Lindsey Allen is a college student and lifetime writer. She enjoys writing novels, short stories and wherever else her muse takes her. You can find her on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@authorlindsey).
Her heart pounds in her throat. Beads of sweat race down the small of her back. Her eyes prickle with something she refuses to call tears.
She jogs down the brightly lit hallway, dodging families huddled together, nurses pushing carts and empty gurneys, towards the two men that stand near a window, shoulders slumped, clothing rumpled. Her eyelids are heavy and she can almost feel the bags under her eyes, but the voice of her lieutenant, the balding man that now stands fifteen yards from her, rings in her head.
You should get down to the hospital.
It’s serious, Marissa.
“Lieutenant,” she chokes out breathlessly. He turns towards her. The wrinkles surrounding the corners of his mouth look deeper and heavier than she’s ever seen them and his brow is furrowed and her knees instantly go weak. Water pools in the old lieutenant’s eyes—why is there water there? Why are his eyes bloodshot, why does he look closer to crying than she’s ever seen him before?
“What happened?” She doesn’t even recognize the sound of her own voice as it squeaks past her lips. She turns towards Lincoln, who stands with his hands shoved into his pockets. Deep crimson splotches cover the sleeve of his jacket. The picture of her partner—the only man in her life—lying on the ground, slowly bleeding out as Lincoln tries to keep him alive, burns into her mind. Her knees go weak. Stop, stop, stop.
It could be nothing. That’s what all of his other injuries have been—busted ribs, scrapes, concussions. This one is going to be no different. He’s going to look at her with fire in his eyes and ask her what the hell her problem was during their argument earlier in no time. She’s going to call him an asshole and storm out, relieved to find him okay. That’s it. That’s all.
It’s serious, Marissa.
The lieutenant takes her arm and guides her the short distance to a quiet spot, out of the way of nurses and families rushing to get where they’re going. His hand remains on her shoulder as he takes a deep breath and says, “He was shot.”
He’s been shot before. The last time he was shot, it was in the arm—the bullet went straight through. He’d asked to go home almost immediately. Marissa sat at his bedside, brought him huge slices of pepper and onion pizza from New York Deli, copies of the Globe because she knew he hated daytime television and flipping through the newspaper was about the only thing that kept him sane.
“Where?” she whispers.
“It was a small caliber. Just a .22. And it was from a distance.” Lieutenant Lee’s hand squeezes her shoulder. Her own hands ache to reach out and shake him, just to get a straight answer out of him. Why won’t he just tell her?
He chews on his lip for a moment, staring at her with his soft eyes. The tears fill them nearly to the brim, forcing more nausea to rise in the pit of her stomach. She’s actually going to be sick if he doesn’t just say something. Finally, his mouth opens, and he croaks out an answer. For the first time since she got his phone call, his voice loses its pseudo calmness. “In the head.”
Her legs instantly give out from underneath her. She collapses into the lieutenant’s waiting arms, air locked from her lungs. She’s not going to walk into his hospital room and see him sitting in a bed, arm wrapped in a sling or chest bandaged. He’s not going to call her out for the horrible things she said to him the last time they were face to face. She’s not going to call him asshole, relieved to see him alive and mostly well.
He’s not coming back. The next time she’ll see him, he’ll be in a coffin.
Tears sting her eyes. Bile rises in her throat as she struggles and fails to get air pumping through her lungs. Oh, God. Her muscles lock in place as the world tilts around her, and she’s dangerously close to falling backwards into nothing.
“Mari . . . Marissa!”
Shot through the head. The head. The head. A strangled sob finally makes it past her lips. She reaches for the arms of the chair—when did she sit down?—as if her grip on them will keep a grip on the storm inside.
In the god damned head.
“Hey. I know what you’re thinking, just stop for a minute.” Lee’s hands have a strong grip on her shoulders as he crouches in front of her. “He’s still alive, Mari. He was still breathing when they brought him in, there’s still a chance. You hear me? There’s a chance.”
He’s still breathing. There’s still a chance.
Lincoln slides up to her and Lee. His dark eyes are wide and wet, so different from the warmth that she usually sees in them, and his lower lip is sucked between his teeth. Marissa’s eyes are glued only to the blood that seeps into the material of his jacket . . . She just wants to rip it off his shoulders. She can’t stand seeing Josiah’s blood on him. The blood from his head. His fucking head.
“I’m sorry, Mari,” he says. “I tried, everything happened so fast.”
“The perp,” she whispers. “What happened . . .”
“Bastard’s in the morgue. I fired a second after he did.”
She nods, only mildly horrified by the sense of relief that she feels. Serves him right . . . it’s only a matter of time before she’ll lose him. One of the doctors will come out, body heavy with defeat, and give her the news. I’m so sorry. He didn’t make it. And she’ll walk into that room, cleaned up from the hours of rushed, desperate surgery, to see his body, completely still, covered with a sheet, face pale, skin slowly beginning to cool. His eyes will be closed and he’ll look peaceful, just like he’s sleeping. But his chest won’t rise and fall evenly. His breath won’t hitch every few minutes just like she knows it does when he sleeps. And his eyes won’t flutter open with a simple touch to his chest or shoulder.
“It’s gonna be a long wait,” Lee says gently. Her eyes shoot up to his face as he stands in front of her. “Let me get you a cup of coffee.”
A long wait . . . She feels sick. Her stomach hurts. Her head spins. She can’t sit in this chair anymore, but her legs are locked in place and she can’t move. Each moment could bring his last breath with it.
Marissa is almost surprised when Lee reappears in front of her chair and offers her a paper cup filled with piping hot coffee to her. For a moment, she’s almost not sure what to do with it, but her hands mechanically stretch out to take it, and she hold it between both her palms. Just the thought of drinking it makes her stomach roll. She just needs to know that he’s going to be okay.
What’s he thinking about? Does he know that he’s dying? Is his life flashing before his eyes? Maybe the bullet hit his brain just right so that he has absolutely no idea what’s going on and what will happen to him. Not that he’d be afraid, anyway. Before she’d met him, before their five years by each other’s sides on interviews, at the gun range, in the bullpen, she thought she’d been emotionally infallible. It was her one strength, until she met the man that she calls a partner. Until she’d seen that partner talk down a suspect with a gun pointed straight at his head without even a flinch. Until she fell so hard for him that the thought of seeing him hurt made her sick.
Now, she’s suffocating. She needs to get out. She can’t be strong, not when each time a doctor steps through the door with a clipboard in hand, it could be to come tell her that he’s gone.
Lee sits beside her and Lincoln stands against the opposite wall, arms crossed, staring at the tiled floor. All three of them are silent- the only noise that occasionally breaks it is the ringing of Lee’s cellphone. Each time, he steps away, quietly tells whoever is on the other end to ‘handle it,’ and sits back down. The clock is barely moving—still before two in the morning? Can’t be.
It’s past five o’clock in the morning when another doctor steps through the doors, shoulders slumped, clipboard hanging loosely by her side. Her dark, straight hair is pulled back into a messy bun, scrubs rumpled and messy. Marissa jumps to her feet, heart pounding in her throat as she watches the doctor slowly make her way towards them. “Marissa Torres? For Detective Kelly.”
“Yes?” she asks breathlessly. Lee stands next to her, grasping her arm lightly. Here it comes . . . the moment she’s been dreading all night. The moment she’s had nightmares about. She’d give anything for just one more second of ignorance before this moment . . . the moment that will break her forever.
“I’m Doctor Lima,” she says. “I’m one of the doctors that worked on Detective Kelly.”
“What’s the damage?” Lee asks, because she can’t work a single word past her lips. She’s waiting for those two sentences . . . I’m so sorry. He didn’t make it.
But they don’t come.
“We were able to extract the bullet, but because of the location of the injury, there’s severe damage. He scored a four on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which means that he’s currently in a coma,” The world freezes around her. Her knees weaken once more and she almost needs Lee to hold her up again. Coma. He’s in a coma, not gone . . . not yet. “The bullet made impact . . .” Her words become nothing more than a jumbled mess of sounds as she stands next to Lee, desperately needing to lean on him. She can barely stand on her own. “. . . frontal lobe . . .” He’s laying in a bed, trapped in limbo between life and death. “. . . severe brain damage.”
“What’s the chance?” Lee asks as her attention snaps back to the present. Focus. This is important. “Put a number on it.”
“Gunshot injuries to the brain like the one Detective Kelly suffered are almost always fatal. But the paramedics told me that he and Detective Travis,” Doctor Lima nods slowly towards Lincoln, “was speaking to him right after the shooting.”
“S right,” Lincoln answers.
“Well, that’s a good sign. Patients who are awake and cognizant of their surroundings are more likely to recover. I’m so sorry . . . I wish I had better news. But right now, that’s all we know.”
“Can we see him?”
“Absolutely. Right this way.”
He’s all alone in his room. As soon as Marissa steps over the threshold, she has to choke back a sob. There’s a white bandage taped to the side of his head and a tube in the corner of his mouth. His eyes are closed, body still, his arms rest uselessly by his side over the blanket that covers his lower half and various other tubes and wires wind around his body to machines surrounding his bed.
Tears blur her vision. She sinks down into the chair next to him and reach for his hand with her two shaking ones. This isn’t the man she’s kissed, made love to, woken up in bed with. He isn’t her partner, the one she’s worked cases with, had lunch with, crammed into the sedan with for hours and hours during stakeouts. He’s a shell. A body that needs a machine to breathe for him—oh, God.
Acid burns her throat as she jumps to her feet and stumble to the trashcan in the corner of the room. She barely make it before her stomach empties. Her eyes and throat sting as she fall backwards onto the cold tile floor. She can’t do this. She can’t sit here and see him like this.
But she doesn’t even have the strength to move.
“Mari.” Lee’s in front of her, and if her vision wasn’t still blurred, she’d be able to see the tears that break free from the old lieutenant’s eyes. He wraps his arm around her and lifts her off of the floor gently. “C’mon.”
“I can’t. I can’t,” she mumbles.
And he guides her back out of the room—the room that will hold the death of the one man that had meant everything to her.