At least while I’m in here.’ The first thing she looked for was the blonde woman. Emma had told her that two women would most likely be in the room most of the time. Lisa had seen the other one leave the unit a few minutes ago. She had assumed that they were there to watch the woman but now had to wonder after she found the young woman asleep with her head down on the bed beside the patient who wasn’t even restrained.
‘Get on with your job, Lisa girl. The sooner you finish, the sooner you can leave.’ She checked the setting on the monitors, then the IV’s. She made a mental note that the IV would need to be changed within the hour. Lisa moved closer to the patient to check the dressings covering the wounds. In order to check the bruising and swelling around the eye, she slowly reached out to rotate the woman’s face towards her. “Oh my God.” She whispered when she found her voice. “Raven.”
Lisa quietly, but quickly left the room and told Emma she need to take a break. She needed time to get over her shock and collect her thoughts. This was the first time in over ten years that she had seen her sister.
She made her way down the corridor towards a small staff break room that she knew would probably be empty this early after shift change. As a little girl growing up she had always been curious about what had happened to her, but her mother forbid her from talking about her older sister. And as she grew older, Philip had happily informed her all about their sister. She had never been very fond of her brother, there was too much of a gap in their ages, six and a half years. And he always treated her like a tag along that he had to put up with. And she discovered that in dealing with him now that they were adults, she really didn’t like him. She thought of him as a whiny spoiled brat that threw a temper tantrum if he didn’t get his way. She took a swallow of her coffee and tried to look at her feelings toward her sister with an open mind. But she just couldn’t seem to forgive the woman for the loss of her brother that she barely remembered.
Kris groggily woke up from her nap to the feel of fingers running through her unruly hair. She thought it was Sharon or Granny until a tingle ran down the back of her neck, spreading familiar warmth across her body. She jerked her head up and opened her eyes to stare into somewhat dull, but still the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.
“Hey.” It came out as a dry croak.
“Hey yourself.” Kris took Raven’s hand that had been stroking her head and brought it to her lips. She lovingly kissed the palm trying to collect her emotions, she promised herself that she wouldn’t break down and cry. “They said you could have a little ice for your dry throat. Do you want some?” Raven nodded and Kris spooned a few small crushed pieces in her mouth. “Let it melt before you try to swallow so you don’t choke.” She tried to stop it but a few tears trickled down her cheeks and before she could turn her head and brush them away, Raven saw.
“Come here.” Raven said, her voice not as rough as it had been.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Kris wiped at her eyes. “I’ll be okay, just give me a minute.”
“You won’t hurt me. Please, I need you close.” Raven moved her left arm open in invitation and waited.
It only took a second for Kris to decide. She carefully stretched out against Raven’s side and laid her head on the familiar shoulder. “If they come in and yell at me, I’m telling them this was your idea, Taz.” But she couldn’t hide the sigh of contentment that the warm body and the comfortably familiar act drew out of her.
It, of course, did hurt. But the joy it brought Raven’s soul made the physical pain pale in comparison. She closed her eyes and drifted off with a smile spread across her lips.
She wasn’t sure how long it had been since she nodded off, but she woke up to the feeling of being stared at. Raven opened her eyes to see two smirking faces. “Kris, love, we’re being laughed at.” She rubbed the young woman’s back until green eyes opened.
“Oops.” Kris sat up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you.” She blushed as she carefully got off the bed and faced the two women.
“I’m going out on a limb here.” Sharon teased. “But I take it you’re doing a lot better?” She moved to the side of the bed as Granny put down the sack that contained breakfast and joined her.
“Yes I am.” Raven opened her mouth to accept the spoon full of ice Kris was offering her. “Now, when can I get out of here?” She asked after the ice melted and she swallowed the welcome moisture.
“Isn’t that just typical?” John joined the growing crowd. “Scare us half to death again, and then want to get up and walk away like nothing happened.” He stood beside Sharon and put his arm around her waist. “Good morning, ladies and other.” He smiled at the ‘other’ since he knew she couldn’t come after him. It was a friendly game John and Raven played, who ever was hurt had to suffer the torments of the other. It was a way of getting back at the injured party for making the other wait through the hours or days of grief at not knowing if their friend would live.
“Well isn’t this quite the little party.” Kudirka wasn’t as irritated as he portrayed. He had worked with The Division long enough to know that this kind of thing was due to a release of tension and not a total disregard of the rules. But he felt like he had to show some authority or he would quickly lose the little control that he did have.
John cringed at the evil eye Kudirka gave him. “Sorry, Doc.” John turned his own evil eye towards the bed when he heard the snicker coming from that direction. Raven tried to look innocent but had never been able to pull off that look. “Just you wait, missy.” He shook his finger at her.
“Okay, folks, that’s enough. Everybody out so I can check on my patient.” He stood aside as John, Sharon and Granny walked out the door. He looked back to see a defiant look on the young blonde. “Of course I didn’t mean that to include you.” He was smart enough to know that he would never have any control what so ever over the young woman glaring at him with her arms crossed over her chest and a determined look on her face.
Raven snickered again. “And she doesn’t need any help from you, Captain. She can intimidate me just fine on her own.”
“She’s good at that isn’t she?” Raven glanced lovingly at her protector.
“Yes she is.” He agreed. “I think I’d rather try to cross a mother lion with a cub than her.” He pulled a chair over and sat beside the bed. “I think she’s a keeper.” He grinned at the thoroughly red faced blonde.
Kris sat on the edge of the bed and held Raven’s hand while the doctor took a few minutes to glance at the chart in his hands. “Your vital signs were good last night and this morning, although your blood pressure is still a little low.” He made a few notes and put the chart on the bedside table. “How do you feel? Don’t tell me fine.” He warned.
‘He’s starting to know me all to well.’ Raven mused. “Truth? I feel like I’ve been run over by a steamroller.”
“So you watched ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ the other night too.” He was actually surprised by the fact that she admitted to feeling like she should feel, lousy. He had always had to drag it out of her before.
“Okay, Doc, so what’s the damage and when can this lovely lady take me home?”
He took a deep breath and started to run down the list of injuries and the results of the surgery. When he revealed the part he had kept from the others, he heard the in-drawn breath that came from Kris instead of his patient. “I’m sorry, Captain…if I could have done something different, I assure you I would have.”
“I know, Doc, I’m okay.” Raven felt the searching gaze of her companion studying her.
“I’ve got some thing’s to go over with the nurse and a few other patients to see. I’ll be back later on.” He headed towards the door. “Oh, you can have liquids now,” he pointed towards the sack that contained breakfast, “but not anything solid, okay?”
Raven nodded. “Sure, Doc.”
“Are you really all right? Did you want kids?” Kris asked after Kudirka left the room. They had never discussed the prospect of having children and Kris was completely in the dark as to whether her lover even liked kids or not. “And please tell me the truth, not something that you think will make me feel better.”
Raven squeezed Kris’ hand. “Yeah, I’m okay. I never thought about it, really. I just took it for granted I’d never have them. I guess maybe my own childhood and the way my mother treated me kinda influenced my unconscious decision. But I also never thought I’d have a partner either.” She smiled at Kris, knowing she was being vague and noncommittal. “What about you, Sagira?”
Kris took a deep breath and blew it out, ruffling her bangs. “I knew I’d be expected to have a family after I married and in a way I think I resented that. Now that I…we have a choice, I really don’t know.” She played with the plastic hospital bracelet around Raven’s wrist. “I’m being just as evasive as you are, huh?” She grinned at Raven.
“Yes you are. But I think it just means that we’re not ready to commit one way or the other right now. It’s not something that needs to be decided right now anyway.”
Granny stuck her head in the doorway. “Hey, you ready for something to eat?” She entered the room completely when Raven motioned her in. “Oh, John took Sharon home, said he’d be back later.”
After going through the now cold contents of the sack Granny tried to persuade Kris into trying the snack bar in the basement of the hospital. It took five minutes of assurances from Raven that she was tired and would probably sleep the entire time they were gone.
Granny decided on a bagel with cream cheese while Kris took one look at the huge cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing and drooled. Granny chuckled and added it to the tray while Kris filled to cups with coffee. They paid for their purchases and made their way to a corner table a little ways away from the other diners.
“Tell me about your medical training. According to the Doc it took more than just first-aid knowledge to do what you did.” Kris asked after they had had several bites of their respective breakfasts.
Granny shook her head. “You don’t waste much time do you?” She blew on her steaming coffee, not expecting an answer. She knew that curiosity would get the best of her young friend. “I used to be a nurse when I was younger, gave it up for Lent.” She sighed at the expectant expression on her friend’s face. “I was a surgical nurse in Vietnam from ’67 to ’69. Volunteered to go nobly thinking that I could make a difference and not so nobly knowing that it would give me unlimited and valuable experience it would take ten or fifteen years for me to get at a stateside hospital.” She admitted.
Kris bit her tongue to stop the flow of questions that she wanted to ask and instead concentrated on her cinnamon roll.
Granny’s eyes had focused on a point on the far wall as she looked into her past. “When I came back, I worked in a VA hospital for almost a year then went to a civilian hospital and worked in the emergency room for awhile.” She refocused her eyes and mind on her tablemate. “But I had what the experts like to call a nervous breakdown. Not the straight jacket and padded room type, but I started to freeze if a patient came in really messed up. Anything from a bad car wreck to a shooting would send me back to the carnage over there.”
“So you had to quit?” Kris tentatively asked after a long stretch of silence.
Granny sat her now empty coffee cup down. “They moved me up to one of the floors thinking that it was the sight of all the blood that was causing the flashbacks. That worked for about a year and a half, but gradually other things like people crying out or screaming in pain brought the memories back, so yeah, I finally just had to quit.”
“But you seemed to be okay helping Raven. I mean you didn’t freeze or panic then.” Kris pushed her empty plate and cup away from in front of her and propped her elbows on the table.
“I guess enough time had passed. Or maybe seeing someone hurt that I care about was enough to override the memories.” She shrugged her shoulders. “But don’t let the Doc fool you, anybody could’ve done the same things I did.”
“I know I couldn’t and I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit.” Kris covered Granny’s hand that was resting on the table with hers and squeezed. “I know that I’m very grateful that you were there.” She released the slightly embarrassed woman’s hand and leaned back.
“Thanks but…Kris what’s wrong?” Granny changed gears in mid-sentence when the young woman’s face paled considerably.
“I’m…not sure, but I think I should get back upstairs.” Kris pushed her chair back and stood. “I’m getting a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
“You think something’s happened to Raven?” The older woman asked as they headed for the elevator.
“No, at least not physically. It’s hard to explain but more like she’s upset.” She leaned over to press the up button.
A while after the duo had left, Raven felt like she was being watched and opened her eyes to see a nurse standing at the foot of her bed. “Is there something you want?” She asked after several seconds of silence from the nurse. Raven felt her senses prickle, not in danger but in familiarity. It was dark in the room since Kris had turned the overhead light out when she left and the sun was once again blocked out by a cloudy sky, so she couldn’t make out the features of the woman’s face.
Lisa knew she should have gone to her supervisor right away and reported her relationship to the patient but she wanted to confront her sister before she lost her nerve. “Actually yes, there is something I want.” When Lisa returned to the unit she found out that the man she thought was there to guard her sister had left because there was no more danger to the patient. Lisa was confused about exactly who or what her sister was since Raven was obviously not under arrest or considered one of the ‘bad guys’, but someone important that was worthy of being protected.
“I want you to explain to me how you’ve survived all these years without the guilt eating you up inside? How can you live knowing you’re responsible for an innocent’s death and then try to push the blame onto someone else’s shoulders?”
Raven wracked her fuzzy brain thinking back to all her missions trying to figure out just exactly whom the nurse was talking about.
“When I was younger I use to wonder what happened to you. What made you leave.” Lisa stepped closer and clutched the end of the bed. “Then when I got older, Philip explained it to me.”
“Lisa.” Raven closed her eyes; she had been so lucky to avoid any direct contact with her family and possible volatile situations. “So has Philip perfected his story over the years or is he still telling the same one?” She wasn’t angry or defensive, just curious.
“You’re still denying that you’re responsible for Derek’s death?” Lisa stared at her sister, her eyes filled with hostility and disbelief.
“No.” Raven firmly replied. “I never denied it and I will always feel responsible for his death.” She sighed in frustration. “I just deny the story Philip tells. That’s not the way it happened.”
This was different. Lisa had been told that her sister said that it had been Philip who was responsible. “Then why didn’t you tell mom the truth? And the police?”
“I did, Lisa, mother wouldn’t believe me. She said that I was lying and that Philip told her he wasn’t even home. And at the time, the Police didn’t believe me either.” Raven reached for the cup of water Kris left next to the bed.
“What do you mean ‘at the time’, did they change their minds? And why weren’t we told?” Lisa wasn’t ready to believe her sister. Why should her mom and brother lie to her for all these years? “And just what is your version of the story?”
“Look, Lisa, I don’t think now is the best time to get into this. I’m very tired and starting to hurt. And emotionally I don’t think I can go through telling it right now.” She paused to take another swallow of water and to study her sister. Lisa had grown up to look a lot like their mom. Hazel eyes and a short cute stubby nose and light brownish, blonde hair that she kept cut just above her collar. Raven guessed her height to be about five seven or eight and she was still just as skinny as a post.
“You mean you need time to make something up?” Lisa accused.
“If you’ve already made your mind up that I’m lying, why bother to ask?” Raven’s hackles rose; she was angry and frustrated at being put on the defensive.
Kris entered the room with Granny following, to see a silent battle raging between the two women. “Is there a problem?” She looked from the nurse to Raven waiting for someone to break the standoff. If it hadn’t been for the foreboding in her gut, she would have thought that her companion was giving the nurse a hard time.
“Meet my sister Lisa. Seems she works here. Small world, huh?” Raven never took her eyes off her sister.
“I’d have to be an idiot to think that this was a happy occasion.” Kris mumbled to herself. “Lisa, I’m Kris.” She moved over beside the nurse and wrapped her fingers around the young woman’s upper arm. “Let’s talk.” Kris proceeded to drag the rather surprised woman out the doorway, through the unit and out into the hallway beyond. “Is there somewhere private we can go?”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” She tried to jerk her arm free. “Let me go.” She demanded when she found her arm still in a firm grip.
“You have two choices. One, you can listen to what I have to say. Or two, I can tell Raven’s boss, that would be Colonel Albright, that I found you trying to harm the patient and that you must be involved with the guy that tried to kill her.” Kris smiled the smile she was learning from the Captain, the intimidating one. “You choose.”
“You…you can’t do that, it’s not true.”
“Yes, I know it’s not but I would do it in a second. Then you can spend the day being interrogated by them, then come back here and try to explain it to your boss. I’m guessing that you should have told them that you are related to the patient and shouldn’t be treating her. So there’s always the question of why you kept that a secret.”
“Why are you doing this?” Lisa was scared and she knew that Kris knew it.
Kris lowered her voice when several people passed by them. “Because you upset and hurt someone I care about. So, which is it?”
Lisa pointed towards a small supply room. “In here.”
Kris was precise and to the point. She told Lisa the same story Raven had told her about the day Derek died and the events leading up to it. She did her best to keep her emotions locked away, she just wanted to give Lisa the facts, she didn’t want her to think she was trying to influence her in any way. Kris took a deep shaky breath when she finished; trying to calm the misery she felt at having to go through that horror again.
Lisa’s legs had refused to hold her and she collapsed onto a small stool half way through the story. “What about what happened after? And where did Raven go?” She asked in a monotone after Kris had finished. “How did she start working for the CIA?”
Kris put a stop to the questions she knew she shouldn’t answer. “Those questions you’ll need to ask your sister.” Kris was leaning with her shoulder against the door and her arms wrapped around her slightly queasy stomach.
Lisa stood and faced Kris; she tried to project a confidence she really didn’t feel. “Why should I believe you? I don’t know you and I certainly don’t know my sister anymore. But I do know my mother and brother, and while Philip can be an imbecile from time to time and mother is set in her ways and beliefs, they’ve got no reason to lie to me.”
Kris could tell that Lisa did, at least to some degree, believe her. Especially since it sounded like the young nurse was trying to convince herself as much as Kris that she should believe what she had always been told. Kris decided that she would try to throw a little more doubt Lisa’s way. “Why would I lie? Why would Raven? What would she gain? Why would we make up this story on the off chance of running into you?” She saw the warring emotions cross the young woman’s face and pushed off the wall with her arms spread out to her sides in a placating gesture.
Lisa opened her mouth to answer. “But…” She closed it when she realized she didn’t have one.
Kris moved in for the kill, so-to-speak. “Who was your mother’s favorite, Philip or Raven? Who did your mother believe if there was a conflict between them, your brother or your sister? You need to think back to before Raven left. How did your mother act towards her? Lovingly…indifferent…with hostility?” Kris let her arms fall to her sides. “You might want to talk with John Logan, he might be able to shed some light on this for you if you still don’t believe me. He was a police officer at the time and knew Raven. He’ll be around this afternoon, they work together now.” Kris turned her back on Lisa and opened the door. She hesitated before leaving and looked back. “At least you had the support of your family when Derek died, Raven had their anger and bitterness. She had to grow up knowing her mother, who should love her no matter what, resented her simply because she looked like her father. And even with all those things going against her, she still turned out to be a good person. It would be a shame for you to miss out on getting to know her because of old fears and lies.” Kris exited the room and closed the door softly behind her, leaving Lisa alone with her struggling emotions.
Raven was sleeping by the time Kris came back. “Any luck, dear?” Granny asked quietly.
Kris shrugged; she was suddenly very tired herself. “Hopefully. We’ll have to wait and see.” She sat down in the chair beside the older woman after checking on the bed’s occupant. “Do you know what happened between her and her family?”
“I know that they are estranged because they felt that she was responsible for her little brother’s death, which is ridiculous. Any fool could tell she loved him by the expressions on her face when she talks about him.”
None of them saw Lisa any more that day. Kris had hoped the young nurse would have made a decision by the end of her shift, but in reality she knew it would take some time. Kris didn’t get a chance to ask John if he had talked to Lisa. She had reluctantly gone home to shower after Raven and Granny had told her she was beginning to get ripe.
The doctor came by on rounds early in the evening and had a few of the tubes and monitors taken out of and off of his patient. “You feel up to drinking some chicken broth for dinner tonight?”
Raven glared at him like he was crazy. “No, but I could go for a burrito or two.” She happily informed him.
“Very funny, Captain. You are on a strictly liquid diet at least until tomorrow. Then we’ll see about something a little more solid. I don’t care how fast you heal.” He went through this tough act of hers each time he treated her. At least with the guys, he could always blame their tough act on male ego. He wondered if she thought she had to ‘out tough’ the men. Although sometimes he wondered if it wasn’t the men trying to ‘out tough’ her.
“You could put it in a blender.” Raven suggested hopefully. She hated liquid diets and she detested broth of any kind. Although she had to admit the ice cream wasn’t a hardship and neither was the Jell-O as long as it had those cute little bubbles in it. Not that she would admit that even under the worst torture.
“Ew.” Kris scrunched up her face. “Burritos and blenders don’t mix, Taz. Pardon the pun.”
“Do I hear snickering, Doc?” Raven tried to keep the threatening tone in her voice, which wasn’t easy, since the blonde was laughing at her own joke.
“Me? No, of course not. No way I’d laugh at you, Captain.” He peaked out from behind the chart he was pretending to study, trying desperately to keep the grin from forming on his face. “I’m just going to go and…do something.” He slowly backed towards the door and freedom. “I’m sure there’s something, somewhere around here that I’m needed for.” He finished in a hurry as he turned and escaped. He could hear the laughter coming from the two women and smiled himself. “Sometimes life is good.”
When Lisa returned to ICU, she explained to Emma about her relationship to the patient and was able to avoid Raven and Kris for the rest of her shift. After she was finished for the day she hung around waiting until she could talk with the ex-policeman. After their discussion, Lisa was more confused about some things, less about others. John had told her another story, one about a young determined girl that meticulously gathered evidence against the gang that she had known as her older brother’s friends.
Lisa sat down on the sofa in her small apartment. She had moved out of her mother’s house after she had graduated and started a full-time job. She found a small one bedroom on First Hill that was a short bus ride, or on pleasant days, a moderate walk from work. She buried her face in her hands and sighed. ‘It seems that my sister’s story had facts to back it up. She also seems to have not only his respect but that of most of the people she works with and the gratitude of the ones she’s helped.’ It was a total about-face from the way Lisa was use to thinking of her. Thinking back to some of the questions that Kris asked her with adult eyes made some memories take on a new meaning.
Each day Lisa sat and waited on her big sister to come home from school. And everyday her best friend would come in and spend time until dinner playing with her. On this day Raven, as she still called her even though their mother had started calling her Frances, came home with her clothes all dirty and torn. Lisa hid behind the chair when their mother starting yelling at her playmate. ‘It’s bad enough that you look like him. Do you have to act like him too?’ Lisa watched as their mother grabbed Raven’s arm and dragged her down the hallway towards their room. ‘You must think I have money to throw away, I know he did. Get out of those things and wash them. I’ll have to see if they can be mended.’
Lisa leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes. Another memory floated into her consciousness that she hadn’t thought about since right after Raven had disappeared.
She had a bad dream, storms sometimes scared her and she woke up crying. Raven had gotten out of her bed and joined Lisa in hers. Her big sister always sung her back to sleep after she had a nightmare. Except this night their mother got home from work earlier than usual. The angry look on her face scared Lisa worse than the dream and storm combined and she started crying again. ‘You’re scaring her.’ Raven had come to her defense. Lisa stared in shock as their mother slapped Raven hard enough to knock her to the floor. ‘Don’t you talk back to me, young lady. And don’t you ever sing or whistle or even hum in this house again. You sound just like him and I won’t stand for it.’
Lisa smiled at the memory of her big sister taking care of her. She had exchanged the positive memories for the lies that she had been told by Philip and the anger and resentment of her mother. She wondered if Raven still sang. “I’ll have to ask her.” She now knew that she would approach her sister asking to become part of her life again.
The ‘him’ in her memories was their father. Lisa had never made the connection before. She didn’t remember him since she was just a baby when he left them. “Now I think I know why mother didn’t believe her. But why would Philip lie? Was he scared? But if Raven’s story is completely true, he didn’t hurt Derek, the others did.” Lisa sat forward with her elbows resting on her knees. “I guess I could ask him, but if he’s lied all this time he won’t change his story now. Probably won’t do any good to talk to mother either.” She laughed dejectedly. “Probably? Who am I kidding.” Lisa shook her head. “Not only am I talking to myself, I’m answering, too.”
Lisa decided to try and save what was left of her sanity, especially since she was meeting her mother for lunch tomorrow, and fix dinner. She thought better on a full stomach and she had skipped lunch that day. She reached for the refrigerator handle and pulled. It refused to open. It was ancient and sometimes stuck much to her annoyance. “Hey, come on, open up.” She pulled harder. “Please, I’m hungry.” She braced her foot against the counter and yanked. This time the door opened with a pop and she ended up on her butt in the middle of the kitchen floor. “Now, that wasn’t so hard was it?” Lisa asked the appliance then realized what she was doing and rolled her eyes. “Oh God, now I’m talking to inanimate objects.” She started laughing at herself. “I wonder if I should start looking over my shoulder for the men in the white coats?”
After she had eaten dinner in front of the TV, she had forgotten she had taped two of her favorite shows the other night; she turned her thoughts back to the matter at hand. ‘How do I get Philip to admit that he lied and that his ‘friends’ are the ones to blame? What was the name that John called the leader? It was the same as the little guy in the video game several years ago…the one with the mustache. Fabio…no, uh…Dario…that’s not it. Mario, that’s it.’ Lisa had started to pace. ‘I wonder if I can use Mario’s name to scare Philip? Okay, so how would I know about him? Gang members are bound to get hurt from time to time and I am a nurse working in a hospital. Maybe he remembers my last name, asks me if I know Philip. Okay, that’ll work.’
Pleased with herself for coming up with a plan, Lisa sat down and turned the TV back on. “Wait.” She pushed the power button on the remote, turning the TV off again. “If I’m going to throw this guys name around, maybe I ought to learn a little bit about him. Now how am I going to do that?” She had started talking out loud to herself again. “Gayle’s older brother is a cop. What’s his name? Oh shoot, he asked me out a couple of times.” Gayle was Lisa’s friend from college. They had met their junior year and hit it off. Lisa had never gone out with Gayle’s brother, she had been too busy with trying to keep up with her classes. “Andy’s his name. Maybe he can help me out.”
Lisa called Gayle to find out how to contact her brother. He worked the day shift so she had called him at home. After explaining what she wanted and some of why she wanted it, he agreed to see if he could dig up some information on the gang member Mario on one condition, that she would have dinner with him tomorrow night. If he was able to get any information for her, she would buy him dinner, if not she would still have dinner with him and he would buy. Lisa had agreed, thinking she would win either way. She remembered that he was a really nice guy and cute too.
She headed for the shower and an early night. The turmoil of the day had left her exhausted and now that she had settled on a plan of action, her chaotic mind had finally wound down.
Sharon wasn’t going to stay that night with Kris since Raven was out of immediate danger. Her condition had been downgraded from critical. Really the only danger now was from infection. Dr. Kudirka had never seen anyone heal as quickly as she did and often wondered if it was from stubbornness or her intense hatred of hospitals. He had informed her that tomorrow he would move her to a private room.
“How did the talk go with Lisa?” Raven asked after she had forced down another swallow of the chicken broth she hated. Kris was being very stubborn and wouldn’t allow her to have the Jell-O, ice cream or pudding until the entire cup was empty.
“Too early to tell yet, but I think I put some doubts in her mind about what really happened.” She stretched and yawned.
“You really should’ve gone home with Granny. You would sleep better in a bed.” As much as Raven enjoyed having her here, she had to try one more time to persuade her companion.
“You just wanted me to leave so you wouldn’t have to drink that broth.” Kris grinned. “Besides, I told you before that I don’t want to sleep in our bed without you. I really don’t think I could.” She stood and moved to stand beside the bed. “You finished it. Good girl.” She praised the older woman like an insecure child. “Here, Taz you can eat your cute green Jell-O now.” Kris almost started laughing at the conversation they had earlier. Raven had been so serious when she asked Kris if she knew how they got the little bubbles inside the squares. Kris had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from spewing the swallow of water across the room. ‘It’s a rather long and arduous process. I’ll make you some when you get to come home.’ She had promised.
Lisa woke up early and spent the morning cleaning her apartment. She was absolutely dreading her weekly lunch date with her mother. She just hoped that she would be able to keep quiet about seeing Raven and about the memories that had begun to surface. Maybe she could test the waters and just ask a question about their childhood and see how she reacted. After all the time that had passed, maybe her mother would have mellowed. Maybe she had started to miss her eldest daughter and even regretted what had happened in the past. With those thoughts, Lisa felt in better spirits when she headed out the door.
She pushed open the door to the restaurant and headed back towards the kitchen. “Hey, mother?” She called out. “Where are you?”
“In the freezer, dear. Be out in a minute.” Cynthia Chandler was 50 years old, but looked slightly older. Her brownish blonde hair that grew to just below her shoulder had turned gray several years ago. She was the same height as her youngest daughter but was thinner and had a pasty look to her skin. Their eyes were the same hazel color, but Cynthia’s were dull and almost lifeless.
“If you’re too busy, we can have lunch another time.” Lisa offered, raising her voice above the loud noises of the kitchen.
“Don’t be silly. You know I always save Tuesdays for us to have lunch.” It had been this way for the last couple of years. Even when Lisa was still living at home, they had lunch every Tuesday at the restaurant. “Do you think you’ll be able to make dinner this week?” Every Thursday she and Philip were supposed to have dinner with her, but for the past several weeks Lisa hadn’t been able to make it because of her work schedule.
“I, uh, don’t know. I’ll have to check with the hospital tomorrow after the shifts are assigned.” Lisa knew darn well what her schedule was, but it gave her a way out.
“Well call me when you know something. Let’s go sit down and eat.” They always ate from the buffet and Lisa didn’t mind since the food was always good. She had to give her mother that, she ran a good restaurant and the employees all liked to work for the woman.
Lisa finished her last bite and wiped her mouth. “That was good but I think I ate too much.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you go back for thirds before. Don’t you cook at that apartment of yours?”
“Yes, mother. But I was cleaning this morning and I didn’t eat breakfast.” Lisa explained.
“I should get back to work. Don’t forget to let me know about Thursday night.”
“Wait, I wanted to ask you something.” Lisa paused and waited until Cynthia sat back down. “You remember when I was little and sometimes I would have a bad dream?” She was nervous and she wasn’t sure how to take her mother’s silence but she had started this so she would now have to finish. “I would wake up crying and I remember someone holding me and softly singing me back to sleep. That was Raven wasn’t it?”
There was silence for at least a minute before Cynthia replied. “I never want to hear her name again. She doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned.” Her voice was low and controlled. “It was a joyous day when she left, just like her father she was. A bad seed.”
“But how do you know? What if…”
“I could look at her and tell, that’s how I know. No more talk about her or what ifs. Do you understand? She’s probably in jail or dead by now anyway and I say good riddance.” Cynthia didn’t wait for her daughter to answer her. She threw her napkin down on the table and headed towards her office.
“That went well.” Lisa sighed as she watched the retreating form of the agitated woman. At least she knew her mother’s feeling on the subject hadn’t changed. She stood, put on her coat and slung her small backpack over her shoulder. She had gotten in the habit of using one while in school and now used it instead of a purse.
Lisa passed the bus stop by, deciding to walk part of the way back to her apartment. There was a bright sun shining instead of the usual December clouds and rain. The wind was calm and the temperature was in the mid-forties, making for a pleasantly mild day. Walking would also help her work off lunch since she ate way too much and she was having dinner with Andy at 7 o’clock that night. She turned onto Madison and started the up hill climb.
Kris paused in her typing every once in awhile just to watch her partner sleep. After moving Raven to a private room that morning, the doctor had changed his orders regarding her pain medication. Kris could tell that the amount of narcotic was drastically reduced since Raven’s face was more animated like it would be in a natural sleep instead of one that was drug induced.
Granny had been by that morning and so had John, who had warned them that Hardly had asked to see them in order to apologize for his part in Major Otis’ plan. Sharon sent word and promised to stop by after work.
“Afternoon, sleepy head.” Kris put down her laptop. “You hungry?” She asked as she moved to the side of the hospital bed.
“Yep.” Raven reached up and pulled Kris’ head down for a kiss. “I sure miss holding you when I sleep.” She placed her palm against the young woman’s cheek and caressed it.
“I miss you, too.” Kris brought Raven’s hand around to her mouth and kissed the backs of her fingers. “But we’ll be home before you know it. And the doc said tomorrow you can start on solid food.”
“Oh yeah, I can hardly wait. His idea of solid food the first day after a liquid diet includes such delicacies as scrambled eggs and some kinda mush that passes for oatmeal around here.” Raven said in mock enthusiasm. “I think I’ll stick to ice cream.”
Kris chuckled. “Speaking of ice cream, I’ll go let them know you’re awake and ready for lunch.” Kris placed Raven’s hand back on the bed. “Be right back.”
“See if they’ve got chocolate this time, please. I’m tired of vanilla.” She yelled out after her companion left the room.
Kris grinned as she turned down the corridor towards the nurse’s break room where she had stashed a supply of ice cream and missed seeing Hardly and Colonel Albright step off the elevator.
“Come on, Herman.” The Colonel placed a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder. “I know she doesn’t blame you for what happened.”
Herman’s head was bowed and his slumping shoulders hunched forward. “You honestly think that?” He asked with a degree of hopefulness in his voice.
“Of course I do.” Albright answered as he knocked on a slightly open door and directed Herman into the room. “I’ll wait out here.”
“Uh…hi, Captain. Can I come in?” He tried to look everywhere but into the piercing blue eyes.
Kris walked back towards Raven’s room and stopped beside Albright. “Hello, Colonel, how come you’re holding the wall up?” She asked the man leaning against the wall.
“Afternoon, Kris. Sergeant Hardly’s in there begging forgiveness.” He explained and pushed off the wall to stand beside her.
“Ah.” Kris sighed. “I’m not sure whether I want to hit him for being a part of this mess or thank him for being such a dimwit that he fouled it up.”
Albright shrugged his shoulders. “I know what you mean. But don’t be too hard on him, he’s been kicking himself since he found out about how Otis tricked him. He’s really an okay guy, he’s just got a little too much enthusiasm for his own good.”
Kris stepped into the room in time to hear Raven explain why she didn’t blame Hardly.
“Look, Sergeant, you thought you were protecting Kris and for that I thank you.” Raven grinned. “The only thing I ask is that next time, make sure that you’re protecting her from the right person.”
Hardly tentatively returned her smile. “Sure thing, Captain.”
“Hello, Herman.” Kris walked over beside her partner. “Lunch is on the way.” She told her.
“Hey, Kris. I was just telling the Captain that I was sorry about what happened.” He explained shyly.
Kris decided that she couldn’t stay mad at the dolt. “And I’m sorry I hit you so hard.”
“You hit him?” Raven hadn’t heard the entire story. She had been told about the part that Granny played in saving the day after which Raven had praised the older woman much to Granny’s embarrassment, but no one had yet to mention Kris’ roll.
“Yeah.” Herman beat Kris to the punch. “Over the head with a frying pan.” He actually sounded rather proud of the young woman.
Raven started laughing and the others found it contagious and soon joined in. “Gods, I wish I could have seen that.” She caught her breath and grabbed her middle. “Ow, shouldn’t have done that.”
Kris was quickly at her side looking concerned. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah. Just a little too much merriment.”
Herman moved out of the way as Raven’s lunch tray was delivered. “I should go so you can eat.” He started for the door. “Thanks for being so understanding.”
“No problem, Sergeant.” Raven acknowledged as he was pulling the door closed behind him.
“Bye, Herman.” Kris yelled.
He stuck his head back inside to tell Kris bye, but shut his mouth and the door in a hurry when he saw the young blonde lean over and kiss the Captain. Not even he could mistake the kiss for one that was just between friends. As he walked towards the elevator with the Colonel he smiled slightly. ‘Oh well, I never had a chance anyway. I guess if I had to lose, losing to someone like Captain Chandler isn’t so bad.’
Continued in part 6