Wednesday, September 13, 2006

3. Visiting Hours

Cade drifted in and out of consciousness. He was vaguely aware of motion and an odd red light that faded and intensified, faded and intensified. He caught snippets of conversation that, in his battered state, made no sense to him. If he could have pieced just some of them together, they could have either rid himself of the notion that he was going to die or confirmed it for him, depending on which ones he focused on.

"...gonna be okay?"

"...lot of blood..."

"...looks worse than it is..."


"...oh, God..."

"...just fuckin' drive!"

* * *

When he woke up, he was greeted by a smiling face that, hidden behind an impressive shiner, was his wife's. She was sitting on the edge of the bed; the chair next to it looked untouched. He managed to croak out, "Hey." She replied in kind and planted a kiss on his forehead. It hit him like a sledgehammer, but it was still very welcome.

After the pain subsided a degree or two, he asked, "How long was I out?"

"About a day and a half."

"You okay?"

She nodded.

"You take a punch better than I do, I guess."

She laughed, and in that laugh she was hiding something. He knew what it was, but asked anyway.


She said nothing, and looked into her lap.

He sank lower into his pillow. "Goddamn it..." He put an arm over his eyes and cried for a minute or two. He cried for his brother, not for that...thing...that had put him here, had attacked his wife, had nearly killed them both. If not for Loki, they would both be dead.

"How's the boy?" He spoke into the crook of his arm, eager to change the subject, knowing it was futile. He cried harder, in spite of his efforts.

She put her hand on top of his other hand...soft. Gentle. "He's fine. A couple of cuts from the glass, but that's all." She paused "Alvin couldn't sleep. He took a walk, heard the dog barking, the yelling, grabbed his rifle and ran over. Well, as close as he can come to running, anyway. Matt was about to...Alvin saved our lives. And then he almost got shot by the cops for his efforts." This struck Cade as funny, for some stupid reason. Hey, my brother's dead, my wife looks like she went 12 rounds, and my brains are scrambled...I'm just glad I can laugh.

Melissa, to her credit, accepted it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Maybe it was. She brushed a few stray hairs off of her forehead, and waited for him to come back to reality.

"I gotta call my parents. They-"

"They already know," she interrupted. "They called a few hours ago, looking for Matt. They sounded worried, I didn't know when you were going to wake up, I-I'm so sorry!" Now she was in tears.

"Nothing to be sorry about. You did the right thing, babe. Shit, we have to go out there."

"Already been discussed. As soon as they release Matt's body...Jesus that sounds wrong...we're heading out there. I called Donnie, too, and made sure that he knew you were unavailable for a while." Donnie was his agent. "I just got off the phone with Alvin, and in addition to saving our lives he's going to take care of the cats and the mail."

"I may have to work just to pay off the cell phone bill." It was a lame joke, but it was the best he could do. He was struggling, but, for now, he was winning.

"Unlimited nights and weekends, sweetheart." She got up, and stood still for a moment, just looking at him. "Thank you. For what you did for me. For saving me." One of the few things he remembered was covering her, bracing for the blow, knowing that she'd be next. She kissed him on the lips. "I just want you to know that. Let me go get you some water." He didn't know what to say. She walked out, but he knew she'd be back soon.

She was wrong about everything. I couldn't save shit, he thought. Pure, blind, dumb fucking luck saved her, and me. Luck, and a retired neighbor with a gun. He felt small, ineffective.

His big brother was dead.


To be continued...

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