“If I am not knowing better, I would think you were avoiding me.” Vashti’s husky voice causes the anger inside of me to melt into something much nicer. I am practically deliquescing on the street.
“Sorry, Vash,” I say lamely. “I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“I understand. How is Paris?” Concern laces her tone, and I’m grateful. I know she and Paris aren’t the best of friends, but she’s a kind-hearted woman.
“The same,” I say, my throat tightening. “He’s still in a coma.”
“Oh, Rayne, I am so sorry,” she sighs. “Is there anything I can be doing for you?”
“I’d like to see you,” I say impulsively. I can’t spend all my time working on the case or at the hospital, or I’ll go mad.
“I cannot see you tonight, but how about tomorrow? I’ll make you dinner.”
“Sold.” Vashti is a fabulous cook, and I have no qualms about letting her cook for me. We agree on seven o’clock, then I click off. Immediately after, the phone rings again.
“This the cunt roommate of Paris?” The voice is hoarse and ugly-sounding, not the same one as the one who’s been calling my home number.
“How did you get this number,” I demand, like an idiot. Why on earth would he tell me that?
“Don’t worry about it, bitch. Back the hell off before someone else gets hurt.” Before I can respond, he hangs up on me. I immediately press *69, but with little hope. Just as I suspect; it’s scrambled. I call Lyle.
“Hello?” His voice is low. “Rayne? Let me call you right back.” He must be in the hospital; they don’t allow cell phone conversations in most parts of hospitals. He calls me in five minutes. “What’s up?”
“That bastard or one of his friends called me on my cell,” I fume. Lyle doesn’t ask which bastard, for which I am profoundly grateful. “Told me to back off.”
“Your cell? I wonder why he switched?”
“To show that he can get an unlisted number,” I say impatiently. “There are very few people who have this number.”
“We’ll talk about it and more when you come here. I talked to Bil—Matthews. I cannot in good conscience call a guy over twelve Billy. Anyway, get here as soon as you can.” He clicks off before I can tell him I’m on my way. I’ve run out of steam, so I hail a cab to take me the rest of the way. The cabbie is an older white gentleman who calls me, ‘doll’ and ‘babe’. I find it oddly enduring and don’t jump on his shit as I normally would. He tells me about life as a cabbie, something he’s been for over thirty years. He doesn’t believe the city’s become more dangerous—we’re just more aware of it. He has a high school diploma, but never went to college. Didn’t really see the point. Got out of being drafted for ‘Nam because of his fallen arches. He is sympathetic when I tell him about Paris. Turns out he has a friend in St. Luke’s, too—a fellow cabbie. The guy was driving his shift one day when he had a heart-attack. He managed to drive to St. Luke’s since he was in the neighborhood before passing out. Zachary, my cabbie, says his friend had to have a quadruple bypass, and wasn’t that a bitch? I agreed that it was. I give Zachary a healthy tip when I exit his cab in exchange for him cheering me up. I stride to the ICU waiting room where my happy band of fellow sufferers are waiting for me.