“Well, whoever did this missed everything vital,” Dr. Green said to me sternly, looking at me over the top of her glasses. “You’re lucky, Ms. Chen. Whoever did this either didn’t intend to kill you or had really bad aim. Either way, you should be thankful. You’re also damn lucky you made it here in one piece. That’s what ambulances are for, you know.” Thankful, she said. Me with my thirteen stitches. I should be thankful. Well, considering how much Vicodin was pumping through my veins, I was pretty damn thankful. I was feeling no pain, and I was ready to go home. I had the note safely in my pocket, and I resolved not to mention it to anyone.
“Well, thanks Groctor Deen,” I said, frowning. That didn’t sound right for some reason. I struggled to sit up in bed, but she gently pushed me back.
“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?” Dr. Green, who was, at most, ten years older than me, asked in a mock-motherly voice. Her streaked brown hair was pulled back in a bun and her face was devoid of makeup. Still, she had a wholesome look that was appealing.
“Home?” I said, making it more a question than a statement. Dr. Green started shaking her head before I could even squeeze that one word out.
“I’m keeping you overnight for observations. Your family is here. I’ll let them in two by two.” Just like Noah, I thought, but wisely kept that to myself. Dr. Green turned around and marched out the door. A minute later, my parents were hurrying in.
“Beezus!” My mother said in a voice loud enough to mortify me. Thankfully, I was in a single so no one could hear her besides me and my father. “What happened? You scared us to death. I told you you should have quit your job.” The whole time she’s talking, my mother fussed with my blankets, twitching them this way and that.
“Trish, how are you feeling, honey?” My father brushed a kiss across my temple, his voice solicitous.
There, in a nutshell, was the difference between my mother and my father, though they both loved me. My mother had to nag at me, reminding me that she had warned me of the dangers whereas my father showed me nothing but concern. At the moment, I was grateful that they both loved me so much and that they were both there. I beamed at them in a halcyonic haze, not really up for a lengthy conversation. Even though I’d only been awake for less than thirty minutes, I was ready to go back to sleep. Pump me up with a few more pills and let me get some rest. That’s what I would prescribe if I were a doctor. Fortunately, I wasn’t, or I’d OD myself. After my parents had assured themselves that I was fine, they left.
“Dodo!” It was Mona and Michele, both looking indignant. “Now will you take it seriously?” Mona asked, her eyes brimming with tears. “Quit that damn job, why don’t you? It’s not as if you couldn’t find a better one in no time.” Ah, the soothing tone of my sister. How I’ve missed it since, what was it, last night? I smiled at her just as I had at my mother and said nothing. She continued to blather for ten more minutes, and I continued to say nothing. I preferred looking at Michele who was French Canadian and had lustrous mahogany hair, creamy skin and a shapely figure. I tuned out Mona and watched as Michele tried to keep a straight face. “You just watch out, Dodo!” Convinced that she had gotten through to me, Mona turned and marched out the door.
“Don’t take it to heart,” Michele whispered to me as she followed Mona out the door. “She’s just worried about you.” I nodded with difficulty; I was so sleepy.
“No wonder the dodo is extinct!” Hank boomed as he bound into the room, Owen trailing behind him. “It doesn’t know how to use its head!”
“Thanks for the support,” I said grumpily. Why couldn’t I have the family that simply swooped me to their bosoms and smothered me with their love? No, I had the ones who lectured, scolded and cracked wise—just what I didn’t need.
“How are you feeling, sis?” Owen asked softly, his eyes looking bruised. He reached out to stroke my hair, kissing me on the forehead at the same time.
“I feel like somebody stabbed me,” I retorted, pulling away. Ok, not very nice of me, I admit, but the pain pills were just not cutting it. I could feel the dull throbbing beneath it all, and it was setting my teeth on edge.
“Did you see the fucker who did it?” Hank boomed, crossing his meaty arms in front of him. “You just tell me if you did, and I’ll take care of it.” I had no doubt that he would, which was scary to think about.
“It happened so fast,” I said weakly, aware of the cliché I was spouting. “All I could see was that it was one of the other characters. Which narrows it down to eighteen. At least I know it wasn’t Tommy.”
“You piss anybody off lately?” Hank asked, continuing his questioning. “Besides the perv, of course.”
“I don’t think so,” I said, closing my eyes. All I wanted to do was sleep. Well, no, all I wanted to do was go home and sleep, but the good doctor wouldn’t spring me. The boys left, ushering in Rafe and Liza in their wake.
“Querida, what are you trying to do to me?” Rafe asked, stroking my cheek. Liza thoughtfully allowed us time to greet each other before jumping into the conversation.
“Trish, you have got to stop this,” she said, a scowl on her freckled face. She was a fiery Irish gal who’s temper matched her red hair, and she wasn’t above handing out a royal reaming when she thought I needed one. “You’re not fucking Miss Marple, you know. Leave it to the cops to find out what happened at your park.”
“Liza is right, querida,” Rafe said, stroking my hair. “What you need to do now is rest and get better.” I was too tired to argue with either of them, so I allowed them to think they had talked me into giving up the case.
My family had brought me a nightgown and other necessities. After they left, I carefully stored the note in my purse. I knew that I should handle it as little as possible and hand it over to the police, but I had little hope that they’d find anything of use from it. All the characters wore gloves which meant there wouldn’t be any prints on the note. The nurse sponged me off before helping me put on my nightgown. Even though it was only late afternoon, I was exhausted. I turned on the television to see if there was anything important on. Nothing. I checked my cell phone and saw that I had missed three calls from Phillip—my new boss. I wasn’t up to talking to him, so I put my phone back in my purse and put him out of my mind.
Just as I was about to drift off to sleep, the detectives showed up, and they were pissed. I regretted allowing my family and friends to leave because they could have run interference with the cops. As it was, the detectives were detained at the door by the nurses, but the detectives must have been pretty persuasive because they were in the door within five minutes. I resigned myself to being interrogated and fixed a patient look on my face. The detectives didn’t look as if they’d had much rest since the last time I saw them, nor did they look very pleased with me. Though they were as different as night and day, as far as their looks went, they were wearing identical scowls that did not bode well for me.
“Ms. Chen, why didn’t you report the attack?” Detective Bradley asked, going on the offensive. He didn’t even bother to ask how I was feeling. “Didn’t it occur to you that your attack may be related to the two murders?”
“No, I was too busy being stitched up to think about it,” I retorted, immediately regretting my flippancy. I could tell by the look on Detective Sands’ face that I wasn’t winning any friends with my sass. “Look, can we do this another time? As you can see, I’m not in the best of conditions.” I gestured to my bandaged shoulder, but the two detectives didn’t seem that concerned. “I’m also on drugs.”
“We need your statement now,” Detective Sands said, no trace of compassion in her voice. “While it’s still somewhat fresh in your mind. If you think of anything else, we’ll add it later.” I sighed but didn’t argue. I knew I’d have to give a statement sooner or later, so it might as well be now. Taking a deep breath, I told them all I could remember—which admittedly, wasn’t much.
“That’s it?” Detective Sands asked me disdainfully. “You couldn’t even tell if it was a female character or a male one?”
“Look, detectives,” I said, my voice thinning. I was at the end of my patience and at the end of the pain pills’ soothing effect. “All I remember is seeing a big head like mine. That’s it. Now, if you’re not going to arrest me, I’m going to ask you to leave so I can get some sleep.” Exhausted, I closed my eyes. I could sense the detectives hovering over me, but they eventually left.
The nurse shot me up with more Vicodin, and I quickly entered lala land. The sleep was not undisturbed, however, as the nightmares claimed me. There I was in my Maisie Mouse head, running around FunLand, a crazy Elmer Fudd chasing me with a rifle in his hands. He was hunting ‘wabbits’, which he seemed convinced that I was. Except it wasn’t Elmer Fudd; it was Eddie, and he was oozing blood from a wound to his head. He said he would get that ‘wabbit’ if it was the last thing he did. I tried to tell him that I wasn’t a rabbit, that I was a mouse, but he wouldn’t listen. I was forced to run so he wouldn’t kill me. I woke up with a start, my heart pounding, my mouth dry. After a minute or two of tossing, I fell back asleep.
This time, I dreamed that I was in Lydia’s apartment, trashing it. I was throwing around all the things in her apartment, looking for something special. I couldn’t find it, so I ran around screaming, ‘Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me!’ I was going out of my mind because I just knew it was there somewhere. The picture on the wall caught my eye, and I skidded to a halt in front if it. I stared at it, fascinated by the colors. It seemed to be taunting me, telling me to come take it if I dared. I stepped nearer to it, certain that it’s about to reveal the secrets of life to me. As I leaned closer to it—so close, my nose was touching the canvas—I got sucked into the picture. Swirling in the vortex, I was disgorged on the other end, and I found myself in an unfamiliar apartment staring at the identical painting on the wall.
“Wake up, Ms. Chen!” There was a painful chirping noise in my ears that I couldn’t block out. “It’s time to check your vital signs. See if you’re still living!” I opened my eyes to see a petite, blond nurse smiling brightly at me. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was seven in the morning. It always boggled my mind that they expected a body to recover when it’s constantly being poked and prodded. It also floored me that I had slept for twelve hours. I sighed and submitted to the indignity of being checked before asking when I could leave. The nurse said she’d have to ask the doctor before she cheerfully tripped out of the room. I tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. An hour later, another nurse entered the room with a tray of mystery foods. Finally, Dr. Green showed up, looking as if she hadn’t slept since I last saw her. Not a good sign.
“Well, Ms. Chen, you’re free to go, but it’s imperative that you rest.” Dr. Green looked at me sternly. She scribbled something on a slip of paper and handed it to me. It was a prescription for more Vicodin, which I clutched to my chest. She fashioned a sling for me so I wouldn’t jostled my injured arm. She gave me detailed instructions on what to do and when I needed to return, but then cut me loose. Rafe was waiting outside as was my entire family. I was touched, but nonplussed.
“You’re coming back to our house,” my mother said, her tone indicating that she would not be swayed. I looked to my siblings for support, but for once, they were in agreement with my mother. Even my father suggested that it might be a good idea. He waved a canister of pepper spray at me, and I was afraid he was going to spray me. That would be just what I needed. I knew that when my entire family ganged up on me, it would behoove me to give in. I did, though not very graciously. My mother informed Rafe that he was allowed to stay as well, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Perhaps Rafe read something in my eyes because he gracefully declined.