Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Boone found himself so antsy all afternoon that he could not sleep, despite his exhaustion from therapy and the prodding and poking of nurses.
Temperatures skyrocketed past sixty, though the sun was soon hidden by foreboding clouds. Still no word from anyone in OCD. Boone called again after four o'clock, only to find Haeley's substitute still manning the phones.
He imagined the brass hunkering down and regrouping in light of the fiasco, but what would any of that have to do with Haeley?
By five thirty, the sun had been down for half an hour, and a steady rain became a violent storm complete with long, rumbling thunder. Boone had given up on seeing Haeley when a blinding streak lit up his window and a deafening explosion shook the place. Lights flickered, alarms sounded, and machines switched to battery backup. He heard nurses and aides running up and down the halls making sure everyone was all right and that their monitors were functioning.
And there in his own doorway she stood, tall and dark, high cheekbones pronounced by flashing security lights. Haeley's business suit made her look like she could succeed Fletcher Galloway.
Warmth as soothing as morphine surged through him as she approached. He expected a smile, something, anything that would tell him their last encounter had been no dream nor drug-induced fantasy. She gathered him in her arms, clearly careful to avoid his devastated shoulder, but something was obviously wrong.
Haeley sat next to Boone's bed and forced a smile.
“You need to check on Max? Who's got him?”
“Florence. The woman from church. He's fine.”
“What's going on, Haeley?”
“Is there somewhere we can talk?”
“Is there ever. But I'll need your help with logistics.”
She smirked and stood. “Everything's an operation with you.”
Boone triggered a shot of morphine and talked Haeley through getting his shin dressings off, his antislip socks on, wrapping him in a blanket, arranging his IV stand, and getting him moving down the hall.
“Where to, Detective?” one of the cops said.
“Promise you won't tell anybody?” Boone said. “The staff will frown on it.”
“Anything happens to you and it's our jobs.”
“Florence Nightingale here will accept all responsibility.” Boone told him they were going to sit out on the patio.
Haeley blurted, “Boone, no.”
“Don't deny me,” he said. “Nothing I love more than sitting as close as I can to a good thunderstorm.”
“Not sure that's a good idea,” the cop said.
“That's why it appeals so much. You guys can watch me down there as easily as you can here.”
The cops shrugged and headed to the sliding door, setting up on either side of it.
Haeley held up a finger and moved to the window, peering out. “It's blowing the other way. At least you're not going to get wet.”
The corridor was clear when one of the cops slid open the door, but a nurse materialized just as Haeley was helping Boone move out.
“Where do you think you're going?” the nurse said.
“When he's in his room,” one cop said, “he's yours. Out here, he's ours.”
“Idiots,” she hissed as she hurried off.
Haeley guided Boone out and sat next to him on a wrought-iron bench. She leaned close and gingerly put an arm around his back.
“Talk to me, Haeley.”
She stood and moved in front of him, her back to him as she seemed to study the roiling black sky. Boone loved just looking at her. Finally she turned to face him, her expression dark as the horizon. “Jack smells a rat.”
“Well, duh. Who doesn't? What's his guess?”
“He won't tell me. It scares me.”
Boone raised a brow. “He's worried it was an inside job.”
She nodded. “'Fraid so. And I think he thinks Galloway is too.”
Boone shook his head, trying to follow that through his anesthetic high. “That's the real reason Fletch is stepping down? Not because this should have been the capstone to his career?”
Haeley sat back down and leaned on Boone's good side.
“So where's Pete Wade in all this?” Boone said.
“He just seemed angry all day. Doesn't seem to want to look inside. He's saying we shouldn't assume the shooter had to be tipped off. Maybe the guy was just lucky, or maybe all those gangbangers are smarter than we give 'em credit for.”
Boone carefully sat forward, Haeley steadying him. “IÂ trust Pete. He's been around forever.”
“He's wrong on this, Boone. First thing you asked me was whether everyone agreed it was an inside job. Jack said you asked him if we had a traitor. Galloway retires in what looks like shame. Come on.”
They sat in silence for several minutes, Boone trying to enjoy the storm. He was warmed by Haeley's being so close. He loved this stage of the relationship, where they got comfortable with each other. They were going to be good together.
Finally Boone said, “Pete probably thinks we need somebody to believe in the team.”
“Maybe,” she said. “But that's naive for a veteran, isn't it? Blind faith at the expense of truth?”
“Listen to you,” Boone said, hoping his admiration came through.
She pulled back and cupped his face in her hands.
“Haven't shaved,” he said.
She shushed him. “I got to talk to your Dr. Duffey, you know. He says not to trust a thing you say and not to expect you to remember much of this.”
Boone chuckled. “Even now? I'm remembering more every day.”
“Just sayin'. It hasn't been two full days, Boone.”
“Well, I won't forget how troubled you seem.”
“Sorry. But you've got to admit it's sobering to think there's someone inside we can't trust.”
Haeley folded her hands in her lap, gazing out at the storm. “Just concentrate on getting better,” she said quietly.
Boone shivered, which caused a twinge deep in his shoulder and a piercing pain in his clavicle. Despite his damaged body, he couldn't recall a more satisfying moment since before he had lost his family.
Everything from then till now had been about enduring. He had grown, sure, had somehow come through grief and despair. Now his pain was physical and not psychological.
Boone was suddenly overcome with feelings long forgotten. He loved the rain, the chill, the coziness of the blanket, the presence of his new love. Despite this setback that would make him virtually have to start over physically, all he could think about was the future.
Boone pictured their wedding, living together, raising Max together. And he knew that if he mustered the courage to mention one word about any of that, she would either run or chalk it up to his meds. Besides, she was clearly preoccupied with the crisis that had nearly cost him his life.
Part of him wanted to do or say something to pull Haeley from her funk. But at the same time a resolve began to build in him. He wanted to get healthy fast, get back in the game, get back to being the cop, the person he knew he could be. It wouldn't be easy. But that had never stood in his way.
There would be those, he knew, who would encourage him to take advantage of this jackpotâfull salary for the rest of his life with disability benefits. Others would say he should take a desk job and stay out of the line of fire.
Boone would have none of that. Life was not jackpots, payoffs, ships coming in. He would settle for nothing less than full recovery, evidenced by his return to active duty.
“Nice that you can have the shoulder work done just up the block,” Haeley said.
“Valdez is at Presbyterian St. Luke's. You could walk there from here.”
“The shoulder guy Duffey's referring you to.”
Boone squinted against a chilling wind. “He told you something he hasn't told me?”
“You really don't recall?”
“Think I would remember something like that.”
“Nothing like good drugs,” she said. “Dr. Duffey said he walked you through the whole thing. Said you seemed pleased with being able to have the surgery at St. Luke's.”
“I'm completely blank, but I can't imagine being pleased about anything associated with St. Luke's. Hard memories there.”
She nodded, looking as if she wished she hadn't brought it up. “Duffey says it's going to have to be an open-shoulder operation, a total rebuild. And no guarantees.”
“The guarantees are going to come from me. Whatever they leave me with, I'll make it work.”
“I know. And I'll have to compete with your mom for nursing duties. Lucy's an interesting woman.”
“You've talked with my mom, too?”
“So have you.”
“They were here within hours of your lung procedure. Ambrose was quiet. Lucy wasn't.”
“There's a shock. And you're telling me she and I talked?”
Haeley nodded. “She says you weren't making much sense, but you were clear about not wanting them to visit you again until you were out of here.”
“I wondered why I hadn't heard from them. Was I awful?”
“According to her, yes. They're staying at your apartment and keeping in touch with your doctors every day.”
“Oh, grief. How'd they get into my apartment?”
“You gave them the key, apparently with lots of caveats. They have to be gone within a few days of your getting home.”
“She's going to want to stay and take care of me after the shoulder work.”
“What mother wouldn't? I was hoping to help too.”
“Not sure I want that either, Hael. I'm kinda independent.”
“Tell me about it. You told her Jack Keller was going to be taking care of you.”
Boone snorted. “Even unconscious I was making some sense.”
“You don't want me there at all?”
“Of course, but not to take care of me.”
“You're going to be a piece of work. But give your mother a break. Imagine what she's going through. She nearly lost you. You of all people know about that.”
Lightning slammed a high-tension wire not two blocks away, and the resounding thunder made Boone instinctively raise both hands to cover his ears. His left didn't get close, of course, as piercing agony shot through his body.
Haeley leapt to her feet as the cops slid open the door. “Back inside,” one said. “Now.”
Boone was shaken and couldn't rid himself of the feeling that yet another close call had been an omen. Something was telling him he still had a tortuous road ahead.
Boone did not know what to make of Haeley's departure without a kiss. Had he only dreamed their first? Or had she meant it only as encouragement to a fallen colleague? But she had called him “love.” Or had that been only in his mind too?
He had forgotten the first visits from his pastor and his own parents and important stuff from his doctor. But Boone would not allow himself to entertain that he might have invented this next step in his relationship with Haeley.
They had left it that she would return at the end of the next day for a meeting with Dr. Duffey and Boone's parents. It would be time to adjust his meds and confirm when he could go home, how much help he would need, and when his shoulder surgery could be scheduled. Boone looked forward to that meeting. For one thing, it would allow him to establish that he did not want his parents' help. He appreciated their concern and their sacrifice to come and be with him. But he had one perfectly good arm, and he needed to learn to do things for himself.
Neither did he want Haeley in the role of caregiver. That would be unfair to his own motherâif he sent her home on the basis that he didn't need help.
Boone couldn't stand having heard nothing from his former partner and mentor. Three calls to Jack Keller's cell in an hour resulted in Boone's leaving messages. Finally he called Jack's apartment and reached Margaret, Jack's live-in girlfriend.
“I'll have him to call you, Mr. Drake. He's sure worried about y'all.”
“Something wrong with his phone?”
“I think he's shut it off is all. You know he's in line for the chief's job.”
“Doesn't surprise me.”
“The press is all over that, and I don't think he wants to talk to 'em.”
“I need to see him.”
“I'll tell him, Boone. You sound good. You feelin' better?”
“Just frustrated. Jack used to keep me up on everything.”
Margaret reiterated her promise to have Jack call, but Boone wondered. Something was going on.
Wednesday, February 3
Boone was surprised at how much better he felt the next day. The phone, however, remained silent. And no visitors.
Finally, late in the afternoon, Boone left another message on Keller's cell. “If you care a whit about me, I need to hear from you. I'm in the desert here.”
Boone hated to sound so needy, but what was the deal? The press treated him like a hero, his friends like a pariah, and his loved ones like a victim. All he wanted was to get home, get strong enough for surgery, then get back on the job as fast as he could. If Keller was really in line for Galloway's job, surely there had to be something good in that for Boone.
As much as Boone dreaded dealing with his overbearing mother and passive father, he couldn't wait to see Haeley. And he was eager to talk with Dr. Duffey in a more rational frame of mind.
Boone recognized the male nurse who had tended to him early on. He squinted at the name badge. “George,” he said, “I need a favor.”
“Don't we all? You know I'm programmed to say no to just about anything you ask for.”
“I just want my stuff. We both know I didn't show up in this stylish gown. Where are my clothes?”
With a flourish, George opened a closet door below the TV. On the top shelf was a plastic bag, bulging taut. Boone's parka hung beneath the bag. “That's not pretty,” George said.
“Never was a fashion plate,” Boone said.
“I mean this.” George turned the coat so Boone could see a jagged tear and a mass of clotted blood. “You're lucky to be alive, Detective.”
“My stuff in that bag? Watch, ring, wallet?”
George shook his head. “Lockbox at the nurses' station. You get them when you check out.”
“I need 'em now.”
“Sorry, it's against protocol, andâ”
“There are things I need in my wallet. I haven't lost the rights to my own things, have I?”
George lifted both hands. “I surrender, Officer. You just have to sign a form.”
“So go get it.”
Determined to change into street clothes before his visitors arrived, while George was gone Boone laboriously made his way to the closet. The smell of dried blood nauseated him. The parka was a mess, not worth keeping.
Reaching for the plastic bag made him recoil in pain. And now he was dizzy. He tried reaching again, but his bad side convulsed and he yelped. And now he felt himself blacking out.
His spine pressed back against the closet doorframe, and as Boone began to slide to the floor, he heard something fall and then felt George's hands under each of his arms, moving damaged tissue on that left side.
Boone grunted as George guided him back to his bed.
“That wasn't too smart now, was it?” the nurse said.
“Can't blame a guy for trying.”
“I get back ten seconds later and your head hits the floor. Then where are we?”
George got him situated, then retrieved the fallen envelope. “Hope your watch survived, but it seemed more important to keep you from falling.”
“And if your clothes are so important, here.” He yanked the bag off the shelf and plopped it between Boone's legs. “You expect to find anything in there you can change into? Get real.”
Boone pulled the plastic apart, revealing a black-red ball, stiff with blood. It proved to be his shirt and undershirt. George quickly donned rubber gloves and took them. “May I dispose of these, or did you want a souvenir?”
Boone pointed to the trash and dug his jeans from the bag. They too were a wrinkled mess, and a patch of blood covered the belt and reached the bottom of the front pocket.
“These are salvageable. I'm going to rinse them out and change into them before my guests arrive.”
“And how are you going to do that? Balance over the sink next to your IV pole and work with one hand?”
“Nothing worthwhile is easy.”
George shook his head. “Incorrigible. Listen, we're about the same size. Okay, so I'm fat and you're not. But I've got a couple of sets of clean work clothes if you're so determined to get out of that gown.”
“You're going to look like a nurse in scrubs.”
“Better than this.”
“Give me half an hour. You're not my only patient, you know.”
“I appreciate this, George,” Boone said, handing the man his bloody jeans.
“I'll deep-six those shoes, too.”
When George returned, he brought everythingâslippers, socks, underwear, undershirt, and scrubs. He even produced a large sheet of clear plastic with adhesive on the edges.
“This'll allow you to take a shower if you want, and believe me, you want. You're getting gamy.”
“Tell me about it.”
“The IVs, all that, are waterproof. We tape this over your wound, you sit on the fold-down bench in there, and you can use the flexible hose and nozzle. Don't rush. You want to shave too?”
“You're going to be exhausted after all this, but you'll be glad you did it. And so will your visitors. Especially the one.”
Boone shot George a double take.
“I've got eyes,” the nurse said.
A few minutes later Boone sat in the shower with his chin on his chest, catching his breath. With the plastic protecting his ugly wound and stitches, he lifted the nozzle over his head and let the steaming water cascade over him. This was as good as he'd felt since hitting the concrete floor with a .45 caliber hole ripped through him.
Shampooing with one hand was a new experience, and Boone knew it would be his lot for months. When he finally turned off the tap he felt as if he could sit in the steam for an hour.
George reached in with a razor and shaving cream, and Boone slowly managed that task. When he finally emerged, George helped him towel off and dress, deftly disconnecting the IVs long enough to get the scrub top over his head.
The nurse appeared unable to suppress a smile.
“You look like a nurse who's been shot.”
“Thank you, Dale Carnegie.”
Boone carefully rolled his IV pole next to a side chair and sat, crossing his legs. He tipped an envelope, and out slid his watch, ring, wallet, and the leather bracelet he had fashioned with buttons salvaged from his late wife Nikki's top the day she died. “I believe I'm ready to entertain,” he said somberly. “If I can just keep my eyes open. George, thanks. This was above and beyond the call.”
The nurse waved him off as he left.
As the sunlight through the window changed colors and muted, Boone noted that the Indian summer had gone as quickly as it had come. The thermometer had plummeted again, and the temperature was forecasted to hit as low as twenty overnight.
Soon he was nodding, then dozing, yet ever aware that Haeley would soon be there.