For complete disclaimers, see part 1.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com. If you have suggestions or corrections, please don’t bother. That’s what publisher editors are for.
Grace glanced out the window above the kitchen sink, noting the beautiful sky. It would be a nice day. She turned her attention back to the coffee maker, turning the machine on. She was exhausted, even after her first full night’s sleep in months. She smiled when her husband came up behind her, hugging her from behind and placing a kiss on her neck.
“It was good to have you still here this morning,” he said. Grace smiled, turning his the circle of his arms. She allowed herself to be held by him, relishing the safety and security of the familiarity. They’d been married a long time, but she still loved him very much. She couldn’t ask for a more patient man. “I’m so proud of you, Grace,” he said, looking down into her upraised face.
“Guess it was all worth it, huh?” She was troubled, pulling away from him to go to the fridge and see what they had for breakfast.
“What’s wrong?” her husband, Chris asked, sitting on one of the bar stools at the breakfast bar.
Grace sighed. What indeed? “I don’t know,” she said, closing the door of the Subzero, and leaning against it. “Guess it’s almost like Christmas, you know? You work so hard for it, put so much time and effort into it, then December 26, it’s such a huge let down. And,” she said with a sigh, “I feel I let those women down.”
Chris’ brows drew, confused. “Honey, you saved their lives.”
“No, Chris, I didn’t. Remmy did. Don’t get me wrong,” she said, holding up a hand to forestall comment. “I don’t mean it like that, but I do feel that I should’ve been able to find that bastard. I really feel like because of me those women had to suffer under the hands of that monster, Venti.” She felt the anger building, a sense of failure. Turning back to the coffee maker, she had to will herself not to shirk off Chris’ touch. Instead, she allowed herself to be held once more.
“Let’s get away, honey,” Chris said, concerned for his wife. He’d watched her go through college, through the Academy, and finally hired on as a beat cop. He’d watched her frustrations and joys as her career progressed- he’d never known a stronger, more determined woman. But, in all that time he’d never seen her react so deeply to a case, or situation at work. He’d never watched her suffer as she had with the Venti case.
Grace sighed, shaking her head. “I can’t. I’ve still got work to do.” She could tell Chris was annoyed, but he said nothing as he stepped away, making himself a cup of coffee.
Remmy’s eyes blinked open, once, twice, on three they remained that way. She was lying in one of the most uncomfortable positions, head turned to the side, breasts crushed to the mattress beneath her. If her breasts discomfort was the worst of her problems, she would have done a jig. As it was, her entire body hurt, a sharp, stabbing pain in her back.
She tried to raise her head, but immediately stopped, groaning as she closed her eyes. Had she been hit by a truck? Slowly rolling her head, she saw a chair and a bedside table, a pitcher of water and plastic cup sitting next to it, on top. She was also surprised to see a teddy bear sitting there, a big smile on his face. He held a small balloon that read: Get Better Soon!
“Okay,” she murmured, turning her back the other way. She’d feel better soon if she knew what had happened to her. She realized she was in a hospital, the bed nearest the window empty. Her mouth was dry, lips cracking. Her tongue slipped out, sliding over the roughness. She groaned, not even enough moisture in her mouth to re-wet her lips. She glanced back to the table where the teddy beat sat, eyeing the pitcher of water. She wrapped her fingers around it, but didn’t have the strength to lift it. “Shit,” she groaned.
“Let me help.”
Remmy looked up, grateful for the nurse who walked in. She felt so helpless. “Thanks.” She drank slowly, the nurse patiently holding the pitcher, a straw tucked between Remmy’s lips. Once she’d had her fill, she laid her head back on the bed. “I’m in a lot of pain,” she said, voice stronger with the water.
“It’s almost time for more meds,” the nurse said, voice soft and understanding. She sat for a moment in the chair next to Remmy’s bed. “That was a really amazing thing you did,” she said, dark eyes smiling. “I know my family and I will always be grateful to you.”
Remmy’s brows drew in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“Cameron Sanchez is my little sister. You got her away from that monster. You’re really a hero, Remmy. I know Cameron wants to come thank you personally. I told her to wait until you’re a little stronger.” The nurse stood. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
Remmy shook her head, exhausted just from their small conversation.
“Okay. I’ll be back in about thirty minutes with your pills. Get some rest.”
Left alone once more, Remmy allowed her mind to roam, trying to recapture the moments before her injury. She should’ve asked the nurse what they were. She sighed, closing her eyes, doing her best to block out the increasing pain as she tried to relax. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Her brain was filled with a cold emptiness that was almost frightening. It almost made her think of a grocery bag, all pushed out to its limits in size, filled with something, or lots of somethings, then suddenly it was empties, leaving the bag expanded, but noting inside. She felt very open, and very exposed, but had no idea why.
True to her word, the nurse returned with a paper cup filled with pills. “Let me help you,” she said, again bringing the water pitcher to Remmy’s mouth, the straw placed between her lips. “This will be hard to swallow them in this position, I’m sorry.” She literally had to finger the pills into Remmy’s mouth, one at a time. Finally all the pills were down, and Remmy had her fill of water.
“What happened to me?” she asked, indicating the pain in her back with a nod of her head. The nurse studied her, brows drawn.
“You don’t remember?” At the shake of Remmy’s head, the nurse began to explain. “You were shot in the back, protecting one of the captives you help save.” She saw the look of confusion on Remmy’s face, and was startled by it. “Wow. Maybe you should mention to your doctor that your memory seems to have been disturbed. Perhaps you hit your head.”
“Maybe,” Remmy said with a weak smile, just wanting to be alone again.
Julie sat in the front seat of Matt’s car, huddled in an oversized pair of sweats he’d brought her, and her favorite sweatshirt from Denver University, where she’d gone to college. IT was old and ratty, but beyond comfortable. One hand was extended uncomfortably back between the seats- Skylar had a death grip on it.
Though she hadn’t been gone an incredibly long time- just shy of three months she was told- everything looked so different. Yes, it was a different season- from hot, sunny skies to the overcast, pregnant clouds above her now- but everything just looked different. Even houses she’d seen a million times, the same stores and the same people populating the sidewalks, all looked different. The holidays were coming up, and she wondered how many of them were shopping for Christmas? Such easy, carefree smiles on their faces and laughter in the air, no doubt.
Matt pulled the SUV into his driveway, which filled Julie twin emotions: gratitude beyond anything for being there, seeing the house again, and equal parts fear: what would she be expected to do? How would she be expected to act? Would Matt allow her to just crawl within herself? Knowing her brother, probably not.
“Home, sweet home,” Matt said, glancing over at his sister. “For now. I think it’s probably best if you stay here with us for a little while.” He studied her face, looking deeply within very dead eyes. “What do you think?”
Julie nodded, giving him a weak smile. “I think I want to lie down.”
Bonnie and Clyde just about had mini heart attacks when they recognized Julie. She was overjoyed to see them, too, grabbing them both up in her arms. She had tears in her eyes as she allowed them to lick her fears away. She smiled at Matt, silently thanking him for taking care of her babies. He nodded. No words necessary.
Dogs still in her arms, Julie walked further into the house, looking around. Absolutely nothing had changed, though she saw a large board leaning against the wall in the dining room, face to the wall.
“What’s that?” she asked, knowing Matt’s penchant for a meticulous house with no clutter.
“This is so cool, Aunt Julie!” Skylar gushed, running over to it and turning it over. It was nearly as tall as he was.
“Skylar, maybe this isn’t such a good time…” Matt cringed. He had intended to put that away, but forgot in the excitement of things.
Julie walked over toward her nephew, setting her Yorkies on their feet. As she neared, she felt her heart pound and a wistful smile curl her lips. She saw the smiling faces of every one of her students, all put together in a collage. The words: WE WILL ALWAYS MISS YOU, MS. WILSON, THE GREATEST TEACHER IN TE WORLD!
“We had a memorial service,” Matt said softly, stepping up behind her. “They gave that to me at the end.”
Julie reached out a hand, lightly touching the glossy faces, emotions rising. She felt so confused- happy, relieved, frustrated, and angry beyond belief. “Everyone thought I was dead,” she said, a statement rather than a question. Even Skylar remained silent, sensing all was not well with his aunt. He’d been told that she had gone away for a very long time, and that he would probably never see her again.
Matt said nothing, just studied the small blonde, unsure what to say. He wanted to take her into his arms and never let her go, protecting her from every and anything, just like when they were kids. He knew he couldn’t protect her from this, from herself and the specter he’d been told would haunt her steps for a long time. Not for the first time he damned Sergio Venti’s soul to hell.
The room was quiet as Grace pushed the heavy door open. She saw Remmy lying on her stomach, eyes closed. She was attached to a number of machines, each beeping or blinking. It was late on Remmy’s second day in the hospital, and the first time she’d been able to escape work to come see her. Though Sergio was dead, there was a lot of cleaning up to do, as well as trying to see if any other cases could be linked to him. The tires on his van were linked to the tracks found at the site of Roxie Carmichael’s body, as well as Cameron Sanchez’s house. Proof he’d been responsible for both.
She laid the flowers she’d brought on the side table, gently pushing a teddy bear and balloon aside to make room.
“Gee, Grace, isn’t it a little soon for flowers?” Remmy murmured, her voice thick from pain medicine. The detective chuckled, taking a seat next to the narrow bed.
“How are you?” she asked, reaching out to take Remmy’s hand in her own.
“I think I survived being run over by a tank. Other than that, I’m great. Peachy-“
“- keen,” Grace finished with her, a smile on her face. “I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner. We’ve had quite the mess to clean up, and had to get Pamela and Cameron back home.” She saw the look of confusion on the girl’s face. “What?”
“The nurse mentioned a Cameron yesterday. Who’s Pamela?”
Grace’s brows drew. “From the house. They were captives with Julie.” Still no recognition. “You do remember Julie, don’t you?”
“Am I supposed to?”
Grace was extremely concerned as she looked into cloudy blue eyes. She sat back in her chair, wiping her face of expression. “Do you know why you’re here?” She indicated the hospital room around them.
“I was shot. In the back.” Remmy interrupted Grace’s relieve smile. “The nurse told me.” Remmy reached for the water on the table next to the flowers, fingers tip toeing their way toward the pitcher, trying to reach it. Grace helped her, holding the straw to her lips as she drank. “Doc says I can turn to my back tomorrow. Thank god. This just isn’t cuttin’ it.” She indicated the water could be put back on the table. “I can’t explain it, Grace, it’s like this weird feeling in my head. I feel like the harder I try to think, or the harder I try and envision something, the thicker the fog gets.” She met concerned brown eyes. “I feel so empty.”
Grace sat back in the chair, crossing one leg over the other. “Empty, how?”
“Inside my head. I just feel… I don’t know.” Remmy sighed at her inability to form coherent thoughts. “I feel used up, somehow. I am so tired. I know a lot of it is because of my injury, but, it’s weird,” she said again. “I feel soul tired. Does that make sense?”
Grace nodded with a smile, feeling quite similar herself. “Yes. It makes perfect sense.” She leaned over and placed a soft kiss to the top of Remmy’s head. “You get some sleep. I’ll come see you again soon.” She walked over to the door, stopping with her hand on the handle. “You’ve two months rent-free, kid. Take advantage of it.” With those cryptic words, she was gone.
Remmy sighed, left alone again in her room. Her neck was about as tired of the position she lay in as any other part of her body. She’d do anything to roll over onto her back. Hell, even her side would do. “This sucks,” she muttered, glancing over at the flowers Grace had brought her. She thought that was really nice. Even from the few feet away, she could smell their fragrant scent.
With a heavy sign of resignation, she lay her head back down on the pillow.
Julie stood at the window, her arms crossed over her chest, her second shower behind her. She hugged herself, forehead leaning against the cool grass. The dark night lay beyond, the dim lamp on the dresser across the room reflecting in the mirror-like glass. From the street light down a ways, she could see the snow falling in steady waves. It was actually quite beautiful.
The night had been nice, she supposed. She knew Matt was walking around her like he was on eggshells, and she hated that fact. She sat quietly on the couch, curled up in the corner, as Matt sat in the recliner reading the newspaper, Skylar playing video games. Her dogs hadn’t left her side since she’d arrived home, and in fact were lying on the bed, now. Matt had offered to stay with her, but she wanted to give it a go on her own. She felt fine, and was determined to not let that bastard win from the grave.
Absently Julie released herself, a hand going to her wrist and gently rubbing it. She could feel the scabbing and slight indentation from the cuffs. Her ankles still stung, too.
Walking back to the bed, Julie realized she was more exhausted than she’d ever been. Dr. Corregan had given her a prescription for a sleeping pill, but the way she felt right now, she figured she’d sleep clear into next week.
“Move over, guys,” she murmured to her dogs, Bonnie glancing up at her from where her chin rested on her paws, stubby tail wagging. Clyde hopped up, giving Julie a few licks before moving to the other side of his sister as his Mommy climbed in. She didn’t bother to turn out the lamp- she never wanted to be in a dark room again. She slid in between the sheets, fully clothed in sweats and a t-shirt, Julie wrapped the covers up around her shoulders as she settled on her side. She smiled as her dogs cuddled up in the bend of her legs, Bonnie resting her chin on Julie’s calf.
She tried to allow her mind to relax, though every time she closed her eyes, they immediately popped back open at the slightest noise, looking around the bedroom. The door had been kept ajar, and her gaze fell on the dark space beyond. She knew Matt’s room was just down the hall to the right, Skylar’s to the left. She was perfectly safe. That bastard was dead. He was dead. She took a deep breath, letting it out nice and slow. Adjusting her pillow slightly, She brought her hands up, tucking them under her chin. She sighed in contentment, so happy to have them free and brought into her body. She was also happy to be fully clothed and buried underneath several layers of clothing and bedding. She could already feel herself beginning to sweat slightly, but she didn’t care- she was covered. With the slight smack of her lips, she closed her eyes.
The hallway was long, slanted light coming in on either side, though the source was elusive, doors slamming shut in her face each time she tried to peer inside. She kept walking, steps cautious, one foot in front of the other. She tried to ball her fists, tried to bring them in close, but could not move them.
Panic began to set in, flooding her body like a wave. She couldn’t breathe- couldn’t breathe!
Julie cried out, thrashing wildly until there were two thuds on the floor. Green eyes shot open, Julie hyperventilating as she sat up in the bed, fighting with the sheets wrapped around her small frame.
“Julie!” Matt hurried into the room, flipping the overhead light on as he sat on the side of the bed. He grabbed his sister’s shoulders, shaking her gently, heart racing. “It’s me. It’s Matt.”
Julie’s eyes finally began to focus, and she recognized the concerned features of her brother. She broke, allowing herself to be taken into her hold. The dream images were quickly fading, but the emotions they left behind were still raw.
Remmy cried out as she woke, heart racing as her eyes darted around the room frantically, looking for what had frightened her so badly. She had no recollection of what had chased her into wakefulness, but she was sweating profusely. She brought her hand up, running it through her hair, and pushing it away from her face.
She was desperately thirsty, her medicines drying her mouth out terribly. The last nurse had been kind enough to move the table close enough so she could reach it. She drank greedily, panting in between gulps. A look out the window on the far side of the room told her dawn was just around the corner. She was glad- her doctor told her today she’d be turned over and allowed to sit up, the catheter removed. She was grateful- whomever invented the catheter should be shot, she was convinced.
The pain spread throughout her body like a wave, starting at the center of her back and spreading…
Remmy gasped, a shot of pain stabbing in her back, and reverberating at the base of her neck. She gulped several mouthfuls of air, almost panting. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to get her breathing back under control, and trying to get her pain under control.
“My god,” she breathed, again pushing her hair back from her face. She wanted a shower in the worst way, and was tempted to get up against doctor’s orders and wash up in the bathroom. For a moment she seriously contemplated that idea, eyeing the distance between the bed and the bathroom. She moved her right leg, then stopped, whimpering as fresh pain shot up her body. “Or not.”
Exhausted from her interrupted sleep and the pain medication, so Remmy closed her eyes, intending to doze. She awoke six hours later to a soft nudging from one of the nurses.
“Mornin’, Rob,” she muttered, voice thick from sleep.
“Rise and shine, Remmy,” he smiled at her, checking her vitals. “You’ve got a busy morning today. Are you ready to turn over?”
“Does a bear shit in the woods?” she muttered.
Rob chuckled. “Wouldn’t know. I’m going to get your bandages changed after the doctor comes in to take a look, then we’ll get your catheter out, and get you up and moving. Sound good?”
“Sounds like Heaven.”
Rob patted his patient on the shoulder then left, soon to return with everything he’d need, and her doctor. After the doctor proclaimed that Remmy was healing well, he left two nurses to take care of her, cleaning and changing her bandages, then the three of them got her turned around until she was seated, a groan of part pain, part relief escaping her throat.
“You okay?” Rob asked, watching Remmy’s face carefully for any signs of the normal pain. She nodded, chewing on her bottom lip in concentration as she allowed the pain to settle. “Okay. I’ll go grab your breakfast and meds.”
Left alone once more, Remmy was able to view her room in its entirety, her body still smarting from the beating it had taken over the past few days. She’d never been so glad to sit in her entire life. She slowly, oh so slowly, reached beside the bed and grabbed the pitcher, which was nearly out of water, and sucked down the remainder of it. Her smile stretched across her face as her breakfast tray was brought in, and set on her tray, which was rolled over to the bed, and set across her lap.
“I almost forget, Remmy, someone is here to see you. I told her to wait so you can eat, and we can get you showered and feeling a little more human. Is that alright?”
Remmy nodded, mouth too full of French toast to respond verbally.
“Cool. I’ll be back in a few. Enjoy your breakfast.”
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