Haley rode the elevator up two floors. It was an unusually slow night in the ER. Aside from Charlie’s wound and the freak show he’d brought with him, everyone else was just routine, quickly treated and streeted.
Without patients to occupy her, thoughts of Charlie and his newest aberration filled her mind. She wondered if Charlie had already checked on Jane Doe and left the hospital. She wondered if a female could help the girl relax enough to talk. Haley told herself she was doing her job. She told herself that if she happened to run into Charlie it was just a bonus for a good night’s work.
Haley stepped off the elevator with a ready smile for the nurses at the desk. Except no one was there. Rare, but not unusual for this time of night or morning, rather, Haley thought nothing of it. She turned to walk down Jane Doe’s hallway.
A man moved deliberately down the hall, his back to the elevator. He appeared to be searching for a particular room. He paused briefly at each door before passing by. He held something in one hand. It looked like a cell phone.
He didn’t turn at the sound of Haley’s voice.
“Sir, I’m sorry but visiting hours don’t start for several hours.”
He kept moving down the hall.
“Sir, I can help you find the room you’re looking for, but you’ll have to come back later to visit.” Haley took a few steps in his direction.
His pace quickened just a little bit though he still noted the room numbers as he passed.
When he stopped, Haley stopped. She was just a little afraid. She watched him touch the number on a door and drop his hand to the doorknob.
“Sir, you can’t go in until visiting hours.” Haley heard her own voice waver the tiniest bit and prayed the man hadn’t.
Finally, he looked back the way he’d come. He saw Haley, smiled and strode quickly to the other end of the hall where there was a door to the stairway. Haley took a few tentative steps, hesitating until the stranger left through that door and she heard the echo of his footsteps.
Then she went to door that had held his attention. The label holder next to it was empty, but Haley knew whose room this was. Jane Doe. Well, something was definitely going on here. But she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it.
Haley turned the knob and entered quietly. The girl lay motionless on the hospital bed, an IV draped down her arm and an oxygen tube across her face. She looked harmless, like a doll. But the bruises marred the image.
The girl had no belongings. They had removed her clothes in the ER and tossed them. Haley wondered where the hell she’d come from. In Haley’s experience, she didn’t give off the homeless vibe. She wasn’t a hooker dressed in men’s clothing like that. And Haley had witnessed the guards’ take down.
She smiled a little, remembering the looks on their faces when this hurricane had tossed them to the ground. Yeah, those guys kinda deserved it. They were young and full of themselves and hit on every young female that smiled at them. Sometimes, even uniforms didn’t make the man attractive.
Haley looked around the bare room and wondered what she could do since the girl was still under sedation. But everything seemed done. The chairs were scooted neatly along the wall. The cabinet in the far corner, empty and open for business. The table beside it sat waiting for the flowers and get-well wishes that usually came for patients. The pitcher beside the bed condensed with melting ice chips. The straws and cups were neatly beside it still wrapped in plastic.
She stuck her head in the bathroom checking for the tiny bottles of soap, shampoo and lotion. Everything was neat in and in its place. A noise from the bed drew Haley’s attention back to the girl.
Her left hand lifted and waved weakly. The girl on the bed moaned softly. Her eyelids flickered. Haley stepped over and reached for the girl’s hand instinctively. Her touch seemed to help. So she leaned over and pulled the wooden chair closer so she could sit vigil for the few spare moments she had.
Haley held the girl’s hand and watched her face going over the chart she’d filled out downstairs in her head. She mentally put herself in the girl’s place and shuddered. She closed her eyes and thought of her own pitiful life that never held the nightmares this girl must have been through.
The hand she held tightened. Haley yelped, pulled back, but could not pull her hand from the iron grip that held her. Her eyes met the girl’s open and filled with…something that terrified Haley. Just looking into those eyes filled her with such fear she couldn’t move.
“Help me, please.”
Haley’s mouth moved to respond. “We’re trying.”
“You have to take it out. You have to help me.”
“Take what out? We didn’t find anything.”
“He’ll find me if you don’t.”
“Who? Who will find you?”
The girl looked at Haley as if finally seeing her. The look in her eyes fading. “Where am I?”
“You’re in a hospital. We’re helping you get better. But you have to sleep for a while longer.” The grip that held Haley loosened. Instead of yanking her hand away, Haley stroked the girl’s arm lightly. “Go to sleep for just a little while. Charlie will help you. He’ll keep you safe. He’s good at that.”
The girl closed her eyes and mumbled, “Who’s Charlie?”
Charlie closed his laptop with one hand and disconnected a call on his cell with the other. He needed to find Haley and get an update on Angel. Just as he stood, Haley walked into the cafeteria and saw him. She motioned for him to stay where he was, poured two cups of coffee and brought them to his table.
“OK, Charlie, who the hell is your Jane Doe?” She slid a mug in Charlie’s direction and sat.
“Don’t know yet, Haley. I thought you guys would have gotten a name from her by now.”
Haley wrapped her hands around her coffee. “No. Between the drugs, seizures, and sedatives, anything she’s said is completely unreliable. Have you been to see her yet?”
“Yup.” She told Charlie all that the doctors had found during Jane’s brief stay in the ER. Once she had stabilized, they’d shipped her upstairs. Haley gave Charlie the room number.
“But really, none of that’s highly unusual and, except for the experimental-not-on-the-market drug in her system, probably won’t help you discover her identity. I saw a worse case last night.” Haley shrugged off all the medical stuff she dealt with on a daily basis. “What I want to know, Charlie, is who is she and what or who is she running from?”
Charlie peered at Haley over the rim of his mug. “Why? You’re not usually this curious.”
“Yeah, well, when some stranger gives me the creeps, I wanna know why and who do I call to get rid of him.”
“You’re not talking about Angel are you?”
“Angel? Is that what you’re calling her? No, I’m not talking about her. I’m talking about the guy hanging around her door.”
“Someone came to see her? Did he give a name? Hers or his?” Charlie’s words rushed out. He half lifted out of his chair as if to race to Angel’s room and find out for himself.
“Be still, Charlie. He’s gone. And no, I didn’t get any information from him. He was too busy running the other way to have a conversation.”
Charlie made Haley tell him everything she could remember about the strange man in the hall. It was not the pleasant conversation she’d envisioned, more like an interrogation. While she found herself remembering more details than she’d thought, it wasn’t an experience she wanted to repeat. And, even though she liked Charlie very much, she was glad to see him race out of the cafeteria when it was over. She downed the rest of her coffee in one gulp and went back to work.
Upstairs he found room 213, knocked softly and when there was no answer, slowly opened the door. She was asleep.
The nurses had bathed her and brushed her hair. It was long and light brown, not black as he had first thought. The layer of dirt had hidden the huge bruise on the left side of her face made worse because it was healing and yellowing. Small scratches marred the right side of her face just above her eyebrow and below her eye. There were bruises up both her arms. From what he could see, there were healing bruises running down her chest as well. What he didn’t see were track marks.
He slid into the chair next to the bed. He couldn’t say exactly why, but he reached out to hold her hand. Maybe he intended for her to feel comforted. Maybe he just wanted to feel her warmth and pulse to remind himself that she was alive. When he did, the tattoo on her wrist caught his eye.
A tiny black dragon curled around two eggs as if protecting them. The shadow of another dragon just behind wrapped its wings around all of them. Charlie took out his phone and snapped a picture of the distinctive tattoo. He took a couple of shots of her face and sent them as well as the art on her wrist to Jackson, his preferred tech guy at the office. After a few minutes, a confirmation text beeped. Yeah, no one quite worked the expected nine to five at an FBI field office.
Charlie leaned back in the chair studying the girl he’d found in the alley. She had an oxygen tube across her face and seemed to be breathing deeper than he’d ever seen her breathe, as if she’d been holding her breath this whole time.