“Matt, are you ok? What happened?” I clutched at Matt’s hand, the one which wasn’t hooked up to a million wires.
“I’m fine,” Matt said, his words slurred. “Bitch hit me with something, then Digger came to finish the job. Told me he had you. I was scared.” I was touched that he’d thought of me during his ordeal. I knew we were linked on a deeper level.
“Scarlett, he has to go the hospital. I’ll fill you in on the way,” Martinez said, patting me on the back. Even though I didn’t want to let Matt go, I knew it was for his own good. At least Martinez realized that I had to be with Matt in his time of need.
“I want to ride in the ambulance,” I said, my voice firm. To his credit, Martinez merely nodded. A thought struck me. “Is he going to need surgery?” Stupid question, really, with all that blood, but I had to ask. Martinez nodded again.
“Daily, we’re going to the hospital,” Martinez shouted out to Daily who nodded without making a smart comment. Maybe she and I could be friends some day, but I wasn’t holding my breath.
The EMT told me Matt had a concussion and needed to stay awake. That was all fine and dandy except that Matt wanted nothing more than to sleep. He also wanted to know if the cops had gotten Danny back and who was watching him. It struck me that Brenda and Digger must have left Danny by himself for long stretches of time, and that pissed me off even more. I wished I’d been able to kick Jamie where he most deserved it, and I wished I could have slapped the shit out of Brenda. How could they do that to a poor, defenseless boy who’d never done anything to them? I also wanted to kick Kayla for her part in all this, but that would mean finding her first.
I felt a pang of guilt because I hadn’t given her a minute’s thought since discovering that she was alive. I knew that she must be in a bad spot, but I was too exhausted to expend the energy on her. I leaned back against the side of the ambulance, keeping a watchful eye on Matt who appeared to be in his own world. When I deemed it necessary, I poked him with my foot or finger to keep him awake. He would curse at me when I did, but I didn’t care. In fact, it encouraged me when he got all hot and bothered because it meant he still had fight in him. The worst thing would be if he passively allowed me to prod him without mounting a verbal defense. I was glad that my Matt was still there, even if he was much diminished.
“How are you, Scar?” Matt asked, his eyes lucid for once. “Did that bastard—” He couldn’t finish the thought, and I really didn’t want to talk about it. Especially not in front of the attendant, but he deserved to know. In a low tone, I told him what had happened with Digger and how we’d miscalculated. Matt castigated himself for not thinking of it, but I wouldn’t let him. I was as much to blame as was he, and it didn’t matter now that we were out of the situation.
“Matt, what matters is that you and I are both alive,” I whispered in his ear. “We’re alive, and we’re going to get Danny back.” I squeezed his hand, careful not to jostle all his tubes.
“Kayla?” Matt asked weakly, faintly squeezing my hand back. “What about her?” Another pang of guilt passed through me.
“We’ll find her, too,” I said firmly. I didn’t usually believe in lying, but I wasn’t about to say that I thought we’d seen the last of her. Besides, if the cops put the squeeze on Brenda and/or Jamie, perhaps one of them would spill the beans about Alexander, the mysterious coke dealer.
“I’m tired, Scar,” Matt said, closing his eyes. The attendant glared at me, so I poked Matt again. I didn’t know why the attendant couldn’t do it, but I was happy to help out.
“Matt, hon. I know you’re tired, but you have to stay awake. Talk to me. Tell me what happened with Brenda.” I wasn’t sure I needed to hear the details, but Matt needed to talk.
He found her serving drinks. She was in a bad mood, which wasn’t surprising given what was going on in her personal life. Matt offered to buy her a drink, and she gratefully accepted. When she started to put the moves on him, he told her that he just wanted to talk. That made her happier than ever because she wasn’t keen on the sexual part of the job. Matt did his sympathetic best friend act, and she started spilling the beans about dating Jamie and how ‘that bitch, Kayla’ had messed things up. By this time, they were in a nook or cranny in the back to have some privacy. Brenda started sobbing in earnest about Tosca putting the squeeze on Jamie, which was connected to the papers we’d found. I had been right that Tosca had fronted a two-bit thief like Digger to set him up for a fall. The Feds were hot on Tosca’s trail, and he needed someone to be the scapegoat.
Brenda was snuggling up against Matt as she told him her tale of woe. She was one of those women who played up to a man. She didn’t do it on purpose; it was just the way she was. Matt helped matters by gazing into her eyes and murmuring sounds of sympathy. He knew what women wanted, and he wasn’t above using his knowledge to get the information he sought. He didn’t do that in his personal life, but this was a matter of life and death. This was about his son, and he wasn’t about to let a little thing like scruples get in his way. Things were progressing nicely when, unfortunately for Matt, Brenda remembered that he’d come in with me before. Since she’s naturally suspicious by nature, she thought he was up to something and kicked him in the crotch with her spiked heels before going ballistic on his ass. She managed grab something from God knows where, using it to bash Matt across the head. Caught off-guard and in pain, Matt wasn’t able to protect himself too well when Jamie came on the scene.
Things were hazy after that. He remembered Jamie taking the piece of something from Brenda. Matt had thought Digger was there to stop the carnage, but he was only about to add his own personal brand to it. Digger must work out because he was really putting muscle into it, and he was hitting Matt repeatedly on the head. I winced in sympathy as Matt continued his tale. After Digger had beaten Matt into a bloody pulp, he screamed at Brenda to help him drag Matt into his—Digger’s—office. That’s when I picked up the action, and my savior helped save the day.
By this time, we were at the hospital. It was a good thing because Matt was nearly at the end of his rope. I walked with him to the ER, with Daily and Martinez right behind us. I wanted to go with Matt wherever he was going, but I wasn’t allowed. I decided to call his parents. They lived in Chicago and would want to take the next flight up to see him. Daily wanted to finish taking my statement, but Martinez convinced her to let me go call Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds. I was grateful that he was letting me tell them, but he warned me that he had to talk to them as well. He went with me as I went outside. I had their number in my address book which I kept in my purse, and I dialed as soon as I stepped out of the hospital. Martinez kept his distance so I could have some privacy.
There was nothing worse than making a late-night phone call, unless it was receiving one. There was no way to think it was anything other than bad news when someone called past midnight. I could tell by the sound in Mrs. Reynolds’ voice that she knew I was calling to tell her something she didn’t want to hear. When I got the words out, she let out a shriek that could wake the dead. She pelted me with questions I couldn’t answer, not that she gave me time to respond. Finally, I handed the phone over to Martinez so he could give them the official report. His voice was low and controlled, not giving anything away. I could tell by the lines in his forehead, however, that he wasn’t liking his job very much at the moment.
“Sorry about this,” I said after he hung up the phone. I rubbed his shoulders, feeling the tension beneath my fingers. “I really fucked up this time, huh?”
“Scarlett, I never want to be in the situation again where I don’t know if you’re alive or dead,” Martinez said, taking my hand in his. “I know, I know, you might feel the same way about me. The difference is,” he hesitated, careful of his phrasing; “I’m a cop. It’s my job, and it’s not yours.” He didn’t say anything else, but I understood the underlying message. I didn’t take offense because I knew I’d behaved badly. Martinez must have been satisfied by what he saw in my face because he added, “Come on, let’s go back in before Daily has a conniption.” He laced his fingers through mine as we walked into the hospital.
“Martinez, wait,” I said as we approached the elevators. “What about Danny?”
“Rogers is working on Brenda and Digger to find out where he is. As soon as one of them cracks, I’m off.”
“I want to go with you.” It was a statement, but I knew I had no power here. I also knew, however, that Danny needed a friendly face when he got out of the hell he was in; his mother was nowhere to be found, and Matt was about to go into surgery.
“On one condition,” Martinez said, his eyes stern. “You do exactly what I tell you. We don’t know what we’ll find there, so you have to obey without question. Got it?” I nodded, and we went up to the ER. Turned out that Matt needed surgery because Jamie had pulled a knife on Matt as well. Matt had ‘forgotten’ to tell me that part of the story, probably because he didn’t want to frighten me any more than I already was. Martinez assured me he’d told Matt’s parents, which made me grateful. Better him than me. Just as we reached the ER, Martinez’s cell phone rang.