I am not alone.
That thought should have comforted her. But it never succeeded. Not being alone was not always a good thing. She knew that. How she knew that, of course, eluded her.
She searched for the Other that kept her company. But she was in darkness. Everything that seemed solid slipped and fell away at her touch.
Rain fell making even her steps uncertain.
Her heart raced.
And, she was tired.
Tired of running.
Tired of searching.
Tired of fighting.
Just once, just once couldn’t she find some semblance of comfort and rest, really rest? But she could not even remember what that felt like.
In her dream, she stopped moving, stopped searching. What exactly am I looking for? Does it matter if I find it? Can I just stop here and not move again? It’s just darkness. It is possible to change your dreams. I’ve done it before, haven’t I?
Beside her a shadow deeper than the darkness moved.
Run to it? Run from it?
I am tired of being afraid.
She stood her ground. She let the shadow get closer. It moved so very slowly.
But then she blinked and it was closer.
She blinked again. It was closer.
And the fear inside her grew.
I am not alone.
This time, it was both good and bad.
She opened her eyes.
At the foot of the bed was a man with gold hair surrounded by brilliant golden light. He lifted one hand and pointed toward the door on her left.
She turned and looked. A dark figure stood there. Ridiculously the golden man’s light did not touch the figure. It was dark, featureless and stayed that way even as it reached for her.
Her skin froze at its touch.
Her voice came from nowhere. Her throat was so dry she shouldn’t have been able to whisper. Her lips stuck together a little before she could part them.
When she opened her mouth the golden man’s mouth mirrored hers. Together they screamed.
Charlie bolted upright, swore he heard the door click shut, but dismissed it as his mind playing tricks on him, asleep when he should have been awake.
Angel was still asleep as far as he could tell. Sweating, twisting, murmuring, she looked like she was have a God-awful dream, but still asleep. He went to the door and almost slammed into the nurse who was entering at the same time.
“What’s going on?” she asked her eyes on the patient.
“She’s having a nightmare.”
The nurse didn’t respond. She went straight to Angel’s bed and picked up her wrist. Then she pushed the call button. When the nurse from the front desk answered, she said, “Call, Dr. Brandon, this one will be waking soon.”
A female voice answered, “Not possible. Her chart says the sedatives in her will keep her asleep until mid-morning.”
“Do you want to come in here and give a second opinion?”
Properly chastised, the woman responded, “I’m paging him now.”
The nurse turned to Charlie. “You might want to leave for a bit.”
But the nurse’s attention redirected toward Angel who’s twisting and murmuring had turned into a terrible thrashing and incoherent words.
“Unless you’re willing to help hold her down, leave now!”
Charlie looked at the woman on the bed battling her personal demons. Basic human compassion drew him to her.
Instead of merely holding her down, he lifted her into his arms. She was much stronger than she looked. He was hard pressed to keep her arms tucked to her sides and her head still against his chest while the nurse did a periphery examination.
Charlie spoke softly in her ear the way he’d done to the few infants in his life. He told her who he was, told her she was safe, told her anything he could think of that had the faintest sliver of helping.
Slowly she stopped resisting. Her eyes fluttered open and closed. Her arms wouldn’t rest. One moment she held him, the next she reached for the IV to pull it out. She almost accomplished it twice. Between the nurse and Charlie, the IV stayed taped to Angel’s arm.
After a few moments it seemed as if Angel was as calm as she would get, the nurse said, “I’m going to see what’s taking him so long. I’ll be right back.”
Charlie fell into rocking as he did for his youngest niece, back and forth until the bed creaked. He felt Angel’s body relax completely. She sighed softly once. Then her muscles tensed once more.
“You can let me go now.”
Her voice was strong, confident, and unlike the trembling one from before. Charlie released her, but took a long moment to look into her eyes before standing. In them, he saw nothing of the frightened waif he’d found in the alley. She returned his gaze steadily while pulling the oxygen tube off her face.
“Did they take it out?”
“They didn’t find anything to take out.” He rubbed his face with both hands and ran one through already tousled hair.
It seemed as if she read his thoughts. “I’m not on drugs. I’m not crazy. And I don’t think I was abducted by aliens.”
“The alien thing hadn’t actually occurred to me.” Charlie sat in his nearby chair.
“And you call yourself FBI.”
His eyebrows lifted until she motioned toward his t-shirt: black with FBI in white on the front.
“Funny. You must be feeling better.”
“Nah, I feel like death warmed over. But I need to know that they took it out.” She put her left hand in the palm of her right and curled her fingers around it.
“What do they have to take out?”
She looked at him as if he was supposed to know what she was talking about, realized that he didn’t and responded. “The tracking device.”
“You say you were not abducted by aliens?”
“Well, surely not the extraterrestrial kind, but I can’t be positive about anything else.”
“How about an easy question: What is your name? I can’t keep calling you Angel if your name is Matilda or something.”
“You call me Angel?” It had a familiar ring in an eerie way, but it was definitely not her name. “Where did you get that?”
“You.” Charlie leaned forward in his seat to try to get a better read on her face. Nothing about her resembled the girl he’d found.
Angel’s eyes lost focus. She ran her fingertips lightly over her lips as she thought.
There was a knock at the door, soft but with purpose and the doctor did not wait for an answer before letting himself in.
“Awake, I see. You were not supposed to wake up until lunch. What’s troubling you? Are you in any pain?” He crossed to her bedside and took hold of
Angel’s wrist just as the nurse had done.
“No, not really…” Angel began.
“You can’t lie to a doctor, especially one touching your pulse. Your heart rate is up. Usually that means pain.”
“Well, yes, then. I’m in pain. But I was more wondering if you could take it out.” She lifted the hand he’d released.
“We did x-rays because Charlie asked. But we did not find anything that should be removed.” Dr. Brandon’s eyebrows almost touched above his nose.
“Maybe if she saw the x-rays, Doctor…” Charlie offered.
Dr. Brandon grunted like a Scotsman. “Of course.” He turned to a framed light on the wall beside the bed and flipped through the files in his hand. “I thought as much. Which is why I brought them.” He slid one film onto the light and flicked it on.
The light illuminated the film of Angel’s right hand. “And your left,” the doctor mumbled to himself as he attached another film beside the first.
Angel stood to see better. She peered closely at the white sticks of her left hand. “You can’t see it at this angle. Did you do a different one?”
Doctor Brandon looked at her for a moment. He tossed a glance toward Charlie who moved around the bed to see for himself. They both shrugged the tiniest bit while Angel’s attention focused on the x-ray.
“No. These are standard. I did not see anything that would lead me to do a different angle.”
Angel brought the hand in question up and examined her palm. With the thumb of her right hand, she pressed on the soft part of her left hand between the thumb and forefinger. Her lips pressed together. She shoved her hand at the doctor’s chest. “Have a feel, please.”
Dr. Brandon exchanged glances with Charlie before taking Angel’s left hand in his. “What am I looking for?”
“The scar is in the heart line. Just under that is something hard that doesn’t belong there. Tell me when you can feel it.” She held his eyes with hers while he examined her hand. The moment he found it, she knew.
“Can you remove it?”
“Of course. Give me a few moments. I’ll be right back.”
Angel returned to her bed. She took her time getting comfortable before turning her attention to Charlie. He seemed frozen, but she knew his thoughts were racing. He moved slowly to the chair and stared at her.
“See, not crazy,” she said with a tight grin, “nor delusional.”
She seemed to pick the word from his mind. “That still remains to be seen. I have a psychologist coming in a few hours.”
“For you or me?” Her face remained neutral, but her eyes danced.