Julius had held Cara tightly and stroked her hair as they talked – well, he had done most of the talking. She was now fast asleep. Their son was fast asleep. He gently untangled himself, got up, picked up his shoes and walked out of the room. Nurse McKenna sat at the nurses’ station; he walked over to her pulled out a chair and sat down.
“I made you some coffee,” she picked up the bubbling percolator and poured him a cup. “Careful,” she told him as he took the cup, “it’s hot.”
“Thank you, Nurse McKenna-”
“Please call me Dorothy.”
“Thank you, Dorothy,” he placed the cup in front of him.
“Are they both sleeping?”
He nodded, “We talked until she fell asleep. Thank you for taking care of them. I owe you so much. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”
“You can repay me by taking care of your wife and your son. I talked to your wife earlier – she is a beautiful person, inside and out. Never hurt her, never cheat on her-”
“I would never do that!” Julius interrupted.
“You know, I’m surprised that she is married to you-”
“Why, because she is Black and I’m White?”
“My, my, aren’t we defensive. No I meant because she is so beautiful, so articulate, so educated, obviously has had a good upbringing and is so genuinely nice. Her room was really cold downstairs but she didn’t get nasty and kick up a fuss like some women, she was so polite. She saw that I was upset and she took the time to talk to me and listen. When you came in and saw that your wife and son had been moved I watched you on the monitor as you talked to the nurse at the reception. You seemed so rough and aggressive, almost like one of those Mafia guys you see in the movies.”
“What?” He asked, again shocked at her uncanny perception.
“I know from talking to Cara that she is an investigative journalist. What do you do?”
“I’m a human rights lawyer and a business man and I work with people who understand the secret of money.”
“Money has a secret?”
“No, the secret of money just means having an understanding that money should be used for good and not evil, not hoarded, worshipped or misused, because when you use it correctly it brings happiness. My maternal grandfather and my father taught me the secret of money, now I use it to help people.”
“Wow, you’re a lawyer, a business man, a philanthropist and a wise man, you could have fooled me. When I saw you on the monitor the first thing I thought was-”
“You saw me on a monitor?” He purposely interrupted.
“Yes, this one,” she indicated with her hand where the monitor was. “Your wife described you but when I watched as you spoke to the nurse downstairs I wasn’t sure it was you so I sat and watched you for a few moments. I had to be sure you were not connected to the men who came earlier. Then I saw something in your eyes that you were trying to hide – you looked scared and genuinely worried, so I figured it had to be you.”
Julius looked at the screen. He saw the nurse he had met earlier seated at the nurses’ station; he also saw the corridor of the Maternity ward. “I thought you said this was the old I.T.U, how comes you have a monitor connected to a camera in Maternity here?”
“Let’s just say I borrowed it from my husband. He works, or should I say, used to work, part-time in the security department downstairs. I took his ID pass and keys before I left the house. I figured he wouldn’t need them anymore.”
Julius studied her for a few moments then asked the question that had sat hidden in a corner of his mind waiting for the right time to come out, “Did you kill your husband?”
Dorothy looked at him for the longest of moments then threw her head back kicked out her feet and laughed. She laughed until tears ran down her face. She laughed until her chest hurt. When she finally managed to compose herself she looked him squarely in the eyes. “There are many ways to end someone’s life,” she told him and smiled.
“Help me, I’m dying!” Nigel screamed.
“Mr. McKenna, this is the police, you need to remove the barricade you have against the door. My men need to come in but you have blocked the entrance!” Detective Jefferson Kowalski shouted through the door.
“No, if I open the door, more will come in. This is a state of emergency, call the President, call the Prime Minister of England, they’re supposed to be good friends!”
Kowalski tried a calmer approach, “Mr. McKenna, let us come in. We need to gain access so that we can see you’re okay. We just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m dying, I tell you! I’m dying! The aliens are here they are everywhere. They have made contact. They took my wife now they want to take me. They took Dorothy! They took her; now they want me!”
Seth O’Hara, a senior paramedic, rushed over; he held a sheathed syringe in his hand. “Do you think we will need to sedate him, Kowalski?”
“I don’t know, O’Hara, we may need to wait until we find out where his wife is. I saw you talking to the neighbors earlier; any news on her possible location?”
“I thought the aliens took her,” O’Hara smirked.
“Don’t even go there!” Detective Kowalski warned and frowned. “I don’t get it, the neighbors say he is usually a mean old bastard to his wife but she put up with him. What happened to make him snap this morning? He’s been screaming and shouting for nearly twenty minutes now.”
“Maybe she changed, maybe she stood up to him this morning and told him to go to hell, who knows,” O’Hara offered.
“And he got so mad he started seeing aliens? Or was he so shocked by her change that to him she’s now an alien?”
“I don’t believe in aliens so your questions don’t make sense to me, Kowalski, however I do know a shrink that makes a hundred and fifty bucks an hour who may be able to help you.”
“It’s cases like this, where I need the input of another intelligent person, that I value my partner.”
“Where is your highly intelligent partner today?”
“He’s at the forensic lab working on a case.”
“That’s a bummer; I could use some of his expertise.”
“Lose the grin, O’Hara, work with me here.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, what do you need?”
“I need answers; I hate working blind. I need to know what I’m dealing with here, where is his wife?”
“You think she’s in there?” O’Hara asked.
“Her car isn’t out front. No one has seen her since yesterday. My men are still trying to find out if she’s at work. We know she’s a nurse and she drives to work.”
“What’s the name of the hospital? I’ll ask one of the other paramedics if they know her.”
“One of my men said a neighbor told him it could either be St. Matthew’s or St. Andrew’s.”
“I’ll get one of your guys to put out an APB on her and ask my guys if they know her.” He turned to leave, “rumor has it that Nigel McKenna has a gun. There is the option that Mrs. McKenna is in there with him. She could be injured and slowly bleeding out, each organ shutting down one by one as she cries out ‘help me Detective Kowalski, help me!’ or worst still, she could be dead.”
“Remind me again, why did you become a paramedic?”
“To serve the citizens of this state, to render medical assistance when required and to save lives,” he quoted.
“No really, why did you become a paramedic?”
Both men smiled at an old joke.
“Look, Kowalski, I know you want to close this up but he sounds really out of it, plus we can’t get in.”
“I know. I just don’t want the Feds getting involved and taking over. This is supposed to be a ‘Domestic’, if they think that we can’t handle a simple ‘Domestic’, we’ll never live it down.”
They both heard a loud crash followed by loud shouts then unfamiliar silence. Both men turned to the door and tried to kick it open.
5 Hours Earlier
Blood stained hands knocked on the door. “Please be in, please be in,” the person whispered.
“Who is it?” The woman inside asked.
“Juanita, it’s me, Dorothy. I need your help.”
“Dorothy! Are you okay? Are you hurt? Did that monster hurt you again? Hold on, let me open the door.” Juanita Ortega quickly unlocked the door. She took one look at her friend’s face and pulled her inside. Then the smell hit her hard; she backed away and held her chest as she tried not to look at the blood on her friend’s hands. Juanita suffered from what some doctors classified as a form of a neurological disorder called hematophobia, the fear of blood. Her condition, which manifested itself after her fiftieth birthday, rendered her paralyzed and made her faint at the sight of blood. First, when she smelled blood saliva would fill her mouth and then her breathing would become labored. Next her heart would palpitate and she would literally freeze, in the absence of immediate rectification she would black out. “Is that blood on your hands, Dorothy?” She asked as saliva poured into her mouth and her breathing became labored. She tried to move forward to help her friend but her feet were frozen.
Dorothy looked at her hands, she hadn’t seen the blood on them if she had she would have washed them and spared her friend the discomfort. “Juanita, please stay calm. Please hold your breath, go over to the window, put your head out and take some deep breaths. I’ll go and wash my hands okay.”
Juanita held her breath, gathered every ounce of will power she could muster, rushed over to the window, stuck her head out and breathed in and out several times. The cool air calmed her.
Dorothy ran to the bathroom and washed her hands until there was no visible trace of blood. She put a large waterproof plaster over the cut on her hand then helped herself to some of Juanita’s expensive hand cream and rubbed it into her hands. She knew that it wasn’t just the sight of blood that affected Juanita it was also the smell of blood. For some reason Juanita had the ability to smell the copper in blood; doctors said that she suffered from post-menopausal selective hyperosmia, an increased ability to smell certain things. Not many people could smell copper in a glass of blood but Juanita could smell it in a drop of blood. Juanita often joked about her condition; she said that if she were a vampire she would be forced to be a ‘vegetarian’ because of her ‘HH’; she would laugh at herself and call herself the Hyperosmic – Hematophobic – Chick.
Satisfied that both the visible and olfactory evidence were gone Dorothy left the bathroom and went to see how her friend was doing. “How are you feeling?” She asked her.
“Like someone took all the oxygen out of the room and told me to breathe.” Juanita replied.
Dorothy held up a key, “I need you to take this key and do what I ask you to do. Will you please do it?”
“You are like a baby sister to me – of course I’ll do anything for you, as long as it doesn’t involve blood.”
They both smiled. Tears shone in their eyes; the day they had fantasized about many times in the past had finally come – The day of Dorothy’s escape.
“I may not see you in a while but I promise I’ll try and call you when I can, Juanita.”
“You better call me,” Juanita said as she hugged her tightly. Sadness washed over her and she struggled to compose herself, she had to be strong for her friend. She knew if anyone deserved a good life, free from the pain of abuse and violence, it was Dorothy. Knowing it didn’t stop the pain she felt at the imminent loss of their close friendship. “Okay, before I start crying, tell me what you want me to do.”
Juanita listened intently as her friend told her what she wanted her to do and exactly how she wanted her to do it.