When the elevator stopped, Charlie reached up and pressed the button that would take them back down to the emergency room. He waited patiently for the elevator to return and felt the loss of her eyes on him the whole way down. When the doors finally slid open, the nurses and Dr. Brandon were there waiting.
Dr. Brandon took one look at them on the floor of the elevator and asked Haley what she’d put in the syringe while he guided Charlie’s placement of his patient on a gurney.
“It was a mild sedative, Doctor, only enough to calm her down not knock her out.”
Dr. Brandon shook his head slightly and said, “Well, let’s get her examined before she wakes up.”
Charlie walked with them back to the examination room. He said softly to the doctor. “Run a rape kit, too.”
Dr. Brandon met his eyes and nodded almost imperceptibly. He turned to Haley. “Finish up with Agent Hardy and come back.”
Haley pulled Charlie out of his hover formation. “Let them work. She’ll be fine.” It came out harsher than intended.
Charlie didn’t seem to notice. He followed her without taking his eyes from the girl until she disappeared behind a closed door.
Haley stood before Agent Hardy, looking up, trying to capture his attention while she slowly unbuttoned his shirt. His focus was on the door behind her. She wasn’t tall enough to block his line of sight. She signed. “What’s this all about, Charlie?”
“I’m not sure yet.” His answer was brisk.
Haley continued, her curiosity driven by her own agenda. “Where did you find this one?”
“In an alley.” He seemed oblivious to the tender way she slid his shirt off ostensibly to keep from causing him pain. He kept staring at the closed door.
“You can’t save every urchin on the street, you know.” She repositioned herself at his side, running her fingers around the wound already stitching itself, eying other scars that marred his soft skin. Some wounds she’d tended, other marks he’d never explained. She pulled a loose thread from the clotting blood, winced when it opened the gape the tiniest bit. Charlie didn’t notice. “This went deep. Your muscles are going to hate you in a few hours”
“I don’t need—”
“Pain meds,” she finished for him. “I know. I have treated you before. Once or twice.”
Silence echoed through the room. They could hear business picking up in the hall. Haley worked quickly and efficiently stitching up his shoulder.
“Is there anything you’re not telling me about your newest charity case?”
“No. I mean, I don’t know.”
“Like, for instance, any drug habits?”
“With her aversion to needles, don’t you think that highly unlikely?”
“Not all drugs come in a syringe.” She did try to mask the negative thoughts swarming through her head.
Charlie swiveled his head to catch her eyes. “What exactly are you getting at, Haley?”
His direct gaze came at a price and succeeded in twisting her insides. She shrugged, hid behind lowered lashes and continued to clean. “Nothing. Just wondering how much medical history I can fill in for the doc.”
“All I can tell you is that I found her in an alley less than an hour ago.” He offered nothing else. “If you want to know about drugs, do the blood work.”
“That’s a little harsh, Charlie.” As she applied the bandage, the tips of her fingers ran over the eagle tattoo on his chest.
She liked it and had told him so, frequently admonishing him not to let it get damaged. If something spoiled that tattoo there was a very good chance that the heart beneath would suffer and he would not be walking away from her administrations. She liked him walking. She did not like him walking away, but never had the balls to say so.
Charlie took Haley’s lingering hand and looked up, his face set in grim lines. “I shot three men tonight, Haley. That girl most probably witnessed it.” For a brief moment, he examined the bruise forming along the side of Haley’s face. He touched it gently.
“Besides, she doesn’t seem to know who she is. If I can find out where she belongs….” He took a deep breath and rotated his shoulder. “Thanks,” he said, his thoughts elsewhere already. After a moment, he seemed to make up his mind. He picked up his dress shirt and examined the holes while Haley began putting away the tools of her profession. “She mentioned something about having something removed.”
Studying him from the corner of her eye, she said, “I’ll say something to the doctor.” Haley stared at the top of his head her lips pressed tightly together. “We’ll help her, you know.”
She turned away from him and faced the row of cabinets on the wall. “You’ll want to get cleaned up. I can tell you that it will be a while before that sedative Dr. Brandon gave her will wear off. I suppose you want her to be awake when you question her.”
Charlie responded with a grunt.
“You know where the showers are. There’s a few spare scrub shirts on the shelf next to the towels. I’ll go check on your charity case and find you if there’s anything new.”
Charlie stood to leave but turned at the door. “Thanks, Haley. I really appreciate it. And I bet she will too when she knows up from down again.”
“Sure thing, Charlie.” She said tossing an empty gauze wrapper into the trash with a sigh when he left.
Instead of going directly to the showers, he went to his car and pulled out a bag he kept in the trunk. All sorts of things happened to him in his line of work, and he kept a couple of changes of clothes along with necessities in a duffel bag should the need ever arise. The need had arisen too often lately and he hoped there was a clean set of clothes in there.
He took his time in the shower knowing Haley had been right, it would be a while. He scrubbed the dried blood from his shoulder and chest and went over the facts again.
Apparently, he now had two cases that possibly tied in together, but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out how. The thought that what they were looking for was Angel would not leave his mind. On the surface, the cases were completely unrelated, but his gut told him the opposite and would not let it drop.
Angel was running from something or someone. Whether it was a dealer, a pimp or a husband with heavy fists, it was obvious she thought her life was in danger. But the moves she’d used on him and the guards in the waiting room seemed incongruous with the image of a victim. She was desperate, yes, but definitely not someone’s punching bag. So who was she? How did she come to be in that alley precisely when the Professor’s men were searching that stretch of downtown? Was she their objective?
He could and would stay here until Angel woke up and he could ask her a few more questions. Maybe when she felt better, she’d be more willing and able to answer him. Besides, illogically, he was afraid to be too far from her. Either she’d bolt or whatever she was running from would find her. And he had no doubt that whatever she was running from had the power of life or death over her.
Dressing in the t-shirt, jeans and sneakers he’d found in the duffel bag, he returned it to his trunk, grabbed the laptop case from the floor of the back seat where it had fallen and returned to the emergency room.
Before Charlie made it past the front desk, he saw another doctor and two nurses run into the room where he’d left Angel. His heart jumped and he ran after them, just missing them as the door shut. Through the small window of the door, he saw everyone surrounding the bed where he knew Angel lay. All he saw of her were her feet, jerking.
Just as he made up his mind to go in whether they liked it or not, her feet stopped moving, the wild beeps calmed down and Haley headed for the door. He let go of the door handle he’d held in a death grip and pounced on Haley as she exited.
“What’s going on?”
“She’s seized again.”
“What do you mean seized again?”
“She’s stable now. You’re just going to have to wait. Meantime, you’re buddies are down the hall with your latest victims.”
Caught off guard even though he knew they be there sooner or later, he followed her without another word. The other agents were down the hall waiting outside the doors of the gunshot victims Charlie had left behind. His boss’s distinctive height was conspicuous among them. Deputy Director Lachlan turned when Agent Marshall indicated Charlie’s presence with a nod.
“Tell me what happened.”
Charlie recited the events of the night without embellishment. Lachlan nodded and asked precise questions throughout. He’d get a clarifying copy of Charlie’s report later, but he needed information now.
When Charlie finished, Lachlan asked, “So you have no fear that the men you shot will tell a different story when questioned?”
“Nope. I shot them. They’ll be quick to jump on that. But there are three guns in that alley that will back me up that they were gonna shoot me first.”
“No doubt.” Lachlan pursed his lip gazing at the floor for a moment. He was not what one would immediately picture when imagining a Deputy Director of the FBI. He was tall, slender and generally had a quiet temperament. Charlie often wondered why Lachlan’s soft manner demanded so much respect. Ultimately, though, it did not matter how he achieved that respect, but that everyone working under him did so and were fervently loyal. “Well, you’re effectively out of the field until Asher clears you. I still want you on this.”
“Stay with the girl for the time being. I wanna know who she is and what she saw tonight.” He glanced behind Charlie as if he could see through walls. “It is always good to have a witness when you’re forced to fire your weapon. I understand there’s no guarantee that she saw anything. But you’re right. I don’t think she belongs on the streets either. I had a few words with that nurse…”he groped for the name, “Haley. Run through the missing person’s database. That should keep you busy until you can talk to the shrink.”
“Yes, sir.” Charlie turned to leave.
“Oh, Hardy,” Lachlan put a hand to Charlie’s elbow to stop him. “You’re all right, though?” He nodded to the bandages protruding from his shirt.
“Sure, Boss. Just a scratch.”
Lachlan nodded and turned back to Marshall, leaving Charlie to his own devices for the time being.
Charlie spent the next two hours in the hospital’s nearly empty cafeteria working on the laptop and making phone calls. There was always someone at the office and for those who weren’t in, like Dr. Asher, he left a voice mail. When he was done, he spent a few minutes staring at the front page of the missing person’s database before picking up his cell again.
Even before dawn, she answered as if she’d been awake for hours. “Davis.”
“Morning, Partner. Get some sleep?”
“Not likely. Marshall said you were babysitting a transient at the hospital. You can’t still be there?”
“Yup, still here. She was in that alley tonight.” Charlie explained everything ending with, “How’s Grace?”
“She have some extra clothes lying around?”
“She has clothes lying around, but I doubt if they’re extra. Want me to see if she’ll donate to your charity case?”
“I’m guessing they are about the same size. Tell her I owe her one.”
Davis made an unidentifiable sound. “I’ll be there in a little while.”
Charlie returned his attention to the screen before him. He had no idea what Angel looked like underneath all the mud and grime. He had no idea how long she’d been missing or even if she had anyone close to her to report it. Even her weight would be questionable depending on how long she’d been in her current condition. What he did know was only her height and that she was female. Pretty flimsy search criteria, he thought. Whatever he did now would be pointless and he knew it.