Charlie parked as close to the emergency room entrance as he could without completely blocking it and switched the Buick off. The moment he did, her eyes flashed open. Before he could stop her, she was out of the vehicle and moving toward the emergency room doors.
Two steps from the car found her stumbling and falling to her knees drawing fresh blood from the scrapes. Charlie set his jaw and scooped her up, ignoring the jagged pain is his arm as he did so. He felt one arm slowly move up and fingers slid chillingly across the back of his neck. He wondered how long it would take her to break his neck if she wanted to. Then he wondered where that thought had come from.
Charlie strode into the bright florescent lights and chill air-conditioned waiting room. He walked past rows of chairs with about ten or so probable patients and past the front desk with the brunette watching them expectantly. He found a room close by with the door opened and three empty beds not yet separated by drawn curtains.
The brunette from the front desk followed them. “Hey, wait a minute. You can’t go back there. There are people ahead of you. You have to be checked in and wait your turn.”
Charlie ignored her as he laid the girl (he’d have to find something to call her even if just in his mind) gently on the nearest bed. The blue eyes never left him. She grabbed his wrist to stop him from turning to the receptionist.
Silently, she reached into the pocket of his coat wrapped around her and pulled out the leather case that held his badge. She put it into his hand and wrapped his fingers around it. A grin flickered on his lips just for her before he turned his attention to the receptionist who was obviously new since his last visit and flashed his badge.
The woman swallowed her protests as she stared hard at the shiny badge and ID below it. She looked at him with his arm coated with blood. She looked at the girl he’d carried in, thin, wet and in men’s clothes way too big for her, bare feet and dirt covering so much of her she could only see her eyes. The woman pivoted on her heel saying, “Someone will be with you soon.”
Charlie hooked his foot around a nearby rolling stool and sat next to the hospital bed. The girl sat much the same as she had in his car, perched, every muscle taut. He noticed her heels dug into the mattress as if she would push off at any moment. One hand still held the waistband of the pants, knuckles white as if it were a strain to maintain her grip. The other pulled the lapels of his coat together over her heart. She watched him as if he were something fascinating under a microscope.
“You’re gonna have to tell someone who you are.”
Silence. Lips pressed firmly together.
“You know I can make all this easier if you talk to me.”
It was like talking in an empty room.
“We need to call you something until we can find where you belong.”
Not a single muscle in her face twitched. She didn’t even blink.
The doctor entered then, accompanied by a blond nurse. Introducing himself as Dr. Brandon for the benefit of the woman on the bed. He motioned to the jacket she clutched around her and helped her ease it off. Then he began a cursory examination as the nurse, Haley, scribbled on a clipboard. Charlie rolled himself out of the way and watched.
“Can you tell me your name?”
She merely looked at him, but didn’t protest when he wrapped the blood pressure cuff around her arm.
“How about something easy then.” He rested his fingers on her scalp searching for something amiss. “Where do you hurt?”
The only noise she did make was the whimper behind tight lips when he put the stethoscope to her back and asked her take a deep breath. He frowned and gently prodded her sides. She glared at him until he stepped back, but did not make another sound.
He lowered his attention to the blood coating her feet. Too Charlie, he said, “Where’d you get this one?”
“An alley downtown. Why?”
Dr. Brandon turned to the cabinets on the wall, opened one and pulled out two vials as Haley pulled a tray on a rolling stand from the corner. The silver instruments tinkled. From a drawer, the doctor removed syringes and began removing their packaging. His back was to the girl on the bed, but her eyes bored into it as if knowing exactly what he was doing.
The doctor held a filled syringe in one hand and the vial in the other. “A tetanus shot and a numbing agent for your feet. That’s all.”
“No needles,” she repeated flatly.
Dr. Brandon glanced at Charlie and then at Haley and shrugged. He dropped the syringes on the tray next to Haley and picked up another instrument. This he showed to his patient.
“There are shards of glass embedded in your feet. I’m going to take them out with these, if you don’t mind.”
She eyed the tweezers, but nodded slightly.
Haley turned her rolling stool over to the doctor and held the girl’s ankle so Dr. Brandon could remove the glass.
“Don’t you know better than to walk around without shoes?” Dr. Brandon asked absently.
The doctor looked up into her eyes. “Then why do it?”
Silence answered him.
He looked down and focused once more on the soles of her feet. “Since you won’t let me numb you, this is going to hurt and I’m sorry.”
As gently as he could, he pulled piece after piece of glass from her skin. Each one he dropped into the metal basin on the tray next to him. Each one pinged delicately on the metal. Each one Charlie counted, amazed that the girl never flinched.
When he finished, the doctor rolled back on his stool to give Haley room to clean the girl’s feet. With the skill of a magician, he dropped the tweezers loudly on the tray only to silently replace them with another syringe, Haley had filled for him while puttering about the room. He turned his back to his patient and flashed the syringe at Charlie to make the agent aware of what the doctor was planning. Charlie didn’t move, but every muscle in his body tensed.
The girl’s attention rested on Haley as the nurse gently washed blood and dirt and tiny sparkles of glass from her feet.
Afterward, Charlie wondered how the hell she knew what the doctor was doing. He still held the syringe at his side behind the folds of his white coat. She couldn’t have seen it.
However she knew, her reaction was instant when the doctor stepped close.
She shot her fist into Dr. Brandon’s stomach with one hand and jerked her foot up into Haley’s face. She stood on the bed in one fluid motion that sort of impressed Charlie and was down and running in a flash. Charlie stood up so fast the stool slammed into the wall behind him. Through the door and into the open area behind the front desk, he paused.
Two security guards leaned over the desk flirting with the receptionist; their eyes barely lifted to see the girl pass them. The waiting room held half the occupants from before. She was almost to the glass doors of the entrance.
Charlie yelled, “Stop her!” but almost immediately regretted it. Yes, the guards were quick and in front of her before Charlie finished his sentence. Yes, they gave her pause. But even with only one hand free and the other holding the waistband of her pants, she still managed to do some damage. The first guard went down with a yelp as her foot struck below the belt. The second used that moment to attempt to get behind her and was rewarded by an elbow in his eye.
This gave Charlie enough time to get close enough to wrap his arms around her, pinning her arms to her sides. But that left her feet free. She pushed against him and knocked down the recovering guards with two swift blows before falling forward and using her weight to unbalance Charlie enough for his grip to loosen. She pulled away from him before he fell to the floor, hesitated for a fraction of a second before stomping down on the back of his knee.
Of course, by now Charlie was thoroughly pissed. Using that anger, he stood quickly against the pain ripping through his leg and shoulder and the feel of fresh blood dripping down his arm where the bullet wound tore open.
She’d made it to the elevator down the hall and the doors opened before Charlie caught up with her. He grabbed her around the waist, once more pinning her arms. But this time he lifted her from the floor so she could do nothing more than thrash violently without leverage. Behind him, he heard the doctor coming closer and prayed he brought a sedative.
Charlie held her as still as he could and felt Dr. Brandon reach around him. The girl’s entire body jerked in reaction to the needle piercing her arm. It threw Charlie off balance. They both stumbled into the empty elevator. By the time Charlie steadied himself, the doors were closed behind them and the elevator began to rise.
He turned her around to face him, his grip on her arms firm. Amber eyes met blue ones wide with fear.
She lost strength in her legs first. They buckled beneath her. She held onto the dark haired man to keep from falling. He’d introduced himself in the car, but she could not remember his name. His skin radiated warmth. She felt it through her clothes. Her arms failed against her will. She tried to hold herself up. Instead, she felt herself slide down even as the elevator took them higher. Vertigo.
Her eyelids dropped, heavy, out of her control.
Random images flashed as if on a movie screen, all with one theme: torture and death.
She opened her eyes, but couldn’t keep them that way, couldn’t stop them from closing and revealing more horror.
Electricity shooting through her body.
Flashes of silver blades, syringes.
She tried to speak, to say something, to tell him something important… Her lips wouldn’t respond correctly. She couldn’t remember what she had to say in any case.
Her eyes slipped shut again.
Once more, she forced them open.
Charlie leaned against the elevator wall. His knee wouldn’t hold them both. He slid down to the floor as he felt the muscles in her body sag.
She kept her eyes on his, her lips moved without an audible sound.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked not really expecting an answer.
Warm, bright golden light surrounded her, pushed aside darkness and fear. She had the very vivid impression of wings surrounding them both, bathing her in an overpowering sense of safety.
She tried to tell the dark haired man what she thought she saw even if she thought it absurd.
Charlie watched the girl’s eyes shut slowly as if she fought against it. She mumbled something he didn’t catch.
He pulled her head close to his and whispered in her ear. “I’m listening.”
Very clearly this time he heard her whisper, “Angel.”
“Angel? Is that your name?”
But the sedative had taken over.